Netflix Now Offers Offline Content

Streamers and video junkies rejoice..!

netflix_logoI’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years. I started off as a DVD subscriber and at one point had three to four DVD’s flowing in and out of my house a week. When the streaming biz started, we jumped on that too, as it was sometimes easier to stream than to wait for the DVD to arrive. Sometimes you had to wait weeks or months for one to get here, especially if it was a popular film. We’re streaming only now, as the DVD biz has gone the way of the do-do… and I got tired of paying for the service that regularly didn’t deliver what I was wanting to watch.

The streaming service is nice, as I can get all the kids watching on iPads as well as my wife and I and my daughter and son-in-law watching separate shows on separate TV’s at the same time. It works out very nicely for us.

One of the biggest asks of all Netflix streamers, though was offline viewing of content. Sometimes, an internet connection isn’t available, especially on a plane or on a long car trip, and a movie on an iPad is just the ticket to a little peace and quiet. Until now, that wasn’t possible. Now… it is.

Netflix recently added an option to its mobile apps that will download films AND TV shows in advance, allowing users to watch them without an active internet connection. Extended trips and plane rides will never be the same.

Unfortunately, not everything in the Netflix catalog is available for offline viewing.

Seen as one of the most desired subscriber features, offline viewing has long been the most popular subscriber request. Netflix has resisted it for years thinking that cell service would improve to the point where it wouldn’t be needed. Unfortunately, mobile internet STILL isn’t ubiquitous, and Netflix competitors began offering the service. That’s what ultimately drove the company to offer it to its customers. Well, that and expansion into other countries where cell and internet services are spotty at best.

You CAN view the following popular shows, among others, offline:

  • Stranger Things
  • Orange is the New Black
  • The Crown
  • House of Cards

The following shows and movies, among others, are NOT available offline:

  • Sherlock (BBC)
  • Disney’s’ Zootomic
  • The Little Price

However, more downloadable content is scheduled to be released, “soon.” Downloadable content is clearly marked with a downward facing arrow next to a show or movie’s title.

In order to view offline content, subscribers need to download the latest version of Netflix’s app. The app, available on iOS and Android devices.

Are you a Netflix subscriber? Have you downloaded the latest app update? Have you tried to download any offline content? What was the download experience like? What was the offline viewing experience like? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on this interesting development?

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The State of Consumer Computing

I have NO idea where the industry is going with this…

consumer_computingOk, kids. Sit back. I’ve been cooking up a rant on the direction that consumer/ prosumer computing has been going for a while; and given that the Holidays are here, it’s time to let this one loose. There’s some background that I feel is necessary (nearly) every time I shoot my mouth off, so bear with me a minute…

I’ve been writing in the tech sector for almost 20 years. I’m a tech pioneer, as I got started in mobile, and consumer computing back in 1990-blah-blah-blah when computing and mobility was in its infancy. During this time, I’ve always seen a clear steady progression… a firm march towards what I would call a confirmed and clear vision of mobility and portability that enabled prosumer and hobbyist level consumers to be productive. Honestly, I don’t see much of that any longer. To be blunt – I have no idea where the heck industry is headed at this point, and it really concerns me.

Windows
I used to be a huge Windows proponent. I cut my teeth at WUGNET – The Windows User’s Group NETwork where I was their Senior Content Editor for approximately 10 years. I wrote – literally – thousands of Windows based tips for Windows, IE, Office 95 – 2007, and Hardware. I had a column in the Computing Pro Forum at AOL/ CompuServe, which WUGNET managed, called, “The Weekly Byte,” covering anything and everything computing and/ or Windows based, for just over seven years. I’ve also been on every technical beta of Windows since Windows 95. Windows is a platform that I know very, VERY well.

Unfortunately, I have little to NO idea where Microsoft is headed at this point, and quite honestly – though it may seem a bit harsh – I’m not certain they do either. Again, to be blunt, Windows 10 is a train wreck; but I’ll get to that in short order.

I’ve made it very clear that I’m not happy with the way things are going with Windows. To say I’m disenchanted with the state of Windows could be considered an understatement. Couple that with the prices for the new and still available, but previous, version of Surface Book; and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

It’s no secret to anyone that Windows PC’s are about half the price (or less) of an Apple computer. Which really makes Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book prices really confusing. Both Signature PC’s – meaning that they are Windows PC’s without any junkware, crapware or adware installed by the PC manufacturer – are priced as premium devices. Microsoft Surface Book ranges in price from $1499 to $2999 before tax. Surface Pro 4 is a bit more “affordable,” but also gets rather pricey. Prices for it range from $899 to $2699 before tax.

