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#1490: iOS 13.2.2, Mojave Security Update warning, iOS 13 app updates tip, hidden macOS control panels, iPhone 11 Night Mode

If you thought we might get through a week without Apple frantically fixing bugs in its operating systems, well, think again. The company released iOS 13.2.2 and iPadOS 13.2.2 to fix overly aggressive purging of background apps. Speaking of updates, whatever you do, don’t interrupt Mojave’s Security Update 2019-001 or bad things could happen to your drive. iOS 13 made it harder to find App Store updates, but we have a tip that shows you how to access them quickly. We also share a discovery from Mac automation guru Sal Soghoian about how you can use a hidden macOS feature and a Luna Display to turn an iPad into a custom control panel for your Mac. Finally, Glenn Fleishman joins us to take you on a deep dive into the iPhone 11’s Night mode. Notable Mac app releases this week include BusyCal 3.7.3, Coda 2.7.5, PDFpen and PDFpenPro 11.2, GraphicConverter 11.1.1, Lightroom Classic CC 9.0, Things 3.10.1, Merlin Project 6.0, 1Password 7.4, and HandBrake 1.3.

Josh Centers 11 comments

iOS 13.2.2 Stops Killing Background Apps

To address complaints about apps quitting unexpectedly in the background after the iOS 13.2 and iPadOS 13.2 updates, Apple has released iOS 13.2.2 and iPadOS 13.2.2. (Confusingly, iOS 13.2.1 was an update exclusively for the HomePod—see “iOS for HomePod 13.2.1 Resolves Bricking,” 4 November 2019.) You can install the updates, which weigh in at 588.2 MB on an iPhone X and 534.3 MB on a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, in Settings > General > Software Update, through the Finder in macOS 10.15 Catalina, or through iTunes in earlier versions of macOS.iOS 13.2.2 release notes

Although the problem with quitting background apps is the primary focus of these updates, they also address some obscure bugs that:

  • Caused replies to S/MIME encrypted email messages between Exchange accounts to be unreadable
  • Presented an authentication prompt when using Kerberos for single sign-on in Safari
  • Interrupted charging on Lightning-powered Yubikey accessories

On the iPhone side, however, iOS 13.2.2 provides important fixes for bugs with cellular service, including:

  • An issue where iPhones could temporarily lose cellular service after a call
  • A problem that could make cellular data temporarily unavailable

Neither update has any public security fixes.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we recommend that if you haven’t yet upgraded to iOS 13, there’s little harm in holding off a little longer. But if you have jumped on the iOS 13 bandwagon, keep installing these updates and hold on tight, since it’s a bumpy ride.

Adam Engst 24 comments

Don’t Interrupt Security Update 2019-001 (Mojave)’s Installation

Over on the MacAdmins Slack, in the #mojave channel, there was a lengthy discussion of problems that some admins saw after users installed Security Update 2019-001 (Mojave). The topic is also discussed in a thread on the Jamf Nation site—thanks to reader Bruce Carter for the initial pointer.

Security Update 2019-001 in Software Update

The details vary, but all revolve around problems at boot, with complete lockups, accounts not available, current passwords not working, the login window reappearing after the user enters the password, or a crash screen after login. So far, it seems that only Macs with the T1 or T2 security chip are affected—that includes the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2016 and later), iMac Pro, MacBook Air (2018), and Mac mini (2018).

As far as I can tell, no one has actually seen the problem happen in person; users are always reporting it after the fact. (And in the admin world, user reports are taken with a very large grain of salt.) But in at least some cases, the users are admitting that they interrupted the update because it seemed to be taking too long. That’s key, because as user James Dean suggested on the MacAdmins Slack, for at least some users, this update appears to install itself in an unusual way, seemingly turning the Mac off and back on, and at one point keeping it off for what he says feels like a minute. (On Tonya’s T1-equipped MacBook Pro (2016), the installation took about 10 minutes, and I didn’t notice any particularly unusual behavior, though I wasn’t watching all that closely.)

