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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

Apple’s video service gets “Peanuts”

Michael O’Connell of The Hollywood Reporter reports that Apple’s forthcoming video service will not have the football pulled out from under it:

The tech giant, which has not-so-quietly been amassing a strong roster of talent and original productions that is said to start rolling out in 2019, has completed a deal with DHX Media to create series, specials and shorts featuring iconic Charles M. Schulz characters such as Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the entire Peanuts gang. DHX, the Canadian-based kids programming giant that acquired a stake in the Peanuts franchise in 2017, will produce all of the projects.

As HBO’s deal with “Sesame Street” suggests, the battle of the future of television isn’t all about dark and gritty prestige dramas; it’s also about getting family- and kid-friendly content into these services, especially with the launch of Disney+ on the horizon.

People my age have a deep, abiding love for Charlie Brown and the gang. The oldest toy I have is a plush Snoopy. Every holiday season we cart out A Charlie Brown Christmas and crank the Vince Gauraldi Trio on the… well, I guess this year it’ll be on the HomePods.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, I hope this deal works out for Apple, DHX, and kids of all ages.


Linked by Jason Snell

An unusual friendship with Charles Barkley

Shirley Wang for NPR:

When Charles Barkley’s mother, Charcey Glenn, passed away in June 2015, Barkley’s hometown of Leeds, Alabama, came to the funeral to pay respects. But there was also an unexpected guest.

Barkley’s friends couldn’t quite place him. He wasn’t a basketball player, he wasn’t a sports figure, and he wasn’t from Barkley’s hometown…. He was my dad.

“You know, it was obviously a very difficult time,” Barkley told me recently. “And the next thing I know, he shows up. Everybody’s like, ‘Who’s the Asian dude over there?’ I just started laughing. I said, ‘That’s my boy, Lin.’ They’re, like, ‘How do you know him?’ I said, ‘It’s a long story.’ “

This is an almost unbelievable and surprisingly affecting story about a suburban dad’s unlikely relationship with a legendary basketball player and announcer.


Linked by Dan Moren

Apple Music Connect follows in the footsteps of Ping

Zac Hall at 9to5Mac:

Apple has started notifying Apple Music artists that it is removing the ability for artists to post content to Apple Music Connect, and previously posted Apple Music Connect content is being removed from the For You section and Artist Pages in Apple Music. Connect content will still be viewable through search results on Apple Music, but Apple is removing artist-submitted Connect posts from search in May.

Social has never been one of Apple’s strengths, but bless their heart, they keep trying.

Nobody’s got a good handle on why some social networks thrive and others never get off the ground—and that’s probably because there isn’t a reason. It’s like the idea of “being cool”—the harder you try, the less you are.


Dan Moren for Macworld

What Apple’s new job additions tell us about its product plans ↦

Apple’s well known for its centralized approach, not just in terms of hardware and software, but also in geography. The company has previously pushed hard to locate as many of its non-retail employees as possible in its hometown of Cupertino, in large part because of its belief that its employees work better on physically proximate teams. Look no further than its enormous new home base, Apple Park, which opened there earlier this year.

But this week, the company announced that it would be expanding its footprint in several U.S. cities outside the Bay Area, most notably in Austin, Texas, where it already has its largest non-Cupertino presence, but also in a few other key locations. In particular, Apple projects that in the next three years it will exceed 1000 employees in three cities: Seattle, San Diego, and Culver City.

Given the size and profitability of Apple’s business, it’s no surprise that it would want to hire aggressively, but this does seem to go against the company’s previous ethic of bringing its employees together in a single place. So there must be something significant about these specific locations it’s chosen, something that Apple can get in them that it can’t necessarily get in Cupertino. Something like, say, attracting talent in certain key fields.

Out of idle curiosity, I took a cursory cruise through the company’s job listings for these locations, in the hopes it might provide some tea leaves about where Apple is putting its bets over the next few years.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Becky Hansmeyer’s iPad Pro impressions

iOS developer Becky Hansmeyer has written up a log of her iPad Pro impressions, good and bad:

Um, so, yeah. A bunch of great iPad Pro reviews/impressions have trickled out over the past few weeks—so many in fact that I was hesitant to even write my own. I agree with much of what has already been expressed: the hardware is great, the software has numerous pain points, and the answer to “can this device replace your laptop?” is the same as it’s always been, which is “yep, maybe, probably not.” Yep for a ton of people that use computers for light work and entertainment, maybe for professionals in certain fields or with particular priorities and workflows, and probably not for the rest.

