iTunes Extras on Apple TV


Apple brings iTunes Extras to Apple TV, HD Extras to Macs
Apple today released iTunes version 11.3 and with it is making its iTunes Extras feature available for HD movies on Macs. Apple also announced the feature is now available for Apple TV with update 6.2 (and will arrive on iOS 8 this fall).

While we’ll have to wait for iTunes Extras to arrive on iOS with the release of iOS 8 this fall, the Apple TV OS 6.2 update rolled out late last month to users alongside iOS 7.1.2.

[Boot up the Apple TV, go to Movies, and the HD movies have Extras. Apple also has a banner for it – above.]

Skitch: multi-purpose editing tool for doodling on any document
Skitch is one of those apps you’re not quite sure what to make of. Part of the Evernote family, you can doodle all over photos and then share them with your friends. Skitch is truly a multi-purpose tool that lets you markup virtually any document.

Hands-on with Capo and Capo touch
Love playing songs on your stringed instrument of choice but hate the process of learning them? Check out Capo, the Mac and iOS tool for quickly learning just about any song from your library.

Nike’s app and football
Nike is launching a brand new app called Nike Football (or Nike Soccer in the US), that will act as a hub for all things Nike Football from exclusive content and Q&A sessions with athletes to the latest product launches for the company’s line of football products. Nike is also including some social features that let users organise their own pick-up games, trash talk among friends and teammates, and more.

Life after Aperture, iPhoto

Life after Aperture & iPhoto

Yes, they’re going. The next OS (Yosemite) gets rid of both,  and since iPhoto has been the included image management application on the Mac for years, it’s actively used by millions of customers. Although Aperture never made as many inroads into the professional community as Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom, it was still the Apple-supplied pro option [and I love it for looking after my genealogical image collection].

Both programs are being replaced by Apple’s upcoming Photos for OS X application, which at this point is still a mystery: Will it incorporate the advanced features of Aperture, will it be a stripped-down limited clone of the Photos app under iOS 8, or will it be something in-between?

No matter what’s to come, you can start to take steps now, thanks to Macworld,  to prepare for your transition – whether that means switching to Photos or migrating to another third-party photo application. (Regardless of your decision, make sure you have good working backups of your photos!)

itrnsSonico Mobile releases iTranslate for Mac with 80+ languages

Sonico Mobile, makers of popular apps such as iTranslate and iTranslate Voice for iOS today released iTranslate for Mac, bringing the features of the corresponding iOS app to the Mac.

iTranslate for Mac sits right in your menu bar, so translations are always just a click away, no matter what app you’re working in. Simply input text, and the app will quickly process it and provide you the translated output. It’s just as easy to use as the iOS version.

The app has over 80 languages built in as well as a dictionary, so you can get meanings for translated words. Users will also appreciate voice output feature, which makes it easy to listen to the pronunciation of your translation.

Finally, the app has support for reading non-Latin characters, with Romanization for Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Korean, and more.

iTranslate for Mac is on sale for a limited time at 50% off introductory price, so for NZ$6.49 in the Mac App Store. [I bought it.]

The App Store’s 6th anniversary by the numbers

Apple is celebrating the 6th anniversary of the App Store, so let’s look at the most recent numbers Apple announced regarding App Store statistics. During the WWDC keynote on June 2nd, Apple CEO Tim Cook shared that the App Store then featured more than 1.2 million apps and counting. App Store customers have downloaded apps more than 75 billion times since the digital store debuted on July 10, 2008, and Apple also noted its platform is home to more than 9 million developers with registered accounts through the Developer Program, a number which was up 47% from the previous year.

Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for apps to 16 new countries

Apple is about to roll out its Volume Purchase Program, which allows business and education customers to purchase and distribute iOS apps in bulk for deployed devices, into 16 new countries. Apple’s website for both the Volume Purchase Program for Business and for Education have been updated to announce the expansion to: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan,Turkey, and United Arab Emirates.

Countries that already have access to the Volume Purchase Program include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States.



Apple issues 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report

Apple has updated its Environmental Initiatives website and has issued its 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report. The update fulfills a promise from Earth Day in which Apple said that it would more frequently update consumers on its environmental progress and the report highlights significant advances in clean energy usage

Apple has pushed its attention to new levels with the hire of former Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson last year. 9to5Mac has more information.

Diversity at Apple

At this week’s Sun Valley conference in Idaho, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg reporters that Apple will release diversity data on its workforce. Cook did not specify when this data release would come, but it’s the first confirmation from Apple that the company is planning to release such data. A CNN report from March detailed Apple as one of the several technology giants that have objected to releasing the information.

Diversity reports, such as one Facebook released on its workforce a couple of weeks ago, typically detail demographics in terms of ethnicity and gender. Apple has been criticised for having both a mostly male executive team and board of directors, but Cook has added Angela Ahrendts to the executive team and has been seeking new board members in recent months (and there’s Lisa Jackson , as above). Recently Apple appointed Denise Young Smith as the new head of Human Resources.

[Um-hm … what do you see in the picture, above?]

