Where tiny thoughts turn into big ideas.

MacStories Unwind: Tracers in the Dark, 8BitDo’s Ultimate Controller, and the Microsoft Audio Dock


This week on MacStories Unwind, I recommend Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency by Andy Greenberg, and Federico has two hardware picks: the 8BitDo Ultimate Controller and the Microsoft Audio Dock.

John’s Pick:

Federico’s Picks:

Sequel 2.0: An iPhone and iPad Media Tracker That Strikes an Elegant Balance Between Form and Function

Too often, media tracking apps feel like work. There’s too much effort involved in adding and browsing items, which makes them feel more like task managers than an inviting place that helps you decide how you want to spend your precious free time.

Apps in this category seem to take one of a couple of different approaches. Some apps specialize in one type of media, which can be great if you’re a huge book or videogame fan, for instance. As much as I like the media-specific approach of some apps, I’ve found that lately, I just want an app that’s easy to use, so ‘past me’ can recommend ‘tired and lazy me’ something to watch, play, read, or listen to. And, for the past couple of months, the app that has fit my needs the best has been Sequel 2.0 by Romain Lefebvre.

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Kirk McElhearn’s Review of Apple Music Classical

Kirk McElhearn has been writing about classical music on Apple platforms for nearly 20 years, which makes his Apple Music Classical review on TidBITS a must read for classical listeners.

As McElhearn explains, searching for classical works is more complex than pop music:

You may want to listen to a specific work by a given composer, but also by one of your favorite performers. And, as you can see with the example of the Schubert sonata, work names are not always as simple as Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Metadata is the key to managing classical music.

Although McElhearn discovered some metadata oddities when browsing the Apple Music tracks from his library that showed up in Apple Music Classical, the company seems to have done a good job overall with curating the metadata for its new app.

Also, although the UI and experience of using Apple Music Classical is similar to Apple Music, there are important differences, including:

One useful feature is the ability to search within search results. After you’ve searched for something, pull down on the screen to reveal a search field. You can enter keywords in this field to further narrow your search. You can also access this search field in other lists. For example, go to Browse, tap Instruments, then tap Violin. Tap one of the options—Latest Releases, Popular Artists, or Popular Works—and you’ll see a list of results. Pull down, and you can search within that list.

If you’re just starting out with Apple Music Classical, I recommend reading McElhearn’s entire story, which does a fantastic job covering what works well and what doesn’t. Like a lot of people, though, McElhearn is left wondering why the app is iPhone-only:

The most perplexing thing about the Apple Music Classical app is how completely it is siloed. It’s only available for the iPhone, though you can install it on an iPad and zoom it to 2x. Not only is it not available on the Mac—the iPhone app isn’t even available for M-series Macs—but the enhanced metadata, using work and movement tags, is not visible in Apple Music on the Mac nor in the Apple Music app on the iPhone and iPad. It seems Apple is using two separate databases, which makes no sense. If the metadata is available—and work and movement tags are available on many albums in Apple Music already—why not let the other apps access them?

All this makes the Apple Music Classical app seem like an experiment. It’s quite polished for a 1.0 release, and, despite the issues that I’ve mentioned above that will irritate classical music fans, it’s a generally successful attempt to provide a better way to access classical music. Apple should be praised for paying so much attention to a genre that represents only 2–3% of the overall music market.

The unique needs of classical music listeners have never been well-served by the biggest streaming services. I’m with McElhearn in wondering about the limited roll-out of Apple Music Classical, and there are rough edges that are noticeable even for people who aren’t classical music fans. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Apple Music Classical is a step in the right direction. I hope Apple listens to the feedback from McElhearn and other classical music lovers and continues to improve the app.


Apple Announces WWDC 2023: June 5-9 with Special Event at Apple Park

Apple has announced that WWDC will be an online-only event this year, running from June 5-9, 2023, but with a corresponding limited in-person event for developers, students, and press like last year. The company also opened submissions for the Swift Student Challenge from now through April 19.

In a press release issued by today, Susan Prescott, Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide Developer Relations and Enterprise and Education Marketing, said:

“WWDC is one of our favorite times of the year at Apple because it’s an opportunity to connect with the talented developers from around the globe who make this community so extraordinary. WWDC23 is going to be our biggest and most exciting yet, and we can’t wait to see many of you online and in person at this very special event!”

Apple also had this to say about events that will be held at Apple Park during the conference:

Along with announcements shared from the keynote and State of the Union presentations, this year’s online program will include sessions, one-on-one labs, and opportunities to engage with Apple engineers and other developers. Developers and students will also have the opportunity to attend a special day at Apple Park on June 5 to watch the keynote and State of the Union, alongside the global online community. Space for this in-person event will be limited, and details on how to apply to attend can be found on the Apple Developer site and app.

