Apple has released a tiny iOS 11.1.1 update that addresses just two issues: the bizarre bug that autocorrected the letter “i” to the letter “A” followed by a question mark in a box (see “Me, Myself, and A⍰,” 7 November 2017), and a bug that would make Hey Siri stop working.
Unfortunately, it does nothing to fix the calculator input lag we noted in “iOS 11 Calculator Lags Cause Errors” (9 November 2017).
The update, which is 54 MB for the iPhone X, can be obtained either in Settings > General > Software Update or via iTunes.
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Every year, as I travel around the security conference circuit, the hallway conversations always turn to the interesting things attendees have seen lately. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I was excited about a legitimately cool security technology. I see plenty of security evolution, but not much revolution.
That is, until my iPhone X arrived on launch day, and I got to try Face ID in real-world usage. Put simply, Face ID is the most compelling advancement in security I have seen in a very long time. It’s game-changing not merely due to the raw technology, but also because of Apple’s design and implementation.
First things first — Face ID nails nearly every criterion I came up with to evaluate it in “Preparing for a Possible Apple “Face ID” Technology” (18 August 2017). The false positive rate, unless you happen to have an identical twin, is 1 in 1,000,000 compared to 1 in 50,000. Watch enough videos of journalists trying to fool Face ID with masks and it becomes clear that Face ID is more expensive to circumvent than Touch ID. We haven’t seen a public vulnerability yet, but I always assume one will be found eventually. Although Apple sometimes has a weak spot in underestimating bad actors, it did a good job with Face ID.
In my pre-release article, I wrote: “Face ID doesn’t need to be the same as Touch ID — it just needs to work reasonably equivalently in real-world use.” In my personal experience, and for every user I’ve talked with and in every article I’ve read, Face ID’s core usability is equal to or greater than that of Touch ID.
For example, Face ID doesn’t work as well at any angle from which you could touch your iPhone, but it works better than Touch ID when your hands are wet. I’ve tested it in all sorts of lighting conditions and haven’t found one that trips it up yet. The only downside is that Face ID lets you register just one face — my wife and I have become accustomed to being able to use Touch ID on each other’s devices.
I believe Face ID is slower at actual recognition than Touch ID, but it’s nearly impossible to notice due to the implementation. In the time it would take to move your finger to a Touch ID sensor, Face ID could have already unlocked your iPhone X.
That’s the real Face ID revolution. Since you’re almost always looking at your iPhone while you’re using it, Face ID enables what I call “continuous authentication.”
Continuous Authentication -- We’re used to authentication events being discrete — you do something that requires proving that you’re the person performing the action, and the iPhone asks you to authenticate.
In the past, you had to either unlock your iPhone once and allow access to everything (well, everything that didn’t require a separate password) or put your finger on the Touch ID sensor whenever an app wanted you to authenticate. Face ID is different.
With Face ID, since you’re usually looking at your phone when an authentication event occurs, the iPhone X can scan your face as soon as you initiate the task that needs authentication, so it doesn’t need to ask you to do anything additional. And the iPhone X does this constantly. Here are examples I’ve discovered so far:
Notifications, by default, don’t show details on the Lock screen until you look at the iPhone X. This is my favorite new feature since it improves security with little usability impact. (However, if you prefer being able to read notifications when your iPhone is sitting on the table in front of you, change Settings > Notifications > Show Previews to Always or Never.)
I always disable Control Center on the Lock screen for security reasons, but now just looking at my iPhone X unlocks it so I can use Control Center. You can disable lots of other features on the Lock screen now too — look under Allow Access When Locked in Settings > Face ID & Passcode.
Safari now optionally uses Face ID before filling in passwords on Web sites. Previously, even with Touch ID, they filled automatically if the iPhone was unlocked. That’s enabled by default in Settings > Face ID & Passcode. Many third-party apps, such as 1Password, can also use Face ID for authentication.
Apple Pay and the App Store now authenticate with Face ID without prompting you for separate authentication actions.
Apps can authenticate as you open them. This is where I believe Face ID is a bit slower than Touch ID, but it still feels faster because I don’t need to touch the Home button.
