• apple,  apple //e,  lifestyle,  vintage

    Welcoming Home an Apple //e

    Apple //e with Apple Disk II 5.25-inch floppy drives and green screen Apple Monochrome Monitor

    From January 1983 to November 1993, Apple sold the Apple //e personal computer. It was wildly popular with consumers, educators, and even business professionals. Over the Apple //e’s service life, it saw no less than three major revisions – the original //e, the //e Enhanced, and the //e Platinum – and four motherboard upgrades.

    For me, it was my first introduction the world of computing and set me on a course to be a life-long Apple fan and IT professional. My parents bought me a second-hand Apple //e in the late 1980s as an upgrade to my first computer, the V-Tech Laser 128, an Apple // clone.

    After letting mine go, I still had a soft spot in my heart for the //e. And, while I no longer had my Apple //e, I remained a fan of that early computer and continued to count myself as a member of Team Apple // Forever.

    Now, years later, though the magic of the worldwide garage sale website that is eBay, I officially belong to the Apple //e owner’s club again. I am so excited to have one of these popular computers once more that I posted an unboxing and walkthrough video on YouTube.

    Welcome home little buddy.

  • apple,  imac,  ipad pro,  iphone

    2022 Apple Shopping List

    Source: Apple, Inc.

    Now that the holiday season has wrapped up, it is time to look ahead to the new Apple gear that I will be looking to purchase in 2022. By the looks of it, 2022 is going to be an expensive year.

    iPhone 14 Pro Max – $1,300

    Like clockwork, Apple is expected to release the next iteration of the iPhone, which we all expect to be called iPhone 14. This year, I am planning on getting another Pro Max edition. I would really love to have a Pro Max iPhone that is closer in color to the Blue iPhone 13. To my eyes, under my home and office lighting, the Sierra Blue of the iPhone 13 Pro Max looks more like battleship grey than blue under all but the sunniest of direct sunlight. In typical Apple fashion, I am expecting to have to buy at least one new Apple Leather Case, as the latest rumors suggest that iPhone 14 will have a different camera bump.

    27-inch iMac – $3,200

    My 2015 27-inch 5K iMac has served me well while I was using it for classes to complete my Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree. As time marches on, and software becomes more demanding, the Intel i5 Quad Core 3.3GHz CPU is starting to show its age and the display has developed a magenta boarder all the way around the screen that becomes visible with a while background.

    It is unclear at this time whether Apple is going to release a 27-inch iMac running an M1 processor or if it is going to release a 27-inch iMac Pro running either an M1 Pro, M1 Max, or M2 processor. Since the 27-inch iMac wasn’t refreshed at the same time as the 2021 24-inch iMac, I’m erring on the side of Colleen Novielli bringing us a new iMac Pro in 2022. That machine is going to be expensive. The only previous iMac Pro, an Intel Xeon machine, started at $4,999. I’m hoping that a spec’ed up machine for my needs, which, admittedly are not exactly in “Pro” territory, will be in the $3,200 range and come with a base model M1 Pro CPU, 32GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD.

    Mac Upgrade “Plan B”

    If a 2022 27-inch iMac or iMac Pro is released and the price is over my expected $3,200 budget, then things will get a little messy. Do I stick with my 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro? Do I trade that unit and my iMac in and get a 14-inch MacBook Pro with an 8-core M1 Pro CPU, 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD? What about a monitor? Will Apple finally release a first party 27 to 32-inch display that is reasonably priced? If not, there is a good chance that a Dell UltraSharp 4K 32-inch display is in my future. Or do I skip the laptop all together and just go with a Mac mini or, possibly a Mac mini Pro? Either way, whatever I end up doing on the Mac front, it’s going to be expensive.

    iPad Pro – $1,000

    Last year, I tried to get Apple to replace the battery in my 2017 10.2-inch iPad Pro. I use that device all the time and the battery is showing its age. Since the start of the pandemic, the use of my iPad Pro has only increased. However, the Apple Genius I was working with said that they couldn’t replace the battery for the out of warranty price of $99 that is listed on the Apple website because the battery test came back stating that my battery was only degraded to 82% and not below 80%. The cost to replace the battery when it wasn’t below 80% was $599. I still love using my iPad Pro, but I call Tim Cook a not nice name each time I have to plug it in to recharge.

    If the 11-inch iPad Pro gets the same or improved Liquid Retina XDR display with 10,000 mini-LEDs with deep inky blacks, I will insta-buy the 256GB model with a Smart Cover.

    All the Rest

    For now, I am still very happy with my biggie HomePods and one HomePod mini. The mini makes a good kitchen HomePod, but the sound that comes out of it just can’t compare to the rich sound that comes out from my stereo pair biggie HomePods. I am also more than happy with my Apple TV HD and my Series 5 Stainless and Series 6 Aluminum Apple Watches.

