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Astropad Studio Enters the Professional iPad App Market

Astropad originally launched on the iPad in February 2015 as a drawing tool that pairs with your Mac. It serves as a second screen, allowing you to interact with Mac apps using multitouch on the iPad. The standard Astropad app remains available for a one-time payment of $29.99.

The iPad has changed a lot since February 2015. The introduction of two iPad Pro models, paired with multitasking features in iOS 9, enables more professionals than ever before to get their work done with an iPad. To better address the pro segment of the iPad market, today the makers of Astropad launched a new app called Astropad Studio.

Astropad Studio is a separate app from the original Astropad Standard.

Astropad Studio is a separate app from the original Astropad Standard.

Astropad Studio is focused on providing artists with customization options that tailor the app to their preferences and workflows. Central to this greater flexibility is the ability to perform special gestures that are customizable. This makes possible an assortment of two-handed workflows that are similar to what can be done with Microsoft's Surface Studio. One hand can use touch gestures for things like erasers and right-clicks, while the other hand can continue drawing with an Apple Pencil. Pencil use is also improved due to the option to customize pressure sensitivity to fit your preferences. The transfer speed from iPad to Mac has been bumped to a 40 MB/s max speed versus the 5 MB/s supported by the original Astropad app, helping create a more seamless iPad-to-Mac drawing experience. Another exclusive feature in Studio is its support for keyboard use, which adds to the workflow options available to users.

Two-handed workflows made possible by customizable gestures.

Two-handed workflows made possible by customizable gestures.

Astropad Studio follows a different business model than the original Astropad app, now dubbed Astropad Standard. It is a free download, but using it beyond the 7-day free trial requires a subscription: $7.99 monthly or $64.99 annually.

Though Astropad Studio isn't made for a casual Apple Pencil user like me, I'm always excited to see developers address professional users with their iPad apps. Because paid up front apps still can't offer free trials of any kind, my hope is that Apple's opening of subscription options to apps of all types will continue to expand options for pro users in the iOS App Store.


HealthView Review: Your Customized Health App

When it comes to health information on my iPhone and Apple Watch, I’m about as mildly interested as it comes – while I enjoy glancing at the metrics and measurements displayed on the Apple Watch, I usually stay away from the iPhone’s Health app.

There are two primary reasons for this: the Health app is pretty cluttered; and Health often gives me information that I really don’t care about. I’d like a “less is more” approach.

HealthView offers exactly that – rather than providing you information scattered throughout the app, you choose what you want to see, how you want to see it, and when it appears. Although it’s not as robust as Apple’s Health, HealthView may just be a better fit for your needs.

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App Extensions Are Not a Replacement for User Automation

Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that Apple decided to combine their engineering resources to form app teams that delivered both iOS and macOS versions of applications.

In such a scenario it may seem logical to retain application features common to both platforms and to remove those that were perceived to require extra resources. Certainly Automation would be something examined in that regard, and the idea might be posited that: “App Extensions are equivalent to, or could be a replacement for, User Automation in macOS.” And by User Automation, I’m referring to Apple Event scripting, Automator, Services, the UNIX command line utilities, etc.

Let’s examine the validity of that conjecture, beginning with overviews of App Extensions and User Automation.

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The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth Released on iOS

The long-anticipated iOS version of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is now available on the App Store roughly one year after it was rejected by Apple. Isaac is a rogue-like, dungeon crawler game that was originally released in 2014 by indie game studio Nicalis. Apple rejected the iOS version of Isaac in early 2016 for depicting violence against children. Late yesterday, the game appeared on the App Store with a 17+ rating.

Apple isn't the first platform owner to reject Isaac. In 2012, Nintendo initially blocked Isaac from its 3DS eShop, but ultimately relented, publishing the game for the 3DS and Wii U.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is available on the App Store for $14.99.


Connected, Episode 124: A Bunch of Enterprising Italians

This week, the aging hosts of Connected remember their first reactions to the iPhone and talk about the value of independent blogging.

If you ever wondered how I got my very first iPhone, this week's Connected has the answer. You can listen here.

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Chris Lattner Is Leaving Apple

Update: Chris Lattner has landed at Tesla Motors according to this Tesla blog post and the following tweet from the official Tesla account:


Chris Lattner designed and built most of LLVM as a graduate student. In 2005, he joined Apple where LLVM was integrated into Apple’s developer tools. Beginning in 2010, Lattner designed and built much of Swift, which was introduced to the world by Apple at WWDC in 2014.