I have no idea why Surface PC’s are so expensive. Microsoft’s hardware efforts don’t have the clout to command such premium prices. In fact the history of both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book have been riddled with HUGE driver issues. Microsoft has had huge issues related to both power and battery drivers as well as graphics driver issues that have prevented the convertible PC’s from sleeping and hibernating correctly as well as contributing to “hot bag” syndrome, where the PC overheats in a backpack or notebook carrying case because the device never shuts off correctly, burning out the device at worse or severely draining and damaging the battery at best.

Don’t get me started about the whole disappearing ink thing. Over a year later, its still not resolved. That bug effects ALL Surface Pro products, including older Surface Pro devices AND Surface Book.

Microsoft has over the past couple of years since the start of the Windows Insider Program at the beginning of the Windows 10 beta period, said that it would be forcing ALL Windows users to Windows 10 once the operating system was officially released; and they’ve stuck to that, too. Microsoft has been downloading Windows 10 to users PCs whether they want it to be upgraded or not, without their permission. At that point, Windows doesn’t ask you if you want to upgrade, but TELLS you that it’s going to update your machine. In fact, many Windows 7-8.x users went to bed only to wake up to a PC that was upgraded to Windows 10 without their permission. These strong arm tactics had many Windows users breathing fire in Redmond’s general direction. Microsoft seems to have crossed a line with this one, and they aren’t sorry about it either.

And I REALLY have to go into Microsoft’s mobile strategy or the real lack thereof?

It’s clear that Microsoft DOESN’T care about whether or not I want to upgrade or not. They’re taking everyone there, kicking and screaming if they have to; and they don’t seem to care about the fallout, either.

I don’t get it. Microsoft seems to have done a “Steve Jobs” and decided what was best for everyone whether they want it or not. This new attitude combined with their Surface based driver issues has me wondering who’s steering the boat in Redmond; or if anyone is really steering at all.

Microsoft has seemingly gone from a compassionate business partner strong arming business software dictator. Where the heck did they get the system level permissions to upgrade my computer without my consent? My good friend, Woody Leonard of Microsoft Office fame has a decent article, published earlier this year that provides some good information on this.

Needless to say, this and a Microsoft’s confusing hardware strategy has a number of people, me included, wondering just where Microsoft is going with all of this. They’ve burned a lot of bridges with a lot of folks. Some have sworn off Windows and have considered other OS options like machos or Linux.

Speaking of which…

Apple
I got into Macs in 2006 after Apple made the switch to Intel processors. In fact, I bought my first Mac with the intent of it being a Windows machine. An Intel based Mac runs Windows VERY well. The drivers that Apple provides via Boot Camp are really solid. In my opinion, Macs provide one of the best native Windows computing experiences around.

In fact, it’s for THAT reason alone that most of the tech sector – meaning those paid professions (like me) that cover technology developments via mainstream tech print or online media, use Macs. They’re really the ONLY computer on the market that can natively (and legally) run BOTH major, consumer operating systems out of the box. In fact, they can also run just about any Linux distro you throw at it as well. Since Macs can really be the anything and everything computer, spending the extra money to purchase one of them as a notebook makes perfect sense and is completely cost justifiable. With a Mac, I can cover any and every platform. I can review nearly every OS available. I can review just about any and every accessory for any operating system, provided I have the right port and/ or cable or dongle available or within reach.

Macs have also historically been supported by firmware and OS compatibility by Apple for a minimum of five to seven years, making these historically, premium priced, prosumer targeted notebooks and desktops easy to use, easy to justify and easy to maintain… that is, until recently.

With the release of the iPad Pro and the release of the Late 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar I truly believe there are very few people outside of Cupertino that know where Apple is going with its computing strategy.

Many new Late 2016 MacBook Pro users have said that the form factor of the device is approaching that of the iPad Pro, with a keyboard. These same people have stated that the iPad Pro could be a MacBook Pro replacement… with the introduction of the proper software. Both devices seem to be hurtling towards each other’s users and towards each other’s form factors.

There are a number of reviews on the Late 2016 MacBook Pro that indicate that the device is more mainstream consumer oriented than a “professional” device. They have further said that the only thing that’s “pro” about the new MacBook Pro is its price. Its anywhere between $500 to $1500 more expensive than its immediate predecessor; and the only thing that it REALLY offers is a thinner form factor and a Touch Bar that many users are still on the fence about.

What remains adamantly unclear is where Apple is headed with their computing products. Apple recently got out of the wireless router business. Apple hasn’t updated the Mac mini since October of 2014; and hasn’t’ updated the iMac since October of 2015. While they’ve updated the iPhone and iPad regularly during the same timeframe, what IS clear is that their portable computing efforts seem to be edging closer and closer to their tablet based products and their tablet efforts seem to be edging closer and close to their portable computing based products.

But to WHAT end?

