About that Leaked Blue iPhone

A few days ago, iFeng leaked some images of a blue iPhone. The images look real but these days who really knows. I'd argue that this year, more than any before, it makes sense for the iPhone to get some more interesting colors. This will be the third year with the iPhone at basically the same design. People who buy the new phone will want bragging rights about having the latest and greatest. If you can’t show it’s new by the new design, then it needs to be a different color. I know people that bought a rose gold iPhone last year simply because it was a new color. If Apple doesn't provide any way to distinguish the new iPhone, there are some people who simply won’t buy it. I fully expect Apple to have at least one new iPhone color this year.

Dragon for Mac Version 6 Coming Soon

This week Nuance announced the imminent release of Dragon for Mac, Version 6. I spoke with Nuance and this new version takes advantage of several improved dictation technologies.

Deep Learning

Nuance has always been able to server-based algorithms to improve dictation accuracy but this new version will be the first time they can embed learning on a user's computer, allowing them to improve their own language and acoustic model. This, and other improvements, adds up to less required training and a reported 24% improvement in accuracy. (I'm looking forward to putting that to the test.)

Improved Transcription

The demonstration I saw showed significant improvement in transcription of existing audio. Not only is the transcription better, it's also much easier to train and operate. I particularly like the new batch mode, that lets you transcribe batches of audio files in one go.

Improved Text Control

Mixing typing and transcription has always been rough going on the Mac. With Dragon 6 for Mac, you'll be able to dictate in supporting apps and type at the same time without the wheels falling off. They are still working on the list of supporting apps for launch but Scrivener is already one of them.

The new version ships (digitally) on September 1 and there will be physical product shipments by mid-September.

Competing Interests

I enjoyed reading the Washington Post Tim Cook interview. The interview was wide in scope and really gives you a window into the mind of Apple's CEO. I recommend it. One section that raised my eyebrows was the discussion of security and privacy. This issue is a fascinating one to me because Apple has taken such a leading role in advocating privacy rights for consumers. As Tim explaned in the interview, "Customers should have an expectation that they shouldn’t need a PhD in computer science to protect themselves."

Elsewhere in the interview, Tim talks about Apple's mission.

The DNA of the company is really what I was talking about there. The North Star has always been the same, which for us, is about making insanely great products that really change the world in some way — enrich people’s lives. And so our reason for being hasn’t changed.

I absolutely believe the folks at Apple get out of bed in the morning to make great products. However, it really isn't that simple. If you don't believe me, perhaps I could interest you in a 16GB iPhone. Making insanely great products has always required compromises. Apple has to make a profit if they want to stay in business and every Apple product (just like any other company's product) that comes to market requires thousands of small compromises. That's always come with the territory but until recently, I've never really thought of Apple having a competing North Star. Now I wonder.

Privacy is a big deal to Apple. Tim explained:

Privacy, in my point of view, is a civil liberty that our Founding Fathers thought of a long time ago and concluded it was an essential part of what it was to be an American. Sort of on the level, if you will, with freedom of speech, freedom of the press.

I think this is more than CEO puffing. I think Tim, and the rest of Apple leadership, feels this in their bones and they are absolutely willing to go to bat for consumers on the issue of privacy. They took a drubbing over the San Bernardino case and I suspect they'd do it all over again. The question, however, becomes what happens when protecting consumer privacy gets in the way of making insanely great products? If Apple's unstoppable force hits its own immovable object, who wins?

There are plenty of consumers already getting off the Apple services bandwagon in favor of Google precisely because the way Google does everything on its servers results in some insanely great user experiences. Apple is responding by trying to get those types of services on-device as opposed to the less private cloud storage as Google does. We're early days on this but it seems, at least for the immediate future, that the cloud service solution is better, faster, and more adaptable than on-device.

If Tim Cook were sitting here right now, I suspect he'd argue that the 2016 version of an insanely great product is one that (in addition to many other features) protects user privacy and going back to the issue of compromises, it's probably better that you not let somebody else index all of your photos, even if that would make it easier to search out pictures of canteloupes. I agree with that particular compromise but as we move into the next few years, I think the goals of great products and protecting user privacy aren't always going to align.

Twitter's New Filters

Twitter took some positive steps today to help get the jackasses out of your Twitter feed. The Twitter for iOS app now has a some new filters and notification settings.

Limited Notifications

You can now tell Twitter to only show you notifications from people you follow. The problem with this is that it treats everyone you don't follow as a jackass. That's no fun.

Quality Filter

I've heard about this rumored quality filter for some time. This is promissing. The idea is that Twitter can look at their own data and sort the good from the bad and then only show you the good stuff. (It doesn't filter content from people you follow or have recently interacted with.) Now anyone can turn this filter on. This could be awesome or a mess, depending on how the filter is tuned. I sure hope it's good.

