Category Archives: Apple

Braille Manuals Now Available for Many Apple Products



Apple LogoApple popularized the “it just works” slogan many years ago, when it was promoting its Macintosh computer line as the easy-to-use solution compared to Windows PCs. Apple has internalized the “it just works” concept to the point where its products are shipped with skimpy manuals that contain little more than a brief overview and basic user guide. While Apple products can be surprisingly intuitive at times, some users may need more than what Apple’s stock manuals have to offer. That rings especially true for visually impaired users, who’ll get practically no use at all from Apple’s standard manuals.

The Media and Accessible Design Lab (MAD Lab) at the Lighthouse for the Blind has recently released fully authorized braille manuals for many Apple products:

For blind braille readers who use Apple products, this is a huge step towards tech literacy. The iOS manuals provide detailed insight into optimizing these products and leveraging the accessible features for personal and professional use. The embossed manuals offer a complete set of directions on how to use each Apple operating system, intelligently organized into multiple volumes of interpoint Braille.

Braille manuals are currently available for Apple Watch, iPhone iOS 10, AppleTV, and macOS Sierra 10.12. The manuals can be ordered from Adaptations, the Lighthouse’s shop that features products for visually impaired customers. Special BRF documents of the Apple manuals can also be downloaded and printed out using braille-capable printers.


Apple Previews New Emoji Coming Later this Year



World Emoji Day is celebrated on July 17. Apple celebrated by sharing some of its new emoji that will be coming to iOS, macOS, and watchOS later this year. In addition, the App Store highlighted apps that create or do fun things with emoji, and iTunes Movies featured emoji in place of select movie titles.

Love them or hate them, emoji have become a fun way to express an emotion on social media. Personally, the only emoji I have used are the ones that automatically appear when you post something on Twitter about a current event. For example, people who tweeted #ElectionDay during the 2016 election got an automatically placed ballot box emoji in their tweet.

With thousands of emoji available on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac, there are many ways to add personality to every message. New emoji include Woman with Headscarf, Bearded Person, and Breastfeeding, and food items such as Sandwich and Coconut. More animals and mythical creatures like T-Rex, Zebra, Zombie and Elf are a fun way to describe situations and new Star Struck and Exploding Head smiley faces make any message more fun. 

I like that Apple has added some diversity into the new emojis. There already are emoji of women doing various things, but none of them were wearing a headscarf. The Breastfeeding emoji can be used as a quick way for nursing moms to share their experiences on social media.

I like that the Elf emoji shows an Elf who has dark skin. There are some emoji that allow people to select a version of it from a variety of skin tones, and Apple chose to feature the Elf with dark skin. It’s a nice way of including people of color who also happen to be geeks.


Apple’s Mac Mini, Mac Pro are Apparently Still Alive



Apple LogoTech pundits have devoted many words in recent years to the coming demise of the desktop Macintosh. At one time, these machines were Apple’s bread and butter. But with the explosive success of Apple’s mobile devices, many have speculated that Apple has unofficially changed its focus towards phones and tablets, leaving new development of full-fledged computers to flounder.

Sure, there’s been some activity on the laptop side of things. And there have been some notable refreshes of the iMac desktop line of computers. But what about Apple’s entry-level desktop, the Mac Mini? What about the other end of the spectrum with the once cutting-edge Mac Pro? These lines have seemingly been relegated to Cupertino’s back burner, having no major updates in years.

But two articles recently published by separate websites suggest that Apple hasn’t given up on either the Mini or the Pro. But there haven’t been any definitive announcements on what may come for either type of Mac. Comments made by Apple’s Phil Schiller to AppleInsider on the Mini:

“On that I’ll say the Mac mini is an important product in our lineup and we weren’t bringing it up because it’s more of a mix of consumer with some pro use,” Schiller said during a Tuesday press gathering revealing new iMacs and Mac Pros, attended by outfits like Daring Fireball. “The Mac mini remains a product in our lineup, but nothing more to say about it today.”

The comments could imply that Apple is finally planning to refresh the Mac mini, which was last updated in 2014 and yet still starts at $499. It’s nevertheless the cheapest Mac, and has found a niche as a server and/or a media set-top.

BuzzFeed News has some information on the latest for the Mac Pro:

…there is officially a new Mac Pro in the pipeline, but it’s going to be a while before it arrives.

“We are completely rethinking the Mac Pro,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing said during a recent roundtable with a handful of reporters at the company’s Machine Shop hardware prototyping lab. And it won’t just be the computer. “Since the Mac Pro is a modular system, we are also doing a pro display. There’s a team working hard on it right now.”

While any news about Apple desktops is good news these days, it’s still discouraging that Apple doesn’t have anything concrete to announce about upcoming upgrades to these computer lines.


