App of the Week: Alfred

Ditch Spotlight for this genius universal search bar on Mac

Spotlight is a powerful tool on the Mac, but it doesn’t even compare to the third-party app Alfred and its countless user-developed workflows.

 

By Taylor Martin of CNet

Apple’s Spotlight for Mac is a wonderful tool, but even with Siri and a third-party add-ons coming this fall, Spotlight doesn’t compare to one of my all-time favorite applications, Alfred.

Alfred looks and acts much like Spotlight. But with the add-on Powerpack, it gets a lot smarter. The $22.04 (£17.00 or AU$28.61) app adds “workflows,” which make your Mac do a chain of tasks with one command.

The best workflows for Alfred

If you’re ready to ditch Spotlight, install these add-ons to change the way you use your Mac. Seriously.

To install one of these workflows, follow the link to download it, double-click to open and the workflow will install itself.

  • Google Suggest does exactly what you would expect it to. It puts suggested searches inside Alfred. Press your launch command for Alfred (by default, it’s Options + Spacebar) and type “g” followed by a space. Then type your search query. With each keystroke, the list of suggested searches narrows. Use arrow keys or the hotkey (listed to the right of the result) to select one and load the search results in your default browser.
  • Amazon Suggest is the same thing for Amazon searches. Launch Alfred and type “amazon,” followed by your search query. Highlighting and selecting one of those results will launch the Amazon search in your default browser.
  • Curious how critics feel about a new movie? Use the RottenMovies workflow to find out. Type “rt” followed by the name of the movie. The workflow will search Rotten Tomatoes and you can see the score without ever visiting the website.
  • Sitting at a desk all day, it’s easy to let 10, 20 or even 30 minutes slip by unnoticed.
  • Sometimes you need to set quick reminders for yourself to respond to someone in 20 minutes or check the coffee pot in 5. EggTimer 2 is the perfect workflow for this. Launch Alfred and type “timer 5 Check coffee pot” to set a 5-minute timer with a reminder to check the coffee pot. You can also set alarms for specific times using the same syntax: “alarm 4:00pm Take a break” or “alarm 12:00pm Lunch.”

 

  • When writing, I’m constantly switching between my writing app and Google search for currency and unit conversions. With the Units workflow, I can make those same conversions without ever leaving my writing app. In Alfred, type “units” and type or select what you want to convert from the list of options (length, temperature, currency, etc.). Next type a number and select the starting unit from the options and finally select what you’re converting to. When you hit enter at the end, the conversion is copied to your clipboard for pasting. It will take a few tries to get the process down, but once you do, this is one of the most handy converters around.
  • The Recent Items workflow is great for helping you recall things you have been working on in the last few hours. Install the workflow and launch Alfred, then type “rec.” The workflow will suggest types of recent items, such as applications, downloads, folders or up to two custom items. Select one of the types of files from the selection (or begin typing to narrow the suggestions) and all the recent items of that type will appear. Selecting one will open it.
  • After you get used to a keyboard launcher like Alfred, it’s difficult to break the habit of launching Alfred when you want to do anything, even things that you don’t normally control with Alfred, such as adding new tasks to your task manager. Fortunately, you can add that functionality with workflows for Trello, Wunderlist and Todoist.
  • Sometimes toggling Wi-Fi will fix any connectivity issues you’re experiencing. It’s not a difficult task on OS X, especially with the menu bar icon. However, the Wi-Fi Control makes it a much faster process. You can turn Wi-Fi on or off with the workflow, but you can also restart Wi-Fi (toggle off and back on) with just a few keystrokes.
  • The Kill workflow is easily the one I use the most. If you have a rogue app that gets hung or you need to force quit, launch Alfred, type “kill” followed by the first few letters of the app and press Enter. It will immediately kill any apps or processes.
  • I also do a lot of link shortening for personal analytics. The Shorten URL workflow is fantastic. It includes support for goo.gl, bit.ly, is.gd, j.mp and more. With the workflow installed, launch Alfred and type “short” followed by a space, paste the URL you want to shorten and select the link-shortening service. The shortened link will be copied to your clipboard and automatically pasted wherever your cursor is placed.

