The Initial Charge Linked List

 
The Initial Charge Linked List is a frequently updated list of notable links and commentary. You can subscribe to the Linked List with its dedicated RSS feed or you can follow along on the main feed, which includes both Linked List items and feature articles from the site.
 

Apple Acquires Workflow ➝

Matthew Panzarino, reporting for TechCrunch:

Apple has finalized a deal to acquire Workflow today — a tool that lets you hook together apps and functions within apps in strings of commands to automate tasks. We’ve been tracking this one for a while but were able to confirm just now that the ink on the deal is drying as we speak. […]

Workflow the app is being acquired, along with the team of Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, Ayaka Nonaka and Nick Frey. In a somewhat uncommon move for Apple, the app will continue to be made available on the App Store and will be made free later today.

I couldn’t be happier for the Workflow team. They’ve built one of the most innovative applications for iOS and grown it into an absolutely essential piece of any iOS power user’s arsenal.

I would typically be concerned about the app’s future in situations like this. But Workflow will continue to be made available in the App Store, for free, and this has me hopeful. I expect subsequent versions of the app to have access to much more powerful actions with APIs that aren’t available to third-party developers.

Apple Online Store Going Down for ‘Maintenance’ Tomorrow ➝

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Apple has updated its System Status page to indicate that its online store will be “updated and unavailable” due to “maintenance” tomorrow, Tuesday, March 21, between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time (or the equivalent in other time zones, such as between 3:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time).

The timing of the downtime will naturally stir speculation given that Apple is rumored to launch new products as early as this week. Moreover, Apple commonly issues press releases at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, which is exactly when the so-called “maintenance” update is scheduled to be completed.

This maintenance could be nothing of interesting. But, if Apple was releasing new products in a press release tomorrow, I think minor iPad and iMac updates are the most likely announcements.

Building a Hackintosh Pro ➝

Dan Counsell, on the Hacintosh he built to replace his gaming PC and desktop Mac:

I’ve been running this machine for a couple of weeks now and I couldn’t be happier. It’s super fast and I can easily switch between Mac and Windows. I’ve switched off auto-updates in Sierra. While system updates should work just fine, I prefer to hold off until the community over at tonymacx86 have confirmed there are no issues. This is probably one of the major drawbacks to running a Hackintosh.

If you’re into tech and enjoy tinkering and understanding how things work then you’ll find building a Hackintosh is hugely rewarding.

The performance this machine was able to achieve, at the price he paid, is staggering. On single-core tasks, it’s faster than any Mac Apple currently sells and, if you forgo all the bells and whistles, it can be built for about $1,800.

But of course, the downside to building a Hacintosh is the possibility that software updates could break your macOS install or cause unexpected bugs. And that’s exactly why I’ve steered clear of building one for myself. As much as I like the idea of putting together a PC and installing a fresh copy of macOS on it, I just don’t have the time (or patience) to deal with the potential headaches down the road.

Netflix Is Testing a Button for Skipping the Opening Credits ➝

Casey Newton, writing for The Verge:

Netflix is testing a button that lets you skip the opening credits on some television shows, the company said. This week some Twitter users spotted a “skip intro” button that appears when you hover over the title sequence for shows including Netflix originals House of Cards and Iron Fist, and Mad Men and The Office (third-party shows). The button works both with shows that begin with the title sequence and those that include one after a cold open. […]

Skipping the opening credits is a long-standing request of many Netflix users, who are prone to binge-watching shows and would rather not watch the House of Cards smooth jazz time lapse eight times in a single day. And if episodes are auto-playing for you, in many cases the opening sequence will be skipped automatically.

This is an incredible feature that I expect to become table stakes amongst streaming video services. In the age of on-demand video playback, show intros are irrelevant past the first episode. But I’d like to see Netflix take this a step further by letting you skip the previews and recaps that were originally designed to bookend commercial breaks. They’re irritating and unnecessary.

