Using Loopback to Play Audio Through a Pair of Studio Displays

I recently sold my Pro Display XDR and moved to a pair of Studio Displays.

The Studio Display is pretty great, especially with the optional height-adjustable stand. I didn’t use any of the high-end features of the XDR, and after just a few weeks, I’ve fallen in love with this setup, minus some cables that still need tidying:

My desk

As the Studio Display comes with a better-than-expected set of internal speakers, this has marked the retirement of the pair of SoundSticks that I’ve been using as my speakers basically forever. As one of them had hot glue holding it together, it felt like it was time.

You know what’s better than one set of Studio Display speakers, though? Having two sets play at the same time. Yesterday, I was wondering how to do this, and then it hit me:


The full extent of what this application can do is far beyond the scope of this blog post, but in just a few minutes, I had all system audio passing through Loopback to both Studio Displays:

Loopback Screenshot

In this setup, the same audio is piped to both displays, so audio on the left channel plays through the left speaker on both displays. This means that the two speakers are playing the exact same thing.

As I sit in front of one display, with the other to my left, this works best for me. However, if I wanted the left display to play just the left channel, and the right one to play just the right, then Loopback would look like this:

Loopback Screenshot

One side effect of this is that a pair of Studio Displays is way louder than one Studio Display. Thankfully, Loopback makes it easy bump down the maximum volume on a per-device basis. Knocking them back to 65% each is working well for me.

Loopback Screenshot

This sort of thing is what makes being a macOS user so much fun.

My Evolving Setup

Last week, I was putting things together for an upcoming episode of Mac Power Users1 and came across a few old posts in which I shared my Apple setups. I thought it would be fun to put them all in one place:

  • October 2009: This was my desk in the first apartment my wife and I lived in after getting married. It was about a year after I started this blog and our oldest son was 11 months old. Now he’s 14.
  • September 2010: That was a very good iPad wallpaper.
  • December 2011: I believe this was my first home screen post over on David Sparks’ site. The images seem lost to time.
  • October 2012: I have no idea why I didn’t take any photos for this one. One star.
  • March 2014: The desk featured in this article was at the last company I worked for. We would launch Relay FM about six months later.
  • September 2014: Sparks’ site does have these images! I look so young.
  • September 2015: After I quit my job to go indie, I split my time between a home office (shown below) and this space, which I rented with my brother’s non-profit.
  • August 2016: This setup was outlined right before I moved into my current studio. This desk was shoved into what was a spare bedroom in our house that is now home to our youngest son.
  • September 2018: I was really excited about this one and I love that photo.
  • March 2020: It’s amazing how little my homescreen has changed over the last three years.

If you want a much more updated accounting of things, check out my Gear & Studio page.

  1. It will be published on Sunday, January 8. 

Another Year in the Books

It’s hard to believe it is January again. The new year means I get to put another bundle of used Field Notes on my shelf:

A collection of Field Notes

Long time readers — and viewers — will know that I’ve done this for over a decade, but I carry a notebook with me just about all the time. Their contents range widely and I can’t imagine life without them.

Flipping through my 2022 notebooks, I spotted everything from Podcastathon planning and meeting notes to questions for my therapist and grocery lists. When one gets filled up, I scan it, toss the PDF on Dropbox and put the notebook on the shelf.

Mac Power Users #673: Apple’s New Freeform App →

It’s a big start to the new year on Mac Power Users:

It’s not every day that Apple releases a new productivity app, but with iOS 16.2 and macOS Ventura 13.1, the company launched Freeform, an infinite canvas app for sketching, organizing and sharing information. David and Stephen have been using it extensively and break it all down this week.

We did all of out show prep in Freeform itself:

MPU 673 Notes in Freeform

There are some very 1.0-feeling things in Freeform, but overall, it’s already a great tool and if Apple doesn’t let it wither on the vine, I think it has a bright future.

Apple Guiding Dark Sky Users to Apple Weather →

Apple Support:

Dark Sky’s features have been integrated into Apple Weather. Apple Weather offers hyperlocal forecasts for your current location, including next-hour precipitation, hourly forecasts for the next 10 days, high-resolution radar, and notifications.

Apple Weather is available on devices running iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS 13 Ventura. If you’re new to Apple Weather, here are some tips to get started.

What’s Left in the Apple Silicon Transition

Over at MacRumors, Hartley Charlton pointed out something that hadn’t crossed my mind:

Historically, Apple released at least one new Mac model every year in the fourth quarter that runs between October and December, starting in 2001 with the launch of the iBook G3. This means that there has been a new Mac toward the end of the year for the entire lifespan of product lines including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The last Mac that Apple released is the M2 MacBook Air, which launched on July 15. Depending on how long Apple waits to launch its next Mac, the time following the launch of the MacBook Air could be among the longest periods with no new Mac models at all.

When announced back in June 2020, the transition was promised to take two years. Whether you started counting at WWDC 2020, or when the M1 was unveiled in November, Apple has missed its deadline.

There are several reasons for this, ranging from the loss of key individuals on the Apple silicon team to the on-going global supply chain and economic uncertainty. While many of us know that the Mac keeps going forever, it’s clear that something has made the transition from Intel to Apple silicon take more time than planned.1

Given that we now live in this Already-But-Not-Yet Phase, let’s think about what could be left on Johny Srouji’s “Transition” list in Reminders:

Order 66 Those Intel Macs

Here at the end of 2022, there are two Intel Macs still for sale that need to be murdered in cold blood taken care of:

Apple doesn’t want to be selling Intel Macs anymore. The more time goes on, the longer Apple is going to have to support Intel machines with new versions of macOS and its other applications.2

The Mac Pro

2019 Mac Pro

In its transition to Intel, Apple replaced the iMac G5 and PowerBook G4 first, with the Intel iMac and the initial MacBook Pro. They were both announced in January 2006, with the Intel Xserve and the Mac Pro bringing up the rear in August of that year.

We’ll circle back to the Mac mini, but assuming that is sorted out quickly, the Mac Pro will once again be the final Mac to cross into this new era. This isn’t too surprising, as it just makes sense to start with the more mainline product lines and eventually making it to the more obscure models. Unique to our current transition, Apple is working up to whatever will power the new Mac Pro. Back in the day, the Xeon wasn’t new to Intel.

As long as there has been a Mac Pro, there has been handwringing about the next Mac Pro, and today is no different. As recent as a couple of weeks ago, Mark Gurman reported that work on a custom high-end “M2 Extreme” chip had been called off.

Regardless of what SoC Apple uses in the new Mac Pro, there are many unanswered questions about how Apple silicon will scale up to the Mac Pro.3 The biggest is what comes of the Mac Pro’s many PCI ports and the MPX Modules that debuted in the 2019 model.

From the first A4 to the M2 Ultra, Apple’s SoCs use GPUs integrated in the package itself, to impressive results so far. However, there are users — from gamers to artists to scientists to Siracusas — who want or need more than what any on-die graphics hardware can do. Is Apple willing to spend the engineering effort to extend what its chips can do for one low-volume machine? The 2019 Mac Pro says yes, but it’s a different ballgame now.

Beyond GPUs, PCI slots are great for expanding I/O, increasing internal storage and more. I am assuming the new Mac Pro will retain some number of PCI slots and I’m hopeful that those slots will support at least a selection of third-party GPUs.

