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Apple ships iCloud folder sharing, iPad trackpad support – and more

Apple has updated iPhones, iPads, Macs and the Apple Watch/Apple TV, offering up  some of the features we’ve been talking about for weeks, including iCloud folder sharing, iPad trackpad support and more

The productivity update

You could argue that the update is a boost to productivity, particularly as it includes support for features that should be quite useful to remote workers – namely iCloud Folder Sharing and trackpad support for iPads.

It’s an important update that introduces a string of essential improvements:

  • iCloud folder sharing.
  • Mouse and trackpad support for iPads.
  • Universal app purchases.
  • Toolbar improvements in Mail.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for Photos.
  • New CarPlay controls.

You also get support for the recently introduced Beats Powerbeats 4 earphones and a selection of nine new Memoji stickers.

Mac users gain Screen Time Communication Limits (useful for remote workers  attempting to keep life under control) and real-time Apple Music lyrics. And recently played Apple Arcade games now appear in the Arcade tab, making it much easier to play them across all your Apple devices.

What is iCloud folder sharing?

Without a doubt the marquee feature in this release, iCloud Folder Sharing means you can share entire folders of documents, images and other digital stuff with others. Simple to use, the feature was originally announced at WWDC 2019. (Apple may have had problems ensuring consistent behavior in the feature, which turns iCloud Drive into a Dropbox replacement for the rest of us.)

What is mouse and trackpad support for iPads?

I wrote a whole article about this feature; essentially trackpad support means your iPad becomes an even more effective (and far more use flexible) MacBook replacement. It gives you a new cursor design that highlights app icons on the Home Screen and Dock and buttons and controls in apps.

What are Universal app purchases?

Remember the old days when you had to purchase an app for iOS and an app for Mac using two separate App Stores? You still do, but now you (may) only need to pay once for the privilege, as Universal App Purchases let developers make both apps available for one price exchange.

What is the new Mail toolbar?

The new Mail toolbar is a big improvement to a little problem. People complained that the delete and reply to controls were too close together in iOS 13, which led them to accidentally delete mails they wanted to keep.

The update puts a little space between the two and adds new Folder and Compose buttons. Enterprise users will want to know that responses to encrypted emails are automatically encrypted when you have configured S/MIME for this.

What are the new CarPlay controls?

You now get support for third-party navigation apps and call controls on the dashboard when on a call via the Phone app or any (compatible) VoIP app that supports CarPlay.

Is there anything else?

You mean beyond the customary list of patched problems? Of course. You’ll find a new Shazam It Shortcut you can use to identify a song that’s playing, some new keyboard shortcuts if you happen to be using Photos and audio playback for USDZ files.

What about Apple Watch?

Apple also updated Apple Watch to watchOS 6.2. This offers support for in-app purchases on the device and brings ECG support to Chile, New Zealand and Turkey. The company also introduced tvOS 13.4, which improves Family Sharing.

You can read Apple’s notes on the iOS/iPadOS update here.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple ships iCloud folder sharing, iPad trackpad support, more

Apple has updated iPhones, iPads, Macs and the Apple Watch/Apple TV, introducing some of the features we’ve been talking about for weeks, including iCloud folder sharing, iPad trackpad support, and more

The productivity update

You could argue that the update is a boost to productivity, particularly as it includes support for features that should be quite useful to remote workers, namely iCloud Folder Sharing and trackpad support for iPads.

It’s an important update that introduces a string of essential improvements:

  • iCloud folder sharing.
  • Mouse and trackpad support for iPads.
  • Universal app purchases.
  • Toolbar improvements in Mail.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for Photos.
  • New CarPlay controls.

You also get support for the recently introduced Beats Powerbeats 4 earphones and a selection of nine new Memoji stickers.

Mac users gain Screen Time Communication Limits (so useful for the remote worker attempting to keep life under control) and real-time Apple Music lyrics.

Recently played Apple Arcade games now appear in the Arcade tab, making it much easier to play them across all your Apple devices.

What is iCloud folder sharing?

Without doubt the marquee feature in this release, iCloud Folder Sharing means you can share entire folders of documents, images and other digital stuff with others. Simple to use, Apple may have had problems ensuring consistent behavior in the feature, which turns iCloud Drive into a Dropbox replacement for the rest of us.

The feature was originally announced at WWDC 2019.

What is mouse and trackpad support for iPads?

