Mac OS X Services in Snow Leopard
Mac OS X Services let one application supply its powers to another; for example, a Grab service helps TextEdit paste a screenshot into a document. Most users either don't know that Services exist, because they're in an obscure hierarchical menu (ApplicationName > Services), or they mostly don't use them because there are so many of them.
Snow Leopard makes it easier for the uninitiated to utilize this feature; only services appropriate to the current context appear. And in addition to the hierarchical menu, services are discoverable as custom contextual menu items - Control-click in a TextEdit document to access the Grab service, for instance.
In addition, the revamped Keyboard preference pane lets you manage services for the first time ever. You can enable and disable them, and even change their keyboard shortcuts.
We’re back from our Memorial Day hiatus with a huge issue of TidBITS. Apple charted the course for OS X and iOS for the next year at today’s WWDC keynote, where the company announced the redesigned OS X Yosemite alongside iOS 8, both with a flood of features for users and developers alike. But that’s not all, since Apple last week dropped $3 billion on Beats, maker of the Beats Music streaming service and a line of popular premium headphones. In other news, Apple also updated iWork for iCloud, Microsoft released a new Surface 3 tablet that hopes to get it right, we look forward to the 2014 MacTech Conference in November, and TidBITS members can read the latest chapter of Charles Edge’s “Take Control of OS X Server.” In FunBITS this week, Josh Centers examines Hearthstone, an online collectible card game for the Mac and iPad. Notable software releases over the past two weeks include TextExpander 4.3.1, Microsoft Office 2011 14.4.2, ScreenFlow 4.5.1, iFlicks 2.0.3, iTunes 11.2.2, Mellel 3.3.3, Postbox 3.0.10, Audio Hijack Pro 2.10.10 and Nicecast 1.10.10, KeyCue 7.2, DEVONthink/DEVONnote 2.7.6, Yojimbo 4.0.3, Pixelmator 3.2, Safari 7.0.4 and 6.1.4, OS X Server 3.1.2, and NoteBook 4.0.1.
by Josh Centers
Apple has confirmed that it is buying the trendy Beats brand for a hefty $3 billion, but will Beats co-founder Dr. Dre’s history of violence come back to haunt Apple?Show full article
After weeks of speculation, it’s official: Apple is acquiring the Beats Music streaming service and Beats Electronics, maker of highly popular premium headphones. Apple expects the deal to close in Q4 2014 for a total of $3 billion — slightly less than the originally rumored $3.2 billion (see “Why Would Apple Drop $3.2 Billion on Beats?,” 9 May 2014).
Apple’s press release makes it clear that the deal is all about music. “Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” said Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine. We almost expected to see little heart icons splashed across the press release.
Interestingly, the press release hints that Beats will keep its own unique branding, separate from Apple’s, something that seldom happens with Apple acquisitions. “The addition of Beats will make our music lineup even better, from free streaming with iTunes Radio to a world-class subscription service in Beats, and of course buying music from the iTunes Store as customers have loved to do for years,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services.
Not only does Beats Music appear to be sticking around, its iOS app was updated to version 2.1.0 on the day the deal was announced, doubling the free trial period to 14 days and dropping the annual subscription fee from $119.88 to $99.99. In an internal memo to employees, Tim Cook emphasized the importance of Beats Music in the deal, saying, “Beats Music was built with deep respect for both artists and fans. We think it’s the first subscription service to really get it right.” (We predicted that sentiment in our pre-deal coverage of Beats at “FunBITS: What Sets Beats Music Apart,” 16 May 2014)
Jimmy Iovine, a legend in the music business, will be leaving his position as chairman of Interscope Records to work full-time at Apple, and Beats co-founder Dr. Dre said he would do “as much as it takes” for Apple while continuing to produce music. According to a quote in The Wall Street Journal, Iovine said the two men’s titles would simply be “Jimmy and Dre.”
What Is Apple Ignoring About Dr. Dre? -- Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre bring decades of music industry experience and connections, as well as their fair share of cool. But with sexism in the technology industry being such a hot-button topic these days, we would be remiss not to mention Dre’s past history of violence and misogyny.
James Robinson of Pando Daily recounts a violent 1991 incident between Dre (whose real name is Andre Young) and television personality Dee Barnes at a nightclub. Dre later pled “no contest” to misdemeanor battery and settled a $22 million lawsuit with Barnes out of court. Dre faced many other legal troubles in the early 1990s related to alleged assaults, not to mention his numerous songs that feature misogynistic lyrics. However, Dre seems to be on the straight and narrow since marrying Nicole Threatt in 1996.
These actions may be in the distant past, but they’re still troubling. As Robinson says in the Pando Daily piece, “We all know there exists a double standard for celebrity crimes. Behavior that would be career-ending for a ‘regular’ person is somehow accepted as part and parcel of the celebrity lifestyle, particularly in the music industry. Also, there will be some who argue that Young’s transgressions took place over a decade ago, as if there is a statute of limitations on taking pride on beating a woman while your bodyguard holds back a crowd.”
What would the response be if another male Apple executive were found to have such a history of violence? And what sort of message does this send to women in the tech industry? Misogynistic lyrics and actual assault are far beyond the tech world’s usual hand-wringing about models at trade shows and whether conferences have enough female speakers. Perhaps an appeal to “it’s just business” will be enough to brush away such concerns, but if not, Apple is dipping into unfamiliar and likely uncomfortable waters.
Apple has revised its Web browser-hosted version of iWork for iCloud apps yet again, adding more fonts, colors, and capabilities.Show full article
Apple has once again rolled out new versions of its Web browser-hosted iWork for iCloud apps, much as it has done several times since it first released the completely revamped, iCloud-friendly iWork last October (see “New Free iLife and iWork Apps Share across Devices and Platforms,” 22 October 2013). The latest update affects all of the iWork for iCloud apps but, unlike previous updates to the browser apps, this one does not require updated versions of the Mac or iOS iWork apps in order to maintain compatibility.
A number of the changes affect all of the apps:
The capability to collaborate with as many as 100 people on the same document simultaneously.
The inclusion of nearly 200 new fonts.
The addition of more color options in the Format Panel.
The capability to create and format both 2D and interactive charts.
