As most of you know, the next version of macOS is named Catalina, or macOS 10.15. But I wonder how long Apple is going to use the traditional number ten versioning before goes to 11, or somewhere.

No matter. Regardless of the naming scheme, Apple has packed the usual bunch of new features. I suppose the most meaningful for the long-term is Catalyst, which allows for a new range of apps that can run on both iPad and Mac. I suppose it’s possible that this is the first step towards switching Macs to Apple’s brand of A-series ARM processors. It also helps developers build apps for both platforms with, supposedly, some tweaking here and there.

One key goal is to help iOS developers create Mac versions without a lot of time and expense.

Another important change — to some it’ll be the most important— is splitting iTunes into Music, Podcasts and TV apps. Your content libraries for all three remain intact, and the online iTunes store will still be there. If you felt that iTunes had become too bloated, too confusing, the new scheme might be welcome. It basically means that you are running apps that originated on the iPad on your Mac. You get a consistent look and feel on both platforms, minus the interface differences.

Honestly, I don’t really care. I have been using iTunes since the days that Apple acquired SoundJam from Casady & Greene.

So where am I gong with this? So I usually install a macOS beta by this point, but not this time, and it’s frustrating.

Hardware compatibility isn’t the issue, as most any Mac released in the last seven years is compatible, along with the 2013 Mac Pro. That leaves my 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro in the dust, but it hasn’t been supported for a while. It still works quite well, so I’m not about to send it out to pasture. Even that rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro, which may or may not arrive this  fall at the earliest, won’t be on my shopping list, largely because of its estimated $3,000 price tag.

But my iMac is fully compatible with Catalina.

My problem is Apple’s decision to finally drop 32-bit support, meaning that many older apps simply won’t launch in Catalina. Even an app that is 64-bit, but maybe has a 32-bit help feature, won’t launch. Apple has been heralding the arrival of this change by putting up messages that 32-bit apps were not “optimized” for a Mac when such an app was opened for the first time.

For the most part, it’ll probably make little difference for most Mac users. If an app is still being developed, a Catalina-savvy version will probably be released, and maybe it’s already there. But there are apps that won’t be updated, perhaps because the developer is no longer in business or working on the product.

So here’s my ongoing road towards 64-bit, and I still have a couple of problems.

It means I finally have to dispense with Adobe Creative Suite 5.5.

I have avoided subscribing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud partly because I don’t want to add another monthly bill, and I am no fan of the “pay forever” marketing scheme. For individuals it’s $9.99 for a Photography package that includes Lightroom and Photoshop. Any other single app is $20.99 per month; the full app suite is $52.99 per month.

Now Creative Suite 5.5 is not just 32-bit, but requires a now-obsolete version of Java to launch. I’m trying out Affinity Photo and Pixelmator to see if either, or both, can offer the features I need from Photoshop. So far it’s promising.

But I’ve yet to resolve the audio question. As part of my production workflow for The Paracast, I use The Levelator, from The Conversations Network. As the title implies, it fixes level differences in an audio file, a sort of normalize on steroids. It is designed for drag and drop use.

Our network, GCN, requires 12 separate files for a single episode. But our premium ad-free version for The Paracast+, is combined into a single file courtesy of a scripting app, Stitch, which is supplied as part of the Monbots package offered by Felt Tip, publishers of Sound Studio.

These apps are 32-bit. As far a upgrading to Catalina is concerned, they are the deal breakers.

Now there are other ways, free or low-cost, to combine files in a single batch operation. Felt Tip is also working on a solution, but The Levelator is another story.

Audio apps do have a normalize function, which provides a consistent gain to an audio file. But that feature is nowhere near as powerful as The Levelator. It’s near-perfect, broadcast quality, though it doesn’t do anything to help with background noise.

There are automatic gain control (AGC) plugins that promise to achieve a result similar to The Levelator. But the most promising ones aren’t free. Some podcasters recommend Auphonic, an online audio processing service that optimizes levels, noise and other settings. Auphonic will process up to two hours of files per month free. For more hours, prices range from $11 per month for nine hours to $89 for 100 hours.

As a test, I took a particularly noisy episode of our premium podcast, After The Paracast, and gave it the Auphonic treatment. The process involves uploading to their servers, and when it’s ready, you download the “fixed” version,

I tried two levels of noise reduction, the default(“Auto”), and “High.” The end results were no different from what I could achieve myself with The Levelator and the noise reduction or Denoising feature in another audio editing app, Amadeus Pro. The process involves sampling the noise content (say during a pause between sentences) and basing its fixer-upper algorithm on it.

There is hope for users of The Levelator, however. I was recently informed by someone from The Conversations Network that a true 64-bit person may be possible, and I’m awaiting an update. Obviously lots of people need this app, and I wouldn’t mind paying a small sum to help them keep it going.

Until or unless my audio processing dilemma is resolved, Catalina remains on the back burner.

Update: A support person from Auphonic wrote that the corrected audio file was what they expected considering the issues. But it hardly makes sense to pay for a service that I can largely duplicate myself — well, if The Levelator is updated, or I find an affordable plugin to replace it.

In the scheme of things, not using a new macOS version is not so big a deal. The new features are nice — and I suppose I’ll get used to having to launch three apps to duplicate the functions of iTunes, since I do it now on my iPhone. Catalina will no doubt be faster and more reliable, since that’s been the direction Apple has taken in recent years with mixed results.

