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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Twitter’s new crowdsourced fact-checking feature, Apple’s new companion audio for taking walks, our tech pet peeves, and the future of unions in Silicon Valley.

iOS/iPadOS 14.4 updates contain patches for “actively exploited” vulnerabilities

Zack Whittaker at Tech Crunch:

Apple has released iOS 14.4 with security fixes for three vulnerabilities, said to be under active attack by hackers.

The technology giant said in its security update pages for iOS and iPadOS 14.4 that the three bugs affecting iPhones and iPads “may have been actively exploited.” Details of the vulnerabilities are scarce, and an Apple spokesperson declined to comment beyond what’s in the advisory.

It’s pretty rare for Apple to acknowledge an actively exploited security vulnerability in its patch notes for any product, and on the iPhone—largely considered among the most secure platforms—I would say it’s unheard of, at least in my memory.1Update: My good pal Adam Engst gently reminded me that Apple alerted users to possibly actively exploited vulnerabilities in a variety of updates issued just last November, or as I like to call it, “late March 2020.”

Apple’s security note is promising more details soon, though the timing is as of yet unknown. Two of the vulnerabilities, which involved arbitrary code execution, are related to WebKit, the engine that underpins not only Safari but pretty much any web interface on the phone. The third was in the operating system kernel, and could allow a malicious application to get escalated privileges. All of those are fairly serious cases, so it’s for sure a little scary—definitely a case in which to urger your friends and family to update.

  1. With the exception possibly being in the case of flaws used to jailbreak phones. 

John Ternus takes over as SVP of Apple hardware as Dan Riccio moves to “new project”


Apple today announced Dan Riccio will transition to a new role focusing on a new project and reporting to CEO Tim Cook, building on more than two decades of innovation, service, and leadership at Apple. John Ternus will now lead Apple’s Hardware Engineering organization as a member of the executive team.

Riccio has been Apple’s senior vice president of hardware since 2012; interestingly, in the same press release is the note that his predecessor, Bob Mansfield, was returning to work on “future projects” at the same time (subsequently, it was largely reported that Mansfield was heading up Apple’s automotive ambitions). In December, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Mansfield was officially retiring from Apple (this time for real!), and that the car project would instead fall to the he senior vice president of AI and machine learning, John Giannandrea. It doesn’t seem out of the question that Riccio could also end up working on that project, if there’s a hardware component, though the emphasis on “new” product in Apple’s announcement means it might be something else entirely.

Ternus has been at Apple for nearly two decades, but he appeared prominently during some of Apple’s virtual events last fall. If you want a good idea of why he’s going to be the next member of Apple’s executive team, you don’t have to look any further than this line from Apple’s press release: “…he has been a key leader in the ongoing transition of the Mac to Apple silicon.”

Apple launches Time to Walk feature for Fitness+

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today unveiled Time to Walk, an inspiring new audio walking experience on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers, created to encourage users to walk more often and reap the benefits from one of the healthiest activities. Each original Time to Walk episode invites users to immerse themselves in a walk alongside influential and interesting people as they share thoughtful and meaningful stories, photos, and music.

A few things I find interesting about this feature. First, it’s a clever idea marrying what is, basically, a podcast, with exercise features. I tend to walk every day, usually while listening to music rather than podcasts, but I can see why this would encourage people to get out and exercise. Nice lineup of initial episodes, including the legendary Dolly Parton.

But what I find really fascinating about this is that it’s essentially a paywalled podcast, available only to Fitness+ subscribers. Apple says it’ll be adding new episodes every Monday. Plus, the feature folds in music by adding a custom playlist tied in with the narrator, as well as photos that appear on the Apple Watch at certain points. A little wacky, but okay. Given that rumor has the company considering its own paid “Podcasts+” service, this might help the company suss out whether or not that idea has legs.

This also ventures down a road that I imagine Apple will continue to investigate: audio-only Fitness+ workouts. Peloton already offers a similar feature, and I’d be surprise if Apple didn’t add such content in a subsequent Fitness+ update.

