Hey Quark Fans, Check Out QuarkXPress for Dummies

It’s been a while since a quality QuarkXPress book came out, so my long time friend and graphic design expert Jay Nelson stepped up to the plate with a QuarkXPress for Dummies. Jay explains print and digital publishing workflows, color management, image resolution, fonts, output formats, and more. He also explains the evolution of QuarkXPress, which is great for understanding how it went from being the premier desktop publishing tool to the more specialized product it is today. QuarkXPress for Dummies is available now on Amazon for US$34.99.

Raspberry Pi Brings PIXEL Desktop Environment to the Mac

The team behind the super affordable Raspberry Pi computer platform has been working on their own desktop environment called PIXEL, and now it’s available for the Mac. PIXEL is built on Debian, so it’s a fully bootable system, and includes everything you need to be productive, the Chromium web browser, and more. They designed it so you can pop it on a USB flash drive or DVD and run it from there. PIXEL is still in an experimental stage, so don’t rely on it as your primary OS. It’s a free download at the Raspberry Pi website.

1Password 6.5 for iOS Adds Native Apple Watch App

AgileBits announced Tuesday the release of 1Password 6.5 for iOS. This release offers device syncing through 1Password.com and gets the iOS version up to date with 1Password 6.5 for Mac. The company also made the Apple Watch app native, which should mean it will be much faster (you can read more about that in the AgileBits blog). In addition to being faster, the native app allows you to access entries to any vault, including vaults stored in 1Password.com—previously, you could only access items in your primary vault. You can download the update through the App Store.

A Drone Big Enough to Pull a Snowboarder? Yes Please

Drones are pretty cool, but a drone big enough to pull a snowboarder? Now that’s really cool. Casey Neistat enlisted the help of some friends to build a drone powerful enough to pull him on his snowboard up hill, and even take him on short flights off snow jumps and ramps. He zips through a ski town to show off his drone boarding skills, and it’s frakking awesome. Check out the video to see Casey’s drone boarding adventures—and don’t try this with your own drone. Casey is a professional crazy man with a custom built drone.

The First AI-Written Christmas Song Is More Soul-Crushing than Fruitcake

Gather ye around the yule log, so festive, warm, and bright! Listen to this song of Christmas cheer written and composed by an AI. And hold on to your loved ones as said tune sucks the soul from your very bones and leaves you quivering in the naked fear not that the morrow will not come, but that it will come and you will be forced to endure another day contemplating the futility and hopelessness of life!  “I’ve always been there for the rest of our lives. A hundred and a half hours ago. I’m glad to meet you. I can hear the music coming from the hall.” Now that, dear friends, is the Christmas stuff of nightmares, as HowStuffWorks put it. And yes, I am dying, both from laughter and abject fear. This “song,” such as it is, was the result of a neural network project from The University of Toronto. They fed in 100 hours of holiday music, a bunch of holiday photographs with captions, and said, “Now you do it.” The song below was the result. Put another way, score ones for the humans.

Blade Runner 2049 Teaser Trailer Hits the Web

Blade Runner was an epic dystopian future movie that really shined once Ridley Scott was able to re-edit it and undo the damage the studios inflicted on us. Now we’re getting our first taste of the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, in a teaser trailer that promises even more epic dystopian awesomeness. The movie stars Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, and if the teaser is any indication, this time the studios aren’t screwing it up. Blade Runner 2049 opens on October 6, 2017, so you have plenty of time to clear your schedule.

Super Mario Run Collects $5 Million in Coins in 24 Hours

Super Mario Run has garnered as many as five million downloads and US$5 million in revenue in just the first 24 hours since the game launched. VentureBeat rounded up estimates from three third party app metric services, with two of the three offering estimates in that range. If accurate, it would represent a 20% conversion rate of people who have download the free-to-download game. Nintendo gives users access to three levels, plus a tiny taste of the boss level, in the free download. For $9.99, users can unlock the whole game. $5 million is not a lot of money to a company like Apple—and Apple’s cut would be roughly $1.5 million—but it’s likely to be significant for any gaming company. Especially in the first 24 hours. Mobile gaming is big, and Apple has been pushing Super Mario Run hard (as Jeff and I discussed in Friday’s Daily Observations). It would seem that Apple’s user base is responding well to that push. Just for fun, the game’s trailer is below.

Firewatch Comes to Mac App Store

When Firewatch launched on Steam back in February the internet pretty much went crazy over the game, and now it’s available as a native Mac title. The game tasks you with solving a mystery while working as a firewatcher in Wyoming. The graphics are beautiful, the story is intriguing, and the only help you get comes from another firewatcher talking over your portable radio. Firewatch costs US$19.99 on Apple’s Mac App Store, and if you haven’t played it yet get ready to have a very unproductive weekend.

Turn Your iPhone into an Amazon Echo with Astra

Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot are pretty cool, but what if you don’t have one yet—or aren’t home to use yours? That’s where Astra comes in. It’s an iPhone app that links to your Amazon account so you talk talk to Alexa just as if you’re right in front of your own Echo. The app lets you do pretty much everything your Echo or Echo Dot can handle, except for music playback or reading audio books. You can also remotely control your Echo-aware smarthome devices with your voice, which is worth the app’s US$0.99 price tag all by itself. You can get Astra at Apple’s App Store.

Apple Support App for iPhone, iPad Comes to US App Store

The Apple Support app for the iPhone and iPad is now available in the U.S. App Store, making it easier for Apple product users to schedule Genius Bar appointments and get other help. The app lists all of the Apple products registered to you, offers tips and suggestions, schedule repair appointments, schedule support calls, and more. The app is a free download at the App Store and in addition to helping you out it’s a shocking reminder for how may Apple products we’re buying.