six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

IFTTT gets a little bit more complicated

I’ve complained a lot about IFTTT, a service I use all the time, being a bit too simple for my tastes. There’s been no way to say, for example, “if this and this, then that.” But that’s changing with the introduction of filters in the new IFTTT Makers tier.

I use IFTTT triggers to do things like tie data from my weather station to my dehumidifier, so that I can turn it on when the internal humidity is too high (and off when the moisture has been beaten back down). I also have several triggers for turning my outdoor lights on and off at particular times. I have to create multiple triggers to perform most of these tasks, because each IFTTT rule is itself so dumb.

It looks like I won’t have to anymore. This is great news! IFTTT doesn’t need to be a complex app platform like Zapier, but some added flexibility will help a lot.

[via Myke Hurley via MacStories.]


Podcast

Clockwise #190: McGruff the Password Dog

Clockwise

On this week’s thirty minute you-can-set-a-clock-by-it techstravaganza, we talk Ikea’s forays into smart home tech, Anker’s disruptions and what else we’d like to see disrupted, Android features we’d like on iOS, and the tech story the masses need to know. With special guests John Moltz and Shelly Brisbin.


Linked by Jason Snell

Six Colors sponsorships open for summer

We’re open for Six Colors sponsorships for the summer. As of this writing, WWDC week—sure to be a huge amount of traffic—is still open. Get in touch if you’re interested in that, or any week, this summer.

Six Colors sponsors get a text ad on every page of the site during their week of sponsorship, plus a native post in our RSS feed and a public thank-you post on the site. It’s a pretty good deal, if I do say so myself.


By Dan Moren

Screens 4 for macOS adds drag-and-drop file transfers, curtain mode, more

Edovia’s Screens is one of my must-have utilities on both macOS and iOS. As someone whose household contains three Macs and two iOS devices, I invariably have times where I end up needing to get at something on one of the other devices. (My home server is a Mac mini that’s hooked up to my TV, so I rely on remote access to manage it.)

Screen 4.0 for Mac, which arrived today, brings a couple super handy features, chief among which is the ability to transfer files back and forth by drag-and-drop. That’s a feature that’s been in the mac OS’s own screen-sharing implementation for some time now, but it’s great to finally have it in Screens as well—it certainly makes it easier than having to fire up a separate SFTP session.

Other new additions include Curtain Mode, which allows you to lock out the display on remote Macs so people looking at those machines can’t see what you’re doing; useful if you’re managing a computer in a shared environment. There’s also support for the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pros, one touch password entry for logins, the ability to create groups of screens, and better support for SSH keys. And Edovia has also added OpenGL support, which improves the speed of rendering those remote displays.

Screens 4 is $29 and available from Edovia’s website, the Mac App Store, and the Setapp subscription service.

[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.]


Linked by Dan Moren

Denise Young Smith is Apple’s Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity

9to5Mac noticed that Denise Young Smith, Apple’s former head of Worldwide Human Resources, has moved jobs to become the company’s Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity:

Smith has been at Apple for over 20 years and was first promoted to VP of worldwide HR back in 2014 from her previous role as head of HR for just Apple’s retail stores, a role that Steve Jobs handpicked her for during the early days of Apple’s retail efforts. She replaced Apple’s then HR head Joel Podolny who switched to focusing full-time on developing Apple University. Prior to that she served as Senior Director of Human Resources for Worldwide Operations and Corporate Employee Relations at Apple from 1997 to 2000.

This is great and hopefully is a step towards Apple improving its diversity record. The bigger change, however, is that unlike previous people to hold this position, Smith will report directly to Tim Cook. That certainly signals that diversity and inclusion are important to the company as a whole—now, let’s see the evidence that it’s improving things.


By Jason Snell

The subscription paradox

When Todd Vaziri recently updated his chart of the length of John Gruber’s The Talk Show—which prompted me to update my chart of The Incomparable’s length—I’ve been reminded of something I learned from my days in the magazine industry. As P.T. Barnum (presumably) said, “Leave them wanting more.”

This isn’t showbiz claptrap—it’s a real effect. What makes someone a happy magazine subscriber, newsletter reader, or television viewer is the feeling that you’re consuming all of something you enjoy. You get to the end and still wish there were more, making you anticipate the next installment.

