Federico Viticci

9521 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, iPad, 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, and Unwind, a fun exploration of media and more.

He can also be found on his other podcasts on Relay FM: Connected and Remaster, two shows about Apple and videogames, respectively.

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How I Modded My iPad Pro with a Screen Protector, iPhone Holder, and Magnetic Stereo Speakers

My new, modular iPad Pro 12.9" setup.

My new, modular iPad Pro 12.9” setup.

Those who have been reading MacStories for a few years should know something about me: I love modding things. Whether it’s customizing the silicone tips of AirPods Pro or adding kickstands to iPad covers (which I don’t do anymore), there’s something about the idea of taking an object and modding it specifically to my needs that my brain finds deeply satisfying. I’ve done it with videogame consoles; I’ve done it with IKEA furniture1; and I’ve done it – once again – with my 12.9” iPad Pro.

A new generation of iPad Pros and Airs is rumored to launch in the near future, and with the Vision Pro coming in a few weeks, what better way to wrap up my usage of the M2 iPad Pro than covering the mods I’ve been using?

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The iPad Is Like Roadwork

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac, has a great analogy about the iPad platform that I wish I thought of before:

Here’s the thing about the iPad line: it’s always being worked on, and that work is never complete. You know, like roadwork. As a kid, I recall thinking Atlanta was only under construction for a few weeks. Oh, the naïveté.

[…]

The awkward thing about this never ending construction project is when a lower-end model get a “new” feature before a premium model. That’s what happened with the iPad 10 and the iPad Pro in 2022. The awkwardness was compounded by the fact that Apple released no new iPads in 2023. Instead, Apple introduced a third (but not third-gen) Apple Pencil. More roadwork.

I think this is a perfect encapsulation of the state of the iPad. For better or worse, it’s always being worked on. Not like how the Mac and iPhone are always “being worked on” (of course they are), but more in the sense that there’s always something that obviously needs to get fixed and we’re waiting for it.

And the funny thing is, I’ve been using the iPad as my primary computer for long enough now, I find its “current” state kind of charming at this point. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but why would you get a reliable computer that does the same reliable things for a good number of reliable years when you can experience the thrill of a platform that still feels like it launched two years ago when it is, in fact, 14 years-old and that perennially feels like it’s waiting for the next shoe to drop? Why join the navy when you can be a pirate? I’m only half-kidding with this. Besides the fact that, for me, no other computer Apple makes is as flexible as an iPad, part of the enjoyment is (again, for me) its quirky nature, constantly on the verge of improvement. (Please don’t send me this page.)

If there’s one thing you can say about the iPad line is that it’s never boring, for better or worse. If anything, we’re still blogging about it – 14 years later.

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The Case for the Fediverse

I truly enjoyed this piece by David Pierce, writing for The Verge, about the fediverse’s potential and how the ActivityPub protocol may be the key to turn the hand-wavy concept of “decentralized social media” into an ecosystem of dedicated products that are actually useful and interoperable:

In the world of ActivityPub, every post everywhere is made up of a sender, a message, and a URL. Every user has an inbox and an outbox for those messages. That’s the whole protocol in a nutshell. The simplicity is the point: since ActivityPub is not a product but a data format like PDF or JPG, what you do with those messages, those URLs, those inboxes and outboxes, is entirely up to you.

You could have a Twitter-like app that emphasizes text, or an Instagram-like one with a UI that shows photos first. Your federated YouTube could be full of everybody’s videos, or you could make TikTok by filtering only for short and vertical ones. You could use a WhatsApp-style messaging app that only cares about messages sent directly to someone’s inbox.

You could try to do all those things, or you could try to do something nobody’s ever been able to do before. You could build a news reader that only includes posts with links to news sites and automatically loads those links in a nice reading interface. You could build a content moderation tool that any fediverse app could use to filter and manage content on their platform. You could build the perfect algorithm that only up-ranks shitposts and good jokes, and license that algorithm to any app that wants a “Epic Posts Only” mode. You could build an app that’s just an endless feed of great stuff for NBA fans. You could build one that’s just for crypto true believers. You could build one that lets you swipe from one to the other depending on your mood.

