John Voorhees

2258 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.

Mastodon: @johnvoorhees@macstories.net

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AppStories, Episode 313 – Imagining Apps for an Apple VR Headset

This week on AppStories, we imagine the kinds of apps that may emerge for an Apple VR headset.

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Club MacStories Sample: Federico Achieves His Universal Control Dream and John Reflects on Indie Life

Editor’s Note: Every now and then, we like to share some of the writing we’ve published for Club MacStories members with the broader MacStories community to give readers a feel for what we offer in case they’re thinking of joining themselves.

The Club has grown to encompass far more than just our writing. There’s the Discord community, AV Club events to discuss community-chosen media, Club-only columns, podcasts, and more.

But, at the heart of the Club are our two regular newsletters available via email and the web. MacStories Weekly, which is packed with new app discoveries, tips, shortcuts, columns, and more, is published roughly 48 times a year, and the Monthly Log, which features longer-form columns, comes out every month for a total of 60 newsletters a year.

Today we’re sharing the November 2022 issue of the Monthly Log, featuring two columns. The first, by Federico, is an in-depth look at how he’s used Universal Control to achieve the iPad Pro setup he’s always wanted. In the second story, John reflects on some lessons he’s learned since joining MacStories.

We hope you enjoy these stories and consider joining the Club. MacStories wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of its readers, so thank you to all of you who are already members or were in the past, and welcome to those of you just joining now. Your support means a lot to us.

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Micro.blog, Mastodon, and Ivory

Manton Reece has a fantastic explanation of the underpinnings of Micro.blog and Mastodon and how they work with third-party clients like Ivory, which Federico reviewed yesterday.

Manton’s post is in response to questions about why Micro.blog work with Tapbots’ Ivory since both Micro.blog and Mastodon implement the ActivityPub standard. The answer is that ActivityPub is primarily a service-level server-to-server API that allows Micro.blog and Mastodon servers to interact with each other. However, clients like Ivory use a different Mastodon API for reading and writing Mastodon posts that doesn’t match up feature-for-feature with Micro.blog. Manton explains the problems that causes:

Could Micro.blog implement the Mastodon API, thereby allowing Ivory to connect to Micro.blog as if it was a Mastodon server? Technically yes, but doing so would introduce a couple problems. By design, Micro.blog does not have exactly the same features as Mastodon. We left out boosts, trends, and follower counts, and added other things that are outside the scope of Mastodon.

If Micro.blog worked with Ivory, what would the UI look like when the features didn’t exactly match up? It would be confusing. Ivory would appear broken and it would disrupt the experience we’re going for with Micro.blog’s community.

That isn’t to say that signing into Micro.blog from Ivory to read and post to Micro.blog in the future is impossible. However, as Manton points out, it will require further experimentation and, ultimately, coordination with third-party apps while keeping an eye on preserving Micro.blog’s identity. Because, after all, Micro.blog and Mastodon are two distinct services that approach social media with different philosophies that are reflected in their designs. Interoperability is appealing on the surface, but not if it comes at the expense of the unique features that users of Micro.blog or any other service have come to expect and rely on.

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Apple Offers Educational Resources for Data Privacy Day

January 28th is Data Privacy Day, and Apple is marking the occasion with educational resources, including a short film starring Nick Mohammed called “A Day in the Life of an Average Person’s Data” and a Today at Apple session called “Taking Charge of Your Privacy on iPhone.”

The short film featuring Mohammed, who plays Coach Nate in the Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso, illustrates how personal data can be misused in a variety of humorous scenarios, highlighting how users can protect themselves using features built into Apple devices. The Today at Apple session is designed for users of all experience levels to take control of their privacy. According to Apple, the Today at Apple session will:

explore features including Mail Privacy Protection, Safety Check, Location Services, and passkeys. In this session, attendees will learn how they can customize each feature based on their individual privacy preferences.

Signups for the session are open starting today on the Today at Apple website.


