Tagged: Apple

Apple to put voices in your head

I found this article about Apple’s work with the hearing impared fascinating. I had no idea we were at the point of surgically implanting hearing aids, but apparently 10% of hearing aid customers could really stand to benefit from the surgery. And I’m sure as the technology improves (along with the hardware), it’s going to be more common.

While some companies “throw together” features to sell their wares, Apple spent years developing a low-energy form of Bluetooth for just such a use-case. Bravo, Apple!

Mac Websites Walk of Shame. Shame. Shame.

Ads-Trackers
I’ve been experiencing issues when I visit certain websites lately. Specifically, a few Mac-based sites like MacRumors, iMore, 9to5Mac and a few others. The problem is the sites load incredibly slow or fail to load completely—requiring me to reload the page two or more times. I’m running macOS Sierra and using Safari.

I switched to the Safari Technology Preview browser, and that helped a little bit, but not much. Pages still weren’t loading completely.

With all the discussion about privacy, tracking and ads on websites lately, which I mostly ignore because I know it’s out of my control for the most part, I found myself installing an ad blocker for the first time in a long time.

Ad BlockerRather than going with the most popular AdBlockers out there, I went with Ad Blocker from the Mac App Store. It’s a Safari Extension and a stand-alone app. One of the features of the app is a Website Inspector that runs a test to show you how long a page takes to load, the page size (in MB), number of Requests the site sends, number of ads, number of trackers and number of Social Media buttons & doodads it loads.

After installing Ad Blocker, I went to a variety of Mac-related websites I normally visit to compare it with my pre-ad blocker results.

My results were astonishing.

Without going into detail on each site, I’ve compiled a bunch of screenshots of the results below. Some sites are worse than others, but I think the results speak for themselves.

It’s also important to note that some of these sites load perfectly fine and appear in this list simply for context. Also, sites that subscribe to ad networks for their income often have no choice in the ads that appear and would love it if the Javascript-heavy, privacy-infringing, ad-tracking bloatware didn’t appear on their site… they just have no choice.

Ad trackers - macrumors

Ad trackers - cultofmac

Ad trackers - appleinsider

Ad trackers - bgr

Ad trackers - imore

Ad trackers - 9to5mac

Ad trackers - appleworld-today

Ad trackers - arstechnica-apple

Ad trackers - loop

Ad trackers - macdailynews

Ad trackers - macobserver

Ad trackers - macstories

Ad trackers - macsurfer

Ad trackers - osxdaily

Ad trackers - tidbits

As you can see, MacRumors was a major offender of ads and tracking, as was AppleInsider, BGR and iMore. The worst of them all, by far, was CultofMac with a whopping 349 ads and 43 trackers. Now keep in mind that what the software considers an ad or a tracker may not in fact be an offensive ad or tracker. If the site is a WordPress site, it has a tracker, and many sites offer aside items that show a list of popular articles on the site, etc., which typically show up as ads. But by-and-large, anything that shows up in the inspector’s results is something other than the content you went to the site to view.

For context, I ran the inspector on a few other sites. Apple’s homepage has no ads, no trackers, no social annoyances, and loads extremely fast. CNN and ESPN, two sites that are typically considered obnoxious by most users, are relatively tame in comparison to the Mac-related sites I tested (see results below).

Ad trackers - Apple

Ad trackers - CNN

Ad trackers - ESPN

The end result for me was that all the sites I was having issues with loaded significantly faster, and loaded completely the first time when running the Ad Blocker extension.

Sites like Daring Fireball (the clear winner and model website, in my opinion), Macintouch and SixColors manage to run their site profitably (I presume) without killing the end-user’s browsing experience (see results below). All three of those pages load virtually instantly and are a pleasure to read, with or without an ad blocker—which is why I whitelisted them in Ad Blocker.

Ad trackers - Daring Fireball

Ad trackers - Macintouch

Ad trackers - Six Colors

I want all of these sites to make money, it’s what keeps them offering up great content for free. But when it comes at the expense of the user experience, it’s self-defeating. If I don’t block the ads to make the site tolerable, I’m just not going to visit the site at all.

Get control of your Time Machine backup schedule

TimeMachineEditorI’ve written about this topic a few times in the past, but I recently had the need to stop Time Machine backups from occurring for a period of time, but I didn’t want to completely shut off Time Machine—for fear that I would forget to turn it back on and it would be weeks before I noticed.

There’s an easy way to manage the schedule of Apple’s Time Machine, which by default backs up everything every hour. That’s a bit too often to back things up if you’re not constantly saving loads of data to your drive. Plus Time Machine can soak-up a lot of power and network bandwidth while working if there’s a lot to back up.

TimeMachineEditor (free, donations welcomed) is a fantastic little tool that offers three distinct ways to edit Time Machine’s backup schedule.

TMEditor - Interval setting

TimeMachineEditor – Interval setting


Interval – Allows you to simply set a time interval to have Time Machine back up your files, such as every 3 hours, etc.
TMEditor - calendar interval

TimeMachineEditor – Calendar Interval setting


Calendar Intervals – Allows for a more complex scheduling of backups. As you can see above, you can schedule specific (down to the minute), multiple daily and weekly backup times.
TMEditor - When Inactive setting

TimeMachineEditor – When Inactive setting


When Inactive – Allows Time Machine to back up your files whenever you’re not using it. This is my preferred setting.

No matter which setting you choose, TimeMachineEditor also offers the option to NOT run backups between user-specified times. I have mine set to the middle of the night to morning, since it’s likely nothing new will have been added for quite a while before and after that.

Because this is simply setting some parameters for Apple’s Time Machine app, you can still use Apple’s Time Machine menubar widget to “Back Up Now” and “Enter Time Machine” whenever you wish.

I love this little utility. It’s been around for years and has always worked flawlessly for me.

What’s Apple’s next chapter in podcasting?

If I had to place a bet on a major change in Apple’s approach to podcasting, I’d place it on adding money to the equation.

Jason Snell over at SixColors covers a lot of Podcasting history in this article, and I think it’s all pretty much spot-on.

Apple has a virtual monopoly when it comes to Podcasting—pretty much owning the distribution of them with iTunes, and with a huge portion of the overall audience using an iPhone and Podcast app to listen to them. The only thing left for Apple to do in this arena is figure out a way to make more money.

Apple’s rounded-corner icons

Apple's rounded corners
I’ve always thought there was just something ‘different’ about Apple’s rounded corner icons. I wish I could explain it, but there’s something comfortable and soothing about Apple’s implementation of rounded corners when compared to virtually every other company that tries.

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.

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.