But if I never upgrade to Catalina, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST) and is the former host of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, which was on the network for ten years. The Paracast is still nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2019. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

Published in Technology

This column has been stewing for a while, and a number of things have changed. The most important, from my standpoint, is the fact that, after a year of living in cheap motels, we are back in an apartment. I have a home office area once again, rather than a single table that barely contains my stuff.

I’ve also been doing a lot of work to boost the business. The Paracast has a staff now, not just a cohost. We are all working to build the show, spread our coverage in unexpected ways, and enhance the premium subscription version, The Paracast+.

At the same time, it is time to retire The Tech Night Owl LIVE.

The show debuted in the fall of 2002 as one of the early online broadcasts. In those days, we were part of MacRadio, an alternative network. When Apple premiered its podcasts repository, I made the move alone, because the rest of the MacRadio hosts were slow to make the change. I left the network shortly thereafter; it folded a year or two later.

As I’ll explain more in the next column, Apple, Inc. is clearly no longer a counter-culture company, and a counter-culture radio show is hardly necessary. As Apple transitioned to become a consumer electronics powerhouse, with hundreds of millions of users worldwide, the Mac press slimmed. Macworld gave up a print edition in favor of a digital one, but most readers confine themselves, I suspect, to the free site.

MacLife? I’m not sure. It is evidently still available in a print edition, but I no longer receive copies in the mail. I found a Facebook page offering a subscriptions of 5 issues for $5, but the link to which it points only offers higher-priced alternatives. The site is just a sales portal; there is no access to any online content other than to sign up for a newsletter.

Now that Apple is a mainstream company, with plenty of coverage in the mainstream and tech media, counter-culture tech radio seems superfluous. So I’ve decided to focus my attention to boost The Paracast. which is, I suppose, another form of counter-culture show. But I won’t be giving up on tech. The Paracast will also feature futurists and other guests discussing advanced technology.

This column will continue on a periodic basis. There’s still plenty to discuss.

Meantime, we wrapped The Tech Night Owl LIVE with the July 6th episode, which is still available to download along with an archive of hundreds of episodes.

For the last show, we gathered some of our favorite guests to reminisce and talk about the present and the near-future of our favorite fruit company, Apple Inc. It all began with the early days of the Internet, its complexities, and Apple’s path from Macintosh to iPod, to its most lucrative product, the iPhone, followed by the iPad, Apple Watch and beyond. There was also an extensive discussion about the prospects for the success of Apple’s fledgling services, which include News+, a premium version of the app offering access to hundreds of magazines and newspapers, and Apple TV+, in which the company is spending billions of dollars to hire top-flight talent to create original TV shows. Where does Apple+ fit in market currently owned by Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and other streaming services? Are there already too many for a newcomer to succeed?

Guests for this very special episode included tech commentator and publisher Adam Engst, Editor and Publisher of TidBITS, outspoken veteran tech commentator Peter Cohen, and cutting-edge commentator and podcaster Kirk McElhearn.

Please Note: Subscribers to The Tech Night Owl+ will be contacted personally about the status of their subscriptions.

On this week’s episode of that other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Randall present the ever-prolific Fortean author, Nick Redfern, to discuss his very latest book, ” Flying Saucers from the Kremlin: UFOs, Russian Meddling, Soviet Spies & Cold War Secrets.” The book presents a compelling case for deep Russian involvement in the UFO field, which may have included recruiting those infamous contactees of the 1950s to become spies, fabricating the MJ-12 documents, feeding faux claims of alien visitation and more. Is it possible that, in addition with meddling with U.S. elections, the Russians are still involved in spreading UFO disinformation? Nick Redfern is the author of more than 40 books covering UFOs and other paranormal events. He’s been featured on a number of radio and TV shows, and is a frequent guest on The Paracast.

Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan 
Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis

APPLE, INC.: NO LONGER THE CRAZY ONE

First some history: After using a Mac for several years at the office, I installed my first home system in 1989; yes 30 years ago. And boy was it expensive!

The price tag came to over $14,000, which adds up to over $28,000 in 2019 dollars. In other words, in the neighborhood of a well-equipped version of the Mac Pro that Apple premiered during the June WWDC, and a midsized car. Thank the stars for a low-cost lease.

But my first Mac was no high-end model. The setup consisted of a IIcx, a “junior” version of the Macintosh IIx, a 14-inch Apple color display, an Apple LaserWriter II NT and a collection of productivity software that included FileMaker, Microsoft Word and QuarkXPress. I attempted to duplicate the essence of my office environment so I could begin to work at home.

When I tried to buy more software for my brand new computer, I was treated as an oddball at local stores. If they had any Mac titles at all, they were consigned to dusty shelves at the rear; more often than not they were outdated versions. I soon learned that the best source was an online retailer, such as MacWarehouse. That dealer, by the way, has long since been absorbed into CDW.

Apple’s strategic mistakes over the next few years didn’t help. By the end of 1996, with efforts to build a state-of-the-art operating system floundering and sales tanking, the company made its smartest move, which was to acquire Steve Jobs’ NeXT.

While it once sold hardware, the NeXTSTEP operating system was its remaining product. Built on a tried-and-true Unix core, with platform independence, it seemed to be the ideal candidate to resolve Apple’s OS dilemma. And there was always the prospect of Steve Jobs returning to the company that he co-founded.

As most of you know, however, a working version of what became macOS X didn’t premiere until the fall of 2000, and then only as a public beta, retailing for $29.99. The “real” release came in March of 2001, but it was still basically unfinished. Fortunately, you could still use Mac OS 9 to get some real work done.

