Who needs ports?

Tim Cook resurrected the MacBook line during last week’s Spring Forward event. You may remember the black or white plastic MacBooks from 2007-2009 that every college student seemed to have.

These are better.

The new MacBook is very thin and very light. It runs all day on a charge (something like 10 hours), fits easily into a bag with its 12″ retina screen, comes in standard aluminum, space gray, or gold finishes, and costs $1300.

But the interesting bits are on the edges. On the right edge, there is a plug for headphones. On the left edge, a place to charge. And that’s it. Apple has declared war on ports. (This isn’t quite true – one could purchase adapters for a great many types of cable, but you still only have one port, rather than the traditional 3-5).

The seas of electrons that bloggers and pundits are spilling debate whether this is Apple at its most prescient or idiotic. Can most people get by without plugging in their hard drives, printers, cameras, and whatever else?

I think the answer is the typical one: we need time to adjust. For the Apple faithful, this is nothing new. Apple makes decisions that seem outrageous in the moment, yet obvious in retrospect. When DVD drives started to vanish in the MacBook Air, we bemoaned the loss. But thumb drives and streaming quickly took up the slack. No keys on a mobile phone? Apparently no problem.

Wireless technology is very nearly good enough for most people to overcome their reliance on cables. The new MacBook is trying to accelerate the shift.

If you’re considering the up/crossgrade to a MacBook, consider carefully whether your workflow as it exists today will be served by a mostly-wireless notebook. If you rely on cabled peripherals, you should only go MacBook if you want to kick the cable habit. But if you do, your back will thank you.

Photos for OS X – First Thoughts

We’ve been enjoying a time of relative calm since October. Big iPhones and Yosemite caused some excitement, and then the bloggers and Apple pundits seemingly went into hibernation. Aside from rumors of an Apple Car on the horizon, winter has been quiet.

But now Spring is here.

On Monday, I downloaded the pre-release for Apple’s long-awaited successor to iPhoto. Photos for OS X is now installed on my machine, and I’m happy to report that I find it a significant improvement over the increasingly creaky iPhoto.

First off, you can’t download Photos for OS X yet. It won’t be available to the public for a few more weeks (maybe a month), and even once it releases, I recommend waiting a few more weeks to let the dust settle and the overly hyped bug (whatever it is) to be discovered, heavily criticized, and resolved. That cycle happens with every single release of every single product, and the tech press loves to reverberate whatever scandal they can find.

Once all the angst dissipates, I think you’ll like the new software.

The second caveat is that Photos for OS X requires Yosemite, and I am recommending that many of my clients do not install Yosemite. Until now, the benefits of Yosemite (Handoff and the cosmetic overhaul) have not justified the decrease in performance that Macs older than 2012 experience. I still feel that Yosemite is for the young machines, whose internals have enough horsepower to handle the increased demand. But Photos may prove good enough to counterbalance the performance hit.

The upgrade process, should you choose to do it, is simple. When your Mac pops up a nagging “Software Update” notification, do it. If you see a banner for OS X Yosemite, click it and install. Photos for OS X will come along for the ride.

The update process took about 15 minutes for me.

Once updated, Photos needs to inherit all the snapshots from iPhoto/Aperture. For my 10,000 photo library, this process took another 40 minutes.

Next comes the controversial part. If you want your photos to live on iCloud (and you likely do, since it allows all your devices to view and sync all your photos and edits and albums), you need to have enough space in your iCloud account to accommodate them. The free 5GB level will not be sufficient. The first paid tier — 1$ per month for 20GB — will not be sufficient. The price of admission for most will be $4 per month for 200GB. If you are a digital hoarder (no judgements), you can bump up into the 1000GB tier for $20 per month.

Note that iCloud syncing is optional. If you want your photos to live exclusively in your Mac, you absolutely may. Photos for OS X is still a better software than iPhoto, even without syncing.

If you do choose to use iCloud and have sufficient space, the next phase will take days. Photos needs to send every single photo and video up over your internet connection to an iCloud server.

