John Voorhees

1142 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, who is an editor for MacStories and the Club MacStories newsletters, joined MacStories in 2015. With Federico, he co-hosts AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, and Dialog, a seasonal podcast about the impact of technology on creativity, society, and culture. John also handles sponsorship sales for MacStories and its podcasts.

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Marzipan: A Chance to Revitalize the Mac App Ecosystem

My annual practice of deciding which Mac apps qualify as 'must-haves' is always an interesting exercise. At the core of this reflection is a simple question: 'Why?' Why this app instead of another one? Sometimes it's an app that stands out from its competitors, making the choice easy. Other times it's a unique feature that fits well with the way I work. Most of the apps I include in my annual round-ups fit into one of those categories.

Last year though, too many apps fell into a couple of different, troubling categories. First, I tolerate a handful of underwhelming apps because they're associated with services I like or which are essential to my work. Apps like Slack, Skype, and Trello fall into this category. Second, there are apps like Due and Reeder that I like, but either they don't get much attention or have fallen behind compared to alternatives on iOS. Fortunately, these apps are still in the minority among the apps I use regularly. For every disappointment, there are apps like Things, Ulysses, MindNode, iA Writer, Screens, and Yoink that are not only a pleasure to use on macOS, but offer excellent iOS apps too.

Still, as I covered in the conclusion of my 2018 must-have Mac apps round-up, the exercise of going through the Mac apps I use left me with an uneasy feeling:

there’s an interesting contrast between what I consider must-haves on iOS and the Mac. On iOS, many of the apps I consider must-haves are compelling because of a single feature that sets one app apart from others or because it fits especially well with how I work. Too often that’s not the case on the Mac. I find myself explaining that I use a particular app because ‘it gets the job done.’ That’s because there are too few alternatives to some apps, which is a shame.

Mac apps are not in a state of crisis, but at the same time, the universe of Mac apps is not nearly as big or diverse as iOS. That's not surprising given that the number of iOS devices in use is roughly 10x the number of Macs in use. As someone who works on and studies both platforms though, the trends are troubling.

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Introducing a New MacStories Podcast: Dialog, Where Creativity Meets Technology

Federico and I are excited to announce a new MacStories podcast called Dialog. The show is a seasonal podcast featuring weekly, in-depth conversations with special guests about the impact of technology on creativity, society, and culture.

You can subscribe here and listen to the first episode on Apple Podcasts.

You can also listen to the first episode on the Dialog website here.

Each season will be organized around a central theme and include in-depth discussions with guests with expertise in the season’s topic. To kick things off, season 1 is all about writers and writing. You'll hear from a combination of familiar and unfamiliar voices, all of whom are accomplished writers with backgrounds in journalism, songwriting, fiction, screenwriting, and more. Since we began recording episodes, it’s been fascinating to hear guests share their unique perspective on writing, the creative process, and the business of writing and discover areas of overlap between very different kinds of writing.

Seasonal Format and Future Guests

Dialog is a sort of spin-off of AppStories, our podcast about the world of apps. The interviews we've done on AppStories are some of the most popular episodes we've produced. However, over time, we realized that AppStories' format is too constrained to do justice to many of the interviews we want to do. The self-imposed time limit of that show and its topical focus became a barrier.

That led me to sketch out the contours of what would become Dialog during our annual MacStories winter holiday break. To overcome AppStories' constraints, I decided we needed to flip that show on its head both structurally and topically.

Structurally, Dialog’s conversations with guests are far more in-depth than we could accomplish in a 30-minute AppStories interview. Dialog’s interviews will run as long as two hours but will be split over two episodes to keep each episode to about one hour long. It's a format that also provides headroom for Federico and me to participate more fully in each episode; less like a traditional interview and more of a conversation with our guests.

Topically, Dialog’s focus is also broader than any interview we’ve done on AppStories. Of course, you can expect Federico and me to come at each season from a tech angle, but that’s the lens through which each season will be viewed more than it is the subject matter of the seasons themselves.

Although Dialog is different than anything we’ve done before, its roots are also firmly grounded in MacStories’ character. We enjoy the apps and hardware we try every day, but what we love the most is telling the stories of the people who make those things, exploring how they empower creativity, and reflecting on their impact on the world around us. Dialog is a natural extension of our approach to technology.

The first episode of Dialog, which you can listen and subscribe to here, introduces the topics we will cover this season. Federico and I talk about our backgrounds in writing, how we got started, our approach to writing at MacStories, the business of writing online, and a lot more.

Next week, we'll be joined for a two-part conversation by our first guest, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who will be followed by singer-songwriter Frank Turner, and other guests throughout the summer. At the end of the season, Federico and I will wrap up what we’ve heard and learned from the writers we've talked to before taking a break to plan season 2.

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AppStories, Episode 113 – Timery for Toggl Plus a Dialog Sneak Peek

On this week's episode of AppStories, we talk about one of our favorite new iOS apps: Timery, a client app for Toggl's time tracking service. We also preview Dialog, a new seasonal podcast from MacStories featuring weekly, in-depth conversations with special guests about the impact of technology on creativity, society, and culture, which debuts later today.

Sponsored by:

  • Luna Display - The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code STORIES at checkout for 10% off.
  • Linode - High-performance SSD Linux servers for all of your infrastructure needs. Get a $20 credit.

