John Voorhees

1605 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, MacStories’ Managing Editor, has been writing about Apple and apps since joining the team in 2015. He also co-hosts MacStories’ podcasts, including AppStories, which explores of the world of apps, MacStories Unwind, a weekly recap of everything MacStories and more, and MacStories Unplugged, a behind-the-scenes, anything-goes show exclusively for Club MacStories members.

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Spotify Announces It Will Offer a New CD-Quality, Lossless Streaming Music Tier Later This Year

At its Stream On event today, Spotify announced that it is adding a new CD-quality lossless tier to its music streaming service later this year. Spotify says the high-resolution streaming is one of its users’ most-requested features and that it is working with speaker manufacturers to ensure there are Spotify Connect devices at launch that take advantage of the new tier.

There are no details on pricing or other aspects of the new service yet, which will be called Spotify HiFi. In a not-so-subtle jab at Apple Music, which has worked closely with Billie Eilish and heavily promoted her music, Spotify coupled today’s announcement with a short video of Eilish and her brother Finneas discussing the importance of high fidelity audio.

It will be interesting to see how Apple Music responds. As competing music streaming services have grown more alike than different, high-resolution audio is being used by several services to try to differentiate themselves from competitors and support higher prices.

Apple has had a ‘Mastered for iTunes’ program since 2013 to ensure that the highest-quality source material is available. However, the music the company streams to Apple Music subscribers is compressed. With the introduction of the HomePod and AirPods Max, high-resolution audio already seemed like a natural next step to expand Apple’s services business. I wouldn’t be surprised if Spotify’s announcement today pushes Apple to announce high-fidelity streaming this year too.

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Genius Scan 6.0: A Sophisticated iPhone and iPad Scanning App for All Kinds of Users

My scanning needs are modest. I occasionally need to scan a receipt or document for personal or work reasons, but the frequency with which I do that has steadily declined over the years. I have a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, which is excellent, but if it broke, I wouldn’t replace it. That’s because iPhone and iPad scanning apps have improved just as steadily as my scanning needs have declined.

These days, the ScanSnap sits in a drawer, demoted from taking up valuable desktop space that I need for the tools I use every day. I still set it up from time to time when I’m working at my desk, but more and more often, I’ve found it to be more trouble than it’s worth to set up.

Instead, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of iPhone and iPad scanning apps, including Genius Scan 6, which was released today. The app has a long list of features, but at its core, what I like most about Genius Scan is its fast, flexible scanning workflow and business model that fits with a wide range of user needs from someone like me who doesn’t scan documents very often to people for whom scanning is essential to their daily tasks.

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MacStories Unwind: A Crazy Word Game from Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, Logitech’s New HomeKit Doorbell, A For All Mankind Podcast and New Emoji are Coming

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This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • MacStories Weekly
    • Spotify Stations
    • A collection of diagramming and mind map apps
    • A detailed look at John’s task management setup in GoodTask

AppStories

Unwind


Apple Updates Its Platform Security User Guide

Yesterday, Apple updated its Platform Security User Guide to cover new hardware and software features on its platforms. The guide is broken down into hardware security, system security, encryption and data protection, app security, services security, network security, development kit security, and secure device management sections that cover every aspect of Apple’s platforms.

Many of the latest updates to the guide hinge on aspects of Apple silicon as the introduction to the user guide explains:

Apple continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in security and privacy. This year Apple devices with Apple SoC’s across the product lineup from Apple Watch to iPhone and iPad, and now Mac, utilize custom silicon to power not only efficient computation, but also security. Apple silicon forms the foundation for secure boot, Touch ID and Face ID, and Data Protection, as well as system integrity features never before featured on the Mac including Kernel Integrity Protection, Pointer Authentication Codes, and Fast Permission Restrictions. These integrity features help prevent common attack techniques that target memory, manipulate instructions, and use javascript on the web. They combine to help make sure that even if attacker code somehow executes, the damage it can do is dramatically reduced.

There are new materials spread throughout the guide that add security details about items like the company’s new M1 chips, the boot process of the M1 Macs, the new iOS car key feature, Safari’s password monitoring feature that lets you know when a password you use has been compromised, among many others. To review a full list of what has been added to and changed in the Platform Security User Guide, the guide includes a comprehensive revision history. If you’ve ever wondered about how the security of an Apple platform feature is implemented, the Platform Security User Guide is an excellent place to start your research.

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Logitech Circle View Doorbell Offers Superior Camera Hardware with the Benefits of HomeKit Secure Video

For nearly a year, I had a Logitech Circle View camera perched above the front door of my house, which allowed me to keep an eye out for visitors and deliveries. The wide-angle lens was able to capture my front stoop as well as my yard, providing an excellent perspective on what was happening outside.

