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Apple has released iOS 10.0.3 to correct cellular connectivity problems on the iPhone 7 models. Siri is new to macOS 10.12 Sierra, but unlike its iOS sibling, it doesn’t automatically support the “Hey Siri” invocation. However, Adam Engst shares a tip from Scholle McFarland’s “Sierra: A Take Control Crash Course” that shows you how you can activate Siri hands-free. Julio Ojeda-Zapata provides an overview of Google’s latest product announcements and examines how they challenge Apple’s offerings. Finally, Adam rounds up five features missing from Sierra and explains how to work around them. Notable software releases this week include Microsoft Office 2016 15.27 and Office 2011 14.6.9, OmniFocus 2.7.2, Typinator 6.11, and TextExpander 6.1.

Josh Centers No comments

iOS 10.0.3 Fixes Cellular Connectivity Issues

Apple has released the small iOS 10.0.3 update to address an issue where some iPhone 7 and 7 Plus users could temporarily lose cellular connectivity. You can install the roughly 75 MB update via Settings > General > Software Update or through iTunes. Owners of older iPhone models and other iOS devices won’t see the update.

Business Insider reports that the iOS 10.0.3 update fixes cellular issues for Verizon customers, who saw their iPhone 7 phones get stuck on slow 3G speeds instead of LTE. That issue also reportedly affected GPS accuracy, so Verizon iPhone 7 users in particular should update right away.

The iOS 10.0.3 update contains the same security fixes as the iOS 10.0.2 update — see “iOS 10.0.1 and 10.0.2 Fix Important Bugs” (23 September 2016).

Adam Engst 25 comments

How to Enable “Hey Siri” in macOS 10.12 Sierra

Although Apple has made much of the fact that macOS 10.12 Sierra includes the Siri voice-driven personal assistant technology, there is one glaring omission: the capability to hail Siri with just your voice. Instead, you must click Siri’s menu bar icon or Dock icon, or press its keyboard shortcut.

That shouldn’t be necessary: on recent iPhones and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and on the Apple Watch, you can just say “Hey Siri” to cause Siri to take notice of your next spoken command. (With older iOS devices, “Hey Siri” works only when the device is connected to power, rendering it significantly less useful. With the Apple TV, you must press and hold a button on the Siri Remote, which can be difficult to do in a dark room.)

Happily, there is a subtle trick you can use to simulate “Hey Siri” on a Mac running Sierra. I’ve based these instructions on the coverage of Siri in Scholle McFarland’s “Sierra: A Take Control Crash Course” book — it provides a slew of additional tips, tricks, and step-by-step illustrated instructions if you’re looking for more help with Siri or other new features in Sierra.

Scholle’s trick revolves around using a dictation feature to open Siri on your command. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation. Turn Dictation on and then select Use Enhanced Dictation.

    If it hasn’t already, your Mac downloads Enhanced Dictation, which enables you to use dictation, even when your Mac is offline. That’s not actually what we care about, but eliminating the need to parse your words on Apple’s servers also lets you use dictation commands and converts your words to text more quickly, and those features are key.

  2. Switch to System Preferences > Accessibility. Scroll down in the left-hand column and select Dictation.

  3. Select Enable the Dictation Keyword Phrase and then type Hey into the text field.

  4. Click the Dictation Commands button, select the Enable Advanced Commands checkbox, and then click the plus button. Options appear to the right of the dialog. Next to “When I say,” type Siri into the text field. Leave While Using set to Any Application.

  5. Click the Perform pop-up menu and choose Open Finder Items. In the dialog that appears, navigate to the Siri app in the Applications folder.

  6. Click Done.

Try it out by saying “Hey Siri!” and your Mac should respond. There’s no option for training Siri to recognize your voice in Sierra, so you’ll need to practice a little to figure out how to speak so your Mac understands that you’re talking to it. In particular, pause for a beat after you say “Hey Siri” until your Mac beeps to indicate that it’s listening.

