Category Archives: Macintosh

Coffee Shop Computing circa Dec 2012

Let’s agree that computing extends to iPads and iPhones, tablets and smartphones and the iPod touch. I prefer to get my morning exercise and some caffeinated computing done while outside the house at a local coffee spot. My rule is that I can’t go play at the local coffee shop unless I walk there. Seems fair.

I have a near weightless REI backpack to carry my gear – the kind designed for carrying water while cycling. Here is my current configuration:

  • retina MacBook Pro 13″
  • iPad 3 and/or iPad mini
  • iPhone 5

With this lineup, there’s no need for an extra keyboard, I’ll use the rMBP if there’s much typing involved. And love every minute of it. Cost 3.5 lbs.

Favorite writing apps include Day One, Byword and iA Writer. I’ve grown to prefer apps that support markdown because rich text isn’t universally supported across apps and is especially weak on iOS. I also prefer doing my email (Mail), strenuous web research (Safari) , free form diagramming (Scapple) and other non-iOS work like FileMaker Pro development on Mac (I just finished release 12 of my Studio Manager product – yay!). I got a lot more enthused about Mac once I acquired this retina wonder in October.

Reading, which is probably the biggest chunk of my time on these outings, is done on iPad 3 with its awesome retina and better reading form factor. It’s almost a toss up between the 3 and my cute, svelte, nearly weightless iPad mini. I often take both of these so I have the choice between the sheer eye pleasure of retina or the feather-weight delight of the mini. If you take the iPad 3, what’s another .68 lbs? Both offers you the chance to switch away from the iPad 3 if it starts feeling heavy after a while. The already rumored retina mini may make this twosome obsolete next year. The only casualty in all this has been a Kindle – I haven’t popped for a nearly free ($119) Kindle Paperwhite due to lack of juggling capability. Even I have my limits.

Where does that leave the iPhone 5 then? This handheld of choice is still relevant my friends. The form factor is incredibly ahem handy especially when moving or in line. You still can’t beat the ease of use you get when in motion – walking to and from my coffee place of choice. If not in hand, it is in pocket and ready at a moment’s notice. I still prefer this little guy when reading in bed or on the couch in many cases. This preference will probably go away once the retina iPad mini is here. But the iPhone 5 awesome retina – better than ever due to blacker blacks, is a serious competitor for reading with the much less rewarding text of the iPad mini. Don’t forget all those lines we wait in. The omnipresent iPhone 5 is there by your side. No pack or purse required. It doesn’t hurt that it has cellular data either.

Thoughts on Apple’s Executive Shakeup

News of Apple’s fires and promotions is unsettling and leaves many questions to answer. The Jony Ive promotion over all human interface at Apple is great. The firing of John Browett as head of retail seems good. Why should the rapidly growing and most profitable retail operation in the world get cut backs to save a few bucks? The loss of Scott Forstall, the key force in the development of iOS, is a little scary.

I want to put in a disclaimer here before I get started with my comments. I don’t know nearly enough about these guys. This is more a list of questions and guesses than solid information. I will post updates as more is revealed.

Jony Ive

Skeumorphism begone! No more bookshelves, leather stitching and horrible fonts like in notepad. Jony will see to the elimination of all unnecessary ornamentation, you can be assured of that. In its place will come extraordinary care in all manners of software design. The differences between hardware and software design will cease. Yay for that. The only questions here are:

  1. Who will lead the software and UI effort underneath Jony Ive? Is there a designer in waiting to take that role? Probably so.
  2. Will there be loss on the hardware side due to less attention there? I’m hoping the broader focus won’t dilute the secret sauce once an awesome design lead is selected.
  3. Will the elimination of conflicts and workarounds necessary to overcome the ongoing differences between Ive and Forstall free up energy that more than makes up for #2?
  4. Will there be synergy having hardware and software design under one roof? Yeah.

Scott Forstall

  1. Forstall is extremely talented or Steve Jobs wouldn’t have kept him and promoted him to top of Apple software.
  2. It’s scary to think what happens when all that knowledge in his head and passion goes somewhere else like Google or Microsoft. If he goes to a smaller venue to become CEO there, that could be a good thing for Apple.
  3. The iOS team is the A-Team at Apple software. Can Craig Federighi take that A-team higher without a dip while he and the team adjust to a new leader?
  4. Some say Scott may have been the closest to a Steve Jobs in his passion, creativity, vision and take-no-prisoners determination. Will his leaving make Apple too soft?
  5. I want to know a lot more about Federighi and his immediate reports. Will this be a plus or a minus for iOS?

