Category Archives: Apple

Griffin iMic for USB C



Griffin LogoGriffin’s iMic has been a long term favourite with those who need 3.5 mm audio jacks on USB-only PCs and laptops. With a USB A plug on one end, and two audio sockets on the other, it does the job of converting audio brilliantly.

But with new MacBooks now only sporting USB C sockets, it was inevitable that Griffin would bring out a new version of the iMic with a USB C connector and here it is. Available in Q2 2016 for US$44.99, Daniel chats with Jackie from Griffin to find out more about the latest iteration of this great gadget.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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Hunter Ceiling Fans Go Wireless For CES



Hunter Fan CompanyNow this is a cool idea. Ceiling fan inventors, Hunter Fan Co, have introduced Wi-Fi controlled ceiling fans integrated with Apple’s HomeKit for CES. Feeling a little warm? Ask Siri to turn on the fan for a gentle breeze to lower the temperature.

There’s two new Wi-Fi models coming to the market, Symphony and Signal. Symphony has a graceful, modern design and comes in fresh white, while Signal, with its satin nickel housing and reversible wood-finished blades, is a contemporary blend of sleek design and classic finishes. Symphony’s MSRP is $329; Signal’s MSRP is $379. Both fans are available Spring 2016 at online sites such as Hunter FanAmazonBuildBestBuyHomeDepotLowes and Menards. Of course they will be stocked in lighting showrooms nationwide.

Hunter FanAs with all HomeKit-enabled equipment, users can also create custom scenes involving the fans and the built-in lights. For example, one could create a scene to automatically turn on the fan’s light, lock the doors, close the garage door and set the thermostat to the desired temperature in just one step.  For emergencies, users can also set up HomeKit-enabled products to work together based on triggers, such as having the fan’s light turn on the moment the fire alarm detects smoke.

Hunter FanOur ceaseless innovation is why Hunter Fan is the industry leader, and these new Wi-Fi enabled fans, with added support for Apple HomeKit, are a testament to our heritage of progress and originality,” said Hunter Fan CEO John Alexander. “They’re beautiful, affordable, high quality pieces of decor that bring state-of-the-art Wi-Fi technology where it might not be expected: the ceiling fan. As we celebrate 130 years, we have several exciting developments to share with our customers, and are proud to kick off 2016 at CES with Symphony and Signal.

Symphony and Signal were developed in collaboration with industry leaders Ayla Networks and Marvell Technology Group Ltd., which will feature the fans in their respective displays at CES 2016.


Ten One Design’s Timeframe Charging Sleeve at CES 2016



ten-one-design-logo-01_mTech accessory company Ten One Design is bringing its latest innovation, the Timeframe Charging Sleeve for Apple Watch, to CES 2016. The Timeframe sleeve slides easily onto your watch, regardless of size or band type, to deliver a reliable charge without any hassle or inconvenience.
The Timeframe sleeve is expertly designed to fit your Apple Watch snugly
and securely, so you can toss it into your purse, gym bag,
or desk drawer for a guaranteed charge wherever your day takes you. When it’s time to go, just flip the built-in release lever and out pops your fully-charged Apple Watch.

watch2
In addition to providing a quick and easy charge, the Timeframe also provides top-notch protection from bumps, drops, and wear-and-tear, so you have less to worry out and more time to go about your day.

The Timeframe Charging Sleeve from Ten One Design is available for preorder today here. It retails for $24.95 and is scheduled to begin shipping on January 28, 2016.


Surface Pro 3 Update



SurfaceIt’s been going on about three months since buying a Surface Pro 3 tablet with a 256 gigabyte SSD, an I-5 processor, and Windows 10 preinstalled, so I figure it’s time for a bit of an update.

Since getting the device, there has been one major Windows 10 update, along with countless small spyware and virus updates for Windows Defender, which is built in to Windows 10.

So far, between the hardware and the operating system, there have been zero hiccups. Windows 10 has been absolutely rock solid. I am still really enjoying the Windows 10 experience. The one area lacking with the Windows 10 tablet experience has been the lack tablet mode apps from the Windows App Store. Many types of apps are just non-existent, or as in the case of the Windows Facebook app, are barely adequate but obviously lacking in up-to-date Facebook features present in the Android and iOS counterpart apps. I am willing to overlook this poor Windows app experience because I can easily just go to the various websites and get the full website experience if I need to. Also, my Galaxy Note 4 phone is where I end up running most of the standard apps anyway, so when it comes right down to it I don’t need them on a large-screen tablet device anyway.