I wrote a whole article about this, but essentially trackpad support means your iPad becomes an even more effective (and far more use flexible) MacBook replacement. It gives you a new cursor design that highlights app icons on the Home Screen and Dock and buttons and controls in apps. Take a look.

What are Universal app purchases?

Remember the old days when you had to purchase an app for iOS and an application for Mac on two separate App Stores? You still do, but now you (may) only need to pay once for the privilege, as Universal App Purchases let developers make both apps available for one price exchange.

What is the new Mail toolbar?

The new Mail toolbar is a big improvement to a little problem. People complained that the delete and reply to controls were too close together in iOS 13, which led them to accidentally delete mails they wanted to keep.

The update puts a little space between the two and adds new Folder and Compose buttons. Enterprise users will want to know of that responses to encrypted emails are automatically encrypted when you have configured S/MIME for this.

What are the new CarPlay controls?

You now get support for third-party navigation apps and call controls on the dashboard when on a call via the Phone app or any (compatible) VoIP app that supports CarPlay.

Is there anything else?

You mean beyond the customary list of patched problems? Of course. You’ll find a new Shazam It Shortcut you can use to identify a song that’s playing, some new keyboard shortcuts if you happen to be using Photos and audio playback for USDZ files.

What about Apple Watch?

Apple has also updated Apple Watch to watchOS 6.2.  This offers support for in-app purchases on the device and bring ECG support to Chile, New Zealand, and Turkey. The company also introduced tvOS 13.4, which improves Family Sharing.

You can read Apple’s notes on the iOS/iPadOS update here.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple ships macOS Catalina; here’s what you get

Apple today released macOS Catalina, making it available now for download.

I’ve been using it since the beta release and have written extensively in recent months about many of the new improvements and features. Here’s what you need to know:

Should I install Catalina today?

Apple’s new macOS has been extensively tested, but I don’t generally recommend any user upgrades immediately when a major OS update ships.

There are several reasons:

  • Some essential third-party apps may not yet have Catalina support.
  • Even after extensive beta testing, things do go wrong, so it is worth waiting until the first point upgrade to an OS.
  • You should always backup your device before you upgrade, and when you do upgrade you should have time on hand to address any problems that occur.
  • The update process tends to be a little smoother if you delay and avoid the rush.

When it comes to Catalina, I’m not suggesting things will go awry once you do upgrade, but in the rare event something happens, you need to make sure you have the time to address it.

What about 32-bit apps?

Apple has removed support for 32-bit apps in Catalina. I’ve seen lots of reports criticizing the move, but it’s not as if it should come as a surprise.

Developers and enterprises have literally had years to prepare since Apple warned this would happen in 2017. If a developer of your internal or external application failed to migrate to 64-bit, the onus is on them, not Apple. (I’m still surprised the developers behind some very popular Logic plug-ins have failed to upgrade their (costly) apps for Catalina. In fact, I think that’s inexcusable, and obviously it does mean if you use Logic you should delay the upgrade.)

In general terms, if you still rely on any mission-critical 32-bit app you should find out whether Catalina updates are available. If not, replace the app.

macos catalina music Apple

The new Music app will hold all of your playlists and songs.

What about the Music, Podcasts, TV and Books apps?

If you use an iPad, you’ll already be familiar with Apple’s new media apps, which are among the first to come across using the new Catalyst conversion software to transport apps made using UIKit for iPad across to Mac.

There’s a wave of apps about to ship that will support the Mac. These will be easy to find, as I understand there will be a software selection made available on the Mac App Store.

What can I say about Apple’s new media apps?

What I most like is the unified experience – you now get pretty much the same experience across all your media applications; bloated iTunes is gone (though I do kind of miss it); and you can control all your apps using Voice Control. Which means you can simply ask your Mac to play a movie, podcast, open a book or tune in to radio.

Apple Arcade also works on the Mac. I remain obsessed with Oceanhorn 2, and hope Apple can come up with something more offering that kind of quality. I’m also resolute that the ability to create gaming experiences that work across all Apple’s platforms is a wake-up call to any app developer – a unified UI is the new normal and computer users are going to expect this kind of intuitive use.

Find everyone and anything with your Mac

The new Find My app lets you find your friends and devices (so long as they are willing to be found) in one place. It works even if your lost device can’t connect to Wi-Fi or cellular thanks to a clever implementation of Bluetooth (explained here).