Unveil the Timeline

We are still too early into the Apple silicon transition to really understand how often Macs are likely to get updated. So far, we have only seen two computers receive updates — the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with … checks notes … Touch Bar. The M1 Mac mini was introduced at the same time as those two machines but was not bumped to the M2 at WWDC 2022 like its siblings.

The M1 iMac’s two-year anniversary will arrive in April 2023, with the 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros’ following in October. Will Apple take a full two years to update these machines to the M2, if it does at all?

I assume Apple thought they’d be further along by now, but once the COVID dust settles, I hope that the company finds a regular pace for updates that it can keep up in the long run.

Make it the Mac many

As mentioned above, the Mac mini is having a hard time. The 2020 M1 machine starts at $699, but can’t escape the literal shadow of the 2018 Intel model, which offers a much higher RAM limit and is still attractive to a small set of customers.

Theoretical Mac mini family

I don’t know why the Mac mini didn’t get the M2, but my suspicion is that Apple is planning two Mac minis that would launch simultaneously — a standard model with the same M2 as in my MacBook Air, and a higher-end model powered by the M2 Pro. I find it very interesting that the M1 Pro didn’t end up in anything other than the two larger MacBook Pros. I can’t help but think that fact is one side of a coin, with the Intel Mac mini on the other.

Chart a Course for the Future

Despite these hiccups, the transition to Apple silicon has been remarkably smooth. Apple is probably the best company on the planet when it comes to being willing and able to pull off large-scale technical shifts in existing product lines. Even if it is taking longer than initially promised, the results of this work already speak for themselves. The Apple silicon machines are a huge hit and have breathed new life into the Mac line. I think the delays we currently see will be forgotten soon enough.4

  1. Whereas the transition from PowerPC to Intel took less time than planned. 
  2. This of course raises the question of how long Apple may support Intel Macs once they have stopped shipping. In June 2009, Snow Leopard was announced to be the first release of Mac OS X not to support PowerPC machines, a mere thee years since the transition wrapped up in August 2006. 
  3. If the M2 Extreme is indeed DOA, some of those questions are answered in the Mac Studio’s M1 Ultra chipset, I suppose. 
  4. I couldn’t find a place for it, but I’d like to see the return of the larger iMac, too. But that’s not quite a requirement to complete the transition to Apple silicon. 

iPod Socks Wallpaper →

Basic Apple Guy:

Confession: I have a disproportionate, bordering on irrational, adoration for iPod Socks! I couldn’t really explain to you why. Maybe the iPod Socks got wrapped up in the halo of the early days of owning my first iPod, with all the nostalgia and delight of discovering & enjoying new music while having all my favourite tracks all on one beautiful device. Or maybe they’re just cute, and I’m obsessively weird about it. Who knows? There are loads of cute things in the world, but few are on par with iPod socks.

I totally get that, and these wallpapers are a lot of fun.

1Password for Families PSA →

Did you know that 1Password Business comes with free 1Password Family memberships for employees? This came up in the Discord for Relay FM Members today:

When you’re part of a team that uses 1Password Business, you get a complimentary 1Password Families membership, which you can share with up to 5 family members.

To redeem your free membership, link your family account to your business account. Only your subscription status will be linked. No other information is shared.

I had forgotten about this, so logged in to see what I needed to do to take advantage of this feature:

To apply your free membership to an existing account, click “Apply to existing account”. Then sign in to your family account and click Apply. If you sign in to an individual account, you’ll be asked if you want to convert it to a family account.

It took me about three seconds to link my existing Family plan to Relay FM’s business account.

PCalc Turns 30 →

James Thomson:

This is an updated version of a piece I wrote for the 20th anniversary, with an extra ten years of history!

Many people using PCalc on their shiny devices today don’t realise that the app has been around for a lot longer than they think. In some cases, a lot longer than they’ve been thinking.

PCalc is twenty thirty years old on the 23rd of December 2022, so I thought I should take the opportunity to look back at how it has evolved over the last two three decades.

To celebrate, PCalc is currently 30% off, but make yourself a reminder to buy it tomorrow at full price when the sale is over.

Goodnight, Insight →


NASA’s InSight mission has ended after more than four years of collecting unique science on Mars.

Mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California were unable to contact the lander after two consecutive attempts, leading them to conclude the spacecraft’s solar-powered batteries have run out of energy – a state engineers refer to as “dead bus.”

NASA had previously decided to declare the mission over if the lander missed two communication attempts. The agency will continue to listen for a signal from the lander, just in case, but hearing from it at this point is considered unlikely. The last time InSight communicated with Earth was Dec. 15.

Space Explored has a nice article up outlining the lander’s mission and lifespan.

Apple’s Self Service Repair Program Expanded →

The program now covers the M1 iMac, M1 Mac mini, Mac Studio and Studio Display.

With this comes a new batch of Repair Manuals, which I naturally downloaded and looked through. I love this exploded view of my beloved Mac Studio:

Mac Studio Exploded View

Here’s what all of those parts are:

  1. Bottom cover screw pad
  2. Bottom cover screw pad adhesive strips
  3. Bottom cover
  4. Power supply
  5. Bus bar insulator cover
  6. Internal frame
  7. Internal frame plate
  8. Antenna 2
  9. Antenna 3
  10. SDXC card slot board
  11. SDXC card slot board flex cable
  12. SDXC card slot board connector cowling
  13. SDXC card slot board connector cowling
  14. Front USB-C ports connector cowling
  15. Front USB-C ports
  16. Front USB-C ports bracket
  17. Back Thunderbolt 4 ports connector cowling
  18. Back Thunderbolt 4 ports (2)
  19. Ethernet board
  20. Ethernet board connector cowling 1
  21. Ethernet board flex cable
  22. Ethernet board connector cowling 2
  23. Power cord port
  24. Combination input/output board
  25. Power button
  26. Combination input/output board connector cowling
  27. HDMI flex cable
  28. USB-A flex cable
  29. Combination input/output board connector cowling
  30. Bus bar
  31. SSD module cover included with a replacement SSD module
  32. SSD modules (flash storage)
  33. Power supply signal cable
  34. Speaker
  35. Logic board
  36. Antenna 1
  37. Fan
  38. Housing

Compared to this thing, the inside of the Mac mini is downright simple.

Sponsor: MarsEdit 5 →

MarsEdit 5 is a major upgrade to the preeminent Mac app for editing WordPress,, Tumblr, and many other types of blogs.

The new Microposting feature makes it “as easy to post to your own blog as it is to post to Twitter.” When MarsEdit 5 is running on your Mac, just press a configurable global keyboard shortcut, write out your latest thoughts, and instantly publish to your blog.

MarsEdit supports editing posts in rich or plain text, and the latest update is especially great for Markdown fans. Now when you’re writing Markdown in plain text mode, MarsEdit applies live, beautiful syntax highlighting to make it easier to focus separately on the content and style of your posts.

MarsEdit is used by top bloggers to maximize their productivity and enjoyment of blogging. It’s great for pros like John Gruber of Daring Fireball and yours truly, while also being simple enough to remove the mystery of blogging for everyday folks who just want to share their thoughts with the world.

Download MarsEdit 5 today, and see what all the hype is about. It’ll make you a better blogger!

Free Speech Champion Elon Musk Bans Links to Alternative Networks →

Twitter Support:

Twitter is where the public conversation is happening, and where people from all over the globe come to promote their businesses, art, ideas, and more. We know that many of our users may be active on other social media platforms; however, going forward, Twitter will no longer allow free promotion of specific social media platforms on Twitter.