Back in the day, everyone clearly wanted not only better, faster, stronger, but lighter and more portable. With Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro lines of notebook computers, we achieved that some time ago. All that Apple seems to be doing is making the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro more and more alike; and many are asking, “why?”

Unfortunately, no one from Cupertino is providing any kind of explanation; and I find myself trying to figure out a couple of things:
1. How in the world I’m going to afford a new MacBook Pro in 2-3 more years.
2. Is a Mac even the right platform to choose?

Both of these questions are equally important. I don’t want an iOS device to be my main computing device. The platform doesn’t offer enough software – or even the right software – for what I use a computer for. I don’t want all of my files pushed to the cloud, which is where iDevices really want all of your data to live – and to be very honest, iDevices don’t offer all of the peripherals and connectivity options I’m looking for. Connecting my Nikon D7100 to my iPad isn’t possible, for example; and likely won’t be. Yes, Apple has a dongle to connect an SD card to an iPad, but I really don’t want to have to remove it from the camera every time I want to transfer pictures from it to my “computer” for retouching and processing.

While I really don’t need more than 16GB of RAM on a computer at this point, my previous Mac purchase strategy was to buy the high end 15″ MacBook Pro with as big of an SSD as I could afford. In the past, that’s cost me approximately $3000; but it got me a Mac that has historically lasted more than 5 years, with the exception of my Early 2011 MacBook Pro, that is. My 2006 MacBook Pro lasted me until 2011.

Most folks who did what I did – bought big to ward off obsolescence – won’t necessarily be able to do that this time around. I bought the high end, Late 2013 MBP with the high end processor and 512GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM. Which at the time, was as big and as bad as you could get.

If I were to spend the same amount of money with the Late 2016 MacBook Pro, the only thing I really buy myself is a technology refresh, as I don’t see any value in the Touch Bar given my workflow. If I add the Radeon 460 graphics card – a $100 upgrade that doubles your graphics adapter RAM, a decent upgrade for the price – I’ve priced myself $600 above what I paid for my Late 2013 MacBook Pro (before tax), and as I said, all I’ve really gotten is a technology refresh. I’d hardly call that a compelling reason to buy a new computer, especially since, at this time, there’s nothing wrong with my Late 2013 MacBook Pro.

Upgrading storage from 512GB to 1TB is an additional $400, which seems reasonable, given storage gain; but that brings the price up to $3499, or an additional $1000 above what my Late 2013 MacBook Pro cost, and again, before tax. After tax, the cost is $3718, or $933 more than I paid previously. That’s a lot of money for additional storage and a small graphics adapter bump.

The cost increase here is a huge surprise to many, given that Apple has a history of keeping the new price for new equipment the same as the cost of last year’s model. Here, it seems that there’s a $500 bump for the new models even before you get to customizing the base model’s specs.

AND it’s a lot of money when I have no idea where Apple is headed with their consumer/ prosumer computing roadmap. Are they truly ignoring the professional market? Are they going to push all consumers towards iOS? I have no idea.

Conclusion
Dude… your guess is as good as mine.

I have no idea where the hell Microsoft is going with Windows 10, its somewhat hostile upgrade program (now, seemingly toned down a bit…) or the fact that Microsoft can’t even get the drivers for their OWN signature PC’s coded and debugged correctly.

Heck, have you run Windows through Boot Camp on a Mac? Apple did a dynamite job of providing Windows drivers for all of THEIR hardware. If Apple can do this well, why can’t the maker of the operating system provide drivers for THEIR branded machines? This really seems kinda stupid… Microsoft can’t get this right, but their major competitor – who really doesn’t want to continue to provide Boot Camp, by the way – can. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, that’s for sure.

While it seems like the best thing to do at this point is to just jump to over to a Mac, the cost of any of their current “Pro” level notebooks, unfortunately make it exceptionally cost prohibitive. Buying into the Apple ecosystem as a new user is just too damned expensive at this point. Staying here means I either have to settle for a notebook I don’t want, or my kids won’t be able to go to college…EVER.

Even if it weren’t cost prohibitive, I have no confidence that Apple will be able to support me with the type of hardware that I want and need for my computing needs. Their current computing offerings seem to be hurtling towards each other, destined to end up in some sort of crammed, hashed together mess that combines both iOS and macOS elements.

Hey, Tim..! Keep your chocolate OUT of my peanut butter! I don’t want a notebook that’s more iDevice than notebook. I want a portable, desktop replacement that runs a desktop class operating system. And I don’t want to have to pay $4000 for it, either.

So… I have no idea where both Microsoft – whose software runs in nearly every office of every business on the ENTIRE PLANET – or Apple are headed. One seems to be unable to write drivers even for their own equipment, and the other seems to hell bent on turning their conventional PC’s into tablets.

Both seem hell bent on pissing off all of their users though.

