OWC Announces Upgrades for 2016 MacBook Pros

OWC has found a way around the Apple upgrade problem with the 2016 MacBook Pros…

I’ve always been a huge fan of OWC. In many ways, I think they’re one of the best aftermarket Apple accessory producers in the world. They have hard/ SSD drive, memory and accessory upgrades for just about every Mac on the market, as well as support for models going back many years. If you have a Mac – any Mac – you need to at least check out their website to see what add ons and upgrades might be available for your hardware. It may also be that they’re local to suburban Chicago, too… but I digress.

With the release of the 2016 MacBook Pro’s, many in the tech industry, and especially in the tech journalism sector – myself included – were very disappointed with Apple’s latest hardware release. In fact, many – again, myself included – feel that Apple is truly ignoring their “professional users” and instead concentrating on a larger, more consumer oriented audience. To boot, they’ve been rather quiet about this. Instead, the only thing anyone is hearing on the lack of ports on the 2016 MacBook Pro (both with and without TouchBar) is the echo of the WWDC keynote – “we think you’re going to love it…” (or some such nonsense).

Clearly, not everyone does.

In an interesting CES development, OWC (Other World Computing) has released an add on for the 2016 Mac Book Pro called the OWC DEC that allows not only for internal storage upgrades, but includes a number of missing legacy ports.

When attached, the DEC sits completely flush with the bottom of the 2016 MacBook Pro, and while it does add to the thickness of the device, OWC says that it keeps the overall height of the device as the 2012 MacBook Pro. Exactly HOW it connects to the MacBook Pro hasn’t exactly been disclosed yet. The press pictures that OWC has provided show all four native USB-C ports unused (see above). However, when released in the Spring of 2017, the DEC will support the following, according to OWC:

  • Up to 4TB of additional Flash/SSD storage (for a maximum of 6 TB, including the factory installed 2GB SSD that Apple offers)
  • SD Card Slot/Multi-Media card slot
  • USB 3 Type A Ports for standard USB cabled devices
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • And other features to be announced at a later date

The key here is that last bullet – “other features to be announced at a later date.” The big things missing in the above list are:

  • A MagSafe Connector (including a USB-C to MagSafe Adaptor, yet to be developed or released)
  • An HDMI port
  • A Mini DisplayPort port
  • Additional Thunderbolt 2-3 ports (not using the Type C connector)
  • A rechargeable battery, for extended battery life

What additional features are included in the final, shipping product have yet to be determined or announced. The prototype is on display at the OWC booth at CES during the week of 2017-01-03.

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WWDC 2016 Part 2 – Cool New iOS 10 Features

iOS users rejoice! The New Hotness is on its way!

Introduction
wwdc2016iOS 10 is due to be released later this fall with the introduction of the next iPhone, and it’s got some really cool, new features. While I’m not going to go through the entire new feature set, or really into a lot of detail about some of the new stuff that I AM going to touch on, there’s some stuff that I’m certain that everyone will really like to hear about.

Believe it or not, iOS and its UI/ UX has been largely stagnant since the introduction of iOS 7. The interface really hasn’t changed in over three years (since 2013 or so) as of this writing. As such, iOS 10 is offering some really cool enhancements that should make quite an impact to the usability of iPhone. Quite honestly, some of these UI/ UX enhancements should have been implemented a while ago. That is, they’re a long time coming and may be considered overdue by some.

So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at some of the cooler features that will be coming to iOS 10!

Notifications, Control Center and Lock Screen
A lot of work has been done to enhance the way these components work in iOS 10. Control Center has been redesigned to be a more useful and functional set of panels of buttons and tools. You can swipe across Control Center panes to get to needed items, including a useful Media Center view. Support for 3D Touch has also been built into Control Center, but I wasn’t able to find a great deal of information on how that might actually work as of this writing.

