OWC USB-C Dock

If you have a USB-C equipped computer, then you really need to check this out!

I’ve been a notebook junkie since the early 1990’s when Windows 3.1 and Windows 3.11 for Workgroups was all the rage. Back then, I started out with an 8088 and did my best to make the hardware stretch as far as it could. I did more with underpowered, but more affordable hardware, than most people considered prudent… but it was what I could afford, and it was what I had to do to get the job done. My desire was not just to do more with less, but to be able to do everything that a desktop PC could do, but I wanted to do it with a unit that I could also take out and about with me.

When I had a family member approach me recently with a request to find them a better Mac, my thoughts immediately went to the Mid-2017 MacBook Pro with TouchBar. They wanted a 15″ device, as they wanted the bigger screen and the somewhat larger – or wider spaced – keyboard. The device was going to have all of the newest hardware, but it did have one big problem – USB-C ports. And ONLY USB-C ports…

This is where things got a bit tricky. The newer MacBook Pro’s only have USB-C ports. Period. They don’t have any other wired connectivity at all. While they do have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and connect well to higher bandwidth devices as well as Bluetooth powered accessories, wired LAN connections, memory card readers, flash drives and other USB accessories, as well as monitors, etc. aren’t possible without some kind of adapter or dongle. While this may be ok for occasional connectivity issues while you’re away from your home or corporate office, when you’re actually in a formal, office setting, it’s a pain in the butt.

Enter the OWC USB-C Dock.

ports-front

The OWC USB-C Dock works with any USB-C powered computer. It features 10 ports to handle all of your connectivity needs:

• 4 USB 3.1 ports with USB-A connectors, including 2 high power capacity ports (one on the front and one on the back)
• 1 USB 3.1 port with USB-C connector (on the back)
• 1 SD Card Slot
• 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
• 1 USB-C powered PC connector Port (marked with a laptop over it)
• 1 HDMI Port
• 1 Audio out port
• A DC In, 20v/ 4A connector (required to power the dock, its connected peripherals and the computer)

ports-back

You should note the following – This dock
• WILL support video connectors/ dongles that support an HDMI pass through
• Will NOT support Thunderbolt 3 connections through its USB-C port. If you want that, you’re going to need a different dock.
• Does NOT have a miniDisplay Port connection
• MAY support a miniDisplay Port connection via a dongle connected to its one, single USB-C port.

Then again, I may just need to use an existing USB-C Port on the MacBook Pro for my miniDisplay Port powered 27″ 2011 Apple Cinema Display.

Currently, this dock is unfortunately giving me a bit of a hard time.

It comes with a USB-C cable that goes from the computer to a specific port on the back of the dock. It’s clearly marked, and I’ve got the included cable plugged in there and the other end in my MacBook Pro.

Unfortunately, the green data connection light doesn’t come on. I’ve tried a different cable. I’ve tried different USB-C ports on the notebook. The dock simply won’t make a data connection with my Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro.

As of this writing, I’ve got a note out to OWC looking for an answer as to why. It may be that you simply can’t use the USB-C Dock with a USB-C port that is Thunderbolt 3 compatible. It may be that you must use OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock with any USB-C powered MacBook Pro.

Unfortunately, I don’t know, as of this writing, I have yet to hear back from OWC; and I’ve been waiting on an answer since 2017-09-11. As soon as I hear back from them, I will update this review with their answer.

Unfortunately, until that time, this dock is a bit of a dud for me. I don’t have any other USB-C powered computers to try this with.

This should be a slam dunk; as everything else that I’ve ever gotten from OWC has been awesome. The build quality of the dock is out of this world. Its solid. Its well-built; but unless I have a defective unit, it simply doesn’t work with EVERY USB-C powered notebook available today.
Again, as soon as I hear back from OWC, I’ll post a quick update to this review, and hopeful have some information on peripheral connectivity as well.

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Apple’s Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro

Its new. Its controversial; but is it up to the task..?

Introduction
I’ve been a Mac since Apple dropped the PowerPC chip and embraced Intel. I have said many times that I bought my first Mac to be a Windows machine, largely because the hardware itself was so powerful and so elegant. To be honest, it took a while for me to be won over by OS X and macOS. However now, it is my OS of choice; and the Mac… well the Mac is still my go to computer eleven years later.

The Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro is quite a computer. Its powerful. Its thin. Its missing ports… Let’s take a look, however, and see if it is really worth all the hype, all the change and all the money that is required to make it work.

Hardware
Over the past couple of months while I’ve been waiting for accessory hardware to arrive so I can set up this device for an out of town family member, I’ve had a few friends ask me why in the world they purchased this computer, especially considering the cost.

The answer was simple – build quality.

I mean, have you SEEN this thing? If you haven’t, then you need to take a quick look at the unboxing video I did for Soft32 that was published just a few days ago. The hardware is seriously sweet.

As invoiced, the unit that I’m configuring has the following tech specs

Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID
• 2.8GHz quad-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
• 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
• 1TB SSD storage
• Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory
• Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
• Backlit Keyboard – US English
• Silver, Aluminum Case

This configuration retails for $3100 USD. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is $299 USD. So this particular installation, minus some minor accessories and apps, cost my family member $3400, plus tax, shipped.

…and this is where most folks choke and gag. The prices for the newest MacBook Pros are just totally nuts.

However, this notebook is likely going to last for at least 10 years before it will need to be replaced. When you compare that to a $1000 Windows PC that might last three or so years, the overall cost, is about the same. However, you’re likely going to buy at least two if not three Windows PC’s in that same time frame. So again, the prices are about the same.

That doesn’t make the new MacBook Pro’s cost any easier to stomach, though. It might justify it a bit more, but that down stroke is awfully steep. Its awfully steep… but let’s talk a bit about what you get for that price.

Form Factor
The new MacBook Pro is thin. Its REALLY thin. The original iPad’s dimensions can be found in the table below along with the Mid 2009 and Late 2013 MacBook Pros:

Size and Weight

Height Width Depth Weight
Orig. iPad 0.50 in (1.27 cm) 7.47 in. (18.97 cm) 9.56 in. (24.28 cm) 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg)
Mid 2017 0.61 In. (1.55 cm) 13.75 In. (34.93 cm) 9.48 In. (24.07 cm) 4.02 pounds (1.83 kg)
Late 2013 0.71 In. (1.8 cm) 14.13 In. (35.89 cm) 9.73 In. (24.71 cm) 4.46 pounds (2.02 kg)
Mid 2009 0.95 In. (2.41 cm) 14.35 In. (36.4 cm) 9.82 In. (24.9 cm) 5.6 pounds (2.54 kg)

As you can see from the above, the original iPad and the newest, 2017 15″ MacBook Pro are about as thick as each other. In truth, that extra tenth of an inch that the Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro has on the original 9.7″ iPad really only amounts to a diference of 0.254 cm (2.52 mm). Its also about as deep as the original iPad, too.

This should tell you something… Apple’s latest 15″ notebook has form factor specs in line with the original iPad… meaning that this notebook is thin. Oh, my goodness is it thin! In fact, (when the clam shell is closed) its as thin as Apple’s original tablet (the tenth of an inch is negligible). I think that’s amazing.

The last thing that I want to mention, and that I think is of note here is the 7th generation Core i7 processor. Apple introduced their Kaby Lake processor to the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro; and its made a difference in terms of speed, especially when you compare it to the Mid 2009 and Late 2013 models that I have in the house. The Mid 2017 is noticeably faster than both.

The Full 360

DSC_5227 - Top DSC_5229 - Front Edge
The three 15″ MacBook Pro’s – From top to bottom: Mid 2017, Late 2013 and Mid 2009 You can really tell how thin these things are. Remember, the Mid 2017 is as thin as Apple’s Original iPad
DSC_5230 - Right Edge DSC_5231 - Rear Edge
From the top down, Mid 2017: 2 USB-C ports and the headphone jack, Late 2013: USB-A port, HDMI Port and the SD Card slot, Mid 2009: Apple SuperDrive and the Kensington Lock Notice that the Mid 2017 doesn’t have any kind of black bar spacer on the lid hinge
DSC_5232 - Left Ege
From the top down. Mid 2017: 2 USB-C ports, Late 2013: MagSafe2 Power Port, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, USB –A port and the headphone jack, Mid 2009: MagSafe Power port, 10/100 Ethernet port, FireWire 400 port, mini Display Port, 2 USB-A ports, SD Card slot, microphone jack, headphone jack, (near the front of the MBP – battery test button and the battery power indicator)

TouchBar
This is going to be short and sweet. The TouchBar is new for the 2017 MacBook Pros. It provides an OLED strip of touch sensitive screen for context sensitive buttons that are governed by the active, running application.

