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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Use Photos to fit event photos into a single timeline

The bride and groom shouldn’t be cutting the cake while we’re all still riding a double-decker bus to the reception.

I went to a wedding in London over the summer, and as you might expect at an event full of techy people, I ended up with hundreds of photos of the event from numerous sources—at least six. I imported them all into my Photos library and then discovered that they were all mixed up—the bride walking down the aisle, immediately followed by dancing at the reception, followed by the exchanging of vows.

Most cameras embed time data on every file they take, which is great, but whenever I try to mix photos from multiple sources in one place, I end up discovering all the ways that the clocks don’t match. For some of them, the clock is right but the time zone is wrong. For others (especially non-cellular devices that rely on a human to set their clock correctly) there are a few minutes of drift. For still others, there’s a time but not a time zone embedded.

Anyway, as a user of Photos for Mac, I end up needing to figure out how to get the times of the various cameras at an event adjusted and in sync. To do this, I use two tools: Smart Albums and the Adjust Date and Time command.

info-window-photos

Since each camera may have its own time discrepancies, the first thing I do is figure out what cameras were shooting at the event. Do to this, I open the Info palette by typing Command-I, then click on a photo. The Info Palette will reveal all sorts of information about the shot I’ve selected, including which camera model took it.

By clicking on the photos on either side of any time discontinuities I spot in my list of Photos (which is, of course, sorted by time, with newer items toward the bottom), I can quickly spot the different makes and models of cameras being used at the event.

Then, for each camera I find, I create a Smart Album designed to display only photos from that camera on the day of the wedding. To do that, I choose New Smart Album from the file menu and then add two conditions: Date Captured is the day of the wedding, and Camera Model includes some unique portion of the camera name.

Being sure to set the whole thing to Match all of the following conditions and giving it a name that makes it clear which camera it’s collecting gets me this:

Smart Album in Photos

Once these are created, I’ll be able to batch-modify all the results from a single camera, because presumably if one of the photos it took is off by an hour, all of the photos are.

Then I go back to my list of photos and try to identify those time discontinuities—here’s the throwing of confetti, preceded by a toast by the Best Man. Using the floating Info palette, I do a little detective work and figure out what the time discontinuity is. (For instance, the wedding started at 1pm, so that shot of the bride walking down the aisle at 12pm is probably off by an hour.)

In the case of this summer’s wedding, one SLR was off by a few minutes. The others seem to have been set with the correct local time but no time zone, so Photos assigned them to my current time zone—placing them eight hours behind London time.

In any event, once I figure out the offset for any particular camera, I switch to that camera’s Smart Album, select all the photos, and choose Adjust Date and Time from the Image menu.

In the resulting sheet, Photos displays the first item in the selection, with its current date and time settings, which I can adjust as needed. There’s also world map, from which I can pick the proper time zone. After adjusting the time zone and actual time, I click Adjust, and Photos will move every single photo I selected—in other words, all the photos shot by that camera—into what should be the proper time zone and with the right time stamp.

Then I switch back to the main Photos view and see if those photos are now in the right order. (If they’re not, no problem—I can adjust the date and time on a set of photos endlessly until I get it right.)

I continue the process with all the other cameras until the Photos view runs from the nervous groom checking his tie all the way to people joyously dancing at the reception, all in the right order at last.

[Don't miss all our Photos for Mac coverage.]


Jason Snell for Macworld

Apple’s Group FaceTime delay is the right move. Here’s why ↦

This week Apple removed Group FaceTime from the beta for iOS 12, and indicated that the feature will not appear in the initial release, but will rather appear in a subsequent update released later in the year.

For people who were excited about audio and video chats with multiple friends, this is a bummer. (I heard from several people who said their kids were especially looking forward to using the feature, or were using it in the beta period and were sad that it’s going to be removed for a little while.)