One problem with setting up “Hey Siri” as we’ve done here is that if your iPhone is in range, it will likely answer as well. Although Siri talking to Siri can be amusing, it will likely get on your nerves. To avoid this, you can change either the voice trigger for your Mac, in Step 3 above, or the name in the “When I say” field in Step 4.

Obviously, you can use whatever you like, but my recommendation is “Hey Mac.” Assuming that you’re using “Hey Siri” on your iPhone, iPad Pro, or Apple Watch already, keeping “Hey” as the trigger will make it easy to start issuing a voice command regardless of what device you’re using, and continuing to talk to “Mac” should be intuitive, given that you are talking to your Mac. “Hey Mac” is also short and easy to say, and it should be easily recognized. If your Mac doesn’t recognize you saying it, though, don’t hesitate to try other triggers or names. If you have more general trouble, make sure your microphone is selected in System Preferences > Sound > Input and restart your Mac to give it a clean slate.

Give this trick a try, and let us know in the comments how you’re using Siri on your Mac, and how that is similar to or different from how you use Siri on your other Apple devices.

Julio Ojeda-Zapata No comments

Google Event Unveils Smartphones, Wi-Fi, VR, and Streaming Devices

In what has become a recurring exercise, Google recently staged a product announcement just weeks after Apple’s media event revealed the iPhone 7, Apple Watch Series 2, and AirPods.

As with a previous such event (see “Google I/O 2016 Includes Announcements with Apple Appeal,” 23 May 2016), much of what Google showed off has direct parallels with the Apple world. Notably, both companies showed off their next-generation smartphones.

But while the Google event might seem like a me-too exercise with an undercurrent of Apple envy, it demonstrated how Google is outpacing its Cupertino competitor in some ways. Google’s new Pixel smartphones don’t blow the new iPhone 7 models out of the water, but they do have characteristics that might inspire some envy. And Google is pulling ahead of Apple in areas such as Wi-Fi and virtual reality. None of Google’s improvements are so significant that Apple users will be enticed to switch, but the competition should keep Apple on its toes.

iPhone, Meet Pixel — Google has jettisoned the Nexus brand that it long used for the smartphones it sells directly to the public, shifting to Pixel — the name it previously used for its Pixel C tablet and the recently discontinued Chromebook Pixel laptop. Google’s new phones bear the monikers Pixel and Pixel XL.

Aesthetically, the Pixel devices might strike many as iPhone copycats with roughly comparable contours, though Google has opted to sheathe the aluminum devices front and back in glass — we all know how well that worked out for the iPhone 4 and 4s. Google does earn a few creativity points for the names of its phone colors: Very Silver, Quite Black, and the limited-edition Really Blue.

More significantly, Google has added a raft of technical improvements to make the Pixel phones competitive with both the iPhone 7 and high-end phones from other Android-based phone makers.

The Pixel’s 12-megapixel camera is one of the biggest shots across Apple’s bow. Google made much of the fact that the camera does not bulge the way the iPhone 7’s camera does, although the Pixel is slightly thicker overall than the iPhone 7.

Even so, Google claims the camera is “the highest rated smartphone camera anyone has ever made” with a DxOMark Mobile score of 89, along with exceptional low-light performance (an iPhone 7 bragging point) and a Lens Blur feature to achieve shallow depth of field and bokeh effects (similar to the iPhone’s new Portrait feature). But the Pixels lack one key camera feature: optical image stabilization, that’s found on both iPhone 7 models. For comparison, the iPhone 7 scored 86 on the DxOMark Mobile test.

iPhone users may feel pangs of jealousy at Google’s offer of free, unlimited storage of original-quality, full-resolution photos and videos via its Google Photos service. Apple’s iCloud still offers just a measly 5 GB of free storage for use with iCloud Photo Library.

Quick-charging technology gives the Pixel phones another edge over the iPhone 7. The Google handsets can go from uncharged to about 7 hours of battery life with only 15 minutes of charging via an 18-watt charger plugged into a USB-C port and a technology called USB-PD (Power Direct). Apple could presumably bring quick-charging technology to the iPhone since the 12.9-inch iPad Pro already has rapid charging (see “iPad Pro Charges Faster with MacBook Adapter and New Cable,” 27 April 2016).

