THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

FitnessView

All-in-One Health & Fitness Dashboard


Apple Announces Child Safety Features Coming This Fall

Today, Apple announced three new child safety features for its operating systems that will launch when its operating systems are updated in the fall. The implementation details of the features are technically complex, which makes reading the full documentation worthwhile if you are concerned about how they are accomplished.

The first feature is a tool for parents that will be built into Messages. According to Apple:

The Messages app will use on-device machine learning to warn about sensitive content, while keeping private communications unreadable by Apple.

The opt-in tool will “warn children and their parents when receiving or sending sexually explicit photos.”

The second feature applies to photos stored online in users’ iCloud Photos library. Apple says:

iOS and iPadOS will use new applications of cryptography to help limit the spread of CSAM online, while designing for user privacy. CSAM detection will help Apple provide valuable information to law enforcement on collections of CSAM in iCloud Photos.

The screening of iCloud Photos images happens on-device using cryptographic hashes of known CSAM content and has to pass a human review process after passing certain thresholds before an account is disabled, and a report is made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The feature will be US-only at first.

Finally, Apple announced that:

[it] is also expanding guidance in Siri and Search by providing additional resources to help children and parents stay safe online and get help with unsafe situations. For example, users who ask Siri how they can report CSAM or child exploitation will be pointed to resources for where and how to file a report.

Siri and Search will also intervene when CSAM-related search requests are made.

To understand better how these features are being implemented by Apple, it’s worth visiting its new child safety webpage. At the bottom of the page are links to additional resources that explain the technology underlying the features.


Fast Capture with Quick Note for iPad and Mac: The MacStories Overview

When I’m researching, speed is essential. Whether I’m planning a family trip or preparing to write a story like this one, the first step is research, which starts with collecting information. This stage is almost always a speed run for me, no matter the context. That’s because the goal is collecting. Reading, thinking, organizing, and planning come later.

There is an endless number of apps and automations for collecting information, but I’ve always found that the best options are the lightest weight. You don’t need to fire up a word processor to collect links, images, and text, for example. By the same token, though, a plain text editor doesn’t always fit the bill either, reducing links to raw URLs and often not handling images at all. Moreover, the notes you take are completely divorced from their source, losing important context about why you saved something.

This fall, when iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey are released, Notes will gain a new feature called Quick Note that’s designed to handle this exact scenario. Quick Note can be summoned immediately in a wide variety of ways on both platforms, and your notes are stored where they can be easily found again. Best of all, notes can be linked to their source material in apps that support NSUserActivity, a virtual Swiss Army Knife API that enables a long list of functionality across Apple’s devices.

Notes needs work to make it easier to get the information you gather with Quick Note out of the app, but already, there is a long list of apps that support the feature thanks to the wide use of NSUserActivity among developers. Some years, Apple introduces interesting new features that I hope will take off, but there’s a lag because they’re based on new technologies that developers don’t or can’t support right away due to compatibility issues with older OS versions. Quick Note isn’t like that. Even during the beta period, it works with apps I use that haven’t done anything to support it. As a result, I expect we’ll see many developers support Quick Note this fall.

Although Quick Note already works well on the iPad and Mac, there’s still more Apple can do to make it more useful. Chief among the feature’s drawbacks is that its capture functionality is nowhere to be found on the iPhone, which is disappointing. There are also many built-in system apps that would benefit from the sort of tight integration with Quick Note that Safari has implemented but don’t yet.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Apple Releases New Mac Keyboards and Pointing Devices

Apple has updated its online store with new accessories that first debuted with the M1 iMac. The updated accessories were spotted by Rene Ritchie, who tweeted about them:

Among the items listed, which each come with a woven USB-C to Lightning cable and come in white and silver only, are:

  • Magic Keyboard ($99). The Magic Keyboard features rounded corners and some changes to its keys, including a dedicated Globe/Fn key and Spotlight, Dictation, and Do Not Disturb functionality mapped to the F4 - F6 keys.
  • Magic Keyboard with Touch ID ($149). Along with the design and key changes of the Magic Keyboard, this model includes Touch ID, which works with M1 Macs only.
  • Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Keypad ($179)
  • Magic Trackpad ($129). The corners of the new Magic Trackpad are more rounded than before, but it’s functionally the same as prior models.
  • Magic Mouse ($79). The Magic Mouse is listed as new, too, although apart from the woven USB-C to Lightning cable in the box, there don’t appear to be any other differences between this model and the prior model.