    I would like to see a $2,500 Apple first-party display for ‘normal’ people, but we all know that any display that Apple releases that is not the Pro Display XDR won’t sell for under $3,000, which is a shame in my opinion. The LG Ultra Fine display has lousy reviews.

    I have long been waiting for Apple AR glasses, ever since the first attempt by Google with their Google Glass pilot which didn’t go too far. We might get our first glimpse of Apple’s long rumored AR/VR headset, but the rumored cost for that thing is in the $3,000 ballpark. Way too high for this year’s spending spree, so I’ll continue to wait for either the prices to come down on a headset or Apple’s AR glasses to ship. Oh, and the glasses should come with support for prescription lenses on day one. I’m not getting any younger waiting for all this marvelous gear to be released.

  • apple,  imac

    iMac G4 Turns 20

    My iMac G4 15-inch running Mac OS X 10.2.8 Jaguar (2002)

    This weekend, the iMac G4, lovingly referred to by fans as the iLamp, turned 20. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago we were using the iMac G4 at the office. I guess time flies when you’re having fun!

    Happy Birthday Lil’ Buddy!

  • apple,  mac os x server,  macos

    Content Caching for macOS

    Turn on Content Caching in Settings > Sharing

    One of the interesting features of macOS is Content Caching.

    Jesus Vigo, writing for TechRepublic, states that when Content Caching is turned on, the Mac will begin storing local copies of Apple software to speed up downloads to clients on your network.

    The benefit to you is that software updates for your Mac and iPhone, for example, will download to your Apple device faster. Without Content Caching turned on, if you have, say, two iPhones (persona and company issued), once cached, iOS updates are downloaded from the cached copy on your Mac rather than having to go out to the Internet twice. The more Apple devices you have, the bigger the benefit to you is.

    Some of the kinds of Apple software that macOS Content Caching holds, includes:

    • macOS and Mac Internet Recovery images
    • iOS/iPadOS/wachOS/tvOS updates
    • App Store app updates
    • iCloud photo and document cache
    • Apple TV screen savers

    The complete list of cached content is published on the Apple Support website.

    To enable Contact Caching, go to: Settings > Sharing > Content Caching = Checked

    Once configured, devices running Mac OS X 10.8.2 or iOS/iPadOS 7, will be able to detect the local cache server and use the content cache. If you are setting up Content Cache for a school or enterprise network, you should use a wired Ethernet connection for better performance. If you have multiple subnets or need peer cache repositories, read the macOS What is content caching on Mac? online Help article.

    Content Caching network map, Source: Apple, Inc.

    Since the internal storage space on your Mac is expensive (you can’t upgrade your disk after purchasing your Mac), I decided to use the Options button to pick a USB attached external disk and carved out a 32GB cache limit.

    If you are really interested, you can learn more about the Content Caching feature by clicking the question mark button in the lower right of the Settings window to bring up the macOS help. The plist file is /Library/Preferences/com.apple.AssetCache.plist.

  • apple,  macos,  troubleshooting

    iMac SD Card Reader Fix

    5K 27-inch iMac, Source: Apple, Inc.

    While working on a vintage Mac repair and restoration project, I had the need to write some files to a microSD card. I put the card in the full-size SD adapter and inserted the adapter with the card into my 2015 5K 27-inch iMac. Nothing happened.

    Then I remembered that it has been years since I last used an SD card in my iMac and it didn’t work then either. I take very good card of my Apple gear, so I know that I hadn’t knowingly damaged the SD card slot on my iMac.

    The macOS System Report tool was showing that the card reader was present, so it didn’t seem like there was a hardware failure.

    Maybe it is a software bug that crept in with macOS 10.15 Catalina in 2019 when 32-bit software support was dropped.

    I started searching the web for answers.

    It seems that Craig Villamor dealt with this issue all the way back in 2011. Villamor states that if an SD card does not mount to the desktop to reboot the iMac with the card still in the SD slot.

    Holy cow, that worked!

    Booting up my iMac with the SD card in the slot worked!

    Villamor suggests that inside the SD card slot on the iMac, there is a switch that is used to register that a card has been inserted and tells the Finder to mount the card to the desktop. Sometimes, that switch becomes stuck.

    Being impatient, I had already purchased a cheap-o USB-C SD Card Reader from my local Best Buy for use on my 2020 MacBook Pro. It wasn’t a total waste of money, as I don’t expect that my next iMac will have an SD Card Reader. The cheap-o reader will end up being just another dongle in my accessories bag.

  • apple,  power mac,  restoration,  vintage

    Power Macintosh 7200 Retrospective

    Back in July, I started a project to repair my aging PowerBook G3 Wallstreet for a third time. I was not the original owner of this PowerBook and I had successfully completed two other repair attempts. Alas, the third time was not to be a charm and I decided to end the project.

