I’ve been using Overcast to listen to podcasts on my iPhone since it was released. It’s a great app, with some really good features. (Read my review.)
And developer Marco Arment did something nice in the app: he had links to other podcast apps in the Settings screen. So if you didn’t like Overcast, you could check out one of a half-dozen other apps. And the links appeared in random order, so none of the apps was always first in the list.
There was an update today to Overcast, and, surprisingly, Apple forced Arment to remove those links to other apps:
This is surprising. I don’t see why Apple would not allow a developer to link to other apps; I’m pretty sure I’ve seen apps that try and get you to buy other apps by the same developer. The only difference here is that Arment was helping you find the best podcast app for you by sharing links to apps that aren’t his.
With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple introduced Family Sharing, a way to allow multiple users in a family to share the same iTunes Store account. This way, they can easily get access to all the music, movies, TV shows and apps that anyone in the family buys.
“Family Sharing makes it easy for up to six people in your family to share each other’s iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases without sharing accounts. Pay for family purchases with the same credit card and approve kids’ spending right from a parent’s device. And share photos, a family calendar, and more to help keep everyone connected.”
I have not even tried setting up Family Sharing, even for testing, because of the way it works. Once a device is added to a family group, your device may be in limbo. As Apple says, “After you leave a family, you can join or set up a new one. However you can only switch to a different family group once per year.”
David Chartier has pointed this out, especially as far as free apps are concerned. He points out that there are issues downloading apps that are shared, but even more so with apps that don’t allow sharing. Because this feature is an opt-in feature for developers. Frankly, if the feature doesn’t work for all the content of a given type, it’s not worth using. Imagine if iTunes Match only worked with music from certain record labels; that’s what’s happening here with apps.
David Sparks is quitting family sharing. He highlights the fact that app developers must opt in, that in-app purchases are not included, and that iTunes Match doesn’t get shared. He concludes:
“Family Sharing is not ready for the Sparks family. I’ve spent way too much time trying to make this all work and this weekend I’m officially throwing in the towel on Family Sharing until it gets better. Now I am about to sit down at the dinner table to figure out which 10 of our devices get the full benefit of our shared account. Let the negotiations begin.”
And the same is the case for Jason Snell, who says ” Family Sharing is a good idea, but between the limitations and the bugs, it’s making my family agitate for a return to sharing a single Apple ID.”
Yet again, Apple comes up with a good idea, but has a very poor implementation. It reminds me of iTunes Match, which still has the same problems (not matching tracks, not updating tracks and playlists, and a limited number of tracks) several years after it was introduced. I don’t know why Apple is so incompetent at making things like this work, but it doesn’t tempt me at all to try any new features with so many hoops to jump through.
When iOS 8 went into developer betas, and so many interesting features began to be discussed, as well as a more developer-friendly approach, I had hopes. Perhaps Apple would “solve” Newsstand, and rescue it from neglect. Maybe it would break us out of Newsstand jail and let publication apps coexist, even if we had to give up showing a changing cover as the app’s icon. (It seemed unlikely Jony Ive would allow this, but he’s a clever man, and I thought he might have a solution to meld static app icons with changing covers.)
But iOS 8 went into release with nary a change. The Newsstand abides, a wasteland for publications that only use it as an adjunct–and us. The failure to improve iTunes and the App Store for discovery also remains problematic. It’s really impossible for people to find a publication that matches their interest when all they find are top-ten lists and a field to search for something they already know they want.
Glenn Fleishman writes, for Macworld, about the history of The Magazine, the publication that he has been editing, and which is retiring on December 18. I contributed an article to issue #5, Tour de Front Row.
I have a Fitbit One, and I use their Fitbit Connect software on my Mac so the device can sync silently using a USB dongle. When I got my 5K iMac the other day, the dongle wasn’t recognized, so I re-installed the software.
I’ve noticed since then that, at times, my Mac lags a bit when I’m typing. I spotted a process using from 50-100% of one core’s CPU time. This process, galileod, is part of the Fitbit Connect software.
