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MacStories Reading List: February 26 – March 4

It’s been a transitional week for the Apple community, with pundits busy on arguing whether a Retina Display in the upcoming iPad 3 could mean Apple is getting ready to enable Retina resolutions on Macs as well, and just about everyone else being simply excited about Apple’s media event, scheduled for March 7th. And in between talks of new displays, Mountain Lion (again), and features we should see in iOS 6, Apple still managed to hit 25 billion downloads from the App Store with an updated list of all-time top apps.

A note on the system we’re now using to track and collect our Reading List archives. When we started the Reading List in January, we wrote “there’s some great writing on the Internet that we often can’t link to in our daily coverage, if only because there isn’t much we can add to an already excellent article”. On top of that, I’d like to add that there are some great authors on the Internet, and in particular in the Apple community, that we’d like to directly support with our weekly collections of links and excerpts. That is why, starting today, you’ll find an archive of every article ever appeared on MacStories’ Reading Lists on Readability.

With a paid option that gives back 70% of users’ contributions to the sites they read the most, we hope to make it easier than ever to find articles we have liked and collected, and to actively, economically contribute to the people behind those articles. You can find the official Readability iOS app in the App Store (with the aforementioned paid option available as in-app purchase), and our review here.

Obviously, you’ll still be able to use your favorite read-later or browser app of choice to consume our weekly Reading List. And as usual, on behalf of the entire MacStories team, I wish you a good reading.

Farhad Manjoo over at PandoDaily argues that, in retrospective, Steve Jobs was right in thinking Dropbox is a “feature”, not a product that can span across platforms and devices.

In 2009, Steve Jobs wanted to pay more than a hundred million dollars for Dropbox. As Houston later told Forbes’ Victoria Barret, when he politely turned down his hero’s offer, Jobs declared that Dropbox was a feature, not a product. Jobs was right: To do what we all want it to do, syncing has to be baked in to all the gadgets we use today. OS companies are warming to that notion—and they don’t need Dropbox to do it.

Steve Jobs was right: Dropbox is a feature, not a product, Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo)

The story of The Blocks Cometh by Halfbot – quite possibly the most popular case of rip-off games in the App Store.

An iOS game called The Blocks Cometh is released by EdisonGame, an independent developer. It’s a platformer which has the player leaping on a series of falling boxes, trying to escape death-by-crushing. Apple sees promise in the game, listing it in the featured “New and Noteworthy” category on the App Store, which helps The Blocks Cometh reach the Top 100 best selling apps list upon release. It’s yet another indie success for the App Store.

Unfortunately, EdisonGame didn’t make The Blocks Cometh. Nor did EdisonGame create the art. Or the logo. Or the game design. In fact, every aspect of The Blocks Cometh by EdisonGame was stolen from somewhere else.

- Cloning Case Files: Halfbot, Russ Frushtick (@russfrushtick)

Fantastic overview by Tom Mighell on how lawyers can take advantage of the iPad today. Includes app and hardware recommendations, workflow tips, and basic iOS suggestions when working with client data.

Nearly 25 million iPads were sold in 2011, adding to the millions already in use since Apple introduced the tablet device two years ago. Lawyers are embracing the new technology, particularly in the workplace. About 15 percent of respondents of the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey indicate such use, with the percentage expected to grow this year.

To help show lawyers how to take their iPad from the living room to the courtroom, technologist Tom Mighell, author of iPad in One Hour for Lawyers, provides guidance.

- iPad for lawyers: Practice law; tips and tricks; more, Tom Mighell (@tommighell)

Good tips by Christine Chan on finding great apps (and developers) in the App Store. I do this every day.

What do apps like these have in common? They all have names that closely resemble a popular app or game, and the app itself may even look like the original (as the first fake Clear app did). Some may even have fake screenshots (or even just a single screenshot – that’s so helpful), and don’t actually look anything like what you see in the App Store.

Whatever the case may be, these are all apps that you should be staying away from. But it’s hard to tell a scam apart from the real thing, right? That’s what I’m here to help you with – finding the good apps in all the muck (almost a million iOS apps total) that can be found in the App Store nowadays.