    Apple Power Macintosh 7200/120 (1996)

    Still wanting to have a vintage Power Macintosh with an Apple Super Drive 1.44MB floppy disk drive, I turned once again to eBay to find something to replace my Wallstreet. Enter the Power Macintosh 7200.

    Introduction of the Power Macintosh 7200

    The Power Macintosh 7200 was the low-end of a trio of new Macs that were introduced at Macworld Expo Boston in August 1995. The 7200’s siblings are the Power Mac 7500 and 8500. These machines had been released at a time when Apple needed to release speedier machines to compete with Windows NT machines running Intel Pentium processors. According to Anita Epler, writing for InfoWorld at the time, these machines offered three advantages over the previous year’s Macintosh models: fast PowerPC 601 (7200/7500) and 604 (8500) CPUs, including PCI expansion card slots over the proprietary NuBus slot, and competitive price cuts. Epler spills the codename info by stating that internally, Apple referred to this wave of Macs was “Power Surge” and included the monikers “Nitro” (8500), “TNT” (7500), and “Catalyst” (7200).

    Even as the low-cost model of the bunch, the Power Macintosh 7200 included the same design language – and parts – as the 7500, which should have made it cheaper for Apple to produce. Available in two CPU speeds, 75 and 90 MHz, the 7200 started at $1,699. The CPU was later spec bumped to 120 MHz in April 1996. In addition to the 1.44MB Super Drive floppy drive that could read/write Macintosh and MS-DOS/Windows floppy disks, customers had an option for a 4x or 8x CD-ROM optical drive and a 3.5-inch 500MB to 1.2GB SCSI hard disk. On the motherboard, which was easily accessible by way of a novel swing-out chassis, there are four 168-pin DIMM slots accepting up to 512MB of RAM. There are also four graphics memory VRAM slots, which came populated with a 1MB chip. Finally, these Macs featured a 10Base-T RJ-45 Ethernet port for a direct network connection. If you needed a different network media type, customers could either add a PCI network card or use an AAUI network adapter, such as the Farallon Etherwave transceiver. I was happy to ditch the Etherwave that I had to support on the Power Macintosh 7100. Unlike its siblings, the Power Mac 7200 lacked a processor upgrade slot.

    Looking the Power Macintosh 7200 up in Ian Page’s excellent Mactracker app (macOS and iOS/iPadOS), we see that the 7200 can run Classic Mac OS System 7.5.2, with a machine specific enabler, all the way up to Mac OS 9.1. Support for three versions of Classic Mac OS is a pretty good run, however, I wish that Apple had provided an upgrade patch to reach the last version of Classic Mac OS, v9.2 released in June 2001.

    The full Power Macintosh 7200/120 specifications are still listed on the Apple Support website.

    A Success Despite Serious Leadership Dysfunction

    In 1995, Apple was heading into serious financial trouble, and it would still be a few years before the NeXT acquisition that would bring Steve Jobs back to Apple.

    The Power Surge line of Macs were developed and released near during then Apple CEO Michael Spindler’s tenure (1993 – 1996). Tom Hormby, writing for LowendMac.com, remarks that Spindler was regarded inside Apple as “brilliant strategist” and had a great deal of success running the Apple Europe division. However, once promoted to the executive ranks, Spindler suffered from “debilitating levels of stress”. Despite the many technical and management problems Spindler faced at Apple, the PowerPC collaborative project with Motorola and IBM had come together. The Power Macintosh 7200 benefitted from the PowerPC 601 CPU that came out of that collaboration. After a disastrous performance at the annual shareholder meeting on January 23, 1996, Spindler was replaced by Gil Amelio, who would go on to start serious discussions about the NeXT ‘acquisition’ in late 1996.

    Throughout all the turmoil inside Apple in the 1990s, engineers were able to release a well performing machine. A beige box Mac that, in my opinion, includes design queues from the Macintosh SE with its grill vents alone the sides and the Mac Classic with its rounded face plate. The Power Macintosh 7200 and 7500 also featured an easy to remove case that slide off, just like the older compact Macs. Apple would continue to release beige box desktop and tower computers for a few more years until Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive would release the colorful Bondi Blue iMac with a 233 MHz PowerPC 750 G3 processor.

    Other Configurations of the 7200

    The Power Macintosh 7500 and 8500 featured a slot on the motherboard for a CPU daughter card. The purpose of this card, in part, made it possible to upgrade the Mac later on with a fast CPU. The 7200, however, lacked the modularity of the other two Power Surge machines.