Am I the only one who thinks this? Chime in folks. I’d really appreciate you giving me your thoughts on this.

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Apple Releases iOS 10.2 Beta 3 to Developers

There’s some noticeable changes in the latest beta release…

ios 10.2Big changes, kids. That’s what can be seen coming in iOS 10.2. Especially, in the US. The most noticeable is that the Videos app has been removed. While you’ll still be able to watch video on your iDevice, you’ll need to use the TV app for that. The Video widget, introduced in iOS 10.1, has also been removed and replaced with the TV widget. In countries outside the US, both the Video app and Video widget are still available for use.

The new functionality – app and widget – includes an “up next” feature which allows you to keep track of shows and movies you’re watching. It saves your place or recommends new TV episodes and movies across multiple devices. In the Settings app, there’s also a new section for the TV app, allowing users to choose whether they use cellular data for playback; and to choose the streaming quality over both Wi-Fi and cellular connections. You also get to choose whether you purchase video in HD or SD from the iTunes Store.

Additional changes to iOS 10.2 Beta 3 include the following:

SOS – The SOS functionality that allowed users to call emergency services by pressing the power button several times on the iPhone has been removed. According to Apple’s release notes, SOS is currently only available in India.

Messages – There’s a new “Send With Love” Screen Effect option in Messages that sends a heart along with a text message.

iOS 10.2 Beta 3 was released on 2016-11-14; and is currently only available to developers. It’s likely a public beta will be available in the coming days. iOS 10.2 has been promised an early December launch, and several features – including single sign on (SSO) for the TV app – are expected during this time frame.

There are a lot of changes going on at Apple. Some of these I understand and agree with, others are leaving me a bit confused. The first was the introduction of the new MacBook Pros. Unfortunately, at this point, I’m not a huge fan. Pro users don’t want thinner and lighter, they want expansion options and ports. The only pro feature that the new MacBook Pro has is price. They’ve priced a LOT of MacBook Pro users out of the MacBook Pro with this particular hardware iteration. One can only hope that Apple will see the error of their ways and price the device DOWN a great deal with the next iteration. My guess is that they WON’T do this, as Apple very rarely, if ever makes products significantly cheaper so more people can re/afford them.

It sure is expensive enough.

The other issue I have is with the true definition of Pro and how it relates to the iPad and its software. The iPad Pro could – and likely would – resolve a lot of “Pro” use if IT had some of the software that productivity professionals were looking for. Creatives would likely embrace the iPad Pro as a still and video editing machine IF the device had the software that they needed. However, as of this writing, even THAT is nowhere to be found.

All we really have is a set of hardware options – the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro – that seem to be coming closer and closer together without any REAL direction as to why, or where the grand game is going. I have no idea what future hardware direction I really should be going in.

When I compute in my home office, I know I am going to want an external monitor, will want to access local and network based storage; and will want desktop classed tools, peripherals (keyboard and mouse, etc.) to work with. So it seems that a Mac is really the way I want to go.

When I’m out and about, thinner and lighter is usually better; but I don’t want to sacrifice hardware capabilities for portability… and I certainly don’t want to carry dongles or extra or different cables.

With the MacBook Pro that I have, I SHOULD be able to last at least another three years at least, (which would place me at about the 2019/ 2020 date range; but I should have been able to do the same thing with my Early 2011 MacBook Pro, and it died two years ago due to that model’s well publicized system board defects.

So where does this leave me?

That, kids… is the $64,000 question. I have no idea.

It’s clear that if I wasn’t a tech journalist, I’d be stuck with some sort of budget based, Windows laptop. Buying a Mac without a clear way to justify the cost, especially the latest models, just means you have money and not much else. While Apple DOES want to maintain its exclusivity… its boutique standing, if you will… practicality usually sets in at some point. The thing that made the MacBook Pro so popular in the past five to seven years was the fact that while the hardware WAS expensive, it wasn’t out of reach, especially the high end models.

Now, with prices for high end machines approaching the price of a private sale on a decent, used car, many people are going to think a heck of a lot more than twice about purchasing a Mac laptop. In many cases, it just doesn’t make sense; which is problematic when you’ve made the switch from Windows to Mac and you’ve been there for 10 years.

If you’re like me and you’ve switched and your Mac is also your Windows machine (either via Parallels Desktop or VMWare), and you DO in fact buy a new Mac laptop, but can’t buy as big and as bad as before, you’re likely to run into performance issues. At that point, don’t worry. You may need to give up some hard drive/ SSD space and convert your VM to a Boot Camp partition, but you shouldn’t have issues running Windows on your Mac. You may not be able to run both OS’ at the same time, but you can still do it all.

