Category: General

General creative topics

The best way to add the ports you need to the new MacBook Pro

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock

OWC is accepting pre-orders for their Thunderbolt 3 Dock, due to ship in February, starting at $280 (depends on the length of the Thunderbolt cable you want included). The Dock is obviously in response to Apple’s latest MacBook Pro announcement I wrote about yesterday.

In yesterday’s rant, I mentioned some would have to spend upwards of $200 for dongles to gain the ports they found necessary. The OWC Dock is a bit more than that, but also gives you significantly more options than straight dongles from Apple.
OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock
As you can see in the image above, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock includes plenty of ports. 5 USB 3 ports, Firewire 800, Ethernet, Display Port, audio-in and SD Card slot are included, along with two Thunderbolt ports capable of driving 4K displays. And the device is powered, so it can charge your iPhone.

OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock comes in Space Gray or Silver, and cable length varies between .5 meter 40Gb/s transfer speed and 2 meter 20Gb/s.

When it comes to the Mac, Apple is making it reeeeeaaally hard to be a fanboy

MacBook Pro 2016

Apple recently released new MacBook Pro models with great hype. As someone who is in the market for a new Mac in the next year, I watched the keynote with a pretty good amount of excitement and anticipation.

At the conclusion of Apple’s keynote presentation, I found myself staring at the screen with a dazed and confused look on my face.

For years I’ve had a MacBook Pro for taking work on the road. I do light design and image retouching on it, as well as email, web browsing and writing. At the home office I use a top of the line iMac with 32GB of RAM, Core i7 processor and upgraded video card for the heavy lifting in Photoshop, InDesign, etc.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my impending upgrade the last year or so, and decided that I could probably live with just one fully upgraded MBPro and buy an Apple Thunderbolt Display to use when I’m at home. This would save a lot of hassle with file syncing and twice the time spent upgrading and maintaining two computers.

But then Apple Event happened last week and I feel like I’m stuck in a place I don’t want to be. I absolutely love the macOS, but I’m left wondering how Apple and the rest of the world ended up so far apart on their definition of a Pro user.

The new MacBook Pro with its Touch Bar looks cool at first glance, and I can totally see how the average consumer might find it too cool to pass up. The problem for me (and by me, I mean most pros) is that anything found in the Touch Bar can be found in the menus—and probably has a keyboard shortcut associated with it. If it does, I probably know it and use it regularly. So I look at that fancy colorful Touch Bar, shrug my shoulder and… pfffft!

But that’s just one feature, right? Then I look under the hood and find more pfffft! than I think I can chew. A limit of 16GB of RAM. How do they call a Mac a “Pro” computer when you limit it to 16GB of RAM? The reason, according to Apple’s Phil Shiller, is that they wanted to keep the power-consumption down to preserve batterly life.

It’s a PRO computer. Most pro users sit at a desk most of the day, with the MBPro plugged in. Don’t even get me started on the comparatively low-end video card Apple chose to include. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s not a pro-level video card. Period.

MacBook Pro 2016 ports
The ports… that’s a big issue. Look, I get that technology moves forward. I never complained when Apple chose to switch to Lightning ports on the iPhone. But that’s mostly because I don’t have to plug anything into my iPhone other than the charger. My Mac is another thing completely. Not only do I plug my USB-A iPhone into it, but my USB-A microphone, USB-A DSLR camera cable, USB-A Bluetooth headphones (for charging) and multiple USB-A storage drives. With the new MBPro, some users will spend up to $200 on dongles to connect existing devices to the new MBPro. That’s just crazy.

LG Ultrafine DisplayApple no longer makes stand-alone displays, opting instead to work with LG to produce a fully compatible 5K display that has an iSight camera, plenty of ports and gorgeous image quality. The price is better than Apple’s former offering, too. So there’s really no problem there, other than the problem of perception.

But the big white elephant in the room is that rumor sites claim that Apple will be updating the MacBook Pro next year with faster processors, RAM upgradeable to 32GB, better video cards, battery-efficient OLED screens and more. Of course, some of those rumors don’t match up with reality. So who knows what to believe.

I’m not sure what to make of the current MacBook Pro, or the rumors that Apple is already working on the device pro users wanted. I get that Intel is to blame for the low-power processors and the effect it has on Apple to provide more RAM and video cards, but then why even release the laptop upgrade? Why not just wait a few more months and release the better device when it’s ready?

