How Home Sharing Works in macOS Catalina

For years, iTunes has had a Home Sharing feature, that allowed you to share your library across a network. Users in your home, dorm, or office could listen to your music, and even copy it to their computers. They could stream videos from your library, and this was a good way to maintain a movie and TV show library on a Mac and stream content locally to an Apple TV.

Perusing macOS Catalina I was initially worried that Home Sharing had been removed, because there was nothing about it in the Music app, but I found that they feature had been shunted to a new location: the Sharing pane of System Preferences.

Media sharing

This makes a lot of sense. With iTunes split into four apps, you wouldn’t want to have to turn it on for each app. But this centralized media sharing has a great advantage: you don’t need to launch any of the apps to be able to share their content. As long as the computer hosting the media is running, you can load its content on another computer, an Apple TV, or on iOS (in the Music or TV apps). And if you have Wake for Network Access checked in the Energy Saver preferences, your library is accessible even if the host Mac is asleep. (On a laptop, this only works if it’s connected to power.)

This is a great change to the Home Sharing feature, and it will make it a lot easier to set up a master library to use on multiple devices.

The Fate of the iTunes Store in macOS Catalina

With the new Music app in macOS Catalina, which retains most of the music functions of iTunes, but sloughs off the other media kinds that the previous app managed, there is a change in the way the iTunes Store is handled. In some cases, users won’t even see the iTunes Store.

In early betas of macOS Catalina, the iTunes Store was visible, but in recent betas it did not show up in the sidebar of the Music app if the user was signed into Apple Music. That seems to be the default now: if a user has an Apple Music account, they won’t see the iTunes Store. You can display it, if you wish, in the Music app’s Preferences, on the General pane, but if you’re a streamer, you won’t see it by default.

You’ll note that in the screenshots on Apple’s macOS Catalina preview pages, the iTunes Store is not visible.

Music app

The iTunes Store is certainly not going away, but Apple is considering that streamers don’t want to buy music. This isn’t the case with the TV app, which retains the tabbed navigation bar of iTunes, to show one tab for Library, and four other tabs to entire users to find new content. Granted, the way we consume music is different from movies and TV shows, but this is a clear sign that Apple is betting on streaming for music, and rentals and purchases for video content.

Tv app

It’s interesting that, while Apple has made the interfaces of the four apps that replace iTunes (Music, TV, Podcasts, and Books) very similar, two of these apps retain the tabbed navigation bar: TV and Books. And these are both apps where there is more content to purchase than to stream. (Obviously, all podcasts are free, so there’s no need to have a marketplace in that app.)

In the Books app, I think the tabs don’t make sense. There is one for your library, which is logical, but there are two store tabs: Book and Audiobooks. I think it would be better to have a single store, because there are a lot of people who buy both ebooks and audiobooks, and splitting them can make it harder to find which options you have.

As for the TV app, that has the potential of quickly becoming bloated. There are tabs for your library, then for Watch Now, Movies, TV Shows, and Kids. The problem with the TV app is that it aggregates not just your own content, but potentially channels, networks, and services that you subscribe to. And that leads too bloat. But the very nature of these disparate services makes it hard to do otherwise.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 49: Creating Panoramas

You want to capture a wide-angle shot, but what if your widest lens isn’t wide enough? In this episode, Jeff and Kirk talk about creating panoramas, from the ingenious Pano mode in the iPhone’s Camera app to stitching many images from traditional cameras or drones.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 96: Hacker Conventions

Summer is when hackers get together to present and discuss malware, vulnerabilities, and exploits. Two big hacker conventions – Black Hat and DEF CON – were held recently, and we discuss some of the Mac-related discoveries. We also look at some interesting news, including certain Macs being banned by the FCC, and answer a listener question about ransomware and files on a Mac.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

Pros and Cons of Moving My Websites from Self-Hosted WordPress to WordPress.com

It took a while, but I finally got fed up with web hosts. I’d changed several times over the years, and, until recently, was hosted by NameCheap. This company had a serious security vulnerability that affected one of my sites, and their customer support is horrendous, but making the change on multiple websites is time consuming.

Since all my websites run WordPress, my options were to pay much more for dedicated WordPress hosting, or to move to WordPress.com, the hosting that is run by WordPress itself. I eventually opted for the latter, though this process was not without difficulty.

When I moved of this site, Kirkville, which has more than 2,000 posts, thousands of images, and a plethora of comments, I used the WordPress export and import features. I did this in late June, and expected the process to be smooth. I chose WordPress’s Business plan, which, at $25 a month, gives me a lot of options, such as the ability to use plug-ins and custom themes. It also is supposed to provide dedicated support.

What I found when I moved the site was that the paths of my images had not changed. As such, they were still being served from the previous site hosted on NameCheap. In addition, some didn’t display at all. Part of this was due to the fact that the path for my installation was not at the root level of the folder; for historic reasons, it was in a /wordpress/ folder, but part was because the WordPress import simply doesn’t seem to handle images very well.

To my disappointment, it took more than a week for WordPress support to fix this. My initial contact was via their online chat, but my issue had to be escalated, and there didn’t seem to be any “happiness engineers” available to fix it. I had to complain, over and over, every day, to get this fixed, and, in the end, it was resolved, but there was a lot of stress.

