The OS X 10.9.4 Mavericks and iOS 7.1.2 updates kick off this issue of TidBITS, with the former including fixes for Wi-Fi and wake from sleep, and the latter improving iBeacon. Last week’s Google I/O conference unleashed a slew of product and service announcements that could reshape the tech landscape — we look at the highlights. Among Google’s releases is Android Wear, an operating system for watches and other wearables, and while it’s more real than Apple’s much-rumored iWatch, Steve McCabe takes a look at the market-leading Pebble smartwatch to see what it can do. In Take Control news, our latest title is something special — Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Automating Your Mac” explains how anyone can find shortcuts to repetitive tasks. Plus, in the streamed “Take Control of OS X Server” for TidBITS members, Charles Edge looks at the Contacts, Calendar, and Messages services. In FunBITS this week, Josh reviews Leo’s Fortune, and explains why it sets a new bar for touch-based platform games. Notable software releases this week include Final Cut Pro X 10.1.2, Compressor 4.1.2, Motion 5.1.1, Default Folder X 4.6.6, and OmniOutliner 4.1.
by Josh Centers
Apple has released OS X 10.9.4 Mavericks, with fixes for Wi-Fi networks not automatically connecting to known networks and problems with wake from sleep.Show full article
Highlights of the update include a fix for a bug that prevented some Macs from automatically connecting to Wi-Fi networks (for other suggestions, see Alicia Katz Pollock’s “How to Solve Wi-Fi Connectivity Problems,” 7 February 2014), improved reliability of wake from sleep, and the inclusion of Safari 7.0.5, which features a number of security fixes.
Bundled into 10.9.4 are the usual slew of security improvements, including an update to the certificate trust policy, a fix for sandboxed apps being able to circumvent restrictions, and elimination of an issue that could allow local users to see Apple ID credentials in iBooks logs. Other fixes eliminate problems related to the Intel graphics drivers, issues that could cause unexpected restarts, bugs that allowed arbitrary code execution, and a number of vulnerabilities in Unix system utilities.
by Josh Centers
Apple has released iOS 7.1.2 with improvements to iBeacon and third-party accessory connectivity, and a fix for an issue with data protection class of Mail attachments.Show full article
Apple has released iOS 7.1.2, which you can download via Settings > General > Software Update or install via iTunes. The 23.1 MB download (1.4 GB if downloaded via iTunes), improves iBeacon “connectivity and stability,” fixes data transfer for some third-party accessories (like bar code scanners), and corrects issues with the data protection of Mail attachments.
iOS 7.1.2 includes a number of security improvements, including an update to the certificate trust policy, a fix for an issue that could cause the device to restart unexpectedly, corrections for Activation Lock bypasses, and solutions to a number of issues that could allow arbitrary code execution.
Apple also updated the second- and third-generation Apple TV to version 6.1.2, with its own set of security updates to prevent insufficiently authorized iTunes Store purchases, unexpected restarts, memory being disclosed to an attacker, and the ubiquitous arbitrary code execution.
If you use copy and paste, you’re taking advantage of an important shortcut. But did you realize that the Mac offers dozens of additional shortcuts that make tedious tasks quick, accurate, and repeatable? Author Joe Kissell reveals OS X’s many built-in shortcuts and examines the utilities that go further, offering concrete examples and extensive lists of possibilities.Show full article
What’s the key technological advance of the past 50 years? CPUs are faster and drives hold vastly more data, but I’d like to cast a vote for the most important conceptual leap being copy and paste. Why? Because it lets you leverage work you’ve already done, in a manner that’s quick, accurate, and repeatable. But you know that, and not only do you already understand the utility of copy and paste, you probably also press Command-C instead of choosing Copy from the Edit menu because the keyboard shortcut is faster.
Congratulations, then, since you’re already automating your Mac in one essential way that makes your work quick, accurate, and repeatable, with consistent results. In his newest book, “Take Control of Automating Your Mac,” Joe Kissell is on a mission to help you find shortcuts to the things you’re already doing regularly so you can focus on those creative or subjective tasks that only you can do. The 204-page book costs $15, but comes with coupons for key automation utilities worth over $60.
