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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Dan Moren for Macworld

How Apple’s big picture ventures get small for the consumer ↦

Sometimes it’s fun to think big.

Apple as a company usually focuses on products: things that it builds that consumers will end up using. Smartphones, computers, tablets, and so on. While other tech companies sometimes put forth their moonshots—big, costly ideas intended to reshape the world, but which rarely do—Apple generally seems content to operate by pushing the envelope on the here and now.

But that doesn’t mean that the company hasn’t got larger ambitions: it just doesn’t talk about them. In many cases, that’s probably because those ideas haven’t yet reached the point of becoming discrete products that the company can create and ship. When you’re taking on a large idea, especially one in an entrenched industry, it can be tough to distill that big idea down to the atomic level of a product.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


The Rebound 187: Sittin’ Here With a Bunch of Jazz

The Rebound

This week, on the tech show that’s sometimes three, sometimes two people, Dan and John do a rundown of iPhone SE 2 rumors (including a bet), class action lawsuits about Apple’s keyboards, cloud storage pricing, self-driving cars, and way, way more about keyboards. Also, John’s collection of vintage storage media and Dan’s extensive backup regimen.

Linked by Dan Moren

Microsoft launches Xbox Adaptive Controller, designed for accessibility

Xbox Adapative Controller

Ars Technica’s Sam Machkovech takes a deep dive into Microsoft’s launch of a new controller designed for gamers with disabilities:

The operative word is “adaptive.” XAC’s potential truly begins with its back-side strip. There, you’ll find a whopping 19 ports, all 3.5mm jacks. No, this isn’t a giant middle finger to the headphone-jack haters at Apple and Google. Rather, these ports see Microsoft connecting with, and loudly celebrating, what has long been an open secret in the world of gaming peripherals: the community of add-on devices designed for limited-mobility gamers.

Oversized buttons, finger switches, blowing tubes, foot pedals, and other specialized inputs have long been built for gamers who can’t hold onto or efficiently use average controllers (gamepads, keyboards, mice). Recent speeches from company heads like CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox chief Phil Spencer have paid lip service to “inclusivity” in computing and gaming, but this device, the XAC, aims to do the trick by connecting niche add-ons to standard Microsoft hardware.

This is both an impressive bit of hardware and a significant commitment from a company the size of Microsoft. Time, research, and money have all clearly been plowed into the development of this controller as part of the company’s overall strategy to make gaming more accessible.

Apple’s long touted accessibility as a big part of its platform, and it’s good to see the rest of the tech industry doing their part as well.


Clockwise #241: I’m a Mostly Terrible Person


This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that’s always allegro, Dan and Mikah are joined by Shelly Brisbin and John Voorhees to discuss DirecTV’s new cloud DVR feature, the one thing we’d like to see in an iPhone SE 2, whether the tablet market is big enough for Apple and Microsoft, and how we’d like Apple to improve notifications in iOS 12. Plus, Mikah can’t resist spreading the meme that’s sweeping the Internet.

Jason Snell for Macworld

Give your old Mac software eternal life ↦

It’s been a long time coming, but having your Mac tell you that some of your apps will stop working brings some immediacy to the issue: If there’s a 32-bit Mac app you rely on to get work done, and it’s no longer being updated, on forthcoming versions of macOS it will only work with compromises, and ultimately it won’t work at all.

Don’t fear the death of your old software, my friends. Your current long-in-the-tooth favorites, and old friends you said goodbye to years ago, can live on and still be useful, thanks to the miraculous digital afterlife known as virtualization.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

By Dan Moren

Tapbots releases Tweetbot 3 for Mac


Tapbots released Tweetbot 3 for macOS this afternoon, three years after its last major release, Tweetbot 2. This update features an overhauled UI, a dark mode, and an easier way to preview media. John Voorhees at MacStories has a really in-depth overview of everything that’s new.

My feelings on the update are more mixed. Tweetbot has been my client of choice on the Mac for several years now, and I’ve grown attached to its way of doing things. Tweetbot 3 feels largely very similar but makes a number of smaller changes that are going to take some time getting used to.

For example, the client now shows buttons for replying, retweeting, liking, etc. on every single tweet, rather than simply the tweet that’s selected or that you mouse over. It feels more cluttered to me, though I can see the argument that the features are less hidden than before. Likewise, the retweet indicator for tweets has moved from the bottom to the top, which is a bit jarring.

