May 24, 2019
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Apple partners with Oakland nonprofit Dream Corps on Swift coding initiative

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Apple this morning announced a new partnership designed to train more people to code using its own programming language, Swift. The company says it’s now working with the Oakland-based nonprofit organization Dream Corps on the initiative, which will see Apple providing technology along with curriculum guidance, professional support and advocacy to individuals in middle and high schools, college and beyond.

The nonprofit currently operates its own learn-to-code program called #YesWeCode, which has graduated 100 people to date and placed around 60 percent in tech jobs. Its long-term goal is to help 100,000 young people from underrepresented backgrounds to be able to train for jobs in tech.

“I see Dream Corps as a peace corps for the American Dream,” said CEO Vien Truong, in a statement. Truong joined the organization in 2015, and is herself the youngest of 11 children born to an immigrant couple who migrated from Vietnam in the 1970’s, Apple also noted.

“It’s about making sure that we can help support people who lived or grew up in communities like mine. And this partnership with Apple will help unlock the untapped genius and talent within those communities, which will allow a new generation to achieve their dreams,” she added.

Dream Corps is now working with the Mayor’s Office and City of Oakland to find a location for a dedicated space to support the program with Apple and other workforce development initiatives. Apple says it’s expected to launch its program later this year in the Bay Area.

Apple’s investment in programming training and development is part of its larger Community Education Initiative. But partnerships like this aren’t the only way Apple is pushing people to learn to code with Swift.

Since the language’s introduction in 2014, Apple has rolled out several programs and tools aimed at helping introduce more people to Swift, including the 2016 launch of kids coding app Swift Playgrounds, expansions of its own “Everyone Can Code” program across the U.S. and elsewhere in the world; the addition of free coding sessions at its retail stores; and it has offered educational tools, software and curriculum for teachers.

For Apple, all of this is about ensuring there’s a new generation of developers learning its tools and Swift, in order to develop new apps for its platforms, iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS.

At last year’s WWDC event, WWDC, Apple CEO Tim Cook said there were 20 million registered developers on iOS, who collectively made about $100 billion in revenues, while the App Store saw some 500 million visitors per week.

As more of Apple’s business shifts to its growing Services business instead of just iPhone sales, it’s critical to ensure the developer pipeline remains open and accessible.

Apple finally brings Microsoft Office to the Mac App Store, and there is much rejoicing

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That slow clap you hear spreading around the internet today could be due to the fact that Apple has finally added Microsoft Office to the Mac App Store. The package will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote.

Shaan Pruden, senior director of worldwide developer relations at Apple, says that when the company overhauled the App Store last year, it added the ability to roll several apps into a subscription package with the idea of bringing Microsoft Office into the fold. That lack of bundling had been a stumbling block to an earlier partnership.

“One of the features that we brought specifically in working with Microsoft was the ability to subscribe to bundles, which is obviously something that they would need in order to bring Office 365 to the Mac App Store.”

That’s because Microsoft sells Office 365 subscriptions as a package of applications, and it didn’t want to alter the experience by forcing customers to download each one individually, Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365 explained.

PowerPoint on the Mac. Photo: Apple

Spataro said that up until now, customers could of course go directly to Microsoft or another retail outlet to subscribe to the same bundle, but what today’s announcement does is wrap the subscription process into an integrated Mac experience where installation and updates all happen in a way you expect with macOS.

“The apps themselves are updated through the App Store, and we’ve done a lot of great work between the two companies to make sure that the experience really feels good and feels like it’s fully integrated,” he said. That includes support for dark mode, photo continuity to easily insert photos into Office apps from Apple devices and app-specific toolbars for the Touch Bar.

A subscription will run you $69 for an individual or $99 for a household. The latter allows up to six household members to piggy back on the subscription, and each person gets one terabyte of storage to boot. What’s more, you can access your subscription across all of your Apple, Android and Windows devices and your files, settings and preferences will follow wherever you go.

