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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Apple Seeds 5th Beta macOS Sierra 10.12.1

Developers and public beta testers got new bits to play with…

macOS Sierra is one of the biggest updates to Apple’s desktop operating system, likely since the implementation of OS X. Or at least, it will be once the (big) bugs are gone and the new Apple File System gets implemented.

macos sierra

On 2016-10-19, Apple seeded the fifth beta of macOS Sierra 10.12.11 to both developers and public beta testers. Developers can get it from the Apple Developer Center and both developers and public testers can get the bits through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store.

Version 10.12.1 is a bug fix release that smooths out performance hiccups and addresses other issues that have been reported since the operating systems initial release just a short time ago. The release doesn’t provide much in the “new features” department, however. Though support for Apple’s iPhone 7/ 7 Plus’ Portrait Mode, being introduced with iOS 10.1, is included in the desktop OS’ Photos app.

Other than that, I wouldn’t expect too much more.

Apple recently announced a new media event scheduled to take place on 2016-10-27 where it is expected it will introduce a number of new Macs and MacBook Pros to the market. That’s just eight (8) days away from the time of this writing. I would expect both iOS 10.1 and macOS 10.12.1 to be released to the public by that time. It makes sense to have the new OS version hit the streets the same day as the new computers that will run it. So if you’re a Mac, get ready for a new computer, or at least get ready for the upgrade dance again.

I haven’t upgraded my top of the line, 15″ Late 2013 MacBook Pro to macOS Sierra just yet. I’ve got too many mission critical apps on it that I’m afraid won’t function correctly without major upgrades from their developers. I’m also waiting for a number of the bigger issues to shake out, so I don’t have to deal with them. This is usually when the 10.X.1 release is made available, and most will agree that this is the best time to upgrade, especially if you’re on the early adopter schedule, like me. (Though, to be very honest, jumping on at the X.Y.1 release really ISN’T early adoption…)

Are you a Mac? Have you upgraded to macOS Sierra 10.12 yet? Are you running the 10.12.1 beta? What do you think of the software? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts?

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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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The Next Item Up for Bids

Eddy Cue Apple SVP is offering a one hour lunch AND a 13″ MacBook Air and it’ll likely only cost you a couple hundred grand…

1367204020_bid2

Following Tim Cook’s lead, Apple SVP Eddy Cue has decided to offer an hour long sit down with anyone as well as a 13″ MacBook Air – valued at $1199 – to the highest bidder.

This “Fortune 500 Charity Dunk Tank” is a GREAT idea. The MB Air chaser is an awesome idea, as the winner not only walks away with a dozen or so selfies with Cue, but a 13″ MacBook Air as well. I’m certain that if you bring a Sharpie, you could get Cue to autograph the case, and/ or the box, as well.

Tim Cook’s last time out brought nearly $1.0M in a direct donation to the RFL Center for Justice and Human Rights, as that was his choice for the destination of the winning bid. This time, like Tim, Eddy will host up to two guests after they have both passed a security screen. Depending on schedules, you may have to wait up to one year before you get the sit-down; and Apple doesn’t cover travel or lodging. Honestly, if you’re going to be able to afford this, travel and lodging probably aren’t high on your worry list, though.

This is the one thing that bothers me the most about something like this. There’s NO WAY the little guy has a chance in the Hot Place to win this kind of thing. It’s clear to me that the bids for this auction will soar, like Tim’s did. For example, as of this writing, bids were currently up beyond $10,500. The whole sha-bang is valued at $10k, so it’s already reached saturation. Bidding started at $1000; and has quickly climbed to the current $10,500 over the past couple of days. Bidding started on 2014-06-20. The auction closes at 2:20p EDT on 2014-07-16.

These high bids are good for the charity; but as I said, the little guy doesn’t have a chance at scoring the sit down. And while I get it – it IS for charity, after all – it would be really great if something like this could also be around for the little guy.

I know, I know… and yes, it is a bit of sour grapes on my part, I freely admit it. I need a little cheese with this whine; but it WOULD be cool to have the sit down, don’t you think? I have a ton of questions I’d like to ask, and I’m certain that with YOUR help, I could come up with one HECK of a list, especially with up to a year’s lead time. After the general, “whaddaya wanna do?” stuff ends, I’d have all kinds of questions about internal development processes, challenges, product development processes, testing and prototyping processes, NONE of which, I’m certain Cue would (be willing to) answer. Still, it would be awesome to go to the campus and have the meeting.

