• apple,  business,  dell,  ipad pro,  ipados,  lifestyle

    The iPad Pro as a “Real” Computer

    Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

    The iPad Pro is a real computer. You might be thinking “Yeah, duh!” right now. Let me explain.

    I was recently working in my office – my corporate office for my job-y job, not my fun-with-computers home office – and I was using my company issued Dell Latitude laptop. I needed to jump on a conference call, so I undocked my laptop, opened the lid, and moved closer to the window for better lighting. I also wanted to charge my work-issued 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I decided to try to charge my iPad Pro from the USB-C cable from my Dell WD19TB USB-C/Thunderbolt dock.

    As expected, my iPad started charging immediately. What I wasn’t expecting was a few seconds after that, iPadOS 13.4 “attached” to the dock and started mirroring the screen, accepting input from my Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse, as well as connecting to the network.

    iPadOS 13.4’s wireless mouse and system-wide pointer support worked with my Logitech Unifying Receiver connected K750 keyboard and M510 mouse just as smoothly as it does on the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard or a Magic Trackpad 2. I am also using a Dell 32-inch 4k UltraSharp U3219Q monitor, which displayed the video output from the iPad crisply. With an Ethernet connection, I was able to use Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Mobile client to connect to Windows 10 and Windows Server machines. Files was able to connect to my frequently used SMB server, and I was able to use multiple FileMaker applications hosted on FileMaker servers with FileMaker Go.

    There are a few things that I found a little disorienting while using my iPad Pro in place of my Windows laptop. I am confident they will become second nature quickly, but I think that they are worth mentioning in case you, dear reader, want to try your own iPad Pro at work experience.

    First, the iPad Pro will go to sleep a lot faster than Windows will put my laptop to sleep. I am apprehensive leaving my iPad constantly connected to power for multiple hours after 100% charge was reached. Second was getting the K750 keyboard to wake up and work with the iPad was occasionally problematic. The M510 mouse never had an issue. As a security feature, the contents of password fields are not mirrored to the external monitor. I kept clicking into the password field thinking I missed the target for the cursor until I realized what was going on. Finally, I discovered that while the iPad saw the USB powered speaks that are connected to the dock, I was not able to play audio of audio of any kind from the iPad through the dock speakers. I will have to keep playing with the speakers to figure out what’s going on.

    Overall, I had an enjoyable afternoon working on my iPad Pro in place of my Windows 10 laptop. There are few specific tasks that I probably could have done on the iPad, but muscle memory makes those technical IT tasks quicker for me in Windows. Enabling hardware support for USB-C docks and accessories is not a glamorous headline grabbing iPadOS feature, but I’m glad it is there.

  • apple,  education,  enterprise,  wwdc

    WWDC 2020 Sessions for Enterprise and School IT Admins

    Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

    You would think that Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, WWDC, is just for software developers writing apps for the fruit company’s devices. After all, “developer” is in the name of the conference. Like me, however, you would be wrong.

    This year, Apple has elected to take this year’s WWDC conference online and make content available to anyone who is interested in learning about what’s new in their software platforms. I was surprised to see the Enterprise, IT, and Apps section of talks.

    This year’s sessions include topics for IT system administrators who use Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager. IT admins can learn more about automated device enrollment in mobile device management systems, customized onboarding and account creation, and app and software update deployment. One of the features that I am particularly interested in is “zero touch” device deployment. Zero touch deployments allow business or school IT teams to simply hand out Apple devices to their customers, have them unbox them, turn them on, connect to a Wi-Fi network and be setup in minutes. As an IT operations manager, I am very much interested in ways to improve the speed and consistency of deployments of PCs, mobile devices, and servers.

    If you are an IT administrator who supports Apple devices in the enterprise or at school, you will want to take a look at this year’s Enterprise, IT, and Apps videos near the bottom of the Apple Developer website or by downloading the Developer app.

  • apple,  ipad pro,  ipados,  keyboard

    Portrait or Landscape – Rethinking the iPad Pro

    Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

    The iPad, and now the iPad Pro, has been positioned by Apple as the Windows PC laptop alternative for the last few years. I feel that the time has come to make the iPad Pro a true laptop alternative. Three things have happened in the last year that has really changed my opinion.