Speculation about the user interruption theory on MacAdmins Slack

While the Mac appears to be off, I suspect that the security update is upgrading BridgeOS, which is a modified version of watchOS embedded on the T1 or T2 chip that runs things like the Touch Bar and the FaceTime HD camera. Mr. Macintosh reports that Security Update 2019-001 for Mojave also updates BridgeOS to version 17.16.11081.0.0. Given that BridgeOS runs on the T1 or T2 chip that’s responsible for boot security (see “What Does the T2 Chip Mean for Mac Usage?,” 5 April 2019), it’s not a stretch to theorize that interrupting a BridgeOS update would cause havoc with subsequent boot attempts.

Solutions to the problem range from using previous passwords to reinstalling macOS via Internet recovery, sometimes after reinitializing the boot drive and then restoring data and settings from a backup. So far, it seems that admins and consultants have been able to bring every affected Mac back to life, though sometimes with data loss, depending on the state of backups.

In the end, my advice is simply to go ahead with installing Security Update 2019-001 (Mojave), with two important caveats. First, make sure you have good backups before starting, in case the worst happens. That’s always a good plan anyway. Second, do not interrupt the installation process! It may take longer than you expect, but let it run as long as it needs. As a corollary to this second piece of advice, only start the installation on a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air when it’s plugged in; the last thing you want is for it to lose power in the middle of the installation.

Josh Centers 8 comments

TipBITS: Quickly Access App Updates in iOS 13

For those of us who like to keep track of iOS app updates, one of the more annoying changes to iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 is how Apple eliminated the Updates tab in the App Store app in favor of a special tab for Apple Arcade. To see what app updates are available or have been installed, you now have to tap your face in the upper-right corner and then scroll down, which isn’t something you’d guess. (It took us a little searching to find it.)

Thankfully, Apple has taken mercy on us and provided a faster way: on the Home screen, tap and hold the App Store icon and choose Updates from the contextual menu (thanks to Giovanni Mattei for the tip). You may still have to scroll down to see the updates. This trick used to work only on iPhones with 3D Touch, but in giving up on the 3D Touch technology, Apple extended its long-press replacement to all devices, including iPads.

The long-press shortcut to see App Store updates

Here’s a bonus tip I discovered: while viewing your app updates, you can swipe left on an app listing to delete that app. So if you see an update come through for an app you never use anymore, you don’t have to go hunting for it on your Home screens.

Deleting apps from the updates screen

Adam Engst 8 comments

Sal Soghoian Reveals macOS’s Hidden Custom Control Panels

In “TipBITS: How to Mirror Selected Screens in a Multiple Monitor Setup” (22 October 2019), I teased readers with a talk that automation guru Sal Soghoian gave at MacTech Conference a few weeks ago. Sal has now finished the videos that explain what he did in detail—which you’ll want to watch in their entirety—so I can now share what he said at MacTech.

In essence, Sal discovered and described how to use an accessibility feature hidden deep within macOS that lets you turn an iPad into a completely customizable control panel for a Mac. Tap a button on your iPad, and things happen on your Mac. Sal demoed this in macOS 10.15 Catalina, but it should also work in at least 10.14 Mojave, and possibly earlier versions of macOS as well.

Basic shot of a custom control panel on an iPad controlling Keynote on the Mac

To make the connection between the Mac and the iPad, you need a Luna Display dongle (see “Luna Display Turns an iPad into a Responsive Mac Screen,” 7 December 2018). Apple’s Sidecar technology won’t work because it doesn’t allow touch input on the iPad when it’s acting as a Mac screen (“Catalina’s Sidecar Turns an iPad into a Second Mac Monitor,” 21 October 2019). Luna Display works with any iPad running iOS 9.1 or later, which makes this a perfect use for an old iPad 2 or later. Of course, being able to tap the control panel buttons on the iPad connected by Luna Display is just a bonus—you can also click the buttons with a mouse on a standard Mac screen.

