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There’s been a lot of discussion about the macOS 11 Big Sur icons, much of it heated. Once again, Apple has managed to polarize opinion between those who are heaving a sigh of relief that Apple isn’t bringing completely flat design to the Mac, and those who are just heaving at what they consider ugly and inconsistent graphics.

One designer argued that Apple is on-trend with ‘neumorphism,’ but Apply Pixels icon designer Michael Flarup says this isn’t a new trend, but rather Apple bringing back fun and ‘judicious expressiveness’ to its visual design …

Flarup acknowledges the controversy, saying that this is inevitable.

As with all big shifts in design, you’re going to get a lot of noise. People will try to co-opt this new direction and attempt to label it as something it’s not (looking at you neomorphism). People will find fault with the execution. People will disagree that there’s even a change. There’ll be snark. There’ll be a period of adjustment. There’s a lot to talk about— but I think most of it misses the point.

He agrees with one argument made by Koloskus – that the flat design introduced in iOS 7 was a reaction to skeuomorphism – but doesn’t see this as the pendulum swinging the other way. He says rather than flat design was too constrained, and this is about breaking free of some of those bonds.

I think the problem with minimalism as the overarching goal of visual design is the restraint it puts on emotion. When your goal is to take away as much as possible for it to be as effective as possible— it leaves very little room for expression. This intersection between art and design is a hotbed for discussion and something we’ll probably be discussing long after I’m done pushing pixels.

And he says Apple has already been moving away from totally flat iOS design for some time.

Text labels became buttons again, subtle gradients returned and tactility crept back into our interfaces.

He illustrates this by contrasting iOS 12 with iOS 13.

Some feared that the next generation of macOS might go too far toward the minimalism of iOS.

Many suspected that some visual unification would take place and that the minimalism Apple themselves had championed would swallow up any last vestiges of realism or expressiveness in visual design on the mac.

Instead, he points to Apple’s revamped Human Interface Guidelines, and draws attention to one particular phrase in there.

In macOS 11, the design language for app icons promotes consistency with all platforms while retaining the lifelike rendering style typical of macOS icons. App icons combine a rounded-rectangle shape, a front-facing perspective, and a consistent drop shadow to provide a unified visual experience.

Although the design language strongly encourages visual consistency, it doesn’t preclude judicious expressiveness.

Apple is, he says, ‘legalising’ expression.

With this approach Apple is legalising a visual design expressiveness that we haven’t seen from them in almost a decade. It’s like a ban has been lifted on fun. This will severely loosen the grip of minimalistic visual design and raise the bar for pixel pushers everywhere. Your glyph on a colored background is about to get some serious visual competition. If you don’t believe me, it’s now one week after WWDC and dribbble is overflowing with app icon redesigns and I’ve seen at least 3 major icon sets in the works (remember replacement icon sets?). Yes, I’m working on one too.

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The 5 Biggest Problems With Big Sur And How To Fix Them

Installing macOS Big Sur on your Mac grants you access to a handful of new features, design improvements, and a bunch of system customization options. Big Sur may be the best operating system ever released by Apple, but there’s one thing it shares in common with previous macOS versions: imperfection.

No operating system is perfect, but Big Sur seems to have an enormous amount of bugs and problems. This is quite understandable, though—it’s a relatively new OS. In this article, we compile five common Big Sur issues encountered by many Mac users. You’ll also find several ways to get the issues fixed.

Table of Contents

Note that while some of these problems with Big Sur have been fixed in subsequent updates, others still very much exist. In fact, bigger problems may emerge at a later date. For the unfixed/existing problems, however, we’ve provided some brilliant workaround that helped other Big Sur users experiencing similar problems.  

1. Screensaver Bug

Putting your Mac to sleep (close the lid or press Command + Option + Power button) will dismiss the screensaver, but only temporarily. Try the recommendations below to put a stop to the screensaver glitch.

Disable Fast User Switch

We should mention that this bug majorly affects Macs with multiple user accounts. Creating a new user account on your Mac running Big Sur may also birth this issue.

