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MacStories Unwind: A Trip to Flavortown


This week on MacStories Unwind, I take Federico on a trip to Flavortown with Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, including Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burgers, Smoque BBQ, and Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket, three of my favorite Flavortown stops.

  • Kolide – It ensures that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps.  It’s Device Trust for Okta. Watch the demo today!

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Garage Access as a Service: The Chamberlain Group’s Anti-Consumer Approach to the Smart Home

Source: The Chamberlain Group.

Source: The Chamberlain Group.

When you install a garage door in your home, you expect to have full access to how it works – at least, that’s how it worked historically. As Jennifer Pattison Touhy explains for The Verge, that’s not at all the case with The Chamberlain Group, which has built its myQ smart garage door controller technology into many of the doors it sells and has systematically removed ways for consumers to use the tech:

The move breaks the smart home integrations of thousands of users who relied on platforms such as Homebridge and Home Assistant to do things like shut the garage door when they lock their front door or flash a light if they leave their door open for 10 minutes, or whatever other control or automation they wanted to do with the device they bought and paid for.

The move comes a year after Chamberlain discontinued its official Apple HomeKit integration and a few months after it finally killed support for Google Assistant. It’s sadly another example of how the company continues to be hostile to the interoperable smart home.

The result is that many people who purchased garage doors with myQ’s smart controller technology built in now have a less capable door. The only way to restore smart home interoperability is to buy a new door controller or one of the devices covered in The Verge’s story.

What I find most galling about this story is that The Chamberlain Group is removing these features from its doors while simultaneously expanding its partnerships with auto manufacturers and security companies. Think of it as GaaaS: Garage Access as a Service. Instead of offering consumers control directly, The Chamberlain Group ironically has set itself up as the gatekeeper of your garage. Rather than allowing consumers convenient access to their garage doors, The Chamberlain Group is steering them through paid services, which stinks.

A giant button and ads. That's it. That's the myQ app review.

A giant button and ads. That’s it. That’s the myQ app review.

I have a Chamberlain garage door at home and haven’t decided yet what to do in light of this news. The myQ app is garbage – it’s literally just a big button to open and close the door without access via a widget, the Home app, or Shortcuts. Oh, and it has ads too. I had been planning to go the Home Assistant route after The Chamberlain Group removed HomeKit access last fall, but instead, I expect I’ll buy the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener that Stephen Hackett has used for a while.


Apple Announces the Swift Student Challenge Will Begin in February 2024 and New Everyone Can Code Resources

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

It’s hard to believe that it has been over nine years since Apple announced the Swift programming language at WWDC. From the day it debuted, one of the pillars of Swift has been Apple’s education efforts, which have included Swift Playgrounds, materials for teachers and students, events, coding centers, and of course, the annual Swift Student Challenge at WWDC. So, with Swift’s 10th anniversary around the corner, it’s not surprising that Apple is updating its Swift Student Challenge program and releasing new resources for educators.

Today, the company announced that the next Swift Student Challenge will begin in February 2024, a break from the past WWDC schedule. The competition will name 350 winners in total, 50 of whom will be named Distinguished Winners whose projects stand out from the other submissions. Distinguished Winners will be invited to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino in the summer to meet with Apple engineers and other winners, and all winners will receive a one-year membership to the Apple Developer Program.

The Swift Student Challenge will run for three weeks in February 2024, and students can sign up to be notified of when the competition will begin here.

Apple is also expanding its Everyone Can Code program with four new projects providing additional resources for students to learn to build apps. The projects, which provide educators with resources to guide students, include the following:

  • Design a Simple App: Students can create an app prototype in Keynote to learn the fundamentals of app design, practice rapid prototyping, and collect feedback, following the same steps as professional developers. 
  • Build with Stacks and Shapes: Students can take the first steps of building an app in Swift Playgrounds and code a self-portrait or a work of art using SwiftUI to learn the fundamentals of user interface design.
  • Build Custom Shapes: Students can bring an app interface to the next level by designing a shape, learning how to plot the coordinates, and coding their custom shape using SwiftUI and the About Me sample app within Swift Playgrounds.
  • Design an App Icon: Students can learn and apply app design principles to create a unique and memorable app icon that communicates an idea; practice rapid prototyping; collect feedback; and upload the icon to Swift Playgrounds to become part of an app.

The projects can be accessed by educators from the Apple Education Community website.

The expansion of the Swift Student Challenge and other announcements today are great to see. It’s a fantastic way to get students excited about coding, as we’ve seen first-hand based on the growing number of apps we write about at MacStories that were built by former Challenge participants. I’m looking forward to seeing what students come up with this year.

Using Shortcuts to Display the Temperature from My Outdoor Sensor in the Menu Bar

I have always enjoyed having the current temperature in the menu bar on my Mac. Even though macOS Sonoma now supports adding a Weather widget of your choice directly to the desktop, I still prefer how a menu bar item is always glanceable and visible regardless of how crowded the desktop is.

