Jazz Friday: Alice in Wonderland by Dave Brubeck

Today is Disneyland's 60th birthday so I though I'd pick a Disney-related jazz track. One of my favorites is Alice in Wonderland, by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. This track is on an album full of Disney tunes called Dave Digs Disney from 1957. The Dave Brubeck quartet was one of the pioneers of the West Coast Jazz movement and is one of the most distinctive in jazz with Paul Desmond's lilting melodies on Alto Sax and Dave Brubeck's harmonics on Piano. Alice in Wonderland delivers on all counts.

Home Screens: MacSparky in 2015

This week I thought I'd feature my own home screen. So here you go.

Some Apps of Note

Apple Maps

I know Apple Maps is the whipping boy but it's got a lot better over the last few years. It's no longer "Apple Maps Bad". Also, I like using Siri with Maps. ("Hey Siri, Get directions home.")


My love of Tweetbot on iPhone just barely exceeds my disdain for the iPad version. I've been using it for years and occasionally look for something new and I always come back.


I've just recently started participating in some Slack channels and I'm hooked. The Slack app keeps evolving and that's a good thing.


This app on my home screen is aspirational. I've never been much of an Instagram user but am trying again. (I'm "MacSparky" on Instagram if you're interested.)

The Audio Row

Music, Overcast, Beats, and Sonos for my audio needs. I'm hooked on Overcast for podcasts. Before Apple bought Beats, they had a promotional price through AT&T. I tried it and it stuck. I have a lot of great playlists and like the way it works so easily with the Sonos at home.

The Productivity Row

I've written about MindNode, OmniOutliner, Editorial, and Soulver at length. I'd just add that I find it surprising how often I work on mind maps and outlines on my iPhone.


RSS feeds are my guilty pleasure. I read through feeds every day and for awhile now, I've been doing it in Unread.


I've been using Pocket as my read-it-later service for a few years and am getting ready to embark on an Instapaper experiment but for now Pocket is still on my home screen.


1Password is a great password management tool but it also has the ability to store secure notes behind a separate wall on my phone. I use those all the time.


I guess there's no secret that I really like the new Photos. Now it's on my home screen.


Fantastical really pushes all my buttons as an iOS calendar application. The list view of data connects with my brain and new event entry is also a breeze.


My precious.


I also really like having Workflow on my iPhone. Are you keeping up with the updates to Workflow? You should.


There is no faster way to get words from my brain to my phone than Drafts.

After all these years, I still love my iPhone. It is probably my most important piece of technology. 

Want to See my Apple Watch Face?

Here you go. I'm definitely a "Utility" man. I keep turning the numbers on the face on and off. (Currently off.) I've tried several other faces and none of them have stuck. For complications I'm using fitness, weather, and next event.

The Future and Past of Apple's San Francisco Font

Mark Gurman reports that iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 might very well get the San Francisco Font, currently used on the Apple Watch. If true Helvetica Neue will go down in history as the George Lazenby of Mac fonts. Given that Apple designed the San Francisco font, I would not be least bit surprised if they brought it to all of their platforms. (John Gruber points out that San Francisco is now the font used on the new MacBook keyboard.)

I like San Francisco on the watch. It is clean and clearly designed to be on a screen and not piece of paper. I have no idea how San Francisco will look on the phone and Mac, but I'm curious. I'm probably not the person to make such decisions though since I was a fan of, and actually turned in a college paper using the original Mac San Francisco font. Yes. This one.

The Incomparable on David Letterman

Today is David Letterman's last show. Like a lot of people my age, Dave was one of my original stick-it-to-the-man inspirations. This week Jason Snell produced a very special episode of The Incomparable, Monkey Cam, with interviews from some very smart people and an excellent narrative about David Letterman's career and what it means. If you have any interest in this stuff, I'd urge you to listen to this one hour episode.