    Sonnet Crescent 7200 500 Upgrade Card, source: eBay.com

    After the PowerMac 7200 was discontinued by Apple, Sonnet Technologies developed a PCI processor upgrade board called the Crescendo/7200 G3. The Crescendo PCI board is compatible with the Power Macintosh 7200 and the Power Macintosh 8200; a tower version of the 7200 that was released in April 1996. The upgrade board includes a 500 MHz PowerPC 750 G3 CPU with 1MB of backside cache. Crescendo also came with three 168-pin DIMM slots allowing customers to upgrade to a total of 768MB when three 256MB DIMMs are installed; a significant upgrade over the 256MB RAM maximum over a stock 7200. At somepoint in my Power Macs past, one of these Sonnet cards was installed, because a Powered by Sonnet sticker was affixed to the case. The card was removed before I purchased it, so I scraped off the label with a plastic spudger.

    According to EveryMac.com, Apple also released a “PC Compatible” version of the 7200/120 that included an Intel Pentium PCI card that enabled the machine to run MS-DOS and Windows operating systems. There was also an enterprise server version of the machine, known as the Power Macintosh Workgroup Server (WGS) 7250/120. Both variants shared the same case as the Power Macintosh 7200-series desktop PCs.

    Using My Power Macintosh 7200

    The Power Macintosh that I purchased, a 7200/120 model, came with the previous owner’s applications and documents still on the hard drive.

    The Power Macintosh 7200 could run engineering applications like LemkeSoft’s CADintosh, source: LemkeSoft

    Interestingly, it appeared that this Mac was used at a business that did engineering work based on the registered install of LemkeSoft CADintosh and the documents that I reviewed before wiping the disk drive clean and reinstalling Classic Mac OS 9.1. I had never heard of CADintosh before. Interestingly, LemkeSoft is still releasing versions of CADintosh for Intel and Apple Silicon Macs. If so inclined, you can purchase a copy of CADintosh for $32USD or $30 Euros.

    Top down view of the 7200 with the cover removed and the maintenance flaps open.

    In my experience restoring the 7200, I can atest to the speed boost of this old machine. Mac OS 9.1 feels zippy on this computer and Quantum Fireball SCSI 1.2GB hard drive doesn’t feel like the performance bottleneck that the Maxtor IDE hard drive was in my restored Power Macintosh G4 Quicksilver. I had originally planned on installing a Rabbit Hole Computing SCSI2SD v5.2 bridgeboard, but I decided to hold off for now and use the board for a Macintosh SE restoration project.

    Top down view of the 7200 with the power supply and drive bay assembly swung open, revealing the motherboard

    The swing-out chassis makes the PowerMac 7200 very easy to work on. After lifting off the case over, the drive assembly swings up on the right side of the case. A narrow plastic shield over the three PCI slots swings up on the left side of the case. When both pieces are in their open postions, the motherboard DIMM and VRAM slots are directly accessible without the need for tools. This idea of swing-out chassis design would be a tentpole feature of the Power Macintosh G3, G4, G5, and original “cheese greater” Mac Pro tower cases.

    Overall, my Power Macintosh 7200/120 is in fantastic cosmetic condition for its age and runs very well. The previous owner had installed a third-party USB 1.0 PCI card, which makes moving disk images and ISO files over to the machine from my iMac very easy. The Apple Super Drive OEM floppy drive is working remarkably well, and I haven’t had any problems coverting 800kb or 1.44MB floppy disks to image files using Disk Copy 4.2 and 6.3.3. Unlike my attempts to fix the PowerBook G3 Wallstreet, this restoration project was fairly straight forward since there were no electrical problems to troubleshoot.

    But, the Power Macintosh 7200, in hindsight, was a solid performer in a sea of beige box machines for die hard Macintosh fans that refused to use MS-DOS, Windows 95, or Windows NT Workstation.

  • accessories,  apple,  find my,  iphone 13

    Thoughts About the iPhone Leather Wallet

    iPhone 13 Pro Max with Leather Wallet,
    Source: Apple, Inc.

    Last year, with the launch of iPhone 12, Apple released a new MagSafe accessory, the Apple iPhone Leather Wallet. For the iPhone 13 in 2021, Apple revised their wallet accessory. I finally broke down and bough one. Here are my thoughts about it.

    The iPhone Leather Wallet is a minimalist accessory for iPhone 12 and 13. Owners of earlier iPhones will need to find an alternative solution for their wallet needs. And that is because the Apple Leather Wallet is a new MagSafe accessory that uses magnets in the iPhone and the wallet to magnetically attach. You might be thinking, as I was, that magnets and magnetic strips on the cards we carry don’t mix. And you would be right if not for the shielding that has been built into the wallet.

    My original idea for using the Leather Wallet was to hold my work ID badge and a few business cards. The shielding works so well that I was unable to scan my card at card reader while it was the topmost card in the wallet. Credit and bank debit cards with the new EVM chips are not magnetic so the chip will continue to work regardless.

