John Voorhees

1290 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, who is the managing editor of MacStories and Club MacStories, 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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AppStories, Episode 144 – Getting More Out of Safari for iPadOS

This week on AppStories, we discuss the sort of sophisticated web apps that can be used with Safari on iPadOS 13 and share a bunch of tips and tricks based on Apple’s latest updates to Safari.

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Desktop-Class Safari for iPad: A Hands-On Look at the Difference the iPadOS Update Makes to Apple’s Browser

For about four years, I’ve sat down at my Mac to produce Club MacStories’ two newsletters using Mailchimp. There’s a lot I like about Mailchimp, but that has never included the company’s web app. Mailchimp relies heavily on dragging and dropping content blocks in a browser window to build an email newsletter, which abstracts away the raw HTML and CSS nicely, but didn’t work well or reliably on iOS.

That finally changed with iPadOS 13, which brought one of the most extensive updates to Safari ever. The result has been that roughly half of the issues of the Club’s newsletters have been produced on my iPad Pro since October. Before iPadOS, that simply wasn’t possible. Whenever I tried to assemble a newsletter on my iPad, I ran into a show-stopping roadblock at some point.

If you’re wondering why this matters, the answer is flexibility and choice. Whether I’m traveling to another city for several days or just sitting in a local coffee shop for a few hours, I know I can rely on a stable mobile data connection on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about whether WiFi will be available for my Mac or fiddle with tethering. I just open my iPad and start working. As a result, I prefer my iPad to my MacBook Pro when I’m away from my desktop Mac.

I also enjoy the freedom of picking the platform I use for a task. Some days that’s my Mac, but just as often it’s my iPad. Sometimes that’s driven by the platform I’m working on at the time, and other days it’s nothing more than the device I feel like using that day. Until iPadOS 13, though, if that day was a Friday and I had a newsletter to produce, nothing else mattered. I had to have a Mac, and if I was traveling for more than a couple of days, that often meant I brought both devices along.

This isn’t a tutorial on how to use Mailchimp on an iPad. Few people need that, and if you’ve built a newsletter in Mailchimp on a Mac, you already know how to do it on the iPad. That’s the whole point. Safari in iPadOS has become a desktop-class browser. There remain differences between it and its desktop sibling, but the gap has been dramatically narrowed and the differences that remain purposefully leverage the distinctions between the Mac and iPad. The result has transformed frustrating experiences with web apps that simply didn’t work before on the iPad into a productive environment for accomplishing tasks that once required a Mac.

I don’t know that I’ve ever used a web app that I prefer to something native to the Mac or iOS, but the reality of contemporary computing is that many people rely on a collection of web apps in their work and personal lives. The changes to Safari in iPadOS are an acknowledgement of that reality. The experience isn’t perfect, but the latest iteration of Safari is a major step forward that eliminates hurdles that make the difference between getting work done and not.

If you’ve run into roadblocks with web apps in the past, it’s worth revisiting them in the wake of iPadOS 13. For me, the updates to Safari in iPadOS have been a tipping point in the way I work that has opened up new options I didn’t have before. I suspect the same is true for others who are looking for the same sort of workflow flexibility, which is why I want to share my experience and thoughts on producing the Club MacStories newsletters using Mailchimp on my iPad Pro.

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Brydge Announces Pro+ Keyboard with Trackpad for the iPad Pro and a Standalone Trackpad

(Source: Brydge)

(Source: Brydge)

Today Brydge announced the Pro+ keyboard for the iPad Pro, which incorporates a trackpad. The keyboard was first revealed in connection with a lawsuit filed by Brydge against another keyboard maker that Brydge says violated a patent on the company’s keyboard hinge. Although Brydge’s official announcement doesn’t disclose when it will begin taking pre-orders, the company says it will be soon. Brydge also says that the first 500 pre-orders will be shipped in late February, with the remaining pre-orders shipping in late March.

With iPadOS 13, Apple added accessibility support for pointing devices like mice and trackpads. Pointing devices can be connected via USB or Bluetooth using iPadOS’s Assistive Touch Accessibility feature, which permits navigation of the OS’s UI. Although the experience of using a pointing device with an iPad Pro partly resembles using one with a Mac, it’s also different and more limited. As Federico explained in his iOS and iPadOS 13 review:

The first and most important difference between iPadOS and macOS is that UIKit is still designed and optimized for touch input. When you enable mouse support in iPadOS, you’ll notice that the system won’t react to the hover state of the pointer: if you hover over a button in a toolbar, you won’t see a tooltip; if you wait with the cursor over the edge of a document, you won’t see a scroll bar; in Safari, hovering over drop down menus of a webpage will not automatically expand and collapse them.

I’ve used iPadOS 13 with a Logitech MX Master Mouse 3S and agree with Federico’s assessment that if you go into mouse or trackpad use on iPadOS expecting precisely the same sort of experience as a Mac, you’re likely to be disappointed. Still, the feature opens up exciting possibilities beyond the accessibility needs it addresses, such as the ability to assign shortcuts to button presses.

