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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Mail Merge and M2 milestones

In an earth-shattering event, Mail Merge returns to Pages. Oh, and the M2 arrived, too! (This episode also includes the audio of our 50-minute livestream from Wednesday morning about the M2 and MacBook Pro, for those who prefer podcasts to YouTube livestreams.)

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by Jason Snell

A typeface from the Danish forest

Bjørn Karmann created the typeface Occlusion Grotesque by tracing and carving an initial typeface into a beech tree in Denmark.1 The tree is then left alone for a year, at which point the natural growth processes of the tree cause the trunk to expand, stretching the bark while also attempting to close the wound caused by the letter carvings. Karmann explains:

Returning to the tree reveals an unsupervised transformation that is unique to each letter of the alphabet. The artist now takes on an observant role and meticulously documents the letters with a camera and measurement tools. This is repeated every year with the important detail that the camera settings, lens, distance, and measurements stay consistent at every observation. 

The digitalization from the tree to a usable font invites the artist to become the design interpreter. For the most part, the letters can be traced, but occasionally due to unexpected bark behavior, edge cracking, and blurring of boundaries, the artist has to take decisions without diverting from the tree’s intent. 

The annual growth of the type is not represented in traditional font weights, but denotes the year of growth being used. What a fascinating and beautiful project.

[Via Paul Lukas and Michael Hochman.]

  1. “No trees were harmed in this experiment,” Karmann notes. 
—Linked by Jason Snell

by Jason Snell

‘Take Control of FaceTime and Messages’

My pal Glenn Fleishman has a new book out, and it’s all about FaceTime and Messages. You’d think that there would be little information to be gleaned about these stock Apple apps. But you’d be wrong. As Glenn writes on his blog:

I learned so many new tricks and hidden features in writing this book, I can’t even begin to describe them all. (That, I guess, is what a book is for).

  • Both FaceTime and Messages support screen sharing, but in different ways with different sets of features. I explain both, and why to choose one over the other.
  • iPhones and iPads (on supported models) can simulate direct eye contact in FaceTime—even when you’re not looking at the camera.
  • Include friends and colleagues on Android and Windows in your FaceTime calls.
  • Point your iPhone at a sign or piece of paper with a phone number and dial that number with a couple of taps (using Live Text on supported models).
  • Insert threaded replies in a multi-person chat.
  • Watch streaming video or listen to streaming audio with friends over FaceTime with SharePlay.

There’s a lot more to these apps than meets the eye, and Glenn is especially good at digging out all of the details and nuances.

—Linked by Jason Snell

AI will soon be replacing all of your hosts on The Lex and Dan Show.

Our frivolous in-app purchases, how we use tech to stay safe in the age of COVID, our thoughts on RCS messaging, and recognizing the signs of true artificial intelligence.

By Jason Snell

13-inch M2 MacBook Pro Review: The future, wrapped in the past

Image: Apple

What the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is… depends on your perspective.

If you’re taking the 1000-foot overview of the Mac market, it’s most notable for being the first shipping product to include the M2, Apple’s second-generation home-designed Mac processor. If you consider it out of context, it appears to be a thin, light, powerful laptop for a reasonable (for Apple) base price. And if you glance around at the rest of Apple’s other laptops, it seems like a relic from a bygone era that’s somehow survived into the present.

Every one of those views is absolutely true.

The debut of the M2

The M2 processor is the beginning of the second turn of the wheel for Apple’s Mac processor designs. Like the M1 before it, it’s the base model, undoubtedly to be followed up by the likes of M2 Pro and M2 Max and M2 Ultra and… whatever comes beyond Ultra?

A lot of the differences between the M1 and the M2 are purely generational. The M1 was based on the A14 processor used in the iPhone 12, and the M2 is based on the A15 processor used in the iPhone 13. That means updated generations of CPU and GPU cores, the Secure Enclave, and the Neural Engine.

