This is My Next iPad

Apple has released the iPad Air 2 and it’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for. It’s thin, it’s light, and it’s fast. It’s been a long time since I purchased a tablet (the original iPad to be exact), but it’s finally time to upgrade.

One of the key reasons I wanted an iPad when it was first released in 2010 was to use it as a writing machine. But, one of the key areas of my writing workflow wasn’t realistically possible on the original iPad. I make heavy use of WordPress’s “Press This” bookmarklet and typically write the entirety of a Linked List post (and sometimes even feature articles) in the Press This compose window. This is a breeze on my MacBook Air — I find something I want to write about or link to, click the bookmarklet, write what I want to, and click publish. But, the original iPad didn’t have enough RAM to keep both the page I was linking to and the compose page in memory at the same time. As soon as I needed to look at the web page I’m referencing the compose page would be cleared from memory and everything I had written would be lost. It only took a few times before I completely gave up on writing this way on my iPad.

I tried a few other workflows, like composing my links and articles in the Notes app which would save my work if I ever had to go back and reference the web page, but it never stuck. Having to copy and paste everything I had written in Notes into the WordPress compose page in order to publish was enough of a barrier to entry that I dreaded ever even trying to write anything on my iPad. It wasn’t a great situation and left me where I am now — only writing on my MacBook Air and using my iPad a lot less often than I’d like.

And, then Apple announced the iPad Air 2. I’m sure last year’s iPad Air or even an iPad released earlier than that would have worked in my writing workflow, but the specs never jumped out at me the way the iPad Air 2’s did. The iPad Air 2 is the first Apple tablet  to feature 2GB of RAM. That’s huge. I never owned a computer with more than 2GB of RAM until 2008 when I bought my first iMac. And, 2GB of RAM gives me confidence that Safari won’t be clearing my WordPress compose pages from memory in the middle of writing.

Aside from the amount of RAM, the new iPad Air 2 also has an incredibly fast CPU. According to the benchmarks John Gruber has published, the iPad Air 2’s processor is nearly as fast at single-core processes and actually faster at multi-core processes than my MacBook Air (which scored 2294 for single-core and 4242 for multi-core processing). And, my MacBook Air certainly never feels slow.

Another big deal for me was the iPad Air 2’s new storage options. When I purchased the original iPad four-and-a-half years ago I bought the top of the line model — 64GB of storage with AT&T 3G. I could stand to live without cellular data — I have only purchased about 3-4 months worth of it during the time I’ve owned it — but I couldn’t see myself purchasing a 32GB model and I really didn’t want to spend $699 to get 64GB. Now I don’t have to compromise on storage. I can get the 64GB of storage that I’d prefer without having to break the bank in order to do it.

I’ll finally be able to use iOS 8 on an iPad and use all those apps that have passed me by because they lacked support for iOS 6. Now, I won’t be making the purchase until sometime next month. I plan on waiting until I can pay cash for it rather than buying it earlier on credit. But, I’m excited to be joining all the cool kids with their Retina displays and spending some time catching up on all the apps I’ve missed out on.

And if anyone’s interested, I’m getting a Space Gray, 64GB, Wi-Fi only model.

AT&T Locking Apple Interchangeable SIMs

I hope this doesn’t last long before customer outcry forces them to do the right thing.

OS X Yosemite Tips and Tricks

I wasn’t aware that you could record screencasts of your iOS device with QuickTime on Yosemite. And, what great attention to detail that QuickTime automatically cleans up the iOS status bar to show full battery, signal strength, and a predictable time of 9:41 AM.

On iOS’s Continually Growing ‘Other’

Kevin Hamm:

Many people have had problems updating their iOS device to iOS 8 because they don’t have enough space. The weird thing is that many of us have plenty of space, except there’s a mysterious padding of yellow marked “Other” that is, well, unknown[…] I figured it was time to do some research. So, in pictures, here’s what I found.

I imagine Apple has to be working on a fix for this problem. I know too many people who are constantly running out of space on their iPhones and I’d love for that continual annoyance to finally go away for good.

(Via Daring Fireball.)

Not For Me

Patrick Rhone reminds us that we don’t always have to upgrade our tools immediately — sometimes it’s better to learn more about the software and devices that we already have rather than worry about upgrading to the latest version. And, sometimes the newset version just isn’t for you.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve spent less time worrying about what’s coming next and more time enjoying what I have now. I’m less concerned about spending another year with the iPhone 5s than I would have been in the past, my 2011 MacBook Air does everything that it needs to, and I can wait a few months before upgrading to Yosemite. And, that’s just fine. The updates will still be there when I’m ready for them and I’d be a much better person if I could always remember that.

Tim Cook’s Letter to Employees Following Q4 Earnings Report

I hope Tim Cook understands that everything isn’t going as smoothly as the company’s quarterly results would indicate. Apple hasn’t exactly had the best software releases over the past year and everyone knows it. Every developer in Cupertino should be diligently working to get their software products up to the standards that us Apple customers have come to expect.

