Category Archives: Apple

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….


Bluetooth Versus Wired



Coloud The Snap Active EarbudsFor some months now, persistent rumors have been flying that the next iPhone will do away with the 3.5mm wired headset port. There have been plenty of people arguing both against and for this idea. Some people say that the demise of the wired headset port is inevitable.

As an over-the-road truck driver, I’ve been using Bluetooth devices for years. To be perfectly honest, the majority of Bluetooth headsets suck, regardless of price. They typically suffer from poor audio quality, especially those intended for phone calls.
I have yet to find a Bluetooth microphone that produces anything approaching acceptable quality for anything other than phone calls.

Bluetooth stereo is great for certain uses, such as in the car or for use with certain Bluetooth speakers intended for casual listening.

With this in mind, let’s examine how a smartphone would work without a 3.5mm wired jack for the way people use these devices today.

I see plenty of people using wired headsets, day in and day out. That tells me that, unlike the floppy drive, which was dropped because most software was being shipped on CD-ROM’s, the wired 3.5mm headphone jack is NOT obsolete. The 3.5mm headphone jack is NOT falling into disuse. There are still millions and millions of people using wired headsets with their smartphones on a constant basis. Wired headset use is NOT dropping off.

Modern smartphones are also extremely good high-definition video cameras. While they have built-in microphones, because of the 3.5mm headphone jack it is also possible to plug in a wired microphone. Wired microphones on traditional consumer camcorders have either been absent or an option for costlier prosumer models. Take the 3.5mm wired headphone jack away and the option of plugging in a superior wired microphone goes away with it.

If Apple takes the 3.5mm wired headphone jack away, it doesn’t matter to me, because I don’t have an iPhone and don’t want one. There will be plenty of remaining Android models to choose from that keep their senses.

In fact, there have already been Android smartphones available on the market that leave out the 3.5mm wired headphone jacks. The Chinese company LeEco released three jack-less phones in April of this year. Ever heard of them? Me neither, until I did a search. I don’t get the impression they are burning down the barn with popularity.

I make extensive use of Bluetooth as well as the 3.5mm jack on my phone. I will never buy a phone that doesn’t offer a 3.5mm jack any more than I would buy a phone that doesn’t offer Bluetooth or WiFi.


Losing The Signal



Losing The SignalWe often end up thinking we know the stories behind major and/or tumultuous events that happen during our own lifetimes. One of those revolves around the story of Blackberry. The rise of the iPhone is often thought of as the big downfall of Blackberry, the once wildly popular Canadian phone manufacturer from Waterloo, Ontario. Indeed, the iPhone was involved in Blackberry’s problems, but not in the way people commonly think it was.

I recently listened to the unabridged version of the Audible audiobook “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry” written by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. The book tells the story of the seemingly overnight rise of the popularity of Blackberry devices, and recounts the often fascinating step by step details of its spectacular fall into relative smartphone obscurity.

For example, were you aware that Blackberry had two CEO’s? Not one, but two. This highly unusual two CEO arrangement may have served Blackberry well at certain times in the beginning, each CEO having his own respective strengths, but in the end it is generally agreed that this odd two CEO arrangement caused inevitable confusion and dangerous, very damaging paralysis as their personal relationship with each other dangerously deteriorated.

I take from this book that Blackberry happened to come along with the right thing at the right time – a device that could reliably and securely put email in the smartphone user’s pockets on early networks. Blackberry was driven to success by sheer market demand for their product, in spite of their missteps. Blackberry’s success was due in part to the fact that because of the way its system was constructed, it could reliably and securely handle email on highly bandwidth-starved networks. Its popularity started as a business device, and ended up with major consumer crossover demand.

A better idea came along – Steve Job’s iPhone. The iPhone essentially put an entire shrunken computer in the user’s pocket, and started a revolution that changed the face of the market itself. Even so, the iPhone didn’t inflict the most damage on Blackberry, but rather the iPhone concept.

The iPhone reached about 25% overall market penetration in developed markets when at the same time Blackberry was able to sell its less-expensive units into price-sensitive world markets that could not afford the high price of the iPhone. In essence, Blackberry was able to keep going even after the iPhone’s obvious success by replicating its early developed-market successes elsewhere in the world.

What inflicted the most damage on Blackberry sales was the incredible spreading dominance and popularity of Android, which could sell cheaper Android-based smartphones into Blackberry’s price-sensitive world markets, thus ultimately rendering Blackberry irrelevant.

Along the way, Blackberry made a couple of serious, self-inflicted missteps with Verizon that it never recovered from. Blackberry, which had been known at one time for rock-solid hardware, realizing it was losing market share, foolishly started selling faulty products into the marketplace that clearly weren’t fully developed and were highly unreliable.

