Things I want Apple to adopt rather sooner than later

If you use Apple products, you eventually get annoyed at some of the decisions that were made, or you start wondering why this feature has not been included yet. This is true for any kind of technology, but with Apple the feeling is just more intense, more vocal.

Hence this tiny list of things I want Apple to do, change, implement, or just simply fix.

1. Two-factor authentication

In the case of a stolen or hacked account password, two-factor authentication — or 2FA — is a way to prevent the bad guys to access that account. Basically, 2FA adds a layer of security on top of the login + password combination. Sometimes it is a simple code received via SMS (not secure, to avoid), but the easiest and best way has to be one-time passwordsOTP, usually generated by authenticator apps.

Apple’s own 2FA system — which is very easy to use by the way — uses OTP but only works with Apple ID. Since Apple’s own password manager — Keychain — doesn’t offer any kind of 2FA, you have to use a third-party app to generate OTPs for the accounts offering proper 2FA. I don’t mind at all using 1Password,1 as you already know, but I wish all Apple users had access to this level of security natively through Keychain.

2. Cables

By embracing USB-C for MacBooks, Apple abandoned MagSafe. The magnetic connector was without a question a fantastic innovation. It was easily detachable — saving many laptops from crashing on the floor — and the LED indicator was absolutely perfect. You could just look from across the room and check if your laptop was still charging. If the outlet you were using had no juice, you knew instantly, without having to open and power-up your laptop, also avoiding leaving your laptop plugged thinking it is charging when it is actually not.

What is lost in the ease of plugging and unplugging is more than compensated by the ubiquity of USB type C, but I still miss the LED indicator. What I do understand though is why Apple did not use this opportunity to change the cable material. I don’t know who likes this white rubbery material, but I find it outdated, not durable, and it seems to pick up way too much dust. Apple certainly can do better in this department, they proved it by including a very nice braided cable in the Mac Pro box.

3. Subscriptions

This is an easy one: I am happy to pay for Apple TV+,2 Apple Arcade, Apple Music, and iCloud storage, I really am. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a single invoice every month, instead of three, four, five? Maybe each of these services can be considered as an option within the same Apple subscription? This would be so much easier, and it would make a lot more sense.

Also, if someone pays for every service there is, a cheaper services bundle doesn’t seem like a crazy idea, does it?

My wish list of course doesn’t end here, but I feel like my other demands are not as important or as meaningful as the ones listed here, so I will just list them quickly:

  • Please Apple, stop using Yelp for information on venues in Apple Maps.
  • If someone pays the price for a ceramic or titanium Apple Watch, I believe it would be very nice if it was possible to upgrade the computer (and the battery) inside, and keep using the case. Maybe Apple already buys back the previous generation of watch for a fair price, but it would be cool.
  • Safari’s Reading List deserves an optional shortcut on the homescreen.
  • This one is driving me nuts: It has been months and maybe years now that Techmeme for instance is displayed Techmem” and the final e” is centered on the next line on my Favourites pop-up window, as you can see here. This is stupid and ugly and very un-Apple.

As usual, thanks for reading, and please let me know about your main Apple complaints by sending me a message on Twitter or via email.

UPDATE: A reader sent me an email with a link to this recent article on Gizmodo that I completely missed. It mentions the rumours that a 2FA feature for Keychain — like the one I describe — is coming to iOS 14. Thanks for the tip John!

  1. I believe 1Password’s way of copying-pasting the OTPs automatically is genius.

  2. Well, even if I won’t pay until October 2020.

The Onion on Zoom

Since the news broke about Zoom and all its privacy-related scandals, it was just a question of days before The Onion decides to hit. After a gentle first piece, they went all in, and it was worth all the wait:

Settling in for another day at the helm of his booming telecommunication empire, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan reportedly reclined in his chair Thursday to watch the massive wall of screens in his office that continuously displays 10 million live video feeds from his company’s platform.