It seems that the only solution is to uninstall the software, using the uninstaller on the Fitbit Connect’s disk image. I’ve contacted Fitbit support to see if they can resolve this, but if you have a Fitbit, and you’re Mac’s running slow, have a look in Activity Monitor (this is in your /Applications/Utilities folder) and see if that process is slowing you down.
Note that the Fitbit software uninstaller does not uninstall all the software. You will need to manually remove /usr/local/bin/Fitbitd and /Library/Launch Daemons/com.Fitbit.Fitbitd.plist.
Update: After contacting Fitbit Support, I received an email saying the following:
Please be aware that Galileod is a patch that Apple has launched to fix a bug on the previous OS X. The Fitbit software doesn’t use Galileod to run on your computer.
I’ve been using LaunchBar for nearly as long as it has been around on the Mac. It’s the first utility that I install on every new Mac; with LaunchBar installed, I can get on with everything else I need to do.
LaunchBar has superpowers. It won’t give you the power to cloud men’s minds or climb the sides of buildings, but it will turn you into a Mac superhero. Anyone can master LaunchBar’s basic uses: launching applications, opening files, searching the Web, and more. But this book will teach you the six LaunchBar superpowers so you can work far more efficiently on your Mac. Yes, six; if you had the previous version of Take Control of LaunchBar, you recall there were five superpowers, but the wonderful developers at Objective Development added a sixth superpower to version 6 of the app.
And, LaunchBar 6 sports a great new interface:
Learn how to use LaunchBar to carry out nearly any Mac task more efficiently. To help you develop a mental map of all that LaunchBar can do, I explain LaunchBar in the context of its five superpowers — key LaunchBar techniques that no Mac user should be without.
Abbreviation search. The primary way you select things in LaunchBar is by typing a few letters associated with the item you want to find. LaunchBar is smart (so the abbreviation doesn’t have to be obvious) and learns from what you type (in case it guessed wrong the first time).
Browsing. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you want to work with until you see it. Abbreviation search won’t help there, but you can browse folders, recent documents for an app, clipboard history, snippets, and more.
Sub-search. Too many results in a list to browse? Try a sub-search, which is an abbreviation search limited to a list of search results.
Send To. Want to open a PDF in PDFpen rather than Preview? Or attach a document to a new email message? You can send anything on LaunchBar’s bar to another application, folder, action, or service.
Instant Send. For those who want to save the most time, Instant Send is the fastest way to put a selected file or bit of text on the bar, ready to open in another app, move to a folder, send to a Google search, look up in Dictionary, and more.
Staging. This lets you select multiple items in LaunchBar–even if those items are in different locations–and then act on them all together.
LaunchBar 6 has loads of great new features: a new look; live feedback for searches, calendar events, reminders and more; calculator history; access to emoji characters; text transformations; and usage statistics to help you understand which superpowers you’ve mastered, and which you need to learn more about.
But LaunchBar does much more. You can do more than 1,000 things with this simple utility. Let LaunchBar’s superpowers save you from a lifetime of Mac drudgery: get Take Control of LaunchBar for just $10. Check out this comic for a concrete illustration of LaunchBar’s five superpowers.
Update, April, 2017: My UK business has been running for four years now, and I’ve pretty much mastered the accounting I need to do (thanks to FreeAgent and my accountant). I’ve had a few issues with bugs in FreeAgent, mostly related to PayPal accounts in multiple currencies, but, on the whole, it’s been great. Support is still excellent; when I have a question about how to record something, I get an answer within a few hours. If it’s urgent, I call them, and they’ve very helpful.
When I moved to the UK in early 2013, I had to make a major change in the way I run my business. Having lived in France for a long time, I was familiar with French accounting rules, and I used a (very bad) Mac app to manage my accounting. in the UK, everything is different. I needed help setting things up (for which I engaged an accountant), and I needed a way to manage my books. I’d rather do this myself, and not pay my accountant for all the daily grunt work. Plus, I want to keep an eye on my income, expenses and bank accounts.
