apple · apple store · ipad pro · iphone · macbook pro · macintosh · retail

Apple Danbury Reopens with New Design Language


Apple is getting ready to launch their newly redesigned Danbury Fair Mall location with the new design language that has already debuted in other retail locations, such as the Union Square store in San Francisco.

As I arrived this morning, the prep teams were still putting the finishing touches on the store: setting up chairs at the newly designed tables, arranging the milk crate seats in front of the video wall in The Forum, and obsessively, and I do mean obsessively, wiping away every smudge and fingerprint on the massive sliding glass panels that make up the enterance to the store.

The new retail store format is the work of Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s SVP of Retail and Online Store, and Jonathan Ivy, Apple Chief Design Officer.

The store looks absolutely great! It is instantly recognizable as an iconic Apple store, and still offers a clean modern look that makes you want to just come in and hang out.  The Forum video wall looks really nice! Coming to the store for the new Apple Today sessions is going to be really great fun.

All of the Apple managers and staff that I have talked to this morning, like me, are really excited for the new store and the format. This store, just like the products that are sold here, is just incredible!


With less than an hour to go before the Danbury store relaunched, the employees are marking the last checks on everything.

As the 10:00am launch our draws near, the crew gets in a group photo.

After the doors opened, the group of enthusiastic customers that had gathered in the mall flooded in!

[Updated with new photos.]

apple · macbook pro · review

Apple 2016 15-Inch MacBook Pro Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) Impressions

apple_macintosh_macbook_pro_15_w_TouchBar

Back in April, I purchased a (then) new 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro.  I have been using this laptop side-by-side with my late-2015 5K iMac with Retina display.  So why am I writing an impressions post now given that earlier this month, at WWDC 2017, Apple replaced the model I purchased?  By and large, the differences between the late 2016 15-inch USB-C MacBook Pro and at the mid-2017 15-inch USB-C MacBook Pro are spec bumps, so I feel that the impressions will by and large be the same.

I am comparing this MacBook Pro with my now “legacy” classified and beloved 2009-era 17-inch MacBook Pro and my work issued Dell Latitude E7440.

Exterior Hardware

Just looking at the three laptops next to each other on a desk, the 17-inch MacBook Pro is comically large.  I purchased it at the time because I wanted a large screen, at the highest resolution possible, at home and while on the go.  With the 15-inch MacBook Pro, the Retina screen looks amazing, and at the scaled resolution of 1920 x 1200, everything looks sharp and crisp.  In practical terms, I am able to fit two Word documents, two Safari windows, or some other combination of app windows side-by-side, and still not feel constrained.  I still really like working on the 5K iMac’s scaled 3200 x 1800 display, where I can easily fit more app windows side-by-side, but when I’m out of the house, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is a great fit.  I prefer it over using Split View on a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Apple’s obsession over thin and light continues with the current generations of MacBook Pros.  Lots of people have been talking about the jettison of ports and the keyboard on the MacBook Pro.  I do miss the ports and SD card slot on older MacBook Pro notebooks, but I don’t feel constrained by having a USB-C only notebook.  As it turns out, I don’t use many USB devices.  I did purchase two dongles (USB-C to USB-A and the USB-C Digital AV Multiport adapters), but I infrequently need them.  My two external USB-A hard drives are permanently connected to my iMac, which I feel is the reason for my infrequent use. The dongles live in my laptop bag.  As far as the keyboard is concerned, I like it.  It is fine.  In my opinion, there is no need to pull out the pitch forks and torches to storm Apple Park.  With the late 2016 MacBook Pro models, Apple tweaked the keyboard design so that the keys feel better when you type on them.  My Dad has a first generation 12-inch MacBook and I much prefer the keyboard on the 15-inch MacBook Pro keyboard.  The key caps are a bit louder than they keys on my 17-inch MacBook Pro and Dell Latitude E7440, but not any worse than how it sounds when I type on the Apple Smart Keyboard for my 12.9-inch iPad Pro.  In my real-life experience, I don’t find the keyboard “clickiness” to be disruptive when used in meetings.  In my opinion, the new MacBook Pro keyboards are not anywhere as loud as the beloved Apple Extended II keyboard that I still use with my iMac on occasion (read: when my 2006 Apple Wireless Keyboard batteries die unexpectedly).  I can go on about Apple keyboards, but I want to save that for a future post.