If you won, what would you ask Apple SVP Eddy Cue? What charity would you like to see the winning bid go to? What charity would you donate to, if you won? Whom would you bring with you; or would you go alone? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below, and let me know. If you’re gonna dream… dream big!

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OS X 10.10 Yosemite – Continuity is Cool

…but it’s not for everyone.   There are one or two key points that Apple didn’t mention.

The Apple WWDC Keynote provided a great look at Apple’s two very important, upcoming operating system releases – OS X 10.10 Yosemite on the desktop and iOS 8 on their mobile devices.   There are a number of new features that are pretty cool on each, but one feature on the desktop stood out, at least to me, and I wanted to take a few moments to touch base on it.

OS X Yosemite-578-80

Continuity.

If you’ve got a (recent/ compatible) Mac and a (recent/ compatible) iDevice, then Apple is going to give you a cool way of working where you want, when you want on any and all of their devices, regardless of platform.   However, there are a couple of gotchas that Apple really didn’t expound upon during the Keynote.

First and foremost, this is a Mac OS only feature. If you use Windows, even Windows via Boot Camp, you won’t get any kind of Continuity support at all. Continuity is a Yosemite feature, and support for it comes from the Mac OS, and not from the iDevice you’re using. There are also some Mac specific (as well as iDevice specific), hardware requirements that you’ll need to make certain you’ve got covered before the feature will work.

Continuity requires BT-LE or Bluetooth Low Energy in order to work, which is part of the Bluetooth 4 specification.   Not every Bluetooth equipped Mac that can run Yosemite or iDevice running iOS 8 will have this hardware built in; and then not every Bluetooth 4.0 equipped Mac supports BT-LE.   Generally speaking if you have a 2011 or later Mac, and an iPhone 5 or later, you have a chance of getting Continuity to work.   Specifically, Apple is supporting Continuity on the following Macs:
·    MacBook Air (mid-2011 and above)
·    MacBook Pro (mid-2012 and above)
·    Retina MacBook Pro (mid-2012 and above)
·    iMac (late 2012 and above)
·    Mac mini (mid-2011 and above)
·    Mac Pro (2013 and above)
Conversely, as I mentioned, the iDevice you want to use Continuity with will also need to support BT-LE. You’ll find BT-LE compatible iDevice hardware in the iPhone 5 and later devices. You have to have both sides of the hardware equation in order to make the feature work.

Some sites are reporting that you MIGHT be able to get Continuity to work on other Macs running Yosemite if you use a Mac compatible Bluetooth 4.0 dongle that also supports BT-LE; but this is unproven and untested as of this writing. If you’re running Yosemite Beta on an older Mac, you can try it throughout the beta period, but don’t be surprised or disappointed if it doesn’t work.   Currently, it’s recommended to wait until a few months after Yosemite is released. At that point, there may be a hack available if Yosemite doesn’t support Continuity via a dongle out of the box.

Continuity is one of the better features of the new Mac OS. It allows you to work with whatever (supported) app you want on whatever document you want, on any (supported) device. Theoretically, you can start on one device, close it down, and pick up exactly where you left off on any other supported device. The whole sync piece is handled via iCloud.   All you had to do was save the changes before you shut the first device down. It’s really that easy.

There’s a GREAT deal here to like about Yosemite – and Continuity in particular.   Unfortunately, most legacy Macs won’t be able to take advantage of these, or other hardware specific features within the as yet to be released, new OS from Apple.   You’re going to need to have all the right components in order to make it all work together, but it’s nice that anyone with the right equipment or anyone buying new equipment in the ecosystem will be able to take advantage of it all.

Are you a Mac user?   Will you be able to make Continuity work on your legacy Mac? If you’re not a Mac user, is something like Continuity enough to push you over the edge and make you buy into the Apple ecosystem if you’re Mac curious; or is something like Continuity just fluff and frosting and not something that most people are likely to use in the real world? Is the Mac ecosystem just too expensive to buy into regardless of how appealing it might be? Do you think that Apple will actually be able to make Continuity work as designed and as intended with any kind of consistency, or are features like Continuity just pedantic marketing, techno-babble that will turn into vaporware?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this.   Why don’t you join me in the discussion in the Comments section and tell me what you think of all of this.