It’s important to realize that you don’t need to be a programmer — or even particularly geeky — to automate your Mac. Everyone uses copy and paste, and most of what Joe explains in “Take Control of Automating Your Mac” can be used by anyone, from novice to expert. Nor is specialized software necessary. OS X has oodles of built-in automation features like keyboard shortcuts, configurable gestures, and automatic launching of key apps. But clever Macintosh developers have created brilliant utilities that go far beyond OS X’s features, and Joe explains how to use such stalwarts as Keyboard Maestro and Hazel, and delves into the included automation capabilities in apps like Microsoft Office and Nisus Writer Pro. Don’t miss Joe’s video trailer introducing all this!
In short, “Take Control of Automating Your Mac” will:
- Show you lots of tools and techniques for automating your Mac
- Offer concrete examples you can use as is or adapt to your needs
- Inspire you with extensive lists of further possibilities
Chapters are devoted to the following topics, to teach you how to:
- Develop an automator’s mindset
- Use OS X’s built-in automation features
- Take full advantage of input devices to save clicks
- Automate text expansion for faster, more consistent typing
- Open apps and documents more quickly with a launcher
- Organize files automatically with Hazel
- Supercharge your clipboard to remember and reformat previous copies
- Write macros in Microsoft Office and Nisus Writer Pro
- Create rules to file email automatically in Apple Mail and Outlook
- Log in to Web sites faster with a password manager
- Automate cloud services with IFTTT and Zapier
- Set up automatic backup and syncing
- Get started with Automator and AppleScript
- Control nearly anything on your Mac with Keyboard Maestro
Put bluntly, we want to help you use your Mac more productively. It pains us when we see someone repeating the same mind-numbing steps over and over, when we know a Keyboard Maestro macro could easily do it all with a single keystroke. To aid in that, we’ve included discounts on eight of the most important apps Joe covers in the book: 20 or 30 percent off on Keyboard Maestro, LaunchBar, Hazel, Nisus Writer Pro, TextExpander, TextSoap, TypeIt4Me, and Typinator — look for the coupons at the back of the book.
Of course, many TidBITS readers are probably already using some level of Mac automation. If you’re confident that you’re already automating all the tasks you could be, could you tell others about “Take Control of Automating Your Mac?” Too many people shy away from automation, thinking it’s too hard or too geeky, and thus waste vast amounts of time that could be spent more productively. Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach his Mac to fish, and it will bury him in fish until he figures out how to stop the loop. (Which would make a really cool YouTube video.)
If you want to run your own Contacts, Calendar, and Messages services, Charles Edge explains how to do that in this chapter of “Take Control of OS X Server.” But perhaps more important, he explains the real-world reasons to venture down this path, since it’s not necessarily an easy road to follow once you’ve turned the services on.Show full article
When Apple removed local contact and calendar syncing between a Mac and iOS devices in OS X 10.9 Mavericks, many users were irate, since they didn’t want to sync via iCloud. One of the possible workarounds was to use OS X Server’s Contacts and Calendar services, which are full-fledged CardDAV and CalDAV servers. Although Apple did bring back local contact and calendar syncing after six months (see “Local Contact/Calendar Syncing Returns in iTunes 11.2,” 15 May 2014), there’s still some attraction to being able to run these syncing services, along with a third collaboration service, Messages, on your own. Note that I say “some attraction” because, honestly, if you’re not philosophically bothered by iCloud, it is notably easier than doing it yourself.
Contacts, Calendar, and Messages are where Charles Edge turns his attention this week in the streaming “Take Control of OS X Server.” Bundling them together in Chapter 7, “Collaboration Services,” Charles explains the primary reasons to turn these services on, gives instructions for doing so, and walks you through configuring Apple’s associated Contacts, Calendar, and Messages apps to access your server.
He’s also up front about the notable caveats to running these services. For instance, if you were hoping the Contacts service would enable you to create a repository of contacts that you could share with a group (as opposed to among your own personal devices), you’ll be disappointed. The only feasible solution to that is the hack of everyone in the group sharing a particular account, and Charles notes that every time he has set this up for consulting clients, they’ve been unhappy when someone in the group modifies or deletes contacts inadvertently.