The weight on the 15-inch Apple laptop is nice.  Weighing it on the FedEx scale in the office, it comes out to exactly 4.0 pounds.  My Dell Latitude E7440? 3.7 pounds.  I was hoping that the MacBook would weigh less than the Latitude, but no dice there.  As far as the build quality, in my opinion, the MacBook wins hands down.  From the aluminum body, to the solid feel of the keyboard, the gigantic track pad, and the Retina screen, there is no comparison to the Dell.  Don’t get me wrong, the Latitude line of notebooks are fine business class machines, but I just feel that the Mac will always have my style over run-of-the-mill business machines.  The MacBook Pros are now available in colors, well two options anyway: the traditional silver and the new Space Grey option.  I chose to go with the Space Grey option over my fears that any scratch or scuff to the body will easily show the light-colored aluminum body.  I really baby my Apple hardware, and so far, there have been no scratches to the finishing.  After having used the 17-inch MacBook Pro, the Space Grey option, in my opinion, just looks a lot nicer and it fits in with my matte black iPhone 7 and my personal Space Grey iPad.

The big features that Apple is heavily promoting on the new MacBook Pros are the Touch Bar and Touch ID.  I knew that if I was going to buy a new MacBook, it had to have those two features.  Sure, I tried to convince myself that I could get by with a 13-ich MacBook Escape (the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a standard keyboard that includes function keys), but I knew I would regret that decision almost instantly.  Touch ID is my favorite feature. It works super-fast to unlock my Mac.  Much faster than unlocking my iMac with my my Apple Watch.  Apps like AgileBits 1Password are a breeze to use now that I don’t have to type in a strong pass phrase.  And using Apple Pay is also a lot nicer on the MacBook Pro verses authenticating and Apple Pay purchase on my iMac and Apple Watch.  The Touch Bar is OK, but I haven’t found a killer use of it yet.  Sure, it feels really nice when I slide my finger across it to adjust the screen brightness or volume, but when I am writing in Microsoft Word 2016, I find myself using keyboard shutouts or menu items before I look down at the Touch Bar.  The virtual Esc key located in the first position on the Touch Bar has been fine to use, in my opinion.  I think that part of that is because as of right now, only the new MacBook Pros have the Touch Bar and I move between the MacBook Pro, the iMac, and the Latitude that I can’t get invested in the Touch Bar because it is missing from two-thirds of the PCs that I use, not to mention the physical keyboard for my 12.9-inch iPad Pro.  Touch Bar is clearly a nice to have, but I don’t think it would be a deal breaker for anyone who is looking to buy a 12 or 13-inch MacBook or iPad Pro that doesn’t have it.

The track pad on the MacBook Pro is a joy to use.  I really like it.  It’s massive when compared to the track pads on my older MacBook Pro and Latitude.  I have never had a problem with cursor jumps from my palms resting on that track pad like I have experienced with the Latitude.  This is an area that I think Mac users take for granted.  I almost always use an external wireless mouse when using my Latitude out of its docking station.  The track pad is just that bad with false tap registers.  This my my first force touch track pad and I find clicking to be as satisfying as it was on older Apple laptops.  Like the Touch Bar, I don’t find myself using many of the pressure sensitive features of the track pad, such as selecting and hard pressing on a highlighted word to fetch its definition.  I do use the back swipe feature.  Most of the time it does work well, but I have run into some issues with incorrectly registering my mousing around and accidentally triggering the move back gesture in Safari.  For example, I have accidentally triggered the Safari back command three times while writing this review. Depending on what you are doing, and how frequently data is saved, this problem could be more than troublesome for some users.  Thankfully, I have not been burned too badly by it.  Hopefully, this is something that Apple can improve with future versions of the track pad or macOS.

Internal Hardware

I purchased what I call a middle of the road configuration 15-inch MacBook Pro for two reasons: I wanted to get it “now” and I didn’t want to break the bank with a top of the line model.  I opted for an Intel Core i7 Skylake CPU, 16GB of RAM, built-in Intel HD 530 graphics, and 256GB SSD.  The 2017 MacBook Pros now include the newest Intel Core “Kabylake” CPUs that other Widows PCs have had for a while now.

My advice to anyone who is looking to purchase a MacBook Pro is to push the specs to the maximum that your wallet can accept.  If money was no object, I would have bumped the SSD up to a terabyte.  After I installed all of my software and synchronized the data that I needed from OneDrive, about 60% of my SSD was full.  As a result, I am very conscience of the data that I keep on SSD verses what stays in OneDrive and iCloud.  This is a little problematic if I forget to sync a file that I need ahead of time.  If I do forget something, I pull down a copy of the file from Backblaze, which I use to backup my iMac, and move it back to iMac when I get home.  With a larger capacity SSD, I could have avoided this minor pain point.  For the most part, syncing data across my MacBook Pro, iMac, and Latitude E7440 works well, and most of the time this isn’t a problem for me.  Your experiences will vary.

When the 2016 MacBook Pro was released, you might recall “Batterygate”.  For what I’m doing, writing in Word, surfing with Safari or Firefox (my Macs are a Google Chrome no-fly zone), playing music in iTunes, and a few other light use applications, battery life has been fine for me.  I did purchase an open box 87-watt USB-C power adapter and cable for the office – just in case.