    The first is iPadOS 13.4 and the iPad Magic Keyboard. Since the April release of iPadOS 13.4 I have been using a wireless mouse with my 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It has been a game changer. Excel and Numbers are now usable with pointer support. For the last two and half months, I have been using a wireless mouse with a USB-A wireless receiver. That required that I use a USB-C to USB-A adapter cable. The resulting dongle hanging off the right side of the iPad Pro felt like a clunky solution to an otherwise clean design of the iPad Pro. After purchasing an iPad Magic Keyboard, it felt like a complete work solution that was designed together. The new scissor switch keys feel great and the trackpad is capable of getting the job down without having to carry around another accessory and dongle. I briefly considered buying a Magic Mouse 2 or a Magic Trackpad 2. They would get right of the unsightly dongle, but neither would fix the extra accessory problem. The iPad Magic Keyboard is an integrated clean solution that feels great to use and compliments a 2018 or 2020 iPad Pro nicely. In 2010 Apple said that there is no wrong or right way to hold the iPad. In recent years however, with the release of Apple’s Smart Keyboards for iPad Pro, the iPad has been undergoing a subtle transformation into a landscape-oriented device. The landscape oriented embossed Apple logo on the back of the iPad Magic Keyboard is further evidence of the acceptance that the iPad Pro is a landscape-oriented device.

    The second thing is that the iPad Pro needs to change the front facing TrueDepth camera from the top bezel to the right bezel when the iPad Pro when held in portrait orientation. There has been a debate about the iPad for a long time. In keeping with the theme that the iPad Pro is a landscape device, having the TrueDepth camera along the left bezel, results in webcam video that is off center. With many people still working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, webcams and video conferences are going to remain an important tool for working and learning collaboratively. Embedding the TrueDepth camera along the top bezel, when docking in the Magic Keyboard, where it is on the MacBook, means that you will center centered video in tools like Microsoft Teams without negatively impacting the Face ID feature. For the non-Pro iPads, I would leave the camera right where it is. The camera location would then become another feature that distinguishes the two iPad lines from each other.

    The third thing that I would change with the iPad Pro would be the addition of a second USB-C port. The iPad Magic Keyboard, with its charging-only USB-C port attempts to mitigate this change. The USB-C charging port, on the left side of the Magic Keyboard, is nice. I can plug-in the charger and not have to worry about the iPad battery while I’m working at my desk. My personal preference, however, is that the USB-C port for data and input devices shouldn’t be so high along the right side of the device. I feel that using USB-C to A dongle adapters or hard drive cables up that high on the right is inviting disaster. By having the ports and cables lower on the iPad chassis, there is less chance that the iPad Pro or accessories will be damaged while reaching for something that is on my work surface.

    I have always thought of the iPad as a portrait device that goes landscape when being used for content creation. The 2018 and 2020 iPad Pros and the iPad Magic Keyboard are challenging me to think differently about how these devices are used. Taking into account the new design language of the iPad Pro models and the impressive utility of the iPad Magic Keyboard and the enhancements in iPadOS 13.4 for pointer support, I consider the iPad to be a device that fits the user’s needs, regardless of which way the logo appears on the back.

  • apple,  wwdc

    Online WWDC 2020

    On Monday, June 22, Apple is set to hold its annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). An annual event since 1987, this year’s event will be unlike any other. Due to COVID-19, WWDC20 will be a completely online event this year.

    The WWDC conference is an opportunity for developers of applications on Apple’s platforms to come together to learn about new features, attend technical sessions, and have one-on-one appointments with Apple engineers who are responsible for building and maintaining the operating systems and platform features that application are built upon. In previous years, developers would enter a lottery to purchase a $1,600 ticket to attend the weeklong conference. Anyone one has attended a business software user conference already has a good idea of what’s packed into WWDC week.

    There are two important keynote presentations during the week. The first is the morning’s Special Event Keynote lead by Apple CEO Tim Cook and his lieutenants. This presentation is intended for the media and customers as it focuses on the flashy new software that will start rolling out in September and throughout the coming 12 months. In short, this is the sneak peek at what will be included in the next release of iOS and Apple’s other operating systems and online software services. The second is the afternoon’s Platforms State of the Union keynote address. This is the first developer-y presentation of the week. This presentation lead by the software engineers lacks all of the glitz of the morning’s session but is the meat and potatoes that software developers who write for Apple platforms are here for.

