Archives For practical mac

Mbp touchbar

When I was working on ideas for my latest Practical Mac column for The Seattle Times, I wanted to talk about my new MacBook Pro, but felt as if I’d already beat the subject into the ground. Turns out I hadn’t actually written about it since I received mine. (Maybe the readers are tired of it anyway.) So this week, I share some observations about actually using the new Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro on a daily basis. I also reflect on a couple of utilities—TextExpander and SoundSource—that have served me well running older versions, but which I’ve finally updated for good reasons.

Of particular note with the MacBook Pro, I’ve seen vastly improved battery life since updating to macOS Sierra 10.12.3, which fixed a bug that wasn’t allowing the graphics processors to switch the way they were supposed to. (In short: most of the time, the machine uses the Integrated graphics that are part of the main Intel Core i7 processor, which is highly battery efficient. Some apps, like Photoshop, take advantage of the discrete GPU for better and faster graphics processing, which burns through battery power faster. Instead of kicking back to the Integrated graphics when no longer using one of those apps, Sierra would continue to use the GPU.) This change has almost doubled my battery life in some cases.

Read it here: A new MacBook Pro, and dragging old applications into the future

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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 latest column for the Seattle Times covers Apple’s announcements from last week: the smaller iPhone SE, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and features of iOS 9.3 such as Night Shift: New iPhone and iPad Pro pack more in smaller sizes.

I haven’t yet used either device, which are due to be released March 31, so the column isn’t a review. I’m looking forward to trying them out.

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 this week’s Practical Mac column for the Seattle Times, I cover the Apple/FBI situation and make the case that the implications for forcing Apple to comply with the FBI’s demand is a dire security situation for everyone. I also include some practical advice for securing data on iOS devices. Apple-FBI fight has big implications for your security, privacy