Posts in Linked

Connected: An Italian Stephen

This week, the boys discuss the ever-expanding iPad line and Stephen yells about Yosemite.

This week's episode of Connected was recorded before I got my iPad Air 2, and it includes some thoughts on moving from the iPad mini to the larger iPad as well as software we're not seeing from Apple. You can get the episode here.

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distribute()

Created by Vlambeer (the indie studio behind Apple Design Award winner Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, and other games), distribute() is a new tool to help game developers keep track of a press list. From the website:

distribute() is modelled to save you valuable development hours you'd otherwise have to spend on distributing builds and maintaining press lists. Simply send out a distribute() link for your game to your press contacts, and distribute() will organise all required information into a neatly organised list the system manages and maintains for you. Furthermore, distribute() will simplify numerous public data sources into a simple Reach statistic to help you decide how to prioritise your press strategy for your new release.

There are several interesting ideas in distribute(), but this one struck me as a genius addition:

Verified press contacts help you avoid fake requests from video content creators or people pretending to be from larger websites or YouTube personalities. Verified press contacts are manually vetted and constantly updated to reflect the ever-changing games press landscape. Additionally, distribute() can be set to handle requests from verified accounts automatically, so that you can be sure esteemed members from the press can get access to your game as soon as you flip the switch.

Properly maintaining a press list is hard, especially if you have to focus on other aspects of launching a game on the App Store or other platforms. If you're a game developer, sign up for the distribute() alpha here. Vlambeer also made presskit(), a free tool to create press pages.

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Twitterrific 5.8 with Share Sheets

Twitterrific, the popular Twitter client by The Iconfactory, was updated this week with support for native iOS 8 share sheets, a new way to search for users when composing a tweet, and other improvements. I've always been impressed by The Iconfactory's commitment to Twitterrific, so this week I took version 5.8 for a spin.

I like how share sheets have been implemented in the app. Like Tweetbot, you can tap & hold on links in the timeline and you'll get action and share extensions in exchange for the ability to preview the full URL; you can also share directly from web views. What I like, however, is that you can tap & hold any tweet to instantly show the share sheet and pass its URL to extensions. I often use tweets as todos, and being able to save links to tweets with extensions in Twitterrific is fast, easy, and, overall, nice. Especially on the iPad – where Tweetbot hasn't been updated and the Twitter app doesn't support native share sheets – this aspect of Twitterrific is extremely welcome.

Twitterrific 5.8 is available on the App Store.

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Apple Launches TestFlight Beta Testing for Everyone

After unveiling TestFlight beta testing at WWDC and rolling it out for internal testers a few weeks ago, Apple has today opened up TestFlight beta testing for everyone. From the Developer News website:

You can now invite up to 1,000 testers to beta test your iOS apps by simply sending them an email invitation through iTunes Connect. Once they accept your invitation, testers can install your beta app on their iOS devices, get updated builds, and provide feedback, all within the TestFlight app.

I tried the TestFlight app (released last month), and while it doesn't have all the features (from a tester's perspective) of Hockey, it's nicely integrated with iOS. You can receive push notifications for new beta builds, and beta apps installed from TestFlight get a special orange dot on the Home screen.

As someone who installs dozens of betas every week, I'm excited to see how this works in the real world.

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Maps Connect: Apple’s Tool for Small Businesses to List on Apple Maps

Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land has a great post that details how small businesses can use Apple's Maps Connect tool to add their business to the Apple Maps database. It isn't a completely new feature, as pointed out by Apple Spotlight, but new features have been added and Apple is now actively promoting the feature.

This afternoon Apple notified us of a new self-service portal to add or edit local business listings: Apple Maps Connect. It’s intended for small business owners or their authorized representatives (though not agencies) to be able to quickly and easily add content directly into Apple Maps.

Updates or new listings will show up within a week or could show up more quickly depending on the situation and whether the listing was flagged and/or there’s additional verification required. Beyond this, Apple has additional fraud prevention measures in place but didn’t discuss them extensively.

Sterling's post has screenshots of the entire process, so if you're interested I recommend reading it yourself. Also interesting is that as part of Maps Connect, businesses can apply for Apple's indoor positioning technology which it launched with iOS 8. The website notes that Apple is currently focused on working with those businesses that have annual visitors of over 1 million, WiFi throughout and accurate maps, amongst other things.