    The magnets in the iPhone Leather Wallet are strong and yet the case is easy to remove. You will want to be careful about how you handle iPhone with a wallet attached. My main concern with the Wallet is that it may come detached from my iPhone without me knowing it. I feel this concern that is born out of the fear of not always being able to feel my bulky traditional billfold wallet in my back pocket.

    To that end, in my opinion, you will want to use the iPhone Leather Wallet with an Apple iPhone Leather Case. This is because I feel that the leather case and the leather wallet offer the most grip. When I attached the Leather Wallet to my iPhone 13 Pro Max without a case (leather to glass) or an iPhone 13 in the Apple Clear Case with MagSafe, I felt that it was easier to slide the wallet off the iPhone by pushing it horizontally or vertically.

    A nice feature to help put my mind at ease is the new Find My integration with the 2021 iPhone Leather Wallet. When the Wallet is detached from the iPhone, the iPhone updates the location where the Wallet detached on the Find My map and sends an alert to iPhone or Apple Watch if you move away from where the Wallet detached. A future enhancement that I would like to see is the inclusion of a “safe place” designation that is available with AirTags so that when I detach the Wallet from my iPhone at home or at the office, no lost notification is sent.

    At $59.00, the 2021 Apple Leather Wallet is not exactly cheap. You also need to consider how many items you plan to carry with you. The Leather Wallet is intended to be used with only three cards. I was able to wedge four cards in but getting them out quickly at the checkout counter was not an easy task. Clearly, Apple is working toward a future where the iPhone takes the place of your wallet and will hold digital versions of your state issued ID, credit cards, bank cards, and more.

    Bellroy Card Sleeve, Source: Bellroy

    For comparison, the Bellroy Card Sleeve wallet has a similar price, color, and size but can hold more cards and folded bills without the magnets. While I do like the minimalist feel of the Bellroy Card Sleeve, I am worried that it will slide out of my back pocket. Having a wallet that attached to the back of my iPhone and can notify me that it has been detached is a nerve calming feature that gives you a chance to find your wallet quickly.

    The Apple Leather Wallet comes in the same variety of case colors as the Apple iPhone Leather Cases. That is good or bad news depending on your view of the 2021 iPhone case colors. I am not a big fan of this year’s colors, so I got the Golden Brown one. It matches the Golden Brown case that I have on my personal iPhone. I also think that the Golden Brown case goes well with the Blue iPhone 13 but not so much with the bare Sierra Blue iPhone 13.

    When it comes to wallets, I have learned that there are more personal taste and security considerations at play. The Find My integration gives Leather Wallet users piece of mind that you have a fighting chance to find a lost wallet. However, if you want to carry lots of cards and cash, the three-card limit may be a deal breaker for you. Not being able to use my iPhone Leather Wallet for my work ID, I plan on alternating between the Apple iPhone Leather Wallet and my Bellroy Card Sleeve depending on what cards I plan on taking with me.

  • apple,  ios 15,  iphone 13,  review

    iPhone 13 Pro Max Real-World Usage Impressions

    iPhone 13 Pro Max, Source: Apple, Inc.

    It has been a month since I got my iPhone 13 issues resolved and about a month and a half ago since the iPhone 13 family launched. As you might recall, I had a rough go of it for the first couple of weeks. A corrupted iCloud backup and a bad Face ID senor array can do that. Now that I have everything reconfigured and back to normal and I have had a chance to really live with my iPhone 13 Pro Max, I wanted to give you my opinions on this year’s largest flagship smartphone.

    The Hardware

    Year-over-year, iPhone 13 Pro Max looks and feels just like last year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max. That’s not a knock on the Apple industrial design. I love the iPhone 4/iPhone 5 style flat sides. In my opinion, I feel that I can get a better grip on iPhone 13 Pro Max than I could on my iPhone X-series and iPhone 11 Pro. I used to send those iPhones flying off the table trying to grab them. That has not been true with iPhone 13 Pro Max. I can get a firm grasp on it with the flat edges. Looking ahead, I’m relieved to hear that early iPhone rumors for the 2022 iPhone will keep the flat sides.

    This year’s iPhone 13 Pro Max includes a new 120Hz ProMotion adaptive refresh screen. This feature debuted with the 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro and has taken until now to come to iPhone. When I got my iPad Pro, the ProMotion screen was really noticeable. Everything on that iPad Pro seemed buttery smooth. On iPhone 13 Pro Max, for me, the change is less noticeable. Maybe that’s because both my work and personal iPad Pro tablets, that I use all the time, already have ProMotion and my eyes are used to it.