I also purchased the older generation Microsoft Keyboard. Additionally for a paltry $15.99 I purchased the Fintie Surface Pro 3 Case Folio Slim-fit Leather Stand Cover with Stylus Holder from Amazon. The version I got was navy blue, but it comes in a very wide variety of colors and print designs. Fintie also sells an updated version of the case for the Surface Pro 4 for $13.99. Both products are highly rated. The case does an excellent job of protecting the unit and gives me a very secure loop along the top of the screen to insert the Microsoft Pen stylus that came packaged with the unit.

Of course the big advantage of the Surface Pro line is that it packs a full, powerful PC into a thin tablet form factor combined with an amazing high-resolution screen.

I spend weeks at a time traveling and living in a very compact area. The less bulky stuff I can carry with me, the better. The Surface Pro 3 completely covers my mobile computing needs. I was able to delete an entire laptop bag from the stuff I carry around with me, which included an old white plastic MacBook and an old Asus netbook.

I still listen to a number of popular Apple-centric podcasts, and I am beginning to hear the frustrations I suffered with for at least the past year when I was trying to decide what to do in order to update my computing hardware. I thought about newer MacBooks, but because they forced newer versions of OS/X, they wouldn’t run the aging media creation software I wanted to run. The iPad experience is great for media consumption, but is absolutely painful for even the most minimal productivity tasks including writing articles and media creation.

The Surface Pro 3 has solved my problem. I am confident to travel just with it, since it is more than capable of handling all the tasks I need it to handle. I feel a bit sorry for the people who are trapped in the Apple-only mentality. Fortunately, even though I bought my fair share of Apple products in the past 10 years, I wasn’t trapped and could easily switch back to Windows once Microsoft corrected its terrible operating system mistakes (namely Vista and Windows 8) with the release of Windows 10.

I hear people use the phrase “living in the future.” For me, the future is here and I am already enjoying it as never before. I have a super-high-quality, unbelievably fast touchscreen tablet that also happens to be a full PC that can handle everything I throw at it.


iPad Pro has USB 3.0 Capability



AppleLogoThe iPad Pro is officially here, having landed in Apple Stores last week. I’ve tried out the new large-screen iPad and I’m definitely impressed with it. It’s at the top of my Christmas wish list, for sure. And while there are many reasons to like the iPad Pro when looking at the device from the outside, there’s apparently even more going on inside than has been previously disclosed.

The iPad Pro ships with Apple’s now-ubiquitous Lightning port for connecting to external devices and power supplies. Lightning provides for a very fast connection, capable of moving both power and data at noteworthy speeds. So it may be no surprise that a recent teardown of the iPad Pro uncovered a curious finding. The external Lightning port actually leads to an internal USB 3.0 connection. Theoretically, this means the iPad Pro could support USB 3.0 peripherals.

But there’s a catch. Traditionally, the only way to connect USB devices to an iOS device is thru Apple’s USB Camera Connection Kit. At present, the Connection Kit only supports USB 2.0 speeds, and there’s no word from Apple as to whether or not the company is planning on updating the accessory.

It might seem odd for Apple to ship a product with what is essentially an “unlocked” feature. But this isn’t the first time the tech giant has done something like this. An early version of the iPod Touch shipped with an inactive Bluetooth chip that was later turned on thru a firmware upgrade. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple starts quietly shipping an updated Camera Connection Kit early next year, with a note about its speed upgrade. But for now, they’re probably hoping an onslaught of new iOS users, bolstered by holiday sales, will help reduce the inventory of the current USB 2.0 Connection Kit, before the updated version is allowed to hit the market.


Cook Reluctant To Fundamentally Alter iOS?



Created with Microsoft Fresh PaintCould Apple be faced with the classic innovator’s dilemma?

About 10 years ago I got bit by the Apple bug. A friend sold me his original Mac Mini running a G4 processor, and I was immediately hooked. At the time the machine was no powerhouse, however it was quite capable for basic computing tasks of the time. It died a few years later following lots of use, probably of a failed hard drive, though by then totally obsolete and not worth trying to repair.

Once Apple made the switch to Intel chips, I was all in. Apple computers were more expensive, but at that time Apple gave good value for the extra cost. My first two Apple laptops could actually be upgraded with larger capacity hard drives and more memory. The now 9-year-old white plastic MacBook still boots up and works well helped by the addition of an SSD, and the 17” MacBook Pro from 2007 still works though has developed a stuck mouse button problem. The problem with both of these machines is that technology has continued to move forward and my expectations have changed.

