TidBITS#1281/20-Jul-2015

In this music-focused issue of TidBITS, we cover Apple’s long-awaited update to the iPod touch and the recolored versions of the iPod nano and iPod shuffle. For those puzzled by the latest version of iTunes and Apple Music, we’re pleased to announce Kirk McElhearn’s new “Take Control of iTunes 12: The FAQ,” which answers all your questions. To round out our music coverage, the TidBITS crew shares five more Apple Music tips. Changing gears, Adam Engst unveils the new Take Control Web site and Josh Centers uses the recent Comcast outages as an excuse to explain what to do when your Internet connection goes south. Notable software releases this week include CrashPlan 4.3, DEVONthink/DEVONnote 2.8.6, and Office 2016 for Mac.
 
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“Take Control of iTunes 12: The FAQ” Answers Apple Music Questions

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst
  1 comment

iTunes — can’t live with it, can’t live without it. That has become all the more true with the free 3-month trial of Apple’s new Apple Music streaming service, since the way it’s integrated into iTunes 12.2 has caused untold consternation.

Apple doesn’t seem inclined to listen to feedback about the iTunes interface. But we can help you use the app, thanks to our expert friend Kirk McElhearn, who may know more about iTunes than anyone outside Apple — posts on his Kirkville blog and his iTunes Guy articles for Macworld help hundreds of thousands of people each month. Now he has distilled his knowledge into “Take Control of iTunes 12: The FAQ,” a 251-page book perfectly timed to answer your questions about the intertwingled options in Apple Music, the iCloud Music Library feature, and iTunes Match.

True to its FAQ title, and befitting the many questions people have about iTunes, the $15 book answers about 150 frequently asked questions about all aspects of the app. Chapters such as Play, Rip, Buy, Tag, View, Organize, Search, Sync, Cloud, and Share cover the basics and beyond. Read more about each of these chapters on our redesigned Take Control Web site, under More Info, and click the Free Sample post-it on the book cover to check out a PDF sample of the first few pages of each chapter.

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Apple Updates iPod touch, Recolors iPod nano and iPod shuffle

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst, Josh Centers: josh@tidbits.com, @jcenters
  6 comments

For the first time in almost three years, Apple has refreshed its iPod lineup, releasing a new iPod touch with improved specs and changing the colors of the otherwise unchanged iPod nano and iPod shuffle. Despite Apple’s headline proclaiming “5 stunning colors,” all three actually come in six colors: blue, pink, silver, gold, space gray, and (PRODUCT)RED, with the proceeds from the last one going toward fighting AIDS in Africa.


The new sixth-generation iPod touch retains the same form factor and 4-inch Retina display as the previous generation, but now boasts the A8 processor and M8 motion coprocessor used in the iPhone 6. The updated iPod touch also offers a new 8-megapixel iSight camera capable of capturing 1080p and slow-mo video, and an improved FaceTime HD front-facing camera that can take 1.2 megapixel photos and 720p video. Wi-Fi connectivity is also improved, with support for the 802.11ac standard. It appears that Apple has dropped the peg that enabled users to attach a wrist strap. Battery life remains unchanged at up to 40 hours of music playback and 8 hours of video playback.

The new iPod touch supports Apple Music, and according to Apple’s iPod comparison page, it’s the only iPod to do so; iTunes will not let you sync Apple Music songs to the other iPods. The iPod touch starts at $199 for 16 GB of storage, with 32 GB available for $249, 64 GB for $299, and for the first time, 128 GB for $399 (the 128 GB model is available only directly from Apple). The 128 GB model should mollify some of the people perturbed by last year’s loss of the 160 GB iPod classic model (see “Eulogy for the iPod classic,” 11 September 2014).

Other than the new colors, the updated iPod nano is identical to the old model, with only a 16 GB model available for $149. It features a 2.5-inch multi-touch display, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, an FM radio with 15-minute Live Pause, and Nike+ integration. It offers up to 30 hours of music playback or 3.5 hours of video playback.