Apparently, it appears that the “Fact User Switching” feature is responsible for this error. Disabling the feature in System Preferences and removing it from the Menu Bar and Control Center can fix this problem.

2. Enter your Mac’s password to proceed.

3. Uncheck this option: Show fast user switching menu as.

5. Select Fast User Switching on the sidebar and uncheck these two options: Show in Menu Bar and Show in Control Centre.

Update Your Mac (to Big Sur 11.2)

The screensaver interruption glitch seems to be peculiar to the first build of Big Sur. Subsequent point releases of the operating system—particularly Big Sur 11.2 or newer—ship with fixes to the bug.

2. Battery Drain Issues

Several Mac users reported significant battery drainage after upgrading to macOS Big Sur. We also found a couple of users experiencing random battery discharge when their Mac is powered off or in sleep mode.

Before we list some solutions to these problems, you should note that sometimes, battery drainage is normal after a software update. That’s because several processes run in the background to acclimate your Mac to the new operating system.

These processes consume a lot of power but they only last a couple of days. The issue should resolve itself in about 2-5 days and battery usage should return to normal. If the battery drainage persists beyond this period, there’s probably a problem with your Mac’s battery calibration. Try some of the methods below to fix the problem.

Recalibrate Your Mac’s Battery

MacBooks undergo a calibration process that helps to estimate how long your battery would last on its current charge level. A system update can mess with your Mac’s calibration routine and cause the battery to drain faster than it’s supposed to.

To recalibrate your battery, use your Mac till the battery discharges completely and shut down. Wait for a couple of minutes and charge your Mac till the battery gets a full charge (i.e. 100%). 

Reset SMC and NVRAM

Resetting your Mac’s System Management Controller (SMC) and NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random-access memory) can help put a stop to macOS Big Sur battery drainage issues. To perform an NVRAM reset, shut down your Mac and turn it back on. Press and hold these keys as soon as the Apple logo comes up on the screen: Command + Option + P + R. Release all four keys after 20 seconds.

The SMC also controls how your Mac manages power, battery, and other related functionalities. The procedures involved in resetting the SMC vary and mostly depend on the type of processor your Mac uses. Refer to this guide on resetting SMC on Mac or visit Apple’s Support page to learn more. 

Update Your Apps

Running outdated applications on a new operating system can affect your Mac’s performance. We found that some users stopped experiencing random battery drainage on Big Sur after updating their applications to the latest versions.

For apps that aren’t on the App Store, head to the apps’ Settings menu or the developer’s website to check for available updates.

3. Mac Not Detecting External Displays

If your Mac no longer recognizes your external monitors (via USB-C hubs or adapters) after upgrading to macOS Big Sur, or it won’t detect more than one external monitor, you’re not alone.

There are hundreds and thousands of external display-related complaints in this Apple Communities thread. Several users also pointed out that Mac doesn’t project the highest resolution (particularly 4K) to their external display after the Big Sur upgrade.

Currently, there’s no official fix for this problem—even on Big Sur 11.2. Common troubleshooting steps for resolving USB and display issues (e.g. resetting the SMC and NVRAM) yield no positive result, either. The tricks below helped some Mac users get around this annoying Big Sur problem.

Hold Down Option on Scaled Resolution

One quick fix you can try is to first head over to the Display page in System Preferences.

As you can see, I now have the option for the full 6K resolution that my Pro XRD display supports. Up till now, I was running at 3K. You should see the option here for the highest resolution your monitor can support.

Thanks to Jorg Brown, a Switching to Mac reader, for sending me this tip!

Switch or Downgrade Monitor’s Input Standard

If your USB-C adapter has both HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 1.4 ports, connecting the external display to the latter may force macOS to offer the highest resolution. For DisplayPort connections, try downgrading the monitor’s input to DisplayPort 1.2 from DisplayPort 1.4.

