Connected: My Technique, but in France

This week, Federico, Stephen and Myke discuss Apple Watch shipments, search on Android, Chrome on iOS and music on the go.

A good episode of Connected this week, covering some of Google's latest initiatives on mobile and what we'd like to see in a music streaming service from Apple based on Beats Music. You can listen to the episode here.

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MileWiz: Automatic Mileage Tracker [Sponsor]

MileWiz is an automatic mileage tracker that logs every drive you make using sophisticated algorithms.

If you drive a personal car for business then you can get tax deductions for your miles. Or, if you drive a company car you can get driver reimbursements. MileWiz makes that easy by recording all your trips automatically and allowing you to easily classify them by swiping left or right, with an intuitive interface that's easy to use on both the iPhone and iPad. MileWiz lets you categorize drives with gestures, supports multiple drivers/cars and working hours, and it even lets you assign clients and tags for your trips.

MileWiz features SmartDrive – a technology for auto-detection of drives that's superior to anything on the market. The way most mileage trackers work is that they only record your start and end points and route between them. That often results in wrong route data and you may face penalties if challenged by the IRS or your employer. MileWiz detects your entire route and does this in a way that won't drain your battery. MileWiz monitors multiple sensors on your device to determine speed and acceleration, and it also automatically adjusts its precision based on your speed and the area you're driving in, giving you the most accurate trip route with the least battery usage.

Furthermore, MileWiz will soon be available for Apple Watch, with a glanceable UI meant to check the app's status and categorize trips.

MileWiz is supported in six countries (you can find the full list here) and is free for 20 drives a month; you can upgrade to unlimited drives for $4.99/month or $49.99/year. You can download MileWiz for free from the App Store.

Our thanks to MileWiz for sponsoring MacStories this week.


WhatsApp Adds iOS 8 Share Extension

With an update released today, WhatsApp has introduced free audio calling on iOS (previously launched on Android), improvements to how photos can be attached to conversations, and a new iOS 8 share extension to send content from other apps.

VoIP calling is still rolling out to users worldwide and I'm not a heavy user of media sharing through WhatsApp (I prefer iMessage's higher quality settings), but I often share links and images downloaded from the web with WhatsApp, and I was curious to try the new extension.

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Managing Team Tasks with IFTTT, Slack, and Todoist

I recently decided that I wanted to overhaul the way I deal with email pitches (new apps, hardware accessories, web services, etc.) and I set out to find a solution that would allow me to broadcast an email to my team without having to forward more emails.

The problem:

  • Most email pitches are sent to my personal email address, which teammates can’t access;
  • I can’t stop developers and PR people from sending messages to my personal address;
  • I go through email every day, and I carefully handpick what I would like to see covered on MacStories;
  • I used to forward every email to individual members of our team, duplicating attachments and using conversations as a tracking system to remember who’s interested in covering what;
  • Inboxes got overcrowded, I couldn’t easily keep track of pitches assigned to someone else, and everybody was unhappy.

For years, I envisioned a system that, with one tap, would allow me to put an email message in a folder and forget about it, while it would still be broadcasted to my team so that others could take it into consideration. After weeks of experiments, I chose to leverage web automation and two tools I already use for todo management and team communication: Todoist and Slack.

The solution I landed on is remarkably simple, but it took a while to get it just right and work around a few unexpected bugs.

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Betting Big on the Camera

Neil Cybart has some fascinating thoughts on the role of cameras in the modern age:

_Interpretation. _While there is still plenty of innovation left with how we use cameras to communicate with others, the camera's most exciting role will be utilizing software to help us interact with and navigate the world. The camera will become an input device for software to interpret clues in various settings at home, the office, or school. The camera essentially becomes a pair of intelligent eyes that goes beyond simple image capture.

Mobile cameras are outgrowing “taking pictures”. They're becoming a completely new input method for what's around us.

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iOS 8.3 and Desktop File Managers

I missed this when reports first came out last week: with iOS 8.3, file managers such as iMazing and iExplorer can no longer access the document libraries of iOS apps over a USB connection.

Joe Rossignol writes:

Apple has changed security settings in iOS 8.3 that prevent file managers and transfer utilities such as iFunBox, iTools, iExplorer, iBackupBot and PhoneView from gaining access to app directories on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The change breaks current versions of transfer utilities for OS X and Windows, forcing many developers to release new versions of their software with workarounds that restore at least partial sandbox access.

If Apple's argument is that the ability to access app files has been disabled for security concerns, I may understand that position. But that doesn't change the fact that, while some apps can still pass along files over USB to the aforementioned file managers if they support iTunes File Sharing, other apps are now cut off from USB file transfers if they don't support iTunes.

Or, if they can't support iTunes File Sharing.

Case in point: Pythonista. Due to rules that prevent Python scripts from being manually copied with iTunes File Sharing from a computer to Pythonista (that's a whole other topic worth arguing), Ole Zorn's app doesn't show up in iTunes. And because of other Apple rules (App Store Review Guidelines, 2.8), Pythonista can't sync scripts with iCloud or other services across devices either.

Still, before iOS 8.3, I could transfer Python scripts from my Mac to my iPad (and vice versa) using iMazing; now I get this error:

I wanted to save a backup of scripts I created on my iPad over the weekend (as I always do), but I couldn't access them over USB anymore due to iOS 8.3. Instead, I ended up having to copy and paste code as plain text, create text files in Dropbox, and sync everything back to my Mac.

I don't know what would be better for Apple's users – whether it'd be preferable to reinstate USB access to all app directories through third-party file managers, let users decide which kind of files they want to sync between devices, or open up iTunes File Sharing (even if Apple doesn't recommend it anymore) to more file formats.

A basic question remains: if I program on an iPad and I want to access my script files within reasonable security measures, why shouldn't I be able to?


TextBar Puts Your Text into the Menu Bar

TextBar is an awesome app which solves a problem that I have been struggling with for at least three years: “How can I put some text into the menu bar, such as the output of a shell script?” TextBar can do that, but it does it even better than I had hoped, because it also:

  • Lets you configure multiple items
  • Copies the item to the clipboard when you click it
  • Easily enables/disables individual items
  • Updates each item on its own time interval (some items might need to be updated every minute, some every 5, some 10, etc)

Here are some ways that I have been using TextBar.

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Apple Details Apple Watch Heart Rate Sensor

New to me, via 9to5Mac this morning, a support document by Apple detailing how exactly the heart rate sensor in the Apple Watch measures a wearer's heartbeat:

The heart rate sensor in Apple Watch uses what is known as photoplethysmography. This technology, while difficult to pronounce, is based on a very simple fact: Blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light. Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist at any given moment. When your heart beats, the blood flow in your wrist — and the green light absorption — is greater. Between beats, it’s less. By flashing its LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute — your heart rate.

The document also explains other conditions and factors that may influence the sensor:

Many factors can affect the performance of the Apple Watch heart rate sensor. Skin perfusion is one. A fancy way of describing how much blood flows through your skin, skin perfusion varies significantly from person to person and can also be impacted by the environment. If you’re exercising in the cold, for example, the skin perfusion in your wrist may be too low for the heart rate sensor to get a reading. Motion is another factor. Rhythmic movements, such as running or cycling, give better results compared to irregular movements, like tennis or boxing.

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