Federico Viticci

7657 posts on MacStories since April 2009

Federico is the founder and editor-in-chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, and mobile software. He can also be found in the iBooks Store and on his two podcasts, Connected and Virtual.

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Connected: Total Dude, with His Surface Hub

This week Federico and Myke talk about Windows 10, Windows Holographic and unsubscribing from web services. The boys also consider the effect that old browsers are having on the show.

I wouldn't have thought I'd have fun discussing a Microsoft event, but I'm actually intrigued by their announcements this week (especially for gaming). You can listen to thr episode here.

Sponsored by:

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Virtual: Vip 24:7

This week Federico and Myke talk about their 3DS purchases, the death of Club Nintendo, Mario becoming self aware and Nintendo's rejection of Minecraft.

Make sure to check out the show notes for some great articles to read. You can listen to the episode here.

Sponsored by:

  • Harry's: An exceptional shave at a fraction of the price. Use code VIRTUAL for $5 off your first purchase
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‘Letterpad’ Game to Feature Apple Watch Support

Jared Nelson, writing at TouchArcade:

A couple of weeks ago, NimbleBit announced that they were looking for testers for their new upcoming game called Letterpad. It's a word game that gives you a grid of 9 letters and tasks you with coming up with words from those letters that relate to a certain topic. Well, the game is just about complete at this point, and today NimbleBit have additionally announced that Letterpad will be playable on the forthcoming Apple Watch. Here you can see a mockup of what Letterpad will look like on the Apple Watch.

A couple of points to keep in mind: this will actually be based on a WatchKit extension embedded inside the iPhone app. You won't be able to run Letterpad natively on the Apple Watch initially. And, because there doesn't seem to be a way for developers to monetize extensions in iOS apps, the Watch “game” will likely come for free in the main iPhone app. Still, I think the idea of iPhone games extending to the Watch is pretty cool (imagine having remote inventory for RPGs or glanceable information for simulator games on your wrist) and I'm excited to see how others will take advantage of WatchKit for gaming.

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Twitter Launches Tweet Recaps in Main Timeline

After announcing (and rolling out) some initial changes to the timeline last year, Twitter is back today with the latest modification to the stream – a recap of popular tweets you may have missed.

A lot can happen while you’re on the go. To fill in some of those gaps, we will surface a few of the best Tweets you probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise, determined by engagement and other factors. If you check in on Twitter now and then for a quick snapshot of what’s happening, you’ll see this recap more often; if you spend a lot of time on Twitter already, you’ll see it less.

When Twitter started rolling out tweet recommendations based on accounts you follow, many complained about the fact that the change was breaking Twitter's nature and making it more akin to Facebook, and therefore not intuitive. While I understand that position, I actually found the “tweet injections” to be not that terrible in practice:

Twitter is working on an instant personalized timeline that you don’t need to set up, but their willingness to bring discovery of tweets and users to the timeline is trickling down to existing users who have an account and already follow people. Like many others, I’ve started seeing tweets from accounts I don’t follow pop into my timeline based on what another person saves or follows. External tweets (as I call them) I’ve seen always came with a reason attached – “Joe favorited” and “Kyle follows” indicate why a tweet is being included in the timeline.

In my experience, these relevant tweets have been mostly good – I’d say 70% of the time I either laughed at a funny favorite I was being shown or got interested in opening the profile page of a user I didn’t know. The other 30% of external tweets were either American sports or duplicate tweets that I had already seen but that a person marked as favorite.

I don't know if tweet recaps will be useful to someone who's always reading his timeline (the only time when I miss tweets is usually at night). Twitter seems to be aware of the controversial nature of the change:

Our goal is to help you keep up – or catch up – with your world, no matter how much time you spend on Twitter. With a few improvements to the home timeline we think we can do a better job of delivering on that promise without compromising the real time nature of Twitter.

Apps like Nuzzel have shown that there's potential in figuring out ways to let users catch up with news shared on Twitter, but Twitter's feature appears to be much simpler, offering less controls. In theory, I think it's a good idea. Most people still don't get Twitter and how you're supposed to keep up with news after you've closed the app. Offering small chunks of inline tweet recaps could help in letting relevant tweets surface more easily, but it's too early to tell.

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Audio Hijack 3

Jason Snell reviews Audio Hijack 3, the new version of Rogue Amoeba's popular audio app for OS X:

Audio Hijack’s mastery of a Mac’s disparate audio inputs and outputs is amazing. OS X itself is pretty poor when it comes to this stuff—you can set a single input and output in the Sound preference pane, and some apps will let you override those settings to route audio elsewhere, but others won’t. If you’re trying to send some sound from some apps or microphones to one location, and others to another, it can all fall apart rather spectacularly. With Audio Hijack 3, it’s all there in blocks. You just need to drag them in and press the button.

