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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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.

update banner

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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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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Apple releases OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Apple’s latest desktop operating system has officially hit the streets on 2015-09-30

Apple released the latest version of their desktop operating system OS X 10.11, Code named El Capitán, to the public Wednesday afternoon, 2015-09-30. This latest iteration of OS X features enhancements to Safari and Spotlight, as well as bring optimization and performance enhancements to the platform.

El Capitán

This latest round of system wide updates includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Metal is perhaps the largest improvement to El Capitán. It provides superior performance improvements to games and other graphic intensive applications, compared to previous versions of OS X.
  • Safari supports pinned tabs, playing web video via AirPlay and muting of audio on specific web tabs, all via the Smart Search field. Users can also search for specific locations in Maps and then push navigation to their iPhone.
  • Mail has been reimagined to allow users to use it full screen, much like its iOS-based cousin. It also includes swipe-based gestures for marking items as read or to delete them. You can also quickly add Contact or Calendar based events to their respective apps based on a message’s content.
  • Notes now supports check lists, attaching both video and stills, as well as URL and map locations. The app is now a true system component, as users can, for example, share web pages from Safari, as a Note to anyone with an Apple ID.
  • Spotlight has been enhanced to support searching via natural language. You can get information on weather conditions, stock performance, public transit schedules, etc. just by asking a natural language-based question.
  • Photos can now make use of third-party extensions and plug-ins, giving you more advanced control over retouching of your pictures. You also get more advanced options for sorting albums as well as tagging people and places
  • Other system-wide features include a Split View fullscreen mode, a more streamlined Mission Control, and a series of upgrades to Chinese and Japanese language support, such as new fonts and better keyboard and trackpad input.

El Capitán is a free update and is available now to all Macs and users currently running Yosemite via the Mac App Store desktop app. Those Mac users running Yosemite who wish to wait on updating to OS X 10.11 can also obtain an update to Safari 9, though it doesn’t have support for pinned tabs.

Will you be updating your Mac to El Capitán? Will you wait until OS X 10.11.1 is released, instead? I’ve got a review of El Cap that I’m working on and hope to have up in the next few days. In the mean time, why don’t you join me in the Discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts on this latest development?

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iOS 8 Beta 5 – Finally… PROGRESS!

iOS 8 Beta 5 has been released. Let’s take a look to see how (well) things have progressed…

iOS-8-beta-5-630x208

 Introduction

Over the past ten weeks or so, Apple has been releasing betas of iOS 8, their new mobile operating system. I’ve covered the first four betas with some rants that have left me (and I would assume other developers and testers) lamenting. You can read up on how things have progressed here:

Beta releases of iOS 8, to put it politely, have been a train wreck at best. They have been nearly unusable, crashing and causing issues and problems with nearly each and every core, as well as nearly every third party app I have had installed, too. Apple recently released iOS 8 Beta 5. Let’s take a look at how things are going and see if iOS 8 is (finally?) ready for a wider audience as well as some other third party app work by developers worldwide.

I’m also going to touch on a few OS X Yosemite Beta 5 issues, as I bumped into updates on them while looking at iOS 8 Beta 5. So much of what is cool about iOS 8 requires Yosemite and a Mac, that it’s hard to draw the line between the two devices and operating systems… at least when they are close by (and vice-versa)

 Installation

Installation of iOS 8 Beta 5 was only slightly smoother than previous versions of iOS 8. I did have problems with iTunes Match again (see Music, below), and almost had to blow the device and reinstall, but thankfully, have not… Yet.

There are still a number of know issues with iOS 8 Beta 5, and as always, caution should be used when deciding to install any kind of beta on any mission critical equipment. Generally, it’s not a good idea. For example in Beta 5, updating iCloud settings may appear to hang when you try to change them. The thought is that the device will eventually come back. Try to see if you can wait it out before you kill the app, or perform a hard reset (power + home button until the Apple logo appears), which will clear all settings and reboot the device.

