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Airpods coffee

When Apple announced AirPods, the wireless earbuds, I thought they looked cool, but they didn’t really catch my attention. I already owned a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and regular earbuds have generally worked just fine in my ears.

And then people started to rave about them. As I mention in this week’s Practical Mac column for The Seattle Times, “… I began to see something unusual for modern Apple, with its deep marketing prowess and industry clout: enthusiastic word-of-mouth.”

After using them for a few weeks, I’m sold. They’re great, even with a few limitations (no volume control except via Siri, no quick pairing with the Apple TV). And AirPods offer the best first-encounter experience of any Apple product in recent memory, hands down.

Read the entire review here: AirPods turn out to be rare product that lives up to the hype.

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Homekit plug light

I dipped my toes into HomeKit recently, and now I’m waist-deep into smart home technology. For my latest Practical Mac column at The Seattle Times, I look at several devices that are making my home better, as well as the effect it’s had on my family and I: Making a smart move with HomeKit smart-home devices.

Setting aside the technical considerations, what’s been most intriguing is how my family and I have responded to these little forays into living in a smart home. I was skeptical at first of the benefit of having lights that could be controlled from my phone — I do still remember how to flip a switch. But the key is in setting up schedules and scenes.

Now, many lights turn on by themselves: our porch light and living-room lights automatically come on at sunset and turn off at 1 a.m. (which is an obvious indicator if I’m still awake that I need to head to bed).

In my home office, the lights and a portable space heater turn on in the morning so my workspace is warm and welcoming when I start working. And if I leave the house on errands or to take a walk, the space heater is automatically turned off when I go past a geofence surrounding my house, so I don’t accidentally leave the heater running all day.

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Mbp touchbar top

Following Apple’s media event last week where the company introduced the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, I wrote up the news and some initial impressions for my Seattle Times column: Apple’s latest Mac upgrade news is intriguing and perplexing.

There’s been a lot of kvetching and hand-wringing about this new update from Apple, reaching similar levels of paranoia as during the Dark Years of being an Apple fan. Does this mean Apple is abandoning the Mac? Has Apple forgotten about its professional customers? Is the Touch Bar just a gimmick? And what about the iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro?

I sound dismissive, but I’m not. There are some things about the event that are perplexing, such as the 16 GB memory limit in all MacBook Pro configurations, and the lack of any news about the other Macs. I don’t fall on the Apple-is-doomed spectrum (hell, we’ve been through enough of that), but this does seem like an unusual move for the company.

I’ll have more to say soon. In the meantime, read the article and leave your feedback!

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My barber said, “I have too many clouds,” and I immediately sympathized. iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive…I have files stashed in all of them. What surprised me when I set about to write this week’s column for the Seattle Times, is that I’ve so effortlessly moved so much of my work and personal data to cloud-based services.

iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, released last month, further entwine iCloud’s tendrils into everyday activities. In the column, I talk about how it enables me to control Philips Hue lights in my home from any remote location, unlock a Mac using my Apple Watch just by getting near it, and more.

Read the column here: Forecast: Increasing use of cloud services for just about everything.

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My latest column for The Seattle Times looks at what’s just around the corner: a few notable features in the macOS Sierra and iOS 10 betas. I’ve been running both (as well as watchOS 3), and am impressed so far. The features I mention in the column are just a sampling, and I focused on how the Mac and iPhone/iPad work together.

I didn’t have space to mention things like the Maps app automatically noting where you parked your car, how convenient the raise-to-wake feature on the iPhone is, or the convenience of replying to texts without leaving the current app (something possible under iOS 9, but expanded in iOS 10).

Read it here: Beta testing: In next macOS, everyday features work more closely across devices.

Also worth noting: Make sure you update to iOS 9.3.5, a quick-fix security update that Apple issued late last week to patch a hole that could enable an attacker to remotely control your device. TidBITS has more info here: iOS 9.3.5 Blocks Remote Jailbreak.

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In my latest column for The Seattle Times, I look at Apple’s WWDC announcements with a mixture of excitement—some very cool things are coming—and cynicism—how will Apple make some things work well?

Read it here: Apple offers a look at coming operating system updates.

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In my latest Seattle Times column, I wrestle with keeping track of the various bits of digital data we need to store. Going paperless years ago was a relief, but the data I need to manage has increased since then. For a long time, I used Evernote, but found myself not turning to it in recent months. Apple’s Notes has, to my surprise, become a viable replacement for a couple of reasons I discuss in the article.

Read it here: Going paperless still requires bringing order to digital chaos

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My last Practical Mac column for 2015 is up at The Seattle Times, where I wrap up the flurry of software and accessory releases that Apple pushed out this month. Then, I look ahead to some relaxing time over the holidays by recommending some games—on the iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV—that I’ve enjoyed.

Read it here: Key Apple updates to note, then it’s time to play games!

Watch fitting

I’ve now had my Apple Watch for two months (here’s my review for the Seattle Times), and in that time I’ve gotten to know it very well while updating my Apple Watch: A Take Control Crash Course book (which is available now!). But don’t worry, this isn’t another “here’s my take on the Apple Watch after eight weeks” type of article.

Instead, my latest column for the Seattle Times is all “Practical Apple Watch” instead of “Practical Mac.” I share some of the useful tips and techniques I’ve run across with the watch so far, such as unlocking the watch without using the onscreen passcode, getting notified when emails from VIPs arrive, and, believe it or not, receiving phone calls on the watch.

Read the article here: Essential tips, tricks for living with an Apple Watch.

And since I mentioned my book, I want to point out that through the end of June, as part of a larger bundle deal called SummerFest 2015, you can get the Apple Watch Crash Course and all other Take Control books at a 25% discount when you use the code SUMMERFEST2015.

If you like the work I do, please consider signing up for my low-volume newsletter that I use to announce new projects, items, and giveaways that I think my readers would be interested in.

In my latest Seattle Times Practical Mac column, I take in the beautiful screen of the new 5K iMac and wonder: Have we reached a Retina tipping point? Not all of Apple’s products offer Retina screens (the MacBook Air is the last holdout, and you can still buy non-Retina iMac, MacBook Pro, and iPad models), but they’re now in the minority.

Personally, I’m thrilled that the best improvement to computing is something that benefits the thing we look at all the time. (And personally I’m a little jealous, since I’m still soldiering on with a non-Retina 2010 MacBook Pro as my main Mac. My wife bought a 13-inch MacBook Pro last year, and I try my best to avoid it for fear that my li’l workhorse laptop will seem rough in comparison.)

Do you agree? Check out the article here: Retina 5K display a gorgeous sight worth its price.