    In addition to all of the first-party Apple events that take place during WWDC week, an entire cottage industry has sprung up around WWDC. During the same week, third-party conferences, most notably, Layers and AltConf take place. There are the live shows for popular Apple-focused podcasts such as The Talk Show Live, Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP) Live, and Relay FM’s Connected Live. These are all great conferences and podcasts to be sure and I enjoy watching them each year. For me specifically, a non-developer tech enthusiast, the proposition of attending WWDC, third-party conferences, or podcast live shows is just too costly. I really do miss the regional shows, like MacWorld Expo and New York Tech Expo. In 2020, holding large independent consumer shows just isn’t economical anymore when so much tech news is available online. (I also miss the printed MacWorld, MacWeek/PCWeek, and ComputerWorld magazines, but now I’m just showing my age as a cranky old man.)

    This year, COVID-19 has completely turned the tables for the week’s plans. The all-online format for WWDC should be more inclusive for everyone. The online format, for this year at least, eliminates the expensive ticket price. To gain full access to pre-release beta software and one-on-one sessions, a very reasonable $99 annual fee must be paid by serious developers. The added expenses for hotels, meals, and travel are also eliminated this year. In year’s past, being selected for the privilege to buy a ticket and then having to pay for all of the extras made attending WWDC a very costly endeavor. This year, the online format is a much more equitable situation that reduces costs and should allow more developers to participate. And that is a good thing for everyone, in my opinion.

  • apple,  lifestyle,  macintosh,  newton,  vintage

    These Old Macs

    One of the things that I have been doing to keep myself busy during the craziness that is the COVID-19 pandemic (please keep wearing your face coverings in public) is to refurbish some of the old Macintosh computers in my collection.

    In particular, I am working on a PowerMac G4 Quicksilver (2001) restoration and a PowerBook G3 (1998) repair. Neither machine is working right now, which is understandable since they are 19 and 22 years old, respectively. Rather than talk about each repair project, I figure it would be more helpful to share some of the resources that I have found online to help others repair and overhaul their vintage and obsolete status Macs.

    Repair Information and Manuals

    When many Mac enthusiasts think of repair guides and tear down instructions, we think of iFixit.com. They offer a great service for sure and I have ordered my share of repair kits from them. But they are not the only game in town.

    If you are looking to repair or restore an old PowerBook, you will want to take a look at PowerbookMedic.com. They have repair guides and reasonably priced spare parts to get your old MacBook back in top condition. They also offer some parts and repair services for the iMac and Mac mini.

    Another great site is AppleRepairManuals.com [http://www.applerepairmanuals.com/index.php#tools]. They have a wealth of information in the form of Apple service guides as well as other helpful tips that you will need while servicing your new and old Mac, iPod, Newton, or Lisa.

    Finding Spare Parts for Your TLC Project

    Once you have found the part number for the component that needs replacing, sure, you can use eBay. Many of my component searches start there. But there are other online retail options that specialize in vintage hardware. Depending on the Mac, Other World Computing (OWC) might have the part. I recently purchased an inexpensive PRAM battery from them for the G4. OWC also has a neat IDE/ATA to SATA adapter and SSD conversion kits. Once I have the G4 booting again, I plan to replace an old spinning hard disk with a 120GB SATA SSD. That should give that old boy a nice little speed bump.

    One of my new favorite sites for spare parts is UsedMac.com. Need a replacement IDE drive for your Mac, a floppy drive for your PowerBook, or an external Jaz drive? No problem. I just recently ordered a 6GB 2.5″ IDE notebook drive from them. It was super cheap.

    The Newton

    I came to the Newton late in its life. Like weeks before Steve Jobs came back to Apple and killed it late. I am still intrigued by the Newton and how cool it looks. Old Newtons and eMate portables can still be found on eBay. But sometimes you need that special part. For all things Newton, you will want to check out these great resources.

    Newton Research offers a modern version of the Newton Connection Utilities that will run on modern versions of Mac OS. I was able to connect my Newton MessagePad 2100 to my Macbook Pro 2016 with Mojave.

    Chuma.org has a good write up for how to get Ethernet working on your MessagePad.

    Don’t forget UGreen’s USB 2.0 Type A to RS232 DB9 serial cable. This UGreen cable has a built-in FTDI serial converter so you won’t need a driver on the Mac / Windows PC side to get your Newton to connect and sync.

    Software

    Restoring hardware is only half of the equation. Once you have restored your computer, you may need to download and OS for it. Let’s face it, 1.4MB floppies, in my collection at least, aren’t holding up well. CDs are holding up much better. Regardless if you are the victim of bit rot, scratched discs, or may not be the most organized person in the world, the Internet has you covered.

