MacStories: A Photo Tour of Apple’s New Flagship Chicago Store

Over at MacStories, John Voorhees published a nice photo tour of the new Apple Store that just opened in Chicago. The photos probably don’t do it justice:

It’s hard to appreciate just how completely the store disappears into its surroundings unless you see it for yourself. The illusion is enhanced by even the smallest touches like the grooves in the staircases that continue from the interior of the store to its exterior.

It looks incredible and I hope to get to see it in the near future, and the photos are pretty great.

On Personalizing “Hey Siri”

From Apple’s Machine Learning Journal, in a piece about what goes on behind the scenes on your devices when you say “Hey Siri”:

We designed the always-on “Hey Siri” detector to respond whenever anyone in the vicinity says the trigger phrase. To reduce the annoyance of false triggers, we invite the user to go through a short enrollment session. During enrollment, the user says five phrases that each begin with “Hey Siri.” We save these examples on the device.

We compare any possible new “Hey Siri” utterance with the stored examples as follows. The (second-pass) detector produces timing information that is used to convert the acoustic pattern into a fixed-length vector, by taking the average over the frames aligned to each state. A separate, specially trained DNN transforms this vector into a “speaker space” where, by design, patterns from the same speaker tend to be close, whereas patterns from different speakers tend to be further apart. We compare the distances to the reference patterns created during enrollment with another threshold to decide whether the sound that triggered the detector is likely to be “Hey Siri” spoken by the enrolled user.

This process not only reduces the probability that “Hey Siri” spoken by another person will trigger the iPhone, but also reduces the rate at which other, similar-sounding phrases trigger Siri.

I found this whole thing very interesting, even as I am not experienced in the ways of machine learning. I found it particularly interesting because of something that happened last week: My wife and I were sitting on the couch and I used “Hey Siri” for something. Out of curiosity, I checked to see if it triggered hers, and indeed it did not. With my iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch at the ready, I had her try to trigger my devices multiple times, with no success.

It’s neat to see what goes into helping Siri reduce the chances of these false activations. Granted, my wife is a female with a slight Mexican accent (only very slightly). The chance of false activation would be higher with another male speaker, I imagine, but the fact that it is able to store and use the enrollment examples to cut down on this is still really cool.

Learn Ulysses: Here It Is (The Sweet Setup)

You deserve to be free to focus on your ideas, your writing, your notes, and your research. That’s why I use Ulysses, and that’s why I want to help you learn Ulysses and discover everything it’s capable of doing.

The Sweet Setup has launched a new course for learning Ulysses, the powerful dual-platform (iOS and macOS) text editor from developers The Soulmen. I haven’t had a chance to check out the course yet but it sounds good and has some good reviews from those who have. Learn Ulysses consists of 7 videos, which seem to cover everything there is to know about using Ulysses.

Ulysses has been the subject of some discussion lately, since their recent switch to a subscription pricing model. Some folks might not be able to justify the cost given how they use Ulysses, while others will know that they use it too much not to purchase a subscription. Personally, I took advantage of the annual subscription’s discount for existing users. I don’t hold any issue with their decision to switch, as long as it enables them to continue to provide the excellent quality Ulysses customers have come to know and expect in their favorite writing app.

If you recently decided to purchase a subscription for Ulysses, or you’re considering whether it will be worth it for you, personally, Learn Ulysses might be able to help you make that decision or figure out if it was the right decision for you to have made, by showing you everything you can do with it and maybe even giving you some ideas on ways you can take your use further. Like I said, I haven’t seen it, and this isn’t a review. However I like and trust the work of Shawn Blanc and the others at The Sweet Setup.

If you’re interested in this course, it’s usually $29 but you can get a launch week special of 20% and grab it for $23 now.

Farewell, TextTool

Sad news in the iOS Utilities category: Craig Pearlman has announced he will be ending development of his excellent iOS text utility, TextTool 2.

I’ve been a fan of TextTool since version one launched, and was excited to upgrade to version 2 fairly recently. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring in enough money to support development. This is a real shame. I’ve conversed with Craig a few times on Twitter and Slack and I can only imagine how much care he put into revamping TextTool for version 2 (though one doesn’t have to imagine if they’ve ever used the app; it shows).

TextTool was built out of love for iOS and the need to perform certain types of tasks. It started as a simple idea and grew. TextTool 2 was written to take this to the next level, to try to provide a desktop-class experience to a platform that needed it.

