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Kudos to the TidBITS staff for their dedicated work covering (and providing color commentary on) Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote today. We have articles about OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion shipping in July with a few previously unannounced features, the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models (including the MacBook Pro with Retina Display), the minimal speed bump to the Mac Pro, and Apple’s extensive preview of iOS 6. We’re also pleased to announce “Take Control of Apple Mail in Lion” (with a free upgrade to “Take Control of Apple Mail in Mountain Lion”) and an upcoming live online presentation on what to do when MobileMe is shut off in a few weeks. Also, don’t miss the news about LinkedIn passwords being stolen and the latest shot in the DRM wars. Notable software releases this week include CloudPull 2.1, Script Debugger 5.0, Coda 2.0.1, PDFpen and PDFpenPro 5.8.3, and Firefox 13.0.

Adam Engst 2 comments

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion to Ship in July 2012

At WWDC today, Apple revealed several more features in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, and announced that the operating system would ship “next month” for $19.99. As with 10.7 Lion, Mountain Lion will be available solely in the Mac App Store, and can be installed on all your personal Macs, all the way back to 10.6 Snow Leopard (assuming hardware compatibility, of course).

Along with previously announced features (see “OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Stalks iOS,” 16 February 2012), Apple showed off Power Nap, a feature that enables sleeping laptops (recent MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models only) to continue to process certain tasks, such as updating Twitter, backing up to a Time Capsule, and more. Also, Twitter and Facebook will be integrated into Notification Center, and in general, Facebook will be integrated more deeply into the operating system, though it’s not entirely clear what that means (or what the privacy implications might be). Lastly, Mountain Lion will gain dictation capabilities along the lines of the third-generation iPad — anywhere you can
type, you’ll be able to dictate, presumably with a similar level of success as on the iPad (whatever that may be for you).

Apple also announced several new features for Safari in Mountain Lion, and if history is any indication, at least some will make their way to previous operating systems as well. Most important from my perspective is the unified search bar, which may give Safari the same sort of address bar capabilities as Google Chrome and Firefox (see “Surf Faster in Google Chrome and Safari 5 with Browse By Name,” 6 April 2011). Also, iCloud Tabs will let you see a list of open tabs on other devices logged into the same iCloud account, and another new feature called Tab View lets you navigate among tabs with gestures.

Adam Engst 6 comments

MacBook Air Adds USB 3.0, Faster Processors

Those waiting for a refresh of the MacBook Air line received good news today, as Apple unveiled an update to the consumer laptop line, available immediately. As is almost always the case, Apple increased performance by bumping the clock speeds slightly, starting with a 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 in the low-end 11-inch MacBook Air and working up to a 2.0 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 in the priciest 13-inch configuration. Those aren’t significant differences — only .1 to .2 GHz increases in each configuration, but improvement is always welcome.

Performance should also be boosted somewhat by the move from Intel HD Graphics 3000 to Intel HD Graphics 4000, although by how much is a question for the benchmarkers.

More interesting is the appearance of USB 3.0 for the first time (along with the other MacBook Pro releases today). The USB 3.0 ports — there are two of them — replace the USB 2.0 ports from the previous generation MacBook Air, and since USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0, the only thing you should notice is faster performance when connecting a USB 3.0-based device. USB 3.0 has a theoretical maximum throughput of 5 Gbps, compared to USB 2.0’s 480 Mbps, making it far more useful for modern storage devices in particular.

Also new is the option to add 512 GB of flash storage to the MacBook Air, which previously maxed out at 256 GB. That option doesn’t come cheap though, adding $500 to the price. Equally welcome, and less expensive, is the new option to order a MacBook Air with 8 GB of RAM for an extra $100; previous models maxed out at 4 GB. For many of us, that 4 GB limitation was a deal-breaker, since many tasks in Mac OS X perform better with more RAM. Both the flash storage and RAM upgrades are available only on build-to-order models purchased from the online Apple Store.

Speaking of prices, all the configurations other than the entry-level 11-inch configuration drop by $100, giving the 11-inch configuration prices of $999 and $1099, and the 13-inch prices of $1199 and $1499.

Lastly, Apple added a FaceTime HD camera, capable of 720p video, which should nicely improve the video quality over the previous FaceTime camera. Everything else, including the form factor, weight, battery life, display resolution, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and SD card slot in the 13-inch model, remains the same.

Jeff Carlson 26 comments

New MacBook Pro Features Retina Display, Flash Memory

As Apple introduced the changes to the existing 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro models (detailed below), you could feel disappointment ebb outward from the WWDC conference hall. Although the new specs are good news for some people, that announcement turned out to be a clever bit of misdirection for the more dramatic reveal: an all-new 15-inch MacBook Pro, featuring a slimmer body design, all-flash memory storage, and a Retina display — which Apple is cleverly calling the “MacBook Pro with Retina Display.” (Yes, as with so many of Apple’s recent naming decisions, we hate the name, too.)

