Preparing your Mac for a serious bit of travel

Posted on by Mike Evans

We all have our own travel checklists and making sure my laptop is catered for always comes high on mine. Arriving in a strange country with no charger, for instance, is a major disaster unless you have an Apple store around the corner. But there are many other things you ought to do before travelling and Harry Guinness has produced a valuable Tuts+ tutorial on getting your laptop ready for the road. Here's just one thing most of us overlook:

If you’re away and the Mac goes missing—whether it’s been lost or stolen—you need to make it easy for anyone who finds it to contact you. One of the best ways to do it is to use a custom lock screen message. Anyone who opens the Mac will see it.

Read the full article here

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Apple a day keeps the doctor away

Posted on by Mike Evans

Today is the ninth anniversary of my first Mac. As long as I was working in a corporate environment I was forced to use Windows. I had often looked at Macs and wondered what it would be like to own one. But it just wasn't possible. One day, nine years ago, I took myself off to the Apple Store in Regent Street. A friend had bought a Mac Mini for just over £200 and was enthusiastic to the point of boredom. She was using it with her old keyboard and monitor and having a blast.  It occurred to me that this inexpensive Mini could be an ideal suck-it-and-see opportunity to scratch the Apple itch that had been bothering me for some years. After all, if I really hated it, I could put the Mini on eBay and get a fair chunk of my outlay back.

I returned home with the new tiny computer, plugged in my peripherals and entered the strange new world of Mac. I was smitten. Within days I was back at Regent Street buying a 15in Power Book G4, a computer I still keep on the shelf for old times' sake. Within a month I had transferred everything from the PC and I was wholly committed to Apple. Some experiment.

Halo effect

This was pure happenstance born of a long-time curiosity of what it would be like to work with a Mac. It was certainly not the halo effect of the iPod that I had owned for several years. Sure, I liked the iPod but, alone, it wasn't enough to convince me to ditch Windows and opt for a new future. The opposite is now the case because the iPad, and the iPhone to a lesser extent, is definitely a catalyst for Mac sales.

Moving to a Mac in 2005 was not as painless as it is now. For one thing, the library of software for Macs was very limited. I soon realised that I couldn't do without several PC programs and had to install Boot Camp on the Power Book just to remain productive. I had to compromise a lot and, where I couldn't compromise, I just continued running stuff in Windows. It took eight years before I was able to ditch Windows completely, uninstall Parallels Desktop (which had by then supplanted Boot Camp) and move entirely to OS X. 

Since 2005 the Apple scene has changed beyond recognition. For starters, one of the biggest problems when I moved to the Mac was synchronising PIM data with my HP iPaq. It wasn't easy, nor was it accurate, despite several helpful bridge programs. I remember asking for help on the Apple forums and offering my opinion that it would be useful if Apple produced a PIM manager and phone to compete with HP or with Palm. I was shot down in flames. Diehard Apple fanboys told me categorically that Apple would never make a phone. Absolute nonsense, they said. 

To this end, the arrival of the iPhone was a godsend although it took me a year, until the second iteration of the device, that I felt confident enough to ditch my Palm Treo which, by then, had ousted the HP. That was the moment things came together in a big way and my new-found reliance on Apple reached maturity. There was no going back, not that I wanted to return to Microsoft. For me, nothing signifies the advantages of the Apple system more than the seamless synchronisation of calendar, tasks and contacts. Once fraught with difficulty, duplications and errors, unification of data is now so commonplace and reliable that we don't even think about it. 


The iPhone was followed by the App Store and the iPad; and Apple as a company has been transformed into a completely different organisation to what it was in 2005 when I joined the clan. Apple is now the word's largest company and presides over an eco-system that has removed much of the fear of computing from the minds of non-technical users. It has also improved security and minimised the threat of malicious attack―largely, it has to be said, because the Mac operating system still holds a relatively small part of the market. There are richer pickings in the Windows field. 