There are two danger zones. The first is if people just don’t like what you’re making. That’s an obvious one. If they’re not buying what you’re selling, you’ll lose them as a customer, and rightly so.

But then there’s another, less obvious danger zone: People who like your stuff but just can’t finish it all. You’d think that this shouldn’t matter, that if you only ever consume half of everything but enjoy it all, that should be good enough. But it’s not. Most people hate feeling that they’re not using everything they’re paying for. (I know the feeling, at least when it comes to Dropbox storage.)

I’ve had this described to me as “The New Yorker Problem.” People who enjoy reading The New Yorker still cancel their subscriptions, because they’ve got a few issues piled up. When we were designing the digital edition of PCWorld magazine after the print edition shut down, we spent a lot of time debating what the ideal magazine length should be. We could’ve put all the stuff we were generating on the web in there, making it seem like a great value… but it would’ve resulted in enormous issues that few, if any, readers could get through.

I’ve had the same experience with newsletters I’ve subscribed to on the Internet. I get a few daily newsletters, and I like them, but the fact that I just can’t find the time to read every one of them makes me frustrated. Yes, it would literally make me a happier subscriber if they gave me less of what I’m paying for. Any more and it might be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

This may not be entirely logical, but I believe it’s true. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve tried to bend the average run time of The Incomparable, which was at one point threatening to break 90 minutes, back toward an hour. Of course, some people would love it if we’d do two hours every week—but I feel like we’d be risking overstaying our welcome if we did that. I don’t want episodes to pile up. If you get many episodes behind on a podcast, unsubscribing starts to seem like a logical next step.

It’s something for all of us who create things on the Internet to keep in mind: People have a near-infinite supply of content at their disposal now. We should be respectful of their time and always leave them wanting more. There is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”


Podcast

Upgrade #142: You Want Applause

Upgrade

This week on Upgrade Jason and Myke discuss potential hardware announcements at WWDC—what they might be, and what message they might send. We also discuss a little bit about Google IO, including announcements about Google Photos and emoji, and get a little misty while thinking about Steve Jobs’ last product, Apple Park.


Linked by Dan Moren

MacStories’s iOS 11 wish list and concepts

The ever thorough Federico Viticci has an in-depth rundown of what he’d like to see in iOS 11 on the iPad, complete with an eye-catching concept video:

Even in its apparent simplicity, the Shelf would still be a feature for iPad power-users who want a better way to deal with multiple bits of content. As such, the Shelf would require a specific gesture to be activated when users want to pull content from the Shelf and drop it into an app. In our concept, a three-finger swipe opens the Shelf when an item is not being dragged towards it; this gesture wouldn’t conflict with scrolling in apps, text cursor movement, or Notification Center. When the user has identified an item they need, they can grab it from the Shelf and insert it into a compatible app.

For a moment, I thought to myself that a three-finger swipe is hardly discoverable. Then I reminded myself that that ship sailed when Apple added 3D Touch. Might as well go all in.

Nobody knows the iPad better than Viticci, and his ideas here are pretty well thought out and almost all things I’d be delighted to have: Improved split screen? Multiple audio streams? A unified file-management interface? Sign me up!

Hard as it is to believe, we’re only a few weeks away from seeing what Apple has in store for iOS 11, and I’m sure hoping that it’s a fraction as forward-thinking as what Viticci has concocted.


If Apple announced a Siri-powered home speaker, what might that be like?

By Jason Snell

Imagining the introduction of a “Siri Speaker”

Rumors abound that Apple is working on a new device similar to the Amazon Echo and Google Home—something I’ve been calling the Siri Speaker for the last 14 months.

These rumors come at an interesting time for the ambient home assistant market. The surprising success of the original Amazon Echo has led to an influx of new products, including new Amazon Echo models, the Google Home, and a new Harman Kardon speaker featuring Microsoft’s Cortana assistant.

It’s been clear for a while now that Apple has all the pieces to make a home assistant product if it wanted to—Siri itself, expertise in making audio products from Beats, and a streaming music service in Apple Music. The question was, would Apple do it? And if it did, what choices would it make in fashioning such a product?