DSC_5233 - TouchBar OS

Many are going to say that the TouchBar is nothing more than a gimmick. They may be right. The context sensitive buttons are cool; but I can see no real value to the feature.

DSC_5234 TouchBar OS 2

While it looks thanks to its OLED display, its nothing necessary. Having one doesn’t provide you with any advantage over not having one. That may change in coming generations as functionality for this feature grows and matures. However right now, its eye candy… nothing more.

DSC_5235 TouchBar Word

If you have a contrary opinion, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment in the Discussion area, below, and let me know.

USB-C Ports
This is probably the most controversial feature of Apple’s newer MacBook Pros. Apple has removed all ports on their new notebooks and replaced them with four – two on each side – USB-C ports.

I’ve spent the last couple of days setting up this new notebook and configuring it for my family member. They are moving from a Mid 2009 15″ MacBook Pro, and it has a number of different ports on it. This is going to take them a bit of getting used to.

Even me, with my Late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro… I’m having issues getting used to the fact that there aren’t any legacy ports on the new, Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro. I have had at least three incidents over the past 24 hours where the lack of any real port connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth excluded) was a big problem. When most of your accessories, thumb drives, etc., are all USB-A and all you’ve got is USB-C ports, you’re going to have a problem moving data, printing or connecting one device to another. When you’re trying to move data from one PC to another, for example, this can be a huge issue. In fact, it can be downright impossible.

I tried to transfer this file – this review – back and forth between my Late 2013 MacBook Pro and the Mid 2017 MacBook Pro. The easiest way to do this is with a thumb drive. Unfortunately, thumb drives make use of a USB-A connection. The only way I was able to put a file on a thumb drive was with the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock. This was fine because I was in a home office setting. However, this would be an issue if I was out and about.

Unfortunately, items like a USB-C Flash Drive aren’t as wide spread available as they should be. They’re available, but not as mainstreamed as I would like… and besides that, I don’t have any. Nor would I think, any normal consumer as yet.

If you don’t have one, and you plan on taking your Mid 2017 MacBook Pro out and about with you, then you’re likely going to need one of these. Juiced Systems makes a 6 port USB-C Adapter that is a must have to anyone that plans to use this advanced Apple notebook outside of an office setting where a dock of some sorts, exists. If you don’t have it, don’t count on using any of your standard, mainstream, widely available, low cost accessories with your new Mid 2017″ MacBook Pro. Models exist for both 13″ and 15″ notebooks. Currently, they’re available for about $70 USD, and they’re probably going to be $70 of the best dollars you’re going to spend on this new notebook. I know I’m wishing I had one for this review.

Keyboard & Trackpad

Keyboard
Because the device is now thinner than it used to be (see the chart, above), Apple had to do something different with the keyboard. There really isn’t a lot of room in the case any longer. The new keyboard uses the same butterfly switches made popular in the original 2015 12″ MacBook. The switches used in the new Mid 2017 MacBook Pros are the next generation butterfly switches. The second generation switches have a lower profile than even the first generation butterfly switches.

So, what does all this mean? It means you’re gonna have a really clacky keyboard. It also means that there isn’t going to be a lot of keyboard travel, either. What you’re left with is a very different typing experience. In order to completely experience what the typing experience was going to be like, I pulled this review over to the new computer and decided to at least write this portion of the review there.

The typing experience is definitely different than on older MacBook Pros. There isn’t a lot of keyboard travel. The keyboard is very stiff, and yes… very clacky. Its not too difficult to use, but it may take some folks a bit to get used to.

It may also be a bit of a detractor for some.

Keyboard feel and travel, the elements that make up the typing experience are definitely different. Again, its not bad, but it may take you a bit to get used to it.

Trackpad
The first thing that you notice about the trackpad is that its huge. Its at least twice the size of trackpads on older MacBook Pros. Its very much like the trackpad on Apple’s 12″ MacBook. Large and Force Touch enabled.

I haven’t used or even put my hands on the 12″ MacBook; and while I have 3D Touch on my iPhone 7 Plus, experiencing Force Touch on a notebook computer is very different. Its easy to understand how it simulates a click. What’s really gonna blow your mind, though, is how the secondary, force click actually works and feels like. It truly feels as though the trackpad not only depresses for the click, but depresses even deeper for the force click. Its truly a strange feeling. Its really cool; but its really strange. You’d never expect that there was a deeper click in that trackpad.