The updated iPod shuffle is also identical to its old model, apart from the new colors. It stores only 2 GB worth of music, but costs just $49. It offers VoiceOver support for track identification and navigation, and up to 15 hours of music playback.

It’s particularly nice to see Apple paying some attention to the iPod touch after all this time; it had lagged significantly behind the iPhone and its yearly refreshes. For some audiences, notably younger children, an iPhone is inappropriate, but it was difficult for parents to choose an iPod touch when its processing power had fallen so far behind the iPhone and iPad for games. We aren’t at all surprised to see that the iPod touch retains its smaller form factor, though, since children have smaller hands (and often sharper eyes!) than adults, and reducing the manufacturing changes undoubtedly enables Apple to keep margins high. Given that Apple’s Other Products category, which includes the iPods, Apple TV, Beats Electronics, and accessories, brought in $1.7 billion in revenue in the last fiscal quarter (see “Apple Makes Even More Money in Q2 2015,” 27 April 2015 — that number is down from $2.7 billion the previous quarter), it’s worth keeping these iPods going, but not worth putting much effort into updating them.

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Dealing with Recent and Future Comcast Outages

  by Josh Centers: josh@tidbits.com, @jcenters
  1 comment

My Comcast Business Internet connection has recently become increasingly flaky. I had one outage on 18 June 2015, which prompted Comcast to send an apology note. About a week later, I received an automated phone call telling me that there was a planned maintenance outage coming in the wee hours of the morning. But then on 12 July 2015, I had another outage that lasted from about 11 AM to 3 PM. For most people, these outages are merely inconvenient, but when you work remotely, they throw a wrench into your workday.


I’m not alone in my frustration. The downdetector.com Comcast outage map looks like a nuclear war broke out over the United States, with outages spanning from Boston down to Virginia, with hotspots in and around Tennessee, stretching to the Florida panhandle, and then skipping across the country into Colorado, large parts of California, and the Pacific Northwest.


I’ve actually been fairly lucky — many of the people I follow on Twitter have had much worse outages. So what is going on? Unfortunately, the answer may not be simple.

Scanning the headlines, I discovered a Jersey Shore outage in June that Comcast blamed on software problems. Another June outage was caused by DNS failures. Another West Coast outage in May was pinned on a boring rig accidentally cutting fiber lines. An earlier May outage affected Washington State, though a cause was not disclosed.

I spoke to Comcast’s Dave McGuire about the outages. He insisted that the incidents were isolated and coincidental. “We take reliability extremely seriously. While all networks experience unforeseen issues, we have worked hard and invested to build a network that is robust, redundant, and self healing. When we do experience issues, we work quickly not just to bring service back online, but also to understand the causes and make sure they don’t happen again,” he said.

If you do have an outage, here’s what you can do to diagnose it and get back online as soon as possible.

Troubleshooting Your Connection -- You’re working away, and all of a sudden, a Web site won’t load. Before you call your ISP, it’s important to determine the source of the malfunction. Here are the common causes:

First, be sure that you have a solid Wi-Fi signal or a wired connection and try visiting Google in a Web browser. If that doesn’t work, try Yahoo or Apple or Amazon — it’s nearly inconceivable that these large sites would be down at all, much less at the same time. If the large sites load, the problem is likely the particular server you were trying to contact being down — it happens, and the only solution is to wait until it returns.

On the other hand, if you have trouble accessing the big sites, try them again on another Mac, iPhone, or iPad. If pages load on the second device, reboot the first device, since it’s the problem.

If Web pages won’t load on your secondary device, you have to check the next link in the chain: your cable/DSL modem and your router (which are sometimes the same device). The easy way to test them is to unplug both, wait for 10–15 seconds, and then plug in first the modem and then the router. Give everything a few minutes to come back online, and then try loading a Web page again.

If you still can’t make a connection, the problem is almost certainly an issue at the ISP’s end. But if you don’t mind getting a bit technical, there’s one more workaround you can try.

