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Homecam for Apple TV Adds Room-Based Accessory Details and Controls

I first covered Aaaron Pearce's Homecam app last week, noting how this is the app you need to have if you own multiple HomeKit cameras and want a dashboard to monitor them all at once.

I wrote:

Homecam displays a live grid of all the HomeKit-enabled cameras in your house. That's it. Instead of having to look for cameras in specific rooms or at the bottom of the main accessories list in Apple's Home app, you can launch HomeCam and see them all at once. Then, you can tap on a camera to watch live footage in full-screen, and optionally add a camera to the Today widget as well. Soon, you'll also be able to control accessories in the room where the camera is located.

Homecam's widget is particularly impressive as it can also display live footage from each camera without having to load the main app – and it works both over WiFi and with remote access on cellular connections. I can't recommend Homecam enough if you own multiple HomeKit cameras and have been looking for a quick way to switch between them.

While my story focused on iOS, Homecam is also available on the Apple TV, where it takes advantage of the big screen to let you keep an eye on even bigger real-time video feeds from HomeKit cameras around the house. And today, Homecam for tvOS received a substantial update with a feature I hope Pearce will soon bring to the iOS version as well: room-based accessory details and controls.

In the new Homecam for Apple TV, you can long-press on the Siri Remote to bring up a menu that lists controls for sensors, switches, and lights located in the same room as the camera. This allows you to, say, monitor your sleeping baby and progressively dim the lights, or remotely check on the state of any appliance connected to a smart plug. In addition, Homecam can now pull in details from sensors (for temperature, humidity, and air quality) and overlay them on the full-screen video, so you can see what the temperature is, turn the fan off, and visually confirm that it worked.

I've been testing this Homecam update for the past couple of days, and, while I continue to fundamentally dislike the Siri Remote's fiddly touchpad, it was fun to watch the dogs sleep on the sofa and wake them up by changing the color of the lights or turning the TV on and off (yes, we did apologize to them with treats afterwards). Pairing a live video feed from a HomeKit camera with data layers and controls from the same room makes perfect sense, and I hope this feature makes it to the iOS app soon.

Homecam for iOS and tvOS is available on the App Store at $4.99.

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Motherboard Offers Inside Look at iFixit’s iPhone X Journey

After several years of inquiries, Jason Koebler and the team at Motherboard were granted permission last November to follow iFixit on its journey of tearing down the latest iPhone. Video of that job, which included a plane ride from California to Australia for the iPhone X's launch, is now available.

iFixit is best known for its commitment to tearing down new tech as soon as it becomes available, but as the video documents, the company's primary mission is to equip people to repair their devices. Whether you've followed iFixit's work in the past or not, the video is a fascinating look into the efforts that fuel each device teardown.

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The Reliable Simplicity of AirPods

Chris Welch, writing for The Verge on AirPods' advantage over other wireless earbuds:

AirPods are the best truly wireless earbuds available because they nail the essentials like ease of use, reliability, and battery life. There are alternatives that definitely_ sound_ better from Bose, B&O Play, and other. But they often cost more and all of them experience occasional audio dropouts. AirPods don’t. I’d argue they’re maybe the best first-gen product Apple has ever made. Unfortunately, I’m one of the sad souls whose ears just aren’t a match for the AirPods — and I’m a nerd who likes having both an iPhone and Android phone around — so I’ve been searching for the best non-Apple option.

But some 14 months after AirPods shipped, there’s still no clear cut competitor that’s truly better at the important stuff. They all lack the magic sauce that is Apple’s W1 chip, which improves pairing, range, and battery life for the AirPods. At this point I think it’s fair to say that Bluetooth alone isn’t enough to make these gadgets work smoothly. Hopefully the connection will be more sturdy once more earbuds with Bluetooth 5 hit the market. And Qualcomm is also putting in work to help improve reliability.

I haven't tested all the wireless earbuds Welch has, but I have some anecdotal experience here.

A few months ago, I bought the B&O E8 earbuds on Amazon. After getting a 4K HDR TV for Black Friday (the 55-inch LG B7), I realized that I wanted to be able to watch a movie or play videogames while lying in bed without having to put bulky over-ear Bluetooth headphones on. Essentially, I wanted AirPods for my TV, but I didn't want to use the AirPods that were already paired with my iPhone and iPad. I wanted something that I could take out of the case, put on, and be done with. So instead of getting a second pair of AirPods, I decided to try the E8.

I like the way the E8 sound and I'm a fan of the Comply foam tips. The case is elegant (though not as intuitive as the AirPods' case) and the gestures can be confusing. My problem is that, despite sitting 3 meters away from the TV, one of the earbuds constantly drops out. I sometimes have to sit perfectly still to ensure the audio doesn't cut out – quite often, even turning my head causes the audio to drop out in one of the E8. I'm still going to use these because I like the freedom granted by a truly wireless experience and because I've found the ideal position that doesn't cause audio issues, but I'm not a happy customer. Also, it's too late to return them now.

A couple of days ago, I was doing chores around the house. I usually listen to podcasts with my AirPods on if it's early and my girlfriend is still sleeping, which means I leave my iPhone in the kitchen and move around wearing AirPods. At one point, I needed to check out something outside (we have a very spacious terrace – large enough for the dogs to run around) and I just walked out while listening to a podcast.

A couple of minutes later, the audio started cutting out. My first thought was that something in Overcast was broken. It took me a solid minute to realize that I had walked too far away from the iPhone inside the house. I'm so used to the incredible reliability and simplicity of my AirPods, it didn't even occur to me that I shouldn't have left my iPhone 15 meters and two rooms away.


