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.
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.
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
Open the Settings app in macOS.
Navigate to or search for the Keyboard control panel.
In Keyboard control panel, click the Shortcuts tab.
On the Shortcuts tab, select Function Keys from the left window pane.
On the Shortcuts tab, click the plus icon to add the app(s) you want to default to the F keys configuration.
Repeat this process for all of the apps you wish to add.
When done, click the red close window button in the top left of the Settings window.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
To correct the problem this time, and your milage may vary here, I cleared the checkmark for the Use full resolution for Retina display option. I left the single window and full screen VM settings as they were.
The Apple //e was the undisputed sales winner when compared with the other two Apple computers released that same year, the Apple Lisa and the Apple ///.
I have found memories of the Apple //e. It was the second computer that I owned, my first was a vTech Laser 128 – an Apple // clone, and my first computer from Apple. I had the same setup as the one pictured above. I loved that thing and used it form many years until the system board finally failed. The thing that I really enjoyed about the Apple //e was that it embodied that hacker sense instilled in the product by Steve “Woz” Wozniak. The //e was super easy to open (the top case just popped off), giving the user easy access to the many expansion bays and add-on cards. This computer fueled my interests in operating systems and hardware which would play a major role in my decision to enter the Information Technology field many years later.
I still have my old Apple //e 5.25-inch floppy disks, including the disk with my favorite Apple //e program, Apple Presents Apple. It was the first Apple //-series program I used. As the name implies, Apple Presents Apple, was the program Apple included with the //e that taught people how to use their new computer. My favorite game was the apple bin game, which taught you how to use the open and closed Apple keys (which would later become the Command key) as keyboard shortcut modifiers.
My Dad and I have been lucky enough to have picked up new iPhone X smartphones on launch day this year. Since then, I have been using my iPhone X for two months now. I bought the Space Grey 256GB iPhone X. What follows is my review of the iPhone X based on my day-to-day usage.
iPhone X Hardware
The iPhone X hardware, as you would expect from Apple, is exquisit. I am a fan of the glass and metal design language. 2017 brings yet another variation on Apple’s idea of “Space Grey”, but I like this year’s color used on the back glass. The front of the iPhone X is completely black. iPhone X feels heavier in the hand than my year old iPhone 7. Its a kind of heavy that brings with it the air of being a premium product. In practical use, I don’t notice the weight difference between iPhone X and my iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple had done a good job blending the radio antenna lines into the top and bottom portions of the stainless steel band. If you are not looking for them, there is a good chance that you won’t see them. This is a vast improvement over the iPhone 6.
Like the iPhones 7 and 7 Plus before it, and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus also released this year, there is no headphone jack. People upgrading from the iPhone 6-series may find this a bit jarring as my Dad did the first time he went to use his old pair of EarPods. Fortunately, Apple still provides a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter and new Lightning EarPods in the box. AirPod users, like my self, won’t miss the headphone jack, but I realize that AirPod owners are still in the minority.
iPhone X is the first iPhone to ship without a Home button of any kind. It is the first thing that people notice about it when I show it to them. So much so, that the lack of a Home button is mentioned before mentioning the new Super Retina display that reaches all the way to the bottom of the device. The transition from pressing the TouchID Home button to swiping up on the Home Indicator bar. In the time I’ve had iPhone X, I’ve only instinctively “pressed” the Home button about six times from muscle memory. In all of those few instances, I was focused on the task I was trying to accomplish and not thinking about iPhone X. When I tried to press the Home button, it immediately felt wrong.
The front of the iPhone X is dominated by the 5.8-inch Super Retina display. According to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for iPhone X the nerdy details about the display are that it is a 2436 x 1125 pixel screen which is about 20% taller than the 4.7-inch display found on iPhone 6/7/8. In practical use, I don’t notice any loss of space coming from an iPhone 7 Plus. Actually, I prefer the width of the non-Plus iPhones because I feel that it gives the user a firmer grasp on the device without having to sacrifice display area. In my opinion, I feel less likely to drop the iPhone while trying to use it one-handed.
