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Apple Shares Open Source Resources for Password Manager Apps

Today on Apple’s developer site, the company announced the release of new resources for password manager apps:

Apple has created a new open source project to help developers of password managers collaborate to create strong passwords that are compatible with popular websites. The Password Manager Resources open source project allows you to integrate website-specific requirements used by the iCloud Keychain password manager to generate strong, unique passwords. The project also contains collections of websites known to share a sign-in system, links to websites’ pages where users change passwords, and more.

The open source project can be accessed on GitHub.

Apple has continually deepened its investment in the area of password management with iCloud Keychain upgrades in recent years and new APIs for third-party apps. Today’s announcement takes things a step further down the path of openness and collaboration, enabling apps to share important site-specific information with one another so that users have the best, most secure experience possible no matter their choice of password manager.

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Apple’s Tim Cook Publishes Open Letter Addressing Racism in America

Today, Apple CEO Tim Cook published an open letter addressing racism in America. In the letter, which is currently featured on the apple.com homepage, Cook explains:

Right now, there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions. To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.

That painful past is still present today — not only in the form of violence, but in the everyday experience of deeply rooted discrimination. We see it in our criminal justice system, in the disproportionate toll of disease on Black and Brown communities, in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive.

To play its part in combating racism, Cook says Apple will redouble its efforts on social programs and inclusion initiatives:

But we must do more. We commit to continuing our work to bring critical resources and technology to underserved school systems. We commit to continuing to fight the forces of environmental injustice — like climate change — which disproportionately harm Black communities and other communities of color. We commit to looking inward and pushing progress forward on inclusion and diversity, so that every great idea can be heard. And we’re donating to organizations including the Equal Justice Initiative, which challenge racial injustice and mass incarceration.

Cook’s letter is important not just as a statement of where Apple stands on racism but as an example of the sort of leadership role tech companies can take to address the systemic causes of it.

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Tot’s New Share Extension

Craig Hockenberry, writing on The Iconfactory blog:

We’re happy to announce a new version of Tot with some features frequently requested by the app’s legion of fans.

The main focus of today’s release are system extensions that allow Tot to co-exist with other apps. To this end, we’ve added a Sharing extension for both iOS and macOS. Additionally, there’s also a widget for iOS that lets you quickly access any of Tot’s dots. Like everything else in Tot, attention was paid to minimizing friction, allowing information to be collected as quickly as possible.

Tot’s new share extension is, quite possibly, the best one I’ve ever tried for a plain text note-taking app. In an intuitive, compact UI, the extension offers everything I need: I can pick one of Tot’s seven dots; I can choose to append or prepend text to a dot; the extension even lets me pick the number of line breaks I want to put between a dot’s existing content and the new text I’m inserting into a note. And here’s the best part: the upper section of the share extension’s popup has a full, scrollable preview of the selected dot, so I can see what the entire note will look like before appending or prepending text. Tot is the first note-taking app I’ve used that gets this aspect of sharing text/links to an extension right.

Tot's new share extension

Tot’s new share extension

It may be considered a small enhancement to the app, but Tot’s new extension shows how much consideration went into designing an experience that is both powerful and willing to get out of the way as quickly as possible. I wish more note-taking apps offered a share extension similar to The Iconfactory’s app, which, months after its original release, I still use as my go-to scratchpad every day.

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The Inside Story of Mythic Quest’s Quarantine Episode

Last Friday Apple debuted a special new episode of its TV+ series Mythic Quest that was produced entirely during this season of quarantine. Lacey Rose at The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the co-creators of the show, Rob McElhenney and Megan Ganz, about the origins and challenges of the episode:

McElhenney pitched the idea to his bosses at Apple, who were immediately on board. To pull it off, he told a team in Cupertino, California, that the production would need 40 new iPhones and 20 sets of earbuds later that week. “This was a Monday, and I said, ‘If we have them by Friday, I think we could pull this off. Is that possible?’” he recounts by phone. “There was a rep on the call who didn’t skip a beat. She said, ‘I already have them tracked down. They’re in L.A. and I can have them to you by this afternoon.’”

Three weeks later, Mythic Quest: Quarantine was shot, edited and ready to air. McElhenney and the programmers at Apple feel so strongly about the finished product, which will drop on Friday, that they’re submitting it for Emmy consideration. “In the beginning, I think there was a real possibility that it would be a nightmare,” says Nicdao, “but by the end, I was ready to do three more.”

I watched the episode over the weekend, and it really is something special. It beautifully captures the human experience of this pandemic, confronting the dark moments while also providing a lot of joy. I won’t be at all surprised if it wins an Emmy.

If you’re interested in TV production at all, the full interview goes into lots of nitty gritty details that are fascinating and well checking out.

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Apple to Release Tom Hanks WWII Drama on TV+

Initially slated for release by Sony next month, Apple has picked up a WWII navy drama starring Tom Hanks called Greyhound that will stream on the company’s TV+ service. The movie that Hanks wrote was originally scheduled for theatrical release next month by Sony Pictures on Father’s Day weekend in the US. Instead, the film will debut on TV+. There’s no word from Apple yet about when Greyhound will become available to its subscribers.

According to Deadline, which broke the story:

For Apple, this is further indication the company is becoming a major player in features, as this marks its biggest picture commitment. The Apple TV+ slate includes Beastie Boys Story, the docus Dads from director Bryce Dallas Howard and the Sundance acquisition Boys State as well as On the Rocks starring Bill Murray, Rashida Jones and directed by Sofia Coppola. Streaming now is 2019 Sundance Film Festival selections Hala and The Elephant Queen. The service also premiered the George Nolfi-directed The Banker, which stars Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson and Nia Long.

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing movie theaters worldwide, movie studios have released many smaller-budget films straight to video streaming services. However, those movies have primarily appeared on multiple streaming services simultaneously. Greyhound is unique because it’s a big-budget film featuring a big-name actor, which will be available to TV+ subscribers only.

With the economic pressures facing the movie studios, video streaming is poised to play an even larger role in the industry. By picking up Greyhound, Apple has made it clear that it intends to play a leading role in the film industry’s evolving future.

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David Smith’s watchOS 7 Wishlist

David Smith, developer of Watchsmith and a host of other Apple Watch apps, shared his watchOS 7 wishlist today. With his pedigree, there’s no one I trust more to make a thoughtful, realistic, well-informed list of requests for watchOS than Smith. For example, here’s an excerpt of his introduction:

I am fully aware of the constraints of the Apple Watch. I’ve spent the last 6 months pushing the limits of what is possible for it and have seen all the corners of its use, where it completely falls apart.

Nearly every one of these ideas or features involves a tradeoff. Either between battery life and capability or between complexity and intuitiveness. I suspect Apple’s own internal list of ideas and possibilities far outstrips my own. The reason they haven’t built a feature yet isn’t because they haven’t thought about it.

Instead it is quite the opposite. They have chosen explicitly to not do it yet. This is the tricky calculus involved in evolving a platform. If they push too fast, too soon on the capability side then they may end up destroying the battery life of the device. Or if they add too many features then they might end up with a jumbled mess that users can’t understand.

I don’t envy the leadership that has to sit down and make the hard calls of what to do, when.

Some of the features he mentions that are at the top of my own list include rest days for activity tracking, true independence, and multiple complications. The full list is well worth exploring, and offers valuable insight into what we might see revealed next month.

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