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The MacNN Podcast, episode 21: Writing your app in (Taylor) Swift

06/29, 7:55pm

The downward spiral of the music business, a 5K iMac giveaway, and more

Episode 21 of The MacNN Podcast is now available! Join us for a very speedy hour as we talk about a great new contest where you can win a 5K Retina 27-inch iMac, the licensing kerfuffle with Apple Music that features a happy ending, more troubles for MacKeeper, the plaudits and perils of e-publishing, the trauma of having to send in a Mac for repair, and our picks for App(s) of the Week! Show notes after the jump.


Uber executives detained in France following French taxi strike

06/29, 6:25pm

Uber France CEO, Europe GM questioned by police over service legality

Two executives of Uber have been taken into police custody in France, days after the country-wide strikes held by traditional taxi service operators upset over Uber's continued operations in the region. The detained company management is being questioned by the authorities over the legality of the service, specifically concerning the taxes and social charges Uber allegedly avoids dealing with, due to the nature of how it operates.


One Musical Group crowd funding MFi Smart Piano, Light Keyboard

06/29, 4:32pm

Pair of devices illuminate keys to be struck for thousands of songs

Purveyor of musical instrument learning technology One Musical Group announces today the North American launch of its piano product line: The One Light keyboard and The One Smart Piano which the company claims is the worlds first MFi-certified upright piano. Both devices are already in production and with a US launch bering funded on Indiegogo.


Frigidaire launches Wi-Fi-enabled window Cool Connect Air Conditioner

06/29, 3:15pm

App allows for remote control of the 8,000 BTU AC in or out of the house

Home appliance manufacturer Frigidaire has released the first iOS and Android app controlled window air conditioner. The Cool Connect Air Conditioner connects with the Frigidaire Smart Appliance app across the Internet and through a local area Wi-Fi network, which lets consumers control the unit from their smart device, including generating a schedule for operation, receiving maintenance alerts, and remote unit status monitoring.


Apple to release iOS 8.4 tomorrow, upgrade iTunes Match in fall

06/29, 1:14pm

Virtual locker included with paid Apple Music, to expand to 100,000 songs

Through confirmations, now-deleted posts, and a series of tweets, Apple has revealed that iOS 8.4 will be released tomorrow, June 30, at 8AM PT (11AM ET), and SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue has clarified how iTunes Match and the paid Apple Music subscription service will work together. In addition, Senior Director of Apple Music (and former Beats CEO) Ian C. Rogers revealed that with the arrival of iOS 9, the cloud music locker both services share will expand to hold 100,000 or more songs.


Railroad crossing locations to be highlighted in Google Maps

06/29, 12:43pm

Notifications of upcoming railroad crossings an attempt to lower yearly death count

Drivers using Google Maps for navigation will soon find they will receive more notifications regarding rail crossings. The Federal Railroad Administration is said to be working with Google to add the locations of all grade crossings in the United States to the navigation app, with the turn-by-turn instructions also set to receive extra audio and visual alerts when nearing crossings, in a bid to lower the number of accidents at crossings.


Hands On: Toca Life: City 1.0 (iOS)

06/29, 8:35am

Explore the bustling city and discover all your favorite Toca Boca characters

If you've been around for a while, chances are you've heard us gush about Toca Boca, a company that makes creative, exploration, and role-playing-based apps for kids. The apps are gender-neutral, highly interactive, and they have some of the coolest, most colorful characters we've come across in a kids app. The developers continue this trend with Toca Life: City, an app that takes you inside the world of Toca Boca.


Hands On: Printer Pro 5.4.2 (iOS)

06/29, 7:18am

An app that gives more options when printing from iOS devices.

It's happening. Mom is thinking about getting an iPad. The problem? Mom likes hard copies of all the cool table setting inspirations and recipes she finds online. Don't ask us where she files all those print-outs away, we don't know -- perhaps she has an extra-dimensional filing cabinet or something. The point is, we want to make sure it's easy to print stuff from an iPad, otherwise she'll just go back to her laptop, and the tablet will collect dust. Printer Pro by Readdle just might be the app we need to do that. It provides an easy-to-use and familiar set of printing options to send documents to a printer over Wi-Fi, as well as making sure they print up nice and neat.


