New Apple Products – Getting the Bigger Picture

Do you remember the World Wide Developer Conference Keynote back in June? It had some really important announcements. No, I am not talking about iOS 7 or Mac OS X Mavericks. I am talking about the new MacBook Airs and the new technology they introduced. I am also talking about the new AirPort Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme that were not really a part of the Keynote, but they were addd to the Apple Store that day.

If you go to the links for the AirPorts you will see this graphic:

The big deal is the addition of the new
802.11ac specification. This change will mean faster data speeds, double channel bandwidth, support of dual-band and a new antenna array to make the Wi‑Fi signal stronger and clearer.

Okay, enough with the spec mumbo-jumbo. This is what it really means.

While each new iteration of Apple products adds new features, occasionally a feature is added that causes the whole landscape to change. This new Wi-Fi standard will have that effect. Right now even 802.11n is pretty slow. It is fast enough for streaming video and high quality audio to one or two devices, but that is not what happens in my home in the evening. We are frequently streaming video from one of our AppleTVs while one or more people are multitasking on their iPads or iPhones. When one of the other 3 or 4 computers begins a backup to the Time Capsule, things slow down and we see pauses and pixelations. We need better wireless throughput--and that is what this new standard will provide.

As we wait for the September Apple product announcements, there are many industry pundits who are making all sorts of predictions. I usually don’t make my own, but this time I will.

Apple will be replacing every piece of equipment in its lineup in the next few months. We have already seen new MacBook Airs and Wi‑Fifi devices. I look for the Airport Express and the AppleTV to be replaced. Apple has already announced the new MacPro. Look for a complete refresh of the MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac Mini lines. Expect all new iPads and iPhones.

It is Apple’s adoption of the new Wi‑Fi standard that is the game changer. Since Apple products have defined the wireless computing space since the introduction of the first AirPort, this new standard will quickly be added to the entire Apple product lineup.

The June WWDC announcements were a signal to me to begin my upgrade plans. I bought the new AirPort Time Capsule the day after it was introduced. I knew I would be replacing my older Time Capsule with a new one because my daughter and son-in-law were in need of a larger back-up device. I will be replacing my beloved 17” MacBook Pro because the hard drive is now too small, I need more RAM, and its processors are showing their age. I need a new bigger, faster main computing device.

The iPhone 5S looks to be a major improvement over my iPhone 5. I am looking forward to the rumored camera and flash improvements, the rumored fingerprint sensor--and the 802.11ac Wi-Fi. I am intrigued by the gold color and I am seriously considering the 128GB of storage space. I like to record video with my iPhone and it takes up a lot of room!

I will also be getting a new iPad. I haven’t decided if I will choose the Mini or the regular iPad. The deciding factor may be the Retina display. I really like it in my iPad 3 and I do not want to return to a regular display.

As for the Apple TV, we now own two of them. I will buy at least one new Apple TV because of 802.11ac. My buying plans will depend on the form factor of the new products for TV.

That leaves my two AirPort Extremes. Both are 802.11n devices. They are used to extend our wireless network. Its signal is affected by our wall of electronics in my kitchen. Since I added the new 802.11ac Time Capsule, the Wi-Fi signal seems to do better, but I am waiting to test it with a new device.

I am really looking forward to the improved wireless speed. Although our entire home has Ethernet wiring, we use Wi‑Fi for our computers and Apple TVs. Because we have so many devices in our home, I am looking forward to faster data.

Here is a little buying advice. Because Apple will be releasing all its new devices with the new standard, this is not the time to be buying close-out and refurbished Apple devices. This new Wi‑Fi standard will be around for the next 5-7 years. It will be a game changer!


Taming your menu bar with Bartender

I am a long-time Mac user. I also like things to be convenient and easy to get to. Perhaps that is why my Dock looks like this:

There are 56 icons in my Dock. I try to thin it out occasionally, but those are 56 things that I think I need to be able to get to without searching. My everyday Mac is a 17 inch MacBook Pro, so I have a lot more screen real estate than an 11 inch MacBook Air. Even the 15 inch MacBook Pro, non-Retina has a much narrower screen.

I keep 32 items in the Favorites section of my sidebar:


Perhaps that is why I keep 32 items in the right end of my menu bar! Click on the graphic to get a better view!


I reduced the width of these pictures to 650 pixels so that I could show you the effect of keeping so many items in my menubar. If your eyesight was really good, you would be able to notice that I am showing you how they look in the Finder. That is good because the Finder has the smallest number of menu items in the left side of the menu bar. Use an application like Adobe Photoshop Elements and you go from seven items in the left side of the menu bar to eleven--and just about all of the words are longer. That means some of my Menu Bar icons will disappear when I am using an application with lots of menu items! You can click on the graphic to get a better view of my menu bar.