Last Week, on Club MacStories: Audio Transcription Shortcuts, Scrobbling from Windows, Controlled Chaos, and Minimalism

Because Club MacStories now encompasses more than just newsletters, we’ve created a guide to the past week’s happenings:

MacStories Weekly: Issue 352

Episode 98 of AppStories transcribed by Whisper.

Episode 98 of AppStories transcribed by Whisper.


The New M2 Mac mini and MacBook Pros

Source Apple

Source Apple

Reviews of the new M2-based Mac minis and MacBook Pros are out, and of the two computers, the mini is the one that I find the most interesting. With Apple silicon no longer limited to the entry-level mini, it’s now possible to spec the tiny desktop so it rivals some configurations of the M1 Mac Studio, leading The Verge’s Chris Welsh to dub the higher-end mini configuration the ‘Mac Studio junior.’

That’s a great way to look at that model, but it also fills many more roles than just the slot immediately beneath the Mac Studio. As Dan Moren of Six Colors explains:

It’s hard to argue that the mini’s versatility isn’t the biggest part of why the product is still going strong, nigh on two decades after its debut. If the iMac, the Mac Studio, and the still-waiting-in-the-wings Apple silicon Mac Pro are the bricks of Apple’s Mac lineup, the Mac mini is the mortar, with its various configurations filling the gaps in between.

Welch strikes a similar note:

But remember that there’s no such thing (yet) as an iMac with an M2 Pro inside. So for anyone who wants a Mac desktop but finds the Mac Studio to be overkill — and it’s exactly that for many use cases — this M2 Pro Mini could make a ton of sense. And it doesn’t cost anywhere near as much.

I’ve owned the 2009 and 2014 Mac minis, as well as a fully-spec’d 2018 Mac mini, which I’m still running as a home server. I’ve also tested the M1 version of the mini. It’s safe to say that I’m a big fan of Apple’s tiniest desktop machine, which started as a way to attract Windows users into the Mac universe with a modestly-powered and priced desktop. That original mini has morphed into a Mac that now fulfills a remarkably broad spectrum of use cases. I’m sure that if I weren’t using an M1 Max Mac Studio, I’d have an M1 Pro Mac mini with 32 GB of unified memory, a 4 TB SSD, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet on my desk instead.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

The M2 MacBook Pro is less interesting than the mini, not because it’s a less capable computer, but because the design is identical to the M1 version of the laptop and the speed gains are incremental over those models. Of course, as Jason Snell points out on Six Colors, most users won’t be upgrading from an M1 MacBook Pro to the M2 model, and for them, the jump will be significant and worthwhile:

The fact remains, though: If you want the very best laptop Apple has to offer, the MacBook Pro will not disappoint you. The M1 models were great in late 2021, and these new M2 models are even better—albeit incrementally so.

I’m fascinated with Apple’s gaming narrative. Ever since WWDC, Apple has touted Metal 3 and the M1, and now, M2’s videogame performance. There aren’t a lot of games that take advantage of Metal 3 yet, so it’s still hard to judge how Apple’s computers stack up to their PC counterparts, so I was particularly intrigued by Monica Chin’s imperfect, but insightful take on how the MacBook Pro with M2 Max’s performance compares to gaming laptops that she’s tested for The Verge:

I think — put the pitchforks away, I know these are totally different things and there are all sorts of problems with this comparison — that the simplest way to think of the MacBook Pro with M2 Max is as the addition of an RTX 3070 GPU. It’s not quite providing the frame rates that we’ve seen from the biggest RTX 3070 computers out there (MSI’s GS76 gave us 114fps, for example) but it’s not too far off, and it’s well above what we’d expect to see from an RTX 3060 gaming machine. The M2 Pro Mac Mini, which only put up 62fps on Tomb Raider, is closer to RTX 3050 territory.

There are far more economical ways to achieve that sort of gaming performance than buying a MacBook Pro, but it’s still interesting to see where the laptop falls on the gaming spectrum because it speaks directly to the capabilities of its GPU. As with the M1-based MacBook Pros, the M2 models also distinguish themselves compared to the MacBook Air by their superior displays, higher memory configurations, the wider variety of ports, and ability to drive multiple external displays.

