How to Display the Sidebar in Apple’s Photos App for OS X

When Apple released iTunes 12, they got rid of the useful sidebar that displays media libraries, devices, playlists, and more. I explained how to restore it, sort of.

The Photos app, recently released as part of the OS X 10.10.3 update, hides the sidebar by default. If you used iPhotos, the sidebar was a practical way of viewing a lot of top-level information about your photo library. For example, it displays entries for All Photos, Last Import, and your photo albums.

To display the sidebar in Photos, choose View > Show Sidebar, or press Command-Option-S. Your sidebar will display like this:

Photos sidebar

You can hide it again using the same menu item (now Hide Sidebar) or keyboard shortcut if you wish.

Apple Explains How to Remove Adware From Your Mac

For a long time, Apple shied away from discussing any types of malware: viruses, trojan horses, even adware. This latter form of malware is also called ad-injection software, and, as Apple says, “come from third-party download sites.” This can result in annoying ads popping up on your Mac, or being inserted into web pages. Again, quoting Apple:

“If your Mac has ad-injection software installed, you might see pop-up windows, ads, and graphics while surfing the web, even if “Block pop-up windows” is selected in Safari preferences. Ad-injection software might also change your homepage and preferred search engine.”

Apple has created a technical document, Remove unwanted adware that displays pop-up ads and graphics on your Mac, explaining how to get rid of these annoyances. But it’s not that simple. You need to check a lot of system folders for obscure files, such as com.genieo.completer.update.plist, com.VSearch.bulk.installer, or com.genieoinnovation.macextension.client.plist. And some of the file names may vary, so Apple explains how to look for files that may contain any of a number of different words.

This is all quite disturbing, and highlights the risks of installing software from many third-party websites. But it’s not just these sites that install crap like this; Oracle recently added adware to its OS X Java installer.

So what should you do? Most commercial antivirus software will remove adware, but it’s best to have a look in the folders that Apple mentions in its document. I actually check those folders from time to time, because software that I’ve tried out can leave files behind which may launch processes that I don’t need to have running. It’ll take a few minutes, but if you are seeing unwanted ads on your Mac, you should definitely do it.

Book Review: Becoming Steve Jobs

Becoming steve jobs coverBecoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli (, Amazon UK).

It’s on page 392 that the penny drops. Tim Cook is quoted as saying:

“I thought the [Walter] Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice. It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality. You get the feeling that [Steve’s] a greedy, selfish, egomaniac. It didn’t capture the person. The person I read about there is somebody I would never have wanted to work with over all this time.”

Much has been written, since the publication of Becoming Steve Jobs, about the way Apple’s senior executives not only disliked the Isaacson book – the only authorized biography of Jobs, by an author that Jobs chose himself, and with whom he gave more than forty interviews – and how much they stand behind this new book. The Isaacson book does, indeed, portray a Steve Jobs that I would not want to have worked with. I read much of the Isaacson book, but skipped over large parts of it, because the picture it painted was so negative.

Yet perhaps this is who Steve Jobs was. In Becoming Steve Jobs, the authors point out that they wanted to show the Steve Jobs 2.0, to explain how he became a better person after going through the many events between the founding of Apple and his return to the company. Yet they say, “Of course, he could be a difficult man, even late in his life. For some people, he was hellish to work for.” But they later say that “The cliché that Steve Jobs was half genius, half asshole is based largely on his actions during the nine years that constituted his first tenure at Apple.”

Skip ahead a couple of chapters. “Steve was as erratic and verbally abusive at NeXT as he was anywhere else during his career.” So that “cliché” wasn’t just based on the first nine years? Throughout the book, this thread is omnipresent, at Apple, then at NeXT, and again at Apple.

I found it perplexing to read this sentence: “Among other things, Buddhism made him feel justified in constantly demanding nothing less than what he deemed to be ‘perfection’ from others, from the products he would create, and from himself.” As one who has practiced Buddhist meditation for some 25 years, there is nothing in Buddhist teachings that justifies demanding perfection from others; quite the contrary. Buddhism teaches a “middle way,” where one learns to find the balance between too much and too little, too harsh and too lenient. While he claims to have practiced Buddhist meditation, and even had a regular teacher, nothing in Steve Jobs’ attitude fits with anything that could be called Buddhist.

But is that all one should take away from Steve Jobs’ life? He was a man with a singular vision, and the ability to hypnotize people into believing him; the famous “reality distortion field.” He ushered in three major revolutions: the first personal computers, the iPod, which changed the way people listen to music, and the iTunes Store, which changed the way the music industry works. Add to that his success at Pixar, and Jobs is certainly one of the defining people of the past fifty years.