It seems that macOS Big Sur isn’t fully compatible with the newest versions of these display standards. Hence the reason why your Mac won’t detect external displays or project content in UW-QHD (3440 x 1440p) and 4K resolutions.

For USB-C monitors, try switching the cable to a USB 2.0 port. That worked the magic for some users, so try that and check if your Mac now detects the monitor’s native resolution. If the problem persists, restart your Mac and try again.

4. AirPods Auto Switch Issues

With the “Automatic Device Switching” feature, your AirPods should switch between your iCloud devices—depending on which one’s actively playing audio. On Big Sur, AirPods will automatically switch from Mac to other iCloud devices (iPhone or iPad) but won’t switch back to the Mac. This describes the plight of many Mac users running Big Sur.

This issue is yet to be fixed in any Big Sur updates but some users revealed that signing out of Apple ID and signing back in resolved the problem—although temporarily.

Reconnect your Apple ID and check if your AirPods now switch back to your Mac from other iCloud devices.

5. Big Sur Printing Problems Big Sur, Big Bugs   

These are some of the “unfixed” problems with the macOS Big Sur upgrade. There are also reports of keyboard backlighting not working after upgrading to Big Sur. If you ever encounter this issue, try resetting your Mac’s System Management Controller.

Customizing Windows 10 Taskbar Icons

Windows 10 comes with many customization options to make your device feel an extension of yourself. While the stock icons seem okay and do the job, the icons haven’t received any update in a while. This makes them feel monotonous and boring.

In this article, we shall discuss everything there is you can do with icons, including customizing Windows 10 taskbar icons and how to change an icon on Windows 10. Hang out till the end of the article to check out how to customize app icons for an added personal touch.

We have shown a VIDEO walk through at the end of the post for easy solution.

(Also read: System Tray Icons missing)

With Windows 10, this all changed as users can now customize what icons show up in the taskbar. This is a very welcome change among the community, as users can now remove the icons that they do not want to see in the taskbar.

In terms of the application icons, you are very limited in what you can do. Let us take a brief look at what you do to change taskbar icons.

Show Search icon: shows or hides the search icon

Show Cortana button: adds or removes the Cortana icon in the taskbar.

Show task view button: adds or removes the task view button.

To add or remove system icons from the taskbar notification area, follow these steps:

Open the Settings app using the keyboard shortcut Win + I.

Go to the Personalization section.

From the left pane, select Taskbar.

In the right column, you will have to scroll down to the Notification area section.

Here, first select the ‘Select which icons appear on the taskbar’ option.

You will be able to select which apps and services can display icons on the taskbar, and which icons will be moved to the extended notification area. Simply turn the toggle according to your needs.

Next, go back to the previous screen and select the ‘Turn system icons on or off’ option.

Here, turn the toggle towards off for the icons that you do not want to see on your taskbar notification area.

As simple as that, you can change the Windows 10 taskbar icons according to what you wish to see on your screen.

The icon customization is a bit complex in Windows 10. Let us discuss the entire process in brief, so that you can change any icon on your Windows 10 desktop.

First, you will require an image or an icon pack, that you will apply to your Windows 10 PC. In Windows 10, the supported extensions for icons are .ico, .dll, and .exe formats. You can get some amazing icon packs from IconArchive, GraphicBurger, FlatIcon, etc.

If you want to customize your PC using your own images, there is a way to use .png images as icons for your applications. To do this, you will have to make use of an online .png to .ico converter like ConvertICO to convert your images to icon packs.

Once you have your icons ready, follow these steps:

Select Properties from the context menu that appears.

Navigate to the icon pack that you downloaded or created using the converter.

Select the icon that you wish to set for the application and select OK.

So there you have it. Now you know how to manipulate the Windows 10 taskbar icons, and how to change an icon on Windows 10 using the method provided above. Comment below if you found this useful, and to discuss further the same.