(Source: Brydge)

(Source: Brydge)

Brydge’s new keyboard closely resembles past models but adds a trackpad to the center of the wrist rest. The keyboard comes in two sizes to accommodate the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, connects via Bluetooth 4.1, has three levels of backlighting, 3-month battery life, and is space gray. With the trackpad, Brydge says users will also be able to open the dock with a two-finger tap on the trackpad and trigger App Exposé with a three-finger tap. Users will also be able to tap the bottom left or right-hand corners of their iPad Pro’s screen to return to the Home screen.

The 11-inch model of the Pro+ will cost $199.99, and the 12.9-inch version will be $229.99. If you are interested in ordering the Pro+, Brydge encourages registering on its website to receive an alert by email when pre-orders begin.

The Brydge trackpad. (Source: Brydge)

The Brydge trackpad. (Source: Brydge)

Separately, Brydge announced a standalone trackpad, which should appeal to existing Brydge keyboard owners who want to add a complementary trackpad without purchasing the Pro+. Brydge hasn’t disclosed much about the standalone version of its trackpad, although the company says it is coming soon, will be glass with a ‘Multi-Touch Engine,’ connect using Bluetooth 4.1, and will have a 3-month per charge battery life.

It will be interesting to see how Brydge’s Pro+ keyboard and standalone trackpad do with users. Off-the-shelf pointing device support was an important addition to iPadOS 13 for people who need the feature for accessibility reasons. I’ve experimented with the feature on several occasions, but until it’s more refined, I have a hard time seeing myself using a pointing device with my iPad Pro regularly. As a result, I’m not that interested in the Brydge Pro+, but I’ll withhold my final judgment on that score until I’ve seen reviews by people who have used production models of the device and tried one myself. I also wouldn’t be surprised if iPadOS 14 strengthens mouse and trackpad support, making the Pro+ an even more attractive option later this year.


Stephen Coyle on the Reduced Bluetooth Latency of AirPods Pro

Stephen Coyle has followed up on previous tests he conducted on Bluetooth latency of AirPods. This time, he tested the AirPods Pro using the iOS system keyboard, his rhythm game Tapt, and a shotgun microphone, to measure the delay between triggering a sound on an iPad Pro and playback through the Apple’s wireless earphones and other Bluetooth headphones.

As Coyle explains, latency affects certain use cases, such as user-triggered UI sounds like the keyboard, accessibility features like VoiceOver, and game sound effects, more than others. While delayed keyboard clicks may merely be annoying, delayed VoiceOver responses are a serious usability issue for people who depend on the feature.

What Coyle discovered was that the the latency of the AirPods Pro is substantially less than the original model of AirPods. As Coyle puts it:

If it’s possible for the trend line to continue in the same direction, the next generation or two of AirPods will be very exciting. Not being a VoiceOver user, I’m unsure how much AirPods Pro improve its user experience in real terms, but I think this general trend can only be for the good. Similarly, for mobile gaming and general user experience, this trend means that what is, in my opinion, the primary downside of Bluetooth earphones may be gradually disappearing.

I found Coyle’s comment on using AirPods Pro to make and edit music intriguing too:

Their status as the lowest latency Bluetooth earphones notwithstanding, the AirPods Pro make for a deeply unsettling experience when using them as monitors to play piano in Logic Pro; there’s still far too much delay to make for a comfortable experience (and I’m not alone in thinking similar). They are, however, just about usable when editing music or video, and shaving a few dozen more milliseconds off this each generation would fast make them a preferable option over wired earphones.

As someone who edits podcast audio regularly, I’ve never considered using AirPods Pro because I’ve assumed that the latency would be a roadblock. What Coyle’s test show is that it’s time to rethink old assumptions whether it’s the role of AirPods Pro in accessibility features like VoiceOver, audio production, or gaming. As Apple reduces the latency of its wireless earphones, the use cases for them will only expand further, which is exciting.

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Satechi Debuts Cleverly-Designed USB-C Apple Watch Charger

Source: Satechi

Source: Satechi

Satechi began selling a new MFi-certified Apple Watch charger today with a clever design that looks perfect for iPad Pro users.

The charger, which is made of space gray aluminum and retails for $44.99 in the US, has a USB-C connector that plugs directly into devices with USB-C ports. Attached to an iPad Pro while using a Smart Keyboard Folio, you can charge your Watch and conveniently see the time thanks to the Watch’s Nightstand Mode. Satechi includes a short USB-C male to female cable in the box for situations where you don’t want the charger connected directly to a device, such as a MacBook Pro where it would block other USB-C ports.

I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but this charger looks like it would have been perfect when I was traveling last week, so I ordered one immediately. During that trip, I worked on my iPad Pro on and off throughout the day, and Satechi’s charger would have been an excellent way to charge my Watch and had a minimal impact on the iPad Pro’s large battery.

For a limited time you can use the coupon code GIFTSATECHI to get Satechi’s USB-C Magnetic Charging Dock for Apple Watch for 20% off.



Apple, Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance Announce Project Connected Home Over IP

In a press release today, Apple announced that it is part of a new working group with Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance called Project Connected Home over IP. According to Apple’s press release:

The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.