At both the Tweet level and the account level, we will remove any free promotion of prohibited 3rd-party social media platforms, such as linking out (i.e. using URLs) to any of the below platforms on Twitter, or providing your handle without a URL.

Offenders include:

  • Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Post and Nostr
  • 3rd-party social media link aggregators such as,

Seems about right.

Update: And a day later, the rule is gone, after Twitter Safety ran a poll on the issue. What a joke.

F-150 Lightning Prices Increase Again →

Emma Roth:

Ford’s raising the price of its F-150 Lightning pickup yet again — this time, by about $4,000 (via CNBC). The increase affects both the entry-level Pro model for business customers and the consumer-focused XLT trim with no added options, which now start at $55,974 and $63,474, respectively.

For comparison, the Pro work truck initially started at $39,974 when it launched back in April, but subsequent price hikes brought the price up to $46,974 in August and $51,974 in October. The base XLT, on the other hand, launched with a sticker price of $52,974 before that increased to $59,474 several months later.

I would still love a Lightning, but Ford is pricing me right into the arms of my 8-year-old-and-already-paid-for Tacoma.

Ross Young Reports 15.5-inch MacBook Air in Works for Spring 2023 →

I’ve been saying this for a long time now, but this computer makes a ton of sense. Having two notebook familes — each with two sizes — would be nice and clean:

  • 13-inch MacBook Air
  • 15-inch MacBook Air
  • 14-inch MacBook Pro
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro

As a nice bonus, I think this arrangment would let Apple finally put the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar out to pasture.

ChatGPT Has Hot Performa Takes

I recently asked ChatGPT a complicated question:

Which Performa was the best?

Here’s what it replied:

It is difficult to say which Performa model was the best, as it ultimately depends on individual preferences and needs.

The Performa line of computers was introduced by Apple in 1992 and included a range of models with varying specifications and features. Some of the most popular Performa models included the Performa 600, which featured a 66 MHz PowerPC processor and 8 MB of RAM, and the Performa 6116CD, which featured a 120 MHz PowerPC processor and 16 MB of RAM. These models were popular among home users and were known for their speed and reliability.

As no human — not even yours truly — can keep up with every Performa model, I decided to look up on the two systems mentioned.1

The Performa 600 was a desktop Mac with a 32 MHz 68030 CPU, and came stock with 4 MB of memory. As confident as it sounded, ChatGPT got this one wrong.

(Here’s a little trick when it comes to all Performas. If it has a 3-digit model name, it’s powered by a Motorola 680×0. If it’s got a 4-digit designation, then it’s a PowerPC model.)

The Performa 6116CD came in a low-profile desktop case and ran at 60 MHz and came with 8 MB of RAM by default, so once again ChatGPT doubled its specs.

As far as the line about these computers being “popular among home users and were known for their speed and reliability,” I’ve got mixed feelings.

Here’s a bit from LowEndMac about the Performa 600:

The Performa 600 was an okay computer, but a big “Huh?” for Mac IIci users. Where the LC and LC II had been compromised by using a 32-bit processor on a 16-bit data bus, the Performa 600 ran a 32 MHz CPU on a 16 MHz bus. This gave it slower performance than the 25 MHz IIci, which was still available. In fact, the old 16 MHz Mac IIx outperformed the Performa 600 on some benchmarks!

Worse yet, the Performa 600, doesn’t support a level 2 cache in the Processor Direct Slot, although it will accept accelerators.

The 600 did have some things going for it, as it was the first Mac available with a built-in CD-ROM drive, but overall, it was a bit of a dud.

Then there’s the 6116CD, which was bundled with a package of software aimed at small businesses. Being a later model, it also had Mac OS 8.0 support, which the 600 never got. The 6116CD also got a price cut in February 1996, seven months after its introduction in July 1995. Like other Performa models, it didn’t come with discrete video memory, instead pulling from system RAM for video output. Thankfully, the PDS slot meant users had an upgrade path on that front.

As it tunrs out, ChatGPT is a terrible Apple historian. AI won’t be taking that part of my job over any time soon … probably.

  1. I did remember that the first Performas were launched in September 1992. I don’t know if Apple pre-announced them in April, however. 

The Divorce →

Casey Newton, in an excellent edition of Platformer:

From the start, my strategy on Twitter has been to tell jokes about tech, use the engagement on those posts to grow a following, and then promote my work to that following. (Some people who read my tweets also became friends and sources; Twitter was great for that, too.)

Now, awaiting Musk’s latest tweets, I find myself anxious that one of his former employees could be physically assaulted or worse over what the CEO is posting. I don’t know how, in that environment, to make little jokes about Google’s latest failed messaging app, or bad PR pitches, or any of the other bits I have been doing on Twitter forever. I don’t know how to pretend that what is happening is not actually happening. I don’t want to provide, even in the smallest of ways, a respectable backdrop against which hate speech against my fellow LGBTQ people, or Black or Jewish or any other people, can flourish.

This part really resonated with me:

No company has influenced the media more in my career than Twitter has. For more than a decade it has shaped what news gets covered, how, and by whom. It is also the largest platform I have, at least by number of followers, and has been the primary way Platformer has found new customers since I launched the newsletter in 2020.

At the same time, when I started writing an email newsletter in 2017, I did so out of anxiety that I would find myself at a crossroads like this: with a malignant landlord standing in between me and the audience I had cultivated. I feel fortunate that the Platformer audience — now just shy of 100,000 readers — can make a divorce like this seem possible.

I owe a ton of my success to the early days of Twitter and the relationships that bloomed there, but those days are gone, and so am I.

Bonus Kbase Article of the Week: How to turn on Advanced Data Protection for iCloud →

Apple Support:

Advanced Data Protection for iCloud is an optional setting that offers Apple’s highest level of cloud data security. If you choose to enable Advanced Data Protection, the majority of your iCloud data — including iCloud Backup, Photos, Notes, and more — is protected using end-to-end encryption. No one else can access your end-to-end encrypted data, not even Apple, and this data remains secure even in the case of a data breach in the cloud. Before you turn on Advanced Data Protection, you can learn more about how your data is protected with standard data protection and if you enable Advanced Data Protection.

Before you turn on Advanced Data Protection, you’ll be guided to set up at least one alternative recovery method: a recovery contact or a recovery key. With Advanced Data Protection enabled, Apple doesn’t have the encryption keys needed to help you recover your end-to-end encrypted data. If you ever lose access to your account, you’ll need to use one of your account recovery methods — your device passcode or password, your recovery contact, or recovery key — to recover your iCloud data.

If you’re like me, when you walk through this process, you’ll be surprised at some old devices that may still be signed in to your account. To get this going, you’ll need to have all of your devices updated to iOS/iPadOS/tvOS 16.2, watchOS 9.2 and macOS macOS 13.1. I’m setting it up now, and we’ll be talking about this on Connected tomorrow.

Changes Are Coming for the App Store →

There’s no secret that the EU and other governments are looking at Apple’s control over the App Store with an increasingly critical eye. Even with that in mind, this report from Mark Gurman is still wild:

Software engineering and services employees are engaged in a major push to open up key elements of Apple’s platforms, according to people familiar with the efforts. As part of the changes, customers could ultimately download third-party software to their iPhones and iPads without using the company’s App Store, sidestepping Apple’s restrictions and the up-to-30% commission it imposes on payments.

