Tag Archives: MacBook Pro

Tuesday Talk ~ Are we happy yet? Yes we are!


Brilliant! (Image from Apple NZ’s iMac page)

For months now, commentators have been  lambasting Apple for not updating Macs and for ignoring the pro users. I have regularly been a minor part of that pool of despond in this column.
No more! We’re (mostly) happy. Apple’s June 5th WWDC hardware announcements delivered a  gulp of elixir – the Apple Koolaid was back and we were slugging it down. For a heady day or two, anyway. I immediately, gleefully ordered a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. The Kaby Lake CPU was the tipping point I was waiting for. It wasn’t even that Kaby Lake gives a significant increase of power – it doesn’t. It’s just that I didn’t want to drop cNZ$5k onto a new Mac without Kaby Lake when I knew it was available, and already populating many PC models. I can hardly wait for my new Mac to arrive, since my current model is 5 years old – that’s a very long life for a Mac for me (and truth be told, it’s still a wonderful laptop).

But the really big news, for the pros, was the iMac Pro. Although this will cost over NZ$8000, by current exchange rates, it’s not for the typical iMac users – they have been catered to with new iMacs anyway, with even better screens and Kaby Lake and at much more affordable prices. Even these will very handily handle major Apple Final Cut and Adobe Premiere tasks without breaking a sweat.
But the iMac Pro is aimed at the very serious user, as the bedrock to, for example, an audio, audio visual or video/TV/film editing studio, and although that’s a lot of money, hey, it already has a fantastic screen and has real grunt. Even more interesting, perhaps, is that unlike the current Mac Pro (tower), it’s almost impossible to put together a similar PC and monitor setup for less than what the iMac Pro will cost – in fact, Apple’s new machine, due in December, is actually a bargain. And despite it, Apple has also announced it is working on a new, user-upgradeable Mac Pro tower.
Good timing, too, since for the first time in a long time, it looks like the PC market will start growing again.
So yes, Apple, were happy – and, sincerely, thank you!

But … no word on the Mac mini. If Apple’s keeping it in the Mac lineup, surely it deserves Kaby Lake? 
No mention of AirPort, which I think Apple is mad to drop if  the company wants us to have seamless wifi connectivity with our Apple devices to the new HomePod it also announced, and if Apple is thinking of palming this off to a third part5y router supplier, then I visit the ghost of the LG 4k monitor debacle on you, Apple! (If you want something done properly …)
No Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar – this looks like a brilliant idea, and you’d expect it if the Touch Bar is appreciated on MacBook Pro, but I suspect the connectivity and functionality over Bluetooth might be the stumbling block. I still want one, though! If you have one on your MacBook Pro and then go to use, say, Final Cut on a Mac, surely you want that feature?
And no iBooks Author update. Apple has let its brilliant and dreadfully under-appreciated eBooks platform languish far too long.

Still — a new iPhone has still to emerge (September, people reckon). Apple will doubtless have more news for us as the year progresses. For Mac users, the happy times are here again.

Review ~ Smart, protective keyboard overlays by Editors’ Keys


edkeyslogic

I’ve always been a fan of keyboard overlays. Anything that stops your keyboard getting grubby is fine by me, and splash protection is a bonus. Sneeze on your keyboard with an overlay, you can just take it off, rinse it, shake it out, and it’s dry in a few minutes. Pop it back on.
An additional benefit is the rubberised (OK, silicon) layer between your keys and the screen, on laptops when you fold them, and the suppression of noisy key-clacking.
EditorsKeys from England makes excellent keys with all of the above properties, but there’s more. They have keyboard shortcut overlays for various pro apps like Logic and Final Cut Pro X, pointing out all the handy keyboards you may be using, and definitely should be using if you want to really get to grips with editing, and to speed up your work quite dramatically.

detail

Key points — You see, beyond the obvious like tapping the Spacebar to stop/start play, and the delete key working as you’d expect, and Command X, C, V and Z for Cut, Copy, Paste and Undo, all those keys on your keyboard are only going to be used for typing in words when you name tracks and samples, add notes or retitle things. If you’re not editing text, why not assign functions to them?
So Apple wisely added all sorts of attributes to the other keys for when you’re not actually trying to type in words while editing movies or sound.
There are many key commands and abilities I didn’t even know in Logic and Final Cut, but now they are – quite literally – at my fingertips. These include tapping the T key for instant access to Track Header Tools. Other new faves include Area Focus, smart keys for screen sets and Move to Playhead – but there are a very many more. With an Editors Keys overlay on, you will find yourself discovering all sorts of new possibilities and soon you’ll be working faster and with more precision.

