If you have a new MacBook, you have probably bought a USB-C cable. That’s the new connector that only the MacBook – at least for Apple’s products – uses. But Google’s Chromebook Pixel and Pixel C tablet also use this connector, and an engineer who works on these products has been reviewing cables on Amazon.com.
Benson Leung has so far reviewed 14 such cables, and he explains, for the bad ones, that:
This cable does not correctly follow the USB Type C specification Release 1.1. […]
Specifically, using this charging cable, the Chromebook Pixel and other USB Type-C devices will attempt to draw 3A of current over the cable, potentially damaging the USB hub or charger on the A side, which is not guaranteed to be rated at 3A.
He concludes his reviews of the bad cables by saying:
For consumers, I do not recommend buying this cable, as it may cause damage to your charger, hub, or PC USB ports.
Not all cables are bad. For example, a Belkin cable meets the requirements. Leung says:
Belkin’s USB Type-C to USB Type-A Charge and Data cable is excellent. This cable meets the USB Type C Specification, […]
This cable as as good as the ones that Apple and Google provide with and sell on their stores as accessories. The one downside is that the cable is $19.99, which is the same price as the Google one, for example. The advantage of Belkin, though, is that it is not perpetually sold out like the 1st party cables.
Buy this cable if you want a reliable cable that is practically the same as a 1st party cable from Google or Apple.
So if you do plan to buy a USB-C cable, check out these reviews first.
I got Apple’s new Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard yesterday, and I wrote my first impressions. I like the keyboard a lot, but I really don’t like the trackpad, and I’m planning to return it. It’s too wide, the Force Touch feature is useless, and it’s way too expensive. ($129 in the US; £109 here.) That’s 11% of the price of the base iMac ($1099).
But why, exactly, is it so expensive? What’s so special about it? Part of the cost is clearly the large rechargeable battery the device contains, but paying twice the price to avoid using my own replaceable batteries makes no sense. Yes, trackpads eat up batteries very quickly; I generally get 3-4 weeks of use with mine, compared to several months with the wireless keyboard.
Is it the Force Touch technology? If so, then it’s simply wasted. I quickly found that Force Touch gets invoked when I manipulate items in the Finder (Command-click one item, then the next, and drag them; Quick Look pops up). If I were to keep this trackpad, I’d have to turn that feature off, since I often click and drag items in the Finder.
So why is it expensive? I really don’t know. Some people will like the larger surface; I’ve found that even with the previous model, I only use about half of the surface. (I use the trackpad by manipulating with my first two fingers on the right side of the pad, so my third and fourth fingers can rest on my desk. Otherwise, those fingers cause confusion on the trackpad.)
I do appreciate the trackpad not being as deep; it matches the depth of the new keyboard, which is more than enough to perform almost any gesture on the device. But the width is just overkill.
Unless there’s some hidden feature in the new Magic Trackpad, it’s an overpriced device, poorly designed, which isn’t at all practical.
Note: As my friend Rob Griffiths has pointed out, the Magic Trackpad – as well as the new Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard – comes with a lightning cable, which Apple sells for $19. (You can, of course, get third-party cables much cheaper). But this does explain part of the price difference between the original Magic Trackpad and the new model. The battery is also part of the price, but it’s still a big jump to go from $79 to $129.
FileVault 2 can make nations quake, apparently, but it’s just a bit of good information hygiene, letting you make choices about the degree of vulnerability you want to tolerate for your locally stored data and any software or stored passwords for services in your accounts. With it off, you’re not risking everything, but with it on, you have a high degree of assurance about who can access what.
My son’s MacBook Air got stolen last year when his apartment was burglarized. We spent a lot of time together changing passwords. With File Vault, we wouldn’t have had to do that. I strongly recommend using File Vault.
If you’ve just bought a new Mac, and you’re upgrading from an older computer, you want all of your files and data to be accessible on the new machine. But when setting up a new Mac, should you migrate or do a clean installation?
When you buy a new Mac, it might be a good idea to do a clean installation; starting from scratch, with a brand-new operating system, and adding the files that you need manually. Here’s how to migrate your files to your new Mac, or do a clean installation, and the pros and cons of both methods.
