Gabe Glick

9 posts on MacStories since February 2012

Former MacStories contributor.

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iPhone 5: First Thoughts And Random Impressions

 

When you first pick up the iPhone 5, your hand immediately contours to the same grip it’s become accustomed to with your previous iPhone. This is no small achievement. Despite how much thinner, lighter, and taller the 5 is than any previous iPhone, it still feels unmistakably like an iPhone; simultaneously something brand new and, by this point, instinctually familiar. Read more


Mountain Lion: Getting The Most Out Of Messages

If, like me, you ever wished for an easy way to send messages from your computer to a phone that wasn’t AIM, a flaky SMS workaround, or email, the announcement of iMessage coming to the Mac was something of a Jobsend. When iMessage was introduced in late 2011 along iOS 5 and brought support for text messaging without the fees or character limits to iOS, many people (myself included) immediately found themselves wishing they could use it on their Macs as well. With Mountain Lion, that wish has come true.

So what can you do with iMessage on your Mac now that it’s here? Read more


Announcing Our First eBook

MacStories is pleased to announce their first eBook, MacStories Features: OS X Mountain Lion, for $6.99. With a detailed review of Mountain Lion, numerous sections covering its new apps and features in depth, and 30% of its proceeds going to the American Cancer Society, MacStories Features: OS X Mountain Lion is a great way to learn about Mountain Lion, support MacStories, and fight cancer all at once.

Contents

We’ve put a lot of effort into this book: it contains exclusive guides for preparing your Mac for Mountain Lion, walks you through every aspect of the install process, and contains great tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else. Every inch of its over 120 pages is custom-designed and optimized for Retina displays, presenting its content in a beautiful, easy-to-read format.

You can download MacStories Features: OS X Mountain Lion here.

Buy Now

Buy Now

Cover image by ehtesham/Shutterstock.com



TextExpander 4 First Casualty of Mac App Store Sandboxing

Today Smile Software released TextExpander 4, the latest version of its typing shortcut app for OS X. The new version contains several new types of fill-in snippets, including support for multi-line text fields, pop-up menus, expanding snippets while filling in text fields, and more. In addition, the UI has been slightly updated to match the monochromatic style of Lion and Mountain Lion, and snippet groups for French and German autocorrection are now part of TextExpander’s predefined group options. And in news that is sure to please anyone who has tried and failed to get their friends and family to understand the benefits of typing shortcuts, TextExpander 4 now includes a tutorial called the Snippet Creation Assistant, which will launch upon a fresh install of the app and guide new users through the process of making their own snippets.

TextExpander 4 also marks Smile’s break from the Mac App Store due to the sandboxing rules that went into effect on June 1st, making it the first major casualty of the new restrictions. Fortunately for Mac App Store customers, Smile has gone the extra step to ensure a smooth upgrade from the MAS version to their direct sale version. Once TextExpander 4 has been downloaded and launched, it will recognize existing MAS versions of TextExpander 3 and offer users the same discounted upgrade price as direct customers. As of this writing, TextExpander 3 is still on the Mac App Store and has not been updated with information about TE4 or the upgrade process.

TextExpander has been one of my most valuable apps for years and I highly recommend anyone who has yet to try it to download the demo from Smile’s website. TextExpander 4 costs $34.95 for a single license and $15 to upgrade from a previous version, with additional options for family packs and businesses. Any customer who purchased Text Expander 3 after January 15, 2012 can upgrade to TE4 for free.

TextExpander 4 is available for purchase from Smile Software’s website here. The company’s official press release, which includes the full list of new features and changes, can be found here.


Why Upgrade Pricing Isn’t Coming To The App Store

The 2012 WWDC keynote has come and gone, and we now know which of the many rumored announcements turned out to be true and which turned out to be false. But there was one unrumored announcement many developers were hoping would be true that failed to materialize altogether: the option to offer paid upgrades and true demo versions for their apps.

Demos and paid upgrades are something that App Store developers (where “App Store” encompasses both iOS and Mac) have long since wanted, as Wil Shipley explained in his blog post “The Mac App Store Needs Paid Upgrades” and as John Gruber and Cabel Sasser discussed on episode 5 of The Talk Show. No doubt there are many Apple users, especially longstanding Mac fans, who would be happy for the opportunity to support their favorite developers and be rewarded with lower prices for new versions of their favorite apps as well (the “99¢ IS TOO EXPENSIVE” crowd need not apply). As Shipley’s post lays out, it would seem there are many good reasons for Apple to implement these. So why haven’t they?

I think it comes down to one of Apple’s core values: simplicity.

The fact that Apple chose to name their online retail presence the “App Store” is, I think, telling. Remember that Apple aims squarely for the mass market (much to the consternation of some advanced and pro users) and remember what shopping at a real life store is like for that market.

