Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren for Macworld

The iPad isn’t a big iPhone or a touch-screen Mac–so what is it?

Of all of Apple’s major product lines, it seems like none has been the subject of such intense debate and scrutiny over the last decade as the iPad. Can one do “real work” on it? Is it a computer replacement? Will it some day replace the Mac for all our computing needs?

While products like the Mac and the iPhone have always had a clear role in our technology lives, the iPad’s place has been more ragged around the edges. It fits into the gaps in our lives, solving problems that neither the iPhone nor Mac are quite equipped to, but without supplanting either.

Still, for all of that, the iPad has continued to live under the shadow of its two progenitors. And as it embarks upon its second decade, the future of the iPad is less than clear: its recent evolution–especially when it comes to the much anticipated Stage Manager feature–seems to suggest it heading in one of two directions.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

The Back Page: What’s in a name?

Okay, Apple, listen up. I’m calling you on the carpet.

Stop stealing my gig.

Oh, sure, play innocent. But I’ve been watching for you for years.

Look, it started innocently enough. Time Machine. I get it, it’s a pop culture trope. And the feature lets you go back in time and get your files. Plus, I have to admit, it’s saved my bacon more than a few times over the years so I’ll let it slide; after all, it’s not like you went the whole way and called it DMC DeLorean or TARDIS.

But then you couldn’t help yourself: you just kept going. Deep Fusion? Really? A16 Bionic? The Photonic Engine?

Is your marketing department just two people with a set of darts and a copy of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual?

I get it, I do. Naming is an important part of product development and not every product is going to be as instantly iconic as the Macintosh or the iPod or the iPhone 14 Pro Max with Super Retina XDR display.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


By Dan Moren for Macworld

3 can’t-miss features in iOS 16 and watchOS 9 that you may have missed

There are dozens–if not hundreds–of new features strewn across the major software updates Apple releases every fall. But for every one that gets top billing (iOS 16’s new customizable Lock Screens, for example) there are a whole slew that get little, if any attention. It’s hardly fair, but hey, that’s life: we can’t all be the stars of the show.

Fortunately, the massive number of people looking at these updates helps ensure that no new feature stays unknown for long. Having myself spent a large amount of time with iOS 16 and watchOS 9 over the past several months, I’ve developed my own feelings on which are the best features that you might not immediately try right away—the ones that are often squirreled away in an app you haven’t opened for a while, or buried under several levels of menus. And because I want you to enjoy them too, I’m going to share three of my favorites.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

How I’ve revamped my desk setup, fall 2022

Desk setup, fall 2022

One fun thing to do while you’re out on parental leave is to redo literally your entire office technology setup.1

This came about for a few reasons, some of which were of my own volition, and others of which were borne out of necessity, but the end result is that my tech setup now looks substantially different than it did just six months ago.

Sounds good

Just before I went out on leave, I decided to revisit my podcast recording setup. For many years I’d been using a Heil PL-2T arm with a Blue Yeti and later a Pyle PDMIC58 connected via Audient’s EVO 4 interface. But I hadn’t been entirely satisfied with that setup, so on a whim I decided to replace the Pyle with a Shure MV7 and, while I was at it, pick up Elgato’s Wave Mic Arm LP—the LP in that case stands for “low profile”, as in it’s an arm that’s designed to mount the mic below your face, rather than hanging down in front of it.

The rationale for me was that I’ve been spending more time doing videos, both over at The Incomparable for Total Party Kill (our actual play D&D podcast) as well as right here on Six Colors. The Heil always hung in front of my screen and both looked awkward on video as well as making it harder for me to see my entire display.

The Wave Mic Arm is a very nice piece of kit, with solid cable routing and very smooth swiveling. If I have a complaint it’s that certain adjustments, like raising and lowering the arm, require you to loosen and re-tighten a knob. Beyond that, it’s been great. (I did have to mount it closer to the front of my desk, because of the angle, but I love how easy it is to push out of the way when not in use.)

Likewise, the MV7 is a pretty solid mic that supports both USB and XLR, making it a versatile choice that can conceivably also work as a travel mic (though I’d have to find a more solid stand, probably). In general I’ve been pretty pleased with it, though I am disappointed that its onboard port is micro-USB rather than USB-C, and I feel like when I’m using it via an XLR interface, I don’t like the sound of my voice over the monitors. Whether that’s the fault of the interfaces or the MV7, however, I have yet to determine.