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How One Boy With Autism Became BFF With Apple’s Siri

For most of us, Siri is merely a momentary diversion. But for some, it’s more. My son’s practice conversation with Siri is translating into more facility with actual humans. Yesterday I had the longest conversation with him that I’ve ever had. Admittedly, it was about different species of turtles and whether I preferred the red-eared slider to the diamond-backed terrapin. This might not have been my choice of topic, but it was back and forth, and it followed a logical trajectory. I can promise you that for most of my beautiful son’s 13 years of existence, that has not been the case.

Beautiful story by Judith Newman for The New York Times.

It's easy to dismiss tech companies as “greedy corporations that only strive to make money”, and in many cases that's the simple truth. But in other cases, what they make truly has a positive impact on human lives that is far away from mere financial returns. This story about Siri and an autistic boy is a great example.

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Rdio Launches High-Quality Streams, Interactive Notifications on iOS 8

Last week, Rdio addressed one of my longstanding criticisms of the service by launching high-quality AAC streams with a 320 kbps option for Unlimited users:

Today we’re happy to announce we’ve converted our entire catalog of over 30 million songs to high-quality AAC audio. Listeners around the world now have four sound quality settings to choose from across iOS, Android, and the web. All Rdio users can choose between data-efficient 64 kbps all the way up to 192 kbps. Rdio Unlimited subscribers now also have the option of listening in pristine-quality 320 kbps. Plus individually select your audio settings for a variety of uses, whether you’re using Wi-Fi or cellular streaming or listening to offline downloads.

Rdio is late to the 320 kbps party, but better late than never. I like how the updated iOS app has individual settings for streaming and download quality over WiFi and Cellular connections.

And speaking of the iOS app, it was also updated with new iOS 8 features and support for CarPlay. I couldn't test the latter as I don't have a CarPlay receiver, and the fact that Rdio is now optimized for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is pretty much a given with app updates at this point.

The use of interactive notifications by Rdio is clever: if someone shares a song or album with you, you can swipe down on the Rdio notification to view it or start playing it. The Play button has to launch the Rdio app first, but it's still a nice shortcut that should remove some friction from sharing with other Rdio users.

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Apple Pay in Australia

Beau Giles figured out a way to use Apple Pay, currently limited to the US, in Australia. Essentially, given the right settings and card, Apple Pay will treat the user as an American tourist in another country, with an obvious consequence:

Unfortunately, as you’re essentially paying with a card from the US, you’ll be paying currency conversion fees for anything you buy in Australia with Apple Pay.

I have tried this myself, and I could show the Apple Pay setup screen in Italy, but I don't have a compatible American credit card. It's too bad, because the MasterCard Nearby app shows plenty of Contactless-enabled stores in my area.

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iTunes 12′s New Interface

I find iTunes 12 to be one of the most confusing UIs Apple has ever shipped (it's up there with the Health app for iOS 8). I don't listen to all my music in iTunes, but I like to think that I'm not completely ignorant about the app either. I use it for iTunes Match, I am a regular iTunes Radio listener, and, of course, I have a huge library of apps in it. Lately, I've even been using it to listen to podcasts because I wanted to try iCloud sync.

I don't understand most of the changes that went into the iTunes 12 interface: from the lack of a sidebar to the new tabs for navigation and separation of media types and iTunes Store, I feel completely lost using the new iTunes.

Thankfully, Agen G. N. Schmitz has a good overview of the changes over at TidBITS. He calls the iTunes interface “cleaned-up”, but when I read stuff like this…

Sidebar purists (such as myself) might be a little cheesed off by the starkness of the My Music view, but you can easily return to the sidebar by clicking the Playlists text button placed in the top middle of each media type view. This selection is sticky, so if you choose to view Playlists in Music, and then head over to view the Movies media type, you’ll return to Playlists once you select Music again. However, the iTunes Store view (available in all the media types, save for Tones and Internet Radio) trumps this stickiness. If you select iTunes Store while in Movies and then choose the Music media type, you’ll find yourself still in the iTunes Store — only switched to the Music section.

…I'm baffled by Apple's choices. This used to be simple: there was a sidebar with a Store button and you clicked the button and then you changed sections in the Store. Now, you have to account for “stickiness”.

I look at the screenshots of the new iTunes, I try to use the app, and I don't know what's going on. Maybe I'm the problem because I'm not “committed” to learning iTunes enough – but that's not supposed to happen with good interface design.

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