O'Grady's PowerPage » Jason O’Grady

My love-hate relationship with Apple’s new USB-C port

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015, 08:25
Category: Hardware, MacBook, Review, USB-C

My love-hate relationship with Apple's new USB-C port

Apple began shipping the new 12-inch Retina MacBook this week (more on it in a future post) and with it, a totally redesigned power adapter based on USB-C. (There are a lot of opinions about Apple’s roll in developing USB-C, which you can read here, here and here, but they’re outside the scope of this post.) As with most things in life, USB-C comes with a number of benefits and compromises which were undoubtedly debated ad nauseam in Cupertino for months. Here are my thoughts on USB-C after using it for a few days.

The positive

  1. The USB-C connector is small, which allows it to fit in small places (like the side of the MacBook 12-inch). It could conceivably end up on other Apple hardware in the future, but don’t recycle your Lightning cables just yet.
  2. The Apple 29 Watt USB-C Power Adapter is smaller than other MacBook power supplies, but it’s a one-trick pony. Apple also missed the opportunity to add a couple of female USB-A jacks on it which would have addressed the MacBook’s “one port” criticisms and earned Apple a ton of good will in the process.
  3. It’s a standard (part of the USB 3.1 specification) which means that third parties can make USB-C cables and dongles without having to worry about being sued by Apple. This should increase competition and lower prices. Eventually.
  4. When you plug in the MacBook’s USB-C power adapter it makes a satisfying “dong” sound – just like the iPhone does. While it’s a nice touch, it doesn’t respect the MacBook’s mute setting, which puts it dangerously close to the neutral category. The iPhone vibrates when connected to power while muted and I’ve heard that Apple could fix the MacBook behavior in a software update.

Read more about the things that drive me crazy about the new USB-C port…


Here’s how to get Office 2016 for Mac, right now

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, March 5th, 2015, 16:50
Category: Microsoft, Office, Software

Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.48.58

Anyone that relies on Microsoft Office is intimately aware that the current version (that’s Office 2011 for Mac) was released five years ago. That’s 36 dog years, but who’s counting?

If you’ve been pining for a new version of the venerable office suite (and haven’t yet switched to Google Drive for some reason) there’s hope. Microsoft posted an Office for Mac Preview today, which is widely expected to become Office 2016 for Mac when it’s released in “the second half of 2015.”

A few things worth noting about Office ’16, er, the Office for Mac preview:

  1. It doesn’t require you to subscribe to Office 365,
  2. It doesn’t require you to register or complete a lengthy questionnaire,
  3. It doesn’t even require you to login to your Microsoft Live, Passport, 365 account.

Shocking, I know.


Time Limits desperately needed on iOS

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 10th, 2015, 07:52
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, Kids

TL;DR I’d like to see the Time Limits feature from OS X come to iOS Restrictions.

Time Limits in OS X Parental Controls

It’s hard to deny that the iPad is an unbridled success and that it changed how we use computers in our daily lives. For kids, this might be the understatement of the decade. The iPad is a kid’s dream, it can play games, movies, music and can be interacted with on many levels.

The iPad’s popularity with children is simultaneously its best and its worst feature. Ask any parent with young kids.

I have two kids (ages 7 and 4) and they received iPad minis for Christmas. While iPads are nothing short of magic to young kids, things can quickly turn ugly when young ones are told that “it’s time to put the iPads away.” My seven year old is definitely ready for an iPad but my four year old is borderline. An unfortunate reality of having multiple: what you buy for one you need to buy for the other.

It’s important to set limits on iPad use for young kids, so that they can do other things like homework and playing with other kids and we generally limit their use to one hour on weekdays and two hours on weekends. The problem is enforcing these time limits. While my seven year old generally complies, my four year old frequently breaks down in tears.

The solution is system-level time limits that shut off the iPad after a user-defined interval. Unfortunately, third-party iOS apps don’t have system level access (thanks to sandboxing), so the feature has to come from Apple.

Luckily, Time Limits are already available on OS X. (more…)

How Apple could improve the awesome VIP Sender feature

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 10th, 2015, 07:29
Category: iOS, Mail, OS X

Apple Mail: Could not add VIP. A maximum of 100 VIPs is allowed. Please remove any unused VIPs and try again.