Note that Tonya and I will be away for a few weeks, so there won’t be another streamed chapter until we’re back and have managed to catch up enough to edit Charles’s next chapter. In the meantime…
We encourage everyone to read Chapter 1, “Introducing OS X Server” and Chapter 2, “Choosing Server Hardware,” to see where the book will be going, but Chapter 3, “Preparation and Installation,” Chapter 4, “Directory Services,” Chapter 5, “DNS Service,” and Chapter 6, “File Sharing,” are available only to TidBITS members. If you have already joined the TidBITS membership program, 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 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 “Support TidBITS in 2014 via the TidBITS Membership Program” (9 December 2013).
by Josh Centers
With a plethora of promised products and services at its developer conference, Google is stepping up its competition with Apple. Announced at Google I/O 2014 were a fresh new design language, increased integration between devices, and a new push for the living room.Show full article
Google announced a plethora of new products and services in the keynote address at last week’s Google I/O Developer Conference. Here are the highlights, and if you get the sense that many are aimed at solving the same problems that Apple has targeted with its recent releases and announcements, then you’re on target.
Android L -- Google announced an upcoming version of Android, codenamed “L” and due later this year, with a new, cross-platform design language called Material Design that features flat design elements, bright colors, and three-dimensional depth.
It’s hard not to compare Google’s Material Design to the Apple software design language introduced in iOS 7 and OS X Yosemite. Even the name Material Design sounds familiar — Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi referred to various design elements as “materials” during this year’s WWDC keynote (see “Apple Unveils iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite at WWDC,” 2 June 2014).
In other Android news, Google is launching a new initiative, called Android One, that aims to bring inexpensive phones to developing markets. The first model will be manufactured by MicroMax and cost $100. The program will start in India before moving to other markets.
Android Auto, Google Fit, and Android Wear -- At last year’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple introduced CarPlay (then called “iOS in the Car,” see “Apple Unveils Completely Redesigned iOS 7,” 10 June 2013), and now Google has unleashed a competitor in the form of Android Auto. Like CarPlay, Android Auto will connect to your phone, enabling you to control car-optimized apps with your vehicle’s built-in controls. Check out its promotional video.
Like Apple’s forthcoming HealthKit in iOS 8, Google Fit is a platform that promises to provide a single set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for all health-related Android apps. However, unlike Apple, with its Health app, Google won’t have a singular app that will aggregate the data. The company announced several launch partners, including Adidas, LG, Nike, and RunKeeper.
One place where Google got the jump on Apple is with Android Wear, a special version of its mobile operating system for smartwatches. Android Wear is completely voice controlled, with responses provided by Google Now, and it can also track your step count and heart rate, if the hardware supports those functions. Android Wear will connect to an Android phone running version 4.3 or later. Two devices are available for preorder: the $199.99 Samsung Gear Live and the $229 LG G Watch, both of which will ship on 7 July 2014.
Another Stab at the Living Room -- Not content to let Apple and Amazon go unchallenged, Google continues to vie for the living room with Android TV, a platform for smart TVs and set-top boxes. Like Amazon’s Fire TV, Android TV will offer an app store, voice search, and gaming. It will also be compatible with Chromecast “casts,” so you can beam content to Android TV devices.
Despite the introduction of Android TV, Google hasn’t abandoned its inexpensive Chromecast dongle (see “Testing Google’s Chromecast for Apple Users,” 30 July 2013). It’s gaining a customizable home screen, the capability to receive casts from devices not on the same Wi-Fi network, and the equivalent of AirPlay for Android devices, which will be able to mirror their displays to the Chromecast-equipped TV.
Android Crosses Over to Chrome OS -- Chrome OS, the browser-based desktop operating system most commonly see on Chromebook laptops, wasn’t left out of the party, either (see “Google’s Chromebook Makes for a Fine Auxiliary Laptop,” 24 February 2014). Google is working on running Android apps from inside Chrome OS, which could significantly extend the functionality of Chromebooks. However, the project is still in its early days, so it could be a while before it ships.
Virtual Reality on a Budget -- Perhaps Google’s strangest announcement was a new project, called Cardboard, that turns an Android phone into a virtual reality headset. The project is aptly named, since the head-mounted phone casing is constructed from cardboard, along with lenses, magnets, NFC tags, rubber bands, and Velcro. Conference attendees received Cardboard for free, but enterprising makers can build their own by following Google’s instructions. TechCrunch posted a hands-on article of what it’s like to build and use Cardboard.