Mac users have always been able to find devices via iCloud online (www.icloud.com), and can find a person’s location in Messages using the map that appears in details view. But this implementation is much, much better.

Why? Because bringing all these features together in a single application makes these tools much easier to surface than they were when hidden elsewhere.

I’ve not had the opportunity to test the Bluetooth implementation yet. I’ll be interested to learn how this performs – and how it evolves….

sidecar catalina ipad Apple

Taking Sidecar for a spin

I’m thrilled with Sidecar. I think it’s going to be all the excuse some iPad users need to justify purchasing a Mac.

I had problems figuring out how to use it at first. Sure, I could see how to send an application window to the iPad as a second display, and I could figure out how to use an iPad to annotate a PDF or draw sketches. But some things didn’t seem to work as I expected them too – until I realized I could use the mouse on my Mac to shift windows content around.

You’ll also see that when you work on an app in a window on your iPad you’ll suddenly have access to the shortcuts and controls made available via the Touch Bar, even when using a Mac that doesn’t have its own Touch Bar. If you don’t want to use these, you can switch this off in System Preferences>Sidecar where you uncheck Show Touch Bar.

You’ll also find that gestures performed on your iPad will also work on applications displayed from your Mac.

That’s not all it does, of course – for many users, the most outstanding feature is going to be the ability to use an Apple Pencil on your iPad to draw in a Mac app; it’s quite useful for annotation, and invaluable for those using graphics applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator or Maya. It means anyone with a Mac and an iPad now has their own graphics tablet. This more than justifies the zero price of the upgrade.

Find out how to use Sidecar with your Mac and iPad.

Your photos look better than ever

The new Photos application has received noteworthy improvements, reflecting Apple’s focus on imaging across all its products. There’s a new look featuring large image previews, and you’ll find Live Photos and videos automatically start playing when you are exploring collections and your library.

Machine intelligence is deeply woven in. You’ll see that Photos will automatically optimize images in your collection and does so well, it even figures out what the focal point of any image is and focuses its presentation on that.

You’ll also find the application has got much smarter at identifying places, people and things and assembling collections of appropriate images, such as galleries for birthdays and other events. This makes the application great to use and more visually compelling.

macos catalina voice control Apple

Voice Control is my favorite feature

Of all the useful improvements in macOS Catalina, it’s Voice Control that has made the biggest impression. Not only will this be life-changing for many people, it also opens up future opportunities, such as Macs you can control using AirPods, for example. This is a big step toward voice as a primary computing interface, ambient computing, and connected network intelligence.

I’ve been using Voice Control for several weeks. I’m impressed by what it can do – particularly how effective the grid system is when attempting to control third-party software that doesn’t support the feature.

The fact that these powerful accessibility tools are built inside an operating system at no additional charge represents a huge improvement to how such solutions were once sold on some platforms. It really is computing for the rest of us.

Find out how to use Voice Control here.

Do you use Screen Time?

Available in System Preferences, the new Screen Time app offers a plethora of information to help you keep an eye on what you’re doing with your Mac. Screen Time is the Mac equivalent of a similar feature Apple has already brought to iOS. It lets you monitor:

  • App Usage, including time spent in each app.
  • Notifications frequency.
  • Pickups – how often you use apps and interact with your Mac.

It also lets you control content and privacy, and limit how long you work in some apps.

The feature works well, lets you combine the data with all your other devices, and is a great way to help your recognize that the only time you’re not online is when you’re asleep. This information is power and may help some users find a new way to get things done.

What about the little things?

Catalina isn’t just about the big ticket items – the release is packed with smaller enhancements you’ll want to use.

Things like picture-in-picture controls in Safari are really effective and the new Mail tools are useful. I do think, however, that Apple needs to make Mail the 21st Century collaboration tool email should become (and the new Reminders, Notes and – eventually – iCloud folder-sharing features should be part of this). I also really like the fact you now back your iPhone up using the Finder – it feels absolutely as if it should always have been this way.

[Also read: 13+ macOS Catalina enhancements you’ll want to use]

Dark mode is nice – though I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it as most. It doesn’t get in the way when in use, and those apps that support it now have an alternative appearance. Dark Mode is also much easier to use over an extended length of time. You can enable and disable Dark Mode and change some settings in System Preferences>General in the Appearance section.