Visionary

On to the main event. In July, shortly after I went on leave, my 2017 Retina iMac gave up the ghost. I’d already been planning on replacing it with an Apple silicon Mac as soon as there was something that fit my needs and budget, but with that event likely still in the future as of this writing, I had to figure out a stop-gap for when I returned to work.

That came in the form of an Apple Studio Display connected to my M1 MacBook Air. Given that the most likely Mac I’ll be picking up is a revamped Mac mini, hopefully announced later this fall, I was going to need a display anyway, and the M1 Air is capable enough to handle all my needs in the meanwhile. I already have the keyboard and trackpad I was using with my iMac, so all I had to do add was the monitor.

But which Studio Display? I dithered between the height-adjustable stand and the VESA mount option, but ultimately the latter’s flexibility and—even including the price of the VESA arm—affordability won me over. (Not to mention that the VESA mount version of the Studio Display was readily available, whereas the height-adjustable stand would have taken several additional weeks to arrive.)

For the monitor arm, I eventually opted for the Fully Jarvis as an affordable and generally well-reviewed option.

My feeling on the arm is a little more mixed. I appreciate the styling, the installation was pretty straightforward, and mostly it’s pretty adjustable. But ironically in contrast to the Retina iMac, which tilted easily but resisted pretty much any other form of adjustment, the Jarvis can be easily tweaked in every way except tilting. I suppose that’s a fair tradeoff, but honestly, I was hoping for something closer to the classic iMac G4 which, amazingly, nobody—not even Apple—has ever managed to duplicate.

On the whole, I’ve been pretty pleased with the Studio Display, especially once applying the software update that fixed the webcam cropping.2 But Apple should definitely make a tool for tweaking webcam options—or, at least, provide an API for third parties. The current state of affairs for the Studio Display’s webcam is embarrassing, pure and simple.

One other problem I had to solve when adding the Studio Display was that while an eventual Mac mini (or whatever replaced the iMac) would likely have more ports on offer, I was lacking a few key options, including Ethernet. Having specifically wired my office for networking, I wasn’t about to give up the hardline connection, though I also didn’t relish the idea of devoting one of my USB-C ports to the Ethernet adapter I already had.

There are a lot of powerful (and powerfully expensive) docking options to be had, but as the MacBook Air remains a stop-gap solution, I opted for cheap and expedient. That ended up being a Satechi hub that connects to the Studio Display via USB-C and provides Ethernet and three USB-A ports for other peripherals, like my Litra Glow and my Stream Deck. (It is somewhat disappointing that the Studio Display’s only Thunderbolt 3 port has to be the upstream port, but needs must.)

The only thing the Satechi hub ended up lacking was audio. I have a pair of PreSonus Eris monitors on my desk, and while I could replace them with the Studio Display’s internal monitors (or, I suppose, my old pair of HomePods), well, I’ve already got these setup. But they require a headphone jack and I didn’t want to get yet another USB adapter. Again, I opted for the simplest solution, plugging the speakers into the MacBook Air’s headphone jack. It’s one more thing to unplug when undocking the Air, but as I said before, this is meant to be a temporary solution. Here’s hoping Apple doesn’t have too much courage when it comes to this next Mac mini update.

If there’s one downside to all of this, it’s that I’ve ended up with a bit more in the way of cables strewn about my desktop. The Fully Jarvis does offer some mediocre cable management options, but I quickly learned that it doesn’t play well with my sit-stand desk—I need to leave the Studio Display’s power cord free, otherwise it’s not long enough when I raise the desk.

The other issue I haven’t quite figured out is what I’m doing with my external storage. My old iMac had two USB drives attached: a partitioned drive that included my SuperDuper! backup and miscellaneous other storage (mainly for offloading big files from the iMac’s drive), and a 4TB drive that served as a Time Machine backup for both the iMac and the MacBook Air. That drive went kaput3, which means I’ve been without a Time Machine backup for some time. At the moment I don’t want to deal with unmounting external drives every time I want to undock the MacBook Air, so this may have to wait until I’ve figured out what’s going to replace it.

Anyway, that’s the current state of the art here at Six Colors’s East Coast Bureau. Stay tuned for next month when, if Apple does indeed announce new Macs, I’ll probably have to tear this all apart again.