Don’t Be A Sucker In The App Store: A Guide On Finding Good Apps, Christine Chan (@christyxcore)

Lex Friedman details how AppleScript will be affected by the arrival of Mountain Lion and Sandboxing.

As we’ve reported previously, Apple will soon require that all Mac App Store apps implement sandboxing, which forces developers to request specific permission (or, in developer-speak, “entitlement”) from Apple to give their apps access to certain parts of a user’s system. Few apps in the Mac App Store today employ sandboxing, but come June all new apps and updates to existing ones will.

With the upcoming OS X Mountain Lion, another new technology, Gatekeeper, will verify that an app you’ve downloaded and tried to run matches a digital signature that Apple has given the developer; if it doesn’t, Gatekeeper can prevent the app from running. In other words, it could prevent you from running malicious facsimiles of apps you think are OK.

Both of these new security technologies will have an impact on scripting and automation.

How new Mac security measures will impact AppleScript, Lex Friedman (@lexfri)

Black Pixel’s Daniel Pasco explains how bugs should be reported to Apple.

A few nights ago, I got a little grumpy on Twitter. Xcode 4 has been very popular to snipe at, and some of the things I was seeing in my twitter stream were starting to feel a little tiresome and not particularly constructive.

Make no mistake: a lot of people – including people on my own team – have been seeing legitimate issues, and their productivity is being impacted. But what bothered me was the scarcity of tweets mentioning bug reports. Many people weren’t actually doing anything about it besides voicing their distress, which resulted in me posting this tweet:

This kicked off a heated debate about the efficacy of filing bugs against Apple’s products, so I decided to blog about a topic my friend Matt Drance (@drance on Twitter) had discussed at the last C4 conference.

- Radar or GTFO, Daniel Pasco (@dlpasco)

Willis has some great suggestions for things Apple should improve in iOS and OS X – proximity is something I’ve previously written about as well.

With iCloud, Apple is putting information everywhere at once - and this is generally good. But I need information at the focused point of my attention, not everywhere my attention could be. For an Apple fan - one with an iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook - connectivity plus iCloud equals bombardment. Again, this is really two issues - first, that devices don’t know when you don’t need them (because their cousin is already on the case), and second, that devices (and their roles) can’t combine and separate when that might be advantageous to the user.

A Couple Things I Wish Apple Did Better, M. Willis (@M_Willis)

Twitter’s Sandofsky provides an excellent summarization of the core differences between “apps” and “the web”.

In 2002, if you needed to convert gallons to liters you Googled “gallons to liters.” In 2012, you search for “unit converter” in the App Store.

People conflate “apps vs the web” with “native code vs HTML/CSS/Javascript.” That’s a separate, less interesting conversation.

I believe the shift toward apps is about user experience. This experience is defined by a few philosophical differences.

- Apps vs The Web, Ben Sandofsky (@sandofsky)

TUAW’s Richard Gaywood does the math on what a Retina Display for Macs would mean to the user (and developers).

The rumourmill has been busy lately with claims that we might get “Retina display” Macs soon – and of course, a Retina display iPad 3 on March 7, probably, maybe, definitely. For an example of the sort of speculation, consider Bjango developer Marc Edwards, who tweeted: “Retina 27” Thunderbolt display: 5120×2880 = 14,745,600 pixels. 4K film: 4096×2160 = 8,847,360 pixels. Retina iPad 3: 2048×1536 = 3,145,728 pixels”. This prompted me to dust off my Retina display iPad post from a year ago and revisit the mathematics I applied there to dig a little deeper into what a Retina display Mac might entail. Is Edwards right – would a Retina display Thunderbolt display really need almost 15 megapixels?

Retina display Macs, iPads, and HiDPI: Doing the Math, Richard Gaywood (@penllawen)

And App Cubby’s David Barnard has a good follow-up to Gaywood’s post, this time explaining why going Retina on the Mac doesn’t necessarily mean scaling up displays by a 2x factor.