On that gentle piece from last week, part of the Opinion section, where fake people quotes are associated with real news:

I expected so much more from this service I hadn’t heard of until three weeks ago.”

The Onion is not only my favourite satirical news site, it is my favourite site on the internet.

Why it makes sense for news orgs to remove their paywalls during the coronavirus crisis

Poynter’s Howard Saltz has a very interesting take on news organisations removing their paywalls during the coronavirus crisis:

The newspaper industry seems to think that public service can’t coexist with revenue. That’s a mistake — at a time when the beleaguered industry can’t afford to make one. We do provide an important public service, but why can’t a public service business be, well, in business?

Food is essential, but grocery stores aren’t giving it away.

Clothing? Not free. Not even at Goodwill.

Police are being paid during the crisis. So are garbage collectors. There are no freebies at the pharmacy.

These are all essential to the community at a time of crisis, yet no one expects these goods and services to be free. What are newspapers afraid of? Our products have value. People pay for things of value.

I think this is an excellent article by Howard Saltz. The headline gets your attention, and Saltz makes a lot of good points. At the end of every paragraph I nodded in agreement, thinking that’s right, I did not think of this.”

But one thing is — I think — missing in the article: context.

Sure the COVID-19 crisis is mentioned, but what does it really mean for news organisations? My guess: it means a ton of extra traffic. These days, people check the news way more often than usual, and a lot of people are checking the news when they usually don’t.

To use Saltz’s analogy where news orgs are food stores, imagine there are ten times more people in the streets than on a regular day (I don’t thing there is ten times more traffic, but this is for dramatic effect). Now imagine you are a news org and all your direct competitors are suddenly giving some of their food for free: where do you think all the extra traffic will go? Your regulars and loyal customers will still be coming to your store, but even if only one percent of these extra visitors end up becoming regulars at the other stores, that is a missed opportunity for you.

News orgs may not be able to afford putting down their paywall for weeks, but they must think that they also cannot afford to miss a potential opportunity of that scale. Or so they might think.

Another point to consider: branding.

I’m sure Saltz knows a lot about branding, but I suspect he decided not to mention it to make his point stronger and to simplify. So when he asks So why are we making our journalism free?” I think the answer is in the title: Removing paywalls on coronavirus coverage is noble.” Being noble can be good for your brand.

Let’s use the store analogy again. In your neighbourhood, there are two kinds of food stores: the free ones,” where store owners make money with ads, and the premium stores,” where the owners make money by selling their products directly. Now imagine there is a crisis such as the coronavirus crisis in your neighbourhood. Imagine that suddenly, most of the premium stores” — your direct competitors — start giving products for free to help people, to show solidarity in some way; in short: to be noble. Do you really want to be the guy who doesn’t help like the others? Your regulars may even be disappointed in you and switch their loyalty to the good guy” at the other end of the street.

The sudden desire to have a public service role may not come from being noble. The need of being seen as a mobilised and involved brand may have played its part here. Being noble is not only a goal, it is also a mean: a mean to be liked.

Many companies are doing something to fight the spread of the virus. Whether it helps or not isn’t what matters for brands. What matters is how people will remember them. What matters is how people will react is they don’t do anything.

News orgs can’t afford to buy millions of masks. News orgs can’t manage to deliver thousands of breathing aid devices. So what do they do? What can they do? They remove their paywall for a while: a public service gesture that allows them to both look good and potentially increase their traffic at the same time. And if that does actually help, well that doesn’t hurt: it is a noble gesture after all.

In the end, removing the paywall may very well be a mistake like Saltz explains very well, but keeping it may end up being a bigger mistake in the end. It seems most news orgs have already made their choice (and also maybe just honestly want to help, without thinking too much about the consequences).