Our top-two streaming media services, our thoughts on MagSafe returning to the Mac, gadgets we think still need work, and what we use instead of Instagram, Oculus, and WhatsApp.

By Dan Moren for Macworld

Will 2021 be the year Apple’s U1 chip goes wide?

Apple’s no stranger to introducing and popularizing new technologies. The original iMac wasn’t the first to use USB, but it drove adoption of the standard. Multitouch displays existed before the iPhone, but it was the first real commercial product offering it. Sometimes those technologies take a while to gestate, though. And there may be no better example in recent years than Apple’s take on ultra wideband, or UWB.

Like those other technologies, ultra wideband isn’t new as a concept, but it’s something that hasn’t really found a home in the consumer market. In 2019, Apple released the iPhone 11 series and included a custom chip dubbed the U1. During the introduction, Apple talked up the amazing properties of the U1, and how it could be used to not only track the location of objects with amazing precision, but even has the ability to point you in the right direction towards them.

But almost a year and a half later, U1 remains a technology without much of an application. Yes, it’s built in to AirDrop to show you which other devices are closest, but that only works with other U1-enabled iPhones and it’s more of a proof of concept than an actual feature to tout. Other than that, there’s really not much there there—yet. With a few U1-enabled technologies waiting in the wings, 2021 finally be the breakout year for this technology.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

By Dan Moren

Export your Apple Notes in bulk

I’m an avid user of Apple’s Notes app: it’s where I keep all my random jottings, from ideas for books to thoughts for podcasts I’m recording, and pretty much everything in between. In general, I’m pretty happy with the built-in iCloud syncing that makes sure those notes are available on all my devices in short order, but what if you want to take those notes out of Notes, either to share them with somebody who’s not on iOS, or perhaps to back them up.

Turn out, it’s surprisingly tricky. Yes, you can sort of export a single note using the Share button—though it doesn’t really save it to a file—or, if you’re on a Mac, you can export one as a PDF.1 But if you want to export a bunch of notes as individual files, seems like you’re out of luck!

But there’s a loophole, and it comes courtesy savvy Six Colors reader Ken, who reports that he discovered a way to bulk export your Notes into text files, and all it takes is an iPad and some digital—the finger kind, not the ones and zeroes kind—acumen.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.

Yet another leak of Apple’s tracking fobs, who should moderate online content, good password hygiene, and Spotify’s podcast listeners.

Existence of Apple’s item tracking tags leaks…again

MacRumors’s Joe Rossignol:

MacRumors reader David Chu today alerted us that the hidden “Items” tab in the Find My app can be enabled on iOS 14.3 and later by typing in the link findmy://items into Safari and tapping on “Open” in the prompt that appears.

I just tried this myself, and sure enough, it works: the Find My app opens to an Items screen where you can tap Add Item and it will start searching for nearby tags.1

Find Items screen

Apple’s tracking tags are probably the worst kept secret in the history of the company’s products, given the sheer number of times that indications of their existence have leaked over the past year or two. Most recently, we saw a leak from a third-party company’s designs for accessories for the Apple product.

But that raises the question of why the product hasn’t been released yet: Is it not quite ready to go? If the software component is in the shipping OS, it would seem to be pretty far along. Is Apple waiting for a more opportune moment, say, when people are actually leaving their house and traveling again in order to make a more compelling product story? Certainly possible. Or, heaven forbid, is this another AirPower story where the enthusiasm has outstripped the ability to actually ship a product? One doubts that Apple would get bitten in that same way twice, but nothing’s impossible.

Or maybe, just maybe, Apple’s tracking tags are readying for an imminent launch. Stranger things have happened!

  1. Just to play devil’s advocate, this could simply be an interface for Apple to offer compatibility with third-party trackers like Tile—the words “tags” or “AirTags” don’t appear anywhere within the interface. But come on. 

Apple amps up its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative

The “big announcement” teased yesterday is an expansion of Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, which the company founded last year after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others sparked mass protests:

These forward-looking and comprehensive efforts include the Propel Center, a first-of-its-kind global innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); an Apple Developer Academy to support coding and tech education for students in Detroit; and venture capital funding for Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Together, Apple’s REJI commitments aim to expand opportunities for communities of color across the country and to help build the next generation of diverse leaders.

