Tech round-up for June 5: So long iTunes, hello Mac Pro, free ebooks, a new Tamagotchi

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This week, Tor celebrates Pride by giving away four digital novellas and Tamagotchis are back to tickle that nostalgic itch you’ve got. But first, news from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, including a powerful – and expensive – new computer, Apple’s continuing privacy play, and updates to all the operating systems. Also: the death of iTunes.

Apple announces big changes to device operating systems

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is happening this week in San Francisco, and in a long media event on Monday, the company doubled down on personal privacy and announced a couple of new products.

But the biggest news was about the major changes to all of the operating systems that power Apple products, as well as a new OS to make the iPad even more useful.

tvOS 13

With Apple TV+ on the horizon, the company is creating a better experience on its Apple TV device. The new dashboard previews videos you’re browsing, and supports multiple users so each family member can have their own lists and recommendations.

Apple Music on tvOS will also display lyrics with the music, so you can have your own living room karaoke. And knowing that Apple Arcade is coming this fall, tvOS 13 will enable you to use PS4 and Xbox One controllers.

watchOS 6

Apple Watch is becoming more of an independent gadget all the time, and with watchOS 6 this is even more obvious. You’ll be able to listen to audiobooks directly from your watch, for one thing. Even better, though, is that apps will be able to run independently on Apple Watch without the need for an iPhone app. That warrants an App Store just for the Apple Watch, of course.

Perhaps the best addition, though, is the Cycle Tracking app, which allows females to track menstrual cycles.

iOS 13

Cycle Tracking is also coming to iOS 13 in the Health app.

Dark Mode is new with iOS 13, providing a more comfortable experience when you’re in low-light environments. Also new is swipe typing which, once you get the hang of it, makes it easier to communicate with speed. While third-party apps like SwiftKey have been providing this functionality, now it’s built right in to the system.

You’re also getting updates to photo editing within the Photos app and iOS will report to you on what apps are tracking your location, and apps won’t be able to use your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections to figure out where you are.

CarPlay, which works through iOS 13, gets an improved dashboard and Siri support for navigation apps like Waze.

iPadOS

Anyone who’s used an iPad knows that it’s different from a smartphone. Recognizing this, Apple is creating a unique operating system for the tablet device.

iPadOS brings a host of new features, including split-screen views, pop-up previews, and multiple spaces. It also adds computer-like functions like folder sharing and column view for files. You’ll be able to plug in thumb drives and use a mouse or trackpad controller.

iPadOS will work on iPads released since late 2014.

macOS Catalina

The next system update for Apple computers includes a number of updates, the most significant of which is Sidecar, which enables you to use an iPad as a second screen for your desktop or laptop. That means you can extend your desktop, or use the iPad as a drawing tablet when working with creative tools.

The more significant change that’s coming with Catalina is the removal of iTunes as an application. Apple is replacing the media manager with three separate apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV.

iTunes will still exist as a storefront for purchasing music and video, but your mobile devices will now appear on your computer desktop when you plug them in, and will be able to sync media from within each of the new apps.

This carries forward the media-specific app approach that Apple started when it split off books into the Apple Books app last year.

Mac Pro unveiled, brings power, but at a price

The redesigned Mac Pro, which we’ve been talking about for months, has finally been unveiled. It appears as though Apple pulled out all the stops.

The new desktop system can have up to 28 cores, up to 1.5 terabytes of system memory and can process three streams of 8K video. Don’t really know what those numbers mean? They mean that this is one of the most powerful off-the-shelf consumer computers ever designed.

The Mac Pro starts at USD$6,000.

A new monitor, the Pro Display XDR that was designed to work with the Mac Pro, costs USD$5,000. It’s an astonishing 32-inch display. And you’re unlikely to have one on your desk anytime soon.

Free downloads of novellas by Margaret Killjoy, Ellen Klages, Kai Ashante Wilson, and JY Yang

As part of it’s eBook of the Month Club, science fiction and fantasy publisher Tor has bundled up four novellas for readers to download for free.

“In Our Own Worlds” features “The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion” by Margaret Killjoy, “Passing Strange” by Ellen Klages, “A Taste of Honey” by Kai Ashante Wilson, and “The Black Tides of Heaven” by JY Yang.

Each features “LGBTQ+ characters and reflections of queer identity by queer authors” according to the publisher.

The books are available until midnight ET (9 p.m. PT) on June 7.

The return of Tamagotchi

First released by Japanese game and toy company Bandai in 1996, Tamagotchi was a “digital pet” that became a phenomenon in the late 1990s.

The first designs were little more than egg-shaped digital watches – tamago is Japanese for egg – with three buttons that pet owners would use to raise a creature from hatching into an adult.

It was one of the first sims, and the first models rewarded good parenting with creatures that seemed smarter and happier. Those who failed to care for their pet watched them sicken and even die.

Bandai is releasing a new version this summer, the Tamagotchi On. Retailing for US$60, the form factor is much the same, but the functionality is advanced compared to the originals.

With a colour LCD screen and Bluetooth, the new gadgets can talk to others, so your pet can meet up and even mate with others. Once it’s matured to an adult, of course.

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