How to Use Every New Feature in iOS 14.6

Apple’s iOS 14.6 and iPadOS 14.6 launched this week, adding several new features to iPhones and iPad devices including new voice controls, expanded tracking functions for AirTags, Family Sharing options for Apple card payments, and, of course, tons of bug fixes.

Here’s a round-up of all the new features in iOS/iPadOS 14.6 and how to use them—and don’t forget you can install the software update under Settings > General > Software Update. 

Unlock your screen with your voice

Users can unlock their iPhone’s screen with a voice command after restarting the device. The new accessibility feature is available for all users with voice commands enabled. To turn on voice controls:

  1. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control.
  2. Tap “Set up Voice Control.” iOS will download the necessary files in the background. When it’s done, you’ll see a mic icon on the screen indicating voice controls are turned on.
  3. You can also view voice commands and modify or create your own under Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control > Customize Commands.

Apple Card Family Group spending features

An Apple Card can now be shared with up to five other accounts in your Family Sharing group. Users must be 13 years or older to use Apple Card payments. Along with the family sharing option, users can track expenses and set spending limits and other restrictions.

You’ll find all the options in Settings > [username] > Family Sharing.

New AirTag tracking functions

Apple’s recently released AirTags have a couple of new features included in iOS/iPadOS 14.6, including:

  • Tapping an AirTag with an NFC-capable device (like your iPhone or iPad) shows a partial phone number of the AirTag’s owner.
  • “Lost mode” in the Find My app now lets you add an email instead of a phone number.

Other new features in iOS/iPadOS 14.6

  • Apple Music Losses Audio prep: Apple Music’s new Lossless Audio quality option won’t hit the app until sometime next month, but iOS 14.6 preemptively adds support for the audio format to all applicable iOS and iPadOS devices.
  • Paid content support for Apple Podcasts: Podcasts creators can now add optional paid content and subscriptions for their shows in the Apple Podcast app. This doesn’t affect free content.
  • Several security updates and bug fixes.

[iDrop News]

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exhausting, frustrating – anyone else ready to throw in the towel? 

 The second episode of Line of Duty (BBC One) was a bit of a slog, wasn’t it? Keeping track of the investigation into the murder of Gail Vella, and the investigation into the investigation of the murder of Gail Vella, and trying to remember past series and why they’re bringing up Jimmy Savile again. A character would explain something, and I thought I understood, and then I’d have to rewind to make sure.

Clever drama series can require effort on the part of the viewer, but surely not this much. This feeling of exhaustion isn’t helped by DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). He’s miserable in AC-12 and wants out. DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) has quit for a new life on the murder squad. If they don’t want to be there, why should we?

The only one providing entertainment is Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), who has the best lines. The rest are stuck with expository dialogue, particularly Compston: “So Gail Vella drew attention to alleged links between politicians, organised crime and senior police officers?” 

Fans who are immersed in the Line of Duty universe no doubt love the reappearance of old characters, and are still keen to work out the identity of H. But there is an arrogance in a writer assuming that we have all this information at the front of our minds.

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Birdsong in a Time of Silence by Steven Lovatt review – lockdown’s high notes | Books

In spring 2020, as Covid-19 spread fear and infection around the globe, seismologists were able to track “a wave of silence passing over the earth, its course exactly following that of the virus”. According to Steven Lovatt, silence descended on Britain, perhaps for the first time since the Industrial Revolution: “Finally, the earth could hear itself think, and the voice of its thought was song.”

The pandemic struck in the northern hemisphere just at the moment when birdsong was resuming after the bleak winter months. That “strangest spring” will be remembered not just for the new virus, but as the time when the nation became aware of birdsong. Silent streets and gardens were filled with “a rising choir of chirps, trills and warbles”. People shared recordings made on their phones of “the woozy fluting of blackbirds” and “the deep purring of wood pigeons”.

Lockdown also reawakened Lovatt’s passion for birds. As a child he had been awestruck by the starlings that roosted in Birmingham during the winter: “They swirled and pulsed in the sky-space between concrete towers as though a dark dough of poppyseeds was being stretched and kneaded by invisible hands.” By his teens he could identify most British birds. But then his interest faded – until last year.

