Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Ferrite 3: iPad audio editor adds variable-speed playback and more

One of my favorite iPad apps of all time is Wooji Juice’s Ferrite Recording Studio, a complete multi-track audio editor that I prefer to the likes of Logic and GarageBand for editing podcasts. I use Ferrite primarily with an Apple Pencil, though it also works with your fingers, a keyboard, a pointing device, or a combination of any of those.

Four years after the release of Ferrite 2, version 3 has just been released. It’s a major update that modernizes the app’s interface, organizes its file structure, and updates its audio engine to supercharge editing productivity.

The customizable toolbar now includes multiple options for variable-speed playback.

The banner feature in Ferrite 3 is variable-speed playback and timeline scrubbing. Just as many podcast listeners consume them at more than 1x speed, it can be a huge time saver for podcast editors to play back the program they’re editing at speeds up to 2x. (I tend to listen at 2x while editing until I hear something I need to drill down on, at which point I’ll slow down to 1x to do the detail work.)

Ferrite 3 now supports speeds other than 1x, and users can populate the app’s toolbar with icons to play back at normal/fast/faster/2x speeds, as well as an icon that toggles between the currently selected speed and 1x. And you can hear audio play back while scrubbing the playhead, in order to identify just where a certain sound is coming from. This is a huge step forward.

Ferrite 3 is also all about organization. Because of a lack of a real filesystem on the iPad back when Ferrite was first conceived, the app organizes its files its own way. While today files are common enough on iPad that Wooji Juice might not make that same decision, having control over its file space does offer some real advantages. Ferrite has a template system, which has been updated with improved previews, and has added per-file tags and improved search, as well as rules-based Smart Folders.

I keep a couple dozen audio files in Ferrite on my iPad, mostly podcast theme songs, common sound effects, and stock background music that’s used in a few podcasts I edit. With Ferrite 3, I can tag those audio files appropriately—say, “themes,” and then tap on a Themes Smart Folder to quickly find the file I want to insert in my project. Or I can just search for “themes TPK” in the Ferrite search box to quickly display all Total Party Kill theme files.

A more modern interface includes a sidebar and a Sharing Extras dropdown menu.

The entire app interface has been modernized, with new fonts and control icons. A new Library sidebar also helps with organization, providing quick access to folders, import tools, templates, and documentation. Slide-over effects controls are easier to control, with knob-style radial controls replaced with much more straightforward sliders.

A new Sharing Extras dropdown also organizes a bunch of features that were previously scattered throughout the app into one location, to quickly export, convert, or duplicate the output of a project.

Ferrite is free to try, but the full feature set is unlocked via a $30 in-app purchase. Given the cost of most multi-track audio editors, it’s perhaps the best deal ever. Users of Ferrite 2 Pro will need to pay $15 to unlock the new Ferrite 3 Pro features.

By Jason Snell for Macworld

The Mac fell short of expectations in 2022–but still managed to blow us away

Sometimes it’s easy to think of Apple as above it all. The company is so big, so beloved, and so successful that surely it can’t be touched, its momentum can’t be slowed. But of course, that’s not true. Apple is of the world, not above it, and when the company warns all of us that it can’t predict the future in the era of COVID, we really ought to take it at its word.

Last year, when I predicted what 2022 would be like for the Mac, I clearly didn’t foresee how the company’s ability to assemble Macs would be sidelined by a spring pandemic lockdown. The result was that my predictions for the Mac’s ahead-of-schedule transition to Apple silicon were entirely wrong–but to be fair, Apple was taken by surprise, too.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

How we’ve used or could use OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the silliest and/or most time-consuming automations we’ve created, our thoughts on Apple’s new App Store price points, and our plans to own an Apple Car.

By Jason Snell

Apple to extend end-to-end encryption, add other security features

On Wednesday Apple announced some major new security initiatives that the company will be rolling out from now through later in 2023. The biggest one is the addition of nine Apple services to end-to-end encryption, meaning that Apple can’t access cloud data even if authorities demand it:

iCloud already protects 14 sensitive data categories using end-to-end encryption by default, including passwords in iCloud Keychain and Health data. For users who enable Advanced Data Protection, the total number of data categories protected using end-to-end encryption rises to 23, including iCloud Backup, Notes, and Photos. The only major iCloud data categories that are not covered are iCloud Mail, Contacts, and Calendar because of the need to interoperate with the global email, contacts, and calendar systems.

iCloud Backup is the centerpiece of this, because unencrypted iCloud Backups have been used to provide access to data (like Messages conversations) that are otherwise encrypted. Other items that can be end-to-end encrypted are iCloud Drive, Notes, Photos, Reminders, Safari bookmarks, Shortcuts, Voice Memos items, and Wallet passes.