Cue and Cook at Sun Valley

As expected (due their appearances on the guest list) Apple CEO Tim Cook and Senior VP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue were in attendance at this week’s Sun Valley media conference in Idaho. The WSJ’s Doug MacMillan shared the above photo of Cook walking around the Sun Valley resort. The Information’s Jessica Lessin spotted Cue, and the executive provided a witty response to Lessin’s question about TV deals.

iTunes U 2.0 has iPad-based course creation, student discussions 

Apple has issued a significant update to its iTunes U application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The application focuses on enhancements for both teachers and students, and the application was first announced by Apple last week alongside the new Back to School retail initiatives.

Apple’s official press release appears here.

Activation Lock

Activation Lock in iOS 7 responsible for pronounced decrease in iPhone thefts
The Activation Lock feature Apple introduced in iOS 7 is already having a discernible impact on crime, according to law enforcement officials in a few major cities. If you recall, Activation Lock prevents would-be thieves from turning off “Find my iPhone” without first entering the appropriate iCloud credentials. What’s more, even if a thief wipes a device clean, reactivating the device requires the original device owner’s credentials.

The end result? The iPhone remains a popular device for consumers, but not so much for thieves. And also, all the other smartphone makers are considering adding similar features.

Maps ‘City Tours’ feature hidden in iOS 8 betas, works like a guided Flyover video
Although deeper changes to Maps are in the works, Apple did announce a new City Tours feature for iOS 8 discreetly on one of the keynote slides. This feature is not normally available in the current iOS 8 betas, but developer Pierre Blazquez has managed to unlock the feature through a hidden debug screen and shines some light on exactly what ‘City Tours’ entails.
[Image: London from the Apple Maps app.]

Hundreds of businesses in London are about to flip the switch on payments via iBeacons
In Brixton, South West London, hundreds of businesses will soon integrate iBeacons as part of one of the first real-world networks for mobile payments using Apple’s Bluetooth LE iBeacon tech.

Skype 5.1 for iOS rolling out with improvements to conversations and favourites
Approximately a week after releasing Skype 5.0 with a completely revamped design and new features, Microsoft is now rolling out version 5.1 with various improvements. Notably, there are enhancements to managing conversations, favourites, and finding the status of Skype contacts.

Adobe updates its iPad Voice app, linking it to Lightroom Mobile sync
Adobe has posted a quick update to the fascinating Adobe Voice app. Adobe Voice is designed to create animated videos with very little work. As we noted in our review, it integrates animation, photos and music to create quick, but professional-looking, presentations.

QuickBooks app for Mac review: Intuit’s free app makes QuickBooks Online more friendly
Each new iteration of QuickBooks Online and its related set of apps makes this platform better, thinks Jeffery Battersby. QuickBooks Online has had good iOS apps for accessing your QuickBooks Online data and now they’ve released the QuickBooks app for Mac, a free tool that brings your QuickBooks Online account to an app on your Mac.

LinkedIn debuts new Job Search iPhone app for finding your dream career
LinkedIn’s news continues today as it launches a standalone iPhone app for dedicated to job hunting. The iPhone app is called LinkedIn Job Search and it joins the primary LinkedIn app as well as LinkedIn Pulse, LinkedIn Contacts, and the social network’s other existing mobile applications. The app takes advantage of location data and push notifications to keep job hunters updated with relevant opportunities based on a set criteria.

Lego Retro Apple Gear


Recreating retro Apple gear with Lego blocks — Do you still have an old Apple IIc laying around? What about a Mac 128k? Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t, but regardless of whether you’ve ever actually owned one of these harbingers of modern computing there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with these tiny Lego replicas by Chris McVeigh.

He goes by his online alias Powerpig, and he’s taken painstaking steps to recreate some of the most recognisable Apple computers of yesteryear, while keeping their charm and quirky appeal very much intact.

The novice’s guide to excellent Mac backups — Everyone knows they are supposed to back up, but maybe you aren’t sure what you should do or how you should do it. I’m here to help.

Play It On A Mac: Spintires — In this weekly series Mike Wehner shows you how to get your favourite Windows-exclusive PC games running on OS X. For more information on the programs used, check out the Play It On A Mac explainer. For suggestions and/or questions about any game, feel free to contact me on Twitter.

Spintires is an off-road adventure game with ridiculously realistic physics and terrain deformation. You can actually see the mud and road debris wrap around the tires of your various Soviet-era trucks as you make your way through forests, streams, and the very rare paved roadway. The game was successfully Kickstarted a number of months ago and just recently debuted on Steam to rave reviews.

Yosemite, Tokyo, Cupertino


How some of your favorite Mac apps could look when OS X Yosemite launches — When OS X 10.10 Yosemite launches this fall, most of Apple’s first-party apps will look completely different. This means that many third-party apps will begin to look out of place. Zinx has compiled some mockups from Dribbble demonstrating how some popular apps could look when they are redesigned for Yosemite.

Apple shares video of Omotesando, Tokyo Apple Store grand opening preparation — Apple has shared a video on its official YouTube channel of its preparations for the June 13th grand opening of the Omotesando, Tokyo Apple Store (above). The video is just under a minute long, but it does provide some perspective into the lengths that Apple takes to prepare stores for their openings.