It’s clear that there’s a lot going on at Apple. It’s also clear that both iOS and macOS are in a state of flux, and that the public doesn’t have a very clear roadmap to guide their hardware purchases. As such, you’re going to have to be very careful about what hardware you buy, if any. The last thing you want to do is buy too much, or too little.

Apple certainly isn’t making this any easier on anyone really interested in their hardware.

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Use Android Auto without the Radio

If you’re an Android you can now use Android Auto directly from your Phone

I remember back when I was using a Nexus One and reviewed for Just Another Mobile Monday. Unfortunately, the site and the review have been taken down. However, you can see info about the review in the link, above. The point is that back in the day, Android Car mode allowed you, often with a special dock, to access an automobile UI for Android. This was really the precedent to Android Auto. In the years since, that mode has largely been written OUT of the core OS.

Thankfully now, however, with the inclusion of a special app, you can get access to “car mode” again.

Android Auto is now available as a special app for your compatible Android phone. This allows you to access all the features of Android Auto without having a special, compatible touch screen radio in your vehicle. You simply access the functionality right on your phone. The function is similar to Android Wear. This is based on the idea of showing the user what they want to see, before they’ve actually asked for it.

The app includes most, if not all of the features of Android Auto. You can use navigation, listen to audio, make calls, etc. Voice interaction is key, so make sure you have that enabled, as interacting with a touch screen while driving isn’t always legal in all areas of the country.

The Android Auto app is available now, and requires Android 5.0 Lollipop or greater.

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Thoughts on the New MacBook Pro’s with Touch Bar

Here are my initial thoughts, long and winded though they may be.

Introduction
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately when it comes to PC’s. I’ve got a Late 2013 MacBook Pro that will be 3 years old in a couple of months. Its running just fine, so I really don’t need a new one; and I’m not looking to buy a new computer this year.

If it’s not clear, I’ve pretty much become totally disenchanted with Windows. Unfortunately, things haven’t gotten much better. In fact, the status of this issue hasn’t really changed in over a year. It’s still a problem, and all that Microsoft has is a work around – turn off auto text recognition.

That’s not an answer… but I digress.

With OneNote being the biggest reason why *I* would purchase a Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4 (you’ll recall I dumped mind), I’m really not in the market for a new PC.

With the results of the recent Apple event (even if I was in the market for a new Mac), I’m not certain that I would buy one at this time. In short, I’m not happy and under impressed.

Here’s why (in as small a nut shell as I can put it…)

Cost
Let’s get this one out of the way first, as its likely the most visual issue (aside from the ports, issue, below) with the new MacBook Pros. Cost increases for the Late 2016 MacBook Pros, both with and without Touch Bar are high. They’re so high, in fact, that they’re high for Apple prices, and, THAT kids… says LOT.

Please note that all prices quoted are prices taken directly from Apple .com, and are before any applicable sales tax is added.

The entry level 13″ MacBook Pro, without Touch Bar, is meant to be a replacement for the 13″ MacBook Air. The entry level MBP is $1499. It has a dual core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, Intel Iris Graphics 540 and two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. The 128GB 13″ MacBook Air still sells for $999; and has similar, if somewhat diminished specs. That represents a $500 increase; and you’re not getting much more for your money, in my opinion, to justify the cost.

The 256GB version sells for $1199, with the same tech specs. That represents a $300 increase, and all you’re getting is a 256GB SSD for the trouble. That’s hardly worth an extra $300 bucks.

The top of the line 15″ is $4299, up $1515 from last year’s top of the line, which maxed out at $2785. The unit includes a 2.9GHz quad core i7 processor, a 2TB SSD (a $1200 option), 16GB of RAM, and AMD Radeon Pro 460 graphics with 4GB of RAM. The cost for this new unit represents a $1515 increase over the previous model.

You could buy a whole other MacBook Pro for that much. Let’s let that sink in just a bit…

At these prices, it’s very difficult to justify the purchase of ANY model. The biggest problem there is that these units are likely LESS upgradable than last year’s model (my guess is the SSD’s are soldered on to the motherboard). That being the case, you’re REALLY going to have to try to future proof the purchase by buying as much as you can. At $4300, and without some of the features and ports (see below) that most are going to want and need, then justification FOR the purpose is much more difficult.

Ports (and other Hardware Changes)

macbook-pro-touch-bar
There were a lot of hardware changes that were made for this model. The most noticeable is the new Touch Bar replacing the function key . I heard on Mac Break Weekly that the Touch Bar was technology that was first pulled together over seven years ago and has been lurking in the Apple R&D lab since before Steve Jobs passed away. It seems that this one feature has been kicked around for a while. Now that it’s finally been set free, we’ll have to see what Apple does with it… Hopefully, it will be much, MUCH more than just a simple gimmick.

