six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

Support this Site

Become a Six Colors subscriber and get access to a special weekly podcast, monthly newsletter, and community.

By Jason Snell

Chart party: Using automation to eliminate image drudgery

Every three months I generate new charts resulting from the release of Apple’s financial results, including total products shipped, revenues, profits, and much more. I like how the charts, which are built in Numbers, look—but not the process of getting them out of Numbers and up on this site.

So in advance of the next quarterly results release 1, I decided to see if I could find a way to somehow automate my chart process, which up until now has involved me manually taking screen shots of every single chart as I pan around the Numbers window. (Then I have an Automator action that resizes those screenshots and uploads them.)

I asked some of the smarter user-automation people I know—Sal Soghoian, Rosemary Orchard, and Dr. Drang—and ended up stumbling my way to a solution, at least on the Mac. (I’m still searching for one on iOS, but I rarely am traveling when the numbers come out.)

Here’s how my solution—saved as an Automator app, though I could’ve probably done it entirely in AppleScript if I had wanted to put in a little more work—does its job:

First, adapting a script from one of Sal’s Mac OS Automation sites, I export my entire Numbers document to PDF. Then I use Automator’s built-in “Render PDF Pages as Images” command to output my numbers file to 300-dpi PNG images.

Get started by exporting a PDF and rendering it into a high-res PNG.

Originally my Numbers file was a single sheet, but as a part of this project I decided to move the charts to a second sheet, leaving the raw table of numbers alone on a sheet. This means that when the two above steps run, I’m left with two large PNG images—one with all my charts, and another one showing the table text (which I ignore).

Now for the next trick, which is sectioning up a 12 MB, 12,000-by-14,000 pixel PNG file into a bunch of little images resized perfectly for the Six Colors web template. I considered a bunch of approaches, but ended up settling on ImageMagick, a set of command-line image tools that I was able to install via Homebrew by typing brew install imagemagick.

Imagemagick includes a command called convert, which does an awful lot of things, including allowing you to arbitrarily crop a file at a certain point to a specific size. So to carve a single chart out of my giant source file, I might issue a command like this:

  convert applefinancials.png -crop 2637x1612+341+2144 chart1.png

To explain, that command is cropping the file applefinancials.png to a box that’s 2637 pixels wide and 1612 pixels tall, from a point that’s 341 pixels from the left and 2144 pixels from the top of the original image, and saving it all to a new file called chart1.png.

Regarding the very specific file size of 2637 × 1612: The charts in my Numbers file weren’t entirely consistent in their size and placement, so as a part of this project I created a colored rectangle in Numbers and then resized every single chart in my file until they all fit underneath it with no content sticking out. That colored rectangle, when exported to that giant PNG, was exactly 2637 pixels wide and 1612 pixels high.

A colored rectangle provided a template for the size limits of each chart.

Once I had proven that Imagemagick was capable of cropping my image, I needed to chop up two dozen charts. To speed things along, I aligned my charts in Numbers on a grid, and wrote a simple pair of repeat loops in AppleScript that step through all four columns of charts one row at a time. 2

With that done, I had two more steps I needed to take: resizing and uploading of my images, tasks I currently perform with a different Automator action. For resizing, I was able to just tack on an extra resize attribute to when running convert 3:

  convert applefinancials.png -crop 2637x1612+341+2144 chart1.png -resize 1360x833

For uploading, I copied out the code from my previous Automator action and re-used it, inserting a quick FTP upload for every file as it was coming off the assembly line. (I use the command-line tool scp to do this; this post from Dr. Drang is where I learned how to do it.)

Look, a chart!

After a couple of test runs to clear out a few mistakes, the script has proven good to go—and I’ll put it into practice on July 31. I’m pretty sure that over the quarters it will end up saving me time, but more importantly, it will immediately free up my time in those precious moments just as Apple’s numbers have been released, allowing me to post my chart images faster and then move on to more pressing matters, like covering Tim Cook’s call with analysts and figuring out What It All Means for the future of Apple’s business.