But I’m a little less down on Apple making this decision. Every time I used group FaceTime in the iOS and macOS betas, it was far from flawless. I had connection problems, video and audio would disappear and reappear at random, sometimes a person would appear multiple times in my view (or disappear altogether), and there were numerous cosmetic defects to the interface, too. It seemed… very beta. And clearly someone at Apple decided it was just not going to be solid enough by release time.

More broadly, though, I support this sort of move because it’s Apple realizing that it has a particular quality standard it’s supposed to meet, especially for new features. It can’t be easy to delay a banner feature of your next operating-system release, but when the alternative is releasing something that’s not good enough, this is the right choice.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

Tech notes from my European vacation

rainbow apple logo
An independent Apple repair shop in London.

[A longer version of this story appeared in the monthly newsletter that goes to all Six Colors members.]

Earlier this summer my family and I spent a couple of weeks in Europe. Here are some observations about ways our technology helped (or hindered) us during our trip.

Prepaid SIM cards

I bought us prepaid Three SIM cards for less than $30 each, so we had more data than we could possibly use. In the early days of smartphones, when international data cost a fortune, I remember wandering around Stockholm, toggling my iPhone out of Airplane Mode just long enough to load a street map. It was the worst. These days, not having data is just not an option.

For us—given the length of our stay and our carrier back home—the Three SIM cards were the best deal. Check with your carrier to see what their plans look like if you’re going to take a trip, but keep in mind that if your phone’s unlocked, buying a temporary SIM card can be a great option. (T-Mobile U.S. customers get free access to a low-speed network when they roam; AT&T customers like me need to pay $10 per day per phone when roaming, which would be a decent deal for a short trip, but not a long one.)

Transit directions

The single best thing about this trip in terms of technology was our use of the transit directions in both Apple Maps and Google Maps. In Amsterdam, we bought 48-hour tram passes and were busy zig-zagging our way around the city, from our rented apartment that was conveniently located on a block with a tram stop.

Public transit in an unfamiliar city can be really stressful. All that stress vanished with the aid of the transit app on my phone. At one point, we were standing in a plaza in central Amsterdam, and my family was unsure about what we wanted to do next. I had a couple of friends recommend a brewery on the other side of town, next to a windmill, but I had looked on a map and realized it was nowhere near anywhere we were planning on going. But I put the brewery into Apple Maps and it couldn’t have been simpler: Walk a block and a half to a very specific tram stop, ride that tram for 10 minutes, and walk across a canal to the brewery. The beer was really good and the Dutch crowd quite enthusiastic, because Germany was in the process of being knocked out of the World Cup while we were there.

I’ve used the Tube in London for ages so I feel much more confident with it, but the location of our hotel wasn’t near the right tube lines for some of our destinations. With the added confidence from my map apps, we were able to walk a couple of blocks and hop a double-decker bus to get us where we needed to go. Other than the stifling summer heat of a London heat wave, the bus was great.

Apple Pay everywhere

In the U.S., Apple Pay is kind of a crapshoot. Some places have it, and some places don’t. In the UK, almost every terminal supports contactless payments, because most credit cards have RFID chips embedded in them. (This is not the case in the U.S., for whatever reason.) And in the UK, if a terminal supports contactless, it supports Apple Pay. So basically, the whole country supports Apple Pay, and so almost everything I bought in the UK, I paid with my Apple Watch.

In the Netherlands, alas, Apple Pay is not yet active, though there are rumors that it’s coming soon. I hope so! Several of the places we went in Amsterdam have converted entirely to cards—they don’t accept cash at all. (Unfortunately, there were also a few places—like a grocery store—that wouldn’t accept any American credit cards, so we had to pay with cash. Get it together, Holland. I want to buy more stroopwafels.)

Nintendo is dumb

My son has a Nintendo 3DS that he wanted to bring with him to Europe. And while I’m a big fan of Nintendo in general, I can’t believe that any major consumer-electronics company is allowed to get away with what they’ve done with this product. In North America, the Nintendo 3DS is sold without a power adapter.