USB-C
However, the most noticeable, and potentially most damning… potentially most upsetting… are the four (4) USB-C ports, representing the computer’s ONLY non-wireless connectivity. There are two (2) on each side. While they do provide Thunderbolt 3 connectivity through what is supposed to be just as a universal connector as the USB-A connector, USB-C is really still relatively new (two (2) years or less) and while GAINING acceptance, the “U” in its universalness hasn’t really taken hold yet. I think it will be at least another 18 to 24 months before you see any and all remaining port connectors on notebooks (especially) and desktop form factors (that survive) disappear in favor of USB-C.

Unfortunately, the transition away from other ports – or the inclusion of other ports – happened WAY too early on the MacBook Pro. When this transition is in full swing… when that happens or begins to take shape, THEN I think you can safely move to an all USB-C configuration. Right now, the MacBook Pro is in dire need of other native port connectors, including one to two (1-2) USB-A connectors and at least one Thunderbolt 2/ Mini Display Port connector. (I’ll get to the SD card slot in a sec…). The lack of a transitory set of connectors forces a few very aggravating conclusions

  1. The new MacBook Pro isn’t meant for “me”
    This is the more serious of the two, and it may be a very relevant and accurate question – who is this computer REALLY meant for? Its costs are upwards of $500 to $1500 MORE than previous models, so the cost would suggest a more professional user demographic. However, based on hardware limitations, connectivity and peripheral issues, etc., a more consumer based or casual user would appear to be targeted. Until Apple can really clarify this for us with either marketing material or other hardware configurations, the LATE 2016 MacBook Pro may be something that many pass on, despite it being the “fastest selling MBP ever.”If you’re interested in a similar point of view, The Verge has a very interesting take on this.
  2. If I buy it, I’m going to need to buy dongles for all of my peripherals

Get used to this; at least for this (and perhaps) the next hardware revision of the MacBook Pro. If you have ANY Thunderbolt peripherals, you’re likely going to consider, but pass on replacing them any time soon. Thunderbolt peripherals are expensive. Getting rid of them before they’re useful life is over isn’t an option. Carrying dongles or new/ extra cables for everything is NOT what I want to do with a new computer, and especially one that I’m ALREADY paying a premium for. When I have to add an average of $1000 MORE for that premium, I’m not happy with the choice OR the results.

MagSafe 2
This 10 year plus old savior of not only your REALLY expensive computer, but your premium priced power brick is now gone. I know that before this, my daughters MacBook G4 got tossed all over the living room when someone tripped on the cord. With the advent of MagSafe and MagSafe 2 many the life of a premium priced laptop had been saved. It’s gone now in favor of USB-C.

All of the issues we had with charging prior to MagSafe and MagSafe 2 are now back after a 10 year hiatus.

Gee… thanks a lot Apple.

If you think that my computing habits have changed enough to forego this from happening or if my family of seven has reduced in number any, then you’re sadly mistaken. I need this more than ever, and is going to be a huge factor in determining if I move to a newer MacBook Pro in the future, or if I decide to just stay where I am and try to hold out as long as I can.

Right now, this isn’t too painful for any Mac owner, as they likely have MagSafe/2. The moment their new higher, premium priced laptop gets snagged by a little one’s feet and both child and parent are crying for different reasons, will everyone really start missing this… AND wishing it was back sooner rather than later.

SD Card Slot
There are a lot of folks that say that they really didn’t use this thing. I use it every day. I have a Hyper Drive for my Late 2013 MacBook Pro, and I have a 200GB microSD card in it. All of my photos from my Nikon DSLR get transferred here so I don’t take up too much space from my 512GB SSD. This gives me near three quarters of a terabyte of space on my MBP, and honestly, I’d be lost without it.

Many audio and video professionals are going to have issues with this decision as well, as not every piece of AV equipment is setup to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or some other form of wireless file transfer. While you transfer files with a cable, its again going to require that you get and carry a different cable, OR a dongle, and that just seems wrong, frustrating and expensive.

I think removing this, in the long run will turn out to be a mistake, but having Apple reverse this kind of decision isn’t likely going to happen either, so you should be prepared for some kind of long term work around.

Upgradability
Anytime you turn a product into an appliance – something you can’t upgrade – then as the manufacturer, you’re taking on the role of providing an appropriate upgrade path; or a path that provides needed options. While Apple has turned the MacBook Pro into an appliance, they haven’t really given everyone the options they are currently requesting.

The 15″ Late 2016 MacBook Pro doesn’t have a lot of upgrade or purchase options. You have a Quad Core i7 option that offers 0.2 GHz of speed/ turbo increase for approximately $200 – money not worth spending, in my opinion – three SSD options – 512GB, 1TB and 2TB – the last coming at a $1200 premium, enough to nearly buy a whole other MacBook Pro – and an AMD discrete graphics adapter bump that effectively buys you 4GB of adapter RAM vs 2GB of adapter RAM, for an additional $200. The device comes standard with 16GB of system RAM. (I’ll get into that, below.)