RIP, MacSuperstore



MacSuperstore entranceWhen I moved to San Luis Obispo, CA in 2005, I was concerned about the city’s lack of a nearby Apple Store. But those concerns were quickly erased when I discovered MacSuperstore, an authorized Apple reseller that had been in business since the 90’s. The store offered everything that a corporate Apple Store had to offer, and more, as it wasn’t constrained by the limitations Apple puts on its own stores. MacSuperstore could deal in used products, as well as items from third-party vendors that Apple would never stock in its own stores.

Being the only authorized Apple reseller in the area, MacSuperstore saw steady success. And apparently, the independent store’s good fortunes put MacSuperstore’s locale on Apple’s radar. In 2007, Apple opened the Higuera Street Apple Store in downtown San Luis Obispo. I wrote a (now long-gone) blog post at the time criticizing this decision, as it felt like Apple was moving in on MacSuperstore’s turf and pushing out an established business that you’d think Apple would see as a valued partner instead of a competitor.

The years carried on and MacSuperstore seemed to weather the Apple Store’s encroachment. MacSuperstore even moved into a bigger, fancier location, right next to the new Target store on the west side of town.

But the local market is apparently not big enough for two Apple dealers. Last December, seemingly out of nowhere, MacSuperstore sent this e-mail to customers:

Dear Customers & Friends,

It was August 1998….. the iMac was a week old and MacSuperstore came to life. A little store with big dreams (who else would put “superstore” on a 1,200 sq/ft store)?

Over the years, we’ve dedicated ourselves to providing the best possible customer care along side the world’s best tech products; unfortunately, the industry and the way folks shop has changed a lot, and our efforts to represent Apple have come at a cost. These days, with box stores and online sources heavily discounting the same products, Apple needs the “little guys” less and less.

After much consideration, we have decided to close our doors. In the end, no matter how happy our customers are or great the store looks, a business has to be profitable to survive.

We appreciate the dedication of our customers in giving us a chance to serve you. Seeing the positive impact of technology in the lives of our customers, has been what kept us going these 18 years. It has been a good run, but a necessary ending.

Thanks for everything…

Shane

(The e-mail was signed by Shane Williams, founder of MacSuperstore.)

I was shocked to get that e-mail, as I thought the store was doing fine. I was also concerned about some trade-in credit I had remaining with the store. But MacSuperstore stayed a class act ’til the end, giving me cash on the spot for the trade-in credit, no questions asked.

It’s impossible to say just how much Apple’s influence in the local market affected MacSuperstore’s bottom line. Brick-and-mortar shops are being assaulted from all directions these days, and it’s likely MacSuperstore lost some customers to online sellers. Still, during a conversation I had with a knowledgable MacSuperstore employee on one of the store’s final days, he said that Apple has pretty much stopped licensing independent stores as authorized resellers. He also said that, due to Apple’s own requirements, MacSuperstore couldn’t sell their Apple license to a new buyer. MacSuperstore had bought out several other Apple retailers in nearby markets over the years. All of those stores have since closed, along with the San Luis Obispo shop.

I’ll definitely miss having this unique store in my hometown. Of course, the Higuuera Street Apple Store is likely to be there for years to come. But, that corporate store will never have the heart and soul of that independent reseller on the other side of town.

RIP, MacSuperstore.


Fall Asleep Effortlessly with 2breathe at CES



Getting enough sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle but for some people the problem isn’t just about getting into bed early enough, it’s about falling asleep. Israeli firm 2breathe has developed a smart sensor and complementary app to help those who have difficulty nodding off. Todd relaxes with Erez.

2breathe is a guided breathing system that uses a body-worn sensor to read the breaths in and out. The app records the breathing rate and then using softly-spoken instructions and gentle music, gradually reduces the breathing speed of the wearer. As the breathing rate slows, the soon-to-be-sleeper will get drowsy and fall asleep. In the morning, the app produces a session report, showing the time to snooze and breathing patterns.

The CES Innovation committee though this was a good idea too, awarding 2breathe a CES Honoree Innovation Award.

2breathe is available now for US$179, either direct from 2breathe or other major online retailers. It’s currently only available for Apple iOS devices.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2017 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1


Kanex Wins with the GoPower Watch at CES



Kicking off GNC’s video production for CES, Todd’s at award-winners Kanex with Tracy, who shows off some of their latest accessories for the Apple Watch.

Kanex won a “Innovation Honoree” at CES 2017 for their GoPower Watch, a portable battery charge for the Apple Watch. Priced at US$99 and shipping now, the GoPower Watch will wirelessly recharge a Watch around six times from the 4,000 mAh battery. There’s a USB port round the back for charging other devices too and it’s Apple Certified as well. A mini-version with a smaller battery and smaller price (US$59) is coming shortly.

For those who don’t need to charge on the go, Kanex have a table-top charger for the office or beside the bed coming shortly. It’s US$59 and will be available in February.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2017 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1


Touché Brings Touch Bar to Any Mac



Touche LogoMuch has been said about the new Touch Bar feature on the latest version of Apple’s flagship laptop, the MacBook Pro. Some see Touch Bar as a cool new feature, with unlimited potential for different uses. Others look at Touch Bar as a gimmicky afterthought. Just a new shiny thing in a parade of new shiny Apple things that doesn’t add much in the way of true functionality to the MacBook Pro. The debate is sure to rage on for months (if not years) to come.