Home Kit Reportedly On the Way

Last year Apple announced Home Kit. It has been nearly a year now and Home Kit support in third party devices is expected to ship soon according to the Verge. I'm interested in home automation and have a mixture of WeMo switches and Hue lights throughout my house. One of the challenges is that every little ecosystem has its own app and and own idiosyncrasies. Hopefully Home Kit solves that. We'll find out soon.

Sponsor: Curbi iOS Parental Controls

This week I’m pleased to welcome back, curbi as a MacSparky.com sponsor. While the Internet can be scary for most people, it is terrifying for parents. Letting our kids enjoy the good parts of the Internet while protecting them from the scary parts isn’t easy. Not only can kids get into trouble over your local WiFi network, they can also get into trouble through a cellular connection or at a friend’s house. curbi solves this problem, giving you amazing parental controls for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. You can easily block specific types of content or add a specific site list. curbi tracks (and can block) websites through Safari or any other iOS app that has a web browser. Perhaps even more importantly, the curbi blocks will work no matter how they access the Internet, even using their Pal's home WiFi on the other side of town. Put simply, curbi lets you control you children's exposure to the Internet, no matter where they are.

curbi also lets you set boundaries. For example, you could block social networks from 3pm to 6pm and the entire Internet from 9pm to 8am. For just $6.99 a month, you can protect all of the iOS devices in your home. curbi is the only service I’ve ever seen that can protect your kids, no matter where they are. Learn more here. Below is the official Curbi video that explains the service in detail.

MPU 257: Workflows with Merlin Mann, Episode VI

This week Merlin Mann returns for his annual visit to Mac Power Users. This is one of my favorite episodes every year. This year we discuss hardware and software updates and if it's necessary to keep up with the latest and greatest, Merlin's growing use of iOS over Mac OS, and kids and technology use.

Did you also know we just received a new episode of You Look Nice Today? YLNT involves Merlin, Scott Simpson, and Adam Lisagor recording their often bizarre and always funny conversations, adding a little bit of ukulele-ladden post production, and releasing it to the world.

Jazz Friday: Art Pepper's Over the Rainbow

Art Pepper was one of the most influential alto saxophonists in the 50s and 60s and considered one of the founders of the West Coast Jazz movement. As a Californian, I'm a fan of West Coast Jazz in general and Art Pepper in particular. There was a lightness to his sound that is delightful. Unfortunately, Art had a lifelong heroin problem and, frankly,  a rough life including several prison stints. There is a great documentary about Art Pepper, called Art Pepper: Notes from a Jazz SurvivorOver the Rainbow (iTunes) is a great Art Pepper track because he plays the whole thing solo and really stretches out. 

Home Screen: Michael Simmons

This week’s home screen features Michael Simmons (Twitter) from Flexibits (Website), developer of Fantastical. Michael also co-founded HockeyApp. So Michael, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Fantastical 2

More than anything else, I made Fantastical for myself and still use it every day.

Apple Mail

The way I do email, Apple Mail works for me. I like the more recent feature additions, like swipe to mark as read.


I’m a calorie counter and this app makes it painless. I’ve had a running streak of counting calories every day for three years now. 


This is my favorite Twitter client. I use it for both my personal account and my Flexibits account and I’m using it all the time.


I’m strangely addicted to Periscope. I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll broadcast but I really enjoy watching the broadcasts. As a communications major, I find the idea of anyone being able to stream from anywhere really interesting, a new intimate form of communication.


This is my favorite app for listening to music and I love being able to (pretty much) listen to whatever song I want, when I want it.


I most often take Instagram pictures when I travel but I check it every day.

What app makes you most productive?

Fantastical. Of course.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I’m not very good at writing things down on my iPhone. I want to get better at taking notes on my phone.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

A lot! (laughs)

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I use the Fantastical widget and also like Dark Sky in the Today view, which shows the forecast for the next hour very quickly. I also keep my stock information there.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

That it all just works. Of course things can be improved but I like the ecosystem and how it all works.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

I would like to add the ability to see and use two apps side-by-side which could add the potential to do things like drag and drop.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I’ve used the same dark perforated leather wallpaper for a long time. It was created by Adam Betts. (I originally had it on my Mac.) It looks great and doesn’t draw my attention away.

