Under The Microscope

Usability Nightmare: Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s Alert System

It’s been a few years since our last Usability Nightmare post, but today’s particular design disaster is definitely worthy of being featured. You’ve likely heard about the recent false missile alert in Hawaii, which scared the heck out of a whole lot of people. Over at Dev.to, Ben Halpern had a good overview of the general issue, correctly noting that this was almost certainly a failure in design.

Today, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA) released an annotated image showing the system which was used.


An incredible trainwreck of a design

The same selection screen contains both drill and real options, in extremely close proximity to one another. The naming of these options is inconsistent, and often opaque. Further, there’s no grouping to differentiate items. While there was a confirmation screen after this, it seems certain that it did not fully spell out what would occur. All of that led to literal panic in the streets.

This false alarm wasn’t even the worst thing which could happen as a result of this terrible design. While it caused a great deal of distress, there were no serious injuries reported. Far worse, and clearly possible, would be for someone to accidentally select the “Drill” option if a missile actually were inbound. In that case, no alert would be sent to the public, and the devastation could be greatly amplified.

Just a few minutes of time from a designer with even minimal experience could improve this layout dramatically. Here’s hoping HIEMA improves things, and that other agencies take notice as well.

Meet Our New Support Tech, Robert

Robert Staff ImageHere at Rogue Amoeba, we take great pride in offering top-notch support to our users. Whether you’ve already purchased one of our apps, or you’re just considering it, you can always email our support team. That’s the best way to get help, provide feedback, and much more. Today, we’re pleased to announce the addition of Robert Charlton to our support team! Today actually marks Robert’s first day as an official employee here at Rogue Amoeba, but he’s been helping customers for many weeks already as a contractor.

Customers really shouldn’t notice much difference at all, because we’ve always sought to provide fast and friendly help, and Robert is helping us continue that quest. Earlier this year, we decided to increase the size of our support team. We wanted to be able to assist more customers in less time, while also working to improve our software and support systems. Our larger support team will now have more time to answer email queries, refine our support site and manuals, and improve many of our backend processes. All of this will allow us to provide ever more solid apps.

In Rogue Amoeba’s infancy, I spent part of my time handling our support via a simple email client. Over time, that job grew until we needed to hire a full-time support tech, and utilize a full help desk backend. We’ve now got multiple techs working to help our customers. The support team’s work isn’t quite as obvious as a flashy new software release, but it’s still vitally important, and we’re delighted to have Robert joining us!

Airfoil for Windows 5.2 Restores Full Apple TV Compatibility; More to Come

Airfoil for Windows with AppleTV

Earlier this week, we shipped Airfoil for Windows version 5.2, which enables it to once again send audio directly to all versions of the Apple TV. That includes the newer Apple TVs running tvOS 10 and 11, as well as Apple TV 3 and below. All security modes are now supported with this free update, so users streaming to any Apple TV should be sure to grab the latest.

Further Updates in the Pipeline

Chromecast IconIn recent months, Airfoil for Windows has not been updated as much as we would have liked. When we began work on Chromecast compatibility last year, we announced that we hoped to ship it in short order. Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out that way. Among other issues, the Apple TV 10.2 update forced us to shift our focus to restoring functionality, rather than implementing new features. We’ve heard from users who are eager to stream to Chromecast with Airfoil for Windows, and we continue to work hard to accomplish this. Progress has been slow, but steady.

Having missed one estimate for release already, I won’t make the mistake of giving another. Instead, I’ll just state that we now have Chromecast streaming working in Airfoil for Windows here, and we’re currently conducting extensive testing. It will likely still be some time before it ships, but we’re back to work on this now that Apple TV compatibility has been handled.

Windows Store IconWe’re also hard at work on improving issues with audio capture from Windows Store applications. Because Windows Store apps are written in a very different way from other applications, there have been issues capturing their audio. We’ve been striving to make Airfoil compatible with as many Windows Store apps as possible, but further work remains to be done.

We’ll be continuing to plug away on both of the above items, and shipping additional updates as soon as possible. For now, just grab the latest Airfoil for Windows, and stay tuned for more.

Notes on Airfoil Satellite TV

Airfoil Satellite TV IconThe Airfoil Satellite TV app we released back in April was a useful workaround for streaming audio to the new Apple TVs. Now that we’ve worked around Apple’s changes, you can once again stream audio to the Apple TV without needing any additional software. As such, Airfoil Satellite TV generally shouldn’t be necessary at this time.

In the future, we may update Airfoil Satellite TV so it better matches the iOS version of Airfoil Satellite. If nothing else, however, Airfoil Satellite TV will continue to exist as a fall-back, so that even if Apple changes or breaks AirPlay compatibility, Airfoil will still be able to send audio from a PC or Mac to the Apple TV.

A Small Airfoil for Mac Update, Too

Airfoil for Mac IconWe also updated Airfoil for Mac to version 5.6.4 this week. Apple TV support was restored with Airfoil for Mac version 5.6, and this new version has some additional improvements made while working on Airfoil for Windows, including updates for tvOS 11. If you’re also using Airfoil for Mac, be sure to get the latest by selecting “Check for Update” from the Airfoil menu.

Fixing an Important High Sierra Incompatibility

All current versions of our software have compatibility with MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra). However, users running an outdated version of some of our apps may experience problems with audio playback on the new OS. Please read on for more details.