Gmail API and Drive for Work -- On the cloud front, Gmail now offers an API for developers that will let third-party applications access and process your email, either to offer alternative user interfaces or service-specific features. Contrary to what the Wall Street Journal reported, the new API will not replace the IMAP standard. Google’s documentation states, “The Gmail API should not be used to replace IMAP for full-fledged email client access.”
Google is expanding its enterprise offerings with Drive for Work, which provides unlimited Google Drive storage for $10 per user per month and will accept files up to 5 TB. That’s equivalent to the individual Dropbox Pro account pricing for 100 GB of storage, but a good bit less than the $15 per user per month Dropbox for Business and Box Business accounts that also offer unlimited storage.
Not “Only Apple” -- If there’s one thing Google countered in this year’s Google I/O keynote, it’s Tim Cook’s claim that “only Apple” can provide complete integration across products and services (see “John Gruber on “The New Apple”,” 16 June 2014). Google’s announcements went a long way toward merging its disparate product lines, thanks in part to Google’s decision to put both Android and Chrome under the leadership of Sundar Pichai, a move reminiscent of Apple uniting iOS and OS X under Craig Federighi, which improved integration between Apple’s operating systems.
What remains to be seen is how well both companies execute on this promise. Apple distinctly has the lead here, due to its tight control over proprietary hardware and software, and to its laser-like focus on the individual rather than on group collaboration. Plus, features like Handoff are much closer to fruition than, say, Android apps on Chromebooks. Despite the keynote’s announcements, Google may have more trouble forging tight ties between its products because of working with numerous hardware manufacturers and its emphasis on providing public APIs and open source code.
Regardless, it’s important to avoid the trap of seeing this competition as a zero-sum game. Google and Apple are corporate behemoths and will continue to generate mind-boggling revenues whether or not these integration efforts are entirely successful. The real winners will be users, who benefit from the efforts of both companies.
by Steve McCabe
The leading smartwatch isn’t perfect, but it has one major selling point — it actually exists, which is far more than can be said for the much-rumoured iWatch.Show full article
I can’t wait to get my Apple smartwatch. But since Apple has yet to announce such a thing — there is, I’m sure, an Apple watch in the works, somewhere, alongside an Apple television, an Apple car, and an Apple invisible airplane — I decided to take the bird-in-hand approach and buy myself a Pebble Steel smartwatch. The original Pebble’s 2012 Kickstarter campaign was the most successful to date, raising over $10 million after blowing through its $100,000 target within two hours. I first saw one on the wrist of a concierge at Apple’s Sydney store, and I was deeply impressed with its functionality and sheer geekiness.
This year’s update, the Pebble Steel, persuaded me that a Pebble could be stylish as well as useful, and I ordered my watch in February 2014. (The basic Pebble models are colorful and a little plasticky looking — it’s not necessarily a bad look, but it’s not my look.) The company was clearly struggling to meet demand; my Pebble Steel arrived in late April.
I’m mostly pleased. The first thing that struck me was the build quality — the Pebble Steel feels like a grown-up watch. It ships with two bands in the box — one leather and one made of stainless steel. But while the basic Pebble watch can be fastened to any standard 22mm watch band the Steel uses a proprietary screw-in strap connector for no apparent reason, restricting you to the two included bands. My Pebble Steel shipped with the leather band in place, and the result was a watch that felt lightweight and insubstantial, almost to the point of being flimsy. I immediately switched to the stainless steel band, which gave the watch the heft I desired.
The case is, as you’d expect from the name, made of steel, with four large buttons — three on the right, and one on the left. The buttons feel inexpertly machined; one becomes accustomed to high build quality when one is a regular user of Apple devices. While there is nothing actually wrong with the edges of the buttons on the Pebble Steel, they feel slightly sharp, and one cannot help but think, albeit uncharitably, “Hmmm, Apple would have done that better.” Size-wise, the Pebble Steel is slightly thinner than my Citizen diving watch, and about as wide as my Seiko dress watch.
But while I was pleased with the appearance, what really mattered was what it could do for me. The Pebble Steel is, it turns out, an effective smartwatch. After you have downloaded the free Pebble app to your iPhone, you pair the watch and the phone via Bluetooth — the pairing process is easy, with the iPhone quickly recognising the watch. Once that’s done, the Pebble is tethered to the iPhone, and any notifications that appear on the iPhone’s screen also appear on the Pebble’s. This also means that if a notification doesn’t appear on the iPhone’s screen, as might be the case if an email message arrives while the Mail app is open, then nothing happens on the watch either.
