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Kolide

Ensure that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps.  It’s Device Trust for Okta.


Apple Vision Pro Entertainment Apps

This week on AppStories, we share some of our favorite visionOS entertainment apps.

Sponsored by:

  • Memberful – Help Your Clients Monetize Their Passion
  • Porkbun: Get $1 off your next domain name with the code APPDEVFOO1.

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Vision Pro Entertainment Apps


On AppStories+, I explain all the little gotchas involved with taking screenshots even if you have the Vision Pro Developer Strap.

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Apple Arcade’s Prestige Problem

Brendon Bigley wrote about the Apple Arcade report by mobilegamer.biz today on Wavelengths too. This part really rang true to me:

I don’t agree that there is any “real” difference in prestige between mediums beyond ever-changing societal norms, all art is capable of rising to sit upon a pedestal. I also don’t agree that any art necessarily needs to rise up in that way, and games built for quick hit sessions or telling small and relatable stories are just as valuable to the culture as anything else. Apple Arcade launched with a lineup that seemed to make a statement aligning with that belief, and has since drifted away from it while Netflix Games has run with the baton.

That belief is exactly the vibe Apple Arcade started with and still has – to a degree. But it’s also a vibe that people seem to sense is fading. I hope not. As much as I enjoy AAA titles, there need to be places to showcase games from small studios and for indie ‘finds.’ I’d love Apple Arcade to continue to be one of those places.

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Some Game Developers Are Unhappy about Apple Arcade

According to multiple unnamed mobilegamer.biz sources, some game developers are unhappy with Apple Arcade, citing shrinking payouts and canceled games. No specifics about canceled projects are cited in the story. Nor are concrete revenue numbers shared. Moreover, the criticisms leveled by some developers were not universal, with some sources speaking favorably about their relationship with Apple. Clearly, however, not everyone who has worked on Arcade titles is happy.

The details of mobilegamer.biz’s story that I think are most interesting are the ones about the business terms Apple has struck with game developers. Those are details that developers seem to be contractually prohibited from talking about. I know because I’ve asked developers about how it works before. However, according to mobilegamer.biz, Arcade developers are paid an up-front fee and from a ‘bonus pool’ based on something called ‘qualifying sessions’:

“They have this opaque metric that they call a qualifying session, and bonus pool payments are made based on that,” said one source. “But no-one knows what a qualifying session actually is – it has something to do with if the game was launched, how long the player played for and how often they return. But it’s a black box, really.”

It will be interesting to see if those arrangements change in light of the purportedly declining revenue developers are earning and the money that Netflix is spending to attract games to its newish subscription-based videogame service.

We’re about three weeks away from the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and this story strikes me as an attempt to send a message to Apple by developers who feel their games have been abandoned by the service as it has evolved. Maybe Apple hasn’t been as clear with developers as some would like. However, it’s hard to imagine that game developers paying attention to Arcade are truly surprised by the projects it approves.

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Mona 6 Moves from High Visual Customization to Advanced Automation

Mona, the Mastodon client for iOS, iPadOS, and Mac from Junyu Kuang, is out today with a significant version 6 update. Mona is my choice for using Mastodon primarily due to what John referred to in his review as its ‘epic level of customization.’ Everything from how the taskbar at the bottom of the screen looks to how posts are displayed is fully customizable. Even the main app view on iOS can be vertically split in two.

But Mona is not just about looks; it’s also a solid tool for navigating Mastodon. Things like the ability to privately set colors or notes to other users, timeline syncing across your devices using iCloud, and full support for VoiceOver make it a strong choice for a wide variety of people.

Which brings us to this new update. In the year and change since the mass Twitter exodus, Mastodon has matured a lot as a platform, introducing new features that users can take advantage of while filling some of the gaps impeding the platform from growing. Version 6 of Mona includes those new features while advancing its power user functionality with powerful new Shortcuts actions, including one that takes advantage of the Action Button on the iPhone 15 Pro.

Let’s dive in.

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Looking Past the Smoke and Mirrors of the MGM Hack [Sponsor]

The September 2023 MGM hack quickly became one of the most notorious ransomware attacks in recent memory. Journalists and cybersecurity experts rushed to report on the broken slot machines, angry hotel guests, and the fateful phishing call to MGM’s help desk that started it all.

And, like a slick magic trick, the public’s attention was drawn in the wrong direction. Now, months later, we’re still missing something critical about the MGM hack.

That’s because, for many of the most important questions about the breach, the popular answers are either incomplete or inaccurate. Those include: who hacked MGM, what tactics they used to breach the system, and how security teams can protect themselves against similar attacks.

Why is that a problem? Because it lets us write off the MGM hack as a one-off story, instead of an example of an emerging style of attack that we’ll certainly be seeing more of. And that leaves companies and security teams unprepared. 