It makes me wonder what the next iMac or Mac Pro will be, or even IF they will be. What I know for sure is that my plan to go with a single Mac, the MacBook Pro, are on hold until next year… and even then I may have to alter those plans depending on what Apple does.

I used to be a pure Apple fanboy, but that description is no longer valid—at least not in the year 2016.

Free cloud-based font sharing webinar

Suitcase TeamSync

If you read my review of Extensis Suitcase Fusion 7 recently, you may recall I mentioned their new service called TeamSync, allowing you to share your fonts with a team of users, even if they aren’t Suitcase Fusion users (though they will be). If you discounted it because it sounded complicated, I urge you to take a look at this recently recorded webinar that sheds some light on TeamSync.

You’ll find out:
• The advantages of cloud-based font sharing;
• The differences between Suitcase Fusion and Suitcase TeamSync;
• How Suitcase Fusion and Suitcase TeamSync work together;
• How to quickly get your users connected;
• How to stay in sync by sharing your font library with multiple users.

The Suitcase TeamSync webinar is only an hour long, and does a fantastic job of showing you exactly how it all works.

Is Apple’s design style going down hill?

Mac icon evolution
Ultimately, only you can answer that. Apple has chosen a direction with the Mac’s GUI that is quite a departure from even the recent past. Lots of people love it, and lots of people don’t like it at all. I find myself somewhere in the middle.

When I look at the icons above individually, I like all the new ones. But collectively, when compared to the old ones, they don’t work as well. First off, Apple has chosen to go decidedly whiter with their icons. In a crowded Dock, they all sort of blend together. None of them are easily recognizable at a quick glance. Second, some of them make no sense. Take the new Photos app icon—what in the heck do a bunch of color blobs represent? The old iPhoto icon was clear in what it represented.

But it doesn’t stop with icons. The entire GUI has gotten lighter, more “blended in,” and sometimes confusing. Overall, I still love the Mac’s interface. Lately though, I’m finding more and more “little things” that really bug me.

Nicholas Windsor Howard has a great two-part article about the subject (complete with plenty of screenshots) that’s worth the read. Part one can be found here, and part-two here. Take a look and see if you agree with his opinions.

Full-size wireless Apple keyboard… except it’s not from Apple

Matias Wireless Aluminum Keyboard
The standard full-sized Apple keyboard is probably the best keyboard I’ve ever used. I just wish it was wireless. Unfortunately Apple’s wireless keyboard, like almost every other wireless keyboard, jettisons the numeric keypad, navigation keys and extra F-Keys.

This is where the Matias Wireless Aluminum Keyboard (MWAK) comes in to save the day. The MWAK looks and acts just like the Apple Full Sized Keyboard, including the handy function keys to control your Mac. But there are three more things that make this thing a real gem.

First off, you can choose the MWAK color to match your device. It comes in Silver, Space Gray, Gold and Rose Gold. FINALLY, a full sized wireless keyboard for the Mac that offers black keys instead of white! What is it that makes manufacturers think that just because we’re Mac users we want want everything to be white? And it’s aluminum instead of the cheap plastic virtually all other keyboards are made of.

Matias keyboard colors

Next, you can sync the keyboard with up to four Bluetooth devices, including Android and Windows devices, and easily switch between them with the press of a button.

And finally, the 1,600 man battery is huge in comparison to other wireless keyboards. After a full charge (which can take up to 5 hours from empty), you can safely put the included USB charging cable in a drawer somewhere—because you won’t need it for another year. That’s right, a single charge will last you an entire year, according to Matias. And that’s with having the keyboard on and connected at all times (no delay in connecting to the host computer like most keyboards do).

The Matias Wireless Aluminum Keyboard sells for $99, and can be purchased directly or from numerous retailers.

I don’t own one of these Matias keyboards, so I can’t vouch for them in any way. What is the build quality? Do the colors match Apple devices accurately (or even close)? How does the keyboard feel compared to the Apple keyboards? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions because…

I would have run out to the Fry’s Electronics store down the street, but the website doesn’t list any products from Matias—despite the fact that the Matias website claims to sell the keyboard there. Same goes for BestBuy.