No problem, you think. Just use one of a million USB cables that you’ve got around your house. That’s a great idea, except the 3DS also uses a proprietary power connector, so you can’t use any cord other than the one made by Nintendo. What a bunch of jerks.

Anyway, it gets even worse. While prepping for this trip, I rounded up all of my plug adapters—little plastic things that convert North American plugs into the electrical plugs formats used by Europe and the UK—to toss in a bag. They’re great! And I realized that while all of Apple’s adapters (save the tiny iPhone cube) and my Anker 5-port USB adapter can handle the different voltages of the U.S. and Europe, I didn’t know if that Nintendo adapter did.

Welp. It doesn’t. The must-buy-separately power adapter for the Nintendo DS is so cheap that it only accepts the 110V standard found in North America.

We just brought the Nintendo Switch instead. It charges via USB-C. Before our next trip I’ll probably buy my son a USB charging cable for the DS instead.

CarPlay!

CarPlay screen

I have written about Apple’s CarPlay in-car connection technology a bit. I even bought a CarPlay stereo and installed it… on my desk. But this was the first time I have ever used CarPlay in person in a moving car, because we rented a car in Newcastle and drove it through the Lake District. It was fun to see the map actually update because we were moving, because my desk doesn’t go above 1mph.

I will say this, though: Because the current version of CarPlay only supports Apple Maps (this fall, with iOS 12, things will change!), we were forced to use it—and got bitten more than once. In the first case, Apple Maps rerouted us without telling us, moving us off of a large, well-traveled A road and instead sending us through a shortcut down terrifyingly narrow roads not suitable for Americans who haven’t driven in the UK in 18 years.

In the second case, Apple Maps navigated us to a Texaco station that was, in fact, someone’s house. With no station in sight. Fortunately, there was a gas station a quarter of a mile away, but this was a outright phantom point of interest. I used the Apple Maps feedback mechanism to indicate that indeed, the “Texaco station” was no longer in business at that location—and in fact, had never existed. At some point in London I received a push notification from Apple Maps indicating that, thanks to my feedback, that POI had been removed from the Apple Maps database.

The Texaco has been removed.

So that’s something, I guess? But the next time I’m driving in Europe with CarPlay I’m using Google Maps.


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #254: Gigs and Teras of Flop Data

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that is never delayed for weather, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Aleen Simms and Rene Ritchie to discuss how often we shut down or restart our computers, what to do with a problem like Twitter, the fate of all those EarPods we get, and what camera improvements we’d like to see in the next iPhone. Plus, stupid Avengers assemble!

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

‘The Scientist Who Scrambled Darwin’s Tree of Life’

This story (actually a book excerpt) by David Quammen hits my sweet spot. It’s a magazine feature about science that mixes the personalities of the scientists, the excitement of discovery, and a solid explanation of some mind-blowing discoveries that really change how we look at the origins of life on this planet.

This is my favorite part:

The mechanics [to read ribosomal RNA] were intricate, laborious and a little spooky. They involved explosive liquids, high voltages, radioactive phosphorus, at least one form of pathogenic bacteria and a loosely improvised set of safety procedures. Courageous young grad students, postdocs and technical assistants, under a driven leader, were pushing their science toward points where no one had gone before. OSHA, though recently founded, was none the wiser….

The work was deceptively perilous. [Former grad student Mitchell] Sogin described to me the deliveries of radioactive phosphorus (an isotope designated as P32, with a half-life of 14 days), which amounted to a sizable quantity arriving every other Monday. The P32 came as liquid within a lead “pig,” a shipping container designed to protect the shipper, though not whoever opened it. Sogin would draw out a measured amount of the liquid and add it to whatever bacterial culture he intended to process next. “I was growing stuff with P32,” he said, tossing that off as a casual memory. “It was crazy. I don’t know why I’m alive today.”

I’ve heard of horizontal gene transfer before, but the ramifications of that discovery had never really hit me until I read this article. Life is wondrous and complicated and we are still struggling to understand all the biological mechanisms that drive its growth and change.


