Apple’s Swift Programming Language Now Open Source

As promised, Apple has officially made its Swift programming language open source, making the project available through Swift.org.

We are excited by this new chapter in the story of Swift. After Apple unveiled the Swift programming language, it quickly became one of the fastest growing languages in history. Swift makes it easy to write software that is incredibly fast and safe by design. Now that Swift is open source, you can help make the best general purpose programming language available everywhere.

Announced at WWDC 2014 and launched alongside iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite a few months later, Swift marks a significant step forward from the Objective-C previously favored by Apple.

On December 3, 2015, the Swift language, supporting libraries, debugger, and package manager were published under the Apache 2.0 license with a Runtime Library Exception, and Swift.org was created to host the project. The source code is hosted on GitHub where it is easy for anyone to get the code, build it themselves, and even create pull requests to contribute code back to the project. Everyone is welcome, even just to file a bug report. There are excellent Getting Started guides available here on the site as well.

The project is governed by a core team of engineers that drive the strategic direction by working with the community, and a collection of code owners responsible for the day-to-day project management. Technical leaders come from the community of contributors and anyone can earn the right to lead an area of Swift. The Community Guidelines includes detailed information on how the Swift community is managed.

With the open sourcing of Swift, Apple has also released a Linux port to expand access to the language. Apple has also begun sharing design guidelines related to the upcoming Swift 3, setting the stage for „a more cohesive feel to Swift development.“

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LUNATIK EPIK Apple Watch Kit Review: Rugged Protection, but Not the Best Fit or Comfort

LUNATIK, the company that made a name for itself a number of years ago by creating popular watch bands such as the TikTok and LYNK for the sixth-generation iPod nano, has debuted a similar offering for the 42 mm Apple Watch with its new EPIK lineup.

EPIK began as a Kickstarter project that raised over $240,000 and offered a protective anodized aluminum casing for the watch itself paired with an integrated silicone sport band or aluminum link bracelet. Intended to aid in using the Apple Watch in more rugged environments, the EPIK adds protection to the Apple Watch in the form of enclosed sides, a significantly raised bezel to protect the face from impacts, and coverings for the device’s physical features.

Following the Kickstarter campaign and an early launch of a special low-end polycarbonate version initially made available through Best Buy for $60, LUNATIK is today announcing the broad release of EPIK for all customers. Aluminum models start at $140 for either a silver or black housing paired with a black silicone band, stepping up to $150 for a black housing paired with either a black or brown leather band. At the high end are the link bracelet models, which come in silver ($200) or black ($220) housing and band combinations.

LUNATIK sent me one of the black link bracelet models for review, and I’ve spent nearly a week wearing it as my sole Apple Watch band. Overall, I found it to be an interesting addition that adds some nice protection for the Apple Watch but which has a few drawbacks.

Getting Started

Putting EPIK onto the Apple Watch is not nearly as simple as sliding a standard Apple Watch band into the grooves on the device casing. In order to secure the watch inside the EPIK housing and band combination, a pair of screws must be removed, allowing the housing to come apart into two pieces that are then placed around the apple watch. The ends of the EPIK band are then paired up with the screw holes and everything is put back together. As a result, this isn’t a band you’re going to be swapping on and off of your Apple Watch on a regular basis. It does, however, make for a sturdy feeling and helps protect the watch from wear and tear in more rugged environments.

As with other link bracelets, sizing the band requires adding or removing links to achieve the proper size for the user’s wrist. Anyone familiar with the LYNK band for the old iPod nano will recognize the EPIK link bracelet, as it uses the same band. Individual links are held in place by spring-loaded pins, which can be removed by using the end of a small paperclip to compress the pin.

I did have some minor sizing issues related to the natural changes in wrist size experienced throughout the day depending on hydration levels and temperatures. With each link adding over 9 mm to the band’s length, I found myself „between sizes“ with this band. While it fit fairly well much of the time at my initial sizing, it did become uncomfortably tight at times when my wrist started to swell a bit.

Moving up a size by adding another link into the band made my Apple Watch very loose in general and was not a feasible option. Changes in wrist size throughout the day are not an uncommon fit issue for link bracelet wearers, but bands with smaller link sizes such as Apple’s link bracelet at closer to 7 mm per link allow for finer control over sizing to hopefully achieve a better initial fit that could provide a bit better wiggle room as the user’s wrist swells and shrinks. Those using either the silicone or leather band should be able to avoid these issues due to the greater pliability of the bands and the ease of tightening or loosening the band if necessary.