Retina and Design — The 15.4-inch Retina display features a resolution of 2880 by 1800 pixels at 220 pixels per inch, or more than 5 million pixels total. To compare, the third-generation iPad’s Retina display includes over 3 million pixels, while the iPhone 4 and 4S boast 614,000 pixels. Apple says the screen isn’t just higher resolution, but also higher quality, with deeper blacks, a 29 percent higher contrast ratio, and a 75-percent reduction in glare (while still being a glossy screen). It uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology to provide a 178-degree field of view.

Mac OS X Lion has been updated to handle the higher-resolution display, as have Mail, Safari, iMovie, and iPhoto (although those updates were not yet available at press time). Apple also showed off improved versions of Aperture and Final Cut Pro X that take advantage of the new display.

The body of the Retina MacBook Pro resembles the rest of the MacBook Pro lineup, and it’s not tapered like the MacBook Air, as we expected. However, it’s just 0.71 inch (1.8 cm) thick when closed, and it weighs 4.46 pounds (2.02 kg). To compare, the other 15-inch MacBook Pro model is 0.95 inch (2.41 cm) thick and weighs 5.6 pounds (2.56 kg).

In the promotional video about the new MacBook Pro, Apple touts several unique design decisions. For example, most of the internal parts are designed by Apple, including fans with asymmetric blades that purportedly reduce noise while they’re pushing heat out of the machine.

Processors and Power — Apple is positioning this new laptop as more pro than the other Pros, with an all-flash storage architecture for improved speed. It includes 8 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3L memory, configurable up to 16 GB, and either 256 GB or 512 GB of flash storage; on the high-end configuration, that capacity can be bumped up to 768 GB (for an extra $500).

The Retina display MacBook Pro models all sport a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with 6 MB of shared L3 cache. The MacBook Pro can either come with a 2.3 GHz or 2.6 GHz processor. An upgrade to a 2.7 GHz processor is available on the high-end configuration for an extra $250.

In terms of other processing power, both configurations include onboard Intel HD Graphics 4000 and discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 650M (1 GB of GDDR5 memory) graphics processors. The laptop automatically switches between the two modes depending on what’s required by running software. (See “Improve MacBook Pro Battery Life with gfxCardStatus,” 21 February 2011, for an explanation of how graphics switching works and to learn about a great utility for monitoring and controlling it.)

The built-in battery can operate the machine for up to 7 hours, according to Apple, with 30 days of standby time before being depleted.

Ports of Call — The Retina display MacBook Pro includes two Thunderbolt ports and two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone port, and an SDXC memory card slot. New to the line is an HDMI port, as well as dual microphones.

An interesting change is a new MagSafe 2 connector for providing power (since when did power plugs get version numbers?). It appears the new connector is slimmer than its predecessor and incompatible with previous MagSafe adapters, but no other details were forthcoming; if you’re hoping to use a regular MagSafe cable to power the new MacBook Pro, Apple is happy to sell you an adapter for $9.99.

Also interesting is what’s missing. Gone is the Ethernet port (a Thunderbolt-to-Gigabit Ethernet adapter will be available in July 2012), audio line-in, and, most significantly, an optical drive. If you need to write data to disc or rip music or movies, you’ll need to buy Apple’s USB SuperDrive. The lack of an optical drive makes this MacBook Pro more Air-like than other models. The main difference now appears to be the tapering case as a Retina display could be added to a future MacBook Air.

Networking remains the same, with 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking (compatible with 802.11a/b/g), and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology.

Pricing and Availability — The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is available today in two stock configurations: a 2.3 GHz processor for $2199 or a 2.6 GHz processor for $2799. The machine ships with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, but can be upgraded to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion for free when that version ships in July. A fully loaded MacBook Pro, with every build-to-order processor, memory, and storage upgrade, will run a hefty $3749.

The Other Guys — I mentioned the other MacBook Pro models earlier, which are now distinctly second-class citizens. The 13-inch and 15-inch models gain USB 3.0 ports, the capability to swap in a 1 TB hard drive or up to 512 GB solid-state drive (depending on model), Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, up to 1 GB of video memory in Nvidia GeForce GT 650m graphics processors, and up to 8 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 memory. They also get the 720p FaceTime HD camera. Perfectly nice upgrades, of course, but it may be worth spending roughly $400 more for the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, given its vastly more
impressive screen and lighter weight. Oh, and the 17-inch MacBook Pro? It’s now an ex-MacBook model.

Glenn Fleishman 11 comments

Mac Pro Gains Only Minor Speed Bump, Not Thunderbolt or USB 3.0

We wish we could say that the Mac Pro is going hard core, but today’s new models, which didn’t even merit mention during the WWDC keynote, are only a small speed bump, with a change in the standard configurations stocked in Apple Stores and available from the online Apple Store. The new Mac Pro models use slightly improved Intel Xeon processors, some of which run at modestly higher speeds. Apple has also added a beefier standard configuration that was previously available only as a build-to-order (BTO) option.

The new models lack both Thunderbolt, now standard on all of Apple’s other models, and USB 3.0, which first appeared in the revised MacBook Pro and MacBook Air editions announced today. That’s a strange omission for top-of-the-line kit, and suggests that Apple either has a serious revision still up its sleeve for later in the year, or that it may let the Mac Pro continue to languish as it has since 2010.