Apple opens stunning new (and more private) Caffè Macs employee cafeteria in Cupertino — According to employee tweets and photos, Apple opened a stunning new Caffè Macs employee cafeteria at the corner of Bandley and Alves Drive in Cupertino this past Tuesday. Located close to the company’s first campus building, Apple received approval to build at this location in early 2012, and after 2 years of work, the new cafeteria is complete.

Tax, iMac, Pro, campus, iStudio Publisher


Apple responds to EU investigation into tax practices: “Apple pays every euro of every tax that we owe” — Following a report yesterday that the European Commission was about to launch a formal investigation into Apple’s tax practices in Ireland, the EU has now officially announced the investigation at a press conference. Bloomberg reports that the investigation will include not just Apple, but also Starbucks and Fiat Finance & Trade SA and will look at “whether the tax deals in Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are illegal state aid.”

Apple may soon be able to repatriate its $100B+ overseas cash after Senate mulls tax holiday — If Congress delivers on a proposed tax holiday, Apple could soon join a slew of American companies with large dollar amounts of offshore money eager to repatriate their earnings without being subject to the current corporate tax rate.

iMac reportedly getting a spec bump next week, but no Retina model yet — According to a new MacG report, Apple is planning to debut a spec bump for the iMac lineup next week. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear these will be Retina iMacs (for which references have appeared in recent OS X beta builds). Instead, it seems we’re only due for a slight processor speed increase, with each model gaining only 100MHz.

The report speculates that the new models could include a new and improved Thunderbolt 2 connection, but there doesn’t seem to be any confirmation of that at this time. MacG accurately predicted the most recent MacBook Air refresh, so it’s a safe bet that these iMacs are coming next week.

A year after being announced, you can now get a Mac Pro within 24 hours — While you still may not be able to walk in to an Apple Store and expect to walk out with a 2013 Mac Pro, the US$3000 and $4000 base models of Apple’s professional desktop are shipping within 24 hours of ordering for the first time since launch in late December 2013. This includes shipping to Apple Retail Store locations for pickup. Apple, of course, previewed the latest Mac Pro model at WWDC 2013, exactly one year from yesterday, but it only promised then that it would begin shipping later that year. Availability has since proven to be a challenge for the ‘assembled-in-USA’ Mac line.

Foundation walls start to take shape around Campus 2 project as Apple permanently closes Pruneridge Ave — The first walls around Apple’s Campus 2 have begun to take shape, as noted by KCBS reporter Ron Cervi, in a tweet today. Previously, more photos from KCBS showed the site’s considerable excavation under way, and earlier photos from March detailed the demolition work of the former HP campus on the site, which was almost complete at that time.

iStudio Publisher — This MacPhun software that creates PDFs includes a free 30-day trial of the full iStudio Publisher application for page layout and desktop publishing. Please make full use of your trial period before purchasing.

Yosemite design vid, Air update, Irish tax


Apple posts OS X Yosemite design video from WWDC keynote — Apple has posted the video about OS X Yosemite’s new design from the WWDC keynote. The video gives a look at the system’s new inherent translucency, cleaner layout, redesigned icons, and new buttons. You can watch it here.

Apple releases SMC update for mid-2013 MacBook Airs to address battery issues — Apple has issued SMC update 2.0 for all mid-2013 MacBook Airs, citing a fix for battery problems while the computer’s screen is closed.

This update addresses an issue which may cause the battery to drain faster than expected when the lid is closed.

You can download the update here or in the Mac App Store.

EU launching formal investigation into Apple’s tax practices in Ireland — According to a report from Ireland’s, the European Commission has decided to launch a formal investigation into Apple’s tax practices in the country (via The Loop). An announcement is expected by EU officials tomorrow:

Apple last year faced US Senate hearing on its offshore tax practices in which it denied taking advantage of any tax gimmicks or loopholes in Ireland. The EU shortly after launched an investigation into tax agreements with multinational companies in Ireland and number of other EU countries, while government officials in Ireland denied claims of a special 2% tax deal with Apple.

Later, in October of last year, the SEC in the US ultimately closed its own investigation without establishing any wrong-doing on Apple’s part.

Moshi iVisor Glass iPhone Screen Protector


I’ve been pretty happy with my Logitech magnetic case that both protects my iPhone 5 and snaps to the Logitech car mount I have, but I felt a little insecure about the face of my iPhone being exposed, as the rubbery case I ditched in favour of the Logitech case+energy had a raised upper rim so if you laid the iPhone down on its face, it didn’t come into contact with the flat surface it was on, so ever since, I’ve been a bit worried about the glass face.

Then I spotted this new screen cover. I’ve tried screen covers before – a few of the various smooth-on ones, but I never like the feel or the look of them and, despite my best efforts, I always ended up with an air bubble somewhere. But this ones entirely different – it’s a rigid piece of glass, for a start, with a silicon adhesive on one side, then an anti-shatter film, then a very thin piece of ‘atomically strengthened’ glass and that, in turn, is covered with an oleo phobic coating. This lets the touch interface work as if you haven’t even added a layer. In fact, despite all the aforesaid layers, the whole iVisor is barely thicker than a thumbnail and it works with the Logitech case+drive perfectly.