Businesses can order Microsoft Office bundles through the App Store and then distribute them using the Apple Business Manager, a tool Apple developed last year to help IT manage the application distribution process. Once installed, users have the same ability to access their subscriptions complete with settings across devices.

Microsoft OneNote on the Mac. Photo: Apple

While Apple and Microsoft have always had a complicated relationship, the two companies have been working together in one capacity or another for nearly three decades now. Neither company was willing to discuss the timeline it took to get to this point, or the financial arrangements between the two companies, but in the standard split for subscriptions, the company gets 70 percent of the price the first year with Apple getting 30 percent for hosting fees. That changes to an 85/15 split in subsequent years.

Apple noted that worldwide availability could take up to 24 hours depending on your location, but you’ve waited this long, you can wait one more day, right?

Microsoft Edge goes Chromium (and macOS)

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The rumors were true: Microsoft Edge is moving to the open-source Chromium platform, the same platform that powers Google’s Chrome browser. And once that is done, Microsoft is bringing Edge to macOS, too. In addition, Microsoft is decoupling Edge from the Windows update process to offer a faster update cadence — and with that, it’ll bring the new Edge to Windows 7 and 8 users, too.

It’ll be a while before any of this happens, though. There’s no code to test today and the first previews are still months away. But at some point in 2019, Microsoft’s EdgeHTML and Chakra will go away and Blink and V8 will take its place. The company expects to release a first developer preview early next year.

Obviously, there is a lot to unpack here. What’s clear, though, is that Microsoft is acknowledging that Chrome and Chromium are the de facto standard today, both for users and for developers.

Over the years, especially after Microsoft left the Internet Explorer brand behind, Edge had, for the most part, become a perfectly usable browser, but Microsoft acknowledges that there were always compatibility issues. While it was investing heavily in fixing those, what we’re hearing from Microsoft is a very pragmatic message: it simply wasn’t worth the investment in engineering resources anymore. What Microsoft had to do, after all, was reverse engineer its way around problems on certain sites.

In part, that’s because Edge never quite gained the market share where developers cared enough to test their code on the platform. And with the web as big as it is, the long tail of incompatible sites remains massive.

Because many web developers work on Macs, where they don’t have access to Edge, testing for it became even more of an afterthought. Hence Microsoft’s efforts to bring Edge to the Mac, 15 years after it abandoned Internet Explorer for Mac. The company doesn’t expect that Edge on Mac will gain any significant market share, but it believes that having it available on every platform will mean that more developers will test their web apps with Edge, too.

Microsoft also admits that it didn’t help that Edge only worked on Windows 10 — and that Edge updates were bound to Windows updates. I was never quite sure why that was the case, but as Microsoft will now happily acknowledge, that meant that millions of users on older Windows versions were left behind, and even those on Windows 10 often didn’t get the latest, most compatible version of Edge because their companies remained a few updates behind.

For better or worse, Chrome has become the default and Microsoft is going with the flow. The company could have opted to open source EdgeHTML and its JavaScript engine. That option was on the table, but in the end, it opted not to. The company says that’s due to the fact that the current version of Edge has so many hooks into Windows 10 that it simply wouldn’t make much sense to do this if Microsoft wants to take the new Edge to Windows 7 and the Mac. To be fair, this probably would’ve been a fool’s errand anyway, since it’s hard to imagine that an open-source community around Edge would’ve made much of a difference in solving the practical problems anyway.

With this move, Microsoft also plans to increase its involvement in the Chromium community. That means it’ll bring to Chromium some of the work it did to make Edge work really well with touchscreens, for example. But also, as previously reported, the company now publicly notes that it is working with Google and Qualcomm to bring a native implementation of the Chrome browser to Windows 10 on ARM, making it snappier and more battery friendly than the current version that heavily relies on emulation.