Sometimes an ISP will appear to be offline, when the problem is actually limited to its DNS server. DNS, or domain name service, translates human-readable Internet addresses like tidbits.com into computer-readable IP addresses like 173.255.250.214. If a DNS server is down, it may seem as though your entire Internet connection is down. To see if that’s the case, try visiting http://173.194.115.78/ in your Web browser. That’s currently a direct IP address for Google, and if it loads, you know the problem is with DNS (note that the IP address may change in the future).

The solution in that case is to change your preferred DNS servers on your router or computer — the former will affect the entire network while the latter will be localized to just your computer. Google Public DNS is one alternative, as is OpenDNS (soon to be acquired by Cisco). However, if you change your DNS server settings, be aware that it could have a negative impact on video streaming, as many ISPs offload high-bandwidth content to a content delivery network (CDN), and if you’re not using the ISP’s DNS servers, you may not get a nearby streaming server.

To change DNS servers on the Mac, open Network pane of System Preferences, and from the sidebar, choose your preferred method of connecting to the Internet: Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Click the Advanced button, and select the DNS tab. In the list of DNS Servers, there should already be one or more IP addresses, with one mapping to your router, which usually acts as a DNS gateway. Click plus (+), and you can add your preferred DNS servers (the previously entered ones may vanish). Feel free to add several servers, in order of preference. If the top-most DNS server fails to respond, your Mac will continue down the line until it finds one that works. You can also drag items in the list to rearrange the order.


Later on, if you find that having alternative DNS servers is causing problems, you can return to that screen, select the DNS servers and click minus (–) to delete them. If you delete all of them, your Mac reverts to its auto-detected defaults.

Here’s a bonus tip: the free namebench utility will compare your current DNS providers against others, and let you know which ones are the fastest (be aware that namebench takes quite a while to run). Faster DNS can mean faster Web page loading, but remember that not using your ISP’s DNS server could hamper streaming video performance, due to the aforementioned CDNs.

Once you’ve ruled out DNS failure, the only remaining logical conclusion is that your ISP is suffering some sort of outage. If you have cable Internet, it may be worth checking to see if you still have TV service, though the two aren’t necessarily related. A cable cut would affect both, but a dead router high up in the ISP’s datacenter might affect only Internet service.

For Comcast customers, the good news is that if you’re experiencing a known network outage, a quick call to 1-800-COMCAST (residential) or 1-800-391-3000 (business) will provide an automated message letting you know when service should be restored. Otherwise, you may wish to let technical support know about the outage. Another outlet, if you have a backup Internet connection (via your iPhone’s cellular data connection, for instance), is to reach out to @comcastcares on Twitter. I’ve found Comcast’s Twitter team to be more responsive than its phone support crew. And if you do have a mobile Internet connection and your data plan supports it, you can tether your Mac to your iPhone and keep working; Apple’s article, “Use Continuity to connect your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac” explains how. You’ll probably want to shut down data-intensive services like Dropbox, CrashPlan, and iCloud Photo Library while tethered — check out Trip Mode if this is a common need.

Regardless of your ISP, be sure to have a tech support contact number available in an offline location. You don’t want to be stuck needing to search the Internet for the number when you have no connection!

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Five More Apple Music Tips

  by TidBITS Staff: editors@tidbits.com

In “A Tour of Apple Music” (2 July 2015), Managing Editor Josh Centers gave an overview of the new Apple Music service and offered some tips on how to use it. Now we have even more tips to share with you.

Making and Sharing Playlists -- There has been a lot of confusion as to how Apple Music works with playlists. It’s actually quite simple… at least as simple as iTunes gets.

To create a playlist in iTunes, click the Music icon in the top left, and then Playlists in the center. Then, at the bottom of the left sidebar, click the plus ⊕ icon and choose New Playlist. It’s the same way playlists have always worked in iTunes 12.