I had hoped that an update to the Mac version of Tweetbot would add the same Stats view that has long been in the iOS client, but no dice here in version 3, to my disappointment. Furthermore, the Activity and Mentions views are now both sub-sections of the Notifications view, mimicking Twitter’s web interface, which makes them harder to access, and impossible to navigate via the keyboard.

Tweetbot 3 does improve the app’s column management: you can simply drag near the bottom of window to create a second column, or drag back to remove an existing column. It’s a handy feature, but as someone who uses columns only once every few months, it doesn’t do much for me. And though dark mode is attractive, I wish the title bar would change to a darker color as well.1

Of course, the big disappointment here belongs not to Tapbots, but to Twitter itself, which still keeps certain features to itself instead of sharing with third-party developers. Polls, group direct messages, and Twitter bookmarks are all absent here—though, if you ask me, that’s a fair trade for a simple chronological timeline that’s ad-free.

Despite it being 2018, I’m sure there will be some fuss that Tweetbot 3 is a brand new $10 purchase from the Mac App Store, regardless of whether or not you own a previous version of the app. I’m not one to begrudge developers their income, especially as Tweebot 2 was a free update from the original Tweetbot. Shelling out $10 every six years or so is more than reasonable to me.

Though I’m not sold on all of Tweetbot 3’s changes yet, I figure I’ll spend a while using the new app before I decide whether it’ll truly become my new Twitter client of choice.

  1. I also miss the square icon. I’m going to be spending some extra time hunting in the Dock for the next week or so, I’m sure.  ↩

[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.]

Linked by Jason Snell

ZTE: Sanctions breaker, job creator?

The story of Chinese phone maker ZTE, which last month was banned from using American components or operating in America for seven years, was already strange. Despite international sanctions, ZTE sold electronics to Iran and North Korea. That was bad, so ZTE was punished, and in a settlement ZTE agreed to pay $1.19 billion in fines and would reprimand ZTE staff and executives who participated in the sales and cancel their bonuses. But ZTE was allowed to continue to sell technology in the United States.

In yet another example that it’s always the cover-up that gets you, it turns out that ZTE didn’t actually reprimand employees or cancel their bonuses. So the U.S. Commerce Department restored the punishments that had been suspended in the settlement. Given the importance of Qualcomm processors and Google services to its phone business, this left ZTE on the brink of collapse.

You probably already know what happened next: the President of the United States tweeted that “too many jobs in China [would be] lost” if ZTE went under, and instructed the Commerce Department to “get it done” regarding getting ZTE back in business.

Paul Mozur and Raymond Zhong in the New York Times:

The overture appeared to be off-key for an administration that has been reliably strident on what it has called unfair Chinese trade practices. Mr. Trump’s concern in his tweet about Chinese jobs — which echoed Beijing’s talking point on the issue — also runs counter to his vows to restore American jobs lost to China.

“Given his pressure on Beijing on trade, I don’t understand his concern for Chinese jobs” in the tweet, said Adam Segal, a technology and security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. It “goes against the steady stream of security warnings about ZTE,” he added.

There’s a lot mixed up in this story—ongoing trade-war saber rattling between the U.S. and China, the invalidation by the President of the Iran nuclear deal that restores the sanctions that ZTE violated in selling technology to Iran, concerns over Chinese influence over technological and networking infrastructures that led to the rejection of the Broadcom-Qualcomm merger1, and even the posturing over the forthcoming summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Still, it’s quite a thing to wake up one morning and see a president who has repeatedly talked about a fear of American jobs being lost to China and was critical of the lifting of sanctions on Iran suddenly declare that Chinese jobs need to be saved at a company that not only ignored the sanctions on Iran, but violated its own settlement agreement in order to reward the employees who broke those sanctions.

  1. Qualcomm’s stock was up on report that its trading partner might survive. ↩


Upgrade #193: This is Stephen Hackett’s Fault


This week on Upgrade: The 25th anniversary of BBEdit and a visit with a friend lead Jason to take a deep dive into Mac history, Google shows a disappointing lack of forethought in its AI demo, and the future of TV is apparently Apple’s TV app.