TL;DR I love the VIP Sender feature in OS X and iOS and use it all the time, but it needs to be expanded.

It works like this: click a sender’s name/email address in either OS X Mail or Mail.app and select “Add to VIPs.” Doing so prioritizes email from that sender and when new mail arrives, you’ll see an alert in notification center.

It’s super-convenient when you’re waiting for an important email from a client, colleague or your spouse. You can’t help but notice the email’s arrival on your iPhone lock screen and VIP Sender has saved my bacon many times. I’m using a VIP Sender this week to correspond back and forth with my account, for example, because I’d like to know immediately when he emails me.

The problem is that Apple caps the number of VIPs at 100 and once you’ve reached the cap your only option is to remove some VIPs. Removing a VIP Sender involves, navigating to the “VIP” folder in Mail, then clicking on senders individually, then on “Remove from VIP.” While not difficult, it can be time consuming.

While we should all endeavor to curate, organize and better tend to our email, but who has the time?

Here are two simple enhancements that would make VIP Sender infinitely more valuable…


GIFT GUIDE 2014 – The TrackR bravo

Posted by:
Date: Friday, December 19th, 2014, 14:03
Category: Accessory, Bluetooth, Gift Guide, iPhone

GIFT GUIDE 2014 - The TrackR bravo - Jason O'Grady

Have you ever said “I wish there was a way to call my keys.” I used to say it all the time while scrambling through my couch cushions looking for my car keys (usually making me late to get somewhere.)

Enter the Bluetooth tracking tag. Introduced in 2009, these small Bluetooth ‘fobs’ can be attached to anything from keyrings, to bags, to kids. Once paired with your smartphone you can find them using the Bluetooth feature on your smartphone via an app. They’re undeniably handy.

My favorite tag – in an overcrowded market – is The TrackR bravo ($29, pre-order).

[I’ve been testing a pre-production of The TrackR Bravo design and it has the potential to be the best Bluetooth tracker on the market. If you can’t wait until Bravo ships in January, keep on reading to find out about TrackR’s other tags which are available now.]

TrackR started as Phone Halo in 2009 and introduced its Bluetooth tracker at the Demo conference in spring 2010. The company offers three models, the Sticker and Wallet are shipping now and the super-small Bravo (which raised $1.2M on Indiegogo) and will begin shipping in January 2015.

Read the rest of my review of the TrackR lineup after the jump:


djay Pro hits the decks with huge OS X update

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 18th, 2014, 13:42
Category: Mac, music, OS X, Software, Uncategorized

djay Pro hits the decks with huge OS X update

Much of the innovation in DJ software has centered on mobile over the past couple of years. The white-hot iOS market has exploded with DJ software lead by Algoriddim‘s revolutionary djay app for iPhone and iPad, which have changed the way DJs play music live.

In additional to its popular iOS apps Algoriddim also offers djay for OS X (first launched in 2006) that today got a major reboot as djay Pro ($49.99, Mac App Store).

djay Pro is a complete rewrite of Algroriddim’s popular DJing application for Yosemite that leverages modern OS X standards like 64-bit, 60 FPS, and native sandboxed iTunes access plus everything they’ve learned from their iOS apps.

I’ve been using djay apps since day one and they’re hands down the best DJ apps on iOS and OS X. Whether you’re a bedroom DJ, spinning the hits at a holiday party or an aspiring club DJ, Algoriddim’s djay is the way to go.

Here’s a video of djay Pro for OS X in action:

GIFT GUIDE 2014 – HiRise Deluxe stand by Twelve South

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 16th, 2014, 09:37
Category: Accessory, iPad, iPhone

HiRise Deluxe stand by Twelve South (Jason O'Grady)

What do you do with you iPhone when you sit down at your desk? You probably plug it in and leave it sitting flat on the surface of your desk. The problem with doing this is that your iPhone is practically invisible when it’s laying flat and not really that useful. If an alert comes in you need to pick up your iPhone to read the screen.