Over at Six Colors, Dan Moren writes:

The rationale behind such a change is the Digital Markets Act, a European law that comes into effect in 2024, which mandates more control in the hands of users instead of platform owners. Critics have taken shots at some of the aspects of this law, such as interoperability between messaging protocols, but there’s no getting around that the European Union is a major market for tech companies, and its laws have a way of enforcing sweeping changes—for good or ill. (See the similar law enforcing the use of a standard charging connector on smartphones which is reported to helped spur Apple’s decision to shift the iPhone from its proprietary Lightning connector to USB-C.)

But Apple has been a staunch defender of its App Store approach, on the ground of security and privacy—not to mention protecting its 30-percent cut. That’s proved unpopular with developers, including major opponents like Epic Games and Spotify, both of which have taken shots at Apple for its restrictions.

Opening up app installations on the iPhone would radically change how the product works for some users, but I think many would choose to continue to use the App Store exclusively.

Kbase Article of the Week: iBook — White Greasy Substance in Battery Bay →

Apple Support:

If you see a white, greasy substance in the computer’s battery bay, frequently near the battery electrical contact points, it is no cause of concern. The substance is merely a non-harmful grease that is applied during production of the iBook computer.

The grease is applied to the springs in the battery bay to help ease removal of the battery.

If there is excessive grease, you can remove it with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth.

Note: While the grease does not represent any potential harm if it comes in contact with the your skin, it should be washed off using soap and warm water.

Sponsor: Unite 4.2 for macOS →

Unite 4 for macOS allows you to turn any website into an app on your Mac. Using a lightweight, WebKit powered browser as a backend, you can easily create isolated, customizable apps from any site.

Unite 4 includes dozens of new features, including support for native notifications, new customization options, and much more. Unite apps also serve as a great alternative for resource-hogging Electron apps or half-baked Catalyst apps.

Some examples of apps you could create in mere minutes with Unite:

  • A Gmail web client that behaves like a native mail client
  • A status bar app for Apple Music or Overcast
  • An isolated workspace for apps that may track you like Facebook
  • A Google Meet app that works efficiently without using Chrome
  • A fully featured Instagram app that has a resizable window
  • A Robinhood, Figma, or Roam Research app for your desktop

The newly launched Unite 4.2 makes the experience even better, with built-in password management, fully-featured status bar apps, and much more.

512 Pixels readers get 20% off this week when you purchase Unite 4 at or when you use the promo code ‘512Pixels’ at checkout.

You can also try Unite for 14 days absolutely free or use it as part of your subscription if you’re a Setapp subscriber!

Orion Splashes Down


NASA’s Orion spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja California, at 9:40 a.m. PST Sunday after a record-breaking mission, traveling more than 1.4 million miles on a path around the Moon and returning safely to Earth, completing the Artemis I flight test.

Splashdown is the final milestone of the Artemis I mission that began with a successful liftoff of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket Nov. 16, from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Over the course of 25.5 days, NASA tested Orion in the harsh environment of deep space before flying astronauts on Artemis II.

As Eric Berger writes at Ars Technica, this marks the end of a historic mission:

This has not happened in half a century. At times, it seemed like it might never happen again. But now, it is most definitely happening.

NASA’s progress back toward the Moon, and one day potentially Mars, has been at times lethargic. The political process that led NASA to this point in recent decades was messy and motivated by parochial pork projects. But on Sunday there could be no denying that this process has brought NASA, the United States, and dozens of other nations participating in the Artemis Program to the point where its human deep space exploration program is a very, very real thing.

It has been a long time coming.

Buying a Home Computer for Christmas? →

If you’re looking to buy a Mac this holiday season, Apple of 1995 has you covered:

Once upon a time, purchasing a family computer was more complicated than finding four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. With recent price drops for personal computers and a proliferation of easy-to-use and useful software, there’s never been a more affordable or better time to bring your home into the 21st century.

Wish lists and children’s letters to Santa can be daunting enough without adding bits and bytes, RAM and ROM, to the equation. So here are 10 tips for buying a computer the whole family will use and enjoy for seasons to come.

Apple Announces Security Changes for iCloud, Expanding End-to-End Encryption for 23 Services →

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today introduced three advanced security features focused on protecting against threats to user data in the cloud, representing the next step in its ongoing effort to provide users with even stronger ways to protect their data. With iMessage Contact Key Verification, users can verify they are communicating only with whom they intend. With Security Keys for Apple ID, users have the choice to require a physical security key to sign in to their Apple ID account. And with Advanced Data Protection for iCloud, which uses end-to-end encryption to provide Apple’s highest level of cloud data security, users have the choice to further protect important iCloud data, including iCloud Backup, Photos, Notes, and more.

Snell has more, and Joanna Stern talked with Apple’s Craig Federighi about the changes.

MarsEdit 5 Released →

Daniel over at Red Sweater Software has released version 5 of his excellent blog editor for macOS:

MarsEdit 5 features a beautiful new icon, a “Microposting” feature for streamlined short-form blogging, enhanced plain-text editing with built-in Markdown syntax highlighting, a completely rebuilt rich text editor based on Apple’s latest WebKit2 technologies, and a variety of nuanced improvements to make your blogging workflow smoother, and more enjoyable than ever.

My favorite feature of the update is the Markdown syntax highlighting, which you can see in this screenshot:

MarsEdit 5

As someone who does all of his blogging in MarsEdit, it’s a great addition and helps ensure that I don’t make silly syntax errors.

The new version of MarsEdit also includes a new system-wide quick post feature that makes it easy to send short posts to a blog of your choosing:

Microposting in MarsEdit 5

As with previous versions, Daniel has upgrade pricing avaible:

This update is free for MarsEdit 4 users who purchased a license on or after June 1, 2022. For all other licensed MarsEdit 4 users, the upgrade fee is $29.95. For all other users the one-time purchase price is $59.95.

Users who purchased the in-app purchase via the Mac App Store can obtain the same upgrade discounts within the Mac App Store version of MarsEdit 5, when it becomes available, by locating a valid copy of MarsEdit 4 with premium features unlocked.

Version 5 should be in Setapp shorlty.

I’ve been using MarsEdit 5 in beta for a while,1 and it continues to be a critical tool in how I run 512 Pixels. The new version makes it all the better. I’m excited to see the new Microposting evolve over time, making my shift away from social media even easier.

  1. Disclosures: Red Sweater Software is a past — and future — sponsor of 512 Pixels and provided a license for MarsEdit 5 to me for free, but did not pay/approve/even see this blog post before it went up. I just really dig the app, which is why Red Sweater is a sponsor. 

Orion Due to Splashdown Sunday →

Eric Berger, writing at Ars:

The Orion spacecraft swung by the Moon on Monday, flying to within 130 km of that world’s surface as it set course for a return to Earth this weekend.

In making this “powered flyby burn” to move away from the Moon, Orion’s service module performed its longest main engine firing to date, lasting 3 minutes and 27 seconds. After successful completion of the maneuver, NASA’s mission management team gave the “go” to send recovery teams out into the Pacific Ocean, where Orion is due to splashdown on Sunday, during the middle of the day.

Don’t miss the amazing images the spacecraft took while near the moon.

Sports Alerts Brings Scores to Dynamic Island and Live Activities →

This app was mentioned on last week’s Upgrade, but I wanted to highlight it here as well, as it offers in-depth stats on the player, team and game level, as well as loads of customization in the app itself.