In daily use, I have not pushed the envelope on my MacBook Pro.  It hasn’t gotten hot to the touch or warmed up so much that the fans started screaming.  But, then again, I haven’t run a Windows 7/8.1/10 or Windows Server 2012 R2 virtual machine in VMware Fusion yet either.  As with the battery, heat and performance mileage will vary by use.  The more you push the i7 CPU, the hotter the laptop will run and the battery will drain faster.

General Considerations

My MacBook Pro feels zippy.  It feels just as fast as my Intel Core i5 iMac, and is on par with my i7 Latitude E7440.  The machine boots up and is ready to work fast.  There is no power button on the new MacBook Pros.  Just open the lid and get going.  The experience is very iPad-like without trying to be iOS or an iPad.

I do wish the split screen feature of macOS Sierra worked more like the screen snapping window features of Windows 7/8.1/10.  It is the one features that I miss when I use a Mac.  At work, I snap windows side-by-side with a left or right-edge mouse drag or keyboard shortcut, that I often have a “duh” moment at home.  But that’s neither here nor there for MacBook Pro hardware.

Having two USB-C ports on either side of the MacBook Pro is nice.  I can move around without having to worry about how to situate the power cable.  Left or right of the desk or table, it isn’t a problem because there is a power port on both sides.

My main driver for getting a new MacBook Pro comes down to what I’m doing with my Mac hardware.  I am doing a lot of writing for school work.  A lot.  So much so, that I there are a lot of times when I just need to get away from my home office and get a chance of scene.  I could be like that guy who brings his iMac to a coffee shop, but bringing a MacBook Pro to Starbucks or my favorite 24-hour diner is a lot easier.  I could use my work issued Latitude, but I can’t run OmniGraffle or OmniPlan on Windows.  I have found that there are still a good amount of quarks passing Microsoft Project and Visio files between Windows and macOS Sierra that I prefer to have the Mac OS-only software everywhere I need it (iMac/MacBook Pro/iPad Pro).  And for this need, the MacBook Pro really fits the bill for me.

Great, but…

As you might have guessed by now, I am happy with my MacBook Pro purchase.  That really shouldn’t be surprising considering how old my MacBook Pro 17-inch model is.  I was hoping to have a flagship MacBook Pro for a little longer than I did, but I am really glad to see Apple updating hardware again.  (If you have not yet watched the 2017 WWDC keynote address, you should.  Apple released or announced a slew of Mac hardware updates.)

There are a few things I wish were different.  The previously mentioned Safari back gesture on the touch pad is at the top of my list.  That problem will burn me if I am not careful moving my index finger around the track pad.  I also feel that Apple is overcharging for larger capacity SSDs and discrete GPU options.  The new 2017 15-inch MacBook Pros now come stock with 512GB SSDs, so that’s good news.  And, finally, I really wished that there was a way to upgrade the SSD in my MacBook Pro.  Down the road, I would have liked to upgrade to a 512GB or 1.0TB SSD.  Apple’s decision to integrate the SSD storage module to the motherboard prevents that upgrade from ever happening.  (The same is true for the memory configuration.)  I would like to have the extra space for Final Cut Pro X and Logic, but with storage space at such a premium, that will have to be an iMac only install when I get around to buying them.

I also wish that Apple included the AC adapter extension cable that was included for no additional charge in the past.  If you don’t already have an extra extension cable hanging around, and I do, it is an extra $19 to buy one from Apple.  To me, that just feels like gouging your customers.  It isn’t a deal breaker, but for this longtime Apple user, I feel it should have been in the box.  Speaking of which, let’s have a moment of silence for the passing of Mag Safe power connectors. USB-C is nice and all, but there is no way that a USB-C power cable is going to disconnect as gracefully as Mag Safe did.  Be super careful if you are using your MacBook Pro plugged in while working in a high traffic area.  Or if you or your kids are a klutz, like I can be.

And that brings us to USB-C and dongles.  I purchased a pair of USB-C to USB-A adapters back in November when Apple’s USB-C accessories price drop was on, knowing that there was a real chance that I would eventually need them sooner or later. One’s in my bag.  The other is in my office.  I wasn’t crazy about paying $69 to get an HDMI out port so I could connect a projector to my Mac, but I also wanted a high-quality product that I knew would work.  Still, $69.  Ugh.  I would have been happier paying $49.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a new MacBook Pro, now is a great time to make a move.  The 2017 hardware spec bumps add more value to the 2016 MacBook Pro line up.  Knowing what my needs were going to be while making my purchase decision helped me select the best option for me.  In practical terms, it helped me know the correct balance of features and options verses price.

I really like this MacBook Pro.  I feel that the screen is superior to the other two notebooks I am comparing it against.  The performance of the hardware and software is good.  Battery life has not been an issue for me.  And there is no comparison when it comes to industrial design and polish.