If we look back, technological devices are continually converging. The most useful functions of a particular device almost always get recombined into new convergence devices. The original devices may end up going completely away, or can end up as specialty devices. Device convergence pressures are relentless, driven in large part by new technical knowledge.

Steve Jobs seemed to have a particularly good knack for being able to pick out which convergence devices would catch on with the public and position his company to take advantage of what he saw coming. Like an expert surfer setting himself up for major waves, Jobs did this with the iMac, the original iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Jobs also had the ability to pivot if he saw that his personal predictions were wrong, for example adding apps to the iPhone after famously saying people didn’t want apps on their smartphones.

After he knew his death was impending, Jobs is said to have left Apple with at least 5 years’ worth of new product ideas.

Since the death of Steve Jobs more than four years ago on October 5, 2011, Apple has gone on to become the richest corporation in history. However, that success is perched precariously on the continuing phenomenal sales success of the iPhone.

In the meantime, technology and customer expectations have marched on. The pressure for device convergence yields for no one. Capacitive touchscreens now dominate the landscape. Gordon Moore’s Law continues its march forward towards smaller, cheaper and faster.

In portable computing, I now have a tablet in the form of a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 that is also a real PC capable of running desktop software. Since getting the Surface Pro 3, I am using it for everything – writing articles, podcast audio recording and editing, HD video editing including 4k, watching movies, and another use that turned out to be a total surprise. The Surface Pro 3 (and 4) comes with the Microsoft Pen. I now find myself motivated to learn the skill of drawing and digital art, which came completely out of left field.

My computing expectations have changed. I want a true convergence device. Apple doesn’t offer such a device. Furthermore, Cook keeps resisting the convergence idea itself.

Tim Cook again today discouraged the idea of making a Mac/iPad convergence device. Quoting Cook:

“We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad. Because what that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

Why not experiment? Cook’s statement is couched in terms of “protecting” the customer, and “worrying,” but I believe something else is going on. Cook is afraid of radically altering the iOS experience, after all the iPhone is Apple’s giant cash cow. Why wouldn’t Cook want to innovate iOS beyond altering its cosmetics? Is Cook reluctant to tamper too much with the iPhone for fear of damaging iPhone sales?

Has Apple ran into the innovator’s dilemma?

Alas we have perhaps run into a fundamental difference between Tim Cook and Steve Jobs. One of the hallmarks of Steve Jobs was his willingness to cannibalize existing sales with new product convergence devices. For example, the iPhone cannibalized iPod sales because the iPod function was converged directly into the iPhone.

The new iPad Pro at the end of the day is just a physically larger, faster iPad. Trying to use the iPad for anything more than a media consumption device is a genuine pain. The iPad itself is just a giant iPod Touch. An iPod Touch is an iPhone without the phone.

Thus, the innovator’s dilemma. Does Apple come out with a tablet that is also a touchscreen Mac similar to the Surface Pro 4, or a touchscreen Mac that also doubles as a tablet similar to the Microsoft SurfaceBook? Would such a hybrid device cause customer expectations for the iPhone to change in ways that might negatively impact sales?

Apple as a corporate machine is showing signs of rusting around the edges. Recent software and hardware product releases haven’t gone smoothly. Products seem rushed out the door before they are ready for primetime. Some customers waited months for the pointless Apple Watch. The new generation 4 Apple TV has interface problems, as well as bugs. The latest version of OS/X El Capitan is afflicted with many continuing bugs. iOS 9.x has continuing bugs. Even the new iPad Pro was inexplicably put on sale without the availability of the Apple Pencil stylus or the Apple Keyboard, both initially sold as being fundamentally important to the existence of the product. These problems would have never been tolerated or allowed to happen if Steve Jobs were still around running the Apple show. The well-oiled machine that was Apple under Steve Jobs is starting to fall into corporate dysfunction.

Apple has plenty of money in the bank, and iPhone sales are likely to continue to be strong in the short to mid-term, even if the nature of the iPhone itself isn’t fundamentally altered. That being said, technical knowledge and Moore’s Law continue to march ahead. Customer expectations change – will Apple?


Outlook for IOS – My First Look



Screen shot 2015-10-29 at 10.18.28 AMOutlook for iOS has been out awhile, but this is my first look. 

Since I made the switch from Microsoft products to “other” products in 2008 or so, I haven’t looked back…. Until now.  