Changes that affect individual iWork for iCloud apps include the following:
Pages: Documents can be exported as EPUBs, and the stacking order of objects on the page can now be controlled.
Numbers: Spreadsheets can be exported in CSV (comma-separated values) format.
Keynote: Slide numbers can be revealed or hidden.
Along with these changes have come slight tweaks to the user interfaces of the apps. For example, the Help command in Pages for iCloud documents, which had migrated from the document toolbar to the Tools menu in a previous release, has migrated back to the document toolbar in the latest iteration.
You will doubtless encounter other changes, so be wary of relying on habit or muscle memory. However, you will at least have some warning that things have changed: the first time you open one of the revised apps, you’ll see a page listing the changes. If you summarily dismissed that page because you just wanted to get on with your work, don’t worry: Apple has a What’s New in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote page that summarizes all the changes to all the apps — iCloud, iOS, and Mac — that have been made since their initial releases.
Details are starting to appear about MacTech Conference 2014, so if you’re an Apple developer or IT professional looking for learning, certification, and networking opportunities, join us in Los Angeles in early November.Show full article
We won’t be participating in Apple’s developer-focused Worldwide Developer Conference this year, since the sessions are purely for programmers and, apart from the keynote that’s being streamed to the public, are all under NDA. But we’re already making plans for travelling to MacTech Conference 2014 in Los Angeles in early November, where we’ll be running yet another Take Control Tech Up (see “MacTech Conference 2013 Abounds with Networking and Fun,” 11 November 2013) to test the technical knowledge and all-around geekiness of the attendees. (Can you believe that no one remembered, without help from Google, what company made the popular TrailBlazer line of modems?) Tonya’s also planning to give a talk this year, a rare occurrence.
MacTech Conference 2014, now in its fifth installment, continues to focus on what works while introducing new elements each year. The new bits are still under wraps, but the time-tested aspects of the conference include a 3-day schedule from November 5th through 7th with new speakers, more sessions, more labs, pre-conference workshops on November 4th, and both Apple and Microsoft certification exams.
As in previous years, MacTech Conference isn’t a general-purpose conference; it’s targeted at Apple developers and IT professionals, with a pair of tracks focused on each audience. Specific session titles haven’t yet been published, but the speaker list is worth a look. Plus, although I haven’t yet been able to extract any details about special activities, past conferences have melded the highly technical talks with a whole lot of fun, including Tesla Model S test drives, the bridge from the Enterprise-D, a reception under the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and a behind-the-scenes trip to Disney Animation Studios.
MacTech Conference 2014 costs $1,499 for on-site registration, but if you register before 15 June 2014, it’s only $899. The full-day workshops are similarly discounted for early registration. The conference will once again take place at the Manhattan Beach Marriott, and you do want to stay there if possible, given the morning and evening events (not to mention LA traffic). Rooms start at $189 per weeknight, dropping to $149 for weekend nights.
Microsoft famously tends to get its products right on the third try, so will the new Surface Pro 3 tablet soar where previous Surface models sank? The tech giant hopes a bigger screen, thinner profile, upgraded stylus, and other enhancements will do the trick.Show full article
Microsoft has revealed new Surface-branded Windows hardware, taking direct aim at Apple during its media event by positioning the Surface Pro 3 as the logical all-in-one replacement for those who carry both MacBook Air notebooks and iPad tablets. The company even gently poked fun at tech journalists working on Apple laptops (with, it was assumed, idle iPads tucked away as they took notes at the press event).
The much-rumored “Surface Mini” did not materialize, and in fact, Microsoft went in the opposite direction with the Surface Pro 3 by giving it a 12-inch display, a departure from the 10.6-inch screens on earlier models (see “Microsoft Surface: A Tale of Two Computers,” 11 March 2014).
The larger multi-touch Surface screen is intended to boost productivity to be on par with that of a traditional small laptop. So is the display’s comfortable 3:2 aspect ratio, which compares favorably to the awkward 16:9 aspect ratio offered by the previous Surface models.
But, showing that Apple isn’t the only company that can produce impressive industrial design, that larger screen doesn’t mean that the Surface Pro 3 is thicker or heavier than its predecessor. Microsoft claims the Surface Pro 3 is the thinnest Intel Core-based computer available, and it weighs in at 1.76 pounds (0.80 kg), down from the Surface Pro 2’s 2.0 pounds (0.90 kg) and well below the 13-inch MacBook Air’s 2.96 pounds (1.34 kg).
Microsoft has also positioned the $799 entry-level Surface Pro 3 as cheaper than the MacBook Air, but this doesn’t factor in the optional $130 Type Cover keyboard needed to make the Surface Pro 3 a functional laptop equivalent. At a comparably outfitted $929, the Surface Pro 3 fits snugly between the 11-inch MacBook Air and the $999 13-inch MacBook Air.
What’s more, Surface devices with flexible keyboard covers have always been awkward to use on the lap. Microsoft addressed this issue at the media event, saying the Surface Pro 3 is vastly more “lappable,” with an improved Type Cover that magnetically adheres more firmly and a revised kickstand that offers a larger range of positions from the nearly vertical to the nearly horizontal.
Other improvements include a larger and more responsive trackpad on the Type Cover, along with an upgraded Surface Pen (for handwriting on the multi-touch screen) and desktop dock. Surface lacks a Thunderbolt port, sporting only a single Mini DisplayPort for connecting to external displays along with a full-size USB 3.0 port, microSD card reader, and headset jack. 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are also standard.
Various versions of the Surface Pro 3 will be released in June and August 2014, with Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processors; 4 or 8 GB of RAM; and internal storage options of 64, 128, 256, and 512 GB.
If you’re curious how the Surface Pro 3 compares to the iPad Air and MacBook Air, here’s the spec lineup.
The first two chapters of “Take Control of OS X Server” were aimed at introducing the topic and helping you pick out the right server hardware. Now it’s time to get your hands dirty — metaphorically speaking — and install OS X Server itself.Show full article
With Charles Edge’s advice on how to choose server hardware under our belts, it’s time to move on to the most important chapter in his in-progress “Take Control of OS X Server.” In Chapter 3, “Preparation and Installation,” Charles helps readers work through creating a clean environment in which to install OS X Server and then get it installed and configured for basic use.