My wife, whom I love, just doesn’t understand my “need” for yet another Apple something-or-other, but we make it work.  She knew I was an Apple nerd going in.

 

accessories · apple · macbook pro

Apple USB-C Multiport Adapter Update 1.0

As some of you know, I purchased a Late 2016 Apple MacBook Pro.  I recently had the need to purchase a HDMI video out adapter.  So, naturally, I went for the more expensive route, and purchased the $69 Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter.

What I found interesting the first time I plugged it in was an alert in macOS Sierra to update the firmware on the dongle.  The update is a minuscule 204kb.  In today’s world, that is super small.  As you can see from the images I captured below, Update 1.0 is a “compatibility and reliability” update.  Since this was the first time I used the adapter, I did not notice any problems.

adapter updateusb-c av dongle update 1usb-c av dongle update 2

In my daily usage, these kinds of updates are fairly infrequent.  The last accessory update that I recall seeing was for the Apple Smart Keyboard for my first generation 12.9″ iPad Pro.  Before that, a minor update to the firmware on my PowerBeats Bluetooth earbuds.  I like to think that these kinds of minor updates are not generally required because everything “just works”, but I am glad that Apple issues these updates to fix issues and generally improve the user experience.

 

apple · apple store

Apple MacBook Pro 15″ with Touch Bar & Touch ID

apple_macintosh_macbook_pro_15_w_TouchBar

Today, I’m picking up a new MacBook Pro 15″ with Touch Bar and Touch ID.

For the last year, I have been happily using a 2015 27″ 5K iMac as my daily driver for personal and school work.  While I love my 5K iMac, there have been lots of times while working on papers, drawings, and programming assignments when I needed to get away from my desk and out of my home office.  On those occasions, I used a work issued Dell Latitude.  The Dell does a fine job (I’m the main buyer for work PCs and servers), but…it’s just not a Mac.
I have been thinking about what to purchase for a while now.  The MacBook (One).  A 13″ MacBook Pro (Escape).  A 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID.  I have finally settled on the 2016 15″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID.  Even now, as I’m getting ready to head to the Apple Store, I’m still not sure which color, space grey or silver, I am going to buy.  I have owned many silver MacBook Pros, more so than any other color (white, charcoal, or black).  My last MacBook, the 2009 17″ MacBook Pro was silver.  I think this time, I will go with the space gray model.  But who knows, I may change my mind at the last minute.

 

airpods · apfs · apple · beta · ios 10 · ipad · iphone

iOS 10.3 Public Beta 1 Released

apple_ios_10_3_pub_beta1_20170126

Yesterday, Apple released the iOS 10.3 Public Beta right on the heels of the iOS 10.3 Developer Beta.  The developer beta, was released on Tuesday.

I was a little surprised by this move, as iOS 10.3 includes a feature only a nerd’s nerd would like – the Apple File System (APFS).

APFS was announced last summer at the 2016 Apple developer’s conference, WWDC, as an experimental feature in MacOS Sierra.  APFS could only be used with SSD drives, and could not be on the boot drive.  APFS was also restricted from converting disk drives that used HFS+.  The HFS+ file system, released some 18 years ago, is the file system used on all Macs, iPhones, Watches, and Apple TV.  I was presuming that APFS wouldn’t show up for iOS until the iOS 11 beta program this summer.  It looks like Apple is moving a head, getting ready to bring APFS to iOS devices much sooner than MacOS.  Releasing an update that automatically upgrades HPF+ formatted iOS devices to the new APFS is a good sign that development has gone well and that Apple is looking for feedback ahead of a full production rollout in the future.

ios_10_3_pub_beta1_find_my_airpods

In addition to APFS, the other feature that I am looking forward to playing with is the new Find My AirPods functionality that has been added to the Find My iPhone.app.  This feature will be great to help you track down that missing AirPod that is in your pants pocket, your bag, in between your couch cushions, or behind your bed.  Basically, if your AirPods have a charge and are in range of one of your Apple devices signed into your iCloud account, you will be able to get an approximate location.  (Remember, these things do not have built in GPS radios.)

apple_ios_10_3_pub_beta_icloud_settings

There is also a nifty Apple ID option at the top of the Settings list.  The purpose of this new setting is to give you quick access to all of your iCloud account settings and options all in one spot. Can’t remember your Apple ID email address? Need to tweak Family Sharing? Want to update your credit card information.  It’s all right here.

Wanna try out the public beta?  You really need to be ready to deal with some bugs.  That’s the whole point of using pre-release software.  I also suggest that you run beta software on an iPhone or iPad that is not your everyday or work provided device.  The last thing you need is to get stuck in a jam and not be able to make a phone call or do work.  Still interested? Head over to beta.apple.com to learn more.