When most people go to a store, they don’t expect to take home products that catch their eye and try them out for a limited time. They don’t expect to get reduced prices on the latest version of a product they’ve paid for before. The retail model of a typical store from a consumer’s point of view is simple. You walk in, look for something you want, pay for it, and walk out. This is exactly how Apple’s physical stores work, and it is how their digital stores are designed to work as well.

Whether this is the way digital stores should work is another discussion, and one that is certainly well worth having. But if we assume that this is how Apple wants their stores to work, their policies for not allowing demos and upgrades make sense. In Apple’s physical stores, and indeed nearly all retail establishments, take-home trials and upgrade pricing is nearly unheard of. At best they offer demo units of products you can try, but only ones they choose and only while you remain at the store. Try insisting on half-price for the next-gen MacBook Pro with Retina display because you bought a 13" MacBook Air two years ago and see how far you get before you’re asked to leave.

Developers and longtime computer users may be used to the shareware, time trial, pay-full-price-once-upgrade-cheaply-forever model of buying and selling software, but regular people, the mass market that Apple continues to court first and foremost, aren’t. Adding demos (“I thought this app was free, but now it’s telling me I have to pay to keep using it? What a ripoff!”) and paid upgrades (“Wait, I bought this app last year and now I have to pay again to keep using it? Screw that!”) would introduce a layer of confusion and make buying an app a more arduous process, which would result in people buying fewer apps.

At least, that’s the rationale behind Apple’s decision not to implement them. To be clear: what I just wrote is not my opinion of how things should be. This is only my guess at Apple’s reasoning.

So if Apple is basing their digital stores on their physical ones, how should developers like Wil Shipley and Cabel Sasser handle the problem of making enough money from past and future customers in order to eat and make more cool software? I think Apple thinks they should take cues from how Apple handles their own software transitions: no upgrade pricing, just one reasonable price that is palatable to its target audience. Make your software great and easy to buy, and more people will buy it.

Yes, there are edge cases where some unlucky customers will fall through the cracks (those who bought your old app right before the new one came out) and those who won’t be happy to pay again for the “same” app regardless of how much time has passed (two words: “Tweetie 2”). And it would be great for customers and developers alike if Apple implemented a way to stop selling an old app but still let devs provide bug fixes. But Apple knows that while you can’t please everyone, you can make good money by pleasing the majority. And as long as the majority likes affordable, straightforward app-buying, that’s what they’ll continue to offer.


Review: Osfoora for Mac

Osfoora Default Timeline.png

Osfoora Default Timeline.png

I have been a heavy user of Twitter for Mac since it was first released over a year ago. While certainly not perfect, for me, it is the gold standard of desktop Twitter apps. As such, it is impossible for me to be objective when reviewing a new client, as I will inevitably end up comparing it to Twitter for Mac (hereafter Twitter.app), so I’m telling you here and now that I didn’t even try to do otherwise. As a result, much of this review consists of comparisons between Osfoora and Twitter.app, and the best I can hope for is that other long-time Twitter.app users find it useful. So let’s get into it. Read more


The Case for an iOS Aperture

 

I’m not usually one for making baseless predictions about what Apple’s going to do next. There are plenty of people who already do that, and I’m generally more interested in their current affairs than in unconfirmed rumors. But there are exceptions to every “usually”, and today I want to try my hand at speculating.

Though we tend to forget about them after the fact, iPads have always debuted with iPad versions of some of Apple’s biggest apps. The original was released alongside iWork, to show that the iPad could do real work from day one (never mind how many people derided it as a consumption device for months). The iPad 2 brought an iPad-optimized version of iMovie and GarageBand, which expanded the boundaries of what everyone thought could be created with a touch screen.

Now Apple is on a photography kick in a big way. Not only have they been relentlessly improving the iPhone’s camera since the 3GS, they have also added important and useful features in iOS 5 in the form of basic photo edits, built-in HDR and composition grids, the ability to organize albums, and Photo Stream, which near everyone agrees is their favorite feature of iCloud.

Given all that, I think that the next big Apple app to make its iOS debut will be Aperture, alongside the iPad 3’s inevitable announcement. Our own Cody Fink has written about the possibility of Aperture for iOS before, but there are a number of reasons why the timing for it makes sense now.

Retina Display
The one thing everyone expects about the iPad 3 is that it will finally get its long-awaited Retina display. It’s also the feature that everyone is most looking forward to (and for good reason, seeing what a huge difference it made when we first saw it on the iPhone 4). Of course this display will be great for reading and writing text, but what better way to really show it off than with photography, where the crispness and clarity of the display will be readily apparent?

A6
Another all-but-certain feature everyone agrees the iPad 3 will have is a quad-core A6, the next evolution of Apple’s A-series mobile processors. Like the A5, this chip will surely include vastly improved CPU and graphics performance over its predecessor, and in addition to games a great way to demonstrate it would be an iOS version of Aperture that shows how fast and fluidly the iPad 3 can manage tons of photos and perform complex image edits.