Two standard models are now available: a 4-core desktop with a single 3.2 GHz quad-core Intel Xeon W3565 processor and a 12-core model with two 2.4 GHz 6-core Intel Xeon E5645 processors. The quad-core version comes in a regular and server version with different memory and storage options.

Apple managed to keep the price of the 12-core unit relatively low, at $3799, by using 2.4 GHz processors. Bump them to 2.66 GHz, the previous lowest level for a BTO model, and you’re looking at $4999 — the same price charged in 2010 for a slightly older processor. Apple also offers a 3.06 GHz 12-core BTO model for a whopping $6199.

It’s hard to believe that Apple expects animation and video professionals who rely on the fastest machines either to switch to laptops, which can’t offer the scale of processors found in pro desktop computers, or to be satisfied with minor feature bumps and missing modern interface ports.

Apple continuously reworks its product line, dropping models and old designs in favor of the new. The Mac Pro is the only machine stuck in amber. Perhaps it’s already extinct. But it’s also peculiar for the company to walk away from what is a significant source of revenue, and one that comes with high margins and a well-heeled professional market. Today’s anemic upgrade didn’t provide any clarity to Apple’s long-term plans for professional-scale expandable desktop computing.

Adam Engst 4 comments

Master Mail with “Take Control of Apple Mail in Lion”

If you’re like many Mac users, one of your most commonly used apps is Apple Mail. It has a lot going for it — it’s free with Mac OS X, it’s integrated deeply into the Macintosh experience, and it’s both powerful and attractive. A downside to Mail, however, is that it has never been well-documented. That’s why Joe Kissell has been writing ebooks about Mail since Panther roamed the forests, and he’s back to help us all use Mail more effectively with “Take Control of Apple Mail in Lion.”

There’s comprehensive guidance for everyone in the 147-page “Take Control of Apple Mail in Lion,” whether you need to learn the basics of receiving, composing, and sending email, or if you want to master Mail’s many advanced options, including account setup, employing multiple accounts, formatting, rules, smart mailboxes, and integration with iCloud and Gmail. Either way, you’ll find helpful advice and detailed steps, based on extensive real-world experience. Joe even provides tips for independent add-ons that make Mail smarter and more enjoyable to use.

Since Lion has been out for a while, we’re doing something special with this title. Everyone who purchases it before Apple releases Mountain Lion in July 2012 will automatically receive a free copy of “Take Control of Apple Mail in Mountain Lion,” which is ready for publication shortly after Mountain Lion hits the Mac App Store.

In the meantime, “Take Control of Apple Mail in Lion” will teach you to:

  • Comprehend account options: Understand the difference between POP and IMAP, plus learn about special aspects of iCloud, Exchange, and Gmail accounts. Discover how to integrate all these types of accounts, and more, into your overall Mail setup, as well as learn how you can manage Gmail’s labels in an IMAP environment.

  • Read: Well, not from scratch. But you will learn efficient ways to quickly open, read, process, and file your messages. See how best to use Lion’s three-pane view (or turn it off if you prefer), and how to follow email threads and conversations. You’ll also get tips for handling incoming attachments, flagging messages, avoiding spam, and using Mail’s built-in RSS feed reader.

  • Write and send: Read about different methods for quickly addressing your email, how to take control of the From, To, Cc, and Bcc lines, and how to create multiple signatures. Find out how to address a single message to a group of recipients, and how to decide whether you should use digital signatures or encryption, plus what to do when you want to send a digitally signed or encrypted message. And, get advice about formatting an email message — and why you might not want to, plus learn how to include URLs, add attachments, and include quoted text from other messages.

  • Find your stuff: Keep Mail organized with advice on how to arrange Mail’s sidebar, Favorites bar, and your various mailboxes so you can easily locate messages using a variety of techniques — including search tokens and Boolean expressions. Joe covers simple features, such as making a new mailbox and rearranging your mailboxes, as well as advanced techniques, such as creating rules and smart mailboxes.

  • Use Notes: Mail has a Notes feature for leaving yourself reminders. Learn the strengths and limitations of Notes, and make it work for you.

  • Unravel Mail mysteries: Understand the sometimes-present Outbox, sort out the Dock unread count, learn why smart addresses can be stupid, avoid “unsafe” addresses, manage the Previous Recipients list, wrangle attachments, and determine why certain mailboxes appear in particular categories on Mail’s sidebar.

  • Avoid and fix problems: Get advice on how to back up your email, and find out how to restore it from a backup. Also read the dozen pages of hard-won troubleshooting advice with tips on managing a misbehaving mailbox, fixing sending problems and delays, resolving connection errors, and more.

Adam Engst 8 comments

TidBITS Presents “Adieu MobileMe” Live Online on 16 June 2012

And now for something completely different… TidBITS Presents!