Linked by Dan Moren

NES and SNES Classic back, to be available through the end of the year

The Verge’s Sam Byford:

Nintendo has announced the date for its re-release of its re-release of the NES, the NES Classic Edition. The console, which sold out immediately upon its debut in November 2016, will return to store shelves on June 29th, and Nintendo expects it — along with the SNES Classic Edition — to be available through the end of the year,

If you missed your chance to get one, you’ll have another, as promised. But I’m still hoping for an N64 Classic one of these days.

By Jason Snell

BBEdit turns 25 (or 26, who’s counting?)

Six years ago I was in a Berlin hotel room when I wrote about the 20th anniversary of the first release of BBEdit, the program I still use most often to write most of my stuff. Now it’s somehow time for the 25th anniversary of the app—or, more accurately, the 25th anniversary of the first commercial release of BBEdit, version 2.5. (The previous year Rich Siegel released a free version, which was the anniversary I was celebrating back in 2012.)

I probably started using BBEdit at MacUser in the mid-1990s, thanks to the influence of a “prince of insufficient light”, Stephan Somogyi. I’ve been using it ever since. At this point that means I’ve been a user for 88 percent of BBEdit’s lifetime, which may still make me a new user.

I’ve probably written millions of words using it. I’ve sorted and pattern-matched thousands more. It made the transition from Classic Mac OS to OS X, from 68000 to PowerPC to Intel, and kept winning awards and finding loyal customers along the way. Just the other day I found a souvenir from the astounding 10th anniversary of BBEdit—now itself a collectors item! In fact, I wrote most of this post in BBEdit 2 on an emulator on my iMac Pro, all thanks to me unearthing that CD. And coincidentally, I spent a couple of hours yesterday doing some heavy lifting of large text files—sorting, collating, and running grep search-and-replace operations—so I was already appreciating the versatility of BBEdit when the anniversary was pointed out to me.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that BBEdit keeps going strong.

Dan Moren for Macworld

The iMac’s lasting legacy ↦

Plenty has already been said about the 20th anniversary of the iMac, the computer that played an instrumental role in bringing Apple back from the brink. But the legacy of the Bondi Blue iMac is still with us in many ways today—not just in the computer that shares its name, but in an overriding philosophy that Apple continues to exemplify across its product line.

If you wanted an indication of how Apple would be doing business in 2018, you could do worse than cast back two decades and look at the decisions that it made when it produced that first iMac. (A machine that itself took a page directly out of Apple’s own playbook for the original Macintosh back in 1984.) The line is anything but subtle.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


The Rebound 186: I Enjoy Setting Up Routers

The Rebound

This week may have seemed slow at times, but it really heats up when we start talking networking hardware. We discuss Apple’s patent for a round watch face and why SOMEONE isn’t wearing their Apple Watch anymore. Then, some reminiscences about the 20-year-old iMac, and Apple’s discontinuation of the AirPort line. Finally, a quick wrist check before we go.

Linked by Dan Moren

Bloomberg: Apple to start selling third-party subscriptions via TV app

Lucas Shaw, Gerry Smith, and Mark Gurman at Bloomberg talk to the ever popular “people familiar with the matter”:

For the first time, Apple plans to begin selling subscriptions to certain video services directly via its TV app, rather than asking users to subscribe to them through apps individually downloaded from the App Store, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple has let you purchase subscriptions for many video streaming services via your iTunes account for a while now, so this is kind of the next logical step.

But it also speaks to a larger challenge: Apple’s spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out how to do video subscriptions over the last few decades, and it’s hit obstacle after obstacle. In some ways, this latest approach would seem to be the path of least resistance—it’s pretty close to what Amazon offers.

I’m on record as thinking the TV app is a good idea, though it at times feels not quite fully baked. (The thumbnails that appear on the top have no episode titles, and resuming playback where you left off is at the whim of the app.) I’m not sure that subscriptions would improve it, but they’ll definitely surface the option in a more logical way than having to hunt them down through the App Store—and it’s a plus for all the services who want more users, too. So everybody possibly wins?


Clockwise #240: Just the Downfall of Humanity


This week, on the 30-minute tech show that (spoiler) sometimes has more material than fits in 30 minutes, Dan and Mikah are joined by podcast superstars Stephen Hackett and Aleen Simms to discuss Google’s new creepy/cool AI phone calls, the iMac turning 20, Apple’s USB-disabling security move, and app developers’ revenue percentage.

