Tag: Mac (page 1 of 10)

Mojo

I recently wrote about being 10 years on a Mac. It’s been a remarkably stable time with access to a lot of great software and hardware. However there’s no getting away from it – Apple have been stagnating when it comes to Mac’s.

Going back 10 years and there was a marked difference between buying a Mac and buying a PC. Apple owned the software and hardware process and there were very few product lines compared to the hundreds of PC’s available and the crapware that afflicted every PC from Dell to HP, Dan to Acer. They all did it and it stunk. No virus or malware issues either. And for me the difference in how the hardware was designed was massive.

PC or Mac from 2006. Which would you have rather had?

PC or Mac from 2006. Which would you have rather had?

This was also the time of the Mac vs PC adverts that went on for a few years. How times have changed.

This week saw Microsoft and Apple launch new desktop and laptop products. The difference between then couldn’t be more stark and shows that Microsoft have got their mojo back…and Apple are looking a little lost.

The problem for Apple is iOS. It’s a great problem to have, but Mac and iOS are two very different platforms that share quite a bit in common. iOS is the rising platform, dominant in sales and very much the future of computing. Mac is much loved amongst the Apple community but sales in the desktop and laptop market are going down. Global PC sales have declined for eight consecutive quarters. End users aren’t upgrading their PC’s as often – my desktop and laptop are over 5 and 4 years old respectively and still going strong.

However iOS is Apple’s touch driven environment and Mac’s have been left behind in that regards. Is it the right approach? Well Microsoft don’t think so and having messed up so much in the past on mobile they’ve bet on having a unified operating system. So Windows 10 works anywhere, mouse or touch driven, so you can take advantage of your hardware depending on the situation you are in. They are also hitting their stride when it comes to hardware. A few years ago the Surface Pro was a nice device but version 4 is great and with the Surface Book and now the Surface Studio there’s a real wow around Microsoft’s hardware from a design perspective.

Microsofts Surface Studio

Microsofts Surface Studio

Microsoft are courting creatives. IBM have rolled out Macs across the enterprise. Microsofts new devices are not cheap unlike Windows products of the past. Good design costs money and the small creative market are willing to pay to get the best devices. Software is not really locked to platforms. Adobe allow you to work on Mac or PC and the experience on both is pretty much identical. The Mac App Store hasn’t done the Mac platform any favours. Equally the emerging VR market is a Windows exclusive right now. Apple hardware isn’t powerful enough to drive any of the VR platforms and they’ve yet to show their hand when it comes to AR or VR apart from Tim Cook verbally favouring AR.

Whats frustrating for me is that Apple look to be slowing down. Stagnating. The Mac market is getting smaller so is the ideal market to innovate in. In contrast last weeks announcements were pretty snooze worthy. Pricey laptops, confusing naming strategy coupled with a lovely new Touch Bar. The laptops aren’t using the latest chips and the RAM looks stingy. Add to that a greater than three years old Mac Pro, and ageing iMac and Mini. What’s going on?

Worse for us in the UK is that all Mac prices rose last week thanks to Brexit. While I can understand the rise for the new MacBook Pro’s and the iMac’s, it’s a disgrace that the ancient Mac pro rose by £500. Poor decision Apple or don’t you care? Seeing as the Mac Pro website still references Aperture, a product that Apple killed over 12 months ago, I’m thinking they don’t care.

Or has Apple got too big? The video above from Steve Jobs is prophetic and could describe todays Apple. This years iPhone is undoubtedly a great phone but it’s safe. Compare it to the Xiaomi Mi Mix which is a gorgeous new Android device and shows some true innovation with regards design and materials.

Xiaomi Mi Mix - stunning new Android phone

Xiaomi Mi Mix – stunning new Android phone

Apple for me right now feels conservative. Undoubtedly making bundles of cash but hedging bets and not as exciting as they once were. However the likes of Microsoft, Google and Samsung have some great products out there. As a tech lover I’m spoiled for choice. Earlier in the week a colleague said they were worried at Apples approach. I’m personally not worried as it’s easy to move platform so I’ll always have access to the best hardware and software…but that should give cause for concern for Apple. Over time if people start to move away, especially developers and creatives, then it could be the start of a slow decline. Hopefully Apple will prove me wrong in 2017. They need to find their mojo again.