The M2 also includes some features that previously existed only on the higher-end members of the M1 chip family. It has increased performance in 4K video encoding and decoding and supports faster LP5 memory—and that memory can be a little denser, allowing the maximum RAM of the M2 to be 24GB, up from 16GB on the M1.

All the tests I could run on the M2 MacBook Pro bore this story out. Yes, the single-core result of an M2 MacBook Pro will beat any M1 device; that’s because this is an A15-based core, and therefore it’s faster. But of course, so much performance these days comes from using multiple cores together. And while the 8-core M2 will run faster than the 8-core M1 for obvious reasons, it can’t keep pace with the many, many cores in higher-end M1 processors.

M2 tests

It’s important to keep in mind that this is a base-model processor in a base-model laptop. Yes, the name has “Pro” in it, but this particular laptop holds down the bottom of the MacBook Pro product line, with a starting price that’s $700 lower than the middle-priced model. Those laptops are using Pro or Max chips, and this one doesn’t even offer those as an option. So while, yes, this is technically a MacBook Pro, it still has many of the limitations of its fellow M1 (and soon-to-be M2) Macs. It can only drive a single external display, can’t accept more than 24GB of RAM, and is limited to 10 GPU cores.

Overall, the M2 is an impressive update to the M1. Just switching to the new equipment from the A15 would have provided a nice boost to performance; adding in faster RAM (with a higher RAM ceiling) and dedicated video-encoding engines is a bonus. I am even more intrigued about what Apple might bring to future, higher-end M2 processors.

It comes in a laptop

This isn’t (just) a review of a chip, of course. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro integrates the M2 into a familiar case. It’s got two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. The 13.3-inch retina display is bright. It’s got Touch ID and is the last Mac to offer a Touch Bar. If you’ve seen a MacBook Pro since 2016, you basically know what you’re getting.

Reviews of products like this are so focused on how they differ from the previous generation of computers and processors that it’s worth pointing out the obvious: most people or organizations who buy this laptop will not be upgrading from an M1 MacBook Pro. They will be upgrading from Intel-based Macs from previous years.

So I ran some comparisons with the Intel-based Macs that remain in my house, and they are a good reminder of how far we’ve come. Across the board, the M2 MacBook Pro is about six times faster than a 2018 i5 MacBook Air. (Its multicore score even beats the Intel Xeon processor in an 8-core iMac Pro.) Graphics were ten times faster than on that 2018 Air, and the intense computations of my iZotope Denoise task took one-sixth of the time on the M2 MacBook Pro as on the 2018 Air.

M2 charts vs Intel

So… yeah. If you didn’t make the move to Apple silicon with the M1 because your old laptop was still working fine or because you were reluctant to use first-generation processor hardware, all those performance gains are still there for you to be had. And they’ll be even better now because M2 is faster than M1 across the board.

It’s all the same

If you upgrade to the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro from an Intel-based Mac laptop, you’re going to be blown away by the speed. Unfortunately, everything else about this laptop will seem remarkably familiar. It’s the last vestige of an old Apple design era that is obviously being kept around to hit the $1299 starting price point and to give organizations a “pro” laptop to buy that doesn’t cost $2000.

There’s no shame in buying this laptop, but the reasons to choose it over another modern Apple laptop are vanishingly slim. It’s got better battery life than the M2 MacBook Air (which ships next month), and its integrated cooling fan means that the MacBook Pro will be able to keep up sustained graphics performance without any throttling. However, I am skeptical about how much that matters: the M-series chips are so efficient that it would take a prolonged assault on all the GPU cores to make an uncooled processor throttle. If you’re someone who maxes out your GPU for prolonged periods of time and can’t afford a 14-inch MacBook Pro, this laptop is a better choice than the Air.

Likewise, if you love the Touch Bar, you should snap this laptop up because it’s probably your last chance. I’m not sure what’s left to say about the Touch Bar; it was a flawed feature that still held a lot of promise, but it was doomed by Apple’s own refusal to do anything to improve it.

