FEATURE REVIEW – Henge Docks Horizontal Dock

500636-5acf70732e3e9e0c2f604147eac3b5e8-medium_jpgIf you have a MacBook Pro and you’re looking for a docking station, I’ve got good news…

Introduction
I’ve been a portable computer user since the early to mid-1990’s. Back in the day of Windows 3.x, I got tight with a manager at a local Radio Shack and was able to purchase their early 8088, x286 and finally x386 before finally moving on to Dells and Toshibas. It’s been quite a journey.

Back during those early days, expansion options were limited to either an RS-232 compatible serial port or a parallel port. That was it. Token Ring and Ethernet networking was just getting started. IF a consumer based PC connected to anything, it was through a 300-1200 baud modem. 14.4k modems wouldn’t come out for another few years. The days of USB and SDXC cards weren’t even ideas or dreams yet. The internet, beyond research labs and connected universities, didn’t exist. Heck… AOL was the newest thing, and again… you connected via either an internal or external modem, and *70, was your best friend when it came to connection strings.

We’ve come a long way…

When I moved to Dell and Toshiba branded laptops, one of the biggest things that I got introduced to was the concept of a docking station. The idea of being able to connect cables, external drives, monitors, etc., to a stationary device that would quickly and cleanly allow you to connect and reconnect your computer to all of these external devices and cables really got my attention. It made it easy to take your laptop back and forth to work and the house. It also made it easy to take it to meetings where you could work and then come back and hook back up to your desktop resources without having to plug and chug all of your cables and other sources.

The clouds parted, the sun showed through… and cue the angelic music.

I had arrived.

Soon, I had a docking station for every laptop I’d ever owned – one at work and one at the house. It made bringing the work laptop home VERY easy, especially if they were either the same laptop, or the same series and used the same dock. However, the point is that my laptop(s) had a home and place to sit when I was at home and needed access to all of my peripherals and resources.

However, when I dropped Dell and Toshiba and other Windows based laptops for Apple and MacBook Pros, I also dropped support for my docking stations. Suddenly, I was back to plugging and chugging multiple cables in and out of my PC every time I wanted to get access to the internet, my monitor or other resources on my home network. That is, until now…

Now, thanks to Henge Docks, that’s changed. Now thanks to Henge Docks, the MacBook Pro has a home. Let’s take a look at its new home – the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for MacBook Pro Retina and see how it looks.

Brief History
There’s good and bad here. If you remember, the Horizontal Dock has been a long time coming. There were a number of technical issues to resolve. There were a number of customers waiting. There were a few false starts; but here it is in a nutshell, from one of my last articles on this:

When I heard about the Horizontal Dock from Henge Docks, I jumped on early. There wasn’t much on the site at the time, and honestly over the next year or so (into late 2012 and early 2013), you couldn’t do much more other than sign up for an email list that got you on an internal pre-order list.

I honestly think I signed up like three times… That was partially due to the fact that so little information was available on the product, and there were large gaps of time in between the times that I checked.

During this time, there were many milestone and availability dates that came and went with little to no reported progress. In fact, looking back at it all, (and I’m certain I’ll say this more than once here) this has really been a 4-5 YEAR journey from the point of dock announcement to dock shipping and receipt.

However, in late 2014, we were told that orders would open up in early to mid-January 2014. At this point, you had a choice. Henge Docks announced their Early Adopters program.

With the Early Adopters program, users could, for an additional fee of $50, join the program. The Early Adopter program got you the Dock at least three months before everyone else and also got you access to pre-release versions of the Dock’s firmware as well as its desktop control app. The Dock would also have a limited edition, customized base plate identifying it as an Early Adopter unit, and (I think) would be numbered.

I ordered my Dock on 2015-01-14. Early Adopter units were scheduled to ship in March of 2015, with GA units (general availability) shipping in June. Both of those milestone dates came and went. The date for Early Adopter units was pushed to May, then July, and then (I think) August. All of those dates came and went as well.

At that point, I had already started a very frank dialog with Henge Docks’ CEO, Matt Vroom.

Matt… is an awesome guy. He was frank, open and as transparent as he possibly could be. Henge Docks had opened their Early Adopter Portal and at the time, it echoed in there. There was little to NO participation there; and honestly, in retrospect, it’s not surprising.

The Portal was designed to be a gathering place for Early Adopters to share views, usage, insight, suggestions, etc., about the Horizontal Dock. With the Dock behind schedule, there was no need for any activity about the dock.

Well, the dock is out now… and quite honestly, it’s one of the best things about my MacBook Pro.

Hardware and Pictures
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock is a really cool Thunderbolt dock. Unlike its Vertical Docks, the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock has a number of different ports, including AC Power.

Ports
With a number of different ports available, the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock provides for your future expansion needs

My Setup
Here is my Henge Docks Horizontal Dock in my office. This is set up as a “true” docking station and not as a dock that also incorporates the laptop screen as a third monitor.

DSC_8527 DSC_8528
My Horizontal Dock in front of my Thunderbolt Display and 27″ AOC HD Monitor I think I have all of my USB ports used, as well as my TB and MDP port. My HDMI, Audio 2 port and SD card slot are free
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My Horizontal Dock without my MBP in it. Sliding my MBP in place/ putting it into the dock seems to have scarred it up a bit… A close up of the Docking Ring – No activity
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A close up of the Docking Ring – Flashing Amber. The Dock is actually moving the ports into the closed position A close up of the Docking Ring – Solid Green: Docking Complete. Light is green… Trap is clean.

