Microsoft Releases the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S

You can file this under the WTF of the Day category…

You can definitely file this one under the WTF category. Sometimes you really have to wonder what the heck a company like Microsoft is doing. I mean, I am totally out in deep, roving, left, right field with this one, knee deep in Lake Winnapasocki… if that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. You’re in good company. Like the last part of that statement, the whole decision by Microsoft to release the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S doesn’t make a lot of sense either.

Let me break this down for you. It’s really a very simple thing, despite what you might think.

Windows 10 S
Windows 10 S is Windows 10. It runs on an Intel Core i processor and does everything that Windows 10 Home can do (because it mostly is Windows 10 Home…). The big difference here is that Windows 10 S only runs apps out of the Windows Store. Period.

According to Microsoft, the S in Windows 10 S doesn’t stand for Store. It stands for “security, simplicity and superior performance.” Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group said that the “S” stands for Soul, or the Soul of Microsoft’s future – a secure Windows platform that will provide users with malware free apps from them as well as third parties at a variety of price points.

In short, Windows 10 S runs apps from the Windows Store. It will also run Win32 apps that are wrapped using Microsoft’s Desktop Bridge, codenamed “Centennial.”

In short, this is Windows RT for Intel Core i processors.

While Microsoft thinks that restricting Windows 10 S to running only apps that come from the Windows Store, because doing so will provide a more reliable, secure and manageable computing experience, there are a couple of key flaws to this:

  1. There Aren’t Enough Apps in the Windows Store
    This has been an issue for Microsoft since the introduction of the Windows Store in October of 2012. As of November of 2014, there were over 500,000 apps in the Store. By September of 2015, that number had increased to approximately 670,000. As of March 2016, that number should have come close to 850,000. By the time of this Writing (May of 2017) that number should be somewhere around 925,000.In contrast, the Mac App Store should have somewhere around 2,2000,000 (two million, two hundred thousand) or approximately 58% more than the Windows Store. You can find this interesting bit of information here.
  2. There are a Number of Different ways to Obtain Windows Software
    Microsoft is trying to change over 35 years of a proven software publishing business model encouraged and supported by the ASP (the Association of Shareware) and software developers all over the world. THAT is going to be an uphill battle. Most software developers and publishers have resisted the Windows Store because, well… they don’t HAVE to use it. They don’t have to subject themselves to the restrictions that Microsoft places on software that’s sold and delivered through it. They have a number of different alternatives and; it’s clear since the introduction of the Windows Store with the Release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, they’d rather NOT subject themselves to those restrictions.
  3. Windows RT was Discontinued
    Microsoft tried this method of software delivery with Windows RT, a version of Windows that ran on ARM. Windows RT failed miserably and was discontinued. Microsoft was really the ONLY software publisher or vendor of note to provide software through the Store under Windows RT; and at the time, that did NOT include MS Office. What makes Microsoft think the concept of restricting users to running software from the Windows Store on an Intel Core i processor is any better of an idea?

Now let us consider the hardware that was intended to run this “new” operating system – the Surface Laptop.

Surface Laptop
The Surface Laptop is light and thin. It has a long lasting, 14.5 hour battery and uses most of the same accessories as its other Surface family PC’s – including the Surface Pen, Surface Dock, and Surface Dial. It also has a keyboard, covered of cloth or fabric, if you will, like other keyboards from Apple.

The base model comes in four different colors – Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Graphite Gold and Platinum. Its display is a 13.5 inch PixelSense screen made of Gorilla Glass. It has a touch display that has a 2259×1504 resolution, insuring that long exposure to it won’t strain your eyes. Its touch pad supports multi-touch. The keyboard has 1.5mm of travel, and is supposed to be more responsive and more comfortable than the keyboard on Microsoft’s Surface Book, though I have yet to actually put my hands on the device.

The device’s feature set is rounded out with a mini DisplayPort, a USB 3.0 port, a Surface Connect jack for charging and Surface Dock connection, as well as 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0. The device does not have a USB-C port or Thunderbolt 3 port.