With all that said… If you’re not a Touch Bar fan, someone who stresses out GPUs at length, or someone who needs that extra hour or two of battery life, I can’t recommend that you buy this laptop. The M2 MacBook Air will match its performance in all but the most extreme conditions but in a smaller, lighter, and more stylish case. It’s not just about style, either: the M2 Air also supports MagSafe, which is not only a superior (and safer) charging technology but essentially gives you an extra port for peripherals since you don’t need to use one of your two ports for charging.

The M2 Air and the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models all feel… modern. They’re Apple’s current state-of-the-art visions for what laptops should be. They have so much in common with each other visually, with flat edges and rounded feet and MagSafe and a full-height function key row and bigger displays with shrunken bezels and extra screen space around a notch featuring a 1080p webcam. They are the present. The design of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the past.

It’s quite a contradiction. The M2 processor represents the future of the Mac for the next year or two—and yet it has made its debut in a holdover from a previous generation.

The arrival of the M2 processor is something to celebrate, regardless of the identity of the messenger. I look forward to many exciting and innovative M2-based Macs to come. But the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro isn’t one of them.

By Dan Moren

Mail Merge returns to Pages after nine years

Mail Merge on macOS
Pages’s reimplented Mail Merge feature on macOS.

After almost a decade, I guess it’s time to pack in my posters, stickers, and Tim Cook and Craig Federighi phone call scripts for the “Bring Mail Merge back to Pages!” campaign1 and declare victory. Because, yes, Mail Merge has returned to Pages.

Mail Merge on iOS
Mail Merge in Pages for the first time on iOS.

The feature was originally included in Apple’s word processing software, but got the axe in 2013’s version 5.0, when Apple redesigned its iWork suite to give even footing across the iOS, iPadOS, and macOS platforms. In the interim, Mail Merge remained possible only via workarounds like Sal Soghoian’s Pages Data Merge app.

Version 12.1, released today, brings a brand new implementation, however, which lets you populate a template document either from your contacts or a spreadsheet. On the Mac, just create a template with the File > New command or open an existing one, and then choose File > Mail Merge to step through the process. (The feature’s also available for the first time in the iOS and iPadOS versions of Pages, under the three dots menu: tap Mail Merge to start the process.)

This is hugely useful for anybody who not only needs to print and send out large amounts of mail (such as envelopes or even holiday cards), but also anybody creating large numbers of customized documents. It’s been one of the missing features most often pointed out when comparing to other word processors, like Microsoft Word.

Sure, not everybody needs Mail Merge, but for those who do, having it built in and no longer requiring you jump through a series of hoops is a huge relief. Next time I have to send out my personalized bookplates, I’ll be glad to be able to let Pages do the heavy lifting.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]

This week we consider Stage Manager and how it works, as well as how Apple has chosen to communicate its decision-making. Also, Apple makes a surprising deal with Major League Soccer, Myke decides that an iPad Studio and MacBook Studio sound like great new products, and we dare to ask the question: what if they made a laptop entirely out of legacy nodes?

By Dan Moren

Solving a file sharing mystery: Why one Mac can’t see another

We all have those tech problems that we kind of give up on. Like an annoying rattle in the car where you can’t track down the source, you just eventually acclimate to it until it feels like that’s just the way it’s always been. (Even then, you’ll find that every once in a while it will just bug you.)

But there’s nothing more satisfying than eventually discovering the cause of one of those issues and vanquishing it for good.

In recent months, I’d run into a weird situation. My M1 MacBook Air could access my iMac just fine via file sharing in the Finder: the iMac showed up in the sidebar, I could copy files back and forth, no problems. However, doing the opposite—accessing the MacBook Air’s files from the iMac—simply didn’t work at all.

It was quite the perplexing conundrum: I checked the file sharing setup in the MacBook Air’s System Preferences and everything looked fine. I attempted the tried-and-true troubleshooting step of turning sharing off and then turning it on again (even tried it with a reboot in between, just to make sure). No dice.