The next important piece of the puzzle is a built-in macOS accessibility app called Panel Editor, which lets you create custom accessibility keyboard panels. You can open Panel Editor from System Preferences > Accessibility > Keyboard > Accessibility Keyboard > Panel Editor. But before you open Panel Editor, be sure to select the Enable Accessibility Keyboard checkbox—which displays an on-screen keyboard—and in System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard, be sure to select “Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar.”

Settings necessary for the accessibility keyboard panels

Actions available for Panel Editor buttonsOnce you’ve enabled all those settings, click the Panel Editor button in System Preferences > Accessibility > Keyboard > Accessibility Keyboard to open the app and create a new panel. These panels are technically “keyboards,” but Panel Editor lets you create buttons that can perform a variety of actions. You can create back buttons, show or hide the toolbar, enter text, press keys on the keyboard, open apps, trigger system events, and get typing suggestions. And—you probably knew this was coming as soon as I mentioned that Sal is behind this hack—a button can trigger an AppleScript.

Panel Editor showing example buttons

In my example above, I’ve created five buttons (which are shown floating above the Panel Editor window as well). Open iTunes uses the Open App action, Play/Pause and Mute use System Events actions, Identify Desktop runs an AppleScript, and Border Image invokes a Keyboard Maestro macro via the Press Keys action. That’s right, you aren’t limited to AppleScript. Along with Keyboard Maestro, you should be able to integrate Automator workflows via the Open App action. Nearly any action can become a custom button in Panel Editor.

To open your panel, click the Custom button at the upper-right corner of the Accessibility Keyboard and then click your panel. You can also click the gear icon and choose your panel from the pop-up menu. It’s a dark panel that floats above all other windows, and you can move it anywhere you like, such as that second screen provided by the iPad and Luna Display.

Switching to a custom panel in Accessibility Keyboard

(One tip: if you’re doing this in Mojave, don’t close your panel because getting it back requires a trip to System Preferences > Accessibility > Keyboard > Accessibility Keyboard > Panel Editor and selecting Enable Accessibility Keyboard again. In Catalina, you can just choose Show Keyboard Viewer from the keyboard icon in the menu bar.)

My example panel has only a few buttons, but when you watch Sal’s video, you’ll see that he has created so many buttons that his custom panel fills the entire iPad screen. Many of them are generalized buttons for launching apps, changing system settings, and so on, but all the buttons in the middle trigger scripts that control Keynote. You may not be interested in automating Keynote, but if you’re an automation aficionado, just imagine all the actions you can attach to buttons.

An iPad showing a full-screen custom accessibility keyboard panel

I’ve glossed over some important details that Sal covers in his video, such as setting security permissions for the Assistive Control app and how to use an AppleScript Library to hold all your scripts, which you then call from the individual buttons.

However, there are two final important points to make:

  • You can share your custom panels with other people, within a version of macOS (the Mojave version of Panel Editor can’t open panels saved from the Catalina version). That means you could develop a custom panel for company-specific actions and then give it to everyone in your office. To do this, in Panel Editor, choose File > Duplicate, then File > Move To to save an .ascconfig file. Then, to import it into Panel Editor on another Mac, choose File > Import Panels.
  • Sal has shared both his custom Keynote panel (for Catalina) and the AppleScript Library containing all his scripts, so you can use them as is or to get started building custom panels.

Let us know in the comments if you’re thinking about creating your own custom panels and for what purpose!

Glenn Fleishman 8 comments

iPhone 11 Night Mode Brings Good Things to Light

When it’s dark and you try to capture a picture with your camera, there are only so many photons to go around! Seriously: all photography boils down to light, light to photons, and insufficient photons to bad nighttime pictures.

Apple has made significant headway on this problem in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models with the introduction of Night Mode. The feature relies on the increased sensitivity of the iPhone 11’s wide-angle camera while leveraging computational photography to construct an image far better than would otherwise be possible with the camera’s optical capabilities.

Night Mode is a kind of “dark HDR.” Instead of shooting photos quickly with slightly different exposures and then combining the most expressive tonal ranges of each, Night Mode grabs many images over a longer interval and cleverly interleaves their best parts using a much more complicated set of decisions to produce a nighttime photo without significant pixel noise or blurriness.