As you begin to use iPhone X, it becomes clear that the long-term vision of the iPhone is to be all display on the front of the device. But today, we have the “Notch”. The notch is the non-technical term for the sensor array that is at the top center of the iPhone X. Apple has packs an incredible amount of technology into a relatively small space, including the new flood illuminator, dot projector, and the new front facing FaceTime camera – all of which are necessary for FaceID. Again, in practical day-to-day use, I don’t notice the notch any more. For me, it just melts away as I focus on the content that is on the screen.
iPhone X, like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, includes hardware that supports the Qi inductive charging technology. This has been a technology I have been waiting to come to the iPhone ever since I switched from my 2009 Palm Pre to the 2011 iPhone 4S. It has been a long wait. With a compatible Qi charger, I’m using the Mophie Wireless Charging Base which Apple has been promoting and selling in their retail stores. The Mophie charger does support the faster 7.5w charging that comes with iOS 11.2, but it is expensive. Equally good and less expensive Qi chargers are available at Amazon. In my experience, I have had zero problems with aligning my iPhone on the charge base, charging with a case on, or having the iPhone become misaligned due to notification vibrations. I feel this is because the Mophie base has a soft touch, rubberized finish that helps keep the iPhone in place. While the 7.5w fast charging feature is faster than using the 5w wall plug provided by Apple in the box, it is not nearly as fast as using a USB-C Lighting cable and 29w Apple power brick. I’m all for 29w USB-C cable charging my personal 10.5-inch iPad Pro and first generation 12.9-inch work issued iPad Pro. But, in my case, placing my iPhone X on the Mophie pad, which is on my nightstand, when I go to bed gives me a full charge by the time I wake up in the morning. While I am on the subject of charging, I should mention that in my daily usage of the iPhone X, which is to say I’m not on my iPhone all day long, I can get just about two full days out of a single charge. Most days, when I go to bed, my iPhone X battery is down to the 42-47% range. Your milage will vary, undoubtedly, based on your usage patterns.
The iPhone X’s dual camera system is the first time that the dual camera design has been implemented on a 4.7-inch device. This year’s camera upgrade is a nice bump over previous years, however, I don’t understand the the technical details about cameras and photo theory, so I don’t have an informed opinion here. I will say that for taking every day photos, the iPhone X is great, and if you are a casual shutter bug, you are likely going to enjoy using this camera. If you know what you are doing, you will be able to get some great photos out of this hardware.
iPhone X and iOS 11
If you are familiar with past iPhone or iPad devices, you will be familiar with iOS 11 on iPhone X. As mentioned earlier, the lack of any kind of Home button has forced Apple to change some gestures around. Raise to Wake and swiping up on the Home Indicator is now an important gesture combination for unlocking your iPhone with FaceID enabled. FaceID, which I will talk more about later, seamlessly integrates with Apple’s biometrics features of iOS 11. Apps that support TouchID will automatically work with FaceID and Apple Pay.
On the iPhone X, the iOS 11 Control Center sheet has moved from the bottom of the screen to the top right “ear” of the iPhone’s display. I’m not a big fan of this, as the use of two hands is required to safely activate Control Center. If it really bothers you, the Reachability option can be enabled by going to Settings > General > Accessibility. I haven’t turned Reachability back on, but I have seriously considered it in the past.
The multitasking gesture is another important gesture on iPhone X. Apple describes the gesture as swiping half-way up the screen from the Home Indicator and the holding for a short pause to engage the multitasking view. I found this to be a bit clumsy. Alternatively, I have found that if I make a right-hook style gesture, starting at the Home Indicator and swiping up and to the right in a right turn street sign arrow motion, I can more reliably activate multitasking.
Apps that have been updated for iOS 11 and the iPhone X specifically, look great on the Super Retina display. I like the stock iOS keyboard UI on iPhone X.
As you can see in the screen shots, above, the iOS 11 keyboard on iPhone X (left) is raised up from the extreme bottom of the iPhone as compared with the iOS 11 keyboard on iPhone 7 (right). I feel that this upward shift gives the user a better grip on the iPhone while still providing access to the emoji keyboard and Siri dictation buttons.