Calendar
Your calendar just got a whole lot smarter. Now, iOS will suggest calendar event meeting time and places based on iMessage thread content. Calendar will also suggest times to leave and will over locations suggestions, too. Calendar can do the same with email content, and overall, its ability to handle events based on email content has greatly improved.

Camera RAW
I’ve been waiting on this one for as long as the iPhone has had a “decent” camera. As a serious, amateur photographer, I prefer working with RAW files rather than JPGs or TIFFs. You get better retouching results when you work with data direct from you camera that isn’t compressed. Well, now, iOS 10 allows you to work with camera RAW images, though, at least for now (meaning until Apple and other third party iOS developers), you’ll need to use third party (and likely third party desktop) apps to edit these images.

Music Storage Optimization
If you keep a lot of music on your device – like I do – you’ll be pleased to know that iOS 10 will now automatically remove tracks from your iPhone that you don’t listen to very often in order to make more internal storage available. Storage Optimization will allow you to set a threshold of between 4GB to 32GB of space, keeping all other on board storage for other content.

This Little Light of Mine…
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t used their smartphone’s flash as a flash light. It’s pretty much universal. The iPhone and its users are no different. I use my flash as a flash light at least 2 – 3 times a week.

In iOS 10, if you have an iPhone 6s or later, your 3D Touch capable iPhone will allow you to set the intensity of your flashlight via pressure sensitive touch of the screen. The harder you push, the brighter the light.

iCloud Drive Desktop, Documents
When you pair your iOS 10 based iDevice with a machos Sierra powered Mac, you’ll be able to access the files and objects (meaning documents and folders) stored on your Mac’s desktop through iCloud Drive. Most of your really important stuff is likely sitting on your desktop. Now, you can get to all of that important stuff without creating duplicates or elaborate copy jobs to give you access to the stuff you need the most.

Dude..?!? Where’s my car?
There are some third party apps that keep track of your vehicle for you after you park it; but (unless I’m wrong here…and if I am, please ping me in the Discussion area, below and let me know…) I don’t think Google Maps or any of the other major GPS apps, like HERE Maps, Navigo or Navmii, mark the “final” resting place of your car after a navigation session.

In iOS 10, Apple maps will automatically remember where you parked your car. When it’s time to truck it on back home, Maps will show you where you parked and will lead you back there, if necessary.

Accessibility Enhancements and Apple Watch
I think this is one of the coolest things that is going to happen with iPhone and Apple Watch. Every hour – at the 50 minute mark of the hour – Apple Watch tells you it’s time to stand. This feature is on by default. However, if you can’t stand, this is a bit of a problem. Now, if you’re a wheel chair user, the iOS Activity App will ping you that it’s time to motor on down the hallway instead of standing and walking around. This is a huge development in accessibility for individuals who can’t stand and took a great deal of research on Apple’s part to pull together. It also shows that Apple really cares for and appreciates ALL of its users

Conclusion
Prognosticating what Apple is going to do for “this year’s” iPhone is a very difficult. It’s going to do “this.” It’s going to do “that.” It’s going to have this or that feature set and/ or hardware changes. All of the rumors are usually nothing more than that… Rumors. Figuring out what Apple is going to do is usually a waste of time. I won’t even write that article anymore. I’ve never been right.

However, when it comes to analysis of the first beta of Apple’s latest iOS beta, yeah… that pretty much curls my toes.

There’s some pretty cool stuff coming in iOS 10. When you pair it with the right hardware combinations (I haven’t seen or heard anything yet that will SPECIFICALLY require a new hardware feature; but its early yet…), iOS 10 is rounding out to be a really cool mobile OS.

I’ll have more on it as the beta cycle matures. Right now, it’s a little too raw for me to install on my iPhone 6; but I should have a full analysis/ review on it before it hits with what should be the iPhone 7.