    One area where the variable refresh rate of the display and the new A15 Bionic CPU shine is in its battery efficiency. The battery savings and my personal device runtime is incredible. As a light user of iPhone, I can get days out of a single charge. Your milage will obviously vary. For me, I have an iPad nearby when I’m home, that is my go-to device. If I want to do work, I turn to my iMac. But, when I’m on the go, my iPhone is front and center. While traveling, I listen to a lot of podcasts or music. Both of which are downloaded locally to my iPhone. I’m only streaming music from my iCloud Match or Apple Music subscriptions about 25% of the time. And activity that is done with the screen off. If I’m driving, my iPhone is connected to a Lightning adapter for CarPlay and will charge on my short commute to and from work. As a result of my limited use of iPhone with the screen on, I can easily get two days of use out of a single charge.

    Call me crazy, but when I got my first smartphone, a Palm Treo 600, Verizon charged a lot of money for a small amount of cellular data. Battery life wasn’t great back then, either. I learned to avoid suffering cellular data overage fees and have enough battery to make it through a day, needed to hoard battery and limit cellular data usage. It’s 2021. I need to learn to live a little. iPhone 13 Pro Max has tons of battery and ‘unlimited’ cellular plans are flat rate.

    All of this to say that I am really pleased with the new ProMotion display and all of the battery saving features of the A15. Rest assured that when it’s needed, the A15 CPU and ProMotion will deliver the goods.

    I should also mention that current 5G cellular modem and antennas on the Pro Max are good. I notice that I am getting more 5G service in more places that I go with better download speeds. I’m sure that this improvement is also to T-Mobile rolling out improvements to their network. (Yes, I get it. 5G got real and that Sprint is now a part of T-Mobile. Verizon and T-Mobile, you guys are the plumbing. Just serve up data quickly and reliably and I’ll be happy.)

    Source: Apple, Inc.

    According to the Apple iPhone specifications comparison page, the differences between this year’s Pro Max and last year’s Pro Max are almost identical in size and weight. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is 0.1 inch and 43 ounces thicker and heavier. In a Pepsi Challenge taste test of sorts, where my wife handed me both iPhones Pro Max with my eyes closed, I could not distinguish between the two iPhones. Until I felt for the camera bump, which is even more of a camera plateau than last year.

    Now that I’m living with iPhone 13 Pro Max as my everyday iPhone, I’m really not happy with the color options on the ‘Pro’ iPhones. My favorite color is blue, more specifically, a deep navy blue (aka Grassia Standard Blue). Last year’s Sierra Blue on the iPhone 12 Pro Max was close to that. Sierra Blue, is a much lighter blue than Sierra Blue. In my opinion, to my eyes in most of the lighting conditions that I find myself in at home or in the office, Sierra Blue looks more like battleship grey. I’m disappointed about that. Holding my iPhone 13 Pro Max up to the screen on my iMac with the Compare iPhone Models page, I feel that the on-screen Sierra Blue is more ‘blue’ than the phone I’m holding in my hand. If I wanted a grey iPhone, I would have opted for this year’s ‘black’ color, which is called Graphite. Graphite, in my opinion, is a better color in the hand than Sierra Blue is. Looking ahead, unless I am really blown away by the color choices for the 2022 iPhone line up, I think I will go with a Silver / Starlight / White color. I have a love/hate relationship with the 2021 Apple Leather Case selection this year too, but more on that later.

    The Camera System

    Access Photographic Styles by tapping the three-frame box just above the Shutter button in the iOS 15 Camera app.

    iPhone 13 Pro Max has larger camera lens that require a larger over all surface area on the back of the phone. Referring back to the comparison page, you can see that the aperture values have changed between last year’s iPhones. I’m not a camera buff, so I really didn’t know if a higher or lower number is better or not. I found Christopher Crawford’s aperture tutorial to be helpful here. Basically, a camera’s aperture helps control focus on the subject. Depth of field relates the distance away from the camera lens that the subject is and at what point the back ground and foreground are in focus relative to the subject. The more you know, the better pictures you can take. For me, I have moved to the iPhone as my primary camera for taking pictures. To my untrained eye, iPhone 13 Pro Max photos taken in good lighting look fantastic. In worse lighting, or low lighting, your experiences will vary depending on how skilled of a photographer you are.

    I prefer the extra color saturation in the Rich Contrast Photographic Style. At least until I change my mind.

    Using what I learned on Crowford’s site, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s wide and ultra wide cameras have gotten slight improvements in aperture, decreasing to f/1.5 and f/1.8 from f/1.6 and f/2.4, respectively. The telephoto lens on iPhone 13 Pro Max, technically, has a higher aperture rating of f/2.8 over the f/2.2 rating on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. However, iPhone 13 Pro Max has a telephoto optical zoom rating of 3x where as iPhone 12 Pro Max has an optical zoom rating of 2.5. In some test photos taken on a sunny day at the local sea wall or pumpkin picking on an overcast day, I felt the photos looked good to my untrained eye.

