Federico Viticci

9213 posts on MacStories since April 2009

Federico is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, and iOS productivity. He founded MacStories in April 2009 and has been writing about Apple since. Federico is also the co-host of AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps.

He can also be found on his three other podcasts on Relay FM – Connected, Canvas, and Remaster.

| Instagram: @viticci |

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USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Merged Under New USB 3.2 Branding

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors about the latest rebrand in USB spec land:

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), this week announced a rebranding of the USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 specifications, under the USB 3.2 specification. As outlined by Tom's Hardware, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 will now be considered previous generations of the USB 3.2 specification.

Going forward, USB 3.1 Gen 1 (transfer speeds up to 5Gb/s), which used to be USB 3.0 prior to a separate rebranding, will be called USB 3.2 Gen 1, while USB 3.1 Gen 2 (transfer speeds up to 10Gb/s) will now be known as USB 3.2 Gen 2.

It gets better though:

If the swap between USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 to USB 3.2 wasn't confusing enough, each of these specifications also has a marketing term. The new USB 3.2 Gen 1 with transfer speeds up to 5Gb/s is SuperSpeed USB, while USB 3.2 Gen 2 with transfer speeds up to 10Gb/s is known as SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps. The USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 specification with transfer speeds up to 20Gb/s is known as SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps.

Make sure to check out the comparison table on MacRumors to admire the full extent of these changes.

As someone who's been experimenting with USB-C accessories compliant with the USB 3.1 spec over the past few months, I can't even begin to stress how confusing for the average consumer all of this stuff can be. It took me days to wrap my head around the differences between the physical USB-C connector, the underlying specs it can support, and the DisplayPort compatibility mode – and I do this for a living. In my experience, if you're looking to buy modern USB accessories compatible with an iPad Pro or MacBook Pro, you're better off looking for a technical spec label rather than the "friendly names" such as "SuperSpeed", which manufacturers often fail to mention in their spec sheets.

Until today, if you wanted to buy USB-C accessories supporting the highest data transfer rates on the 2018 iPad Pro, you had to look for devices compliant with USB 3.1 Gen. 2; with today's rebrand, the 2018 iPad Pro supports USB 3.2 Gen. 2 for transfers up to 10 Gbps, but not the similarly-named USB 3.2 Gen. 2x2. I'm sure this is going to be so easy to explain to someone who's looking for the "fastest" USB-C cable for their iPad Pro.

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Using a Twitter Saved Search to Read Replies, Mentions, and Quoted Tweets in a Single View

Every few months, I like to use Twitter's official app for iPhone and iPad for a while and reassess its advantages over third-party clients, as well as its shortcomings. This is something I've been doing for several years now. While I've often come away unimpressed with Twitter's native offerings, switching back to Tweetbot or Twitterrific after a couple of days, it's been a week since I started using the official Twitter app on my iPhone and iPad again and I don't find myself craving Tweetbot's UI design or timeline as much as I thought I would.

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Eventail Widget Adds GoodTask Integration, New URL Buttons

I last covered Eventail in April 2018, when its developer Jozef Legeny brought support for the iPhone X and new color schemes to his compact calendar widget for iPhone and iPad. With version 3.1 released today, Eventail (which over the past year also gained support for overdue reminders and interactive mode) is adding integrations for popular third-party apps and a convenient shortcut to reopen links contained in events and reminders.

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Connected, Episode 231: Dozens of Invisible Footnotes

The boys dive into a sea of rumors after Federico explores San Jose's municipal websites, Myke gives everyone a gift and Stephen returns from a journey.

On this week's episode of Connected, we discuss the latest Marzipan rumors and consider the implications of a 6K display made by Apple. You can listen here.

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Jason Snell on Podcasting with Only an iPad Pro

Jason Snell's podcasting setup is similar to mine – he wants to hear his own voice, record his local audio track, and have a conversation with multiple people on Skype, who also need to hear his voice coming from an external microphone. And he wants to use one computer to do it all. Now he's figured out how to podcast from an iPad Pro with the help of an additional USB interface:

In the past, I’ve done something similar using the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB, a microphone that can output a digital signal using USB and an analog signal via an XLR cord simultaneously. The problem is that the last time I tried to use the ATR2100-USB with my iPad Pro, it didn’t return my own voice into my ears, making me unable to judge the sound quality of my own microphone. After years of having my own voice return to me, I strongly prefer not to record unable to hear my own voice. (I use in-ear headphones that largely shut out audio from the outside world, so the experience of speaking while not hearing yourself is even more profoundly weird than it would be with leaky earbuds.)

This time I wanted it all, or at least as close to all as I’m able to get with iOS in the mix: A pristine recording of my own voice, that same high-quality microphone audio also flowing across digitally to my podcast guests via Skype, and the ability to hear both my guests and myself at the same time.

The takeaway from the story isn't that Snell wanted to prove a point to spite Mac users – it's that he was able to travel with one computer instead of two (he would have used most of the same audio gear with a Mac too) and that he found an expensive, but real workaround to professional podcast recording on iPad Pro.

I don't currently have a USB audio interface like Snell's USBPre 2, but I may have to buy one before the summer so I can record podcasts from our beach house using only the iPad Pro. (That is, assuming the iOS 13 beta I'll have installed at that point doesn't have meaningful improvements for audio workflows.)

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Connected, Episode 230: Here’s the Thing about Code Names

Stephen solves a problem that has been plaguing the podcast, Federico has concerns about Apple's rumored news service and Myke is fighting a losing battle with AirPlay 2.