We’ve written a number of articles about dealing with MobileMe’s upcoming demise and how to keep certain capabilities on older machines or on services other than iCloud. And, more comprehensively, Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of iCloud” has helped thousands of Mac users switch from MobileMe to iCloud, and learn how to make the most of iCloud’s features.

But judging from the anxiety that we’re hearing from TidBITS and Take Control readers, there are still lots of people out there who haven’t yet made the jump to iCloud, even though MobileMe is slated to go dark in less than a month, on 30 June 2012. We updated “Take Control of iCloud” with the latest information just a few weeks ago, but not everyone has a copy yet, and even for those who do, it’s impossible to anticipate every last question. And, of course, iCloud may not be the best option for everyone.

So here’s what we’re going to do. On Saturday, June 16th, at 12 PM Eastern (9 AM Pacific, and 6 PM in Paris, France, where Joe lives), we’re going to host a live online presentation about how to deal with MobileMe going away, which may involve switching to iCloud or replacing MobileMe’s services with those from Google, Dropbox, ZangZing, and others. This is exactly the sort of talk that Joe gives at major conferences like Macworld | iWorld and the MacMania cruises, but we’re making it free for all comers. Plus, our plan is to record it so those who are busy on Saturday can tune in later, although those who attend live will have a chance to ask questions and help guide the discussion while Joe is talking. Again, all of this
will be free, though we certainly hope it will encourage those people who wish to switch to iCloud to purchase “Take Control of iCloud.”

This is a big experiment for us, since although we’ve done lots of point-to-point online presentations for Mac user groups over the years, we’ve never tried a webinar for what could be hundreds of simultaneous viewers. We’re planning to use the Google+ Hangouts On Air service, since it seems to combine a decent live experience with automatic recording to YouTube. Even though we’ve done our last few staff meetings and this week’s WWDC commentary via Hangouts On Air, we’re still a bit unsure of how it will work for everyone. For instance, we believe that anyone can watch live, but you’ll need a Google+ account (and need to be logged in) to add questions to the Hangouts On Air post. And, alas, Hangouts On Air doesn’t work
on iOS yet, which is a shame, since we think it would be brilliant to be able to watch on the iPad (you will be able to view the YouTube video on the iPad afterwards, though).

So, if you have some free time next Saturday at noon Eastern, do join Joe and me, and bring your MobileMe questions. As you’ll see on the TidBITS Presents landing page we’ve set up, the link to the live presentation won’t be available until we start it. If you need to communicate with us in some fashion outside of Google+, send me messages via Twitter at @adamengst.

Hangouts On Air doesn’t seem to have a scheduling or reminder service, so it’s up to you to remember at the right time. Or you can download this .ics file and import it into iCal or BusyCal on the Mac, or into Calendar on iOS.

Jeff Carlson Glenn Fleishman 5 comments

LinkedIn Logins Stolen, Change Your Password Now

If you use the networking site LinkedIn, change your password immediately. A hacker stole the details for 6.5 million logins and made them available online. In a statement, LinkedIn acknowledged the problem, and outlined how it would notify affected customers as part of its ongoing investigation into what happened. The plain text of passwords wasn’t revealed, but many people remain at risk, especially those who used the LinkedIn password on other sites. Lex Friedman at Macworld offers more details about the situation, plus
an unrelated problem with the LinkedIn iOS app scraping private data from calendar events.

You can check whether you password was pilfered by using FictiveKin’s, which will convert your plain-text password into the cryptographically scrambled form used in LinkedIn’s database and compare it against the leaked password list. However, we don’t recommend that you type in your plain-text password on another site! Instead, launch Terminal on your Mac, and type in the following command to convert your password into the format needed:

echo -n ‘plain-text password’ | openssl sha1

Now enter the resulting text, which will look something like 217e0428f0a8f78abe5066ae4f84a4a83a36b375, at to see if your password was leaked.

(As an aside, you can also use this site to check whether LinkedIn users have used any particular password — one you’ve used in the past, perhaps — and if it has been compromised. That might give you a real-world sense of how secure certain passwords are.)

LinkedIn appears to have stored passwords only in a protected form, unlike so many previous login hijacks in which we discovered firms leave our critical data in plain-text form. But that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. LinkedIn “hashes” the password, as we at TidBITS and most sites do, which creates a sort of cryptographic signature (the “hash”). Such hashes aren’t reversible — knowing the hash doesn’t get you the password — but they can be used in brute force attacks. An attacker can work through a list of common passwords and random short entries and compare them against the hash list to see which match. If your password was 12345678 or password, your number is up.

To set a new password, log in to LinkedIn, click your name in the upper-right corner of the page, choose Settings from the menu that appears, click the Account tab in the lower-left of the page, and then click Change Password. We always recommend setting a strong password that’s a mix of letters and numbers (and punctuation if the site supports it), and using a password storage tool such as 1Password, Password Wallet (TidBITS members save 25 percent on either of those), or the free LastPass so you don’t have to remember or store
passwords in an insecure manner.