Katie Marland’s illustration of the Skylark, from Birdsong in a Time of Silence. Photograph: Katie Marland

Beautifully illustrated in black and white by Katie Marland, Birdsong in a Time of Silence begins early in the morning of 24 March, the day after normal life in Britain was suspended. Lovatt’s slim yet wonderfully evocative book records his walks and observations of nature and birds during the spring and summer, drawing on poetry, folk songs, myths and science to reveal the key role birdsong has played not just in our culture, but our life-worlds.

Lovatt points out that birdsong probably hasn’t changed much since the stone age. It has been the soundtrack to the evolution of our species: “It’s part of our feeling of belonging in the world … we have birdsong in the blood.” It is a reminder of the natural world and “the circular, seasonal time that never ceases to follow its own patterns”. Today, being able to recognise birdsong, such as the insistent alarm calls of the blackbird when it spots a cat, enriches one’s understanding of the world “by revealing an almost forgotten aspect of the grammar of reality”.

Birdsong also shapes our identity as individuals. The songs and calls of birds that Lovatt encountered on his lockdown walks bring back childhood memories, such as waking in his grandmother’s house in the 1980s and hearing the calls of house martins nesting in the eaves “which reminded me of the working of knitting needles”. In its ability to spark forgotten memories and connect us to nature, birdsong is, says Lovatt, both “plainly mystical and profoundly ordinary”.

House Sparrow.

House Sparrow. Illustration: Katie Marland

Lovatt deftly captures the character and personality of the birds he describes: from the ubiquitous blackbird, whose song can be heard across the land and forms “an essential ingredient” of what we know as home, to the “strange and magical” sound of skylarks, the “guttural croaks” of herons, and the “chatters, pop-gun detonations and saucy whistles” of starlings, who he says “have arguably the greatest repertoire of any British bird”.

There are 220 bird species that breed in the British Isles and as many as a quarter migrate here. Swallows fly from South Africa, some 6,000 miles away, to grace our skies. Quite how they navigate remains a mystery. In the era of climate crisis, fewer are migrating. The corncrakes and quail that Lovatt’s grandparents would have heard are less common today, as are the nightingales and turtle doves that his parents would have listened to: “I’ve never heard any of these species in Britain.”

Habitat depletion and the catastrophic decline in insect numbers means there are millions fewer birds in the country than when Lovatt was a child. As well as a big ecological problem, this impoverished soundscape is “a great loss for our sense of who we are as human beings”. Our idea of summer was once defined by the sound of birds such as cuckoos and turtle doves, “the aural equivalent of a heat haze, the gentlest corrugation of air, always just on the edge of your hearing”.

This is a joyous and profound meditation on birdsong and what it means to us, a book that brings to life an essential part of the natural world that most of us take so much for granted that we scarcely notice it.

Birdsong in a Time of Silence is published by Particular (£12.99). To order a copy go to Delivery charges may apply.

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Kindred by Rebecca Wragg Sykes review – a new understanding of humanity | Books

Homo sapiens’ relationship with our long-lost relatives the Neanderthals has undergone a lot of rethinking since our relatively recent reintroduction in 1856. Until then, three years before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, we had no idea that they existed. Thanks to the Parisian anatomist Marcellin Boule, who “inaccurately reconstructed” a skeleton in 1909, the popular image of them has been of an ugly creature with a stooped spine and a “decidedly ape-like” appearance. Now, a blink of an eye later, we know that many of us – at least, those without sub-Saharan heritage – carry between 1.8 and 2.6% Neanderthal DNA. So it’s reassuring to read that these people whose genes we share were not the brutish caricatures of Victorian myth, but complex, clever and probably caring individuals with a lot to tell us about human life.

Rebecca Wragg Sykes has studied their landscapes, territories and tools and emerges as an expert and enthusiastic character witness for Neanderthals and their way of life. In Kindred she looks at their “life, love, death and art”; and in the light of the fascinating evidence that is painstakingly presented here it seems likely that they had sophisticated tools, built home environments, art and ornamentation, family structures and possibly even “a richer culinary world than ours”. There is even evidence that they tidied up. Neanderthals probably didn’t have PR, but they do now.