Yet another benefit is that Musical Typing (Command-K to turn your alpha-numeric keyboard into a virtual musical keyboard in case you don’t have your input musical keyboard handy, or just want to add in tome quick notes and/or beats) in Logic or GarageBand is a little more forgiving on your fingers with this thin layer of silicon padding absorbing some of the tap-shock, and perhaps as a result, I found it easier to hit beats on time.

ficut
The overlay for Final Cut Pro X (click the image for a larger view)
Some detail on the Final Cut Pro X version
Some detail on the Final Cut Pro X version

What’s great — Smart, stylish, well-made, protective and very handy. A range available for different Apple keyboards – accessory and built-in – and for different pro apps (not just the Apple ones). (Boy, would I like to try the microphones this company has for sale!)

What’s not — Can take a little getting used to if you’re a look- (rather than a touch-) typist, as although the letters are clear for normal typing, it’s a different look.

Needs — Anyone wanting stylish keyboard protection while easy learning great new skills for editing and creativity.

Editors Keys overlays for Apple Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X, US$39.85 (about NZ$55 – some of the MacBook Pro keyboard overlays are only US$29.85) plus shipping from the UK.

System — A variety of keyboards catered for, including laptop and PC.

Contact — Editors Keys.

Tuesday Talk ~ Post PC and iPad toast


macpro-inside

Steve Jobs would have turned 62 last week, and among many of the quite revolutionary things he said, in this case near the end of his time, was that the PC era was over. He imagined iPad would embody its replacement. However, Macs are still selling in large numbers, although sales aren’t growing, while iPad plateaued a couple of years back and has been sitting at the same level. In fact, all device sales have plateaued; the point is Mac sales took a whole lot longer to level out. So today, it looks like iPads haven’t replaced Macs, and although some people use them as their primary devices, they tend to accompany rather than to replace, at least for users with needs beyond the superficial.

For those who only browse, email/message and read, iPads are ideal tablets. For those wanting to do serious work, it really depends on the work. Apple’s beefy, powerful iPad Pro is really just an untethered Cintiq-style drawing device. Sure, you can also browse, email/message and read, and you can conceivably rough-out a sound or film project, but serious users will soon end up on a PC of some sort because the manipulation, although direct (via fingertips and maybe a stylus) on a tablet, still lags behind what’s possible with a keyboard and mouse/trackpad/etc.
As soon as you start adding physical input devices (apart from the Pencil) to iPads, well hell, you may as well have a Mac and be done with it.

It’s the portable Macs that have really worked for Apple. As Apple Insider points out, If you’re still wondering why Apple hasn’t updated its desktop Macs (the mini and Pro), their relative importance to Apple’s revenues certainly plays a factor. Apple sells truckloads of portable Macs, and comparatively few iMacs and even less of the overpriced, underperforming Mac Pros.
Many think the Mac Pro will soon disappear altogether, especially since it needs a monitor as a separate purchase, and Apple’s nomination for that vaunted position, in place of its own overpriced but excellent monitor, is the very troubled LD UltraFine.
This sounds doom and gloom, but the fact remains the large iMac is all-round wonderful: beautiful, powerful and with a truly excellent display. Most videographers and audio engineers are more than happy to work on these, and they’re saving money. Apple could do a lot to make these even better, if the Pro gets the heave-ho. 

Gloom and doom? I don’t think so. It’s easy for me to sound sour in these columns, but around the time Apple releases a great new iPhone, we could also be getting Kaby Lake MacBook Pros, awesome new iMacs and an iPad revision. To me, that’s good times and lots to look forward to. I won’t be missing the Mac Pro, and most  pro users have abandoned these long ago anyway, for cheaper faster PCs. They might be pleased to come back to Mac just for the superior operating system.