The new trackpad is a total winner. I’d love to have it on my Late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro.

Conclusion
This device is super thin and super light. In fact, it’s the thinnest and lightest notebook I’ve ever worked with. The new 7th generation Intel Core i7 quad core processor is fast. Its going to crunch through more than you think it will, in less time, too.

The TouchBar is cool; but I’m not certain if it’s the kind of enhancement that I would have picked had I been given the option. The bar is completely contextual and changes as needed by the active application. This is both good and bad, especially if you touch type and are used to tapping function keys with a certain finger, though in truth, doing this is a bit of a stretch for your hands. At the end of the day, the context sensitive buttons are kinda cool, but its really more of a gimmick than anything else.

The trackpad is awesome. I was really surprised that it was a Force Touch related component without any moving parts. It truly feels as though it has two levels of physical distance and travel with you press it.

The keyboard isn’t bad, but its not great. The level of key travel is greatly diminished and unfortunately, its stiff and clacky. Its not the greatest typing experience and will require some getting used to. For some, this may be a deal breaker.

The biggest issue with this device are its USB-C ports and the lack of any native legacy port on it. Its going to be difficult for anyone to use any kind of legacy device with this notebook computer without some kind of dongle, dock or adapter. Unfortunately, this means you have to carry some other attachment in order to use what you need to get your work done.

Okokokok… so what’s the bottom line?

As always, Apple has created a GREAT notebook computer that should last any user at least seven to ten years, provide you baby the crap out of it. Its expensive, for certain. In fact, it may be too expensive. The Late 2013 MBP that I bought was the top of the line machine, and it cost me just under $3000. The top of the line 15″ in the current generation is $4200, or $1200 more than what I paid nearly four years ago (this coming December). Most of that is going to be attributable to the 2GB SSD that’s available for it; but that price is still outrageous.

This machine is awesome, but it requires a great deal of compromises. If you don’t mind making them, and have enough money to get the machine that will grow with you, the new Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro may be the right machine for you.

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Should I Upgrade or Not..? – Part 1

Based on the information at hand, here’s my take on Apple’s announcements from 2017-09-12…

iphone x

Apple announced three new iPhones (six, if you count the different sizes), two new Apple Watches (one with cellular and one without) and two new Apple TV’s the other day (again, if you count the different storage sizes). There’s a TON of debate going on regarding the new devices; and like EVERY OTHER YEAR that Apple announces new iDevices, the same argument starts: is the upgrade worth the cost?

Like EVERY OTHER YEAR, the answer is likely going to be the same – it depends on where you’re upgrading from.

iPhones – the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X
The iPhone 8 offers the following in terms of new tech

• An updated processor – A11 Bionic
It’s got 6 cores – two performance and for efficiency cores making it 25% faster than the iPhone 7
• An updated GPU
It’s got three cores and is 30% faster than the A10 Fusion in the iPhone 7
• An updated Retina HD display
It’s got a True Tone display, making colors more realistic, as it automatically adjusts and readjusts the white balance to match the direct and ambient light around you. Dual domain pixels make it viewable from nearly any angle
• An improved camera
It’s got a 12MP camera (still) with a larger, faster CMOS sensor, a new color filter and optical image stabilization for both photos AND video.
• Wireless (Inductive) Charging
The iPhone now supports Qi charging technology in the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus, iPhone X, and AirPods. The Apple Watch has always supported wireless charging.
• New Storage Capacity
The iPhone 8 and iPhone X now have 256GB sizes.

So in summary,
• It’s faster,
• Has a better screen
• Has a better camera , and
• Has wireless charging

However, this can be said of EVERY new iPhone out there? I mean, isn’t that what you get with EVERY new generation iPhone? Its better, faster stronger..? This year’s camera is better than last year’s camera? I mean, the only thing new here is the implementation of Qi charging… and as every AOSP and Google Pixel fan has pointed out to me, this is something that has existed with Android phones for at LEAST two years… so where’s the new, innovative stuff?

The answer is that you won’t find it on the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus. It’s the “tock” to the iPhone 7/ 7 Plus’ “tick.” You have to remember that Apple isn’t revolutionary in its technology implementations… they’re evolutionary. Their take on this is that they may not be the first to do it, but they are (likely) the ones to do it right.

