I realise the reason the Forum probably didn't take off was that it was awful. Well, that has been addressed, a new forum has been set up. It's on my own virtual server, with a secure connection and is run on the Discourse software, meaning everything is as secure as possible. Please either sign up to the forum via The Mac Quad Forum link on the navigation bar on the left of The Mac Quad website or directly at https://themacquadforum.online please come and join in.
I’d like to thank my sponsor for this week, Keyboard Maestro from Stairways Software. Keyboard Maestro is a powerful piece of software that enables you to automate virtually every part of your Mac user experience.
Whether you are a power user or a just starting on your Mac journey, don’t waste your time on tasks that can be accomplished with a few simple keystrokes. Simply use Keyboard Maestro’s easy to learn interface to build a series of triggers and events (Macro) and the most tedious and time consuming of tasks can be done for you. Even the smallest things, like typing your email address, launching applications, or duplicating a line, all take time. Let Keyboard Maestro help make your Mac life more pleasant and efficient.
As well as Keyboard Maestro’s unrivalled automation features there are options that can make life a more comfortable experience for users with access difficulties, such as Clicking the Mouse (Move, click, double click and drag, any button, optionally with modifiers anywhere on the screen or in a window, and more.) and Menus and Buttons (Press a button, select a menu, and now you can show a menu leaving it open for you to select the desired item.) I even use Keyboard Maestro in conjunction with IFTTT to control some of my home automation devices while on my Mac, enabling more independence for a severely disabled user.
Some great features in Keyboard Maestro for everyone are:
- Clipboard History (Keyboard Maestro keeps a complete history of your clipboards, so you’ll never lose your clipboard again. Copy three things, then paste them all into another application.)
- Launch Applications (Launch any application at the touch of a key. Show applications, hide them, force quit them, bring them to the front, all at your command.)
- Text Expansion (Insert any kind of text using a Typed String or Hot Key trigger. Type the text or paste in styled text or images. Expand text to insert your name, address, logo, signature, whatever.)
- File Actions (Move, copy, rename, trash, delete files. Read and write images and styled text in a variety of formats.)
- Manipulate Windows (Resize, reposition, bring to front, close, zoom, minimise and more. Position windows exactly where you want them.)
Please click here for a comprehensive list of Keyboard Maestro features.
I use Keyboard Maestro to make my Mac life a more pleasant and less tedious experience.
Please head over to Keyboard Maestro to find out more.
From my earlier review you will see I was quite impressed with the HomePod but the more I used it the less it seemed like a viable option for my use case of a smart speaker.
The primary issues I found was that audiobooks were not available, not even those purchased through the iTunes store and the only radio station available was Beats1 which while ok to listen to for a little while does not really cover my music tastes. I have a wide range of tastes including Jazz (1940s - Present), Rock (1950s - Present), Metal (1970s - Present), Classical and Folk, very little of this is included on Beats1 and it seems orientated to R&B, Rap and Pop which would be acceptable if the option of other radio stations were available such as Jazz FM, Planet Rock, BBC Stations and Classic FM. I use a smart speaker in my bedroom (being paralysed I use it as a voice controlled entertainment centre) and the lack of these options made made entertainment very limited.
The ability to play podcasts was extremely hit and miss, the HomePod very rarely was able to access the All Unplayed playlist I had set up in the native podcasts application and in order to play a specific podcast the pronunciation and name asked for had to be extremely precise in order for the desired podcast to play.
The inability to adjust the bass/treble proved to be an insurmountable problem. Why do Apple think they have the right to dictate how every piece of audio is delivered? There are several reasons why the ability to adjust the bass/treble (beyond that of pure audio taste) is required. If like myself you want to listen to something at a low level during the night reducing the bass level is a necessity in order to avoid disturbing others in the house, if you live in an apartment heavy bass tends to travel through walls and floors neighbours above and below will probably not appreciate this, many people with hearing problems find bass levels need to be reduced otherwise the audio just seems a muddy mess or even worse becomes very painful and listening to voice requires a totally different level to music. I found the active adjustment that was supposed to be on the HomePod just didn’t work, thus, over time the bass became more and more prominent while no matter how low the volume was Siri’s voice level was extremely loud.
The reviews all stated that the sound quality was outstanding but in my opinion I much prefer the audio produced by Sonos, a system which gives the user the ability to adjust bass/treble levels. All of the above (plus the fact there is no sleep timer on the HomePod) made my decision to sell the HomePod (losing quite a bit of cash) and going back to an Amazon Echo which I can tell to play on my Sonos in my bedroom and therefore have the bast of both worlds, Audiobooks, Kindle Reading, Many Radio Stations etc. and the Sonos sound Quality and adjustability. I also now have a Sonos One in the office which I find much more responsive that the HomePod ever was.