It adds a cover right across, including a coloured bezel, so it really is full protection to the front face of your iPhone 5, 5s or 5c (and there’s a version that fits the 4/4s). The colours, in fact, match the iPhone 5c colours and you can get black or white, also.


Also, though, as long as you clean the surface of your iPhone (a tiny microfibre cloth is provided) well and then line the screen up very carefully from the get-go, it applies with no bubbles at all and the transparency appears absolute, while some plastic films appear ever so slightly slightly opaque.

And it’s not easy to get off – in fact, a little suction cup is provided should you need to, but I was loath to try it since I want this cover on my phone, OK? Sorry. I don’t want to mess it up and luckily I managed to apply it perfectly first time.

Tough — Moshi reckons this protector is shock and scratch proof and to back that up, if iVisor Glass is damaged or broken while protecting your device, Moshi replace it for free within a year from purchase. That’s a pretty big risk on Moshi’s side, I’d say – the number of cracked iPhone screens I have seen lately is impressive. Also impressive is that people can 1/ keep using them and 2/ don’t get them repaired, even though excellent repairers like Richard DeGranpre (in Auckland) can do such a good job of it. Now my iPhone has metal on the back thanks to Logitech and extra-strong, layered glass on the front thanks to Moshi. Sweet!

Conclusion — Rigid, tough, crystal clear and very thin, this is the best looking and best working screen protector I have seen so far, and because of that should work with most existing cases.

What’s great — Slim and very clear, touch works perfectly, and it adds a lot of protection

What’s not — It really sticks on. You don’t want to apply it badly the first time.

Needs — Anyone who values their iPhone a lot.

Mac NZ’s buying advice — This is a superior product.

What — Moshi iVisor Glass, NZ$49.99. Marketed in New Zealand by MacGear, and available from your favourite iPhone accessories shop (if they haven’t got it, ask them why not).

Logitech +drive Mount


In the pack: one cylindrical windshield mount, two magnets, one mounting plate. The magnets are stick-on, which you’d probably rather stick to an iPhone case rather than to an iPhone itself, in fact (if the case is thin) you can place these inside, so the metal is against the iPhone and concealed but still magnets itself to the mount, through the case. This means you can use it with two devices out of the box, or three in my case as I still had the case+energy case I reviewed last week, which has a metal back that is also designed to attache to the magnet. Further, Logitech’s +tilt range of iPhone cases include magnetic plates, too, for $59.90 each in polypropylene or $69.90 in leather, and these are already magnetised so they’ll stick to your fridge.

Or you can buy a Mount/case combo called case[+]drive. The case can be grey or black in this instance (NZ$99).

REVIEW-Logitech+drive-mount2The +drive is a fairly unadorned grey cylinder of polypropylene with a similar somewhat sophisticated soft-touch feel as the case+energy.

It twists apart to reveal a brightly coloured handle (left). When you turn this, the suction plate sucks in and the cylinder becomes very firmly attached to your windscreen.

If you prefer to mount it to your dash, as long as there’s a flat bit suitable and that’s at least as big as the disk-end of the cylinder, you can stick the supplied smooth round plate of metal to it, then suction the +drive to that instead.

[In the main picture, above, you see one of the stick-on panels for your iPhone case, the +drive and the dashboard disc.]

I went for the windscreen option as my dash is curvy all over. Now my default navigation option for the last year is lying my iPhone against my speedo – it fits quite well and leans back and doesn’t, by chance, obscure the speedo since it’s in an arc above it, but a precipitous corner will dislodge it, so it’s been workable but hardly ideal. This new mount is bliss, since I just plug the charger on and snap it on. The magnet is strong! I haven’t managed to even come close to dislodging it and taking the iPhone off take a definite pull – it’s not exactly a test of your musculature but it’s very unlikely it will fall off.

If you change your mind about the positioning of the +drive, you just open the cylinder to expose the handle, twist it the other way and the whole thing should be able to be pulled off, but pulling on the tab of blue plastic that pokes out a little releases the pressure if not, and this combo should do the trick.

Magnetic attraction or not? That’s the question. Since there’s no hard drive in an iPhone, the magnet should not effect anything, and Logitech swears there will be no effect and has tested this. I certainly haven’t noticed any effect on calls or anything else.

Conclusion — Easily the best car mount system I’ve seen and/or tried. It’s modelled to go with most car interiors from the 1990s on, if aesthetics are a concern.

What’s great — Works perfectly, easily the most convenient method I’ve seen so far

What’s not — There’s limited movement through viewing angles compared to some mounts once the iPhone is on it, so ensure you put it in the right place.

Needs — drivers, although you could conceivably stick it to any window or shiny surface in your office or kitchen.

Mac NZ’s buying advice – very well designed, works perfectly: highly recommended.


What — Logitech +drive iPhone dashboard/windshield mount, NZ$69.90

System — Each +drive Mount comes with two universal adaptors easily placed in (or on) a slim case or directly on a smartphone for quick, secure mounting.

Contact — Your smarter smartphone accessory suppliers; Logitech NZ Ltd.