In most cases, I agree with this; but don’t get me started with Apple and its services offering… iCloud and all that it offers (iCloud Drive, iCloud Backup and synchronization (photos, music, messages, files, etc.) are still screwed up and… that’s a rant for another day. I think that the “improvements” that you’ll see with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are really good, decent improvements. However, I don’t know that these are enough to justify an $700+ upgrade from the iPhone 7 (or even 6s, for that matter) to the iPhone 8.

The iPhone X offers the following in terms of new tech

• Edge to edge Super Retina display
The Home Button is gone. There are a ton of new gestures needed and required because the Home Button has been removed. 3D Touch has been reworked to work the new, OLED screen. The Super Retina displays offers truer, more vivid colors, ginormous resolution, and a 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio. This is the best screen on a smartphone, ever.

• TrueDepth Camera & Face ID
The selfie camera has been totally reworked because the Home Button and its Touch ID sensor is gone. The TrueDepth Camera enables a new, neural engine powered camera so that it can map your face to support Face ID and facial identification (for device unlocking as well as Apple Pay authentication).

The TrueDepth Camera drives Face ID and stores the information in the Secure Enclave. Face ID and its setup process maps an analyzes more than 30,000 mapping dots to create a precise depth map of your face. The mapping is supposed to be so accurate, that you can grow a beard, change your hair style (or completely shave it off), wear glasses etc. and you are still you to the TrueDepth Camera. Pictures and realistic masks can’t fool it, thanks to the neural engine and machine learning capabilities of both the camera and the new A11 Bionic processor.

• Improved (digital photo) Camera
It’s got a 12MP camera (still) with a larger, faster CMOS sensor, a new color filter and optical image stabilization for both photos AND video.
• An updated processor – A11 Bionic
It’s got 6 cores – two performance and for efficiency cores making it 25% faster than the iPhone 7
• An updated GPU
It’s got three cores and is 30% faster than the A10 Fusion in the iPhone 7

• Wireless (Inductive) Charging
The iPhone now supports Qi charging technology in the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus, iPhone X, and AirPods. The Apple Watch has always supported wireless charging.
• New Storage Capacity
The iPhone 8 and iPhone X now have 256GB sizes.

So in summary,
• It’s got a new display size and new display type
• The Home Button has been removed to provide more screen real estate
• The front and rear cameras have been totally revamped to support OIS in every mode (still and video) and for machine learning driven, facial recognition (because Touch ID has been removed)
• It’s faster and smarter to support facial recognition and augmented reality, and
• Supports wireless charging

There’s a bit more here, and to be fair, while none of this is NEW – it was pointed out to me by that same Android fan-boy that both Google Pixel and Samsung devices have had OLED displays, facial recognition, bezeless displays and wireless charging – it’s the combination and (more the) implementation of these technologies on this platform that make them (so) new. It’s the type of cameras, it’s the method of facial recognition etc., that makes the iPhone X the coveted hit that it likely will become in the Apple Ecosystem.

However, there are a few issues here that I need to cover…

Device Storage Sizes
The iPhone 7 comes in 32GB and 128GB sizes. Both the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus and the iPhone X come in 64GB and 256GB sizes. To be honest, I think the same thing about the 64GB size as I thought of the 32GB size… it’s completely USELESS.

Last year Apple eliminated the 64GB size from their smartphone offering because (they said) that it didn’t offer enough storage space. Why then would they bring it back for the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus and the iPhone X?

I’ve got a 128GB iPhone 7 Plus. If I want to upgrade to the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus, I’ve either got to totally remove my entire music collection (I don’t have video on my iPhone) and revert to streaming everything; OR pay $150 USD more for twice the space I have.

I’ve got 85.50GB of stuff on my iPhone. 55GB of that is music. 8GB of that is photos and home videos taken with my iPhone cameras. The rest is used by apps and their data. I’ve got 38.50GB of free space.

Apple is forcing me to make a cost based decision that I really don’t want to make. I hate entry level devices, as they nearly ALWAYS leave you wishing you had bought more. However, without a mid-level storage offering of 128GB, its either pay more or shut up (meaning upgrade and get over it, or don’t upgrade and stop crying).