The book is thorough, and covers all of Jobs’ professional life, but is riddled with small errors. MacWorld is not spelled like that (it’s Macworld). Microsoft’s little paper clip assistant was called Clippy, not Clippit. Jobs didn’t banish Flash from iPhones because of a grudge (at least not entirely), but because it was unstable and a memory hog. And Microsoft Excel was not “designed from the bottom up to work with MS-DOS and then Windows,” it was first designed as a Mac app. I stopped marking errors about halfway through the book, but anyone in the business, and especially those who follow Apple, will have found quite a few others. I’ve also been told that the audiobook narrator pronounces OS X as “O S ex.”

This biography suffers from an excessive amount of chumminess. One of the authors – Brent Schlender – had a long relationship with Jobs, both as a journalist, but later as a friend. As such, he calls his subject “Steve” throughout the book, not Jobs. He includes a number of personal anecdotes, which sometimes seem like this is more a memoir than an objective biography.

And there is one important thing missing from this book. Steve Jobs is known for the objects that he helped create, and that his companies marketed. There are no pictures of any of them. Most people know what recent Macs look like, but not as many have seen an Apple 1, a NeXT computer, the first iPod, or the old candy-colored iBooks. I think this book should be full of pictures – if only black and white line graphics – to illustrate what Jobs was working on over the years, as well as other products that are mentioned in the book like the eMate and Newton.

I found this to be an easy read, if not a page-turner. For those who don’t know much about Jobs’ career, this book is be full of interesting details. It explains how Jobs was instrumental in changing the computer industry, and gives a glimpse into the evolution of personal computers.

As to whether we need another biography of Steve Jobs so soon, that all goes back to the quote on page 392 that I cited above. I wonder if this project was initiated by Apple, and not by the authors. The picture this book paints of Steve Jobs may be honest and accurate, but it’s not that much better than what Isaacson wrote. Jobs remains a man who was demanding, yet difficult, who was undoubtedly hard to work with for all but a few of his top executives. He was a complex main, who made great products.

How Will Apple Deal with Supply and Demand for the Apple Watch?

With the Apple Watch, Apple is entering a new retail channel. As MacRumors points out, Apple is opening Apple Watch shops in several department stores, such as Galleries Lafayette in Paris, Selfridges in London, and Isetan in Tokyo.

But in this type of retail channel, watches that are displayed are in stock. You don’t go to a store like that to see an item and find that you can’t buy it, and, if you order it, you must wait a month or more for delivery.

Apple, however, is used to this type of supply constraint. When a new iPhone goes on sale, early birds get day-and-date delivery, while those who order a few hours later may need to wait from a week to a month, or even more, to get their phones. We’re used to this with new tech gadgets; we wouldn’t buy blue jeans if we had to pre-order them.

Leaving aside the luxury watch market – the $10 – $17K Apple Watch models – if I go into a store to buy a watch, I’d expect to be able to walk out with my purchase. This is the case for anything I’d buy in a department store. This will most likely not be the case with the Apple Watch. Apple will be displaying all the models, and will only be able to sell those in stock, or take orders.

Apple is entering new territory in this type of retail channel. I wonder how consumers will react. I don’t think they’ll be happy about any lack of stock, which will undoubtedly occur when the Apple Watch is released.

New Book Becoming Steve Jobs Available Today

Becoming steve jobs coverA new biography of Steve Jobs has been released today. Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli (, Amazon UK), tells a different story from that of Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography. According to the publisher’s blurb:

“Drawing on incredible and sometimes exclusive access, Schlender and Tetzeli tell a different story of a real human being who wrestled with his failings and learned to maximize his strengths over time. Their rich, compelling narrative is filled with stories never told before from the people who knew Jobs best, and who decided to open up to the authors, including his family, former inner circle executives, and top people at Apple, Pixar and Disney, most notably Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Robert Iger and many others. In addition, Brent knew Jobs personally for 25 years and draws upon his many interviews with him, on and off the record, in writing the book. He and Rick humanize the man and explain, rather than simply describe, his behavior. Along the way, the book provides rich context about the technology revolution we all have lived through, and the ways in which Jobs changed our world.”

I got a copy of the book today, and hope to post a review by the end of the week.

Six Colors: The MacBook doesn’t need you to love it, but someone will

A long time ago I learned an important lesson about being a product reviewer: Always consider the audience for a product. They’re who you’re writing for. I have a recent-model MacBook Air, so am unlikely to be interested in buying a new MacBook–but the facts of my personal relationship with technology should not really matter when I’m thinking about the bigger picture.

I think about that a lot at times like this, because I suspect a lot of the reaction to the MacBook among people who follow technology and Apple on the Internet comes from a similar place. People are often offended when a product exists that they wouldn’t buy, one that isn’t even targeted at them.

We are so used to Apple making shiny new stuff that we want to buy, that when a device appears whose design decisions are completely at odds with what we value, it’s off-putting. And that’s one reason why the MacBook (and the Apple Watch Edition, for that matter) drive some people batty.