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #206: The Rings in a Tree

This week Myke breaks his iPad, Jason visits the Microsoft Store and leaves with an Xbox, and we pick our favorite video games of all time.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 45 minutes)


By Dan Moren

Group FaceTime delayed until later this fall

As first noticed by developer Guilherme Rambo, Apple has removed Group FaceTime from the versions of the iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas released today, with release notes saying that the feature will instead “ship in a future software update later this fall.”

For those paying close attention, this is pretty similar to what happened last year to AirPlay 2, a feature that only officially arrived in May of this year—shortly before WWDC.

There’s no inherent problem with taking a little longer to make sure a feature is fully baked: a late feature that works as intended will trump an on-time feature that’s broken.

That said, this has become enough of a regular occurrence with Apple that the company’s burned through some of its trust with users. A promise of “later this fall” doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence that Apple will hit this (admittedly self-imposed) deadline.

It also raises some eyebrows about why the company can’t seem to deliver some of these features as originally promised. 1


  1. And hey, speaking of things going MIA, where exactly is the AirPower charging pad introduced at last September’s event?  ↩

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

Here’s How the iPhone X Plus Will Answer the Note 9 ↦

This week, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 9, a high-end device that matches Apple’s iPhone X on the most notable item on any spec sheet: price. With the Note 9, Samsung has laid its cards on the table; in a few weeks, Apple will counter with new iPhones, including — if the rumors hold — an iPhone X Plus that properly matches up with the Galaxy Note 9.

Here’s a look at some of the key Galaxy Note 9 features and how they might compare to whatever Apple has up its sleeve for next month.

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Patreon buys Memberful

Patreon, a company that lets people directly support creaters of stuff, just bought Memberful, a company that does the same thing in a different way. Ben Thompson of Stratechery has an exclusive interview with the founders of both companies. Here’s Patreon founder Jack Conte:

There’s a whole segment of the market that doesn’t want to build a membership business on someone else’s platform, they want full control of the branding, they want full control of the experience. Right now Patreon is unable to serve that market, if we were to build that, it would be a completely separate thing. Working with the Memberful team accelerates us into that market segment, so it gives us a very big head start. I would say mostly that’s where the value is.

I realize that this is a bit inside baseball, but I’ve been using Memberful for the membership programs for both Six Colors and The Incomparable for a couple of years. In fact, the above paragraph describes me perfectly: I didn’t want to use Patreon, I wanted to build two membership programs myself and integrate them directly with my two sites. Memberful let me do that.

It’s a smart move by Patreon, then, to recognize that this is a part of the market they couldn’t serve, and they chose to buy a team that knows how to do it rather than building a duplicate in-house. I’m cautiously optimistic that this will mean good things for all of us who rely on Memberful for an important portion of our incomes as content creators.

(Here’s Stephen Hackett, another Memberful customer twice over, with his thoughts.)


Jason Snell for Macworld

Digesting the rumors: Where’s the iPad Pro going next? ↦

If the rumors are true—and they are often, if not always—Apple is preparing to release a new generation of iPad Pro models this fall. I bought the first-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro back in 2015 and still use it as my primary portable computer, so I’m excited at the rumors of a major iPad Pro redesign. Let’s sift through the rumors and reports and see if we can figure out where the iPad Pro is headed next.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #253: Creepy Beating Heart

This week on the 30-minute show that’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Lory Gil and Justin Michael to discuss our complicated feelings about iOS’s Low Power mode, how much we would pay for a calendar app, Microsoft walking back classic Skype’s demise, and indie games we’ve played. Plus, a space-themed bonus question.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Linked by Dan Moren

Skype 7 gets a reprieve

Microsoft had intended to end support for the desktop version of Skype 7—aka “classic” Skype—in September, but a backlash has prompted the company to reconsider that decision

Based on customer feedback, we are extending support for Skype 7 (Skype classic) for some time. Our customers can continue to use Skype classic until then.

