John Voorhees

1777 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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Two Months with Apple’s New M1 iMac

The very first Mac I owned was an iMac. That white polycarbonate, first-gen Intel iMac was the epitome of a family computer, sitting in a central location where everyone in my family could use it for work, school, and projects. I had an early aluminum iMac too, but gradually, portable devices took over, satisfying everyone’s computing needs, and the iMac fell by the wayside.

In the ten years or so since then, the Macs I’ve bought for myself have been laptops and the Mac mini. It’s a flexible combination that has served me well. The mini isn’t as customizable as the Mac Pro, but it suited my needs well, allowing me to easily set up and tear down various peripheral configurations, which became even more useful when I started writing at MacStories. Combined with the MacBooks I’ve owned over the years for when I want to get away from my desk, I haven’t pay much attention to the iMac for a long time.

The iMac has come a long way since the first one I owned (left) and the latest M1 model (right).

The iMac has come a long way since the first one I owned (left) and the latest M1 model (right).

As a result, when Apple sent me an M1 iMac to test, I was curious to see how it would fit in in my home, but I didn’t expect it to rekindle my interest in an all-in-one Mac. Boy, was I wrong.

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Apple Music to Livestream Sold-Out Atlanta Listening Event for Kanye West’s Next Album, DONDA

In a Beats Studio Buds ad that aired tonight during Game 6 of the NBA finals, it was revealed and later confirmed by Def Jam Recordings that Apple Music will be live-streaming a listening event for Kanye West’s highly anticipated album DONDA. The sold-out event, which is being held at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, will be streamed Thursday, July 22nd at 8 pm Eastern, the day before the album officially drops.

The ad for Beats Studio Buds features American track star Sha’Carri Richardson, the sprinter who was poised to compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games before testing positive for marijuana use. As Richardson gets set to start a race, No Child Left Behind, a track from Kanye West’s upcoming album plays in the background. Rumors of DONDA’s release have been swirling for days, so the Friday release is not a shock to his fans.

Apple Music has participated in some livestream events in the past, such as the live premiere of Billie Eilish’s documentary ‘The World’s A Little Blurry,’ but such events have been few and far between. It’s good to see Apple Music getting involved with big events like this. With the pieces in place to stream audio or video, there’s a lot Apple could do to get involved in live performances too.



New Tokyo level of Skate City Will Debut Alongside Skateboarding Becoming an Official Olympic Sport

This Friday, the Olympics will begin in Tokyo, Japan, and for the first time, skateboarding will be on display as an official Olympic sport. To mark the occasion, Skate City, the Apple Arcade game produced by Snowman and developed by Agens Games, is releasing an update that adds Tokyo to the game’s collection of cities this Friday, July 23rd.

According to Ryan Cash of Snowman:

For the last few years we’ve been looking for an interesting way to tie a real-world event into something we make, but we never wanted to do anything that didn’t feel meaningful. When the Tokyo games were announced it was a no-brainer for us. Skateboarding’s coming to the Olympics for the first time in history, which is a triumphant moment for the sport. We knew we had to be part of it in some small way.

The new Tokyo level features 21 new challenges and 30 new goals in Endless Skate mode, along with additions to the game’s soundtrack, new decks and clothing options to unlock, and leaderboards.

Judging from the trailer, the latest expansion, which Snowman says is Skate City’s largest yet, looks fantastic. The cityscape is full of vibrant, neon colors that set it apart from the other cities in the game.

Skate City was one of the original Apple Arcade launch games, and it remains one of my favorite games released on the service so far. I’m eager to give it a try and plan to do so as soon as it’s released on Friday. I’ll be covering my first impressions of the game along with Alto’s Odyssey: Lost City, which is also produced by Snowman and got a big update last week, on this week’s episode of MacStories Unwind, which will be out later on Friday.


MacStories Unwind: Apple’s MagSafe Battery Pack, New Emoji, and Troubles with the HomePod Beta

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This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • MacStories Weekly
    • Federico kicks off a series of stories on his Obsidian setup
    • John shares his early experiments with Shortcuts for Mac

AppStories

Apple Arcade Update

Unwind


Emojipedia Publishes Renderings of Draft Emoji

The process of adopting new emoji as part of the Unicode character set continues, and today, Emojipedia has what it anticipates will be part of the Emoji 14.0 collection. These emoji represent the complete set of draft emoji that the Unicode Consortium will vote on in September, so there’s still a possibility that there could be changes. The approved emoji are expected to begin showing up on devices and in apps in late 2021 and into 2022.

The draft set of emoji include several smileys such as Melting Face, Face with Diagonal Mouth, and Saluting Face. There are also many new hand emoji in the set in different skin tones and combinations, including Handshake, Heart Hands, and Hand with Index Finder and Thumb Crossed. People include Person with Crown, Pregnant Man, and Pregnant Person. There’s also a Troll, which I expect will be popular, a nest with and without eggs in it, a Mirror Ball (someone on the Unicode Consortium is apparently a Taylor Swift fan or maybe Sarah McLachlan given the spelling), and Biting Lip.