I’m glad to see Apple is evolving the format that debuted last year because everyone I spoke to thought it was a big success. The vibe was different because people were more spread out, but I know that the developers I talked to were grateful for the opportunity to get together for the first time since 2019, as was I. I’m looking forward to returning this year, but this time with Federico and Alex along for the fun.

Of course, MacStories readers can expect the same kind of comprehensive WWDC coverage we do every year. We’ll have extensive coverage on MacStories and AppStories, which will extend to Club MacStories too.

CleanMyMac X Adds Device Charging and Storage Monitoring and Management

CleanMyMac X has been updated, expanding its utility beyond the borders of your Mac by tracking the battery status of connected devices and adding management of outboard storage.

The new features, collectively called Connected Devices, are part of CleanMyMac X’s menu bar app. Click the app’s icon in the menu bar, and you’ll find a new summary tile that includes information about the charging status of Bluetooth devices, as well as information about connected drives, memory cards, and flash drives. Click on the tile, and it expands to the side of the menu bar app’s main window to display additional details.

Devices like iPhones and iPads don’t need to be connected to your Mac with a wire to show up in CleanMyMac X’s menu bar app. As long as they’ve been connected once and confirmed as trusted devices, they’ll show up in the app and display the remaining charge (but not whether they are currently charging) and available storage. It can sometimes take a while for a device to show up in CleanMyMac X’s menu bar app, but if you’re impatient, you can always grab a cable, plug your device into your Mac, and it will show up immediately. Beneath the storage information for each device, there’s also a ‘Reclaim Space’ link that opens a ‘How to free up iPhone storage’ page on MacPaw’s website.

CleanMyMac X works with wireless headphones like the AirPods Pro and some wireless game controllers.

CleanMyMac X works with wireless headphones like the AirPods Pro and some wireless game controllers.

CleanMyMac X supports other Bluetooth devices like the Magic Trackpad, Magic Keyboard, and at least some game controllers. I tried the app with 8BitDo’s Bluetooth Ultimate Controller and an Xbox controller, but only the 8BitDo model showed up in the app. CleanMyMacX’s menu bar app displayed my left and right AirPods Pro buds but not their case. Also, it’s worth noting that the app doesn’t seem to support Apple Watches.

For anyone who’s using CleanMyMac’s menu bar app, its new ability to monitor the charge status of devices is a nice addition. It has some limitations, but for my core devices, I’ve found that it gets the job done, just not quite as well as a dedicated Bluetooth device utility like AirBuddy.

CleanMyMac X's menu bar app works with external drives like this 500GB Samsung T3 drive too.

CleanMyMac X’s menu bar app works with external drives like this 500GB Samsung T3 drive too.

The other feature of Connected Devices is external storage monitoring and management. CleanMyMac X displays any external drives, memory cards, and flash drives and their storage capacity. The app also shows how much space is available, and if it determines after a scan that some of the data is junk, the app will list the amount of junk too. There’s an Organize button beneath each drive that opens the full CleanMyMac X app to the app’s Space Lens tab, which lets you drill through the drive’s folder structure, eliminating any junk or other unnecessary files. Drives can be ejected individually or all at once with the app too.

CleanMyMac X has come a long way from the days when it was primarily a tool for freeing up space on your Mac’s built-in drive. It’s still that and does an excellent job, but with tools like its menu bar app, CleanMyMac X is a far more robust way to monitor your Mac’s performance and fine-tune it for maximum speed and efficiency. With its new suite of Connected Devices functionality, CleanMyMac X has taken an important step towards extending beyond your Mac to the other devices and peripherals that you use with it.

CleanMyMac X is available directly from MacPaw as a $39.95 annual subscription or a $89.95 one-time payment. The app is also included as part of a Setapp subscription.

How About a Passwords App, Apple?

Cabel Sasser thinks Apple should build a standalone password management app, and he’s right. Here’s what Cabel suggests:

In my dumble opinion, Apple should:

  • Break Passwords out into a standalone app, with an actual fully resizable window (!!), and full, proper UI for most of its features
  • Make Passwords a toolbar item in Safari for easy access and to be top-of-mind for the user
  • Stick to a basic feature set, but do that well

I’m not the first to link to Cabel’s post, which isn’t surprising because Apple’s password management tools are excellent from a technical standpoint and sufficiently extensive to justify a dedicated app.