Why is it so hard to take pictures in the dark? What has Apple tried so far? And, most importantly, how successful is Night Mode?

Electronic, Photonic

It’s hard for a camera to capture light in the dark because, literally, there isn’t very much of it. While it’s easy to think of light as a sort of suffusion from a source, we know that it’s really a bazillion individual photons, emitted from atoms that have been excited in such a way that shifts their electrons back and forth.

You don’t usually have to deal with the photonic nature of light until it gets dark because film and digital cameras generally take good to great pictures as long as there’s enough light to read by comfortably. With a lot of photons to capture, there’s no shortage and tones—intensities of light—are represented accurately.

In traditional cameras, there are two ways to capture more photons: open the aperture—the circular throttle in the lens—much wider to let more light onto the film than during bright shots, or increase the time the shutter is open to let more photons land on the film, known as the exposure time. The drawback of a longer exposure is that it cannot capture motion well, so fast-moving objects become a blur. High-speed cameras can crisply capture things like a runner crossing the finish line by using extremely short shutter times, but they require a lot of light to produce a clear photo. The calculus is a bit different in phone cameras. (Film cameras also had an ISO/ASA number, which referred to the grain size of the light-receptive crystals: bigger crystals, or a higher ISO/ASA, need less light to capture a tone but resulted in “grainier” photos.)

A digital camera’s sensor (typically a CCD or charge-coupled device) is essentially a photon collector. The sensor is more or less a specialized computer chip. Each pixel on the camera’s sensor acts like a hoop into which photons fall like basketballs. As the photon effectively enters the hoop—striking the sensor—it gives up its energy, producing an electron through the photoelectric effect. The electron is captured by the CCD in a “well,” a sort of bucket that collects them until the exposure period is over. Then the sensor uses that captured collection of electrons to determine the tonal value for the pixel.

A night shot showing the emphasis on green

(Tone is the only thing that digital camera sensors capture: color images are created by covering individual pixels with a filter of red, green, or blue. Typically there are twice as many green pixels as the other two, as green light best captures the neutral tonal range of a scene best.)

When there’s a lot of light in the scene, a digital camera has to use a short exposure to avoid filling the sensor’s wells so fast that all the detail is blown out. With less light, a longer exposure allows a balanced picture, though it can be blurry if anything in the scene is moving.

However, when it’s downright dark out, few photons strike the sensor at all. Because there’s background noise and the sensor relies on an electrical charge to image the scene, the sensor scoops up errant electrons along with the good ones.

The traditional way of capturing night shots is to increase the exposure time, but that doesn’t work when people are moving, even a little bit. A short exposure either doesn’t capture enough light or requires the camera to boost the ISO so much that it introduces noise—speckles of various colors that were never there.

Imagine a trillion people throwing golf balls from a great height into an ocean of densely packed square baskets. Some balls will fall directly into the basket the thrower was trying for, but others will hit a rim, bounce around, and fall into a different basket. Imagine further that when there are fewer balls to throw, the throwers’ aim is worse, and thus more balls are likely to land in the wrong spot, producing the wrong count—the speckled pixels in a dark photo.

A camera maker has a bunch of variables it can tweak to ameliorate this problem, all of which improve the results across all light conditions. A lens with a larger aperture will let in more light. A sensor with deeper wells can collect more electrons, and it’s possible to give the sensor greater sensitivity so it can distinguish more tones, more accurately, even in the deepest shadows. Bigger pixels in the sensor can also capture more light in the dimmest circumstances.

Over the past few years, Apple has tweaked all these camera variables. It opened the aperture by about 50 percent between the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 updates, with the primary lens increasing from f/2.2 to f/1.8. (The f/stop measures the aperture’s diameter.) The iPhone X and subsequent models have featured sensors with bigger pixels and deeper wells.