  1. Narrator: It was not fun. 
  2. I actually did an entire episode of TWiT before I’d gotten the patch applied. My super low-tech solution for framing myself correctly—after trying a number of software solutions that just didn’t work—was to lower the monitor. Thank heavens for the Fully Jarvis arm there! 
  3. Possibly related to the iMac? It’s unclear. 

[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 dan@sixcolors.com. 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

The iPhone 14 may be the start of an extreme trend

With the launch of the new iPhones and Apple Watches, the annual fall season of the latest Apple tech is now fully upon us. But though the September event may be the first and most prominent in the run-up to the holiday season, there’s almost certainly more waiting in the wings.

When we look forward at what to expect from subsequent Apple announcements, it can be instrumental to look at the way Apple is positioning the products it’s already released this year. In particular, both the Apple Watch and the iPhone lines saw “main” models (the iPhone 14 and the Apple Watch Series 8) that received less substantial updates, while the company took much bigger swings for its top-of-the-line models (the iPhone 14 Pro and the Apple Watch Ultra).

What Apple does with these device families can help us understand how the company might approach the other products it sells—in particular when it comes to the extremes of the low-end and high-end.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

iOS 16 Review: Unlocking the details

iOS 16 lock screen
Oh what a widget-ful world.

Fifteen years after the launch of the iPhone, you might be thinking that Apple gazes upon its domain and weeps for the lack of worlds left to conquer. But then comes along a release like iOS 16 where the company proves that not only can it continue to add compelling new features but also rethink certain fundamental parts of its smartphone experience.

iOS 16 was first announced at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, where Apple showed off a release with a handful of marquee features, including the biggest redesign to the iPhone’s lock screen in years, and a ton of smaller—but in many ways no less significant—enhancements. Some of those are the kind of slow-burn features that may end up having an enormous effect on the way we use our technology, but will take a while to come into their own. (I’m looking at you, passkeys. And CarPlay.)

iOS remains Apple’s flagship platform, even if it doesn’t yet have the immense longevity of macOS, and in this year’s update, there’s pretty much something for every kind of user, from shutterbugs to security fiends to those who just want to customize the look and feel of their smartphone life. None of which is to say there isn’t still room for improvement—as there always is—but simply that there are a lot of great reasons to upgrade.

It’s also worth noting that, of course, most of the new features in iOS 16 also apply to iPadOS 16, and many also to macOS Ventura. Such is the benefit of a unified platform architecture.

Of course, one thing has become de rigueur in the Apple roll-out: not all the new features that are part of iOS 16 will be available at launch. A handful are now scheduled to arrive later, whether because they require buy-in from third parties—for example, the new Live Activities API, which also powers the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island feature, or support for the Matter smart home standard—or because they’re likely easier to launch when all of Apple’s platform updates go live, like the new iCloud Shared Library.

But even if not all of the features are ready at launch, there are still plenty of good reasons to take the leap to iOS 16.

Continue reading “iOS 16 Review: Unlocking the details”…


By Dan Moren for Macworld

Why Apple’s Far Out event was more about the future than the products

New iPhones, Apple Watches, and AirPods Pro–oh my! It’s never a surprise when an Apple event involves updated versions of the company’s products; by now, we all know the pattern like clockwork.

But what is still interesting is seeing the hints that Apple drops in these new devices about the direction those product lines may take in the future. Sometimes those hints are subtle, other times they are anything but.

For my money, the Far Out Apple event falls squarely in the latter category. While you might be excused for thinking that some of the base model products—iPhone 14, Apple Watch Series 8, I’m looking at you—were a bit sparse in their new features, those were more than made up for by some bigger leaps on the iPhone 14 Pro and Apple Watch Ultra. In particular, there were a few features that jumped out as foreshadowing where future devices in those families are headed (or not).

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

Apple’s September event: Winners, losers, and those in between

By now, we’re all familiar with the structure of an Apple event. The company trots out a coterie of executives to talk up its latest products, complete with slickly produced videos extolling the virtues of the latest technologies, all carefully constructed to get customers to open their Wallet apps.

But after the dust settles and more details emerge, it becomes clearer what are the real highlights of the event and which announcements may be more marketing than substance. Bearing in mind that nobody yet has these products in hand for a thorough review, here are my early picks for the winners and losers in today’s event—and those we still need to learn more about.