Google has kept its fingerprint sensor on the back of its handsets, and not on the front like iPhones. The goal is to allow users to pick up and authenticate in one fell swoop, though that’s easy to do on the iPhone as well.

The Pixel phones are, behind the scenes, a significant Google strategy shift since the company had previously partnered with third-party hardware makers for its Nexus phones. Now, it says, it is “bringing hardware and software design under one roof,” although it’s still outsourcing the actual manufacturing. Sound familiar?

The 5-inch Pixel starts at $649 and the 5.5-inch XL at $769 — both with 32 GB of storage. The phones max out at 128 GB of storage. Both are slated to ship later this month.

Google at Your Service — The Pixels are also the first Android smartphones to incorporate the intelligent new Google Assistant (see “Google I/O 2016 Includes Announcements with Apple Appeal,” 23 May 2016), which is roughly comparable to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

As also revealed last May, Google Assistant is also the core of the new Google Home voice-activated hardware that competes directly with Amazon’s Echo device and has — to the dismay of some — no direct Apple equivalent. Google Home will, though, work with both iOS and Android devices.

Google had no major new revelations about Google Assistant and Google Home, except to say the latter will ship in November 2016 and start at $129 with a white top and gray fabric-covered base. More color schemes are on the way to match different home decor.

Virtual Reality, Step Two — Google has for several years done a good job promoting the emergent virtual-reality technology via its Cardboard goggles (see “On the iPhone, Virtual Reality Is Unofficially Real,” 17 June 2016). The slew of available Cardboard versions from Google and third-party makers tend to be simple by design in order to remain affordable.

But now Google is starting a fresh chapter in its virtual-reality crusade with second-generation goggles called Daydream View. For now, the Daydream View is fully compatible only with the Pixel handsets. Compatibility with other Android phones is coming, but Google didn’t comment on future iPhone compatibility.

Physically, a smartphone fits into the Daydream View’s flip-down lid, which you then close to make the phone into the VR brains and viewer once you put the goggles on your head. The Daydream View and Pixel pair automatically — similar to how Apple’s AirPods will pair with Macs and iOS devices.

The Daydream View adds a new element: a small handheld controller vaguely reminiscent of Apple’s pre-Siri Apple TV remote that enables a degree of interactivity. Google notes that the new controller “points where you point and is packed with sensors to understand your movements and gestures. You can swing it like a bat, or wave it like a wand. And it’s so precise that you can draw with it.”

When not in use, the controller stores on the inside of the Daydream View’s flip-out lid. Now, why didn’t Apple think of something like this for its easy-to-misplace Pencil?

Mesh Wi-Fi — Apple’s AirPort Wi-Fi base stations have seen precious few updates in recent years. Meanwhile, other hardware makers have steadily advanced the state of the Wi-Fi art.

One popular approach revolves around selling access points in sets of three or more to improve coverage (via what is called a “mesh network” in some cases). Eero has made a name for itself with such a system (see “Eero Provides Good Wi-Fi Coverage in a Handsome Package,” 25 June 2016).

Google is now getting into this game with a device called Google Wifi that will be sold in multiples, unlike the company’s older OnHub Wi-Fi router (see “Google OnHub Router Aims to Simplify Wi-Fi for Everyone,” 19 August 2015, and “Google’s OnHub Router Gets Rough Treatment in Early Reviews,” 31 August 2015).

The gadgets, which are short, white cylinders with wraparound light rings, create a residence-wide mesh network. According to Google, they are simple to set up, have robust privacy features, and auto-adjust to optimize performance — these are all Eero claims to fame.

Google Wifi will be available in November 2016 for $129 for a single device, or $299 for a three-pack.

Chromecast, Take Three — While Apple has taken a sophisticated streaming-box approach with its full-featured Apple TV, Google keeps things simpler with its Chromecast video-streaming and audio-streaming accessories.

The Chromecast devices certainly aren’t pretty. The video-streaming version, now in its third generation, is a coin-like gadget with a short HDMI cord that hangs from a TV’s rear or side HDMI port.