I am finding this to be a wonderfully useful feature — as a teacher, I feel a little bad telling my students to put their phones away in class and then pulling mine out to read a message (I still do it; I just feel a touch hypocritical when I do). Now, when my iPhone buzzes in my pocket, my Pebble also buzzes on my wrist, and a quick, discreet glance shows me the source — Messages, Facebook, Twitter — and the sender of the notification, and, if there’s room remaining, the text of the message.
Being able to keep an eye on what’s happening on my iPhone without having to whip out the phone itself is convenient, and might, if such watches become much more widespread, go some way toward addressing the habit that the younger set have developed, and that we curmudgeonly older types find somewhat annoying, of pulling out a phone and reading the screen in mid-conversation.
That, to be fair, is most of what the Pebble watch does. A push of the button on the upper left of the phone dismisses the notification, and the screen returns to being a watch. There’s no way of replying to a Facebook message, or dismissing a text message from the lock screen of the iPhone, but at least I know, discreetly, when my watch vibrates, how urgent the message is. Unfortunately, you can’t set different vibration patterns for different apps — I still find myself relying on the custom vibrations on my iPhone to tell me if a notification is for a text message, or a phone call, or email. I understand that, with an Android phone and a little third-party software, a more two-way interaction is possible, but there are some things into which I’m simply unwilling to delve, even for TidBITS.
The rest of the time, the Pebble Steel is a watch. Its grey “e-paper” screen is sharp and clear even in bright daylight (though polarized sunglasses can prove problematic). In low light, a flick of the wrist triggers the watch’s accelerometer, which lights up the screen for a few seconds. The resolution is high enough that the various watch faces that can be downloaded through the Pebble app are easily readable.
I currently have an elegant classic analogue face on my watch, with a second hand, and day, date, month, and year displays; when I’m feeling a little pretentious, I select a Japanese display that shows the time in Kanji. Myriad faces are available, from the classy to the minimal, from the obvious (an Apple logo with a digital time display below it) to the cutesy (I do have a Mickey Mouse face on my watch, which I use infrequently), from the geeky (a Star Trek-themed LCARS-style face) to the deeply arcane (the time displayed in Circular Gallifreyan).
Getting new watch faces onto the Pebble Steel is simple. The Pebble app displays screenshots of countless faces; tap one and you see the designer’s description and an option to add it to the watch. The watch can accept only up to eight watch faces at a time; once all your slots are full, additional faces are stored on the iPhone in what Pebble calls the watch’s “locker.” If you want to add a new one, you must free up space on the watch by removing one of the eight already installed. Once your watch is full of faces, you can switch through them using the up and down buttons on the right of the watch.
The Pebble app is also your conduit to finding watch apps, none of which have struck me as terribly useful so far. There are apps that claim to be heart monitors, but the watch’s accelerometer is simply not sensitive enough to detect a pulse; these apps tend to be just one-minute timers that require you to measure your pulse yourself. There are sleep-tracker apps, but they don’t store much information on the watch — you have to enter sleep data into a data-tracking app manually. There are GPS apps, but they tend to be turn-by-turn direction displays on the watch that end up looking more like a solution in search of a problem. There are some games, including a Tetris clone that’s impressively tiny, and unsurprisingly hard to play. And if your eyesight is really good, there’s even an xkcd app with select comics. For football fanatics like TidBITS’s Agen Schmitz (see “FunBITS: How to Watch the 2014 World Cup Online,” 13 June 2014), there’s a new World Cup 2014 app that promises real-time game scores.
If there could be a greater flow of information back from the Pebble to the iPhone, apps could better interact with the phone, and developers might come up with more compelling applications, but for now, the only app I have on my watch is one that displays aeronautical weather for when I’m flying.
Another limitation to the utility of watch apps is the lack of background processing. Pebble recently announced a partnership with Misfit to create a fitness-tracking app, but unless you have the app in the foreground, it won’t count your steps. In other words, you can have a watch on your wrist, or a pedometer, but not both at the same time. Since Pebble touts this new functionality as “just the first step towards seamless integration with Misfit and activity tracking on Pebble,” I’m hoping to see background processing — for other apps as well — included in future updates to the Pebble watch’s operating system.