For many, including podcasters, Skype is an essential tool in our workflow. Skype 8 not only introduced jarring interface changes—bringing it into line with the mobile app—but also lacked features from the earlier version of Skype, including, at one point, the ability to specify an audio input inside the application.

Despite the limitations in classic Skype, we continue to rely on it at The Incomparable and Relay FM. Alternatives have arisen in the past few years, but Skype remains one of the most commonly used audio chat tools. Especially when you run a podcast that has different guests every week, Skype is still the VoIP client you can count on everybody to have installed. Or, to paraphrase the old Winston Churchill saw, “Skype is the worst piece of VoIP software, except for all the others.” 1


  1. I recently had to configure the SIP client Linphone for a radio interview and wow, if you think Skype is bad, try that sometime.  ↩


By Jason Snell

Podcast player Castro adds sideloading and pre-selected chapter skips

Sideloaded files sync from iCloud Drive (1), then appear in the Inbox (2), where you can play them as if they were podcast episodes (3).

iOS Podcast app Castro has been updated to version 3.1, and it’s got a couple of cool new features for subscribers to the Castro Plus tier of the product.

Castro now supports sideloading audio files that aren’t a part of a podcast feed, so if you’ve got a random MP3 or M4A file that you want to listen to as a part of your podcast playlist, you can add it to Castro by placing it in the Castro folder inside iCloud Drive, whether you’re on a Mac or an iOS device. Castro spots audio files placed in that folder and automatically ads them to the Inbox or Queue, depending on which you prefer.

I used this feature to preview a future episode of a podcast that had come in from an outside editor, listen to a DRM-free audiobook, and even listen to the audio of a special episode of a podcast that I pulled off of YouTube.

castro-31-select-chapters
You can choose which chapters of a podcast you want to listen to—in advance.

The other big new feature is what Castro’s creators are calling “Chapter Pre-Selection.” Lots of podcasts these days have chapter markers that break a single episode up into individual segments; with Castro 3.1, you can select which chapters you want to play—and which ones you don’t—in advance. One way to view this feature is as an easy way to skip podcast ads entirely (so long as they’re properly chaptered). That’s probably going to happen, but I like the idea that before you start a long drive you can opt out of specific topics in a podcast that you don’t consider interesting.

As a podcast creator, I build my podcasts to be listened to straight through and at 1x speed, but I know that listeners are going to want to fit my stuff into their lives in ways that I just can’t anticipate. They’ll listen at 1.5x and skip stuff and who knows what else, and that’s fine. If someone wants to skip over the Upstream segment in Upgrade every week, they can do that—though in my opinion, they’ll really be missing out.

As a podcast listener, I’m always happy to get new tools to help make my podcast listening be as customized to my desires as possible. The ability to tailor your audio experience to be exactly what you want it to be is a big reason podcasting is so much better than radio.


By Jason Snell

Applications Folder: iExit Interstate Exit Guide

[Applications Folder is a column where we pick an obscure app in our Mac’s Applications folder, or somewhere on our iOS devices, and talk about why we use it. It appears in the monthly newsletter that goes to all Six Colors members. This post appeared in the May 2018 newsletter.]

I use Apple Maps and Google Maps and Yelp and they’re all helpful in finding places to go and how to get to them. But when I’m on a long drive on a freeway—where you’re from you might call them highways or turnpikes or motorways or who knows what else, we seem to have accumulated a bunch of different names for enormous expressways with limited exits and entrances separate from street traffic—the usual apps become less helpful.

