Category Archives: Tech

All things technology

30 Years of Apple’s Macintosh

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The original Macintosh (left) and today’s iMac (right)

Thirty years ago today, Steve Jobs unveiled the first Macintosh computer to the world. The upcoming Macintosh release was announced during an Orwellian ad shown during the Super Bowl (below).  The ad became an instant classic.

At an Apple event on January 24, a few days after the ad, Jobs presented the Macintosh to a crowd of Apple employees (below). To thunderous applause the Mac spoke to the audience and introduced itself to the world. The Mac was sure to be a hit. Unfortunately, it was priced to high for the average consumer, and the Apple II was more popular. The Mac was also plagued by delays due to production and design issues. Ultimately, the Mac’s failure was one of the reasons for Jobs leaving Apple in 1985. When Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, the Mac was reborn using Jobs’s NeXT software, which was renamed Mac OS X. The software has been at the heart of the Mac ever since it was released publicly in 2001.

Original Mac's GUI (top) and the GUI of OS X Mavericks (bottom)

Original Mac’s GUI (top) and the GUI of OS X Mavericks (bottom)

What made the original Mac unique was the use of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that used a mouse to point-and-click on objects that were on the screen. For computer users today, this is the norm, but before the Mac, a GUI was only available on expensive enterprise machines.

As the Mac turns 30, we honor the hard work that went into the building the original and the Apple employees and consumers that have remained loyal to the platform, even as Apple has introduced new product lines. Today, Apple celebrated the Mac’s birthday with a video and timeline of the Mac’s development. You may visit Apple’s 30th anniversary page by clicking here. Personally, I have been a Mac user since 2008. I have owned an iMac and currently own a MacBook Pro. I love the physical design of the hardware, simplicity and power of the software, and the integration of the hardware and software that makes a Mac unique.

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Should iWork be Free?

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At WWDC, Apple announced an expanded version of iWork in the cloud. Now you may think that iWork is already in the cloud, and it is, sort of. Currently, iWork documents are saved in iCloud so you can open them on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone, but you need the iWork apps to edit the documents. Apple unveiled a web-based version of iWork that allows users to create and edit documents in a web browser. While this is certainly a welcomed feature for iWork users, Apple left a number of questions unanswered. How much will it cost? Is iWork going to become a part of iCloud? Apple suggested more details would be released this fall, but I would argue that Apple needs iWork to be FREE to all users.

When you buy a Mac, iLife is free, but you have to buy the iLife apps for iOS. In addition, iWork apps have always come at a premium on OS X and iOS. Page, Numbers, and Keynote are sold in the Mac App Store for $19.99 each, and 9.99 each for iOS. If you buy iWork on the Mac, you have to buy the apps for iWork as well. If you choose to buy the full suite of apps for OS X and iOs, you have spent $89.94. But many Mac users, myself included, opt to spend more for the more mainstream Microsoft Office. Users should, at the very least, get the Mac AND iOS iWork apps for one price. Why should I have to buy iWork for each platform? I have not purchased iWork and do not plan to. I have used it on other Macs and have been using the beta versions in iCloud. I like the features of iWork, and the beta version of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote in iCloud are solid contenders. The layout of iWork in a browser is much like iWork on the Mac. For awhile I forgot I was using a browser based system. It worked that well.

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Apple knows iWork is not mainstream like Office or Google Docs. I believe iWork for iCloud could change this fact. If Apple wants to bring iWork to a larger audience, it needs to be free for every user of Mac OS X and iOS. Users of Android and Google get Google Docs for free with their phone and it can be used on a PC or Mac. Apple suggested that new versions of iWork for the Mac and iOS will be released in the fall, and to complete with Google and Microsoft, Apple needs to step it up and provide iWork as a free feature in OS X Mavericks and iOS 7.

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Steve Jobs Bio to be Released in Paperback

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Simon & Schuster announced that Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs will (finally) be available in paperback on September 10. The publisher announced that the paperback version of the biography will include a new afterword from Isaacson and a new cover image.