There is no remote, either. You have to use your phone (it supports both the iPhone and Android phones) to pull up online streaming content that you then send to the TV via the Chromecast.

Google’s new Chromecast Ultra features significant improvements, though, like 4K video and High Dynamic Range support, better Wi-Fi performance, and an Ethernet port for situations where Wi-Fi doesn’t work well. The Apple TV notably lacks support for 4K video and HDR, though it has long sported an Ethernet port.

Google integrated the Chromecast Ultra with the new Google Home device, so you’ll be able to use Google Home to control a Chromecast Ultra with your voice, much like Siri on the Apple TV. That should get around some of the pain of not having a remote.

Chromecast Ultra will become available in November 2016 for $69, a bargain compared to the Apple TV, which starts at $149.

Competition Makes the World Go Round — Nothing Google announced at its this product event is likely to make an Apple user jump ship. Sure, Apple users who followed these Google revelations might be a bit jealous due to the lack of fast charging in the iPhones, the absence of HDR and 4K in the Apple TV, the dearth of innovation in Apple’s AirPort base stations, the lack of an Amazon Echo/Google Home competitor, and Apple’s no-show status in the increasingly active virtual-reality field.

But that’s not the point. Apple’s gear has plenty of other advantages for now, and Google’s improvements keep Apple from resting on its product design laurels. And that results in better technology for us all.

Adam Engst 45 comments

Lost in Sierra: Five Missing Features

Although Apple mostly adds features to new releases of the Mac operating system, it’s not uncommon for the company to remove small features or support for older technologies. Needless to say, Apple doesn’t trumpet these removals from the rooftops, as it does with new features, leaving it to users who relied on a previous behavior to discover the change.

Here then are five features that have gone missing from macOS 10.12 Sierra:

  • The option to set the system language separately from the format language
  • Support for modem-based faxing
  • Less historical logged information revealed in Console
  • PPTP connections for VPNs
  • Support for DSA keys in SSH

Not all of these are bad — the removal of support for PPTP VPN connections and DSA SSH keys may be annoying but increases Sierra’s security. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to suggest workarounds where possible.

System Language vs. Format Language — Here’s a subtle change that reader Hans van Maanen alerted me to. In previous versions of OS X, you could set a primary system language in System Preferences > Language & Region, and then click the Advanced button to set a separate format language. Hans appreciated this split in OS X 10.11 El Capitan because it enabled him to leave his system language set to English to avoid lousy Dutch localizations in the apps he used while still retaining Dutch as the format language for dates, times, and numbers.

International readers will likely understand what I’m talking about here, but for those in the United States who may not realize, people in other countries often use different formats for things like dates. For instance, the short date format that I get when using English in the United States would look like 1/5/16 (for January 5th, 2016, which is the sample date for reasons I don’t know). However, if I change the Format Language pop-up menu (in El Capitan) to Dutch, the short date format changes to 05/01/16. And, of course, the names of days and months are different in other languages.

For unknown reasons, Apple removed the Format Language pop-up menu in System Preferences > Language & Region > Advanced > General.

You can still choose your country separately from the Region pop-up menu in the main view of Language & Region, but that controls only settings like the first day of the week, the calendar type, the time format, and the formatting for dates and times. Notably, it does not change the names of days and months to the language associated with the selected region.

Thanks to reader RT for discovering the workaround! In Terminal, enter this command and press Return to use Dutch:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleLocale nl_NL

The key part of that command is the pair of two-letter codes at the end. From what I can tell, the first is an ISO 639-1 language code that corresponds to the format language used for the names of days and months, and the second is an ISO 3166-1 alpha 2 country code that matches the country selected in the Region pop-up menu.

You can set them separately, so the first command below would set the format language to German, and the region to Switzerland, whereas the second uses French for the format language.

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleLocale de_CH

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleLocale fr_CH

Should you wish to reset the formatting language to match your primary system language, just click Restore Defaults in the Advanced dialog.