You know it could happen some day: you might lose your iPhone, iPad or laptop. If you’ve activated Find My iPhone (or the similarly named feature for other devices), you’ll get an approximate location for the device, but if it’s in an apartment building or office building, or if there’s no Wi-Fi or cellular access, you might not be able to track it down precisely.
If someone finds your device, it would be good to make it easy for them to get in touch and return the device to you. There are plenty of Good Samaritans out there, and it’s worth preparing your device so if one does find it, they can contact you.
Essentially, you want to add contact information to your device, in a way that anyone who turns it on can find your name, email address and phone number (obviously not your iPhone’s number), and get in touch. An easy way would be to paste a sticker on your device, but that might be ugly and it could wear out. Why not add contact information to the lock screens of your Macs and iOS devices? It’s easy.
Apple is obsessed with thinness. With an obsession that rivals that of the CPU clock speed days, Apple touts thinness for many of its devices.
Look at the new (poorly named) iPad Air 2; the first text you see on Apple’s website is:
“So capable, you won’t want to put it down.
So thin and light, you won’t have to.”
For the iPhone 6, it’s a bit different. They start with bigness, then go to thinness:
“iPhone at its largest.
And the MacBook Air:
“Thin. Light. Powerful.
And ready for anything.”
And then there’s the iMac:
“Creating such a stunningly thin design took equally stunning feats of technological innovation.”
Apple marketed the current iMac models as being thinner, even though the thinness of a desktop computer is not a valid selling point.
Since Apple no longer touts the clock speeds of its devices – at least not as the leading argument in their marketing pitches – thin is the new fast. The problem is that this thinness is getting less and less important; with each iteration of a device such as an iPad or iPhone, the company shaves a few millimeters off the thickness, making very little difference, but giving them a marketing message that, in the end, means little.
The difference between the current iPad Air and last year’s model is so slight as to not make a difference. The newer model is 1.4 mm thinner than the previous one; the difference in weight is a mere 34 g, or just over an ounce. The iPhone 6 is only 0.7 mm thinner than the iPhone 5s, yet it’s still thicker than the iPod touch. But it doesn’t matter; the difference in thickness and weight are inconsequential.
Metric such as size are valid at certain times. When the MacBook Air was released – nearly five years ago – the difference in thickness and weight, compared to other Apple laptops, was tremendous. At 3 lbs, it was 2/3 the weight of the first aluminum MacBook with the same display size: the aluminum MacBook, released later that year, weighed in at 4.5 lbs. And the plastic MacBook, released shortly after the MacBook Air, weight 5 lbs. Those are big differences.
Yet Apple hasn’t changed the MacBook Air much in five years; it’s still just under 3 lbs (2.96 to be exact), and it’s only a few hairs thinner. The MacBook Air has hit the thinness wall. The same thing will happen to other Apple products.
Apple has nearly reached the limit of thinness. Compare the original iPad and iPhone to the current models; the differences are noticeable. But as each generation shaves a couple of millimeters off the thickness, there’s not much point any more. It’s getting harder to make devices any thinner. Already, the iPhone’s camera has to stick out because the body of the device is too thin. (This was already the case with the iPod touch, whose camera also protrudes.) Apple soon won’t be able to shave even a half a millimeter off its devices, and they’ll have to find a new marketing message.
Thin is near the end of its life as a marketing argument. Maybe it’s time to switch to something else: something that has a lot more value to users, such as battery life.
On this, the occasion of its 14th birthday, we’re gathered here to mark the passing of Mac OS X Hints.
While it can be hard to tell exactly when a web site has died, the signs are fairly obvious. It’s been over 45 days since the last new hint appeared on the site. There is no way for new users to sign up for an account. There’s been one new comment posted in the last two days. A sidebar box proudly proclaims Latest Mountain Lion Hints. The site design, logo, and icons were last updated when I worked for Macworld, over four years ago. To paraphrase a Star Trek character, “it’s dead, Jim.”
I worked on the Mac OS X Hints web site for many years. I got to know Rob Griffiths, who founded the site, way back when, probably a couple of years after he launched this site. I worked with him writing a few chapters of a book which collected hints (whose title was so dumb, I won’t mention it). Subsequently, I filled in for Rob when he took vacations, took time off when his kids were born, and then, when he left Macworld, I took over as site editor for a while.
I’ll miss the site. It had lots of great information.