Apple’s putting $100 million towards these efforts, which it sees as part of its goal to leaving the world a better place.

By Dan Moren

Where Apple could improve Fitness+

Fitness Plus

In some ways, Fitness+ couldn’t have come at a better time. At one point or another, we’ve all probably made that New Year’s resolution to work out more, and with the pandemic forcing many of us to stay in our homes, a friendly exercise option is suddenly much more appealing.

Both my wife and I have spent the last several weeks with Fitness+1, and in general, the service has really impressed us. The trainers are an inclusive, engaging group and the focus on mobility and providing alternative workout options is a marked contrast from many other competitors.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t improvements to be made. Even after just a few weeks, we’ve definitely run into places where the service could be tweaked or offer more. That’s understandable, given that Fitness+ just launched, and no doubt Apple is planning to make changes down the road, especially once it sees how customers are using the service. But just in case Cupertino’s paying attention, here are a few ways we’ve noticed that Fitness+ could use a little more attention.

Get back in the groove

It’s certainly not ideal to have to stop a workout in the middle, but sometimes life gets in the way. The kids need attention, or someone rings the doorbell, or heck, the Fitness+ app crashes. We’ve all grown accustomed, in this modern era, to being able to drop out of something and pick up right where we left off. But Fitness+ has proved to be much touchier about such interrupts. My wife has had her workout prematurely ended a couple times, and thus far the only option is to start all over again, which clearly isn’t ideal.

Fitness+ Workout

Certainly, a workout is a little more complicated than a movie, since your Apple Watch is tracking your vitals at the same time, but there should still be an option to easily jump back in where you left off. Right now, you can’t even fast forward through workouts to get back to where you were, which can quickly turn what should have been a positive experience into a frustrating one.

Switch it up

Along those same lines, it should be easier to switch devices mid-workout. If you’re using the Apple TV to do your yoga workout, and somebody else wants to use the TV, you should be able to switch to your iPad without missing a beat. Again, it’s the kind of seamless continuity we expect from other Apple apps. Even trying to use AirPlay from your iPad to your Apple TV and then switch to using the iPad can cause some hiccups in the workout experience, and then it’s back to our previous problem about resuming interrupted workouts.

Filter it out

Currently, Fitness+ lets you filter by three criteria: type of workout (cycling, yoga, strength, etc.), duration, or trainer. That’s all useful, but when you’re trying to do a little more targeted exercise, it would be helpful to have some additional information about workouts. For example, Fitness+ could let you filter by which part of the body a session focuses on (upper body, lower body, core, etc.) or even by the intensity of the workout.

Filtering options
Fitness+’s filtering feature is useful, but could be improved.

To the latter point, yes, Fitness+ does do a nice job of providing different options within a workout, but some trainers and some sessions can definitely be more strenuous than others, and it would be helpful to have a better idea of what you’re getting into. The Absolute Beginner classes are a great way to start off, but beyond those it would be nice to know whether you’re diving into the deep end or taking a slower ramp up.

Absolute Beginners
The Absolute Beginner workouts are great, but where do you go from there?

Context is king

The integration with the Apple Watch is definitely part of Fitness+’s secret sauce, but it would be nice if those metrics had a little more context to them. For example, Fitness+ shows you your progress through the workout in the corner of the screen, including your current heart rate, but there’s not a great indication of what your heart rate should be.

One useful data point would be whether your heart rate is within the target range for the workout. (Target heart rate is generally based on your age and the kind of workout you’re doing.) That would make it easier for you to adjust on the fly during a workout, taking things up a notch if you’re not quite feeling the burn, or maybe cutting back if you’re going too hard.

Get social

One aspect that Fitness+ is kind of light on at present are social features. The only real concession to connecting with other people—aside from the Apple Watch’s built-in competitions and achievements—is the Burn Bar.

The Burn Bar is supposed to give you an idea of how you’re doing compared to other people who’ve done the same workout. The more calories you burn, the better you do on the Burn Bar, which at least gives you some idea of context (see above)—except that the Burn Bar is only available in a small number of workout types: Treadmill, High-Intensity, Rowing, and Cycling.