The point is, PPI is much less relevant on OS X than on iOS. To create Retina displays, Apple doesn’t have to build displays that are exactly 2X current displays, they just have to build displays that work well with OS X when running @2X. For example, the current 27-inch iMac is 2560 by 1440 pixels, which translates to 109ppi. Doubling that to 5120 by 2880 pixels is not strictly necessary. Such a screen might be incredibly difficult to manufacture, and therefore incredibly expensive. Instead, Apple could build a 3840 by 2400 pixel 27-inch screen that presented itself as a pixel doubled 1920 by 1200 pixel display. That’s effectively an 84ppi screen @1X and 168ppi screen @2X.

OS X @2X, David Barnard (@drbarnard)

Jay Freeman a.k.a. saurik explains the process behind Cydia’s “Reloading Data” screen.

So, the “Reloading Data” step is something that can be made faster (and often is: new releases of Cydia often improve the performance of Reloading Data, and it is drastically improved when Apple releases new devices; on the new A5 CPU that step is almost pleasant).

However, the part where it is downloading packages from third party servers is a different story: Cydia, unlike the App Store (or almost any similar service), stores the entire package catalog locally. This is why it can (quite quickly, in fact) render an insanely long table with all packages in it that you can just fling your way through, while the App Store shows you 25 packages at a time with a slow “load more” button.

Cydia app question: Why does the black load bar at the top that says “Loading Packages” etc need to happen every single time I open Cydia? is there a way to turn this off?

Macworld’s Alexandra Chang explains the success behind Pinterest, and why you should care.

Some call it (p)insanity. Others are straight up addicted to pinning. And still, there are those who just don’t get it.

Pinterest is undeniably the social networking darling of 2012. The site launched in beta-mode in March 2010 and remains an invite-only network. Despite its exclusivity, Pinterest’s user base soared past the 10-million mark in December, and according to Google DoubleClick, now has 21 million worldwide unique visitors per month. But is this site just another blip on the trend-o-meter or something that’s worth your attention? After spending some time with it myself, I found that what makes Pinterest noteworthy is not just what it does, but who uses it and why.

Opinion: Should you care about Pinterest?, Alexandra Chang (@alexandra_chang)

Good guide by Jacqui Cheng on how to create iPhone ringtones using GarageBand.

This is a topic that comes up regularly between Ars staff and our friends and family. Apple doesn’t hide the fact you can make your own ringtones for free, but it’s certainly not widely advertised. Plenty of iPhone users are still unaware how easy it is to create your own ringtones out of music you already own (or even music you create). Whether you like The Beatles, Rush, Beyoncé, or Vivaldi, you can make ringtones to your heart’s content without having to plunk down a dollar every time you want to switch things up.

The simplest way to do so is through GarageBand, so we’ll go over the process for that first. But you don’t have to use GarageBand if you don’t own it and prefer something else. We’ll detail another, GarageBand-free method for creating iPhone ringtones as well.

How to: create your own iPhone ringtones, Jacqui Cheng (@ejacqui)

Read It Later’s Steve Streza produced a well-written, insightful analysis of Sony’s latest handheld, the PS Vita.

The PS Vita caught my attention about a month before its launch in the US. It combines a lot of the best features of smartphones with the controls of console games. It has a gorgeous, large, high-resolution touchscreen (and a back panel that is touch-sensitive), as well as a tilt sensor and cameras for augmented reality games. But it also has almost all of the buttons of a typical PS3 controller, including two analog sticks. Sony managed to cram all of this functionality into a device that, while large, is not too big to fit into my pocket, and with long enough battery life for a busy day interspersed with some gaming. The combination of apps and games (which I will describe as just “apps” for the sake of this review) is powerful, and the hardware power and display size make it a compelling device.

PlayStation Vita Review, Steve Streza (@SteveStreza)

Another review of the PS Vita, this time by developer Matt Gemmell, who focuses on the UI and UX aspects of the device.

I recently bought a PlayStation Vita, Sony’s new handheld games console. This article is a brief overview and review of the device, focusing on screenshots and discussion of its UI and interaction design.

PlayStation Vita, Matt Gemmell (@mattgemmell)

Reading List Archives

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