  1. Tuesday, July 31, at about 2:30 Pacific, if you’re wondering. ↩

  2. I used the Info pane in Photoshop to detect the exact coordinates of each row and column. ↩

  3. One of the beauties of AppleScript and Automator is that you can freely use command-line tools within them. In AppleScript you just wrap them inside do shell script. Automator has its own “Run Shell Script” block. ↩



Clockwise #250: Bring Us The Dogmoji

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that has aired a quarter of a thousand episodes, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests James Thomson and Kathy Campbell to discuss our strategies for unplugging from tech and social media, how we deal with physical media and a lack of space, whether we’d let delivery people come into our homes, and our favorite (and most wished-for) emoji. Plus, a frosty dessert-themed bonus question.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)

Jason Snell for Macworld

How today’s Apple has thrown out its old rulebook ↦

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, he didn’t like what he saw, so he set about changing the corporate culture. A decade later, one proof of his success was the fact that the company seemed to follow a rulebook, largely behaving with a consistency that allowed those of us who covered the company to react to wild rumors with phrases like “Apple wouldn’t do that” or “that’s not how Apple does things.”

But in the years following Jobs’s death (and the departure of some other Jobs-era executives), Apple has continued to evolve—and in many cases, it’s torn up the old rulebook. A lot of the changes strike me as being for the better—I feel like after Steve laid down the law in the late 90s, some policies and decisions were never really reconsidered until the Tim Cook era got into full swing.

Here are just a few ways that today’s Apple has tossed out, or at least amended, the classic Apple rulebook.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

Linked by Jason Snell

Here are this year’s new Emojis

Jeremy Burge at Emojipedia has the details on the next round of Emojis Apple is adding to its operating systems this fall:

Popular additions coming soon to iOS include redheads, a mango, kangaroo and lobster. Billing the update as over 70 new emojis, the total number should total closer to 150 additions when gender and skin tones are taken into account.

The designs are approved by the Emoji Subcommittee of the Unicode Consortium, on which Burge sits, but that’s just a standards body—it’s up to the designers of individual platforms to deliver. Burge spoke to Apple VP of User Interface Design Alan Dye about the process:

“I wish I could say that there was a math behind all that but there really isn’t. We’re looking for what is the most iconic, the most usable the most timeless representation of that emoji that we’re designing.”

Apple’s also got a page up about the new emoji designs, and has updated its leadership page with Memojis.



Upgrade #202: I’m Going to Counter Your Jaguar

Guest co-host Stephen Hackett joins Jason to discuss the new MacBook Pros and what they mean for Apple’s product line at large, adventures with the macOS Mojave beta, and the new Sonos AirPlay 2 update. And since this is the summer of fun, we cap it all off with a quick Mac OS X draft!

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 34 minutes)

Linked by Jason Snell

What the T2 means for the Mac

Apologies for the self-reposting, but at the beginning of this year I wrote a piece about how the T2 in the iMac Pro was the beginning of a major change to the Mac platform. That same T2 is now in the latest generation MacBook Pro models, so those changes have spread further into the Mac ecosystem. Worth a re-read, if I do say so myself.

Linked by Jason Snell

Adobe to launch Photoshop for iPad

I’d heard rumors about this, but here it is as reported by Mark Gurman and Nico Grant of Bloomberg, with official confirmation from Adobe:

Adobe… is planning to launch the full version of its Photoshop app for Apple Inc.’s iPad as part of a new strategy to make its products compatible across multiple devices and boost subscription sales.

“My aspiration is to get these on the market as soon as possible,” [Adobe Chief Product Officer of Creative Cloud Scott] Belsky said in an interview. “There’s a lot required to take a product as sophisticated and powerful as Photoshop and make that work on a modern device like the iPad. We need to bring our products into this cloud-first collaborative era.”

I wrote about Adobe’s iPad app failure last year. The company missed a big opportunity on iOS by focusing on tiny apps, but until a couple of years ago iOS devices couldn’t provide desktop-level performance. At this point my iPad Pro is more powerful than my 2014 MacBook Air, though, and that thing runs Photoshop just fine.

I’m excited that Adobe is embracing the iPad as a platform at last. Step by step, the tools that I use to do my job on my iMac Pro are beginning to appear on my iPad Pro, too. I’m excited about what comes next.