Apple also introduced new permissions to control what data your applications gather. I’ve noticed some doom-mongers who have warned these permission requests would degrade the user experience, but they are wrong – the impact is minimal but the message it sends to surveillance capitalists is essential and fully justified.

I can even imagine Apple purchasing a social media company like MeWe in order to starve these information brokers of access to our personal data.

This, in conjunction with security and privacy enhancements in Mail and Safari, should give most enterprise users yet another excuse to consider migration to the Mac. Take a look at the new features in Safari here.

macos catalina installer icon Apple

Up next

The main feeling when you upgrade to Catalina will likely be a sense of familiarity, because while there are new features, applications and enhancements, Apple has held true to a user interface that is still familiar, even in Dark Mode.

What’s changing is under the hood: more machine intelligence, more voice control, new and better media management apps and fabulous enhancements in Photos. (The latter isn’t just about making your images better, but also about using personalization of those images as a way to deepen your relationship with your Mac.)

At the same time, you’re looking at Catalyst, new ways to develop Mac apps that should bring a swathe of consumer applications to the platform – and will enable enterprise IT to build apps for all Apple’s platforms using the iPad as a starting point. Deeper down, you a move to 64-bit apps universally across all of Apple’s systems.

As a platform, Apple’s real innovation is in the form of new tools for developers: SwiftUI (work in progress), additional support for new Siri search domains, PencilKit, SiriKit, MapKit and big improvements in Metal, along with other enhancements, mean we’ll see a host of new apps and new app features appear now that Catalina is released.

That focus on developers and applications should also lead to a welcome boost on the release and availability of a range of iPad apps thanks to Catalyst.

In the end, this is the main focus in this release: Creating a stronger platform developers can use to build apps as Apple steps towards its next adventures in Mac design.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.





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HyperX Ships Pulsefire Dart Wireless Charging Mouse and Base Station – Review Geek

HyperX Pulsefire Dart and ChargePlay Base
HyperX

HyperX has begun shipping a new wireless gaming mouse with the ability to be recharged wirelessly. Dealing with the batteries in a wireless mouse is easily the most annoying part of ownership, and this solution eliminates most of the hassle.

Known as the Pulsefire Dart, the mouse can be purchased separately with a companion charging station, the ChargePlay Base, which lets you park the peripheral on a Qi wireless charging pad to juice up for your next round of Apex Legends. Because the ChargePlay Base uses Qi wireless charging technology, you can also use the pad to recharge other Qi-enabled devices such as mobile phones.

The ChargePlay Base can handle two devices simultaneously with an output of up to 10 watts on a given device, or 15 watts total when charging two devices. Along with supporting wireless recharging, you can power the mouse with a bundled 1.8-meter USB Type-A to Type-C cable in the event that you’re running low on battery and need to keep using the device.

The HyperX Pulsefire Dart can be used for up to 50 hours on a single charge with the default LED lighting enabled or 90 hours with the LED lighting disabled, and features the following specifications:

  • Sensor: Pixart PMW3389
  • Resolution: Up to 16000 DPI
  • DPI Presets: 800 / 1600 / 3200 DPI
  • Speed: 450ips
  • Acceleration: 50G
  • Buttons: 6
  • Left / Right buttons switches: Omron
  • Left / Right buttons durability: 50 million clicks
  • Light effects: Per-LED RGB lighting2
  • Onboard memory: 1 profile
  • Connection type: 2.4GHz wireless / wired
  • Battery life2: 90 hours w/ LED off, 50 hours w/ Default LED Lighting
  • Charging type: Wireless Qi charging3 / wired
  • Polling rate: 1000Hz
  • Cable type: Detachable charging/data cable
  • Weight (without cable): 112g
  • Weight (with cable): 130g
  • Dimensions: Length: 124.8mm, Height: 43.6mm, Width: 73.9mm
  • Cable length: 1.8m
  • Note: The RGB lighting and specifications such as DPI settings and macros can be customized in the HyperX NGenuity software.
HyperX Pulsefire Dart and NGenuity software
HyperX

HyperX (the gaming division of Kingston Technology) is currently selling the Pulsefire Dart and ChargePlay Base separately for $99.99 and $59.99. Units are being distributed through the company’s network of retail and e-tail outlets, and global availability is mentioned though regions are not specified.