Please note that if you have your MacBook Pro in any kind of a shell case, you’re going to have to take it out to use it with the dock. It simply will not fit, will not allow you to close your MBP or won’t dock correctly with any kind of shell casing on your Mac. This is disappointing, but when I brought this up to Henge Docks, they said that the dock was impossible to manufacture and have work correctly with a case with so MANY different cases, case types, etc. on the market. Your MBP is going to have to get nekked before it climbs in the Horizontal Dock.

I was also a bit disappointed with the scarring that the dock received simply by sliding my Mac in the Dock. As you can see from the pictures above, its significant. While it doesn’t affect the Dock’s functionality in anyway, it is a bit concerning that a $400 dock mars so easily.

Early Adopter Program
The Early Adopter Program for the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock was designed to give early access to not only the Horizontal Dock, but the software that drives it – DockApp – as well. With it, you get any easy way to not only connect all of your peripherals, but a way to control that access.

With that access to the latest, beta versions of Dock App, you also got a straight line to Henge Docks’ development team. You got the ability to file bug reports and then communicate directly via email, calls or chat about those defects. It’s been pretty cool.

However, things have been VERY quiet out of Henge Docks lately. There wasn’t an update to Dock App in over three (3) months. There has only been one communication out of Henge Docks about Dock App in the last four (4) months. It had me wondering whether or not the Early Adopter Program is over or not. It’s really just kind of withered. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

It looks like Henge Docks has been working on the Horizontal Dock for the 13″ MacBook Pro. As of this writing, it should hit the streets in a few days. What’s going to happen to Dock App at this point, is still up in the air. Though I think we’ve really come to the end of the feature hunt.

Dock app gives you the ability to dock, undock and auto dock your MacBook Pro. There’s not much more that the app does. It will give you the ability to manage peripherals and accessories that you have attached to the dock, but when I say manage, I really mean,

  1. Choose your audio in/ out devices
  2. Disconnect devices from your Mac before you pull your MBP out of the dock so you don’t corrupt any data.

Don’t look for Dock App to do too much more. There’s not much more that it or the dock really can do, anyway. It’s a docking station. As cool as I think it is – and it is really cool – it’s not going to save the world.

Issues and Problems
Over the past few months, I’ve had a few different issues with the Dock that I’ve reported to Henge Docks via their Early Adopter Program website. All of those defects are now closed. Unfortunately for me, not all of them were resolved and some of them are still a bit of a niggling issue.

Waking from Sleep
I can’t help but shake my head on this one… Not because of anything that Henge Docks has or hasn’t done, but largely because waking from sleep is a portable computing issue that goes back as far as laptops have had batteries.

The bloody things just don’t wake from sleep like they’re designed to do each and EVERY time they wake from sleep. Something (nearly) always gets in the way and mucks it up. The fact that I’m running into issues with the Dock when my Mac wakes from sleep doesn’t surprise me.

The most common problem is that none of the video comes through to my two (2) monitors. OR video will only go to my Thunderbolt Display and not to both it and my HD display coming through my mini display port, port.

I also have issues with audio sources after waking from sleep. I installed Boom 2, and for some reason, if I have my MBP on and undocked and then sleep and dock the computer, my audio source is still identified as “Boom 2 Device,” but no audio comes through. If I change it to the audio port with my external speakers, audio comes through. If I change it back to Boom 2 after that, enhanced audio comes through. I’m not certain what is going on, but it’s clearly a wake/ sleep issue…

Docking Indicator
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock comes with a motorized dock. When you place your MBP in the dock, the dock itself will align and insert all of the connectors into your ports by itself. There is a dock indicator light ring on the right side front of the dock. When you put your MBP in the dock and it lights up green, it will auto “close” as all the ports are correctly lined up. It flashes orange while it moves everything into place and then flashes green again when it’s done and its correctly got all the inserts in all the ports. If there’s a problem, it will flash orange and then “open” so you can pull the MBP out and reseat it.

There’s a known issue – or at least there was a known issue, Henge Docks says its fixed – where the ring continues to flash orange even after the dock is closed and everything is correctly aligned. This is still happening on my dock.

To fix this, Henge Docks says that you should – with your MBP OUT of the dock – unplug the AC power from the dock and let it sit for a few moments. Then, you should plug the power back in and put your MBP back in the dock. The problem should be gone. If it persists, Henge Docks says you should recalibrate your dock (by docking and undocking your Mac 5-6 times in a row. After that, it should be fixed. If the problem persists, rinse/ repeat the above process until its gone.

This usually works for a while, but the problem always comes back. However, I have yet to have a situation where the functionality of the Dock is impaired because of the indicator light.

System Sounds vs. Standard Audio
I’ve had this problem since the Dock arrived. I’ve also logged a bug on this, but Henge Docks couldn’t replicate it.

Some system sounds won’t go through the correct audio port and instead go through PC speakers instead of the desktop speakers plugged into the Dock. This is usually the Mac’s system “thunk” sound that occurs when you, for example, press the audio “up” button past the last available “up” point, or my Mac generates some other minor audio cue sound.