 

  • It’s easy to use the same password over and over. But if you use a password manager, quickly generating a new password is the more secure route. With the Password Generator workflow, type “pw” followed by a number for how many digits you’d like the password to have. Press enter and the randomized password will be copied to your clipboard.
  • Sleep is a sleep timer workflow for your Mac. Just type “sleep” followed by the number of minutes you want your computer to stay awake. After the timer finished, the Mac will go to sleep.
  • Who doesn’t love GIFs? Alphy puts Giphy search right inside Alfred. Just type “gif” followed by your search term. Highlight one of the suggestions and press Shift to preview it. Pressing Enter will copy the URL of the GIF to your keyboard, Command + Enter will copy the Giphy URL and Alt + Enter will open the GIF on the Giphy website.
  • There are several ways to quickly insert emoji with a Mac. Emoj is yet another way, and this one comes with search, which means you can find a specific emoji, even when you don’t know its exact name. The downside is that this requires Node to be installed on your Mac.
  • If you’d prefer unicode emoticons over emoji, Dongers is the workflow you’re looking for. Type “dongers” and your search term for a list of relevant emoticons, like the table flip. (ノಠдಠ)ノ︵┻━┻
  • One of the first things I do if my internet connection is having problems is run a speed test. The SpeedTest workflow allows you to do this without loading the speedtest.org site in your browser. Type “speedtest” press enter and wait. When the test completes, you will receive a growl notification with your uplink and downlink speeds, as well as your ping.

Have you tried Alfred? What are some of your favorite workflows? Sound off in the comments below!!

Tales form the Orchard: What to expect from Apple’s September 12 ‘Gather round’ event

 

 

By Christian de Looper of Digital Trends

It’s that time of year again. Apple has sent out invitations for its annual September event, where we’ll likely see a new set of iPhone devices, a new Apple Watch, and possibly a range of other devices too. The event itself is set to take place on September 12 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, though no matter where you live you should be able to live-stream it for yourself.

What exactly will Apple announce? We’ve been following rumors surrounding all the upcoming products for the past year, and we’ve rounded them up into this short, handy guide. Here’s everything we expect to see at Apple’s “Gather Round” event.

THREE IPHONES

Last year, Apple unveiled the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus. This year, rumors suggest it will announce three different models again. Apple is expected to fully adopt the edge-to-edge design seen on the iPhone X for all models of the iPhone (including the notch). Thankfully, they won’t all cost $1,000. Apple will reportedly release two successors to the iPhone X, dubbed the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and they will be sized at 5.8 inches and 6.5 inches. Apple will also release a 6.1-inch model, which is expected to be the cheapest of the lot. It will also have an edge-to-edge display with a notch, but the main difference will stem from the use of a LCD screen instead of OLED used on the other two.

The new iPhone XS devices are expected to arrive in a new gold color model, alongside an updated processor, eSIM support, a potential Lightning to USB Type-C cable, and more. The prices are rumored to range from $650 to $1,000.

APPLE WATCH SERIES 4

Just like it did last year, Apple is expected to release a new Apple Watch alongside the new series of iPhones. The Apple Watch Series 4 will retain many of the features of the Apple Watch Series 3, but it’s expected to include a display that’s larger by as much as 15 percent — making it an edge-to-edge display, like that on the iPhone X.

Other rumors about the watch indicate Apple may do away with the Wi-Fi model altogether — leaving only the LTE model (you will likely still be able to use Wi-Fi without paying for LTE with this model). It may also feature a UV sensor, and will run Apple’s latest version of watchOS 5.0.

MACBOOK AIR

Apple has long been expected to release a new low-cost MacBook, and rumors indicate the company will introduce a refresh of the MacBook Air. The new device is expected to feature Intel’s 8th-generation processors, along with a larger display. The updated computer will reportedly get a 13-inch Retina display, and will likely feature modern ports, like USB-C.