The catch is that if you want to add a song from Apple Music that you haven’t already added to My Music, you can’t do so directly from the Playlists view. Instead, first find the song you want to add in Apple Music. Searching is the main way to do that, but if you hear a song playing in Apple Music Radio, choose Controls > Go to Current Song (Command-L) to jump to it quickly.

Once you can see the song, hover your cursor over it until the More ⋯ button appears, click it, click Add To, and then click the playlist you want to add it to. (That click on Add To is necessary — these things look like hierarchical menus, but aren’t, so your playlists won’t appear automatically when you hover over Add To like a normal menu would.)


On iOS, things are a bit more straightforward. Open Music, go to the My Music tab, and tap the Playlists tab at the top. To add a playlist, tap New. You’re prompted to add songs immediately. Unlike in iTunes, you can search for and add songs from both your own music and Apple Music directly to tapping the ⊕ next to a song or album.


With Apple Music, you can now share your playlists with others. In either iTunes or Music, find the sharing icon, tap it, and select how you’d like to share your playlist.

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What if your playlist includes music that isn’t available on Apple Music? Things can get strange here. First off, if you try to add a song that’s not in your iCloud Music Library, iTunes tells you that iCloud Music Library playlists (which you probably didn’t know you were creating) can contain only music from iCloud Music Library, and if you continue, the playlist will exist only on your computer. Second, if your playlist includes songs that aren’t in Apple Music, but that you have uploaded to your iCloud Music Library, they’ll appear in the playlist for you just fine. But if you try to share that playlist, the songs not in Apple Music disappear silently. Third and finally, if you share a playlist containing only songs not in Apple Music, iTunes freaks. Josh created a playlist of songs by The Beatles, which aren’t available on Apple Music, and then shared the playlist link with Adam. The shared playlist had only one track, “I’ll Keep You Satisfied” by The Dakotas and Billy J. Kramer, which, when played, was actually “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles. Weird…

Smart Playlist Recipes for Apple Music -- Apple Music adds an element of chaos to your music collection. Fortunately, smart playlists can return some level of order; here are a few recipes to help sort things out.

First, what are smart playlists? If you followed the above instructions for creating a playlist in iTunes, you may have seen the smart playlist option. A smart playlist is a playlist that’s populated automatically based on criteria you specify — it’s basically a saved search. For example, you could create a playlist that consists of every song in your library with the Rock genre and that’s more than 3 minutes long. By default, smart playlists update automatically as your library changes. They will sync to your iOS devices, but you cannot create or edit a smart playlist in iOS. For more on smart playlists (and iTunes in general) see Kirk McElhearn’s just-released “Take Control of iTunes 12: The FAQ.”

You may want to see what Apple Music tracks you’ve added to My Music, as a way of differentiating them from songs you’ve purchased or ripped. Create a playlist matching both of the following: iCloud Status is Apple Music and Date Added is after 6/29/2015.


The previous smart playlist doesn’t differentiate between tracks that exist only in iCloud and those you’ve downloaded for offline listening. If you want to see which songs on your drive are encumbered by DRM, create a playlist matching: Kind is Apple Music AAC audio file. (The contextual Show in Finder command doesn’t appear for these tracks, but the actual files are stored in ~/iTunes/iTunes Media/Apple Music, in folders named for the artists. Also note that these files have .m4p extensions instead of .m4a or .mp3.)


If you religiously starred your favorite songs in the past, and want to feed those into Apple Music recommendations, you can create a smart playlist that matches these rules: Rating is 5 stars and Loved is false. In theory, you can then “love” all the songs in this playlist (Select All, Control-click, and choose Love) to feed that information to Apple Music for better recommendations. We say “in theory” because we don’t know yet just how much of this information is sent to Apple.


Similarly, you might also want to check on which tracks you’ve loved to make sure there aren’t any mistakes in there that would skew your results. In that case, use the following rule: Loved is true.

If you have other smart playlists you use surrounding Apple Music, or have a request for one that you’re having trouble creating, let us know in the comments!