Some of these steps are trivially easy (configuring Energy Saver to prevent the server from going to sleep), whereas others (turning on DNS) are a bit more complex. Although it’s tempting to take the path of least resistance during setup, there are times — and this is one of them — where some additional effort up front can prevent significant headaches later on. That’s where Charles’s hard-won experience over many years of working with OS X Server comes in.
Everyone is welcome to read Chapter 1, “Introducing OS X Server” and Chapter 2, “Choosing Server Hardware,” to see where the book will be going, but this chapter is available only to TidBITS members — if you’re already a TidBITS member, log in to the TidBITS site using the email address from which you joined. The full ebook of “Take Control of OS X Server” will be available for purchase by everyone in PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle) formats once it’s complete.
Publishing this book in its entirety for TidBITS members as it’s being written is just one of the ways we thank TidBITS members for their support. We also hope it encourages those of you who have been reading TidBITS for free for years to help us continue to bring you more of the professionally written and edited articles you’ve become accustomed to each week. For more details on what the membership program means to us, see “TidBITS Needs Your Support in 2013: Join Our Membership Program” (17 December 2012).
In a wide-ranging keynote address at its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple showed off the next versions of iOS and OS X to thousands of developers. You can watch for yourself, or read our summary of the key changes.Show full article
In a ninety-minute Worldwide Developer Conference keynote featuring Apple CEO Tim Cook and Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, Apple threw back the curtains on the next versions of both iOS and OS X.
Unsurprisingly, iOS becomes iOS 8, but with OS X, the big question was what California location would donate its name. Federighi played up the eventual choice, suggesting that Apple’s product marketing team had driven all around the state in a Volkswagen Microbus, trying out the sound of OS X Oxnard, OS X Rancho Cucamonga, and OS X Weed before finally choosing OS X Yosemite. Much as the concept of OS X Weed was amusing, tying the name to Yosemite National Park feels like an excellent choice, evoking scenic grandeur along with historical and scientific importance.
Both Yosemite and iOS 8 are available for developers now, with the final release promised for “this fall,” which likely means somewhere in the September-October-November time frame; if history is any guide, look for them in mid-to-late October. In keeping with the previous releases, both will be free, but in a break from tradition, Apple will be making pre-release versions of Yosemite available to the public soon as part of the OS X Beta Program. Ars Technica has a full list of supported devices for both Yosemite and iOS 8, but in short: most Macs since 2007, the iPhone 4s and later, and the iPad 2 and later.
Notably missing from the keynote were any hardware announcements: no new Mac mini, no new Apple TV, no iWatch. But that’s not to say that there was any lack of shiny new software features to talk about between the two new operating systems and their core apps. We’ll be digging in to what the announcements mean in future articles, but for now, let’s just look at what Apple said.
OS X Visual Redesign -- The biggest change coming to OS X Yosemite is its new look, largely inspired by iOS 7. Lucida Grande, which has been the system font since the earliest days of Mac OS X, has been replaced by what appears to be Helvetica Neue, which is iOS 7’s system font.
Of course, the changes don’t end there. Expect more white and pastels in Yosemite, along with redesigned, iOS 7-inspired app icons. However, the icons haven’t entirely lost their “Mac-ness.” For example, the icons for Contacts, Calendar, and Reminders are still tilted at an angle, instead of standing straight up as in iOS.
Perhaps the biggest change from a usability standpoint is that for many of Apple’s core apps, the toolbar and title bar have been merged, compressing controls into less space and leaving more room for content. It’s likely that independent developers will follow suit.
Another potentially shocking change is how the red, green, and yellow “stoplight” window controls work. They are now flat, and no longer resemble pieces of candy. But more important, the green button no longer “zooms” a window, which was always unpredictable, but now serves as a “full screen” button. The current full screen button, which sits in the upper-right of the window, goes away in Yosemite.
The Dock works the same as before, but it has been “flattened.” The 3D effect of the background on which the icons sit is gone, replaced with a simple, semi-transparent 2D background and more visible dots to indicate running apps.
Speaking of transparency, Federighi made a big show out of the new transparency effects — which he referred to rather oddly as a “material” — in Yosemite, which are most visible underneath sidebars and title bars. As in iOS 7, the effect is subtle, showing more of a hint of the background instead of being completely clear, like a pane of glass. Frankly, the feature feels like showing off — it’s computationally difficult but functionally irrelevant — and it will make taking clean screenshots all the harder.
Continuity Brings the Mac and iOS Together -- With a set of features collectively referred to as Continuity, Apple is attempting to make the experience between the Mac and iOS even more seamless. For starters, AirDrop will finally work between Macs and iOS devices, so you can transfer photos and documents between your devices without resorting to email or iMessage.
That in itself is welcome, but Continuity goes much farther. One of Apple’s most impressive new features for both OS X and iOS is Handoff. Start editing a document on one device, say an iPad, and when you move to your Mac, click an icon in the Dock to continue editing there. It works seamlessly among all Apple’s devices.
Another welcome feature is that, in Yosemite, your Mac will be able to link up with your iPhone to send and receive SMS messages and phone calls. Messages on the Mac will show SMS messages from your poor “green bubble friends” (as Federighi called them), and you’ll be able to make and answer phone calls from your Mac, and use your Mac as a speakerphone. Yosemite will even show the Caller ID information when your phone rings. You’ll also be able to call a phone number from a Web page in Safari. This feature works between the iPhone and the iPad as well, so you’ll be able to make and receive calls from your iPad.
Finally, Apple unveiled Instant Hotspot, which makes connecting to an iPhone hotspot easier than ever. You will no longer have to enter a password or fumble with your phone, but instead just select it from the list of Wi-Fi networks, even if your iPhone is across the room. This works on both the iPad and the Mac.
Unmentioned with regard to Continuity is location-based awareness for notifications, a drum that Joe Kissell has been beating for several years (see “An Alarming Abundance of Alerts,” 13 May 2012). We can hope that Apple will add some awareness of what device is primary, so a text message or reminder doesn’t have to set off alerts on all your devices simultaneously.
iCloud Drive -- Remember all that speculation about how Apple should buy Dropbox? (We played off that in last year’s April Fools issue in “Dropbox to Become iOS File System for Real?,” 1 April 2013.) No acquisition will be necessary, since Apple will be introducing iCloud Drive with iOS 8 and Yosemite (or any PC running Windows 8). iCloud Drive appears on your Mac’s Desktop like any other drive and becomes available in any iCloud-enabled app in iOS.