Each year Apple improved the beast. In 2006, Apple moved to Intel CPUs, after IBM and Motorola failed to deliver the PowerPC CPU upgrades needed to boost performance and support notebooks without huge cooling systems.

But the real changes in Apple began in 2001, with the release of what appeared to be an outlier, a hobby gadget known as the iPod. It was all about having 1,000 songs in your pocket! When iTunes expanded to Windows, things really took off, and Apple was never quite the same.

In 2007, the release of the “ultimate” iPod, the iPhone cemented Apple’s conversion to mainstream status.

At one time, IBM was the “enemy” when it came to a personal computer. These days, IBM employees can choose the gear they want, and tens of thousands of them have selected Macs, iPhones and iPads. Surveys have shown what we knew for years, that the Mac is easier and cheaper to maintain despite a higher purchase price.

Even the Apple Watch, considered a costly wearable, has become more popular than I ever expected. In my travels, I have seen cashiers at convenience stores and supermarkets — earning salaries not much higher than minimum wage — wearing an Apple Watch. Some even have the more expensive Series 4 with built-in cellular capability.

The Apple Watch is at the top of the heap when it comes to wearables and wristwatches, for that matter.

Despite its undeniable attractions, I’ve held off buying one. So I am still wearing the $12.88 stainless steel calendar watch that I bought from Walmart several years ago. Other than a couple of battery replacements, it works just great. Sure, it runs slightly fast, so I have to adjust the time every month; the calendar is brain-dead to months shorter than 31 days.

Apple is mainstream in other ways. CEO Tim Cook is regularly interviewed. He’s even personally lobbied with the President of the United States to get favorable consideration in the trade war with China. So your iPhone still doesn’t cost any more as a result, although that could change due to the acts of a certain mercurial chief executive.

It’s not that Apple doesn’t have a bunch of critics who attack its every move. But their arguments are old news; let’s call them fake news. Every new product represents the wrong direction, and is destined to fail bigly (don’t you hate that word?). The departure of chief designer Jonathan Ive means death to the company, as if he and only he did all the work, including developing the operating systems. Can you imagine Ive managing the iPhone production lines in China?

Facts don’t matter.

Nevertheless The Night Owl Persists

In the meantime, as with the radio show, I see that I’m probably destined to repeat myself if I stick with daily columns. I can take a 10-year-old column, change a few lines and product names, and present it as something new. That’s no way to be creative and to cover the present and future of personal technology.

Even though I have put The Tech Night Owl LIVE to bed, I will continue to speak out in these columns when the need arises, when there are significant new developments to report. And I’m still keeping up to date on things.

As I write this, I’m running the latest iOS 13 beta on my iPhone. I use it for work, both email and phone calls; I knew I am taking a chance. But if things go bad, I can always restore it to the last release version of iOS and my current backup. I have little to lose except maybe an hour or so, but so far I haven’t had reason to regret my decision. The things I need to work, largely email, the phone, Safari and the Lyft and Uber ride-sharing apps, all function normally.

At the same time, I am avoiding the macOS Catalina betas because it will no longer support apps that are all or partly 32-bit. My vintage version of Adobe Photoshop won’t run, nor will a clever utility, The Levelator, which offers a normalize function on steroids for audio files. A single drag-and-drop pass delivers an output file that reduces levels that are too high and boosts levels that are too low. It delivers broadcast-ready content with ease.

While I can buy a Creative Cloud license for Photoshop, finding a cheap or no-cost replacement for the latter has been difficult. I have urged the publishers of Audio Hijack, which we use to capture audio from an outboard mixer and Skype for the radio shows, to consider acquiring or replacing The Levelator with a 64-bit version. The original developer, the Conversations Network, has abandoned the project.

There are other possible replacements to explore, but I’ve yet to locate a suitable option yet that works in much the same way. One option recommended by other hosts out there is an online solution, Auphonic, an audio and video processing service. Auphonic doesn’t just optimize levels, but reduces noise levels and makes other enhancements. To use the service, you have to upload the file to their servers for processing and retrieve it when the job is done. It also means that you have to pay a monthly fee for anything longer than the free two hours of audio that’s provided each month.

To sign up with Auphonic for The Paracast and the supplementary Paracast+ show, After The Paracast, we’d need the 21-hour package, at $23 per month; there are no rollover minutes. I am not happy with adding another bill, even a small one. I will, however, test a single file of less than two hours to compare it to The Levelator.

I’m just a microcosm here: Many of you will have to judge your needs, and your dependence on 32-bit apps, before deciding whether to upgrade to Catalina. Even though Apple has been warning you about apps not optimized for macOS for a while now, that means nothing if you can’t upgrade to a newer version that supports 64-bit. You may be forced to search for an alternative, if there is one.

So much for Catalina, at least for now.

But drastic changes are nothing new for Apple. After moving to Intel CPUs, Apple provided an emulation component, Rosetta, to allow you to use PowerPC apps. That feature was dumped beginning with OS X Lion. Either replace incompatible apps, or don’t install the upgrade.

After apparently losing interest in the Mac for a while, regular updates have resumed. But major model refreshes, such as the MacBook Pro, come with higher prices. The long-delayed Mac Pro upgrade, which will start at $5,999 when it arrives later this year, can be optioned to a point where the price may exceed $35,000. In other words, similar to entry level models of a BMW 3 series automobile, or a Tesla Model 3.

In other words, it’s not dissimilar to what a top-of-the-line Macintosh Iix cost 30 years ago when you allow for inflation. And, no, I’m not signing up.