    Source: Apple, Inc.

    One noticeable improvement in this year’s iPhone Pro Max is the inclusion of Photographic Styles. I have been an iPhone photo “purist” in that I don’t generally tweak photos aside from cropping and the use of the automatic enhancement tool. Photos taken of the kids at the farm while picking pumpkins, I felt, looked better in the Rich Contrast setting. In this mode, photos taking with iPhone have a Tone value of -50 and a Warmth value of 0. These values cannot be changed once the photo is taken. They are in effect “burned” into the photo, relative to the Standard Apple photographic style. In my opinion, the extra color saturation looks better and leans toward the higher saturation styles that are default on Android smartphones.

    iOS 15

    In my daily use of iOS 15, I don’t feel like there are many major improvements in how I use my iPhone. There are lots of quality-of-life improvements over iOS 14 that I do appreciate. I prefer iOS over Android for its fit and finish, but I say for the security features. While still in beta, I have found that the new iCloud Private Relay feature works well. As the name implies, information sent from Safari is relayed to two different secure servers. The first relay is data sent from Safari on your iPhone through your network provider and on to the secure servers run by Apple. In this first ‘hop’, Apple and your service provider and Apple know your IP address, which is a unique identifier, however, DNS traffic is encrypted so that neither Apple nor your service provider know which website was requested. The second ‘hop’, takes the encrypted DNS information, decrypts it, generates a random IP address, and then forwards the request on to the web server of the site you are trying to visit. This feature isn’t exactly like a VPN service, but it does help mask who is requesting what website information. If you squint, it sure feels to me, like iCloud Private Relay is setting the foundation for an eventual iCloud or Apple One VPN service. Which brings me to the thing that I don’t like about Private Relay. You have to pay to get this feature, even though it’s baked into iOS 15. Blame Tim Cook’s relentless push into services and the drive to extra even more ‘value’ (read: revenue) from Apple’s customers. On the positive side, any subscription to an iCloud plan, even the $0.99/mo plan grants you access to Private Relay in addition to extra iCloud storage space. $12/yr is well worth it in my opinion, but I’m not happy about it.

    I’m also glad to see that Apple walked back many if the UI changes that were first shown off at the 2021 WWDC conference and shipped an update to Safari that mostly looks and works like previous versions. I don’t use the new Tab Groups feature, but if that’s your thing, I’m good with it. It took me a while, longer than I want to admit, to figure out how Apple scrambled the Safari open tab synchronization feature. Rather than seeing a list of open tabs on other devices that have open Safari tabs, you now get a section on the Safari Start Page and a drop down pick list of open tabs. Previously, in iOS 14, this information was presented by a list sub-divided by a device section heading. I felt silly for not realizing how this page changed right away. Making their users feel bad about not knowing how to use their software is not a good look for a company like Apple.

    Some people like to dunk on the Mail application because it has not received any major new UI and functionality features in a long time. I’m fine with that. I use the stock Apple Mail application on my iPhone. I don’t need any email-as-a-task-manager, snooze for later, or Inbox Zero features. Other folks like that stuff and more power to them. I’ve clearly crossed into cantankerous old man territory. For me, email is a solved problem. One feature in iOS 15’s Mail app that I really do like is the new remote image load blocking. In attempt to extract as much information about you as possible for marketing and tracking purposes, the insidious concept of the tracking pixel was created.

    Mail in iOS 15 helps fight pixel tracking by asking if remote images in HTML-based email should be loaded. Tap Load Content to download the images.

    A tracking pixel is a special 1×1 pixel graphic that is loaded when a user opens an email or web page. They are designed to be imperceptible to users. Mail in iOS 15 now blocks the loading of remote images in email, essentially blocking the tracking pixel from loading. Users now get a small notice that all remote images in HTML-based email have been blocked and gives you the opportunity to load them if you choose. Nice.

    The Accessories

    I’m still happy that MagSafe is a thing, but aside from the Apple MagSafe Charger puck that I purchased last year, I don’t have any other MagSafe accessories aside from the Apple Leather Case. Since the MagSafe Charger will cause a ring to be imprinted on the leather, I take the case of before charging my iPhone.

    Speaking of MagSafe, I am considering trying a MagSafe Wallet now that it has that new Find My integration. In my opinion, the MagSafe Wallet ($59) is a bit on the expensive side, and I’m still not convinced that this is the product for me.