This is a really solid look at the good and bad of the current iPad Pro models, right down to the functional-but-super-boring Smart Keyboard Folio. I’m so glad Becky decided to write this, despite all the other articles on the subject.


Podcast

Download

Download #83: Mr. Google Is My Father!

This week on Download Jason is joined by Casey Liss, Florence Ion, and Stephen Hackett. Google’s CEO gets grilled by Congress; Instagram gets a new product leader; Apple does a bunch of stuff; and Supermicro defends itself against Bloomberg. Plus, we honor the 50th anniversary of the “Mother of all Demos”, Casey hasn’t seen “My Cousin Vinny”, we try to save journalism and fail, and a puppy emerges from a box!

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 6 minutes)


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 217: Burgeoning Ninja Problem

This week, on the irreverent ninja show with a tech problem, we discuss Dan’s new earbuds that he doesn’t like, what the heck is going on with Qualcomm and Apple, and the utter inanity of watching congress question a tech CEO. Plus, Lex wants to know what we’re listening to and John is annoyed by Apple News.

Episode linkMP3 (44 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

The new Apple Pencil made me a believer ↦

I probably used the original Apple Pencil for no more than an hour, total, during its entire existence. I don’t draw. I avoid writing by hand whenever possible. My penmanship is awful. The moment my teachers began accepting printed essays, I stopped writing them in longhand. I have never had a good relationship with pens and pencils; why should the Apple Pencil be any different?

And yet… something funny happened upon the release of the new 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models with the second-generation Apple Pencil. I gave the new Pencil a try. And I’ve used it more in the past five weeks than in the three years that I kept the original Apple Pencil… well, it’s around here somewhere, if I can find it, but it’s probably not charged, anyway.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Google’s Fusion Tables get turned down… for what?

Google is apparently shutting down its nearly nine-year-old Fusion Tables data tool in a year, the company announced:

Notice: Google Fusion Tables Turndown

Google Fusion Tables and the Fusion Tables API will be turned down December 3, 2019. Embedded Fusion Tables visualizations — maps, charts, tables and cards — will also stop working that day. Maps using the Fusion Tables Layer in the Maps JavaScript API v3.37 will start to see errors in August 2019.

I will admit that I have never heard of this product. That said… has “turned down”/”turndown” now entered the Silicon Valley vocabulary? Is “to sunset” no longer euphemistic enough for shutting something off? Will Fusion Tables still operate, but at a much quieter volume? Is Fusion Tables getting a mint on its pillow and its comforter tweaked at a jaunty angle?

[via Travis Estell]


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #272: I’m Aware I’m Beyond Help

This week on the 30-minute tech podcast that will be there for you, time after time, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Kathy Campbell and Joe Dugandzic to discuss whether self-driving cars are getting closer, the people we’d hire to do technical work, headphones we use regularly, and what it would take for smart home tech to go mainstream.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Linked by Dan Moren

Report: Apple looking into making its own cellular chips

The Verge:

Apple is apparently working on its own, in-house developed modem to allow it to better compete with Qualcomm, according to several new Apple job listings that task engineers to design and develop a layer 1 cellular PHY chip — implying that the company is working on actual, physical networking hardware. Two of the job posts are explicitly to hire a pair of cellular modem systems architects, one in Santa Clara and one in San Diego, home of Qualcomm. That’s alongside several other job postings Apple has listed in San Diego for RF design engineers.

There’s nothing inherently shocking about this report, which derives originally from The Information (paywall). Apple’s M.O. for the last several years has been to move more and more of its technology in house.

Historically, Apple has used a mix of modems from Intel and Qualcomm in iPhones. In the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the company even used chips from both companies interchangeably, leading to some frustrations with Intel modems that were considered inferior to the Qualcomm counterparts.

However, as relations between Apple and Qualcomm deteriorated, iPhones have recently switched exclusively to Intel-powered modems. But it certainly seems obvious that such a situation couldn’t last, given Apple’s inclination to control every single part of its devices. (See also CPUs, graphics hardware, and even power management chips.)

