Graham Spencer

751 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university and connoisseur of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.

|


Apple Partners with IBM & Japan Post to Deliver iPads to Elderly in Japan

Apple just announced an interesting new partnership with IBM and Japan Post, with a goal of delivering 4 to 5 million iPads to the elderly in Japan by 2020. As part of the initiative, IBM will deliver custom apps that help connect those who receive the iPads to "services, healthcare, community and their families".

“This initiative has potential for global impact, as many countries face the challenge of supporting an aging population, and we are honored to be involved in supporting Japan’s senior citizens and helping enrich their lives,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “iPad is incredibly intuitive, easy to use and has accessibility features built in, making it a perfect device for any generation to be connected and engaged.”

The initiative, which will begin to roll out in the second-half of this year, is an extension of Japan Post's national 'Watch Over' service:

For a nominal monthly fee, mail carriers check in on elderly customers and assure families about the well-being of their relatives. That service can now be extended and enhanced with iPad, complementing the in-person monitoring.

IBM's A Smarter Planet website has also posted a short blog post from Masaaki Tanaka, one of the original designers tasked with working on the project:

A tiny team at IBM Japan got the whole thing going. My first market research subjects were my mother and my mother-in-law. My mom lives nearby, so I would pop over every couple of weeks to get her reactions to design ideas. Mom is comfortable using an iPad, so she represented our more sophisticated users. My mother-in-law was less experienced with mobile technology, so she stood in for our novices. She now has an iPad and takes it everywhere.

It's unclear whether IBM's custom apps will be released on the App Store for anyone to download, but one would hope so. 4-5 million iPads is a great start, but it's only a drop in the ocean to the millions already out there in the world.

Permalink

Adobe Slate Review

In recent years Adobe has made a concerted effort to develop a collection of mobile apps that make it easy to accomplish various creative tasks. But rather than make one monolothic app that does everything (like Photoshop on PCs), they’ve been splitting up features into many apps that each focus on a different, and specific, creative aspect. For example, there is Adobe Brush CC, which enables you to create custom brushes for Photoshop and Illustrator based off photos you take on your iPhone or iPad, or Adobe Color CC, which will create a custom color palette from your photos. As Adobe has continued to release more and more of these apps every few months, their efforts have become more and more impressive. Adobe now has a sizeable collection of mobile apps that are some of the most technically impressive and well designed apps available on the iPhone and iPad.

Which brings me to Adobe Slate, one of the most recent additions to Adobe’s mobile app stable. Unlike many of their other apps which directly integrate and complement Adobe’s desktop apps like Photoshop or Illustrator (such as Brush and Color, described above), Slate is its own distinct product. Adobe describes Slate as a tool to “turn any document into a beautiful visual story”, which is actually quite a good way to describe it. A more mechanical way of describing Slate would be that it is an iPad-only app for creating a webpage (not a website) for situations where the content you want to share or display is a mix of text and images.

I recently had an assignment at university that permitted a more creative format and layout than the typical essay or report. Because I had heard about Adobe Slate launching a few weeks earlier, I decided to test it out. I ended up submitting my assignment as a webpage created with Slate, and I really enjoyed using it and think the result was pretty great.[1]

Read more


Apple Announces WWDC 2015: Kicks Off June 8

Apple has announced the official dates for WWDC 2015. This year's WWDC will start in San Francisco on June 8 and runs through June 12.

Like last year, Apple will be awarding tickets to attendees through a random selection system (effectively, a lottery). Developers will be able to apply today through Friday, April 17 at 10 AM PDT, and they will know their status by Monday, April 20 at 5 PM PDT. There are also 350 WWDC Scholarships available, giving students and members of participating STEM organizations a chance to get a free ticket.

“The App Store ignited an app ecosystem that is simply amazing, forever changing the lives of customers and creating millions of jobs worldwide,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We’ve got incredible new technologies for iOS and OS X to share with developers at WWDC and around the world, and can’t wait to see the next generation of apps they create.”

As with every annual WWDC, the conference will host "more than 100 technical sessions, over 1,000 Apple engineers, hands-on labs to help developers integrate new technologies and fine tune their apps". In the press release posted this morning, Apple doesn't mention an inaugural keynote, but confirmed there will be Apple Design Awards and news about the future of iOS and OS X.

Similar to last year, some WWDC sessions will be live streamed via the WWDC website to give "developers around the world access to the latest information in real time". Apple also notes that videos from all technical sessions will be available at the end of every day.


CleanMyMac 3 Brings Mail & iTunes Cleaning, Maintenance, and Privacy Features

MacPaw, the software company behind CleanMyMac, Gemini, and Hider 2, has today released CleanMyMac 3. This latest release of the Mac disk space ‘cleaner’ comes with a refreshed user interface that fits much better with the new design of OS X Yosemite, but it also includes new features that allow it to detect more unnecessary or redundant data, as well as some new maintenance and privacy features.

Read more


Thank You, Gary Allen

Gary Allen announced on Friday that he would stop writing new articles for ifo Apple Store, the website he has been running for 14 years. Over the years, Allen and ifo Apple Store has became an invaluable resource for news, data and analysis relating to Apple's rapidly expanding retail efforts.