Apple says smart home device makers IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian will also contribute to the project. The group wants to make it easier for manufacturers of smart home devices to integrate with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant and will take an open source approach to the development of the joint protocol.

This is fantastic news. To date, many smart home devices have adopted support for some, but not all, smart assistants. It has also become all too common for companies to announce support for certain assistants was coming to their products only to delay or abandon it altogether. With a unified approach across the three major companies with smart assistants, support will hopefully be more consistent in the future.


Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR Unboxings and Impressions

Earlier today, Apple began accepting orders for the all-new Mac Pro, which will start shipping to customers in 1-2 weeks. Reminiscent of what Apple did when it released the iMac Pro, the new Mac Pro was provided to a very limited set of reviewers with video production experience in advance of pre-orders.

Marques Brownlee shares his impressions after using the Mac Pro and two Pro Display XDRs to edit all of his YouTube videos for the past two weeks. His main takeaways? “One, it’s really quiet, Two, it’s really fast.” So fast, in fact, that he was able to render 8K video more quickly than the time it would take to watch.

For two unboxings and a look at the setup process, be sure to watch these videos by Justine Ezarik and Jonathan Morrison.

To learn more about what it’s like to edit video on using Final Cut Pro X, a new Mac Pro, and Pro Display XDR, don’t miss Episode 514 of Mac Power Users on Relay FM, on which David Sparks and Stephen Hackett interview Thomas Grove Carter.

Finally, director and photographer Vincent Laforet shares his impressions of Apple’s newest hardware on his blog along with the first project he created with it.

More than anything else, the thing that struck me about each of the impressions shared by this small group is their sense of wonder and amazement at the speed and power of the new Mac Pro. This isn’t a computer for most people, but if you need it, the Mac Pro clearly opens up new possibilities.


Apple Begins Accepting Pre-Orders for the New Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR with Shipping Beginning in 1-2 Weeks

First revealed at WWDC this past June, Apple has begun taking pre-orders for its next-generation Mac Pro and 32-inch Pro Display XDR with in-store availability and shipping beginning in 1-2 weeks.

The new Mac Pro’s specs are a huge step up from the previous cylindrical model. As we reported from WWDC in June:

The system’s processor is an Intel Xeon W available in 8, 12, 16, 24, and 28-core configurations powered by a 1.4 kilowatt power supply. The processors also feature large L2 and shared L3 caches and 64 PCI Express lanes. The 8, 12, and 16-core models support 32, 48, 96, 192, 384, and 758GB memory configurations, with the 24 and 28-core models also supporting 1.5TB of memory using a six-channel architecture and 12 easily accessible DIMM slots. There are also a total of eight PCI expansion slots, four of which are double-wide, three of which are single-wide, and one of which is a half-wide slot preconfigured with Apple’s I/O card. The Mac Pro also supports up to 4TB of SSD storage and features Apple’s T2 chip.

Mac Pro

Mac Pro

The graphics options are similarly impressive:

The system supports two MPX Modules with a total of up to 4 GPUs. Configurations include a single AMD Radeon Pro 580X, single AMD Radeon Pro Vega II, or AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo, which features two GPUs. Two MPX Modules with AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duos provide 56 teraflops of compute power and 128GB of high-bandwidth memory, for handling the most demanding video compositing and 3D rendering tasks, for example. The new Mac Pro also introduces Apple Afterburner, a hardware accelerator card that can process up to 6.3 billion pixels per second, which allows up to 3 streams of 8K ProRes RAW, 12 streams of 4K ProRes RAW, or 16 streams of 4K ProRes 422 video all at 30 frames per second.

A look inside the new Mac Pro.

A look inside the new Mac Pro.

The new Mac Pro, which starts at $5,999 and can be configured well into five figures, is available for immediate pre-order on apple.com with in-store availability and shipping beginning in 1.2 weeks. In total, there are two base configurations – tower and rack mounted versions – each of which can be further customized on Apple’s website. Apple’s website also revealed that the optional Mac Pro wheels will cost $400.

As you would expect from a pro-level desktop Mac, there are numerous options for processors, system memory, storage, graphics, and more. Equipped with the most expensive of every hardware option, you can spend over $50,000 on a Mac Pro, which is a very large sum, but one that professionals in industries like film and music will likely be willing to pay to eliminate bottlenecks in their production workflows.


The Pro Display XDR.

The Pro Display XDR.

Apple has also announced availability of the Pro Display XDR, which was shown off alongside the Mac Pro at WWDC.

The new display is 32 inches diagonally with over 20 million pixels, P3 wide color gamut, and 10-bit color, which Apple says results in over 1 billion colors. The display can sustain 1,000 nits of brightness with 1,600 nit peaks and features a 1 million to 1 contrast ratio. The company also offers an optional matte finish that etches the screen’s glass at a nanometer scale, which adds $1,000 to the price.

The Pro Display XDR is available for pre-order now starting at $4,999. A model with a nano-etched anti-glare finish model begins at $5,999. The display’s stand is sold separately for $999, as is the VESA adaptor, which is is $199.