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Posts tagged with "mac"

Introducing the New MacStories Setups Page

Federico's setup (left) and John's (right).

Federico’s setup (left) and John’s (right).

Setup optimization is a never-ending journey at MacStories. We’re always looking for the fastest, most efficient, and often, most portable way to do everything in our lives. The result is constant change. Hardware and apps are swapped in and out of our systems and workflows frequently.

We write or talk about our setups in a bunch of different places, which we realize can make it hard to keep up with the most current version of what we’re using. That’s why we’ve dedicated to our setups. That way, the next time you wonder, what was that pair of headphones Federico mentioned on AppStories or that giant battery pack John wrote about for Club MacStories, you’ll have a place where you can quickly find the answer. You’ll find a link to the new Setups page in the navigation bar at the top of the MacStories homepage, too.

Our new Setups page is what Apple might call ‘a living document.’ We’ll update it periodically throughout the year with changes we make with links to everything that’s still being sold somewhere.

Speaking of links, many of the ones you’ll find on the Setups page are affiliate links. If you buy something using those links, MacStories, Inc. will receive a small commission. You can learn more about how MacStories uses affiliate links in our privacy policy.

Also, if you have any questions about the gear and apps listed on the Setups page, feel free to reach out on Mastodon using @viticci or @johnvoorhees, or ping us on Discord.

Spotlight on Club MacStories+ and Club Premier App Discounts

When we launched Club MacStories+ and Club Premier in 2021, we offered members exclusive deals on around a dozen of our favorite apps and services. In the two years since expanding the Club, our discount program has grown substantially. Now, thanks to the generosity of the developer community, Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members enjoy discounts on 34 apps and services from 24 developers.

To put the Club deals into context, taking advantage of them all would save you more than the cost of two years of Club Premier, the highest Club tier. That’s before you even consider the many other perks Club MacStories and Club Premier members enjoy, including:

  • Weekly and monthly newsletters
  • A sophisticated web app with search and filtering tools to navigate eight years of content
  • Customizable RSS feeds
  • Bonus columns
  • An early and ad-free version of our Internet culture and media podcast, MacStories Unwind
  • A vibrant Discord community of smart app and automation fans who trade a wealth of tips and discoveries every day
  • Live Discord audio events after Apple events and at other times of the year

On top of all of that, Club Premier members get AppStories+, an extended, ad-free version of our flagship podcast that we deliver early every week in high-bitrate audio.

That’s a lot, but with Thanksgiving upon us here in the US, I wanted to take a moment to focus on just the discounts and thank the developers who work with us to bring Club members such great deals and spotlight each of them for all MacStories readers. Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members can access all Club deals by visiting

The lineup changes regularly, but here are all the deals that Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members can take advantage of now:

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I Tried to Run Cities: Skylines 2 on My M2 MacBook Air via Apple’s Game Porting Toolkit… And I Discovered A Great App Instead

I have always been a huge fan of city-building games. The first video game I ever played was SimCity 3000, on my uncle’s bulky PC running Windows 2000. I then went on to play SimCity 4 throughout middle and high school. Sadly, EA’s reboot of the franchise in 2013 was a sizable disappointment, and has lead fans to love Cities: Skylines instead, a newcomer to the genre.

Cities: Skylines was released in 2015 simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I have fond memories of playing the game on my newly purchased 13-inch MacBook Pro. It was my companion during numerous train trips I took across France and Germany that winter. Although the MacBook Pro’s battery would probably have been depleted in 20 minutes if it were not for the presence of power plugs in most trains, the fact that it launched and ran on my Mac without compromise was impressive.

I was eagerly looking forward to the release of Cities: Skylines 2 this year. After reading a number of positive reviews, I knew I would want to play the game as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Paradox Interactive threw a wrench in my plans: Cities: Skylines 2 is currently exclusive to Windows, and the company has not yet announced any plans to release the game on macOS.

This year at WWDC, Apple released the Game Porting Toolkit, a software translation layer that can help game developers easily port their Windows games to the Mac. It seemed the toolkit was allowing users to launch their favorite Windows games on their Mac with surprising ease. Intrigued, I wanted to test it out to see if I could play Cities: Skylines 2 on my M2 MacBook Air.

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Audio Hijack Gains Beta Audio Transcription Feature

I’ve been playing around a lot with OpenAI’s Whisper speech-to-text engine this year. Whisper isn’t perfect, but it does a remarkably good job, substantially lowering the effort and cost of generating transcripts.

There are dedicated apps to transcribe using Whisper like MacWhisper by Jordi Brun and Transcriptionist from the makers of Ferrite, both of which I’ve tried. However, the most promising option so far is a new Transcribe block released today as part of Audio Hijack by Rogue Amoeba.

The new block is a beta feature that Rogue Amoeba’s Paul Kafasis says the company will continue to refine. It’s using the same underlying Whisper technology as other apps, but by reducing transcription to part of your existing recording flow, it’s possible to transcribe on the fly as you record and identify speakers whose audio is coming from separate channels.

We weren’t recording any shows today, so to test the new feature, I copied our MacStories Unwind recording session and used the Zoom audio settings as a stand-in for Federico. I spoke into my microphone, which was one source, and used the piano music from Zoom’s settings as the other source. Audio Hijack recorded both and started transcribing the audio as I was still recording. Here are the results:

This was a very limited test. It remains to be seen how the app does with a longer recording session, but the ease with which I set this up has me excited. By renaming the sources fed into the Transcribe block, I was able to create a real-time transcript complete with timestamps and our names.

Still, as impressive as the results are, I don’t publish what I record in Audio Hijack. It still needs to be edited, at which point the transcript created with this session would diverge from the released audio. Nonetheless, for a newly released beta feature, I’m impressed and looking forward to seeing where Rogue Amoeba takes this.