It seemed like the problem was further down, at the networking level. Attempts to use the Finder’s Connect to Server option simply timed out, eventually reporting that the server wasn’t available. So I decided to check the port using the handy nc command line tool—to wit: nc -vz [IP address] [port number], which tells you whether or not a port is accepting connections. In this case, I was trying to connect to port 445, which is where the SMB file sharing server is listening.

Therein seemed to lie the problem. When accessed from my iMac, the connection to the Air’s port 445 timed out, even though other services, like SSH, were working fine. I eventually double-checked from my iPhone using nc from within the iSH app and found that the connection timed out there as well, which let me conclude that it was definitely an issue with the MacBook Air—probably, I concluded, the firewall.

However, as I previously mentioned, the firewall pane in System Preferences reported that everything was hunky-dory with my file sharing connection. So clearly something had gotten screwed up, meaning it was time to delve under the hood to the command line.1

I’ve worked with firewalls via the command line on Linux systems, but I’d never attempted to interact with macOS’s built-in firewall. It took a bit of research to figure out, but eventually I located the tool I needed, the clearly named and easy to remember /usr/libexec/ApplicationFirewall/socketfilterfw. Accept no substitutes.

Accessing the command line for the firewall.

From there, I added the --listapps switch and was able to get a very well formatted and easy to read list of all the apps registering with the firewall. Wherein I found my problem: despite what System Preferences had reported, /usr/sbin/smbd—the daemon for the SMB server—was set to block all incoming connections.

A little more poking around discovered that correcting the problem was pretty easy: /usr/libexec/ApplicationFirewall/socketfilterfw --unblockapp /user/sbin/smbd. And voilà, I could once again connect to my MacBook Air and share files.

Now, how the firewall ended up in such a state is much more of a head-scratcher, but unfortunately one that will probably, not unlike how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, have to be filed under the heading of “the world may never know.”

  1. Also, it’s possible that I may in the interim have installed a piece of pre-release software in which there wasn’t a way to access the firewall via the GUI, but I’ll never tell. 🫢 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]

By Dan Moren for Macworld

When will Apple bring the M2 to its other Macs? It could be a while

After months–if not years–of fevered theorizing over Apple’s chip roadmap for the Mac, this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, at last, gave us a tantalizing peek at the successor to the blockbuster M1, released a little over a year and a half ago.

Until it gets into the hands of reviewers and users, we don’t have a lot of solid information about the M2’s performance. What we do know is that the processor at the heart of the new MacBook Air and the new (not really) 13-inch MacBook Pro comes in two options: an 8-core CPU/8-core GPU model on the base-level MacBook Air and an 8-core CPU/10-core GPU in every other configuration. We also know that Apple’s added a higher memory capacity, faster memory throughput, and built-in dedicated video encoding and decoding hardware from the M1 Pro and higher.

But, far more excitingly, now that we’ve got a second data point to work with, we can start to extrapolate a little more about the future of the M2 and when we might expect to see it make its way into the rest of the Mac lineup. (Like any professional writer, I can turn two dots into a line. Don’t try this at home, kids.)

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

By Jason Snell

What’s the role of tomorrow’s CarPlay?

One of the most unexpected announcements at WWDC was probably Apple’s preview of the next generation of CarPlay, which will apparently include deep integration with automotive subsystems that allow Apple to take over some, or all, of a car’s in-car interface.

For a company that famously doesn’t discuss forthcoming products, it was an interesting move. Cars that support this new version of CarPlay won’t be announced until late next year, which means the odds of someone driving a new car with this level of CarPlay integration before sometime in 2024 are pretty low. This is a far-off product demo the likes of which Apple hasn’t made in years.

Of course, the auto industry moves slowly. And this is a product announcement that’s fraught with politics, too, because any car company that prides itself on its own in-car interface design would presumably feel bad if the iPhone simply took that design and threw it away.

And yet… this evolution of CarPlay makes sense. Our phones are personal in ways our cars just can’t be, because we’re always with our phones but not always in our cars. When I see cars with their own built-in maps and navigation, I always roll my eyes because no matter how slick their interfaces and how recent their map updates, I’m pretty confident that the maps app on my phone is slicker and contains better data.