Known NFC Spoofing Techniques Unlikely to Work with Apple Pay

John Brandon, writing for Macworld:

Still, even if a hacker could snag your transaction data as it passes from your iPhone to the terminal, they’d get a single-use token with nothing to identify you by name. Connecting that to the credit cards stored securely by Apple might not be impossible, but the experts we spoke to agree that it’s a lot harder than just stealing some credit card numbers.

If you’re concerned about security it looks like Apple Pay is exactly the service you should be using.

How to Set Up Apple Pay

With today’s release of iOS 8.1, Apple Pay is now available to anyone using an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. This video gives a quick rundown of how to set up Apple Pay on your device.

Apple Updates Mac mini

I’ve been a huge fan of the Mac mini since I purchased one a few years ago to use as a media server. That little box does everything — ripping DVDs and converting to them MPEG-4, recording over-the-air television with an Elgato EyeTV, sharing media to all of my Apple TVs and macs, storing all of my photos and media library, the list goes on and on.

I think the biggest new feature for the updated Mac mini is the lower price point. The introductory price of the mini had been $599 for the past few years, but Apple has finally dropped it back down to a more reasonable price point of $499.

There are some drawback with this update, though. The Mac mini server version is no longer available, the RAM is no longer user-upgradable, and replacing the hard drive now voids your warranty. I don’t think the lack of “server” options will be a big deal at all, it wasn’t very popular, but limiting your ability to upgrade the RAM and hard drive is a bit of a let down.

It’ll be important that you purchase a Mac mini with the RAM and hard drive you need when you make the initial purchase. I’ve done a few RAM and hard drive upgrades to macs in the past and it was a great way to get some extra longevity out of a machine. Now, I wouldn’t suggest it unless you really know what you’re doing.

Overall I think this is a great update, though. Faster processors and graphics, an extra Thunderbolt port, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a lower introductory price makes for a compelling upgrade from the previous model. I think if you’re looking for a mac to use as a home server or looking to convince a friend or family member to switch from Windows, this is a great machine for the job.

Creating Invisible Home Screen Icons

Neat trick by David Smith showing how to create invisible home screen icons using Safari’s Add to Home Screen feature. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up using this when I eventually (and begrudgingly) upgrade to a 4.7-inch iPhone next year.

Buy an iPad mini 2 While You Still Can

As it turns out, the iPad mini 3 has the same internals of an iPad mini 2 — with the only extra features being Touch ID and the option of getting one in gold. If you were interested in buying a 7.9-inch iPad, I’d follow Chris Welch’s advice and get a iPad mini 2 while you still can. Especially if you can still find one with more than 16GB of storage (like in the refurbished section of Apple’s online store).

Jonathan Ive in Conversation with Graydon Carter

The full interview from Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit.

John Siracusa’s Review of OS X Yosemite

I’ve never made it all the way through a John Siricusa OS X review. I’m not sure I ever will — due to a lack of free time not because I don’t enjoy reading them. If you’re interested in all of the nitty-gritty details of Apple’s latest OS, this is the first place I’d look.

Apple Releases OS X Yosemite

As Apple announced on stage at the event yesterday, Yosemite is now available on the App Store as a free upgrade to users of Mavericks and Mountain Lion. I’ve been using Yosemite on my secondary Mac for the past few months and it’s a solid release with a lot of welcomed changes and improvements.

If you plan on upgrading today I’d suggest making a fresh backup before hitting the update button. I’d personally recommend SuperDuper! for these types of situations, but a Time Machine backup should suffice.

I plan on waiting a month or two before upgrading, though. Yosemite has been very stable on the 2008 iMac I’ve been running it on. But, I’d rather wait for Apple to fix the bugs that everyone else finds than be one of the users finding them. As Aaron Mahnke astutely put it on Twitter:

Yesterday, Apple announced that I will be installing Yosemite on January 16, 2015.

I’m not sure I’ll wait quite that long, but Aaron has the right idea. I’ll probably end up upgrading during the last week of December when my day job slows down a bit.

Apple WatchKit to be Available Next Month

Developers will be able to start building applications for Apple Watch months before the device is available to the public. I think this is a necessity — I don’t think the Watch is enough as is to justify the $349 price tag. But, the addition of third-party apps will give the Watch new and interesting features to help customers justify the price of admission.

John Gruber, Speaking at XOXO Festival

I was excited to hear that John spoke at XOXO Fest in Portland last month. It was a great talk with a lot of interesting information about how he turned Daring Fireball into his full time gig.

This is what makes me want to keep writing.

Macworld/iWorld Conference on Hiatus

From IDG World Expo’s statement, as published by Macworld:

We are announcing today that Macworld/iWorld is going on hiatus, and will not be taking place as planned in 2015. Our MacIT event, the world’s premiere event for deploying Apple in the enterprise, will continue next year with details to be announced in the coming weeks.

I would guess that by “on hiatus” they mean “over.”

The writing’s been on the wall since Apple announced their last year at Macworld Expo in 2009. Everyone knew that this would happen eventually — I’m surprised that they’ve made it this long.