But building up, testing, and deploying such chips at the enormous scale that Apple needs is bound to take some time, so don’t expect an Apple modem in next year’s iPhone. But perhaps you might see one in 2020…hey, just in time for a 5G iPhone, maybe.


Linked by Jason Snell

Office for Mac gets Dark Mode support

Microsoft rolled out a new set of updates to Office 365 customers on the Mac that adds support for Dark Mode in Mojave across all its apps, as well as support for Continuity Camera within PowerPoint.

Many Mac apps are gaining support for Dark Mode, which is great—but the prevalence of black-on-white content still makes it a place I don’t like to spend much time. When future versions of Safari support Dark Mode stylesheets, things will improve somewhat.

There needs to be more thought applied to those giant content areas in apps like Word, Excel, and yes, Numbers and Pages, too. I get that for a true WYSIWYG experience for building a document you’re going to print, you need to see things in black on white—but how about a toggle option? This especially goes for Excel, which I really don’t need to see in the equivalent of print-preview mode when I’m working.

The bottom line: Until all the apps I use give me a way to view their interfaces and content in a light-on-dark context, I don’t think I can use Dark Mode in Mojave.


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple continues planning its news subscription service

Gerry Smith of Bloomberg reports about Apple’s plans to re-launch the Texture content-subscription app within Apple News:

The tech giant is preparing to relaunch Texture, an app it agreed to buy in March that offers unlimited access to about 200 magazines. The company plans to make it a premium product within Apple News, which curates articles and comes preinstalled on iPhones, according to people familiar with the matter. A new version could be unveiled as soon as this coming spring, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public.

As the article describes, the challenge here is that a lot of publications are making it work with their own premium subscription models. But there’s probably a second tier of publications that could see added revenue if they embraced Apple’s all-you-can-eat subscription approach.

It’s unclear if Apple can drive enough subscriptions to this service to provide enough revenue to make a bunch of other media businesses successful, though. My gut feeling is that it can’t, but it’s possible we’re heading for a hybrid model where dedicated subscribers pay news sources directly, while less loyal news grazers buy a Texture (or Apple News) subscription in order to browse widely without hitting a paywall.

And of course, this whole thing is going to be yet another bit of subscription revenue that adds to Apple’s ever-growing Services revenue line.


Linked by Jason Snell

Qualcomm/Apple battle escalates in China

The war between Qualcomm and Apple keeps heating up, as the New York Times reports:

A two-year legal battle between Apple and its chip supplier, Qualcomm, reached a new level of contention on Monday when Qualcomm said a Chinese court had ordered Apple to stop selling older iPhone models in China.

What’s peculiar about this ruling is that it only covers old models—the iPhone 6S/Plus, 7/Plus, 8/Plus, and iPhone X. Apple says it’s appealing the ruling. Perhaps more strangely, the patents being contested here are not the wireless patents that are at the core of Apple’s dispute with Qualcomm:

The ruling in China involved two Qualcomm patents. One lets consumers adjust and reformat the size and appearance of photographs. The other manages applications using a touch screen when viewing, navigating and dismissing applications, Qualcomm said.

Clearly Qualcomm’s using some questionable software patents to make trouble for Apple in order to force it to settle and pay Qualcomm what it says Apple owes. I’ve seen reports that say these patents aren’t even relevant on iOS 12, but Qualcomm’s general counsel told the Times that this wasn’t the case.

Qualcomm’s attacks on Apple have become more frequent and are getting uglier. Back to the Times:

Qualcomm has tried to put pressure on Apple by claiming patent infringement and other misdeeds, such as accusations that Apple stole proprietary Qualcomm software and shared it with Intel. Apple said Qualcomm had failed to provide evidence of any stolen information.

Qualcomm has also resorted to an aggressive public-relations campaign against Apple. It enlisted the firm Definers Public Affairs to publish negative articles about Apple on a conservative website and to start a false campaign to draft Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, as a presidential candidate, presumably to make him a target of President Trump.

The Definers story is particularly sleazy. As a non-lawyer I can’t speak to the validity of the claims made on both sides of this case, but it’s clear that Qualcomm has decided to play hardball—whether out of desperation or confidence, I don’t know.