Catch Up on Beats 1 -- Even if you’re a Beats 1 superfan, you probably don’t listen to it 24/7, so it’s easy to miss a block by your favorite DJ. Or maybe you’re interested in hearing what Beats 1 is playing, but want to be able to skip songs you hate quickly? The good news is that Apple makes playlists for every show, and stores the past five so you can catch up. Unfortunately, they aren’t easy to find.

One way to find the Beats 1 playlists is to search Apple Music for Beats 1, then look under Playlists. Or, search for a particular DJ, such as Zane Lowe. All the Beats 1 DJs have a Connect page you can follow from the DJ’s Curator page; if you select Playlists on the Curator page, it shows you their five most recent Beats 1 playlists.



Some Beats 1 programs, like St. Vincent’s Mixtape Delivery Service also have their own Curator pages, which feature playlists for each episode. Also, if you check out the Connect tab on the show’s Curator page, it displays bonus content, such as St. Vincent’s interviews with the fans for whom she creates playlists.


Set An Apple Music Alarm -- This may seem obvious, but maybe you haven’t considered it yet. By saving an Apple Music track to play offline, you can assign it to an alarm. Here’s how to do that on an iPhone:

  1. Search for a song in Apple Music.
  2. Tap the ellipses (…) next to the song.
  3. Tap Make Available Offline.
  4. Open Clock and either create an alarm or edit an existing one.
  5. Tap Sound.
  6. Tap Pick a Song.
  7. Search for the song you want to use for the alarm.
  8. Tap the song.

Note that you can’t remove songs from the Songs list, but it holds only five at a time, so the list won’t grow indefinitely. Even if you remove the download for an Apple Music song in the Songs list, it will remain listed, and if you preview it from that list or use it in an alarm, it will download again.

Sound Effects -- Apple Music has oodles of albums containing nothing but sound effects, such as 300 Sound Effects. You never know when you’ll need to play a thunderclap, the sound of a jackhammer, or a crowd cheering, and Apple Music likely has an effect for anything you can imagine wanting to play.

To add to the fun, you can ask Siri to play sound effects by track title, such as the following:

While there are undoubtedly many practical uses for these sound effects — being able to combine Apple Music sound effects with alarms could make for some amusing pranks. Not that we’d encourage such childish behavior, of course.

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Unveiling the New Take Control Web Site

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst

The yellow-bellied Take Control Web site is extinct! After three years of effort, we have replaced it with a complete redesign. Speaking as the person who designed and coded the bulk of the previous site, when Take Control was something we were going to throw against the wall to see if it would stick, I had become thoroughly sick of those colors.


In 2003, when we started Take Control, the site was just a bunch of static HTML pages. By 2008, we knew we needed a database-driven back end and settled on ExpressionEngine, from Ellis Labs. Developer Adam Khan of Engaging.net worked with us on it for the next few years, first turning it into a database-driven site, and then, in 2010, collaborating with Glenn Fleishman on an account management system that serves both Take Control and TidBITS (see “Reading Take Control Ebooks on an iPad (or iPhone or iPod touch),” 7 April 2010). But this was all back-end work, and at the end of 2010, we started working with designer Terry Evans to update the look and feel of the catalog and library pages first, with the rest of the site to follow. Unfortunately, after those first major pages, Terry got busy with other projects, and it took us until early 2012 to find Sam Schick and Eli Van Zoeren of Neversink.

So why did it all take more than three years? At first, there was just a lot to do, in terms of going back and forth with Sam on the site and associated book cover design, working through a logo redesign with Geoff Allen of FUN is OK, and answering questions from Eli about the complex business logic embedded in the bones of the site. But it took longer than we’d anticipated, and our window of free time closed. From then on, it seemed that whenever we had time to look at something, Sam and Eli wouldn’t be ready, or a major bug would prevent further work. And when they had addressed that problem, we’d have our heads down in another book release or three (blame Apple!). Feedback cycles took months, not days. So it goes, to quote Kurt Vonnegut, and so it went until earlier this year when Eli and I finally synced up well and were able to make solid progress.