Regardless of how anyone feels about Touch Bar, the feature is only available on new MacBook Pros. Apple hasn’t said publicly if Touch Bar, or similar technology, will be added to other Macs in the future. If you’re intrigued by Touch Bar but don’t have the scratch to go out and purchase a new MacBook Pro, you might want to check out a new app from Red Sweater called Touché. The app can add Touch Bar-like functionality to any Mac by providing a graphical representation on screen of the commands assigned to the function keys of a Mac’s active application. (This mimics Touch Bar somewhat, as Touch Bar replaces the function keys on the new MacBook Pro entirely.)

Touche Bar

Touché is a free download and carries these requirements:

Touché requires macOS 10.12.1 or later, but there’s a catch! You must have the very latest 10.12.1, with system support for the Touch Bar. If your 10.12.1 version is specifically 16B2657, you’re good to go. If not, you can update to the required version here. You can confirm you are running 16B2657 specifically, by clicking the version number in the About this Mac panel.

If you’re curious about the Touch Bar experience but don’t have access to a new MacBook Pro, give Touché a try!


Apple: The Thrill Is Gone



Apple LogoBack around 2006 when Apple switched the Mac to Intel processors, Apple started to gain my attention, and several thousands of my dollars.

The Mac was not only a more secure computing alternative, but it also offered fun. Apple computers of about 2006 to 2011 were just plain fun devices.

Sure, Macs were always more expensive than their PC counterparts, but it was arguably a better platform, offering genuine value with those higher prices.

In one of the Steve Jobs biographies, it was said that after he knew he was dying, Jobs worked to leave Apple with about 5 years’ worth of guidance.

Unfortunately, the 5 years is expired. And it is showing. A few years ago I published an article here predicting that Apple would morph into a caricature of Jobs’ worst traits – knowing what the customer “needed” more than the customer, cutting useful features and calling it innovation, etc. Sadly, my prediction has come true. Steve Jobs was brilliant in being able to predict and surf the waves of the parts of the ever-changing consumer electronics market that he chose to compete in. Steve Jobs was successful despite his worst character flaws.

The Apple of 2016 is no longer fun. Something has gone missing. If Apple were your surgeon, you would likely start missing fingers and limbs.

The Apple of 2016 is obsessed with cutting useful features and then making the excuse that they are doing it because they have “courage.”

Up until about 5 years ago you could plunk your pile of money down on a high-end Mac without knowing a thing about it, and rest assured you were getting all the latest and greatest hardware. In 2016 that is no longer true.

The Apple of 2016 is no longer fun.


Did Swatch Kill The iWatch?



iswatchIn news reported by the BBC, it seems that Swatch‘s opposition to Apple‘s application for an iWatch trademark in the UK resulted Apple’s smartwatch simply being branded “Apple Watch”.  Overall, the ruling from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office upheld Swatch’s complaint that iWatch was too similar to iSwatch and Swatch, and shouldn’t be used for watches. Although we can’t be privy to the internal thinking of Apple, one could infer that the inability to claim the iWatch trademark in key markets back in 2014 killed iWatch in favour of Apple Watch when announced in 2015.

The whole ruling is here, but aside from the trademark evidence, decision-making and ruling, there’s some interesting commentary on the use of shell company registrants, in this case BrightFlash USA LLC to hide the actions of Apple. If I read the judgement correctly (and I’m certainly not a lawyer), Swatch had tried to accuse Apple of “bad faith” by using BrightFlash to register the trademark, but the registrar dismisses the complaint and Swatch has to to pay Apple GB£2,767 on balance. You win some, you lose some.


Cygnett Reveals iPhone 7 Details



Cygnett LogoAlthough we are only a few hours away from official announcements on the iPhone 7, some aftermarket suppliers are letting slip details on the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Accessories supplier Cygnett has all but confirmed that the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus designs will have no headphone jack but there’s good chance of two speakers for improved sound quality. Further, their new cases also show a larger hole slightly higher up on the iPhone 7 Plus, perhaps for a more protruded camera area suggesting an improved lens or dual lens. Early iPhone 7 rumours thought that the iPhone 7 might have a dual camera configuration, though this seems to have reverted to a single lens

Cygnett’s Tim Swann also mentioned that while he thought there would be new colour options over the iPhone 6, the actual dimensions of the phone will be similar to that of the 6s and 6s Plus. This fits with what’s been mentioned elsewhere.

There’s been some discussion too as to whether the special connector on the iPad Pro will come to the 7 Plus but Cygnett’s founder didn’t think that was likely as the connector hadn’t appeared on any of the design drawings.

I guess we’ll just have to see what comes out of Apple in a little while….