The base configuration of the device which includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD starts at $999. The high end Surface Laptop comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD and is priced at $2199. High end Surface Laptops only come in Platinum. If you wish to have a gold, cobalt or burgundy colored SL, then you’re going to be limited to a Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

Microsoft is targeting the Surface Laptop at the education market and most specifically, they are marketing the product as a Chromebook competitor.

However, they aren’t going to do that well pricing the device at its current price points. To be very honest, the Surface Laptop is a premium priced product. Chromebooks, most of which are priced between $199 and $399, are minimalist based PCs. They have only just enough processor, RAM and storage needed to push and store a few documents and run the web apps needed to edit them. That’s the point of a Chromebook. They run web apps or those apps that are available in the Chrome Store and that’s all. They don’t run any other kind of app and aren’t meant to.

With Windows 10 S, Microsoft is trying to do the same thing with the Surface Laptop. However, it’s difficult to imagine that Microsoft would price that solution starting at $1000 USD. At that price, education accounts likely won’t touch them, even at a bulk discount.

There’s a great deal here to be concerned about.

The whole model is a bit problematic. Microsoft is targeting the education market where Chromebooks are used by students and teachers, along with G-Suite (formerly Google Docs), to get school work done. G-Suite is free for individuals, and Chromebooks are dirt cheap. The way that the Surface Laptop is priced, it’s really priced more in line with Apple’s MacBook or MacBook Air – a premium product.

The problem here is that Apple’s products are premium products with premium prices in a business model. Most of their apps are found in the Mac App Store; but Apple also gives you a way to side load the apps via the traditional method… the same method that Microsoft is now adopting with Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop.

Actually there are a number of problems here:

  1. The device starts at $1000 when their direct competition is priced 80% less to start.
  2. Apple’s software delivery model – the Mac App Store – contains roughly 60% more titles than the Windows Store, and it’s much more successful. Its accepted and it works. Microsoft’s isn’t proven and isn’t well populated
  3. Microsoft’s target audience, educators and students likely don’t have the means to get into a Surface Laptop and won’t choose one over even a high end Chrome book, simply based on price.
  4. Part of what makes the Surface Laptop desirable are the four cool colors that the device comes in. Unfortunately, they’re only available in the i5, 8GB, 256GB model. All other models only come in Platinum.

Everything that I’ve seen and read so far about Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop doesn’t lend a lot to its success. I really don’t think either of them are going to do well. I think the Surface Laptop won’t sell as well as either Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book. While users can upgrade Windows 10 S to Windows Pro for $50, according to Microsoft, I don’t think many users are going to seek Windows 10 S out. The last thing I’m going to want to do is pay an additional $50 to upgrade the “cloud” version of Windows.

I actually think that the whole Windows 10 S and Surface Laptop effort are doomed from the start.

What do you think? Is the Surface Laptop something you’re interested in? Will you pay $1000 or more for it? Do you think that Windows 10 S and the Windows Store are something that is going to work out? Let me know what you think in the Discussion area below.

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Thoughts on the New MacBook Pro’s with Touch Bar

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

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

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

That’s not an answer… but I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ports (and other Hardware Changes)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gee… thanks a lot Apple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To me, it’s irrelevant.

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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The iPad Finally Goes to Work

It finally seems like the iPad can pay the rent…

I’ve been trying to bring my iPad to the office since its initial release in 2010. I’ve tried to write an “iPad at Work” series with nearly ever iteration of iPad hardware, but even with the iPad Air 2, the digitizer type hasn’t changed at all. …And that’s the big problem.

iPad

The iPad has a huge issue with palm rest technology. While you can draw or even write on an iPad screen, the digitizer can’t ignore your palm as it rests on the screen. It thinks that your palm and whatever writing instrument you’re using – be that your finger or some kind of capacitive stylus – are part of a multi-touch gesture. As such, you really can’t use the iPad to take hand written notes in meetings without hovering your hand over the screen, and that gets tired and old quickly.

I know. I’ve tried many, many times over the past few years with OneNote and Evernote, to name just a couple of note taking apps. Neither work well with handwritten notes on an iPad. And it’s a real shame and a huge pain. The iPad is popular, easy to work with and use, and with the right keyboard – now with the touch version of Microsoft Office for iOS, the iPad is a competent productivity tool… but no meeting notes, unless they’re typed, that is…

At least, that’s the way things USED to be with the iPad.