If there’s anything missing from Apple’s current laptop lineup, it’s the ability to configure a laptop with the horsepower of an Air but the memory and storage capacities and screen of the MacBook Pro. I think there are a lot of ‘pro’ uses for a laptop that would benefit from that sort of configuration but don’t require a lot of raw CPU or GPU performance. However, given the lines along which Apple distinguishes its ‘Pro’ laptops from the Air, I’m not holding my breath waiting for it.



Apple Celebrates Black History Month with a New Black Unity Collection and More

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

To celebrate Black History Month, Apple has released a new Black Unity Collection. The collection includes an iPhone wallpaper, an Apple Watch face, and a Sports Loop band.

According to Apple, the special-edition Apple Watch Black Unity Sport Loop “features the word “Unity” woven abstractly into the band using red, green, and black yarns that pay homage to the Pan-African flag, while a unique layering of yarns lends a sense of three-dimensionality to the letters.” Both the iPhone wallpaper and watch face combine geometric shapes in green, black, red, and yellow. On the watch face, the numbers on the face change as the minutes pass, using parts of other numbers.

Apple is also marking Black History Month across many of its services, including the App Store, Apple Music, the TV app, Fitness+, News, Podcasts, Books, and Maps. Among the offerings will be Apple Maps Guides by the Smithsonian, curated TV and film collections by Dr. Jelani Cobb, apps and games, special playlists on Apple Music, and podcast spotlights.

Apple also announced that it:

is supporting Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney), Ghetto Film School (New York, Los Angeles, London), Music Forward (Los Angeles), Shout Mouse Press (Washington, D.C.), and The National Museum of African American Music (Nashville, Tennessee). Apple’s support for these organizations is a continuation of REJI grants over the past two years that helped organizations committed to providing economic, educational, and creative opportunities in communities of color.

The Apple Watch Black Unity Sport Loop is available to order online today and will be in stores on January 24th for $49. The Unity 2023 watch face and iPhone will be available next week, presumably alongside OS updates.


Apple Announces Second-Generation HomePod

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Over the weekend, Mark Gurman said that Apple would be releasing a new HomePod soon. As it turns out, he was correct because today, Apple released a new second-generation HomePod. According to Apple’s press release,

With convenient new ways to manage everyday tasks and control the smart home, users can now create smart home automations using Siri, get notified when a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm is detected in their home, and check temperature and humidity in a room — all hands-free.

The HomePod is powered by an S7 chip and appears to feature a sound system similar to the first-gen model.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

The new HomePod also adds a temperature and humidity sensor, which can be used as a trigger for home automations, and supports the Matter home automation standard.

The second-generation HomePod is available to order today, with deliveries beginning Friday, February 3rd for $299, which is $50 less than the original HomePod’s price.

Update: Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I’ve gone back and checked the second-generation HomePod’s tech specs against the original model, and there are some interesting differences. The new model weighs less at 5.16 pounds (2.3 kg) versus 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg). The new model is a little shorter, too, at 6.6 inches (168 mm) compared to the original’s 6.8 inches (172 mm), but the same width.

The new HomePod has two fewer tweeters at five compared to the original’s seven. No mention is made of direct and ambient audio beamforming in the tech specs for the new HomePod, although it does support Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos, which is a nice addition. The latest HomePod has four far-field microphones compared to the original’s six too.

In addition to the temperature and humidity sensor, the new HomePod also features an accelerometer and will support Sound Recognition later this spring with a software update. It’s not clear whether that software update will work with the original HomePod or not.

The new HomePod is also getting a WiFi upgrade with 802.11n support. The new model also includes a Thread radio and Ultra Wideband chip, which the original did not.

Last but not least, the new HomePod’s tech specs appear to suggest that the power cable may be detachable, unlike the original model, because it’s listed as an item ‘in the box,’ whereas that wasn’t the case when the HomePod debuted.