Tuesday Talk ~ What happened at Apple in 2016?


original-mac-ad-hello-1200x800

What happened at Apple in 2016? New products were released, and they were good, but they seemed slow in coming. Some ship dates slipped considerably: the Pencil in 2015 and then AirPods (which have only just started arriving) last year. There have been supply misjudgements which is odd for a company run by the supply-chain expert (Tim Cook), once heavily leaned-upon by Steve Jobs.
The much-anticipated late-2016 MacBook Pro certainly arrived late in the year, and although it debuted a truly useful new technology (the Touch Bar), it seemed like Apple was waiting for new processors and eventually couldn’t wait any longer. This was in the face of criticism that the MacBook Pro hadn’t been updated significantly for four years (four years!), quite a hiccup in this most stellar line of Macs. Meanwhile, iMac has started to noticeably lag, the mini looks like a very stagnated platform – and don’t even mention the overpriced, underpowered Mac Pro.
iPhone SE clearly surprised Apple with a much higher demand than expected. Forecast models seem out of sync with buyer demands, and you have to think Apple can afford great depth of talent here.
iPad (and, to be fair, all other tablets) have been languishing in sales, seemingly failing to reach the potential once promised. It’s a closed platform (of course). As the Mac Observer has observed, “Like the original Mac, Steve Jobs conceived of the iPad as a closed, friendly, appliance” but now its arc has hit the same limits the original Mac hit.
AirPort has been languishing and then, unannounced, Apple seems to have dropped its entire AirPort team, making people wonder just what is in store for their easy-to-set-up and almost flawless, not to mention attractive, Apple wifi network devices AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule. Perhaps the Apple display partnership that sees the Apple Thunderbolt Display gone and the company touting products by LG in its stead (the 4K and 5K UltraFine displays) will become the new business model across wifi too. But does that mean Apple is losing its grip, or simply concentrating where it should be?
Apple has always shifted  its focus around product groups, but it’s hard to believe resources are so  constrained at the tech giant it can’t actually cope with long-standing product lines any more. Former Apple employee Chuq Von Raspach thinks Apple’s view of its users doesn’t match its actual users, which is quite an indictment of a company that has always excelled at using data to sell data platforms.
Apple’s approach has been super successful over the decades, and some companies like Pearl Automation have taken aspects of the Apple process and ditched others. But this poses another concern – this is yet another company created by former Apple employees.

Let’s hope that Apple has been putting its house in order for 2017.

Tuesday Talk ~ tribes and where Apple is at


(Image from a Mac Observer video showing the 1989 Macintosh Portable up against the Late 2016 MacBook Pro)
(Image from a Mac Observer video showing the 1989 Macintosh Portable up against the Late 2016 MacBook Pro)

Apple is still super successful, still shipping new things, still innovating. However, considering its massive R&D spend, it’s voracious buying of one tech startup and innovator after another, somehow shipping dates slip, gaps between product releases seem to be expanding and some anomalous products emerge. For example, iPhone 7 ships without an audio port, just Lightning one end and USB the other, then a month later Apple ships the new MacBook Pro with an audio port and no way of directly connecting the new iPhone without buying the Apple Lightning to USB-C Cable as an extra.
I can’t think of another time when you could directly plug two Apple products into each other. But more worrying is the long gap between the original 2012 MacBook Pro with Retina Display and the Late 2016 MacBook Pro: four years before a major case change and real laptop innovation. Really, Apple couldn’t have done this faster, with all its power, talent and resources? While I appreciate Apple’s long-held predilection to only release products that are absolutely ready (the other tack would be exemplified by Samsung’s disastrous incendiary smartphones), this still seems a weirdly convoluted process.

Some think the criticism of Apple has taken a disturbing new turn. Once upon a time it was almost laughable. People who knew very little about Apple would post the most ridiculous criticisms. (That said, I still hear them sometimes: ‘Apple isn’t compatible’. ‘Apple is just for home use …’ Duh!)
However, that’s changing: now people who love Apple products – absolute devotees like (and including) me, are criticising Apple too. There are distinct Apple tribes, according to some, and they clash. These come under Audiophiles, Applications and Technical Professionals, at least according to the Mac Observer.
But there’s another tribe the article above doesn’t mention: those who buy Apple’s products just because they like them – their use doesn’t go very deep, and actually, they don’t really care who makes what. Apple can act overly entranced with this big, often uncaring tribe, and to me, this is the real problem.
As for the more deeply-engaged tribes enumerated above, I’m not sure I buy this argument, at least for myself: I usually get on with any other Apple fan of any category. In my experience, we all feel we’re in the same boat.
But that boat is listing.