I’ve been using the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Mouse for a couple of months with an M1 iMac. Based on my experience, the trackpad and mouse haven’t changed enough to warrant purchasing one unless you need one anyway. However, if you’ve got an M1 Mac mini or M1 laptop that you run in clamshell mode, the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID is a nice addition to any setup. Having Touch ID always available is fantastic, and I’ve grown used to using the Do Not Disturb button along with the Globe + Q keyboard shortcut for Quick Note, the new Notes feature coming to macOS Monterey this fall, which is the same when using an iPad running the iPadOS 15 beta with a Magic Keyboard attached.


FitnessView: All-in-One Health & Fitness Dashboard [Sponsor]

FitnessView is a brand new health and fitness dashboard for tracking Health data and gaining valuable insights using the iPhone and Apple Watch. The Apple Watch has become a robust health and fitness device that, coupled with the iPhone, lets you track more data than ever about your workouts and overall health. FitnessView takes that overwhelming mountain of data and makes sense of it with a beautifully designed app that helps you spot trends and measure your progress.

FitnessView tracks the progress of your Activity Rings and a whole lot more. By picking the goals that matter to you most from the app’s comprehensive list, you can create a dashboard designed just for you.

FitnessView also tracks workouts, providing the most important stats at a glance with in-depth data just a tap away. Those stats power the app’s Home Screen widgets, allowing you to keep track of your most essential data without opening the app. FitnessView’s data is available on the Apple Watch, too, along with multiple watch complications that bring FitnessView’s power to the face of your Apple Watch.

The app has detailed Stats and Workout sections. From Stats, you can analyze your health and fitness data over time to get a sense of your progress and dive into the details whenever you want. The Workouts section provides a similar experience, allowing you to browse through your training sessions chronologically. You can even filter workouts by type and access high-level monthly stats.

FitnessView also supports Quick Add for tracking goals like hydration, making it easy to keep up with all your objectives. You can even share your progress with friends and family or on social media with an animated version of your Activity Rings.

Download FitnessView today to stay on top of your health and fitness goals all year long with its beautiful all-in-one dashboard.

Our thanks to FitnessView for sponsoring MacStories this week.


MacStories Unwind: Doppler for Mac, Sofa 3.0, GarageBand, Earnings and a Big Album Drops

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Sponsored by: Honeybadger – Your Secret Weapon for Exception, Uptime, and Cron Monitoring

This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • Monthly Log
    • Federico on managing his music collection on an Intel NUC using his iPad
    • John on his note-taking philosophy and why you should delete and archive more notes
  • MacStories Weekly
    • Federico recommends Roon, the client app for the music server running on the Intel NUC he wrote about in the Monthly Log
    • John shares a shortcut for converting podcast audio clips to text and saving them in Obsidian alongside the embedded audio file
    • Christopher Lawley shares his iPad Home Screens
  • MacStories Unplugged
    • Panic’s Playdate
    • A conversation about 4th of July parades and real estate open houses leads to Italian private investigators and American personal injury lawyers
    • Federico invites members to play a guessing game

AppStories

Unwind


Apple Releases Remix Sessions, Sound Packs, and Producer Packs for GarageBand on the iPhone and iPad

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Today, Apple announced Sound Packs for GarageBand for iOS and iPadOS from artists and producers that allow users to remix hit tracks from Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga and create their own music, using hundreds of loops and sounds from producers that include Boys Noize, Mark Lettieri, Oak Felder, Soulection, Take A Daytrip, Tom Misch, and TRAKGIRL.