That’s why CarPlay (and for those on the other side, Android Auto) is a good idea, and why car companies that don’t allow smartphones to connect to their interfaces are allowing their ego to override the simple act of doing the right thing for their customers. (I appreciate Tesla’s love for its home-built interface, but letting me control Overcast or Apple Music via a CarPlay window would make me like their interface more, not less.)

Beyond the hold-outs, though, there’s another problem I can see with this CarPlay-enhanced future we’re apparently headed for, eventually: namely that CarPlay—at least as it’s currently defined—doesn’t actually solve any fundamental problems for carmakers. This new CarPlay might create an Apple-designed interface for many (or all) of a car’s controls, but since the car also needs to operate without an iPhone present, the carmaker will still need to build its own interface. And at that point, we’re back to carmakers being so proud of their interfaces—not to mention entirely aware of how much it costs to build them—that they’re less likely to hand over the interface to Apple.

Google addressed this problem with something called Android Automotive, which is basically a version of Android that’s designed to run on hardware in a car and provide an interface for the car’s systems. Many of Apple’s declared partners for the new CarPlay have also announced support for Android Automotive.

One possibility is that cars running Android Automotive will be able to connect to iPhones and allow the new version of CarPlay to replace the Android Automotive interface with its own. Some early Android Automotive cars already offer CarPlay support, so it’s not a stretch to imagine carmakers using the customizable open-source Android variant as a vanilla implementation—and then letting iPhone users replace it at will.

Alternately, Apple could make a CarPlay equivalent of Android Automotive, a base-level CarPlay interface that works in a car even if an iPhone isn’t attached. Carmakers would get the reflected shine of an Apple user experience, and their cars would be functional without a paired iPhone. Of course, a paired iPhone would be what would make them shine.

Or perhaps despite all of Apple’s big talk, it’s actually a hard sell to get carmakers to embrace CarPlay and let Apple take over their instrument clusters and hardware controls. By claiming that nothing will happen on this front until late next year, Apple has some time to figure out how to make it all work.

Stage Manager, M1 iPads, and M2 Macs

Using Stage Manager reveals facts about how sophisticated the underlying windowing system is, and we’re about to enter the M2 era with a laptop that’s exciting exactly nobody.

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By Joe Rosensteel

The future of TV is… what again?

If you blinked during the State of the Union, you missed it.

I’ve always been fascinated in the quest for the ultimate home-entertainment experience. For every bit that legitimately promises to revolutionize how we watch TV at home, there seems to be a new complication that prevents everything from coming together seamlessly.

I had high hopes that Apple might be the first company to really pull it all together, but its announcement of the 4th generation Apple TV in 2015 kind of botched things. The company been attempting to put things back together since 2015, and every year I’d post a WWDC wish list on my blog with what I’d like to see them do.

But I gave up wishing a while ago. I’ve lost faith that the people managing tvOS think it needs the same kinds of improvements that I do, and it’s just not any fun to create a list of must-have features for a product that seems mostly neglected.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.

How we work on our Macs, the Cryptopocalypse, our cloud storage regimens, and what is still keeping us from using the iPad as our main devices.

By Jason Snell for Macworld

Why the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro actually makes sense–in theory

The 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is coming soon, with preorders beginning Friday and models shipping June 24. It’s a notable product for a bunch of conflicting reasons. First and foremost, it’s the first Mac ever to ship with the M2 processor, so how it performs will give us our first glimpse into how Apple plans on advancing the Mac processor line-up from generation to generation. It’s also the only Mac laptop shipping without a MagSafe charger and the last to have a Touch Bar.

So while the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is going to get attention because of the M2, it’s also worth asking the question that was on everyone’s lips last week after it was announced: Why does this computer exist at all?

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

With the clash between “Stranger Things” and Star Wars, the summer streaming blockbuster season has begun! And we inaugurate a new segment, Sports Corner, as the path of sports on streaming media sports has begun to change dramatically.

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