Apple Introduces the New MacBook Pro in Three M3 Chip Configurations

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the rollout of Apple silicon Macs is that the old rules don’t apply, and the new ones are still being written. The cadence of releases is still settling in, and today, in the face of speculation that Apple was struggling to release M3 Macs, Apple made it clear that not one, but three 3 nanometer process-based chips are ready to ship. Along with the M3 iMac, the company refreshed its entire lineup of MacBook Pros, computers that gained the M2 chip less than a year ago.

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Apple Reveals New M3 iMac

The new iMac.

The new iMac.

Just over two years ago, I spent the summer with a 24” M1 iMac on my desk and loved it. The elegant simplicity of an all-in-one Mac with just a couple of cables trailing off the back side of the computer is wonderful. The all-in-one design of the M1 iMac wasn’t new, but it was a stunning departure from its predecessor, with a slim, flat design that wasn’t possible in the Intel era. Plus, it came in a variety of vibrant, fun colors, which is all too rare in Apple’s product lineup.

Today, Apple announced the successor to that iMac that features an all-new M3 chip that, by Apple’s account, is ‘scary fast.’ Just how fast the new iMac is compared to other models will require hands-on testing, but from the specs alone, the new iMac is impressive.

Let’s take a look.

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Macintosh Desktop Experience: No Mac Is an Island

One of the perks of a Club MacStories+ and Club Premier membership are special columns published periodically by me and John. In this week’s Macintosh Desktop Experience column, John explained how widgets in macOS Sonoma are the glue between apps and services that make the Mac feel even more like part of an integrated ecosystem of platforms and devices:

The Mac’s place in users’ computing lives has changed a lot since Steve Jobs returned to Apple and reimagined the Mac as a digital hub. Those days were marked by comparatively weak mobile phones, MP3 players, camcorders, and pocket digital cameras that benefitted from being paired with the Mac and Apple’s iLife suite.

The computing landscape is markedly different now. The constellation of gadgets surrounding the Mac in Jobs’ digital hub have all been replaced by the iPhone and iPad – powerful, portable computers in their own right. That’s been a seismic shift for the Mac. Today, the Mac is in a better place than it’s been in many years thanks to Apple silicon, but it’s no longer the center of attention. Instead, it sits alongside the iPhone and iPad as capable computing peers.

What hasn’t changed from the digital hub days is the critical role played by software. In 2001, iLife’s apps enabled the digital hub, but in 2023, the story is about widgets.

Stay until the end of the story and don’t miss the photo of John’s desk setup, which looks wild at first, but actually makes a lot of sense in the context of widgets.

Macintosh Desktop Experience is one of the many perks of a Club MacStories+ and Club Premier membership and a fantastic way to recognize the modern reality of macOS as well as get the most of your Mac thanks to John’s app recommendations, workflows, and more.

Join Club MacStories+:

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Game On: An Upcoming Game Release Check-In

Ever since WWDC 2022, when Apple showcased Resident Evil Village, the company has been eager to highlight console and PC titles that are coming to its platforms. Sometimes, it can be a little hard to keep track of what’s coming, so today’s Game On focuses on recent big-title release news as well as other recent updates in the world of Apple gaming.

Before looking at the titles coming next to Apple’s platforms, let’s take a quick look back at one of the all-time classic iOS games: Machinarium. The game, from Czech studio Amanita Design, which was followed up a few years ago on Apple Arcade by Pilgrims, started on the Mac and other platforms, but was also an iPad gaming pioneer, debuting on the tablet in 2011, with its unforgettable hand drawn style.

However, like a lot of games, Machinarium hadn’t seen an update in a long time. According to Touch Arcade, the game hadn’t been touched since 2019 but was updated last week with controller, Metal rendering, and Core Audio support. If you love puzzle games and haven’t played Machinarium, you can buy it on the App Store and play it on iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS for $5.99.

Source: Capcom.

Source: Capcom.

Skepticism about whether Apple will be successful in attracting console and PC-level games to its platforms is warranted, given the company’s track record with such games. However, they continue to push back, with Tim Cook recently telling The Independent in the context of an interview about the Apple Vision Pro that:

There’s significant excitement about our role in gaming, and we’re very serious about it. This is not a hobby for us. We’re putting all of ourselves out there.

Apple’s last self-proclaimed hobby was the Apple TV, which took a very long time to graduate from that role but is now part of the company’s videogame strategy.

Also, just before iOS and iPadOS 17 were released, Jeremy Sandmel, Apple’s Senior Director of GPU Software, and Tim Millet, Apple’s VP of Platform Architecture, were interviewed by IGN and emphasized the advantage of Apple silicon and its Metal framework across the iPhone, iPad, and Mac as a unified gaming platform:

So we really look at these many generations of SoC architecture across the phone, across the iPad, across now, Apple Silicon Macs. And we’d see that as part of one big unified platform, a graphics and gaming platform in particular.

Fort Solis. Source: Dear Villagers.

Fort Solis. Source: Dear Villagers.

And judging from the announcements, the pace of top-shelf releases is beginning to pick up and include the iPhone more often than in the past. Among other notable upcoming releases:

There may be other big releases coming that I’ve missed, but that alone is a pretty healthy lineup to go with other titles that are already available. It will be interesting to see if others are added to the release roster in the coming weeks.

Bartender 5 Is the Essential Menu Bar Upgrade for macOS Sonoma

The last time Bartender received a major update was back in 2021. Bartender 4 brought many new powerful features to help declutter the menu bar, particularly on the new MacBook models with a notch, which made menu bar real estate become even more valuable. Bartender 5 was officially released last month, and not only is it a fantastic maintenance update that brings support for macOS Sonoma – it’s also a release full of fun additions for all Mac users.

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