My new setup give the entertainment system that I require, that audio adjustment I require and the other features (sleep timers etc.) that I require. In my view Apple really need to up the game on the HomePod to make it a rival to other smart speakers.
As you probably know if you follow this blog, I am a massive fan of the writing application Ulysses (yes they are a sponsor but I was using it for several years before that). I think every post that has appeared on The Mac Quad has started in Ulysses.
Well, the best has just got better. A major new release hit the usual outlets on 28th May with some great new features. These new features include:
Daily Goals and Deadlines (img.1), users can now specify the number of characters or words they aim to write on a daily basis. A circular symbol visualises the progress in relation to this goal and is reset every morning. Daily goals are not the only upgrade to Ulysses’ existing goal feature. While users were always able to set the desired length or reading time of a text and track their progress towards its achievement, they can now also set a deadline. Ulysses will then calculate the number of words that need to be written per day in order to finish the project in time. I think the deadline feature will be a welcome addition for myself, being the only member of The Mac Quad and The Mac Quadcast team I could occasionally do with somebody else giving me a prod in the right direction.
Coloured Keywords (img.2), keywords can be used to classify and filter texts stored in the Ulysses library — for example, I could assign the keyword “Homepod” to text I've written about Apple’s new device. In the new version, keywords can be assigned a dedicated colour, making them easier to spot and distinguish in the library. The available colour selection covers the seven colours of the spectrum and a light grey.
Revamped Code Blocks With Syntax Highlighting (img.3), for the coders out there. When writing manuals or documentation, technical writers often need to add code examples, and Ulysses has always featured a dedicated code block markup tag. In the new version, the addition and handling of code blocks are greatly improved, and they’re now easier to distinguish in the editor. Also, if a programming language is indicated, code blocks can now display syntax highlighting in the editor and when exported. These can import from, and export to GitHub style fenced code blocks. This is the feature that I possibly may not make use of, my coding attempts floundered back in the days when Basic was modern!
There’s more which you can find out about in the New Features section of the Ulysses website. As I previously said I think the best just got better.
If you have headphones, speakers and internal speakers set up on a Mac and also a headset, microphone, and internal microphone, you’ll want to easily switch between different inputs or outputs. There is a quick way without going to the System Preferences each time.
Hold the Option key and click the volume icon in the menu bar this will show a list of audio inputs and outputs. You can now select what you want.
This enables you to quickly switch between audio inputs and outputs.
Many times the best place to look for something you’ve lost is down the back of the sofa, however, this is not helpful if the item lost is the cursor on you Mac’s screen. A feature that has been available since the release of El Capitan in September 2015 is the ability to make your cursor reveal itself by simply moving your mouse quickly or running your finger rapidly back and forth across the trackpad, this makes the cursor increase in size. Once you’ve located the elusive cursor, stop and it will shrink back to its normal size.
Open System Preferences and select Accessibility.
Once the Accessibility panel is open select Display on the left side and ensure the ‘Shake mouse pointer to locate’ checkbox is ticked (img.1).
A quick way to find mislaid cursors.
Do you wish you could see a different folder to “All My Files” when you open a new Finder window in macOS?
If like myself you prefer to have your Documents (or any other folder) show it is extremely easy to change the default behavior to one that suits your individual requirements.
In the Finder menu (usually showing when you click on your Desktop) select Preferences or you can just hit the key combination Command ⌘ + , which will show the Finder Preferences.
Click on the selection box below “New Finder windows show” and select the folder you would like to display (if your folder is not there click on other and navigate to your desired location) (img.1).
Each new Finder window will now open showing your selected folder.
Since the macOS update to 10.13.4, Apple have been showing alerts when old or un-updated applications are being launched (img.1).
It is to warn that 32-bit applications will not run on any operating system after High Sierra, it was nearly a year ago that application developers were initially told of this, so there has been plenty of time for developers to address this issue. Since January any new applications or application updates submitted to the Mac App Store have been required to be 64-bit.
You can check which applications are 32-bit on your system by going to About This Mac in the Apple Menu and then clicking on System Report. Once this is done in the left column in Software click on Applications. When the results populate there is a 64-bit column in the top panel, I had to increase the size of the window to make this column visible. There will either be a yes or no here.
If there are applications that are not 64-bit they will not run on the next major macOS update (10.14). You may want to contact the developer to see if the application will be updated, find an alternative application or not upgrade to the next major version of macOS, usually released in the autumn.