Jason Snell nails it. Not every Apple product is for everyone.

I had the original MacBook Air, back in 2008, with the SSD. (I didn’t buy it; it was a gift from a client.) It was an overpriced computer – even more so with the SSD – but, wow, it was sleek and that SSD made up for any lack of speed the processor offered.

I loved that computer. I used it for about three years, then handed it down; it was still working until about a year ago.

I currently have a 13″ retina MacBook Pro as my second computer. It’s two years old, and it’s time for an upgrade. So the new Mac Book is for me. I don’t care if it’s not blazingly fast; it’ll still be faster than I need for a laptop. I’ve got a retina iMac for the stuff that hits the processor.

I get how some people are still holding on to old habits of using USB sticks to transfer data. Sneakernet’s still a thing, apparently? Not only has Apple tried to make the wireless transfer of files easier via AirDrop (when it works), but these days it’s easier than ever to share files via Dropbox and Google Drive and the like. Most people don’t need to use USB flash drives regularly. Apple shouldn’t build new tech to support people who are reluctant to give up old habits.

I actually often use sneakernet to transfer data to and from the MacBook Pro; or at least I did until recently. I had a two-year old AirPort Extreme, and only got about 3-4 MB/sec. I upgraded to the latest model, and I now get about 15 MB/sec; this is good, but I think we need faster wireless. If I’m copying a movie from my iMac to my laptop, it shouldn’t take ten minutes over wi-fi.

via Six Colors: The MacBook doesn’t need you to love it, but someone will.

The New MacBook May Not Be for Everyone, But it Might Be Right for You

Macbook select spacegray 201501While the Apple Watch introduced on Monday was a new product for Apple, the company also showcased a new laptop, the MacBook (without modifier). This new addition to Apple’s notebook product line is lighter than the MacBook Air (so it should be, perhaps, the MacBook Helium?), and comes with a raft of new features: a new keyboard, extended battery life, a new trackpad and more. The MacBook is also Apple’s first fanless notebook, meaning that the only moving parts are the keyboard and trackpad. This ensures that it is the quietest Mac ever made, and the lack of fan also saves a bit of energy. (To be fair, while the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro have fans, you only hear them when using processor-intensive applications.)

But the main difference between this computer and other laptops is its single USB-C port for connecting peripherals. (There is also a standard headphone jack.) As such, this Mac isn’t for everyone. But is it right for you?

I write this article on my MacBook Pro, a 13″ retina model that’s about two years old. It weighs 3.57 lbs, just a tad more than the current retina MacBook Pro, which weighs 3.46 lbs. Compared to the MacBook Air, this is a heavy computer; even the first MacBook Air, which I had back in 2008, weighed 3 lbs, and the current 13″ model is just under that at 2.96 lbs. The new MacBook weighs a mere 2.03 lbs, or less than a liter of water (0.93 kg). The new MacBook still a bit heavier than the first iPad – 1.5 lbs – but it’s truly a featherweight.

So the new MacBook is clearly designed for people who want a light computer to carry around with them. But there has been a resounding chorus of complaints about the lack of ports. These are similar to the gripes that were heard when Apple removed the floppy disc drive or the optical drive from their computers, but Apple is betting on the wireless capabilities of this Mac to provide much of the connectivity that people need.

Most people don’t need two Macs, but I do. In my home office, I have a retina iMac, and the 13″ MacBook Pro. I use the latter as my second Mac: it is insurance in case my main Mac needs repairs, so I can keep working. It is a test Mac, so I can try out software, or even new operating systems, without compromising my main computer. And it’s the computer I use when I want to just write, and not be distracted by everything that is on my iMac’s 27″ display, sitting comfortably in a leather Stressless chair in my office, instead of sitting at my desk.

I rarely need to connect any peripherals to this device. I do sometimes connect a microphone, via USB, to use Dragon Dictate, but I also have Bluetooth microphones that I could use. (The microphone I use, the Plantronics Savi 745 (, Amazon UK) is by far the best microphone I’ve tested for speech recognition, which is why I prefer it over any Bluetooth headset.) I occasionally connect an external hard drive to my MacBook Pro to copy files, or to clone the operating system. But I run Time Machine backups to a server, over Wi-Fi, so most of my backups are wireless.

I can easily imagine using the new MacBook and not worrying about the single port. I can get an adapter that lets me connect a USB 3 hard drive, or my microphone, when needed.

However, I understand that power users (I hate this term, but there’s nothing better), who only have a single Mac, will find this new MacBook to be lacking. Apple is selling a number of adapters, such as the USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter, which provides USB-C, USB 3.1 and HDMI connectors. But at $79, this is a pretty expensive dongle. You’ll also be able to buy a $19 USB-C to USB Adapter, which will allow you to connect a legacy USB device. And there will certainly be a number of third-part docking devices with multiple ports, for those who need them.