Once criticism shifts to a sense of betrayal, as it has with some people I know (in this case, over the Mac Pro, and the new MacBook Pro simply isn’t powerful enough to placate them), mark my words: it’s really hard to come back from that.
I’ve never thought ‘Apple can do no wrong’. I’ve had plenty to criticise over the years, but the bottom line is what usually keeps me with Apple. And it’s a very attractive bottom line:
Great products.

Apple Portable comparison, Tales of the Cosmos, FileMaker ecosystem, Watercolor


talesofthecos

2016 MacBook Pro vs. 1989 Macintosh Portable: FIGHT — Think the 2016 MacBook Pro is overpriced and underpowered? Check out this comparison video of Apple’s latest laptop with the company’s first portable computer, 1989’s Macintosh Portable. While far from an in-depth technical analysis, the video offers some nice HD shots of how design at Apple has changed over the past 27 years. Bonus points for the Jean-Louis Gassée archival footage.

Tales of Cosmos is a new Mac compatible, open world adventure game — Red Dwarf Games has debuted Tales of Cosmos, a point-and-click adventure game for Mac and Windows computers. The player assumes the roles of Perseus and Gagayev, animal astronauts who become stranded on an unknown planet, and helps them get to the bottom of a cosmic mystery. Tales of Cosmos requires macOS 10.6 or higher. It’s available on the Steam network.
It costs NZ$17.99.

Examined: FileMaker Pro 15 ecosystem for macOS, Windows, and iOS — The latest FileMaker Pro 15.0.1.118 is at the centre of an entire ecosystem aiming to help individuals and whole corporations manage their data. AppleInsider examines the platform’s main app, which is now — mostly — macOS Sierra-ready.

AKVIS releases Watercolor 1.0 for macOS — You only need to adjust the settings to your taste and run the processing and any ordinary image will turn into a piece of aquarelle  art. Watercolor lets you experiment with a range of painting genres from marine paintings and atmospheric landscapes up to human or animal portraits and still lifes. The app offers a number of ready-to-use presets that can be used to imitate different watercolor techniques. A Home license for activating Watercolor on two computers costs US$49, and macOS 10.7 or higher is recommended.
AKVIS Watercolor is available as a standalone program and as a plugin to photo editors: Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Corel Paint Shop Pro, etc but not Photos.

Optane future, MacBook Pro sales, good iBooks news, Apple Pay 5th already


18940-18582-3d-xpoint-l

Apple’s engineering in new MacBook Pro paves way for speedy Optane storage in future models — Apple has set the table for inclusion of the future XPoint-based Optane SSD technology in an iteration of the MacBook Pro, potentially leading to dramatically faster access times and transfer speeds than conventional SSDs.
In the new MacBook Pros, Apple has implemented NVMe storage, across the PCIe bus. In part, this is why the Apple SSD storage in the new machines is best-in-class, with the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Function Keys are pulling down 2.2 gigabytes per second write speeds, and 3.1 gigabytes per second read speed.

The new MacBook Pro’s sales are through the roof — The new MacBook Pro may be controversial (and that’s an understatement), but Slice Intelligence reports that in the first five days of availability online, the latest model generated over seven times the revenue that the 12-inch MacBook did during its April 2015 launch. 

Good news for Apple’s iBookstore: ebook market expected to double by 2020 — Here’s some good news for Apple’s iBookstore: the ebook market will more than double by 2020, according to Strategy Analytics. Increasing e-reading device penetration, more readily available content, new business models, and adoption in China will see the market’s revenue top $16 billion in the next eight years, the research group adds.

Apple Pay on the web is the fifth most popular online payment platform — Just over a month after launching Apple Pay on the web, new data from SimilarTech shows Apple has already made it into the top five payment technologies online.
SimilarTech is a website profiler, lead generation, competitive analysis and business intelligence tool providing technology adoption and usage analytics for the Internet. By adding web payment support, Mac users can pay online in Safari using a ‘Pay with Apple Pay’ button, and authenticate their purchase using Touch ID on their phone or watch.