The Winners

AirPods Pro get more useful

AirPods Pro case with lanyard

As an owner and daily user of the first-generation AirPods Pro (recently replaced thanks to the infamous crackling problem), I’m not particularly looking to shell out for a new pair, and the improved audio and touch features aren’t calling out to me.

However, what I do want is the new AirPods Pro case, which solves a number of little frustrations with the current model. For one thing, it’s compatible with the Apple Watch’s magnetic charger, which can mean one less cable to carry around. For another, the case has Precision Finding for U1-compatible iPhones, making it even easier to track down when you’ve misplaced them (not to mention a built-in speaker that provides louder alerts).

Finally, and I realize this will seem silly to some, a built-in lanyard loop. Yes, the sleek elegance of the AirPods Pro case is lovely, but having a way to actually attach it to something without putting it in a third-party case? Now that’s a game-changer for me. If only I could just upgrade my first-gen AirPods Pro with a new case.1

The Apple Watch Ultra embraces buttons

Apple Watch Ultra Action button

For years, Apple has waged a war on buttons, a campaign that culminated in the deployment of the infamous third-generation iPod shuffle. But it seems as though with both Steve Jobs and Jony Ive gone from Apple, the button faction is making a comeback.

The new Apple Watch Ultra—the company’s ridiculously overpowered smartwatch that’s a way finder, dive computer, and rugged adventuring gadget all in one—features a brand new Action button, in brilliant orange. The button is contextual, allowing you to quickly start a workout, drop a waypoint, and more. But Apple also describes it as “customizable,” suggesting that users will be able to define their own uses for the button as well.

On a device as small as the Watch (even the larger Ultra), space is at a premium, and dedicating that space to a hardware button that users can configure for themselves, well, that says that this isn’t merely a whim. Here’s hoping the Action button might make its way into the Series 9.

Continue reading “Apple’s September event: Winners, losers, and those in between”…


By Dan Moren

Controlling the Logitech Litra Glow via Shortcuts

You might think that being away on paternity leave would mean 2am feedings, lots of diaper changes, and not a lot of spare time in which to muck about with silly technology projects.

And on two out of three of those, you’d be absolutely right.

But after several hours of tending to and entertaining a newborn, the brain starts to crave some other form of intellectual pursuit and delving into a knotty tech problem, well, that’s just my way of unwinding. I ended up undertaking a number of little projects over the last several weeks, from the unfortunately urgent—dealing with a dead computer (more on which in another post)—to the leisurely—upgrading and tweaking my office setup.

Logitech Litra Glow
The Litra Glow in its natural habitat.

Most recently, I found myself trying to untangle a particular niche frustration. Several months back I bought a Logitech Litra Glow: it’s a small USB-powered light that perches atop my monitor, intended to help me improve my lighting setup for streams and videos. Previously I’d been using a $20 USB-powered book light that had gotten a little unwieldy.

The Litra Glow’s hardware controls.

The Litra Glow is a pretty nice piece of hardware: it has variable levels of brightness and color temperatures, has a well-designed adjustable mounting bracket, and is priced pretty reasonably at $60. It’s controlled by physical buttons on its back and has separate rockers for brightness and color temperature, as well as an on/off switch. That’s nice, though a little awkward because you have to reach up toward the camera to adjust your lighting.

However, the Litra Glow is also controllable via Logitech’s G Hub software. Which is, well, terrible. I’d much rather have control via my Stream Deck or Shortcuts or really any other software, but despite what look like a number of requests for Logitech to provide an open API, none has been forthcoming.

In previous months, I’d taken a desultory look at seeing if anybody else had cracked this, but hadn’t come across anything. But the other day, as I was making sure my office was all shipshape, I decided to take another crack at it.

This time I came across a Github project that had reverse engineered the Logitech API and provided command line tools to control the Litra Glow. Just one problem: the project was designed for use on Linux and wasn’t easily compatible with macOS. Adapting the project was beyond me, but I kept poking around, convinced that somebody else must have encountered this issue, and I quickly stumbled across the solution via programmer Paul Hubbard.

Paul had the technical know-how I lacked and supplied the biggest missing component: another Github project called hidapitester, a command-line tool that lets you interact with USB devices as long as you know what codes to send.

And good news! The creator of the Linux project that reverse-engineered the Litra Glow drivers had already done that heavy lifting, so all that remained was to turn those long codes into shorter commands, which Paul accomplished via the use of aliases in the zsh shell.1 I followed his instructions and sure enough, it works a treat.