As he says in his post, he will be back; I don’t doubt that and I look forward to seeing what comes next from Blackfog Interactive. I’m the meantime, I hope somebody who can keep it true acquires TextTool 2.

Link: ‘Your’ vs. ‘My’ (Daring Fireball)

I have to agree with John Gruber’s assessment of Tom Warren’s review on The Verge regarding the new iPad Pro and iOS 11 beta:

Tom Warren’s review for The Verge of the new iPad Pro and iOS 11 beta is headlined “iOS 11 on an iPad Pro Still Won’t Replace Your Laptop”. Exactly in line with my piece yesterday, that “your” should be a “my”.

As well as this:

Again, Apple is not trying to convince everyone to replace a traditional Mac or PC with an iPad. Apple executives say that the Mac has a bright and long future because they really do think the Mac has a bright and long future. Any review of the iPad and iOS 11 from the perspective of whether it can replace a MacBook for everyone is going to completely miss what is better about the iPad and why.

I think he is right on point with that. Apple isn’t trying to replace the Mac entirely. They still have plans and the Mac still has a future. They made quite a show of it at the WWDC keynote this year with new hardware and new technologies for AR and VR.

Sure, the iPad isn’t a Mac. And neither is the Mac an iPad. Where I see the strengths of using one device for a particular purpose, you might see weakness of using that same device for your own needs, and vice versa. I don’t think there is any valid debate as to whether or not the iPad Pro (and perhaps even an iPad Air) can replace a laptop. It’s not a fringe case. You can argue whether or not it can replace a laptop for everyone but you’d be missing the point entirely.

When I handled customer support for Workflow, I saw plenty of people doing plenty of work with iPads alone – and I do mean real work. MacStories is a perfect example of work being done iPad-first (or mostly iPad only). Hell, most of my work in the last two years was done from an iPad, and an Air 2 rather than a Pro at that. iOS 11’s new iPad productivity features certainly aren’t a setback to this. I don’t think there is any reason to suggest Apple is trying to force or convince everyone to go iPad only and toss out their Macs, and I don’t see them sheltering the Mac anytime soon. What i see with iOS 11 is Apple trying to make the iPad a better, more productive work environment for those who want to use it as such.

I have a 2014 MacBook Air and while I’d love to replace it with a newer MacBook Pro, I do love my Mac and I don’t plan on giving it up. I have a lot of great software there and I enjoy the look and feel of the system, the hardware, all of it. I feel the same for iOS and the iPad (and the iPhone), especially in iOS 11. Going forward, (and getting my first iPad Pro tomorrow) I have a feeling I will be doing most things from my iPad. I have my reasons, some of them being portability, speed, and the enjoyment I get from using a multi-touch-sensitive piece of glass capable of running great software, side by side, without a clutter of windows, and with fewer distractions.

There are other reasons but ultimately I enjoy using it and for what I need to do, the iPad is sufficient. There are plenty of people for whom the iPad Pro is sufficient enough for the work they need to do, but who feel more comfortable with a traditional keyboard/mouse interface. I get the feeling they’ll be able to continue doing so for a long time, but the iPad is a better way to work than a laptop for me.

Source: Daring Fireball

Link: How to make $80,000 per month on the Apple App Store

Johnny Lin tells of a scam in the form of a #10 Top Grossing productivity app on the Apple App Store with horrific grammar and spelling. Their app claims it can scan your entire device for viruses and malware — something that sandboxing on iOS does not allow — for an easy-to-miss $99.99 in-app purchase (and that’s just for a 7-day subscription). Lin explains better:

Touch ID? Okay! Wait… let’s read the fine print:

“Full Virus, Malware scanner”: What? I’m pretty sure it’s impossible for any app to scan my iPhone for viruses or malware, since third party apps are sandboxed to their own data, but let’s keep reading…

“You will pay $99.99 for a 7-day subscription”

Uhh… come again?

It’s crazy that an app can get through the review like this, and crazier to me that enough people could fall for it, but alas it/they did. Working in customer support for an iOS app, it became clear that a lot of iOS users aren’t aware of sandboxing, or don’t understand how it works. Being educated on this fact would likely curb the number of victims in such a scam. Obviously there are bigger issues here, but it might help to educate less tech literate friends or family.

Source: https://medium.com/@johnnylin/how-to-make-80-000-per-month-on-the-apple-app-store-bdb943862e88