That may sound a bit like the current Documents in the Cloud feature of iCloud, but iCloud Drive goes further, letting any of those devices access any file within iCloud Drive, much as Dropbox and the other “document provider services” (as Apple has started calling them) provide now. Edits made on any device appear automatically on all other devices, again just like Dropbox. This has two key implications: first, that iCloud documents will no longer be restricted to a single app, and second, that iOS apps will now be able to share files between apps, something that was previously impossible and led to awkward copying of files between apps.
What Apple said nothing about, either in the keynote or on the iCloud Drive description on the Web, is if it will be possible to share files and folders in iCloud Drive among different people, as well as among apps on your own Apple devices. iCloud Drive may end up being useful for isolated users, but not to those who need to share files more broadly with colleagues.
Photos -- One of the biggest pain points in iOS has been photo management. As the iPhone’s camera has evolved, the images it takes have grown larger, taking up more precious storage space. Stopgap solutions like iCloud’s My Photo Stream, with its byzantine limitations, have only added to the confusion. Worse, although you can edit and organize photos on a device, there was no centralized archive where that effort could be made available to all your other devices.
No more. Now all of your photos will be stored in iCloud, accessible from any device. In the iOS 8 Photos app, you’ll be able to search your entire library of photos, as well as smart suggestions for what to look for.
iOS 8 will also bring more powerful editing tools. You can automatically crop and straighten photos, as well as make “smart adjustments” that will automatically tune exposure, brightness, contrast, and more.
But what about the Mac? A new Photos app for the Mac is promised for early 2015 that will provide access to your entire iCloud photo library, and will presumably offer the same features as its iOS counterpart. We don’t yet know what this means for iPhoto or Aperture, but we’re willing to bet that at least iPhoto’s days are numbered.
Disappointingly, free iCloud storage space is still limited to a paltry 5 GB, but Apple announced more generous pricing tiers, including 20 GB for $0.99 per month and 200 GB for $3.99 per month. Tiers will be offered up to 1 TB, though Apple did not reveal further pricing.
Spotlight -- First, there was LaunchBar, whose roots date back to NeXTSTEP and which came to Mac OS X in 2001. But in 2005, Apple introduced the search technology Spotlight as part of 10.4 Tiger, seemingly challenging LaunchBar’s role as a keyboard-based launcher. In reality, though, Spotlight was never serious competition, lacking LaunchBar’s adaptive abbreviation search algorithm, which can learn, for instance, that typing MSW should launch Microsoft Word.
In Yosemite, Spotlight is receiving a major upgrade, and while it may still not match LaunchBar’s adaptive abbreviation search algorithm, its new feature may put it front and center of your usage. Literally too, since Spotlight now appears in the center of the screen, rather than in the upper right corner. What’s most interesting is that Spotlight no longer limits its searches to local data, but extends its reach to Wikipedia, Bing, Maps, Yelp, and more.
And Spotlight’s search results attempt to be significantly more useful, going beyond a link to the result to the actual information you want. Look up a contact in Spotlight, and you don’t need to switch to Contacts to see her phone number, email address, or a map to her office. Recent conversations in Messages and Mail are also integrated into such search results, all presented in an attractive layout right in front of you. That applies to Web-based information as well, with data pulled from a variety of sources and formatted for quick consumption.
Although Spotlight got more attention on the Mac during the keynote, perhaps because the iOS version of Spotlight has been able to search the Web and Wikipedia for some time, the new version of Spotlight graces iOS 8 as well. You’ll be able use it to search the Web, Wikipedia, breaking news, nearby places, Apple’s various online stores, movie show times, and more.
Safari -- Once again, a new operating system has brought significant interface changes to Apple’s Web browser. Safari in Yosemite features a streamlined toolbar that incorporates almost all the features available in the tab bar and Favorites bar of the Mavericks version. Bookmarks, for example, appear when you click the search bar, as well as in search results. Searches performed from the search bar also provide Spotlight suggestions and Wikipedia links right at the top.
RSS feeds are back: they now appear in the shared links list — this is the list that Safari in Mavericks displays in its sidebar.
When you’re sharing links, Safari in Yosemite displays recipients of recent shares you have made, so you can quickly amaze/annoy your friends with yet another cute otter picture without taking a trip into Mail. A new tab view shows all of your open browser tabs and collects those from the same site into stacks. You’ll be able to enable Safari’s Private Browsing on a window-by-window or tab-by-tab basis, much like Google Chrome’s Incognito windows.
In iOS 8, Safari gains features from its Mac counterpart. The tab view from Safari for Yosemite is also available in Safari for iOS 8, and the iOS version also gains the Mac version’s sidebar of bookmarks, the Reading List, and Shared Links.
Mail -- Mail in both iOS and OS X is getting some much requested improvements (though not necessarily all the improvements that some of us at TidBITS would like). In Yosemite, Mail gains the Preview-like capabilities to annotate documents and fill out forms inside the app itself. Mail also simplifies the act of sharing large attachments by uploading the attachment to iCloud and then providing a link to the attachment inside the message itself: attachments as large as 5 GB are now possible.
Mail for iOS gets even more new and revised capabilities than its OS X sibling. Swipe direction in your mail list now matters: a left swipe in the list still provides the ability to trash or flag a message, but a right swipe will mark a message as unread. Mail has become more intelligent about a message’s content, too: items like addresses and phone numbers within a message evoke a notification at the top of the screen. You can add an address or phone number notification to Contacts; dates and times in a message offer a notification for adding an item to Calendar; and so on. Lastly, a hugely welcome new feature enables you to dock a message you are writing at the bottom of the screen so you can consult other messages, in the event you need to confirm a fact, or copy some information or a URL to the message you are composing.
Notification Center -- The big news about Notification Center in both Yosemite and iOS 8 is widgets from other apps. The Mac’s Notification Center now supports widgets, and both platforms will now support custom widgets, prompting speculation that the long-ignored Dashboard may be going away.