The cover will feature a picture of a younger Jobs taken by Norman Seeff. The original cover image, taken by Albert Watson, was taken later in Jobs’ life, but has a similar pose. When the paperback is released in September, it will have been nearly two years since the hardback was released, an unusually long period of time between releases. The hardcover version of Steve Jobs has been a best seller, and the paperback is expected to sell well.

The Original Cover

The Original Cover

Isaacson has suggested he may make some changes to the book by adding more information and cleaning up some of the repetition. The new afterword is the only new material we can expect at this point, but more information could be announced at a later date. I look forward to comparing the paperback edition to the hardcover edition.

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WWDC: Keynote

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Throughout the day, I have recapped Apple’s WWDC keynote from Monday. You can read my thoughts on OS X Mavericks, iOS 7, and the other updates from WWDC. Or you can get the full effect of the show by watching it on Apple’s site or watching the embedded video below (this may not always be available).

Overall, I thought WWDC was pretty good. Craig Federighi stole the show and is proving to be the rising star at Apple. There were some solid updates previewed at WWDC, but many developers were disappointed that the SDKs for OS X and iOS were not featured. After all, this was a developers’s conference. Like many Apple fans, I am looking forward to what Apple has in store for the fall. Until then, we will just have to watch tech sites for all the latest from the betas of Mavericks and iOS 7.

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WWDC: Other Announcements

Apple’s WWDC keynote on Monday provided a glimpse into the company’s future. The company showed off iOS 7 and Mac OS X Mavericks. While iOS 7 stole the show, there were some other interesting updates provided at WWDC that are worth discussing.

MacBook Air

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Intel announced their new Haswell chips a few weeks ago. It was speculated that Apple would update their entire Mac line to Haswell because of their low power consumption. The only line that received an update, however, was the MacBook Air. While the Air did not receive a Retina display as many had hoped, it did receive a spec bump. But the updated specs do come with positive and negative points.

On the positive side, the prices of the 13″ MacBook Air did drop $100 and the base model 11″ comes with 128GB of flash storage instead of 64GB. The real story, however, is the Haswell chips. The battery life of the 11″ model has improved to 9 hours and the 13″ now boasts 12 hours of battery life! Pretty impressive, but the processors are a bit slower. Benchmark scores are lower for the newer models, but not enough to make a huge difference.

Mac Pro

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Pro users have been waiting for an update to the Mac Pro for over two years, and Apple previewed the all new Mac Pro that will be available this fall. The new Mac Pro is 1/8 the size of the previous model and includes updated processors, internal flash storage, and 6 Thunderbolt 2 ports. This is going to be a very powerful, and expensive, machine. But there are pro users who need this type of power. The best thing about the new model is that they are being assembled in the United States.

Air Port Extreme

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Air Port Extreme received a major update at WWDC. It now features the blazingly fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The device has also been completely redesigned and looks great! Users of the Air Port Extreme can upgrade to this new model with a 2TB or 3TB Time Capsule built in. Prices start at $299.

iWork in the Cloud

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One of the less reported updates from WWDC was the fact that users would be able to edit their iWork documents in iCloud. All three apps, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, will be available on iCloud. I know what you are thinking, iWork documents already sync with iCloud. True, but users will be able to EDIT iWork documents in the cloud. Apple seems to be targeting Google Docs and Office 365 here, but will it be enough? I do not use iWork on my Mac, and I refuse to subscribe to Office. Apple says it will continue to make the stand alone apps, but what will they cost? Will iWork in the cloud have a fee too?

We do not know the answers to these questions yet, but I have always thought iWork, like iLife, should be free with every Mac. Maybe iWork in the cloud will be free, but having the Mac app will cost the standard $19.99 per app. We will find out more this fall, but I would like to see Apple make iWork a free feature of iCloud and the Mac.

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WWDC: iOS 7

The biggest announcement to come out of Apple’s WWDC keynote address was the complete overhaul of iOS. The redesign of iOS has been highly anticipated as many users believe iOS has not aged gracefully. I agree. When it was announced Jony Ive would be taking over the design of Apple’s software design in late 2012, expectations were high. Rumors began to circulate that iOS would have a more flat design and many tried to guess how that might look. One thing that was clear is that users wanted something different. On Monday, Apple showed a very different iOS. One that has divided the tech world.

