Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Automate This: Archive a bunch of sub-folders

Sometimes you stare down the barrel of a stupid, repetitive task and think: hey, my time’s worth more than this!

Then you spend longer than the original task would have taken to create an automation for that task.

Having concluded our current season of A Complicated Profession, our Star Wars TV podcast over on The Incomparable, I decided I ought to archive all the project files to save some space on my MacBook Air’s drive. In the past, I’ve had an automated workflow to do this, using Hazel, but I hadn’t set it up again since switching to my laptop as my main work machine.1

However, rather than clicking on each individual project folder and choosing Compress…, it seemed likely that I could create a simple automation to do the work for me. And so I did!

Shortcuts is well suited to this task, allowing me to create a workflow I could launch from the Finder’s Quick Actions menu. I selected the top-level folder for the podcast and had the shortcut iterate through the contents of that folder. If it encountered a file with no file extension (which was the best idea I had for detecting if something was a folder), it would zip that up into an archive with the same name as the folder, then save it to the top-level folder2. Done.

It took a little bit of trial and error to get the save paths and naming correct3, but the end result was exactly what I’d hoped: a folder full of archives of each individual episode, which I could then drag over to my NAS before deleting them all from my drive.

Perhaps you’ll find this shortcut useful, in which case, have at.

  1. Once again, I’m reminded that macOS’s version of Shortcuts lacks the Automation features of the iOS version—which continues to be a glaring oversight. 
  2. That Save File action is a crucial step: otherwise it just makes a zip file and…throws it away? How strange. 
  3. I did accidentally make an earlier version recursive, where it dumped an infinite loop of folders inside the Shorcuts folder in iCloud drive. Whoops! 

[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.]

Take Control of Photos, Third Edition

The third edition of my book Take Control of Photos has been released! If you bought a previous edition, you should’ve gotten an email with options to upgrade to the new edition. If not, there’s good news—Take Control is having a Black Friday sale. For the next week the book is half off.

The new version covers macOS Ventura and iOS and iPadOS 16. It adds coverage of shared photo libraries, more detail about live search in Photos, expanded coverage of iPhone & iPad Photo Features, the new version of Photos in tvOS 16, a new chapter about the Camera app in iOS, and details about duplicate detection.

—Linked by Jason Snell

Finding a Twitter replacement (or leaving it all behind), our Read-it-Later services of choice, the tech we’re most thankful for, and the apps we’re most thankful for.

By Joe Rosensteel

tvOS 16 is better at search–Siriously

One of the banner features of Apple TV and tvOS, is the ability to use Siri to get to what you want without having to remember which app it’s in, or where it is. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always lived up to that sales pitch. But as of the latest version of tvOS, it’s gotten a lot better.

Apple has slowly tweaked accuracy over the years (requests for “The Thing” now sensibly display The Thing you expect, and not Fantastic Four movies.) It was also a pain that if you clicked/tapped on a result there was no way to get back to those search results if that item didn’t turn out to be what you wanted. Now you can!

The results pages were have also been cleaned up a little, to make those first few options as relevant as possible. It’s less optimal if you stay on the page too long, because tvOS will start playing a trailer in the top two-thirds of the screen.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.

By Jason Snell for Macworld

Why I’m thankful for Universal Control on my Mac and iPad

When Apple announced Universal Control as a feature of macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15, I wasn’t sure what to think. It seemed like a feature nobody had asked for, but one that Apple had realized might actually be incredibly useful. I was certainly impressed by its technical ambition. But would it be something that I would ever use day to day? I was skeptical.

It’s been about eight months since Universal Control arrived–remember, it was announced in June 2021 but gestated for nine months before being released in March of this year–and I’m finally ready to weigh in on Universal Control.

It’s great. It is one of my favorite operating-system feature additions in recent memory. And most surprising of all, I’m using it in ways I had never, ever anticipated. Here’s why I’m thankful that Universal Control exists.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

Live Activities, Push Notifications, and iMessage on airplanes

A new version of the excellent flight-tracking app Flighty was just released. I can’t endorse this app enough, but its support for Live Activities (and the Dynamic Island) on iOS 16 has made it even cooler.

