End Of The Line?

Invitation to the One week from today Apple will hold its probably-last-ever product event at the Infinite Loop campus. By the time the traditional March event rolls around the company will have moved to the new mothership and their swanky new auditorium. 

There isn’t any real mystery as to what next week’s event is all about … this is a refresh across the board of the Macintosh line-up.  Most people will be debating which models will get facelifts and/or speed bumps (I’m pretty sure it will be the iMac on the desktop side and both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro in the portable space) but there is a much better question hanging in the air:  Is this is the end of the line for the MacBook Air?

The signs, I think, point to yes. The new MacBook is every bit as light as the Air, and the Air is really starting to suffer from the lack or a Retina display. A lot of people use their laptop screen as their only household display – they work on it, they watch their shows on it, they play their games on it, they talk to their friends and family on it. When you use a screen all day every day quality becomes paramount.  Once you’ve used the Retina display you really don’t want to go back to anything less, and that alone leaves the Air in a rather awkward space. Add to that it’s position outside the traditional 2 x 2 Apple product grid and I think the writing is on the wall. 

I’ll miss the Air … but I think it’s become a bit of an orphan so maybe this is for the best. We’ll know in a week. 

Shitstorm Wednesday

Things to remember when the inevitable shitstorm breaks this afternoon:

The Analog Audio Jack Is Old And Stupid: Old with a capital “O”. This is literally (yes, literally) the same technology Marconi used. People are going to wail and moan, but these are the same people who wailed and moaned when the serial port and the floppy drive was missing from the iMac. Serial ports were old and stupid. Floppy discs were old and stupid and unreliable. Analog audio jacks are old, stupid, unreliable, and they let water into the device. Fail. The wailing and moaning shouldn’t be about the fact that the thing will be gone, the wailing and moaning should be why it took this long to get rid of the damn thing.

Cords Suck: Cords for earbuds suck even worse. The removal of the audio jack isn’t to get people to plug into the lightning port or to make them buy dongles, it’s to get them to stop plugging in at all. Which is why the new iPhone will come with “good enough” bluetooth earbuds in the box. It’s not about a different plug – it’s about no plug.

Megapixels Don’t Equal Quality: More pixels doesn’t make for a better image – processors, lenses, sensors, and software does. Anyone who complains that other phones have cameras with more pixels is simply advertising to you that they don’t really understand digital photography. Image quality counts. Bigger numbers are just for companies that are more marketing than innovation.

WatchOS 3 Really Does Make The Apple Watch A Whole New Device: There is no technology bump – yet – that justifies a new form factor or outright hardware version of the Apple Watch. But there is software that makes the current one less of a specialty item and more of a digital triage device for the masses. New Apple Watch next year – newly usable Apple Watch this year.

New Macbook Pro Models Are Coming: Wait for it.

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85,000,000: The number of Android devices infected with the HummingBad malware via unauthorized copies of “Pokemon GO” over the last 5 days.

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18,000,000: The number of trees that are cut down each year to provide Americans with toilet paper.

The Best Mobile Safari Tip You Will Get This Week

Unless you live in some sort of odd 1998 time bubble, or are inexplicably using Internet Explorer for something other than demonstration how not to write a browser, you probably use browser tabs pretty much all the time. Listen: As positive developments go, browser tabs are right up there with sliced pizza and the polio vaccine.

Being a clever tab user you are probably also familiar with – and beholding to – the “Undo Close Tab” function. As an extension to that familiarity you have probably cursed out Mobile Safari more than a few times for not having the same function. Sure, you can bring up your history and swipe down to the tab you just closed, and hope like hell you didn’t open it three days ago because now it is about 1,437 items down the list, and … stop. Just stop. Calm down. Mobile Safari does have a “reopen closed tabs” function; you just haven’t found it yet.

Let’s do some finding.

First, tap on the “Show Tabs” icon at the bottom of the screen:
Mobile Safari - Show Tabs Button

Then tap and hold the “New Tab” icon at the bottom of the tabs view screen:
Mobile Safari - New Tab Button

Zut alors! C’est magnifique! Fermer la porte! All of your recently closed tabs, ready for tapping.
Mobile Safari - List Of Closed Tabs

Life, as the kids say, is good. You’re welcome.

Coming Soon To The App Store!

SilentSurfr is a different kind of content blocker. It’s doesn’t block ads … instead it blocks the trackers, beacons, and other behind-the-page chicanery that some publishers depend on to monetize their ads at the expense of their readers’ privacy.

