My Menubar: Bartender

Posted by:
Date: Monday, February 3rd, 2014, 08:07
Category: Apple, Apps, Mac, Mavericks, Review, Software, Software

Have you ever caught a glimpse of another user’s Mac and wondered what that one (or more), unrecognized icon in their menubar was for? I’d like to introduce a new segment where we explore just that, interesting tools or application extensions that live in your menubar. It’s part review and part demystification, where we introduce some new programs as well as buried OS X system menu items you may not have seen before. If you want to know why I think this might be an interesting software niche to explore, check out my current menubar;

menubar_sample

 

How many of those can you recognize? I’m sure there are a few, like the Wi-Fi icon and Spotlight, and hopefully we’ll clue you in on the rest eventually. There’s even a few that I don’t have running at the moment. As you can imagine, before I upgraded to a 27″ iMac, I had a few problems managing this many menubar items without running into some issues. Most frequent was when an app had enough menus to collide with the growing number of little icons encroaching from the right side of the screen. This would either result in the app’s menus being obscured, or the menubar items on the left end disappearing making them inaccessible. What’s a menubar item hoarder to do?!

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Acquisitions and the annoyance of abandoned apps

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Date: Friday, January 31st, 2014, 13:00
Category: App Store, Apple, Apps, Business, Developer, Google, iPhone, Opinion, Services, Software

pirate_skull_crossbones_square_sticker-r77418cb09c3345e7b8854da982e2526a_v9wf3_8byvr_512Yahoo! has just acquired Incredible Labs, which developed the Donna personal assistant app for iPhone. The latest update on the Donna blog makes it clear what the fate of the app and service will be;

“The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close shortly. Following closing, Donna will be removed from the app store and discontinued as a service.”

No date has been given, but they are likely to follow the model where users will be given a window of a few months in order migrate their data and find a new solution. I’m not personally a user of Donna, however if I was I’d be pretty upset.

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Facebook launches Paper app on Feb 3rd

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 30th, 2014, 09:50
Category: App Store, Apple, Apps, iOS, iPhone, Social, Software, User Interface

facebook-appFacebook announced that come February 3rd, its new iOS app called Paper should be hitting the US AppStore for iPhone only. So what is Paper? It seems that it is intended to be a number of things, although Facebook seems to be emphasizing the angle that is for news reading, not just from your friends, but from a variety of feeds that Facebook makes available within the app. Whether Paper is intended to eventually replace its current app hasn’t been mentioned, but from the looks of the demo video it comes close.

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Review: TotalFinder still bests Mavericks improvements

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 29th, 2014, 06:47
Category: Apple, Apps, Desktop Mac, Features, Mac, Opinion, Review, Software, Software

totalfinderOne constant in the universe has been complaints from OS X users about how little the Finder has advanced over the years. If you compare the Finder of OS 9 to that of Mountain Lion (10.8), there really aren’t any groundbreaking changes. A few Finder “replacements” have attempted to rectify this, but they are separate programs running alongside the OS X Finder. Programs like PathFinder and Forklift attempt to pile on a bunch of features on top of normal Finder-like functionality, which are useful, but unless you are willing to perform some technical voodoo on OS X, to force the system to use another program rather than the Finder, you end up bouncing between two different “Finders” because some things will only use the normal Finder. As appealing as some of these alternates are, I get annoyed having bounce between two programs.

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What’s coming up on the PowerPage?

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Date: Tuesday, January 28th, 2014, 16:13
Category: Announcement, App Store, Apple, Features, Hardware, Interview, iOS, iPhone, Mac, Review, Software, Uncategorized

PP bolt logoI thought I’d take some time out to mention one of the things we have planned for the PowerPage this year. As a result, you may see things get jumbled around a bit while we figure out the best way to organize it.

We’ll soon be doing more software and hardware reviews as regular features. The hope is to bring more detailed information and feedback so that our readers can make better choices about the things they need. We are also hoping that readers will send us requests on what they want to see reviewed. How’s that for interaction! Separately, we’ll also be doing regular reviews of iPhone and iPad apps to help wade through the billions of apps piling up in the AppStore.

What? There’s more?! Now, I’m not promising anything, but we’d like to bring you some interview content, in either audio or video form, from Macworld/iWorld in March. Sounds like I’m going to be busy.