Modem-based Faxing — Thanks to reader Jim Weil for alerting us to this missing feature, and my apologies in advance if I don’t describe this quite right since I don’t have the necessary hardware. Starting in 10.7 Lion, Apple removed support for the Apple USB Modem, which some people used for faxing with the Print & Fax pane of System Preferences in 10.6 Snow Leopard and earlier.

However, third-party USB modems that came with their own drivers, notably some models from USRobotics, continued to work with Lion, and you could still add and use a fax modem from the renamed Print & Scan preference pane. That status quo continued through 10.11 El Capitan, even as the preference pane was renamed once again to Printers & Scanners.

In Sierra, however, USRobotics support has confirmed that Apple removed even the capability to add a fax modem with external drivers to the Printers & Scanners preference pane.

We’re aware of four possible workarounds:

  • The easiest approach is to use an Internet fax service; Randy Singer recommended a number of possibilities appropriate for different situations in “SRFax and Other Internet Faxing Alternatives to MaxEmail” (7 October 2016). The main problem with this approach is that your faxes must travel via the Internet. For some situations, the security of point-to-point faxing could be important.
  • If you’re already virtualizing Microsoft Windows within something like Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, or VirtualBox and have it configured correctly to see an external USB fax modem, Windows should automatically recognize the fax modem and enable you to use it from within Windows. It’s probably not worth investing in a virtualization environment and Windows just for fax modem support, but it’s worth remembering if you’re already set up. Jim Weil also noted that, for an entirely free option, you could use VirtualBox and virtualize Linux, which supports
    apps that enable faxing. Consider that an exercise for the reader.
  • Numerous multifunction printers include fax support, and Apple even provides an extensive list of printers supported by Sierra. In theory, the driver software for some of these printers might include the capability to send a print job via the printer’s fax modem, which would work around Sierra’s removal of general fax support. I have no personal experience with printers that make such a capability possible, but if you do, please let us know in the comments what model you’re using.
  • Reader Firitia commented on an early version of this article that it’s possible to move the underlying Unix fax software forward from El Capitan to Sierra and use it from the command line. To do this, you’ll need to copy the following files from a Mac running El Capitan to equivalent locations on the Mac running Sierra:
    • /usr/bin/fax
    • /usr/bin/efax
    • /usr/bin/efix
    • /usr/share/man/man1/fax.1
    • /usr/share/man/man1/efax.1
    • /usr/share/man/man1/efix.1
    • /System/Library/Coreservices/Menu\ extras/

    (The last one may not be necessary, but Firitia suggested it for completeness.) Once you’ve copied all the files, use man fax and man efax to find instructions for using these command-line tools.

Console Loses Its Memory — The Console app has long been an essential troubleshooting tool on the Mac because it provides a way of browsing through all the log messages generated by the operating system. Although most users don’t realize this, there’s a lot of chatter that goes on at the operating system level.

As reader Tom Robinson noted in TidBITS Talk, Apple appears to have completely rewritten Console in Sierra, so much so that its version number changed from 10.11 in El Capitan to 1.0 in Sierra. Notably, Console 1.0 can display log message information in a set of user-configurable columns, filter messages to just errors and faults, and more — Kirk McElhearn has an overview at Macworld.

However, Console 1.0 doesn’t provide all the capabilities that Console in El Capitan had, as Howard Oakley outlines in his criticism of the new version. The most important thing that’s missing in Sierra’s Console 1.0 is historical log information. The app starts displaying logged messages when you launch it, but unlike Console in previous versions of OS X, you can’t go back in time to see what was happening on your Mac last night, or
the day before. That capability is a huge help when tracking down a problem that you can’t reproduce at will.

The log messages are still available; you just can’t get to them easily from within Console 1.0. Instead, you can use the new log command in Terminal or a little utility Howard Oakley created called LogLogger2. Unfortunately, Oakley has also documented some bugs in the log command’s output. If you’re interested in the topic, check out his other posts on Console and logs.

It’s hard to make solid recommendations here. I turned up a few alternative log viewing apps for the Mac, including Log File Navigator, Logr, and LogTail, but it’s not clear if they can provide access to the historical log information in Sierra.