I got my 5K iMac early this morning, and immediately migrated my data from my Mac Pro. My first impressions of this Mac are simply this: Wow!
I haven’t done much yet; nothing that taxes the processors to be able to see how fast it is. I did get the faster processor and better video card, though; I want this Mac to be future-proof for a few years.
What really stands out – and the reason I wanted this iMac – is the retina display. I’ve been using retina MacBook Pros for a couple of years, and I always missed the crisp display when I came back to my 27″ Thunderbolt display.
This display is simply amazing. If you’re thinking of getting this iMac for the display, you have to see it; it will blow you away. Finally, with a display like this, computing is moving to a new level. When you work on a computer all day long, as I do, especially with text, it should look like this.
I’m a bit perplexed about the number of pixels in the display. The Displays preferences say it has the same relative number of pixels as the 27″ Thunderbolt display, but when I fired it up, after transferring all my data from the Mac Pro, all the windows show more than before.
One thing I’ve had to do is up the size of the sidebar icons (System Preferences > General > Sidebar Icon Size) and the iTunes list font (iTunes > Preferences > General > List Size). It seems that everything, at the default resolution, is smaller than before, even though the Displays preferences says the relative resolution is 256 x 1440. On the other hand, I haven’t changed my font sizes in Mail; they look fine, perhaps because they are so crisp.
The display is also very bright. With my Thunderbolt display, I usually had the brightness at the highest setting (during the day); with the iMac, I’ve got it about two thirds of the way up.
I’ll do some real-world testing later, when I get the additional RAM I’ve ordered (I’m adding another 16 GB, though, so far, even with 8 GB, everything seems to run just fine; I could probably have settled with only adding another 8 GB, but I’m thinking ahead.) For now, if you have a chanced to see this Mac, go take a gander at the display. It’s amazing!
Update: I decided to convert a video with Handbrake and see what happens. The fan is quite audible; not “loud” as such, but getting there. The Mac Pro, on the other hand, is ventilated better, so even when doing the same type of activity, you can barely hear the fan. The vent is on the back of the iMac, in the center; this may have been the case with other iMacs; I haven’t had one in years, but my Thunderbolt display had a vent at the bottom left of the display.
The noise is loud enough that I wouldn’t want to do this kind of activity while I’m working, whereas, with the Mac Pro, it didn’t bother me. It quiets down within about 30 seconds after Handbrake stops.
Update: After using the iMac for a while with only 8 GB RAM, I started running into a few issues: I couldn’t past graphics into Messages without it beachballing; I had typing lags in an app; and there were some graphics glitches. I got my additional RAM late in the day, and now have 24 GB in the iMac, but this underscores an interesting point. Apple shouldn’t sell a Mac like this with only 8 GB RAM. Sure, they want to upset you on more factory-installed RAM at a high price, but this leads to a bad customer experience. The Mac Pro, which is a tad slower than the iMac (in its base configuration) comes with 12 GB; the iMac should come with more. I probably don’t need 24 GB; 16 would be sufficient. But 8 is not enough.
Last year, after I had had my iPhone 5s for a while, I wrote about how I want Touch ID everywhere. I have a new iPad Air 2, which has Touch ID, so the two mobile devices I use most let me unlock them with my fingerprints. It’s not as big a deal on the iPad, because I don’t use it anywhere near as much as my iPhone, but it’s nice to have.
But I want Touch ID everywhere (at least on all my Apple products).
I’ve been wondering how Apple can implement Touch ID on Macs. The sensor is very small; the size of a home button on an iOS device, so it would fit on the corner of a trackpad; I can imagine Apple release the Magic Trackpad Touch with this feature.
Some have suggested using an iPhone to unlock an Mac. While this is an interesting idea, I think I could do it faster by typing my password on my Mac. Using the phone, you would have to a) unlock the phone with Touch ID, then b) activate something that lets you then choose to unlock the Mac. With the Handoff technology built into iOs 8 and OS X Yosemite, this is certainly possible, but I wonder if it would save any time.
I can imagine that future Mac laptops may have a Touch ID sensor built into a power button; it’s about the same size as the old power buttons on MacBooks Pro of years past. But that wouldn’t work with desktop Macs.
I hope Apple does something in that direction. It would make life easier, saving just a bit of annoyance when I want to access my Mac.