Equally important is to change your passwords for any other sites that you may have set up with the same login, because that information is now being shared by malevolent people who use it to try to access other sites’ accounts. I set up a LinkedIn account years ago and rarely use the site, so it’s likely that I re-used the same password somewhere else at the time — a big no-no. For every site that requires a login, you should have a unique password. I generate secure passwords and track them all using 1Password and recommend you do the

Michael E. Cohen 22 comments

A Redshirt in the DRM Wars

Any fan of “Star Trek” knows the plight of the poor redshirt: an uncredited crew member, wearing a red Starfleet tunic, dies (typically in a horribly dramatic fashion) while being part of a landing party from the Enterprise. This TV trope is so famous in fandom that it inspired award-winning science-fiction writer John Scalzi to use it as the basis for his latest comic novel, “Redshirts,” which was published on 5 June 2012 in the United States. Interestingly, for those among us who buy ebooks, Tor Books, the publisher of “Redshirts,” recently announced that it would begin selling its
ebooks without digital-rights management (DRM) protection.

Moreover, the day before the book’s release, Tor representatives, along with Scalzi and fellow authors Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, appeared at BookExpo America in New York to announce the opening of Tor’s own DRM-free ebook store later this year, and to reiterate that Tor’s ebooks would no longer be saddled with DRM.

Now here’s where irony leaps from the digital page into reality: “Redshirts” was supposed to be one of the first (possibly the first) of Tor’s titles to be sold without DRM. Yet, when my pre-ordered copy downloaded from Apple’s iBookstore on the day of release, it came with Apple’s FairPlay 2 DRM applied to it. Like the eponymous Enterprise crew member, “Redshirts” had been attacked without warning by an alien DRM-monster. And it was not just Apple in the role of the attacking alien: comments appearing on Scalzi’s popular blog, Whatever, made it clear that other vendors — including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony — had ignored
Tor’s and Scalzi’s express wishes and slapped their own versions of DRM on the ebook. It was almost as though the Klingon High Council had declared war on DRM-free ebooks.

Fortunately, the Klingons were not to have their way. By the next morning, Scalzi had already posted an announcement that Tor intended to make good on its no-DRM plan, and, later the same day, he was able to announce that Tor would replace DRM-shackled copies of the ebook with unfettered versions. I can only imagine how embarrassed and angry he and the folks at Tor must have been.

In my case, I had already written to Apple’s customer support, so, before I took advantage of the Tor offer, I wanted to wait and see if Apple would respond in anything like a timely manner. And, surprisingly enough, Apple did: less than 24 hours after I filed my complaint, I was told that the price of my “unintentional” (Apple’s words) purchase of the DRM-wrapped ebook would be refunded. There was, of course, nothing unintentional on my part: I fully intended to buy the book; I just wanted to buy it as it was advertised, without DRM. The problem lay with Apple: Apple provides no way to tell if an ebook you purchase from the iBookstore will have DRM wrapping it until after you complete the purchase and take delivery. However, if
Apple wants to soothe themselves by pretending that I screwed up, not them, I’m willing to play along.

Theoretically, of course, I can still take advantage of Tor’s offer anyway, and thus end up with a free copy of the book. However, I am going do the right thing and wait until the refund appears and then buy an unprotected copy, assuming such a thing appears in a timely fashion.

But I know what color my next shirt won’t be.

TidBITS Staff 11 comments

Apple Previews iOS 6 for Fall Release

Apple supplemented its new laptop announcements and forthcoming update to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion with plans to release iOS 6 in the third quarter of 2012 — we’re guessing October, to coincide with a new iPhone model. The new mobile OS version comes with what Apple counts as 200 new features, including a dramatically modified Maps app, smarter Siri integration, and a welcome Do Not Disturb mode. According to Apple, iOS 6 will work with the iPhone 3GS and later, the fourth-generation iPod touch, and the second- and third-generation iPad. It’s nice to see the iPhone 3GS being included in one more big iOS upgrade and, although not entirely surprising, it’s noteworthy that the original iPad will not run iOS 6.

Maps and Directions — It has been clear for months that Apple would abandon Google’s mapping software and support for the Maps app, despite a working relationship that dated back to iPhone OS 1.0. Apple even advertised for new employees to work on its mapping service. But the new Maps app is more expansive than expected.

To start with, Apple’s new maps are vector-based, rather than being bitmapped images. Google constructs maps as pictures on a server and feeds out image segments; Apple sends vector data to its devices, which then build the maps. This is a classic split in the two companies’ philosophies. Apple says (and the demo shows) that this makes zooming and panning faster. It should also mean that much less data is transferred, as using vector data is a far more compact method of representing an area, especially as the user switches among different levels of magnification.

If you imagined hearing a loud groan during the Maps presentation, it was the sound of dozens of GPS satellite-navigation app makers picturing millions of dollars in lost sales due to the turn-by-turn directions feature that Apple has added for iOS 6. But our own Glenn Fleishman has reviewed nearly 20 of them for Macworld over the last 3 years, and he feels there’s a lot of room for improvement — which is why it makes sense for Apple to step in here.