Fun And Free Music Makers For Iphone And Ipad

It’s no secret that the late Steve Jobs loved music, that’s why music has a special place in Apple’s ecosystem. Garageband, iTunes, Apple Music, and Music Memos are just a few examples of Apple’s love for music. There was a time when Apple collaborated with famous musicians like Sting, John Legend, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Rush, and Sara Bareilles to create tutorials in Garageband on how to play their songs. Too bad they discontinued the effort.

All In One: Garageband

We can’t talk about music making in iOS without including Apple’s own Garageband. It’s all in one app to create music. It has smart digital musical instruments, sound effects, loops, multi-track mixer, and recording studio. You can plug and play real musical instruments such as guitar and bass on your iOS device, then add stompbox effects to your playing.

Garageband is listed as US$ 4.99 in the app store, but it’s free for every new purchase of iOS device. So I guess it could be counted as free, couldn’t it?

Simple Musical Instrument

Sometimes you don’t need a complete recording studio. You just need one musical instrument, most of the time it’s the one that you also play in the real world or the ones that you want to learn. There are tons of single instrument apps on the app store. There are even “bands” created around these apps. Here are examples of the apps.

1. Piano

Among many piano apps available, let’s pick three of them. The first one is Magic Piano by Smule. The app is more of music game than a piano. It will let you play to your favorite songs by your favorite singers. You can also connect with other Smule music apps and collaborate.

The second is Simply Piano. This one will help you learn to play Piano. It starts by asking your competency. Then you can go through the lesson while the app gives you guidance, listen to your playing, and give you feedback. If you have been postponing your piano lesson, now is the time to start learning.

The next one is Real Piano Free. As the name suggest, this app will give you the look and the sound of a real grand piano. You can play the app as if you are playing the real instrument. You can choose to play the single or dual keyboard. But even with iPhone 6s Plus size, you would find that iPad screen is the better size to play this app.

2. Wind Instrument

One popular example of an app that falls into this category is Ocarina. There are several versions of Ocarina app in iTunes app store, but the free versions are Ocarina Free With Songs and Honey Ocarina. The real Ocarina uses the combination of four holes to produce musical notes and the iPhone versions try to keep the experience as close as possible to the real ones. Those who never play Ocarina will need some getting use to, but the instrument is fairly easy to play.

Another wind instrument that you can try is Zampona.

3. Guitar

If you are game for another music game from Smule, you could try Guitar!. This app uses similar method of playing to Magic Piano, but with guitar sound. You can also access several types of guitar and a wealth collection of songs by earning points for your playing.

But if you want to play your device like a real guitar, look no further than Real Guitar Free. The notes that it produces are sampled from real live guitars so you can be sure of the quality. Tha app also comes with a huge database of chords with tabs and chord finder, and song book. It supports MIDI out and audiobus/inter-app audio so you can stream your playing to Garageband.

4. Drum Kits

Mix And Jam

If you are more into electronic music, mixing and jamming, there are apps for that. Here are few of them.

Creating music in Beatwave is as simple as tapping the grids to place the notes/beats. You have four tracks of grids; each can be assigned to one sound. Beatwave will play in loops; you record the song by placing the notes on each track and they will be mixed into one loop. You can create several loops and link them into a full song.

Maybe this app is best described as visual music making. They even have a dedicated graphic designer to create the experience. You won’t find a piano or other musical instrument here. You create music by drawing shapes, and you listen to your music by “watching sound” bouncing on the screen. It’s weird and fun at the same time. Try it.

Yet another thinking-out-of-the-box concept of music making. Creating music with Ninja Jamm means mixing and jamming; by touching, tilting, shaking, and using multiple fingers; to play, cut, add effect, create glitch, mix and re-imagine. Wow, that’s a mouthful. You then can share your creation via Soundcloud to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Coming from Propellerhead, one of the big names in digital music production, Figure – which once was a paid app – is built to be the quick and fun music-making app that you can use in those spare minutes you have between your activities. Other than the easy swipe and tap way to make music, you can also use Propellerhead’s musician network called Discover to find beats, back up your tracks, and share your creation with the world.