(Paradoxically, increasing a sensor’s area and adding more pixels, instead of making the pixels larger, decreases sensitivity, because less light hits each smaller sensor. That’s why the megapixel count has become so much less important once the entirely adequate 12-megapixel size was reached a few years ago. Since then, all the focus has been on sensitivity and tonal range and discrimination. This works exactly like increasing film grain size to bump up the ISO/ASA speed.)

The wide-angle lens sensors in the iPhone 11 models improve even further. While the sensor size and pixel count remain the same, Apple boosted sensitivity by 33 percent. (Apple also dramatically improved sensitivity in the brightest conditions: the current camera can shoot exposures as short as 1/125,000th of a second, six times faster than the iPhone XS.)

The telephoto lens on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max can also be used with Night Mode. Apple opened the aperture on that lens from f/2.4 to f/2.0, about 50 percent better, while increasing its sensor’s sensitivity by over 40 percent.

Since the iPhone X, the wide-angle and telephoto lenses have both featured optical image stabilization, a mechanical system that counters small movements and increases the effective f/stop, because it enables longer exposures in the same light. (Optical image stabilization doesn’t help much with motion in the scene, because the actual exposure time remains the same.)

Before Night Mode, Apple had used its lens and sensor improvements to try to make low-light photography reach a minimum level of quality, letting you capture an okay picture a lot of the time instead of a blurry or muddy one. Apple also improved its built-in flash approach over this period, but because the elements can’t be angled and are LED-based, using it is a last resort. The iPhone flash often produces photos that are garish or overbright, but it can make a scene that was previously unphotographable into one you can record.

Night Mode is a quantum improvement over these previous efforts. It’s a sophisticated, multi-prong approach that can produce excellent pictures, not just images of last resort. Apple is not the first company to take this route, as Google and other phone makers have pursued synthesized low-light pictures, but Night Mode ranks with the best of the solutions.

Use Night Mode Effectively

You don’t have to set up Night Mode. In fact, the Camera app always either suggests it or turns it on when it judges that the conditions are right. The Night Mode icon appears at the top left (or bottom left in landscape orientation) of the Camera app. If the app encounters a marginal lighting condition, it suggests Night Mode by showing its icon in white; tap it to turn it on. However, if the Camera app’s analysis reveals that the only way it can take a good photo is with Night Mode, it turns it on and shows its icon in yellow with a duration in seconds.

The Night mode icon
The Night mode icon appears in yellow when the Camera app detects the right conditions.

When you tap the shutter button, try to hold still while the image fades in to full intensity and the timer counts down. If you want to try a longer shot, tap the Night Mode icon to reveal a slider that lets you adjust the amount of time during which a picture is captured. You can also use the slider to swipe to the right all the way to Off if you want to override the Camera app. There’s no way to disable Night Mode as a general option, only on a per-shot basis.

Shooting with Night mode
Highlights added in the Camera app to show how it warns you to “Hold still” (top), and displays a “night” label (top right) and Night mode icon (bottom right). The slider in the middle right lets you dial from Off through the recommendation time to several seconds or longer, depending on stability.

Night Mode doesn’t keep its electronic shutter open for a longer period. Instead, as with HDR, the Camera app collects a series of images over the period of time marked. These images are then combined in a method similar to digital image stabilization in video. (That’s why I refer to the Night Mode’s time of capture as its “duration” instead of “exposure,” because it’s capturing a lot of different actual exposures.)

A Night mode photo of a plane overhead
A plane flies over my house in this striking night picture. I used no special lighting to achieve this!

The Camera app can also detect if you have your iPhone on a tripod, monopod, or in another stable situation by consulting its internal sensors. If so, it might suggest a longer shot. You can adjust the duration to be as long as 28 seconds! (The maximum is a value that Night Mode sets, so you may see a shorter duration at times.)

You can see the effect of multiple exposures over a very long capture clearly in some photos I’ve taken on a tripod at long durations. We live under a flight path in Seattle, so planes often fly over our house in a straight line heading south. Their lights, when shot in Night Mode, can result in artistic blurs. On one clear night when I was testing Night Mode, I also picked up satellites—possibly the International Space Station—that were invisible to my naked eye, but that tracked as blips across each duration that was long enough to show them.