Apple says it’s integrating traffic conditions that are anonymously crowdsourced from iOS users who are also using Maps while driving to provide updating information about the best route. (Google has long done exactly this as well.) Many GPS navigation apps include traffic or offer it as an add-on, and rely on the same sort of traffic update information. But Apple’s Maps will be available to everyone at no cost, which could instantly provide Apple with an extremely large pool of traffic data from the day it launches. (Android has offered free turn-by-turn directions since 2009 in advance of most third-party navigation software for that

Maps adds some lovely eye candy in the form of Flyover, which Apple derived from aerial photography. Major cities around the world can be viewed as interactive 3D images. It’s an interesting way to explore a city, and a great demonstration. In practice, one wonders how much it will be used routinely, but we can imagine visitors planning a visit to a new city by spending evenings rummaging through flyovers. Several firms, including Microsoft, have offered spectacular 3D and interactive aerial views before, but this is the first time we know of this approach being available so extensively in a mobile app. (Google announced just a few days ago that it would be bringing interactive 3D visuals to Android in the near future.)

Apple has also put Yelp reviews and results onto its maps as clickable pins along with other local information. (Yelp and Google have a long-standing dispute about the use of Yelp’s information in Google’s local results, and the use of Yelp results in general searches. Apple will dramatically boost Yelp’s reach with this inclusion.)

A Smarter Siri — Siri, introduced in beta form with iOS 5, controls an iPhone 4S with speech when, for example, you want to compose a text message, set a timer, or place a phone call.

Siri gets smarter in iOS 6 and expands its reach beyond just the iPhone 4S to the latest iPad — sorry to those who were hoping for backward compatibility with the original iPad, iPad 2, and the iPhone 4. Siri in iOS 6 also understands many more languages and can run in a new “Eyes Free” mode; this is invoked via a button on the steering wheel in certain new cars. (So yes, if you want to be completely up to date, you’ll have to buy a new car that’s compatible with your cell phone.)

The iOS 6 Siri update gains access to more information, such as sports statistics and scores for baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and soccer (nothing was said about worldwide results from the only sport Adam follows, distance running). Fortunately, as thinking about sports can work up an appetite, Siri can also help you satisfy your hunger more effectively, with access to much more restaurant information, via Yelp and OpenTable, so you can look for nearby places that feature outdoor seating and then book a reservation.

If you are using Siri in iOS 6 with the new Maps app, you can ask for a destination — such as a nearby restaurant — and Siri directs you there. And if you want to follow dinner with a movie, Siri can provide access to movie showings, trailers, and reviews. For film buffs, Siri can find movie trivia, such as when a movie was released and who directed it. You’ll also be able to speak to Twitter and have Siri tweet what you say, post a Facebook status update, or add a comment to your Facebook wall.

Perhaps best of all, Siri can launch apps upon your spoken command. App hounds who have filled their devices with hundreds of programs can now bypass the iOS search screen to easily launch an app that’s stashed away in the fifth folder on the seventh Home screen — or that might not be showing at all if the screens are maxed out!

Auto manufacturers that Apple announced as already committed to delivering eyes-free Siri integration in the next 12 months include BMW, GM, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda. Languages that Siri will support under iOS 6 include Korean; English/French for Canada; Spanish for Spain, Mexico, and the United States; Italian; Italian, French, and German for Switzerland; Mandarin for Taiwan; Cantonese for Hong Kong; and Mandarin for mainland China and Hong Kong.

Do Not Disturb and Phone Reminders — A new Do Not Disturb timer in iOS 6 adds an option to pick a range of time to suppress vibration, keep the screen from lighting up, and silence any sounds on your iOS device. Anyone who sleeps with such a piece of hardware nearby will appreciate Do Not Disturb’s tranquility. This feature will also be welcome to certain students, especially younger students, who want to have their iPhones in their backpacks, but need to ensure that they are completely silent during class to avoid confiscation.

For iPhone users, the Do Not Disturb feature does not mean that you’ll miss truly urgent calls, though: if the same number calls you within 3 minutes of a blocked call, it is passed on through; that bypass can be disabled, too. You can also allow numbers in your Favorites list in the Phone and Contacts apps to make noise or vibration, even when all others are suppressed.

Further, the Phone app offers more options related to the calls that you don’t answer even when you’re willing to be disturbed. You can respond to an unanswered call immediately with a text message, including some preset ones (including custom presets: “I thought I told you never to call me while I’m being John Malkovich!”), or set a reminder for returning the call. And that reminder can include a geofence, so you’ll be alerted when you leave a meeting room or building.

Passbook — The new Passbook app aims to bring order to your collection of virtual movie ticket purchases, boarding passes, loyalty cards, and more — at least those that include 2D barcodes that you need to present to scan for admission or purchase. Passbook can present and keep track of such items by both time and location, showing you, for example, your boarding pass information on the iPhone lock screen when you arrive at the airport. You can expect a number of vendors to turn up in Passbook as time goes on, as it requires some sort of integration, almost like a mini-app or widget.