Neanderthals became a distinct population 450,000 to 400,000 thousand years ago, and lived all over the world from north Wales to China and Arabia, in climates ranging from glacial to tropical, until about 40,000 years ago. They were shorter than we are, with strong arms for working hides and fine motor skills for making small tools, but probably saw, heard, smelled and possibly even spoke much like we do. With a sketch and a short piece of fiction at the start of each chapter, Wragg Sykes paints a vivid picture of life as lived by a Neanderthal parent, hunter or child. She doesn’t just want us to see Neanderthals for who they (probably) really were; she wants us to see their world through their eyes.

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal, created for the Natural History Museum, London. Photograph: Richard Gray/Alamy

The prose is a combination of the scholarly and the writerly, combining dizzying amounts of information about different types of stones, tools, bladelets and flakes with sentences such as “Squabbling crossbills and crested tits yielded to crass jays and mellifluous nightingales, until cold mornings saw clattering capercaillies sending breathy vapour into biting air.” The knowledge condensed here is certainly impressive. “The sheer amount of information is hard to process,” Wragg Sykes writes. “Few specialists have time to read every fresh article in their own sub-field, never mind the total scholarly output.” She describes, for example, how archaeologists refit tiny fragments of knapped artefacts back together like “an immense 4D jigsaw puzzle” to see how Neanderthals worked stone tools; what isotopes in dental calculus tell us about their diet and smoky fires; and how microanalysis of soil samples suggests careful placing – if not technically “burial” – of the dead. It’s clearly a subject that encourages and repays obsessive interest.

Understanding Neanderthals’ place in history is important to show “how evolution didn’t follow an arrow-straight Hominin Highway leading to ourselves”, and to skewer white supremacist notions that sprang up around our early (mis)understanding of who different types of humans were. It is hard, though, not to draw some warnings for humanity from the fate of our near kin. Did Homo sapiens only thrive because of our larger and stronger social networks – “being welcome at the fires of friends many valleys away” when things got tough? Did Neanderthal populations collapse after one climate change event too many, and how might we survive our own? Or might they have been killed off by “a terrible contagion” that jumped between species? Sadly, we don’t know, though the next discovery may be the one to tell us. Until then, Wragg Sykes concludes, Neanderthals will continue to function as “the shadow in the mirror … a multispectral reflection of our hopes and fears, not only for their apparent fate, but our own”.

Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art is published by Bloomsbury Sigma (RRP £20). To order a copy go to Delivery charges may apply.

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How Cyberpunk 2077 Sold a Promise—and Rigged the System

CD Projekt Red had nearly a decade to architect the great Cyberpunk 2077 mythos. Game reviewers had just a couple of days to assess it, and were hamstrung in how they could portray it. Gamers who had dropped $60 on this cyberpunk pleasure palace back in 2019 reeled; all the hot air came whizzing out. One professional reviewer, Kallie Plagge, gave Cyberpunk 2077 a 7/10 on GameSpot—not even a pan—criticizing it for one-dimensional world building, disconnected side quests, and large-scale technical issues. Mass harassment attended the review. Reactionary YouTubers, who did not have access to the game, dedicated long videos to dismantling her critique, dissecting her playtime and playstyle. But just days later, once gamers had finally played Cyberpunk 2077 themselves, many did a 180. “Everyone talked shit about her, but I’m starting to agree with Kelly [sp] Plagge,” read one popular post on /r/cyberpunkgame.

CD Projekt Red isn’t the first or only gaming company performing marketing psy-ops. In 2016, No Man’s Sky literally promised the world and infinite others; it was slated to be the most expansive, the most immersive, the most most game up until that point. But because the studio behind it, Hello Games, didn’t offer it to reviewers at all ahead of launch, gamers found out the hard way that it failed to deliver on basics like multiplayer connectivity. This year alone, WIRED received over a dozen offers to review big games that came with NDAs attached. It’s not always to hide flaws; sometimes it’s to prevent spoilers, or the result of an overzealous PR team. But putting those kinds of handcuffs on reviewers ultimately hurts the people who buy the games.

As the games industry market size summits $60.4 billion dollars, the pressure to micromanage the reviews system grows ever greater. As an example, Bloomberg has reported that CD Projekt Red’s developers’ bonuses were contingent upon a 90+ on Metacritic. (That changed post-release.) The company had built up the video game equivalent of a genie in a bottle. So it did what everybody does when they gain a modicum of power: control the narrative. CD Projekt Red declined WIRED’s request for comment.