Eddy Cue

  1. Who is this Eddy Cue guy anyway? I don’t like iTunes much and iCloud looks pretty great but is still in that awkward stage where we can’t be sure how successful it will be. Apple TV is still struggling.
  2. Eddy is taking over Siri and Maps and already had a full plate. We hear he is not an egomaniac and just does what needs to be done. I’m sure that makes him popular, but does that make him able to drop jaws and delight?
  3. I like Maps so far given its toddler stage so I think it will be fine.
  4. I’m not too worried about Siri. It hasn’t been great yet although it surely has its moments. Pour in the money and I think you will keep moving up that ladder. I love the dictation that’s already proving useful.
  5. Practical and pragmatic are two things that really help balance creative efforts. Apple is heavily laden with creatives, so Eddy’s practicality may be good. When Steve came back to Apple, he got really practical and we all know how well that went. Brilliantly!

Bob Mansfield

  1. Bob seems perfect in the role he’s played at Apple in hardware engineering. He comes across really practical and earnest in his videos.
  2. Apparently, Bob didn’t get along with Forstall and would probably be long gone by now if Scott wasn’t leaving. And Bob is well-liked by Jony Ive.
  3. His new Technology group should be interesting. I hear wireless and semiconductors will fall here. Those are mobile technologies that are important these days.

Craig Federighi

  1. Sr. VP, Software Engineering – OS X and iOS.
  2. I like him from his keynotes. Seems highly competent and smart.
  3. We need to learn more about this guy as his job is critical.
  4. Big job. I hope he is really, really good.

Dan Riccio

  1. Sr. VP, Hardware Engineering
  2. Yikes, I don’t know this guy – yet.
  3. The word is Jony Ive prefers Bob Mansfield.
  4. The word is the Hardware Engineering troops were grumbling after Riccio’s promotion.

John Browett

  1. He gave well-deserved pay raises to some of the retail staff. That’s a start.
  2. He cut staff hours to to try to save money. Not so good when Apple sales are through the roof and consumer expectations are that they will be treated as well as they would be at a Rolls Royce dealership. Retail pay is low. Apple has over $100 billion in the bank. This does not compute.
  3. Tim Cook selected him. Bad decision in my book.
  4. Tim has now taken over retail until a replacement is found. I’m sure efficiency will be great but that’s not sufficient.

Phil Schiller

  1. Sr. VP of Worldwide Marketing.
  2. Nothing here to see except Phil did run the whole keynote pretty much when the iPad mini and all the rest was introduced.
  3. It’s obvious that Phil is really bright and no pushover. He’s going to help keep the ship aright. Without Steve, his voice is louder.
  4. He’s not just a sales guy. He has a lot of input into products too.

The Highs and Lows of Apple’s WWDC 2012 Announcements

World Wide Developer Conference announcements today were chock full of great things including new Macs, Mountain Lion, iCloud and iOS6. I’m going to pick my favorites and identify a few disappointments as well.

The Hardware

Slim New Retina Macbook Pro

The completely redesigned Retina MacBook Pros were the most exciting announcement today. Two new lightweight retina models with 2880 by 1800 pixel 15 inch displays are available now. These are incredible machines weighing only 4.46 lbs but packed with unprecedented power. Their dazzling 4x resolution displays still deliver 7 hours of battery life.

The base model at $2199 has a 256 gb SSD drive and 8 gigs of RAM. The top model with a 512 gb SSD drive and faster processor goes for $2799. Both models are built on the new Ivy Bridge chip architecture. If you have the new high rez iPad, you will ache for one of these new Retina notebooks. Nothing else will do.

All of the new Macs come with a coupon for a free copy of Mountain Lion when it is released in July. Before we get to downsides, I wanted to mention that new iPad Smart Cases in six colors were released today and fit the iPad 2 and 3. $49.

Disappointment #1. Bringing up the rear in the hardware race are new Macbook Airs. Although they are more powerful and offer more for your money than last year’s models, no big game changers here. But, if you are fine working on a really good normal resolution display, you’ll get more speed with Ivy Bridge processors, two much faster USB 3/2 ports and 80% faster graphics processing. You won’t be hurting carrying around and using such powerful yet light and easy notebooks. The Air 11 at 2.3 lbs is about 1/2 the weight of the new retina MacBook Pro 15.

Disappointment #2. Although I haven’t ever owned a Mac Pro, many at WWDC were disappointed to see that the Mac Pro got a very minimal upgrade that did not include Thunderbolt or USB 3 or much of a power boost after a two year wait. No mention was made of new iMacs. Not now, but they will certainly come.

OS X Mountain Lion

While we are talking about Macs, I will highlight the best new features in Mountain Lion. A license for as many personal computers as you own will be only $20 and you’ll be able to upgrade from Snow Leopard if you aren’t running Lion yet.

Integration with iPhone and iPad is the big benefit of Mountain Lion. If you own one or two of these little devices (and that’s likely at this stage), you’ll want to be able to move your data seamlessly between all three.