By Jason Snell

Apple updates the MacBook Pro in big and small ways

The current generation of MacBook Pro models has been controversial since it was introduced in late 2016. The Touch Bar, the abandonment of MagSafe, a 16GB RAM limit, a reduction in ports, the move to USB-C (requiring dongles to connect old devices), and the low-travel keyboard from the MacBook… people were frustrated by a lot of Apple’s choices on these computers.

Another frustration pro Mac users have been having recently is that the product cycle has seemed to keep stretching, with Apple taking increasingly long between product updates. With its recommitment to pro users at a special media event in the spring of 2017, it seemed like Apple had gotten the message, but it would need to walk the walk. A quick MacBook Pro update last spring suggested the company was recommitting to relatively quick product updates; the grumbling began again when the year anniversary of that update passed with no sign of a 2018 revision.

On Thursday that revision arrived. And while it’s not a wholesale reinvention of this generation of MacBook Pro—Apple stuck with the previous body design for four years—it does address a few of the top complaints of MacBook Pro users. The 2018 MacBook Pros support up to 32GB of RAM, and they’re running Intel eighth-generation Core processors. It took Apple 13 months between updates this time, but it seems clear now that Apple is committed to an annual update cycle for the MacBook Pro that takes into account the latest high-performance laptop chips from Intel.

As you might expect from a mid-generation spec bump update, most of the changes on these models are modest. The MacBook Pro now contains the same Apple-designed T2 processor as the iMac Pro, replacing the T1 processor in previous models that drove the Touch Bar. The T2 does a lot more, most notably providing on-the-fly storage encryption and providing a secure boot process.

For the first time, a Mac gains a True Tone display, previously seen only on iOS devices. True Tone is a nice feature that matches the color temperature of your display to the color temperature of your surroundings, thanks to an embedded light sensor. Of course, a lot of the professional users who will be buying the MacBook Pro will demand color output fidelity from their new laptop display, and will therefore need to turn this feature off some or all of the time.

The low-travel butterfly keyboard has apparently also been tweaked, making this the third generation model (after the one in the original MacBook and the updated version that shipped on the 2016 MacBook Pros and every successive MacBook). The second revision of the keyboard was meant to add more tactile feel, but also really increased the volume of noise—I always describe those keyboards as sounding “crunchy.” According to Apple, this new generation of keyboard is quieter, but presumably the company didn’t just revert to the first-generation design and has retained some of the added feel that makes you forget you’re typing on keys with extremely short travel.

It’s also unclear if the new keyboard design will prove less prone to failure than the previous models. Apple continues to insist that only a very small percentage of keyboards fail due to small bits of grit and dust getting stuck in keys (though it made a repair warranty extension program all the same), and I know many people who have run into just this problem with their keyboards. Apple is never going to declare that its old keyboard design was terrible; we’re just going to have to wait and see if perhaps this new design turns out to be more resilient.

In the end, if you’re a MacBook Pro user who wanted access to the latest generation of Intel processors (including a six-core model!) and 32GB of RAM, this update will be welcome. If, on the other hand, you’re someone who thinks Apple made some poor choices in its design of this generation of MacBook Pro… this is still fundamentally the 2016 MacBook Pro design. A redesign will undoubtedly come along eventually—they always do. But this update isn’t that.

For hands-on looks at these new models (based on a media event held in New York City on Wednesday), check out Laptop Mag, The Verge, Macworld, and iMore.

Jason Snell for Macworld

Sonos update adds AirPlay 2 support ↦

On Wednesday, Sonos released support for Apple’s AirPlay 2, giving a dramatic boost in functionality to certain Sonos smart speakers via a software update. If you’ve got a Sonos One, Beam, Playbase, or second-generation Play:5, you’ll need to update your Sonos iOS app and then use the new app to install the software update.