As pointed out by Flighty’s Ryan Jones, if you’re on in-flight Wi-Fi (just the free version many airlines offer, which lets you access iMessage), the Live Activities will keep updating:

The secret here is that Apple uses the same pathway for iMessage as it does for its push-notification service. I fly on Southwest Airlines a lot, and while I don’t pay for their Wi-Fi, I do activate instant messaging so that I can send texts using iMessage. For the duration of my flight, I don’t just get iMessage texts—I also get push notifications from every app I use that uses Apple’s push-notification service, even if the app doesn’t have access to the Internet.

This is because all remote push-notifications have to come from Apple’s notification servers—it’s the law. And since iMessage uses the same pathway, it means that an app like Flighty can receive Live Activity updates even when the app itself can’t reach the Internet. Which is extra helpful for an app whose users are on airplanes a lot of the time.

And when your favorite sports app adds Live Activities, you should be able to keep tabs on games in progress without paying for airplane Wi-Fi, so long as your airline lets you connect to iMessage.

—Linked by Jason Snell

Find My soccer ball

Ben Dowsett at FiveThirtyEight details the high technology being used on the field at the World Cup:

All tournament long, match balls will contain a sensor that collects spatial positioning data in real time — the first World Cup to employ such a ball-tracking mechanism. This, combined with existing optical tracking tools, will make VAR (video assistant referees) and programs like offside reviews more accurate and streamlined than they’ve ever been. Combining these two forms of tracking has long been a holy grail of sorts in technology circles, and FIFA’s use of the ball sensor in particular will serve as a highly public test case over the next four weeks.

Every ball has two bits of technology that iPhone users will be familiar with: an accelerometer and an Ultra Wideband (think U1) chip. Combined with optical tech (think of the line calls at most high-level tennis tournaments), match officials1 have detailed information about the location and trajectory of the ball at all times. The chips are recording and transmitting data at a rate of 500 frames per second, allowing far more precision than even a TV camera broadcasting at 50 or 60 frames per second. A machine-learning algorithm flags potential calls (mostly Offside) for human officials to consult.

It’s exciting to see this because I can think of a few sports (NFL football being the big one, since so many of its rules involve the ball breaking an invisible plane) that could be dramatically improved by technology that tells us where the ball is, precisely, at all times.

  1. This is where I point out that Qatar is an authoritarian regime, that FIFA is corrupt, and that the entire event was rooted in bribery and malfeasance and constructed by itinerant workers under terrible conditions. 
—Linked by Jason Snell

There’s some huge news from the world of streaming, as Disney switches bosses and Apple plans its next wave of sports-streaming products. Meanwhile, Myke’s busy building out his smart home while Jason has been reminded of the fragility of smart-home networking.

By Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple’s holiday iPhone shortage is a symptom of a much larger problem

Apple is a bit like Superman. Wait, wait, hear me out. Sure, it only gets a chunk of its power from the yellow sun (thanks, solar), and maybe not even its rumored smart glasses could disguise it as Clark Kent, but the company certainly isn’t short on superpowers: selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products, commanding a prominent position in multiple technology markets, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, etc.

But just as Superman has his kryptonite, Apple too has one large weakness that can bring the company to its knees: its overreliance on China. Yes, the region provides a big chunk of the company’s sales, but even more to the point, it’s the epicenter of Apple’s global manufacturing and assembly. And when that’s threatened–by political issues, supply chain problems, or COVID-related conundrums–it can put a serious dent in the company’s bottom line.

You need look no further than the recent communique from Cupertino, explaining that its most expensive (and presumably most profitable) iPhone models would take a sales hit due to a pandemic-related factory shutdown. Recently, though, Apple has started to move to correct this reliance on China, looking to bring manufacturing to a number of other places. It’s a good long-term decision, but it won’t happen fast, and there are going to be plenty of challenges along the way.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

1Password gets ready to embrace Passkeys

In a blog post on Thursday, 1Password outlined its plans to support Passkeys, a new standard embraced by all the major platform owners that promises to eliminate passwords forever by replacing them with cryptographic authentication.

Now cross-platform password manager 1Password has rolled out a page that offers a video and interactive demo of its forthcoming support for Passkeys:

1Password will bring full support for passkeys to the browser extension and desktop apps in early 2023, with mobile support to follow. We’ll be introducing resources along the way to help you discover where passkeys can be used and how to set them up, as well as an easy way to upgrade your logins to passkeys.

While Apple has built Passkey support into its latest operating systems, their implementation lacks easy portability to non-Apple platforms, recoverability, and easy sharing with family or workgroups. That’s the area where multi-platform, multi-user services like 1Password can flourish, doing the work to implement features Apple’s not focused on.