As I wrote earlier this week, the more I read about ActivityPub and federation, the more excited I get about 2024. I’m fascinated by what companies like Flipboard are doing (for instance, they rolled out their federated video channel today, which you can follow on Mastodon as flipboard_videos@flipboard.video), and I’m seriously considering the different ways we could leverage various ActivityPub integrations in a future version of MacStories.

I didn’t have “get excited about social media again” on my 2023 bingo card, but here we are.

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GoodLinks Adds Even Deeper Shortcuts Integration with Ability to Retrieve Current Article, Selections, and More

The new Shortcuts actions for GoodLinks.

The new Shortcuts actions for GoodLinks.

A few weeks ago on AppStories, I mentioned to John that I was looking for the “Things of read-later apps”. What I meant is that I wanted to find an app to save articles for later that felt native to Apple platforms, had a reliable text parser, but, more importantly, featured deep Shortcuts integration to let me create automations for saved items. As I followed up after a few episodes, I realized the app I’d been looking for was the excellent GoodLinks, which we’ve covered on MacStories several times before.

Today, GoodLinks developer Ngoc Luu released a small update to the app that, however, cements it as the premier solution for people who want a read-later utility for iOS and iPadOS that also features outstanding Shortcuts support.

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Flipboard Begins to Federate

Flipboard founder and CEO Mike McCue, writing on the company’s blog about Flipboard going all-in on the Fediverse and ActivityPub:

Today we are beginning to open Flipboard to the Fediverse, a rapidly emerging part of the Web which includes social services like Mastodon, Threads, Pixelfed, Firefish and PeerTube all built on a revolutionary open protocol called ActivityPub.

What does this mean for you? In the next few months, everyone using Flipboard will be able to discover and follow a whole new group of writers, vloggers, artists, scientists, explorers, political leaders and millions of others who are posting content and conversing in the Fediverse. If you curate on Flipboard, not only will you have a lot more content to curate from, there will be millions more people to enjoy the Magazines and Storyboards you are curating. If you’re a publisher, creator or brand on Flipboard, you’ll start to see new visitors and engagement as people discover and share your content across the growing Fediverse.

If you’re already using the Fediverse, you’ll be able to discover more articles, videos and podcasts thoughtfully curated by Flipboard’s many publishers and curators around the world. You’ll also be able to follow and converse with them directly from Mastodon, Threads and other ActivityPub apps.

I haven’t used Flipboard in years (even though I really liked the app back in the day), but I am so fascinated by this pivot, and I want to keep an eye on what Flipboard is doing.

The way I see it, if done correctly, Flipboard could become a fast, intuitive way for a lot of people to “get on the Fediverse” without the overhead of picking a Mastodon server and other technical jargon. Just grab the Flipboard app, create an account, and start following people from, say, Threads, Mastodon, and other ActivityPub-compatible sources. Once their multi-phase rollout is complete, you’ll have a federated account on flipboard.com that will be able to (I assume) read and post content on the Fediverse. Based on what McCue is saying, it sounds like that’s exactly what the future of Flipboard will be: a well-designed client for all kinds of federated sources.

In January we will release a new version of Flipboard that will show follows, favorites and boosts from the Fediverse. It will also enable replies to and from the Fediverse as well as blocking, muting and reporting.

I’m very keen to see how Flipboard will differentiate itself here from the typical timeline experience of clients such as Ivory and Ice Cubes, or even the Threads app. I’m also curious to understand if and how the new ActivityPub-infused Flipboard will be profitable (and I hope it will be).

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The Case for Clipboard Managers

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors, is right about clipboard managers for macOS: if you never used one, you really should – and there are plenty of options to choose from.