A long-duration Night mode shot
This long-duration Night mode shot shows the stars, an airplane path, and even a satellite moving through the field of view (look in the upper-left corner). That haze two-thirds from the left? I checked in a star guide app—it’s the Milky Way.

In a briefing, Apple explained that the images captured use “adaptive bracketing,” a technique that captures the same scene multiple times with different settings. Some shots may have short exposures to capture motion, while others are longer to pull detail out of shadow areas. The new iPhone 11 sensor apparently provides Night Mode the quality needed to create these different exposures in the worst lighting conditions.

The Camera app then processes these images using machine learning via the Neural Engine that’s built into the iPhone 11’s A13 Bionic processor. These machine-learning algorithms rely on training, initially by humans, to figure out the most desirable characteristics of an image and then apply them with new and novel inputs. The algorithm knows the kind of appearance, color, and details people prefer from the training, and emphasizes that in constructing a single image from the Night Mode flurry of shots. (The Neural Engine also drives the new Deep Fusion feature, a kind of super HDR, that first appeared in iOS 13.2.)

Another Night mode shot of an airplane
It’s not a highway in the sky, but a track from what seemed to be a Boeing 787 as Night mode combined multiple exposures into this long-duration tripod shot.

Apple said that the resulting image is designed to preserve the sense that it’s night—it’s not trying to turn an evening scene into false daylight. That’s why Night Mode has an emphasis on preserving color while boosting brightness. Nonetheless, it’s not always successful. Sometimes, when I shoot a scene that’s quite dark except for some pinpoints of light—in a room, from street lights, or emanating from houses—the resulting photo feels more like dawn than night, and the colors can shift, too.

But the beauty of Night Mode relying so heavily on machine learning is that Apple’s algorithms will keep improving. Plus, we’ll learn what conditions produce optimum results—or use Photos or Lightroom to tweak the results better to our liking.

Regardless, I’ve found that Night Mode has dramatically changed when I even think about taking photos. Previously, the mediocre quality of low-light photos discouraged me sufficiently that I would take pictures only in a pinch or to record a moment. Now, I find myself snapping shots outdoors at night, and at late dinners in dim restaurants. In fact, the novelty of Night Mode may have turned me into a bit of a photographic pest. But like all sufficiently advanced technology that’s indistinguishable from magic, I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon enough.

Watchlist

BusyCal 3.7.3 No comments

BusyCal 3.7.3

BusyMac has released BusyCal 3.7.3 with improved recovery handling of network failures for Google Calendar. The updated calendar utility also ignores duplicate alarms (displaying only one reminder), ensures that Inbox notifications no longer synthesize when manually importing .ics meeting replies or cancellations, improves selection color for Dark appearance when accent color is blue, acknowledges dismissal of snoozed alarms if BusyCal is running in the Dock, and addresses an issue related to dragging tasks from OmniFocus. If you’re running macOS 10.15 Catalina and see a “Download Failed” error during update, double-click the downloaded installer package in your Downloads folder to install. ($49.99 new from BusyMac or the Mac App Store, free update, 22.7 MB, release notes, macOS 10.11+)

Coda 2.7.5 No comments

Coda 2.7.5

Panic has issued Coda 2.7.5 with several improvements and bug fixes for the Web site development tool. The update fixes a bug that could prevent key-based authentication from working, ensures that attempting to install a syntax mode no longer throws an exception, corrects an issue that prevented Copy URL from copying the full remote URL for a remote file, and resolves a possible problem when renaming a file while the files list reloads. For those running macOS 10.15 Catalina, Coda 2.7.5 resolves an exception when SVN doesn’t have access to your local root, ensures that files modified by external sources are marked for publishing as expected, and addresses an accessibility-related exception. Panic has announced it will be retiring Coda and moving on to the new Nova code editor, which will soon enter into private beta testing. ($99 new, free update, 65.3 MB, release notes, 10.13+)