For my 10,000 photo library, this process took 14 hours. During that time, everything on the computer is usable; I was not restricted in any way by this process. But for those of you with photos numbering in the hundreds of thousands, I expect you’ll be waiting for a week while your photos crawl up into the clouds. To compound this trouble, I can’t help but wonder what the net effect will be of millions of people undergoing this process at launch. Will the iCloud servers hold up under millions of Mac owners uploading billions of pictures simultaneously? One more reason to wait for the buzz to subside.

Once you have successfully migrated to Photos and uploaded your full library, the syncing is fast. Take a picture, make an album, fix some red eyes, title a photo… all changes arrive on all your other devices within 60 seconds. And each device is smart enough to maintain internal storage. This means that your iPhone will start deleting local copies of photos if it becomes full. If you want to see that picture again, it will download again from iCloud in the moment.

Opening the app takes seconds, not minutes (another vast improvement over iPhoto), and the confusing storage architecture (Events, Albums, and Folders) is gone. Automatic sorting based on date and location is quite good. Facial recognition seems to be improved. Most importantly, beachballs don’t spin when making an edit or loading up an album.

Photos for OS X seems lean and mean. A long onboarding process aside, setup is a snap and the benefits are large.

So keep your eyes out here for updates and remember that patience is a virtue, especially in technology.



Seems like there is an anti-Flash movement. At least, someone made a website:


I harp on Flash a lot, both in this blog and in-person with nearly all my clients. The Occupy Flash site echoes a lot of my concerns.

Not too many positive actions for the lay person to take here, but it’s good to reiterate that Flash needs to retire.

Apple announces “Spring Forward” event

Apple sent out press invitations this morning to an event on March 9 in San Francisco. They are expected to reveal more information about the Watch (pricing, specs, features, the UI) in the lead up to a release date sometime in April.  

We will likely hear more about the Photos app, and perhaps a sneak peak at new hardware (the rumored 12 inch MacBook Air or iPad Pro).





Apple Watch Sticker Shock

If you are planning on adorning your wrist with 18k-wrapped Apple gadgetry, be prepared to pay a premium (alliteration intended?).

Greg Koenig of Luma Labs dumped a mockup of the new watch into 3D software and estimated ~29g of 18k gold in the body. Sensors, battery, screen, and CPU aside, the thing could cost $5,000+ for the gold alone.

It’s been a while since Apple, or any mass-tech company, offered a device north of $5,000. One could custom configure a Mac Pro workstation in that range, but that machine could animate a feature length movie. Just imagine the vitriol when prices are formally announced. Then imagine Tim Cook’s glee when it sells like gangbusters in China.

(via Casey Liss)

Visualizing Wifi

Here is an amazing video of a young man mapping wifi signal strength. By the end of the video, he has mapped wifi signal strength in a cubic square foot. Amazing how much variation occurs in such a small area.

Ignore the technical details and his occasional grammar. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqqEYz38ens

Ways to Communicate

This might sound a little harsh, but I need to make a request:

Please do not send me texts.

Why would I care? It’s all going to the same place, right? I have three reasons.

1) Identification
Just this morning, I received two support request texts from unknown phone numbers. I have no idea who is asking for help, and I feel bad having to make a client identify themselves. I have most email addresses on file, and the ones I don’t are easy enough to decipher.

2) Tracking
Every single email that you and I have ever exchanged is sitting in a folder I created just for you. If there’s ever a question about a procedure, whether we addressed a problem, a scheduling question, whatever, I have a way to look back in time and refer to the email in question. Texting doesn’t begin to offer this level of archiving.

3) Redundancy
Seila and I both receive your emails. Only I receive texts. You know how hard it is to catch me with a phone call. It’s the same with texting. I respond to emails when I can (usually at lunch or at dinner), but Seila can reply during the day too.

Different communication methods carry different formalities. Email is a more traditional, long-form medium that lends itself well to explanations of problems, lists, and formatting. Put simply, the questions you’re asking are best answered in an email.

Texts are short (limit: 140 characters). They are casual. They are disposable. They are not permanent. They are for a single, simple thought. They cannot capture the complexity of a tech-related issue, and in my experience they can’t even communicate something simple like a scheduling request.

I have spent time and effort on this site trying to assemble clear, efficient, official channels of communication. Please use those to get in touch with us. Use the Email page for submitting technical support requests, use the Scheduling page to make appointments, and email us for the rest. Those are the best ways to get our attention.

Please don’t text.