After following Apple retail for 14 years, I’ve reached a happy ending, and am gracefully backing away from the crazy world of following the company and its stores. No more stories or analysis, or flying out to far-flung locations to join overnight crowds,waiting for the excitement of new store opening (NSO). I began this Web site as simply a way of celebrating the fun of grand openings and the close friendship of the people I met when I arrived in a new country or city. My first overnight camp-out was with my son Devin on the sidewalk in front of the epic Palo Alto store in October 2001, I continued to other store openings with him in China, Australia, UK and other countries. I’ve visited over 140 stores around the world.

ifo Apple Store has been in my RSS feed for many of those years and I am genuinely sad to hear that Allen is winding down operations. Many of the articles I've written about Apple's retail operations have been informed in some way by the work done by Allen. That includes this article from late-2012 on Apple's Retail Expansion, which is one of the articles I am most proud of, and it probably wouldn't exist without ifo Apple Store.

Thank you, Gary Allen. We wish you all the best.



Tim Cook: Pro-Discrimination ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws Are Dangerous

Tim Cook in The Washington Post today:

There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country.

A wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states, would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors. Some, such as the bill enacted in Indiana last week that drew a national outcry and one passed in Arkansas, say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.

Cook's op-ed in The Washington Post comes after Indiana's 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act', which allows businesses to deny service to same-sex couples, was signed into law last week.

I encourage you all to read the full op-ed, Cook does a remarkable job at highlighting just why these laws are dangerous. His final paragraph is particularly powerful:

This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.

Permalink

Scenery for Mac: Quickly Generate Marketing Photos of your App or Website

Launching today, Scenery is a new Mac app that can quickly create professional looking photos of your app or website on a device for marketing purposes. Developed by Unsigned Integer, the makers of Deckset, Scenery essentially allows developers and marketers to skip the expensive and time consuming process of taking their own photos or spending hours in Photoshop.

The Scenery app is free and comes with 3 starter templates (two iPhone 6 templates and one Samsung Galaxy S5 template). Additional template packages can then be purchased from prices ranging from $15 to $100. Each template package has a particular theme such as ‘Around the House’, ‘Wooden Benchtop’ or ‘Flat White Workspace’ and can include various devices such as iPhones, iPads, Macs and Android smartphones. At launch there are 14 template packages available for purchase.

Read more


Blink: Effortless Affiliate Link Generation on iOS

Launching today, Blink is a new Universal iOS app from Squibner that quickly generates affiliate links for content from the App Store, Mac App Store, iTunes Store and iBooks Store. If you’re a member of the iTunes affiliate program you’ll know that you don’t want to be manually editing iTunes links with your own token and campaign tag – Blink automates that process on iOS, making it quick and effortless.

A Brief Introduction to Affiliate Links

Before I continue, a quick introduction to the world of affiliate linking for those that are unaware. Essentially, anyone can register for the iTunes affiliate program and they will receive their own affiliate token (a series of letters and numbers). If they generate an iTunes URL that includes this affiliate token and share that link with others that click on it, they will receive a (small) percentage of any iTunes sales that flow from any clicks. For many small and independent sites, such affiliate programs are a valuable source of income (and yes, MacStories uses affiliate links). Apple’s website has more details if you’d like to learn more about the technical details of affiliate linking and perhaps even sign up.

Read more


Skala Color 2: A More Functional and Beautiful Color Picker for OS X

Bjango is a small development studio, probably best known for the (very handy) iStat Menus utility. For the past few years they’ve also been hard at work on Skala, which will be a UI and icon design tool that Bjango promises to have ‘phenomenal rendering quality and a unique blend of vector, bitmap and 3D abilities’. But in the interim, they’ve released Skala Preview (which lets you preview Photoshop documents on your iOS device) and Skala Color (a new color picker for OS X).

Marc Edwards, founder of Bjango, explained why they've created Skala Color and Preview in a brief interview with Khoi Vinh:

When we began work on Skala, we decided it could be good to break out some features into separate apps. Doing so helps ensure those modules are well tested, and creates awareness Skala is coming (we’re a tiny company, so we can’t afford expensive ads).

Late last week Bjango released version 2 of Skala Color which brings a revamped user interface, support for copying color values for use with Swift, random color generation and improved format parsing.

For those that aren’t familiar with Skala Color, it adds a tab to the system color picker window in OS X. The key features you get from using Skala Color is the ability to easily copy color values in a wide variety of formats (full list here), and really fine control over selecting a color thanks to the new user interface in version 2.

Skala Color 2 may just be a little utility, but it is full of great little design touches. For example, you don’t necessarily have to use the color sliders, you can also hover your mouse over the ring of the magnifying glass and cycle through the 360 degrees of hues. Another is how Skala Color will recognise if you have a color value on your clipboard and let you select that color with one click.

One thing to keep in mind is that Skala Color is a 64-bit app, so it won’t show up in an app that is 32-bit. That shouldn’t be a problem for the vast majority of apps on OS X these days, but I did run into it with Microsoft Office Preview.

Skala Color 2 is a free utility for OS X.