Logitech case+energy for iPhone 5/5s


Logitech, in many ways, keeps ramping up the quality of offerings for its Apple stuff, and the latest two things I got to look at are beautifully made and well designed.

The case+energy comprises a fairly normal-style hard case for iPhone 5 or 5s with a metal back, plus a second part virtually the same size. Once the iPhone is in the normal case part of this package (it comes with two components plus a charge cable), the feel isn’t too dissimilar to the iPhone itself, uncased – firm and hard-edged, although the smooth-touch polycarbonate parts are slightly soft to the touch and feel nice. The second, and ‘back’ part of the case, houses a battery. With this on, it effectively doubles the battery life of your iPhone, and this back-case has the smooth, slightly satiny polycarbonate all over.

The hard case snaps on. It’s not that easy to remove the iPhone from it, should you want to – this takes a bit or earnest levering, as is the case with most hard cases. The case has a cutaway for the camera lens and there are others at the bottom for the earbud port, speakers and connector, plus slots on the left hand side and top for the Sleep/on-off buttons and volume and mute.

These do allow access, but they are effectively recessed in slots, so not quite as handy as those cases that add flexible buttons as par tot the case to make it easier to depress the iPhone buttons fitting underneath. But it just takes a little getting used to.

Magnetic attraction
The point of the metal back to the iPhone case half is not just its welcome strength and rigidity – it’s magnetic, which means it mounts in a snap (literally – it’s quite a strong magnet) to Logitech’s ‘+ drive’ car mount (that’s a separate review).
This spares you from putting one of the two stick-on magnetic panels that comes with that, which you can then use for other things.

Extra charge
Once you slip the iPhone into the Lightning connector on the battery pack then snap the top of the iPhone against the clip at the top of the charger, the case-back part charges your iPhone in turn.That’s the good news. The bad news is that, thanks to the dock connector sticking out and thanks to the fact that the iPhone becomes a pretty thick unit with both cases on, it’s pretty hard to thrust it into a pocket once the case, iPhone and case-back is all mounted together into one unit. It’s slicker looking and feeling than that might sound, but I’d worry constantly about catching that stick-out connector on something. So if you don’t mind a bulky (at least twice as thick) unit and you don’t keep your iPhone in your pocket, you might like to leave the battery-back constantly on the iPhone for a double-length charge, but that’s not the intention. The intention (its called case-PLUS-energy, after all) is an accessory you can carry that helps you out if you get caught short.

You’d probably prefer (I would) to charge the battery-back separately in your bag for those long haul flights or emergencies when you can’t get near a charger, having remembered to load up some charge into it, of course, before the trip. Then put it together and there you go – at least as long again of iPhone goodness.

If you plug the included mini-USB cable into the charge-back while it’s mounted on the iPhone, it charges the iPhone first, then the spare battery in the case-back. In turn, once mounted, the battery pack recharges the iPhone. The USB end of the supplied cable goes into your standard iPhone charger wall plug, or your car charger if you have one. Of course, you can charge your iPhone and the case separately, too.


According to Logitech, the case+energy battery pack offers your iPhone an additional 2300mAh of power – the current iPhone 5 battery has 1440mAh and iPhone 5s 1570mAh. On the back of the battery part, a little line-button, once depressed, shows green lights in series to show charge – four lights is full, one means almost empty, and these blink then solidify to show charge progress.

To get the iPhone off, the Lightning connector flexes. You put your thumb on that (there’s a video at the link below that shows you how) and bend, and the iPhone pops out of the battery cases top-clip and you take it off.

REVIEW-Logitech-case+energy4This is one nicely made product that could solve your charging needs, but it adds bulk if you are want to keep them together rather. I’d be a little worried about the lump at the bottom for the Lightning connector, but I don’t know how else this might have been achieved.

What’s great
A smart, well-made, nice feeling case with two awesome extras: it snaps to the +drive car mount, and it adds at least double the battery life to your iPhone 5 or 5s. That also means if you have a 5 now (as I do) and you’re considering a 5s in the future, you can hang on to this excellent case for that as well.

What’s not
Bulky (the iPhone is almost all battery anyway, so add another one and that’s what you get), and there’s that protruding Lightning lump at the bottom that catches on things.

Anyone who hates getting caught without any juice. Great for any travellers, or even those with big pockets, or perhaps heavy users who always carry their smart iOS device in a bag and don’t mind the bulk.

Mac NZ’s buying advice
I like it. This could be the answer to your prayers, but consider how you like to carry and use your iPhone.

Logitech iPhone 5 case+energy, NZ$129

iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and it comes in black or white to suit (the white one has a green dock connector), the black has grey).

Logitech NZ Ltd (and check at your favourite retailers)

Mediatoop, Holland: Stukje Appeltaart*

INTERVIEW-Mediatroop*A piece of apple cake: ‘Taart’ is the Dutch word for cake, and ‘Appeltaart’ made with apple slices and raisins is a staple of cafés and bars across the country. If you’re ever here, try it with coffee or a beer.