For two other sites I run, I chose less expensive plans. For a site I host for my friend Peter Robinson, author of the Inspector Banks mystery series, I chose the $8 Premium plan, to be able to use premium themes and some other features. And for my site about learning to play the shakuhachi, I chose the cheapest plan, Personal, at $5 a month, because I was happy using one of the basic themes.

One of the biggest problems with NameCheap was that their support for the XML-RPC protocol would break every few months, requiring a great deal of time to solve, as none of the support people really understood the issues. (They had something to do with security rules, and, while I told them to turn them off, they kept turning them back on.) I use this extensively, because I manage my blogs with MarsEdit, which communicates using this protocol. (Which is what WordPress’s own apps use as well.)

Now that everything is settled, I’m very happy. I don’t have problems posting or managing my blogs, and I don’t have to worry about server outages – which were frequent with NameCheap – or any of the back end stuff that I had to deal with in shared hosting. It was very stressful to know that every month or so I’d have to spend an hour in a support chat with NameCheap. In addition, the new sites are fast; much faster than NameCheap, even though I had a plan where my sites were hosted on SSD.

It’s always tough to move a large website, and I wish the move process had been smoother, but the results are satisfying. Shared hosting is a commodity, and most companies don’t care about their users, and support can be abysmal. I haven’t had any issues with my sites since those first bumps, so kudos to WordPress for their service.

What happens to your iTunes account when Apple says you’ve committed fraud — Quartz

Technology has always been a huge part of my life, but I recently was forced to find out what happens when the technology you’ve built your life around is suddenly taken away from you.

A few months ago, I purchased an iTunes gift card off of a popular discount website. This is something I’ve done for years to manage my spending on the platform—it also helps my partner and me buy things for one shared iTunes account. I’ve been buying gift cards every so often, particularly during sale periods, when retailers sell iTunes and App Store gift cards at a discount.

When I received the card and loaded it into my iTunes account, I purchased some music over the next few days, as I’ve often done since my first iTunes purchase in 2005. I bought a few songs, streamed a new movie, and marveled at the magic of Apple’s seamless integration of hardware and services. Or so I thought.

About a week after I redeemed the gift card, I noticed my iTunes account wasn’t working. When I tried to log in, it said my account was locked. I searched online for help, but I couldn’t find a solution. I called up Apple support. As soon as I got an agent on the phone I was immediately shuffled off to a senior representative, which is a bit unusual. I’ve worked with Apple support countless times both for work and for personal devices, and normally you’re only escalated to a senior rep when the first line of defense can’t resolve your issue. The senior agent informed me my account had been locked because I’d used a fraudulent gift card.

The ramifications of this are extremely disturbing. When so much of your life and work is linked to a single account, this can be devastating. Given my experience with AppleCare support in recent times, I would be very worried if this happened to me.

Source: What happens to your iTunes account when Apple says you’ve committed fraud — Quartz

Can’t Stream Music to a HomePod Using the iOS Remote App

My home is set up to stream music locally. In my office, I have a Sonos Amp, which uses AirPlay 2. I stream to it either from my iMac (which is in the office) or from my iPhone or iPad, when I’m sitting in my comfy chair reading. In the bedroom, I have a stereo pair of HomePods, and in the kitchen, I have a Sonos One. All of these devices are available when I stream music from my Mac, or from my iPhone or iPad.

Airplay

But if I’m not in my office, I don’t always stream music from my iOS devices. My iCloud Music Library is only a limited subset of my full library, and not all my music is available on Apple Music. So I often want to stream from my iMac to, say, the bedroom. I would like to be able to do this from one of my iOS devices, using the Remote app, but this isn’t possible: the HomePods don’t show up in its AirPlay target list.

Remote

If I start streaming on my iMac, send the music to my HomePods, then go to the bedroom, I can control the playback with the Remote app, but I cannot initiate a stream to the HomePods using Remote. I’m not alone; this has been the case since the release of the HomePod, and plenty of people who own these devices wonder why this is not possible.

There’s no workaround, but this is really annoying. I don’t know why Apple doesn’t allow this; technically, it should be simple. Or are they really trying to push people toward only using Apple Music and Siri on the HomePod?

The Next Track, Episode #156 – 10 Ideas About the Future of the Music Business

We discuss the future of the music business, and come up with at last 10 ideas about how things will change in the next 10 years. Because 10 is a good number.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

Photo: My New Shakuhachi

I got a new shakuhachi this week. This one is made by Kodama Hiroyuki, who is a true master of both making and playing the instrument. You can learn more over at my shakuhachi website, where I have been chronicling my experience learning this Japanese flute.

This is the “root end” of the instrument. The bamboo is pulled out of the ground and cut, leaving some of the roots on while it dries, then the roots are cut off, leaving this attractive pattern around the bottom edge.

Link to full-size version.

See more of my photos, and follow me on Instagram.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 95: Who’s Listening to Your Private Conversations?

Last week, we discussed how Apple was listening to some of your Siri requests. The company changed its policy, and Amazon and Google followed suit, but what else does Apple listen to? We also discuss Apple’s new bug bounty program, how AT&T workers unlocked phones for profit, and how cryptojacking isn’t financially viable any more.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.