We have discussed the Android version of Music Maker Jam as part of Garageband alternatives for Android.

Sound Recording

Another fun music app from Smule. Dubbed as the global karaoke party, Sing! Karaoke is built for you who loves to sing. The selling point of the app is the chance to sing video duets of your favorite song with your favorite artist. You can also share your singing with the global community with the hope to be discovered by the talent scouts and be famous. This app is also a way to make new friends as you found your duet partners. And last but not the least, there are over 100.000 hits that you can choose.

Trackd is better described as musician’s collaborative tool. You can record and mix your song using 8-track recording studio. The track can be filled with your singing, your musical instrument playing, or just another sound that you want to record. Then you can use the community of singers and musicians to find someone to jam and collaborate with to craft the perfect piece of a song.

Music Memos is the app for those times when the tones hit you, and you have to save it before they’re gone. The app is designed to record bits and pieces of song ideas. But there’s more to that. The app will automatically add smart bass lines and drum beats to your recording to help you imagine what the final song would sound like. We have discussed the app before if you want to know more about it.

Eu Says Bmw, Daimler And Vw Colluded

EU says BMW, Daimler and VW colluded – threatens billions in fines [Update]

BMW, Daimler, and VW have been accused of colluding on emissions cheating by the European Union antitrust regulators, the first step in process that could lead to huge fines for the automakers. According to the European Commission, the three car companies worked together to restrict competition around greener internal combustion engines.

Regulators issued what are known as Statement of Objections to BMW, Daimler, and VW Group today. That effectively sets out a preliminary view of the Commission’s thinking: in this case, that the three automakers colluded.

However, a Statement of Objections does not mean the same as a conclusion in the investigation, which saw surprise inspections of BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, and Audi premises in late 2023. Documents and other materials were seized, and come September 2023 an in-depth investigation was opened. “The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation,” the EU points out.

Under the microscope are two technologies in particular, which the Commission says it has “concerns” about. First, for diesel cars, there’s the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, which is designed to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx). The SCR injects urea into the exhaust gas stream, to cut the potentially harmful gases.

However, the Commission alleges that the automakers coordinated the amount of urea dosing – also known as AdBlue dosing – as well as the urea tank sizes and refill ranges, over the period between 2006 and 2014. That was done “with the common understanding that they thereby limited AdBlue-consumption and exhaust gas cleaning effectiveness,” antitrust regulators suggest.

For gasoline cars, meanwhile, the technology in question is the “Otto” particle filters, or OPF. These help cut particle emissions from direct injection gasoline cars. “In the Commission’s preliminary view, BMW, Daimler and VW coordinated to avoid, or at least to delay, the introduction of OPF in their new (direct injection) petrol passenger car models between 2009 and 2014, and to remove uncertainty about their future market conduct,” the investigators say today.

Automakers are, the EU highlights, perfectly within their rights to collaborate on technologies. However that’s different, it argues, from behaviors designed to restrict competition on innovation. The result, it alleges, was that consumers were denied the opportunity to buy less polluting cars, even though the technology to achieve such reductions was available for manufacturers if they so chose.

“Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products,” Margrethe Vestager, commissioner in charge of competition policy, said today of the Statement of Objections. “However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality. We are concerned that this is what happened in this case and that Daimler, VW and BMW may have broken EU competition rules.”

“As a result,” Vestager concludes, “European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology. The three car manufacturers now have the opportunity to respond to our findings.”

Notably, this investigation focuses on the potential competition law violations, rather than possible environmental legislation breaches. That makes it independent from other ongoing investigations into technologies used in the so-called “dieselgate” scandal, where devices were secretly employed in certain vehicles to automatically shift them into a lower emissions mode when testing was underway.

The penalties, should any of the automakers be found to have committed antitrust behaviors, are severe. The EU can impose a fine of up to 10-percent of a company’s annual worldwide turnover.