Conclusion
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for both 13″ MBPr and 15″ MBPr sells for $399. While that’s a bit pricey, even for a Thunderbolt dock, it’s a GREAT docking station. It’s got

  • Two (2) audio ports
  • One (1) SD card slot
  • One full sized HDMI port
  • Six (6) USB 3.0 ports
  • Built in wired Ethernet
  • One (1) Mini Display Port
  • One (1) Thunderbolt 2 Port (supports up to 3 displays connected via TB2)
  • Kensington Lock support

I’ve been looking for a good docking station for my Macs for a while and honestly, this one should last me for the lift of my Late 2013 15″ MBP and beyond, provided they don’t’ change the ports or port alignment on any new MBP I would need to buy in the foreseeable future.

This was money well spent.

The Dock allows me to hook a lot of external devices to my Mac without having to plug and chug all of the cords on and off. It provides power to my MBP which means I can put my 85w charger back in my bag.

If you were on the fence about getting this dock for yourself, you can safely jump down. This is the dock you were looking for; and most definitely the dock you want for any compatible MacBook Pro. It was a LONG wait for me, but it was one that was definitely worth it.

I love my Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for my 15″ MacBook Pro Retina, and I’m certain you will too once yours arrives and you have it setup and running.

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Feature Review – OS X 10.11 – El Capitan

Introduction

os_x_el_capitan_roundup

Security!

Stability!!

Give me these or give me, well… give me another operating system!

Out of the darkness and the despair, the cry of the people went up; and the benevolent wizards in the magic land called Cupertino heard them. They toiled long and hard. They worked day and night. They sent forth version after (public beta) version of their magic spells until finally on 2015-09-30, shortly after the final rendering that was heralded by the appearance of the blood moon… it was completed.

El Capitan… OS X 10.11… and the Wizards of Cupertino saw that it was good… and so, wishing to protect their progeny, they sent it forth…

If you have a Mac running OS X 10.10.x, then you can run Yosemite. Is it the operating system for you? Will it run well, even on a Late 2008 or Early 2009 MacBook? Does it offer the kind of performance boot and security enhancements that you’ve been looking for? Is it safe for you to upgrade, knowing that some apps might not be ready yet?

We’re going to take a look at these questions and others as we look at El Capitan and its natural progression and growth from Yosemite into, what Apple (and all the Wizards of Cupertino) hope will be the best version of their desktop OS yet.

Let’s see if we can wade through the hype (and yeah… my BS…) and take a look and see what El Capitan brings to the table. Is it worth putting on your Mac? Let’s find out…

Experience

It started with Yosemite; and Apple said it when they announced OS X El Capitan – they’ve called the name of the mountain; and given everyone a natural progression of what Yosemite was. El Capitan is what comes next.

I’m making a big deal about the name of the new OS and the name of the mountain that’s depicted as the default desktop wall paper in both OS X 10.10 and 10.11. The mountain is in the park; and the park’s most notable and biggest attraction is the mountain. By drawing this analogy between the mountain and both operating systems, Apple is basically telling you that OS 10.11 is a natural progression of OS X 10.10. And that’s basically true… at least from what I’ve been able to see of the new OS during the time that I’ve been able to use it.

Changes to OS X in El Capitan can really be divided into two different categories – Experience and Performance. El Capitan is a gives you even simpler, smarter ways to do the things you do the most with your Mac – Like working in multiple apps at the same time, searching for information, keeping tabs on your favorite websites, or checking email, or taking notes.

And there are some changes. All of them add value to the OS X experience. Some of them create issues and problems for users. I’ll touch on some of those later.

However, what you should take from this “tock” styled update, is that the El Capitan experience is familiar and something that nearly every Yosemite user is going to feel comfortable with; and (should be) instantly productive in (again, provided your core apps aren’t broken under El Capitan. I have more on that below…

Performance

Improvements under the hood make your Mac snappier and more efficient in all kinds of everyday tasks — from opening PDFs to accessing your email. And with Metal for Mac, you get faster and more fluid graphics performance in games, high-performance apps, and many other places.

In OS X El Capitan we’ve made all kinds of things run faster — like accessing email and launching or switching between apps. It’s these little things that make your Mac feel faster and more responsive. And we’ve brought Metal to Mac, so you experience more fluid performance in games, high-performance apps, and key system-level graphics operations.

Now things you do every day — like launching and switching apps, opening PDFs, and accessing email — are faster and snappier. OS X El Capitan makes your Mac feel more fluid and responsive.

  • Up to 1.4x faster app launch
  • Up to 2x faster app switching
  • Up to 2x faster display of first mail messages
  • Up to 4x faster pdf opening in preview

    Metal

One of the biggest developments and improvements in OS X 10.11 is Metal. Metal is a new graphics core technology. It gives games and apps near-direct access to the graphics processor on your Mac, allowing for enhanced performance and a richer graphical experience. Metal speeds system-level graphics rendering by up to 50%, as well as making it up to 40%more efficient on resources, compared with Yosemite, on equivalently speced Macs.