Sports Alerts is one of the first apps I’ve found to bring live sports scores to the Dyanmic Island and Live Activies. I’m running the iOS 16.2 beta, and have had Apple’s own TV app prompt me to start a Live Activity for a handful of Memphis basketball games, but it seems hit or miss so far as to what games it can display.1

The UI isn’t the nicest I’ve seen; in fact, it feels a little like the iOS 7 days in places, but the killer feature is live scores visible from anywhere:

Score Alerts

Like every other application that offers them, Score Alerts cannot start a Live Activity on its own. In this case, you have to open the app, find your game, and manually start a Live Activity. I’ve enabled “Start of Game” notifications for my favorite teams to act as a reminder to pop into the app and start the Live Activity.

It’s still early days for this iOS feature, and I’m sure more well-known sports app will add Live Activities for games, but for now at least, Sports Alerts has earned itself a spot on my iPhone.

  1. After installing the 16.2 beta, I re-enabled push notifications for on my phone to test these new sports features, and I came to regret that after just a few days. I really dislike how many HEY COME WATCH THIS THING notifications sends. 

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Recreating Apple News with ChatGPT

The folks behind OpenAI have opened up a new AI tool that can return text when given a prompt. Naturally, I asked it to write about Apple products.

Prompt #1: Write 5 paragraphs in the style of a news article written by about Apple’s new iMac computer, complete with quotes from experts

Apple has released a new iMac computer, bringing updated hardware and a renewed focus on performance to the iconic all-in-one desktop. The new iMac features the latest Intel processors, with options up to a 10-core Core i9 chip, along with AMD Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics, delivering up to 55 percent faster performance than the previous generation.

“The new iMac is a powerful addition to Apple’s desktop lineup,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With its updated hardware and sleek design, it’s the perfect computer for users who want the best performance and the best user experience.”

The new iMac also boasts improved storage options, with options up to 8TB of high-speed SSD storage, and support for up to 128GB of high-speed DDR4 memory. Additionally, the new iMac features a brighter and more vibrant Retina display, with support for the P3 wide color gamut, as well as True Tone technology for automatically adjusting the display’s white balance.

“The new iMac’s display is truly stunning,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing. “With its brighter colors and improved contrast, it’s a great choice for creatives who want to see their work in the best possible light.”

In addition to the updated hardware, the new iMac also includes macOS Big Sur, the latest version of Apple’s operating system. Big Sur brings a redesigned interface, improved app functionality, and new features such as Control Center, which provides quick access to commonly used settings and controls.

“macOS Big Sur is a major step forward for the Mac,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. “With its redesigned interface and new features, it makes the iMac even more powerful and easy to use.”

Prompt #2: A tweet thread about the new iPhone camera system

Just got my hands on the new iPhone and the camera system is incredible! The triple-camera setup offers a huge range of focal lengths and the image quality is stunning.

The night mode feature is a game changer, producing photos with incredible detail and low noise in low light situations. The video capabilities are also impressive, with smooth stabilization and impressive 4K quality.

Overall, the new iPhone’s camera system is a huge step forward and sets a new standard for smartphone photography. #iPhoneCamera #NightMode #TripleCamera

Prompt #3: Initial impressions after using the Apple Newton in 1993, as a magazine column written by Jason Snell

As a long-time Mac user, I was excited to get my hands on the new Apple Newton when it was released in 1993. I had heard a lot about its revolutionary handwriting recognition technology and was eager to see how it performed in the real world.

After using the Newton for a few days, I have to say that I’m impressed. The handwriting recognition technology works surprisingly well, allowing me to jot down notes and have them automatically converted to text. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely good enough for everyday use.

One thing I really like about the Newton is its small size and portability. It fits easily into a pocket or purse, making it a great option for on-the-go note-taking. The screen is also nice and large, making it easy to read and write on.

Overall, I’m pleased with the Newton. It’s not without its flaws, but the handwriting recognition technology is a game-changer and makes it a worthwhile addition to any Mac user’s toolkit. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves in the future.

Prompt #4: The description for an episode of the Connected podcast, about the iPad Pro

In this episode of Connected, we dive into the new iPad Pro and all of its impressive features. We discuss the powerful M1 chip that powers the device, the stunning new Mini-LED display, and the vast improvements to the cameras.

We also talk about the new Thunderbolt port and the implications it has for connecting accessories like external displays and storage. Plus, we discuss the potential for the iPad Pro to replace a traditional computer for many users.

Tune in to learn more about the latest and greatest iPad Pro.

Prompt #5: A poem concerning the eMate 300

The eMate 300, a sight to see
A small and sturdy machine
With a keyboard and screen

It may not be the fastest
Or the most advanced device
But it’s rugged and reliable
And it gets the job done right

With its green and black design
It stands out in a crowd
And its long-lasting battery
Means it can go the distance

So here’s to the eMate 300
A humble workhorse of the digital age
May it continue to serve
Long into the future.

Prompt #6: A haiku about the HomePod

In the corner it sits
A small white orb of sound
Filling the room with song

Man Stranded in Alaska Saved via Emergency SOS →

It was a matter of time before an iPhone 14 popped up in a story like this. Joe Wituschek has details over on iMore:

As reported by the Department of Public Safety, on December 1st around two o’clock in the morning, Alaskan State Troopers were notified that “an adult male traveling via snowmachine from Noorvik to Kotzebue had activated an Apple iPhone Emergency SOS via satellite on his iPhone after becoming stranded.”

The NWAB SAR worked with Apple’s Emergency Response Center and local search and rescue teams to send “four volunteer searchers to the Nimiuk Point area directly to the GPS coordinates provided by the Apple Emergency Response Center. The adult male was located and transported to Kotzebue by the volunteer search team.”

Thankfully, the man was rescued safely without any injuries due to the iPhone feature and the team’s quick response.

Güten Pränk →

Yesterday, Tiff Arment published the final episode of Somehow I Manage, our Office re-watch podcast. We were joined by the wonderful Mikah Sargent, who was Tiff’s original cohost:

Tiff, Stephen, and Mikah pull up some hay bales (with complementary hay hooks) and share an emotional goodbye as they discuss “Finale”. This episode of “The Office” originally aired on May 16, 2013.

Hosting SIM was a great way to re-live one of my favorite TV shows. Thank you all who listened!

Apple Announces 2022 Podcast, App Winners

Apple Newsroom has been busy. Today, the company announced the first-ever Apple Podcasts Award winner:

Apple today announced the Apple Podcasts Award honoring a Show of the Year and its team for outstanding quality, innovation, and impact. Inspired by the signature app icon, the Apple Podcasts Award represents Apple’s decades-long commitment to supporting creators as they share their voices with the world and helping listeners to discover the best podcasts.

The recipient of the Apple Podcasts Award is Slate’s critically acclaimed narrative history series, Slow Burn, for its latest season, Roe v. Wade, hosted by Slate executive editor Susan Matthews. Published throughout June 2022, the four-episode season explores the events leading up to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision, offering listeners an in-depth perspective on this universal and timely human rights issue.

I haven’t heard this particular season of Slow Burn, but have loved previous seasons that I have heard.