Cost
At the end of the day, for nearly everyone, these decisions are going to be cost motivated. The 256GB iPhone 8/ 8 Plus are $699/$799 and $799/$949 for the 64GB/ 256GB variants, respectively. These aren’t cheap, but they aren’t really out of line with other smartphone offerings at their tier level today. I’ll get to other issues here, in just a sec…

The iPhone X also offers 64GB and 256GB variants. Those are $999 and $1149. These aren’t cheap either, but only the price of the 64GB device has been seen from both Google and Samsung recently. $1150 for a phone – regardless of how “smart” that phone may be… is just a little nuts…

And that brings me to my overall point here… we’re really starting to push up against the envelope of reasonability when it comes to device cost.

Due to the increased device cost, you’re either going to need to buy a data plan with enough bandwidth to address the decreased storage you may have to accept in order to buy into the device; OR you’re going to have to bite the bullet and pay for the more expensive device. Either way you cut it, your carrier is going to get a bigger cut of your paycheck; and for many this may be a huge problem… especially when you’re upgrading more than one device at a time.

I’ve got four devices on my AT&T wireless account. Three of them are on the same upgrade cycle. That represents an additional cost of approximately $40 to $60 additional dollars a month (after any residual device costs of $50 to $100 per device are satisfied at upgrade time), if we upgrade on schedule based on these current device costs… and that’s really crazy.

By the way, those costs are NOT Apple specific. They are based on an upgrade of any “current” device, currently on any kind of installment program to any “new” device available, be they Android, iOS Samsung, LG or Apple, etc.

Availability
The iPhone 8 is available for purchase on 2017-09-15 (or two days from this writing) with delivery on 2017-09-22. The iPhone X is available for purchase on 2017-10-27 with delivery anticipated on or around 2017-11-03 (that may be subject to change, and will likely ONLY be available for a very small amount of iPhone X’s purchased/ ordered on October 27).

In other words, there are likely enough iPhone 8/ 8 Plus’ to go around; but landing an iPhone X of any size will likely offer legitimate bragging rights. Not that you bought the phone – regardless of how “eXclusive” it may truly be – but because the yield rates are reportedly very low, at only 10,000 per day, worldwide. That means that only 450,000 ADDITIONAL units will be manufactured – again world wide – between now and 2017-10-27. Getting one of these any time this year, will be a huge crap shoot. It’s likely that the bulk of orders for the iPhone X will be delivered some time during the early months of 2018.

To Answer the Question
So, to answer the question, “should I upgrade or not?” is going to really require you to think about it. The upgrade from the iPhone 7/ 7 Plus to the iPhone 8 may not be very compelling unless you really want the better camera and wireless charging, to put it very bluntly. The iPhone 8/ 8 Plus going to be very similar to the iPhone 7/ 7 Plus (remember… this is the “tock” update…).

The upgrade to the iPhone X may be the more compelling upgrade, but the cost and the available storage sizes really make the upgrade difficult. Not many are going to want to pay $1150 for a smartphone; and $1000 for a smaller, 64GB device implies that you may have to up the ante on your data plan in order to make it work… so you’re going to pay more for the iPhone X no matter how you slice it.

For me… the jury is still out. I’ve got to a day or two to think about it, but as of this writing… I’m still on the fence. I will likely get one to review, but it may be some time in October before I order it, IF I don’t jump on the band wagon on 2017-09-15. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Come back next time. I’ll have information on the new updated Apple Watch and Apple TV, as announced at the Apple Event on 2017-09-12!

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Substantiated Rumors for iPhone Tuesday

The following iPhone rumors were confirmed by a leaked, final version of iOS 11…

I’m not one for Apple based rumors. Especially since many of them wind up being nothing but hot air. The only ones that end up having any substance to them are ones like those I’m going to relate to you, below. They come from a credible, internal source – Apple itself. And while its possible for Apple to change their minds and change the names and such before Tuesday 9/12… at this point it’s likely too late.

A leaked version of the “Gold Master” of iOS 11 appears to confirm some key features coming to the next version iPhone. The blockbuster leak, first covered by 9to5Mac, confirms the following will be a part of the next version iPhone:

• Facial unlocking called Face ID
• Confirmation of new iPhone model names – iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X
• Wireless charging
• Virtual Home button
• Larger iPhone X screen

Here are the brief details on each;

• Face ID will unlock the device and should be available on the iPhone X for certain. It’s possible this may also be available on the iPhone 8/8 Plus.