Fastest laptop, LOLware, WALTR 2, 10 games, Volume Purchase Program


(Image from MacObserver)
(Image from MacObserver)

Apple’s new MacBook Pro may be the world’s fastest stock laptop — Apple, a company that has led the laptop industry in its use of PCIe solid-state drives (SSDs), again upped the ante in performance with its latest refresh of the MacBook Pro, which may be the highest performing stock system on the market.
From a practical standpoint, copying a batch of mixed files has been noted as being significantly faster than its predecessor and versus other laptops in its class.

LOL ‘Apple’ malware spam — Check out probably the worst malware spam in a long time. But it’s always good to be on guard against these things, and to help those in our lives who might be fooled by even this lame attempt. Accordingly, MacObserver turns an LOL moment into a learning opportunity.

Softorino introduces WALTR 2, adds power to a classic Mac app — WALTR has been a favourite of Mac users for many years, providing a way to easily transfer content from Mac to iPhone or iPad. Now Softorino has delivered WALTR 2, the second-generation of the app which creates a universal drop-area that can push any content into any Apple device. WALTR 2 (US$39.95) now makes it possible for Mac users to drag and drop music, ringtones, videos, PDF and even ePub files onto iPhone, iPad or iPod without the need for iTunes.

Ten new Mac games — October brought us a nice stack of standout releases. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is easily the biggest of the bunch, launching the same week as the PC version and delivering an even larger and more engrossing take on the legendary turn-based strategy experience. Check out this Macworld slideshow.

Apple expands Volume Purchase Program to 8 new countries — In a bid to spur international education and business software sales, Apple on Monday announced an expansion to its bulk app purchasing initiative, the Volume Purchase Program, into eight new territories worldwide.

New MacBook Pro, new Final Cut Pro, new monitor(ish), 25th anniversary of the PowerBook


OLED arrives at Apple and it's on a MacBook, not on an iPhone
OLED arrives at Apple and it’s on a MacBook, not on an iPhone

Apple announces new MacBook Pro in 13″ and 15″ and silver or space gray — Both models have an Oled touch row above the number keys called the Touch Bar, replacing the Function keys (F-Keys). This replaces the standard system functions of instant access to brightness and volume, and it adapts to the software you’re using: in Safari, it shows buttons for the favourite sites, for instance. Once you’re there, it becomes a back, search field, tab, and more. In photos, it has an interface for straightening a photo. In other apps it presents formatting controls for Bold, colour, etc, and can also predict who you might want to add to an email message.
[This will need support from third-party apps, and Adobe is already on board with Photoshop. Affinity Designer, Pixelmator, Sketch, DaVinci Resolve and other companies are already being revised and updated for the Touch Bar, and Microsoft is building Touch Bar support into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Skype for Business.]
You can customise every single part of the Touch Bar including system functions: in Finder, you can customise the Touch Bar so you can have a button you drag to Touch Bar in order to connect to a server. 
The 15-inch MacBook Pro was 18mm, the new one is 15.5mm – that’s 14% thinner, and 20% smaller by volume. It weighs 1.81kgs (4 US pounds), a saving of .23kgs (half a pound). The 13-inch is 23% less by volume the the previous generation, and 14.9mm instead of 18mm.
The trackpad is a force touch trackpad, twice as large as the previous generation. The keyboard is all new as well. It uses the butterfly switch mechanism from the 12-inch MacBook, using a second-generation butterfly for better feel and travel.
with the new MacBook Pro, you log in with your fingerprint, which is integrated into the power button. This is Sapphire crystal, and supported by a brand new chip, the Apple T1, with secure enclave meaning you can use it for secure purchases. [Gotta love how Apple makes it easier to buy things – yes, I am being slightly cynical.]
The screen is 67% brighter, 67% higher contrast ratio and shows 25% more colours, with wide colour gamut.The 13-inch has dual i5 or i7 intel iris graphcs with 64MB of eDRAM, with the same SSD of the 15″. The 13-inch Intel graphics is 103% faster than previous 13″ in gaming, 76% in video and 3D graphics.
Both models have four USB-C-shaped Thunderbolt 3 ports – the new MacBook Pro can be charged from any one of these, and each also handles Thunderbolt, USB, DisplayPort, HDMI or VGA.