The challenges of translating a video game into 17 languages

Andrew Webster, writing at The Verge about the process of translating the Apple Arcade video game Tangle Tower into 17 languages: Apple requires Arcade titles to be available in at least 14 languages. Webster shares great insights on the story behind this huge amount of work:

The process of localizing for so many languages isn’t necessarily a big deal for games that have minimal text, like a simple puzzle game, but it turned out to be a huge undertaking for the two-person team behind the charming detective game Tangle Tower. The game, developed by a four-person team led by brothers Tom and Adam Vian, has more than 40,000 words of in-game text, from character descriptions to the copious dialogue. The brothers had originally planned to localize the game into only a handful of languages — including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Japanese — but, due to Apple’s requirements, Tangle Tower ended up launching in 17 languages.

Very interesting, insightful article about my favourite Apple Arcade game to date and about the overall translation process.

The two or three hours I spent playing Tangle Tower were fantastic entertainment: funny, beautiful story, smart, and extremely well produced. The soundtrack was very good too.

I’ve been a subscriber of Apple Arcade since the launch, even if I only play on average one hour per week. But I have to say, Arcade might be the most underrated Apple success from the last couple of months, at least in terms of quality. The games I played were all excellent: Pilgrims, Stela, LEGO Builder’s Journey, INMOST, and of course, Tangle Tower. Considering that the subscription costs only 5 euros per month, it is certainly one hell of a bargain.

If coronavirus was covered the same way American media covered Ebola

Jina Moore on The Elephant got the wonderful idea to describe the current coronavirus outbreak in the US, as a pastiche of the way American and Western media had covered the latest Ebola virus major outbreak in West Africa. Short extract below, but you should definitely go read the whole thing:

Though the country has not experienced violent conflict recently, the United States is wrought with long-standing political divisions between its urban and rural tribes, which have repeatedly renounced efforts to find common ground.

It’s almost as if they are opposed to the common good on principle”, said Tesfaye Haile, who spent eight years as Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. This kind of division and the institutional inertia it creates is simply the way of life there”.

Absolutely brilliant, funny and sadly, very much on-point. Best read of the week, by far. The correction at the end of the article is the cherry on the cake.

What’s on my Mac — 2020 edition

Since we are currently all spending a lot of time home, in front of our computers, I figured I should share at some point what are the apps I use on my own computer. Catching up on my reading list today — something the confinement should help me with — I found Carl MH Barenbrug’s blog post, describing his Workspace Setup, along with a picture of his beautiful minimal desk. In it, he writes:

For my desktop, it’s as clean as you can get. I actually use the dynamic gradient wallpaper that comes with macOS Catalina, which I think is really soothing on the eyes. My app dock is always hidden by default and only pops up on mouse hover. This not only helps me focus on the app in use, limiting distraction, but it also allows me to appreciate the desktop artwork so much more. The only files that visit the virtual desk are screenshots. And even then, I remove them immediately after they’ve served their purpose.

I shared this part of the post because I do the exact same: from the hidden dock to the dynamic wallpaper. I too use Solar gradients” and indeed it is quite nice. My desktop is also very clean: I only use it as a temporary location for files before they either get deleted, or moved to a folder; just like on an actual desktop.

Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thoughts about the apps I have installed on my Mac since I will get a new one in a few days. I’ve heard very good things about Migration Assistant, but since I only have seven apps on top of the default MacOS programs1 — and also because I love doing it — I will set up my new MacBook Air from scratch.

This is what I plan to install on it:

  1. 1Password: I simply could not do anything without it. Well, I have most of my passwords saved in Keychain too, but all my two-factor authentication codes are on 1Password, so this is not only a must-have app, it is also the first app I install on every new device.
  2. Tweetbot: The more you use Tweetbot, the less appealing the Twitter website experience becomes. It is fast, works very well, doesn’t display any ad and only shows the trending topics if you go look for them.
  3. Pastebot: From the same company that makes Tweetbot (Tapbots), this time a clipboard manager. It has various advanced functionalities but I use none of them: I just use it to access my previous 100 clippings, and I can access them simply by typing cmd alt V. Windows 10 have this kind of clipboard as a native feature, and I wish MacOS eventually gets it too: it is more useful that I imagined.
  4. DuckDuckGo Essentials: OK so technically not an app, but a Safari extension that not only blocks a lot of trackers, but it makes the browsing experience faster and better. I whitelisted a lot of sites I like and trust, and the extension also gives a score to the websites you visit: I get a B+!
  5. Drafts: No need to go too much into details here, I already explained in length why I use this app for writing. Short version: this is the perfect app for me.
  6. NetNewsWire: The only app in the list that is not available on the Mac App Store. It is a great RSS reader, and it recently got out of beta. If you use RSS, why don’t you give it a try? It is free and supports the open web.
  7. Dropbox: The newest app on this list. Last year I moved all my files to iCloud and even deleted my Dropbox account: I did not have a use for it anymore. I recently added it back to publish blog post on The Jolly Teapot using Blot. Dropbox is exclusively used for my website, and I disabled the Finder integration.

A few things I can add on top of this list: I am a big users of Hot Corners2, I recently made the most useful MacOS script work, I always hide the clock on the menu bar because I find it distracting, and I have never ever used the notifications / today panel. I may try to learn a little bit of Final Cut Pro since there is an [extended trial available][18] during the confinement, but this is pretty much it.

Oh, and you can see what my desktop looks like here.

Let me know on Twitter or via email what are the apps you have on your Mac and what makes your set-up really yours. Thanks for reading.

  1. I always give native / preinstalled apps a better chance, and in the case of Apple, they usually stick: the new Reminder is very very good, Mail has been more than decent, Notes works really well and iCloud Drive, Photos, and of course Safari have all been pretty much perfect for me.

  2. When I use someone else’s computer and I need to launch an app, I automatically move the mouse pointer to the bottom left corner of the screen to activate the Launcher: more than 10 years of muscle memory right there.

The iPad turns ten

Ten years ago today, the first iPad went on sales. Chris de Jabet remembers that day very well, and tells his iPad story on Full City Press, ending his piece talking about where the iPad fits in his digital life:

Every day I use my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air in a harmonious dance of devices. My iPhone is primarily my camera and communicator. My MacBook is my workhorse, getting work done quickly with decades of familiarity. My iPad, however, is the device I enjoy the most.

The reason I enjoy my iPad the most is its versatility. The battery lasts forever. It is thin and light. When I want to use it, it is ready to go instantly. I can write, draw, cut together a podcast, browse the web, slice through my inbox like a champ, and when I want to kick back and read for a while I can strip off the keyboard and recline in a chair, holding the iPad like a magazine. Honestly, I can even do most of my job from it these days if I want to.

You should definitely read Chris’s full piece on the iPad, it is very insightful and also exactly how I think I would feel about the device. I’ve been wanting an iPad for 10 years for the same reasons that make him love the device.

Before buying the newest MacBook Air, I seriously considered getting an iPad as my main computer, in the form of the newest iPad Pro. But fourteen years of familiarity with MacOS, the fact that my wife just got an iPad Air, and that new keyboard, eventually convinced me to get the Air, even if this new trackpad thing got me both very curious and very optimistic about the future of iPad.

In March 2012, Apple unveiled what was then called the new iPad” which was replacing the iPad 2. At the time, I had a column at the French Huffington Post, and I wrote about it and about the future of computing, the post-PC” era as Apple enjoyed repeating during the keynote. Almost eight years later, I am quite happy with what I wrote back then (you can find the Google Translation here, the same translation is edited for the quote below):

Apple reigns alone for now in a post-PC world, where the iPad is gradually replacing the laptop for 75% of use cases and for more and more users. Not bad for a product which did not exist two years ago and which continues to get better faster than all its competitors, tablets, but also the brand’s own laptops.

I certainly believe that this is still true today. The iPad was the future in 2010, it was even more the future in 2012, and it seems Apple is now completely ready for that future. A future where the iPad is not called a tablet, but a personal computer. Finally, a true PC.

Freshly brewed links, served by Nicolas Magand © 2013-2020