Key to that progress was a Trello board, where we moved bug report cards between Open, Testing, and Done lists, carrying on conversations within the cards and attaching screenshots as necessary (“Trello Offers Compelling Collaboration Tool,” 9 July 2012). Other lists on the board helped us track issues that required further discussion, things we’d need training on, and ideas we put on hold. In the last few months, Lauri Reinhardt, who helps us with customer support, dove into Trello and employed her past experience with eSellerate to make our cart match the site’s new look and identify subtle cart behavior bugs.

Some of the delay was our extreme trepidation to pull the switch, since the new site came part and parcel with an upgrade to ExpressionEngine 2, which in turn required non-trivial changes to the underlying MySQL database tables. Making it all the scarier, various aspects of the TidBITS site rely on the same tables, particularly for account information. It was a one-way trip, not something that could be done piecemeal, and something that had to work immediately with live data, since every Take Control order through our cart writes to those database tables.

We were ready to go in early July, so Eli spent July 2nd bringing new versions of the database tables over to our staging site, and on July 3rd, Tonya, Lauri, and I spent 12 hours straight catching transition bugs for Eli to stamp out. By 8 PM, we were ready to make the jump, and after an hour-long panic caused by Apache refusing to launch after we pointed it at the new site (caused by some long-missing closing quotes in our Apache configuration files), it came online. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein: “It lives! It lives!”

Fourth of July weekend is always slow, which is why we’d chosen July 3rd for the transition, and while most things worked, we all kept finding bugs. Permissions in the new site’s file hierarchy were different, I hadn’t known certain file locations would change, and most surprisingly, the encryption used for account passwords had changed, requiring us to loop in Glenn for significant changes to the TidBITS account code. This turned out to be quite interesting. ExpressionEngine 2 has a neat feature designed to increase the security of its account passwords. On a user’s first login after the upgrade, it changes the hash used for the password from SHA-1 to SHA-2 (specifically SHA-512), and it adds “salt” (extra random data that makes attacks harder) to each. That’s great, but because the TidBITS account code didn’t know about the salt or SHA512, merely logging in to the Take Control site rendered that user’s login on the TidBITS site inoperable. Oops. The two are once again in sync, so for every person who logs in to either site and has their account updated behind the scenes, the stored passwords become all the more resistant to attack, reducing the impact of a data breach. Speaking of security, the entire site is now served with HTTPS, so logins are always encrypted.

At this point, we’ve dealt with all the user-facing bugs we know about, but if something doesn’t work for you, let me know.

So, the redesign. The structure and functionality of the site is quite similar to what we had before — there’s a catalog page that shows recent releases and allows filtering by category. The home page is now a variant of the catalog page, also calling out a few featured books in slides at the top. And all the books you own are still collected on a library page from which you can download the various formats or click over to the full Ebook Extra page for a title.


Each book has its own detail page, of course, and each book’s Ebook Extras page (with goodies for book owners) now looks more like a book detail page, for a more consistent user experience.


The most significant change is a full-fledged shopping cart. Previously, clicking the Buy button on a book page or after selecting books in the catalog sent the order to eSellerate for processing; it was so difficult to return to our site to keep shopping that a frequent user question was, “Where’s your cart button?” That simple question required a complex solution, but the site now provides an on-site shopping cart that lets you find and add multiple books before you wrap up with a Check Out button that sends the order to eSellerate (coupons are calculated on the eSellerate site once you click Check Out on our site). On both the home page and the catalog page, clicking Buy buttons adds the books to the cart and turns the buttons into Cart buttons; click any Cart button or the Cart icon in the upper-right corner to display the cart and check out.


Also, every book page and the cart itself display related titles — one of our biggest challenges is helping people realize the breadth of books we publish. The cart even notices automatically if you add three or more books and gives you 30 percent off (unless another coupon is already loaded).