Google Reduces JPEG File Size By 35% ➝

Sebastian Anthony, writing for Ars Technica:

Google has developed and open-sourced a new JPEG algorithm that reduces file size by about 35 percent—or alternatively, image quality can be significantly improved while keeping file size constant. Importantly, and unlike some of its other efforts in image compression (WebP, WebM), Google’s new JPEGs are completely compatible with existing browsers, devices, photo editing apps, and the JPEG standard.

This is exciting news, especially since existing applications are already capable of viewing images compressed with this new system. I hope web developers quickly adopt this new algorithm to help shrink page sizes. And I wouldn’t mind the folks at Workflow adopting the algorithm for their image compression action, which is what I use when publishing images on the site.

Ming-Chi Kuo: All 2017 iPhones Will Have Lightning Connectors ➝

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Kuo expects Apple to retain the Lightning port given it has a slightly slimmer design compared to a USB-C port, to sustain MFi Program licensing income from Lightning accessories, and because he believes USB-C’s high-speed data transmission is “still a niche application” for iPhone.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro already supports USB 3.0 speeds and fast charging with a Lightning to USB-C cable, while iPhones and other devices with a Lightning connector still transfer at USB 2.0 speeds.

This should allow for backwards compatibility with existing cables and accessories while improving charging time and data transfers when using a Lightning to USB-C cable.

I think Nick Heer had the best take on this:

One of the great things about the Lightning connector is how it’s able to abstract all of this under-the-hood stuff and make it really consumer-friendly. […] Lightning is just Lightning, even when it isn’t; the only thing consumers will notice about the new iPhones will be how much faster they charge.

Bare Bones Is Discontinuing Support for TextWrangler ➝

From an email to TextWrangler users:

What you may not know is that last July, we released BBEdit 11.6. You can use this version unlicensed, forever, for free. Without a license, BBEdit now includes all of the features that TextWrangler offers, plus quite a few others. That’s right. You no longer have to pick between them.

If this sounds like TextWrangler will eventually be sunsetted, you’re right; it will. While the next version of macOS hasn’t even been announced yet, when it ships, TextWrangler won’t be updated for it—but BBEdit will.

If you’ve been using TextWrangler, like I have, it’s time to transition to BBEdit.

(Via TidBits.)

Apple May Replace Lightning Connector With USB-C in iPhone 8 ➝

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

The Wall Street Journal has outlined their current thinking on the next new iPhone from Apple, colloquially dubbed the iPhone 8. They believe that Apple will replace the Lightning connector on the bottom of the phone with a USB-C port, ditching its own propriety connector with an industry standard.

I hope this rumor is inaccurate. In an effort to simplify my travel setup, I recently started transitioning all of my portable accessories — external battery, wireless keyboard, and headphones — to models that charge over Lightning. Only needing to pack one type of cable is a big deal and I’d like to keep it that way for more than six months.

At the very least, I’d prefer Apple move to USB-C in only the rumored iPhone Pro and iPhone 7s Plus models, rather than the entire line. This would give me an additional two years with a single type of cable in my bag.

I’m all for moving to a more open standard, but I think it would be a mistake transitioning so soon after they doubled down on Lightning as the only connector on the iPhone 7.

Mozilla Acquires Pocket ➝

Dan Frommer, reporting for Recode:

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser, is buying Pocket, the read-it-later service, for an undisclosed amount. Pocket, which is described by Mozilla as its first strategic acquisition, will continue to operate as a Mozilla subsidiary. Founder Nate Weiner will continue to run Pocket, along with his team of about 25 people.

When companies like this are acquired, there’s always promises that nothing will change for the worse, but we all know it rarely ends well. I hope Pocket is able to buck that trend and continue as a standalone service for the long haul rather than turn into just a feature built into Firefox.

Third-Party iPhone Screen Repairs No Longer Void Warranty ➝

Joe Rossignol, reporting for MacRumors:

iPhones that have undergone any third-party screen repair now qualify for warranty coverage, as long as the issue being fixed does not relate to the display itself, according to an internal memo distributed by Apple today. MacRumors confirmed the memo’s authenticity with multiple sources.

