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Virtual: Space Motorbike

This week Federico and Myke discuss PS2 emulation on the PS4, Star Wars Battlefront, using a Bluetooth controller for iOS games, and why they aren't playing Fallout 4.

Speaking of MFi controllers – I've been playing some games with my Nimbus controller on the iPad Pro this week, and shared some thoughts with Myke on Virtual. You can listen here.

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AfterPad’s List of MFi Controller Compatible Games

Kevin MacLeod has been doing good work with AfterPad – unlike most gaming blogs, AfterPad is "dedicated to hardcore and indie gaming on iOS, with a special focus on cutting-edge technologies like MFi game controllers, AirPlay, and Metal". I've found myself checking out AfterPad on a daily basis, and Kevin's knowledge on MFi controllers has come in handy when buying games for the new Apple TV.

In addition to the blog, Kevin maintains a list of MFi controller compatible games. This is the kind of curation you don't even get from Apple on the App Store: games are organized by date, categories, collections, and you can also browse Editor's Choice picks and Kevin's reviews for selected games.

Great work, and one of my new favorite websites.


Serenity Caldwell on Apple Pencil

From Serenity Caldwell's first thoughts on the Apple Pencil:

It says something that Apple doesn't ship the Pencil with a "settings" app. Wacom does. So does Microsoft. Even some third-party styluses have preferences for adjusting your pressure choices.

Normally I would be annoyed by this. Everyone draws differently, and everyone's used to pressing against the screen in a different way.

But you know what? I agree with the company here. Apple is essentially saying: This is a tool, just like your HB pencil. You can't tell your HB pencil you want it to make lighter strokes. You have to learn how to use it. You have to trust it.

Serenity has been drawing digitally for over 16 years. She's been waiting for the Pencil for a long time, and I can't wait to see what she creates.


Apple Won’t Accept New Apps and App Updates December 22-29

With an update on their Developer website, Apple confirmed the annual iTunes Connect shutdown for the holidays that will prevent developers from releasing new apps and updates:

The busiest season on the App Store is almost here. Make sure your apps are up-to-date and ready for the winter holidays. New apps and app updates will not be accepted December 22-29, so any releases should be submitted, approved, and scheduled in advance. Other iTunes Connect functionality will remain available.

Because of your incredible apps, the App Store crossed 100 billion cumulative downloads. Revenue from the App Store increased 25% year over year, and the number of transacting customers grew 18%, setting a new all-time record. We want to thank you for all your hard work and dedication to our platforms.

As usual, developers who are making a new app or preparing an update should plan accordingly.


Sidefari Lets You Browse Two Webpages at Once with iOS 9 Split View and Safari View Controller

In my review of iOS 9, I noted how new iPad multitasking features lacked an important functionality that had long been available to desktop users: a way to view multiple screens of the same app side by side. Whether it's documents, conversations, or email threads, there's a clear utility in being able to split the same app in multiple instances, but that's currently not possible in iOS 9.

I'd argue that the ability to view multiple webpages at once would be even more useful than the aforementioned examples. And that's exactly what Sidefari, a $0.99 iPad-only app released today by Francisco Cantu, wants to provide a solution for.

Sidefari uses Safari View Controller to let you open a second webpage in Split View on your iPad. Unlike Browsecurely, Sidefari doesn't display Safari View Controller on the top of the app you're currently using – it's been designed, as the name suggests, as a side companion based on the Safari web views introduced with iOS 9. Whenever you find yourself needing to open two webpages and view them simultaneously, you can invoke Sidefari from the Slide Over app picker and enter Split View. At this point, you have some options: you can use the Sidefari extension to send a webpage from the main app to Sidefari (which needs to be in Split View already to open the URL directly), or you can paste a URL into Sidefari and open the webpage from your clipboard. Sidefari can also hold up to 50 items from your history in the app, but this can be disabled in the Settings.

Sidefari essentially acts as an on-demand Safari View Controller built into an app that does nothing else, and that's been made available for Split View. In its simplicity, I find Sidefari to be an ingenious idea for an app that uses a built-in technology to work around a limitation of Apple's multitasking design in iOS 9. By using Safari View Controller, Sidefari comes with a series of Safari features available by default (such as autofill and Reader); for Safari users, this is a superior alternative to using Safari and a browser like Chrome in Split View, as third-party browsers can't access user data and settings from Safari.1

Sidefari is a clever implementation of Split View and Safari View Controller, and it's only $0.99 on the App Store.