The same incentives also rig the system against developers, who pull six-day work weeks and sacrifice work-life balance to manifest slogans like “a city that’s larger than life,” “sets new standards in terms of visuals, complexity and depth.” These are the modern expectations for a 60-hour, AAA open world game—an increasingly bloated, and increasingly unsustainable genre. In June, former PlayStation executive Sean Layden bemoaned the enormous financial and work burden of developing these kinds of games to “I think the industry as a whole needs to sit back and go, ‘Alright, what are we building? What’s the audience expectation? What is the best way to get our story across, and say what we need to say?’”

Eight million pre-orders, though, says all this stage-management benefits somebody. Video games are particularly susceptible to the bait-and-switch. Games are both identities and hobbies: a place to be yourself and explore who you are and a thing you do and own. Better customization, bigger worlds, greater graphics—more, more, more—it can’t go on exponentially. But a system that feeds on hope will only grow as big as the trust placed in it.

More Great WIRED Stories

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Marry Me a Little review – Sondheim’s rejects live happily ever after | Stage

Breaking up is hard to do – not just in relationships. When a song doesn’t fit in a musical, it can get cut from the final production. Despite all the effort and emotion that sustained it, the tune is unceremoniously dumped. But it ain’t over till it’s over. Those songs can be rekindled by their creators or, as with the Stephen Sondheim revue Marry Me a Little, lovingly matched together by others.

Conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman René, and first staged in 1980, this one-act musical unites a dozen or so songs chopped from Follies, A Little Night Music and other Sondheim classics, with a few that did make it into his musicals. They are repurposed for the story of two lonely hearts in New York, each stuck at home on a Saturday night.

The Barn’s online version, filmed on stage during a run that closed early due to this month’s lockdown, imagines the couple have just broken up. Framed side by side on Gregor Donnelly’s set, in not quite matching apartments, the pair (played by Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker) contemplate being newly single when “the urge is to mingle”.

Single but eager to mingle … Celinde Schoenmaker. Photograph: Eve Dunlop

This carousel of aching regrets and sardonic score-settling comes with flashes of rapture, too, as each veers from picking through the ruins of the relationship to savouring potential new ones. And, just because some of these songs were rejected, it doesn’t mean they don’t delight. This is Sondheim – you’d want to read the man’s shopping list. The bittersweet Uptown, Downtown – axed from Follies – juxtaposes two bars as a woman “sits at the Ritz with her splits of Mumms / And starts to pine for a stein with her Village chums”.

As with a jukebox musical, it’s hit and miss whether the lyrics land in the context of their new narrative. The musical is sung-through, with no book, and Kirk Jameson’s production uses mobile phone messages and Instagram histories in telling the story. In a comic touch, Bring on the Girls, about Follies’ showgirls, is sung while the newly unattached Houchen swipes through Tinder. But the unavoidably prosaic nature of the breakup texts shown on screen can distract from the suppleness of Sondheim’s lyrics. When Schoenmaker delivers Can That Boy Foxtrot! while responding to a string of booty-call messages, the candid elegance of the song gets lost amid the emojis and a horny selfie.

‘In the chair where you want to sit’ … Rob Houchen.

‘In the chair where you want to sit’ … Rob Houchen. Photograph: Eve Dunlop

Backed by musical director Arlene McNaught on piano, Schoenmaker and Houchen capture the range of complicated emotions at play in Sondheim’s lyrics – the joy of sharing a home “with the nippers [and] the dog with your slippers” (from Little White House) and the frustration of finding somebody “always there, sitting in the chair where you want to sit” (from Happily Ever After). They are best at conveying the balance, as captured in the song Marry Me a Little, of sharing your life but keeping something back for yourself.

Jameson succeeds, too, in presenting the pair as being alone together, whether singing solos or duets. Meetings and leavings, moments and eternities, blur together in these songs which are taken from shows that stretch over some 20 years but return to the same questions and look at love with the same gimlet eye.

Roving camerawork keeps the film from ever feeling static and, even at just 50 minutes, if you’re missing live theatre it’s a tonic – with Schoenmaker and Houchen giving it just enough kick.

Marry Me a Little is available online until 22 November.

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