Per Paul’s example, I was even able to set up a Shortcut to run a shell script that controls the lights in basic ways, which was then easy to port to the Stream Deck. And, it also means that it’ll be easier to automate this in the future as part of a larger workflow.

Litra Glow Stream Deck

Yes, in an ideal world, there’d be a way to quickly tweak the relative lighting levels and color temperatures up and down, just like on the physical buttons, but that again requires slightly more complexity (either reading the device’s current state or storing that information locally). For the moment, I’ll have to be satisfied with having at least gotten this far. Big thanks to Paul Hubbard for blazing the trail here, and, I suppose, on to the next project.


  1. Though he uses a system called Oh My ZSH! to manage the aliases, I just stuck with defining them in the .zshrc file in my home directory. 

[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 dan@sixcolors.com. 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

How Apple is laying a foundation for a smarter, more connected future

Apple’s public betas are an opportunity for all of us—not just developers prepping apps—to get a peek into the future of the company’s software. Granted, we’re not transporting ourselves to a far-off year where no doubt we’ll all be wearing Apple-branded headsets and riding in Apple cars—this time travel jaunt is only a matter of months. But it’s still a chance to see what new capabilities we’ll be able to take advantage of come the fall.

If we zoom out a bit, though, we can also see the hallmarks of places where Apple is investing in the future, or—to use the classic adage that has become an Apple operating principle—skating to where the puck will be. Because Apple has a tendency to lay the groundwork for major changes years in advance, knowing it’s going to take some time for the rest of the world to catch up.

This year is no different. iOS and iPadOS 16, macOS Ventura, watchOS 9, even the latest update to the HomePod software are all about not just the year ahead, but the years ahead, with features that will change our lives in big ways—eventually. Just not necessarily right away.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

First Look: iOS 16 Public Beta

If it’s July, that can mean only one thing: it’s Apple’s public beta season. As has become de rigueur for this time of year, Apple has released the preview version of its upcoming software platform updates, giving the public its first chance at seeing the latest capabilities coming to their devices this fall.

iOS 16 was first announced at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference last month showed off a release with a handful of marquee features, including the biggest redesign to the iPhone’s lock screen in years, and a ton of smaller—but in many ways no less significant—enhancements. Some of those are the kind of slow-burn features that may end up having an enormous effect on the way we use our technology, but will take a while to come into their own. (I’m looking at you, passkeys. And CarPlay.)

It’s also worth noting that, of course, most of the new features in iOS 16 also apply to iPadOS 16, and many also to macOS Ventura. Such is the benefit of a unified platform architecture.

As always, installing the public beta is a highly personal choice. Some features may be buggy, others might not be complete yet, and there can often be issues with reliability and battery life. But if you like to live on the bleeding edge and you’re comfortable with the risk, have at—there’s a reason that it’s the public beta.

Continue reading “First Look: iOS 16 Public Beta”…


By Dan Moren for Macworld

Do the Apple Watch Series 8 rumors point to a new design?

This fall marks the eighth anniversary of the announcement of Apple’s newest major hardware category, the Apple Watch. In that time, it’s become the leading example of a wearable device and though other companies have produced competitors, none have quite managed to match the popularity or cachet of the Apple Watch.

The device has evolved too–perhaps not as dramatically as the iPhone did in its first eight years–changing from a do-everything phone replacement on the wrist to one focused on health and fitness…and then sort of back to its phone replacement roots. It’s gotten a larger screen, more sensors, and different case materials, but you still can’t make your own watchfaces.

What’s on tap for the Apple Watch this fall? What does Apple, if you’ll excuse the expression, have up its sleeve? Unsurprisingly, rumors already abound.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren for Macworld

Why the 13-inch MacBook Pro is still integral to Apple’s lineup

At various points during the past several years, Apple has been rated the most valuable corporation in the world. And it’s pretty safe to assume that the company didn’t get to that point without being strategic about how it positions its products.

One big part of what’s made Apple so successful is that the company makes sure that it’s got products at every price point. No, it doesn’t compete in the super-budget department when it comes to devices—Apple is happy to leave those low-margin offerings for the likes of Android phones and Dell PCs—but when it does enter a market, it makes sure it always has a solid spread.