With the new rumors that the Siri Speaker might be announced as soon as next month at WWDC, Apple’s developer conference, I’ve started to picture what that announcement might look like. Consider it speculation, analysis, and a little bit of fan fiction all in one…

Continue Reading "Imagining the introduction of a "Siri Speaker""


Jason Snell for IMore

Championing the Mac Pro ↦

If the mood of the past couple of years of the Mac needed to be summed up in two words, I’d nominate “professional angst.” Lack of updates to the late 2013 Mac Pro and the MacBook Pro caused consternation; the eventual new MacBook Pro release walked into a tough room and failed to impress. Pro users were up in arms, to the point where (after two vain attempts to reassure them through oblique Tim Cook statements) Apple took the unprecedented step of inviting five journalists to Cupertino to acknowledge its mistakes and promise better things in the future for pros.

But what is a pro Mac, really?

Continue reading on IMore ↦


Dan Moren for Macworld

The computer as an appliance: Moving beyond the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Siri ↦

Over the past few decades, computing has trended towards the personal. We’ve gone from the age of desktops to the age of laptops to the age of the smartphone. And even though that newfound mobility has brought with it freedom and flexibility, it’s not without its costs.

For one thing, we are, more than ever, entranced with our own personal screens, in the same way that we don our headphones and tune out the world. Computing has become a siloed affair, with each of us involved in our own personalized experiences—even if they connect us with other people across the world, all on their own devices.

But part of me wonders if the pendulum is beginning to swing back to a model where the technology we use at home is linked to a particular location. That’s not to say such a device would supplant the smartphone or tablet, or even the laptop. But maybe the time is finally upon us when the computer becomes a home appliance.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Google’s AI challenges

Google’s doing a lot of things with AI and machine learning, many of them pretty impressive. But from an Apple perspective, I found this portion of Harry McCracken’s interview with google senior VP John Giannandrea interesting:

TensorFlow Lite, a new offshoot of Google’s open-source TensorFlow software for creating machine-learning applications, runs directly on Android devices, enabling features such as new features in Android O that are smart enough, for instance, to notice that the text you’re trying to highlight is an address. It wouldn’t work nearly as smoothly if it had to talk to a server across an internet connection.

“You want to do machine learning on the device as much as you possibly can,” Giannandrea says. “It’s lower latency, it’s closer to the user, it’s distributed.”

What’s interesting is that, due to privacy issues, this has been Apple’s approach all along—doing machine learning on the device, rather than in the cloud. Google’s now driving in the same direction, not because of a lack of prowess in cloud AI, but it’s better for users if as much of that stuff runs locally as possible.


Jason Snell for Macworld

Apple Park: The last great product by Steve Jobs ↦

One of the words I use a lot when reviewing Apple products is opinionated. I firmly believe that great art or design can’t happen without a point of view—and the more you depart from a focused point of view, the more likely a creation will be compromised, workmanlike… good, maybe, but not great.

When it’s at its best, Apple strives for greatness. It doesn’t always get there—and every now and then you get the sense it’s not actually trying to get there—but when things are hitting on all cylinders, Apple releases products that are backed by a strong point of view about what will delight and serve its customers.

The MacBook, for example, is a product based on a focused vision: That a single port and a slower class of processor are worthy trade-offs for an incredibly thin and light computer with a Retina display. You don’t have to agree with Apple’s take—in the case of the MacBook, the company’s practically daring you to disagree—but you can’t deny that it’s an amazing execution of a particular set of priorities.

I’ve been thinking about Apple’s approach to products this week because I read Steven Levy’s excellent inside look at the new Apple Park campus for Wired. It’s worth a read—I highly recommend it, if you haven’t dug in yet.

Levy’s been covering Apple longer than just about anyone, and in great detail. In his story about Apple Park, he suggests that the facility itself is an Apple product—in fact, the last product to truly be conceived of by Steve Jobs. (It’s why the story’s headline, “One More Thing”, is so bittersweet.)

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound 137: We’re Doubling Down on Glass

The Rebound

This week, Dan chooses the wrong hill to die on, the guys discuss the ill-conceived laptop ban on flights from Europe (which may now be dead?), and we try to suss out what Apple’s doing with its investments in Corning and dark data company Lattice. We also talk about that ransomware attack from last week.