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iOS 7 is all new aesthetically. The flat UI, new color palette, transparent design, and new icons create a completely different look. This new look has been the most polarizing aspect of iOS 7. Some hail iOS 7 as a bold new look while others feel it is too flat and lacks any character. Personally, I like some of the aspects of iOS 7 and believe that the polarization caused by iOS 7 will only help Apple attract attention. It is true that most of the changes in iOS 7 appear to be cosmetic, but there are a few new noteworthy features.

Control Center

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While this feature appears to be derived from Android, it is an important part iOS 7. Users asked for quick access to certain settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, brightness, and music controls. Control Center delivers this and more in a new pane you access by swiping up from anywhere in the OS. I cannot argue that it is an important feature, and I like the way it looks. The transparency of the background on this pane looks great with any wallpaper.

Notification Center

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As with OS X Mavericks, Notification Center received some updates. It is smarter in that it now provides a preview of your day. iCloud has also been introduced to sync notifications across devices. One thing that is missing, however, is quickly reply. In Notification Center on Mavericks, you can reply to an iMessage from the notification. This would be great for iOS, but it is not there. iOS 7 is currently in beta and this could be coming in a later update, but it is a glaring omission.

Multitasking

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iOS 7 has a completely new multitasking interface. Well, when I say new, I mean new to Apple. The new interface is similar to what we saw on Web OS and several jailbreak apps. Nevertheless, the update is welcomed. When a user accesses multitasking, they are brought to a entirely new section in which they can see previews of all their running apps. To close a program, simply swipe up on the image to dismiss the app. It is a simple idea that works well, but one that Apple “borrowed.”

Air Drop

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Air Drop has been brought to iOS. Like on the Mac, Air Drop will recognize all your friends that are nearby and allow you to share webpages, documents, and more. Most phones currently use NFC for this, but Apple opts for data networks or Wi Fi. No word on whether this will work over Bluetooth. I could see this being important for business customers, especially on the iPad.

iTunes Radio

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iTunes Radio has been widely rumored and is now official. Like Pandora, users can stream music and create stations based on artists or songs. The system will be supported by iAds or will be ad free for iTunes Match customers. It works well, but one of the biggest complaints at this point is that the music on iTunes Radio is censored. Pandora does not censor its music, and Apple better correct this before iOS 7 launches to the public.

Other Changes

There are some other minor changes worth noting. Safari has received an overhaul and users can now have unlimited tabs open at once. Siri has been updated with a new voice and some new commands, but nothing major. The Camera app has received some filters and the ability to shoot square images. The Photos app will now organize your photos by date and location. The App Store has a new “Near Me” option where you can find apps that are popular in your area. Find My iPhone has been improved to prevent thefts. An iPhone can only be activated using one iCloud account. This means if someone steals your phone, they will need your iCloud account to activate it after it is reset.

Overall, if it were not for the complete redesign, iOS 7 would be a pretty boring update. Apple was under a lot of pressure to refresh iOS, but have they delivered? Yes and no. The new interface is great looking, but it is still a work in progress. Features are likely to be added to the OS between now and its release date in the fall. And that is a good thing because iOS 7 needs something more than just a new coat of paint for it to keep up with the competition. The new iPhone will need to do something else to keep users and the tech world interested.

For now, iOS 7 is a step in the right direction. It gives Apple something to build on for the new few years. The next few months will be critical, however, as Apple refines iOS 7 and gets it ready for release this fall. Until then, be sure to check out the gallery below comparing the apps in iOS 6 (left) to the redesigned apps in iOS 7 (right). Also be sure to check out Apple iOS 7 video (above) and watch the full WWDC keynote here.

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WWDC: OS X Mavericks

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In Apple’s highly anticipated WWDC keynote address on Monday, the Cupertino company unveiled its next generation operating system for the Mac. Called OS X Mavericks, the OS is named after a beach in northern California. Apple admitted on Monday that it had run out of big cats, so future releases of OS X will be named after locations in California that “provide inspiration.”