It’s worth checking and preparing now.
Many users make notes in the native macOS all of the time and would like to keep their most important note at the top of the list. Well there is an extremely easy way to do this.
When in notes find the note you would like at the top of you list (img.1).
Right click on the note you would like at the top of you list and then left click on 'Pin Note' (img2).
Your note will now be pinned to the top of the notes list (img.3).
An easy way to keep you most important note at the top of your list.
Last week saw the release of updates for all of Apple’s platforms including macOS High Sierra 10.13.4, as well as bringing improvements to performance and stability it also added a few new features.
This quick tip will show one of the little features added in this update. If you have several tabs open in Safari, something that happens to me on a regular basis when doing research, it can be a pain to tab across your tabs in order to get to the right most one.
With the release of macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 you can just hit the key combination Command ⌘ + 9 and you will be automatically taken to the right most tab.
A shortcut I will definitely be making use of.
Welcome to a new screencast on The Mac Quad. In this post I will show you how to have iOS auto turn your pages in a book, making it much easier for motor impaired users to read an ebook.
How to auto turn pages in a book on iOS
- Select Settings
- Ensure General is selected the tap Accessibility
- Flick down and tap on Accessibility Shortcut
- Tap on Voice Over
- Go back to main accessibility screen
- Flick up and tap on Voice Over
- Drag Speaking Rate to between one quarter and one third
- Return to Homepage
- Launch iBooks
- Choose book
- Once on the page you wish to start at triple click home button, Voice Over is now activated
- Start continuous reading by doing a two finger swipe down
- Turn iOS volume down to zero
- When Voice Over reaches the end of the page it will turn
- To stop Voice Over and auto page turn triple click home button
- You can return to the homepage as usual
I hope this video has enabled you to get more out of your iOS device and made reading books easier.
It’s been a long time coming but solely going from information on my Sonos system (Two Play:1 Speakers) Audible has finally made a return to Sonos. It has been a service that many users have been crying out for but has been consistently put back by Sonos, audiobooks have been available on Sonos via the Audiobooks.com service, however, this service has a much smaller user base and a severely reduced catalogue compared to Audible.
After adding the Audible service in the usual way on Sonos (on the Mac Controller click ‘Add music service’ then choose Audible and follow the instructions to add your existing account or create a new one) the option of Audible is available in your services list. My Audible service shows accounts for several countries, even though I only have an audible.co.uk account (I don’t know if this is a glitch on launch). Once in your appropriate region all of your audiobook purchases should be available.
I am unable to verify if this service is available to control via Alexa on the Sonos One as I do not have a unit available to test. I would like to test a Sonos One in order to do a comparison with the HomePod but obviously there are financial constraints.
The addition of Audible is extremely welcome to users of the Sonos ecosystem and I know I will be making use of it extensively.
When Apple released Yosemite in October 2014 one of the changes that went virtually unnoticed by casual Mac users was that Safari stopped showing the whole URL in the search/address field. This means instead of Safari showing https://www.themacquad.com/home/2018/2/15/homepod-a-review it only shows themacquad.com this probably not an issue when browsing in Amazon where the URL can be several lines long but if you are in a smaller website you may want to know the complete URL of the article you are reading.
You can click on the search/address field to display the full address but you can also change Safari’s settings so the default is to show the whole URL.
Open Safari’s preferences (Command ,) or preferences from the Safari menu.
Now select the ‘Advanced’ tab (img.1).
Then tick the Show Full Website Address checkbox (img.2).
Safari will now always show the full website address.
A blind draw was made today with all of the entries that I received for the iMazing Giveaway entered,the three winners were:
Congratulations to the three winners, hope you enjoy the software and find it as useful as I do.
Thank you to everyone at DigiDNA (the makers of iMazing) for generously providing the three copies of iMazing and also, thank you to everyone who took the time to enter.
The iMazing Giveaway has now closed
This week I have been very kindly given three Single iMazing 2 Licenses by my friends at DigiDNA to give away. If you have read my post about how to Use iMazing to Check the Health of an iPhone Battery you will be aware of some of the features available in the full version of iMazing but there is so much to this great piece of software.
iMazing 2 is for personal iOS device management, empowering users to simply do more with their Apple devices. It has been downloaded by over 10M users and is the number one software to transfer and save music, messages, and data from any iOS device to a computer. iMazing 2 introduced a safer way to back up, backups are automatically archived, so that digital memories are safe, and browsable in just a few clicks. It works with all iPhone, iPad and iPod models, on both Mac and PC.