SilentSurfr Screenshot

Keep yourself safe from data harvesting, lower your page load times and your mobile data usage, and support publishers and writers that treat you with respect … all for a single low (and one time only) price. No add-ons, no in-app purchases, no subscriptions.

Coming soon …

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10: The percentage of viewers that PBS estimates ever painted along with Bob Ross.

The Best iCloud Tip You Will Get This Week

If you have multiple devices using iOS and OS X you are probably at least passingly familiar with iCloud Drive. For the most part, it’s entirely seamless – especially from the iOS side, where you don’t even have to think about the thing at all. Open an app, and voila! The list of all the comparable files on your iCloud Drive is there and waiting for you. Save a file, and (at the rest of sounding repetitive) voila! The file is automagically saved to iCloud Drive, no muss, no fuss, no wondering if you put it in the right spot.

Sometimes, however, automagically is not exactly what you want. Once in a great while you might find yourself wanting to be able to take a quick look at the stuff stashed away on your iCloud Drive – figure out if you have a file without opening the associated app, rename files to help keep things obvious with a collaborator, share a file, whatever. If you are sitting at a desktop you can just point your browser to iCloud.com and off you go. But if you are on mobile … are you pooched?

No, of course not. There is a not-overly-secret but also not-entirely-obvious switch in your iOS settings that will reveal the hidden iCloud Drive folder that sits on all of on your iOS devices. It’s three simple steps and totally painless. Ready? Let’s begin.

One: Go to your iOS settings and tap on “iCloud” – it’s in the section below the items that run from “General” to “Privacy”. You will be presented with this screen:
iCloud Settings Screen On iOS
Two: Tap on “iCloud Drive” and you will see a screen like this. Flip the switch labelled “Show on Home Screen” to on:
iCloud Drive Settings Screen
(NOTE: Obviously the master iCloud Drive switch at the top of this screen needs to be set to on as well. I probably don’t have to tell you this.)

Three: That’s it. Done. Return to your home screen(s) and your will see the iCloud Drive icon – it looks like this:
iCloud Drive on iOS Screen
Tap it, and there are all your cloud files, arranged by application. From here you can long-press on any item in a folder to bring up a menu of file operations, or “pop” them with force-touch to see a preview:
iCloud Drive File List
Done and done. Amaze your friends. Boost your productivity. Be cool.

Aerial – A Ridiculously Awesome Open Source Screen Saver

San Francisco Daytime Flyover From Apple TVYou may be aware that the latest generation of Apple TV went on sale yesterday. You may also be aware that the new box features some absolutely eye-popping screen savers – slow-motion hi-def flyovers of locations from around the globe, tuned to your current time of day.

What you might not be particularly aware of is the work of an exceptionally talented Swift programmer named John Coates who has crafted an OS X screensaver that brings these exact same flyovers to your computer desktop. Aerial is free, completely open source, and ready for your downloading pleasure right now. If you have one of the new 4K iMacs, this will blow your mind. If you have any other machine, well, it will still blow your mind, just not as much.

Those 4K iMacs are the bomb.

A couple of notes:

This is written in Swift, so you have to be running at least OS X Mavericks to enjoy it.

It is truly open source so you can use it to learn a little bit about Swift, or – if you are already a Swift guru – you can help contribute to or collaborate on the project.

If you aren’t familiar with GitHub and the downloading and building process here is an easy shortcut: Scroll down on John’s page to the section headed “Download” and then click on the link where it says “Download from GitHub”. Then just unzip the downloaded file, double-click on the file called “Aerial.saver” and allow OS X to install it. After that you can use it like any other OS X screen saver.

Finally, if you are planning on selecting only a few of the choices and would like to see a large (and gorgeous!) preview of all of the different locations and times, head over to Benjamin Mayo’s page for a complete set of views and browse away.

One Tiny Thing About Blackberry

It was almost three years ago that the fine folks in Waterloo decided to open up the Blackberry Messenger platform to other mobile OS players. At the time I wondered what the possible business model was going to be once the dust settled. There were three more-or-less realistic ideas on the table, none of them particularly enticing but at least legitimate possibilities.

Extortive offer to rid BBM of annoying ads.Well. Talk about blindsided … the real answer is “none of the above”, a.k.a. junking up the user experience with ads and then trying to extort users to pay a monthly fee to get rid of them. This is usually the playground of skeezy copy-and-paste game publishers, not legitimate and established technology companies.

It’s unseeming at best. Amateurish at worst. And downright embarrassing either way.