Despite Apple’s mainstream status, I remain curious about what it’s up to. I still use Apple gear, but I hardly see the need for daily columns anymore. Still, when something of interest, at least to me, develops, you’ll hear from me. You can depend on it!

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST) and is the former host of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, which was on the network for ten years. The Paracast is still nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2019. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

Published in Technology

If you’re a gamer you are already well versed in Twitch and know the name Ninja like the back of your hand, but for most folks, mentioning either will make them say, “What, who?” and “Ninja’s are cool.”

Well, I mean - obviously that’s what they’d say because ninjas are cool (and by cool I mean, totally sweet!). And also, because - Ninja’s have real ultimate power!

But I digress.

So, what is exactly is Twitch and how does one make $10 million dollars on it? 

Well, according to Wikipedia: 

“Twitch is a live streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Introduced in June 2011 as a spin-off of the general-interest streaming platform, Justin.tv, the site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to music broadcasts, creative content, and more recently, "in real life" streams. Content on the site can be viewed either live or via video on demand.”

Um, okay. But where exactly did this Twitch thing come from? 

 Well, Justin.tv used to be a site where anyone could broadcast a video about … well, whatever they wanted. They idea was supposed to be - broadcast about life. And people did. And Justintv kept adding new content, eventually expanding and including all the good and bad content you can expect when you allow anyone to broadcast anything they want. Then, in 2011 Justintv added a “broadcast about your gaming experience” section, called - Twitch.

And Twitch was popular. I mean, hugely, mind bendingly popular. Far more popular than anything else on Justintv. Suddenly, Justintv exploded upwards of 45 million unique monthly viewers. The company saw opportunity and rebranded as Twitch Interactive and most of (if not all of) the content outside gaming - was shut down.

And then, megacorporation Amazon snapped up Twitch Interactive for a measly $970 million. Now, Twitch has about 27 thousand partner channels, approx. 2.5 million broadcasters, approx. 15 million daily users with about 100 million monthly viewers. 

Which means it was probably a $1 billion dollars well spent.

Okay. But how does it work?

 Well, you or me, or anyone - create an account on Twitch and then you play games and stream them online. And Twitch broadcasts the game. Live. And folks can watch. And then folks can choose to give you money - so you play more games. Online. So that folk can watch. And give you more money. So you can play more games. Online. On Twitch. So folks can watch. And give you more money. So you can play more games. Online - you know what? I think you see where this is going. 

Basically, Twitch provides the platform for you to stream games online. And if you’re good enough, or entertaining enough, or cute enough - you can build an audience. And your audiences pays you. Or not.

And you become a success.  Or not. 

But that’s how you make money (or not). And Ninja (Tyler Blevins) just happens to be the number one earner on Twitch. At one point Ninja had almost 250 thousand subscribers to his Twitch account. Most of which paid him $5. To watch him play games. Some quick math tells me  - that’s $1,250,000. After Amazon and Twitch took their fee Ninja still cleared over $800,000.

Per month.

He’s so popular- he has advertisers. Lots of them. He has merchandise. Lots of it. And he’s sponsored by Red Bull. He’s Red Bull’s official gamer. 

Now, Ninja is an extreme example. Not everyone is as popular, or makes as much money as Ninja. But still. There is actually a thing now, that’s out there where you, or me, or your kid - can make $$ - by playing video games. And, I kind of love that. 

And that's not ALL because of Twitch. But it mostly is. 

From their website:

“Welcome to Twitch. We are a global community of millions who come together each day to create their own entertainment: unique, live, unpredictable, never-to-be repeated experiences created by the magical interactions of the many. With chat built into every stream, you don’t just watch on Twitch, you’re a part of the show.”

Published in Entertainment

To understand what the Apple Store meant to me, let me tell you a personal story. In the 1960s, I had a hobby, building radio and general audio gear. Some of it I bought for myself, others I assembled for friends — at no charge. Well, I was a teenager, living at home. I wasn’t rich, but I had a tape recorder and a radio and a mic, so I was mostly happy.

 

In those days, I made periodic trips to one of the early consumer electronics stores, Lafayette Radio. After going bankrupt in 1980, its assets ended up in the hands of the company that eventually became Circuit City.

 

After moving to the Phoenix area in 1993, I shopped occasionally at a local Circuit City, but mostly for CDs. If I wanted a new Mac, I went online and saved money. It’s not that Circuit City didn’t carry Macs. They had some, and I remember visiting the retailer a few years later and seeing a few dusty models placed haphazardly on a single display table off to the rear

somewhere. Most had been left off. The few that were running mostly displayed a Hypercard slide show that didn’t really entice anyone to buy anything.

 

Besides, the salespeople were busy encouraging you to check out the real center of the action, the PC tables.

 

I recall a report some time later, about Steve Jobs admonishing Apple dealers to give Macs a fair shake. Make that demanding in very raw language. It was, after all, vintage Steve Jobs.

Apple finally decided to go its own way, by establishing its own retail chain. Jobs recruited former Target retail executive Ron Johnson to help him design the new stores.

 

When the first two Apple stores had their grand openings in 2001, in Glendale, CA and Tyson’s Corner, VA, the tech pundits were skeptical. Other electronics manufacturers, including Sony and Gateway, launched chains of branded stores, but they really didn’t go anywhere.

 

In large part, it’s because they were just ordinary retailers, only focused on a single brand. So why go to one when you could get the very same merchandise at the same price — or less — at a store with a far greater selection?