Briefly: BBM update includes $1 private chats, Malwarebytes amnesty

06/29, 7:15am

BlackBerry adds private chat function to $1 BBM monthly subscription

The latest update to BlackBerry Messenger for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry 10 devices adds more paid-for security functions to the service. The current timed and retracted messages options have been rolled into a similarly-priced $1-per-month Privacy and Control subscription, with the new Private Chat function able to strip out names and profile pictures after a short period of time, minimizing the usefulness of taking a screenshot of a conversation. The Android version of the app has also received a Material Design overhaul, while iOS users will now find their in-app font sizes will be based on the size selected in system settings.


Hands On: Her Story (OS X, iOS, Windows)

06/28, 1:29pm

Uncover the strange story of Hannah Smith in this game-turned-murder mystery

What comes to mind when we say "game?" Chances are, you've got fond memories of the first video game you played. Maybe it was Mario or maybe it was some sort of card game or arcade title. Maybe you think about current games like Halo or Call of Duty. If this sounds like what you think of when it comes to gaming, Sam Barlow, creator of Silent Hills: Shattered Memories is here to turn that idea around with Her Story (Steam | App Store), a murder-mystery with an unusual play style.


Hands On: Kindle 4.9.1 (OS X, iOS)

06/28, 11:48am

Leading e-reader software gets extremely overdue features

The latest release of Amazon's Kindle software for iOS and Macs is devoted to improving how text looks on your screen as you read. Excuse us? With Kindle 4.9.1, it's five years since the application came to Apple gear and only now it's concerned with how you read on it?


MacNN's Week That Was: June 21 through June 28

06/28, 11:47am

Firing up a new column, celebrating the week in tech news

We hope your Sunday is going well so far. Today launches our new column about the stories that entertained us, informed us, or just plain tickled us. We're not just highlighting our own writing -- anything that we've discussed behind the scenes here at MacNN is fair game. Read on for thoughts on the events of the week in the tech world including more bad news for MacKeeper, a shotgun assault on a drone, and a major upgrade to a 2009 Mac Pro.


Hands On: Green Riding Hood 1.0 (iOS)

06/26, 11:37am

An interactive book with a somewhat more modern take on a classic fairy tale

Green Riding Hood by Bobaka is an interactive story book that takes inspiration from the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, and gives is a more modern sensibility. The Wolf is still pretty horrible, and would very much like to eat the other characters, but (spoiler) nobody gets eaten, or has their belly filled with hot rocks. Plus, there are delicious recipes.


Update: Clue 1.9.1 and P Tracker 9.3.3 (iOS, Android)

06/26, 9:50am

We check back in on two female reproductive health apps

Last month, we compared two apps for tracking female reproductive cycels; back then Apple Health didn't track reproductive health, and we weren't sure when it would -- if ever. Thankfully, earlier this month at WWDC, it was announced that the built-in Health app will get reproductive health tracking in iOS 9. We still don't know what that will look like, unfortunately. Will the myriad of period tracker apps become obsolete? Maybe not ... Well, probably not. The announcement prompted us to take a look at the two trackers we tried previously, to see what's been going on with them.


Hands On: Tales From Deep Space 1.0 (iOS, Android)

06/26, 8:33am

An adorable side scrolling puzzler about a boy and his combat bot

Okay, maybe not so much a "boy" and his combat bot, but more like "very short man" and his combat bot. Tales From Deep Space by Amazon Game Studios is a side-scrolling puzzler where the player, or players, switch between two characters to overcome obstacles and move forward in their pursuit of ... figuring out what's actually going on. The story centers around E, a shlubby put-upon interstellar traveling salesman, who gets saddled with an old busted-up droid named CASI. Shortly after meeting on Big Moon (home of the Meeks), E gets robbed, martial law is imposed, and the pair are denounced as enemies of the state for what appears to be no reason. Thus begins an adventure of running through corridors and questionable security practices.