Last year when I was in Holland I interviewed the very knowledgeable Miro Lucassen, editor of the country’s Mac magazine Mac Fan. This year I happened to end up here again for several weeks and thought it would be interested to talk to a dedicated Dutch Mac user, and had the good fortune to meet a man who goes by the trade name of Mediatoop. He’s a long-term Apple user and was, at one-time, a professional basketball player. We chatted back and forth about what we think about Apple, and I gained some insights into the Dutch Apple scene

Mediatoop was born in in Nijmegen, in the east of the Netherlands, and has played basketball there and in the US, plus lived for a time in Berlin.

“When I was really young, eight or something, I turned on a compact Mac SE and it said ‘Welcome to Macintosh’ and I thought that was a pretty cool thing. Before that I had played games on the Atari and Commodore. I subsequently went to Graphic Design School in Nijmegen, then worked in graphic design companies. After that, I went to the Art Academy in 1999, because I wanted to do something with my creativity, specialising in graphic design and media arts. And at the academy, I started to help fix the Macs and keep them going. That’s when I totally dived into Mac, because that was the time Steve Jobs came out with the first colourful iMacs, the start of the revolution of the Imperial Mac Stuff we have now.” He laughs at his description. “I worked on Mac and I loved it, because the easiness and the functionality was great: not just from the software, but from the hardware.

“With a PC, you have to fight with it. There are also great PCs, but I don’t like the software. It’s too complicated. There can be ten ways to do one thing.”

“The IT guy from the academy always asked me to help him with the Mac IT stuff, so that’s when I learned the whole ins and outs of the computers and Apple Server.”

After the Art Academy, Mediatoop began a graphic design company. “At first, Apple was really a niche product for graphic designers and musicians here. It wasn’t such a general computer for ordinary computer users [in Holland] because they didn’t know about it. But then Apple came out with the new iMacs, and that was the start of the new Mac age, and I think it was really clever how Apple did it. Because after that Apple took the consumer music industry with the iPod – they already had the graphic artists.”

“Then came iPhone, and at first I was a little afraid. Why is a computer company going to make a phone? At that time, Nokia was top with phones, so why? But the iPhone is also a computer, so … it’s actually similar in functionality to a laptop. I don’t see it as a phone. Sure, you can use it as a phone too.

“Other smartphones are great, sure, but the simplicity of iOS and the way it works with my Mac is the selling point. If I get an Android in my hands, it’s working great, but it’s a little bit like Windows. Lots of things going around … I prefer the simplicity and the powerful software so it all works properly.

“These days I do a little design work, and I help people in Rotterdam with their Macs. I fix the hardware, at least hard drives and RAM, and clean up the software, and give buying advice. I also follow the Open Source community for Mac. Recently I have started to create my own electronic music.

“I am now making music at home, in Ableton. Electronic music. I grew up with it, from 1993. I like it. For me it’s like the modern version of what Bach and Mozart did, back in the day.”

One person having control of many streams of music to make a whole?

“Yes. And the beautiful thing is, when you do a live gig, you can change mid-track. I am working up to playing live. I have friends who are deejays and I’ve been following this music for a long time. I keep up with the trends and sounds.”

“I like a lot of electronic music styles: Deep House, Techno, Tech-house, whatever, but not Dub Step. To me that wobble in the bass line just sounds fake. It’s not rockin’. I think bass is very important. The bass has to be good. I always start with the bass tracks, maybe making three and merging them, and building everything else on top.

“I already veejay as well as deejay. I veejay like a deejay – scratching with the images when the deejay is scratching with the vinyl.”
Like Nijmegen, Amsterdam and Berlin, Rotterdam is an established hotbed of electronic music with some great venues.

Apple in Holland
Back to Apple: “I think the iPod changed a lot for the consumer. Now many normal people these days have Macs, but you still don’t see them that much in offices, although a few companies in Amsterdam have changed to Apple. It’s expensive, but easy to maintain and they don’t have all that trouble with viruses.

“I think iPod and then iPhone boosted the [Netherlands’] market for Mac. But I think Apple has to be careful. The latest MacBook Pros aren’t configurable. You can’t change the RAM or hard drive yourself.” But he concedes the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is beautiful and very powerful.

We talk about the schism for Mac users these days. Once upon a time, almost all Mac users were professionals of some sort. Now most Mac users aren’t. Apple seems to be faltering where it’s drawing the line between consumer and professional users. Which is the appliance and which is the professional device? “It’s changing because everyone got an iPod, so then everybody wanted a Mac computer. Apple making the latest MacBook Pros unchangeable is a mistake. You spend all this money on a Mac, as much as you can afford, and if you wanted to speed up it later, you added more RAM. Now you can’t. I don’t think that’s consumer friendly.” Mediatoop thinks this is a Tim Cook mistake, and that Steve Jobs wouldn’t have allowed it (I’m not sure I agree, if it’s true Jobs had a roadmap figured out for Apple going five years beyond 2011).

“Professionals like to upgrade themselves, so they can keep their Macs up to date as their business use and budget changes. I miss this freedom.

“The Mac Pro tower is the ultimate. These are monsters. They are beautifully designed, like art pieces. They are extremely upgradeable even with little knowledge. If you have that computer, you can work for 12 years with it. If you open a similar PC, it’ totally rubbish inside. A mess. In a Mac Pro, everything is logical. Everything is clear. You can put four hard drives in, three video cards, and boost the RAM astronomically.”