While using Beta 4, I didn’t blow the device and rebuild it from scratch. I toughed it out and made it the entire two weeks. However, during the 2-3 days prior to the release of Beta 5, I REALLY did want to. I didn’t as I knew that I would be doing exactly that for Beta 5 soon. However getting to that release wasn’t a lot of fun (though it was mildly better than with Betas 1 – 3).

The question of stability of iOS 8 Beta 5 is still to be determined.

 Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

According to Apple’s release notes, there aren’t any known issues with Bluetooth in iOS 8 Beta 5. There weren’t any documented issues in Beta 4 either, but it was still a mess. I am pleased to say that things are a bit better here in Beta 5.

BT-LE (Bluetooth Low Energy) seems to be working and communicating with my Pebble Steel smartwatch. However, the Pebble app does seem to be sending some corrupted data, as the watch doesn’t always vibrate at configured intervals and the display often gets corrupted. I haven’t had to hard reset the watch (return it to factory settings), but I’ve wanted to at least once since repairing it with my iPhone 5.

Now, the only issue I need to verify is the secret sauce connection (Continuity and Handoff) my iPhone shares with my MacBook Pro.

Speaking of secret sauce connectivity, little to nothing related to Handoff or connectivity (both relying on Wi-Fi and home network connectivity) worked well for me in the iOS 8 Beta 4 – Yosemite Beta 4/Consumer Preview 1 combination.

There are currently two huge known issues with Handoff

  1. Handoff will not work on systems configured with multiple user accounts.
  2. Handoff icons may not appear in the Dock after using the corresponding app on another device. Trying another Handoff-supported app may resolve this issue.

At this point, Handoff should be considered a work in progress. Though when it does work, it IS pretty cool, especially if you’re using apps that save to documents in iCloud Drive.

 FaceTime, Phone and Contacts

In previous versions of OS X as well as iOS, Apple had a clear line of separation between the Phone app and FaceTime. With Yosemite and iOS 8, that line is SERIOUSLY blurred. This is both good and bad. Now, you have a choice in how you communicate with someone given the type and speed of the network you are connected to. On your Mac, all of your calls regardless of type – FaceTime or cellular – all show up in FaceTime. It looks like it wants to function as the main phone app for your Mac, though you can dial from just about anywhere you can find or see a phone number, Calendar, Contacts and Safari included. In Beta 4 of both OS X and iOS 8, this was nothing more than a total train wreck.

I have no idea if this is because of development issues with Phone on my iPhone 5, with Contacts on either my device or my Mac or with FaceTime on either my iPhone or my Mac. There are too many possible integration points for me as a tester (without direct access to design docs, code and/ or developer resources) to determine. I’m going to have to give this a shot when I get a moment back at the house.

Besides the “progress” made, above, Apple has also fixed the ability for users to use FaceTime in landscape orientations on your iDevice. In earlier betas, this didn’t work. It does now, in Beta 5. Fixed – at least somewhat – is also the ability to determine which number to specify as a Favorite, though the Favorite chooser in Phone. Favorites now provides a contact method picker, but force quits the Phone app when a contact method is chosen. We’re close, but no kewpie doll yet. Unless Apple has gotten the iPhone integration working correctly with both Beta 5 releases of iOS 8 and Yosemite, it’s going to be a very long beta period for both operating systems.

UPDATE: While this article was being written, a new <a href=”http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/08/05/apple-to-hold-iphone-6-media-event-on-sept-9—report”>rumor was breaking</a> regarding a reported Apple media even scheduled for 2014-09-09. <a href=”http://recode.net/2014/08/05/codered-apple-to-hold-iphone-event-on-sept-9/”>Re/code</a> is reporting that both new iPhone 6 devices – the 4.7″ and the 5.5″ iDevices – will be announced with a projected order rate of 80M units. It is not known if the iWatch will be announced at the same event or not. However, you can expect new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina models to be announced with TouchID sensors.

UPDATE 2: The integration between iPhone with iOS 8 Beta 5 and OS X Yosemite Beta 5 is MUCH better than in the Beta 4 release of both operating systems. Previously, while a call could be established by your Mac through you iPhone, no audio would come across. In short, the feature was only partially implemented and didn’t work.