Mountain Lion delivers four big features via iCloud that will make things much easier. These functions become much more valuable when they are everywhere! You are going to love your Mac again. You get:

  1. Docs in the Cloud. With Mountain Lion, the Mac can take its place alongside iPhone and iPad in creating a seamless experience with your iCloud-supported documents in Pages, Numbers, Keynote and many third party apps I use like IA Writer, Byword and many more.
  2. iMessage. Your Mac gets to play well with messaging on iPad and iPhone including sending text messages. You can start a conversation on one device and continue on the other.
  3. Notification Center. All your disparate Mac notifications get the iOS notifications treatment so are well-organized and contained in a readable list that can be viewed at any time.
  4. Reminders. This popular list maker already on your iPhone and iPad is now seamlessly kept by iCloud and just as available on your Mac. Each device can keep local items but also can keep lists in iCloud where they can be shared between your devices and Macs.
  5. Notes which will be a boon to those who use Notes on iPhone and/or iPad.

Three other new features made my day:

  1. Dictation is available in every app including Microsoft Word! When you and your Mac are all alone, you’ll find this new dictation feature can save a lot of time and allow you to capture your thoughts in a new, spontaneous way.
  2. Airplay mirroring from your Mac may come in very handy for making presentations or enlarging what you are working on to share with friends, family or colleagues. TV and video might be fun too!
  3. Safari is (finally) getting it a single box for both search and URLs. Safari is faster with the fastest Javascript on any browser.

Not to be outdone, iOS 6 came through with flying colors. My favorites are:

  1. A much more powerful Siri. And it will run in full on the new iPad. Best new power is the ability to launch apps.
  2. The ability to designate VIPs in Mail so you can see what is important quickly.
  3. iCloud Safari tabs that share between Mac and iOS devices. You’ll be able to pick up where you left off switching between devices.
  4. New iPhone calling features like the much appreciated new Do Not Disturb option with silent, non-vibrating notifications and lots of ways to quickly reply or remind yourself later.
  5. Robust and beautiful 3D Maps with turn by turn directions.
  6. Seamless integration with your Mac as mentioned above with Documents, Notifications, iMessages, Reminders and Notes.

IOS6 Disappointments:

  1. The first generation iPad and third generation iPod touch won’t run iOS6.
  2. Any feature you wanted that’s not here.

There are a million and one other features in iOS 6 that I’m not going to mention here. You can see lots more about the new hardware, Mountain Lion and iOS6 at Apple’s website. I recommend the video by Jony Ive and Bob Mansfield on the new retina MacBook Pros especially. The full Keynote is available on the Apple site.

Update Best of the Web on this so far [June 12 9 am PDT]:

Writing on Mac, iPad, iPhone – Best Apps

iPad, Macbook Air, iPhone 4 side by sideThese days people have two, three even four computers when you count smartphones and tablets. It helps a lot if the writing tools you have can roam freely between Mac, iPad and iPhone. Some apps I recommend work on all three which can be ideal. I’ll look at four different writing situations and the top app for each.

Besides app power, one must consider return on learning curve and whether or not an app has staying power. Evernote, for example,  recently acquired additional millions in  funding so can tick the staying power checkbox with an exclamation mark. Money isn’t everything, though. Nimble and innovative independent developers, like Marco Arment of Instapaper fame, have often beaten out much better endowed competitors.

As an independent knowledge professional, two things are critical:

  • You can’t do your work without Tools and Technology.
  • Time is short – Learning curves need to be kept in check.

Going Apple. By consolidating around Apple products right now, you save time on those infernal learning curves and position yourself for the future. With iPhone and iPad hitting the top customer satisfaction ratings year after year, it behooves you to choose them if you already have a Mac.  The trifecta of Mac-iPad-iPhone is the most streamlined, powerful, future-proof toolkit available.

iPad is Where the Action Is. I’ve been focusing on the iPad in this blog since the first iPad came out March 2010. Most posts are about iPad apps for knowledge professionals. The reason I focus here is that the iPad is changing the way we work. Knowledge professionals need to learn about this new kind of computer and what it can do for you.

These are early days. There are lots of apps and some are still getting better at a rapid rate. There are clear winners but victory is fleeting. Some apps have benefitted by being early but have lagged and can’t compete a year or two later. Newer entrants that took more time to make better apps or have leveraged the latest iOS, hardware and emerging ideas, have taken the lead in many cases. Writing Kit and Drafts are perfect examples.

Since I write software myself, albeit using FileMaker Pro (which does have an iPad and iPhone counterpart by the way), I focus on the software for iPad and iPhone.

Mac Still Matters. The Mac is part of the picture and Mac apps can be synergetic partners with iPad and iPhone apps. That’s Apple’s plan. Apple isn’t pushing the Mac so much as it is reinventing computing on all three of its platforms: Mac, iPad and iPhone.