I can now look back on nine years of Apple and understand that my first steps in buying the Mac Mini have changed my outlook completely. Not only do I feel happier and more in control thanks to Apple, I also have the advantage of being able to write about technology from a new and exciting perspective. Three years after buying my first Mac I was starting Macfilos and writing about my experiences with Macs, iPhones, iPads and all the wonderful software we now take for granted. 

I feel a great debt of gratitude to Apple for making my life easier, more productive and certainly more organised.

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Choosing exactly the right MacBook for you

Posted on by Mike Evans

Rob Griffiths' dilemma, outlined in MacWorld:

There was my main iMac, which I love. Then there was my “power” laptop, a mid-2010 15-inch MacBook Pro (with the 1680-by-1050 display and a recently installed 750GB SSD), which I love. And there was my “light” laptop, a mid-201211-inch MacBook Air, which I love (and which replaced an older 11-inch Air). So what was the problem?

If it sounds familiar, it is. For several years I was addicted to the 11in MacBook Air. I have owned three of them and two are still around, performing faultlessly. I loved the go-anywhere portability and light weight. Even the small screen I could live with and the latest Air served as my main computer even when travelling for up to a month.

Then I realised that most times when I travel I would take the Air and park it on a desk and there it would stay until the return flight. For day-to-day computing I was becoming more and more content to use an iPad. I began to see the Air as restrictive. In particular, as a keen photographer, I missed a built-in SD card and I felt I really could do with more processing power and a better, larger screen. 

Just over a year ago I caved in and bought a specced-up 15in MacBook Pro with retina screen. It became my desktop computer and my travel companion, despite the unaccustomed size and weight. After an 11in Air you really know you have a computer in your bag. But I now have my processing power, I have the convenience and speed of the internal SD card slot and I also value the two Thunderbolt ports (one feeds my old Cinema Display at home, so I really do need that second port). With its 16GB of memory and 512GB SSD drive, the Pro has never been found wanting. And I just love the large retina display which is a delight, particularly when I am stuck abroad for weeks on end. No longer do I have to compromise.

I kept the latest 11in Air in commission. For some months, I would take it on shorter trips and, occasionally, out for walkies in my backpack. But single-day outings became less frequent. While working with two or even more computers is pretty painless these days, thanks to iCloud and Dropbox especially, there are always some small niggles when you pick up a computer that hasn't been used for a week or two.

Eventually I started taking the bigger computer even for short trips. I now use the MacBook Pro exclusively and the Air is sitting in the cupboard, unused but certainly not unloved. Every time I power it up I face a barrage of updates and I am wondering why not to sell it.

Where from here? I have more of less come to the same decision as Rob Griffiths.  When it comes time to update in the Autumn I will replace the 15in MacBook Pro with the smaller, lighter and more totable 13in Pro. Like Rob, I've spent some hours playing in the Apple Store and, all things considered, the 13in Pro is just about the ideal tool for someone who wants just one computer for all purposes. My only caveat is that I will wait to see what announcements Apple makes during the year but, for the moment, I favour the smaller MacBook Pro. 


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Apple tight-pipped, Leica leaking like sieve

Posted on by Mike Evans

Apple has been keeping its powder dry of late. So much so that there has been little to talk about. This could change on Monday when new products will be announced during the World Wide Developers' Conference in San Francisco. There are rumours of new MacBook Pros, even a new iPad and a fair certainty that we will be introduced to iOS7 in preparation for the launch in the autumn. As usual, Apple gives nothing away in advance.

Unlike Leica. This German company, which has nothing in common with Apple other than that it is another one that I follow avidly, has been leaking like a sieve for the past two weeks. The spec of the new X Vario camera has been in the public domain like the elephant in the room but no one believes it is true. Except me, that is. I am very gullible.

Whatever the stories, the first two days of next week should give us all more than a few column inches to string out. I am looking forward to getting the lowdown from both Cupertino and Solms. Cupertino, even more than Leica, needs something new. The lack of speculation over the last few months isn't healthy. It seems that the days of gash iPhones left in downtown SF bars is over. It's all very boring and, so far, predictable.