In a nut shell, Metal allows your Mac’s CPU and its graphics processor to work more effectively together, boosting high-performance apps. The most obvious benefit of Metal will be to games, but any high performance app – like Photoshop, iMovie, or any other graphic or video intensive app – will benefit from its up to 10x performance boost

Core Application Issues

When I say “core application” I really don’t mean apps that Apple has written, like any of the iWork components or Mail or iTunes. What I’m really talking about is Office 2016 for Mac. When El Capitan was released, it was released AFTER Office 2016 for Mac hit the streets. If you upgraded Yosemite to El Capitan with Office 2016 for Mac installed, you were – unfortunately and unknowingly – in for a very serious problem.

Office 2016 for Mac doesn’t run on El Capitan 10.11.0.

Since I started writing this review AND since the release of OS X 10.11.1, both Apple and Microsoft have released updates to the OS and to the suite to resolve the issues. However, it got dicey there for a while…

Features & Improvements

Security Updates

OS X 10.11 builds on the security model in Yosemite and takes it to the next level. Security is a big part of the El Capitan Update over OS X 10.10. Here, I’m going to touch on three of the biggest updates that Apple has made to its flagship OS’ security underpinnings.

System Integrity Protection (SIP)

Over the years, Macs have enjoyed a bit of anonymity. Hackers and malware writers didn’t target them because, quite honestly, they didn’t have the user base for most of these bad guys to bother with. That’s changing now.

In earlier versions of OS X, Apple introduced things like Sandboxing and Gate Keeper to help protect users from malignant code. Sandboxing requires programs to run in a defined memory segment, without the ability to write code to other parts of the computer. Gate Keeper effectively limits application installs from everywhere but trusted sources. In El Capitan, Apple is hardening its security model with System Integrity Protection (or SIP for short).

SIP prevents programs or users with insufficient security credentials to writing any files to /System, /bin, /usr (except /usr/local), and /sbin. This prevents malignant programs from In other words, it provides a type of root-level protection to the Mac similar to what the iPhone and iPad have benefited from for years.

Code injection and runtime attachments are no longer permitted, though expert users who really want to will still be able to access the system as deeply can still make system level changes that will allow them to do so. If you run apps like or TotalFinder, you’re going to find that they either do not work now, or you have to either fully or in part, disable SIP.

You can find instructions on disabling SIP here.

Some apps like Bartender, only need SIP disabled during install. After that, SIP can be reenabled.

System Integrity Protection helps keep your computer secure by preventing unwanted and malicious, privilege escalations.

App Transport Security

Web apps are gaining in popularity. Apps like Outlook.com and Gmail are hugely popular, and that TYPE of app are only going to become more prevalent. In order to insure that the data transmissions between your computer and the web server that the app is actually running on are secure, Apple added Application Transport Security to OS X. In El Capitan, that’s TLS 1.2, but as stronger transports become available, ATS will push everyone towards them as well. This type of security is insanely important in that without this secure layer, not only will productivity apps like Gmail and Outlook transmit data in the open for nearly everyone with a packet sniffer to see, but shopping apps that use the same secure transports will also pass insecure payment and credit card data back and forth.

Security protocols like this help make the future of online activity – whether that’s mail, or productivity (like Google Apps or Microsoft Office Online) or shopping apps safe to use

Privacy

El Capitan helps make computing more secure by protecting your privacy. Apple inverts the current cloud computing model by bringing the cloud down to your Mac, and not the more traditional model, which is the other way around. The easiest way to see a tangible example of this, is Spotlight.

When you search for data through Spotlight, you simply type a question and the search results are brought to your desktop. In a more traditional search model, you go to a web site – say Google or Bing – and search for something. You… go to the data, putting your security and your privacy at risk. In the Mac model, this is reversed. The data, comes to you, as it should be.

The best thing here is that when you use an Apple Online service, your personal data and the data you searched for and retrieved isn’t shared with any online service. You just get your results. This lowers the risk of your personal and/ or private data being inappropriately or inadvertently shared with other individuals or other companies. How well this works over time in terms of service quality and what you can and cannot search for based on what’s shared and retrieved, remains to be completely seen.

Feature Updates

El Capitan makes several updates to many of OS X’s key features. I’m going to highlight some of the more visible and more important feature updates in OS X 10.11.

Split View

Everyone is used to running multiple apps on their computer or laptop screens. I mean, we’ve been doing this really since 1990 blah-blah-blah and Windows 3.x. You get from one open app to the other by using ALT-Tab. Its very easy.

On the Mac side of the world, it’s the same way. We’ve been able to swap bits between apps since 1984 and Finder 1.0, if you really want to get down to brass tacks. You get from one app to another by using Command-Tab. Its also very easy here.

The big problem is that some times, all the other apps you might have open are nothing more than noise. Yes, you can try to Tile your open windows, but in many cases, if you don’t watch it, you can wind up with every open app window sitting next to every OTHER app window on your computer screen. When all you wanted was two apps side by side, this is hugely annoying.

Split View 01

In El Capitan, Apple takes a queue from Microsoft’s Snap feature and has given us Split View. With Split View, you can automatically fill your computer screen with two apps of choice. To get to Split View, you can either get there from Mission Control or from a full screen app. If you already have an app running full screen, you can drag another Split View compatible app to its desktop thumbnail at the top of the Mission Control Screen. Both apps will appear in Split View.