Linked by Dan Moren

How a British security researcher accidentally stopped last week’s ransomware outbreak

Really fascinating story at Ars Technica from the anonymous MalwareTech, the British security researcher who stopped last week’s ransomware attack in its tracks by registering an unused domain name:

You probably can’t picture a grown man jumping around with the excitement of having just been ransomwared, but this was me. The failure of the ransomware to run the first time and then the subsequent success on the second meant that we had in fact prevented the spread of Wanna Decryptor and prevented it ransoming any new computer since the registration of the domain. I initially kept quiet about this while I reverse engineered the code myself to triple check this was the case, but by now Darien’s tweet had gotten a lot of traction.

As the researcher explains, attempting to register domains referenced by malware is a standard part of the security toolkit—it just so happens that in this case, the malware was (perhaps erroneously) written in such a way as to not encrypt files if the domain could be reached.


Linked by Jason Snell

Emoji Defragmentation: Goodbye, Google blobs

Image courtesy Emojipedia.

As I’ve written about before, one of the problems with emoji is that different operating systems and websites render emoji differently—which can lead to misunderstandings and confusion when sending messages across platforms or when switching between platforms.

Among the many announcements today at Google’s I/O developer conference1 was the next version of Android, currently called Android O. And it includes a major step for Google’s emoji designs: They’re all new, with support for the brand-new Emoji 5.0 spec, including a dinosaur and a vomiting face.

But the biggest step may be the death of the Google gumdrop blob, as explained by Emojipedia’s Jeremy Burge:

The “blob” character seen in previous versions of Android has been a divisive character; morphing over time from an alien, into a consistent gumdrop shape. In Android O, the gumdrop is gone: replaced with round smiley shape, consistent with all other operating systems.

As a Gmail user I see these blobs occasionally and I don’t like them. Not only do I find them unappealing aesthetically, but they’re rendered in a way utterly unlike the equivalent emoji on other platforms. The new Android O emoji, on the other hand, look awesome. I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple’s take on the Emoji 5.0 spec is, presumably when iOS 11 is announced in June.


  1. Yes, one of the things I’m most exicted about at Google I/O is new emoji. I’m sorry, this is who I am. ↩


Linked by Jason Snell

Panic source code stolen in HandBrake app hack

Steven Frank of Panic:

In a case of extraordinarily bad luck, even for a guy that has a lot of bad computer luck, I happened to download HandBrake in that three day window, and my work Mac got pwned. Long story short, somebody, somewhere, now has quite a bit of source code to several of our apps.

It’s quite a story. The good news is, after a lot of consideration, Panic doesn’t feel this is a hugely damaging breach—and customer data doesn’t appear to have been affected. Apple has been notified and the FBI is investigating.

But if you see Panic apps on pirate sites, be warned—they could very well be compromised in the same way that HandBrake was, in order to compromise even more Macs and user data. (Also, don’t pirate software.)

[via John Gruber]


Podcast

Clockwise #189: Her Cuneiform is Top Notch

Clockwise

This week, on the 30-minute tech roundup that will kill all the weeds in your yard, we talk about the possibility of Apple Watch smart bands, what old tech we’d resurrect, the fate of the iPad mini, and why more tech companies don’t develop for accessibility. With special guests Georgia Dow and Rene Ritchie.


Linked by Jason Snell

Developers introduce new feed format

Longtime Mac and iOS developers Manton Reece and Brent Simmons announced on Wednesday that they’ve created JSON Feed, a format that’s intended to be a successor or alternative to RSS and Atom, but built using the common JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) format.

Their rationale is that JSON is less bug-prone than XML, upon which the other formats are based. Many developers prefer JSON and are more familiar with it. And if reliance on XML was limiting development of RSS and blogging, Simmons (who was the longtime developer of the NetNewsWire RSS reader) and Reece (who recently launched the micro.blog blogging service) wanted to find a way to escape those limitations.

As someone who was wrangled XML-based feeds for a long time, I can see the appeal. If other developers adopt and build on it, it could big a great new addition to data feeds on the Internet.

Update: Six Colors now has a JSON Feed available here.


Linked by Jason Snell

CMD-D: Masters of Automation

On August 9, former Apple automation guru Sal Soghoian is hosting an all-day conference in Santa Clara on the state of automation technologies across macOS and iOS. I’ll be there (and will do an end-of-day interview session), and if you care about automation across Apple’s platforms, you should be there too.