ExtraBITS for 24 June 2013
This week in ExtraBITS, Marco Arment calls for the end of the App Store’s “top” lists, the Computer Desktop Encyclopedia is now free for all, a musician evaluates the forthcoming Mac Pro, AT&T customers will now receive iOS 6 government alerts, and the iPhone 5 has finally come to Virgin Mobile. Speaking of eagerly awaited things, HBO GO has at long last appeared on the Apple TV, and The Verge has the story of what it took to get there. While many Mac users are looking forward to the superior battery life of the new MacBook Air, some have been disappointed with Wi-Fi problems. Finally, the new MacBook Air and other WWDC news was the topic of Adam Engst’s appearance on the Tech Night Owl Live podcast.
Looking for a Better Computer Encyclopedia? — David Pogue of the New York Times writes about the Computer Desktop Encyclopedia, an online encyclopedia of computer terms that has lost corporate licenses in the wake of Wikipedia’s popularity. In response, creator Alan Freedman has now made his encyclopedia free at computerlanguage.com. If you’re researching a computer term, give it a try, since its definitions can be better written and more comprehensible than Wikipedia’s sometimes torturous text.
New MacBook Air Owners Complaining of Wi-Fi Issues — Gizmodo reports that many owners of the new 2013 MacBook Air are complaining of lost Wi-Fi connectivity, requiring a reboot to reestablish the connection. The issue is reportedly worse when the MacBook Air is on a desk, which might indicate a hardware issue. So, if you’re thinking of buying a new MacBook Air for its significantly improved battery life, perhaps hold off until more is known about this Wi-Fi issue.
HBO’s Long Road to Apple TV — The Verge has a compelling account of the barriers HBO had to hurdle to get its content on the Apple TV. One was technical, including efficient encoding of the entire HBO library and writing the software, which was made possible by a new HBO development center in Seattle. The other was political — cable companies are distrustful of online distribution and set-top boxes.
iPhone 5 Headed to Virgin Mobile — Pre-paid cell phone users rejoice! The iPhone 5 is finally headed to Virgin Mobile on 28 June 2013. Virgin Mobile, which runs on the Sprint network, will be selling the 16 GB iPhone 5 for the unsubsidized price of $549.99 at RadioShack and other participating retailers. The iPhone 5 will be compatible with Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk plan, which starts at $35 for 300 minutes of talk, unlimited texting, and unlimited data (throttled to 256 Kbps or lower after 2.5 GB of monthly usage), with a $5 monthly discount for customers who enable
Adam Engst Discusses WWDC on the Tech Night Owl Live — Adam Engst joins host Gene Steinberg for a lightning discussion of the announcements at WWDC, focusing on the low-level improvements to Apple’s operating systems, the battery life of the new MacBook Air models, what will happen with 1Password after the release of iCloud Keychain, how apps will support both iOS 6 and iOS 7, the Mac compatibility matrix for OS X Mavericks, and more.
AT&T Users Finally Getting iOS 6 Government Alerts — AT&T is pushing out an update to iPhone 4S and 5 owners to enable the government alerts feature that was introduced in iOS 6, a capability that has been available to Verizon customers since September 2012. The alerts are part of the FCC’s CMAS (Commercial Mobile Telephone Alerts) initiative, and include severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts for abducted children, and Presidential alerts. All but the Presidential alerts can be disabled in settings, and none of the alerts count against data or messaging limits.
What the New Mac Pro Means for Audio Pros — Peter Kirn, a musician, inventor, and teacher writing for Create Digital Music, has penned a treatise on how the forthcoming Mac Pro will affect musicians and audio pros. It’s a lengthy read, but worthwhile for anyone in the field. Much of his examination revolves around the new Mac Pro’s lack of interior expansion. While many pros will be disappointed at the lack of PCI slots, Kirn argues, “…if you want to take the material you worked out in the studio and bring it on the road with you, you can
unplug a Thunderbolt accessory and use it with your laptop. It’s hard not to see that as a very good thing.”
Marco Arment Calls for the End of App Store “Top” Lists — Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper and The Magazine, is arguing for the end of the “top” lists in the App Store: top paid apps, top free apps, and top grossing apps. His reasoning is that those lists simply help top sellers stay on top, as many people rely entirely on the lists for app discovery. Also, he argues that the lists encourage cheap, shallow apps, and says that the system itself is easy to game. More human curation would help, as would better search and discovery within the App Store.