Photo Stream
Given Apple’s current photography kick the iPad 3 is likely to have better cameras than the iPad 2, but even if they’re not as good as the ones on the 4S —which, given how poor the ones on the 2 are compared to even the iPhone 4, seems likely— the brilliant thing with Photo Stream is that they don’t have to be. With Photo Stream, every photo you take on your 4S, your iPad 3, or even on a DSLR (once it’s been imported into iPhoto or OS X Aperture) would be available on your iOS Aperture library without you having to lift a finger.

iCloud Metadata Sync
We know iCloud is a big part of Apple’s strategy, and is only going to get bigger as time goes on. I can see iCloud playing a big part in Aperture on both iOS and the Mac. Any photo tagged, edited, or organized in one version of Aperture could be automatically mirrored with those same changes on another. Naturally this won’t make sense for current large Aperture libraries, but perhaps there will be a special iCloud section on the Mac version (like how there’s already a section for Photo Stream) specifically for photos that have been edited in this way.

Another Desktop Need Eliminated
iOS 5 may have given us “true” post-PC devices that could finally be used independently of our old-fashioned mice and window-based systems, but many people still need traditional PCs to store and manage digital photo collections. Aperture for iOS (along with iCloud and higher-capacity iPads) could be the next natural step in the iPad’s evolution towards being the only computer that 90% of people need.

Like I said, I don’t usually care to make baseless predictions, and everything here is certainly that. I have no idea if Apple will do any of this or not; for all we know they could be readying iOS versions of Logic and Final Cut Pro instead. But when you consider what the combination of Aperture for iOS with a retina-enabled iPad 3 could do, I think we may very well be seeing this alongside its announcement.


One More Thing: Open photos in any iOS image editor
This is more of a wish than a guess, but just like Aperture on the Mac I would love to see Aperture on iOS have the ability to open any image in any of the great image editing apps that already exist for iOS (with the ability to roundtrip them back into Aperture, of course). I have even less of an idea as to whether Apple will do this than I do my above speculations. Perhaps we will have to wait for a future version of iOS that better lets us share data between apps. But when and whether it happens or not, I think it would be a great way to let Aperture for iOS coexist happily among the many photo apps that iOS users already know and enjoy.


Apple, China, and Doing The Right Thing

There is an assumption currently making the rounds that the workers laboring in Chinese factories under terrible conditions are a direct result of Apple’s actions. Some people almost seem to think that Apple is literally enslaving people to work on its products. Needless to say, this is not true.

The fact is that these workers have a choice, albeit a limited one, about where to work. And they are working at factories like Foxconn —which, I remind you, is a wholly separate entity from Apple— because they are better than the alternatives: no job at all, or a job that pays far worse with even harsher conditions.

Think about that. As bad as the stories that we’ve heard about working there are —and make no mistake, they are horrid and no one should have to work under such conditions— the fact that Foxconn has a six-month waiting list of people hoping to become employees seems to suggest that they are still much better than any other opportunity these workers have available.

Given all that, is Apple being ethical by working with a company like Foxconn? A company that, for all its problems, still provides a significantly better alternative to the people clamoring to be hired? I would argue yes.

If Apple were to abandon their involvement with Foxconn and other abusive Chinese suppliers like these boycotts are calling for, what would happen to these workers? The boycotters apparently believe that they would be set free to find safe, well-paid work elsewhere. But if working at Foxconn was already one of the best opportunities they had, that outcome seems unlikely at best.

In reality, they would likely be forced to take a job at another factory with even worse pay and worse conditions. Or perhaps have no choice but to perform peasant work for a fraction of the money they were earning before. Worst case, they may not even be able to find another job at all.

If the goal of a boycott is to assuage the guilt of first-world citizens for buying Apple products made under harsh conditions, Apple leaving China would certainly accomplish that. But if the goal is to make things better for the workers themselves, the only realistic option I can see is for Apple to continue what they’re doing: work with these companies, demand better conditions, conduct audits, and have the workers paid as well as possible for people in their position. 1

Yes, the conditions these workers labor under are terrible. They may have no better choices in their economy, but that doesn’t mean what’s happening there is okay. If first-world companies are going to continue to do business with China and Chinese companies, the only ethical thing for these companies to do is demand continual improvement. And we too should demand as much of those companies whose products we buy.

But the fact remains that as of now, these people will be exploited no matter what we do. Ceasing to provide them better employment opportunities will not help them. Quite the opposite: it will only leave them subject to even worse alternatives. Given that, I believe the best thing we can do is support companies that are taking responsibility for improving conditions and wages for the people that make their products. And right now, the company that is taking the most responsibility…is Apple.


  1. Unfortunately I’m not sure how legally or economically feasible it is for Apple to reduce their margins and pass along the profits to the workers directly even if they wanted to. But if it is, they should be doing so as much as possible.↩︎