If you enjoy these kinds of non-fiction books that tell behind-the-scenes stories of things that happened in your lifetime, I highly recommend you give this book a try.


iOS 10 To Come With HomeKit Controller App



HomeKit LogoThe so-called Internet of Things is bringing more and more connected devices into our lives. And as the market for these smart gadgets continues to expand, one question seems to be on everyones minds; How will all of these different products communicate with each other? Some manufacturers have developed their own proprietary products and tools to ensure their own devices will play nicely together. But what if you want smart lightbulbs made by Company X and a smart security system made by Company Y? Will it be necessary to have one “command center” on your network just for each company’s products?

Many companies have stepped into this arena to try and bridge the landscape of connected things. Apple announced its own solution, HomeKit, a few years ago. But there hasn’t been much movement on the HomeKit front since that announcement. Now, it looks like Apple may ship its first HomeKit controller app with the release of iOS 10 later this year. Curiously, this information was discovered in a comment left as part of an Amazon product review:

Word of the new app came from an Apple marketing employee commenting in Amazon product reviews. MacRumors verified the commenter’s identity, and that they were responsible for the comments.

“As I work in marketing for Apple, we test many Smart Home devices, especially for iOS HomeKit integration,” the person said. “The next version of iOS due this fall will have a standalone ‘HomeKit’ app as well.”

No word yet on how HomeKit will actually work but it’s good to know that real progress is (apparently) being made on the system.


Disney Infinity Dropped From Apple TV



Disney Infinity LogoWhen Apple released the latest version of its set-top AppleTV box, much hype was focused on the device’s ability to run third-party apps. This development was a departure from the closed-off nature of previous iterations of the Apple TV. The addition of third-party app support meant that Apple TV could now be used as more than just a media-consumption box. It could also be used to play games. Many game developers have taken advantage of the opportunity and ported existing games to the platform. Of course, the diminutive Apple TV doesn’t have the internal horsepower of a major modern gaming console like Xbox One or Playstation 4. And that lack of muscle may cause the device some issues in the long run, as game developers focus on those other platforms for their big titles.

That was exactly the case when Disney dropped support for its popular Disney Infinity title from Apple TV. Disney Infinity is an “open-world” style game that allows users to unlock playable characters by purchasing real-world figurines that come with in-game unlock codes. Disney Infinity has been around for a few years and its current iteration (Disney Infinity 3.0) is compatible with Playstation 3, 4 and PSVita, Xbox One and Xbox 360, Nintendo WiiU, Windows-based PC’s, and Steam.

No word has come from Disney as to whether or not Infinity may return to Apple TV. But losing a title like this may cause Apple to reconsider the role of Apple TV as a media consumption device, and give it enough power to run more complex apps like these types of games.


Apple Watch: Now with… Windows 95?



Win95 logoIf the most-often used question when it comes to technology is simply, “Why?,” then the most common answer has to be, “Why not?” That’s what one developer must’ve been thinking when he figured out how to run Windows 95, Microsoft’s cutting-edge mid-90’s operating system, on an Apple Watch.

For those too young to remember, Windows 95 was Microsoft’s much-hyped successor to the ever-popular Windows 3.1. Windows 95 was a break from tradition in a few ways for Microsoft. It was the first time the company moved away from its standard numbering system. Instead of calling its newest Windows build simply “Windows 4.0,” Microsoft chose to brand the software package with the year of release. Thus beginning a cycle that would be repeated with Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. (That trend was ended with the release of Windows 7.) Windows 95 introduced a few things that became centerpieces of the OS, most notably the beloved Start Button.

Most PC’s running Windows 95 at the time of its release were big, beige desktop units that definitely didn’t fit over your wrist. Perhaps that’s a testament to the computing horsepower of modern devices. Even something as small as an Apple Watch has enough power to emulate an entire operating system that used to require (for its time) lots of disk space and RAM. One drawback of this emulation is that it apparently takes about an hour for the OS to be fully usable on an Apple Watch. So, it might not be the best way to relive your fond memories of playing Solitaire and surfing the web on Netscape 3.0. To see the emulation in action, check out this time-lapse video.


Apple is Ending iTunes Allowances



Apple LogoApple has decided to put an end to iTunes Allowances, which has been around since October of 2003. It appears that Apple has decided that it now has other things that can do what iTunes Allowances does.

The iTunes Allowance was created to allow parents to automatically deposit funds into their kids’ iTunes Music Store account every month. The purpose was to enable parents to limit the amount of money their kids spend on iTunes to a specific amount (between $10 and $50 per month).

It is no longer possible to create an iTunes Allowance account. People who already have one need to be aware that all existing allowances will cancel on May 25, 2016. After that date, any unused allowance credit will remain in the recipient’s account until it is used.

In the announcement, Apple offers some suggestions for parents who want to manage their children’s iTunes purchases. They could use Family Sharing instead. Family Sharing allows up to six people in a family to share each other’s iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases without sharing accounts. Parents can pay for family purchases with the same credit card and approve kids’ spending right from a parent’s device.

Another option suggested by Apple is for parents to use iTunes Gifts. A parent can gift dollar amounts to their child, or can gift books, audiobooks, music, movies, TV shows, or apps through the iTunes Store, iBooks Store and App store.