Now, not only is the connection established, but I was able to use my Mac as a speakerphone as intended without too many call quality issues. There does seem to be a volume issue for the person that you’re talking to. The caller I spoke with initially had trouble hearing me, though the call quality for them did improve over the length of the call.

Provided that audio quality and reliability improves on both sides of the call, I can see where this would be very usable as a way to conduct conference calls in a home office. I have my doubts however, how this kind of feature would work in the enterprise. Unless Apple builds some kind of partnership with, say, Cisco, Avaya or some other VoIP vender where the feature was totally integrated into their server(s), I’m not sure how this would be considered valuable or usable in any kind of corporate setting. The feature (even if mic and volume issues were totally resolved and call quality was continuously in the upper 90th percentile), as currently implemented doesn’t seem well suited for anyone else other than regular consumers or SOHO users.

However, it was really kinda cool to be able to get up away from the computer and still be able to converse with the caller without having to wear a Bluetooth headset. This is an area where I will need to do further testing, however, as its clear that this is a work in progress for Apple as well.

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Apple Rumors – What to do? What to do..??

There are a number of Apple rumors floating around.  Here’s how you should interpret them…

I’ve been covering the tech industry for almost 20 years. If there’s one thing I know to do – and can do well – its keep my ear to the ground and listen for the whispers.  After a while you get a Jedi like sense about some of this stuff, and like Michael Keaton in Johnny Dangerously (you know your last name’s an adverb..?), you learn to interpret the grape vine and can divine the truth out of the many tech rumors you hear.

Apple-question-markMost of the time with companies like Blackberry, it’s totally easy – especially over the past few years. You know the industry, you know the trends and you know the product.  You just KNOW what their chances are – slim to none.  With Microsoft, it’s not quite as easy. Under Ballmer, yeah… after covering MS under Ballmer for 20 or so years, you can dope it out.  It’s still early with Nadella, so, it’s a bit more difficult.  Apple however, is a completely different story.

There have been a number of rumors about the iPhone 6 – launch dates, release dates (they’re usually a month apart, so you divine one, you have the other…), model types, form factors, components, etc. The list goes on and on.  However, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned after covering them for nearly 10 years – it’s don’t even try.

Apple is the most secretive tech company without a US military contract in the country, if not the world.  Sure… checking the Magic 8 Ball and getting the rumors right is real easy the night BEFORE an Apple Press Event, but that’s nothing and not very impressive at all. Any good rumor monger with at least an OK source or a bit of experience can do that.  I don’t know of many people at all that can do that months and months before the event and get it right.  Many have tried. Nearly all have failed. Those that have gotten it right have been merely lucky.

So what should you do with the rumors that you hear about on the internet regarding any unreleased Apple product?

That’s simple – smile, nod your head and move on.

Apple rumors are fun to read. Apple rumors are fun to talk about… but unless you get Tim Cook drunk AND are able to get him to spill his guts (which, by the way will never, EVER happen, because Tim is just NOT that way; but I’m trying to illustrate a point here, so work with me for just a sec…), and can get it on video with some kind of certificate of authenticity, I would treat any Apple rumor you hear as nothing more than a rumor.  Enjoy the story, hope for the best, but in the end… smile, nod your head and move on.

The latest rumors include not only the release of a 4.7″ iPhone 6, but also a second 5.5″ iPhone 6.  One, the other or both are supposed to have a saphire-glass touch screen.  The screen yields of one, the other or both models are said to have good yields, bad yields or other manufacturing problems that may delay the release of either model until late this year or early next year.

OR

We could get the 4.7″ model with or with out a saphire-glass touch screen as early as mid-September.  Or, we could also get the 5.5″ model at the same time, or after the First of the New Year. Maybe… MacRumors is also reporting an iPhone 6 release date of October 14, 2014, based on a rumored press event thought to take place sometime in mid-September.