Not much else is known about the new laptop, except for the fact that it will most likely come at a starting price of around $1,000. It’s also not totally certain the new MacBook Air will be released at this September event. Instead, it could show up in October.

MAC MINI

Apple may also be planning a long-awaited refresh of the Mac Mini — and it’s about time, considering the computer was last updated in 2014. There will likely be quite a few performance upgrades. Apple will probably adopt Intel’s eighth-generation chips for the computer, and may do away with outdated hard drives in favor of only solid-state options. On top of that, while Apple may not completely revamp the design, it will likely at least update the port selection on the computer to include a few USB-C ports.

When it comes to pricing, the new Mac Mini may start in the $1,000 price range, and will range up from there. Like the MacBook Air, however, there’s no certainty that the Mac Mini will show up at the September 12 event — it may well instead be released later in the year.

IPAD PRO 2018

Another rumor to have popped up in recent days is that Apple will update the iPad Pro. It’ll be more than just a spec-bump too — rumors indicate Apple will give the iPad Pro the iPhone X treatment, with slimmer bezels around the screen, as well an updated A-series processor, and perhaps even a little more RAM.

With the new design, there may be no more home button, which means Face ID may replace Touch ID. That may be a double-edged sword, though, as rumors suggest Face ID might only work in vertical mode — meaning you won’t be able to dock the iPad to a keyboard and unlock it with your face. Apple may move the Smart Connector to the bottom of the iPad, so manufacturers may need to build new keyboards.

AIRPOWER

Apple officially announced the AirPower charger almost a full year ago, but the charger has yet to be released. When it is, AirPower will be able to charge up to three devices at a time — meaning in the evening you can plop down your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods to charger — and they’ll be good to go in the morning. It’s using unique technology that will be able to identify the products and provide the correct amount of energy needed.

While we’re not completely certain AirPower will see the light of day at Apple’s upcoming event, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

OPERATING SYSTEM RELEASES

Alongside new hardware, Apple will also release new software to the public. A few of those releases are all but definite. There’s iOS 12, which will be released likely on September 12 itself. You can check out our hands-on review for all the details on what’s new.

Next up is watchOS 5, which is also likely to be pushed to Apple Watch users on September 12 or soon after. The new operating system boasts a few improvements to watchOS and how it works, including better health and fitness tracking, Walkie Talkie mode, Siri Shortcuts, and more. On top of that, Siri will be better at listening to your needs — you’ll no longer need to say “Hey Siri” to activate her. Instead, simply hold your wrist up to your mouth, and Siri should be listening.

Last but not last is macOS, which is being updated to macOS Mojave. It’s expected that the new macOS will be released alongside new Apple computers — meaning it’s not a certainty that the new operating system will be released at this event. Still, if it is, macOS users will enjoy a number of new features, including a new Dark Mode, a revamped App Store, and Stacks, which are automatically arranged groups of files on the desktop.

 

What are you looking forward to the most from Apple’s upcoming Media Event? Sound off in the comments below!!

Tales from the Orchard: Band of Apple Store Thieves Taken Down By Regular Customers

 

By Mike Peterson of iDropNews

Thieves who raided an Apple Store are now in custody after customers helped take them down during a robbery in Southern California.

The incident began like many Apple Store heists. Three men entered the Apple Store in Thousand Oaks at about 3:17 p.m. on Sunday and began to take several items, including iPhones and Macs worth about $18,000 in total, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office report.

But unlike the majority of Apple Store capers, the robbery in Thousand Oaks ended quite differently.

As the thieves attempted to flee the store, they ran into a “juvenile female customer causing her to fall to the ground,” authorities said.

Two of the bandits were then tackled by regular Apple Store customers — who held them down until police arrived.