Why I'm in Favor of Verified Accounts

I personally believe that this problem gets a lot more solvable with verified accounts. Anonymity brings out the worst in some people. If users could press a button that mutes people not willing to verify their identity with Twitter, things would get better. However, Twitter is, for the time being, treated verified accounts as precious. I tried to verify my Twitter account (that I started in 2007 and has ~18,000 followers) and was turned down. (Of course, writing this at the same time I applied probably wasn't my smartest move.) 

Intel to Build ARM-Based Chips

For years now, Apple nerds have pined away at the idea of Intel building ARM chips for Apple. Intel has always been at the front end of technology in terms of die shrinks and chip manufacturing. Unfortunately Intel has also always insisted on only building its own designs. That makes sense. I suspect being a chip designer/manufacturer is much more lucrative than being just a chip manufacturer.

Yesterday we received news that Intel has changed its mind and is now planning on building chips based on the ARM design. This seems like good news for Apple. It allows Apple to distance itself from Samsung (that same company that Apple sued for design theft) currently produces a lot of the chips found in iPhones and iPads. I'd also speculate that an Intel manufactured Apple ARM chip is smaller and more power efficient.

Without any inside knowledge, I’m guessing that Intel did not want to get into the chip-manufacturing-for-others business. Nonetheless, here we are. Let’s hope the iPhone and iPad can benefit.

Sponsor: HoudahGeo with Discount Code

This week MacSparky is sponsored by HoudahGeo. HoudahGeo is a Mac app that makes attaching locations to your photos ridiculously simple. The case for adding geo-location data to your photos is easy. Looking at your photos on a map gives you all sorts of options for sorting, viewing, and sharing your pictures. Want to see all the pictures from that beach trip? With HoudahGeo it's a snap. Because of the way our human brains work, years in the future we may not remember when we took a certain trip but we will remember where we went and with HoudahGeo on your side that's all you need.

The trouble is that a lot of cameras have no ability to geocode your photos for you. That's where HoudahGeo comes in. HoudahGeo actually geocodes photos. It writes industry standard EXIF/XMP tags to the original image files, which makes the geocode information permanent. (Not all geocode apps do that.)

HoudahGeo also works with multiple geocode workflows. You can automatically geocode photos form a GPS track log. You can also manually geocode photos using the map in HoudahGeo. It's easier than you think. You can even drag-and-drop geocoding data. HoudahGeo also allows for viewing (and showing) photos in Google Earth.

If your camera doesn't save geo-location data to your photos, you can solve that problem today with HoudahGeo. For a limited time, get 20% off with discount code “MACSPARKY”.

MPU 335: Workflows with John Voorhees

This week app developer, writer, and attorney John Voorhees joins us to share some of his geekiest workflows. 

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore.
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life. 
  • Squarespace: Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

Chip-on-Card vs. Apple Pay

I enjoyed reading Joanna Stern’s Wall Street Journal piece comparing chip-on-card versus mobile payment technologies (like Apple Pay). She timed over 50 transactions and figured out that on average, an Apple pay transaction takes six seconds and a chip on card transaction takes 13. If you do two transactions a day, that adds up to 85 extra minutes a year at the register. I already hate chip-on-card transactions. They take too long and when the transaction completes, the terminal rings an alarm klaxon that always makes me feel like I’ve just been caught shoplifting. Moreover, Apple Pay transactions require a separate PIN and are more secure.

It seems to me we’re moving in the right direction but not fast enough. I, for one, cannot wait for the day that I can get rid of all these bits of plastic I am carrying around.

Microsoft Illustrates Why a Golden Software Keys is a Bad Idea

Ben Lovejoy at 9to5 Mac explains how Microsoft accidentally released its golden key "and it appears impossible for Microsoft to fully patch it."

While talk of a government-mandated magic back-door into the iPhone has subsided, I'm sure we'll hear about it more after the elections. Tim Cook was right. Such a tool is dangerous by its mere existence and, as Microsoft discovered, such a thing will inevitably land in the hands of hackers, criminals, foreign governments, and other bad actors.

While an iPhone back-door would help law enforcement with criminals not smart-enough to use alternative encryption, the massive privacy intrusion combined with its inevitable release make it a terrible idea.

The Trouble with Twitter

There has been a lot of rumbling lately about Twitter. While there’s a lot to like about the service (it remains my favorite and nearly exclusive social media outlet), Twitter has also become a playground for some pretty abusive and vile people. Charlie Warzel at BuzzFeed did a an impressive bit of reporting tracking the history of abuse of Twitter users and the company’s general failure to address the problem since the beginning. While I had known about some of the recent problems, I didn’t realize that this stems back to 2008. I recommend reading the entire article. It’s quite informative but also a bit disheartening.