The only additional capability the watch offers is limited control over audio playing on the iPhone, in that you can start and stop the current song, skip it, or repeat it. But you can’t change playlists or even the volume. It’s a lovely idea, and could be useful for those who dock their iPhones in a speaker system for music, but it’s not a huge win.
Ironically, the most useful app-like functionality I’ve found comes from the notifications provided by Google Maps. Walking around Auckland, if I tell the Google Maps app on my iPhone to give me directions to, say, Viaduct Harbour, then my Pebble gives me a quick buzz at every intersection and I can glance at my wrist to see which way to turn — no need to pull out my iPhone (and look like a tourist!) to find out where to go.
The Pebble charges via a custom USB cable that attaches magnetically to contacts on the left side of the watch. When it’s plugged in, a small LED in the lower left corner glows red to indicate charging and green when the charge is complete. There is, so far, no other use for this LED, but there is talk that Pebble will open it up to developers in future editions of the Pebble SDK. A full charge takes about 5 hours; I tend to charge it overnight after it has alerted me with 20 percent and 10 percent warnings. Other users tell me a charge can last 5–7 days, but 3–4 days is more realistic in my usage; apparently the more processor-intensive a watch face is, the faster the battery will empty, with animations such as sweep-second hands being the biggest drain.
So is the Pebble worth it? I’ve had my Pebble Steel on my arm for about a month or so now, and I’d miss it enormously if it were taken away. I’ve become quite reliant upon the subtle, discrete glance at the wrist to see what’s going on, and I would be sad to see it go. The basic Pebble (which offers exactly the same functionality) will set you back $150, while the Steel costs $249.
The rumour mills are adamant that Apple is about to release an iWatch, so it’s tempting to hold off for such an undoubtedly wondrous device (unencumbered by reality as it is at the moment). But then, the very same rumour mills have also insisted that an Apple television would be in everyone’s living room by now. I was fortunate enough to have had a little discretionary cash from a couple of freelance projects, and treated myself to the Pebble Steel as a little thank you to myself. It’s not an essential piece of kit, but it is a fantastic geek toy.
by Josh Centers
With beautiful graphics and clever design, Leo’s Fortune has perfected the touchscreen platform game.Show full article
Platform games have been a video game staple since the original Donkey Kong hit arcades in July of 1981. While Donkey Kong seems rudimentary today, the basics of running through a level and jumping over obstacles have remained as the genre has evolved (with the hero of Donkey Kong, later named Mario, usually leading the way with genre-defining titles like Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64).
The advent of touchscreen gaming left developers with a conundrum. Good platforming games depend on precise mechanical controls, like buttons, directional pads, and joysticks. Working around that limitation was a big challenge.
One early and obvious workaround was to overlay a virtual d-pad and action buttons on the screen. But that approach stinks for several reasons: they interfere with the field of view, provide no tactile feedback, and are woefully imprecise.
A better idea came in the form of “endless runners” — games where you don’t control the character’s movement, but do tap to specify the timing of jumps and sometimes usage of weapons. An early example of this sub-genre is the monochrome Canabalt, which popularized this style of play. But endless runners are shallow by nature and are brief, arcade-style amusements at best.
Badland broke out of those touchscreen limitations, replacing the standard “guy who runs and jumps” with a hairy, legless blob that floated through each level’s puzzles and pitfalls. It was a unique approach that paid off, earning an Apple Design Award and the FunBITS seal of approval (see “FunBITS: Badland for iOS,” 21 June 2013).
Now another Apple Design Award winner (see “FunBITS: WWDC 2014 New Technologies and Apple Design Awards,” 6 June 2014) has taken the Badland formula and expanded upon it. While Badland had your character constantly moving forward in a single direction, much like seminal platformer Super Mario Bros., Leo’s Fortune ($4.99 in the App Store) by developer 1337 & Senri seems to have nailed how do multidirectional platforming on touchscreen devices like the iPhone and iPad.
Even before you get your hands on the screen, you might be blown away by the game’s graphics. Leo’s Fortune features lush, fully rendered environments, with pleasing lighting effects and richly detailed textures. You play as Leopold, a sea-green mustachioed furball whose fortune has been stolen. To get it back, you must lead Leo through 24 trap-filled levels.