The other way is to click and hold the green full screen button with your mouse. The left half of the screen will become shaded in blue. Release your mouse button to open the current window on the left half of your screen. Any other compatible, non-minimized apps will show up on the other half of the screen as thumbnails. Simply click the other app you want to use in Split view.

Microsoft does this on the Windows side with Snap. You can get there in a similar fashion, and popping content back and forth between apps is just as easy via Windows Snap as it is with OS X Split View.

Mission Control

Mission Control 01

A streamlined Mission Control makes it easier to see and organize everything you have open on your Mac. With a single swipe, all the windows on your desktop arrange themselves in a single layer, with nothing stacked or hidden. Mission Control places your windows in the same relative location, so you can spot the one you’re looking for more quickly. And when you have lots of windows competing for real estate, it’s now even simpler to make more room for them. Just drag any window to the top of your screen, and drop it into a new desktop space. It’s never been this easy to spread out your work.

Mission Control 02

 

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Release-a-palooza – Apple Releases Multiple OS Updates

Today Apple released updates to watchOS, iOS and OS X.

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I knew things were close to being done for all three of these releases, but I wasn’t certain when Apple would greenlight changes to watchOS 2.0.1, iOS 9.1 and OS X 10.11.1.  Today, Apple released all three of these updates to a much awaiting public.  The big news (as far as the OS carrousel, though) is the fact nearly no one saw the release of watchOS 2.0.1 coming. Apple didn’t announce or release it to its Developer Community at all.

I’m going to run down all of the changes for each and then I’ll have a bit to say on the changes overall, before I wrap it all up.

watchOS 2.0.1

watchOS 2.0.1 is now available to download via the official Apple Watch app on iPhone. It weighs in between  62.8 to 68.4 megabytes.
watchOS 2.0.1Apple’s new watchOS update features support for the latest emoji characters also found in iOS 9.1 and OS X 10.11.1. They include unicorn, taco, burrito, and middle finger emoji’s.
Changes from Apple in watchOS 2.0.1 include:

  • A fix for an issue that could cause software updates to stall
  • A fix for issues that were impacting battery life and performance
  • A fix that resolves an issue that prevented a managed iPhone from synching iOS Calendar events to Apple Watch
  • A fix that Addresses an issue that could prevent location information from properly updating
  • A fix for an issue that could cause Digital Touch to send from an email address instead of from a phone number
  • A fix that addresses an issue that could cause instability when using a Live Photo as a watch face
  • A fix that resolves an issue that allows a sensor to stay on indefinitely, when using Siri to measure your heart rate

Additional information and details can be found here.

IOS 9.1

iOS 9.1 is now available for download for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch either over the air (OTA) or through iTunes on a Mac or PC. According to Apple, the update includes new features, improvements and bug fixes.

Changes from Apple in iOS 9.1 include:

  • A fix to Live Photos so they now intelligently sense when you raise or lower your iPhone, so that Live Photos will automatically not record those movements
  • Over 150 new emoji characters will full support for Unicode 7.0 and 8.0 emoji’s
  • Support for the 4th generation Apple TV
  • Support for the iPad Pro
  • An update to the iOS virtual keyboard that improved the shift key icon, making it easier to see when the shift key has been pressed, or double tapped (for CAPS Lock).
  • New device wallpapers of Mars, Jupiter and Neptune

Emoji’s seem to be the order of the day. All three of the updates noted in this article have huge emoji updates in them.  Like watchOS 2.0.1, iOS 9.1 includes new emoji’s for a taco, burrito, hot dog, cheese, popping champagne bottle, ice hockey, ping pong, archery, and even a middle finger.

The big thing to note in iOS 9.1 is that this is the version that is required for the iPad Pro.  The biggest change here for it, has to do with multi-tasking and the Apple Pencil; but that’s old news, and I’m not going to go into the virtues or lack thereof, of the iPad Pro.

Release notes for iOS 9.1 can be found here.

OS X 10.11.1

OS X 10.11.1 is now available as a free download on the Mac App Store. In the release notes, Apple states that the update improves the stability, compatibility, and security of a user’s Mac.

Specific changes made in OS X 10.11.1, according to Apple, include:

  • Improves installer reliability when upgrading to OS X El Capitan
  • Improves compatibility with Microsoft Office 2016
  • Fixes an issue where outgoing server information may be missing from Mail
  • Resolves an issue that prevented display of messages and mailboxes in Mail
  • Resolves an issue that prevents certain Audio Unit plug-ins from functioning properly
  • Improves Voice Over reliability
  • Adds over 150 new emoji characters with full Unicode 7.0 and 8.0 support

The big item of note here is Office 2016 compatibility. I’ve held off updating any of the Macs in the house until Microsoft and Apple got their respective acts together as it relates to Office 2016.  I use Office 2016 for all of my writing and other productivity tasks, and so do my daughter and her husband. They need it for all of their school work.  Without this, any move to El Capitan would have been very premature on our parts.  Now that this is resolved, we should be good to go.

UPDATE:  As I was writing this, I updated my MacBook Pro to El Capitan, and the Office 2016 apps that I use (Word, Excel and PowerPoint… Outlook is still – and will continue to be – a train wreck until they get a better handle on some of its data store issues.  It’s also NOT a feature parity with Outlook for Windows and I can’t help but wonder WHY at this point…but that’s another story entirely and I don’t really need to get started on that here…)

Release notes for OS X 10.11.1 can be found here.