Apple introduced the iPad Pro on 2015-09-09 and that whole landscape has changed… potentially. I say potentially due to two major reasons:

  1. I’ve not used the iPad Pro and haven’t seen it, and I don’t know how well its palm rest technology works
  2. Little is known on how well it can be used as a writing instrument. I have no idea how bad the drawing/ writing latency is on this thing.

Drawing or writing latency is basically the amount of lag experienced on the device when you draw or write on its screen. You’ve passed over a certain area with the pen, and the ink doesn’t show up on the area you’ve drawn or written on for “X” amount of time after the pen has moved on. That’s latency.

This can be a huge issue if you’re trying to take notes in a meeting or in class, and you’re trying to keep up with the person who’s talking or teaching. If they’re moving quickly and your device (in this case the iPad Pro) can’t keep up, it can be a problem.

The palm rest tech seems to be acceptable on all of the demo video that has been played. There are a number of demos and videos out that show people drawing with the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, and they have their hand resting on the device’s screen.

Just an FYI – the new 13″ iPad Pro starts at $799 (32GB model). With the Apple Pencil ($99) and the Smart Keyboard ($169), the whole thing is $1057. With 8.25% tax, the grand total is $1155.28. The high end iPad Pro is $1079 (with the same accessories and after tax, its $1458.13).

To put that in perspective,

  1. The entry level MacBook is $1299
  2. The entry level 13″ MacBook Air is $999
  3. The high end 13″ MacBook Air is $1199
  4. The entry level 13″ MacBook Pro is $1299
  5. The entry level 15″MacBook Pro is $1999
  6. The entry level 21.5″ iMac is $1099
  7. The entry level 27″ iMac is $1799

The new iPad Pro is as expensive or more expensive than the 13″ MacBook Air, the new MacBook, the entry level MacBook Pro and the entry Level 21.5″ iMac. For the price of the high end iPad Pro (after Pencil, keyboard and taxes), you’re just $50 bucks shy of the price of the mid-range 13″ MacBook Pro (before taxes).

The use case for the iPad Pro is going to be very similar to that of the Surface Pro 3 – a business user (be they corporate, SOHO/ SMB, or creative) who needs basic productivity (MS Office for iOS), the ability to take hand written or typed notes in a meeting, or perhaps needs to do some quick brain storming and quickly sketches something out (on what in the past, would have ended up being a paper bar napkin) to make a point or capture an idea.

Consumer based use cases for the iPad Pro are few and far between. However, many consumers may fall into this particular use case, if the iPad is their primary computing device AND they’re looking to buy a new computer. The iPad Pro with its new keyboard can function as a notebook computer – the A9X processor is desktop class in its performance – with a minimal footprint. The only issue that many users may have with it is that the device – like the Surface Pro series – isn’t very lapable. The design of the keyboard may not be sturdy enough to type on or support itself without some sort of firm, flat surface under it. A lap, just may not cut it, and that may change the way some people want or need to interact with the device… at least until Apple comes out with a different keyboard or allows 3rd parties to market keyboards for the iPad Pro.

Is the iPad Pro in your future, or is it too expensive? Does its new features and desktop class hardware mean that an iPad will finally find its way into your daily work process? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on it?

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The Biggest Problem(s) with the MacBook 2015

It’s not all sunshine and daisies with the new MacBook. There are a couple issues that may cause it some big problems…

MacBook

I’ve been into mobile computing since 1992. I’ve had DOS/Windows based laptops in my backpack since DOS 3.x, and to be quite honest, I *DO* know what I’m talking about when it comes to portability and power while on the road.

And I do admit it… I’m a bit of a road warrior and a power user. I know that I really want more of the desktop replacement kind of notebook or mobile workstation. I want to do what I want to do – make use of my mobile darkroom, for example – while I’m out on a shoot, or be able to edit app screen shots or product photos I’ve snapped without having to compromise on capabilities or performance.  Yes… If you could put the horse power of a Mac Pro into a thin retina display laptop, I’d likely find some way to justify the purchase (much to my checking account’s dismay…)

So, when Apple announced the new MacBook 2015, and I saw it in that cool gold tone, aluminum alloy… I was like, “Oh yes, baby…!  Come to papa!”