Whether you use 1Password or prefer Apple’s built-in approach, it’s clear that everyone in the world of passwords is onboard with the idea of killing them forever and replacing them with something much better. It couldn’t happen soon enough.

—Linked by Jason Snell

How we positively integrate tech in our kids’ lives, whether we display vintage tech, sharing streaming service logins, and do standalone cameras still trump smartphones?

By Jason Snell

MLS Season Pass begins to bring Apple TV/MLS deal into focus

St. Louis City SC is the first MLS team to unveil a shirt with an Apple TV sleeve patch.

It’s about three months until the start of the next season of Major League Soccer, and Apple’s 10-year, $2.5B deal with the league is starting to come into focus. On Wednesday Apple announced details about the new MLS Season Pass, a new subscription service inside of the Apple TV app.

Apple and MLS will produce broadcasts of every league match. (This includes the Leagues Cup between MLS and Liga MX teams, except in Mexico.) Some will probably be simulcast on traditional TV providers such as ESPN, while others will be available for free on the Apple TV app and still others might be available to all Apple TV+ subscribers.

But if you want access to every match, you’ll need MLS Season Pass, which will cost $15 per month during the season or $99 for the entire season. (MLS season ticket holders—between 300,000 and 400,000 of them—will get access to MLS Season Pass with their ticket purchase. Apple TV+ subscribers will get a $20 discount.)

MLS Season Pass subscriptions will open on February 1 and the league’s first match is on February 25. If that seems soon, it is. As The Athletic reported last month, Apple and the league are scrambling to put a broadcast plan into place, including hiring announcers.

Apple and MLS are also working to simplify the league’s schedule, placing all matches in two separate windows on Saturday and Wednesday nights with kickoffs of most Saturday games at 7:30 p.m. local time. Showcase games that would be available for free to all would take place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The Athletic also reported that roughly 40 percent of the league’s games will be available in front of the paywall.

Product placement is also part of the deal. Not only will teams be equipped with iPads, but referees may wear Apple Watches, and the VAR video-review system may be based on Apple devices. An Apple TV logo will also appear on the sleeve of every team jersey, the first of which can be spotted in Wednesday’s announcement of the first primary kit for the St. Louis City SC expansion team.

The big question is, what will the product be like? Given the heavy lift required just to get this new endeavor up and running, it’ll be interesting to see how many “production enhancements” Apple will be introducing at the start. The Athletic reports that games will probably have 12 cameras, up from seven or eight at most games this year.

Apple will presumably want to push production quality—will these all be in 4K HDR with Dolby Atmos sound?—and the plan is to offer commentary in English, Spanish, and (for Canadian teams) French, with an additional option to substitute the home team’s radio broadcast instead.

That’s an ambitious first set of features, but it feels like Apple is viewing this MLS partnership as a testbed for its future ambitions in streaming live sports. I would expect the company to be more aggressive in pushing the format than it was in its first season of MLB games.

I am somewhat of a soccer fan, though my tastes run more toward the team at the top of the table in the English Premier League. But I’m really interested in seeing how Apple and MLS execute on their strategy here.

Disney’s latest financial results lead us to ponder where we are in the dramatic change from old-school media to the streaming world. Also, Warner Bros. Discovery claims to have all its franchises in order, but that doesn’t seem remotely realistic.

iPhone 14 Emergency SOS via Satellite arrives

Promised “later this year” when it was introduced in September, Apple announced on Tuesday that it has turned on its Emergency SOS via Satellite feature on iPhone 14 models in the U.S. and Canada. The company’s press release has some details about how the system works and how emergency communications are routed. Also there’s this tidbit: the service is coming to France, Germany, the UK, and Ireland in December.

If you want to try this feature out, don’t get yourself lost and needing to actually call for help. Instead, as Apple notes, you can go somewhere without cellular service and then share your location using Find My:

For users who go off the grid but don’t experience an emergency, this advanced technology also enables them to share their location via satellite with Find My. In the Find My app, users can open the Me tab, swipe up to see My Location via Satellite, and tap Send My Location.

I’d say that I’m looking forward to using this feature, but like the iPhone 14 Crash Detection feature, I’d prefer to never need it. Still, it’s nice to know it’s there.

—Linked by Jason Snell

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