Driving on the freeway is all about exits. If I’m driving on freeways for a few hours, I don’t want to search for what restaurants or gas stations or whatever are around me—I want to search for what points of interest are near the various exits along my route. And that’s what iExit provides. I’ve been using it for years, and it’s always been a vital aid when I’m sitting in the passenger seat trying to figure out when we’re going to break for lunch. We used iExit a lot as we drove from home through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and back on our family road trip, and I just used it a couple of weeks ago to find lunch during a four-hour drive through California’s Central Valley.

iExit

iExit organizes its listings of restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations, and other items of interest entirely around freeway exits—and tells you which side of the exit each establishment is on, and how far away from the off-ramp it is. The app automatically detects the road you’re on and which direction you’re going, and shows you what’s coming up. If you’re driving through sparse countryside, you can make decisions like if you want to stop for Subway in 20 miles or if you’re willing to wait an hour to get a better sandwich at Port of Subs. (When in Winnemucca, Nevada, visit the Port of Subs. That’s my single Winnemucca, Nevada travel tip.)

You can also set favorites in iExit. So on my phone, I’ve marked Starbucks, Subway, In N Out, Five Guys, and a few other stops that are acceptable to all members of my family. I can quickly toggle to view by favorites to see if any of our favorites are coming up soon, or if we’re out of luck.

I have to admit, I’m baffled why none of the mainstream Maps apps offer data structured around freeway exits, especially if they know what route you’re taking. It seems to be that it’s just a bit too different of a world view for those apps to truly understand. That’s fine—because there’s iExit, and it’s the app you want in your pocket if you know you need to stop for lunch in an hour or so, and want to know which exit is going to offer something to make every passenger in your car happy. Be sure to pack it for your summer road trip.


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #205: Monolithic Entertainment Console

It was a huge week: Apple broke a trillion dollars in market cap and Jason bought a new TV. And since money is on everyone’s minds, Myke and Jason take Apple’s $243B and go on a corporate shopping spree as a part of the ongoing Upgrade Summer of Fun.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 53 minutes)



Dan Moren for Macworld

3 small-but-important details from Apple’s Q4 2018 financials call ↦

Apple’s quarterly financial calls are usually a time for big numbers: record revenue, billions in income, millions of iPhones sold, etc. But what I always find more interesting are the smaller tidbits that make their way through, like tiny rowboats at risk of being crushed by the monstrous rocks that are Apple’s blockbuster financial results.

This quarter was no different. There were more than a few breadcrumbs dropped by Apple CEO Tim Cook in-between fielding questions about gross margins and talking about tariffs, some of which zipped by so fast that they were all too easy to miss. I’ve picked out three that perked up my ears, along with the larger significance that I think they import.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 198: Troubleshooting with Doctors Moltz and Moren

It’s our quarterly show where we try to predict Apple financial results before the results happen, but don’t release the show until after they come out, and thus generally look a little foolish. FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT. Plus, Lex has a puzzling Safari bug, Dan compares notes on the Sonos One, and a secret about John is revealed after 198 episodes.

Episode linkMP3 (44 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

So you wanted an Eddy Award but we never gave you one…

eddy
This guy.

The Eddy Award was once the Oscar of the Apple world. For a couple of decades, MacUser (and later Macworld) magazine gave actual, heavy statuettes out to winners in many categories every year. People loved getting them. We loved giving them out. I kept an extra one in my office for years at Macworld and it just might be sitting behind me right now.

If you’re in the market for one, a nice lady named Carolyn has one up for sale on eBay for $499 “or best offer.” She found it in a thrift shop in Portland, Oregon! We tried to figure out its back story and my best guess is that this was a Now Utilities Eddy given out in February 1993, but there are a lot of other possibilities, too. (The statue base doesn’t have anything on it—these were given out with engraved plates, but it has none—so there’s no way to trace its origins. Mysterious)

In any event, if you ever wanted an Oscar-like statue that’s holding a Mac SE above its head, engraved with the logo of the late, lamented MacUser magazine, make Carolyn an offer.

Update: It’s sold! To a good home.


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #252: I’m Not Alone in My Monsterdom

This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that time never forgets, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests John Moltz and Allison Sheridan to discuss our file organization strategies (or lack thereof), whether it’s time to dive into the 3D printing pool, the tech accessories that impress us, and the portable batteries we carry. Plus, a bonus smattering of embarrassing podcast recording stories.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)