However, after further consideration and a bit of research on what the newest member of the Mac notebook family is, can, and cannot do, I think I’m going to pass; and the reasoning behind it (aside from what you can see above), may not be widely known yet. So… here’s why…

Processing Power

The new MacBook 2015 comes with the new Intel Core M processor. Think “M” for mobility, here. The Core M processor is a power-sipping mobile processor that is meant for mobile applications like the new MacBook 2015. It can work with just 5W of power, and doesn’t need a cooling fan (further enhancing battery life) as well as contributing to the new MacBook’s svelte form factor.

However, because it doesn’t consume a lot of battery power, and because it doesn’t need a fan to cool it, it isn’t really a high-end work horse of a processor.  As such, don’t expect to run apps like Aperture, Final Cut Pro or PhotoShopCC on this thing and have it work the way any of your other, more well-endowed Mac do. It’s just not built that way.  Core i5 and Core i7 processors have a HECK of a lot more punch, though , they’re not as gracious with your battery life.

The MacBook 2015 is intended for web surfing, email, and moderate productivity apps (Word, Outlook for example should work well. Apps like Excel and PowerPoint may tax the device a bit, depending on the numbers you’re crunching or the presentation your pushing.). While the device has a premium price (it starts at $1299), it clearly does not have premium specs

Upgradability

Nope.  Don’t even go there…

The trend since the introduction of the Retina MacBook Pro back in Early 2012 has been static components, or providing a computing product without any end user serviceable parts. Popular items like RAM and hard drives/ SSD’s are now configurable at time of purchase and…that’s it.  You can’t change or swap them out at all; and if you do – as in the case, say of the 2012 to 2014 MacBook Air’s – you totally void your warranty.  The MacBook 2015 is configured THAT way – totally non-user serviceable.

It’s no surprise really.  If you remember the interior shots from the Keynote, the interior of the device is ALL battery.  If the SSD, RAM or logic board (which is smaller than a 3″x5″ card…) fail, the only thing that Apple is going to do for you, is to likely replace the entire logic board.

So the best thing that I can tell you here, is to buy as much as you can afford; knowing that the device isn’t meant for digital darkroom or macro or transaction intensive spreadsheets and the like. If you don’t the MacBook 2015 is likely going to be a huge disappointment for you.

Web Cam

At 480p, the web cam on the MacBook 2015 is pathetic. Its SD resolution is, at best, yet another compromise in what is clearly meant to be a premium product.  Any modern smartphone, including the iPhone 5 or later, has a better front-facing FaceTime camera than this one.  If my smartphone has a better web cam, and costs half as much as this notebook, why do have to settle for this woefully pathetic excuse for a FaceTime camera in what is clearly a modern, advanced, technology filled device?

This clearly makes little to no sense at all.  Apple needs to correct this in the next iteration of this device, without raising its price even a penny.

Connectivity and Expandability

Notice… I did not say “upgradability.” Expandability is not upgradability.  The device itself is NOT upgradable.

Wireless connectivity is handled via 802.11AC and Bluetooth 4.0 radios on the postage stamp sized logic board.  That’s not where I’m concerned. Those features come pretty much on any and every notebook on the market today.  What I’m really speaking to here… is the lone USB-C port on the device.  Aside from a headphone jack, it’s the only hardware port on the MacBook 2015.  Let me say that again…

The lone USB-C port is the only port on the machine.

This means that you’re going to need to carry

  • A power brick
  • Some kind of USB-C docking station or hub, or
  • Dongles for everything you want to connect to

Dongles…!  Dongles everywhere! Dongles in your bag. Dongles at your desk. Dongles hanging off your nice, elegant, expensive, ultra-thin notebook.

I’ve heard many say that Apple’s embrace of USB-C is the start of the world without wires.

I disagree. That started in 2008 with the release of the iPhone 3G, at least from Apple’s perspective.