Coming … NZ pricing, availability and the most important question of all, perhaps: what exactly is the CPU?

Apple's Store page during the announcements ...
Apple’s Store page during the announcements …

 

No Thunderbolt Display, but … Instead, Apple took the unprecedented step of working with another company, in this case LG, to make the LG Ultrafine 5k Display with wide colour gamut, three extra usb-c ports and cameras. It connects to Mac over a single cable and charges your Mac over that cable. You can use two of them at the same time: 35 million pixels driven by the graphics of the 15″ MacBook Pro.

New Final Cut Pro — This uses the new Touch Bar to see the entire timeline and shows where you are on the timeline. This is draggable to move through a project; tap it to jump to sections, and also you can zoom in on the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar shows the same overview of the timeline, but can be navigated without ever leaving full screen view.

This week is a huge week in the history of the Mac — This week marks the 25th anniversary of our first notebook. It was on Oct 25th of 1991 that Apple unveiled the first PowerBook. The PowerBook defined the modern notebook for its time, changing the category and changing Apple forever. This was the first portable that featured the keyboard forward design, with the pointing device integrated into the palmrest. It was also the first laptop with an active matrix display. Every generation of Mac notesbooks had innovation that pushed the industry forward. [Surprised none of us worked that out in advance of this Mac announcement!]

[All this info came from Apple Insider’s live, on-site blog.]

Tuesday Talk ~ The Cult of Mac is getting anxious


(Image from Pinterest)
(Image from Pinterest)

Here we are, all hanging on for new Macs. I know at least ten people in the same boat as me. We’ve been clinging on to our Macs, keeping them running, afraid to upgrade because we know, or at least think we know (while definitely fervently hoping) that a new model is imminent. This goes specifically for the MacBook Pro, which hasn’t had a full update (just some some minor refreshes) since 2012.

It’s worse for Mac Pro users …if there are any left. When that first round Pro tower came out in 2013, it was expensive but hey, it was the fastest and best. However, that didn’t last long and even a year later you could get a higher-specced PC for considerably less. This has been very difficult for Pro users to swallow, and some have even jumped ship to powerful Unix boxes while others must be thinking enviously along the same lines.
It’s not as if other manufacturers failed to notice Pro-user unhappiness, making more easily expandable, higher-specced and cheaper PCs available. The Pro hasn’t been updated in three years. Meanwhile, the excellent, but overpriced (going by the competition’s prices) Apple Thunderbolt display has been cancelled entirely, with no replacement. Luckily there are excellent high-quality displays you can plug in, in their stead, but the Thunderbolt offered some handy extra ports. But there are no rumours that Apple is even looking at a Pro update. Pro users who wanted to stay with Apple have been buying very well-specced 27-inch iMacs instead.
Apple has almost limitless resources, yet seems to have chosen to all but abandon its strongest, and most powerful, supporters.

Leaving Mac lines to languish is starting to affect sales. According to both Gartner and IDC, during the third quarter (3Q) of 2016, Apple shipped five million Macs – down from 5.4 million in the year-ago quarter, according to Gartner or from 5.8, according to IDC: a 13.4% decline. You can’t blame this on sales lost to iPad, since tablet sales aren’t picking up the slack. And there is no way on Earth that a powerful iPad even begins to be able to do what a good MacBook Pro can do, even if the latest iPad Pro outperforms the overpriced, virtually port-free MacBook. The problem, everyone agrees, is the stale Mac line-up.

Of course, the MacBook Pro is strongly rumoured to be undergoing work and everyone has been hoping it will arrive by the end of this October, although that date is getting uncomfortably close. For a professional user, an Air or worse, MacBook just can’t even begin to cut it. With a good MacBook Pro, you really can produce an entire movie, soundtrack and plenty more. It’s a really strong machine. And it has a good array of ports – if Apple cuts these, there will be a lot of disappointment.
The tragedy of all this is that if Apple doesn’t produce something spectacular, the professional crisis will depend and maybe even become a tipping point.