While I am certain that most of you don’t have nearly so many items in your menu bar, I suspect you could probably do with a few more to make your computing life easier.

To add to my problem, I do lots of presentations so I am frequently lowering the resolution of my screen when it is displayed on an LCD projector or on a large-screen TV. This is what the menu bar looks like on my projector:


These are the missing icons.

And this is what it looks like when it is attached to a monitor:

These are the missing icons:

I have little choice in where the icons are displayed in the menu bar. When they disappear, I am simply not able to use them.

When these kinds of issues appear in the Macintosh, there is usually a developer who has the same problem and he writes an application to solve it. In this case I discovered
Bartender from Surtees Studios. When Bartender is installed an icon that looks like an ellipsis (&hellipWinking is added to my menu bar.


When you click the ellipsis the rest of your menu bar icons appear in a bar under the visible items:

ellipsis bar

Notice the small gear at the end of the lower bar. Click it and you can configure Bartender:

ellipsis preferences

These are some of the available choices in the Preferences menu:


When I am in the Menu Items area, I can choose how Bartender will interact with each icon. I want to always see the Time Machine icon, so I have chosen Nothing (see above). In the case of Universal Access, I don’t use it too much, so I choose to have it appear in the Bartender Bar:


There are many more ways to adjust Bartender. It is easy to configure.

While many applications are free, developers often earn their living or make extra money by developing applications and selling them. In the case of Bartender, there is a four week free trial available. After that, the charge for it is $15.00. I really appreciate the functionality of Bartender, so the price seems fair to me. If you set your screen to a lower resolution or if you use an LCD projector, I suspect $15.00 will seem like a good price!



Jobs, the movie


There are a number of privileges that I have had in my life related to computing. I was able to attend quite a number of Macworld Expos, both in San Francisco, New York and even the last few shows in Boston. Not only did I have the privilege of attending, I was able to attend the keynote addresses. I was working with and writing for the Washington Apple Pi Journal, so I was able to sit up front in the press section.

At those events I was able to observe Steve Jobs at his finest! I was at the keynote when the iMac was introduced, when Mac OS X was presented, and when the iPhone was unveiled. I have never attended WWDC, the World Wide Developer Conference, but I was able to watch the live video stream when the iPod was introduced. Although I only met Steve Jobs briefly in the Apple Booth after a keynote, I was honored to have the opportunity to shake his hand and speak to him.

I have also had the privilege of taking part in four MacMania cruises when Steve Wozniak was a part of the faculty. The Woz is one neat and interesting guy!

I was also able to attend a Macworld Expo session where Ashton Kutcher talked about playing Steve Jobs.

Today I went to see Jobs, the movie. I had been anticipating seeing it ever since it was announced. Although I am not a total expert on Apple, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, I have enough personal experiences to say that while they did not get the story exactly right, the actors were believable in their portrayal of the characters. The Woz’s appearance was not quite right, but he had many of Steve’s mannerisms just right.

Ashton Kutcher was very believable in the role of Steve Jobs. His mannerisms and speech were right on!

As for the Apple campus, I have been there several times, I also spent the day in the Apple Town Hall for a conference. It wasn’t quite right, especially in the lighting. I could tell they had tried to dress it up.

I enjoyed the movie. The script was a bit shallow in places and I wished that it had covered Steve Jobs years back at Apple instead of ending the story before the iMac was released. If you enjoy Apple Products, you will probably enjoy the movie. It’s not a home run, but its worth the time and the price of a movie ticket!


Liquids and Technology

I have had several emergency calls from friends, family and clients this summer. Most have involved a liquid and a computer, iPad or iPhone. This has been the year of spills and drops!

I have had a strict policy of never putting a liquid on the same level as an electronic device. It has worked well until my doctor determined that I was not drinking enough liquids. He said I needed to keep a container of water beside me all the time. While that is not a problem at my desk in my office, my MacBook Pro tends to travel all around all day long. Some of the other stopping points don’t have a second level for my water container. So I had to get inventive!

Last spring there was a deal at Costco. It was for a two-pack of Contigo water bottles. The pack cost $19.99 and it included two insulated stainless steel water bottles with AUTOSPOUT.


I like my water cold and I prefer not to have condensation on the container. Add a leak-free spout to the mix and I have found my new favorite thing! Of course, the deal at Costco is long gone, but you can buy the bottles directly from
Contigo. The price is the same at Amazon. $25.00 sounds pretty pricey, but compared to a repair or possibly a new device, it’s not so bad! You could also wait for Costco to carry them again, but that will probably be next spring.

I even let my water bottle sit next to my computer sometimes, especially at night when both are on my bedside table. : )