The Basics

A small number of our users on High Sierra have experienced a loss of audio on their Macs, with no audio being heard from the computer. This problem can be caused by a conflict between High Sierra and an outdated version of our Instant On audio component (specifically, Instant On version 8.4.3). When Instant On 8.4.3 is installed on High Sierra, MacOS’s audio backend (CoreAudio) can crash, resulting in lost audio.

The conflict described only occurs when the outdated Instant On 8.4.3 runs on High Sierra. Well before High Sierra was released, we updated Instant On to fix the incompatibility. Instant On 8.4.4 (and up) has no conflicts on High Sierra, and users who are up-to-date will experience no problems on the new OS. While very few people will be affected by this issue, any number greater than zero is undesirable.

How To Avoid This Issue

To ensure a smooth upgrade to High Sierra, just make sure you’ve got the latest versions of your Rogue Amoeba apps by selecting “Check for Update” within the app, then updating if prompted.

Location of updates in the app menu

You should also check the “Install Extras” window to make sure you’ve got the latest Instant On as well. If you’re running Instant On 8.4.4 or newer, you’re good to go.

Location of Install Extras in the app menu

Fixing The Issue on High Sierra

If you’re on High Sierra and you’re experiencing issues with audio playback, try removing the outdated version of Instant On. You can do this manually with the steps below.

Manually Removing Instant On

1) In the Finder, select “Go to Folder” from the Go menu, then enter /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/HAL/

Location of Go to Folder

2) If Instant On is installed on your Mac, you’ll see the “InstantOn.driver” folder here. Drag it to the Trash.

diagram showing the folder dragging to the trash

3) Enter your administrator password when prompted, then empty the Trash to complete the removal of this old version of Instant On.

4) Log out of your Mac, then back in. Audio should now play as expected.

After Fixing, Remember to Update!

As mentioned, newer versions of Instant On are fully compatible with High Sierra, and can be installed without a problem. Instant On provides enhanced audio capture in our products Airfoil, Audio Hijack, Nicecast, and Piezo. You should be sure to update to the latest version of these apps, after which you can re-install Instant On via the “Install Extras” window.1

Closing

When the conflict between High Sierra and Instant On 8.4.3 was discovered during High Sierra’s beta period this summer, we quickly released updates to rectify the problem. These updates shipped well in advance of High Sierra’s official release, and ensured that nearly all of our users would experience no problems. For those users who didn’t update our apps, the information above will help fix the conflict, or prevent the issue entirely.

We always recommend users stay up to date with our latest releases, as that’s the only way to be sure you have the most recent bug fixes. On our side, we’ll continue our never-ending quest to avoid bugs entirely!


Footnotes:

  1. Loopback is also powered by Instant On, but unlike our other apps, it’s a mandatory part of the software. As such, no additional installation is needed.
    ↩︎

Rogue Amoeba’s 15th Anniversary Sale

Update (October 1st, 2017): Our anniversary sale has ended. Our phenomenal products are still available at their regular, everyday low prices, however, so start at our front page to learn more. When you’re ready, head over to our store to purchase.


September 30th will mark a major milestone here at Rogue Amoeba. On that same date 15 years ago, we unveiled the very first version of Audio Hijack. Put on your solar eclipse glasses so as not to be blinded, and have a look at Audio Hijack 1.0:

The original Audio Hijack
Audio Hijack 1.0, in all its glory

From “RealOne Player” being selected as a source (or “target” as it was then known) to the pinstripe-festooned interface, this entire screenshot is an amazing relic from a distant past. A decade and a half and many improvements later, we’re tremendously proud that Audio Hijack is still going strong as a powerful recording tool for MacOS.

For that matter, Rogue Amoeba is going strong as well. From the humble beginnings seen above, we’ve built a broad lineup of award-winning audio tools, and we’re now able to celebrate our fifteenth year doing business. We continue to relish the chance to earn our livings by meeting your audio needs.

We’re incredibly grateful to our users, and not just for your purchases over the years. Our products have been improved immensely thanks to the helpful feedback and suggestions we get from our dedicated fans. As well, the impact of satisfied users spreading the word about our tools can’t be overstated. If you’ve made a purchase from our store, told a friend about our apps, or sent in comments, please know how much we appreciate you.

Sale-ebrate With Us

We’re always eager to help even more people with their audio needs, so to celebrate our 15th anniversary, we’re offering a rare and very limited-time sale. Through the end of September, we’re offering discounts on every product we make.

So just how big is this sale? We started by lowering the price of all of our products by 15%, to match the 15 years we’ve been in business. We didn’t stop there, however. We’re also offering the chance to boost those savings by 1.33x, 1.67x, 2x, 3x, or even 4x. A few lucky users will save as much as 60% off our everyday low prices.

Providing a great deal on our apps is one small way we can thank our existing customers for all their support, and to help new users with our tools as well. We don’t discount our software often, but right now, everyone can save on every purchase from Rogue Amoeba.

Visit our 15th Anniversary sale page to obtain your discount, then make your purchase to get these great savings.

One Other Thing: Will You Help Spread the Word?

Word of mouth is our very best form of advertising, and we’re always tremendously thankful when our customers let others know about our work. If you’re a fan of Audio Hijack, Airfoil, or any of our other audio tools, we’d be honored if you’d tell your friends!

This rare discounts available this week make it a great time to spread the word about Rogue Amoeba. Tweet a link to https://rogueamoeba.com/store/deals/15years/, post about it on Facebook, or share it anywhere you like. We’ll be most appreciative!


Share on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Facebook

Our Software