PDFpen and PDFpenPro 11.2 No comments

PDFpen and PDFpenPro 11.2

Smile has released version 11.2 of PDFpen and PDFpenPro, adding the capability to modify, add, and delete text or numbers within table cells. Now you can make final tweaks to PDFs of financial statements, comparison charts, and more without having to return to the source document. ($74.95/$124.95 new with a 20% discount for TidBITS members, $30 upgrade, 73.1/119 MB, release notes, macOS 10.12+)

GraphicConverter 11.1.1 No comments

GraphicConverter 11.1.1

Lemkesoft has issued GraphicConverter 11.1.1, a maintenance release with improvements and bug fixes for the Swiss Army knife of graphics programs. The update adds a frame text size option to the Text palette, includes a percentage display in the grayscale histogram, adds preview support for Pages documents and Numbers spreadsheets (if the preview is embedded in the document) as well as enables extraction of previews from Pages documents, fixes a selection issue in macOS versions prior to 10.15 Catalina, and resolves an issue with possible flipping of GPS in saved HEIC files. ($39.95 new from Lemkesoft or the Mac App Store, free update, 152 MB, release notes, macOS 10.9+)

Lightroom Classic CC 9.0 1 comment

Lightroom Classic CC 9.0

Adobe has released Lightroom Classic CC 9.0 with several new features for the desktop-focused photo cataloging and editing application, including Auto Fill Edges for Panoramas and Batch Export with Multiple Presets. When using Photo Merge > Panorama, the new Fill Edges option nows fills the uneven edges of your panorama automatically. The update also enables you to select multiple Export presets to save various versions of selected files at once.

Lightroom Classic CC 9.0 can now filter on a Color Label, lets you export presets in the Develop module, improves performance in the Develop and Library modules, adds an option to clear the history above the selected step in the History panel, enables you to delete multiple images in the Library or Develop module while in Loupe view, and can now preview the post-crop vignette effect live while cropping (with GPU acceleration enabled). The release also adds 25 new camera models and 30 new lens profiles (including the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max). Lightroom Classic CC 9.0 now requires macOS 10.13 High Sierra or later. ($9.99/$19.99/$52.99 monthly Creative Cloud subscription, free update, release notes, 10.13+)

Things 3.10.1 No comments

Things 3.10.1

Cultured Code has released Things 3.10.1 with improvements and behavioral changes for the task manager. The update adjusts the format in which notes are stored, resulting in a shift in the way URLs and file links appear. Plus, it modifies the behavior for Open New Window to open the default list rather than the list that is currently open. Things 3.10.1 also removes already-delivered reminder notifications if a parent project gets trashed, properly clears notifications for reminders rescheduled via another device, and preserves the sidebar visibility state properly. ($49.99 new from Cultured Code Web site and Mac App Store, free update, 17.9 MB, release notes, 10.13+)

Merlin Project 6.0 No comments

Merlin Project 6.0

ProjectWizards has updated Merlin Project to version 6, a significant upgrade for the powerful project management app. While most of the improvements are under the hood, Merlin Project 6.0 should feel faster and more stable overall. The app now supports Dark mode in all views for macOS 10.14 Mojave and later, and colors of self-created style rules will automatically adapt to the current appearance. Additionally, the update supports the new accent colors of 10.15 Catalina, and colors for the light and dark appearance are stored separately for rule-based styles. The inspector has been adapted to Catalina’s new look, and the new Inspector Appearance setting lets you brighten the inspector for a consistently bright appearance. A new start dialog enables you to create projects from templates and quickly access recent documents.

The slimmed-down Merlin Project Express—optimized for home and semi-professional users—has also been updated to version 6.0 and receives the same Dark mode and start dialog changes as the full edition. Both editions of Merlin Project now require 10.12 Sierra or later.

Additionally, ProjectWizards has updated Merlin Project for iOS, adding dark appearance in all views and support for multiple windows (i.e., scenes) in iPadOS 13, including the capability to open a project in multiple scenes at once.