The Cloud is the Glue. The fourth partner in the mix is the Cloud and iCloud. Dropbox has developed quite a following among iPhone and iPad users, especially for those who want to do a bit of real work on their mobile device(s). Since iOS has this quirk of not having a shared storage place on board (like the Finder on Mac), you can substitute the Dropbox cloud for that shared storage spot.

The couple of gigs Dropbox provides is enough for most document sharing schemes and you can get more by inviting friends or paying a few bucks. I have light concerns about security from hackers, lost laptops and government prying eyes but Dropbox is so handy that I use it anyway as needed – without overdoing it. By the way, I have least concerns about Apple than any other cloud provider which leads me to iCloud.

iCloud. The new Cloud on the block. The “it just works” thing about iCloud is completely addictive. I turned iCloud on in February and it has been working flawlessly for me. These are still early days, though, since most apps don’t support iCloud yet. Brooks Review just wrote a good piece on iCloud today.

Dropbox Does Have Advantages. The one issue with iCloud is it doesn’t allow for sharing data between apps. But Dropbox does. It takes a decent app to be programmed to allow you to use the same dropbox folder or all dropbox folders, but when it is, you can then avoid using many folders for similar kinds of things if you happen to be using three or so writing apps which is what I am going to recommend in a minute.

My Top Picks for Writing Apps

Four Kinds of Writing Apps. Writing is a big deal for a knowledge professionals and all writing is not alike. I recommend you have at least two writing apps and I use three. That doesn’t count some other Mac apps that come into play from time to time.

Drafts App iConCapturing Quick Notes. Right now the coolest capture app on iPhone is Drafts from Agile Tortoise. What makes it great for capture is that when you open the app, it instantly creates a new document, handles naming for you, and brings up the keyboard. If you have the iPhone 4S, you also get a microphone key that lets you dictate the note. Also, Drafts excels at getting your notes from Drafts to where you need them for a project. You can send your note on to email, the clipboard, Dropbox, Pages, Writing Kit, Elements, iA Writer, Byword, PlainText, WriteRoom, TaskPaper and more. Drafts is a great example of do one thing well and play well with others. This is a great new trend for apps on the iPad and iPhone. Drafts is not yet available on iPad, there you may want to go with your favorite distraction free text editor to get a speedy open for those important fleeting thoughts and notes. (Drafts 99¢ in the App store).

Distraction Free Pure Writing. Most of the best plain text editor writing apps these days offer a really good distraction free writing experience. The best experience is iA Writer, but there is competition here. Just know that iA Writer is super simple, clean and pristine with a truly great monospaced font. Also, iA Writer is available across the board on Mac ($8.99 in the Mac App Store), iPad and iPhone (iOS Universal app 99¢). That’s where you get the most mileage if all 3 apps are really good which is the case with iA Writer (iA stands for Information Architects and that’s what these people are). If you are willing to go down a notch in clean and simple but still want distraction reduction, try Byword. Byword is also available on Mac ($10), iPad and iPhone ($3) and it is more powerful and gives you some customization options in return for a wee bit of distraction.

Longer Document Online Writing. I just wrote about this option in my last piece on why you should be using Writing Kit for iPad and iPhone when you write. Writing Kit is a pleasure to use with some great typefaces, a wonderful extra keyboard row, built-in Duck Duck Go search and a browser plus deep integration with Instapaper and much more. Here’s where you can write your blog post, eBook or anything that will require a bit of onine research along the way. The only weaknesses here are that this is a full-on rig! Writing Kit gets out of your way, but its powerful tools at your fingertips aren’t going to provide quite the pristine zen-like experience of an iA Writer. However, what you get in return is sheer efficiency with a lot less time lost to interminable app-switching. ($5 for both iPad/iPhone).

Word Processing. I seem to avoid this category more often than not, but you may either have a long-term love affair with Microsoft Office, have to live with it due to company policy, or just want a real word processor for your writing needs. If so and you have a choice, you should start with Pages which is available for $20 on Mac and $10 for the universal app for iPad and iPhone. Pages has great iCloud document handling which will get even better in Mountain Lion (right now the Mac is lagging iOS relative to iCloud and you have to actually download things yourself from iCloud when on a Mac. I also highly recommend Keynote at the same prices as an amazing all-purpose creation app that will do graphics, outlining, presentation-creation and animation. It’s not strictly a writing app but you sure will find it handy and it does work with all 3 of the holy trinity.

One Last Thing to Look Forward to. I’m a sucker for index cards as an organizing tool and really think Scrivener on Mac rocks. It’s available on Windows too. Scrivener on Mac is so hot that I am willing to hold out a lot of hope for what we will see when they release their iPad and iPhone versions of Scrivener. Beware of vaporware, folks but this could be really good. Meanwhile, these various writing apps are so good that I would never wait before meeting my needs now with what is real and available on iPad and iPhone. Happy writing!