This is surprising news. I never would have expected Apple to change a policy like this. But I suppose it does make logical sense. If the third-party display isn’t causing the newly found problem, it shouldn’t affect whether Apple is willing to perform the repair.

For a Bigger iPad to Work, iOS Needs Some Interface Improvements ➝

Jason Snell, writing for Macworld:

I believe that iOS’s future is big–and I mean that literally. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro I’m using to write this article is currently the largest iOS device in existence, but it seems inevitable that Apple will want to size up iOS even more, whether it’s in a 15- or 17-inch mega-tablet, or an even larger desktop iOS device similar to the style of Microsoft’s Surface Studio.

I absolutely agree. If iOS is the future of computing, devices with larger screens are inevitable. And I think Snell offers some great suggestions on how to improve the experience on these larger screens. Although, I think he missed an obvious one — external trackpad support.

Apple’s New Campus Opens to Employees in April ➝

The new campus will be called Apple Park — a possible reference to Xerox PARC, the company that originally developed the modern graphical user interface that inspired the original Macintosh. It’s a great name, far better than any of the alternative suggestions I’ve seen in my Twitter timeline this morning.

And regarding the theater, that has been built alongside this new campus, from Apple’s press release:

Steve would have turned 62 this Friday, February 24. To honor his memory and his enduring influence on Apple and the world, the theater at Apple Park will be named the Steve Jobs Theater. Opening later this year, the entrance to the 1,000-seat auditorium is a 20-foot-tall glass cylinder, 165 feet in diameter, supporting a metallic carbon-fiber roof. The Steve Jobs Theater is situated atop a hill — one of the highest points within Apple Park — overlooking meadows and the main building.

Apple Park will also include a visitor center with an Apple Store and cafe that will be open to the public.

Apple’s New iPad Pro Advertisements ➝

I don’t typically link to Apple commercials anymore, but this new campaign is just delightful. It’s like a cross between their Get a Mac ads and Celebrities Read Mean Tweets.

TwIM ➝

A great new chat app from Project Dent that’s built on top of Twitter’s direct messaging system. It has support for embedded URL previews, 3D Touch shortcuts, and Siri. There’s even a sharing extension that can be used for sending URLs, text, photos, and maps from other applications.

TwIM’s feature-set is incredibly solid for a 1.0 release, but there are still two major features that I’d like to see added in the future — iPad support and a more robust URL scheme that will allow for automation with apps like Workflow.

I have several friends that I’ve met through Twitter and when we chat privately, we do so almost exclusively through Direct Messages. By breaking out Twitter DMs into their own application, TwIM puts those conversations on the same level as iMessages. I wouldn’t be surprised if this app ends up on my first Home Screen within just a few weeks of use.

Google Makes It Slightly Easier to See Real URLs From AMP Pages ➝

John Gruber:

This is what you call a begrudging UI. Google wants you to pass around the google.com-hosted AMP URL, not the publisher’s original URL. If they wanted to make it easier to share the original URL, the anchor button would be a direct link to the original URL. No need for a JavaScript popover. You could then just press the anchor button to go to the original, and press and hold for Safari’s contextual menu. And they could just use the word “Link” or “URL” instead of a cryptic icon.

A quick thought: wasn’t the whole point of AMP to shrink page sizes and increase the speed of browsing? If that’s the case, why does Google have to pre-cache these pages at all? Shouldn’t they be fast enough on their own without the help of Google’s servers? Maybe they’re more interested in wrapping webpages in an iframe, inserting a Dickbar, and keeping users in an ecosystem that they have complete control over.

Apple Hires Amazon’s Fire TV Head to Run Apple TV Business ➝

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. has hired Timothy D. Twerdahl, the former head of Amazon.com Inc.’s Fire TV unit, as a vice president in charge of Apple TV product marketing and shifted the executive who previously held the job to a spot negotiating media content deals. […]

Twerdahl comes to Apple with significant experience in internet-connected TV devices. Prior to his tenure at Amazon, he was an executive at Netflix Inc. and later a vice president in charge of consumer devices at Roku, a streaming video box developer.