Now, I get it: I may not want to be focusing on how my calorie burning stacks up to everyone else when I’m doing a relaxing yoga workout, but in some of the others, like Core, or Strength, or even Dance, it would be nice to at least have the option to turn it on.

And if Apple wants to take social features a step further and create ways for you to, say, remotely do a workout with a friend, or otherwise compare performance, that might be fun too—assuming, of course, that they’re purely opt in.

The rest

In addition to the above areas, there are a handful of other small improvements that Fitness+ could stand. The Apple TV app could use a way to access workouts you’ve saved to your list (if there is one, I couldn’t find it); likewise, on the Apple TV, it’s impossible to do a workout if you don’t have an Apple Watch, which seems like an unnecessary requirement given that the iPad version doesn’t require it; and it would be useful to have more overarching, holistic guidance if you’re working toward a specific goal—say, running a 5K—rather than relying on the algorithms which seem to suggest workouts based largely on things you’ve already done.

Workout without Watch
On the iPad, Fitness+ lets you workout without an Apple Watch, but not on the Apple TV.

On the whole, despite the potential for improvement, Apple Fitness+ has had a promising start. It’s only a month old at this point, and Apple’s obvious commitment to continually adding new content does provide a solid hook to keep coming back, but it will be intriguing to see where the company goes from a feature standpoint over the next years or so.2

  1. Her more than me. 
  2. And remember, stay active and close your rings.🤣 

[Dan Moren is the official Dan of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]

By Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple gets ready for a new reality

I think we can all agree that there are times when the current reality could be a little…better.

For several years, Apple has talked up the potential of the augmented reality space, and more recently, there have been rumors that the company is getting ready to take those ambitions to the next level by releasing a product focused on augmented reality, virtual reality—or possibly both.

But Apple isn’t one to take on projects casually: despite the multitude of calls for Apple to enter this market or that, the company tends to be very conservative in what projects actually make it through the extensive gauntlet to become shipping products. As Steve Jobs once said, “innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

If Apple truly is ready to take the plunge into this new product area—which reports are now suggesting could happen sooner rather than later—then that’s because the company believes that it’s figured out how to bring the combined might of its hardware, software, and services to bear on a type of device that no company has cracked quite yet. Which raises the question: what the heck is this thing?

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

Killer apps for AR and VR, video chat etiquette tips, how we’ll use tech differently in 2021, and the advertising and marketing decisions that we’d toss out the window.

By Dan Moren for Macworld

Three Apple battles to watch in 2021

Here’s the thing about being one of the most prominent—and, by some measurements most valuable—companies in the world: it paints a heck of a target on your back. Apple’s long found itself on the receiving end of attacks from competitors, smaller challengers, and the government, and that hasn’t changed in recent years.

But as we flip our calendars over to 2021, there are already a handful of battles in progress that could have marked effects on Apple’s business in both the short and long terms. Of course, a company with as many resources as Apple may be able to weather the occasional squall, but every once in a while you get a perfect storm that’s harder to fend off.

Let’s take a look at these three brewing fights and how they might force Apple to batten down its hatches in the year ahead.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

By Dan Moren

The Back Page: Apple 2021

Good morning! We’re so glad you could join us today, here at Apple Park. We’ve got a lot of exciting announcements to share with you, but before we get started, I want to take a moment to look back at everything Apple has achieved in 2020.

Even in the face of a global pandemic, Apple continued to deliver products to surprise and delight its customers, who remain trapped in their own homes with their glowing screens as the only comprany they have. Here at Apple, our employees have worked tirelessly to help make sure that you can stay safe by having food delivered to your door, providing a non-stop slew of content to binge, and enabling you to keep endlessly doomscrolling, even as the world dissolves into chaos around you. Also, we released five new iPhones!

We’re glad that we’ve been able to do our part to get people through this tough time…but we think we can do better.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.

Tech we’re looking forward to in 2021, our schedules for buying M1 Macs, favorite gadgets of 2020, and holiday tech gifts.

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