The magic moment of using a clipboard manager comes when you realize you need to access something that’s not the One True Item on the clipboard. If you’re using the standard Mac clipboard and you copy something priceless and then, a minute later, copy something useless—welp, too bad, the priceless thing is gone, and it’s never coming back. A good clipboard manager lets you use a keyboard shortcut or a menu item to view your previous clipboards, choose the item you want to fish out and bring it back.

And that’s my pitch for why macOS should have its own clipboard manager: Because it adds undo to the clipboard via a discoverable mechanism like a keyboard shortcut and an item in the Edit menu right next to Cut, Copy, and Paste. For me, it’s become part of my Mac muscle memory: command-backslash brings up a long list of clipboard history, from which I can retrieve what I want.

It gets better. Once you know that copying something to your clipboard doesn’t destroy what’s there, your use of the clipboard can become far more extensive. You lose the fear of wiping out something important, replaced with confidence that you can grab something in case you want it later and stash it away in the clipboard history.

I agree with Jason on the idea that Apple should build a native clipboard management solution: it’s odd that they never did (especially after shipping Universal Clipboard…in iOS 10) and that they’re leaving something as sensitive as clipboard data fully in the hands of third-party developers without at least a default option for most users and a modernized framework to store the clipboard’s contents.

The lack of Mac-like clipboard management is one of the things I miss most from macOS when I work on my iPad. To give you an example: as I was putting together this post on Threads tonight with some tips I discovered, I realized I had to go back and double-check something else in the Threads app, so I copied my post (Threads doesn’t support saving as draft yet) and closed the composer UI. A few minutes later, I had already forgotten that my “draft” was stored in the clipboard, so I copied something else, and with no way to get my original text back from the iPadOS clipboard, I had to rewrite the post from scratch. That wouldn’t have happened if I was using macOS (or if Threads supported post drafts, but that’s a different story).

The clipboard management situation is even gloomier on iPadOS and iOS since, unlike the Mac, third-party apps can’t run with background privileges to monitor changes to your clipboard. Again, I don’t understand why Apple doesn’t want to make a modern API for this with all the necessary privacy controls for users. Because of these limitations, over the years I’ve seen the market for third-party iOS and iPadOS clipboard managers dry up. Remember Pastebot for iOS? Copied? Clips?

To my knowledge, it seems like the two solid (and reputable) options left are Paste (which John reviewed this year) and PastePal, both of which I’m trying again. But those apps can’t do anything about the fact that clipboard managers for iOS and iPadOS can’t be as powerful as their Mac counterparts.

If Apple ever builds their own clipboard manager, I hope it’s a multi-platform feature with an API other apps can plug into.

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“Reliving My Memories in Apple Vision Pro Almost Brought Me to Tears”

Apple arranged a third round of press previews for the Vision Pro earlier this week, this time with a focus on experiencing spatial videos captured by journalists on iOS 17.2. I particularly liked Raymond Wong’s story, who got emotional while reliving a memory with the Vision Pro:

In one spatial video, my mom and I were having dim sum at a restaurant and I was explaining to her what the Apple Vision Pro is and what it does. It was recorded last weekend so the memory was fresh in my mind. Rewatching the video inside of the Vision Pro, it was as if we were transported back to the restaurant, sitting across from each other over a table of dishes. I kept tilting my head a lot, almost in disbelief at how surreal it was to see my mom talking, laughing, and eating in spatial video. My mom was who got me interested in technology and I don’t think I would have a career writing about new consumer tech if not for her interest in it. To me, these convos are very precious to me, so to see them replayed with a sense of presence really tugged at my heartstrings. At one point, I fought back a few tiny tears if only because there were three Apple reps sitting next to me. Self-aware of EyeSight and the possibility that they might be able to see my tears, I asked if they could see my eyes on the Vision Pro’s outside display. I was told they couldn’t. Pre-release software, you know? I obviously couldn’t confirm that myself as the person wearing Vision Pro.