Passbook could be a signal that Apple intends to incorporate near-field communications (NFC), a wireless technology for exchanging information at extremely short distances, such as by waving a device near or tapping a device on some kind of reader. Android added support for NFC in previous releases, and some Android phones include NFC hardware. However, without the commitment and integration of major retailers and other companies, like airlines, NFC won’t take off. Passbook could be both an indication of what’s to come and a precursor of announcements from Apple partners.

Enhanced Sharing — Those who can’t resist sharing every facet of their lives will appreciate the integration of Facebook into iOS for posting pictures and updates from within various apps, just like Twitter. This would seem to be the death knell for Ping, Apple’s music-oriented social networking service that never really got off the ground — a statement Tim Cook more or less agreed with in an interview at a recent tech conference.

More interesting is the new Shared Photo Streams feature. You can pick photos you’d like to share, and choose friends with whom you want to share. After that, your friends will receive push notifications about the shared photos, and the photos will appear in an album in the Photos app and on Macs in iPhoto and Aperture.

It will also finally become possible to attach photos and videos directly to messages from within the Mail app, rather than forcing users to initiate the process from the Photos app.

For those who like to share in real time, FaceTime gains the capability to work over cellular data connections as well as Wi-Fi. About time.

Safari ImprovementsSafari in iOS receives a few interesting improvements, including iCloud Tabs, which enables you to view tabs open in other copies of Safari on your other iCloud-connected devices. Safari’s Reading List will be usable offline, which makes it significantly more useful for anyone who commutes on the subway or who wants to catch up with stored articles on an airplane.

When viewing Web sites in landscape orientation, you’ll be able to show them full-screen, without the device’s usual status bar at the top. And for sites that have their own iOS app, Safari can automatically pop up a banner informing visitors of a developer’s app, and a single tap will take them to the App Store to download it. If the user already has the app, tapping will switch to it, in exactly the same state as the Web site was.

Guided Access and Accessibility — With the new Guided Access feature, touch input to an app can be limited to only certain areas of the screen, and the new Single App mode disables the Home button, forcing the user of the device to remain in a single app. For teachers using iPads in the classroom, we predict that these features will be popular for keeping students on task. For example, students using a Multi-Touch textbook authored in iBooks Author could be restricted to just the iBooks app. And, with Guided Access, students could be blocked from tapping the Library button in iBooks in order to switch out to the
iBookstore or any other titles available in the iBooks library.

Other accessibility related changes include VoiceOver support added to the Maps app, and a “Made for iPhone” program for creating and marketing iPhone-compatible hearing aids.

Lost and Found — A new Lost mode added to Find My iPhone lets you send a message to your missing iPhone that lets whoever found the phone call you with a single tap. “If they’re nice,” said Apple’s Scott Forstall while demonstrating the feature. Currently, Find My iPhone lets you send messages, lock your device, or wipe it. The Lost mode tracks the phone (it sounds as if it enables Find My iPhone if it’s off, although that’s unclear), locks the phone with a new four-digit passcode, and provides a pop-up menu with a prominent green Call button that the phone’s current possessor can tap to reach you.

Find My Friends will also add notifications based on location, with Apple providing the excellent example that a parent could be alerted when a kid leaves school or arrives home.

That’s It… For Now — That’s our brief rundown on the most touted of the 200 new features that iOS 6 will deliver when it is released in a few short months. Given that developers at WWDC received a beta of iOS 6, however, we suspect more details about it will emerge in the days and weeks to come.

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 11 June 2012

CloudPull 2.1 — When we wrote about the Google-data backup application CloudPull 2.0, the most obvious problem was its performance when bringing in large quantities of email from Gmail (see “Back Up Your Google Data with CloudPull,” 6 March 2012). John Brayton of Golden Hill Software took note of this, and improved the performance significantly in CloudPull 2.0.2 by addressing inefficiencies in how CloudPull interacted with Gmail via IMAP. But that has remained his focus for the just-released CloudPull 2.1, where he has enabled CloudPull to use four simultaneous
connections for far faster performance yet. That in turn tends to set off Gmail’s throttling for clients that use excessive bandwidth, so CloudPull 2.1 also restricts itself to 5000 messages per backup cycle to avoid being throttled. As a result, initial backups can still take a while, but subsequent backups can be over 10 times faster than 2.0.2. Equally important from the perceptual standpoint, CloudPull 2.1 now has an Activity window that tells you what the app is doing and provides progress bars. Other changes include a Check for Updates menu item, improved usability in the Google Accounts preference pane, a text-label switch from Google Docs to Google Drive,
pagination of lists with over 1000 items, and retry and backoff logic to make individual backup cycles more resilient to connectivity problems and errors from Google. CloudPull 2.1 requires Mac OS X 10.7 Lion; version 1.5.7 remains available for those running 10.6 Snow Leopard. ($24.99 new, free update, 7.6 MB, release notes)