MW — But Apple has really lagged on keeping this model up to date, although Tim Cook has broadly hinted that something sensational is going to come out in the Mac Pro space early next year.

If so, “I hope it’s as upgradeable as the current line, and perhaps four-times or eight-times Quad-Core CPUs. Something monstrous! But it’s not the trend. So I hope Apple doesn’t do the same thing with the new tower that it’s done with the MacBook and iMacs.”

MW — Closed machines, in other words. It’s a good point, but once again underlines the schism between Mac consumers and Mac professionals. Once upon a time, Mac offices would have a couple of towers for the graphics/audio/video professionals and other sundry MacBooks and iMacs for writing, marketing, management etcetera. Now all you see is iMacs, since they can have built-in 27-inch screens and the power to easily handle Final Cut, Logic, Pro Tools, Premiere … if you do see a tower, it’s often under a desk running the network. It’s obvious why: you can get three iMacs for the price of one Mac Pro along with a monitor big enough to do it justice (which you have to buy separately).

People still upgrade their Mac towers, but there’s been no real new model for a couple of years and even the latest 15-inch MacBook Pro matches it in speed. But the point is: is an iMac a professional or a consumer machine? When you turn it on, it acts like a consumer machine – you can’t even see the hard drive by default any more, and yet it can have very good specs and achieve hard-out work like a pro machine.

Mediatoop has a different take: “Well, both professional and consumer users need the Mac. It lets you do extraordinary things.”
They’re long-lasting, too. “I still get Macs to sort out that are still running after six years. PC laptops – and there are great ones, no doubt about that – but after three years you can throw them away. If I buy something, I expect it to last longer than a cheap appliance.”

Advice for Apple
Mediatoop has advice for Apple. “One, I think Apple needs to bring this upgradeability back. Two, Mountain Lion needs to be sorted out. It’s not so stable. Snow Leopard was a perfect system – strong, fast, small in data terms and didn’t crash. This was the ultimate OS X ever. I think Apple’s development cycle got too fast on OS X and they need to sort out the bugs in Mountain Lion, and recreate that very stable platform.”

MW — I point out that the cycle has been driven by iOS – iCloud compatibility in Lion, then Mountain Lion supporting iOS6 and iCloud better.

“I think Apple is experimenting a lot when it should be focussing on stability. And as for the features that make it more like iOS, well, fine, but really it’s two interfaces on one Mac – the normal OS X we are used to and this optional touchpad-like interface.”

MW — Back over a decade, there was the Simple Finder option in System 9. I think that’s what we need back. When you first turn a new Mac on, you should get the choice: consumer use or professional? If you tick professional, you get the hard drive visible by default for those who like to employ and control the traditional file structures for files and the Dock. If you choose Consumer, you get Mission Control and the even more iPad-like Launchpad. They don’t know they have an Applications folder with all sorts of extra things in it? Fine.

OS X is becoming a confusing mishmash with different approaches to file management and software launching. If home users really don’t want to see their file structures, fine, but for those with knowledge and/or aspirations, this is both limiting and annoying. Also, by default in Mountain Lion you can only install software bought (or free) from the Mac App Store. The warning that you’re trying to install something from outside the Mac App Store can almost make you almost think you’re dying to install malware when many developers have happily been vending perfectly excellent Mac software via their websites, Amazon and PayPal. The pros know this, but consumer users wanting to sort photos, surf the ’net, play music and get email can find this intimidating.

“None of this is good for Apple’s professional market. Now is the time, with Apple at a high peak, to stay stable and stay Mac. Consumers ask professionals for advice when they want to buy Macs and pro users were the bedrock of the Mac’s success historically. Apple has to keep these professionals happy.”

MW — The Final Cut Pro X debacle wasn’t a good sign, either. It really upset a lot of people.

“Ja. Steve Jobs had a philosophy of building the best possible. Apple has to keep that. Tim Cook has to be aware of these things. I hope he is. Because when I saw Mountain Lion for the first time, it reminded me a little bit of Android and Windows.”

MW— Ouch.

“Of course it’s not Windows, but they have to screw it back. Clear the code in Mountain Lion and get rid of the bugs. And this stupid Location thing, tracking your Mac everywhere. That’s bullshit. Why? That’s like Microsoft thinking: to know where you are.

“When I buy a Mac, I buy the fastest I can, and then I work five years with it. It gets a hard life and after five years, it’s finished. But I still have a G4 tower, that I use for internet writing, photo stuff, a little video stuff. It’s over seven years old, still a PowerPC. These were tanks. Unbelievable.”

The Walled Garden
MW — What about the criticism that Apple is a Walled Garden?

“That’s not actually true. Apple releases the SDK (Software Development Kit) to anyone, and there are more Open Source Mac developers out there than you think. I dived into that and saw a lot of great, sometimes weird programs. But you must be a programmer to really understand that stuff. X-code is an option in the system software, so there’s a lot of developing going around, and that’s great. And Apple must also be learning from those people.”

MW — But with iPhone and iPad, the hardware is totally fixed. All of the flexibility in configuration comes from the apps. This could be the model for future Macs.