The third suspect, who managed to escape the store, was arrested separately when his car was pulled over by authorities. Two other alleged accomplices were in the getaway vehicle and were also detained.

All in all, five suspects were arrested. They were charged with burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary, police said.

Police believe the band of thieves may be tied to other Apple Store robberies across California, including a heist in Northridge earlier that same day, KCAL reported.

Four of the five suspects are from Northern California, while the fifth was from Fresno.

Brick-and-mortar Apple locations have been hit across the state of California since the spring — including a recent one in Roseville, California earlier this month in which thieves made out with $20,000 of electronics.

Apple Stores have become popular targets for robberies in recent years, likely due to the expensive electronics within. Bandits regularly pilfer upwards of $20,000 worth of products from these locations.

Most of these robberies play out the same way. Thieves will rush into a store, take Apple products by severing the security tethers, then flee just as rapidly. While sometimes caught on surveillance footage, the speed and aggressiveness of the robberies have made catching the suspects difficult for police departments.

While the Fresno robbery could have played out the same way, the Good Samaritans who were present quickly put a stop to that.

How to: Use AirPlay

Minimum Requirements and Basic Information

 

by Sam Costello of Lifewire

For many years, the music, videos, and photos stored in our iTunes libraries and on our computers were stuck on those devices (barring complex file-sharing arrangements). For Apple products, that has all changed with the advent of AirPlay (formerly known as AirTunes).

AirPlay lets you stream all kinds of content from your computer or iOS device to other computers, speakers, and TVs.
It’s a pretty neat, and powerful technology that’s only going to get more useful as more products support it.

You don’t have to wait for that day to come, though. If you want to start using AirPlay today, read on for tips on how to use it with many existing devices and apps.

AirPlay Requirements

You’ll need compatible devices in order to use AirPlay.

  • A Mac or PC
  • An iOS device running iOS 4.2 or later
  • iTunes 10.2 or later (some earlier versions support AirTunes or more limited AirPlay implementations)
  • Any iPad model
  • iPhone 3GS or higher
  • 3rd generation iPod touch or newer
  • Any Apple TV model
  • AirPort Express
  • Compatible third-party apps
  • Compatible third-party hardware like speakers or stereo receivers

Remote App
If you have an iOS device, you’ll probably want to download Apple’s free Remote app from the App Store. Remote allows you to use your iOS device as a remote (are you surprised?) to control your computer’s iTunes library and what devices it streams content to, which saves running back and forth to your computer each time you want to change something. Pretty handy!
Basic AirPlay Use

When you have a version of iTunes that supports AirPlay and at least one other compatible device, you’ll see the AirPlay icon, a rectangle with a triangle pushing into it from the bottom.

Depending on what version of iTunes you have, the AirPlay icon will appear in different locations. In iTunes 11+, the AirPlay icon is in the top left, next to the play/forward/backward buttons. In iTunes 10+, you’ll find it in the bottom right-hand corner of the iTunes window.

This allows you to select a device to stream audio or video to via AirPlay. While earlier versions of AirTunes required you to set iTunes to seek out these devices, that’s no longer necessary – iTunes now automatically detects them.

As long as your computer and the device you want to connect to are on the same Wi-Fi network, you’ll see the names you’ve given the devices in the menu that appears when you click the AirPlay icon.

Use this menu to select the AirPlay device you want the music or video to play through (you can select more than one device at the same time), and then begin playing music or video and you’ll hear it playing through the device you selected.
See how to enable AirPlay for iPhone for a walkthrough.

AirPlay With AirPort Express

One of the easiest ways to take advantage of AirPlay is with the AirPort Express. This is around $100 USD and plugs directly into a wall socket.

AirPort Express connects to your Wi-Fi or Ethernet network and lets you connect speakers, stereos, and printers to it. With it serving as the AirPlay receiver, you can then stream content to any device attached to it.

Simply set up the AirPort Express and then choose it from the AirPlay menu in iTunes to stream content to it.
Supported Content

The AirPort Express supports streaming audio only, no video or photos. It also allows wireless printer sharing, so your printer no longer needs a cable attached to your computer to work.