In short, Face ID allows your iPhone X to authenticate you under nearly every circumstance you need without requiring any action other than looking at the screen, which you’ll do anyway.
We’re just scratching the surface of what this first generation of Face ID makes possible. Imagine the use cases as Face ID gains features like multiple user support and as Apple starts embedding it in other devices. As an example, one of the most significant problems in healthcare security is the need for users to authenticate quickly to shared workstations in clinical environments. I could see a future version of Face ID embedded in an iMac solving that problem, changing an entire industry, and selling a lot of iMacs!
I’ve previously said that Touch ID lets you use a strong password with the convenience of no password at all. Face ID exceeds that mark, and its introduction of continuous authentication may be the ultimate expression of effortless security.
[A previous version of this article aimed at security professionals appeared on my blog at Securosis.]
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ProVUE Development has released Panorama X, a long-awaited update to the legendary RAM-based relational database for macOS that was one of the very first apps for the Mac. The new version — rewritten from scratch as a modern Cocoa app — took six years to develop, and every bit of that shows. The lists of new and updated features are each a mile long, and they’re astonishing in both breadth and depth. Among the highlights are Unicode support, unlimited undo, a modern user interface, regular expression support, a map display, and embedded Web content. But that barely scratches the surface. Panorama X is basically the soul of Panorama 6 transplanted into a new body that’s vastly more fit, flexible, and attractive. Panorama X also introduces a new user-friendly licensing and pricing scheme; more on this ahead.
For those of you who were not already familiar with it, Panorama is to databases as Nisus Writer Pro is to word processors. That is to say: it doesn’t merely get the job done; it’s endlessly flexible, customizable, and programmable, so you can make it do whatever you need it to do. Just as Nisus Writer Pro can slice and dice text in any conceivable way, Panorama can do the same with structured data. It’s also entirely RAM-based, which means it’s exceptionally fast — reading to and writing from your disk or SSD won’t slow it down.
The only problem — and it was a pretty big one — was that for years, Panorama had been increasingly behind the technological curve. Panorama 6 wasn’t a 64-bit app, it didn’t support Unicode, it had a homely and old-fashioned user interface, and it suffered from a long list of other limitations that were frustrating for people using recent versions of macOS. Developer Jim Rea decided it was time to rebuild the app from the ground up, and it has been a long but rewarding process. The new version has virtually all the capabilities of the old one — and many more — without those drawbacks, and in a form that’s both more comfortable to use and far more sustainable.
I’ve been using beta versions of Panorama X for months, with huge data sets, in the mission-critical environment of running Take Control. Although the beta versions contained the usual sorts of bugs one expects in a beta, they never resulted in data loss, and the final release has been solid for me. In fact, it’s surprisingly hard to lose data in Panorama X, even if you screw up an entry or deletion, or botch an operation that affects every record in your database. I’ve never used a database app with such extensive support for undoing or redoing virtually any action or series of actions.
Although Panorama X is a fine general-purpose Mac database app, the people most keen to give it a try — yet also perhaps the most circumspect — are undoubtedly long-time Panorama 6 users. Panorama X can import Panorama 6 databases quickly and easily, and most work fine without any modification. However, because there were some unavoidable differences in Panorama X’s programming language, some procedures created in earlier versions may need updating. I found that to be the case with the databases Take Control uses for tracking books, coupons, orders, royalties, and so on: a number of our custom procedures required minor rewriting, and a few forms we use for creating royalty statements had to be adjusted. But these were one-time changes, and ProVUE was quick to offer assistance when I ran into confusion.
Allow me to say a few words about those aforementioned procedures. Panorama X has a built-in procedural programming language that’s not quite like any other language, yet similar enough to many that anyone with programming experience should be able to pick it up quickly. (Unlike developer-provided documentation for most programming languages, the built-in help is both thorough and genuinely helpful — and you get not only text but also tutorial videos to help you learn.) Panorama X’s programming language can do much more than run simple scripts; it can create and modify user interface elements, and can even be built into specific database fields so that code runs automatically when a value is added.