Can we see your Apple Watch watchface?


Thanks Michael.

MPU 256: MPU Live

I really enjoy our monthly live shows. This past Saturday Katie and I recorded this show with a full chat room. We covered  the benefits of digital meal planning, follow-up on DEVONThink workflows, our favorite RSS feeds, managing small SSDs, resources for a new iPhone user, better fonts for iOS, and my new MacBook.


Activating "Hey Siri" On Apple Watch

I recently ran into a problem where "Hey Siri" wasn't working on my Apple Watch. I was sitting there, calling out "Hey Siri" with increasing volume and Siri had no interest in me. In fact, I said "Hey Siri" so loud that I set it off on my phone, which was in the next room charging. MacRumors published an article that shed some light.

In order for "Hey Siri" to work on your Apple Watch, the screen needs to be lit. It won't activate when the screen is dark. If the screen is lit from you twisting your wrist or tapping the screen to wake it up or pressing the digital crown to wake up the watch, "Hey Siri" works. However, if you are in a glance or in an app, saying "Hey Siri" doesn't work. The above linked Mac Rumors article explains that if you are at the watch face as a result of pressing the digital crown from another view (like the home screen or an app), "Hey Siri" also doesn't work. However, in my testing "Hey Siri" worked just fine in that scenario.

iBooks Author Conference

This October, there's an iBooks Author conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I won't be talking or attending but if you're are interested in iBooks Author publishing, this is the place. As an aside, I'm digging in on my next iBooks Author Field Guide now that the Photos screencast has shipped and having a great time working on a "book".

Apple Watch Underwater

Ray Maker is the first person I've seen really test the Apple Watch's water resistence. He swam with it, jumped in off a 10M diving board with it, and simulated 40M depth water pressure with it and the Watch kept on ticking. While all of this is comforting to know, after spending $400 on a watch for the first time in my life, I still take it off before showering. (I do, however, keep it on while washing dishes.)



Sponsor: OmniFocus

This week MacSparky.com is sponsored by The Omni Group. I’ve frequently thought that The Omni Group is the most Apple-like application group outside of Apple. They are obsessive about making great products. I use all of their applications on a daily basis and they make my life better (and easier).

My favorite Omni Group app is OmniFocus. I’ve got many responsibilities in my life as a father, husband, lawyer, and geek. The only way I’m able to wake up in the morning and not feel completely paralyzed by the amount of work on my plate is through the powerful task management tools OmniFocus affords me. If you are feeling overwhelmed, OmniFocus might just solve your problem too.

This year the gang at the Omni Group has been busy turning OmniFocus for iOS into a universal application that looks great on your iPad an iPhone. They've also shipped an update that supports the Apple Watch and I'm already finding it to be one of my favorite watch glances. You can lead a complicated life and not be a flake with a little help from OmniFocus. Learn more at the Omni Group.

"Hey Siri, Send"

For the first week I used my Apple Watch, it drove me nuts that I still had to tap the screen to confirm sending text messages I'd dictated via "Hey Siri". Then I decided to try dictating the button press. When presented with the confirmation button before sending a text message, saying "Send", which is most intuitive, doesn't work. However, saying "Hey Siri, Send" does. In fact, for any confirmation button that shows up while dictating into the watch, all you have to do do is say "Hey Siri" and then the name of the button.

"Hey Siri, Tell Daisy I'm in jail. Bring bail money."


"Hey Siri, Send."

It is strange that you have to preface every button press with "Hey Siri" and this behavior is different from the iPhone, which asks you to confirm and you just say "yes" or "confirm". The iPhone method is better. However, if you want to send a text message from your Apple Watch hands free, get ready to say "Hey Siri" a lot.