Who hacked MGM?

Plenty of news stories have confidently blamed the MGM attack on either the Scattered Spider or ALPHV hacking group, but the truth is still murky, and likely involves a dangerous team up between different groups, each bringing their own expertise to the table.

Their attacks first use fluent English social engineering skills to get onto networks, where they then deploy sophisticated ransomware that quickly establishes persistence across multiple systems. 

What tactics did they use? 

The dominant narrative has been that “a single phone call hacked MGM.” A phone vishing attack to MGM’s IT help desk is what started the hack, but there’s much more to it than that. The real issue is that this help desk worker was set up to fail by MGM’s weak ID verification protocols, and probably wasn’t doing anything “wrong” when they gave the bad actors access to a super administrator account. 

How can security teams protect themselves? 

Cybersecurity experts have centered most of their advice on user ID verification. But while it’s true that MGM’s help desk needed better ways of verifying employee identity, there’s another factor that should have stopped the hackers in their tracks. 

That’s where you need to focus your attention. In fact, if you just focus your vision, you’ll find you’re already staring at the security story the pros have been missing.

It’s the device you’re reading this on. 

To read more of what we learned when we researched the MGM hack–like how hacker groups get their names, the worrying gaps in MGM’s security, and why device trust is the real core of the story–check out the Kolide Blog.

Our thanks to Kolide for sponsoring MacStories this week.


MacStories Unwind: Ripping CDs for a Living

This week on MacStories Unwind, I share my tech discoveries during a visit to a classical music radio station, Federico finally goes for a spider-style gaming Wi-Fi router, and I recommend Criminal Record on Apple TV+.



This episode is sponsored by:

  • Paste – Endless Clipboard for Mac and iOS Devices

Unplugged

  • Radio station tech

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Automation Academy: My Collection of Advanced Shortcuts for Things

Earlier today, Federico released a series of seven advanced shortcuts for the task manager Things as part of his Automation Academy column, an exclusive perk of Club MacStories+ and Club Premier.

Federico explains in the introduction of the story why he returned to Things a few months ago and has been happy with the decision:

not only does the design of the Things app create a more relaxed environment for me to manage my responsibilities, but Cultured Code’s embrace of Shortcuts automation has allowed me to create dozens of custom enhancements for Things.

It’s the flexibility that Things’ Shortcuts actions offer that allows for such deep customization. The shortcuts shared today include automations to:

  • Automatically move tasks scheduled for a certain time to Things’ Evening section
  • Postponing evening tasks
  • Rescheduling tasks to the next evening
  • Tag selected tasks as active
  • Pin tasks
  • Select from a menu of Things shortcuts
  • Create tasks, an updated version of a previously-shared shortcut

All of the shortcuts are ready to be used immediately and are accompanied by a detailed walk-through of the techniques used to build them and an explanation of how Federico is using them.

Discounts are just one of the many Club MacStories perks.

Discounts are just one of the many Club MacStories perks.

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The Fastest Way to Save RSS Articles to A Read-Later App

Skimming through the day's tech headlines in Reeder.

Skimming through the day’s tech headlines in Reeder.

I follow about 180 RSS feeds, and I skim through all of my tech feeds every day, looking for interesting news, angles, opinions, and inspiration. A lot of what I see is repetitive, but I’ve gotten very good over the years at speed-reading snippets of stories and homing in on the interesting ones. Some stories get read right away because they’re time-sensitive in some way. However, I have other things to do besides read the web, so I rely heavily on read-later apps to save many of my finds.

That context is important because although some of what I save is what I’d classify as ‘leisure reading,’ most of it isn’t. It’s information processing, and given my other obligations, speed is important. As a result, what I value most are:

  • The design of my RSS reader
  • The speed with which I can save stories for later
  • Access to my saved articles for anywhere
  • The tools available in my read-later app for organizing everything

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Vision Pro App Spotlight: Longplay Adds Immersive Album Listening

The music experience on the Apple Vision Pro is excellent. It starts with the device’s built-in headphones and spatial audio, which work hand-in-hand with the visual components of spatial computing. Apple has already shown off the potential for immersive experiences like Alicia Keys: Rehearsal Room, but the music experience goes deeper than that, thanks to third-party developers.

I’ve already covered Juno, Christian Selig’s YouTube player app, which is great for watching music videos and other content, and NowPlaying, which supplements Apple Music with editorial content, lyrics, and more. Today, though, I want to focus on Longplay, Adrian Schönig’s album-oriented playback app for Apple Music.

Longplay 2.0 was released last August. It was a big update that I reviewed at the time and have been enjoying ever since. The app is available on the Vision Pro now too, complete with an immersive mode that I love.

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