We can hope Apple puts more effort into the new version of Console in updates to Sierra, or perhaps an independent developer will fill the void.

PPTP VPN Connections — PPTP, which stands for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, is, as Wikipedia bluntly states, “an obsolete method for implementing virtual private networks, with many known security issues.” Of all of Sierra’s changes, this one should be the least surprising, since Apple has been warning against the use of PPTP since at least the release of 10.11 El Capitan and iOS 9. Apple also removed PPTP support from iOS 10.

In general, this move is positive — flawed security protocols should be avoided. Unfortunately, despite PPTP’s weaknesses, some VPNs still require it. Two solutions present themselves: switch to another VPN protocol or install a third-party VPN client that still supports PPTP, such as Shimo or VPN Tracker. Obviously, since the entire point of a VPN is to protect your data
connections, continuing to use the insecure PPTP isn’t sensible, but it may be the only option for certain organizations.

DSA SSH Keys Deprecated — This change, which reader Ron Risley mentioned on TidBITS Talk, falls into roughly the same category as the previous one. Many who rely on SSH to log in to remote servers at the command line also use SSH keys to increase security (in contrast to using a regular password). My understanding is that most people use RSA keys with SSH, but it has been possible in the past to use what are called DSA (Digital Signature Algorithm) keys. Unfortunately, DSA keys can usually be only 1024 bits, and Apple decided in Sierra to require 2048-bit RSA keys, which are far more secure.

The practical upshot of this is that if you can’t get into your remote server via SSH in some way other than using the DSA keys, you’ll be locked out when trying to connect from Sierra. The solution is to replace the DSA keys with 2048-bit RSA keys, and Quincy Larson provides instructions for that on Medium.

More Missing Features? — I’ve tried to avoid truly minor changes here, such as Time Machine trading its On/Off switch for a Back Up Automatically checkbox. But it’s entirely possible there are other features from El Capitan that are missing in Sierra — if you know of any, or have additional workarounds for the ones I’ve outlined here, please leave a comment!

TidBITS Staff No comments

TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 17 October 2016

Microsoft Office 2016 15.27 and Office 2011 14.6.9 — Microsoft has issued version 15.27 of its Office 2016 application suite with improvements to Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint. The OneNote note-keeping app (also available as a free standalone app from the Mac App Store) now corrects spelling mistakes by using suggestions from the spell checker and enables you to find and fix accessibility issues in your notes with Tools > Accessibility Checker. For Office 365 subscribers, PowerPoint now lets you trim
unwanted content from the beginning or end of audio or video files, and you can use CONCAT or TEXTJOIN to shorten text formulas in Excel. On the security front, both Office 2016 and Office 2011, which Microsoft has updated to version 14.6.9, resolve memory corruption vulnerabilities. ($149.99 for one-time purchase, free update through Microsoft AutoUpdate, release notes, 10.10+)

Read/post comments about Microsoft Office 2016 15.27 and Office 2011 14.6.9.

OmniFocus 2.7.2 — The Omni Group has released OmniFocus 2.7.2, reverting a change made in version 2.7 that made TaskPaper text the default pasteboard format (see “OmniFocus 2.7,” 22 September 2016). The task management app gains a new Copy as TaskPaper menu item that includes full TaskPaper details and copies the children of a selected item if they are visible. The update also includes the TaskPaper tags @autodone and @parallel tags when copying, fixes problems with column visibility, eliminates several crashes, and ensures that syncs triggered over the local
network using Bonjour no longer show as “Received Push” in the logs. ($39.99 new for Standard and $79.99 for Pro from the Omni Group Web site, $39.99 for Standard from Mac App Store (with in-app purchase option to upgrade to Pro), 29.6 MB, release notes, 10.10+)

Read/post comments about OmniFocus 2.7.2.