Microsoft hopes that if it can make the compatibility issues a thing of the past, users will still gravitate to its browser because of what differentiates it. Maybe that’s its Cortana integration or new integrations with Windows and Office. Or maybe those are new consumer services or, for the enterprise users, specific features that make the lives of IT managers a bit easier.

When the rumors of this change first appeared a few days ago, a number of pundits argued that this isn’t great for the web because it gives even more power over web standards to the Chromium project.

I share some of those concerns, but Microsoft is making a very pragmatic argument for this move and notes that Edge’s small market share didn’t allow it to make a dent in this process anyway. By becoming more active in the Chromium community, it’ll have more of a voice — or so it hopes — and be able to advocate for web standards and bring its own innovations to Chromium.

You’re browser is probably the most complex piece of software running on your computer right now. That means switching out engines is anything but trivial. The company isn’t detailing what its development process will look like and how it’ll go about this, but we’re being told that the company is looking at which parts of the Edge experience to keep and then will work with the Chromium community to bring those to the Chromium engine, too.

Microsoft stresses that it isn’t giving up on Edge, by the way. The browser isn’t going anywhere. If you’re a happy Edge user today, chances are this move will make you an even happier Edge user in the long run. If you aren’t, Microsoft hopes you’ll give it a fresh look when the new Chromium-based version launches. It’s on Microsoft now to build a browser that is differentiated enough to get people to give it another shot.



Apple’s new T2 security chip will prevent hackers from eavesdropping on your microphone

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Apple’s newest MacBooks include a new feature that makes it virtually impossible for hackers or spies to eavesdrop on your microphone.

Buried in Apple’s latest range of MacBooks — including the MacBook Pro out earlier this year and the just-announced MacBook Air — is the new T2 security chip, which helps protect the device’s encryption keys, storage, fingerprint data and secure boot features.

Little was known about the chip until today. According to its newest published security guide, the chip comes with a hardware microphone disconnect feature that physically cuts the device’s microphone from the rest of the hardware whenever the lid is closed.

“This disconnect is implemented in hardware alone, and therefore prevents any software, even with root or kernel privileges in macOS, and even the software on the T2 chip, from engaging the microphone when the lid is closed,” said the support guide.

The camera isn’t disconnected, however, because its “field of view is completely obstructed with the lid closed.”

Apple said the new feature adds a “never before seen” level of security for its Macs, without being quite so blunt as to say: Macs get malware too.

The emerging threat of hackers tapping into webcams became a reality years ago when remote administration tools (“RATs”) were used by snoopers to remotely spy on their targets using their in-built laptop camera. That in part led to the emergence of users putting sticky-notes over their webcam lens. It was thought that because Apple’s webcams have a hardware-connected light, making it near-impossible to activate the webcam without a user’s knowledge, Macs were largely immune from webcam snooping attacks. But last year, security researcher Patrick Wardle uncovered the Fruitfly malware that busted this myth wide open.

The paranoia is real. British intelligence agency GCHQ spent years tapping into webcams as part of its “Optic Nerve” program. Even Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg reportedly tapes over his webcam — and his MacBook’s microphone — even though experts say that tape wouldn’t do much to prevent an audio eavesdropper.

Although there are tools like Oversight, an app that Wardle built, that alert a user when their webcam or microphone are activated, there’s little to prevent a sophisticated malware from silently using a MacBook’s microphone to listen to its surroundings.

But cutting off the microphone from a MacBook’s hardware when the lid is shut will make it far more difficult for dormant devices to spy on their owners.

macOS 10.14 Mojave review

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Against my better judgement and repeat warnings from those who knew better, I went ahead and installed Mojave on my work computer the first chance I got. Sure, there were certain standard beta bugs and capability issues that made me regret the decision on occasion, but the only way to sufficiently test a product like this is use it day to day.