Today, Lattner announced on the Swift mailing list that he is leaving Apple:

Since Apple launched Swift at WWDC 2014, the Swift team has worked closely with our developer community. When we made Swift open source and launched Swift.org we put a lot of effort into defining a strong community structure. This structure has enabled Apple and the amazingly vibrant Swift community to work together to evolve Swift into a powerful, mature language powering software used by hundreds of millions of people.

I’m happy to announce that Ted Kremenek will be taking over for me as “Project Lead” for the Swift project, managing the administrative and leadership responsibility for Swift.org. This recognizes the incredible effort he has already been putting into the project, and reflects a decision I’ve made to leave Apple later this month to pursue an opportunity in another space. This decision wasn't made lightly, and I want you all to know that I’m still completely committed to Swift. I plan to remain an active member of the Swift Core Team, as well as a contributor to the swift-evolution mailing list.

Working with many phenomenal teams at Apple to launch Swift has been a unique life experience. Apple is a truly amazing place to be able to assemble the skills, imagination, and discipline to pull something like this off. Swift is in great shape today, and Swift 4 will be a really strong release with Ted as the Project Lead.

Note that this isn’t a change to the structure - just to who sits in which role - so we don’t expect it to impact day-to-day operations in the Swift Core Team in any significant way. Ted and I wanted to let you know what is happening as a part of our commitment to keeping the structure of Swift.org transparent to our community.

Lattner’s contribution to Apple’s developer tools has been enormous. His departure is a big loss for Apple.

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Apple Issues Statement Regarding Consumer Reports’ Battery Tests

Shortly before the winter holidays, Consumer Reports announced that the new MacBook Pro had failed to earn its ‘recommended’ rating due to poor battery life caused by Safari. Apple disputed the testing done by Consumer Reports and worked with it over the holidays to track down the discrepancy between its testing and Consumer Reports’ results. Today, Apple released the following statement to a handful of outlets, including iMore and The Loop:

"We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results," Apple told iMore. "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we've ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we're glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro."

There have been reports of battery life issues with the MacBook Pro that are unrelated to Safari, but this should put the Safari issues raised by Consumer Reports to rest.


Tony Fadell Reflects on the Development of the iPhone

Before an iPhone was lost in a bar in San Francisco, there was Tony Fadell's moment of panic:

He'd just got off a plane, felt his pockets, and... nothing.

"I was walking through every scenario thinking about what could happen," he told me. None of them ended well.

After two hours, relief - thanks to the efforts of a search party that didn’t know what it was trying to find.

"It fell out of my pocket and it was lodged in between the seats!"

Fadell, who was a key player in the development of the iPod, was part of the team that developed the original iPhone. In an interview with the BBC, Fadell argues that the fact that Apple started development from the perspective of the iPod that was important to the iPhone's success because:

While competitors like Microsoft were trying to shrink the PC into a phone, Apple was looking to grow the iPod into something more sophisticated.

At the same time, focusing on the iPod's click wheel had its downsides too:

"We were turning it into a rotary phone from the sixties," Fadell remembered. "We were like, 'This doesn’t work! It's too hard to use'."

Fortunately, another group within Apple was working on a ping-pong table-sized touchscreen that they were able to shrink down to a size that could be used for the iPhone.

The BBC's interview with Fadell is full of interesting anecdotes about the years leading to the announcement of the iPhone and is required reading for iPhone history buffs.

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More Details Revealed About Apple Music’s Carpool Karaoke

Although there isn’t a launch date yet, new details emerged about the first show slated to debut on Apple Music. Variety reports that Carpool Karaoke will air 16 half-hour episodes based on the James Corden bit from the ’Late Late Show.’ According to Variety:

the series won’t have a single host in the drivers’ seat. Instead, the trio conceived of a format that is more of an interview series than longer versions of the “Late Late Show” bit, with a different “host” for every episode.

The show will also feature an eclectic mix of interview pairings including:

more traditional musical choices like John Legend with Alicia Keys and Seth MacFarlane with Ariana Grande, but also more outside-the-box choices like Billy Eichner in the passenger seat, surrounded by the band Metallica, or former NFL star and talk show host Michael Strahan with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

The Carpool Karaoke described by Variety sounds very different from the ‘Late Late Show’ segment it’s based on, which is probably a good thing considering the show is a half-hour long.

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