The exclusion of every other port or connector on the MacBook 2015 EXCEPT USB-C is Apple’s way of telling you that you’re likely not going to use a wired LAN line, won’t cable your iPhone to your Mac, won’t use a USB keyboard (wireless, yes… USB, no), and are likely NOT going to hook the Mac to an external monitor.  Apple is pushing portability and lapability with the MacBook 2015.

HOWEVER… if you want to use a wired LAN line, you’re going to need a USB-C to gigabit Ethernet dongle.  If you want to do that while you’re charging your MacBook, you may have a problem, unless Apple puts a USB-C female port in their charger, or gives you a way to connect both to the one port at the same time via a hub or some sort of portable docking station.

If you want to put an SD card reader on the MacBook 2015, you’re going to need to use a USB-C dongle.   If you want to connect to an external display, or to an external hard drive, or to any other external device or resource, you’re going to need to use a USB-C dongle; and again, if you want to do that while you’re charging your MacBook, you may have a problem, unless Apple puts a USB-C port in their charger, or they or a third party give you a way to connect both to the one port at the same time via a hub or some sort of portable docking station.

Apple’s going to push the wireless connectivity, but you have to wonder how that’s going to work, especially with wired LAN, external hard drive (for Time Machine, at least…) and external monitor connections.  It may simply NOT be possible… I don’t know, and very few will, until 3rd party accessory providers introduce their dongles and connectivity solutions for the MacBook 2015.

I have serious questions about use cases for this particular MacBook. While I know this device really is more of a luxury or casual use device, you have to think that users at some point are going to want to use Time Machine to back up their device, or use an external monitor and keyboard. Without a Thunderbolt Port, how does (and do they really..?) Apple envision users connecting this device to an external display?  They may not see or want that happening at all; though I have to believe that Apple wouldn’t actively prevent users of this premium ultrabook from connecting to their premium external display.  That just doesn’t make sense…unless they plan to redesign it to also include a USB-C connector that also provides power.

And cost..!

Let’s not forget about cost..!  The amount of dongles you’re likely to need isn’t going to be an economic or frugal endeavor, either.  A USB-C to USB adapter costs about $20 bucks. However, a USB-C to digital AV, multi-port adapter is $80 bucks, and has an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port and a USB-C port (for either additional expansion or most likely…power. And while USB-C supports USB 3.1 with a bandwidth of 10Gbps (on line with Thunderbolt 1) and should be able to handle multiple devices at once, including video up to 1080p, you’re going to have to daisy chain everything off the one dongle; and that’s going to get ugly (and you should get prepared for messages from your iPhone that the accessory you have it connected to may not be supported…).

This particular device screams, “give me a docking station or give me death.” Whether that docking station is simply a build out or expansion of Apple’s $80 multiport adapter or something else from a third party, like Henge Docks, remains to be seen.

Is the new MacBook for you? Is it something you want to add to your computing toolkit? Is it the beginning of the future of (Mac and Apple) computing? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and give me your thoughts?

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Apple Event Recap

The day after the Apple Spring Forward event, what do we really know?

apple

A lot happened at yesterday’s Apple event.  We got some updates on AppleTV, a new MacBook that’s thinner than a MacBook Air, and a ton of news about the Apple Watch.  Here’s a quick rundown of what’s known, now that the cat is out of the bag.

AppleTV

It’s gotten a $30USD price drop.  I’m buying at least two, I think now, for the house.  Now that they’re just $70 bucks, life can be totally cool on your TV for 30% less.  However, this is still the 3rd generation device.ookX new MacBook Air

The Apple Event didn’t mention anything about a 4th generation with any new functionality or hardware. While the device did have a price drop, exclusive HBO content, and a new software release that enabled 1080p playback, its highly anticipated next generation update is still MIA. The AppleTV has moved away from its hobby status and is now as much of a “real” product as any of Apple’s other mainstream accessories.  There’re also rumors of Apple trying to come up with a service to compete against Netflix and Hulu.  Now whether that pans out or truly ends up being a rumor remains to be seen.  In the meantime though… AppleTV’s for everyone!