My wife started a new job and received a Microsoft Surface (Not sure exactly what model) as her work machine.  It came with Windows 8.1 which I wasn’t really impressed with.  When windows 10 came out, I upgraded it for her.  What a world of difference!  I have to say, windows just became usable again.  I have one older laptop that I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and it works great for what little I use it for. I’m not switching back from Apple for my desktop anytime soon, but I am impressed.

That being said, I notice that Microsoft is now putting out new office apps for iOS and Mac.  I decided I would try Outlook for iOS for email.

I use gmail for my main email and my work email.  I also have an icloud email account.  I figured I would give it a full test and put all 3 in it.  It was really easy, no server addresses, no SSL selections, it just worked (when is the last time you said that about a Microsoft Product?).

Outlook for IOS organizes things a lot like Gmail does.  In threads.  You can turn that off if you want.  It also handles “priority inbox” in Gmail in what is called “Focused Inbox”.   All in all, it’s a great email app and I’m 90% sure I’m going to dump Gmail for IOS as my go-to mobile email app.

Outlook also picked up my calendars from both iCloud and Google. The good thing is it didn’t make dupes like some calendar apps do.  I’m thinking if Microsoft keeps making good stuff like this, they may convert some of the die-hard Apple Fanboys.  

To check out Outlook for IOS, see it in the Apple App Store 


El Capitan Tale of Woe



I have a mid-2010 Mac Mini set up in my living room that I use for occasional browsing and email. It came installed with Snow Leopard.Wallpaper-OS-X-El-Capitan-Mac

I swapped out the hard drive for a 256 gigabyte SSD and bumped the RAM up to 8 gigabytes. The machine is reasonably fast and is in a handy location. Additionally have it set up with a Neat desktop document scanner.

I’ve deliberately kept the machine running Snow Leopard over the years even though several new versions of OS/X have come and gone. Lately a nag screen kept popping up wanting me to update it to OS/X El Capitan. I resisted at first, but from the Apple podcasts I listen to the chatter is that things are slowly improving as Apple rolls out bug fixes.

So, I ended up saying yes to the El Capitan upgrade. The upgrade process itself seemed to go smoothly enough.

It wasn’t until I sat down in front of the machine afterwards that I realized saying yes to the El Capitan upgrade was a mistake.

The first thing I found objectionable is the overall look and feel of the new design. The menu text isn’t big or bold enough to stand out, and the aggressive use of white and wimpy light-colored pastels ruins the usability that extra contrast affords. You have to remember I’m coming directly from Snow Leopard to El Capitan, and the overall look and feel of the Snow Leopard interface is much more appealing and practical. If you can do so, put El Capitan directly next to a machine running Snow Leopard and the Snow Leopard machine is much easier to see and work with. Interface elements in Snow Leopard are much more prominent. Snow Leopard icons are far more recognizable, and menu text is bigger and stands out more boldly.

The next thing I noticed is that the Finder dumped all of my customizations. It has an “All My Files” folder that dumped some 1,200 files into one giant folder even those files reside in many different folders across the hard drive. Folders such as Movies, Photos and Music are completely missing from the Finder’s sidebar. They still exist but it’s necessary to go digging around for them.

Functionally El Capitan caused my Neat desktop scanner software and driver to utterly stop functioning. Neat has a multi-step work-around for El Capitan posted to their website. The work-around sort of fixes things partially but not really. If you have a Neat document scanner, DO NOT upgrade to El Capitan at this time unless you don’t want to use your scanner.

At this point, I was willing to live with El Capitan until Apple fixes all of the infrastructure problems. However, I ran into an infrastructure problem that turned out to be a complete deal-breaker.

I have a 6 terrabyte Western Digital MyCloud network attached storage (NAS) drive plugged in to my Apple router. Though the MyCloud drive functions perfectly under Snow Leopard, iOS, Android and any version of Windows, to my chagrin I discovered that OS/X El Capitan won’t stay connected to the drive. I could reboot the computer and regain access, but within a few minutes the Mac Mini would arbitrarily disconnect from the MyCloud drive. It even disconnected in the middle of copying a large file to the MyCloud drive. If you have a MyCloud NAS drive DO NOT upgrade to the current version of El Capitan.

That was too much. I made sure I had backups of pertinent files, including the all-important Neat Library database file. Then I dug out the DVD’s that came with the Mac Mini and made a fresh install of the version of Snow Leopard that shipped with it. I was able to use the Migration Assistant to restore pertinent files, settings and Applications from a current Time Machine backup.