There’s a lot here. If you’re an Apple user on any level, today was a day of updates for you.  I’ve updated nearly all of my gear, including my Apple Watch (that’s a link to Part 4 of my four part review.  It’s got links to the other three parts, in case you haven’t seen it).

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The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock is Coming!

It’s the realization of a three year old dream…

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Earlier this year I made mention to a new docking station that I had ordered for my 15″ MacBook Pro Retina. The docking station is the Hendocks Horizontal Dock and as I eluded to above, the organization is now shipping those docks to its Early Adopter Team.

You’ll notice that the ship date/ timeframe I refer to in that article was, at the time of publication, about five and a half months ago.

Yeah… about that.

Boy, it’s been a long time in coming; and there’s a lot of background information here that you – and likely most of the internet – didn’t have access to. Some of this I’m going to relate in this article, as its going to likely come up in the review. Some of it I won’t divulge, as there are confidences with the folks over at Henge Docks that I’d rather not break.

What I will say about all of that, up front – because it’s VERY important – the folks over at Henge Docks are totally awesome. They’ve been all over the many issues that were encountered in bringing this product to market like white on rice, from the very beginning.

A Brief Product Lifecycle Review
Now, this isn’t going to be completely factual, in large part because I’m doing this from memory; but the project (at least publicly) kicked off in the 2011 time frame. I, and a number of MacBook Pro users who were looking for a docking station for their Macs had limited choices. There were one or two Thunderbolt docks available during 2012, but they were REALLY expensive and definitely NOT the form factor I was looking for. Much of what was available were things like the Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock or the Startech Thunderbolt Dock .

I hate any docking station that works like these.

These things look like meta bricks with a shoelace sticking out of them. With these, I have to plug a cable into my computer. I’d rather attach my PC to a stationary dock. Unfortunately, (until now) nothing like that was available.

When I heard about the Horizontal Dock from Henge Docks, I jumped on early. There wasn’t much on the site at the time, and honestly over the next year or so (into late 2012 and early 2013), you couldn’t do much more other than sign up for an email list that got you on an internal pre-order list.

I honestly think I signed up like three times… That was partially due to the fact that so little information was available on the product, and there were large gaps of time in between the times that I checked.

During this time, there were many milestone and availability dates that came and went with little to no reported progress. In fact, looking back at it all, (and I’m certain I’ll say this more than once here) this has really been a 4-5 YEAR journey from the point of dock announcement to dock shipping and receipt.

However, in late 2014, we were told that orders would open up in early to mid-January 2014. At this point, you had a choice. Henge Docks announced their Early Adopters program.

With the Early Adopters program, users could, for an additional fee of $50, join the program. The Early Adopter program got you the Dock at least three months before everyone else and also got you access to pre-release versions of the Dock’s firmware as well as its desktop control app. The Dock would also have a limited edition, customized base plate identifying it as an Early Adopter unit, and (I think) would be numbered.

I ordered my Dock on 2015-01-14. Early Adopter units were scheduled to ship in March of 2015, with GA units (general availability) shipping in June. Both of those milestone dates came and went. The date for Early Adopter units was pushed to May, then July, and then (I think) August. All of those dates came and went as well.

At that point, I had already started a very frank dialog with Henge Docks’ CEO, Matt Vroom.

Matt… is an awesome guy. He was frank, open and as transparent as he possibly could be. Henge Docks had opened their Early Adopter Portal and at the time, it echoed in there. There was little to NO participation there; and honestly, in retrospect, it’s not surprising.

The Portal was designed to be a gathering place for Early Adopters to share views, usage, insight, suggestions, etc., about the Horizontal Dock. With the Dock behind schedule, there was no need for any activity about the dock.

Where We are Today
However, without laboring too much on the issues and problems surrounding engineering, manufacturing and dock certifications (and believe me, there were challenges at nearly every step of the Dock’s journey, I instead want to fast forward to where we are today.

My Horizontal Dock is on a truck and should be delivered to me today (2015-10-20)!

This is a huge deal, as it is the culmination of a three year journey. After at least two trips to China, at least one year of brainstorming and preliminary design, and three years of engineering, design, reengineering and redesign, vendor selection and management, tooling, manufacturing, inspections, software design, coding, testing and finally product certifications with both Apple AND Intel, my Dock will be arriving today.

I will having an unboxing video shot this evening. I’ve also got a call scheduled with Matt Vroom and another executive at Henge Docks scheduled for Wednesday evening 2015-10-21. I’ll have write ups on both out as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I have to go and hit the tracking number on my shipping email again and look at the words, “on truck for delivery today,” again.

Are docking stations a big deal to anyone anymore? Do you really need one for your Mac or PC? Is the classic office setup – wired keyboard, wired or wireless mouse, wired LAN connection, wired speakers, and a full sized, desktop monitor (or two) obsolete? Is everything going wireless? Does the traditional office setup make sense to anyone, or has that gone the way of the local coffee shop?

Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me about your computing set up and whether or not you use a docking station of any type?

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Apple Releases iOS 9.0.2

Apple continues to swat at bugs with its latest iOS release

ios9

Wednesday 2015-09-30 saw the release of iOS 9.0.2, Apple’s latest update to its mobile operating system.  Released a week after iOS 9.0.1, this latest update comes just two weeks after the initial release of iOS 9.