Procedures are just one way to customize Panorama X. You can also create or modify menus, toolbars, and other interface elements; add icons from the included Font Awesome package; create forms with buttons, pop-up menus, sliders, and suchlike; and indeed build powerful applications using the available tools.
What’s Not There (At Least, Not Yet) -- For most of my database needs, Panorama X is a perfect fit: I need to gather (download, import, or manually enter) a bunch of data; format it just so; and run lots of calculations, sorts, and other manipulations on it. All this happens on my Mac, and that’s fine.
But as of today, if I want to share that data in real time with another Panorama user here in the Take Control Galactic Headquarters, there’s no convenient way to do so. That’s because the server version of Panorama X isn’t quite ready yet; ProVUE says it’s coming in the first half of 2018. Once that ships, multiple users will be able to access the same data at the same time.
Even then, those people will have to be Mac users (running OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later). Although the earlier version of Panorama was available for Windows, Panorama X, which was written in Objective-C, is an Apple-only product. ProVUE has plans for an iOS version, but they’ll come to fruition only after Panorama X Server, and the company has not announced a projected time frame. I can’t tell you how thrilled I’d be to run royalties for our authors on my iPad Pro, but time will tell whether or to what extent that becomes feasible.
I should also note that the current, single-user version of Panorama X is not designed to function as a back-end database for a Web server. Panorama X Server will be able to do just that, along with supporting multiple users on a local network. That said, one could use, for example, a shell script embedded in a Panorama X procedure to talk to a local or remote MySQL database that was in turn used by a Web app. I’ve done enough testing to know that the process works, but I haven’t made any real use of this capability yet.
Finally, Panorama X is best at storing processing numeric and textual data, including rich text. Although the app can also store binary data, like images, the fact that Panorama keeps your entire database in RAM imposes practical limits on the types and amounts of binary data you might want to store in it. Therefore it’s best to store any non-alphanumeric data as separate files and simply include references to that data in your Panorama database. Even then, displaying that data within Panorama X requires a number of non-obvious steps. The documentation explains one way to display images that are stored as separate files, but it would take some creativity and programming effort to create a form element that operates roughly like FileMaker Pro containers, which let you drag in pretty much any file and can display many kinds of content, including photos, movies, and PDFs, with essentially no extra work.
Pricing -- Panorama X uses an entirely new approach to licensing and pricing. I know what you’re thinking: Oh No, Not Another Subscription App. Right? Of course that’s what you’re thinking. ProVUE knows that customers have a love-hate (but mostly hate) relationship with subscriptions, but at the same time, the company needs dependable, recurring revenue. So Jim Rea has come up with a new way of doing subscriptions that I haven’t seen before.
It works like this: You have to set up an account and purchase one or more credits to use Panorama X. To oversimplify slightly, think of a credit as permission to run Panorama X on one Mac for a month. If you want to use Panorama X for just one month, fine: buy one credit, one time, for $15 — no strings attached. But the more credits you buy, the lower the cost. So, a 12-month subscription costs $100 ($8.33 per month), but if you buy 60 credits — enough to last one user 5 years — that’ll set you back only $300, or just $5 per month.
Credits are based on concurrent usage. So if you use Panorama X on two Macs during a given month, but never at the same time, those computers effectively share a credit. Use two computers simultaneously on the same account, however, and that’ll cost you a second credit. On the other hand, if you don’t use Panorama X at all in a given month, you won’t use up any credits, and those unused credits roll over to the next month. For intermittent usage, even a 12-month subscription could last several years.
Because of this system of checking credits, Panorama X does need to talk to ProVUE’s servers from time to time, but the app is quite lenient in the way it treats these periodic check-ins (see the FAQ page for details). Indeed, even if you fall behind on your payments, Panorama X will still let you access your data, albeit with regular reminders to pay. A welcome side effect of this subscription scheme is that Panorama X has no serial numbers and requires no installer — you can simply drag the app into your Applications folder. All in all, this is perhaps the most humane subscription model I’ve seen, and for me, paying $5 a month for something so powerful is an absolute no-brainer.
