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NC #678 StepShot Guides, Monoprice SlimRun Ethernet & HDMI Cables, Security Bits

We’ll take a look at StepShot Guides to see if it’s a worthy replacement for Clarify after all. Then we have an interview with Monoprice from NAB where we’ll have a surprisingly interesting and funny interview about SlimRun Ethernet and HDMI cables. Bart and I haven’t talked Security Bits in ages, so we have a nice long one for you.

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Can StepShot Guides Replace Clarify?

Two weeks ago on the NosillaCast I gave you an update on the future of Clarify. I said that there were no good alternatives. I downplayed the only alternative out there when I said:

I tried out StepShot from stepshot.net/… which is similar but in my opinion it is a very poor substitute. It’s also $12/month, or $119/year. Even as many tutorials as I do that’s a pretty steep price.

The fine folks at StepShot saw that and reached out to me. I got an email from Anastasia Yasevych, the marketing manager for StepShot. She asked if I’d give her the opportunity to demonstrate the tool to me. I told her I would be delighted to be proven wrong, and after calculating time zones between California and Estonia, we scheduled a Discord video screen sharing session.

Before you read or listen to this review, remember that we’re comparing a new tool to one that is in my top favorite apps of all time. It might even be in the number one slot. So if this tool sounds like it gets a B-, that’s a ringing sign of endorsement!

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How almost everything in JavaScript is an Object – by Will aka @beiju

The following explanation is from an old friend of the show, Will (also known as @beiju). Unbeknownst to us, he’s been following along with Programming By Stealth all this time and just popped his head up for the first time in quite a few years.

Will wrote the following in an email to Bart and me:

In recent episodes Allison has been audibly frustrated about objects. I noticed a disconnect in Allison’s understanding of objects that I think is causing all of this. I wrote up a short explanation (at least, it was short when I started) that I think will close the gap. I attached it as an HTML document, complete with imperfect syntax highlighting and tiny font to make you feel at home. It’s written in a conversational style talking directly to Allison. I start with restating things that I think you (Allison) are already comfortable with and take a series of small steps, each with some code examples that you can use to prove that I’m telling the truth, until I arrive at the link that Allison’s missing.

I liked it enough I wanted to make sure it was shared with the entire Programming By Stealth family. So here is Will’s fantastic explanation of objects.

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The Future (or Lack Thereof) of Clarify and Clarify-it.com

Clarify logo question markI have some sad news about my beloved app, Clarify. The developers reached out to me late last week with a preview of a blog entry they were about to post.

The full story is at clarify-it.com/blog/the-future-of-clarify. I’d like to explain some of what it says and let you in on some more detailed questions I posed to them and answers I received.

The main thing that they’re announcing is the discontinuation of their document-sharing service associated with clarify-it.com. This was a place you could post your tutorials and then reference them to share with others. This service will be shut down on March 1, 2018. That’s 5 months notice, so more than enough time to find a new home for your documents if you used this free service.

What does Bart always say, “follow the money”, right? Their money maker is the business software Screensteps, so maintaining this free web service no longer makes sense. I can certainly respect that.

The next question though is what about the Clarify desktop software? The title of their blog post is, “The Future (or Lack Thereof) of Clarify and Clarify-it.com” so Clarify isn’t coming out unscathed.

Clarify desktop is going into what they’re calling “Maintenance mode”. I asked them some clarifying questions (see what I did there?). Here’s what I asked and their answers:

Q: Will you still be selling Clarify?

Right now, we are still selling Clarify. We have included language on the website and in the store that points users to our blog post before making a purchase. I think at some point, we might just make it a free app–but that depends on whether it will be a good lead generation tool for getting ScreenSteps customers. A decision we have deferred for now.

Q: Will existing users still be able to download the installer for Clarify (say when building up a new Mac)

Existing users will still be able to download the installer for Clarify.

Q: Will there be license support for Clarify?

We still offer license support for Clarify.

Q: I see a recent update with bug fixes and enhancements (v 2.07), is that the last one, or will these still happen? Maybe bug fixes but not enhancements?

We plan on addressing minor bugs, but we will not be doing any more enhancements. Q: The 64-bit enhancement might be the only exception. We have a list of features we are devoted to building for ScreenSteps right now, so ScreenSteps has taken the top of the list. But when the dust settles, then Trevor will evaluate the work needed and make a decision at that point.