“That would be the end of the computer. We don’t need it anymore. We take our iPhone 6 or 7 or whatever, and that is your computer: you plug it into a TV with HDMI, project a keyboard onto the desk … I do think that’s the future. But I don’t hope for that, as I like to have devices for different things.”

MW — Besides, an iPhone is much easier to lose. Maybe that’s why Apple is developing Siri and Dictation, to get away from the keyboard. The keyboard is not a good design – the QWERTY key layout designed to slow your typing down, in fact.

“Sure. Apple has pioneered all-in-one device before. iDevices will eventually become extremely powerful. But for now, I like the separation.”

MW — Perhaps the iPad should be further defined as ‘Apple’s consumer Mac’. It doesn’t matter that the user can’t see or use the file structure how they want to. Maybe that’s where Apple should draw the line: Macs for pros, iDevices for consumers. But I don’t think this line is drawn clearly at all any more, and I agree this doesn’t seem very Jobsian.

“Also, why can’t the iPhone appear on my desktop like a thumb drive, so I can directly control what I put on there? Doing it via iTunes is silly. And exchanging files is still really unintuitive. I think the iPad is a test device for future development; an experiment to get the iPhone and the computer into one device, for example with iMessage as the first comms technology. In the far, far future (like five years!) they’ll also develop things to put in your brain. It’s getting closer and closer to the human body. We’re already always connected, via devices that fit in our pockets.”

MW — Sure. I can connect as quickly to my daughters in New Zealand as I can with you around the corner.

“Yes. And the laptop; you can always use it as a phone, with FaceTime and Skype.”

He doesn’t trust iCloud either. “iCloud is cloudy! Apple doesn’t even tell you where the servers are. Where is my data? Who else can access it? Just buy a big hard drive and back up to it properly. Then you know where your data is. With real clouds in the sky, they are moving and changing. iCloud is Apple’s to control. It’s not yours. You can’t touch it. Your ‘iCloud’ should be your iPhone to your Mac, that’s all.”

Apple’s future
Do you think Apple will start to decline?

“There are issues. But the Maps issue, for example. Apple has to work on it, sure. Of course Google Maps is the best – Google has been working on it for years already. Apple is going to fix it anyway. Why are people screaming about it like little children?”

I think Apple should have called it Apple Maps Beta.

“Yes! But Apple does have the resources to make this work properly.”

MW— Like me, Mediatoop finds some users have made horrendous messes on their Macs, strewing files all over the place. Maybe the next step is that OS X cleans up after you? You leave a file on the desktop and phht! Os X puts it in the Documents, Photo or Movies folder.

“Yeah, maybe … but I would hate that.”

MW— But this could be another thing you could turn off.


Mediatoop thinks Apple has really made it in the consumer market in Holland; the very first Apple Store opened late last year (before, it was only Licensed Resellers as is still the case in New Zealand). “Now, everywhere I go, I see Macs in people’s houses. I think it’s at 16 or 18 per cent of the market here now. But it’s still not really in office environments. So I think that’s Apple’s next target.”

Mediatoop uses his Mac in English as that’s how it was when he learnt, but thinks the language support built into the OS is a fantastic feature and has helped Apple to gain users around the world. “I think Apple’s support for local languages is a great feature.
“But I don’t get why Apple doesn’t sort out problems with Flash and Java. They are both good systems – and that’s one reason why everything works well on Snow Leopard, because they integrate well. Java used to be an excellent partner with OS X. Maybe there’s a secret fight there, I don’t know. I think Apple wants only Apple code in its system, to make it stronger. I think that’s the intention.

“Apple is really smart at buying up Unix experts. If I had a company, I would want the best workers too.”

MW— What about when Apple runs out of cats? Little cats like the Civet and Ocelot don’t really cut it.

“Yeah, maybe they’re going to build ‘OS X Black Panther’.” Laughs. “Then maybe we’re going to get ‘OS 11 Walrus’ or something. Not quite as good as cats.”

Where to, for Apple?

“I think they’re going to go for all the big companions in the world. They want Macs on all those office desktops.”

MW — Imagine the metrics and location data Apple would gain from more widespread business penetration.

“Exactly. Apple could change the business world a lot. Also in the financial world.”

MW— It’s interesting that the other big demographic of PC users is those who play games. Apple has never really challenged this hegemony of users constantly upgrading their PCs with faster video cards, better cooling, controllers, CPUs … Mac game ports have got slower rather than faster, in many instances. Call of Duty: Black Ops has finally come to the Mac two years after it was available for PC, but even now I can’t even play it on a Retina MacBook Pro – this video card/monitor is not supported. Games challenge PC makers to supply and develop ever better video cards, CPUs, scalar algorithms etc, pushing PC development generally – a factor that hardly plays out at all in the Apple world. It would be ironic if the last holdout for the PC was this highly motivated group of young-to-middle-aged game players who mess with their machines and settings for ever better performance.

And what about resistance from the IT guys?

“Well, there it’s already changing – at an IT course I attended here in the last couple of years, a quarter of the students had Macs.”

That was unthinkable a few years ago.


Apple Mac, iPhone & iPad news for New Zealanders

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