Twitterrific Adds Multi-Account Features, Follower and Following Lists, and More

Hot on the heels of Twitter’s abandonment of its official Mac client last week, The Iconfactory announced new Twitterrific features and a price reduction.

One of the highlights of the update is enhancements to multi-account support. If you have more than one Twitter account set up in Twitterrific, right clicking on the reply, quote, retweet, or like buttons displays a popup window for choosing which account you want to use for each of those functions. Alternatively, if you are in the middle of composing a reply or quote-tweet, click on your avatar in the compose window to switch the account from which it will be sent.

The Iconfactory has added several other nice refinements too:

  • Lists of a person’s followers and who they follow have been added to user profiles.
  • Avatars now include verified and protected status badges, although this can be turned off in Twitterrific’s settings.
  • There is a setting to turn off tweet streaming, so your timeline can only be refreshed manually.
  • Georgia is a new font alternative in the app’s preferences.

Twitterrific for Mac has come a long way since the commencement of its crowdfunding campaign last winter, and many of the shortcomings of version 1.0 that I highlighted in my review last October have been addressed. It’s fantastic to see Twitterrific continue to grow and evolve, especially now that Twitter has walked away from its Mac app.

To celebrate the one year anniversary of Project Phoenix, the crowdsourced Kickstarter project that relaunched Twitterrific on macOS, the price of the app has been reduced from $19.99 to just $7.99. Twitterrific is available on the Mac App Store.


A History of the Xserve: Apple’s One Rack Wonder

Within the next few months, macOS Server as we know it today will be going away, with many of its services being deprecated. Things like hosting calendars, contacts, email and wikis are going away as Apple focuses the product on "management of computers, devices, and storage on your network."

This shouldn't come as a surprise. macOS Server has been languishing for years, with many of its most common features being integrated into the mainstream version of macOS.

For fans of macOS Server, this just another in a long string of disappointments over the years. But none of them were as big as the cancellation of the Xserve, Apple's rack-mountable 1U server, back in January 2011.

Remember this thing? Not many do.

Remember this thing? Not many do.

Running the risk of reopening old wounds, let's look back at this unusual product and its nine year lifespan.

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Remote for Mac: An iOS Remote Control for Your Mac [Sponsor]

Remote for Mac is an iOS app that lets you use your Mac from anywhere on your home network. Using just your iPhone or iPad as a trackpad and keyboard, you can launch apps or control system settings on your Mac.

Remote for Mac is perfect for controlling a Mac that serves as a media center. Instead of trying to balance a keyboard and trackpad in your lap while you sit on the couch or lie in bed, use Remote for Mac to navigate your Mac from your iPhone comfortably. You can also use Remote for Mac with AirPlay Mirroring on an Apple TV to browse your Mac on a big screen TV.

All you need to do is install a helper app on your Mac and use Remote for Mac on the same WiFi network to control system settings and apps and services like iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, Plex, Kodi, SoundCloud, Spotify, and VLC.

Remote for Mac isn’t just for Mac media servers though. The uses are only limited by your imagination. You can just as easily use the app to browse the web or read email on a Mac connected to your TV. Using the app’s keyboard and virtual trackpad makes navigation a breeze. When you’re finished, Remote for Mac can put your Mac to sleep, turn off your display, or even shut down your Mac.

Remote for Mac has a special giveaway for MacStories readers. The first 30 readers who visit this link will get a free copy of the app.

Take control. Download Remote for Mac from the App Store today.

Our thanks to Remote for Mac for supporting MacStories this week.


Official Twitter Client for the Mac Abandoned

In the time honored tradition of releasing bad news at the close of business on a Friday, Twitter announced via its Twitter Support account that it was removing its Mac client from the the Mac App Store and discontinuing support for the app:

Twitter gained a native Mac client when it acquired Tweetie for Mac from Loren Brichter in 2010, but the company’s support for the app over the years has been half-hearted at best. As John Gruber explained on Daring Fireball:

Twitter dumped Tweetie’s codebase years ago, of course, and their Mac app has been garbage ever since they did. It’s all fine, really, so long as they continue to allow third-party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific to exist. But this “Mac users should just use the website” attitude is exactly what I was talking about here as an existential threat to the future of the Mac.

Twitter’s move is not surprising given the history of the app. Most Mac users I know moved on to third-party clients years ago. However, Gruber’s broader point is an important one. There has been an increasing trend away from native Mac apps and towards web apps and cross-platform apps based on technologies like Electron. Many of these non-native solutions are resource hogs, and even the best often fail to take advantage of OS-level features, which makes them feel out of place among native apps. Perhaps the rumored Project Marzipan is designed to reinvigorate Mac development, although it’s hard to see that working if companies like Twitter simply don’t care to provide the best experience on macOS.


New iOS Apps Must Be Built with iOS 11 SDK and Support iPhone X Display Starting in April

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

Apple today sent out a notice to developers letting them know that starting in April of 2018, all new apps submitted to the App Store must be built using the iOS 11 SDK, which is included in Xcode 9 or later.

Furthermore, Apple says that all new apps designed for the iPhone, including universal apps, must support the iPhone X's Super Retina display.

"Must be built", unfortunately, doesn't mean apps have to support new features like drag and drop. Speaking of which, I don't think supporting the native resolution of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a requirement yet, and the device launched in November 2015.

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