This is a big step forward in flexibility for Sonos products—keep in mind that Sonos speakers don’t do Bluetooth or AirPlay 1, so they’ve been pretty firmly locked in their own universe unless you added a dongle or ran a software bridge. But once a Sonos speaker gets AirPlay 2, you can do a lot more than just play audio directly to that speaker from a Mac or iOS device.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦



Clockwise #249: Six Years from Today

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that is both too fast AND too furious, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Jeff Carlson and Scholle McFarland to discuss the smart home gadgets we think are ridiculous (and the ones we like inspire of ourselves), how we discover apps, whether we make photo books, and how much we use our iPads for work. Plus, a special bonus topic on solving conflicts without violence.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)

Linked by Jason Snell

An unusual link to the 10th anniversary of the App Store

Craig Hockenberry, whose app Twitterrific debuted on the App Store 10 years ago this week, wants to celebrate a different kind of App Store app:

Many of the apps on that first day, including my work with Twitterrific, were adaptations of desktop apps. Things like AIM, NetNewsWire, and Solitaire had many advantages on mobile, but in retrospect, they weren’t a sign of what lay ahead.

Even though it was a gag, iBeer gave us a real glimpse of our future. It was the first app that was spacial. The function of the app was determined by where it was in your world. It could not exist without you.

The YouTube video of how to use iBeer is a real hoot. And Craig’s exactly right: Many of the first-day apps were iPhone versions of Mac apps, and while they were great, there was a whole other class of apps that were uniquely designed with the iPhone in mind. iBeer, as ridiculous as it was, pointed the way to the future of the App Store.

Linked by Dan Moren

John Giannandrea now in charge of Core ML and Siri

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino on a shakeup in Apple’s organization which will put the company’s machine learning, AI, and Siri teams under the aegis of John Giannandrea:

The internal structures of the Siri and Core ML teams will remain the same, but they will now answer to Giannandrea. Apple’s internal structure means that the teams will likely remain integrated across the org as they’re wedded to various projects including developer tools, mapping, Core OS and more. ML is everywhere, basically.

Giannandrea, you may remember, was hired away from Google back in April, where he had spent the last eight years, including working as the head of search. He reports directly to Tim Cook.

This bodes well for Apple’s machine learning and AI efforts, since it provides a unified leadership for those teams. Hopefully this means clearer, more concerted efforts in this department.



Upgrade #201: Full English Breakfast

Myke got married, Jason’s back from his vacation, and the Summer of Fun continues with discussion of the Shortcuts app in the iOS 12 beta, potential colorful new iPhones, and AT&T’s plans to make HBO more like Netflix. Then at the very end, it’s time for the official wedding recap with Myke at the Matrimony.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 22 minutes)

By Dan Moren

iOS 11.4.1 blocks USB password hacks…mostly

Yesterday’s release of iOS 11.4.1 contained a much remarked upon security feature dubbed “USB Restricted Mode.” To wit: iOS will now disable the data-transfer abilities of the Lightning port if the device’s passcode has not been entered for an hour, or an hour after it’s disconnected from a trusted USB device. Entering your passcode reenables the feature. (Charging is unaffected.)

That’s squarely aimed at tools like GrayKey, which law enforcement have used to exploit a loophole allowing them to unlock devices.

However, USB Restricted Mode is not—as currently implemented—fool proof. Security researchers at ElcomSoft point out that connecting a USB accessory inside the 1-hour window restarts the clock. That includes something like Apple’s own Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter.

That said, this isn’t a huge vulnerability—ElcomSoft even theorizes that it’s just an oversight. Not only does it require law enforcement to act quickly and to have the requisite hardware on hand, but it only works within the window: once USB Restricted Mode has kicked in, you can’t undo it without the passcode. Users can also manually enable USB Restricted Mode by triggering the SOS mode—holding an iPhone’s sleep/wake button and either volume button. That forces the phone to require a passcode.

It seems likely that Apple will fix this loophole in a future update, and I doubt that law enforcement agencies will act fast enough to capitalize on it in the meantime.

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

Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple: A little more color, please ↦

Apple has a long back and forth relationship with the role of color in its products. Even looking back at the original Macintosh, which debuted with a black and white display at a time when the company’s long-running Apple II line boasted color graphics. (The Apple II which, it should also be noted, gave us the venerable six-color Apple logo.)

In more recent years, color has played a part in the outward facing part of Apple’s products as well. When the first iMac appeared on the scene in 1998, its most distinctive feature was the bright Bondi Blue exterior, which later multiplied into a variety of different options and set the tone for Apple products of its era.