Linked by Dan Moren

Independent review finds no spy chips in Super Micro servers

Reuters reports on the latest findings—or lack thereof—in the Bloomberg spy chip story from October:

Computer hardware maker Super Micro Computer Inc told customers on Tuesday that an outside investigations firm had found no evidence of any malicious hardware in its current or older-model motherboards.

It seems pretty clear by now that Bloomberg—either knowingly or unknowingly—published a story that was demonstrably false. There has been no corroborating evidence from any other source or publication, and Apple, Amazon, and officials from both the U.S. and UK governments have all said there is nothing to back up the allegations.

This is extremely damaging for Bloomberg’s credibility, especially as the publication has made no move to retract the article, offer a correction, or indeed say anything publicly about the story. I certainly wouldn’t put any stock in anything that it reports in the information security realm—and perhaps not in technology in general—until it explains exactly how this story got published.


By Dan Moren

Wish List: Temporarily disable Downtime

As with most of Apple’s major software releases, iOS 12 contained a slew of new features—often more than any one person would find themselves using regularly. But one new ability that I have found myself actually using over the past few months was Downtime. This subset of the Screen Time feature lets you define times where your access to certain apps is restricted. However, I ended up turning Downtime off the other week, because it lacked one specific feature: the ability to temporarily disable it.

Let me clarify: While you can override the Screen Time/Downtime restrictions on an app-by-app basis (or, in the case of Safari, a site-by-site basis), there’s no overall control for it other than navigating into Settings and turning Downtime off in the Screen Time section.

That bit me the other week as I was traveling for vacation. Normally, I had Downtime set to run until 7 a.m., around the time I usually get up. But because of our trip to Mexico, we had to leave for the airport at around 5:30 a.m. Now, I do have some apps whitelisted for Downtime (and iOS automatically whitelists things like Phone and Messages), and you can, as I said, override individual apps either for a day or for fifteen minutes. Usually if I find myself waking up before Downtime turns off, I don’t mind popping into a couple apps and telling it to ignore my restrictions.

But if I’m going to be up for a full hour and a half before my limit expires and I need to a) hail a ride to the airport, b) make sure I can access my boarding pass, and c) do all the other time-wasting stuff I do while waiting for a really early flight, well, I don’t want to spend the time overriding those apps one at a time. So I went with the nuclear option and turned the whole feature off.

Then, of course, the issue was that I kept forgetting to turn it back on. As a result, I realized only now, a week after we got back, that I’m not even using Downtime anymore. Which is a shame, because it’s not a bad feature; it’s just inconvenient, in more ways than it’s probably intended to be.

So my proposal is this: treat it a little more like Do Not Disturb. If I wake up before my scheduled Do Not Disturb window expires, I can always use the notification on the lock screen to tell it to turn off DND, and thus receive any suppressed notifications. Downtime should have its own equivalent: “disable until this evening,” for example. A button in Control Center would also work.

I realize that some people use Downtime as enforcement on their kids’ devices and, as such, it requires the Screen Time passcode to disable. But that’s fine; iOS should still prompt you for a passcode if you’re trying to disable it for the day. (And if you’re managing Downtime for your kids via Family Sharing, then there should be the ability for you to remotely override it for their devices in similar situations.)

I’m actually fairly optimistic that a feature like this could make it into a future version of iOS, perhaps even as soon as next year. The Do Not Disturb improvements in iOS 12 are a good example of how Apple refines a feature after it’s been in use amongst the general public, and I’m hoping for a similar refinement to Downtime. In the meantime, at least I’ve finally remembered to turn it back on.

[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.]


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #223: Impressive and Stupid

Are Apple’s recent aggressive promotional deals for iPhone an indicator that its aggressive pricing strategy isn’t working, or is this all part of a larger strategy? Are the old rules giving way to a whole new set of Apple strategies? We also discuss WarnerMedia’s strange streaming strategy and Jason’s attempt to merge Shortcuts with ancient Web APIs.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 32 minutes)


Podcast

The Incomparable

The Incomparable #436: Most Important Chimpanzee

Consult the lawgiver’s scrolls and watch out for talking dolls! It’s a madhouse! A madhouse! And also, the 50th anniversary of “Planet of the Apes.” Join us as we explore the world of spaceman Taylor (Charlton Heston) and his long journey through an empty desert into a land populated by officious orangutans, plucky chimpanzee scientists, and wry yet violent gorillas. Does it hold up? Why did such a dark vision generate kids’ lunch boxes and multiple sequels and spinoffs? And what are the intricacies of Ape Law?