Yesterday, Apple announced the 16 winners of the 2022 App Store Awards:

“This year’s App Store Award winners reimagined our experiences with apps that delivered fresh, thoughtful, and genuine perspectives,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “From self-taught solo creators to international teams spanning the globe, these entrepreneurs are making a meaningful impact, and represent the ways in which apps and games influence our communities and lives.”

Orion Space Capsule Reaches Farthest Point From Earth During Artemis I Mission →

Leah Cheshier, writing yesterday for NASA:

NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft reached the farthest distance from Earth it will travel during the Artemis I mission — 268,563 miles from our home planet — just after 3 p.m. CST. The spacecraft also captured imagery of Earth and the Moon together throughout the day, including of the Moon appearing to eclipse Earth.

Reaching the halfway point of the mission on Flight Day 13 of a 25.5 day mission, the spacecraft remains in healthy condition as it continues its journey in distant retrograde orbit, an approximately six-day leg of its larger mission thousands of miles beyond the Moon.

That distance breaks the previous record for distance from Earth achieved by a crew-rated vehicle set by Apollo 13.1 As impressive as that is, the imagery is even better:

Artemis I Flight Day 13: Orion, Earth, and Moon

  1. Or Apollo 10’s spent lunar module, depending on who you ask. 

Kbase Article of the Week: Mac OS: How to Move the Control Strip →

Apple Support, on the Control Strip:

To move the Control Strip:

  1. Press and hold down the Option key.
  2. Drag the tab at the end of the Control Strip. If you drag it more than halfway
    across the display, the Control Strip moves to the other edge. If you have more than one display, you can drag the Control Strip to the left or right edge of the other display as well. The Control Strip always stays on the left or right edge of your display.

Changing the display’s resolution from a smaller setting to a larger one and restarting the computer moves the Control Strip higher up on the display.

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The 512 Pixels Holiday Gift Guide for People Like Me

It’s that time of year, so I’m happy to present my annual gift guide. If you have someone like me in your life, consider these suggestions:

Alexa, Where Did My $10 Billion Go? →

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

Amazon is going through the biggest layoffs in the company’s history right now, with a plan to eliminate some 10,000 jobs. One of the areas hit hardest is the Amazon Alexa voice assistant unit, which is apparently falling out of favor at the e-commerce giant. That’s according to a report from Business Insider, which details “the swift downfall of the voice assistant and Amazon’s larger hardware division.”

Alexa has been around for 10 years and has been a trailblazing voice assistant that was copied quite a bit by Google and Apple. Alexa never managed to create an ongoing revenue stream, though, so Alexa doesn’t really make any money. The Alexa division is part of the “Worldwide Digital” group along with Amazon Prime video, and Business Insider says that division lost $3 billion in just the first quarter of 2022, with “the vast majority” of the losses blamed on Alexa. That is apparently double the losses of any other division, and the report says the hardware team is on pace to lose $10 billion this year. It sounds like Amazon is tired of burning through all that cash.


John Gruber:

What is (was?) Alexa about, strategically? I’ve often heard that the vague idea was that people would buy Alexa devices for obvious stuff (playing music, setting timers) but that eventually they’d starting using Alexa to buy stuff from Amazon — and thus wind up buying more stuff from Amazon than they would if they didn’t have an Alexa device in their house. That never made sense to me. Buying stuff via voice commands seems inherently uncertain — like buying a lottery ticket where you need some luck to actually get the product you think you told Alexa to buy. Even if it works, how is it any better than just shopping at Amazon on your phone, iPad, or computer? It seems worse to me, and no more convenient. How do you comparison shop via voice?

Kbase Article of the Week: Using iCal with Microsoft Entourage →

Apple Support:

iCal and the calendar feature of Microsoft Entourage can be used together–as long as you have iCal 1.5 or later and Mac OS X 10.3.5 or later installed.

If you have earlier versions of iCal or Mac OS X, when you try to add an iCal invitation to an Entourage calendar, an alert box with an error message could appear; an Entourage invitation received with the Mac OS X Mail application could appear as plain text instead of as an attachment; or, when you try to import or add an .ics file from Entourage into iCal by double-clicking the file’s icon, an alert box might appear.

If you weren’t around in the Entourage days, you really missed something. I ran it for years in college (as my school handed out Exchange accounts to students), and it was the hub for so much of my digital life.

Sponsor: Unite 4 for macOS →

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Unite 4 includes dozens of new features, including support for native notifications, new customization options, and much more. Unite apps also serve as a great alternative for resource hogging Electron apps or half-baked Catalyst apps.

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Kickstarter Progress Report: November 19

I just packed and labeled the final orders for the Kickstarter! The last set of packages will be taken to the post office Monday morning. It feels great to have reached this point the weekend before Thanksgiving.

(To be fair, there are still 23 of you who have not filled out a shipping survey! If you log in to Kickstarter, you will find a direct message from me with your survey URL!)

I have loved seeing the notes from those of you who have already received yours in the mail. Keep sending them my way!

Alexa in Spaaaaace →

Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, writing at The Verge:

Earlier this summer, on the day Artemis I was originally scheduled to launch, I spent an hour testing out the capabilities of this new deep space voice assistant down on the ground at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

While this was a demo model (they wouldn’t let me in the spacecraft — I asked), as far as I could tell, it was an exact replica of the one on Orion, even down to the lack of an internet connection.

Back to the Moon →

Yours truly, speaking with Texas Standard earlier today about the Artemis I launch:

After the end of the space shuttle program, we really were kind of stuck in terms of getting a crew to space from American soil. And SpaceX and others are working to supply missions to the International Space Station, but there hasn’t been anything really since Apollo to get us further out into space. And so the SLS rocket, this Artemis 1 mission, is the first big step to put boots back on the moon for the first time in 50 years.

SLS Finally Flies

At 1:47 Eastern time this morning, NASA’s $20+ billion rocket finally left its launch pad:

Launch starts about 3:16:54 into the video.

The SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule have their roots all the way back into the early 2000s, as NASA prepared for a post-shuttle world.1 It’s taken longer — and cost more — than expected, but now NASA has a vehicle capable of returning crew to the moon.

There are a lot of complex issues around this rocket, including the fact that SpaceX is well on its way to building its own vehicle in this class. There is an argument to be made that NASA should focus on science and exploration, and let companies like SpaceX and ULA manage all the launch vehicle hardware, but for today, I’m just glad to see this thing make it off the ground for the first time.

If you want to keep up with how the mission goes, be sure to check out NASA’s Artemis blog. It has its own RSS feed and everything.

  1. In fact, much of the SLS itself is made of recycled and upgraded shuttle hardware. The idea was that by re-using flight-proven hardware designs, the rocket could be built more quickly and for less money. 

Kbase Article of the Week: Centris 610 and 650: Floating-Point Unit Upgrades →

Apple Support:

You can upgrade the Macintosh Centris 610 or 650 with an FPU, but Apple doesn’t provide or support such an upgrade. You must rely on third-party companies who can remove the 68LC040 from its socket and replace it with a 68RC040. Since Apple doesn’t intend to offer an upgrade, we can’t guarantee that the processor will remain a socketed component.

There aren’t very many compatibility problems with non-FPU systems. While the addition of an FPU allows certain types of applications to execute faster, these applications tend to be more technical in nature. Business applications — such as spreadsheets, databases and word processors — don’t require an FPU to run.

Most applications check to see if there’s an FPU present. If one doesn’t exist, they emulate the floating point instructions in software. There are a few applications that expect or require an FPU. These applications will present problems and we anticipate most software developers will revise these products.