Who Needs Panorama X -- All of Panorama’s fantastic features notwithstanding, is this a product you need? I spent an unreasonable amount of time puzzling over the question of who needs a desktop database app in general these days, let alone Panorama X in particular. I know the sorts of data I need to keep track of myself, both personally and professionally, for which a database is the obvious solution, but my needs are idiosyncratic.
Besides, there are great off-the-shelf apps for doing many of the things one might otherwise choose a database app for — tracking books, music, photos, and other media; managing contacts; storing miscellaneous files and snippets of text; and cataloguing collections such as your wine cellar or recipe archive. So who needs an ultra-powerful, standalone database app?
The trivial and tautological answer is: those who know, will know. If you’re accustomed to using a desktop database already, it’s already obvious to you why you need it, and the only question is whether Panorama X is the right database for you. (If you like flexibility and saving money, the answer is probably yes.)
But who needs a desktop database app besides those already using one?
My first pass at a substantive answer is that if you currently track any information in a spreadsheet or a table in a word processor and you start bumping up against the limitations of that type of container, a database is the natural place to move. For example, spreadsheets typically aren’t great for storing long chunks of text or handling data consisting of thousands of rows. Panorama X can perform most of the common tasks people use spreadsheets for (from simple lists to complex calculations), plus a great many tasks spreadsheet apps can’t do at all.
Like most database apps, Panorama X also lets you enter and view your data in ways other than its default, which is a familiar spreadsheet-like table. You can create forms for entering or displaying data with just the fields you want, arranged the way you like them, along with all the usual human interface niceties — and even a built-in Web viewer — to make data entry and retrieval simple and user-friendly. Similarly, you can create reports (and export them in various formats, such as PDF) that summarize or expand on just the sorts of data you need, in almost any conceivable way. Spreadsheets generally can’t do these things.
So, if you work with structured data, and you’ve outgrown the capabilities of a spreadsheet, Panorama X is an excellent replacement that you’d be unlikely ever to outgrow. If your needs include support for networked Macs and iOS devices, Panorama has the potential to meet those requirements too, just not right away.
Even if you don’t meet those criteria, but you’re in any way curious or on the fence and would like the chance to play with an incredibly powerful database, programming environment, and all-purpose data manipulation tool, $15 for a month’s access is a sweet deal — and it just might get you hooked.
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Whenever I report for TidBITS from CES (aka the International Consumer Electronics Show, which is no longer its formal name) in January, I always have a story from PEPCOM, a sort of “mini CES” that isn’t affiliated with the main show. PEPCOM schedules it at a convenient time, offers us free food and an open bar, and narrows the vendor list to 150 instead of the 10,000 media representatives at CES proper. Everybody’s happy.
PEPCOM recently ran a branch expo in New York City called the “Holiday Spectacular,” and if you’ve had a bad day, perhaps a little schadenfreude will help. PEPCOM gives press USB flash drives containing PR materials on all exhibitors, but instead of the usual promotional PDFs, one of the exhibitors managed to publish his contract with PEPCOM, complete with signatures and how much his company paid for the booth. I can’t imagine his next day at work was pleasant.
My usual rule is to use the 🎁 emoji to indicate when someone gave me significant promotional swag, but that didn’t happen this time. A few companies offered me review units for future articles, though, and occasionally we get to keep them; I’ll make a note of such things in any future articles.
Anker Nebula Capsule Projector -- I’m a fan of Anker batteries and chargers. Anker has what seems to be the annual range of improvements to its standard lineup: batteries with the same form factor have longer charges and chargers that pump out a few more watts. But the impressive new thing is a portable projector called the Nebula. The size and shape of a soda can, and weighing under a pound, it’s a video projector with a 360-degree speaker. It runs on last year’s Android Nougat, so you can either stream from your devices or download apps like Netflix directly to it. (Nebula uses the Google Cast protocol, so streaming works from any Mac or iPhone, but you must first move your videos into a compatible app or Web site.) The video was sharp under bright lights to a screen a foot or two away; it would probably do fine in a dim room with a bigger picture at a longer distance. I’m unclear whether you can angle a Nebula to project from a low table. You’ll get 2.5 hours of video on the internal battery, and Anker will sell you external batteries. It’s shipping in December for $349; you can pre-order on Indiegogo for $269.
