Oh, for “F”s Sake!

With the introduction of the 2016 MacBook Pro line, Apple introduced a number of new features, including an all USB-C port configuration, the Butterfly Keyboard, and the Touch Bar with Touch ID sensor. The Butterfly Keyboard is ok, but I preferred the Magic Keyboard from the iMac. I don’t use many USB peripherals, so USB Dongle Town to convert USB-C to the popular USB-A wasn’t too bad. The Touch ID sensor has been a great addition to the MacBook Pro. However, the Touch Bar has been seen by many Mac users as a so-so addition.

The default Finder Touch Bar configuration on a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro

The Touch Bar replaced the standard Function Key (F Keys) row that sat above the number row of keys on the standard MacBook Pro keyboard. To be sure, the technology behind the Touch Bar is impressive, featuring a Retina Display with touch input. The whole thing is driven by the secure T1 chip which is running a stripped down version of watchOS.

While I like using the Touch Bar for things like activating Siri, adjusting the brightness and volume controls, and media keys in the Music/iTunes app. In my opinion, the Touch Bar never realized the excitement that Apple had hoped. It is cool, but I can live with out it.

The Touch Bar configuration when holding down the ‘fn’ key on the MacBook Pro keyboard

Meghan, who has a 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro, recently complained to me that her Mac didn’t have the F Keys that her fellow engineering program classmates have on their Windows PCs. In typical Apple fashion where a “clean” design is valued over user functionality, holding down the “fn” key on the MacBook Pro’s keyboard changes the default Mac Touch Bar keys into Windows/Unix-style F Keys.

Constantly pressing the fn key to bring up the F Keys can get old quickly if you are working on an exercise in class or a homework assignment. Fortunately, you can setup a macOS shortcut for the Touch Bar that flips the behavior around. Here’s how to set up a Touch Bar F Key shortcut by application.

Configuring the MacBook Pro Touch Bar To Show Function Keys By Default Per app

The Function Keys Keyboard Shortcuts allows you to toggle the F-Keys on when an app on the right is launch, in this case, Microsoft Excel
  1. Open the Settings app in macOS.
  2. Navigate to or search for the Keyboard control panel.
  3. In Keyboard control panel, click the Shortcuts tab.
  4. On the Shortcuts tab, select Function Keys from the left window pane.
  5. On the Shortcuts tab, click the plus icon to add the app(s) you want to default to the F keys configuration.
  6. Repeat this process for all of the apps you wish to add.
  7. When done, click the red close window button in the top left of the Settings window.

Ditching Apple Music in macOS 10.15 Catalina’s Music App

Apple has released macOS 10.15 Catalina for Macintosh computers stretching all the way back to 2012. That’s great that Apple is still supporting those hardware platforms and newer!

But, right from the get go, there is one thing that is driving me nuts, and that’s the end of my dear friend, iTunes. Under Catalina, iTunes 12 for macOS no longer works.

This is the error message that appears when attempting to run iTunes 12.9.5 on macOS 10.15 Catalina.

I knew this day was coming. Apple announced it back at WWDC in June that iTunes, after an almost 20-year run, would be replaced by Apple Music, TV, Podcasts, and Books. The iPod and iOS sync features would be transplanted from iTunes directly into the Catalina Finder. But I was still hoping that iTunes would still work. I have been using iTunes daily at least since the introduction of Mac OS X.

With this in mind, I decided to embrace change, and I installed Catalina last night on my main 5k iMac, a 27-inch model from late 2015. On the plus side, Apple Music seems to have much better support for my two HomePods that are in a stereo pair. iTunes would often lose the connection or one HomePod would go AWOL and drop out. Music, for all it’s weird iOS influences, works well in this regard with my limited testing.

Apple Music subscription service is in-your-face in the new Apple Music macOS 10.15 Catalina app.

However, there is one thing that does drive me nuts. It’s the default, in-your-face promotion of Apple Music – Apple’s monthly music streaming subscription service. Call me old fashioned, but I like the idea of buying my music, “owning” it, and being able to play it off my iMac’s disk drive without having to worry about ISP bandwidth.

To push the Apple Music subscription section out of the Apple Music sidebar, I went into Music > Preferences > Restrictions. From there, I turned on the option to Disable: Apple Music, the subscription side of things; not the iTunes-like jukebox functionality.

Hide the Apple Music subscription service in the navigation bar for macOS 10.15 Catalina’s Music app.

After disabling the Apple Music subscription service via preference restrictions, Apple Music gets out of the way, and show you a list that is more like the old iTunes navigation tree.

After putting in a restriction for Apple Music, the Apple Music subscription section disappears.