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Setting up a new Mac: Tips and tricks

Posted on by Mike Evans

How to set up a new Mac and deal with Migration Assistant is something I am asked several times a year. Often, I get friends to bring their new Mac and I set it up for them. Today I came across this really wonderful step-by-step guide written last month by Josh Johnson of mac.tutsplus.

It is so good I thought I would share it with you. Josh covers all aspects of setup, including disk cloning with Carbon Copy Cloner; using Apple's Migration Assistant; cloud solutions; syncing application data; dealing with the Applications Support folder and the hidden user Library; Mail accounts and calendars and multimedia applications. I've learned a few things from Josh and I would recommend putting this article somewhere safe for when you buy your next Mac.

  Image Josh Johnson

Image Josh Johnson

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Be safe, leave the tablet at home

Posted on by Mike Evans

James Kendrick, writing in ZDNet, puts a new slant on the perennial argument as to whether or not a tablet is a full replacement for a laptop. “Be safe with a notebook,” he says, “leave the tablet at home.”

Almost every day I hear from someone asking the tablet/ notebook question on the behalf of a “friend/colleague/family member” and my answer is always to go with the notebook. Nothing will turn you from hero to zero faster than recommending a tablet over a notebook, only to have the tablet user need to do a work function that can’t be done without a notebook. You’ll be off the Christmas list pretty darn quickly.

James has an excellent point. For many people, a tablet is all the computer they need. But if you need to do serious work and have to choose one or the other, go for the laptop any day.

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More on the MacBook Pro dilemma

Posted on by Mike Evans

The deed is done. I returned the new 11in MacBook Air to Apple this morning and placed an online order for a MacBook Pro with retina display, 2.7GHz quad-core i7 processor, 16GB of memory and a standard 512GB SSD. Delivery is promised for July 23.

As a result of this I have revised my computing strategy. The MacBook Pro is perfectly capable of performing the dual rôle of desktop and portable. Whenit arrives I shall sell my current iMac and make the Pro my first computer. Surprisingly, I have decided to keep my existing 2010 MacBook Air as a spare and for those occasions when I need to travel with a Mac but don’t want the weight of the Pro. For longer journeys, particularly the long summer break, I will take the Pro so I have a full desktop experience while away.

Unlike the sense of disappointment, of business-as-usual, when I set up the new Air yesterday, I am now feeling pretty excited about getting my hands on this latest and best from Apple.

There is one important thing to bear in mind. Despite my vaccilation and false starts, you should not get the impression that the current MacBook Airs are other than wonderful computers. If low weight and size is of paramount importance, the latest 11in Air is a powerful workhorse with few compromises other than the relatively small screen. The new retina display of the MacBook Pro is in a completeley different league, of course, and it has persuaded many tech writers to move back to a bigger portable. I have now joined them.

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Give me the Mac until he's seven and I'll show you the geek

Posted on by Mike Evans

Today is an important one. Seven years ago on June 16 I purchased my first Mac. After being tied to Windows through my job, I at last had the opportunity to experiment in 2005. A friend got a Mac Mini and told me how good it was, so I decided to have a go. I reasoned that for £200-odd I could put my toe in the water and, if I hated the experience, eBay would help out.

I brought the Mini home, plugged in a keyboard and a monitor and I was immediately smitten. Three days later I was back at the Regent Street Apple Store waving my credit card in the direction of a 15-in G4 PowerBook. Since then I haven’t given Windows a second glance; and this is a common enough phenomenon when talking to Apple fans.

At the time I became a Mac fanboy I was using a Windows Mobile phone, a Treo 750, I think, and soon realised that syncing PIM data with the Mac was something of a hit-or-miss affair. I consulted the Apple forums, now Community, and innocently suggested it might be a good idea if Apple made a phone.