And what happens in the background at Apple..?  Nothing.  They sit back and smile, basking in glory of the massive amounts of free publicity and hype that will likely send initial sales of the newest (and rumored to be the biggest) iPhone into the tens of millions in the first quarter of sales after its announcement, if you believe all the rumors, that is…

The point, kids is that you should treat these rumors as nothing more than what they actually are… a rumor.  Enjoy them. Talk about them.  Spread the living schtako out of them if you like; but don’t put any stock in them what-so-ever.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about covering Apple over the last 10 years, it’s that you aren’t going to be able to figure out which way they’re going to go until you get there.

Apple is very good at keeping secrets, and divining what they really WILL do with this, that or the other product has proven to be next to impossible.  So again, enjoy the rumors… have fun with them; but don’t buy into them at all.  You’re likely not going to do anything else other than confuse yourself and your friends if you put any stock in them.

So, move along… these aren’t the ‘droids you’re looking for…

Have you heard any new Apple rumors?  Any of them fun or exciting?  If you’d like to share them or have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear about all of them.  Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below, and tell me all about it?

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OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: Mac and iOS integration

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 2 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about Mac and iOS integration.

If you remember last time, I talked about Yosemite Installation and Setup. Here, I’m going to talk about integration between a Yosemite enabled Mac and your iOS 8 enabled iDevice.

Yosemite

 Mac and iOS integration

There is some pretty cool stuff going on with Apple’s Mac + iDevice pairings under Yosemite. However, please note that in order to get some of this stuff to work, especially when everything is released, you’re going to have to run not only Yosemite on your Mac (these features simply will NOT exist under Windows…), but iOS 8 on your iDevice. If your iDevice gets left behind at iOS 7, I don’t care what kind of Mac you have Yosemite install on, this kind of integration won’t exist. Be aware both new operating systems will be required on both ends.

FYI – Please note that these features will always require at least matching beta versions during the Beta Period. For example, Yosemite Beta 4 and iOS 8 Beta 4. They’re both going to be revved at the same time (though the public won’t get newer beta versions of Yosemite, but WILL receive some minor OS updates via the AppStore; and the only way to get iOS 8 is via the iOS Developer Program), so the versions will have to match. You won’t be able to have Yosemite Beta 4 and iOS 8 Beta 3 or vice versa on your gear and have this stuff work right now.

