John Voorhees

393 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John Voorhees is the creator of Blink: Better Affiliate Links, an iTunes affiliate linking app for iOS from Squibner, and co-host with Robb Lewis of the podcast Ruminate.

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Marshmallow Run Kickstarter Seeks to Teach Girls Programming and Design

Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego are developing a curriculum to teach girls programming and design by building a game called Marshmallow Run. It’s an ambitious program to bring Marshmallow Run to life through Scratch, the web, iOS, and Android as a way to reach girls of all age levels and provide opportunities that will appeal to a wide variety of interests. To make the program a reality, Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of computers, meeting space, developer accounts, and other overhead.

What’s unique about the Marshmallow Run campaign is its breadth. The project isn’t constrained by the programming platform chosen or other structural decisions that might limit its appeal. Design Code Build has developed the characters for Marshmallow Run, but the rest is up to the girls who participate in the program. The participants will have the opportunity to learn to program physics into a game, design levels, set timers, detect collisions, along with everything else that programming a platformer game entails. Girls will also learn graphic design, storyboarding, audio design, and much more. The result is a curriculum designed to foster imagination and creativity in a fun way that teaches new skills.

The project’s campaign has just 3 days left to reach its goal of $25,000. As of publication, pledges are just over 50% of that goal. If Marshmallow Run is funded, backers will receive a variety of rewards depending on their pledge levels including stickers and t-shirts, but the reward that’s most interesting is a programming starter pack for backers who pledge just $25. The starter pack includes character sprites and other game elements for building Marshmallow Run in Scratch. At higher pledge levels backers receive beta access to the web and mobile versions of the game. The starter pack and access to the betas are a terrific way that Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego are sharing what they hope to create beyond their local community.

I have three boys and have experienced the frustration of trying to find opportunities for them when they wanted to learn to program. There just aren’t enough good programs available for kids in general, and even fewer for girls. Marshmallow Run is a chance to start fixing that, foster the next generation of programmers and designers, and make a difference in addressing the gender imbalance in tech fields.

If you want to make a pledge, you can do so on the Marshmallow Run Kickstarter page.


Apple Park Slated to Open in April

Apple announced this morning that Apple Park, its 2.8 million square foot, 178 acre campus that will house 12,000 employees will open in April. The process of moving so many people to Apple Park is anticipated to take around 6 months. In addition, work will continue on portions of the building and grounds throughout the summer.

Apple Park includes several notable features including:

  • the world's largest curved glass panels;
  • a 1000-seat auditorium with a 20-foot tall, 165 foot diameter glass cylinder entrance with a metallic carbon-fiber roof;
  • a 100,000 square-foot employee fitness center;
  • over 2 miles of walking and jogging trails;
  • over 9,000 native and drought-resistant trees;
  • a 17-megawatt rooftop solar facility that will supply all of Apple Park's power needs; and
  • a visitor's center with an Apple Store and café.
Steve Jobs Theater

Steve Jobs Theater

The theater, which is one of the new facility's marquee features, is named the Steve Jobs Theater in honor of Jobs who would have turned 62 this week. Tim Cook had this to say about Apple Park and Steve Jobs' legacy:

Steve’s vision for Apple stretched far beyond his time with us. He intended Apple Park to be the home of innovation for generations to come. The workspaces and parklands are designed to inspire our team as well as benefit the environment. We’ve achieved the most energy-efficient building of its kind in the world and the campus will run entirely on renewable energy.

Lauren Powell Jobs commented that:

Steve was exhilarated, and inspired, by the California landscape, by its light and its expansiveness. It was his favorite setting for thought. Apple Park captures his spirit uncannily well. He would have flourished, as the people of Apple surely will, on this luminously designed campus.

Apple's press release is accompanied by a short video of workers putting the finishing touches on Apple Park, which provides a sense of the scope of this enormous project.

Apple Park up close.

Apple Park up close.


Pad & Quill Introduces a Leather Grip for the Apple Pencil

Apple device accessory maker Pad & Quill debuted the Leather Apple Pencil Grip that does more than just help you grip your Pencil. The grip, which is made of American full-grain leather, comes in three colors: Whiskey, Chestnut, and Galloper Black (think brown, dark brown, and black) and features a ‘hand finished baseball stitch closure’ that uses parachute-grade nylon stitching.

Pad & Quill’s accessory consists of two pieces. The first is the grip part, which slides over the barrel of the Apple Pencil near the point. The second sits near the top of the Apple Pencil and incorporates a clip and tethered holder for the cap. So, in addition to presumably making the Apple Pencil more comfortable to grip, the top portion of the grip lets you clip your Apple Pencil to a pocket or notebook and should keep it from rolling off tables. Also, the leash means the cap will stay nearby when you are charging the Apple Pencil, making it harder to lose.

Pad & Quill’s leather grip aims to solve three of the most common complaints I’ve heard about the Apple Pencil. If you find the Apple Pencil uncomfortable to grip, don’t like how it is prone to rolling off tables, or worry about losing the cap, Pad & Quill’s Leather Apple Pencil Grip is worth considering. The grip is available for pre-order only from Pad & Quill for $49.95.