One thing that’s missing from the new MacBook is Thunderbolt support. None of the adapters that Apple shows so far manage this connector. And display port too; for now, there seems to be no way to connect an external monitor. But, again, this is not a Mac for power users; this is a Mac for people who either use their computers for basic tasks, or as a second Mac.

The MacBook line now contains three models: the MacBook Pro, the power user’s computer; the MacBook Air, a light Mac, with a few ports, but not a retina display; and the new MacBook. I predict that the MacBook Air will fade away before the end of the year, leaving only two devices: one for power users, and one for everyone else.

So, is the MacBook for you? If you see yourself in the above description, either wanting a second Mac, or only using your Mac for limited tasks, then, yes. It’s small, light, has a retina display, and very long battery life. However, if your laptop is on your desk, with several devices connected to it – especially an external display – then, no, it’s not for you.

Why the Apple Watch Can’t Be Very Thin

Reading the recent New Yorker profile of Jony Ive, I realized something about the Apple Watch.

“Ive places the new watch in a history of milestone Apple products that were made possible by novel input devices: Mac and mouse; iPod and click wheel; iPhone and multitouch. A ridged knob on the watch’s right side–the Digital Crown–took its form, and its name, from traditional watchmaking. The watch was always expected to include a new technology that had long been in development at Apple: a touchscreen that sensed how hard a finger was pressing it. (A press and a tap could then have different meanings, like a click and a double-click.) But the Digital Crown, a device for zooming that compensated for the difficulty of pinching or spreading fingers on a tiny screen, was ordered up by the studio. In a reverse of “skinning,” Ive asked Apple’s engineers to make it. In time, the crown’s role grew to include scrolling through lists.”

I realized that the Apple Watch can’t be very thin. Unlike a watch that you wind once a day, where you can either take the watch off to wind it, or pull it away from your wrist to grasp the crown, you need access to the digital crown all the time. As such, there has to be enough room under the digital crown to be able to grasp it.

Apple watch digital crown2

As you can see in the photo of the Apple Watch, the device is fairly thick, partly because the body itself is thick, and partly because of the sensors that protrude underneath the body. Unlike the iPad and MacBook Air, Apple will be limited in the device’s thickness, in part, because of the digital crown. Not only because of its diameter – it’s much larger than the crown of a watch – but by the fact that you need to be able to turn it comfortably, at any time. You can see that the digital crown is not centered according to the thickness of the watch; it’s a bit higher than the center line, because you need to be able to get a finger underneath it.

Apple will certainly be able to make a smaller digital crown, but there will still have to be enough leeway to be able to use it.

So, while the first Apple Watch certainly looks clunky, I don’t think we can expect a radically thinner model in the foreseeable future, at least as long as the digital crown is one of the main ways of interacting with the device.

About Those Apple Car Rumors

Rumors abound that Apple is going to make a car. Would it make sense for Apple to do this? Sure, they have the money. And the idea of an electric car sounds very “Apple-cool.” (Though electric cars merely move the pollution to power plants; they don’t reduce it.)

But when you think about it, it would be foolish for Apple to build a car. There are many reasons, such as the immense technical resources needed (they’d have to build huge plants), and the amount of time it would take to ramp up production. If they were planning to build a car, it would be years away.

Former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée writes about the Apple car rumors, and points out several reasons why they doesn’t add up. He highlights the low profit margins in the automobile industry (around 4% for Ford), and the fact that “there is no Moore’s Law for cars.” In other words, cars don’t scale, and they don’t increase in performance and lower in price over time.

But there’s also all the after-sales service issues.

“Apple’s life today is relatively simple. It sells small devices that are easily transported back to the point of sale for service if needed. No brake lines to flush, no heavy and expensive batteries and cooling systems, no overseeing the installation and maintenance of home and public chargers. And consider the trouble Tesla faces with entrenched auto dealers who oppose Tesla selling cars directly in some states. Apple doesn’t need these headaches.”

Apple is certainly working on improving their CarPlay system; that’s probably what that Apple car seen in the wild is for, and why they’ve hired designers from the automobile industry. But it makes no sense for Apple to make a car; it’s too far from their current product line, and couldn’t be added on to its existing sales and service networks.

As Gassée concludes:

“The fantastic Apple Car is a fantasy.”

Before we start patting Apple on the back, let’s not. Expectations shouldn’t be so low that we applaud when tech companies forbid abusive behavior. This should’ve been prohibited from the beginning. After all, Apple knew that at least eight of its supplier factories were using bonded labor back in 2013, two audit reports ago.

Um, yeah… But also:

After all, this isn’t just an issue with Apple. It is something that every tech company with overseas suppliers needs to stop.

via Apple JUST Got Around to Banning 'Bonded Servitude' In Its Factories .