The problem is that Apple’s password tools are too hard to find and use, sprinkled across Settings, Safari, and app login APIs. As a result, you have features that are perfectly aligned with Apple’s privacy mission but a UI that isn’t. That’s too bad because, regardless of their technical excellence, Apple’s password tools are ultimately only as good as they are discoverable, and a separate app would go a long way toward encouraging more users to follow better password practices.


AppStories, Episode 322 – A Classic Pick 2

This week on AppStories, we each pick two apps we’ve been enjoying recently and explain why.

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On AppStories+, I dive into VR and explore whether AI can convincingly replace me or Federico as hosts of the show.

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Mac Photo Organizer Peakto Adds Pixelmator Pro Support

Source: CMYE.

Source: CMYE.

CYME announced today that its app Peakto has added Pixelmator Pro integration. Peakto is a Mac app that uses AI to organize your photos from numerous sources, including Apple Photos, Lightroom Classic, Luminar, Capture One, and more. The app handles multiple file types and offers navigation by keywords, location, and other metadata too.

Today’s announcement adds Pixelmator Pro documents to the mix. As with other image sources, Pixelmator Pro files will be organized and viewable in Peakto. For Pixelmator Pro users, the announcement today means new ways to explore their image collection alongside images from other apps. The integration with Peakto also allows Peakto users to access Pixelmator Pro as an editing destination with one click.

I haven’t had a chance to try Peakto’s new Pixelmator Pro integration yet, but it looks like a good combination for users of both apps. Peakto gains another source of photos to organize, and Pixelmator Pro users have a new way to manage their images.

Both Pixelmator Pro and Peakto are available on the Mac App Store. Peakto is also available directly from CYME.

Using ‘Phone Link’ Between iOS and Windows for iPhone Notifications and iMessage

I enjoyed this explanation by The Verge’s Tom Warren on how Microsoft’s Phone Link app – which has long allowed Android users to connect their smartphones to a Windows PC – has been updated to support iOS notifications and sending texts via iMessage. From the story:

The setup process between iPhone and PC is simple. Phone Link prompts you to scan a QR code from your iPhone to link it to Windows, which automatically opens a lightweight App Clip version of Phone Link on iOS to complete the Bluetooth pairing. Once paired, you have to take some important steps to enable contact sharing over Bluetooth, enable “show notifications,” and allow system notifications to be shared to your PC over Bluetooth. These settings are all available in the Bluetooth options for the device you paired to your iPhone.


Microsoft’s Phone Link works by sending messages over Bluetooth to contacts. Apple’s iOS then intercepts these messages and forces them to be sent over iMessage, much like how it will always automatically detect when you’re sending a message to an iPhone and immediately switch it to blue bubbles and not the green ones sent via regular SMS. Phone Link intercepts the messages you receive through Bluetooth notifications and then shows these in the client on Windows.

I got access to the updated version of Phone Link on my PC today, and this integration is pretty wild and it actually works, albeit with several limitations.

First, the setup process is entirely based on an App Clip by Microsoft, which is the first time I’ve seen and used an App Clip in real life. Essentially, my understanding is that this works similarly to how an iPhone can pair with an old-school Bluetooth car system: the iPhone and PC pair via Bluetooth, and you can then provide the PC with access to your notifications and contacts from iOS’ Bluetooth settings. This is the same UI I have for my KIA Sportage’s system, which uses regular Bluetooth to pair with my iPhone and can also display contacts and missed calls.

The setup process based on an App Clip.

The setup process based on an App Clip.

The difference between my car and Phone Link, of course, is that with Phone Link you can type text messages from a PC and they will be sent as iMessages on iOS. This bit of dark magic comes with a lot of trade-offs (check out Warren’s full story for the details on this), but it works for individual contacts. I’ve been able to start a conversation with John, reply to his messages from Windows notifications, and even send him URLs1, and they were all correctly “intercepted” by iOS and sent over as iMessages. I’ve also been impressed by the ability to clear notifications from a PC and have them go away on iOS’ Lock Screen immediately.

The Phone Link app paired with my iPhone.

The Phone Link app paired with my iPhone.

This was then sent as an iMessage.

This was then sent as an iMessage.

The limitations of Phone Link for iPhone users mean you’ll always have to fall back to the actual iOS device for something – whether it’s posting in an iMessage group or sending a photo or acting on notifications – but for quick messages, glancing at notifications, and clearing them, I think this integration is more than good enough.

  1. Fun fact: raw URLs sent from Windows are delivered as rich links from iMessage, but the card’s preview doesn’t load by default on the recipient’s device. ↩︎