While it’s certainly been convenient that Apple has been able to provide law-enforcement entities with unencrypted data under subpoena, another reason Apple has fought against encrypting all the things is that it has some serious side effects for users, most notably that Apple can’t unlock your data if you no longer have the password to your Apple ID. To solve this problem, Apple is placing these new nine encryption services in a new feature called Advanced Data Protection that isn’t on by default and, according to Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal, requires that users generate at least one additional method of unlocking their account. (Methods include a printout of a very long string that can be stored somewhere secure, or the designation of a different Apple ID as having the authority to unlock the account.)

Stern’s interview with Apple’s Craig Federighi also suggests that the company has entirely given up on its plan to scan for child sex-abuse media in iCloud Photos.

According to Apple, Advanced Data Protection will be available for OS beta users today and will be available to everyone—including in China, according to Stern—by the end of the year. This is a big step with potentially huge ramifications for Apple’s relationship with governments around the world that might expect Apple to provide access to data on its users devices. (A slight mitigating factor is that the feature is off by default.)

Finally, let’s not gloss over the two other security additions Apple plans on adding in 2023, which—like Lockdown Mode—are more focused on potential targets such as journalists, human rights activists, and diplomats. iMessage Contact Key Verification appears to alert users when unknown devices are added to an Apple ID, which might indicate that some other party has breached one of the IDs and may be monitoring an iMessage conversation. And Security Keys adds support for hardware security keys such as a Yubikey for Apple ID authentication.

By Dan Moren

MarsEdit 5 brings microposting, Markdown highlighting

If you’ve been blogging on the Mac for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with Red Sweater Software’s excellent MarsEdit blogging software.

MarsEdit microposting
The new microposting feature lets you write blog posts as easily as social media.

Version 5.0 of the app debuts today, following a public beta, and brings a number of much anticipated features, including a microposting interface accessible via a global keyboard shortcut that makes it easy to quickly dash off a blog post—though I do wish it had an “Advanced” mode for specifying some additional metadata for a post. There’s also a revamped rich text editor that provides better performance, a schmancy new icon, and—at long last—syntax highlighting for text written in Markdown.

In addition, developer Daniel Jalkut has made tweaks an enhancements throughout, adding a bunch of improvements that bring the app into line with the latest versions of macOS. It remains the best-in-class Mac blogging app that it’s been for more than fifteen years.

MarsEdit 5 runs $59.95 for a new license, though owners of MarsEdit 4 can upgrade for just $29.95. Family packs are also available for up to five people in a household.1

  1. In the interest of full disclosure, developer Daniel Jalkut is a friend and provided a license for MarsEdit 5 for evaluation. 

[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 The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]

Apple starts actively diversifying from China

Yang Jie and Aaron Tilley, reporting over the weekend for the Wall Street Journal (Apple News link):

In recent weeks, Apple Inc. has accelerated plans to shift some of its production outside China, long the dominant country in the supply chain that built the world’s most valuable company, say people involved in the discussions. It is telling suppliers to plan more actively for assembling Apple products elsewhere in Asia, particularly India and Vietnam, they say, and looking to reduce dependence on Taiwanese assemblers led by Foxconn Technology Group.

The challenges detailed in the story will be very difficult ones for Apple to solve. Can Vietnam and India step up in terms of producing Apple products at the level that Chinese factories can? It’s an open question. Vietnam is not very large, population-wise, and India has a system of federated regional governments that complicates the issue.

But nobody said this would be easy. It’s telling that, seemingly after years of denial, Apple has accepted the fact that it needs to not have almost all of its manufacturing and assembly happening inside a single country.

—Linked by Jason Snell

It’s Karaoke night on your iPhone

On Tuesday, Apple announced a new Music feature for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV (but not Mac!) that combines Apple Music’s live lyrics with the ability to adjust the volume of vocals to create a singalong mode it’s calling Apple Music Sing:

Apple today announced Apple Music Sing, an exciting new feature that allows users to sing along to their favorite songs with adjustable vocals and real-time lyrics. Apple Music Sing offers multiple lyric views to help fans take the lead, perform duets, sing backup, and more — all integrated within Apple Music’s unparalleled lyrics experience. Coupled with an ever-expanding catalog that features tens of millions of the world’s most singable songs, Apple Music Sing makes it fun and easy for anyone to participate, however and wherever they choose.