Sure, it is going to take a while getting used to the iOS-ification of the new iTunes component apps: Music, TV, Podcasts, Books, and sync. The improved HomePod streaming support and being able to get rid of the Apple Music section in the Music nav bar is a plus.

iParty – Getting the Band Back Together

As an IT pro who is not an active developer, my annual Apple jam is iPhone launch day. (WWDC seems like tons of fun, but it’s hard for me to justify a week in California.) While I am waiting for the glass doors of my local Apple Store to roll back and herald the arrival of this year’s new smartphone, I wanted to bring something to the party that will be fun. In years past, I have used my original iPhone (aka the iPhone 2G – as in the really slow AT&T Edge network iPhone) as my new iPhone reservation check in device.

OG iPhone welcomes Space Grey iPhone XS to the family.

This year, I thought it would be fun to get the white iPhones out of my museum collection and bring them along when I pick up my new Silver iPhone 11 Pro.

The iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5c (top), and iPhone 7 (bottom) getting ready for launch day.

While white/silver iPhones have been indeed popular, and heavily used in Apple’s promotional materials in recent years, other iPhone models and colors have been used as brand ambassadors. For example, the Blue iPhone XR was featured in many hero images. In 2019, the Midnight Green iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max seem to be the new Blue iPhone XR.

Might there be another “Max” device in “Midnight Green” that could crash the party on Friday? Who knows?

2019 iPhone – What Am I Getting?

Pre-orders for the 2019 Apple iPhone models are set to start in just about an hour. So, now seems like a good time to get another cup of coffee and review my ordering plans.

While I have been a member of #PlusClub in the past, I really have grown to love the 5.8-inch iPhone X and iPhone XS phones. So, this year, while I did spend some time considering a Max, I have decided to get an iPhone 11 Pro. Not a surprising pick, really. When I find something that I like, I tend to stick with it. What I am changing up this year is the color. Unlike years past when I have ordered Black, Space Black, Grey, or Space Grey iPhones, this year, I decided I really liked the look of the polished stainless steal band. So, I’m getting the Silver (White) iPhone 11 Pro. I will also be picking up the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Midnight Blue (Grassia Standard Navy Blue) leather case. I think that the polish stainless steal band showing at the bottom of the iPhone and the white showing through on the back camera bump (area) will really look nice.

To recap, I hope to pre-order a 5.8-inch unlocked iPhone 11 Pro, in Silver, with 256GB storage. I insta-bough the leather iPhone 11 Pro Midnight Blue case on Tuesday after watching the Apple Fall keynote. I pick the case up today at my local Apple Store.

Update:

The Apple online store when live about a minute or two after 8:00am EDT. I was able to order my iPhone 11 Pro without any hassle right in Safari on my iMac. Super easy. I used Apple Pay, and confirmed the purchase on my iPhone XS.

I hope you also got the device(s) that you were looking for too!

Apple’s Fall 2019 Devices Go on Pre-Order Today

For super Apple nerds, it’s the most wonderful time of the year again.

Today, Friday, September 13, the Apple Store is offline getting ready for the 2019 iPhone pre-order rush!

The way this works is that at 8:00am EDT the Apple Store goes back online, and in Black Friday fashion, there is a digital mad dash to get into the web store so that fans can place their orders for Apple’s new gear. This year, Apple is rolling out the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

First up, is iPhone 11. The iPhone 11 is the direct replacement for the very well received iPhone XR released in 2018. Available in six colors. In addition to the usual options of space grey (black), silver (white), and (PRODUCT)RED options, iPhone 11 is also available in three new colors, bright yellow, mint green, and mauve.

Getting themselves out of the Roman numeral mess, Apple is chucking the X (read, ten) naming convention and rebranding the top tier phones as iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. What’s “pro” about these devices you ask? The price, in my opinion. If you purchased an iPhone X, iPhone XS, or the Max editions of these phones, and you aren’t eagerly awaiting the opportunity to spend $999 exactly at 8:00am, then there is no reason you need the buy this year’s new Pro iPhones. iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are available in the usual space grey, silver, and gold. New this year is the Midnight Green color, seen above, which reminds me a lot of Apple’s other mobile device, the age old Newton MessagePad.

Without getting into all of the super nerdy stuff about the A13 Bionic, with it’s super fast GPU, and four high efficiency cores, or its slightly improved battery life, Apple is throwing their weight behind the new three lease camera system. I’ll be the first to admit that the three lens camera bump looks damn weird. (Can we still call it a bump? I think we need to refer to it as the “Optical Area”.) For the trade off in taking all of that space on the back of the iPhone, Apple is shoving some pretty impressive tech into the camera system. And to be sure, camera nerds and professionals who know what they are doing, this camera system is going to be impressive. If you are alike me, and are more of a point and shoot kinda guy, the new camera system combined with the nerdy stuff in the A13 Bionic CPU, will help improve your photos by looking at the picture and computationally, as in lots of complicated math done as blazingly fast speeds, spit out a photo that will look the best that it can be. If you take a lot of photos in low light situations, like when the family is gathered around the table singing Happy Birthday with the lights down low, the new automatic Night Mode camera feature will help reduce noise and bring details out of the shadows to give you crisper looking photos.