On this week's episode of Connected, I reveal something from my youth and we consider the potential of future Apple services. You can listen here.

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Connected, Episode 229: The Year of Stephen

Stephen was right, Angela is gone, Myke has a theory and Federico is automating his TV.

In this week's unjustly-titled episode of Connected, we share some thoughts on Apple retail stores and the changes coming to HomeKit in iOS 12.2. You can listen here.

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iPad Diaries: Using a Mac from iOS, Part 1 – Finder Folders, Siri Shortcuts, and App Windows with Keyboard Maestro

iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.

After several years without updates to a product that, somewhat oddly, "remained in Apple's lineup", the Mac mini was revived by the company last November with a major redesign geared toward pro users and designed for flexibility. As listeners of Connected know, one of the show's long-running jokes was that I would buy my last Mac ever as soon as Apple released a new Mac mini1; when it happened, I took the opportunity to completely rethink my home office with a new desk, well-specced Mac mini, and 4K display that supported both modern Macs and iPad Pros via USB-C.

Effectively, I had never owned a desktop Mac until2 this Mac mini arrived. I always preferred portable Macs to workstations, and over the years I moved from a late 2008 MacBook Pro to a 2011 MacBook Air and, in 2015, back to the (now Retina) MacBook Pro again. Over the past couple of years, however, and particularly since the introduction of iOS 11, my penchant for Mac laptops started clashing with the realization that the iPad Pro had become my de-facto laptop. I was using a MacBook Pro because I thought I needed a portable Mac machine just like when I started MacStories in 2009; in reality, the iPad had been chipping away at the MacBook's core tasks for a while. Eventually, I saw how my MacBook Pro had become a computer I'd open twice a week to record podcasts, and nothing more.

With the iPad Pro as my primary computer, the Mac's role in my life evolved into a fixed environment that was necessary for multi-track audio recording and Plex Media Server. And as I shared on Connected on several occasions, I realized that my workflow in 2018 wasn't the same as 2009 anymore: it no longer made sense for me to have a Mac laptop when what I really needed was a small, but powerful and extensible Mac desktop. That's why I started waiting for a new Mac mini, and my wishes were granted with the 2018 relaunch of the mighty desktop machine.

For the past three months, I've been busy setting up the Mac mini and optimizing it for the tasks that inspired its purchase. I bought external SSD drives (these two) to use for Plex and Time Machine backups; I set up a homebridge server to add unsupported accessories to HomeKit (such as our 2017 LG TV) and turn iTunes playlists into HomeKit scenes; I rethought my podcasting setup (I now have a Zoom H6 recorder and a taller microphone stand) and arranged my desk to make it easier to use the same UltraFine 4K display with the Mac mini and iPad Pro (I just need to plug in a different USB-C cable). Because this Mac mini is fast enough to handle 4K transcoding for Plex without breaking a sweat, I started using youtube-dl to enjoy 4K YouTube videos on iOS devices with the Infuse or Plex apps. I'm trying to take advantage of a powerful, always-on Mac server in any way I can, and I'm having lots of fun doing it.

This doesn't change the fact that the iPad Pro is my main computer, and that I want to interact with macOS as little as possible. Aside from recording podcasts using Mac apps, I rely on the Mac mini as a server that performs tasks or provides media in the background. Any server requires a front-end interface to access and manage it; in my case, that meant finding apps, creating shortcuts, and setting up workflows on my iPad Pro to access, manage, and use the Mac mini from iOS without having to physically sit down in front of it.

In this multi-part series, I'm going to cover how I'm using the 2018 iPad Pro to access my Mac mini both locally and remotely, the apps I employ for file management, the custom shortcuts I set up to execute macOS commands from iOS and the HomePod, various automations I created via AppleScript and Keyboard Maestro, and more. Let's dive in.

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  1. It was funny because everybody thought the Mac mini line was done. ↩︎
  2. Many years ago, I did use an iMac for a few months. However, I never considered that machine truly mine – it was set up at my parents' house (where it now sits unused) and I worked on it for a while until I moved in with my girlfriend a few months later. ↩︎

Inspecting JSON Files on iOS with Jayson

In writing about Workflow (then) and Shortcuts (now) for a living, at some point I realized that if I wanted to build more complex shortcuts to either deal with web APIs or store data in iCloud Drive, I had to learn the basics of parsing and writing valid JSON. The format is behind most of the web API-based Shortcuts I have shared here on MacStories1 and is one of the techniques I recently explained on Club MacStories when I built a shortcut to save highlights from Safari Reading List. The beauty of JSON is that, unlike XML, it's cleaner and more readable – provided you have a dedicated viewer that supports syntax highlighting and/or options to navigate between objects and inspect values. There's no shortage of such utilities on macOS, but this is the kind of niche that still hasn't been fully explored on iOS by developers of pro apps. That changes today with the launch of Jayson, created by Simon Støvring.

Readers of MacStories may be familiar with Støvring's name – he's the developer behind one of the most powerful and innovative pro apps of 2018, the excellent Scriptable for iOS. For this reason, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Jayson, a project that was born out of Støvring's personal frustration with the lack of a modern JSON viewer for iOS, has that same spark of innovation and integration with native iOS functionalities that set Scriptable apart last year. If you do any kind of work with JSON on your iPhone or iPad, you need Jayson in your life, and here's why.

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