Apple notes Pride Week with iOS LGBT apps, movies, more

06/26, 7:10am

Second year of recognition brings spotlight on LGBT-themed media

A day after New York City's Stonewall Inn received official landmark status, Apple debuted a curated collection of apps and media in its iOS App Store celebrating the advances the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community has made in recent years, as well as commemorating the 1969 riots at Stonewall that kicked off the modern pride movement. The company has a long history of publicly recognizing gay employees, stretching back to 1986.


Hands On: iTunes U 3.0 (iOS)

06/25, 4:12pm

Great resource adds collaboration and marking

You know that MacNN likes to go the extra mile and stress-test, even pummel every application that gets a Hands On review. It's not enough to tell us a list of features, we want to see that those features do what they say they will. It's partly diligence, partly that we've been fooled by Windows software before. Apple today updated its iTunes U educational service and iOS to version 3.0, and made some notable changes -- and this obviously requires that we join a university that uses the software so that we can fully partake of the semester-long new features.


Hands On: Cleanup Suite 5.0.3 (iOS)

06/25, 3:04pm

Find and merge duplicate contacts on iOS

Gone are the days when you can't make any more friends whose names begin with E. Now there's no page to fill up and no reason not to just keep on adding everyone you come across. So we do. And it's a mess. Last year you added that fella your boss said you should get in touch with. This year the same guy contacted you and you cheerily added him again. Whatever you do and however fastidious you are, your address book is in a state and Cleanup Suite 5.0.3 is here to do something about it.


Apple retracts App Store games with Confederate flag imagery [u]

06/25, 11:31am

Games bear the brunt of the decision, but some educational titles purged

[Updated with comment from Apple] Apple has passively addressed the Confederate flag ban issue on the iOS and Mac App Stores, and has removed nearly every entertainment title with it in the application's iconography or preview graphics. This removal is partially extending to historical and contextual use of the flag, and is including some educational titles showing the controversial flag as well.


Facebook Messenger now works without social network account

06/25, 8:57am

Users able to register on Messenger separately from Facebook

Facebook is making it easier for potential users of its Messenger app to sign up, by removing the requirement to have a Facebook account beforehand. Starting with Canada, the United States, Peru, and Venezuela, the app will allow anyone to sign up without having an existing account with the social network, with a new signup process requiring a user to set themselves up using their phone number, name, and a photograph for the profile.


Hands On: Harmony 3 1.0.2 (iOS)

06/25, 8:45am

Relax into two hours of music with this medatative puzzle

We've discovered lately that there are more and more meditation puzzle games popping up in the App Store, and we couldn't be happier. These friendly, low- and no-stress games are designed to help you unwind, rather than stress you out or overstimulate you. We checked out a new title, Harmony 3, the third in a line of games that offer zen-style visual puzzles working in tandem with relaxing music.


Hands On: WonderCat Adventures 1.0 (iOS)

06/25, 7:33am

Help a tiny cat and a mech traverse alien crystal mines in this runner-platformer

We've shared our opinions on platformers on mobile devices before, so we'll spare you the rant about bad mechanics and good intentions -- however, we did find a game that puts an interesting twist on a tired old formula. Today, we present to you WonderCat Adventures, a feline-themed platformer with some great solutions to the normal platforming pitfalls.


Hands On: Hue Ball 1.0 (iOS)

06/24, 5:00pm

Cute puzzle shooter seeks to make you lose your cool with weighted mechanics

If you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, chances are you have spent some time playing puzzle shooters. We grew up playing Puzzle Bobble on the SNES, and some of our first memories were pumping quarters into an Arkanoid machine in a dimly-lit arcade. Hue Ball, a simple little game we checked out, seeks to emulate those feelings -- but puts an interesting twist on the whole experience.


Apple now signing deals with indie labels, others

06/24, 3:17pm

Pressure mostly came from labels and community, not artists

Contrary to what media reports would have you believe, Apple's recent reversal on the previous (and industry-standard) policy not to pay rights holders during the 90-day free trial period was a case of the company responding more to concerns from indie labels and its own user community rather than any band-wagoning open letters, sources tell MacNN. New reports say that Apple, having changed both that and other more minor terms in its standard contract, is now signing up independent record labels and artists at a furious pace as the June 30 debut of Apple Music looms.