Notification Center for the Mac now boasts the iOS 7-style Calendar preview, including the Today view, as well as Weather, Stocks, World Clock, Calculator, and Reminders. As an example of third-party widgets in iOS 8, Federighi showed off adding an ESPN widget to Notification Center.
Another welcome feature is interactive notifications. In iOS 8, you’ll be able to respond to text messages, email messages, or calendar invites directly from the notification, either from the lock screen or at the top of the screen while using the device. This will also work with third-party apps like Facebook, so you could like or comment on Facebook posts.
Messages -- The marquee new feature of Messages on both iOS 8 and Yosemite is voice messages. Click or tap the new microphone icon, record your message, then swipe up to send it. On the iPhone, simply put the phone to your ear to hear the message. Taking a cue from Snapchat, the message expires two minutes after being heard, unless you elect to keep it.
Also, in iOS 8, you’ll be able to take a video and send it directly from Messages. As with voice messages, videos vanish after two minutes unless you choose to retain them.
A desperately needed new feature is better management of group messages. Now you can add and remove people from a group conversation, name threads, and leave a group conversation. Hopefully this will reduce the common problem of people accidentally typing in the wrong conversations and should make Messages better for ongoing group messaging. You can also enable Do Not Disturb for individual threads that are receiving too many messages at inopportune times.
More interesting, you will be able to share your location from Messages, as a sort of ad-hoc Find My Friends. So if someone asks “Where are you,” you can both show and tell. Locations can be shared for an hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely.
Another welcome refinement is being able to see all attachments in a conversation, instead of having to dig through to find pictures and other things. We hope that you’ll be able to delete attachments from this view, since threads in Messages can become quite the storage hogs.
Other New iOS Features -- Apple has added a number of other neat features to iOS 8 that could dramatically change how you use your devices.
Extensibility: iOS apps will finally be able to talk to each other! For example, Pinterest can add the option to share a Web page to its app from the Safari sharing sheet. This also means that Safari will effectively have extensions, such as 1Password and LastPass. One example that was shown was using Bing Translate to translate text on a Web page into English.
Family Sharing: Apple is, at long last, making it easier to share iTunes content with your family members. Up to six people in your household can share content from iTunes, the App Store, and the iBooks Store without sharing accounts, as long as those accounts all use the same credit card. Parents will also receive notifications when their kids try to make a purchase, and can approve or decline those purchases from their own devices. Family Sharing also promises to link together calendars, photos, and location data, though we don’t yet have details on how this will change the current features.
Predictive and Third-Party Keyboards: iOS 8 takes a big cue from Android in the keyboard department, adding two long-existing Android features: predictive text and third-party keyboards.
Predictive text works much like it does in Android, showing a bar above the keyboard with a list of words or phrases that iOS thinks you want to appear next. Predictive text will be available in 14 countries at launch.
iOS 8 will at last support third-party keyboards, such as the popular Swype for Android, which lets you draw a line across the keyboard to spell out words, and Fleksy, which has so far been relegated to its own iOS app and an API. We expect to see a number of exciting new keyboards in the App Store over the next year.
Contact Shortcuts: iOS 8’s app switcher will also show favorite and recent contacts at the top of the screen. Tap one, and you can quickly call or message that person.
Health: Health-tracking devices abound these days, such as those from Fitbit, and Apple’s new Health app, along with the HealthKit API for developers, will bring them all together in a single place. Not only will Health securely integrate information from these devices, but it can also link up with your healthcare provider. While not terribly exciting just yet, Health could be a game changer in healthcare over the long run.
App Store: Expect more App Store refinements in iOS 8, including a new Explore tab, badges for Editor’s Choice apps, discounted app bundles, video previews, and a new TestFlight service for beta-testing apps. Alas, the common developer requests of demo versions and coupon-based discounts weren’t mentioned.
Siri: Everyone’s favorite personal assistant will be learning some new tricks, including Shazam song recognition, the capability to purchase content from the iTunes Store, and 22 new dictation languages.
Swift Programming Language -- We’d like to close out this overview with something a little outside our normal beat — a new programming language. It has been years since Apple introduced such a thing, but those who have been waiting for the next HyperTalk/Dylan/ScriptX to come flitting out of Cupertino might want to check out Swift, which Apple describes as “an innovative new programming language for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch.” Designed to live seamlessly inside of developer projects alongside both C and Objective-C code, Swift is optimized for working with the programming frameworks used to build both Mac and iOS apps.
Swift also comes with a Playground, within which developers can try out code in real-time, providing live views of animations and timelines that present the state of a variable as the code runs.
While Swift may not be of interest to most Mac and iOS users, it has profound implications for computer instruction in secondary schools and endeavors like App Camp for Girls (see “App Camp for Girls Rocks Macworld/iWorld,” 11 April 2014). The Swift Programming Language guide is already available for free download from the iBooks Store.
by Josh Centers
Hearthstone is a collectible card game for Mac and iOS that makes the genre accessible to all. But are the criticisms of it being a “pay to win” game fair?Show full article
It takes evil genius to combine the addictive qualities of World of Warcraft with the equally addictive qualities of Magic: The Gathering. But that’s just what Blizzard Entertainment has done with Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft for Mac and iPad. The Mac version requires Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or later and the iPad version requires an iPad 2 running iOS 5.0 or later. Both are free, with in-app purchases.
Hearthstone is a collectible card game, a genre that has historically been nigh-impenetrable to new players. But Blizzard has a knack for bringing geeky game genres to the masses, as it did for massively multiplayer online gaming with World of Warcraft and real-time strategy games with the Warcraft and Starcraft series. Blizzard has now done the same for collectible card games with Hearthstone by providing an extensive tutorial, taking the game online so you don’t have to find opponents in the real world, and eliminating the cost of entry.
In Hearthstone, you construct decks of 30 cards, based around a hero class. The classes will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played World of Warcraft or similar role-playing games. For example, priests can heal themselves and their minions, while warriors use weapons and armor to deal damage to their opponents. Each class also has a special hero ability that doesn’t require a card to play.
Players each take turns drawing and playing cards from their decks. Cards can be simple spells that do damage, heal allies, or provide power-ups; minions that can fight for your hero; or weapons, which can be used by your hero to do direct damage to the opposing player or his minions. Each card requires a certain amount of “mana” in order to play it. Both players starts with one point of mana, gaining one additional point of mana every turn until the maximum of ten, and mana is refilled every turn. That means that the most powerful cards and minions, which require significant amounts of mana, can’t be played right away.