For a creature with no legs, Leo slides quickly across the ground. You move your left thumb left or right on the left side of the screen to move in the respective direction, and a helpful gauge appears over your thumb indicating your speed. Like the fuzzy creature in Badland, you float instead of jumping — by swiping your right thumb up on the right side of the screen. Swiping down with your right thumb while Leo is in midair causes him to slam into the ground, which is necessary for many of the game’s puzzles. There’s also an option to use on-screen controls, if you really want to.
You may not notice a clever design element that makes the game easier to control. Unlike most platformers, where the player character is grounded near the bottom of the screen, Leo sits nearly in the center of the screen most of the time, with the ground being elevated to make plenty of room for your fingers. That’s a clever approach other developers would be wise to duplicate.
There are no enemies to fight in Leo’s Fortune. Instead, you have to float over pits, avoid spike traps, and solve puzzles. The puzzles can be surprisingly intricate for a mobile game. For example, in one early level, you must work a mechanism to roll a ball onto a level and hit the level to fling the balls into a basket, which finally lifts a door.
Intricate puzzles aren’t the only source of depth in Leo’s Fortune. Like the 3D Mario games, Leo’s Fortune is easy enough to breeze through if you just want to get to the end; the true challenge is in passing each level’s challenges: collecting all coins, making it through with no deaths, and finishing the level briskly. Successfully completing those challenges grants you stars, which unlock bonus levels.
If you’re a fan of platformers, Leo’s Fortune is the best the App Store has to offer. Its levels are short enough that you can complete one when you just have a bit of time to kill, but the challenges add significant replayability and depth.
Platform games evolved over 30 years from simple 2D affairs that took place on a single screen into full-blown 3D adventures in which you traverse graphically rich worlds. In the era of touchscreen devices like the iPhone and iPad, game designers have had to start from scratch, rethinking every convention of the genre. Leo’s Fortune sets a new bar for touchscreen platforming games, and like Badland before it, draws a blueprint for what may become the conventions of this new sub-genre. I’ll be interested to see if other game developers follow in Leo’s rolling footsteps or come up with entirely different approaches to working within the constraints of relatively small touchscreens.
Notable software releases this week include Final Cut Pro X 10.1.2, Compressor 4.1.2, Motion 5.1.1, Default Folder X 4.6.6, and OmniOutliner 4.1.Show full article
Final Cut Pro X 10.1.2, Compressor 4.1.2, Motion 5.1.1 -- Apple has updated its lineup of professional video editing apps, releasing Final Cut Pro X 10.1.2, Compressor 4.1.2, and Motion 5.1.1. Final Cut Pro X can now store optimized, proxy, and rendered media in any location outside the library, and media can be deleted from within the video editor. The update can also apply the Rec. 709 high-definition standard in real time to high dynamic range and wide color gamut video from ARRI, Blackmagic Design, Canon, and Sony cameras. Other changes include improved speed and accuracy when synchronizing clips, addition of countdown and automatic Audition creation from multiple audio recording takes, and the capability to share 4K video to Vimeo.