Hands On: Tayasui Sketches+ 10.0 (iOS)

06/24, 2:00pm

Responsive drawing app works wonders for those without a stylus

As we've stated before, the iPad has become a viable art tool in recent years, and there's no shortage of app developers who have taken notice. We've covered several different drawing apps, and they've all had their merits and disadvantages. Today, we take a look at Tayasui Sketches+, to see how it stacks up against the other apps that have come our way.


Kenwood flagship CarPlay and Android Auto multimedia units shipping

06/24, 11:17am

Dual-nature of protocol allows Android, iOS users to control without reboot

At the 2015 International CES in January, Kenwood introduced the two multimedia units that would serve as flagships for its Kenwood and Kenwood Excelon lines. Today, the manufacturer announced that the Kenwood Excelon DDX9902S and Kenwood DDX9702S Apple CarPlay receivers are shipping to retailers.


Hands On: Google Calendar 1.1.0 (iPhone)

06/24, 10:58am

Walk, don't run to this update

Sometimes, Apple's automatic updating of apps is handy because there are versions you know you ought to have, but you'll get around to it later, or when they add something big. Google Calendar 1.1.0 for iPhone is not a big update. It's a good one, but it's not compelling. It's also still on iPhone alone, not iPad, which is a curious omission.


Hands On: Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf (iOS)

06/24, 10:39am

Turn-based war gaming with a collectible card twist in the 40K world on a mobile device

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf by HeroCraft is a turn-based strategy game where the player's options are dictated by drawing from a deck of cards. The game is set in, surprise, the world of Warhammer 40,000 (40K for short). We're going to be honest, this reviewer hasn't played anything 40K-related until now. There were the occasional sessions of Blood Bowl, and a Warhammer Fantasy RPG campaign, where we played a Halfling cook just trying to get home in time for Pie Week.


Living with: Safari

06/24, 8:38am

Twelve years with Apple's browser

The great thing about these Living With articles –– and in fact the specific reason we do them –– is that we get to bring the real-world results of truly using software or hardware for a long time. As thorough as MacNN is with reviewing new releases, that's like stress-testing a relationship in its infancy compared to moving in with someone. Living with them, long term, in fact.


Hands On: Justin Smith's Realistic Summer Sports Simulator 1.3 (iOS)

06/24, 7:49am

Live your dreams of bringing home the gold with this hyper-realistic summer game simulator

Is there anything more inspiring than an Olympian? No, not a resident of Mount Olympus, but rather, an athlete that competes in the Olympics. We admire their strength, courage, and the ability to drag themselves out of bed before 9AM. For those of us who can't be bothered with cultivating those positive traits, we've got the perfect game: Justin Smith's Realistic Summer Sports Simulator.


Free advertising-supported playlists added to Google Play Music

06/23, 10:31pm

Google adds free option to music streaming service before Apple Music launch

Google is attempting to increase its user numbers for its Google Play Music service, barely a week before Apple is scheduled to launch its own streaming music service. A free version of the service is now available in the United States, one that matches Spotify by providing periodic advertising during music playback, though unlike the main Google Play Music All Access subscription, it doesn't provide a high level of customizable music playback options.


Hands On: FireWhip 1.0 (iOS)

06/23, 5:00pm

Juggle fast reflexes and perfect timing in this difficult arcade game

Some of the best games are ones that juxtapose two opposing play styles. Games that require you to be bold, make decisions on the fly, but at the same time know when to strike; there's something to be said for games that can't be won with the bulldozer method of gameplay. One of these games made its way into our hands recently, a game called FireWhip that has you besting 8-bit enemies with brains and brawn.


Hands On: Dark Sky 5.0.0 (Apple Watch, iOS)

06/23, 11:02am

Gorgeous weather app gets even more handy

We always feel old when we get excited by a weather app. Mind you, we're in the UK. Weather is what we do. If you live in an area where you get flood alerts because rain has been seen on an old TV rerun, you don't need this. If you've never seen the grass beneath all that snow, you're fine. For anywhere else, though, weather apps can be supremely handy, and Dark Sky 5.0.0 is at least among the best. It has to be: you've already got a weather app on your Apple Watch and your iPhone already; this has to be better, or no one would ever need it.