Plus, don’t miss the bonus topic on theme parks that we couldn’t quite fit into the main episode.

Linked by Jason Snell

The iMac arrived ‘Just in Time’

This is a simply amazing piece by Horace Deidu about the history of computing and the iMac’s place in it:

The iMac is a historically significant machine. It allowed Apple to start on a new trajectory…. iMac’s design screamed “consumer product” which went from signaling inferiority to superiority. It set a standard for novelty, creativity and dynamism in the category that was considered second-rate….

The question for today is what is the new iMac? What is the enabler for change? It’s not easy to spot. It is not the thing of the future but it points to the future.

Come for the insightful analysis, but be sure to linger over the mind-blowing charts.

Linked by Jason Snell

‘Hi, this is a Google assistant’

Drew Harwell at the Washington Post:

The technology, debuted at Google’s I/O developer conference, could be a huge convenience for anyone who hates picking up the phone. But it is also raising some thorny questions about the ethics of using a machine to copy a person’s voice, carry out commands - and potentially deceive the unsuspecting listener on the other side…

“We want to be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context,” Google engineers said. “We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months.”

Disclosure sure seems like the right approach here. One of the things about the demo that was distasteful is that it felt like a high-tech prank call, a Google-powered “Crank Yankers”: We were, at some level, meant to laugh at the people on the other end of the line for being fooled into thinking they were talking to a real human being, thanks to the inserted “ums” and sentences ending in uptalk. They were the butt of a joke, made by one of the most powerful companies in the world.

Linked by Jason Snell

On the phone, nobody knows you’re a robot

The Verge’s Natt Garun has some thoughts about Google Duplex, a service previewed yesterday that uses Google’s voice-assistant technology to talk to real people in order to book services on your behalf:

The demo was stunning, both because of how human this next-level chatbot sounded and how dystopian the world would be with our robot imposters flooding the phone lines. But as I walked out of the conference yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about the person on the other end of the line. When did human service workers become Google’s to experiment on?

There’s an awful lot to process about Google Duplex. It’s a remarkable tech demo, though I retain a great deal of skepticism about how well it would actually work in practice. But after the first squees of delight at how surprisingly well the software interfaced with the real human being on the other end of the line, a disquiet settled in.

Does Google think it’s ethical for computers to pretend to be people? Is it right that service workers are now expected to navigate the strange behavior of computer software posing as a human being as a part of their job? Is it appropriate for Google to use any means possible to bash its way into the one small portion of the world’s economy that has not yet been taken over by an IP-connected API endpoint? Are minimum-wage restaurant workers the new edge in Edge Computing? Is the inability to book haircut appointments via a web form worth the attention of Google’s technical prowess?

It was a great demo that showed off just how brilliant Google is at technology… and how bad it is at not being creepy.

(There’s another good piece at The Verge by James Vincent about this issue.)

Jason Snell for Macworld

iMac at 20: The reaction after the 1998 iMac introduction ↦

I was working at home when I got the message: The entire Macworld editorial staff needed to gather in a conference room in a couple of hours. Apple had announced something huge and we needed to react immediately.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

By Jason Snell

Exporting MP3 files from Ferrite Recording Studio

Back before all the MP3 patents expired, my favorite iOS podcast editing app, Ferrite Recording Studio, couldn’t export MP3 files. Instead, I tried various alternative methods, including using the Auphonic service and various other iOS apps that didn’t seem to care so much about potential outstanding patents.

The good news is, the patents lapsed and Ferrite now supports MP3 exporting. Not only can you set it to export at various MP3 quality levels—bit rate, stereo or mono, and CBR (most compatible) or VBR, but you can enter MP3 tags and show art, and even optionally embed chapter markers with links and custom art. There’s even an automatic volume adjustment feature that will level the volume of your file so that everyone sounds like they’re speaking at the same volume.

Here! Let me show you a video.

If you want a great, low-cost, full-featured editing app for podcasts, I can’t recommend Ferrite Recording Studio enough.

[Don't miss all our podcasting articles.]


Upgrade #192: People Like Colors and Fun


This week on Upgrade: The 20th anniversary of the iMac prompts a discussion of how it changed Apple and continues to define how Apple designs products, Jason has a theory about why so many people thought iPhone X sales were crashing when they weren’t, and Upstream ponders the Arrested Development “remix edition.”