Let’s break down that comment about the uncertainty on whether they’ll upgrade Clarify to 64-bit at some point in the future. In High Sierra, 32-bit apps will continue to run. It’s not until the operating system after High Sierra that 32-bit apps will be deprecated. So we have a full year before we have to worry about it. Apple will probably nag us about how our 32-bit apps are getting on in years, just like they did in iOS 10 for 32-bit apps.

I tried really hard to get Trevor to promise he would upgrade Clarify to 64-bit but he wouldn’t commit to that. I mean, how long could it take, like maybe an afternoon, right? I love to say that kind of thing to developers.

So, I’m not at all happy about this turn of events, but nothing will change in our usage of Clarify to make terrific tutorials for the next year. I remain apprehensive about the future, and if there was a single competitor to Clarify I’d be checking it out, but since there isn’t I’m going to put my head in the sand and pretend they didn’t tell me any of this.

I think I’ll go make myself happy by creating a tutorial on how to set up Colloquy on the iPad to join the Live chat room.

How to Save to .afphoto Format After Opening from Affinity Photo Extension in Apple Photos

Problem to be solved:

You’ve found an image in Apple Photos you want to edit in Affinity Photo, so you use the extension to open in Affinity Photo. You make some adjustments, add some layers, and then want to save in the native Affinity Photo format.  However because you opened through the extension, Save will only save it back to Apple Photos, and Save As is greyed out.

Thanks to owenr in the Affinity Photo forums, there’s a trick using Snapshots to solve the problem.

Requirements: Affinity Photo for Mac loaded on your system.

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iCloud Services Verification Failed – SOLVED

The problem to be solved here is your iCloud credentials are fine (you can log into icloud.com without issue), but you can’t log into iCloud services natively on your Mac.  The places this error will show up include:

  • Logging into iCloud via the System Preference
  • Launching Mac App Store applications
  • Viewing files in iCloud Drive from the Finder
  • Connecting to iTunes for paid content or viewing your account

The instructions here come from Apple Support Article HT204649 which deals with an error message from iTunes. It’s the same root cause, but you’d never find the article if you search for anything but iTunes.

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How to Disable Apple’s Two-Step Verification and Enable Two-Factor Authentication

I signed up for the extra level of security Apple offered called Two-Step Verification. With the advent of iOS 9, Apple started offering Two-Factor Authentication.  If you want to read about the differences, I’ve listed the two Apple support articles about the offerings.  The main difference between the two is that Two-Step Verification relied on the code being sent via the less secure method of SMS, and the newer Two-Factor Authentication uses built-in funtionality in iOS 9 and above.

Two-step verification: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204152

Two-factor authentication: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204915

My goal  was to enable my Apple Watch to automatically unlock my Mac running macOS Sierra, which requires Two-Factor Authentication, so we’ll go through those steps as well.

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DropShadow App Made With Automator and ImageMagick

DropShadow shell scriptHave you ever had a favorite piece of software be abandoned by the developer? I’m not even talking about Apple or Google here, but maybe some nifty little utility that does exactly what you want. For years I have been adding a pretty little drop shadow to all images I post on the blog with a utility called Drop Shadow from Del Sol Software. As Tim Verpoorten used to say, “it does one thing and does it well.”

Del Sol’s Drop Shadow app let you change the angle and size and blur of the shadow and even add a little border to the image as well. The border was handy when I had a screenshot with a white background, otherwise it would wash out on the top and left against my white blog post.

A few weeks ago I thought to write to the developer to ask for an enhancement. I wanted a way to save the parameters of my drop shadows. It’s not hard to drag the little sliders, but I have to do it every time I edit an image. To my surprise, Del Sol Software is nowhere to be found. I searched on the web, on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and even LinkedIn, but it has vanished. Oddly you can still buy Drop Shadow from the Mac App Store so someone must be cashing the checks, but there’s no way to get updates ever again.

When software is abandoned, you can take one of two paths. You can keep using it and just hope each time a new OS comes out it will still work. Then when it stops working you can hold off on the update, or try to find hacks to keep it working (I’m looking at you, George.)

I choose a different path. As soon as I know something is abandoned, I find an alternative. I don’t want to be held hostage by an app. It was time to find an alternative for my beloved Drop Shadow.

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