Perhaps the hardest thing to code and test was how the site changes dynamically when you log in, based on which books you own. For example, when you’re logged in, it gives you easy access to the Ebook Extras pages for your books from the home page and catalog. If you see unexpected results here, it’s possible that there’s a bug, or you might have purchased books using different email addresses and thus ended up with multiple accounts. Unlike Apple IDs, our accounts can be merged; log in to your main account, click your name at the top of the site, and then on the Profile page you can add another email address. The system will do the rest (after email verification, of course).

The look of the site is utterly different and was designed to showcase the cover design Sam Schick created for us, with lovely graphics that look great on a Retina screen. It’s meant to be a lot less text-heavy — since Tonya and I are writers, we addressed every user experience problem on the old site with text explanations. For instance, on the new book pages, rather than have the free sample link be normal text, it’s styled like a little sticky note on the book image (which includes an iPad frame, a convention used to reinforce the point that we sell ebooks, not print books).

Finally, since I know the designistas will be all over this, a few words about the wood background. We started the design process before iOS 7 and Apple’s war on skeuomorphism, so iBooks still had wood paneling in the background. Referencing wooden bookshelves seemed entirely appropriate; we love natural wood, and all the renovations to our house have been done by a woodworker friend with locally harvested lumber. But iBooks appeared to be using cheap pine, and we wanted to do better, so we looked at hundreds of stock photos of wood grain before settling on the one you see in the background. Could we have swapped it out for a flat background after Apple switched iBooks to a dull gray? Sure, but we like wood, and we like the rich color, even if it’s not entirely Apple-trendy.

Of course, we’re not really done. We’re already adding cards to our wish list in Trello for features we’d like to add and changes we’d like to make, but now that we’ve made the big jump, we can bite off smaller chunks and turn some attention to the TidBITS site, which also needs some design attention.

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 20 July 2015

  by TidBITS Staff: editors@tidbits.com

CrashPlan 4.3 -- Code42 Software has released CrashPlan 4.3 with added support for installing the Internet backup software on a per-user basis, which is ideal for backing up data for multiple users who log in to the same computer (such as in multi-user desktop environments). Each installation behaves as a separate device with its own settings, license, and backup archive, and it is recommended for advanced users only (see this support document for more details). CrashPlan 4.3 now uses dynamic port selection when connecting to the Code42 cloud and computer destinations, fixes a bug that prevented restoration of a file that contained an apostrophe in the filename, and corrects an issue that prevented the critical backup alert email (sent after 7 days by default) from being sent in some instances. There is a known issue that requires those running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to update to version 4.2 from a previous version before updating to the latest version 4.3. (Free with a 30-day trial of CrashPlan’s online backup service, 55.9 MB, release notes, 10.6+)

Read/post comments about CrashPlan 4.3.

DEVONthink/DEVONnote 2.8.6 -- DEVONtechnologies has updated all three editions of DEVONthink (Personal, Pro, and Pro Office) and DEVONnote to version 2.8.6 with support for the public beta of OS X 10.11 El Capitan (see “Apple Opens Public Betas of OS X 10.11 El Capitan and iOS 9,” 13 July 2015). All four apps also enable you to drag Calendar events into RTF documents to create a back link to the appointment, use the name of the top group as a placeholder in templates, improve naming of duplicated documents with a filename extension in their name, and update the French and German localizations.

The three editions of DEVONthink now support images referenced in Markdown documents (with keywords imported from Bookends references converted to RTF properties), preserve the appearance of PDF text annotations created by other applications (including borders and background color), and improve HTML-to-text conversion. The Pro Office and Professional editions no longer support the creation of databases in iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive folders or inside other databases. (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 all editions of DEVONthink and DEVONnote. 10.7.5+)

Read/post comments about DEVONthink/DEVONnote 2.8.6.