Emojipedia is conducting a vote in connection with the new emoji to coincide with World Emoji Day, which is this Saturday:

You can vote for which you are most looking forward to in the Most Anticipated Emoji award, being drawn on July 17 aka World Emoji Day.

The images in this post include a handful of the draft emoji being considered by the Unicode Consortium as imagined by Emojipedia. The final designs will depend on each company that adopts them. Be sure to visit Emojipedia for all the details and the full set of renderings of the draft emoji.

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Apple Quietly Releases MagSafe Battery Pack

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple today released a $99 MagSafe Battery Pack accessory for the iPhone mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The white battery pack connects to an iPhone using Apple’s MagSafe connector to deliver 5W of power to your iPhone on the go. The battery pack can be charged by itself using a Lightning connector and power supply. Alternatively, the battery pack and an iPhone can be charged together using a Lightning cable and power supply, which delivers 15W of charging power when a 20W or higher power supply is used. There’s no official word on how much charge the battery pack holds, though MacRumors reports that images suggest it is a 1,460mAh battery, which is less than a single charge.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple’s battery widget can be used to monitor the charge held by the MagSafe Battery Pack. Apple’s support document for the accessory says that:

When you’re using your MagSafe Battery Pack to charge your iPhone, you might get a notification that says your iPhone will charge only up to 90%. To charge past 90%, open Control Center, press and hold the Low Power Mode icon*, then tap Continue.

Apple also says iOS 14.7 or later is needed to use the MagSafe Battery Pack.

The MagSafe Battery Pack has been rumored for a while, and with travel becoming an option for more people around the world and iPhones having aged since the release of the iPhone 12, the timing seems right for this accessory. Although the total charge the battery pack can deliver is less than a larger power brick, I like the portability of the MagSafe version and the fact that it will work with any current or future MagSafe-compatible iPhone.


Troubles with HomePod’s audioOS Beta

I’ve been running all of Apple’s betas, with the sole exception being watchOS 8. So far, the experience has been good. There are bugs, apps have crashed, and devices have restarted spontaneously here and there, but I haven’t been significantly slowed down on my iPhone, iPad, or Mac. In fact, I’m doing things like editing AppStories in Logic on Monterey, which isn’t the type of thing I’ve ever been able to do this early in a macOS beta.

However, audioOS, the OS that controls HomePods, has been as rough as Apple’s other OSes have been solid. I’ve been running the HomePod beta since the very beginning, and it’s been nothing but trouble. I haven’t seen overheating, which some users have reported, but I’ve had trouble with AirPlay and getting my HomePods, especially the minis, to stay connected to the Internet. So, when I heard that beta 3 was out and adds lossless streaming, I set out to update my HomePods right away.

My pair of original HomePods took a few tries, but I eventually got them updated using the Home app. The HomePod minis were more stubborn. The one in my office refused to connect to the Internet, so I couldn’t update it. I factory reset it not long ago, and I considered doing that again, but instead, I unplugged and replugged it, hoping that a restart would get it back on WiFi. I couldn’t tell if it had finished restarting, so I gave it a tap, which is when this started to play:

My HomePod was giving me Troubles alright.

My HomePod was giving me Troubles alright.

Yes, U2’s Songs of Innocence, the album that was given away to 500 million people with an iCloud account in 2014 that, as Russ Frushtick discovered and wrote about for New York Magazine, lives in an odd limbo in so many people’s music libraries around the world. Frushtick was frustrated because the album played automatically when he connected his iPhone to CarPlay. Was something similar at play here?

The odds that it was random chance certainly seemed too far-fetched to be a coincidence. With nearly 19,000 songs ripped, purchased, and added to my music library for well over a decade, I felt like I was being trolled by my HomePod mini as Bono belted out The Troubles. Even the title of the song felt like an elaborate troll.

I had to know, so I unplugged the HomePod mini a second time and then plugged it back in again. I waited a couple of minutes, tapped the top, and:

Not even the next song on the album.

Not even the next song on the album.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I also couldn’t help but wonder: Was I finger tapping Bono or Tim when I reached out to tap my HomePod mini?

Is that you in there Tim?

Is that you in there Tim?

Such is #betalife. The happy ending to the story is that after some more fiddling around, I managed to get my HomePod mini working again, playing my complete Music library, which is all I really care about.

All's well that ends well.

All’s well that ends well.

I’ve always thought the uproar over Songs of Innocence was a little overblown, but then again, I’m a U2 fan, even if that album isn’t anywhere near the top of my favorites. At least with The Troubles out of the way, I can see if I can stream some lossless Doja Cat now.