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WWDC 2016 Part 1 – macOS Sierra

A lot came out of the WWDC Keynote…

Apple WWDC16

There was a great deal of information that came out of Apple’s software only keynote address to press and WWDC 2016 developer attendees.  In this article, I’m going to concentrate on macOS Sierra.

macOS Sierra concentrates on a few different things. The ones that really caught my eye include Continuity, iCloud and Mac Fundamentals.

Continuity blends the lines between your devices. Your entire computing experience with you logging into and unlocking your computer. macOS Sierra now allows you to auto unlock your Mac by simply opening up your Mac while wearing your Apple Watch.  Apple Watch users can simply open the lid of their Mac laptop while wearing their Watch, and the Mac auto unlocks. Proximity and time of flight networking technology insures that it really is YOU opening up your Mac laptop.

Apple is also implementing a universal clipboard that works between your Mac, and all of your iDevices.  When you find something on your phone that you might want to use on your Mac, you don’t have to email or text it to yourself.  Now, the data is in your clipboard, and all you have to do is paste it.  One of the things missing here – at least as of this writing because I haven’t had time to play with Sierra yet – is clipboard history: the ability to remember a set, number of items copied to your clipboard.  Sierra may support this, it may not.

iCloud Drive makes documents available across all of your connected Apple devices whether they be Macs or iDevices, it doesn’t matter.  With Sierra and iOS 10, you get not only all of your documents, but your desktop and its contents available too.

iCloud Drive also now includes a feature called Optimized Storage.  Modern computers – laptops especially – come with SSD’s.  Unfortunately, most of those SSD’s are smaller than the spinning disk hard drives that everyone is used to.  Macs come with 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD’s; and even with half a terabyte, your drive can fill up quickly. iCloud Drive will now intelligently make room for new files on your Mac by moving older files from your Mac to the cloud, allowing you to access them there, instead.  iCloud Drive now only REALLY keeps the data that you’re working on, locally on your Mac.

Apple Pay now works on the web through Continuity.  When you’re buying something online on your Mac, you can use your iPhone to pay for it through Apple Pay via Continuity.  All you need is your iPhone handy, and you should be good to go.

For Mac Fundamentals, Apple has taken a logical, straight forward approach.  For example, tabbed windows now appear on every app, Apple created and included with Sierra or third party app.  This change comes at the OS level and no additional third party developer support is needed.

Picture in Picture (PiP) support is now also included at the OS level.  That means you can be writing a really great Mac article (like this one…) while also watching a video in a POP window that will travel with you from Space to Space and will work with full screen apps as well.

Siri is also included as part of Mac Fundamentals. Siri has her usual sass, but includes the ability to ask the system complex queries that you can pin to Notification Center. From there you can even drag and drop them into a document.  The seamless integration of it with other new and existing Apple features make the complete package very compelling, if not ungodly expensive…  However, if you ARE all Apple all the time, AND you have a compatible Mac, then you’re really going to love what you can do with all of your Apple gear.

You can see demos on all of this (as well as the rest of the Apple WWDC Keynote) here.

Speaking of compatible Mac hardware, Apple has also released the Mac hardware compatibility list for macOS Sierra.  Those computers include the following:

2009 and later

  • MacBook
  • iMac

2010 and later

  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro
  • Mac mini
  • Mac Pro

While this list seems pretty decent, there are some pretty obvious computers missing from this list.  In the pre-2010 list, it seems that only MacBooks and iMacs get Sierra love.  Missing from that list are ANY kind of MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, Mac minis and Mac Pros.

For me, this means that my wife will be eligible for the upgrade, but my son-in-law with his Late 2008 Aluminum Unibody MacBook, will be left out in the cold. All of the other Macs in the house – my daughter’s Late 2015 13″ MacBook Pro, my Late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro and Mid 2012 13″ MacBook Air – will all get updates.

As of this writing, I’m installing macOS Sierra Developer Beta 1 on the MBA.  I’ll do my best to put it through its paces and then have some kind of write up in the coming weeks.

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