Of course, when you’re a company that builds powerful, good-looking devices and values its profit margins, your options are limited somewhat when it comes to making your devices more affordable. Which has led to a key part of Apple’s strategy across all its lineups: in with the old. Apple’s made a science out of retaining older products and selling them at lower prices in order to plug holes in their lineups, and it’s a move that continues to serve the company well.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


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 dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


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 dan@sixcolors.com. 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 ↦


How do you recover passkeys if you lose all your devices?

As a followup to my piece on passkeys, reader Andrew pointed me to a blog post by Terence Eden, which contains a bit of a thought experiment on what happens if you have a catastrophic accident (say, a house fire) and lose access to all your devices:

In order to recover my digital life, I need to be able to log in to things. This means I need to know my usernames (easy) and my passwords (hard). All my passwords are stored in a Password Manager. I can remember the password to that. But logging in to the manager also requires a 2FA code. Which is generated by my phone.

The situation as described is really a worst case scenario in which everything goes wrong, but it does raise questions about Apple’s new passkeys. If you have any device, sync should ensure that they’re all stored there. But what does happen in a terrible case like this where you lose all your devices?

Well, there are recovery methods in place, as you might suspect. Apple talks broadly about them in a support article:

To recover a keychain, a user must authenticate with their iCloud account and password and respond to an SMS sent to their registered phone number. After they authenticate and respond, the user must enter their device passcode. iOS, iPadOS, and macOS allow only 10 attempts to authenticate. After several failed attempts, the record is locked and the user must call Apple Support to be granted more attempts. After the tenth failed attempt, the escrow record is destroyed.

This seems to suggest that you’ll need to recover your phone number first, presumably by dealing with your wireless carrier. In a truly worst case scenario as detailed in Eden’s post, that may prove to be challenging, depending on what information you need to recover the account from the iCloud Keychain escrow. (Alternatively, Apple also points you can set up a recovery contact which is a good idea—and, as per Eden’s post, it may be a good idea to make it somebody who doesn’t reside with you, just in case of said catastrophic occurrence.)

That said, this is also a possible vector for social engineering, so extra levels of security are probably a good thing here. Requiring iCloud password, SMS code, and device passcode altogether seems like a reasonable set of steps to take before giving access back to a keychain.

There’s always going to be the possibility of a scenario where the security is so good that you can’t recover it, but in many of these cases, if you’re encountering a situation so severe that all of your failsafes have also failed, well, there’s probably something really dire going on that means you have even bigger problems.

—Linked by Dan Moren

By Dan Moren for Macworld

How your different Apple devices are becoming more alike than ever

There’s this somewhat odd sentiment among some parts of the Mac community that the best release of the platform’s software ever was Snow Leopard. Yes, that’s right: 2009’s Mac OS X 10.6, a release that was famously marketed as having “zero new features” and focusing on bug fixes and enhancements.

That appraisal is, of course, open for debate, but the idea has persisted enough that some people still regularly call for “Snow Leopard” style releases of Apple’s current operating systems—even though I’m sure there would be a general cry of bloody murder if the company tried to release updates that really didn’t have a single new feature.

Such an update is decidedly not what we got at this past week’s Worldwide Developers Conference: the platform updates that Apple showed off are fairly brimming with new features. But running down the list it also becomes clear that this was a bit of a search-and-destroy exercise for Apple’s engineers, as they crossed off a whole metric ton of requests and “missing” features that have, in some cases, been lingering for years.

Perhaps these updates are more like “filling gaps” releases, but in any case, there’s a lot here that suggests Apple isn’t simply trying to look to what’s next but to fix what’s come before and level the playing field across all its platforms.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

WWDC 2022: Passkeys hit primetime

Last year, Apple started tolling the death knell for passwords with the first round of passkey support on its platforms. At the time, I wrote:

…the writing is on the wall for the good old password, and the first step to its demise is being rolled out in macOS Monterey and iOS 15—though it will probably take at least a couple years before it comes to fruition.

Well, the future is here, somewhat sooner than I thought. With Apple’s forthcoming updates, passkeys are a reality, ready for developers to start offing the password with extreme prejudice. In its WWDC keynote, Apple gave passkeys some time in the spotlight, explaining just how much more secure of an option they are when it comes to authentication. The message is clear: passwords just aren’t sufficient for the connected world we now live in and the sooner they go into the dustbin, the better for everyone.

As usual, Apple’s WWDC sessions spend a little more time detailing how developers can add passkey support to their apps, as well as discussing how to deal with some additional cases that might crop up.