For the past few months, I have tried many weather apps to achieve this, including the great Mercury Weather. While most of them worked great, I wanted to take advantage of the fact that we now own an outdoor HomeKit sensor — the Eve Weather — and display the data coming directly from that weather station in the menu bar. I ended up with a neat little solution, using a combination of Shortcuts, SF Symbols, and a couple of useful utilities.

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AppStories, Episode 358 – The Trouble with Task Management

This week on AppStories, we explore why there are so many good task managers, but none is a perfect fit with the way we work.

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On AppStories+, I explore screen maximalism while Federico heads the other direction into screen minimalism.

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Apple Updates Logic Pro for iPad and Mac

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Today, Apple announced updates to Logic Pro for the iPad and Mac. Both platforms gain support for 32-bit float recording and Mastering Assistant, which the company says “can instantly analyze the audio and make expert refinements to the sound, adjusting elements such as the dynamics, frequency balance, timbre, and loudness.” Mastering Assistant’s processing can be manually tweaked by musicians, too.

The update to Logic Pro for Mac adds Sample Alchemy and Beat Breaker, two tools that debuted on Logic Pro for iPad when it was introduced earlier this year. Apple also added new sound packs to Logic Pro for Mac:

The Hybrid Textures sound pack includes a collection of 70 patches, as well as over 80 Apple Loops featuring Sample Alchemy, while the Vox Melodics sound pack contains a diverse collection of over 475 lyrical phrases, hooks, layered harmonies, FX, and one-shots.

On the iPad, Logic Pro now supports Split View and Stage Manager, allowing musicians to work in multiple apps at once and take advantage of drag and drop between them. The app also has a new Recorder mode for recording sounds with the iPad’s microphone and a Quick Sampler plugin to create instruments from sounds. Samples can be previewed with gestures in Logic Pro’s Browser, and new in-app Lessons are available to help users learn the app’s new features and more.

It’s great to see Apple continue to expand Logic Pro’s capabilities and bring the Mac and iPad’s feature set closer together. More than anything, though, I’d like to see iPadOS-level audio routing added to enable the iPad to handle multiple audio inputs and outputs so I could participate in a Zoom call and simultaneously record a separate microphone input.

Stupid Companies Make AI Promises. Smart Companies Have AI Policies [Sponsor]

It seems like every company is scrambling to stake their claim in the AI goldrush–check out the CEO of Kroger promising to bring LLMs into the dairy aisle. And front line workers are following suit–experimenting with AI so they can work faster and do more.

In the few short months since ChatGPT debuted, hundreds of AI-powered tools have come on the market. But while AI-based tools have genuinely helpful applications, they also pose profound security risks. Unfortunately, most companies still haven’t come up with policies to manage those risks. In the absence of clear guidance around responsible AI use, employees are blithely handing over sensitive data to untrustworthy tools. 

AI-based browser extensions offer the clearest illustration of this phenomenon. The Chrome store is overflowing with extensions that (claim to) harness ChatGPT to do all manner of tasks: punching up emails, designing graphics, transcribing meetings, and writing code. But these tools are prone to at least three types of risk.

  1. Malware: Security researchers keep uncovering AI-based extensions that steal user data. These extensions play on users’ trust of the big tech platforms (“it can’t be dangerous if Google lets it on the Chrome store!”) and they often appear to work, by hooking up to ChatGPT et al’s APIs. 
  2. Data Governance: Companies including Apple and Verizon have banned their employees from using LLMs because these products rarely offer a guarantee that a user’s inputs won’t be used as training data.
  3. Prompt Injection Attacks: In this little known but potentially unsolvable attack, hidden text on a webpage directs an AI tool to perform malicious actions–such as exfiltrate data and then delete the records. 

Up until now, most companies have been caught flat-footed by AI, but these risks are too serious to ignore. 

At Kolide, we’re taking a two-part approach to governing AI use.

  1. Draft AI policies as a team. We don’t want to totally ban our team from using AI, we just want to use it safely. So our first step is meeting with representatives from multiple teams to figure out what they’re getting out of AI-based tools, and how we can provide them with secure options that don’t expose critical data or infrastructure.
  2. Use Kolide to block malicious tools. Kolide lets IT and security teams write Checks that detect device compliance issues, and we’ve already started creating Checks for malicious (or dubious) AI-based tools. Now if an employee accidentally downloads malware, they’ll be prevented from logging into our cloud apps until they’ve removed it.

Every company will have to craft policies based on their unique needs and concerns, but the important thing is to start now. There’s still time to seize the reins of AI, before it gallops away with your company’s data.

To learn more about how Kolide enforces device compliance for companies with Okta, click here to watch an on-demand demo.

Our thank to Kolide for sponsoring MacStories this week.

MacStories Unwind: You Know I Have a Problem with Controllers


This week, John tries to convince Federico that Things’ Inbox should be at the heart of his universal capture system, a song 50 years in the making, and in a twist that will surprise no one, John bought another controller.

  • Kolide – It ensures that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps.  It’s Device Trust for Okta. Watch the demo today!

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