In this chassis, having turned the device into an appliance, you’re likely going to need to insure that you buy enough machine as you can afford. The SSD is likely soldered to the motherboard and not remotely end user upgradable. All of the other components I’ve listed (aside from RAM, addressed below), were already soldered to the motherboard; and you’ve not been able to upgrade any of those components since the mid-1990’s when CPU upgrades were tossed out because too many end users were zapping chips, creating way too many returns. The upgrade chips also didn’t sell very well – but that’s another story.

RAM Limited to 16GB
The Late 2016 MacBook Pro is limited to 16GB of RAM due to processor limitations. According to Apple and Intel, processor issues with the Intel Core processors used limit RAM to 16GB so processor heat and other issues don’t overwhelm the battery, greatly reducing battery life to something under 3 hours a charge. While this isn’t surprising, it is very disappointing. Apparently the case can get VERY hot with the Kaby Lake processor that allows more than 16Gb of RAM.

This is a huge limiting factor, however. The current (prior to the Late 2016 MacBook Pros) crop of Mac portables max out at 16GB of RAM. While we want Intel vs. AMD processors here – Intel processors are far superior in processing power – we don’t want to burn down the house, office or your pants. However, machines with this kind of processing power really want more than 16GB of RAM, especially for audio, video and still photography processing, and this current crop of MacBook Pros just doesn’t deliver.

I’m certain this will be resolved in the future, but having this issue now just provides one more reason to pass on this new Mac laptop; and honestly… that’s very disappointing.

Conclusion
According to MacBreak Weekly, the Touch Bar has been floating around Apple’s R&D department for over seven (7) years. That puts us back into Steve Jobs time, and is a piece of technology that Steve was obviously aware of before he passed in 2011. So, considering that this at least has his knowledge, if not his approval, to move forward, you can rest assured that the Mast of Macness had a good idea that this would eventually see the light of day. After seven (7) or so years, it may simply be that it didn’t make sense to hold this bit of kit back, so out it went. Unfortunately, rationalization on feature release isn’t something that we’re likely going to get much insight on from Apple.

While this may be the biggest draw to this new crop of MacBook Pro’s there are certainly some detractors among the attractions. While thinner and faster are always at the top of what Apple is trying to do, there comes a point when you have to ask if thinner and faster is really the way to go. I mean, to be honest, I could care less if this year’s MacBook Pro is thinner than last year’s.

Some people will say that Apple really is trying to merge iOS and macOS here, as the hardware seems to be on a collision course. They’re really getting to look an awful lot like each other, the thinner they get. While I have no idea if this is actually a goa here (previously, Tim Cook said they would never meet, but get asymptotally closer (close, but never intersecting). My guess is that there are a lot of folks that are really questioning that statement right about now.

To me, it’s irrelevant.

The Mac and the iPad Pro serve two different audiences, though those could flip flop from time to time, they serve different market segments. There will – at least in my lifetime – always be the need for separate tools as they address and serve different functions.

However, let’s get down to brass tacks – is this the right Mac for you? That’s going to depend on your needs and the current age and suitability of your current Mac, but my recommendation will be for you to wait.

Prices for the Late 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar are anywhere between $500 to 1500 (plus tax) more expensive than previous revisions. Their hardware limitations, lack of peripheral ports – and standardization on USB-C – puts them in a total cost of ownership category that is difficult for even the hard core professional to justify. According to IBM, which had the Mac at $563 cheaper to own over its lifetime, the high end 15″ MacBook Pro is now $952 more expensive to own over its lifetime, and that’s just for the current hardware. It doesn’t count in new cables, dongles or peripherals.

How anyone can afford something like this, without it being a machine that goes above and beyond what they have now, is very puzzling. I’m not certain how having its current limitations, will in the long run, appeal to anyone.

And just to be clear, I’m not hating on the new MacBook Pro. I’m a Mac lover. I’m just really disappointed in all of its limitations and issues.

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Apple’s Wireless Airpods Delayed

If you’re looking for a set of Apple’s newest, wireless tech, you may be waiting a while…

With the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the entire world is losing their mind when it comes to privately listening to music. Apple provides a pair of Lightening Based Earpods, as well as a dongle that connects to your older 3.5mm headphones and allows you to connect to the older jack. However, all of this back and forth doesn’t sit well with a lot of folks, and as such, many are going down the wireless route.

apple-airpods

Unfortunately, there are issues there, too; but all of THAT… is another story.

If you are interested in looking into wireless sound, you’re going to have to wait on Apple’s specific solution, Airpods. Apple says they aren’t ready and that they need a bit more time. As reported to TechCrunch,

“The early response to AirPods has been incredible. We don’t believe in shipping a product before it’s ready, and we need a little more time before AirPods are ready for our customers.”