 

Apple’s approach was to customize your shopping experience with a specialty boutique with what appeared to be a remarkably noncommercial approach to retail sales. For one thing, you weren’t confronted with greedy salespeople trolling for a sale. Indeed, nobody pushed you to buy anything, or even to leave if you just wanted to just hang out.

 

If you had a problem with your Apple gadget, there was the Genius Bar where you could get advice, or authorized repairs by a factory trained specialist.

 

As a contributor to the Arizona Republic, and later Gannett and its national newspaper, USA Today, I attended two of the openings in the Phoenix area. At the Chandler, AZ Fashion Center, I met  Johnson, then Apple’s retail chief. I also got an Apple Store T-shirt.

 

I remember the opening ceremony, where the newly-minded employees welcomed customers with loud rounds of applause.

 

In 2002, I received a VIP invite to attend the grand opening of an Apple Store in New York’s SoHo district. I was part of an exclusive group that included Apple executives, even Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller, fellow tech reporters and a smattering of show business types.

 

While there, I had a chance to speak with Jobs for a few moments before he pulled his usual stunt to end a conversation, which was to walk away in mid-sentence. But I also spent several minutes speaking with the comic actor Tim Allen, who starred in one of my favorite movies, “Galaxy Quest.”

 

Recalling that the film ended in a way that a sequel might have been filmed, Allen said that one key factor that hurt the effort was a motorcycle accident that actor Daryl Mitchell, who portrayed the starship’s navigator, suffered the previous year. The mishap left him paralyzed from the waist down. Despite the handicap, by the way, Mitchell has remained active in show business. These days, he’s a featured player in a hit CBS series, “NCIS: New Orleans.”

 

But there’s still hope for a “Galaxy Quest” revival on Amazon, despite the 2016 death of Alan Rickman, another star of the cult classic.

 

Now my feelings about the arrival of the Apple Store in the Phoenix area were mixed. Before they arrived, I made a decent income as a Mac consultant. But Apple could provide much of what I offered, at least to people who didn’t mind carrying their gear to the store, at no charge. It didn’t take long for most of my clients to choose the obvious alternative, even when I lowered my hourly rates.

 

At first I focused on older gear, mostly Macs that were too old for Apple to provide direct support. As my customers grew older, however, that business mostly faded.

 

Despite my bittersweet feelings about the matter, I do get to an Apple Store from time to time to check out the new gear. Overall, the shopping experience remains mostly good, but the Genius Bar is often overwhelmed, so you have to reserve a session before you pay a visit.

 

As to Ron Johnson, he finally left Apple and went on to JCPenney to overhaul the shopping experience over there. But it proved to be a poor fit, and Johnson departed after the struggling retailer’s situation only worsened from his attempts to move them upscale. These days he’s connected with Enjoy, a startup that hopes to overhaul the shopping experience.

Peace,

 

Gene

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

Published in Technology

On the surface, it may seem that macOS Mojave is an extremely minor update. Other than Dark Mode and the reliance on Metal graphics, it doesn’t seem a whole lot different when you look it over, as I did starting last month. But the mere fact of choosing Metal means that Macs without support for that graphics technology have been made obsolete.

 

Before Mojave was announced, I had planned (hoped) to test the betas on my 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro. Obviously that’s not possible, despite the fact that it has an SSD formatted with the APFS file system. That’s because its graphics hardware, state of the art eight years ago, preceded the arrival of Metal.

 

A 2012 MacBook Pro,  where a Retina display debuted on Macs, works just fine. So do older Mac Pros with graphics cards that support Metal. So, my only option was the iMac. With a Fusion drive, it lost out on the APFS conversion last year, because Apple couldn’t make it compatible. It appeared on the early betas of High Sierra, but was soon pulled.

 

There was a certain promise from Apple software chief Craig Federighi that APFS support would return in a “future update.” Nothing more was said on the subject until May, weeks ahead of the WWDC and the launch of High Sierra’s successor, Mojave. I wouldn’t assume Federighi expected it wouldn’t arrive till then, but if he knew it would take the full year all along, he wouldn’t admit it.

 

This time it was clear APFS was expected to work. So, with multiple backups, I was willing to take the chance. If something went wrong, I could just restore the computer.

My only concern at the time was the report from Rogue Amoeba, publisher of Audio Hijack, which we use to capture audio for the radio show, that it wasn’t compatible with Mojave. Apparently the ACE component, used for instant capture, doesn’t work as of this writing. So far, the publisher hasn’t even hinted at when that update will arrive, though it is expected to appear when Mojave is released. I asked their support people if I might make it work without ACE, and the answer wasn’t definite.

 

Based on experience with previous versions of macOS, where this component had to be updated, I suspect that the main issue would be that I couldn’t capture audio with an app running. Audio Hijack would have to launch it first. If the app is running, it’ll put up a prompt that you click to quit and relaunch the app. Yes, an assumption, but I decided to go for it.

 

So on a Friday night, I backed up all my content via Carbon Copy Cloner to a second drive. I was ready.

 

I didn’t monitor the entire installation, except for an occasional glance. When I woke up the next morning, my iMac was running Mojave, and for the most part it didn’t look terribly different. Well, until I launched Disk Utility, and discovered that the drive was indeed using APFS. There was no warning and no option to block it. There it was, and it seemed OK.

 

I assume Apple has tested Fusion drives to know that it would be successful, and so far Mojave is mostly behaving. I do see slightly speedier performance, and I like the idea of being able to duplicate files to another portion of the drive almost instantaneously.

 

But what about Audio Hijack?