Hands On: Noggin 1.1.1 (iOS)

06/23, 7:51am

Nickelodeon brings kid's shows to iOS with kid-friendly app

More and more people are giving up TV these days in favor of online streaming, but a lot of these services often leave kids out of the equation. Sure, Netflix and Amazon Prime have a decent selection of kids shows, but shouldn't there be a better option out there? Well, the folks over at Nickelodeon came to that conclusion, too, and offered up Noggin, an app designed especially for preschoolers.


App Update: Tower, AirRadar, CloudPull, more

06/23, 7:30am

App Update for June 22

App development has taken off in the last few years, making it increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the latest versions. To help all of you out, we here at MacNN are dedicated to sorting through new update releases, and highlighting some of the important ones here, in the relaunch of our App Update column. Today, we look at revisions to Tower, AirRadar, CloudPull, Imago, AppDelete, and FX Photo Studio.


The MacNN Podcast, episode 20: E3 for me, see?

06/22, 8:21pm

Apple recalls, in-depth E3 game announcement coverage, more

As you might expect from a podcast with our title, most episode tend to lean heavily on the Apple-related news of the week, though we generally make sure to spend at least a little time on other big tech stories outside Apple's sphere. To celebrate our 20th episode, and because the big event was this week, we spend the majority of our time on the E3 gaming conference and its many announcements. Fear not, regular listeners, there's still Apple news a-plenty!


Hands On: Threes 1.3 (iOS)

06/22, 1:49pm

Sliding number puzzle packs personality into game

We've been a big fan of games like 1024 and 2048, not just for their fast gameplay, but also because they give us a fun mental workout as we try to reach the highest number possible. If you're fans of these games, allow us to point you toward Threes, a number-based puzzler.


Apple institutes partial fix for 'XARA' exploits; patch in progress

06/20, 8:14pm

Range of discovered vulnerabilities made it possible to intercept data between apps

Apple announced on Friday that it had implemented a server-side partial security update earlier this week to help protect Mac and iOS users against a "series of high-impact security weaknesses" discovered by researchers now collectively known as XARA vulnerabilities, that could potentially be used to obtain data being passed between sandboxed applications, such as passwords. No known cases of the exploits have been seen "in the wild," and Apple says it is working with researchers on a longer-term fix.


Hands On Tracing Paper 5.2.1 (iOS)

06/20, 7:28pm

Turn Camera Roll photos into stylish sketches

The recent trend of coloring books geared for adults is intriguing to us. We don't consider ourselves particularly artistic in the area of drawing and painting, but we do occasionally like to dabble. Sure, it's been a while, but we're reasonably confident we can still stay between the lines. The downside is we would have to color in images other people choose for us. We'd like to make our own coloring book, and we think we've found the perfect app to help us make it: Tracing Paper by Hesham Wahba.


App Analytics now out of beta, adds new features for devs

06/19, 6:40pm

Number of paying users, crash data, ratio tool now among tracking tools

Apple's latest developer app-performance tool, App Analytics, was taken out of beta on Thursday night and unveiled with several new features, including tracking app crashes in a more granular report as well as counting users based on (anonymous) Apple ID rather than by device. The service, available through iTunes Connect, allows developers to gauge real-world app performance.


Daily Deals: OCZ SSDs, Lenovo 4K display, Roku Streaming Stick

06/19, 2:34pm

MacNN and Electronista deals for June 19, 2015

Welcome to Daily Deals, the post where we search the Internet for offers, sales, discounts, and bundles on hardware, software, and gadgets for you, the discerning MacNN and Electronista reader. Yesterday's still-active deals follow the new batch, which features two OCZ SSD deals, a Lenovo 4K monitor, and a refurbished Roku Streaming Stick


Hands On Spacecom 1.0.1 (iOS)

06/19, 2:00pm

A surprisingly relaxing and meditative game of space fleet command

Spacecom by 11 bit studios is a game where the user is in command of a series of space fleets protecting and expanding a series of planets and systems under their control. The graphics are elegant in their simplicity and efficiency. The role of the player is making decisions, and giving orders which are carried out by others; this provides for a serene experience, more like chess than an epic series of pitched space battles.