Each turn starts by drawing a card, which is added to your hand (you start with 3 cards if you go first, 4 if you start second). During your turn, you can play as many cards as you wish, as long as you have enough mana. You can also attack the opposing player or her minions with your minions or weapons. Each character can attack only once per turn, so the more minions on the board, the more chances for attacks. Also, most minions cannot attack on the first turn in which they’re placed on the board, so you usually have to wait until your next turn to take advantage of them (some can attack right away, or have special abilities that are activated when they’re placed on the board).
Each minion has numbers for attack and health. When you or your minion attacks an opposing minion, your health is reduced by the value of that minion’s attack, unless you have something to mitigate the damage. However, attacking the opposing player usually costs nothing in terms of health, unless that player has a weapon.
Each player starts with 30 health, and the object of the game is to reduce the opposing player’s health to 0. Of course, it’s never that simple. Polygon has a video with some good survival tips.
If this all sounds a bit confusing, don’t let that dissuade you from trying Hearthstone. The game goes to great lengths to teach you the basics, so it’s accessible to everyone.
One of the more interesting aspects of Hearthstone’s online play is that unless you’re playing against a friend, you can’t chat with your opponent. Instead, you’re limited to a predefined set of phrases called “emotes,” such as, “Greetings” and “Well played.” It sounds limiting, but it minimizes verbal abuse. It’s refreshing to play a popular online game free of racial and homophobic epithets. The only way you can irk strangers is with a threaten emote, which is fairly innocuous and different for each class. For example, the warlock’s threat is “Your soul shall suffer,” while the paladin offers the less frightening “Justice demands retribution!” Still, either one is far more gentle than common online trash talk.
Being a collectible card game, much of the strategy happens outside of matches, where you collect new cards to build better, more powerful decks. The easiest way to get free cards is to advance each of the nine heroes to level 10, since you gain a few free cards for each level between 1 and 10. The class you’re playing as get a certain amount of experience points after each match, and after you earn enough, that class gains a level. The current level cap is 60, but you stop earning new cards after level 10. Beyond gaining those initial cards, experience points and levels don’t currently have much impact on the game. The idea is to encourage you to try out each class and become familiar with them, because even if you don’t play as that class, understanding what each one does is important to mastering the game.
You can also earn cards and gold, Hearthstone’s in-game currency, by completing quests, such as winning a certain number of matches with a given class. Gold, as well as real money, can also be use to buy card packs, which contain five random cards. One pack costs 100 gold, two packs costs $2.99, on up to 40 packs for $49.99. Yes, you’re reading that correctly, Blizzard confusingly mixes in-game currency and real-money, presumably to ensure that players who want more cards faster have to pony up.
If you don’t get the cards you want, you can disenchant them to obtain arcane dust, which can be used to craft new cards. How much arcane dust is required depends on the strength of the card you’re crafting. However, you can’t disenchant cards obtained for free.
The fact that you can buy cards to build up your deck has led to criticism that Hearthstone is a “pay to win” game. Polygon took an extended look at the game’s economy and determined that casual players can build impressive decks given enough time, but if you want to rise to the top of the ranks, you’ll need to spend some money. But still, Hearthstone is much less of a financial burden than traditional collectible card games, for which you must purchase a starter deck even to begin.
If you need a goal beyond individual wins or collecting new cards, there’s a ranked ladder each month. You start at rank 25, and you move up the ranks as you defeat other players. This system ensures that you won’t face off against an opponent who greatly outmatches you.
As a casual player, I’ve had a lot of fun with Hearthstone without paying a penny. I much prefer playing on the iPad over the Mac, as it’s more suited to playing on the couch or in bed. However, the iPad version is more prone to spontaneous disconnects, especially when the iPad’s screen locks. This is especially annoying as it ends the match, counting it against you as a loss.
Hearthstone is an incredibly complex game, but it’s also one that’s easy to pick up. If you’re a fan of tabletop gaming, I encourage you to check it out.
Notable software releases over the past two weeks include TextExpander 4.3.1, Microsoft Office 2011 14.4.2, ScreenFlow 4.5.1, iFlicks 2.0.3, iTunes 11.2.2, Mellel 3.3.3, Postbox 3.0.10, Audio Hijack Pro 2.10.10 and Nicecast 1.10.10, KeyCue 7.2, DEVONthink/DEVONnote 2.7.6, Yojimbo 4.0.3, Pixelmator 3.2, Safari 7.0.4 and 6.1.4, OS X Server 3.1.2, and NoteBook 4.0.1.Show full article
TextExpander 4.3.1 -- Smile has released TextExpander 4.3 with improvements to search performance and cursor positioning accuracy. The update also fixes an issue where Return no longer worked as a delimiter, adds support for snippet creation hotkeys in applications where expansion is disabled, fixes an auto-capitalization error involving accented characters, improves abbreviation replacement in Mail’s address fields, and now allows typing to select snippets in the list. Shortly after releasing version 4.3, Smile updated TextExpander to version 4.3.1 to fix a hang when launching TextExpander with no settings. ($34.95 new with a 20 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 10.2 MB, release notes, 10.7+)
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Microsoft Office 2011 14.4.2 -- Microsoft has updated Office 2011 to version 14.4.2 with just a few improvements. The release fixes a nagging bug that always required product activation after restarting a Mac with a Fusion Drive (though you may have to enter your activation details one final time after installing this update). It also provides two PowerPoint-related fixes — one for an issue that made the Undo button disappear after saving a presentation to a local drive, and another that caused YouTube link data to disappear after saving a presentation. (Free update from the Microsoft Download Center or through Microsoft AutoUpdate, 114 MB, release notes, 10.5+)
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ScreenFlow 4.5.1 -- Telestream has released ScreenFlow 4.5.1, a maintenance release that doesn’t scrimp on the fixes. The screencast recording app improves audio waveform rendering, fixes a problem with optimizing very large MPEG-4 files, ensures layers in the timeline are consistent, fixes a bug with signing into Facebook after signing into Dropbox, squashes another Dropbox bug related to uploading files with spaces in the filename, and fixes an issue with previewing when using multiple monitors. For a complete rundown of the new features, read the PDF release notes from Telestream’s support page. Note that as of this writing, the Mac App Store version of ScreenFlow remains at version 4.5. ($99 new from the Telestream Web site or $99.99 from the Mac App Store, 39.1 MB, 10.7+)