Office 2016 for Mac -- Microsoft has officially launched Office 2016 for Mac after offering a free public preview for the last several months (see Julio Ojeda-Zapata’s overview, “Microsoft Releases Public Preview of Office 2016 for Mac,” 6 March 2015). However, the latest version of Office is currently available only for Office 365 subscribers, with a one-time purchase option promised for September 2015. The lineup of Office 2016 is a familiar one, with stalwarts Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook now joined by the OneNote digital notebook (though it is still available as a standalone free app from the Mac App Store). As Julio noted in his review of the public preview:

With this update, Office for Mac has an appearance that is more consistent with other versions, including its iOS brethren. The control-laden Ribbon, for instance, looks similar from device to device. Other features shared by the Office apps include a full-screen view and what Microsoft calls “little Mac affordances like scroll bounce.”

Word gets a new Design tab for applying new “designer-quality” layouts, colors and fonts, and the app enables multiple users to edit documents simultaneously while using threaded comments next to corresponding text. Excel’s keyboard shortcuts are now consistent across Mac and Windows versions, and a new PivotTable Slicers feature helps you filter large volumes of data and discover patterns. PowerPoint receives an improved Presenter View, which provides views of the current slide, next slide, speaker notes, and a timer, as well as a new animation pane. Outlook improves its conversation view to automatically organize the inbox around threaded conversations.

If you’re ready to give Office 2016 for Mac a try, you can still do so for free with a 1-month trial (and if you already have Office 2011 for Mac, you can run Office 2011 and Office 2016 side-by-side). When the trial ends, the subscription rates cost $6.99 per month ($69.99 annually) for the single-license Personal edition, or $9.99 per month ($99.99 annually) for the Home edition, which allows up to five installations on either Mac or Windows systems. (Requires Office 365 subscription, $6.99/$9.99 monthly subscription, release notes, 10.10+)

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ExtraBITS for 20 July 2015

  by TidBITS Staff: editors@tidbits.com

In our latest ExtraBITS link collection, Glenn Fleishman explains OS X 10.11 El Capitan’s System Integrity Protection feature, Neil Young says he’ll remove his songs from streaming music services, President Obama unveils broadband for low-income households, and TiVo adds AirPlay support to its iOS app.

Details on OS X 10.11 El Capitan’s System Integrity Protection -- Over at Macworld, Glenn Fleishman offers details on the new System Integrity Protection (SIP) feature in OS X 10.11 El Capitan. The good news is that SIP will make it tough for malware to take hold on your Mac. The bad news is that it will cripple many power-user utilities, such as SuperDuper, Default Folder, and TotalFinder; however, you will be able to disable SIP. Also, users will no longer be able to repair disk permissions manually in 10.11 — rather, the system will do it automatically whenever a system update is installed.

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Neil Young to Stop Rocking in the Streaming World -- Musician Neil Young has declared that he will be removing his music from all streaming services, due to poor audio quality. In a post on Facebook, Young claimed that streaming music sounds worse than FM radio, 8-track tapes, and cassettes. “Streaming is the worst audio in history,” Young said. In 2014, Young developed a competitor to iTunes, PonoMusic, which offers high-quality audio downloads, meant to be played on the company’s Toblerone-shaped music player, which Ars Technica called, “a tall, refreshing drink of snake oil.”

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President Obama Announces Low-Income Broadband Initiative -- The Obama administration has announced a new initiative, called ConnectHome, that will bring broadband access to over 275,000 low-income households in the United States. A partnership with ISPs such as Google Fiber, CenturyLink, Cox Communications, and Sprint, the pilot program will start in 27 cities, including New York, Boston, Seattle, and the Choctaw Tribal Nation in Oklahoma. ConnectHome is being funded by private industry, nonprofit organizations and local leaders; the federal government will not be contributing any money beyond the $50,000 allocated by the Department of Agriculture to deploy broadband to the Choctaw Tribal Nation.

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TiVo Adds AirPlay Support -- TiVo has added AirPlay support to its iOS app, enabling owners of TiVo’s Roamio and Premiere DVRs to beam content to their Apple TVs. To try it out, bring up Control Center, activate AirPlay, select the Apple TV, enable mirroring, and then play a show from the My Shows section of the TiVo app.

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