Background-singer lyrics are also supported, and there’s a Duet View so you can fulfill your dream of singing half of a song with a legendary musical artist.

I assume that this feature is at least tangentially related to its support for multi-channel audio via Dolby Atmos, in that multiple streams of audio have to be packaged together in order to allow users to adjust the volume of the vocals in the overall music mix.

Unfortunately, my go-to karaoke track, the original theme from “Spider-Man,” will probably not be available. But maybe I can mournfully sing along to some Death Cab for Cutie when this feature arrives later this month.

—Linked by Jason Snell

By Jason Snell

My social media is in an Mac app, or it’s nowhere

Twitterrific windows
Twitterrific for Mac—still going strong.

My explorations with Mastodon have thus far been undertaken largely with the service’s web app. It’s fine, as far as things go. But it’s definitely lacking something.

As I’ve been exploring, I’ve been thinking of how I use social media services—and how the only service that I really connected with, Twitter, is the only one with a Mac client app. While most services only offer mobile apps—Facebook, Instagram, the list goes ever onward—I use my Mac all day, every day.

And for better or worse, Twitter has always been there for me because Twitter—or more precisely, Twitterrific—has always been an app in my Dock or a bird icon in my menu bar. The same has never been true of Facebook or Instagram or any other network that has shunted its desktop users into a web-browser window.

Those services are out of sight and out of mind when I’m using my Mac. Even in the days when I actually used Facebook, I only remembered to visit the Facebook website every day or so. The extra leap of having to open a browser window and then visit the site was a leap I rarely made.

Likewise, my use of private social apps like Slack and Discord is magnified by their availability on my Mac as discrete apps rather than bookmarks in Safari. I can launch them or quit them or hide them on their own, and they’re there in my Dock when I want them. If there was no Slack app, and I had to use the web to check my Slack communities, it would be the Facebook situation again. I’d pop in occasionally but not regularly, just as has been the case with Mastodon and me.

There’s something healthy about that. But if Mastodon gets enough community gravity to make me want to pay more attention, I’ll need an app. There are a lot of Mastodon client apps out there, and I’ve tried several of them, but none of them are really good enough or polished enough for me to use regularly. The truth is that modern Twitter clients have set the bar pretty high.

Tapbots is currently beta-testing a Mastodon client based on Tweetbot for iOS and Mac, and early buzz is that it’s very good. I don’t know if I’m going to commit to using Mastodon nearly as much as I used Twitter back in the day, but if I use it at all regularly, it will only be because someone wrote a Mac app that was good enough for me to embrace and put in my Dock.

John Siracusa returns to the show to chat about Jason’s recent visit to his house, Mac app development, Apple’s brain drain, TSMC breaking ground in Arizona, the problems with AI training models, the current state of macOS, and what makes a Good Product.

By Dan Moren for Macworld

To beat Google in the speaker war, Apple needs to deploy its secret mini weapon

Apple tends not to be a first mover when it comes to new technologies, which often leads to the popular phenomenon of pundits declaring that the company “needs” to make such-and-such a product. But the real issue when it comes to Apple’s devices is that it often seems like the company dips its toe in the waters of a product category…then quickly pulls back as it feels the icy waters.

Perhaps the best example in recent years is the HomePod. Smart speakers were a category that Apple entered well after other companies like Amazon and Google had rushed to market, but it proved to be a case where not only did Apple’s entry not dominate–the original HomePod was discontinued three years after it was first released, replaced by the cheaper HomePod mini. But the category itself has proved simultaneously popular and yet, in some high-profile cases, unprofitable.

Still, the HomePod mini’s second anniversary has come and gone with no updates to the device, making me worry about its future. So I’m here to plead on behalf of the smart speaker: not only do I hope Apple doesn’t send the HomePod mini to a farm upstate like its big sibling, but I’d like to see Apple invest more in the category. Specifically, I’d like to see Apple ship a HomePod with a screen.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

Shortcuts and social media

Jason joins Dan in person at Dan’s desk to discuss projects in progress, automations, and Twitter and Mastodon.

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Harkening back to the era of the BBS

Fun story from Macworld contributor Benj Edwards over at Ars Technica about running a BBS1 when he was 11, which he still runs over the Internet now:

Even before I was fully ready, I jumped the gun and began advertising my BBS phone number on other BBSes. I started getting calls on the BBS phone line at night, which disturbed my parents. For some reason, I still had a conventional telephone (with the ringer turned on) sitting in my bedroom.