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Apple OS X 10.9 Mavericks

The Year of the Cat is done. Surf’s up, Dude!

Mac-OS-X-10.9-Mavericks-System-Compatibility-ListIntroduction

There have been a lot of changes at Apple since Steve Jobs passed a couple years ago. While the iPhone 5/5S/5C may be the last iPhones that he actually had design influence over, there have been changes not only in the mobile space, but on the desktop as well. Apple is continuing is annual update cycle with OS X; and its anticipated they will release version 10.9 to the general public on or around 2013-10-22.

Code named Mavericks, after a favorite surfing spot in California, Apple has run out of cat names. While that may make many meme lovers a bit sad, OS X users shouldn’t be too upset. Mavericks sports a number of back-end updates that make it largely a maintenance release. However, there are a number of new, end user based features that many may find useful or more useful now that they’ve been improved.

Mavericks-03

As a long time Windows user and recent (within the last 5 years) Switcher, there are some really nice enhancements here that should make most Mac users want to upgrade. Let’s take a quick look at all of them and see where the ups and downs really are.

New Features

Maps

After starting Mavericks for the first time, this is the first change that I noticed to the OS, as the program icon for Maps is in the dock by default. It was new, and very obvious to what it was.

I’ve been writing about Apple Maps for quite some time. In fact, GPS apps are a bit of a specialty of mine. I love using them, partially because I’m so directionally challenged, its laughable.

There’s been a lot of “room for growth” in Apple Maps since its introduction. Apple’s done a decent job of fixing some of its bigger problems and in keeping it OUT of the lime light. However, with the introduction of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple Maps has matured to a point where Apple is introducing the app to the desktop as a direct competitor to Google Maps’ desktop browser interface.

Maps-03

Introduced as an app rather than a website or web service, Apple Maps is an Apple exclusive tool. With your Thunderbolt, Retina or HD capable Mac display, the app can display images in 100% HD clarity. Because it makes use of your Mac’s graphics adapter, zooming is smooth and responsive and text and details are HD crisp. Maps’ hybrid and satellite displays via Flyover are photo perfect; and its 3D capabilities give you the feeling as though you’re seeing your chosen location first hand.

Apple Maps’ navigation is greatly improved; and the best part about Maps on your Mac is that you can now plan out your trip – including all of your side trips – on your desktop and then send all of your destinations directly to your cellular capable iDevice where Maps will provide turn-by-turn, voice guided navigation.

This is a HUGE improvement in Mavericks and iOS 7, as it makes the app that much more credible and reliable. What Apple needs to do now, is insure that that message is successfully delivered and appropriately socialized to current and potential users.

Next Page >

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Apple Reveals 2013-10-22 as iPad 5 Day

apppppleApple will announce a bevy of new iPad and MacBook hardware in time for the 2013 Holiday Buying Season
Apple has recently announced that 2013-10-22 is the day they will unveil a boat load of new hardware for both their iPad and MacBook lines. For those keeping score, that’s twice in two months that Apple will be announcing new products, which is unusual for the organization that prides itself on secrecy and exclusivity. I mean… you don’t usually get this much Apple goodness shoved together. They usually take a while between announcements to allow us to lather ourselves up into a rumor frenzy.

While details of the event remain on the most part under wraps, the date of the event was uncovered more than a week ago.

ipad-mini-various-angles

Details on the specifics of the event are still a bit sketchy. However, it is anticipated that the iPad 5, iPad mini 2 and updates to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines of Apple’s laptops will be announced. Apple should also announce the general availability of OS X 10.9 Mavericks as well. The event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and will start at 10 a.m. PT.

I’m still working on my Mavericks review, and I will have it completed before Apple’s alleged announcement on 2013-10-22. Please watch for it on Soft32 as there’s some really GREAT stuff built into the latest version of Apple’s desktop OS.

Additional rumor fodder has the iPad 5 sporting a 64bit processor. This could put additional pressure on the PC market as virtualization apps allow lean-back devices, like the iPad, to make better use of both network and stationary PC resources. It’s going to be a lot easier to connect your iPad to your work network and make use of the office PC through your iPad. With the right kind of keyboard and cover, your iPad 5 is going to give serious competition to ultrabooks and other tablet like PC’s like Microsoft Surface/Pro and Surface/ Pro 2.

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