 

I launched it, selected my workflow and started a recording. As I suspected, Skype launched and everything went normally. If, however, I started a recording while Skype was running, Audio Hijack would put up a prompt to quit and relaunch. That’s no different from the way it worked before the ACE or instant capture component was developed.

 

I’m still waiting for an update from Rogue Amoeba — they aren’t sure when it’ll be ready — but I’m happy to accept this very minor inconvenience to produce my radio shows. Now maybe some other features, such as scheduling, are also affected, but I don’t use them.

 

As for Mojave, it does seem a tad snappier, but I’ll await official benchmarks with the release version. The iMac’s startup takes nearly twice as long, though. It stops a little more than halfway through, and resumes a short time later. I assume that glitch will also disappear from the release version, though I grant that Apple has allowed OS bugs to persist through a beta process in the past.

 

This week, Apple released developer beta six, which is the fifth beta made available to public beta testers. Within the next four to six weeks, a Golden Master candidate ought to be out, which means that the rest of the development process will mostly involve fine tuning. Once it’s released, Apple will go full steam into the first update, 10.14.1.

 

In the meantime,  I’ve looked over Mojave’s Dark Mode and turned it off. Maybe I’m too set in my ways. Unfortunately, the latest beta has essentially made my Brother printer useless. Whenever I attempt to print a document, any document, the printer driver app displays an error, “Unable to startup session, error =-10.”

 

I went through the usual troubleshooting routines, including restarting. resetting the iMac’s printing system, resetting the printer, and reinstalling the latest drivers from Brother. They are rated for High Sierra. So this is clearly a problem that Apple or Brother — or both — must fix.

For now, I can’t print, since my other printer, an Epson All-in-One, is at a storage facility along with most of my stuff.

 

So I’m bummed out a little, though it is time I cure the printing habit, so maybe it’s all good.

 

As to Mojave, I don’t regret installing the betas. At this late stage, it’s probably in decent shape — well except for that printer glitch. But if you’ve waited this long without fretting over it, you might as well wait for the final release that’ll probably arrive at the end of September or early in October.

 

Peace,

 

Gene

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

 

Published in Technology
%PM, %22 %035 %2017 %23:%Dec

Five great games for your phone!

Need a last second holiday gift? Looking for a way to spend that Christmas Google Play or itunes gift card? I have just what you need -- awesome, cheap games for your phone!

 

Everyone has played Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and Limbo (but if you haven’t you should totally check them out) so I went a different route. Normally I play games on a console or PC, which tend to be more story based than traditional point and click phone games. But it occured to me that many of the story based games I love and play are probably available for your phone.

 

So I checked. And I found some!

 

Here are a few of my favorites presented alphabetically:

 

The Banner Saga 1 & 2: I really love this game. It’s a great mix of storytelling and turn based tactical combat. The art is gorgeous and the story choices are sophisticated enough to keep you guessing. From the website of game designer Stoic Games:

 

“Epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies and enemies as you travel with your caravan across a stunningly beautiful, yet harsh, landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization. Every decision you make in travel, conversation and combat has a meaningful effect on the outcome as your story unfolds. Not everyone under your banner will survive, but they will be remembered.”

 

Playing time: Approx. 10ish hours to complete the main quest in Banner Saga 1 with perhaps 15ish hours to complete Saga 2. Additional hour can be spent in game play through Survival Mode - a series of increasingly difficult battles! (I just got killed in battle 32 of 40. Must start over. Arggh!)

Repeat playability: High. Adjust game play to a higher difficulty and try a second Saga or play Survival Mode after completing the main story.  

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.  

Cost - depending on platform: $5 -$10

 

Beholder: A really fun game set in a grim dystopian future where an oppressive totalitarian State controls every aspect of private and public life. And it’s your job to root out anyone who speaks our or acts against the State! Of course you can rage against the State and hide the on going deeds of your tenants, if you wish -- just don’t get caught. Warning - this game is hard! From the Warm Lamp Games game designer site:

 

“You are the State-installed manager of an apartment building. Your daily routine involves making the building a sweet spot for tenants, who will come and go; however, that is simply a faced that hides your real mission … spying on your renters! Your primary task is to covertly watch your tenants and eavesdrop on their conversations. You must bug their apartments while they’re away, search their belongings, and profile them for your superiors. You must also report anyone capable of violating the laws or plotting subversive activities against the State to the authorities.”

 

Playing time: Several hours to finish the main story with an additional 20ish hours in order to unlock all possible endings.

Repeat playability: High.

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.

Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5

 

Heart’s Medicine: Time to Heal: A super charming point and click time management game -- that happens to be a touching medical based drama. What sets it apart from many point and click games is the tender storyline woven between game goals.

 

Game designer Blue Giraffe says:

 

“Heart’s Medicine - Time to Heal is an intense medical drama tied into a casual game this is moving people to tears. The game has a gripping and unique storyline, original singer/songwriter music, highly detailed artwork and animation, cool addictive gameplay and an insane amount of heart … Become a doctor in a romantic medical drama and join the life of aspiring surgeon Allison Heart as she works her shifts at Little Creek Hospital. Experience love, intense action, realistic drama, crazy funny moments and the beauty of celebrating life!”

 

Playing time: Approx. 20 hours.

Repeat playability: Medium. Once the story is over you can repeat gameplay but without the darling story it becomes a standard diner dash game.

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.

Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5

 

The Silent Age: A clever little point and click drama that bounces back and forth in time. This game is more story driven than game driven. Solving the puzzles won’t be much of a challenge for most savvy game players but the story writing is strong and the plot becomes more compelling as it moves forward. The game is downloaded as five separate chapter so make sure you get chapter one!

 

Game developer House on Fire says:

 

“Help Joe as he travels between the groovy present of 1972 and the apocalyptic future of 2012 to discover the truth behind humankind’s extinction - a quest entrusted to him by a dying man from the future. Use your portable time travel device to solve puzzles that bring you closer to answers and saving humanity.  Winner of the 2013 Causal Connection Indie Prize.”

 

Playing time: Approx. 6 hours.

Repeat playability: Low. Once you know the story -- you know the story.  

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.

Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5

 

This War of Mine: This absolutely gorgeous black and white shaded game is a gut wrencher. A survivalist war game unlike anything I’ve played. After several times (about ten hours game time) I’ve yet to survive to see the end of the war. I’ll let the folks from 11 Bit Studio, the game designers, explain it for you:

 

“In This War of Mine you do not play as an elite soldier, rather a group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city; struggling with lack of food, medicine and constant danger from snipers and hostile scavengers. The game provides an experience of war seen from an entirely new angle .... The pace of the game is imposed by the day and night cycle. During the day snipers outside stop  you from leaving your refuge, so you need to focus on maintaining your hideout: crafting and trading and taking care of your survivors.At night, take one of your civilians on a mission to scavenge through a set of unique locations for items that will help you stay alive … Make life-and-death decisions driven by your conscience. Try to protect everybody from your shelter or sacrifice some of them for longer-term survival. During war, there are no good or bad decisions, there is only survival. The sooner you realize that, the better.”

 

Playing time: The game is won when the war ends which is randomly decided each time you load a new game. I would say approx. ten-ish hours to finish the story once.  

Repeat playability: High. Each play through will bring completely different challenges.

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.

Cost - depending on platform: $4-$14.

 

Published in News & Information

When I wrote about recent Apple partnerships with businesses, I only looked at part of the equation. There’s a lot more to report, but I’ll get to that shortly.

 

Now the closest look I had at the business case for the Mac was a company I worked at during the mid-to-late-1980s. It was a prepress shop, a descendant of traditional typesetting, which output clients’ jobs on a high resolution printing device from CompuGraphic. It was a close cousin to phototypesetting, based on similar output technology, but incorporating Adobe

PostScript for compatibility with documents created by our clients.

 

Despite the fact that the Mac started the desktop revolution, Microsoft still ruled the roost when it came to personal computers. In the days of MS-DOS, Macs were not taken seriously by most business. Point and click was not the way to do real work. Macs were just toys, or best used by artists and entertainers.

 

But I remember one important factor that cemented the dilemma of the PC user. I wanted to set up online chats with an office colleague, who used a PC. I used a Mac app, Microphone plus a modem, and I was able to set it up and begin to run terminal sessions in less than 15 minutes. The fellow at the office told me he was setting up a “shell” on his PC, and he’d have it working soon. Each day he’d tell me he was close. Just a few more things to do, and it would be ready.

Soon became never and he eventually left the company. I lost touch with him then.

 

Once Windows became useful enough for most work, Microsoft came close to killing the Mac. Software companies made Windows versions of their products. True, it was harder to set things up on a Windows PC, and maintaining those boxes was costlier than a Mac, even though the Mac cost more.

 

But the enterprise didn’t get the memo, at least not then.

 

Worse, Apple really didn’t pay attention to the business market except in the areas where the Mac first became popular. This situation existed more or less until the iPhone arrived. As hundreds of millions bought them, customers looked to Macs as a way to ensure a consistent experience within Apple’s ecosystem. Both the iPhone and the iPad had high business penetration percentages, and Apple provided the tools to help IT people to manage deployment of these devices quickly and safely.

 

In recent years, Apple has made notable conquests for Macs in the enterprise. As I reported previously, IBM made a deal to work with Apple to build special mobile apps, and even gave employees the option to use Macs instead of PCs. They also reported something Mac users have known all along, that a company saves hundreds of dollars per device due to the much lower support costs when they switch. It makes up for the differences in purchase price.

 

Many companies also allow their employees to bring their own devices (BYOD), which means that you don’t have to depend on what the IT person gives you. That has only added to Apple’s ability to chip away at Microsoft’s dominance.

 

According to published reports, such companies as Delta Air Lines and GE are now deploying Macs and iOS gear. Other adopters include Capital One, the financial company, Bank of America, Medtronic, Panera and even Walmart. Walmart? The New York City police have given up on Windows phones because Microsoft doesn’t support the platform anymore? They bought iPhones.

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. But isn’t it curious that it’s taken the enterprise over 30 years to realize that Macs are cheaper to run and more reliable? We are in the twilight of the PC area, and Microsoft is no longer a dominant player in all markets it enters. The Windows Phone platform has failed miserably, and is basically history in the wake of Microsoft’s failed acquisition of Nokia’s handset division. Ask the former Nokia employees who got pink slips.

 

At one time the Mac’s market share had declined to what might be referred to as little more than a rounding error in some countries. It’s a lot better now, and when it comes to the mobile space, Windows Phone’s market share is a rounding error since it’s so low. It’s not that Nokia handsets were bad. They were, in fact, well reviewed, or maybe tech journalists cut them too much slack. Clearly customers weren’t buying.