JLAB Audio -- I didn’t get to listen to JLAB’s new Epic Executive Bluetooth headphones, and I have to admit, despite having a half-dozen different wireless headsets from various CES shows, I still usually use my cheap Philips wired set because it’s one less thing to charge. But a couple of things caught my eye about the Epic Executive: its $99 price tag, purported 11-hour playtime on a single charge, and the active noise cancellation which usually bumps the price to three figures and reduces playtime to 7 hours. Pre-order now and it promises to ship in late November; the company’s Web site currently offers a 20 percent discount on your first order.
Xfinity Mobile Cellular Plans -- Let’s get my bias out of the way: there are a number of companies I hate buying from, and just after nearly every airline that flies out of Philadelphia, Comcast is high on that list. (Not that Verizon is much better, but man, FIOS is sweet.) That said, if you’re already a Comcast subscriber by choice or due to lovingly monopolistic practices in your area, you might want to give Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile a look. Comcast says it now supports the 2017 iPhone models, including the iPhone X, but what impressed me is that the plans are pretty good. What’s included: family plans for up to five phones, no line fees per phone, unlimited talk and text, and access to a bazillion Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots. It costs $12 per GB for cellular data or $45 for unlimited data to any individual phone. (That is, give Mom and Dad unlimited for $45 each, and meter your kids, if you like.) The whole thing is on Verizon’s network, which is reasonably solid for most people. The worst part is having to be a Comcast customer already. But note that the reason Xfinity Mobile has so many hotspots is that every home’s cable router becomes one, whether you like it or not. Regardless of the fact that security is decent (under the hood, it’s a separate network), forcing everyone to participate in this hotspot network is the sort of behavior that makes me avoid Comcast.
Tile Slim and Sport -- Numerous companies offer “find your stuff with Bluetooth” tracker tags, but Tile’s offerings have a few new wrinkles. The Tile Slim is now “the width of two credit cards,” with the same range as the older, thicker tags. Meanwhile, the Tile Style and Sport somehow manage to get a 200-foot range out of Bluetooth, which I didn’t think was possible. All Tiles have a crowdsourcing function; lose one outside of your Bluetooth range and any other Tile that can see it will show up in the app. $35 for the Sport and Style, $30 for the Slim, $25 for the original Tile Mate; various discounts available if you buy several.
Monoprice Crosses the Atlantic -- Monoprice has a good reputation among techies who like cheap cables, but the general public mostly hasn’t heard of the company. I’m a bit unclear on how easy (or not) it is for Europeans to shop from U.S. Web sites, but Monoprice is making it simpler with its expansion into several European countries, starting with the United Kingdom. Germany, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland are next on the list.
Piper Computer Kit -- When I was a kid, my parents bought me a Science Fair electronics kit, which I played with endlessly. The Piper Computer Kit is a bit of that and a bit of the 2017 version of the Apple I (they even get Woz to promote the Piper on the home page). It’s built around a Raspberry Pi and comes with all sorts of stuff to make a Pi playful, including a blueprint that spreads out like a floor mat. What caught my attention was the aesthetic: the finished unit is charmingly clunky, the box design graphics are all Minecraft-inspired, and opening the box creates a moiré effect that I haven’t seen on a toy since the 1970s. But given how cheap a Raspberry Pi is, the Piper Computer Kit may feel pricey at $299. You can also pay $45 more for a year of warranty service, support, and early beta access to the apps it runs.
Polaroid Pop -- While I’m on the topic of 1970s nostalgia, I’ll mention the Polaroid Pop, a digital camera that prints out instant photos on actual paper immediately. (You see, kids, back in the day we had to actually “develop” our pictures.) A smallish screen lets you jazz up your photos with filters, stickers, and such before you print them, and if you insist on living in the 21st century, everything is stored on a regular SD card just like a normal digital photo. It will cost $199 “before the holiday season,” and you’ll need to pay $10 for a pack of 10 of the photo blanks that become your Polaroids. Yes, once again, you need to buy stuff to make your camera work.