Final Cut Pro, Compressor, and Motion also receive added support for the new Apple ProRes 4444 XQ codec, which preserves dynamic ranges more effectively than the Rec. 709 standard during editing (for more on ProRes 4444 XQ, see this white paper). Motion 5.1.1 receives improved Sequence Text behavior for animating characters, words, and lines, plus enhanced Contrast filter parameters for refined adjustments. Compressor 4.1.2 improves status display and responsiveness when sending video from Final Cut Pro X and Motion, plus improves performance and color accuracy when encoding H.264 source files from GoPro cameras. (Final Cut Pro, $299.99 new, 2.28 GB, release notes, 10.9.2+; Compressor, $49.99 new, 304 MB, release notes, 10.9.2+; Motion, $49.99 new, 1.68 GB, release notes, 10.9.2+; all three titles available from the Mac App Store with free updates for previous purchases)
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Default Folder X 4.6.6 -- St. Clair Software has released Default Folder X 4.6.6, reassigning the Command-D shortcut to jump to the Desktop rather than invoke the Duplicate command. The Open and Save dialog enhancement utility now enables you to use its Rebound feature (to quickly return to recently used folders) in column view, fixes a bug that caused some apps (like Monosnap) to save files with the wrong file names, and disables audio previews by default to avoid triggering OS X to switch to the high performance graphics processor on some Macs. ($34.95 new, $10 off for TidBITS members, free update, 10.7 MB, release notes, 10.6+)
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OmniOutliner 4.1 -- The Omni Group has released OmniOutliner 4.1 with several improvements and new features for both the Standard and Pro editions, as well as improvements for exporting to Microsoft Word in the Pro edition (for our review, see “OmniOutliner 4 Refines the Outlining Process,” 31 January 2014). The outline and information organization app adds row padding control, brings color to the toolbar icons (which can be switched back to monochrome in Preferences), improves support for linked attachments, ensures that adding a row using a sibling’s style works correctly, and fixes an issue where rows remained selected after being moved to a collapsed section. OmniOutliner Pro adds a second Microsoft Word export (in addition to the outline export) that preserves the outline structure via indentation on each line, improves row numbering support when exporting to Word, and adds the capability to create links to rows for improved navigation and reference to other sections. ($49.99 new, free update, 46.4 MB, release notes, 10.9+)
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In this week’s ExtraBITS, we’re shocked, but not surprised, to learn that Apple is saying sayonara to iPhoto and Aperture. The company also lowered prices on its iPod touch lineup while introducing an updated 16 GB model, and beefed up the Apple TV with a few new apps, including ABC News and PBS Kids. Rich Mogull explains why Apple cares about your privacy, and it turns out that the Supreme Court does as well, ruling that warrants are necessary for cell phone searches (while also ruling against the Aereo streaming TV service).Show full article
In this week’s ExtraBITS, we’re shocked, but not surprised, to learn that Apple is saying sayonara to iPhoto and Aperture. The company also lowered prices on its iPod touch lineup while introducing an updated 16 GB model, and beefed up to the Apple TV with a few new apps, including ABC News and PBS Kids. Rich Mogull explains why Apple cares about your privacy, and it turns out that the Supreme Court does as well, ruling that warrants are necessary for cell phone searches (while also ruling against the Aereo streaming TV service).
Say Goodbye to iPhoto and Aperture -- After announcing a new Photos app for Mac, due early next year, Apple has confirmed to The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple that it is ceasing development of iPhoto and Aperture. Apple’s statement to The Loop reads, “With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture. When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X.” The company emphasized that development on its other professional apps, like Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro, will continue.
Apple Revs 16 GB iPod touch, Lowers Prices -- After quietly introducing the 16 GB iPod touch for $229 in May 2013, Apple has updated that low-end model to add a rear-facing iSight camera and a full suite of colors, while simultaneously dropping the price to $199. The only other difference between the 16 GB model and the existing 32 GB and 64 GB models is the lack of an iPod touch loop, which is sold separately. The larger models also received steep price cuts, to $249 (down from $299) and $299 (from $399) respectively.
The Real Reason Apple Cares about Your Privacy -- Our own Rich Mogull, writing for Macworld, has penned an overview of Apple’s privacy protections, along with an analysis of why they’re in place. In short, Apple outdoes Google and Facebook on user privacy, because Apple makes its money from hardware, not advertising. Privacy protections, in turn, become a key selling point for Apple’s hardware business.
Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo -- In a 6–3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of broadcasters in their case against Aereo, the broadcast TV streaming service based around renting individual antennas for $8 per month. The court found that Aereo’s service violates the Copyright Act by playing recordings of broadcast content. While Aereo could conceivably bounce back, CEO Chet Kanojia said before the ruling, “If it’s a total straight-up loss, then it’s dead. We’re done.” In a formal response to the ruling, Kanojia said, “We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done. We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”
Supreme Court Says Cops Need Warrants to Search Cell Phones -- In a rare unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to search the cell phones of arrestees. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion, “Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life.’”
Apple TV Gains ABC News, PBS Kids, Redesigned Flickr, and More -- The Apple TV has gained four new channels: ABC News, PBS Kids, AOL On, and Willow TV. Unlike the Watch ABC app, which requires a cable or satellite subscription, the ABC News app is free to all. PBS Kids is free, but requires online activation. AOL On is also free, but the Willow TV app, which features live cricket broadcasts, costs $15 a month. Finally, the Flickr app has been redesigned to allow account logins and offer vastly better photo discovery.