IOS 9.0.2 is another minor update – a bug fix, really – and also addresses other performance enhancements.  The following were called out in the release notes for this update:

  • Fixes a screen lock vulnerability that allowed Siri to be used to bypass the lock screen to access photos and contacts on a locked device
  • Fixes an issue with the setting to turn on or off app cellular data usage
  • Resolves an issue that prevented iMessage activation for some users
  • Resolves an issue where an iCloud backup could be interrupted after starting a manual backup
  • Fixes an issue where the screen could incorrectly rotate when receiving notifications
  • Improves the stability of Podcasts

IOS 9 focuses on productivity and performance, with some major updates to both Siri and Spotlight.  Notable among its new productivity enhancing features is a split-screen multi-tasking view that allows more modern devices, like the iPad Pro, to share and pass information back and forth between apps (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other productivity apps)  iOS 9.1, also due later this year, and anticipated during the month of November with the general availability release of the iPad Pro, is meant to focus on productivity for the new enterprise capable tablet and the AppleTV.

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The Biggest Thing Missing in the iPhone 6S

Well, that’s a bit of a misnomer… Honestly, its missing on every new mobile device you buy.

iphone-6s-rose-gold-vs-nexus-5-20154

Working with mobile devices as long as I have, you get to learn a few things about how things really should go. I’ve been writing for a long time, and honestly, I’ve reviewed a great many different mobile handsets. Some of them have been PocketPC’s/ Windows Mobile devices. Some of them have been Palm devices. I’ve also reviewed Android, Blackberry, and of course iPhones.

In fact, I’ll be doing an unboxing of the iPhone 6s Plus as well as writing a first impressions document on it based on my wife’s personal interaction as well as my own when it arrives for her on 2015-09-25.

Funny thing there – I ordered my wife’s iPhone 6s Plus on Saturday 2015-09-12 at approximately 11:30am, well after the early rush after the Store opened online at 12:01am PDT. My initial ship WINDOW was between 2015-10-06 and 2015-10-26. As of Wednesday 2015-09-23, I was still looking at waiting about another two to four weeks before the device shipped. Surprise, surprise… I got a note from AT&T this morning indicating that it would arrive on iPhone 6s Day, 2015-09-25. (I got her the standard yellow gold tone model, by the way.

So now, the point of this column is even more spot on. The iPhone 6s – and every other new mobile device – is missing a huge, HUGE “thing.”

A “How to use all the new hardware and OS features” document.

Now, I know I probably lost a few of you there, and you’re likely looking to jet… but stick around for a sec. You’ve come this far. Its not gonna hurt you to see it all the way through at this point….

There are a lot of new features in iOS 9.x, some of which you get with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. However, a lot of them you DON’T get unless you get an iPhone 6s/ 6s Plus. However, without knowing what ALL of the new hardware is, AND without knowing what all of the new features are, AND without knowing what requires what AND how to use them, you’re kinda left to figure it out yourself.

Some people rise to the occasion and figure it out. However, most people, don’t even know where to start and a lot of what makes a new device new and great, gets ignored.

It’s a shame, too.

Most people will get their new iPhones and fumble around with the new hardware and with iOS 9, and try to work it out; but they won’t get it all. They’ll get some of it. They may even look to the web and find something about what they’re interested in, but they may not find it all.

How can this be rectified? Its fairly easy, really; but then again, it requires that people actually use the tools that may be provided to them. Apple… Google… Microsoft… and every other hardware manufacturer that modifies or enhances a mobile operating system can provide a startup sequence or other getting started app or setup process that shows you the new stuff and is required to be reviewed before the device can be used.

Apple does something like this already, but all it does it configure the device. It doesn’t review the latest features and how to use them. It just runs through the required configuration settings. If however, it peppered new feature tutorials in between the configuration settings, it could inform as well as configure. That would be one of the best ways to resolve this problem.

However, I’m not certain that something like that is ever going to happen. If it was likely, it would have happened already. This isn’t rocket science…

I’ve got an iPhone 6s Plus in the house. It arrived on 2015-09-25 – iPhone 6s Day – and I plan on building some how to’s and some fact finding articles on how to use some of its new hardware features and those of iOS 9.

So I invite you to do me a favor and stick around, close to Soft32 and give me a hand. Let me know what you’d like to see and hear about with the new feautres of iOS 9.x. Let me know what you’re curious about when it comes to the new hardware of the iPhone 6x and 6s Plus. I’ll do my best to provide a good intro to the latest flagship iDevices and we’ll see what we can come up with.

So do me a favor, please… take some time and join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you’d like to know about first. I’d love to hear from you. Give me your thoughts, please. There’s a lot going on with not only the iPhone and iOS 9, but the iPad as well. I’m certain that everyone would love to hear about both. Wouldn’t you…?

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Next Generation Apple TV Details Leaked

Apparently, its $150 bucks…

apple-tv-itv

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Apple TV. Its saved my sanity while working in Nebraska in 2013 and 2014; and its always been a favorite way of watching streamed content, most of which in my case, comes from my Apple library or Netflix. Now, a new generation device is scheduled to be announced at the September 9, 2015 media event.