- Old iPhone to a new one
It's easy to copy the content of any iPhone or iPad to a new one. Users can choose what data and apps they want to save and transfer.
- Safe backups on any Mac or PC
Any iOS device can be securely backed up via WiFi or USB. Backups can also be browsed and edited before being restored.
- Simple message transfers
Text messages, MMS, iMessages and attachments can be safely stored on any computer. Conversations can then be browsed and printed.
- Easy access to music, photos and videos
Media files can be moved between any iPhone or iPad and a computer. Favourite pictures, homemade videos and music can be saved and shared, without using iCloud or iTunes.
- Full iOS 10 and 11 support
- A time machine for iPhone
- Battery health check
- Photos to Device
- Console and Logs
- Manage iBooks
- Install iOS
- Automatic Wi-Fi Backups
- Download and Manage Apps
As stated above I have three Single iMazing 2 Licenses to give away each of which is worth £34.99 and gives access to a License for 1 computer (Mac or PC), All iMazing 2.x updates and 24/7 support.
All you need to do to enter for a chance to win one of these licenses is to use the link below to send me an email with iMazing Giveaway in the Subject Line, please only one entry per person.
The iMazing Giveaway has now closed
I will conduct a blind draw to determine the three winners.
All entries must be in by 09.00 GMT on Thursday 8th March 2018. Winners will be posted on the website over the weekend of 10th & 11th March, I will also contact the three winners by email over the same weekend.
Thank you to everyone at iMazing by DigiDNA for their generosity in providing these codes. If you are not lucky enough to win please visit the iMazing website and see what this great piece of software can offer you.
The Mac Quad
In an alleged move to make their user experience ‘consistent’ across all platforms Twitter have announced that as of 16th February the Mac app will no longer be available for download and not be supported at all 30 days hence (see img.1 for tweet).
Will this move happen across all platforms? In my view, of course it won’t, I feel it is entirely a move to force Mac users to transfer to Twitter’s web portal and save on investment in an operating system and community that has been vocal over the lack of action by the company regarding abuse towards many sections of the Twitter population. If Twitter were to have announced the removal of the Windows app at the same time the explanation may have been more credible.
I was always a fan of Twitter over Facebook for personal use and any projects I was promoting but with the levels of abuse rising, the unwillingness to open their newer features to third party apps (which despite this restriction are immensely better than the native app or the web portal) and now support for the Mac being eroded, it may be time to look for an alternative (maybe Micro.blog). The issue that arrises here is that one of the alternative services must become embedded in the general public’s consciousness before a wide audience can be reached, a thing Twitter has already accomplished and which, therefore, adds more complexity to completely discarding it.
The other worry with this move is how much further into the future will Twitter allow third party apps to have access, however, are there many non tech geeks realise there are apps such as Twitterrific or Tweetbot out there or are willing to pay for a Twitter client.
At the moment I would recommend to those who use a Mac and dislike the web portal to spend a little cash on either Twitterrific or Tweetbot and look at other social networking options, hopefully one of these will become a credible alternative.
I purchased my HomePod from one of our local Apple Retail Stores on Monday (12th February) only three days after launch and for the first time, in my experience, the Apple Store was nearly empty and on asking if the Space Grey HomePod was in stock the answer was “yes plenty”. Is it a surprise that this product has not captured the public’s imagination like the iPhone, iPad or even the Apple TV? Probably not, firstly, Smart Speakers are still very much in their infancy (even the Amazon Echo has only been available in the UK for about two years) tech geeks are excited about these products and their evolution but until home automation is embraced by tech muggles these items will live on the periphery of home consumer electronics. Secondly, high quality audio is niche market, much of the buying public will throw down £50.00 - £80.00 for an Amazon Echo or Dot and not notice the woeful sound quality but not consider, or not be able to consider, a £319.00 HomePod with superior sound quality, superior build, superior R&D but a few less features (at the moment).
What can the early adopters expect, apart from a much thinner wallet? Unboxing, like most Apple products, displays minimal packaging and instructions, however, the initial set up is so simple that instructions are irrelevant. Set up is initiated by plugging the power into HomePod then placing your iPhone near it (img.1), after a brief walkthrough on the iPhone the HomePod is ready to go. After this the Home app on the iPhone is used for some advanced settings and updates.