Merlin Project iPad Scenes

An annual subscription to Merlin Project costs $149, and current subscribers will receive the new version as part of their regular updates. A 30-day free trial is available for testing all functions. Merlin Project Express is available for $3.99 per month or $39.99 per year through the App Store, and it’s also included in Setapp for $9.99 per month. Merlin Project for iOS has a monthly subscription rate of $6.99 or $69.99 per year. ($149 annual subscription, 29.1 MB, release notes, macOS 10.12+)

1Password 7.4 13 comments

1Password 7.4

AgileBits has issued 1Password 7.4, a maintenance release with a variety of improvements and a healthy dose of bug fixes. The password manager adds support for Voice Control in macOS 10.15 Catalina, snaps the 1Password mini window to the center of the screen when dragged near the center (and reattaches to the 1Password icon in the menu bar when dragged near it), remembers whether you last viewed the category list or the vault list in the sidebar on launch, alphabetizes the duplicate passwords pop-up menu, immediately updates the item list when dragging items to other vaults, resolves an issue where 1Password failed to remove cached files after deleting an item, fixes a bug that prevented the “Compromised Websites” Watchtower service from being enabled from the main window, and addresses a multitude of crashes. ($64.99 standalone app from AgileBits or the Mac App Store or a $2.99- or $4.99-per-month subscription (TidBITS members receive 6 months free), free update, 50.8 MB, release notes, macOS 10.12.6+)

HandBrake 1.3.0 2 comments

HandBrake 1.3.0

The HandBrake Team has issued version 1.3.0 of its open-source video conversion program HandBrake with an enhanced queue user interface and support for Ultra HD Blu-ray discs without copy protection. The release also adds a preference to disable the preview image on the summary tab, improves the quality of Gmail presets, adds a Playstation 2160p60 4K Surround preset (PS4 Pro), adds the capability to import external SSA/ASS subtitles, and works around an Xcode issue to ensure utilization of all CPU cores. HandBrake now requires OS X 10.11 El Capitan or later. (Free, 19.4 MB, release notes, macOS 10.11+)

ExtraBITS

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The Confusion Over Apple TV

Right now, you can sit down on your couch, fire up your Apple TV, open the Apple TV app, scroll through Apple TV Channels, and end up watching something from Apple TV+. Confused yet? You’re not alone—Dustin Curtis has published a blog post mocking Apple’s confounding branding around its television offerings. But as Jason Snell points out at Six Colors, it would likely be just as confusing if each Apple TV-related product had a unique name. Regardless, the simple truth is that watching TV has become far more complex than it was in the “good old days” of deciding between ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS.

The Elephant Queen on Apple TV

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Apple’s Revised Privacy Page Provides More Per-App Detail

Apple has revised its privacy page to focus on the company’s privacy measures for Safari, Maps, Photos, Messages, Siri, News, iCloud, Home, Wallet, Health, the App Store, and the new Sign in with Apple feature. Most helpful are the linked white papers that provide specific details on various privacy topics.

Apple's new privacy statement.

While the page is a nice marketing effort, there are a few issues. As developer Michael Tsai points out, Apple claims that Safari doesn’t have a browser-level sign-in to sync data, which is true but irrelevant, given that Safari relies on a system-level iCloud login to sync its data in an all-or-nothing fashion. And even the Safari white paper doesn’t mention Apple’s partnership with Chinese firm Tencent for implementing its Safe Browsing feature for Chinese users.

To make matters worse, on the same day Apple published its revised privacy page, IT specialist Bob Gendler revealed that macOS stores encrypted messages from Mail in an unencrypted database for use with Siri, even when Siri is disabled. It’s a sloppy design, albeit not a serious vulnerability given the requirement for local access. Apple has now told The Verge that it’s aware of the problem and will fix it in a future update.

It’s good that Apple is being mostly open about its privacy efforts, but flubs like this call into question how complete they are. We certainly hope Apple devotes some development resources to eliminating this inadvertent exposure of potentially confidential information.