I can’t claim to have used every feature with any regularity. But that’s just the nature of an operating system upgrade. There’s a lot of ground to cover, in order to assure the update covers as wide a swath of users as possible. There are international features and updates to Apple’s machine learning offering — things that, in my case, don’t really impact usage.

Even with the broad scope of updates contained herein, however, 10.14 represents what is arguably the most focused macOS release in recent memory. Unlike High Sierra, which felt, in many respects (name included), like a refinement over its predecessor, Mojave finds Apple with specific mission in mind.

The last few years have seen the company hit mounting criticism that it had taken its eye off the ball when it comes to creative professionals — a segment of users long regarded to be the spirital core of its desktop offerings. There was a backlash against Final Cut, when Apple made changes for the sake of simplifying/streamlining, removing the high level of customization videographers had come to rely on.

Last year, meanwhile, Apple presented an uncharacteristically transparent view into the trials and tribulations of the Mac Pro line. “If we’ve had a pause in upgrades and updates,” Phil Schiller said during a roundtable discussion, “we’re sorry for that — what happened with the Mac Pro — and we’re going to come out with something great to replace it.”

Companies like Microsoft have seen opportunity in Apple’s further push into populism, targeting the ever-growing Surface line at those creative Pros. After all, while the category isn’t ultimately a huge one, the videographers, artists, musicians, et al. who use the products are among the most influential when it comes to buying decisions.

But Apple has begun to address these concerns. While the Mac Pro won’t be arriving until next year, it’s made important strides on the hardware front. The iMac Pro, for instance, presents an all-in-one alternative to the modular desktop, while the latest MacBook pros offer up some downright nutty specs on the high-end.

Mojave plays a central role in all of this. Many of the operating system’s marquee features cater to precisely those power users. Dark Mode, Gallery View, file metadata and Stacks are among the top new features here, and each have creative pros firmly in their sights.

I’ll be the first to admit that you’ll need to broaden your definition of “creative professional” pretty damn wide before I start to fit in. When Apple trotted out photogs, producers and interactive artists for a recent event, I’d be lying if I said I felt like I belonged.

That said, I’ve found a place for many of the aforementioned features in my own daily workflow. In the interest of giving the most time to those features I’ve spent the most time with over the course of the last four or so months, let’s start with the Mojave additions I’ve found the most useful.


Every new version of macOS comes with several features that I can easily visualize becoming a part of my daily process. I get excited about the ways in which these additions will help me become faster, more productive, better organize. Invariably, however, they slowly fade into the background. I stop making the effort to engage and ultimately forget they’re even there.

In the case of many of them, I know my own disorganization and idiosyncratic methods are as much to blame as anything. The features are well-intentioned, but workflows are stubborn. And besides, just because you pay for the gym membership doesn’t mean you’re going to keep that New Year’s resolution, right?

Stacks, on the other hand, is straight up useful. As Apple has moved away from the desktop-based folder system, I’ve found my desktop growing more and more messy. It’s become the throw the dirty laundry anywhere approach to computer use. It’s bad and I hate myself for it, but what are you going to do?

Upgrade to Mojave, for one thing. While it’s true the company’s leaning heavily on Dark Mode as the flagship feature, Stacks is quietly the best and most useful addition. If you’ve got a messy desktop, simply Control+click the wallpaper or chose Use Stacks under view in the menu bar. Choosing this will automatically sort files into piles.

By default, the feature groups files by type. From the drop down, you can toggle this to group things by Date Last Opened, Date Modified, Date Added, Date Created or Tags. Clicking the top of the pile expands them out, so you can view everything at once.

Oh, and if you click Use Stacks again, everything will fly back into place, resorting your unruly desktop in the process.

Dark Mode

When Apple announced Mojave back at WWDC, Dark Mode got far and away the biggest response from the crowd. That’s what you get for putting on a show in a room full of developers. Of course, they’re not the only ones who’ve been champing at the bit for the feature. Videographers, photographers — really anyone who spends a lot of time staring at screens in dark rooms will likely appreciate the option.