The HiRise Deluxe stand from Twelve South ($60) is a sleek stand that elegantly solves this problem. It allows you to dock your iPhone (or iPad) at a comfortable viewing angle making it more accessible while charging on your desk. It’s perfect for keeping an eye on push notifications while you get your work done, but it’s also convenient for making phone and FaceTime calls.

The new HiRise Deluxe stand features and easy-to-adjust rear support, making it easily to switch between an iPhone and an iPad of different thicknesses. The cable height at the bottom of the stand is also adjustable allowing you to use it with or without a case. If you’re using a thicker, impact-type case on your iPhone simply raise the height of the cable so that it reaches inside the case opening to properly charge the device.


Gift Guide 2014: AudioEngine B2 Premium Bluetooth Speaker

Posted by:
Date: Monday, December 15th, 2014, 11:19
Category: Accessory, Bluetooth, Hardware, music, Review

AudioEngine B2 Premium Bluetooth Speaker

If you’re looking for a compact Bluetooth speaker I recommend the AudioEngine B2 ($299). The B2 sounds great and has better range than other speakers I’ve tested because of its antenna and specially tuned transmitter. In a two-story, mostly stucco and brick house my iPhone 6 easily reached the B2 speaker on the second floor when I was on the first.

The B2 includes the aptX audio decoder and a 24-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) for a beautiful, warm sound. The hand-built walnut cabinet is luxurious and dual front slots really pump the bass. I just wish that it had a battery so that I could toss it in a bag and drag it to the beach.

You can purchase the B2 Bluetooth Speaker in walnut (pictured), zebrawood or black ash from the AudioEngine website.

[Despite my aforementioned problems with Apple’s Bluetooth stack, I was still able to keep a reliable connection to the B2 speaker for over an hour. And to be clear, I think that that’s Apple’s problem and not AudioEngine’s.]

A picture of the backplane after the jump.


How Apple blew it with Bluetooth

Posted by:
Date: Monday, December 15th, 2014, 08:32
Category: Accessory, Bluetooth, iOS 8, iPhone

How Apple blew it with Bluetooth - Jason O'GradyI use Bluetooth every day.

Bluetooth was rock solid on my iPhone 5s running iOS 7.x. I never thought about about it. It just worked. Every day.

Now I hate all of my Bluetooth gear.

Bluetooth is crappy with my iPhone 6 and iOS 8.1.x. Every one of my Bluetooth devices cuts out, drops out or starts warbling within a couple minutes of use.

After upgrading to an iPhone 6 (and iOS 8.1.2):

  • my BT speaker starts cutting out after a minute or two of streaming
  • my BT earbuds drop out after a song or two, or during app switching
  • my BT headset disconnects one minute into every call

While this is my specific story, I’m not alone. Other people are having trouble with Bluetooth as well, especially with the newest iPhone hardware and iOS 8. I don’t use Bluetooth in my vehicle, but that’s another problem spot for iOS 8 users. The Apple discussion forums are littered with complaints about the iOS 8 Bluetooth stack and some users are having trouble with it on Yosemite (OS X 10.10) too.

I was hoping that iOS 8.1.2 would fix things with Bluetooth but the update did nothing to address my specific issues.

I’ve spoken with several OEMs that are patently furious with Apple over the Bluetooth fiasco, but most won’t speak out publicly for fear of losing access, distribution, etc. The hardware vendors probably have Dan Riccio and Craig Federighi on speed dial because Apple’s poor Bluetooth performance is making their products look bad.

Further reading:

(Blue tooth icon: TrySoda)

The sickest drummer in metal right now uses an iPad

Posted by:
Date: Monday, December 8th, 2014, 00:28
Category: iPad, music

You’ve got to check out this video os a sick drum solo by Appleman, a drummer without enough room for a full drum kit in his house. According to the description in his YouTube video, he improvised with a copy of GarageBand ($4.99) running on his iPad. Appleman does his thing on a third generation iPad and GarageBand’s Live Rock Kit. As for the guitar, it’s simply:

GarageBand > Instruments > Smart Guitar > HardRock Guitar sound > AUTOPLAY no.1 for the first four bars and then no.2 for the next four bars, pressing “E” (key E Major/♩=120)

(via Digg)