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 6 minutes)


Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

Apple’s Sitting Out the 5G Party — It’s the Right Move ↦

This week, a lot of the focus of the tech industry was on Hawaii, of all places. That was where Qualcomm was putting on a three-ring circus (or was it a luau?) in service of the forthcoming rollout of 5G cellular networks, highlighting the company’s strong position as a provider of 5G-capable chips for smartphones, namely the newly announced Snapdragon 855.

Meanwhile, it looks like the iPhone will be sitting out the initial the 5G rollout, with reports suggesting that Apple won’t have a 5G-compatible iPhone until 2020, because Intel can’t supply the modem chips in time and Apple hasn’t spoken to Qualcomm since their band broke up last year.

Catastrophe! How can Apple survive without 5G iPhones until 2020?

Here’s how: The same way the company survived being way behind on 3G and LTE technologies, both of which it embraced long after its competitors did.

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


By Jason Snell

Adventures in Shortcuts: Posting content using ancient web APIs

This week I got a little envious of Matthew Cassinelli, who was proudly posting how he’s building all these Shortcuts on iOS that let him do cool stuff involving automatically posting things to his blog.

His blog, you see, is WordPress—and there’s a WordPress app with Shortcuts support. Through nobody’s fault but my own, this site is built on Movable Type 4, the ancient blogging tool that I know by heart, which explains why I still use it when it’s woefully out of date.

So I don’t have fancy iOS apps or even fancy iOS-friendly web templates. If I want to post a story from my iPad, I end up loading a page template that was designed years before the iPad was a glimmer in Steve Jobs’s eye and pasting and tapping and zooming.

But wait, I thought. Movable Type has an external posting interface, a web API that lets apps like MarsEdit post into it. And I wondered if I might be able to figure out how to build a Shortcut that did all the interfacing with my blogging software’s ancient API and allowed me to post stories from my iPad without using the Movable Type web interface.

I got stuck a couple of times along the way—thanks to Matthew Cassinelli himself for giving me a couple of pointers, and to MarsEdit author Daniel Jalkut for reminding me of the best way to encode web content in CDATA statements so that an XML parser will accept it—but in the end, I made it happen. I now have two different Shortcuts that post directly into my Movable Type setup.

The first one, which lets me post the latest episodes of my podcasts to the site, is a total knockoff of Cassinelli’s, so I’ll suggest you read his post for inspiration. The item yesterday highlighting this week’s episode of Download was posted from this Shortcut.

The second one is built around my current iOS text editor of choice, 1Writer. In 1Writer I’ve created a very basic custom action that runs this URL:

 shortcuts://run-shortcut?name=Post%20to%20Six%20Colors&input=[name]

All this action does is tell a specific Shortcut named Post to Six Colors to run, and passes along a single item as input—the name of the current file I’m working on. The shortcut picks up the baton, loads that file from my Stories folder in Dropbox, parses it, asks a couple of questions, and sends the result to Movable Type.

Along the way I had to dig up a Jay Allen post that detailed an obscure Movable Type preference that I had to change in order to control whether a post sent by this method would automatically go live or be saved as a draft, to be published later. In the post, Allen wrote “I expect this to garner interest from about three or four people in the entire world”—and that was written fifteen years ago.

Yet somehow, there I was on a December day in 2018, sitting in my local Starbucks working on an iPad, and once I read Allen’s post I logged in to my server (via Panic’s Prompt app), edited the mt.cfg settings file with vi, and—just like that—the whole thing worked perfectly.

Who knows how many people in the world this will garner interest from, but the larger point is that if there’s a web API, you can probably control it via Shortcuts! Below, I present how I use Shortcuts to post content to Movable Type via the XML-RPC API in annotated form.

This is a gigantic screen shot with text annotations. Sorry, no equivalent available here.

You can also view the Shortcut here.