    MacintoshRepository.org has a wide selection of Apple system software for the Mac, Apple //, and the Lisa. WinWorld’s library of Apple-related software is rather extensive with disk images for System Software 0-6, Mac OS and Mac OS X. You can also download A/UX and NeXTStep.

  • apple,  hackintosh,  mac,  mac os x,  vintage

    Apple Clones and the “Hackintosh”

    In the world of technology, there are clones and then there are hacks. Depending on who’s point of view is being used and when, clones and hacks can have both positive or negative connotations. Take for instance the well documented case of Samsung outright cloning, or copying, many aspects of early iPhone hardware and software. When talking about personal computers, Macintosh and Apple // clones are fully licensed machines while “Hackintosh” PCs are unauthorized illegal work-alike machines.

    In Apple’s long history of making computer for the rest of us, few companies have received special status from Apple to make Macintosh clones. In the mid-1990s, PowerComputing’s PowerWave 604/132 and the UMax SuperMac S900/200 are two examples of favored status Macintosh clones.

    A Hackintosh computer on the other hand, is an unlicensed personal computer built from commodity hardware and modified in such as way as to boot the macOS/MacOS/OS X operating system. To do so, one must bypass Apple’s licensing restrictions and copy protections. Hacked copies of Apple’s computers are nothing new. Dating back to the 1980s, the VTech Laser 128 and the Franklin Corporation Franklin Ace 100 were two popular, and unlicensed, Apple // clones. The name “Hackintosh” itself is an amalgamation of the words “hack” and “Macintosh”. In Apple’s view, a Hackintosh is a very bad thing. From the point of tech enthusiasts, a Hackintosh is a call back to the early days of computing when tinkering with hardware and software to make something new or work in ways that were not intended by the original thing is exciting and challenging.

    In my view, having worked with both PowerComputing PowerWave “Macs” and a “Hackintosh” or two, the experience is a little bit of both. While PowerComputing boxes were fully licensed clones of the Apple PowerMacintosh PCs of the day, and could boot and use current versions of classic MacOS, I always felt that the commodity hardware was inferior to the more expensive components in Apple’s PCs. For example, after ordering a fleet of 12 PowerWave towers, six of them were defective right out of the box.

    Tinkering with a Dell Mini 9 netbook to coax it into running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was both a fun science project and an oddity in the office after many of the Macs had been replaced with Windows PCs. The amount of hacking the Dell netbook to install a modified version of the computer’s BIOS and hardware driver software was not for the uninitiated.

    One the plus side, a Hackintosh offers an enthusiast a number of configuration and optimization options that are just not possible with an official Macintosh. The ability to use any case style or video card are just two examples. One big draw of a Hackintosh PC is price. Hackintoshes offer a means to get the same or better raw computing performance out of readily available hardware at a much lower price. I remember the point about price being promoted in an old computer book I purchased in the early 1990s titled “How to Build a Cat Mac”. Remember the time when we actually went to a book store to buy books? The premise of the book is that you would take the motherboard out of an old Mac and retrofit it into a PC case and use PC components with it. Unable to afford a Mac as an early teen, let alone take it part to tinker with it, building a Cat Mac was not an option back then, even if I did find the idea of building my own customized Mac fascinating.

    However, there are some significant downsides to using clones and Hackintosh PCs. For one, Hackintosh computers are not legal from a software licensing perspective. While not usually a serious issue for a home enthusiast, trying to build a business around selling Hackintosh computers to consumers is a precarious position at best. Such was the case for Psystar Corporation and OpenCore Computer currently. For me personally, inferior battery life on the Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh was a deal breaker as was having to wait for authorized clone makers to update and release their modified versions of MacOS and driver software after Apple released the software for the Macintosh. For me, not having the latest and greatest software bits to play with is a deal breaker. While I am glad that Hackintosh computers exist from a hobbyist standpoint, I much prefer to have a computer and operating system that just work. While I don’t have my Laser 128, my Dell Mini 9 netbook, or even my old Cat Mac book, I do remember all three fondly and am grateful that I was able to learn from and tinker with them.

  • apple,  mac os x,  macbook,  macbook air,  macbook pro,  macintosh

    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.
  • apple,  itunes,  itunes store,  macintosh

    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.

  • apple,  apple store,  iphone 11 pro

    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?