That setup worked extremely well. In fact, my two Circle View cameras are so reliable that I had begun thinking about replacing a second outdoor camera from Canary that I was using in the back yard. That’s why when Logitech got in touch to see if I wanted to try its new Circle View Doorbell, I jumped at the chance. I figured that if it worked out, I could migrate the Circle View to the back yard. I was also intrigued by some unique features of Logitech’s doorbell and eager to see how well they worked in practice. I haven’t been disappointed.

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Emojipedia Previews the Emoji Included in the Second Beta of iOS and iPadOS 14.5

Source: Emojipedia.org

Source: Emojipedia.org

Earlier today, Apple released the second developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 14.5, which includes new emoji. The latest additions, which include 217 emoji when you account for skin tone and other variations, have been cataloged by Jeremy Burge at Emojipedia.

A few of the 200 couples emoji variations. Source: Emojipedia.org

A few of the 200 couples emoji variations. Source: Emojipedia.org

Highlights include couples, with expanded skin tone options that account for 200 of the new emoji. The remaining additions include three new smileys: Exhaling Face, Face with Spiral Eyes, and Face in Clouds, two new heart variants, and gender options for Bearded Person. Apple has also revised the syringe emoji so that it doesn’t include blood, making it useful in a wider range of circumstances, and the headphones emoji so it looks like a pair of AirPods Max.

If you’re wondering why we’re seeing new emoji so soon, don’t miss Burge’s post from last summer explaining the Unicode Consortium’s new emoji approval schedule. The new emoji will be part of Apple’s next round of operating system updates, which the company has said will be available this ‘spring.’

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Kitty Letter: A Silly, Challenging, and Addictive Word Game from Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal

It’s always a good sign when the hardest part of writing a game review is putting the game down. That has absolutely been the case with Kitty Letter, the new word game from Matthew Inman, the artist behind The Oatmeal webcomic. The core mechanic is familiar: make as many words as possible from a handful of jumbled letters. But as with many of my favorite iOS games, Kitty Letter takes a classic genre and adds a twist.

Inman’s twist reminds me of another classic iOS genre: tower defense games. As you create words by swiping across the letters that appear in a mysterious language vortex, armies of exploding cats are launched, countering other cats bent on destroying your home and attacking the crazy cat man who lives in a trailer across the street. Add collectible power-ups, a funny storyline, The Oatmeal’s signature humor and art, and multiple game modes, and Kitty Letter is completely absorbing. The game is perfect for one-handed mobile play and theoretically short sessions because no single level takes that long to play, but that’s only the case if you actually manage to peel yourself away from it.

Kitty Letter can be played in single or multiplayer modes, each of which has two ways to play. In single-player story mode, battles are interspersed with a storyline that I won’t spoil, but which includes elements like a fish you have to slap repeatedly to defrost and groaning deer. I’ve played through the first set of levels, and the story adds depth to single-player mode, which lacks the competitive dimension of multiplayer mode. The other single-player mode is an arcade mode, where the goal is to survive as long as you can, racking up points as you are relentlessly attacked by waves of exploding cats that come at you faster and faster as you play.

In multiplayer mode, you can play head-to-head against a friend or against a stranger. I played several matches against strangers and only won a couple of times. Kitty Letter has only been out a few days, but there are already some terrific players. What makes multiplayer mode difficult, absorbing, and incredibly fun is that, like Arcade mode, it’s critical to maintain a quick (but not too quick) pace and be good at coming up with lots of words. You can try to slow down a little to see what your opponent throws at you, but if you slow down too much, your letters reset. If you play fast, you may overwhelm your foe, but you also might run out of words too quickly and have to wait for new letters, helpless against an onslaught of cats.

In both modes, the game mechanics are roughly the same. Build words from the letters launching cats that counter incoming armies and hit back at your enemy to inflict damage (or win points in arcade mode) when your cats make it through your enemy’s defenses. The longer the words you put together, the bigger the cat armies you generate are. Timing counts, too, because incoming groups of cats can only be countered by making a word that starts with the letter that appears above the group of enemy felines. As you and your opponent are hit by incoming cats, your health meter tracks the damage you each take. Whoever’s health runs out first loses.

Kitty Letter is available on the iPhone, iPad, and M1 Macs, but it’s best on the iPhone, where you can quickly swipe across letters to make words one-handed with your thumb. The game includes a stats page that keeps track of your highest scoring word, wins and losses in multiplayer mode, and your highest arcade mode score. Kitty Litter is free and has no ads, other limitations, or gimmicks to entice you to spend money. Instead, there are a variety of avatars, cats, and houses that you can buy as In-App Purchases, but they are purely cosmetic and don’t affect the game.

It’s been a while since I found a casual iOS game that is this fun and distracting. Kitty Letter silly, challenging, and addicting, which is the perfect formula for fun.