Tim Cook hints at possible mobile payment feature

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 28th, 2014, 13:40
Category: App Store, Apple, Business, iOS, iPhone, iTunes, Retail Store, security

touch-id-iconApple’s earnings numbers weren’t the only thing that came out of Monday’s call. As is typical, analysts were given the chance to put some questions to CEO Tim Cook. Also typical, Apple’s answers were fairly vague. When asked about Apple’s plans for entering the mobile payment space and how Touch ID technology might be applied, Cook responded;

“[...] we’re seeing that people love being able to buy content—whether it’s music or movies or books, from their iPhone using Touch ID. It’s incredibly simple and easy, and elegant, and it’s clear that there’s a lot of opportunity there.

The mobile payments area in general is one that we’ve been intrigued with. That was one of the thoughts behind Touch ID, but we’re not limiting ourselves just to that. So I don’t have anything specific to announce today. But you can tell by looking at the demographics of our customers, and the amount of commerce that goes through iOS devices versus the competition that it’s a big opportunity on the platform.”

A number of reports have speculated that Apple plans to offer the ability to purchase online and physical items through a user’s iTunes account, which for most iPhone users already has their credit card information. Touch ID would be used as an added layer of security by not exposing the credit card info itself, simply passing off the transaction to iTunes. In the light of the recent hacking of Target’s customer credit card info, along with other similar incidents in the recent past, iPhone users may find mobile payments more appealing. Authorizing transactions with Touch ID then steps in to make payments quick with additional protection of a customer’s information. This could give Apple some leverage to increase the adoption of their iBeacon technology. If you’ve ever used the Apple Store app on your iPhone to buy something at their retail stores, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how it would all work together. Now the only thing you need to do is not feel oddly guilty when you grab a product, scan it with your iPhone, and walk out the door without talking to anyone.

Happy 30th Birthday Mac! My history with the game changing computer

Posted by:
Date: Monday, January 27th, 2014, 09:04
Category: Apple, Article, Consumer Electronics, Desktop Mac, Mac, Software

retouchphoto_apple_macintosh_1984_high_res_clean1-580x386So, Friday was the 30th anniversary of the day Steve Jobs unveiled the Macintosh. That iconic “hello” ushered in the era of the personal computer. I knew I’d have to do the ubiquitous anniversary article, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be, and how many hours I’d loose strolling down memory lane on Google. Where to even begin?! When the Macintosh was introduced on January 24th, 1984, I was in the second half of my junior year at high school (well great, now I’ve dated myself). I had experience with only two computers in my life at that time, the Apple IIe at school, and my own Commodore 64. At the time, I didn’t know anything about Apple or the fact that there was an event occurring that would end up determining much of the course of my life. The first time I was able to get my hands on a Mac was during my second year of college. Ironically, the lab there had a number of NeXT computers and one lonely Mac (SE I think) in the corner. I remember sitting down at it to see what it was all about and leaving shortly thereafter unimpressed. I still lived in the text-based computing world where the majority of college workstations were running UNIX. At that time, all I knew about was Elm (email), piping, directories, FTP, bulletin boards, 300 baud modems, and word processing (and using language similar to HTML within my text documents to tell the dot-matrix printer to print the word in bold). The Mac didn’t appear to offer me anything I needed. It seemed like a toy, a very expensive $2,495 toy at that.

Then it happened. In 1992, my sixth year in college (don’t judge, I had trouble picking a major), I participated in a one year study abroad program in England, and THAT is when I really “met” the Macintosh. This was the first time I had seen a lab devoted entirely to Macs, and among them was a Macintosh IIfx, which was the 2013 Mac Pro of its day. This Mac was a graphics workhorse running at 40 MHz (that was freaking fast in 1992), with internal codenames like Stealth, Blackbird, and F-16; and had a starting price of $9,900. I’ll let that sink in…ok. Calculating inflation, that works out to be around $16,000 today. Ok, I’ll let that sink in too……..alright. It was also running the brand new System 7 operating system!

By the way, as a side note, a Mac IIfx was used by Industrial Light + Magic’s “Rebel Mac” team (put together by John Knoll, who with his brother Thomas created Photoshop) to computer render the feather that falls and then later blows away in the movie Forrest Gump. Yep, that feather is completely CGI. The chocolate was real.