Requirements

  • iTunes 10.2 or later
  • At least one AirPort Express running firmware 7.4.2 or newer (you can use multiple AirPort Expresses in the house)
  • Speakers (or printer) to plug into the AirPort Express

AirPlay and Apple TV

Another simple way to use AirPlay in the home is via the Apple TV, the tiny set-top box that connects your HDTV to your iTunes library and the iTunes Store.

The Apple TV and AirPlay is a powerful combination indeed: it supports music, video, photos, and content streamed from apps.

This means that with the tap of a button, you can take the video you’re watching on your iPad and send it to your HDTV via the Apple TV.

If you’re sending content from your computer to the Apple TV, use the method already described. If you’re using an app that displays the AirPlay icon (most common in web browsers and audio and video apps), use the AirPlay icon to select the Apple TV as the device to stream that content to.

Tip: If the Apple TV doesn’t show up in the AirPlay menu, make sure AirPlay is enabled on it by going to the Apple TV’s Settings menu and then enabling it from the AirPlay menu.

Supported Content

  • Audio streamed from iTunes or iOS devices
  • Video streamed from iTunes or iOS devices
  • Video from iOS apps (e.g. YouTube app or video embedded in web pages)
  • Photos from computers or iOS devices
  • Mirroring a device’s screen on the TV

Requirements

  • Apple TV: 2nd generation Apple TV and newer for video and photos, or 1st generation Apple TV for audio only
  • iTunes 10.2 or higher
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • An HDTV

AirPlay and Apps

 

A growing number of iOS apps support AirPlay, too. While the apps that supported AirPlay were initially limited to those built by Apple and included in iOS, since iOS 4.3, third-party apps have been able to take advantage of AirPlay.

Just look for the AirPlay icon in the app. Support is most often found in audio or video apps, but it may also be found on videos embedded in web pages.

Tap the AirPlay icon to select the destination you want to stream content to from your iOS device.
Supported Content

  • Audio
  • Video
  • Photos

Built-in iOS Apps That Support AirPlay

  • Music
  • iPod
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • YouTube
  • Safari

Requirements

  • AirPort Express, Apple TV, or compatible speakers
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • App that supports AirPlay
  • AirPlay With Speakers

AirPlay With Speakers

There are stereo receivers and speakers from third-party manufacturers that offer built-in AirPlay support.

Some come with compatibility built in and others require aftermarket upgrades. Either way, with these components, you won’t need an AirPort Express or Apple TV to send content to; you’ll be able to send it directly to your stereo from iTunes or compatible apps.

Like with the AirPort Express or Apple TV, set up your speakers (and consult the included manual for directions on using AirPlay) and then select them from the AirPlay menu in iTunes or your apps to stream audio to them.

Supported Content

  • Audio

Requirements

  • iTunes 10.2 or later
  • Compatible speakers
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • App that supports AirPlay

 

Do you have a favorite AirPlay Hack? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Seven Excel Tricks You Need To Start Using

By Alan Henry of lifehacker.com

 

 

Tales from the Orchard: Leaked internal Apple videos detail iPhone X, iMac Pro, MacBook Pro repairs

 

 

By Michael Potuck of 9to5Mac

Update: Earlier this morning Apple pulled the videos from YouTube. As noted by users on Reddit, the videos can still be downloaded – at your own risk – on torrent site Mega.

A slew of Apple internal repair videos have leaked, with detailed descriptions and walkthroughs on how to repair everything from the iPhone X to iMac Pro.

As spotted by Reddit user turnby, the 11 internal Apple repair guides showed up on YouTube recently. Motherboard got in touch with the YouTuber who uploaded them about a month ago that were first discovered on Twitter. However, they were likely kept as privately listed on YouTube until recently as Apple would have taken action to pull them long before now.