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Script Debugger 5.0 — Late Night Software has updated Script Debugger to version 5.0, a major new release for the AppleScript authoring environment (for an overview, see Matt Neuburg’s “Script Debugger 4.5 Offers Power Editing to AppleScripters,” 26 November 2008). Script Debugger 5.0 introduces more than 30 new features, including templates that can help you create new script documents more quickly, a tabbed interface for viewing multiple scripts in a single window, and a new bundle editor that enables
you to open resource files or drag new resources directly into a bundle. The new release also unifies several floating inspector panels and the Results drawer into a three-tabbed pane available at the right side of each document. Other enhancements include improved Spotlight indexing, a redesigned Find and Replace panel that won’t obscure portions of your script when in use, and a Result Bar that enables you to view the result of a script when you don’t need the full power of the app’s Explorers and Variables browsers. Script Debugger 5.0 is now focused solely on AppleScript code-building, and it requires Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or later. You can upgrade to Script Debugger 5.0 for $99 from version 4.5 or $129 from version 4.0. If
you purchased Script Debugger 4.5 after 25 April 2012, you are eligible for a free upgrade to version 5.0. ($199 new, $99/$129 upgrade, 12.6 MB)

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Coda 2.0.1 — Panic has released Coda 2.0.1, a fix-fest of a follow-up to its recent major upgrade of the Web site development tool. Amongst the bevy of fixes, the update improves reliability of AirPreview and iCloud syncing (the latter available only in the version purchased from the Mac App Store), disables a “mysterious” iCloud panel in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, catches external CSS changes more reliably in Web preview, and improves code validation when code is collapsed. Additionally, the release improves overall stability under 10.6 Snow Leopard, adds
Japanese localization, opens files in the active tab/split via keyboard shortcut (Option-Return), and improves autocompletion for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP. For a complete rundown of fixes, be sure to peruse the release notes. ($99 new, $75 update, 46.1 MB)

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PDFpen and PDFpenPro 5.8.3 — Smile has updated both PDFpen and PDFpenPro to version 5.8.3, a maintenance release focused on improving stability. The update fixes a couple of issues that caused the apps to crash — one when opening documents under certain situations and another when canceling creation of a PDF from an HTML document (the latter only affecting PDFpenPro). It also keeps the apps from hanging when expanding the sidebar to cover the entire page area and a problem that affected saving PDFs under some circumstances. The quick 5.8.3 update fixes the Check for
Update mechanism that was broken accidentally in 5.8.2, and squashes a bug that could cause PDFpen to crash on saving when highlighting was applied. ($59.95/$99.95 new with a 20-percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 43.5/44.2 MB)

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Firefox 13.0 — If you’re a Firefox user who has decried the lack of a feature akin to Safari’s Top Sites or Chrome’s Most Visited pages, you’re in luck with the release of Firefox 13 (think of it as version 4.9 in the real world). The update can now present you with a display of thumbnails of recently viewed and frequently visited Web pages, which can be pinned to a specific location within the display order, dragged to a different tile, or removed. You can also choose not to display the tab thumbnails by clicking the grid icon in the top right corner. Additionally, the Firefox default start page has been
updated with a row of icons at the bottom that provide easier access to such browser features as bookmarks, browsing and sync histories, and downloads, as well as the capability to restore the tabs from your previous browsing session. (Both of these features seem buggy, with at least some of us seeing only blank thumbnails and no bottom icons.) In addition to these user interface changes, Firefox 13 also adds several performance enhancements. When restoring a previous browsing session, tabs are loaded on demand instead of all at once, which should help to reduce memory usage. The release also supports the SPDY network protocol — Google’s alternative to the traditional HTTP protocol — which
will be used by default by those sites that utilize it (such as Google’s search engine and Twitter). (Free, 30.7 MB, release notes)

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ExtraBITS for 11 June 2012

The main happening this week was Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, and although Apple’s webcast isn’t yet available, you can listen in on our color commentary during the presentation. Also, in an extremely troubling move, Apple refused to allow Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil Speakers Touch into the App Store until Rogue Amoeba removed a perfectly legitimate feature. Boo!

Watch TidBITS Staff Commentary on the WWDC 2012 Keynote — As is our wont, we gathered virtually to chat about the various announcements being made during the WWDC 2012 keynote. What was new was that we were using Google+ Hangouts On Air so we could all see and hear each other (and some of the audio from the keynote). We were live at the time for anyone to watch, and Google+ Hangouts On Air are automatically recorded, so if you want to see and hear our unedited reactions in real time, check it out on YouTube. We’re far from expert at this sort of thing, and we’re still learning the tools and techniques, but
we’d love to know what you think!

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Airfoil Speakers Touch Back in App Store without AirPlay Support — Rogue Amoeba has released a downgrade to Airfoil Speakers Touch, the app that enabled an iOS device to act as an AirPlay receiver. The downgrade was necessary because Apple pulled the app a few weeks ago, and the only way Rogue Amoeba could get it back in the App Store was by removing the AirPlay capabilities. Airfoil Speakers Touch can still receive audio from a Mac or a PC (and from an iOS device or iTunes through one of the above), but it can no longer appear as an AirPlay destination for iOS or iTunes directly. In this blog
post, it becomes clear that Apple chose to restrict the app purely for unspecified and capricious reasons rather than any rule infractions.

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