10 Years on a Mac

Hard to believe but it’s 10 years since I moved from PC to Mac. 10 years! I’d been using an iPod for a few years when in 2006 Apple moved to Intel processors and updated their iMac design. It was all too tempting so I said farewell to viruses, tara to malware and hello to hassle free Mac computing. That was the plan and for the most part it’s been true. Here’s some thoughts on my Mac/Apple journey inspired by this post from Elaine Giles earlier in the year.

iMac up and running

Macbook ProI loved that first iMac and picked up an 80Gb iPod at the same time. The first three months was so good that at Christmas I bought a MacBook Pro. What a great laptop that was. Fast, quiet, quick to boot and the design was to die for. 2007 saw the release of the iPhone but it just wasn’t for me. No 3G, no app’s. It was a lovely first phone but not enough to make me move. So I stuck with my Sony Ericson, remember them, and waited for Apple to update their Jesus phone.

iOS
2008 saw Apple release the iPhone 3G, iOS 2.0 and the App Store. I jumped in and picked up a 16GB iPhone 3G and bought far too many app’s on day 1. Super Monkey Ball, MotionX Poker and Twitterrific were all stand out app’s even in those early days. The iPhone and success of the App Store started a shift in focus for Apple, developers and consumers.

Subsequent iPhones increased in power and performance and I lapped them up. The 3GS, the 4 and 5 all followed and unlike other phones they kept their value in the second hand market remarkably well.

In 2010 Steve Jobs revealed the iPad. I still remember myself and Shak both dismissing it as a big iPhone…and then a few weeks later queuing for one at the Apple store in Glasgow. For me it was definitely a consumption device. Magazines, books and comics all worked really well on the iPad especially the retina model which came out in 2012. At the end of 2013 I moved to an iPad Air which I still use today.

I tried a couple of keyboards during the various iPad’s I’ve owned and went through a few different styluses but none really stuck. I did do a few work related tasks on them but the iPad remained mostly a media consumption device. When the iPad Pro’s came out I was close to picking one up but stuck with the Air mostly due to the cost and initially being unsure of the 12″ iPad Pro.

2014 saw me move to the iPhone 6 and this year I picked up an iPhone 7. It’s a fantastic phone but it feels the end of the line with a redesign likely next year. Competitors are using better components and catching up on the camera front…and many feel their phone camera’s are now better than the iPhone’s but at least the iPhone doesn’t explode.

Back to the Mac
So iPhone and iOS has become the focus for Apple but I still love the Mac. May 2011 and I upgraded to a new iMac. This was a great machine – 27″ screen, SSD and really fast processor. In fact it was so good (after a 16GB RAM upgrade) that over 5 years later I’m still using it. It still copes with most things I throw at it although there are two main shortfalls. It really struggles to process 4k video which both the camera and drone support and secondly it’s not a retina device.

This is also true for the MacBook Air I picked up in 2012. Non retina and not in any way a powerhouse but it does the job for me in a few key area’s that the iPad Air doesn’t. So apart from the iPhone my other Apple products are all getting long in the tooth. I almost forgot – 2015 and the Apple Watch. It’s been OK and Watch OS 3 makes a big difference but I’ve not moved on to the latest version until I see some app’s that will make a difference. I don’t need a faster CPU to get a notification more quickly.

The sorry state of Mac hardware

The sorry state of Mac hardware

The main reason I haven’t updated the Mac’s is mostly thanks to the slow progress that Apple have made with Mac hardware. Certainly the move to retina is great but if I look at the current Mac platforms, they are all old. Buy a Retina MacBook Pro today, which is probably their flagship Mac platform, and the hardware is over 500 days old. That’s shocking. How many people are buying a Retina MacBook Pro today not knowing that the inner hardware is that old. Same for the MacBook Air although I’m assuming sales of the Air are now very small – the bezel looks dated and it’s a non-retina screen.

The Mac platform is clearly secondary for Apple. The Mac App store is a mess in comparison to the iOS version. The latest Mac release, Sierra, has very little for Mac users. Compare Messages in iOS which saw a massive upgrade in iOS 10 to the Messages in Sierra. Crickets. And where is the hardware from Apple that would support any sort of VR headset? If you are in any way interested in the Oculus or Vive platforms then a Windows PC is the only option.

What’s Next
Over the next 18 months I’ll be replacing my iPad, MacBook Air and iMac…and probably my iPhone too! With iOS and iPhone I have no complaints and I love the platform. My current thinking is that I’ll replace the iPad and MacBook Air with an iPad Pro. No idea on size, but the keyboard and Pencil support of both Pro models will leave me needing only one device to replace the current iPad and Air.

As for the iMac, that’s a more tricky decision. My gut feel is I’ll update to the latest Retina iMac and sufficiently future proof it with fast CPU, SSD and lots of RAM. However I don’t think I can ignore Windows for much longer so I can see me also picking up a 4K second monitor (to replace the current non retina 27″ ASUS) for the iMac and plug in a Windows gaming PC that will allow me to play with one of the VR platforms. That purchase will wait for one of them to be seen as leading as at the moment it’s early days in the VR space.

I depend on my Mac, more than the iOS devices, and it’s where I get most of my work done. Unless iOS devices and iOS itself see’s some significant changes I won’t be able to shift to being iOS only so I do hope that Apple release updates to Mac’s soon – the platform needs some love! Despite my negativity I won’t be leaving the Mac though. Even some stale hardware and unloved Mac updates are better than Windows 10 and it’s woes. Here’s to the next 10 years with Apple.