“When I saw these videos I downloaded them out of curiosity, and when his account got suspended, I wanted people to still see them, so I uploaded them to YouTube,” Haji told Motherboard in an email.

Notably the videos go in depth in describing the repair processes for the iPhone X, MacBook Pro, iMac Pro, and more.

These videos won’t be live for too long, but check them out below while you can.

The authenticity of the videos is all but certain with Apple copyrights, as well as footage of diagnostic tools and documentation.

As Motherboard notes, one impressive revelation these leaks bring is how well third-parties like iFixit reverse engineer the repair processes and offer very close walkthroughs and similar tools for sale to handle seemingly complex, detailed procedures.

What do you think of Apple’s new “training” strategies for it’s technicians? Sound off in the comments below!

App of the Week: NightOwl

Download this brilliant Mac app as soon as you get MacOS 10.14 Mojave

By Chris Smith of BGR.com

MacOS 10.14, or Mojave, comes with a feature we’ve asked from Apple for years, and that’s a dark mode that looks gorgeous. Even if you aren’t a night person, dark mode looks great, and you can experience it right away by installing the Mojave public beta.

I’ve been on the beta for weeks now, and, up until this very moment, I’ve used dark mode a total of two times. That’s because of two reasons. First of all, I forgot it exists immediately after I tried it for the first time. And then I caught myself thinking about how it’s such a drag to enable it.

To get to the dark mode, you have to go to the System Preferences app, then General — well, the first time around you’ll just search for “dark mode” to find out it’s in General.

And then you’ll have to switch between the Light and Dark themes. So. Annoying. Who has time for that?

Yes, I’m entirely aware how lazy all that sounds, but it’s incredibly annoying to have to do that every single time you want to switch between the two. 

Thankfully, there’s an app for that, and I totally love it. It’s called NightOwl, available at this link, and it’s precisely the kind of dark mode toggle you’d expected the company that makes devices that “just work” to place somewhere on the menu bar. It’s an app that Apple should copy at some point in the future.

The app puts a cute owl button on the menu bar. Click on it, and it brings up two simple buttons, that read Light and Dark:

Since I’ve installed it, I switched between light and dark modes more times than in the more than three weeks of testing Mojave. Pro tip, you can use the minimal settings of the app to make sure it runs on boots and that it plays an owl sound whenever you switch modes.

By the way, you’ll have to force the Mac to run the app: System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. And then you’ll have to let it manage your preferences. A prompt will appear on the screen, just allow the app to do it.

I know what you’re going to say next. You still have to click on that damned owl, and then on a button. But wait, it’ll get better. A future version of the app will bring an automatically toggle feature that will switch between light and dark modes on sunset and sunrise.

Have you tried out Mojave yet? Tell us your favorite features in the comments below!!

How to: Free Up Space on Your Mac

Apple includes a few tools with macOS to help manage unnecessary files on your computer.

By J. D. Biersdorfer of the New York Times

For years, Mac computers did not come with utilities like Disk Cleanup and the newer Storage Sense found in Windows, but Apple added new tools in 2016 with the release of its macOS Sierra system. If your Mac is running at least that version of the system, go to the Apple Menu, select About This Mac and click the Storage tab.

On the Storage screen, you should see a graphic showing your drive’s available space. Click the Manage button on the right side of the box to get started. The resulting storage-management screen offers four ways to clear off old files: Store in iCloud, Optimize Storage, Empty Trash; Automatically and Reduce Clutter.

As one might expect, the Store in iCloud option punts documents, photos and Messages off your Mac’s drive and into your iCloud online storage locker. While this does free up room on the computer, you may have to buy more iCloud storage space from Apple if you fill up your five gigabytes that come free with an iCloud account.

Enabling the Optimize Storage feature dumps iTunes videos you have already watched, but you can download them again later. The setting also changes the Mail program’s behavior regarding file attachments to retrieve only recent files — or only those that came with messages you have opened.

