Posts in news

How Aqua and Bondi Saved Apple

Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels has published a book called Aqua and Bondi: The Road to OS X & The Computer That Saved Apple, a history of the critical role OS X and the iMac G3 played in Apple’s comeback from the brink of financial ruin in the late 90s. As Hackett explains in the introduction to the book,

OS X and the iMac’s stories are intertwined, but are often told separately. Apple’s strength is most obvious when its hardware and software are working in harmony, and that’s what was needed to save Apple in the late 1990s. Turns out, it worked.

Aqua and Bondi shares that story for those who haven’t read it before. It’s a consideration of Apple at a very interesting time in its life and the products it shipped.

I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Aqua and Bondi and love it. Not only is the story of OS X and the iMac G3 told in a compelling and accessible way, but the book is full of fantastic photos drawn from numerous sources, including Hackett’s own collection of colorful iMacs.

Aqua and Bondi is available from the iBookstore and as a PDF from aquaandbondi.com for $3.99.


Apple’s Plans for the (RED) Campaign Against AIDS Are Bigger Than Ever

Apple, which has a long-standing relationship with (RED), today announced that:

In honor of World AIDS Day, Apple® is offering more ways than ever for customers to join (RED) in its mission to create an AIDS-free generation. Apple is the world’s largest corporate contributor to the Global Fund, and this year marks its 10th anniversary supporting (RED) in the fight to end AIDS.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Tim Cook said the (RED) campaign is "designed to reach people via all the different ways in which a customer might touch us." Apple certainly seems to have accomplished Cook’s goal with an impressive array of plans this year:

  • 400 Apple Stores will turn the Apple logo on the stores red or display special window treatments;
  • 20 games are offering special (RED) content as in-app purchases, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Global Fund;
  • Apple will offer special products, including a Product (RED) smart battery case for the iPhone 7 (pictured in this article on The Verge), a (RED) leather case for the iPhone SE, a (RED) Beats Pill+ portable speaker, and (RED) Beats Solo3 wireless headphones, which will join the year-round Product (RED) products that Apple offers;
  • From December 1-6, Apple will donate $1 for every Apple Pay purchase made on apple.com and at Apple Stores up to $1 million;
  • Bank of America will donate $1 for each Apple Pay transaction made with its cards up to the same $1 million maximum and for the same period as Apple; and
  • iTunes has an exclusive (RED) holiday album from The Killers called Don’t Waste Your Wishes, 100% of the the US proceeds of which will be donated the Global Fund.

Tim Cook elaborated in his conversation with BuzzFeed on why Apple participates in events like the (RED) campaign against AIDS:

“We look for ways we think we can uniquely contribute to the world in which we live,” Cook said. “And we’ll always touch more people through our products than anything else. … It’s that area — an area in which we have expertise — where we think we can make a contribution that multiplies well beyond simply writing a check. We want to advocate for human rights in a way that people can look at what we’re doing and say ‘you know, I could be a part of something like that’ — ‘I could do something like that.’ For us this is critically important.”


Castro Makes Accessing Podcasts Easier Than Ever and Drops Price

Castro is designed around the philosophy of making it easy to access the podcast episodes you want to hear. The focus of Castro 2.0 when it launched in August was to make it simple to assemble a single queue of podcast episodes using an inbox to triage episodes from your podcast subscriptions.

Version 2.2 of Castro leverages its flat inbox/queue hierarchy to its advantage with new ways to get at your favorite podcasts. On the iPhone, Castro adds a new widget and 3D Touch support. By default, both display the first four podcast episodes in your queue with buttons featuring show art that can be tapped to start or resume an episode.

Castro’s widget can be expanded to reveal up to twelve episodes at the top of your queue. The use of show art makes identifying and playing an episode easy. The one downside of this approach though, is that there is no way to distinguish between different episodes if you have multiple episodes of the same show near the top of your queue.

In addition to displaying the first four episodes in your queue, 3D Touch adds shortcuts to other functionality, including the ability to kick off a search for new shows in Castro’s Discover tab using text on your clipboard, a feature that is handy if you read about a podcast somewhere that doesn’t include a 'subscribe' link. You can also set a sleep timer or jump directly to your inbox or queue with 3D Touch.

Finally, Castro 2.2 adds CarPlay integration, which I previewed in my CarPlay review last week. With just a queue and inbox to contend with, Castro makes navigating podcast episodes in your car a breeze. Instead of drilling through layers of playlists to find what you want to hear, you can go straight to your queue, or jump to your inbox if you’ve exhausted the queue, using the tabs at the top of Castro’s CarPlay interface.

Castro 2.2 is a free update for existing customers and $3.99 for new customers, a $1.00 price reduction from its launch price.