Game Day: Causality

There is a certain amount of ‘trust me, just play this game’ involved with recommending Causality by UK-based Loju because it’s such a brain-meltingly complex puzzle game that it’s hard to explain in writing. In many respects, this game has to be experienced to understand it.

Causality blends time manipulation with a familiar grid-based puzzle game in a way that transcends other games in the puzzle genre. The result is a fresh, compelling game that stands out from the pack.

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Apple Launches New ‘We Hear You’ iPad Pro Ad Campaign

Apple released four 15-second commercials each promoting different features of the iPad Pro. All four open with an actor holding up a large image of a tweet. ‘Better Than a Computer’ opens with the snarky tweet: ‘An iPad Pro is not even close to being a computer.’ The narrator agrees explaining that it’s not a computer because it’s faster, has LTE, and a touchscreen you can write on, concluding that the tweeter is ‘kinda right.’

‘Don’t Hunt for WiFi’ features a young woman stuck studying at a gym because her home WiFi is slow. The narrator explains that with LTE, that’s not a problem for the iPad Pro.

‘Do More with Word’ answers the question ‘Is Word on the iPad?’ The narrator shows how to download Microsoft Word and highlights its Apple Pencil integration.

The final spot called ‘No PC Viruses’ highlights the fact that the iPad Pro doesn’t suffer from PC viruses in response to a woman who complains on Twitter that her PC is infected.

What’s best of all about these spots is that the tweets are real. For example,

You can watch all four videos after the break:

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Apple Announces WWDC 2017: Kicks Off June 5 in San Jose

Apple today announced that WWDC will take place June 5-9, 2017 in a new venue: the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The announcement came as a bit of a surprise because in past years, WWDC was announced closer to the event and it has often been scheduled for the second full week in June. But the biggest departure of all is the change of venue. WWDC has been held at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco for the past 16 years. San Jose is much closer to Apple's new Campus 2 headquarters, which should facilitate the logistics of putting on the conference.

According to Apple's press release:

The McEnery Convention Center will be the hub for thousands of attendees with great hotel, restaurant and entertainment options, all within walking distance. In addition to the keynote address, get-togethers, sessions and labs for developers, Apple is working with the city of San Jose and local businesses to celebrate the return of WWDC with very special experiences around San Jose throughout the week.

Tickets will go on sale March 27th. Apple said that the number of tickets available for WWDC 2017 will be roughly the same as in recent years.


Hidden Folks: A Whimsical Game of Exploration

Hidden Folks, by game developer Adriaan de Jongh and illustrator Sylvain Tegroeg, is a relaxing diversion into beautifully-detailed, hand-drawn worlds. The object of the game is simple: find people, animals, and objects in huge illustrated landscapes. After you’ve found enough items in each area, the next one is unlocked and ready to explore.

The comparison that comes to mind immediately is the Where’s Waldo book series for kids. But there’s a lot more going on here than that suggests, and this is not a game that’s just for children. Hidden Folks comes alive with whimsical animations and over 960 silly mouth-generated sound effects. Each of the fourteen hand-drawn, black-and-white scenes is vast and full of minute details that make finding each item challenging.

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Pokémon Go to Add More Than 80 New Creatures

Niantic announced a big update to its hit game Pokémon Go. Later this week, more than 80 Pokémon from the Johto compendium will appear in the game. That's not all the generation two Pokémon, but it is nonetheless a substantial update to a game that has seen bug fixes and refinements, but limited new content since it debuted last summer.

In addition to adding a subset of Pokémon from the franchise's Gold and Silver games, Niantic is adding new game elements including two new collectable berries, new Pokémon trainer outfits, and evolution items. Other items will be available for purchase from the in-game Pokémon Go shop.

Pokémon Go became an instant phenomenon in many parts of the world when it launched last year, but its popularity has waned substantially. It will be interesting to see if the new content released this week will reignite interest in the game.


TwIM: Instant Messaging Built on Twitter Direct Messages

Last December, BuzzFeed reported that Twitter built and killed a messaging app. It wasn’t the first time rumors circulated that Twitter was working on a messaging app, but for whatever reason, none has ever been released. That left a void that developer Andrew Hart has filled with his new iPhone app TwIM, a modern messaging app built on top of Twitter DMs.

There’s a lot of friction involved in trying a new messaging service. Not only do you have to want to try the service, but you have to convince friends or family to try it too or you'll have no one with whom to chat. That’s a significant disadvantage that TwIM sidesteps for anyone whose contacts are already on Twitter. What’s more, TwIM sets itself apart from the built-in direct messaging functionality of other Twitter clients with better content handling and support for the latest iOS features like Siri, interactive notifications, and 3D Touch. That gives TwIM a shot at appealing not only as a messaging app, but to anyone who wants a better direct messaging experience.

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