• Animojis – 3D, animated emoji’s that use your voice and reflect your facial expressions. This is going to require Face ID to work.

• iOS 11 will have new wallpapers for iPhone 8.

• The iPhone X will have a larger display with a notch at the top which will apparently house the ear speaker and FaceTime camera.

• Apple will release a new Apple Watch that will feature cellular connectivity. An iPhone won’t be required for an internet connection. The watch and the iPhone its connected to will share the same phone number.

• Apple will offer a new version of Airpods that will include a redesigned charging case. The new case will likely be the only thing that changes; and will include a light on the outside of the case indicating the charging status of the wireless headset.

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Immediately Speed Up Windows 10

Make an instant impact on your Windows 10 PC’s performance with this must do tweak

If there’s one thing that I know, and know pretty well, it’s that Windows machines nearly always operate below their potential. Windows has a tendency to be a bit of a memory pig. One has only to look at Windows Vista and the performance hit that its version Aero brought to the OS to realize this is the case, and that in the last 10 years SINCE Windows Vista, things haven’t changed too much. Unfortunately, Windows performance hits have just changed their area of impact and haven’t been completely eliminated.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the end of it. You can have a well performing Windows machine without spending an arm and a leg; and that’s important. To be honest, just because you spend a lot of money on a Windows computer – like on a Surface Book, Surface Laptop or Surface Book – doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a lightning fast machine. Depending on the hardware’s specs – and the way you have it configured – even the expensive ones can suffer from poor performance. If your PC is also maxed out as far as the amount RAM is can support, this is even a bigger problem, because, while more RAM can always make things better, your PC has all that it can handle.

However, there are a couple things that you can do to help resolve this, giving YOUR PC, regardless of its cost or specs, the best chance for optimization. If you follow the steps I’ve outlined below, you WILL see a performance bump on your PC, period.

The biggest performance hit to any Windows machine lies in the settings for the following:

• Performance Settings
• Start Up and Recovery Settings

Performance Settings
To adjust these settings, you’ll need to open up Advanced System Properties on your Windows 10 machine. The easiest way to do this is to

1. Click the Start button
2. In the search bar type, “Advanced System Settings,” and press the enter key. The Advanced Systems Settings Dialog box should appear.

Advanced System Settings

 

This how to is going to assume that you’re going to sacrifice most of the eye candy and frills that Windows provides in order to boost your PC’s operating performance. To adjust performance settings, including visual effects, processor scheduling, memory usage and virtual memory, do the following:

1. Click the Settings button in the Performance section.
2. On the Visual Effects tab, click the Adjust for best performance radio button. All the eye candy is going to go when you choose this option. If you simply HAVE to have a couple things back, go into the list and click the stuff that you can’t live without. Please remember that when you do this, you’re going to burn RAM.

Visual Effects

3. Click the Advanced tab. In the Processor scheduling section you can adjust your PC’s performance to give processor precedence to either programs or background services. This is either going to make your apps run faster, or make the stuff that happens behind the scenes run faster. Both will speed up your PC. You just need to decide what’s more important to you – the apps you run or the services they run in the background.

Click the appropriate radio button to make your choice.

Advanced

4. In the Virtual memory section, you can control the size of your swap file. Click the Change button in the Virtual memory section. Here your best bet is to let Windows manage everything, but if you absolutely HAVE to tweak the settings, this is the place to do it.

5. In the Data Execution Prevention tab, you can configure how DEP works. Data Execution Prevention protects your data and PC against damage from viruses and other malware. You can turn DEP on for all apps except the ones you specify.

DEP

Startup and Recovery
To update settings related to how your computer starts up or recovers after a system failure, click the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery section. The resulting dialog box has two sections

1. System Startup
2. System Failure

System Startup
The System Startup section allows you to set delay times for system startup when the normal startup process is interrupted and errors out. If the system restarts after a bad shutdown, or if you have a more than one OS installed on your machine, you get to determine the amount of time a recovery or boot screen displays. The default time is 30 seconds.

System Failure
When your system craps out and shuts down unexpectedly, sometimes it will auto reboot, especially if the Automatically restart checkbox is selected. If you’re not careful, you can get yourself into an unrecoverable boot loop with this option. Its best to leave this option unchecked.