When the feature is enabled, those applications that support it will default to the mode. The borders and backgrounds turn dark and white text is highlighted on a black background. In my Mojave first look a few months back, I lamented the lack of apps supporting the feature. At the time, Dark Mode was largely the realm of Apple’s own apps. Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and Safari Reader are among them.

Understandably so. Lead by example, I guess. Things have improved a bit since then. According to the site Dark Mode List, which aggregates examples from both macOS and iOS, there are at least 78 applications that currently support the feature .

It’s a start, but there’s still a long ways to go. After all, you lose some of the effect when you switch back and forth between apps that do and don’t offer the setting. For example, while Safari supports it, neither Firefox nor Chrome do. Also, some of Apple’s own, not pre-installed applications don’t support it either, including Pages. That said, the list is understandably pretty heavy on developer tools.

With Mojave launching today, however, I’d anticipate that we’re going to see more companies rolling out the option soon. In the meantime, it’s a handy feature for those who need it and it’s a nice option for the rest of us.

Dynamic Desktop is a fun addition — though there are two options at the moment. there’s the standard Mojave sand dune, and Solar Gradient. Both shift during the day, gradually darkening as the sun starts going down. It’s a nice complement to Dark Mode, and a neat spin on the blue light reducing Night Shift feature that’s been around for a while now. Of course, more wallpaper options would be welcome.


Okay, this is one of those ones I know I’m going to get a lot more use out of than most of you normal folks. Day to day, however, I’d say this is the feature I interact with the most. When you take a screenshot, a small thumbnail pops up in the bottom, right hand corner of the screen, similar to what you get on iOS.

It stays for a few seconds and then quickly slides off screen. It’s a quick and handy way to see if you got the job done. You can also click into the thumbnail to open it up to full size and edit it accordingly. Screenshots can now be saved to a number of different destinations to help avoid messing up your desktop, including Preview, Messages, Mail, Documents and Clipboard.

There’s a new control panel accessible by hitting Shift-Command-5. From here, you can capture the entire screen, capture a window, select a portion of the screen, record a video of the full screen or just record a piece of the screen. I used those last bits with a little less regularity, but all of the above really came in handy when putting together the images for this writeup.

Continuity Camera is a new feature worth mentioning in the same breath. It’s yet another avenue where the company is able to flex its cross-device functionality. The somewhat clunkily named feature is built into updates to first-party apps like Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Notes, Mail, Messages and Text Edit.

Once in the program, click Take Photo and it will utilize a connected iPhone or iPad to capture media. Take the shot, click Use Photo and boom, the image is inserted into the application. It’s a clever feature that works like a charm, though I’ll be honest — I haven’t found a ton of applications for it in my own life. The number of times I’ve been writing something on my laptop I felt would be enhanced by taking a shot of something nearby have been fairly limited, thus far.

That said, I could certainly see using it to scan a document into a PDF being a handy one. I probably could/should have used then when applying for a Chinese visa a few months back. With so many of these new features, however, the trick is making a point to make it a part of your workflow.


Gallery View is a nice tweak on the old Apple Cover flow feature, offering large thumbnails of files, with smaller, scrollable versions down below. Here, however, you get a full, straight on shot of the image. It’s particularly useful when scrolling through a lot of images quickly.

The addition of full metadata is clearly another bit aimed at appealing to professionals. Click a photo and you get a LOT of information in the side pane — more than most users will likely know what to do with. Along with the standard file size and dimensions, Apple now serves up things like camera model, aperture number and other EXIF data.

Quick Actions, meanwhile, brings some iPhone-style editing tools to the bottom of the side pane. From here, you can rotate an image — which is actually pretty helpful in my line of work — or mark it up in a number ways, including highlighting and the adding in a signature, a la Adobe PDF. Apple’s actually made Preview a bit redundant here, by bringing some of its best features directly to the desktop.

iOS apps on desktop

This is arguably the most interesting addition from an overall strategy perspective. Apple made a point of assuring its audience of developers and users that macOS and iOS are not merging, as has long been rumored. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief, before the company showed off one new way in which the lines are being further blurred.

