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Connected, Episode 256: Switch On

On this week’s episode of Connected:

After Myke breaks the news about his back, he and Stephen undertake their annual tradition of #RelayQA.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here).

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Connected, Episode 256

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Activity Trends in iOS 13

We touched on most of this year’s changes to iOS in our iOS 13 overview earlier this summer, but one feature that has mostly flown under the radar is the debut of Activity Trends.

True to its name, Activity Trends is a new way to monitor the progression of your daily activity over time. The feature is exposed via a new tab in Apple’s Activity app in iOS 13, and it breaks down your activity over the last 90 days compared to the previous 365.

In the main view, Trends are broken down by a variety of metrics, with each metric displaying your 90 day average as well as a simple up or down arrow to indicate whether it has improved or diminished over that time period in comparison to the average of your last year. The goal is to give you actionable information and goals to bring these metrics up. Goals are applied on a weekly basis, and hitting them consistently will result in an increase of your 90 day averages over time.

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Apple Brings App Store Editorials to the Web

Benjamin Mayo, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Apple has recently updated its App Store Preview pages for stories to allow users to view the full content of stories from inside their desktop web browser. App Store stories have always been shareable as links, but the web version was just a title and a navigation link to ‘open this story in the App Store’.

Between August 9th and August 11th, Apple has upgraded the experience and now includes full imagery, app lists and paragraphs copy in the web version. This means you can access the same content online as you would be ale to find in the native App Store experience.

Historically, App Store editorials could only be viewed inside the App Store itself, whether on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Anyone not using an Apple device would thus be unable to view such stories, even if they had the appropriate link for them. Now, however, every App Store editorial can be read in full on the web. iOS devices still default to opening stories in the App Store, but you can now open a story’s link in Safari on the Mac, or in browsers on non-Apple devices.

Apple still doesn’t let you initiate app downloads from the web, so while you will be able to see preview pages for apps from a browser, to start a download you’ll need to visit the App Store or Mac App Store.

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Sidecar in iPadOS 13 and macOS Catalina: Working Seamlessly Between an iPad and Mac

The core experience of using Sidecar is fantastic. Part of the reason is that running an iPad as a second display for a Mac with Sidecar is immediately familiar to anyone who has ever used multiple displays. The added screen real estate, portability, and functionality are part of the appeal too. Of course, there are differences that I’ll get into, but Sidecar is so close to a traditional dual-display setup that I expect it will become a natural extension of the way many people work on the Mac.

There’s more going on with Sidecar though, which didn’t dawn on me until I’d been using it for a while. One of the themes that emerged from this year’s WWDC is deeper integration across all of Apple’s platforms. As I’ve written in the past, SwiftUI is designed to accomplish that in the long-term across all the devices Apple makes. In contrast, Catalyst is a shorter-term way to tie the Mac and iPad closer together by bringing iPad apps to the Mac and encouraging developers to build more robust iPad apps.

Sidecar strikes me as part of the same story. Apple made it clear when they introduced Catalyst in 2018 at WWDC that it’s not replacing macOS with iOS. Some tasks are better suited for a Mac than an iPad and vice versa. Sidecar acknowledges those differences by letting an iPad become an extension of your Mac for tasks best suited to it. At the same time, however, Sidecar takes advantage of functionality that’s unavailable on the Mac, like the Apple Pencil. Combined with the ability to switch seamlessly between using Mac apps running in Sidecar and native iPadOS apps, what you’ve effectively got is a touchscreen Mac.

However, to understand the potential Sidecar unlocks, it’s necessary to first dive into the details of what the new feature enables as well as its limitations.

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AppStories, Episode 124 – CarPlay in iOS 13 and Vignette with Casey Liss

On this week’s episode of AppStories, John is joined by Casey Liss to dig into the big changes coming to CarPlay in iOS 13 and the story behind Vignette, Casey’s app for assigning profile pictures to contacts.

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macOS Accessibility Keyboard

Lovely deep dive by Mattt Thompson on one of macOS’ most powerful Accessibility features – the Accessibility Keyboard:

Today, what’s the difference between a MacBook and an iPad? Practically speaking, you might point to the presence or absence of a physical keyboard, a SIM card, or an ARM processor (and if the rumors about next year’s MacBook models are to believed, those latter two may soon cease to be a distinction).