Dropbox Wasn’t Hacked

Anton Mityagin writing on The Dropbox Blog:

Recent news articles claiming that Dropbox was hacked aren’t true. Your stuff is safe. The usernames and passwords referenced in these articles were stolen from unrelated services, not Dropbox. Attackers then used these stolen credentials to try to log in to sites across the internet, including Dropbox. We have measures in place to detect suspicious login activity and we automatically reset passwords when it happens.

It’s always a bad idea to reuse passwords across multiple services. This is a great example of why you shouldn’t do that.

Apple to Live Stream October 16 Event

Unfortunately I won’t be able to watch this one live. But, the  stream can be viewed on Apple’s site at the aforelinked page. It will also be available to on the Apple TV through Apple’s live events app.

Jony Ive on Lessons He Learned From Steve Jobs

Talking on stage with Graydon Carter at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. The one at the end about caring how others perceive you I found to be very thought provoking.

Twitter Sues Justice Department

I’m very happy to see that Twitter is fighting the federal government for their right to publish warrant canaries. I wish they weren’t the only company doing so. But, I’m glad that someone is fighting for their freedom of speech.

Apple Removing Bose Audio Products From Retail Stores

Kelly Hodgkins writing for MacRumors:

Apple is preparing to remove all Bose audio products, both demo and sellable, from its retail environment, according to a reliable source who spoke to MacRumors. The inventory change will begin early next week, with instructions for removal being sent to employees in the coming days.

The reasons behind this removal were not disclosed, but it is very likely tied to to Apple’s recent acquisition of Beats Electronics.

It’s the Storage Space, Stupid

John Gruber on the slow adoption of iOS 8:

But it’s very clear that I was wrong about what the primary factor is. The simple answer was staring me right in the face. It’s all about the over-the-air update requiring 5 GB of free storage space, and many people not having that much free space, and not knowing how or simply not wanting to deal with it.

My girlfriend owns a 16GB iPhone 5s and I don’t think she would have ever updated to iOS 8 if I hadn’t done it for her. It’s not because she doesn’t know how to manage her storage, it’s just too much of a hassle to make room for some software enhancements that probably wouldn’t be missed if she never used them.

Apple needs to find a way to shrink the size of major iOS upgrades even further or they need to stop selling iPhones with such puny storage capacities. If they don’t, then Apple’s days of bragging about iOS adoption rates will soon be over.

Mac Media Server: Fit Headless

This is the third part in a series in which I give the blueprint for my Mac Media Server. These pages will be updated with new software and settings changes so they will always be up to date with my current configuration. This is the third part of the series which describes the process of installing and setting up the Fit Headless HDMI display emulator.

Fit Headless

I quickly realized after setting up my Mac Mini that there were some pretty critical problems that I knew I’d have to overcome if I was going to interact with it using Screen Sharing. For one, the number of screen resolutions that were offered to me in OS X’s system preferences were less than optimal. And, there was also some performance issues that I couldn’t initially find the source of.

After doing some research I found that OS X actually shuts off the graphics card when there’s no display connected to the computer. In the past I had heard of people building dongles that would emulate a display over VGA — at the time I didn’t understand why anyone would need one. But, using one would trick OS X into turning on the graphics card which would improve performance and give me far better options for display resolutions — without it all of my options were in a 5:4 aspect ratio.

Building one seemed easy enough — a DVI to VGA adapter and some cheap resistors was all I’d need to put one together. But, while I was searching around trying to find the easiest way to build one I came across an article on Macminicolo Blog where they point to a small HDMI dongle called the Fit Headless. It’s an inexpensive display emulator that’s designed to be used with headless computers — exactly what I needed.

Installing and setting up the Fit Headless was easy enough. Here’s the four step process:

  • Shut the Mac Mini down
  • Plug the Fit Headless into the HDMI port
  • Power on the Mac Mini
  • Choose your preferred resolution in System Preferences > Displays

It really is that easy. The whole process only took about 10 minutes.

I’ve been using the Fit Headless for the past four months and I couldn’t be happier with it. The Mac Mini in my closet is much more responsive when I’m interacting with it over Screen Sharing or VNC and the display resolution options are more to my liking — 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 1600×900, and 1344×756. I’ve been using the 720p resolution as it is as close to ideal as I could ask for when I’m using my MacBook Air’s smallish 11-inch display to view the Mac Mini’s desktop.

The Fit Headless is currently available for $15 on Amazon. I’d consider it to be an essential piece of hardware for any Mac home server. It’s inexpensive, easy to setup, and does exactly what it needs to.

‘It’s been way too long.’

Apple has invited the press to an event on October 16 that will be held at Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, CA.

It’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing new iPads, Yosemite, and possibly even the rumored Retina iMac. I find the tagline for the event and the rainbow Apple logo to be intriguing. As someone who’s “only” been following Apple for the past eight years, I associate Apple’s use of rainbows with iPods. And, it’s certainly been quite a while since we’ve seen an overhaul of the iPod lineup.