Seam Lotus “Social Safety Network” -- There are already a bunch of ways to share your location or audio/video to a group of friends, and at first I thought Seam was just one more. It is, but with a twist: it has a hardware button called a Lotus that activates the app remotely. The idea is that you wear the Lotus (on a necklace, a wristband, or loose in your pocket) and press the button to alert your private network of what’s going on around you. Maybe you do this just to share, and maybe you do it because you’re in a scary situation and you want your friends to know. Perhaps useful for the Tinder generation? I don’t know, but Seam is worth keeping an eye on, particularly if you regularly find yourself in threatening situations. A Kickstarter in November gets you the Lotus for 40 percent off the $119 retail price; the app is free.
Link AKC Smart Collar -- It has been a long time since I was a dog owner, and that little guy was very much an urbanite: most days, once around the block on a leash was his big hurrah. If your pooch is more free-roaming, you might like the Link AKC. Yes, it has the fairly standard GPS tracking you might expect, which you can watch on your iPhone, but it also lets you set up a geofence with alerts. And if he wanders out of eyesight and earshot, you can turn on lights and alarms to find (and annoy) him. Pricing is a bit hard to fathom: the press release says $199, the Web site says $149, and there’s a pop-up offering a $99 price if you give them an email address, which you’d do anyway if you buy it. You’ll also be ponying up a monthly fee because this puppy (so to speak) uses an AT&T cellular connection. It’s $10 per month, with discounts to $8 or $9 with annual plans. Be sure to note the 30-day free trial, since other devices like this suffered from connectivity problems and were annoying to charge — this one supposedly lasts two days per charge.
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Carbon Copy Cloner 5.0.4 -- Bombich Software has issued Carbon Copy Cloner 5.0.4 (CCC), ensuring that newly created disk images are formatted as APFS if the source is an APFS volume and creating the Preboot and Recovery volumes on these disk images so that they can be restored). The drive-cloning and backup app also fixes a bug with the free space indicator for APFS volumes in CCC’s sidebar, resolves an issue where a backup task could stall while “Cleaning up” if the task was configured to unmount the destination volume, and ensures that items marked as hidden stay hidden on an HFS+ destination in macOS 10.13 High Sierra. You can upgrade to Carbon Copy Cloner 5 from CCC 4 for $19.99 (50 percent off) or from CCC 3.5 for $29.99 (25 percent off). A free 30-day trial is available. ($39.99 new, paid upgrade from CCC 3.5 and CCC 4, free update from version 5, 13.6 MB, release notes, 10.10+)
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Bookends 13.0 -- Sonny Software has issued Bookends 13.0, a major upgrade for the reference management tool that updates its database engine and resolves a longstanding problem with improper rendering of large PDFs. The release adds support for importing references and PDFs with annotations from Papers 3, adds PDF quick links that enable you to jump back and forth between references and their PDFs, adds support for scanning Pages documents stored in iCloud, improves the speed of transferring PDFs from Bookends for iOS over Wi-Fi, saves fresh PDF before opening the PDF in another application, and now correctly remembers PDF scroll positions. The app is now 64-bit and requires OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later. A free trial that’s fully functional for up to 50 references is available. If you purchased a Bookends license more than 2 years ago (Bookends licenses provide 2 years of free updates), you can upgrade to version 13 for $39.99. ($59.99 new with a 25 percent discount for TidBITS members, $39.99 upgrade, 44.3 MB, release notes, 10.9+)
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Retrospect 14.6 -- Retrospect, Inc. has released Retrospect 14.6, adding cloud support for DigitalOcean Spaces, Aufiero Informatica, and Google Cloud Storage Frankfurt and São Paulo. The backup software also adds support for concurrent backups from different favorites of the same source, enhances daily backup reports for large-scale environments, automatically recognizes an HFS+ volume that has been converted to APFS as an original volume, improves CPU efficiency of certain client operations, fixes a client network issue for MacBook Pro models with a Touch Bar, and resolves an engine crash during certain storage-optimized groom operations. You can download a free 45-day trial of Retrospect, and the company is offering a 15 percent discount in response to CrashPlan for Home being discontinued (see “CrashPlan Discontinues Consumer Backups,” 22 August 2017). ($119 new, 178 MB, release notes, 10.6.8+)