Details of the new device apparently were leaked by John Paczkowski of Buzzfeed. Some of the big features include (but aren’t limited to)

  • Universal Search – You’ll be able to search across service providers like iTunes and Netflix for content.
  • Siri Input – You’ll be able to ask Siri to play content. You’ll also be able to use her to search for stuff via Universal Search, too
  • Remote with Touch Pad and Mic – The Apple Remote is going to get a much needed update in order to support both Siri and Universal Search. At least now, it won’t be so easily misplaced or lost… hopefully. The new remote is also supposed to support motion sensors that will allow it to be used as a game controller.
  • Prices “starting” at $149 – I don’t know if “starting” means there’s going to be more than one model of the 4th generation Apple TV or if “starting” is just a marketing word, but expect to spend at least a bill and a half…

The higher price point is a surprise. Apple TV started out at $299 back in the day when it was first released, but then dropped to $99 and stayed there for the longest time. At that point, it was affordable by nearly everyone. When Tim Cook reduced the price to $69 in March of 2015, it became a no brainer to everyone with an Apple ID and a TV. At $150, it’s going to make many stop and consider the purchase before pulling the trigger.

Universal Search will be a welcomed addition to Apple TV. With the ability to search across multiple content providers like Netflix and Hulu as well as iTunes, you should be able to play nearly everything you would want and need through the device. While I’d really like to see support for Amazon Prime here, I’m not going to hold my breath…

The Search functionality is further augmented by an improved input system – Siri. You can use Siri to search for content on Apple TV and have multiple sources for the content displayed on screen. This will be a huge improvement over the current search service, which is currently for iTunes only and is text based, via the Apple Remote. Yeah… it totally sucks.

The new remote will be a nice added improvement as well. While the current Apple Remote is nice, it’s very easily lost or misplaced due to its small size. The new touch screen and mic are going to require a total redesign of the device. It’s also going to make it very easy to pair with your iPhone or iPod, allowing you to use those for your remote as well. In fact, using an existing iDevice as your remote with a revamped Apple Remote app makes a great deal of sense.

All of this, coupled with a revamped interface and new, advanced processors, is going to make this a compelling purchase. I know I’m interested in this, and will be looking to get a new Apple TV for the Holidays. Both my birthday and the Christmas Holiday fall very close together for me.

What’s going to be interesting is if and how a new interface will be reflected in existing hardware, meaning second and third generation Apple TV’s. While they will definitely not have a new processor, and may not get the new remote, some of the search could be done by an iPhone or iPod Touch and the results passed back to Apple TV via a Bluetooth connection. If Apple will allow or enable that, however is a different story, though it would be a very interesting development.

Are you interested in a revamped Apple TV? Is this something that you’re going to consider purchasing either right after the Announcement on 2015-09-09 or for the 2015 Holiday Buying Season? Do you own a second or third generation Apple TV? Did you buy one after the recent $69 price cut? Will you buy more of those or a new Apple TV? Is Apple TV even an option for you or do you own a competing streaming device like an Amazon Fire Stick or Fire TV? Do you own a Roku box or Sling TV? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and tell me what equipment you have and what you’re going to do with all of this new information? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Apple Releases 8th Developer Beta/ 6th Public Beta of OS X 10.11

With Fall 2015 fast approaching, Apple has released yet another beta of El Capitan

el-cap-intro

Those computing individuals that like to live on the wild side should be a bit happier with the world today, especially if those users are also Macs as opposed to PC’s. Apple has released yet another round of developer and public focused beta releases of their next generation operating system – OS X 10.11, code named, El Capitan.

Given build number 15A279b, El Capitan Beta 8 is available to all users with an active Developer Account and is downloadable via a special redemption code in the Mac App Store. While quite developed as far as a beta is concerned, El Capitan still isn’t officially ready for prime time. Meaning, that if you’re looking to run it on your Mac in a production level capacity, you may be disappointed. It’s likely still got a number of different issues that may prevent you from really wanting to do that. If you simply must have beta bits on your production level Mac, you may want to download and install El Capitan Public Beta 6. It’s considered a bit more stable and end-user friendly.

Both beta releases arrive less than two weeks after the previous beta releases of both – Developer Preview 7 and Public Beta 5. So, things are accelerating and hopefully, improving in quality.

Its anticipated that El Capitan will hit the streets sometime in September or October. While Apple is likely to have an iPhone even in the next week or so – a press even is scheduled for 2015-09-09 where we’re likely to see new iPhones and a new Apple TV – El Capitan likely won’t be ready by then. Another even is anticipated – though currently unscheduled – for some time in October when new Macs will like appear alongside the long anticipated iPad Pro.

As with previous releases of their desktop OS, OS X 10.11 El Capitan is anticipated to be a free upgrade and will run on all Macs that ran OS X 10.10 Yosemite, which included MacBooks and MacBook Pros that were originally released in 2009. El Capitan is a spit and polish release, meaning that its largely meant to provide bug fixes and improvements to existing features – a stability release – rather than one that will provide ground breaking new features and functionality.

I’ve currently got El Capitan installed on a non-production based Mac and am working on a full review of the new and revised OS. With features like Metal, Split View and a smarter, deeper functioning Safari, you can expect El Capitan to be a version of OS X that you’re likely going to want to run on your compatible Mac. Stay tuned for the full review and a number of follow up columns about it.

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