I don't use Audio Hijack, but this is exactly the kind of update that makes me want to try a new app because it sounds so incredible. You can create workflows to save inputs from multiple sources as separate audio files simultaneously and there's a template chooser to start using the app based on common tasks. The whole idea of workflows – somewhat reminiscent of Quartz Composer and Alfred – seems amazing.

Make sure to check out the updated website and Jason's interview with Paul Kafasis included in his review.

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Khan Academy Brings All Courses to iPad App

Khan Academy – a personal favorite of mine when it comes to learning new things for free on the Internet in an engaging way – has brought its full catalog of exercises and videos to the iPad app, updated today.

Nathan Ingraham writes at The Verge:

That all changes today with the introduction of a completely redesigned app for the iPad — now, everything that lives on the site is also available to iPad users. That includes some 150,000 learning exercises, content that product director Matt Wahl said was “where the majority of people spend their time on Khan Academy today.” He also joked that looking at reviews for the current app revealed that adding those learning exercises was something that users really wanted — beyond just the app review, though Wahl says it is overall the most-requested feature for the app.

I've already started watching some Microeconomics videos in the app, and I like how everything is tracked in your profile and synced back to Khan Academy on the web. The app makes perfect sense on the iPad as a learning tool, and I can't wait to start using it regularly. Khan Academy 2.0 is available on the App Store.

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Automatic: Your Smart Driving Assistant on Your Smartphone [Sponsor]

There’s a mountain of data inside your car waiting to be unleashed, and all you have to do is plug in a quick little connector and download a mobile application.

Automatic is a smart driving assistant that plugs into your car's data port and lets you connect your smartphone (either iPhone or Android) with your car. By  talking to your car’s onboard computer and using your smartphone’s GPS and data plan to upgrade your car's capabilities, Automatic will allow you to easily diagnose your engine light, never forget where you parked your car, and save hundreds of dollars on gas.

Automatic learns your driving habits and gives you suggestions through subtle audio cues to drive smarter and stop wasting gas. Thanks to a map view available on your phone, Automatic can display a trip timeline after every driving session, showing you how you're doing with a Drive Score; the app can even track local gas prices and tell you how much you're spending.

In case of engine problems, Automatic can decipher what the "check engine" light means and show you a description of the issue with a possible solution. And thanks to a feature called Crash Alert, Automatic can detect many types of serious crashes and automatically alert local authorities as well as your loved ones when you can't.

Automatic is currently available in the US for iPhone and Android devices, with a 45-day return policy and free shipping in 2 business days.

MacStories readers can go to automatic.com/macstories to get $20 off and buy Automatic at just $79.99. For more information, check out Automatic's website.

Our thanks to Automatic for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Two New Options for Combining Screenshots

Readers of MacStories know how I like to present my screenshots. For the uninitiated, some context: screenshots from iOS apps that end up on MacStories are usually modified to have a clean status bar and, for iPhone apps, they're usually presented side-by-side with various layouts. I like how screenshots are displayed on MacStories, and, combined with a new workflow to optimize the resulting images for our CDN, this gives me flexibility and considerable savings (for both costs and time). I can take better screenshots spending less time editing them and less money hosting them.

In the past couple of weeks, I've been playing with two new iPhone apps for combining screenshots on the iPhone – LongScreen and Tailor.

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Mobile First

Great article by Ben Thompson on building products and businesses with a mobile-first approach. At the end, he makes a solid point about the rumored MacBook Air with a single port:

True, it would be nice to have a keyboard to type longer emails, reports or papers, or a larger screen to watch movies, but those capabilities – again, for most people, not all – are nice to have, not essential. Moreover, all of those capabilities depend on the same cloud services as the phone: email, social networking, photos, all of it comes over the (wireless) network, not a cable.

In this world, a Mobile First world, what exactly is the point of a port?

As I argued on episode 21 of Connected, I'm not sure about the idea of a MacBook Air that combines multiple connections in a single port, but I'm also intrigued by the reason why that could make sense.

In the show, I brought up AirDrop, Mail Drop, cloud backups, and iCloud Photo Library as examples. As more Apple users move (in addition to iCloud) towards local file sharing systems either based on WiFi or BLE and power users continue to rely on MacBook Pros and Mac Pros, would moving away from ports really be that absurd for a new Air?

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