The name change aside, OS X Mavericks does feature some pretty important changes for Mac users. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most important features of the latest release of the Mac OS.

Finder Tabs

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Finally! Having multiple Finder windows open makes it difficult to organize files. Many have speculated that it would be easier to manage the Finder if it had tabs, like a web browser. Apple has delivered in Mavericks. Organizing files and maintaining Finder windows will be much simpler with tabs. For power users, like myself, I can have four or more Finder windows open at once. In fact, I often have a second desktop open just for the Finder windows. This will not be necessary in Mavericks.

Tags

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Tagging a file is a simple concept, but Apple has really done a great job of taking tagging to the next level. In Mavericks, when a user saves a file, they will have the option to add tags to assist with searches. A new tags section has been added to the Finder’s side bar allowing users quick access to their tagged files. This is really interesting because it acts as a second organizing method. In addition to saving your files to a desired folder, Mavericks will also keep your files organized by the tags you assign. While this may not be a big feature for most users, as someone who has thousands of files on my MacBook Pro, this will be a big help.

Notification Center

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Notification Center has received some nice enhancements in Mavericks. In addition to providing updates from your favorite websites, notifications will now be synced using iCloud. This means that you will receive notifications from your iPhone or iPad apps on your Mac as well. And once you close the notification, it will close on the other devices. This may not be a major change, but it will cut down on the clutter in Notification Center on iOS. My favorite new feature of Notification Center is that it will now show everything you missed while you were away on the sign-in screen (see above).

Multiple Displays

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Apple has always supported multiple displays, but in Mountain Lion, there are some major issues. When a user opens a full screen app, the second display shows the linen background, rendering it useless. This was certainly a hinderance to users. In Mavericks, this problem has been corrected and some great features have been added. OS X will support up to 6 displays, and they can all be running at 4k resolution. In addition, each monitor can have its own dock and will have its own Mission Control. An important update for those users who utilize multiple displays.

Safari

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Safari has received some minor updates in Mavericks. In addition to having a new sidebar for bookmarks, Safari will use less power and less of the CPU during operation. Safari’s updates may not seem exciting, but improvements to the coding of any app is welcomed as it improves its stability and power consumption.

iBooks

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It’s about damn time. Apple is bringing iBooks to the Mac. Enough said.

Maps

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It was only a matter of time before Apple brought its Maps app to the Mac. This may not seem that important, but it is a really nice addition. Most of us tend to use Google Maps on our computers to find a location before we leave. But once we get in the car, we have to program the address into a phone or GPS. With Maps on the Mac, once you have created your itinerary, you can forward the information to your iOS device. Very handy. Other than that, Maps is pretty strait forward.

iCloud Keychain

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This is an interesting addition to the Mac and iOS. iCloud will remember your passwords and credit card information so that you do not have to keep post-it notes on your screen. iCloud Keychain will even suggest complicated passwords when you are creating a new account. This feature looks interesting, but some users will be leery of keeping their credit card information in the cloud.

Other Changes

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There are a host of other changes in Mavericks. Apple has finally ditched the fake leather look in Calendar and the book layout of Contacts. Although Jony Ive is not yet gotten his hands on OS X, they will likely move in that direct next year with OS X 10.10. Many of the other changes announced are under the hood. Improved CPU management and compressed memory will keep your Mac running efficiently. One other interesting features was App Nap. The software will track which program is in use and which programs are in the background. When an app is in the background, CPU power will be cut to that app to save power.

Mac OS X Mavericks will be available in the Fall and pricing as not yet been announced, but I expect Apple to continue their trend of $19.99 upgrades through the Mac App Store. This looks like a solid release with a number of new apps and system enhancements that will make Mac users happy. I am looking forward to seeing what Ive does with OS X in 2014, but for now Mavericks will be installed on my MacBook Pro the day it is released.

Note: Watch these features in action at Monday’s keynote address here.

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