Its not clear exactly what the problem is. It could be a hardware issue. It could be a software issue. While experiences with AirPods up to this time, have been largely positive, every test… every encounter has been with preproduction hardware. That’s a fancy way of saying that everything is up for grabs. Nothing is final at this point. Nearly everything about them can change.

What seems to be universally understood at this point, however is that Apple wants to take their time with their Airpods. Their desire is to get it right; and to get it right the first time. So while many potential users may want them and want them badly, Apple sees the importantce of getting this right, and is taking their time.

Or at least that’s the story that we’re getting out of Cupertino right now. Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t given any indication of when the wireless headset will be made available to the public.

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Microsoft Surface Gets a Desktop All in One

Microsoft will be introducing Surface Studio on 2016-10-26

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then Microsoft is going out of its way to tell Apple how awesome it truly is.

Microsoft has done a lot to chase after Apple in the past six and a half years or so, since the release of the iPad. Their TabletPC’s couldn’t stand up to the iPad, and so they mostly disappeared by the end of 2012. By 2013 and 2014, Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 had firmly taken hold and were making some inroads, but more in the PC market than the tablet market. The Surface Pro – in all its variations – is NOT a tablet. It’s an ultrabook (or ultra-notebook). Despite “Tablet Mode,” it’s not a tablet. A successful tablet requires a successfully implemented ecosystem for content acquisition and consumption, and Microsoft doesn’t have that…but I digress.

So, Microsoft has a tablet-like, computer really, device in Surface Pro and Surface Book, and now, it appears they are chasing after all-in-one’s as well with a new device rumored to be announced on 2016-10-26, apparently named Surface Studio.

surface-studio

My good friend, Mary Jo Foley broke this last month with a heads up on the October Microsoft event. According to Mary Jo, Surface Studio was previously code named, Project Cardinal; and the intent of the new hardware is to turn your desktop into a studio. The device is rumored to come in up to three different sizes – 21″, 24″ and 27″; and MAY also be the consumerized version of Microsoft’s enterprise focused Surface Hub a large screen conference and collaboration tool, previously known as Perceptive Pixel.

If this is the case, then this will be an interesting entry into the already saturated, and sadly, poor performing, desktop market. Running Windows 10 – likely Anniversary Update – the Surface Studio will feature a way to convert the all-in-one from the standard desktop format into a flat drawing and writing surface, ideal for creating paintings, drawings and other touch and stylus work.

According to the engineering drawing, above, the screen will likely fold down over its base with the assistance of some type of pneumatic or spring powered hinges. It is also rumored that Microsoft has trademarked the names Surface Laptop, Paint 3D,Surface Dial and Dial as well as Surface Studio. It is believed that Surface Dial and Dial refer to either a radial styled, creator-based interface for the Studio. Others believe it to be connected to the further rumored Surface Phone

Any way you slice this, however, it’s likely that much of what Microsoft announces on 2016-10-26 will likely be overshadowed by the Apple’s marketing machine and hype when it reveals its anticipated Mac hardware refresh the following day, 2016-10-27.

Hopefully, for Microsoft, their rumored hardware will be compelling enough to help provide the shot in the arm that the Windows consumer PC market needs to turn it back towards profitability. Because right now, it could really use the shot in the arm.

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Layoffs Coming to Twitter?

The micro blogging service that could is rumored to be laying off 300 people…

twitter-lay-off

Twitter is one of the bastions of social media on the internet. When people say, “all the social things” or “social networking,” you normally think of two things – 1. Facebook (obviously); and 2. Twitter. To be very honest, I don’t think that social networking would be as big as it is if not for Twitter. Its quick little 140 character messages have truly made the entire social networking platform what it is today… at least I think so.

Over the past year, the company has gone through a number of interesting changes. Its founder, Jack Dorsey has returned to the company as CEO. He was ousted from the company in 2008; but has returned after a successful stint at Square as founder and CEO to retake the helm of the fledgling service he started. Dorsey was expected to turn things around for the company quickly; but unfortunately, things haven’t rebounded as Twitter would have liked.

When things like this happen, its not unusual for the rank and file to expect organizational changes. According to a report from Bloomberg, Twitter is expected to cut approximately 8% of their current workforce, or about 300 people. The company had a similar RIF (reduction in force) in late 2015 when Dorsey returned. This latest layoff would bring the RIF total to 16% since Dorsey’s return.

My guess is that the recently cooling rumors of a buyout are fueling this latest development, as there aren’t currently any active, interested suitors – which included Salesforce, Disney and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) – for the company. Twitter’s shares were down a total of 4.9% on Tuesday morning, 2016-10-25.

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