Day One 2

One of my favourite app’s across Mac and iOS got a really nice update this week. Day One is a journaling app that I’ve used for the last few years and version 2 brings quite the upgrade.

On first launch on either platform you’ll notice that you can no longer sync using iCloud or Dropbox. Instead Day One uses it’s own sync platform. Import your entries from Day One, setup an account and then sync. I found the process to be fast considering I’ve over 800 entries within my current journal.

The previous version had support for only one journal and relied on tags to separate out entries. I had tags for work, movies and runs. Version 2 still supports tags but now supports up to ten journals which can be individually coloured so I’ve setup individual journals and it makes for a much better experience.

Journal entries haven’t seen much change but each entry can now have up to 10 photo’s which is Day One’s 2 ‘finally’ feature.

These are paid updates and both versions are available for 50% off for one week only. iOS is fairly priced but Mac feels a bit steep for relatively little change – £14.99 rising to £29.99 in a weeks time. Future upgrades are promised though.

Day One 2 is an admittedly pricey app but one I can’t do without. It’s polished and if you value journalling of any kind it’s well worth a look.

Mac Apps 2015

A recent post from Gordon on his current Mac App’s spurred me to look back at my last post on this in 2012. Has much changed?

Well Safari is now my browser of choice, iTunes still where my music is but podcasts are now in Instacast. A couple of smaller app’s have been eaten by Mavericks and Yosemite but I still look to third party app’s for most of my day to day needs. When Yosemite came out I nuked the iMac and dropped a few app’s so there are a few changes in the list. Hopefully there are one or two gems in the list that are new to you.

Alfred
http://www.alfredapp.com/
Free, PowerPack for £15

For a longtime I used Quicksilver and then Launchbar as a keyboard launcher but around three years ago I moved to Alfred and I just can’t let it go despite Spotlight catching up in Yosemite. Alfred allows you to drive your Mac fully from the keyboard – launch app’s, search the web etc. Buy the PowerPack and you can extend via scripts from the Alfred community or ones you write yourself, control iTunes and access a full clipboard history and also snippet library. A lovely app that will become your most used app if you let it. With Alfred Remote now out for iOS you can launch apps, scripts, URL’s etc from your iPad or iPhone. Already I have a podcast tab setup in remote so I can quickly setup or jump to app’s I need while podcasting. Despite having two screens, launching app’s quickly via touch is very useful.

Dropbox
http://www.dropbox.com
Free with paid options

I think everyone has a Dropbox account so there’s not too much to say with this one. I store all my documents in Dropbox so I can get them anywhere – Mac, iOS or on the web. Its great for sharing podcasts and files with the folk I work remotely with. Although there is only 2GB free, you can earn up to 18GB free and with so many app’s plugged into Dropbox via it’s API’s it’s a great way of sharing between desktop and mobile. It’s also reliable unlike iCloud.

SuperDuper!
http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper
$27.95

Still my goto app for backups. What do you mean you don’t backup? Criminal. SuperDuper! creates a fully bootable backup on a drive of your choosing that should your drive or computer fail allows you to fully restore from that point in time. As it’s a bootable backup you can also boot from it should you find yourself in trouble. I’ve certainly needed it a couple of times and it’s never let me down. Backups can be scheduled and once the first backup is complete daily/weekly incrementals take no time at all.

backblazeBackblaze
https://www.backblaze.com
$5 a month

I use Backblaze for online backup of my computers. Unlike the other online services I tried, Backblaze is quick and reliable to upload data and supports unlimited amount of data. You can easily retrieve individual files and if the worst happens and you need everything you can download it all slowly or send of a disk to get your data more quickly.

evernoteEvernote
http://evernote.com/
Free, Premium account £35 per year

Evernote is my digital filing cabinet. Notes, images, pdf’s, web pages, receipts, bills, contacts, recipes, lists etc etc etc all go into Evernote. The client allows for rich enough text editing, images are OCR’d to allow for some great searching and there are good options for notebooks and folders. The web clipper works really well too. I upgraded to Premium which allows for 1GB of uploads per month, secure notes, collaborative notes and also a history of changes. One niggle – exporting from Evernote still not great so I’m tied into the service more than I’d like. The iOS apps are excellent too so my digital stuff is available everywhere.
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Apple in 2014

I use Apple products every day. iMac, Macbook Air, iPad and iPhone with a little bit of Apple TV thrown in for good measure. I love the hardware, it’s design and performance and the surrounding application ecosystem. As a combination they still can’t be beaten in my opinion. There is a growing problem though – Apple’s own software and services. The software isn’t as good as it used to be, the cloud services are buggy and unreliable and Apple seems to be doing very little to address the slide in quality over the past 2-3 years. This has to change.