Adobe-Photoshop-2

Let’s speed this up…so everyone in the design school was using the Macs for every aspect of their projects. Engineering drawings were done in ClarisCAD, project briefs were done in Word (before it was all bloaty), concept photos were done with Photoshop 1.0, and 3D modeling and animating was done with StrataVision 3D (if I remember correctly). Suffice to say, I was blown away. I didn’t know computers could do all that! Once I got back home and started my last year, first thing I did was save up to buy a Mac IIci, which was the predecessor of the IIfx (so I got it cheaper -wink-) but still pretty powerful. Thus began my personal love affair with the Mac. As it happens, the IIci is almost the only one of my former computers that I’ve, regrettably, sold off. However I did so to buy my first laptop (used of course), the Macintosh Powerbook 180c, the first Mac laptop to have a color screen…a whopping 256 colors! I had that as my sole machine, hooked up to an external monitor, for a couple of years (wish I’d known the Duo was coming) until I bought my Macintosh 7500. This was during Apple’s “beige” period and also when their stock plummeted to around $15 a share (god oh god why didn’t I buy 100 shares >.<) and they were going through CEOs like used socks. That was another model that because of its expandability, lasted me a few years, even acting as my only television by using an A/V tuner card.

It was now 1993 and I had just graduated college, and began looking for a job in my field of industrial design. While looking, I took on some part-time jobs to pay the bills, one of which was for a small art studio. This was probably the turning point in what would become my career for the next 15+ years. The art studio sold made-to-order vinyl signs. The machine that cut out all the letters for the sign was controlled by a Mac. As it happened, they began having problems and asked if anyone knew anything about computers. Naturally I volunteered to have a look at it, which was essentially my first technical support job. As the world was pretty much computer illiterate at this time, knowing how a computer worked was a hot commodity I discovered, so I began selling my support services and have been doing so ever since. There was no getting away from the Mac now.

So, by this point, it’s somewhere around 1995 for me, and the Macintosh is on its 11th year in the computer world. The World Wide Web, as it was being called, was still mostly text based and not terribly interesting, possibly because nobody was sure what to do with it. Apple innovates again by creating eWorld, a graphical interface for accessing online services. The service was launched in June of 1994 and the WWW was about to get interesting. While eWorld, as short lived as it was, would make a lasting impact, a game changer was being introduced at the same time that would transform the online world forever, NCSA Mosaic, the first web browser. Mosaic was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which as it happens is my alma mater. Development of Mosaic began the year I was in England and was discovering the Mac. Spooky eh? More trivia…the computer HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey “became operational” in Urbana, IL in 1992, the same year development on Mosaic began. While not stated, it is assumed HALs systems were created at the NCSA.

eWorld_Apple

Unfortunately eWorld was shut down in 1996 after only 2 years of operation, but it helped move the Web away from a text-based interface to a graphical one, along with America Online. It also may have been the first instance in the computer world of the now common practice of capitalizing the second letter in a name rather than the first. If I recall correctly, I had tried eWorld (I still have the disks), but could not afford the relatively high monthly cost, so instead I used a dial-in connection provided by the University of Illinois which “technically” I was not supposed to be able to use. Because of that, however, I had full access to the web using Mosaic and began getting curious about how web pages were built, thus I began learning HTML and constructing web pages.

After moving to San Francisco, my next Mac would be a used Mac Cube and 17″ Studio Display. Say what you will about the Cube, but it looked awesome! There were actually some unauthorized upgrades you could do, so I eeked out as much life as I could out of it. More trivia…if you’re a Star Trek fan, you may be interested to know that for the series Star Trek: Enterprise, most of the display screens you saw on set were run by 16 Mac Cubes. And let’s not forget when Scotty used an early Macintosh Plus to sort out the formula for Transparent Aluminum.

 Enterprise_G4_Cubes copy

ScottyTalksToMac copy

MacintoshPlus copy

Ok, so we need to pick up the pace, we’re only up to 2001! I’ll tell you what, why don’t I just list out the rest of the products I’ve used or collected from Apple;