The Empty Trash Automatically setting permanently deletes files that have been living in the Mac’s trash for longer than 30 days. (In macOS Sierra and later, the system also automatically dumps duplicate Safari downloads, cache files, logs and other unneeded files.)

Using the Reduce Clutter feature is another way to find big files hogging drive space and remove them. To see what the Mac considers “clutter,” click the Review Files button and go through the lists of files deemed large, old or unnecessary. Click the X next to each file to delete it.

If you are running a version of the operating system older than macOS Sierra, you can manually wade through your drive tossing old files or get a third-party cleaning app to sweep up for you. The Macworld site has a detailed list of cleaning tips that explains how to find and trash old Mail downloads, cache files and disk images.

If you’d rather have software do the job, a combination of MacPaw’s CleanMyMac 3 and Gemini 2 (for system cleaning and duplicate-file removal) is an option; free trials of the programs are available. Disk Cleanup Pro and Dr. Cleanerare among the free utilities in the Mac App Store, and others can be found online. As with all maintenance programs, however, read the reviews before you download and back up your Mac before using software intended to automatically delete files on your computer — just in case.

Do you have any tips for freeing up space on your Mac (or PC)? Share them in the comments below!!

How to: prepare for the iOS 12 public beta

 

 

By Matthew Potuck of 9to5Mac

Apple has shared that it will open up its public beta program for iOS 12 (along with macOS Mojave and tvOS 12) this month. Are you considering running the latest software on your iPhone or iPad? Follow along for how to get ready to join the iOS 12 public beta.

We don’t know exactly when Apple will launch the iOS 12 public beta, but based on previous years, it could be early next week. While it can be exciting to pickup the latest features and updates ahead of this fall’s general release, there are some considerations before installing beta software on your iPhone (or other device).

How to prepare for the iOS 12 public beta

 

Expectations

Before installing the iOS 12 public beta, it can be easy to focus on all the great features and changes that the software will bring. However, it’s also important think about the downsides and weigh the trade-offs.

Being pre-release software, the public beta will naturally include bugs that means apps and features won’t always be reliable. That being said, the first and second iOS 12 developer betas have been relatively stable.

Here’s a few of the issues we’ve noticed at 9to5Mac so far:
• GPS showing inaccurate location
• CarPlay crashing when viewing backup and side camera
• Reminders app crashing
• Increased battery drain

If you can, install the public beta on a secondary iPhone (or iPad). Otherwise, just make sure you’re okay taking some risks if you’re going to go for it on a primary device.

Backing up

If you do decide to run the public beta, backing up your iPhone is especially important. If you’ve been using iCloud to back up with iOS 11, these will be replaced by iOS 12 iCloud backups once you move to the public beta. If at any point you want to revert to iOS 11, you won’t be able to restore from an iOS 12 iCloud backup.

Be sure to make an iTunes backup with your Mac or PC with your iPhone prior to installing iOS 12. This will allow you to restore your data in the event you’d like to downgrade to iOS 11.

Keep in mind that while this is one of the best solutions to protecting your data when running the public beta, there may be some missing data depending on how long a timeframe there is between your last pre-beta backup and when you revert from iOS 12 back to iOS 11.

The best idea to cover your bases is to download and save any important information manually, both before installing the beta and before downgrading from iOS 12 (if you do).

Smörgåsbord

If you’re eager to try out the other public betas, Apple will be launching tvOS 12, macOS 10.14 Mojave alongside iOS 12 access. Like last year, Apple will be reserving watchOS 5 for the developer beta only.

Check out the videos below covering all that’s new with iOS 12, macOS Mojave and more.

 

Are you planning to try any of Apple’s Public Betas of their new software? Sound off in the comments below.

Tales From the Orchard: Apple Just Made Safari the Good Privacy Browser

 

By Lily Hay Newman of Wired.com

APPLE ANNOUNCED A slew of new software features at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, including an augmented reality upgrade and animojis that can stick out their tongues when you do. But the company’s latest desktop and mobile operating systems contain a more subtle, yet more radical, innovation. The newest version of Apple’s Safari browser will push back hard against the ad-tracking methods and device fingerprinting techniques that marketers and data brokers use to monitor web users as they browse. Starting with Facebook.