The company is making it easier to convert mobile apps into a desktop versions. Why? For one thing, Apple would love it if more desktop applications were purchased through the Mac App Store — there are plenty of economic, ecosystem and security reasons for this, most of which should be fairly obvious. It’s also in the company’s best interest to have its most popular developers creating content for all of its platforms.

To kick things off, Apple made three of its own first-party apps available in desktop form: Voice Memos, Stocks, Home and News. Of the three, News is the one that’s made its way into my heavy rotation. It seems a bit silly to have a standalone news app, with all of the access desktop browsers afford. But after installing it and walking through the curation process, I’ve grown to appreciate the desktop notifications for breaking news.

Again, there are a thousand other ways to access that information, but News is a handy one-stop shop. That said, I rarely found myself interacting directly with the app. I mostly clicked through interesting notifications as they popped through. Thankfully, they never came through with too much frequency, which would be absolutely maddening.

Voice Memo is an interesting addition, as well. The cloud sharing with iOS devices is the killer app here. You can record something on your iPhone and listen to and edit it on the desktop. The use for desktop recording is a bit less clear. In most cases, it probably makes more sense to pull out your smartphone to record.

The gesture makes it clear that you’re recording the other person, it’s easier to move to device closer to the source of audio, and you don’t have to deal with the sound of your own typing during the recording process.

The desktop versions of iOS apps are also interesting from a UX perspective. Aside from scaling, not all that much appears to be tweaked — and that’s kind of the point. It’s a heck of a lot easier to essentially port something over than it is to rebuild from the ground up. Of course, without a touchscreen Mac, you’re interfacing with the applications through the cursor. In a few of my less proud moments, if found my hand wanting to reach out to tap the screen.

This is particularly the case with Home. The desktop version of Apple’s smart home app retains the square tiles from its predecessors. Still, the inclusion of the app in this original quartet makes sense from a user stand point. It’s handy, having access to all your connected home info in a single place accessible at work or on the road.

Odds and ends

Okay, time to bust out the bullet points.

  • That 32-person FaceTime chat is arriving some time later this fall on macOS. That will be a fun one to test — and I suspect a bit more manageable on a larger screen.
  • Both the Mac App Store and iTunes have gotten makeovers. The updates are in keeping with the company’s push toward editorial curation to help drive engagement. Anything that pays more humans to write about things like music is a good thing, in my book.
  • Your Mac will now ask for consent when apps access your camera or microphone, similar to what the company does on the iPhone. I people won’t be in a rush to remove the masking tape from their webcams, but this is definitely a good thing.
  • Safari’s protections have been beefed up. Passwords are stronger and last year’s cookie-busting Intelligent has been beefed up. Per Apple,

When you browse the web, the characteristics of your device can be used by advertisers to create a “fingerprint” to track you. Safari now thwarts this by only sharing a simplified system profile. And now improved Intelligent Tracking Prevention keeps embedded content such as social media Like buttons, Share buttons, and comment widgets from tracking you without your permission.

Time to upgrade

Is Mojave worth the upgrade? Well, yeah, duh. It’s free and brings a number of interesting new features. I’m not sure I’d call it a “love letter to developers,” to borrow a phrase from our iMac Pro review, but coupled with that new hardware, Apple’s clearly letting creatives know that there’s a place for them in the Mac’s future.

Your mileage will vary, of course, but I’ve found plenty of new features that integrate nicely into my own workflow. Stacks, Dark Mode and improved screenshots have all proven handy in the months I’ve been running the beta on both my work and personal systems. The final version of the operating system drops today for everyone, so you can partake without in all of those with a much more certainty.

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