Apple is also rolling out Watch Series 5 this year. Series 5 is an incremental upgrade over last year’s Series 4 model. If you are still using an Apple Watch Series 3, or earlier, this is the year to upgrade. I replaced my original Apple Watch with a Series 4 last year and it is fantastic! The big deal feature for Apple Watch Series 5 is the new screen technology which allows the screen to be on all the time. This has been a major complaint of people who prefer the ability to glance at their wrist and see the time without having to move their arm.

Finally, Apple is also releasing a new 7th Generation 10.2-inch iPad. Starting at $329, this is incredible device because now, you can optionally add an Apple Smart Keyboard ($159) and the Series 1 Apple Pencil ($99). Combined with the new iPadOS 13, due out later this month, the entry level iPad will also be able to read and write to external USB devices, like flash drives. If you love using your iPad, and are still using the 3rd Generation 9.7-inch iPad, or the iPad Air or iPad Air 2, this is the model to get. I was using this same configuration with my iPad Pro 10.5-inch last night at a meeting. It was just the right machine for taking notes, looking up information, and not getting in the way of other papers, drinks, and appetizers that were on the table. Your mileage may vary, but the new 7th Generation iPad has gone from a content consumption device to a full-fledged portable computing device that is up to most tasks

Apple Releases Multiple Software Updates for iPhone, iPad, Mac, HomePod

Earlier today, Apple released a number of maintenance and security updates for all of their OS platforms. At 1:00pm Easter time today, Apple pushed out iOS 12.4, watchOS 5.3, and Mac OS Mojave 10.14.6. Also getting updates today were current editions of Apple TV and the HomePod.

Just in time for the arrival of iOS 13 and new iPhones, Apple added a new feature that allows users to directly migrate data between old and new iPhones. That seems like a neat party trick, but not entirely unexpected give Apple’s work to refine the process of sharing information between iOS devices, iOS to Mac OS devices, and iOS to watchOS.

On watchOS, a patch has been added that corrects an issue with the Walkie-Talkie app. Once the update has been installed, the feature will be available again.

iOS 12.4 update details
watchOS 5.3 update details
Mac OS Mojave update details

Hello, World! (Again!)

“Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!”

Ok, I couldn’t resist the play on the original 1998 Bondi Blue Apple iMac tagline when talking about this blog.

You see, for almost the last four years, I have been working full-time and taking college courses full-time to complete by B.S. degree.  That left little time for blogging.  And so, I had a broken blog here, a mostly ignored blog hosted over on WordPress.com, and more homework than I cared to admit.

Thankfully, I am in my final 10-weeks of coursework.  I have repaired the blog here.  I’ll have to do something with my WordPress hosted blog over there.  And I’m looking forward to getting back to talking about Apple gadgets, things that interest me, and my Dad’s whacky technology hijinks.  (There was one just today involving a Windows 10 laptop, Internet Explorer 11, and one of those “Take our site survey” pop-ups.  But that’s a story for a different time.)

So, hello.  Welcome back to my weird blogging adventure that is this polymorphic blog.

-Alan

Apple Issues ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches for iOS, macOS, Safari

apple_ios_1122_mealtdown_spectre_patch_20180108

Today, Apple has posted a set of updates that are designed to patch recently reported vulnerabilities found in Intel and ARM CPU processors. These are very important security updates. You should install them as soon as you can.

Apple Software Updates

apple_macos_high_sierra_mealtdown_spectre_cpu_patch_20180108

Ready for your downloading and installing pleasure are:
* iOS 11.2.2 for iPhone 5s and later, iPad Air and later, and iPod touch 6th generation
* macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 Supplemental Update
* Safari 11.0.2 for OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 and macOS Sierra 10.12.6

The Apple support website always links to the latest security patch updates.

The Short Story

The vulnerability, which impacts all modern Intel and ARM CPUs, can be found in just about every PC, smartphone, and tablet on sale. Microsoft Windows, Linux distributions, and hardware vendors all need to update patches to prevent the “Meltdown” and “Spectre” vulnerabilities from being exploited and granting cyber-attackers access to highly sensitive data that is held in a computer’s protected memory space.

Confused about all of this processor vulnerabilities and patching? It’s totally understandable. If you really want to understand what’s going on, check out Rene Ritchie’s excellent Meltdown and Spectre FAQ at iMore.com.