Apple VP of Worldwide Product Marketing Bob Borchers explained that:

GarageBand continues to be a catalyst for music creation — making it easy for novices to get started and for seasoned pros to develop their ideas on the go. For this update, we’ve collaborated with an incredible group of artists and producers to give musicians an amazing collection of new sounds to play with, and we hope even more people will be inspired to tap into their creativity and start making music in GarageBand.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

The Remix Sessions feature Break My Heart by Dua Lipa and Free Woman by Lady Gaga and allow users to remix the tracks using GarageBand’s built-in tools. Apple is also releasing seven Producer Packs from big names in music production. According to Apple’s press release:

Each Producer Pack is bursting with hundreds of royalty-free loops, beats, instruments, drum kits, synth patches, and samples that embody the sound and vibe of each producer. And in-app videos feature each producer offering words of encouragement to beginners, as well as insights into their creative process.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

One of the Producer Packs will serve as a companion piece to an upcoming docuseries with producer Mark Ronson called “Watch the Sound With Mark Ronson.” The TV+ series, which Apple says “explores and celebrates the intersection of music and technology,” will let GarageBand users create music using sounds inspired by the series.

I’m a little surprised that the Mac version of GarageBand isn’t part of Apple’s announcement today, but I love these sorts of add-ons to apps like GarageBand. This content allows fans of artists and producers to work with the same raw materials they do to come up with remixes and original music that express their personal tastes using a tool that is very approachable and fun.


Doppler for Mac Offers an Excellent Album and Artist-Focused Listening Experience for Your Owned Music Collection

I haven’t purchased much music in the past six years or so, but there was a time when it was a big part of my entertainment spending. I still have a huge collection of albums ripped from CDs I bought and later purchased online from the iTunes Store. That changed with the advent of streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, Beats Music, and later Apple Music. I still have those files frozen in time on the 2015 Mac mini I use as a Plex server. So, when Ed Wellbrook told me he was bringing Doppler, his excellent iPhone music player to the Mac, I figured it was time to dust of my old music collection and give it a try.

Doppler, which we’ve covered before here and in MacStories Weekly, including, most recently, Issues 252, 261, and 275, is a music player for people who buy their music. Apple’s Music app continues to maintain backward compatibility for users who own their music libraries, but Apple’s focus these days is squarely on streaming, not purchasing. That’s left apps like Doppler to fill the void offering features like the ability to add new music to your library from an iPhone, something that isn’t possible with Apple Music.

The minute you try Doppler, you can tell it’s made by someone who cares deeply about music and the experience of listening to it. The interface puts albums and artists front and center, focusing on album art and simple, intuitive controls to make listening to music on-the-go a pleasure.

Wellbrook has brought the same sensibility to a native Mac version of the app, which was released today. Doppler for Mac is a lot like what I’d imagine Apple’s Music app would be like if Music were split into separate apps for streaming and owned music. That’s not likely to ever happen, but fortunately, Doppler has you covered if you own your music.

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Sofa 3.0 Adds New Ways to Manage Your Media Lists Along With a New Business Model

Sofa 3.0, an app that I last reviewed in March, is out with loads of new ways to track, organize, and browse the media lists you create. The app also has a new subscription business model for its pro features.

Media recommendations come at us all from every angle, whether it’s friends and family or sources like reviews. You can save lists of books, movies, videogames, and other media you want to try in lots of ways. You could use an app like Apple’s Notes or Reminders, but they’re general-purpose apps that don’t address the specific needs related to media consumption. Plus, trying to track media in something like a task manager gets out of control and messy fast.

Another option is to turn to an app designed for a specific type of media, and there are many good options available on the App Store. The advantage Sofa has, is that it makes it just as easy to pick a book as a movie or something else when you’re deciding what media to try next. It’s a subtle but important distinction. With single-purpose apps, you need to decide what kind of media you want to consume and then turn to an app to pick something. Sofa dispenses with the first step allowing you to answer a broader question: “How do I want to spend my free time?” That a one-stop approach is one of Sofa’s greatest strengths and one that the app leans into hard with the latest excellent update.

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