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AppStories, Episode 112 – Behind the Scenes of Federico’s iPad Story

On this week's episode of AppStories, we discuss the process of creating Federico's story, Beyond the Tablet: Seven Years of iPad as My Main Computer and some of the topics from the story; later, we are joined by Brian King who worked with Federico on the introductory animation and 3D-rendered images throughout the story.

Sponsored by:

  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code STORIES at checkout for 10% off.
  • Linode: High-performance SSD Linux servers for all of your infrastructure needs. Get a $20 credit.

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Panic Reveals Plans to Sell a Handheld Gaming System Called Playdate in 2020

Panic, well-known for its thoughtfully-designed Mac and iOS apps, has announced that it's entering the hardware market with a portable gaming system called Playdate, which will ship in early 2020 and cost $149. This isn't Panic's first foray into the game industry. With the release of the hit indie game Firewatch in 2016, the company became a game publisher. Later this year, Panic will publish the highly-anticipated Untitled Goose Game on the Nintendo Switch. Still, creating hardware is something altogether different for Panic.

Playdate is a diminutive handheld device with hardware and software features that distinguish it from any other handheld on the market. The bright yellow handheld system is just 74mm  ×  76mm  ×  9mm, which is roughly three inches square and a little thicker than an iPhone XS.

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Apple Updates WWDC App in Advance of Conference

On the heels of sending invitations to the press for the 2019 WWDC keynote that will be held beginning June 3rd, Apple has updated the WWDC app.

Much of the app's UI is similar to the version released around this time last year, but now, the app's icon can be changed between eight neon-themed Apple logo icons. There are also fourteen new animated iMessage stickers included many drawn from the artwork the company used for the initial WWDC announcement and the invitations sent earlier today. In years past, pins were distributed to attendees at check-in for the conference and during sessions that resembled stickers from the app.

The WWDC app can be downloaded for free from the App Store.


Apple Sends Press Invitations and Confirms June 3rd WWDC Keynote

In mid-March Apple announced that WWDC 2019 would take place the first week in June, and today the company confirmed that, following past tradition, the keynote for that conference will take place on June 3 at 10:00 am Pacific.

Apple is expected to unveil the latest versions of its major operating systems at WWDC, including iOS 13, watchOS 6, and macOS 10.15. We may also see hardware products announced too, like the long-anticipated modular Mac Pro. A live stream for the keynote has not yet been confirmed, but it remains likely since WWDC is one of the prime Apple events of the year.


Apple Updates Its MacBook Pro Line with Faster CPUs and New Keyboard Mechanisms

Apple updated its MacBook Pros today with new, faster processors and changes to the notebook line's keyboard mechanism. According to an Apple press release:

The 15-inch MacBook Pro now features faster 6- and 8-core Intel Core processors, delivering Turbo Boost speeds up to 5.0 GHz, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar features faster quad-core processors with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.7 GHz.

Apple says that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with an 8-core processor is up to two times faster than the previous top-end quad-core model. To put that performance in perspective, Apple claims that:

  • Music producers can play back massive multi-track projects with up to two times more Alchemy plug-ins in Logic Pro X.
  • 3D designers can render scenes up to two times faster in Maya Arnold.
  • Photographers can apply complex edits and filters up to 75 percent faster in Photoshop.
  • Developers can compile code up to 65 percent faster in Xcode.
  • Scientists and researchers can compute complex fluid dynamics simulations up to 50 percent faster in TetrUSS.
  • Video editors can edit up to 11 simultaneous multicam streams of 4K video in Final Cut Pro X.

Interestingly, Apple's press release makes no mention of the MacBook Pro's keyboard. However, the company spoke to Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch who was told:

  1. The MacBook Pro keyboard mechanism has had a materials change in the mechanism. Apple says that this new keyboard mechanism composition will substantially reduce the double type/no type issue. Apple will not specify what it has done, but doubtless tear-downs of the keyboard will reveal what has been updated.
  2. Though Apple believes that this change will greatly reduce the issue, it is also including all butterfly keyboards across its notebook line into its Keyboard Service Program. This means that current MacBook Pros and even the models being released today will have keyboard repairs covered at no cost, in warranty and out of warranty.
  3. Apple tells me that repair times for keyboards have been longer than they would like. It is making substantial improvements to repair processes in Apple Stores to make repairs faster for customers with issues.

According to Panzarino, failing third-generation keyboards will be replaced with the new fourth-generation keyboard found in these updated MacBook Pros.

It's not unusual for Apple to release product updates shortly before a major event that don't make the cut for the keynote presentation. Notebooks with faster CPUs fall squarely into that category. With the company's annual developer conference just around the corner, today's announcement is likely also be designed to try to satisfy one its biggest pro user groups that the company is trying to put keyboard issues behind it. However, only time will tell whether this version of the MacBook Pro's keyboard is more reliable than prior iterations.


Beyond the Tablet Extras: eBook, Special Episode of AppStories, and Making Of Essays

Today, Federico published Beyond the Tablet: Seven Years of iPad as My Main Computer, a comprehensive evaluation of the advantages and shortcomings he’s experienced using an iPad as his primary computer. Weighing in at around 50,000 words, Beyond the Tablet rivals Federico’s annual iOS reviews in scope and depth of coverage. As a result, it felt appropriate to release the same sort of extras for this story that we’ve provided for iOS reviews.

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