For many of us, a physical keyboard is the defining trait that makes a computer a “desktop” computer in the traditional sense; when you purchase an external keyboard for your iPad, you do so to make it “desktop”-like. But for many others — including those of us with a physical disability — a typewriter-like keyboard is but one of many input methods available to desktop users.

This week on NSHipster, we’re taking a look at the macOS Accessibility Keyboard. Beyond its immediate usefulness as an assistive technology, the Accessibility Keyboard challenges us to think differently about the nature of input methods and any remaining distinction between mobile and desktop computers.

Combined with the Panel Editor app, macOS allows you to design any kind of “keyboard” that goes beyond text input. I’ve written about this topic before when I shared my custom Accessibility Keyboard setup to launch AppleScripts, which you can find here.

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Dialog Season 1 Finale, Writers and Writing: Wrap-Up

Today on Dialog, we conclude season one with a discussion of what we learned from each of our guests. Despite vastly different backgrounds, there were several themes that ran throughout our interviews with John Gruber, Frank Turner, John August, Carrie Patel, and Pierce Brown. To wrap up season one we revisit getting started as a writer, the impact and use of social media, influences and idea generation, getting past writer’s block, and the roles of hard work, luck, and privilege in succeeding.

Thank you for listening to season one of Dialog. We haven’t decided when season two will begin, but we’ll be back with an all-new set of guests and a different topic in the near future. In the meantime, if you missed any of previous interviews, go back and check them out. A big benefit of a show like Dialog is that the topics are evergreen and just as relevant today as they were when they were first published.

We also want to thank each of our guests for taking the time to chat with us about writing. Without the generosity of John Gruber, Frank Turner, John August, Carrie Patel, and Pierce Brown, this season wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks too to this season’s sponsors who believed in the show and supported it before we had even recorded the first episode.

You can find the final episode of season one here or listen through the Dialog web player below.

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Watch Dependence

Joe Cieplinski, writing on his blog:

I have reached the unfortunate conclusion that RECaf’s watch app will not be able to go fully independent this fall with the release of watchOS 6. While you have always been able to log from your wrist using the app or Siri shortcuts, I was hoping folks who didn’t want to keep RECaf installed on their phones would be able to continue using RECaf on their wrist.

There are simply too many things that can’t be done on watchOS alone at this point, however. So for now, you’ll have to keep that phone app installed.

Cieplinski outlines three main areas that independent Watch apps are currently lacking in their capabilities, two of which involve HealthKit limitations, while the third is that you can’t perform any kind of In-App Purchase on an independent Watch app, so unlocking pro features or a subscription plan is impossible without an iPhone companion.

These are significant drawbacks, not the type of edge cases that would be more understandable and expected for watchOS’ first take on stand-alone apps. App independence was the primary story Apple told for watchOS 6 at WWDC, but I suspect not many apps will be able to go independent until greater feature parity is achieved between independent apps and those still tethered to the iPhone.

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MacStadium: Private Clouds and Dedicated Macs for Developers and Teams Building iOS and Mac Apps [Sponsor]

Tomorrow, MacStadium is announcing something big, but we’ve got a sneak peek just for MacStories readers. MacStadium is releasing Orka, their new virtualization platform. Orka (Orchestration with Kubernetes on Apple) is a new build infrastructure based on Docker and Kubernetes technology. It’s the very first solution for orchestrating macOS in a cloud environment using Kubernetes on Mac hardware.

MacStadium developed Orka to provide Mac and iOS developers with the ability to use container technology features the same way they can on other platforms. With Orka, MacStadium’s customers will now have a more software-driven, self-service capable experience using MacStadium’s infrastructure that’s similar to what they may have used with AWS, Azure, or GCP.

At launch, Orka will ship with plugins for Jenkins. Additional Plugins for Buildkite, Bamboo, and TeamCity will be released soon. Orka has already been adopted by Homebrew, the popular package manager for macOS. Aso, if any readers plan to be at DevOps World | Jenkins World, be sure to catch MacStadium’s live Orka demo on Wednesday, August 14th or visit MacStadium.com to learn more about Orka.

Of course, MacStadium is also the premier Mac hosting company that provides dedicated Mac hardware and private cloud services, and it has a special deal just for MacStories readers. Just use the coupon code MACSTORIES at checkout and MacStadium will take 50% off the first two months of a hosted Mac mini server.

Our thanks to MacStadium for sponsoring MacStories this week.