I was shot down in flames. Apple will never, never, ever make a phone. Of course, you know the rest of the story. Barely eighteen months later Apple did make a phone and it was the remaking of the company. We’ve all come a long way in the past seven years.

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New iPad branding marks return to Jobsian simplicity

Posted on by Mike Evans

I’ve read mixed views on Apple’s decision not to give the new iPad an incremental moniker. In general, though, the consensus is positive. Most see it as a return to the sort of simplicity initiated by Steve Jobs after his return to Cupertino in 1998 and which is still the order of the day in Mac nomenclature. Austin Carr, writing in, explains what is behind the move and adds his endorsement of Apple’s new policy.

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Sosumi adds free Mac client to Find My Mac

Posted on by Mike Evans

Find My Mac/iPhone/iPad is my best friend, as I have repeatedly mentioned since my near catastrophe in Athens last month. It is a good time, then, to link you to a full review of Apple's iCloud device-recovery system published on

I learned something useful. There is a free Mac client for Find My etc etc from Sosumi:

The interface of Sosumi is very simple and you might not find anything new that you don’t already have at the iCloud service. The one big advantage it has over it is that it lets you have more than one account active, which means that if you have devices activated with more than one account, you don’t need to go around logging on and off with each of them, here you have access to all of them at the same time.

Worth having for free.

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Tablets to outsell PCs by late 2013

Posted on by Mike Evans

Tablets will outsell traditional PCs by the autumn of 2013 says analyst Horace Dediu of Asymco. It isn't all iPad, though. Sensibly, he factors in a flattening of iPad sales in 2012 and 2013 and corresponding growth in other platforms, particularly of Android.

In under two years, then, tablets will outsell PCs. This is a worrying time for Windows-based PC manufacturers as they are assaulted on all fronts, primarily by the success of the new real alternative to the traditional platform but also by the rapidly growing sales of Macs. As I said in an earlier post today, the Mac renaissance is being fuelled largely by the halo effect of success in iOS devices. It looks like the big PC manufacturers have missed the boat for good.

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How the iPad is becoming a substitute laptop

Posted on by Mike Evans

A year ago I could have agreed with Eric Grevstad, writing this week in PC Magazine:

…..for all the talk about whether the iPad 3 will have a quad-core processor or a retina display or a VW Beetle bud vase, we already know one thing about it: It won't be a laptop. And we know, if we're honest, that the iPad is no substitute for a laptop. Never will be. Isn't supposed to be.

But I do agree with John Gruber. While the iPad is not a substitute for a laptop for everyone does not mean is is not a substitute for anyone.

An iPad is capable of doing everything that the average computer user needs. In some respects, for those who just want to write emails, browse the web, read news and check their photographs, the iPad is a better bet than a "proper" computer. It is more intuitive for non-specialists and therefore much easier to use than a Mac or a PC.

This is not to say that the laptop has had its day; far from it. I see growing Mac sales fuelled by the halo effect of the iPhone and iPad and I believe the best days for the Mac are ahead, rather than in the past. But the iPad is carving out a whole new market segment and is opening up the pleasures and opportunities of computing to a wider audience. I have first-hand experience that many older people, who would never have considered buying "a computer", have become seasoned iPad fans.

In this sense, the iPad is a substitute for a laptop.

(Via Daring Fireball)

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iPad on the Road: Don McAllister lives without his MacBook

Posted on by Mike Evans

The iPad is not a "proper" computer. Most people know the limitations of doing heavy productive work on Apple's tablet. The lack of windows, where a reference source can be open at the same time as a draft, is an oft-cited example. But in some respects the iPad does other tasks better. For instance, I find organising OmniFocus tasks much easier on the iPad (and iPhone for that matter) than on an OS X computer. I positively itch to review all my projects on the iPad when I would be procrastinating mightily if all I had to work with was the MacBook Air. Don McAllister spent some time at MacWorld | iWorld running solo with his iPad and comes up with some interesting conclusions.

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