Amazing Stories ends with a bang, should have settled for a whimper [Review]

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Kerry Bishé in Amazing Stories
Kerry Bishé closes out the first season of the new Amazing Stories
Photo: Apple TV+

Amazing Stories’ season finale “The Rift” serves as a case study into the rebooted show’s highs and lows. With its five-episode run complete, the ways in which the Apple TV+ anthology series succeeded — and the ways it failed to cohere — become more obvious than ever.

“The Rift” was directed by Mark Mylod and written by Don Handfield and Richard Rayner (co-creators of History Channel’s Knightfall). However, the episode takes more cues from executive producer Steven Spielberg than nearly any of the preceding entries, to both its detriment and its occasional benefit. The real MVP of the piece, however, is the perpetually underrated Kerry Bishé.

Lawmakers want proof Apple’s COVID-19 app protects privacy

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apple
The new COVID-19 app and website provide the latest information and guidance from the CDC for users across the US.
Photo: Apple

A group of U.S. Senators is requesting assurances from CEO Tim Cook that Apple has privacy protections built into the company’s new COVID-19 screening app and website.

Senators Kamala Harris, Richard Blumenthal, Bob Menedez and Cory Booker sent a letter addressed to Cook on Friday voicing concerns about the private health data of Americans.

How to make your own coronavirus Ragmask

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Make your own protective mask with Ragmask's amazing guide.
Make your own protective mask with Ragmask's amazing guide.
Photo: Ragmask

Do you need a coronavirus mask? The World Health Organization still says no, unless you are caring for someone with COVID-19 or carrying the virus that causes it yourself. But perhaps The WHO isn’t as impartial as we’d like to think. As health experts’ opinions on the subject evolve, a DIY homemade mask looks increasingly enticing.

Perhaps wearing a mask when you take the subway or visit a supermarket is a good idea after all. Whatever, none of this changes the fact that you cannot buy a mask anywhere. But you can make your own. Check out the Ragmask, a homemade mask deign from Loren Brichter. Yes, that Loren Brichter — the former Apple employee who went on to develop Tweetie and was dubbed the “high priest of app design” by The Wall Street Journal.

Home Before Dark gives us a tiny hero for uncertain times [Review]

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Home Before Dark review: Jibrail Nantambu, Brooklynn Prince and Deric McCabe solve crime adorably.
Jibrail Nantambu, Brooklynn Prince and Deric McCabe solve crime adorably in Home Before Dark .
Photo: Apple TV+

Based on the real-life exploits of preteen reporter Hilde Kate Lysiak, who was a published journalist before she had all her teeth, Apple TV+’s new series Home Before Dark is an exciting and endearing new offering.

The streaming service released all 10 episodes of the show’s first season Friday. The first three brisk episodes build a strong case for the show’s quick renewal.  And they also reveal Home Before Dark’s tiny hero, Brooklynn Prince, as a certified star.

We talk the return of iPhone SE! This week, on The CultCast

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CultCast 433
New budget iPhone ... incoming???
Photo: @YSR50

This week on The CultCast: iPhone SE… 2! Let’s talk about it. Plus: Apple is “scrambling” to prevent iPhone 12 delays amidst COVID-19 challenges; and we wrap up with an all new What We’re Into, Quarantine Edition! We’ll tell you about the shows, game videos and other stuff we’re doing with our extra “free” time.

Our thanks to Squarespace for supporting this episode. Easily create a beautiful website all by yourself, at Squarespace.com/cultcast. Use offer code “CultCast” at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.

This suede sport band for Apple Watch looks sharp but is ready for action [Review]

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Mifa's Hybrid Sports Leather Apple Watch Band is an inexpensive but classy strap.
Mifa's Hybrid Sports Leather Apple Watch Band is an inexpensive but classy strap.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Mifa’s Hybrid Sports Leather band for Apple Watch is a steal at $25. Not only is it made from genuine vintage suede, it has a sweatproof silicone backing that makes it as comfortable to wear as the softest sports band.

The layering of materials makes Mifa’s band one of my favorite Apple Watch straps. It’s lightweight, soft and comfortable — and it looks dressy but is designed for action.

5 Zoom alternatives to keep you connected during COVID-19 crisis

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Zoom definitely isn't your only option for videoconferencing. Check out these Zoom alternatives, including Houseparty.
Zoom definitely isn't your only option for videoconferencing.
Photo: Life on Air

Zoom might be the best video-conferencing app, but that’s a bit like saying Facebook is the best social network. It might be true 1, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel dirty if you use it. Despite a seemingly never-ending stream of privacy violations, security holes and utter disregard for its customers, Zoom is still being used as the de facto standard video conferencing and broadcasting tool during the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve already seen the problems with Zoom. And we’ve also shown you how to protect yourself if you choose to use Zoom despite the company’s many privacy missteps. (Zoom pledged to do better this week.) But what about other services you could rely on during the coronavirus shutdown? Read on. We have five great Zoom alternatives you can use.

Innovative Apple Watch band lets runners monitor speed and heart rate at a glance [Review]

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EdgeGear Shift review: Seeing your Apple Watch while jogging is far easier with this Apple Watch band for runners.
Seeing your Apple Watch while running is far easier with the EdgeGear Shift.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The design of the wristwatch hasn’t changed on over 100 years, but EdgeGear has an alternative that makes it easier for runners to see their Apple Watch while on the go. The Shift is not like any band you’ve worn before, as the Watch is held near the base of your thumb, not in the middle of your wrist.

I took the EdgeGear Shift on a few runs, and can report on how it performed in the real world.

iOS 14 could add two-factor authentication to iCloud Keychain password manager

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setup iCloud keychain
iCloud Keychain password manager could be getting support for an advanced security feature.
Photo: Cult of Mac

The iCloud Keychain password manager built into iOS and macOS is reportedly getting support for two-factor authentication. This is a feature now only available in third-party password managers like Dashlane. It would make storing and using passwords more secure.

Add wireless charging to your AirPods with this $25 Elkson case [Review]

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Elkson wireless AirPods bumper case
Elkson's Bumper Case adds wireless charging to your 1st and 2nd generation AirPods.
Photo: Elkson

One of the nicest features of the latest AirPods is the ability to charge them wirelessly. Just plunk them on top of a Qi-compatible charger and you’re good to go. But what about the original AirPods, which didn’t come with a wireless charging case?

Well, now you can add Qi charging for just $25, thanks to Elkson’s Wireless Charging and Bumper Case.