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SuperDuper 3.0 -- Shirt Pocket released SuperDuper 3.0, a major update to the drive-cloning and backup app that brings full compatibility with macOS 10.13 High Sierra, including support for both HFS+ and APFS volumes. The release also adds support for snapshot copying on APFS boot volumes, improves many parts of the user experience, and increases the minimum system requirements to 10.10 Yosemite. If you previously purchased a license for SuperDuper, you can upgrade to version 3.0 for free. (Free for basic functionality, $27.95 for additional features, free update, 5.0 MB, 10.10+)
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Tinderbox 7.3 -- Eastgate Systems has released Tinderbox 7.3, adding new ways to capture notes easily from other devices. A Tinderbox document can now watch a folder in your Notes app, automatically fetching notes you wrote on another Mac, iPad, or iPhone. You can also watch folders from Evernote, a DEVONthink group (enabling you to import notes from the DEVONthink To Go iOS app), and any local or remote Finder folder (including Dropbox and iCloud folders). The note-taking assistant and information manager now ensures multi-column outlines scroll horizontally, improves the speed of outlines, and improves the look of text windows with dark backgrounds. ($249 new with a 25 percent discount for TidBITS members, $98 upgrade, 31.9 MB, release notes, 10.10+)
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ChronoSync 4.8.3 -- Econ Technologies has released ChronoSync 4.8.3, implementing a new False Mount Readiness Test that checks to see if one of the targets is inappropriately referencing a folder in the /Volumes folder. The synchronization and backup app also adds logic to work around bugs in macOS 10.13 High Sierra when renaming files on file servers, changes auto-update checks so they are not performed when syncs are running, filters out some legacy Finder Flags when detecting attribute changes in the Validator and sync engine, and changes how the ChronoSync Scheduler checks for missed jobs that could lead to erroneous triggering of sync jobs after a system wakes. ($49.99 new for ChronoSync with a 20 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 48.5 MB, release notes, 10.10+)
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In ExtraBITS this week, Apple defends its tax practices, Facebook’s first president is having second thoughts about social media, Jony Ive sits down for a new interview, and iOS 11 calculator lag is causing fundamental math errors.
Apple Defends Its Tax Practices -- Apple is once again in the news for shuffling its cash hoard among various countries to minimize its tax burden. The company has released a sprawling statement defending its practices, stating that it not only follows all applicable laws, but is in fact the largest taxpayer in the world. However, Apple continues to call for international tax reform and simplification to help it repatriate its overseas funds. The reality is that many large businesses play legal shell games to minimize liabilities — fiscal and otherwise — and corporations squirreling away cash in low-tax countries is a side effect of globalism that’s difficult to prevent.
Past Facebook President Calls Out Social Media -- As Facebook’s first president, Sean Parker was instrumental in the company’s eventual success. But now the billionaire tech pioneer has had a change of heart, confessing at an Axios event that “The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” He added, “I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or two billion people… God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” Quick — tweet this link! Or not.
Jony Ive on the iPhone X and Apple’s New Campus -- In an interview with Wallpaper, Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive discusses some of the design decisions behind Apple’s new campus and how multi-touch has fundamentally changed hardware design. Along those lines, he said something interesting about the iPhone X: “What I think is remarkable about the iPhone X is that its functionality is so determined by software. And because of the fluid nature of software, this product is going to change and evolve. In 12 months’ time, this object will be able to do things that it can’t now.” So by next year, what do you think the iPhone X will be able to do that it can’t do now?
iOS 11 Calculator Lags Cause Errors -- If you type 1+2+3= in iOS 11’s Calculator app quickly, you may get 24 instead of 6. The problem is a delay in recognizing taps on all the operation buttons. Thus, in the example above, the second + is ignored, so you’ve instead typed 1+23=. If you type 1+2+3= slowly, making sure that the operator button activates on each tap, Calculator works correctly. We hope Apple fixes this embarrassing bug in the next update to iOS 11. In the meantime, Siri works well for simple calculations, and for those who need a serious calculator, PCalc is the gold standard.