Passkeys
Apple’s newest updates will allow you to login with passcodes, as well as other authentication methods if necessary.

The best part of this transition is that it should be pretty straightforward for users once apps and web services start offering passkey as an option. Generating a passkey is as simple as enabling it in the app or service and then authenticating with biometrics. Subsequent logins are handled with biometrics, like Face ID or Touch ID, and can generally be accomplished with a single tap. And because passkeys are stored in iCloud, they’re synced between all your devices. You can even have multiple passkeys for a site or service stored on your device, if you have multiple accounts, and choose the appropriate one if needed.

The addition of passkeys should also remove the need for multifactor authentication—no more entering codes from an app or via SMS. That was always an additional feature provided because of passwords’ inherent insecurity, but the way in which passkeys work makes it unnecessary.

For those who already use iCloud Keychain for passwords, all of this should be pretty much second nature and, in retrospect, it’s clear that iCloud Keychain has been Apple training its users for this passwordless future. For example, just as you can currently share passwords from iCloud Keychain with AirDrop, that same feature will be available for passkeys as well—that way, if you have an account shared with someone, like a friend or another member of your family, you can easily give them access to those credentials.

It’s worth noting that while AirDrop is the only Share option in iCloud Keychain, you’ve also been able to copy and paste passwords listed in the Passwords section, letting you send those credentials via an email or iMessage (which you probably shouldn’t do, for security’s sake). However, given the nature of passkeys (which are very lengthy strings of random characters), it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to copy and paste them—probably for the best, again, for reasons of security, though it may frustrate some users trying to cram the passkey into a password-shaped hole.

There’s also no solution for bulk sharing of credentials, as via a shared vault in a password manager like 1Password; the only sharing option is on a per-passkey basis. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple thinks this needs to be updated in the future to something more like iCloud Shared Keychains, but that’s not a road that it’s taken so far with passwords.

Login with another device
Logging in to another device with passkeys involves creating a Bluetooth connection between the two, for extra security.

One additional question that has now been answered for passkeys is what happens when you’re logging in on another device, either from Apple or another manufacturer. The FIDO Alliance that backs the passkey standard (of which companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are all members) has an approved solution: a QR code that you scan with your phone, providing a secure way to log in.

The methodology behind this process is fascinating: among other things, the authenticating device (likely your iPhone) creates a Bluetooth-based relay server which, by the very nature of Bluetooth’s limited range, helps ensure that you are in fact in proximity to the device into which you’re logging in. That makes it much more difficult for phishers to trick you into giving up your passkey: sending you a QR code in an email or text message won’t work because it won’t be able to get access to the Bluetooth connection.

Of course, this does still put into relief one potential issue with the passwordless future: it depends on having a device to serve as an authenticator. Widespread as smartphones are, not everybody has one, and those who don’t will probably still have to rely on memorized passwords (or, say, a security key with biometric authentication built in).

Making passwords better

Passwords won’t go away tomorrow, of course, or even in the fall when the new platforms ship. And so Apple’s not neglecting improving the password experience in the interim. There are a couple additional password-related features coming in the fall releases that are worth detailing:

Wi-Fi Passwords in Settings: Apple devices’ ability to share Wi-Fi passwords with people in your contacts has been a lifesaver, but sometimes that feature doesn’t work, or you have a non-Apple device you want to get online, or you just want to look up the darn password. On the Mac you’ve always been able to look up your Wi-Fi network passwords in the Keychain Access app and now with iOS/iPadOS 16, those Wi-Fi passwords will be available in the Passwords section of Settings; on the Mac, you’ll be able to find them in Network Preferences as well.

Strong password editing: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: you’re creating a new password for an account on a website and iCloud Keychain suggests a good, strong option. Only problem is it’s one of those sites that insists you follow its rules for creating passwords: this many numbers, that many letters, only these prescribed special characters, and so on. In the past, adapting the strong password suggested by Keychain to meet these requirements has involved an awkward dance of copying and pasting—or falling back to another password manager, or, worst of all, a weaker password. But in the latest Apple platform updates, you’ll also be able to edit those suggested passwords inline to make them comply with the rules on a given site.

Our journey towards our more secure feature continues apace and here’s hoping that by the time WWDC 2023 rolls around, we’re all using more passkeys in our lives.

[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 dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]



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