For the last decade or so, however, Apple has largely retreated from offering color versions of its products. Only more recently has it shifted its strategy to include different metallic shades of products like the iPhone and the iPad. Broader color options have mainly been limited to the Product(RED) version of the iPhone that Apple seems to release about six months into the current model’s lifteime.

Now, a new report suggests that Apple may once again veer into color territory, with the current metallic options joined by different shades, including blue and orange. Frankly, it’s about time.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


The Rebound

The Rebound 194: Nothing But The Net

This week, on the irreverent podcast that’s firmly on dry land, Lex has returned from a week on the ocean with a newfound perspective on life (or simply a lot of fatigue), John is waffling on whether to celebrate our traditional upcoming holiday, and Dan just has no understanding of basketball at all.

Episode linkMP3 (36 minutes)



Clockwise #248: Six Filters Was All We Needed in My Day

This week on the 30-minute tech show that’s over 100°F, Dan and Mikah are joined by special continental guests Anže Tomić and Rose Orchard to discuss Apple’s Maps overhaul, Instagram’s “you’re all caught up” feature, e-commerce via social media, and Apple Pay on public transit. Plus, a special bike-themed bonus topic.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)

Linked by Dan Moren

Apple is revamping its Maps data in detail

TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino gets the skinny from Apple itself about a major push on improving data in the company’s mapping solution:

Better road networks, more pedestrian information, sports areas like baseball diamonds and basketball courts, more land cover including grass and trees represented on the map as well as buildings, building shapes and sizes that are more accurate. A map that feels more like the real world you’re actually traveling through.

This is a big deal. Apple Maps has steadily improved in the last few years since its somewhat disastrous debut, but there’s always been a perception that it’s still lagged behind Google. It’s pretty clear that Cupertino wants to dispel that, and it seems to be putting the muscle behind it. In traditional Apple fashion, it’s decided to handle that by building the whole widget: collecting all of the data from the ground up.

Panzarino points out a few interesting details in his conversations with Apple employees, most crucially how focused they remain on the company’s core value of privacy:

Throughout every conversation I have with any member of the team throughout the day, privacy is brought up, emphasized. This is obviously by design as it wants to impress upon me as a journalist that it’s taking this very seriously indeed, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s evidently built in from the ground up and I could not find a false note in any of the technical claims or the conversations I had.

And, of course, Apple’s usual attention to detail:

This is the department of details. They’ve reconstructed replicas of hundreds of actual road signs to make sure that the shield on your navigation screen matches the one you’re seeing on the highway road sign. When it comes to public transport, Apple licensed all of the type faces that you see on your favorite subway systems, like Helvetica for NYC. And the line numbers are in the exact same order that you’re going to see them on the platform signs.

Other interesting tidbits include technology that might hint at AR-based navigation, and the fact that Apple is—finally—improving its search. But the proof will be in the using. The detailed data will be rolled out into existing Maps next week, starting with information collected about, of course, the Bay Area.

Dan Moren for Macworld

The Apple TV and tvOS could use a little love ↦

The iPhone, Apple Watch, and Mac all got some love from Apple at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, but the fourth of Apple’s platforms was largely left out in the cold: the Apple TV.

Indeed, the newest version of tvOS doesn’t even get its own page on Apple’s site—clicking links about it will simply take you to an updated page for the Apple TV 4K, released last September.

On the face of it, sure, it’s understandable why the Apple TV and tvOS didn’t get a lot of attention: the set-top box is arguably the least ambitious of Apple’s products, and many of the roadblocks that the company has run into in terms of improving it have been stymied by the need to work with partners.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t still substantial changes that could be made to the platform. Here are just a couple of suggestions of things that Apple could improve.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


The Rebound

The Rebound 193: Be the Memoji You Want to Be

This week on the tech show that sometimes finds itself with a Scotsman, we discuss the new betas for Apple devices and why John hasn’t installed them. Plus, Apple finally cops to its keyboards having problems, and Dan and James have opportunities for you to clothe yourself!

Episode linkMP3 (43 minutes)