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iFlicks 2.0.3 -- Jendrik Bertram has released version 2.0.3 of the iFlicks video encoding and metadata management app (see “iFlicks Improves iTunes Imports,” 10 January 2013). The maintenance release adds a season description field (in addition to the episode description), adds support for importing and exporting both rules and chapters, improves AppleScript support and search results for movies, enables you to keep the original audio track, fixes problems encoding some audio tracks, and adds support for absolute episode numbers. ($24.99 new from the Mac App Store, free update, 11.3 MB, 10.7.3+)
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iTunes 11.2.2 -- Apple has released iTunes 11.2.2, a quick follow-up to last week’s release with tweaks to the Podcasts user interface (see “iTunes 11.2.1 Fixes /Users Folder Bug, Improves Podcasts Library,” 19 May 2014). The update fixes a problem where podcast episodes would download unexpectedly after upgrading to the previous version, and it includes Apple’s usual “unspecified stability improvements.” iTunes 11.2.2 is available as a direct download from Apple’s iTunes Web page or via Software Update. (Free, 224 MB, 10.6.8+)
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Mellel 3.3.3 -- RedleX has released Mellel 3.3.3 with a number of user-requested enhancements and bug fixes. The word processing app now displays recent fonts in the Font menu (found in the Character palette), adds an option to control the resolution of converted vector images when exporting to RTF, improves the display of Auto-title, reduces the height of bibliography style mapping window to fit better on smaller screens, fixes a problem that prevented reference elements in the text from being found, and squashes a bug that caused a hang when exporting documents with large PDF or PICT images to an RTF file. ($39 new from RedleX and the Mac App Store, free update, 101 MB, release notes, 10.6+)
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Postbox 3.0.10 -- Postbox has released version 3.0.10 of its eponymous email client, with support for Retina displays. The update also automatically resizes images to fit the message pane window, adds the capability to whitelist an entire domain to load remote images, fixes a slowdown issue with Yahoo IMAP servers, fixes an issue that prevented some preferences from being saved, stops Address Book notes from overflowing, and improves French, Italian, and German localizations. ($9.95 new, free update, 22.9 MB, release notes, 10.6+)
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Audio Hijack Pro 2.10.10 and Nicecast 1.10.10 -- Rogue Amoeba has released Audio Hijack Pro 2.10.10 and Nicecast 1.10.10, both of which receive many of the same improvements and fixes. The two audio utilities update the Instant On component to version 7.2 to improve latency, improve how Application Source selector displays which apps can be captured, fix a Safari audio capture bug that occurred on non-English systems, and improve audio capture from the Citrix GoToMeeting VoIP app. The Nicecast audio broadcast utility ensures track titles are no longer sent if a broadcast is Off Air and stops the NSURLConnection log from needlessly pinging the Console. Audio Hijack Pro also prevents a crash from occurring when saving large artwork files in AIFF and WAV files. If you’re a TidBITS member, you can purchase both Audio Hijack Pro and Nicecast at a 20 percent discount (as well as other Rogue Amoeba products, including Airfoil, Fission, Intermission, and Piezo). ($32 for Audio Hijack Pro, 9.0 MB, free update release notes, 10.7+; $59 for Nicecast, free update, 7.9 MB, release notes, 10.7+)
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KeyCue 7.2 -- Ergonis has released KeyCue 7.2 with a new feature that makes it easier to find all available shortcuts for an application. The keyboard shortcut utility now merges visible keyboard shortcuts collected from the current application with invisible shortcuts that come from KeyCue’s custom shortcut descriptions into one block view when the headers match. (Previously, these two sets of shortcuts were displayed in separate blocks.) The update also adds an option for excluding menu shortcuts, system-wide shortcuts, and/or macro hotkeys from keyboard activation; squashes a bug that prevented KeyCue from displaying shortcuts for Digital Performer; and fixes a problem that prevented certain FileMaker Pro 13 shortcuts from displaying. (€19.99 new with a 25 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 3.5 MB, release notes, 10.5.8+)
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DEVONthink/DEVONnote 2.7.6 -- DEVONtechnologies has updated all three editions of DEVONthink (Personal, Pro, and Pro Office) and DEVONnote to version 2.7.6, with improvements in sharing documents as a Web site. All editions of DEVONthink and DEVONnote can now create a table of contents and index documents for export to the Web, and the Send by Email command is easier to find. Additionally, DEVONthink’s Web browser extension and bookmarklets support Markdown, and dragging data from Safari to your database is more reliable. DEVONthink’s preview panes now display thumbnails for missing files, and the information manager also improves VoiceOver support, speeds up conversion of rich text documents to HTML or formatted notes, and fixes a bug with Google SketchUp files that caused them to be imported as text files. (All updates are free. DEVONthink Pro Office, $149.95 new, release notes; DEVONthink Professional, $79.95 new, release notes; DEVONthink Personal, $49.95 new, release notes; DEVONnote, $24.95 new, release notes; 25 percent discount for TidBITS members on DEVONnote and all editions of DEVONthink. 10.6.8+)
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Pixelmator 3.2 -- The Pixelmator Team has released version 3.2 (nicknamed Sandstone) of its eponymous image-editing app with a revamped Repair Tool that should make it easier to fix imperfections and remove unwanted objects from your images (here’s a video sample of the Repair Tool in action, uploaded by Pixelmator). According to this blog post, the new Repair Tool comes with three repair algorithm options (Quick, Standard, and Advanced), which also use a quarter the memory of the previous version. Pixelmator 3.2 also adds support for 16 bits per channel, the capability to lock layers, and a Convert Selection into Shape feature. Additionally, the release makes numerous fixes and improvements, including a Color Depth dialog that can convert images to 16 bits or 8 bits per channel, a fix for ensuring the Info Bar updates after restoring an image to its previous version, and improved performance of the Stroke and Fill layer styles. Pixelmator 3.2 now requires OS X 10.9.1 Mavericks or later. ($29.99 new from the Mac App Store, free update, 35.7 MB, release notes, 10.9.1+)