What is Apple thinking? In my opinion OS/X El Capitan is worse than Windows ME, arguably one of the worst, most bug-ridden versions of Windows ever. I know what Apple is trying to do with the El Capitan interface and color scheme – they are trying to make it seem fresh, new and exciting. Unfortunately, it fails on basic ergonomics. The El Capitan interface is a nightmarish hurricane of weak pastels, hidden features and unreadable system text combined with a truly dysfunctional infrastructure.

Fortunately, I had the option of pulling the plug on El Capitan and going back to Snow Leopard, which is arguably the best-ever version of OS/X. People buying new Macs today do not have that option. Unless they’ve had experience with older versions of OS/X they will never know that they are buying into a computing eco system that left its best days behind it.

 


MacRumors Buying Guide Helps with New Apple Purchases



MacRumors buying guideWhen is a good time to upgrade to a new Mac, iOS device, or Apple accessory? The general thinking has always been that you should upgrade once a piece of technology is no longer serving your needs. And that’s a good way to approach the decision. Still, you can never be too informed when it comes to making what could amount to a major purchase. Also, you don’t want to bring home a shiny new piece of technology and then find out a few weeks later that Apple has refreshed that product line, effectively leaving you with last year’s model.

Popular Apple-news site MacRumors has a buying guide that compiles historical information as well as the most recent rumors relating to Apple products. The guide then rates different products on a Buy Now, Neutral, Caution, and Don’t Buy scale. The ratings are fairly self-explanatory but if something is marked as Buy Now, then that product line has been recently refreshed. If an item is described as Neutral, then it’s likely to be at the midway point to a product refresh. A Caution rating indicates that product line is nearly out of date. And if a product carries the Don’t Buy warning, MacRumors believes that a refresh is imminent.

Given my recent computer issues, I’ve been looking at new Mac options. I may go with a Mac Mini, and when I started checking the MacRumors guide a few weeks ago, the Mini was being given the Caution label. Within the last few days, that rating has been upgraded to Don’t Buy. I will likely hold off on that purchase now, since it looks like Apple may have new Minis on the market in early 2016.

At present, the buying guide is giving a Don’t Buy rating to the MacBook Pro (non-Retina), Mac Mini, Mac Pro, and Apple displays. If you’re in the market for a new Apple product, be sure to check the buying guide first. It might save you some heartache down the road.


The 2011 iMac: Officially a Lemon



Mid-2011 iMacThere’s probably little point in calling Apple out over a four-year old computer. But I think if my experience with the mid-2011 27″ iMac is any indication, these machines are lemons.

I’ve blogged here before about Jen’s mid-2011 27″ iMac, and how the video card failed two months short of a special extended warranty period Apple had put in place specially for this problem. But I haven’t elaborated yet on the history of my own iMac, which is the exact same model.

I purchased the all-in-one computer in November of 2011. It worked just fine up until January of 2014. I took the computer into a local Mac repair shop and there it was determined that the video card had gone bad. The shop was able to replace the card at no cost to me, because of the special warranty I mentioned above. After that repair, the iMac was working fine, up until about two weeks ago. Then, out of nowhere, I was struck by a surprise system crash. Rebooting would fix the machine temporarily, but after a few minutes, it’d crash again. The way the machine went down looked very similar to what happened when my iMac’s video card failed the first time. Having seen this type of crash before, not only with this iMac but also with Jen’s, I was pretty sure that the video card had failed again. Another trip to the Mac repair shop confirmed this. Fortunately, this failure occurred just inside the expiration date of the special extended warranty. So, at least the repair will be free of charge.

A friend of mine also has a mid-2011 27″ iMac that’s currently collecting dust in a storage shed. That iMac crashed in a way that sounds very similar to mine. Instead of messing with a repair, he just bought a new computer. Between me, my friend, and Jen, we’ve had three iMacs, all the same model, go down for the same reason. That’s a 100% failure rate in our (admittedly) small group. But we can’t be the only ones who’ve suffered with the problematic make of this particular iMac.

I think it’s safe to say that the mid-2011 27″ iMac is a lemon. If you’re using one of these machines and it hasn’t failed yet, consider yourself lucky. But prepare now for the inevitable loss of your computer. And if you’re considering buying one of these computers on eBay or Craigslist, take a pass. While they’re still very robust and competent machines, they will likely break before you know it, leaving you with an expensive doorstop.