To pair with your new AppleTV, Apple is partnering with HBO to bring us HBO Now.  This new streaming service will bring exclusive content to any Apple or iDevice for $15USD per month.  All you need is a broadband connection. Now, the cheaper AppleTV makes perfect sense. It also competitively prices it with other streaming boxes.

MacBook

Everyone thought the 12″ Apple product was going to be an iPad.  Dubbed iPad Pro, the device was thought to be something that would compete directly with Surface Pro 3.  The end result wasn’t quite what everyone thought it would be.

Apple has revived its MacBook line with the MacBook 2015 – a Mac that is thinner and more powerful than the MacBook Air. The device is 13.1mm thin, weighs just 2 pounds and has a 12″ retina display.  Most interestingly, has better battery life than the MacBook Air.  In fact, the MacBook 2015 is nearly ALL battery.

During the reveal of the device, Apple displayed a logic board that is smaller than a 3″x5″ card.  It contains not only the CPU, but the RAM and SSD as well.  (None of these components are likely to be third party upgradable in even the REMOTEST fashion, so you REALLY need to make certain you get all that you need or think you will need when you buy the device You won’t be able to add to it later…) The only other electronics in the device (excluding the redesigned keyboard and retina display) is the new Force-Touch, touch pad.

The new Apple MacBook 2015 comes in Gold tone, Silver and Space Gray and available at $1299 and $1599 configurations (the latter having a faster processor, more RAM and a larger SSD).  Expect the MacBook 2015 to hit your Apple Online and brick and mortar Store sometime in April.

MAC

ResearchKit

Apple’s entry into the quantitative-self market has spawned some new and creative thinking within their ranks.  How one can monitor one’s vitals, what can be monitored, and then – most importantly – how can the value of that data be maximized, is where Apple has obviously been spending a lot of time.

Apple revealed at its Spring Forward event that it’s been working with a number of different institutions on creating an opened-source framework specifically for medical research.  In conjunction with their institutional partners, Apple has release five different apps with ResearchKit, and more apps are on the way.

  • MyHeart Counts – Stanford University

This app is a personalized tool to help you measure daily activity, fitness and cardiovascular risk. It can help you understand your specific heart health or heart health risk by combining information from active participants around the world.

Specifically, it measures activity via your iPhone and Apple Watch – or any wearable device that’s linked to Apple Health.  The app can use existing medical data for blood pressure and cholesterol levels to help assess your cardiovascular health and risk for heart attack or stroke.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

  • Share the Journey – Sage Bionetworks

This app enables a medical research study trying to understand a patient’s symptoms after breast cancer treatment, why symptoms vary over time, and what can be done to improve and manage them.

Via questionnaires and phone sensor data, post treatment, persistent symptoms are tracked and reported back to the research team, including fatigue, mood and cognitive changes, sleep disturbances, and changes in exercise. You can track these and more. Both cancer patients and women without a diagnosis are encouraged to participate in the study to help see both sides of the breast cancer equation.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

  • Parkinson mPower – Sage Bionetworks

mPower is a personalized tool to help patients measure the effects and progress of the disease.

Managing daily changes in Parkinson’s is difficult, and those symptoms are often not tracked. mPower allows Parkinson’s sufferers to track tremor and vocal changes at their leisure.  Patients can also assess cognitive functionality and walking gait and report their statistics back to an anonymous, centralized server.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

  • Asthma Health – Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The app reminds patients to take their meds, helps them track their condition 24×7, review condition trends and provides feedback on those trends.  The app specifically allows you to track – daytime and nighttime asthma symptoms and how they affect your daily routine, daily use of your rescue and controller inhalers, triggers, peak flow, ER visits, medical visits, changes to medication, etc.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

  • Glucosuccess – Massachusetts General Hospital

The app helps patients with Type 2 Diabetes track their health behaviors. You can track your physical activity, diet, and the taking of your medications.  The data that you collect will be shared through the app as part of the research project, but will be anonymous.

The app also provides insights into how your health behaviors relate to blood-glucose values.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

Research kit will be available in April of 2015, but the apps listed above are available now.

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