    And that brings me to the Apple Leather Case with MagSafe selection for iPhone 13 Pro Max. They are the same $59 dollars as the Apple Wallet. I prefer the Apple Leather Case for my iPhones over the Apple Silicone cases. The Silicone cases, in my opinion, collect too much line and have too much friction when being slipped into and out of dress pants pockets. So much so, that in my experience with the silicone cases over the years, I am more prone to dropping my iPhone while putting it away or taking it out of my pants pockets at work. But, Apple, what is going on with the color selection this year? I really don’t like any of the Apple Leather case colors at all. Taken with my dissatisfaction with the iPhone 13 Pro Max Sierra Blue color, I’m not liking the color situation this year. I have both the Apple Leather Case in Golden Brown and Midnight. I like the way that they feel with the metal buttons inset in the case. Given all that is going on in the world with 2020 and 2020: The Sequel, for my own mental health, I want more bright fun colors on an iPhone that has all the features. Seriously, Apple, I want all the features in fun colors. 24-inch iMac colors. Go!

    Wrap Up

    Overall, annoying color choices aside, I am happy with my iPhone 13 Pro Max purchase. Did I need to upgrade my iPhone 12 Pro Max? Absolutely not. My previous iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 11 Pro are still perfectly fine iPhones in 2021 and will be for years to come.

    If you have an iPhone XS, iPhone XS Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone 8, or earlier iPhone, and you have an itch to upgrade, now is a great time to do it. iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max are great phones. Buy the best iPhone you can to meet your needs and then enjoy using it for years to come.

  • apple,  g3,  powerbook,  restoration,  vintage

    Wallstreet Rebuild Project Comes to an Unsatisfying End

    Back in July, I started a new project to rebuild my PowerBook G3 Wallstreet for the third time. I’ve been working on diagnosing and testing spare parts on and off since then. I even went as far as getting a second donor machine for parts.

    In that time, I’ve become and expert in disassembling and reassembling the Wallstreet series laptops. Different RAM boards. Different CPU boards. Cleaning. Reseating. A replacement disk drive. Cleaning again. Removing the PRAM battery and letting it sit on the charger for an hour before attempting to start it up. And, yes, swapping the power in/sound board and power distribution board. Nothing worked. Several discussion threads on 68kmla.org that suggested that the G3-series of PowerBook laptops can be extremely fussy with replacement parts.

    After reading through many of the forums posts, I started thinking about trying to find a new source of spare parts on eBay or used Mac resellers. I even started thinking about trying to work out the specific technical requirements for finding compatible replacement surface mount capacitors in an attempt to replace them all.

    Recently, while scouring eBay for a second possible donor Wallstreet laptop, I ran across a listing for a Power Macintosh 7200. The 1998 Wallstreet uses a PowerPC 750 G3 CPU running at 266MHz. The slightly older PowerMac 7200 from 1995, runs on a PowerPC 601 CPU running at 120MHz. I placed a bid on the PowerMac and won it.

    At the end of the day, I’m a little disappointed in myself for not being able to restore the PowerBook G3 to working condition. I have to admit that there was a strong feeling of nostalgia that was tugging at me to get it working again since I used to use one of these notebooks early in my IT career. I felt that the PowerMac would be a suitable replacement for what I was looking for in 2021, which is an Apple Macintosh with an OEM floppy drive; one that can read 800k and 400k floppy disks so I can make disk image files for use with modern computers and emulation software. Many of my older floppy disks are old Mac System 6 and Newton software disks that I want to be able to carry forward and archive.

    So, for now, with both of my Wallstreet G3 laptops shipped off to the local recycling center, my repair effort has come to an unsatisfying end. On the bright side, the PowerMac 7200 is in fantastic condition and I am looking forward to upgrading it and installing vintage Classic Mac OS software on it.

  • apple,  apple card,  apple cash,  ios 15,  iphone

    Using Apple Cash to Pay Apple Card Balances

    Source: Apple, Inc.

    When you make qualifying purchases with your Apple Card, either the digital card in Apple Wallet or the physical card from your physical wallet, you earn Apple Cash back on our purchases.

    I only use my Apple Card for Apple purchases and earn 3% cash back on all the Apple goods and services that I buy. The cash back goes to my Apple Cash card. I use it when I want to buy a new accessory, like my recent purchase of AirPods Pro.

    But, you can also use your Apple Cash to pay your Apple Card balance just like you would use your bank’s ATM card.

    To use Apple Cash to pay your Apple Card balance:

    Step 1: Open Apple Wallet on your iPhone and tap on your Apple Card.

    Step 2: Tap the Pay or Pay More button.

    Step 3: Choose an amount to pay and tap the Pay Now button.

    Step 4: On the Face ID authorization screen tap the > icon to the right of your default payment option.

    Step 5: Toggle on Apple Cash card.

    Toggle ‘On’ Apple Cash card payments Source: Apple, Inc.

    Step 6: Confirm your Apple Card card is now the selected payment option.

    Step 7: Use Face ID to complete your payment.

    For more detailed instructions, and to see the other payment options that are available to Apple Card holders, see Apple’s How to make Apple Card payments Kbase article.