When an app hasn’t yet been updated for the iPhone X screen, below, iOS 11 fills in the screen with black bands at the top and bottom of the screen in such a way as to not interfere with the Home Indicator and status information displayed on either side of the notch.
FaceID, in my opinion, is a transformative technology. In today’s world of heightened personal information security and constant electronic surveillance, strong pass-phrases are more important than ever. When strong security measures are implemented, usability can suffer. FaceID, I feel, is a good balance between strong security and ease of use. I like to think that I have good pass-phrase hygiene. With FaceID enabled on my iPhone X, I don’t think about passwords anymore. I just pick up my iPhone X, swipe up, and boom, my iPhone is unlocked. I didn’t have to think about entering a PIN or pass code. The FaceID technology in iPhone X quickly scanned my face, did lots of complicated math, and compared the result to the value stored in the Secure Enclave. It’s like magic.
FaceID, as mentioned before, just works with the iOS biometrics security platform of iOS 11. Any app that was written to take advantage of TouchID will work out of the box with FaceID. iOS fans always expect apps like Agile Bits 1Password to just work. However, when financial and shopping apps that have TouchID support automatically work with FaceID, that’s something special that delights customers. This level of integration is hard to come by on other mobile operating systems. Initially, I found the double-click the Power button mechanic of Apple Pay, FaceID, and iPhone X positioning relative to the NFC terminal to be a little bit more difficult to use than Apple Pay with TouchID, I have gotten use to the new way of doing things. The Power button double-click seemed a little odd, until I realized that the same steps are required to use Apple Pay on Apple Watch. I’m left handed, so when I use Apple Pay with FaceID , I have become accustomed to holding iPhone X in my right hand, using my right thumb to double-click the Power button to activate the FaceID authentication scan. In practicality, using FaceID to authorize Apple Pay payments is much easier than many tech bloggers thought it would be based on the accidental beta iOS 11 HomePod firmware leak that happened this past summer.
Rough Road for Early Adopters
There were a few things that were a little bumpy on launch day. My iPhone X arrived with an early version of iOS 11, either iOS 11.0.1 or 11.0.2. My iPhone 7 Plus already had the general release of iOS 11.1. Just before setting up my iPhone X, I backed up my iPhone 7 Plus to iCloud. When I tried to restore my iCloud backup to my iPhone X, I received an operating system mismatch error. In the excitement of the day, it took me almost an hour to understand what the error message was telling me. The fix was to setup iPhone X as a new device, upgrade to iOS 11.1, and then hard reset the X and then restore my iPhone 7 Plus iCloud backup. This really put a damper on the excitement of unboxing my iPhone X and getting to play with it.
I also had some trouble getting my Apple Watch (Series 0) to properly restore and sync up with iPhone X. I ended up unpairing and repairing my Watch twice before it finally worked correctly. I wasn’t able to determine exactly what was going wrong, and based on searching the Internet, some people had this problem too, but not everyone. Just more cold water on an otherwise exciting day.
As a tech nerd in the IT field, I could appreciate the massive technical undertaking it is to rollout a new version of iOS and three new iPhones during the same quarter. My technical side says these were minor issues. The Apple fan side of me found these problems to super frustrating one the one day of the year when I am overly excited about getting a new Apple product. Fortunately, problems like this don’t happen too often on iPhone launch day which is my equivalent to a developer’s and the tech media’s Apple WWDC week.
If you are a gadget lover, and if you are reading this blog, you probably are, I really think you are going to like the iPhone X. It has exceptional build quality, an amazing display, an incredible camera system, and the transformative FaceID system. Some changes to iOS 11 were necessary to accomodate the jettison of the Home button. After a few days to a week, the replacement gestures will start to feel natural. Early adopters who received their iPhone X on launch day, like my Dad and I, ran into some trouble getting things setup, but anyone buying an iPhone X now should be in the clear.
All of the tech news in the run up to iPhone X’s announcement this past September focused almost exclusively on the $999 starting price. While the iPhone X is expensive, if it is out of your price range, iPhone 8 and iPhone 7-series devices are great choices for people upgrading from older iPhones or coming into the Apple ecosystem from other smartphone platforms.