A quick list of issues that have affected me over the past few months include:

iMessage
– Inconsistent as to which device will receive a message.
– Read once, mark everywhere – worked at the start of Mavericks but now only works sometimes.
– Sometimes slow delivery, sometimes none on a certain device. No pattern and easiest way to fix is sign out and in again on the affected device. That isn’t a solution.
iCloud
– Reminders – sometimes syncs properly and other times it feels like I have two separate todo lists and have to mark off completion of tasks in two places. Then a few days later they are back in sync.
– No faith that contacts and calendars are actually being synchronised correctly.
– Third party dev’s moving away from iCloud as a sync platform.
Mavericks
– Mail is awful. So many Gmail issues compared to Snow Leopard. The new fixes issued by Apple have addressed some but not all of the issues. Every few days I need to stop and start Mail just so I can receive new Mails that are flowing in fine on the iOS devices. Part of that may be down to Google not using standard IMAP?
– I want to use Safari as it’s fast and thanks to App Nap it will save battery life on the Macbook Air but it’s so fucking crashy. I can’t believe how unstable it is.
– Reminders, iCal, Contacts – still a poor usability experience from these core app’s.
– iBooks was new to the Mac and moved books from iTunes to iBooks but only those that you’ve purchased. Anything added manually has disappeared. Nice update.
iWork
– Updated across iOS and Mac by removing key functionality so that all platforms are in sync. I don’t have a problem with that approach, more the lack of any updates for 3-4 years and then someone hit’s a reset button this year. But don’t worry, some of the old features will return. Some? Any?
iLife
– Lot’s of love on iOS but hardly any on the Mac. The new Garageband also removed Podcast functionality.
iTunes
– Crashes often, library easily corrupted and I’ve no faith that it won’t happen again.
– Moved podcasts to Instacast which syncs properly across all devices and has had the side effect of improving iTunes.
iTunes Match
– A paid for service from Apple that when it works is brilliant but I’ve had a handful of issues since starting the service that requires me to stop the service on all devices and restart.
– Album art on iOS corrupted. Different covers for different albums. Small beer when I write it down but it frustrated the hell out of me. The only known solution – switch off iTunes Match, wipe any music from your iOS device and start again.
– Duplicated playlists – fine on the iPhone but duplicated 10 times over on the iPad. Solution – switch off iTunes Match, remove any downloaded music and start again.
– iTunes Match will randomly switch off on the iMac. No notice, it just does.
iOS
– Springboard in iOS 7 is really unstable. I see frequent Springboard restarts when I use the iPhone and the iPad has a couple of no icon app’s that work fine but don’t display the icon. It feels like an iOS beta on the iPhone at the moment rather than an OS that has been out for months.
– Apple really need to address some fundamentals like inter app operability as URL schemes aren’t a scalable solution. Let me choose my defaults app’s too. Mailbox and Chrome would be better iOS app’s if they could be treated as the default app’s for Mail and Web Browsing. Android is becoming a far more appealing option.
– iCloud backup doesn’t scale. The most you can buy is 50GB for £70 per year, yet I can buy a 128Gb iPad. Cloud backup should come free with each device and not be tied to an iCloud account. Buy an iOS device, get complementary cloud backup for free. Keep it simple.
– Newsstand – some magazine issues will auto download, some won’t. I see the badge indicating a new issue but opening Newsstand I see nothing against any of the news applications. Apple should kill Newsstand and publishers should just have their own stand alone app’s. Newsstand is broken.
– App Store – doesn’t scale, reviews are an issue and Apple seem to be doing very little about that.

Quite a list. Everybody wants Apple to launch a new product category in 2014 – a true TV solution, a smart watch, a larger iPad. I’d rather see them address the software quality issues that can be seen throughout their portfolio before they jump onto something new and I’m not alone. Unfortunately it will never happen – the market demands new hardware and software rarely gets attention, but it’s critical. It’s the lifeblood of the platform and it’s disappointing that Apple’s are often the poor option on a given platform. I look at the Verge investigation into webOS and what could have been with envy. Not just a striking similarity to the visual leap that iOS 7 made but real forward steps with usability on a mobile platform. Maybe in iOS 8 but I doubt it.

What stung the most in all this was a blog post about Evernote. Jason Kincaid posted a couple of days ago on Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant. As an Evernote user myself I’d noticed a dip in quality too particularly with the browser snapshot extensions. The next day saw Evernote’s CEO, Phil Rubin, reply on the Evernote Blog – On Software Quality and Building a Better Evernote in 2014. Time will tell if Evernote’s quality will improve but it was a great response in public acknowledging and committing to resolving software quality. If only Apple were as open and honest.

I used to tell people ‘it just works’ when discussing Apple products. Not any more.

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