 

iOS gear has clearly helped Apple make unexpected inroads into the enterprise. As companies bought iPhones and iPads, dumping PCs for Macs proved to be a fairly easy process, especially if a company used apps that are available on the Mac. Those that rely on Office should be able to move over without much trouble, although some less-used features might not have been brought over. It helps that Microsoft also offers credible versions of Office on iPhones and iPads.

 

As for apps that aren’t available in Mac versions, the ability to run Windows and other operating systems within virtual machines, such as Parallels Desktop, or via Boot Camp, completes the process. Running macOS and Windows side by side with great performance can clinch the deal.

 

This is, by the way, a key reason why Apple probably will not move the Mac to its custom ARM CPUs. The Mac platform has grown considerably since the switch to Intel. So why switch?

 

Now when I recall my Mac experiences of 30 years ago, I hardly expected it would take all these years for businesses to take them seriously. But it’s better late than never.

 

Peace,

 

Gene Steinberg

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2017. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

Published in News & Information

In the old days of the Mac, back in the 1980s and 1990s, the suggestion that they were immune to computer viruses would have been laughed at. It wasn’t nearly as bad as on the Windows platform, but you definitely needed to run antivirus software.

 

I learned that lesson the hard way in the late 1980s when, as the owner of a brand new Macintosh IIcx, I was in search of software. It wasn’t so easy in those days, as most computer stores had PC applications, MS-DOS aplenty, but if there was anything for the Mac at all, it occupied a single dusty shelf usually located in the rear of the store.

 

Well, one day I visited Egghead Software, a long-departed chain with an outlet in Edison, NJ, and I bought Pyro!, a screensaver from a well-recognized utility publisher of the time, Fifth Generation Systems. After installation, one of my apps, QuarkXPress, reported a corruption problem. Well, I downloaded some antivirus software, shareware, and gave my Mac a scan.

 

Sure enough, that screensaver was infected with a virus; I forget which. It was only a few days since I set up the Mac, and thus I hadn’t really done much real work on it. So I wiped the drive, reinstalled everything — except for that screen saver — and all was well. The antivirus software was known as Virus Detective, long since abandoned by its author.

 

Now I’m not at all sure where in the production or sales chain that utility app got infected. I returned it to the dealer, who gave it a moment’s attention and offered to exchange it or give me my money back. I took the latter route, and decided to take my business elsewhere. No reason to take chances.

 

Around 1990 or so, working at a prepress studio, we were processing client floppies to send output to a high-end phototypesetting machine which produced high resolution film or positives. The shop set up antivirus software on all our Macs, and we often ran into a so-called desktop virus known as WDEF. I joined the rest of the staff in gently explaining to our customers how to protect themselves from these things.

 

I continued to run antivirus software on my Macs until the Mac OS X era arrived in 2001. While it wasn’t advertised as free of malware, it was Unix-based and far more secure. Thus most outbreaks were more about social engineering. So you’d click a link in an email or on a site, or download and install something that contained the payload. If you were careful and avoided such traps, you would be all right.

 

Perhaps the worst outbreak occurred in 2012, involving a Trojan Horse known as Backdoor. Flashback, which infected Java. A lot has changed then, and Apple ended up letting Oracle, Java’s owner, handle the updates. It also meant that I opted to stay away from apps developed in this cross-platform environment wherever I could.

 

But it wasn’t always easy or apparent where I’d run across Java. So, for example, I still use an older version of Adobe Photoshop, version 12.1, part of CS 5.5 from 2011, partly because I’m not inclined to want to subscribe and pay forever to keep the latest versions running.

 

However, as many of you with newly-installed versions of macOS can testify, you also have to locate and install an old Java 6 update for Photoshop to launch. Wasn’t it supposed to be a native Mac app?

 

Well, anyway, I don’t run web apps or services that require Java anymore.

 

While there are occasional Mac malware outbreaks out there, I have yet to see the need to install antivirus software. You see, Apple provides its own level of basic malware protection, regularly updated. That’s one way Flashback was eradicated. Businesses who run both Macs and PCs may install security software on the former. But a main reason is that some Mac antivirus apps will guard against PC viruses too, so it protects you against an accidental cross-platform infection.

 

As a practical matter, a good way to avoid possible malware is to only download and install apps from the Mac App Store or from a recognized third-party publisher’s site. It’s not a good idea to just search at random for something cool, because something cool may contain something that’s not so cool. One app that has garnered plenty of complaints is MacKeeper, which offers to provide a host of cleanup and protection functions. But some feel it may cause more trouble than its worth, and it can be difficult to remove once it installs itself on your Mac.

 

One cleanup app that does do what it claims is Cocktail, which basically puts standard macOS cleanup, maintenance and repair functions in a pretty interface for easy access. It’s one of those added ounces of protection that you may never need, but it’s worth a try if your Mac suddenly seems to run a little too slowly for no discernible reason.

 

Otherwise, always be skeptical about emails claiming to be from a business or financial institution that you may patronize. It’s a common way to fool you into going to a bogus site and giving up your login information. If you get a message that there’s a problem with your account, it doesn’t hurt to just go to the firm’s site and login directly and check out the situation. Scam emails pretending to be from PayPal and large banks are all-too-common.

 

If you are careful about downloading stuff, and you watch out for bogus links in email, you’re likely to reduce or eliminate the need for installing security software. I mean, it probably doesn’t hurt to run one of those apps, except that the ones that offer automatic background scanning may also slow down your system or cause some instability. The Mac App Store has some free or low-cost antivirus apps that will do on-demand scanning, meaning you run them when you want, and otherwise they don’t do anything to impact performance.

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2017. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

Published in News & Information