One night, the second line rang and my mom answered it. The caller heard her talking over their modem speaker and picked up the phone as well. I remember my mom telling the caller that I was only 11 years old and I was going to bed. It was very embarrassing, and of course, that person would mention the episode later to rib me: “I talked to your mom, and she said you had to go to bed!”

Benj is about my age, and there are echoes of a lot of my early computing history in his story—including the parents frustrated with me using the phone line. I frequented many a BBS back in the ’90s2, and even briefly helped my friend run one. That’s even where I got my start as a fiction writer, distributing the e-zine that said same friend and I ran for a few years. Quite the nostalgia trip.

In some ways, it kind of feels like the current fragmentation of social media harkens back to the day of the BBS, when you had small communities organized around particular interests (and, in those days, geography). Is Discord just a modern day BBS? Discuss!

  1. That’s Bulletin Board System, a computer you could log into by dialing via your modem, for you young whippersnappers among us. 
  2. Most prominently 4th Dimension and BCS here in Boston. 
—Linked by Dan Moren

Annual streaming music retrospectives, our favorite thing about niche software, whether child us would be blown away by today’s tech, and our pitches for social media networks.

By Jason Snell for Macworld

Apple TV isn’t ready for Apple’s sports strategy

Apple has made TV streaming deals with Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer and is rumored to be negotiating with multiple other leagues, including the NFL and the Dutch Eredivisie (first-division soccer). Clearly, Apple thinks that live sports are a way to get people who have avoided embracing streaming TV to finally make the jump. (Amazon feels the same, which is why it bought the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package.)

I think it’s a smart strategy. An old boss of mine often shared the adage that in order for your product to be bought, it must first be considered. (Yes, he used to sell advertising for a living.) Lots of tech-savvy people embraced streaming long ago, and Netflix has managed to put its apps on almost every electronic device manufactured in the last ten years, but there remains a very large audience–older and not as tech-savvy–who are comfortable watching cable TV but decidedly uncomfortable finding Apple TV or Prime Video.

Sports are a great motivator to get many of them to learn. The big issue is that I’m not sure Apple’s TV platform is ready for them to arrive.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

By Jason Snell

Automate This: Audio archiving via Shortcuts

This one not-so-simple shortcut removed 62 percent of the data from this folder!

Earlier this week Dan wrote about building an automation to archive a bunch of podcast projects. I’ve been using a shell script written by a friend to do something similar, but Dan inspired me to up my automation game and build a Shortcuts-based podcast-archiving tool of my own.

Dan’s shortcut, while great, has a big limitation: it uses Zip archives, and compressing audio files—especially the huge uncompressed audio files used in podcast editing—is not its strength. The files take a long time to compress, and they don’t compress the files as much as lossless audio formats like FLAC and Apple Lossless do.

I built a new Shortcut that accepts folders as input (via the Quick Actions option in the Finder) and then walks through each folder one by one, looking for lossless audio files—WAVs and AIFFs—and encoding them in the lossless FLAC format.

I had assumed that Apple would provide a way for Shortcuts to encode media into Apple Lossless format, but it doesn’t. The Encode Media action can encode audio, but only to M4A or AIF formats1. Instead, I retreated to the command-line, since Apple provides a utility called afconvert that will let you convert audio files between an enormous number of formats, including not just Apple Lossless but the even more widely supported (and slightly more efficient) FLAC.

The trickiest parts of the entire shortcut involve properly composing the Run Shell Script command that will kick off the file conversion. To do so, I have to use the file’s File Path attribute twice—once as the source file, and a modified version (using the Replace Text action) as the destination location. I chose to rewrite file.wav as file-wav.flac so that I could return the file to its original format with a corresponding decompression shortcut.


Almost nothing else in my podcast project files actually needs to be compressed—it’s mostly tiny text files and compressed audio files (like MP3s and M4As) that can’t really be compressed any smaller. The only outlier is the Logic Pro project package itself, because that can be pretty large—so my shortcut looks for any Logic projects and zips them up.

The final step is just to provide a way to tell that a folder has been compressed: I append a parenthetical “(compressed)” to the end of the folder’s name and give it a colored label in the Finder.

The results are pretty impressive. My 5.85 GB project was reduced to 2.2 GB in about a minute, compared to about five minutes to make a 3.2 GB Zip archive.

As I mentioned above, I also wrote a corresponding shortcut that looks for any of my FLAC files, as well as the zipped-up Logic file, and undoes the compression. The resulting Logic projects open normally, and find all their accompanying audio files, making this a successful experiment—and freeing up a lot of space on my home server.

You can download the Compression and Decompression shortcuts if you like. Thanks for the inspiration, Dan!

  1. This action really needs an update! 

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