Features

With all of the added protection EPIK brings, one particular challenge is maintaining access to all of the hardware features of the Apple Watch, and I found EPIK to do a solid job in all of these respects. The raised edge around the display has a bevel that maintains good access for touching the display, while the side button works fine through a built-in button covering on the case. Speaker and microphone access is also maintained with the use of mesh grilles.

One of the key innovations for EPIK in terms of usability is the Active-Control Crown, which fits over the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown. The Active-Control Crown adds some size to the crown and makes it easier to use, even with thin gloves. A grip pattern on the Active-Control Crown also makes it easy to turn by just swiping a finger over it.

While EPIK does provide some protection for the rear of the Apple Watch, there is a circular cutout leaving the heart rate sensor exposed so it can contact the skin. I experienced no problems with heart rate monitoring while wearing the watch, and it remained comfortable on the wrist. The cutout also means there is no interference with wireless charging.

The closure on EPIK is butterfly-style, similar to the mechanism used by Apple on its link bracelet. But unlike Apple’s low-profile butterfly closure, which integrates the buttons for releasing the clasp into the profile of the band, EPIK includes a pair of wings on the underside of the band that must be squeezed to release the mechanism. In general this was not much of an issue and worked fine for taking the watch off, but as the watch grew tight at the times my wrist swelled a bit, the wings did become a little uncomfortable.

Overall Impressions

LUNATIK’s EPIK definitely adds a good bit of bulk and some weight to the Apple Watch, but I did not find it overly heavy on the wrist or find myself bumping or catching it on things any more than a naked Apple Watch. For those looking for some extra protection while still retaining full access to the Apple Watch’s features, that could be enough to make this a worthwhile purchase.

EPIK feels sturdy and has a decent look, although the band doesn’t have a super premium feel to it. The 6000 Series aluminum casing protects the watch well and generally makes the Apple Watch look like many other rugged sports watches at a quick glance. The aluminum will likely pick up scratches and other wear in a rugged environment, but unless the face is hit at an odd angle it should keep the watch itself in great shape. I do, however, wish the band was a bit more comfortable for all-day use, especially since it requires tools to remove EPIK and switch to a different band.

Pros:
Adds good protection for Apple Watch
Maintains access to all Apple Watch features and controls
Pricing for polycarbonate models (starting at $60 at Best Buy) good for integrated band and case
Cons:
Some sizing and comfort issues
Difficult to swap on and off of watch for frequent band changes
While much cheaper than Apple’s band-only link bracelet, EPIK’s link bracelet models start to feel a bit pricey at $200+

How to Buy

Polycarbonate EPIK models are available from Best Buy ($60) and LUNATIK ($70), while aluminum models priced from $140 to $220 are available directly from LUNATIK.



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Hands-On Walkthrough of Apple Music and Beats 1 Radio

Apple’s much-anticipated music service, Apple Music, launched this morning as part of iOS 8.4, bringing on-demand streaming music, the Beats 1 radio station, and Apple Connect, Apple’s new social network aimed at letting artists connect with fans in new and unique ways.

We went hands-on with Apple Music in iOS 8.4 to give you a look at how the new service works, what it looks like, what it costs, and how to use it. Check out the video below to get a thorough overview of all three Apple Music components.

Apple Music’s main streaming feature is a „For You“ section within the Music app that offers up on-demand music recommendations based on preferences you’ve entered and music you’ve listed to previously. „For You“ is able to offer more refined, tailored recommendations as you listen to more and more music.

The „New“ tab, also part of the on-demand streaming service, displays a variety of music that’s new and popular, organized into songs and albums. This section also includes music picks from Apple Music editors.

Much of the content in these two Music app features requires a subscription to Apple Music, which is free for three months, after which it’s priced at $9.99 or $14.99 for a family. A third „Radio“ tab in the app houses the new 24/7 live Beats 1 radio station and other radio offerings, and radio content will always be free to access.

Apple Connect, the artist-centric social network, is also available through a tab in the Music app, and it displays status updates, photos, videos, and more from artists you follow. The final section is focused on „My Music,“ housing music you’ve added from Apple Music, songs you’ve purchased from iTunes, and playlists you’ve created, all in one spot.

All of these features that are available in iOS 8.4’s new Music app are also available in iTunes 12.2, which was just released this afternoon. iTunes 12.2 offers up all of the same tabs and access to music, radio stations, and curated playlists.

Because Apple Music is free for the first three months, all iTunes users can download it and check it out for themselves without having to shell out cash. If you haven’t downloaded Apple Music yet, it’s well worth giving it a look.

To read more about setting up Apple Music, make sure to check out our guide on Getting Started with Apple Music and Beats 1 on iOS, Mac, and PC.



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