The Centris line is a weird, sad story in Mac history.

Emergency SOS via Satellite Available in US and Canada →

Apple Newsroom:

Every model in the iPhone 14 lineup — iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max — can connect directly to a satellite through a combination of custom-designed components and deeply integrated software. Emergency SOS via satellite builds on existing features vital to iPhone users, including Emergency SOS, Medical ID, emergency contacts, and Find My location sharing, offering the ability to connect to a satellite for a more 360-degree approach to sharing critical information with emergency services, family, and friends. This game-changing service allows Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) — or emergency services call centers — to connect to even more users in emergency situations, and requires no additional software or protocols to enable communications. Users will be connected directly to emergency services that are equipped to receive text messages, or to relay centers with Apple-trained emergency specialists who are ready to contact PSAPs that cannot receive text messages on the user’s behalf.

“Providing Emergency SOS via satellite is an important breakthrough that will save lives. The critical work being done by Apple to create innovative new solutions to support 911 providers and first responders is a huge step forward in protecting Californians and the broader public during an emergency situation,” said Mark Ghilarducci, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services’ director.

iJustine has a video up, showing a demo of the feature:

I really hope I never need to use this, but I’m glad it’s built into my iPhone 14 Pro.

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Facades →

Apple Retail expert Michael Steeber has a new app out today:

Five years ago, I opened the Notes app on my Mac and began creating a hub for all of my Apple Retail information. The document started small, but it eventually ballooned and overshadowed the app. It wielded a tiny scroll bar and depleted system resources just to open and search. I needed a better way to find store information at a glance.

Starting today, there is a better way.

This is Facades, my new app for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. With Facades, you can browse, discover, and bookmark a catalog of every current and former Apple Store.

Stores are grouped into convenient categories, so you can browse by location, design style, or store feature. I’ve included lists of moved, renamed, and closed stores. Store trends and statistics are illustrated with colorful charts. There’s even a list of unassigned store rollout numbers.

Facades is really well done, and is a free download.

Reminders Feature Request: Better List Support on macOS

I’ve been using Reminders since WWDC and have been happy with the progress the app has made since the summer.

However, one UI inconsistency is really getting to me. I’ll quote myself from the Feedback I filed (#FB11779798) with Apple today:

On the iPhone and iPad, the task inspection pane can move the tasks to a different list. On macOS, the pane lacks this option, and the only way to move a task to a different list is via drag and drop. The iPhone and iPad UI should be present on the Mac for the best usability between devices.

You can see the discrepancy in these two screenshots:

In general, I think bringing iOS-first user interfaces to the Mac is clumsy at best,1 but I’d make the trade for a more useful — and usable — Reminders app on macOS.

  1. Cough, System Settings, cough, cough. 

2023 Apple History Calendar: November 11 Progress Report →

It’s finally starting to feel like autumn here in Memphis. Leaves are falling, as is the temperature. In the PodCabin, I’ve been hard at work packing and shipping calendars. Yesterday, I hosted a live stream doing just that:

As of this writing, I have about 300 packages left to pack and send out! All in all, this year’s fulfillment has gone much smoother than last time. I learned a lot about the process last time around that is really paying off this year.

I am still missing surveys from about two dozen of you! If you haven’t filled out a survey on BackerKit, please check your private messages on Kickstarter — there, you will find a link to your survey to confirm your address.

If you didn’t back this project, but want a calendar, stickers or other goodies, I have pre-orders open for another couple of weeks.

Verified Twitter Account Announces Free Insulin →

…but as you can probably imagine, that verified badge cost someone a mere $8. Jordan Liles has more:

On Nov. 10, 2022, a Twitter account with a “verified” checkmark badge and a display name of “Eli Lilly and Company” tweeted, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” The account’s handle was @EliLiIlyandCo. However, this was nothing more than a parody account, as its bio clearly said.

The message was engaged with tens of thousands of times. At last check, it was nearing 20,000 combined reweets, quote tweets, and likes.

Don’t get me wrong, companies like Eli Lilly charge a criminal amount for insulin and other medications, but this is exactly the sort of thing that was bound to happen under Twitter’s new pay-to-be-verified scheme.

Maybe a lawsuit or two will help that sink in over at Twitter HQ. At least the new system has been paused for now.

“Get Me Out of Here” →

Adi Robertson has more experience reviewing AR and VR products than just about anyone else, and wow does she have some words for Meta’s new $1,499 Quest Pro:

The problem is, the Quest Pro isn’t very good. It’s a device seemingly launched without plan or purpose, highlighting VR’s persistent drawbacks without making good use of its strengths — and topped off with some irredeemably bad software. We might be seeing a roadmap for where Meta is going, but right now, it’s not a particularly fun place to be. And if Meta lingers there much longer, its metaverse is in trouble.

Artemis I Rocket Rode Out Hurricane Nicole, Saw Winds Above Specified Safety Levels →

As Hurricane Nicole spun over Florida, NASA’s bajillion dollar SLS rocket sat atop Launch Complex-39B. Eric Berger:

Prior to Nicole’s arrival, NASA said its SLS rocket was designed to withstand wind gusts of 74.4 knots. Moreover, the agency stated on Tuesday in a blog post, “Current forecasts predict the greatest risks at the pad are high winds that are not expected to exceed the SLS design.”

From the publicly available data, however, it appears that the rocket was exposed to wind gusts near, at, or above 74.4 knots for several hours on Thursday morning. A peak gust of 87 knots was reported on the National Weather Service site, with multiple gusts above NASA’s design levels. It is possible that the 74.4-knot design limit has some margin built into it.

The time the space agency would have needed to begin rolling the rocket back to safety within the Vehicle Assembly Building, Nicole’s estimated winds were far below the safety margin. Time will tell if the choice to keep the rocket outside was a bad one, as Berger writes:

According to Phil Metzger, an engineer who worked on the space shuttle program for NASA, the most likely concern will be the structural integrity of the rocket after being exposed to prolonged periods of high winds. A rocket is designed to go upward, so although its structure can endure intense pressure and winds in a vertical direction, it is not designed to withstand similar winds in the horizontal direction.

In a series of tweets, Metzger predicted that it will be a busy couple of weeks for structural engineers to assess the risks of damage from the storm and potentially seek waivers to fly the vehicle after its exposure to these loads. This will be a difficult task. There is no ability to X-ray the structures inside the rocket, so this process will involve running, and re-running, structural calculations. At some point the program’s leadership will have to decide whether the risk—which includes the potential for the rocket to break apart during launch—is too high to fly without further inspections or remedial work.

Jim Free, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, issued a statement on the issue, citing slower wind speeds than otherwise reported:

While wind sensors at the launch pad detected peak wind gusts up to 82 mph (71 knots) at the 60-foot level, this is within the rocket’s capability. We anticipate clearing the vehicle for those conditions shortly.

Our team is conducting initial visual check-outs of the rocket, spacecraft, and ground system equipment with the cameras at the launch pad. Camera inspections show very minor damage such as loose caulk and tears in weather coverings. The team will conduct additional onsite walk down inspections of the vehicle soon.

We took the decision to keep Orion and SLS at the launch pad very seriously, reviewing the data in front of us and making the best decision possible with high uncertainty in predicting the weather four days out. With the unexpected change to the forecast, returning to the Vehicle Assembly Building was deemed to be too risky in high winds, and the team decided the launch pad was the safest place for the rocket to weather the storm.