Startup

Conclusion
It’s not uncommon for Windows computers to run into performance issues, regardless of how expensive or powerful they are. If you want to resolve those issues, it’s really not all that problematic or troublesome. All you need to do is bring up the Advanced System Properties dialog box on your PC. After a few tweaks, you should see marked speed and performance improvement on your computer.

Setting your computer up to run at its best possible speeds is really nothing more than just a few clicks away.

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Unboxing the Mid-2017 15″ MacBook Pro

There’s a HUGE difference between the latest version and some of Apple’s other 15″ models…

This is the unboxing for Apple’s Mid-2017 15″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. The new unit its VERY thin and VERY light; and VERY lacking in available expansion ports. At least it has four (4) USB-C ports on it instead of just the one that you get on the 12″ MacBook.

The biggest story here, I mean, aside from the lack of expansion ports and of course the new Touch Bar in place of the standard row of function keys is the new device’s size and weight. As part of the overall review, I’ll be comparing the new MacBook Pro to two different models – the Late 2013 and the Mid-2009.

Without ruining the overall, surprise – I’ll have photos as part of the main review – the size and weight comparisons between the three Apple laptops that I have are below.

Size and Weight

Height Width Depth Weight
Mid 2017 0.61 inch (1.55 cm) 13.75 inches (34.93 cm) 9.48 inches (24.07 cm) 4.02 pounds (1.83 kg)
Late 2013 0.71 inch (1.8 cm) 14.13 inches (35.89 cm) 9.73 inches (24.71 cm) 4.46 pounds (2.02 kg)
Mid 2009 0.95 inch (2.41 cm) 14.35 inches (36.4 cm) 9.82 inches (24.9 cm) 5.6 pounds (2.54 kg)

I’ve also got a few device specific accessories that I’ll be going over as well. These are either specific to the Mid-2017 due to its USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 connections. This is shipping up to be a very interesting August, kids. A very interesting August, indeed.

If there’s anything that you’d like to see or like me to address as part of the MacBook Pro review or as part of the accessory reviews, please leave a comment or ping me on Twitter, and let me know.

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Microzon Introduces Digital Assistant Corlexa

Or is that Amasoft introduces digital assistant Altana..? I’m confused, man…

In a very surprising move, Microsoft and Amazon have agreed to a partnership where their digital assistants, Cortana and Alexa respective, will begin sharing information by the end of this calendar year, 2018. This will enable each digital assistant to leverage the unique abilities of the other in an unprecedented collaboration and data sharing initiative between the two Seattle, Washing based computing giants.

The partnership was announced on 2017-08-30. The effort began last year and began by a joint statement by both Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to the New York Times. Both CEO’s have indicated that they would also be willing to welcome both Siri and Google’s Digital Assistant to join the effort, but doubt was expressed on whether Apple and Google would be interested in joining the partnership.

Both Bezos and Nadella are touting the partnership as a precisely matched pairing that will complement the different data sets and service specialties that each assistant provides. According to Jeff Bezos, “[both Siri and Alexa have] strengths [that] will complement each other and provide customers with a richer, and even more helpful experience.”

Satya Nadella agreed, saying, “Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us. Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

The beginning of the program will require users of one to specifically “open” the other – “Alexa open Cortana and…” or “Cortana open Alexa and…”. You can use either to set a reminder or read email, or use Alexa via Cortana to control smart home devices or other activity.

It’s clear that both Microsoft and Amazon are looking for a deeper, more seamless integration, long term. The idea is that both know what the other can do, and knows the magic words to relay back and forth behind the curtain to make it all happen. All the user will need to do is ask…

The big thing you’re going to have to watch here is your privacy and the amount of metadata that will likely have to fly across the internet in order to give any contextual meaning to your overall experience. Both Alex and Cortana are going to share what they know about you – your contacts and their information (so you can call or text so and so a message…), your calendar, your action items, etc. Both Alexa and Cortana will also have to share your web surfing, video streaming, music playing, etc., habits and be able to know your audio and video likes and dislikes so that it can work its magic without making a mistake.

If you have home automation equipment (light bulbs, thermostats, sprinkler systems, door bells, etc.) hanging off your home network, your comings and goings, utility usage and consumptions, etc. will also be shared and trafficked across the internet.

I am certain that digital assistants that can share this pooled information will be amazing; but you have to wonder… how much is convenience worth? Is my privacy worth giving up for these features?

Only YOU can answer those questions…

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