I couldn’t find anything satisfactory for Mac, so I decided to try a few online apps (there are dozens of them). A couple of them were so confusing that I gave up quickly. After trying FreeAgent, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this app was for me. It offers many advantages that make my work a lot easier. Here’s why I chose FreeAgent.
CLICK THIS LINK FOR A 30-DAY FREE TRIAL TO FREEAGENT PLUS A 10% DISCOUNT FOR THE LIFE OF YOUR SUBSCRIPTION.
(Note that all the screenshots in this article were provided by FreeAgent from a dummy account; I contacted them prior to writing this review, since I did not want to publish screenshots from my own account, and blur all the interesting bits.)
The main screen of FreeAgent is an overview screen, that shows you cash-flow, an invoice timeline, expenses, banking, and profit and loss. You can rearrange these modules, and, while I don’t use them all, it’s useful to see them.
One useful item here is the Tax Timeline, a tab in the Profit and Loss section; this helps me understand when I need to file specific tax forms.
In my latest Macworld article, I look at several “focused-writing” apps for OS X. “These apps, increasingly popular of late, allow you to write in a focused environment, export your writings to various formats, possibly apply basic styling, and let you print your work.”
I have tested many of these over the years, and, while my choices may not match yours, it’s worth looking at what’s available. I picked several that I like a lot, and it’s safe to say that there’s no shortage of excellent apps in this category for OS X.
I’ve been dictating, and using speech recognition software, for more than 15 years. Over the years, I’ve watched as Nuance’s Dragon Dictate for OS X has improved. I reviewed Dragon Dictate 4 for Macworld, and found its accuracy to be noticeably better than with the previous version. And they’ve added a transcription feature that lets you transcribe recordings of any voice, not just your own.
If you follow my blog, and my articles in Macworld, where I’m The iTunes Guy, you know I have a very large iTunes library. Currently, I have over 71,000 tracks in my main music library, for just under 700 GB, and about 30,000 tracks in a second library of music that takes up 320 GB. I’ve got about 240 GB of movies and 260 GB of TV shows. Altogether, that’s about 1.5 TB.
Yet if you look at my iTunes Media folder, you won’t see all of those files.
Over the years, I’ve had to struggle with organizing all my files, juggling increasingly large hard drives to store them. Until I discovered the $15 TuneSpan, a bit more than a year ago. TuneSpan was the iTunes utility that I had long been looking for. While you can store your iTunes media on different drives using iTunes, it’s a bit complicated to do so. If iTunes organizes your files, then it copies them all to your iTunes Media folder. In my case, putting all my files in that folder would take up too much space.
What TuneSpan does is let you “span,” or move, any or all of the files in your iTunes library to other drives or volumes. My Music volume is already an external drive connected to my Mac mini, but I have a second drive also connected to that Mac where I shunt off the files I don’t want on the Music drive.
TuneSpan lets you select which files you want to move, moves them, but keeps pointers to them in the iTunes library file. This is no mean feat, and it’s something you can’t do easily on your own. Just launch TuneSpan, choose the files you want to move, choose a location for them, and the app will copy everything, then tidy up your iTunes library.
For example, I have about 100 GB of high-resolution music files in my iTunes library. Since these are big files, I felt it would be easier to shunt them off to a second drive.
You select the items you want to span, drag them to the bottom section of TuneSpan’s interface, then click the Span button and wait. The copy process can take a while, depending on how many files you’re moving and how fast the data can be moved (USB, FireWire or Thunderbolt).
When TuneSpan has finished copying the files and verifying them, it quits and relaunches iTunes. Your music or videos are still in your iTunes library, but on a different drive. You can play or tag them as if they were local, and iTunes is none the wiser.
If you have a large iTunes library, TuneSpan is a life-saver. No more will you need to upgrade to larger and larger hard drives; just use multiple drives and let TuneSpan organize your files where you want them. TuneSpan is a must-have utility for anyone with a lot of media files in their iTunes library.