  • Mac TV – the only black Macintosh ever made and sold in the US, and you could hook up your VCR to it. I just HAD to have a black Mac.
  • 20th Anniversary Mac, or TAM for short – believe it or not Jony Ive designed this little work of art way before the iMac. Mine sits out kind of like a sculpture. I bought it cheap from a coworker that didn’t have room for it anymore. Lucky me!
  • Powerbook Duo and dock station – super versatile, all the benefits of a laptop and a desktop. Not sure why it didn’t do that well. I believe one model of the Duo was the first Powerbook to sport a trackpad instead of a trackball. Personally, I still prefer the trackball, but hard to get one of those in a Macbook Air.
  • Several other Powerbooks, MacBooks (the toilet seat), titanium, aluminum, you name it. Currently I’m sporting an 11″ MacBook Air.
  • A G5 tower, the “cheese grater” – worst computer in the world if you were in IT. REALLY heavy and the handles cut into your hands. Frankly, I’m glad the behemoth is retired.
  • Newton 130 – I never really got to use the Newton. Apple was phasing it out and there was this hot new thing called a Palm Pilot, and that became my first serious PDA. My first smartphone would be a Palm Treo.
  • Newton 2000 – I still love the Newton. Sorry Steve.
  • QuickTake 200 digital camera – took really low resolution photos, but it was my first digital camera.
  • Mac mini – used it to learn how to run OS X Server
  • Apple TV, both the original and the current “hockey puck”. Hobby? Give us a break Apple.
  • Personal laser printer – YES, Apple used to make printers! Go figure.
  • Studio Display, Cinema Display
  • …aaaaaaand a few iMacs
  • iPhone – I’ve owned every model of iPhone except the iPhone 3G. Two of them were stolen prompting premature upgrades. I originally didn’t think I would go the iPhone route, but eventually the Apple fanboy in me and the coolness factor won me over.
  • iPad 2
  • Retina iPad mini

I’m sure I missed something, but here is a couple of pictures of part of my motley crew.

Newtons copy

Maccollection1 copy

 

So there you have it, my life as seen through my relationship with my Apple products from the last 30 years…well, a big chunk of it anyway. In your many, or few, years using Apple products, which was your favorite or most unique? I’m not sure I can pick, but I might lean towards the G4 Cube. Relate a story of you and your Mac history in the comments.

 

 

Apple starts repairing iPhone 5C screens in stores

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 23rd, 2014, 09:28
Category: Apple, AppleCare, Hardware, iPhone, News, retail, Retail Store

AppleGeniusBarBack in November we mentioned Apple’s plans to start offering in-store screen replacements for the iPhone 5S and 5C. This week, Apple started its roll-out of iPhone 5C repairs, so if you’ve got an iPhone 5C with a cracked or broken screen, the Geniuses at the local Apple Store can replace it while you wait, rather than sending it out. This makes two models that can be repaired in-store, the iPhone 5 and now the 5C. The 5S, for now, still needs to be sent into Apple for repairs, possibly due to the added complications of working around the Touch-ID sensor/home button. No news yet on when the 5S plan will get rolled out. As we reported before, the in-store replacement cost should be $150, with the price being $80 if your iPhone is covered by the original warranty or an AppleCare plan. The policy should be rolled out to all stores by the end of this week, but could take a little longer if the store is not in or near a large city.

Chrome bug captures your every word behind your back

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 23rd, 2014, 08:37
Category: Announcement, Google, Hack, Opinion, privacy, security, Software, Websites

googlelisten2As if people were not paranoid enough about the amount of data Google captures about them, a recently discovered bug in Google’s Chrome web browser can now capture everything you say in front of your computer without you even knowing about it. And here is the kicker…it’s probably not even Google who is after your voice, it’s random hackers taking advantage of the exploit. According to developer Tal Ater, who discovered the exploit, the bug allows a malicious web site to open another browser window (just like a pop-up ad) behind the main window which continues to record your voice -even after you’ve closed the original site window- and sends the recorded data first through Google for processing, and then on to wherever the hacker wants.

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Apple plans to fix iOS 7 home screen crashes

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014, 21:22
Category: Announcement, Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Opinion, Software

ios7logoWell, this one should be a no-brainer. I have been seeing the iOS start-up screen randomly popping up on my iPhone and iPad since iOS 7 was released, even in the middle of phone calls (which thankfully didn’t disconnect the call). I’m really surprised it has taken this long for Apple to address it. Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller told Mashable;

“We have a fix in an upcoming software update for a bug that can occasionally cause a home screen crash,”

Uh, thanks?! Not, “a fix for this will be in iOS 7.1 in March,” but sometime in the near/far future, we’ll take a shot at fixing something that has been a major problem since the introduction of iOS 7. “Occasionally” for me personally tends to be once every couple of days. I started writing this simply as a report, but now I just want to say, “WTF Apple?!!”. Why has it taken this long to even acknowledge this fact? It’s been in Apple’s own discussion forums since September. Why isn’t there a more definitive release on this fix? Most other major glitches, like the lock screen bug, had Apple stating that a 7.0.x release was coming to address it. Honestly Apple, stop mucking with round buttons and fix the bugs.