The HomePod is supposed to sample the audio properties of the room it is in within seconds (img.2), I found it took several tracks in a couple of different genres in order to settle the bass down. Once the bass had settled down (it was a little distorted to begin with) the sound was outstanding, bass was strong but not overpowering, vocals were right at the front and virtually all of the levels were excellent, the only small thing, which is a matter of personal taste, is that I would have liked a little more treble, there is no ability to alter the bass or treble. To compare the audio quality with the Amazon Echo is ridiculous, the HomePod is way out of that league, however, the Sonos system is a much closer comparison. In my view, Sonos has the advantage of adjustable bass and treble and the ability to create a Stereo Pair (a feature HomePod can expect sometime this year) but the HomePod has a slightly better warmer sound while also bringing the vocals to the front a little better than Sonos. Due to the size constraints and configuration of the speakers neither of these Smart Speakers can outperform my dedicated Onkyo system with CD and Turntable.
Controlling music is extremely easy, providing you have a subscription to Apple Music, I have asked Siri for several artists, genres and albums without any issues. Voice volume control is far more granular than other Smart Speakers I have used, you are able to select any volume between 0% - 100%, the highest I have used so far is 50% but the unit is in quite a small room.
Podcasts work perfectly, I have asked for a number of different podcasts each of which were found immediately. The speech is clear and I felt no desire to have any of the audio levels different. At launch HomePod does not seem to have support for any audiobooks, not even those purchased in the iTunes Store, I’m really hoping this functionality will be added very soon as I feel audiobooks are an integral feature of a Smart Speaker. Radio is extremely limited at launch, only Beats1 is available for streaming, but as the BBC is used for news and sport updates I’m hoping radio integration with at least BBC stations will come soon. The ability to stream from an iOS device to the HomePod using Airplay (Airplay 2 is another feature that is promised for later in the year) partly negates the lack of Audiobook and Radio integration but it would be great to have these controllable via Siri on the HomePod.
I have not set up any home automation yet, however, I do have an Eve Smart Plug which I will be trying soon. A major automation feature that has been ignored is a sleep timer, many people (myself included) use this type of product to go sleep with music in the background and a sleep timer is a vital feature that has been omitted.
A voice feature which is very welcome is the ability to send a text message. Integration with your iCloud account means Siri can access the contacts there and message them, this I have tried and was successful. Siri also has the ability to read back incoming messages to you.
I feel that the HomePod is a superior sounding Smart Speaker which has several vital features missing at launch. If the ability to control and play audiobooks, more radio stations and a sleep timer are added soon, this product will be a major contender in the Smart Speaker market and may not need third party apps and integration to make it a success. At the moment it is is a worthy addition to any home that is immersed in the Apple Ecosystem and wants high quality audio. Is it worth £319.00, in my view yes.
The new Apple TV Remote Control has many detractors but there are some great features built in. However, these features can be difficult to discover, so here’s 10 tips for using the Apple TV Remote Control.
- To activate Siri press and hold the Siri button this will initiate the Siri voice control.
- Press and hold the Menu button to go directly to the Home screen from anywhere.
- Press the Menu button once when in an app to go back to the previous screen.
- Press and hold the TV (Home) button to go to the Sleep screen.
- Press the TV (Home) button once to go to the TV app from anywhere. (assuming the TV app is available in your region)
- Double press the TV (Home) button to see your recently used apps and to switch between them.
- When entering text, press the Play/Pause button to switch between upper and lowercase text.
- To quickly access the music app, press and hold the Play/Pause button when music is playing, this will take you directly to the Music app.
- To quickly restart the Apple TV in order to resolve problems, press and hold the Home and Menu button at the same time and this will restart your Apple TV.
- To check how much remaining charge your remote has, navigate through Settings > Remotes & Devices > Bluetooth. This will show a display of how much battery is left in your remote.
10 easy tips for using the Apple TV Remote.
Apple released an iOS patch (11.2.2) last week.
This patch reduces the risk associated with the Spectre chip vulnerability. It will make your iOS device more secure but will not completely eradicate the issue (this can probably never be completely dealt with via a software fix as the vulnerability is within the chip itself)
Apple has said there maybe a small impact on the performance of the iPhone by installing the 11.2.2 update but tests have shown it may be as little as 2.5 %, in my view, a hit worth taking for increased security.
Macworld has an article about the performance hit which can be viewed here.
I would advise installing this update as soon as possible, better to be safe than sorry.
This is a follow up to the post of 9th January about automatically hiding and showing the menu bar, you can also automatically hide and show the dock, I find this really helpful while playing games in windowed mode.
Select System Preferences (img.1).
Choose the Dock icon in the top row of the window (img.2).
Now tick the, Automatically hide and show the Dock, checkbox (img.3)
When you tick this box, the dock will reappear as you move your cursor towards the bottom of the screen, allowing you to get at all your dock actions while keeping your screen uncluttered.