Typinator 6.11 — Ergonis has released Typinator 6.11, a maintenance release for the text-expansion tool that fixes several bugs. The update provides a workaround for an issue that caused the abbreviations to stick around after expansion for some users in macOS 10.12 Sierra, fixes a cursor-positioning problem in Microsoft Word, resolves an expansion problem in Mellel, improves the reliability of long-distance cursor moves, and adds support for the Shouxin input method for Chinese. (€24.99 new with a 25 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 8.0 MB,
release notes, 10.6.8+)

Read/post comments about Typinator 6.11.

TextExpander 6.1 — Smile has released TextExpander 6.1, adding the capability to use fill-in snippets with Apple’s Dictation. The text-expansion utility also improves the Snippet Editor by enhancing drag-and-drop support, lets users preview a snippet before expansion with the new Preview button, speeding up the load time, and restoring Bold and Italic menu commands. The update also eliminates a fatal save error when the server invalidates a stored token, correctly handles HTML tags in fill-in defaults, and fixes localizations of Include in Inline Search. TextExpander 6.1 is available via a monthly or annual subscription, but
Smile continues to offer TextExpander 5 as a standalone app for $44.95 (TidBITS members receive a 20 percent discount only on the purchase of version 5). ($40 annual subscription, $20 upgrade subscription, free update from version 6, 6.5 MB, release notes, 10.10+)

Read/post comments about TextExpander 6.1.

TidBITS Staff No comments

ExtraBITS for 17 October 2016

In ExtraBITS this week, Apple’s automotive plans hit bumps in the road, the iPhone 7 offers a backup Home button, Tim Cook praises augmented reality, and Amazon gives free Kindle books to Amazon Prime members.

Behind Apple’s Scaled-back Car Plans — Mark Gurman and Alex Webb at Bloomberg Technology report on how Apple has scaled back its automotive ambitions from becoming an outright competitor to Tesla Motors to developing an underlying self-driving car platform for now. The Project Titan team has suffered from hundreds of layoffs, reassignments, and engineers leaving on their own, and the refocused team reportedly has a year to determine the feasibility of the platform and decide on whether to design its own vehicle or partner with existing carmakers.
It’s possible that Apple waded into the murky automotive waters with an overinflated view of its ability to reinvent a complex and entrenched industry, but we can hope that Apple’s continued presence will at least spur carmakers to improve the software aspects of their automobiles.

Read/post comments

iPhone 7 Offers a Virtual Home Button When the Real One Fails — Ever wondered what happens if the solid-state Home button on the iPhone 7 fails? 9to5Mac reports that iOS 10 puts a virtual Home button on the screen so you can keep using your iPhone (presumably in conjunction with your passcode, if the Home button’s Touch ID sensor is also broken). This virtual Home button is similar to the on-screen Home button provided by Assistive Touch (in Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch), except it’s affixed to the bottom-center of the screen. With rumors swirling that Apple may be
planning to ditch the physical Home button entirely, this could be a first glimpse at the future of the iPhone.

Read/post comments

Tim Cook Bullish on Augmented Reality — Two of the hottest technologies at the moment are virtual reality (VR), which isolates users in an entirely virtual world, and augmented reality (AR), which overlays virtual elements on top of the real world. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed a clear preference for AR, saying, “VR has some interesting applications, but I don’t think it’s a broad-based technology like AR. Augmented reality will take some time to get right, but I do think that it’s profound.” Why? Cook said,
“There’s no substitute for human contact, and so you want the technology to encourage that.”

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Amazon Prime Reading Provides Kindle Books for Free — Voracious readers take note: Amazon has added another perk to its $99-per-year Amazon Prime program. Prime members can now download over 1000 books, comics, and Kindle Singles to their Kindles or Kindle apps for free. This benefit comes on top of Amazon Prime’s free 2-day shipping, free video streaming for thousands of movies and TV shows, free streaming of over one
million songs, and more. The book selection is unsurprisingly random, with a few best-sellers like “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Hobbit” mixed in with titles and authors looking for an audience. On its own, Prime Reading isn’t a good reason to subscribe to Amazon Prime, but if you’re already a subscriber, it might be a good way to get something to read when you’re out of books. (The link goes to the list of Prime Reading books, something that’s otherwise hard to find.)

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