Turns out, the iDownload blog figured this out before I did and even made a clever video.

Marco Arment on Apple Watch App Design

I enjoy Marco Arment's articles on App design and layout. Making an App truly user friendly is a combination of art and science and Marco is one of the best at it. Moreover, he has a way of explaining his thought process that is fascinating to me. This week he wrote about the re-design  of Overcast for the Apple Watch. 

As an aside, Overcast is one of my favorite apps on the Apple Watch. Being able to start, stop, and change podcasts from my wrist is golden. I have it active as a glance and then tap on it to get the app and it works swell.

The Photos Video Field Guide

Late last year I started outlining a new MacSparky Field Guide on photo management. It was one sweet outline and I'd even started writing words. Then I got my hands on the Photos beta and realized that Photos did something pretty remarkable. Photos manages large photo libraries loads better than iPhoto ever did and the iCloud Photo Library works far better than I ever expected. I started revising the "photo management" outline until I realized this was no longer a comparison of competing photo management services and instead an in-depth manual for Photos.

At that point I scrapped the outline and instead produced a Video Field Guide explaining how to get the most from Photos. After a few months of work, here it is.

The Photos Video Field Guide is a 2.5 hour screencast that teaches you how to install and use Apple's Photos Application and sync all of your photos between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone using iCloud Photo Storage. Managing your photos with multiple devices has, over the years, come to feel like chasing a mythical white whale. Not anymore. Photos delivers the goods and this screencast teaches you how.

Topics Include:


While Photos attempts to make your initial setup simple and easy, there can be complications. What if you have more than one existing photo libraries? What if you've got folders of photographs sprinkled all over your hard drive? All of these can be imported into Photos but you've got to know the ropes. This video screencast shows you all tricks to run Photos on your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

Photos also can use iCloud Photo Library to make sharing photos between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone easier than anyone ever thought possible. The Video Field Guide walks you through the initial iCloud setup, including advice on which cloud storage to use and how to get the initial upload of your photo library done with as little pain and suffering as possible.


Photos uses an intuitive organizational structure that lets you see your pictures grouped by years, collections, moments, and individual photos. This Video Field Guide shows you exactly how it works and sprinkles in several power tricks to make managing your library even easier. Once you've sorted that out, Photos also has options to create custom and smart albums, where the program seeks out photos for you pursuant to your instruction.

Photos also has specialized libraries that can identify the faces of your family and friends. You can even search you library so if someone says, "Hey! Quick! Find me that picture of Uncle Ralph from April 2007 wearing that ballerina tutu!", you can deliver the goods. This stuff sounds complicated. It's not. By the time you get to the end of this video, you'll be able to embarrass Uncle Ralph in no time flat.


Photos also has a surprisingly large toolset to make your photos better. You can do simple edits, like cropping and rotating, but you can also make complex adjustments to color and light. On the Mac there are even more tools including a histogram, sharpening, definition, noise reduction, vignette and level adjustments. If all of this sounds like greek to you now, that's okay. After watching the video it won't.

The video also explains Photos built in filters and how they can be an excellent jumping off point for making your photos look great. It also covers has the semi-magical "enhance" button. If that's not enough, there are workflows to get your photos out of the Photos app and into an external editor for further work on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.


With the new Photos app, there are many ways to share your images with friends and family from something as simple as an email to full-blown shared iCloud albums. This section of the video covers all of the sharing options from the Mac and iOS. The Photos Video Field Guide also demonstrates how to make books, calendars, and cards from the Photos application on the Mac.


Believe it or not, Photos can manage your video files too. This section covers the best practices for managing video files in Photos and its limited editing capabilities.


No photo management system is complete without a thorough backup system. The Photos Video Field Guide concludes explaining backup strategies and techniques. This section also demonstrates how to export images from Photos for additional backup.

The screencast is two and a half hours and fully bookmarked. You can buy it now for $9.99.

Did you ask for a sample video? I thought so. Here you go.