For BMW Group, based on 2023 revenues, that could mean a fine of up to around $11bn. For Daimler – the parent company of Mercedes-Benz – the figure could be higher, at up to $19bn. VW Group – which includes brands like Volkswagen and Audi – could be even more impacted, with a total potential fine of $26bn based on its 2023 global revenues.

Update: BMW has issued a statement, saying that it “will contest the EU Commission’s allegations with all legal means if necessary.” However, in accordance to its financial reporting requirements, it also recognizes that “a significant fine” could be levied by the Commission, “likely to exceed” one billion euro:

Therefore, following its review of the Statement of Objections, the BMW Group will recognise a provision, which is likely to exceed €1 billion. This effect will negatively impact the financial results in the first quarter of 2023. The company’s review of the Statement of Objections and the inspection of files will take some time. As a result, a final evaluation of the financial impact is currently not possible.

7 Big Ways Windows 11 Changes Windows 10

How is Windows 11 different than Windows 10? Our hands-on look at a leaked early build of Windows 11 begins to answer that question.

Our leaked build shows changes in the Windows taskbar and Start menu, leveraging the UI tweaks that Microsoft made to Windows 10X before it put that operating system on ice earlier this year. There’s also a massive Widgets drawer that’s entirely new, though we’d expect it to evolve between now and when Microsoft will likely launch Windows 11 in the fall.

Microsoft may certainly add or subtract features to Windows 11 between now and its launch. But for now, here are the major changes to Windows 11 from the perspective of a Windows 10 user. For a more thorough look, check out our video tour of Windows 11 in the video embedded just below.

The Start menu: simple icons, no Live Tiles

Mark Hachman / IDG

The Windows 11 Start menu.

More profound changes appear once you’ve opened the Start menu itself. In Windows 10, Live Tiles allow app developers to cycle through photos and provide dynamic information to you. That’s all gone. Again, Microsoft is taking its cues from Windows 10X and providing an array of small, static icons. Below, a list of “recommended” files appear to be shortcuts to either frequently-used files, or at least recent documents you may have opened. Small buttons (“All apps,” for example) offer shortcuts to any other apps that may be hidden away.

The Start menu may not be as friendly as in in years past, but it’s more functional than ever.

Windows Snap has been enhanced with FancyZones 

Mark Hachman / IDG

Windows 11 appears like it’s implemented FancyZones right in the operating system.

On a window within Windows 11, hovering your cursor over the “maximize window” icon in the upper right-hand-corner of a window does more than just fill the screen with the selected window. It allows you to select from a variety of configurations to organize that window, from a “four corners” orientation to a narrow strip along one corner of the screen. It’s very reminiscent of the ”FancyZones” portion of the Power Tools suite which Microsoft implemented on 2023. All you need to do is highlight which windows configuration you want, then select one of the available alignments for your selected window.

A simplified Taskbar

Mark Hachman / IDG

A closeup of the Windows 11 taskbar.

Bye-bye, Cortana

Yes, bye-bye Cortana—well, from the Windows 11 Taskbar, anyway. One of the ways in which Microsoft has slimmed down the Windows 11 taskbar has been to fold the Search bar into a simple search icon, and to do away with the Cortana icon entirely. Cortana lives on as an app within Windows 11, but you’ll have to manually launch the Cortana app, then interact with its limited functionality. Cortana has improved from when she didn’t know the answer to 2+2, but she’s still limited in her functionality.

What in the world is Widgets?

Mark Hachman / IDG

We’re not sure what Widgets will end up as, but for right now it’s a showcase for News & Interests within Windows 11.

New icons and other UI tweaks

Mark Hachman / IDG

Some of the new icons within Windows 11.

No changes to apps 

So far, what we haven’t noticed are any changes to the traditional app model: no limits on 32-bit versus 64-bit apps, and nothing locking you to apps within the Microsoft store. Again, the leaked version of Windows 11 seems to be a visual reskin of Windows 10, implying that you’ll be able to do the same things with Windows 11 that you’d be able to do with Windows 10.

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