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Intel ships Stratix 10 DX FPGAs with PCIe 4 and Optane support, partners with VMWare

Continuing its evolution in the intelligent, adaptable data center market, Intel just announced its latest series of Stratix 10 FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays), which incorporate a number of new features and capabilities, have begun shipping in limited quantities to key partners. Intel’s new Stratix 10 DX series of FPGAs bring with them support for the company’s UPI, or Ultra Path Interconnect, in addition to PCI Express 4.0 and Optane DC Persistent memory technology.

As data center workloads become more diverse and complex, the use of flexible, programmable FPGA-based accelerators to complement traditional CPUs, GPUs, and ASICs is becoming increasingly more common. Due to the fact that FPGAs can be programmed and tuned on-the-fly for specific algorithms and workloads that may not be well-suited to CPUs or GPUs, their use in burgeoning fields like machine learning and big data analytics is exploding. In addition to accelerating specific workloads, because FPGAs help offload tasks from other compute engines in a system, they also free those engines to perform other operations, and ultimately increase efficiency and compute density.

New high-speed interconnects key to optimizing performance

“Intel Stratix 10 DX FPGAs are the first FPGAs designed to combine key features that dramatically boost acceleration of workloads in the cloud and enterprise when used with Intel’s portfolio of data center solutions,” said David Moore, Intel vice president and general manager, FPGA and Power Products, Network and Custom Logic Group. “No other FPGA currently offers this combination of features for server designs based on future select Intel Xeon Scalable processors.”

An FPGA’s ultimate performance is significantly impacted by the interface bandwidth and latency between it and its host server’s (or servers’) processors, memory, or other integrated accelerators. By incorporating UPI support into the Stratix 10 DX, Intel claims they’ll be able to communicate with up to 37% lower latency (within a future, Intel-based server architecture), with improved overall system performance, thanks to an increased theoretical peak transfer rate of 28GB/second and coherent data movement.

Support for PCI Express 4.0 also doubles the peak interface bandwidth over PCI Express 3.0, which is much more common today. In fact, in data centers where FPGA-based accelerators are most likely to be used, it’s only AMD’s recently-released EPYC 7000 series processors that support PCIe 4 at this point in time. Intel’s current-generation Xeon platform does not support it. A PCI Express Gen4 x16 interface delivers theoretical peak data bandwidth of 32GB/s, whereas a similar PCI Express 3.0 link tops out at 16GB/s.

Support for innovative new memory technologies

Another feature arriving with the Stratix 10 DX family is support for Optane DC Persistent memory. If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory leverages the company’s 3D XPoint non-volatile memory media. 3D XPoint is a relatively new memory type that not only offers significantly better throughput than NAND flash memory, but speedier DRAM-like access times. 3D XPoint also offers higher endurance than traditional NAND flash memory but can scale to similarly high densities. When Intel jointly announced 3D XPoint in partnership with Micron a few years ago, the companies claimed that, at the chip level, it was 1000x faster than NAND, with 1000x the endurance, and 10x the density potential of DRAM.

Thanks to a newly designed memory controller, Intel Stratix 10 DX FPGAs can support up to eight Intel Optane DC persistent memory modules per FPGA, for up to 4TB of non-volatile memory. Being able to keep that much data so close to the accelerator could have major performance implications for big data workloads, which are often limited by bandwidth and latency, as servers shuffle chunks of massive datasets to and from main system memory.  Note, however, that support for Optane DC Persistent memory with coherent memory expansion and hardware acceleration is reserved for some upcoming Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Support isn’t enabled in existing Xeon platforms.

Other features of the Intel Stratix 10 series of FPGAs include 100 GB/second Ethernet connectivity, HBM2 memory stacks and quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor subsystems with peripherals.

Although CXL, or the Compute eXpress Link, open interface standard Intel spearheaded is slated to arrive in 2021, the company believes that adding coherent memory and UPI support, along with Optane DC Persistent memory with its Stratix 10 DX FPGAs and next-generation Xeon platform, will help accelerate adoption of workloads that take advantage of coherent cache and memory access across different processors and accelerators, in advance of CXL’s arrival.

As part of a joint press release, Intel and VMWare have also announced a collaboration to develop coherent FPGA and CPU accelerated solutions for cloud and on-premises customer applications.  Intel is sampling Stratix 10 FPGAs to its key customers now, though volume production has yet to be disclosed.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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