  1. They can, however, offer tabbed browsing, which Safari View Controller doesn't have. 

Nuzzel 2.0 Brings Favorite Feeds for Topics, New Search and Discover Features

In addition to my Twitter client1, Nuzzel is the other Twitter-based app I use every day, whenever I have a moment to check the news. With version 2.0, launching today for iOS, Android, and the web, the team at Nuzzel is hoping to expand the scope and utility of the service beyond Twitter and tweets from the timeline, with new ways to provide content to logged out users and discover articles inside the app.

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Markdown and Automation Experiments with 1Writer

In preparing my reviews of iOS 9 and the iPad Pro, I noticed that my writing process was being slowed down by the lack of multitasking support in my text editor of choice, Editorial. For the past couple of weeks, I've been trying to move some of my Editorial scripts and workflows to 1Writer, with interesting results and potential for the future.

I have written about Editorial at length on MacStories, and I still find Ole Zorn's text editor to provide the most powerful combination of Markdown and plain text automation that's ever been created on iOS. Over the years, I've put together hundreds of workflows thanks to Editorial's visual actions and Python scripting; while some of them were made for fun and intellectual curiosity, the majority of them helped me save time when doing actual work for this website, Relay FM, and Club MacStories. There is no other app with the same feature set and rich Markdown support of Editorial.

Since iOS 9, however, I've been wondering whether part of Editorial's automation could be taken somewhere else, possibly in another app that offered full integration with iOS 9 multitasking. I may have several workflows in Editorial, but I only use a tiny fraction of them on a daily basis for regular work on this website. I'd rather use a text editor that excels at a subset of Markdown workflows and integrates with iOS 9 than a single text editor with every imaginable workflow without proper iOS 9 integration.

It was this realization that pushed me to give 1Writer another look. I first bought the app years ago, but because I had no excuse to explore the world outside of Editorial, I didn't try to recreate any workflows in it. This time around, I was motivated to rebuild the core of my setup in 1Writer, so I took a deep dive into the app's automation engine.

Things will likely change again once Editorial supports iOS 9, but in the meantime I've developed an appreciation for 1Writer's design and features that helped me understand the app better.

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Why Rdio Died

Yesterday, music streaming service Rdio announced they're filing for bankruptcy and that key assets of the company will be acquired by Pandora. Casey Newton has written an obituary for The Verge, with some good points about Rdio's focus on design:

Miner jokes the design was aimed at "snobby album purists." Among its subscribers were a small legion of user interface and user experience designers — one reason you see little touches of Rdio everywhere you look. It’s there in the blurred album art that you now see in the background of other streaming music services. It’s there in the translucent panes and gradients that Apple introduced with iOS 7. It’s there in the redesigned app for Pandora, the company that ultimately acquired it. For its part, Pandora says that Becherer and his team will build a new on-demand product for the company using Rdio’s intellectual property. It is expected to launch in late 2016.

Rdio wasn't the first music streaming service I tried, but it was the first one I loved, and that was because of its tasteful design and focus on albums and discovery. You could tell that the people who made Rdio loved music and the idea of sharing music. They cared. And ultimately, focusing too much on design touches while avoiding basic aspects like growth and marketing spelled the end of the company.

There's no doubt in my mind – Rdio was the most elegant streaming service. Its social, discovery, and playback features (good queue management, sort by label, heavy rotation among friends, excellent weekly releases – just to name a few) were simply unrivaled. Rdio was great.

I used to write about Rdio a lot, and you can still find all my old posts and screenshots here. I'll miss Rdio.


“A Fundamental Point of Interface”

From Tony Chambers' interview with Jony Ive on the Apple Pencil:

I think there’s a potential to confuse the role of the Pencil with the role of your finger in iOS, and I actually think it’s very clear the Pencil is for making marks, and the finger is a fundamental point of interface for everything within the operating system. And those are two very different activities with two very different goals.

So we are very clear in our own minds that this will absolutely not replace the finger as a point of interface. But it is, and I don’t think anybody would argue, a far better tool than your finger when your focus becomes exclusively making marks. The traditional pencil could have been replaced by a dish of powdered charcoal, which you dipped your finger into to make marks with. And that didn’t happen.

The interview also has some interesting thoughts by Ive on avoiding to model the Pencil after specific physical tools.