  • Phone Calls
    This is probably the neatest thing I’ve seen yet when pairing a Mac and an iPhone running iOS 8. If you have iOS 8 on your iPhone and Yosemite on your Mac, you can use your Mac as a speakerphone. Calls coming into your iPhone will cause your Mac to ring and a notification of the call to display in the upper right corner of your default monitor. You can answer the call, decline the call or reply with an iMessage if needed.You can also place a call from your Mac. Open Contacts, Calendar, Messages or Safari and click a phone number you see displayed. Your iPhone will place the call and your Mac will act as a speaker phone. Dialing into conference calls is super easy now, and totally hands free. Where was this a year ago? I really could have used it then, as conference calls were my life…The cool deal here, though is that you do NOT need to have your iPhone physically tethered to your Mac for this all to work. Through the magic of Wi-Fi, there’s nothing to setup. As long as your iPhone and Mac are connected to the same network, you’re good to go. This means you get this feature at home, at work or at Starbucks…which is cool. Wi-Fi is the magic sauce.
  • Messages
    When you have Yosemite and iOS 8, you can also send and receive text messages with individuals running not only iOS, but Android and Windows Phone – or any other OS that can send and receive SMS/MMS messages – all from your Mac. All messages that appear on your iPhone, appear on your Mac, and vice-versa. You can also begin a text message conversation on your Mac by clicking a phone number in either Safari, Contacts, or Calendar.Unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble with this. I’ve tried this with a couple Android users over the past couple of days, and they never got any of the messages I sent from my Mac. None of those messages ever synchronized with my iPhone. Messages sent from my iPhone got to the user I was texting with, and eventually synchronized to my Mac; but none of the messages that I typed on my Mac in the Message conversation actually sent or were received by the users I was communicating with. There’s obviously still work to do here, as it appears the “send” functionality for non-iMessage users is broken in Yosemite.I have a lot of hope for this feature, as it makes Messages and iMessage a universal way to communicate via text with anyone, on any device, with any mobile OS, at any time. This is a natural progression for the iMessage service, and I’m very excited – or I will be – to be able to use this feature.
  • FaceTime
    While I am on contract with a state government agency and out of town, I use FaceTime as a major communications tool with my family. We speak via cell during the day; but we visit with each other via FaceTime at night. Everyone either has a Mac, iPhone or iPad to communicate with, provided they can get the target iDevice away from my 22 month old granddaughter, that is. She likes to talk to papa, too; but unfortunately, she doesn’t like to share, or can’t necessarily remember where she put her mother’s or grandmother’s iDevice. It makes for an interesting time…I’ve noticed that the new version of FaceTime for Mac has issues searching through large Contact lists. There’s always a huge delay – 30 seconds or more – when typing in a contact name, address or number in FaceTime. It improves slightly after the first search is completed, but there are still lags, especially with larger Contact lists like mine (I have nearly 3000 contacts in my Contacts list).
  • Instant Hot Spot
    One of the coolest features of iOS 6.x and later is the ability to use your iPhone as a mobile hot spot. You turn on the feature, set a password, and then turn on Wi-Fi on your phone and on your Mac. The feature was supported in Lion, Mountain Lion and is supported in Mavericks. Further, if you physically connected your iPhone to your Mac, with the hot spot feature turned on, your Mac connected to the internet automatically without the need to have Wi-Fi on or to configure any password.Apple has taken the feature a bit further now with Yosemite. Now, your Mac can use the personal hot spot feature on your iPhone via Wi-Fi just like it did via USB cable – no setup is required. Your Mac will also display the signal strength and battery life of your iPhone as well. You don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket, bag or anything else. The feature…just works; and now, you don’t even have to turn on the feature on your iPhone beforehand. Your Mac will list your iPhone in the network list of the Wi-Fi menu on your Mac. Selecting your iPhone will turn on the hot spot feature and you’re on the internet.I’m still experimenting with this feature. I haven’t played with it too much yet. However, I would suspect that the bridging technology is not necessarily accomplished not by Wi-Fi, but by BT-LE. You’ll also need to make certain that you’re logged into your iCloud account on your iDevice in order to make all of this work. So here, you need to mix both BT-LE and your iCloud account in order to create the secret sauce. Your cellular carrier will also need to allow the hot spot feature on their network, but that’s really a given…In the end, this looks like a much better implementation of the instant hot spot feature than in previous versions of OS X and iOS. In the end, it’s just on, click, connect and surf.
  • Handoff
    I know when I get home after a long day at the office, the last thing I want to do is get behind the desk in my home office because I HAVE to. Having a laptop makes it easier to compute in places other than an office, but having a hot laptop on your lap for a few hours is neither good for you NOR the laptop. Thankfully, Handoff allows you to use another device.Again, when you pair an Apple iDevice and a Mac running OS X Yosemite, your Mac and iDevices will automatically pass whatever you’re working on between them. You can start working on one device – say your Mac at the office (but it could be the other way around…) – and when you’re ready to go home you save your work to iCloud. When you get home, you can pick up what you were working on at the office on your iPad, at the exact spot where you left off… the availability of the file and the spot where you left off is instantaneous (or as soon as the information get saved to iCloud)…And that’s the secret sauce here – iCloud. As long as your iDevices and Mac share the same iCloud account, the information is traded back and forth with every save. Now you can go to meetings with confidence that the latest information you put in your presentation will show up on the iPad you’re presenting from; and you don’t’ have to do anything else other than save the file. This… is TOTALLY cool; and something that is WAY overdue as a feature not only in OS X, but in Windows AND Linux. Something like this should be available on every platform and computing device; but that’s just me, and probably way too Star Trek for everyone…Currently, Handoff works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. What is even more important, is that app developers can easily build Handoff into their apps. This is a feature of the OS and not necessarily just Apple’s Core Apps.

Do you have any questions about OS X Yosemite’ integration between your Mac and an iOS 8 enabled iDevice? Let me know in the Discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to give you a hand.

Come back next time, and I’ll talk about changes to Apple’s Core Apps and I’ll wrap everything up.

Go back to First Impressions | Go to Apple Core Apps

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