Twitter responded that portions of the story are untrue but they don’t explain what those portion are or provide any further clarification. Having watched friends (primarily female) go through the Twitter meat grinder, I think the BuzzFeed story gets things generally right.

My one bit of feedback is that I don’t buy Twitter’s claim that they’re worried about lawsuits. Most people on the Internet have the ability to kick somebody off their website or service if they feel like they are behaving badly. If you don’t believe me, read the terms of service of every website on the Internet.

I think the reason why Twitter has been ignoring this problem is because they want everyone to use Twitter, even the jackasses. Maybe it’s time they grew up and started cracking down on this. If not, the rest of us will start voting with our feet.

App Dud: The Dr. Who Colouring Book

I wanted a little escape tonight so I went in the App store and purchased the Dr. Who colouring book. It took about 30 seconds to realize that purchase was a mistake. It isn't a coloring book at all. Instead, you get a picture and a series of colors. You then tap in a white space and it fills in with the selected color … perfectly … every time. Without the actual act of drawing, I don't get the expected therapy.

If you're looking for a coloring book app (and if you have an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil I recommend you at least try), give Pigment a try. It gets iPad coloring right.

Trouble with the iOS 10 Beta "Save to iCloud" Box

Because I can't help myself, I was early to the game with the iOS 10 betas this year. As a nerd, I find it generally fun to be at the bleeding edge technology. When something goes wrong, I don't blame Apple because it is, after all, a beta. Most things that break in beta get fixed before the final product ships. 

As such, I usually don't worry too much about problems in beta. I am, however, concerned about the "Save to iCloud" dialog box in iOS 10. Here is a screenshot.


In iOS 9, the Save to iCloud dialog box was a little buggy but generally worked. It had a search bar and a way to navigate through your folders. Starting with iOS 10 beta 1 we got the above Save to iCloud dialog box. They've removed the search function and instead made it a very long scrolling list of folders. There's no way to collapse the folders and no way to jump to a specific destination. Instead, every time you want to save something to iCloud, you need to scroll through a seemingly endless list until you find the folder you want. In that process, you need to be very careful. If you scroll too fast and the iPad mistakes your swipe for a touch, iOS 10 saves the file to whatever folder you happen to touch. As I discovered, it's not always easy to figure out exactly where things end up. With every new iOS 10 beta I go back to this thinking it will have improved. So far it hasn't.

This new Save to iCloud dialog box is unusable for someone that has more than a few iCloud-based folders. When this arrived, I was in the midst of a two-month experiment running most of my cloud-based files off of iCloud. There were good parts and bad parts but it was workable. This dialog box put the brakes on the whole experiment. At first, I thought it was simply a placeholder until they made something better. But now they are up to the fifth beta and there still has been no change with this dialog box. I'm starting to get worried that this is what they intend to ship.

Does anyone at Apple use more than 100 folders on their iCloud drive? If they do, this has to be a pain point for them. I know we still have a month or so before iOS 10 ships and I really hope that I end up looking like Chicken Little with this post but if Apple does not improve the Save to iCloud dialog box before iOS 10 ships, it's going to be difficult to use iCloud with any significant number of folders.

MPU 334 - She Can’t Take It Anymore, Captain!

On this month’s live episode of Mac Power Users, Victor Cajiao joins us to discuss all the steps of producing a modern music album. We also help troubleshoot an accidentally reformatted hard drive, discuss password schemes, using a ScanSnap for photos, share listener feedback on our Special Event and Keynote shows, and discuss options for Evernote.

Sponsors include:

  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. 
  • Gazelle Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle! 
  • Marketcircle They'll help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.
  • Sanebox Stop drowning in email!

A Few Rumors and Speculation Concerning Apple's Fall Lineup

Apple’s Fall Lineup I expect we’ll see a lot from Apple in the next few months. If history is any indicator, we’ll get new iPhones next month but that’s not all. The MacBook Pro is long overdue and rumored to be coming out by the end of the year and yesterday AppleInsider broke a story about the Apple Watch 2 by the end of the year with GPS, a barometer, and better water-proofing.

If there will be one missing product from the “new and improved” category, I’d guess it is the iPad. The iPad Pros are still pretty new and I’d not be surprised to see any new iPads pushed to Spring 2017. Also, did you notice how the iPod has completely dropped out of the narrative when talking about new Apple products?

Either way, if you’re looking to upgrade some of your Apple hardware, the next few months could get expensive.