On Albums, Shared Photos Libraries and Keywords →

I have begun the messy process of merging much of my Photos library with my wife’s. At the end of this project, I can see a beautiful world in which we have access to tens of thousands of photos, with complete metadata and no duplicates.

It’s going to take me a while to get there, but I’ve already hit one snag: there are no albums in iCloud Shared Photo libraries. Jason Snell has more:

I have no idea if Apple considers this an item for its to-do list or if it has decided that albums are old school and everyone should just search to find and collect stuff now. Fortunately, there are workarounds to this problem that allow you to collaborate with others in curating and collecting photos—but with limitations.

Every item in the Photos library can be assigned a keyword, and keywords are synced across iCloud Shared Photos. So if you want to collaborate with other members of your iCloud Shared Photo library—or even if you just want them to be able to view the curation and selection—you can do this by selecting all the photos you want to collect and assigning them a keyword.

With keywords, members of the library have another tool for searching across thousands of entries, and on the Mac at least, smart albums can be built based on keywords.

This is not what I want out of this feature, but it’s better than nothing. I’m sure once I get everything as organized as possible, Apple will add albums back to this new product.

The Sad Saga of the 500 MHz Power Mac G4

In August 1999, Apple announced the first Power Mac G4:1

The Power Mac G4 is powered by the revolutionary new PowerPC G4 chip architected by Apple, Motorola and IBM, and is the first personal computer in history to deliver supercomputer-level performance of over one billion floating-point operations per second. The Power Mac G4s run professional applications like Adobe’s Photoshop up to twice as fast as 600MHz Pentium III-based PCs.

The G4 chip incorporates a new execution unit named the Velocity Engine — the heart of a supercomputer miniaturized onto a sliver of silicon. In a set of Intel’s own tests published on their web site, the 500MHz G4 chip was 2.94 times as fast as the 600MHz Pentium III processor.

“The Power Mac G4 is not only the fastest Mac ever, it’s the fastest personal computer ever,” said Apple’s interim CEO Steve Jobs. “The revolutionary G4 processor with its remarkable Velocity Engine is the first ‘supercomputer on a chip,’ delivering over one gigaflop of sustained performance.”

The new lineup was clad in a more mature version of the Blue and White G3’s case, but on the inside, things were a bit confusing.

Power Mac G4

At the low end was the Power Mac G4 (PCI Graphics) clocked at 400 MHz. It was joined by the Power Mac G4 (AGP Graphics), with 450 and 500 MHz configurations.

In the November 1999 edition of Macworld, Andrew Gore explained the differences between the models:

In the initial Power Mac G4 lineup, are two different configurations, one an intermediate step between the faster G4s and the blue-and-white Power Mac G3, and the other a high-end configuration featuring impressive new technologies.

In order to get one model in the G4 lineup down under $2,000-and to get it out to customers as soon as possible Apple placed a 400MHz G4 processor onto a slightly modified version of the blue-and-white G3’s logic board and put the board in the new Power .Mac G4 case. In almost all other respects, the low-end Power Mac G4 is exactly the same as the G3 Power Macs. One notable exception: none of the Power Mac G4 models feature an ADB port.

The article was joined by this helpful table of specs:

G4 specs, as of fall 1999

Toward the end of the piece, Gore wrote:

If you’re itching to rush out and buy one of the high-end Power Mac G4s, hold your horses. While Apple says the low-end 400 MHz system is shipping now, at press time the company was predicting shipment of the 450 MHz G4 model sometime in September and the 5OO MHz unit in October.

He urged the reader to hold out for an AGP model, which was faster and more forward-looking than the PCI machines, which were basically the old G3 with a faster processor:

Unless you absolutely can’t afford the pricier models or can’t wait another minute, we suggest you bide your time and wait for the high-end G4 configurations to appear. Although the G4 processor does account for a lot of the performance improvements in the new models, the niceties of the new logic-board design will also have major impacts on speed. And if you opt for the low-end model, you won’t be able to play with cool new capabilities like using an AirPort card, internal FireWire devices, two separate USB ports, or the new Apple Cinema Display.

This press release, dated October 13, 1999, explains what was going on with Apple’s supply of PowerPC G4s:

Apple today announced that it has reconfigured the processor speeds in its Power Mac G4 line to match PowerPC G4 chip availability from Motorola. The new Power Mac G4 configurations will now include processors running at 350 MHz, 400 MHz and 450 MHz, and will be priced at $1,599, $2,499 and $3,499, respectively. The move is in response to Motorola’s delays in reaching volume production of its 500 MHz G4 processor chip, which is now scheduled for availability early next year.

These new configurations will enable us to meet the tremendous demand for our new Power Mac G4 line, said Steve Jobs, Apple s interim CEO. Fortunately, the machines remain very, very fast easily outperforming Pentium III-based PCs.

Apple also announced today that IBM will begin manufacturing G4 processor chips in the first half of calendar 2000 for use in Apple products.

It’s not very often in Apple’s history that one comes across a product update that results in a slower product, but clearly it wasn’t the plan. Notably, Apple didn’t lower the price of the towers to reflect their new, slower speeds. The move took on the name “speed dump,” as Mac users weren’t happy with the changes.

In December Apple updated the lineup, getting rid of the PCI model, replacing it with a 350 MHz Power Mac that included all the upgrades present in the AGP models.

Thankfully the 350 MHz Power Mac G4 didn’t lead a long life, as in February 2000, Apple updated the lineup once again:

Apple today announced it has increased the performance of its industry-leading Power Mac G4 line with faster processors running at 400-, 450-, and 500 MHz. Pricing remains unchanged, starting at US$1,599.
The Power Mac G4, which features the PowerPC G4 processor with its remarkable Velocity Engine, runs professional applications like Adobe Photoshop over 50 percent faster than 800 MHz Pentium III-based PCs.

A full six months after its original introduction, Apple was finally shipping a 500 MHz Power Mac G4. In the grand scheme of things, this was a mere hiccup in what was otherwise a golden era for Mac hardware advancements, and a lesson in controlling your own technology stack that Apple wouldn’t forget.

  1. If you want to read more about the entire Power Mac G4 family, check out this article over on MacStories. 

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue →

In the upheaval surrounding Twitter’s changes to its verification system, many were left wondering how accounts posing as politicians, journalists, musicians, athletes and others could be noted as official. As it turns out, the checkmark was the way to go after all.

Jay Peters at The Verge has more:

Twitter is rolling out another type of checkmark to help distinguish accounts that users actually need to know are real. Although you can pay for a blue checkmark with the new version of Twitter Blue, select accounts for governments, companies, or public figures will get a gray “Official” checkmark, according to a thread from Twitter’s Esther Crawford, who is heading up the new Twitter Blue initiative.

“A lot of folks have asked about how you’ll be able to distinguish between @TwitterBlue subscribers with blue checkmarks and accounts that are verified as official, which is why we’re introducing the ‘Official’ label to select accounts when we launch,” Crawford says.

“Accounts that will receive it include government accounts, commercial companies, business partners, major media outlets, publishers and some public figures.”

Being previously verified doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get the new “Official” label, and you can’t buy the new label, meaning Twitter will be the one making the call on who gets to have it.

It really feels like someone is making this stuff up as he goes along.

Update: A couple hours after this rolled out, it stopped, with Elon tweeting “I just killed it.” ROFFFLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.