At a certain distance and window size, spatial videos can look life-sized. But even when I “pushed” the video window farther away (enabled by looking at the bar at the bottom of the window and then pulling it closer toward me), seeing my mom in 3D made me emotional. I even laid back on the sofa and placed the virtual video on the ceiling.

When I tried the Vision Pro in June, I almost got emotional “being” in someone else’s memory with the stock footage Apple had prepared for us. I can’t wait to see what it’ll be like to relive your own memories with the depth and sense of presence that Vision Pro enables. I know I’ll be capturing a lot of spatial videos with friends and family during the holidays.

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Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 17.2 with Journal App, Messages and Music Improvements, and More

iOS 17.2.

iOS 17.2.

Today, Apple released iOS and iPadOS 17.2, the second major updates to the operating systems that launched in September and I reviewed on MacStories.

iOS and iPadOS 17.2 revolve around two kinds of enhancements: there are a series of updates to built-in apps (mostly Messages, Music, and Camera) and various tweaks to widgets; then, there’s the brand new Journal app for iPhone, which aims to reinvent the practice of journaling for iOS users with a built-in solution that’s deeply integrated with the OS and apps.

We’re going to cover Journal with a standalone article on MacStories from the perspective of someone who’s been keeping a journal in Day One for several years. In this story, I’m going to focus on what else is new in iOS and iPadOS 17.2 and the different improvements you’ll find throughout the system.

Let’s dive in.

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How ChatGPT Changed Tech Forever

I thoroughly enjoyed this story from a couple weeks ago by David Pierce, writing for The Verge about OpenAI’s ChatGPT turning one and how it created a revolution in the tech industry that no one saw coming:

We definitely seem to like being able to more quickly write business emails, and we like being able to ask Excel to “make this into a bar graph” instead of hunting through menus. We like being able to code just by telling ChatGPT what we want our app to do. But do we want SEO-optimized, AI-generated news stories to take over publications we used to love? Do we want AI bots that act like real-life characters and become anthropomorphized companions in our lives? Should we think of AI more as a tool or a collaborator? If an AI tool can be trained to create the exact song / movie / image / story I want right now, is that art or is that dystopia? Even as we start to answer those questions, AI tech seems to always stay one step and one cultural revolution ahead.

At the same time, there have been lawsuits accusing AI companies of stealing artists’ work, to which multiple US judges have said, essentially: our existing copyright laws just don’t know what to do with AI at all. Lawmakers have wrung their hands about AI safety, and President Joe Biden signed a fairly generic executive order that instructed agencies to create safety standards and companies to do good and not evil. There’s a case to be made that the AI revolution was built on immoral and / or illegal grounds, and yet the creators of these models and companies continue to confidently go ahead with their plans, while saying it’s both impossible and anti-progress to stop them or slow them down.

This all gets really heady really fast, I know. And the truth is, nobody knows where all this will be even 12 months from now, especially not the people making the loudest predictions. All you have to do is look at recent hype cycles — the blockchain, the metaverse, and many others — for evidence that things don’t usually turn out the way we think. But there’s so much momentum behind the AI revolution, and so many companies deeply invested in its future, that it’s hard to imagine GPTs going the way of NFTs.

I recommend reading the whole piece on The Verge. I quoted these paragraphs because they get right to the heart of the conflict that I also feel whenever I think about ChatGPT and similar tools. On the one hand, they were (largely? Partially?) built with data sets stolen from artists and creators (including this very website); on the other, the practical benefits of, say, using ChatGPT to help me proof-read my articles are undeniable.

I’ve been thinking about these issues a lot, perhaps because I make a living out of, well, creating content for the Internet. Is there a way to enjoy the power of LLMs without feeling weird and conflicted about how they were made in the first place? Will it even matter years from now? I don’t know the answer, but I’m hoping Apple will have one.

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