Studio Neat Reveals Canopy, a Magic Keyboard Case and Stand

Studio Neat has opened pre-orders for a new combination Magic Keyboard case and iOS device stand called Canopy. I used an Origami stand by Incase Designs with my early iPads, but they are designed for Apple’s previous generation Bluetooth keyboards, which were a little bulky and heavy for my taste. Canopy is a case for Apple’s latest Magic Keyboard that folds open to create a stand that can be used with any iOS device, which should make it more practical to carry regularly.

Federico spent time with a prototype of the Canopy over the Summer as he wrote his iOS 10 review. We haven’t had a chance to try the final design yet, but when we do, we’ll post a review.

For a preview of the Canopy, head on over to Studio Neat's website and check out the video preview of their upcoming product.


Daylite: A Business Productivity App for Mac and iOS [Sponsor]

Daylite is a business productivity app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Organize you and your team’s contacts, calendars, projects, tasks, emails, notes, and new business opportunities all in one app.

Track sales and set reminders for follow-ups. See a full history of all emails, calls, and notes for each customer. Customize your own pipelines to track sales and projects. View your whole team’s calendar to make scheduling meetings simple. Daylite even integrates with Apple Mail so you can update customer info, set tasks and reminders, and add appointments to your calendar – all without leaving Mail.

Automate lead generation from online web forms with Daylite & Zapier integration. When someone fills out a form on your website through Google Forms or Wufoo, a new contact and business opportunity are creating in Daylite. You can then segment leads for specific email campaigns and track all of your communication with them in Daylite.

Always have your business info no matter where you go. Daylite is a native app so you can access your information on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad even when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Read how businesses all over the world are becoming more efficient with Daylite.

Our thanks to Daylite for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Six Months with CarPlay

One hallmark of most Apple products is the tight integration between hardware and software. By controlling everything from the device to the apps running on it, Apple can design unique experiences that competitors have a hard time matching. Nothing highlights the advantage of that hardware/software interplay better than one of the few products where it's missing – CarPlay. It’s the exception that proves the rule.

Don’t get me wrong – I prefer CarPlay to any auto manufacturer’s entertainment system that I’ve used, but the projection of a custom iOS interface onto my Honda’s laggy touchscreen reminds me every time I poke at it that I’m seeing a mirage. It looks like an Apple product on the surface, but the resemblance is only skin deep. As soon as you interact with CarPlay on Honda’s hardware, the spell is broken. Siri goes a long way to help maintain the illusion, but it's a bridge too far that makes me long for an integrated solution that isn’t hamstrung by the Honda's hardware.

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Earn a Special Workout Achievement with a 5K on Thanksgiving Day

If you woke up and put on your Apple Watch this morning, you may have received a notification about a new Activity Challenge. The notification explains that you will be awarded a special achievement if you complete a run, walk, or wheelchair workout of at least 5k on November 24th, Thanksgiving Day in the US. The workout can be recorded using the Apple Watch’s Workout app or any third-party app that records workouts to the Health app. According to 9to5Mac.com, the new Activity Challenge appears to be US-only.

In addition to receiving a special 3D achievement badge, the Activity app on iOS adds that if you complete the challenge, you will get an iMessage sticker that you can share with others. This is the first time that Apple has created a special activity challenge around a holiday or other event. I’m excited to see Apple introduce new workout challenges and try new perks like iMessage stickers for completing challenges. By mixing it up and keeping the achievements fresh, it should encourage Apple Watch users to use the Workout app more frequently.


Workflow 1.6 Brings Revamped Gallery, Better Tools to Share and Import Workflows

Since version 1.0 launched nearly two years ago, Workflow has always offered the ability to share workflows with others. While somewhat simplistic, Workflow's 'Copy Link' button has allowed the proliferation of sites and communities aimed at sharing workflows with the app's users – here at MacStories, workflows are one of the key aspects of our MacStories Weekly newsletter, for instance.

With version 1.6, launching today on the App Store, the Workflow team is revising some of the features that have been in the app since the beginning, starting with the Workflow Gallery and major updates to how workflows are shared, installed, and explained to other users.

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Reddit Adds iPad Support

Reddit purchased third-party client Alien Blue in 2014. This past Spring, Reddit launched its first official client. Many of Alien Blue's features found their way into the official client. However, one notable exception was iPad support. As a result, Alien Blue for iPad remained on the App Store and, in fact, is still there.

Reddit's iPad version (right) adds wide margins to the content.

Reddit's iPad version (right) adds wide margins to the content.

Today, Reddit updated its official client to support the iPad. The UI of the iPad version is the same as the iPhone version, but with margins added to the left and right sides of the screen to avoid it looking like the content is stretched out. As a result there is a lot of white space if you use the app in landscape mode. I would have preferred to see a more creative use of the iPad’s added screen real estate, but the update is still better than using the scaled-up version of the iPhone app.