The next version of Safari will explicitly prompt you when a website tries to access your cookies or other data, and let you decide whether to allow it, a welcome step toward explicit choices about online tracking. Safari will also make a dent in defeating the so-called “fingerprinting” approach, in which marketers use publicly accessible information about devices—like the way they’re configured, the fonts they have installed, and the plug-ins they run—to assign them an individual, trackable ID. In macOS Mojave and iOS 12, Safari will scrub much of this data, exposing only generic configuration information and default fonts. The browser will also stop supporting legacy plugins. The idea is to make your Mac indistinguishable from millions of others, muting the fingerprinting effect.

“Data companies are clever and relentless,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said on Monday, explaining why Apple pushed to add these features. The company calls the set of tools “Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0,” and they feature WebKit changes, like eliminating a 24-hour grace period that gave trackers a day of cookie access.

The new version of Safari will also help improve password hygiene by offering to generate, autofill, and store strong passwords. It’s a well-intentioned approach, although one that can be problematic depending on how it’s deployed. The browser will now also audit password reuse to try to discourage people from using the same password for multiple services—a crucial way consumers can reduce their risk of being impacted by data breaches.

The antitracking features continue Apple’s assault on ad tech; last year’s Safari update prevented video and audio from autoplaying, and the then-nascent Intelligent Tracking Prevention Webkit tool worked to identify and block tracking cookies. This year’s updates, though, take things a step further by significantly expanding the tracking techniques Safari can block or warn users about.

Apple’s not the only company to toughen up its browser against privacy and security menaces. As with Chrome’s Do Not Track mechanism, Apple seems to have based some of the new Safari protections on research from Mozilla, which offers its own protections in the Firefox browser. In February, Chrome also started offering native ad-blocking measures to bring more comprehensive protections to users based on standards from the Coalition for Better Ads. There are also browser plugins like Ghostery, Privacy Badger, and Adblock Plus to help stymie various tracking techniques. But Apple’s efforts in Mojave and iOS 12 appear to be the most prominent and comprehensive yet.

Though the new privacy mechanisms will potentially hinder all sorts of tracking, Apple specifically called out Facebook’s massive ad network—which is known for employing an array of user tracking strategies, like its ubiquitous “Like” buttons. In one of the slides depicting an example of how Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0 will work, Apple’s Federighi showed a Safari page open to Facebook with a popup notification reading “Do you want to allow ‘facebook.com’ to use cookies and website data while browsing ‘blabbermouth.net’? This will allow ‘facebook.com’ to track your activity.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request from WIRED for comment, and the platform is certainly not the only large ad network incorporating these techniques. But it’s a prominent player that has received extensive criticism for letting a variety of user data tracking tools run rampant. The company’s chief information security officer Alex Stamos noted on Twitter that it doesn’t seem like the new Safari will block tracking pixels or Javascript components, which are notorious for being exploitable as trackers or by bad actors for malicious activity.
Stamos seemed more focused on blasting Apple’s attempt to single Facebook out, but it’s true that this generation of Intelligent Tracking Prevention will inevitably have limitations. It’s difficult to fully block online tracking methods without also eroding website usability, and different privacy initiatives have approached dealing with this conflict in different ways.

“The consent popups will be a big deal to people. It’s more visual so you know that they are attempting to track you versus it just happening in the background silently,” says Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher and the president of Sudo Security Group. “I guess the real test will be how well these measures work and how advertisers and trackers will react.”

Google and Firefox already offer plenty of solid ad-blocking and antitracking mechanisms, and offer a host of other features that may make them more desirable than Apple’s browser. But if privacy matters most to you, it might be time to give Safari a try.

What’s your preferred browser or method for protecting your privavy online? Sound off in the comments below!

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