Briefly: Marvel comics on Kindle, UK Post Office launches carrier

06/19, 12:58pm

Deal brings Marvel comics to Kindle Store

Comic book fans now have more of a reason to go to Amazon, as a deal between Marvel and the retailer has brought more than 12,000 digital issues to the Kindle Store, allowing for comics from the Amazing Spiderman, Daredevil, and other franchises to be downloaded to the Kindle app and Kindle ebook readers. The agreement does not affect ComiXology, the digital comic book service owned by Amazon, nor the ComiXology-powered Marvel Comics platform.


Hands On: Green Ninja: Year of the Frog 1.0 (iOS)

06/19, 8:01am

Deliver swift revenge in this ninja-based puzzle game

Is there any genre a robust as the humble puzzle genre? Probably not. You've got match-3's, word games, real-time puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, mysteries, and more. Today, we're here to examine another subgenre we've looked at in the past, the turn-based puzzle, with a little title called Green Ninja: Year of the Frog.


Hands On: The Hatchings 1.0.1 (iOS)

06/18, 4:30pm

Hatch eggs and score points with this darling arcade game

There's something to be said for games that have you attempting to top your best score, and how relaxing they can be. It's nice to curl up on the couch and spend some time at the end of the day, playing a casual arcade title as you unwind. If this sounds like something you're into, may we humbly recommend Orisinal's The Hatchings, which is a perfect, relaxing arcade title to tuck into after a long, hard day.


App Update: ChronoAgent, Default Folder X, FX Photo Studio Pro, more

06/18, 2:25pm

MacNN OS X and iOS App Update for June 18, 2015

App development has taken off in the last few years, making it increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the latest versions. To help all of you out, we here at MacNN are dedicated to sorting through new update releases, and highlighting some of the important ones here, in the relaunch of our App Update column. Today, we look at revisions to ChronoAgent, Default Folder X, FX Photo Studio Pro, NeoFinder iOS, Stellar Phoenix Data Recovery, and Bleam.


Hands On: Momento 2.8.4 (iOS)

06/18, 1:30pm

A personal journal that pulls from your social media

Today, we're taking a look at Momento (Diary/Journal) by d3i. The app is a sort of "semi-automatic" diary or journal maker, since in addition to writing entries in it directly, connecting it with social media accounts will cause the app to pull posts the user makes in those places in to display on the Momento timeline. The app is for keeping a private diary, displaying whatever the user wrote in tandem of what the user posted on social media, and giving both a greater context within the user's life.


DxO One camera connects through Lightning, offers 20.2MP image capture

06/18, 11:31am

New device has 32mm equivalent aspherical lens, one-inch CMOS

Imaging company DxO today introduced the DxO One, a camera that delivers DSLR image quality and attaches to the iPhone by way of the Lightning port. The DxO One features a f/1.8, 32mm-equivalent aspherical lens, with a variable six-blade iris and a one-inch 20.2MP CMOS BSI sensor, capable of capturing high-resolution images even in very low light.


Hands On: Andrew Johnson Sleep Headphones

06/18, 10:46am

Shut out the world, sleep like a log

This is a kind of sequel to a previous hit Hands On about Meditate Plus, in that it's about headphones from the same company, and you can use them with that app. You can actually use these with anything at all, but they're designed to help relax you. Andrew Johnson Sleep Headphones are like a headband, or perhaps a bandana, which feature built-in earpieces.


Hands On: BitTorrent Shoot 1.0.35 (cross-platform)

06/18, 7:49am

Safely send your files P2P from all major smartphone OS's

There's a lot of fuss over security these days, and with giant data centers being erected for the sole purpose of backlogging data, we can see why. Every time you share your pictures, videos, and personal information, there's a chance they could end up stored somewhere you didn't intend them to be. That's why BitTorrent released BitTorrent Shoot, a safer, faster way to send images to mobile devices.



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