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Safari 7.0.4 and 6.1.4 -- Apple has released Safari 7.0.4 for users of OS X 10.9 Mavericks and Safari 6.1.4 for users of 10.8 Mountain Lion and 10.7 Lion, both of which fix multiple critical vulnerabilities associated with WebKit. According to the security note for these updates, both versions of Safari fix a swath of memory corruption issues within the rendering engine that could lead to arbitrary code execution after visiting a maliciously crafted Web site. They also deal with a problem with handling Unicode characters in URLs that could enable a maliciously crafted URL to send out an incorrect postMessage origin. Both updates are available only through Software Update. (Free, 10.9+/10.7–10.8)
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OS X Server 3.1.2 -- Apple has released OS X Server 3.1.2, which improves the Calendar Server’s importing, invitations, and group scheduling. OS X Server, which installs on top of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, also improves the stability of its Messages Server when using Chat Rooms. Additionally, it tackles several issues with the Profile Manager, fixing a bug related to managing Device Enrollment Program systems with long descriptive names, improving how it sends Volume Purchase Program invitations, and fixing problems with deploying profiles that contain variables when code signing is enabled. ($19.99 new, free update, 179 MB, 10.9.3+)
TidBITS members can learn more about OS X Server via streamed “chapticles” of Charles Edge’s “Take Control of OS X Server” (see ““Take Control of OS X Server” Streaming in TidBITS,” 12 May 2014). The first two chapters of the book-in-progress — “Take Control of OS X Server, Chapter 1: Introducing OS X Server” and “Take Control of OS X Server, Chapter 2: Choosing Server Hardware” — can be read by everyone. TidBITS members will also get full access to the subsequent pre-release chapticles and can provide feedback or ask questions. Consider joining the TidBITS membership program, which also includes a 30 percent discount on all Take Control books and discounts on leading Mac apps, a full-text RSS feed, and a banner ad-free version of the TidBITS Web site.
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NoteBook 4.0.1 -- Circus Ponies has released NoteBook 4.0, a major update to the note-taking and text-collection utility with a newly streamlined user interface, and support for 64-bit processors and Retina displays. The release improves diagram building with shortcuts like Option-dragging from a shape to create a new line, and it brings back the Clip and Annotate panel — great for editing selections before clipping them to a page or adding a quick note. NoteBook 4 adds support for full-screen viewing and gestures for changing the zoom level and scrolling through tabs. It also uses the Mac’s AVAudioRecorder to record voice annotation audio, which makes it compatible with voice recordings made on NoteBook 4 for iPad (note, however, that the Mac App Store version of NoteBook 4 does not support voice annotation). Speaking of NoteBook 4 for iPad, Circus Ponies warns that it is very similar to the previous 3.1 release, and promises a future update with iOS 7 support and an interface overhaul. Be sure to read the full list of over 100 changes and improvements delivered in NoteBook 4.
Shortly after the unveiling of NoteBook 4.0, Circus Ponies released version 4.0.1 with numerous fixes, including for a NoteBook window toolbar display glitch on non-English versions. NoteBook 4 is priced at $49.95 from the Circus Ponies Web site ($59.99 at the Mac App Store), and you can try it free for 30 days. If you purchased a NoteBook 3 license on or after 6 May 2013, you are eligible for a free upgrade; purchases made prior to that date can upgrade to NoteBook 4 for $19.95 directly from the Circus Ponies Web site. ($49.99 new, free update, 18.3 MB, 10.6.8+)
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In case Apple’s massive WWDC announcements aren’t sufficient for you this week, Google has built a prototype of a self-driving car and brought the Rubik’s Cube to the Web. You can also get a look at Apple products that never came to pass, and Joe Kissell explains why he loves Nisus Writer Pro over all other word processors. eBay had a major security breach, so be sure to change your password, and Apple is working on a fix for iMessage woes for those who dare to leave the iPhone nest.Show full article
In case Apple’s massive WWDC announcements aren’t sufficient for you this week, Google has built a prototype of a self-driving car and brought the Rubik’s Cube to the Web. You can also get a look at Apple products that never came to pass, and Joe Kissell explains why he loves Nisus Writer Pro over all other word processors. eBay had a major security breach, so be sure to change your password, and Apple is working on a fix for iMessage woes for those who dare to leave the iPhone nest.
Google Unveils Its Self-Driving Car -- Google is now an automaker of sorts. It has built a prototype of its long-brewing self-driving car, which looks like a mix between a Volkswagen Beetle and a Smart Fortwo. The car features no manual controls, and, as a precaution, is limited to 25 miles per hour. Google has produced a video showing it being test-driven by a number of people — including a blind man.
The Apple That Never Was: Prototypes from Frogdesign -- Back in the 1980s, Apple didn’t design products in house, but instead turned to design firm Frog, then called Frogdesign. Frog founder Hartmut Esslinger has released a new book, “Keep it Simple,” that features pictures of a number of forgotten Apple prototypes from that era. The Verge has posted some of Esslinger’s photos, including prototypes for cell phones, tablets, and laptops that range from the ludicrous to the downright prescient.
A Reminder to Change Your eBay Password -- eBay has announced that a database containing customer names, encrypted passwords, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth — but not “financial information or other confidential personal information” — was compromised between late February and early March of this year. eBay subsidiary PayPal was unaffected by the breach. The company is notifying users, but not particularly quickly, so if you haven’t already done so, change your eBay password today. As always, changing your password is particularly important if you used the same password on other sites.
Apple Working on a Fix for the iMessage Trap -- As we reported previously, users who switch away from the iPhone are having trouble with their phone numbers remaining tied to iMessage, causing them to miss SMS text messages from other iPhone users. Apple told Re/code that it has fixed a server-side bug that was partially responsible for the issue and that it is working on a software update to address the issue more fully.
Joe Kissell on Why He Loves Nisus Writer -- There are lots of word processors out there — Apple’s Pages comes with every new Mac and Microsoft Word has been the professional standard for years. But when it comes to writing one of his many books, Joe Kissell prefers Nisus Writer Pro — so much so that he switched to the Mac in 1991 to use it. In this Macworld piece, Joe explains what makes Nisus Writer so great.