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BTS: Big Thumb Syndrome to strike in the New Year

Posted on by Mike Evans

Are you suffering from BTS? If you regularly use your thumbs for typing on the iPhone (who doesn't?) you'd better watch out. Big Thumb Syndrome could be about to strike. The humble thumb has always been a pretty useful digit but it has assumed a major rôle in our lives since the advent of the virtual smartphone keyboard. So much so, in fact, that the bit of our brain that overlords the thumbs in growing. The delightfully named Dr. Ghosh at the University of Zurich says so: "The digital technology we use on a daily basis shapes the sensory processing in our brains."

It's the somatosensory cortex he's talking about here. It's just plain getting bigger. And who's to say that our thumbs won't start to balloon in size as they become more central to our daily communications. This phenomenon is likely to be called Big Thumb Syndrome, so hold off buying those winter gloves, you might need a size larger.

Thumbs are just the start, read more here

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Speakers: A portable Bluetooth speaker for Christmas?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Here's a nifty idea for a quick Christmas present. 9to5 Mac has published an excellent review of portable Bluetooth speakers just in time to point you in the right direction. It's reviews like this that make consumer choice that much easier.

Read the full review here

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Cinema Display: When can we expect a 5K external display?

Posted on by Mike Evans

My 24in Apple Cinema Display is well past its sell-by date. It soldiers on, with no Thunderbolt port and old-fashioned USB 2 connectors, but I have long wanted to upgrade. The arrival of the 5K iMac looks like a good starting point for the development of a really scintillating 5K display to go with the new Mac Pro and with the range of Apple laptops. But, for very good technical reasons, such an external display is a long way away.

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Apple's Cinderella Cinema Display: Will it ever be updated?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Lots of rumours about tomorrow's Apple event, mainly concerning the new iPad Air and the possibility of a retina-display 27in iMac. But there is one product that never seems to get the glass slipper treatment: Apple's ageing Thunderbolt Cinema Display. My 24in Cinema Display has done sterling work for over six years. I wanted to upgrade to the Thunderbolt version but have not done so because, for some unfathomable reason, it still supports only USB 2. 

 

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Review: Snugg leather flipcase and stand for iPhone 6 Plus

Posted on by Mike Evans

Two weeks into my iPhone 6 ownership and I have already explained how I decided to keep the larger phone instead of exchanging it for the 4.7in model. I like it and I do not find the size a problem. I also recounted my adventures with the cannibalised Logitech Folio Keyboard and I now have a serviceable, ultra-thin little keyboard to go with the 6 Plus. Just one thing was missing: some form of stand. The orange teapot was merely a temporary diversion.

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David Sparks on choosing iPhone 6 or 6 Plus

Posted on by Mike Evans

Everyone I know has had trouble choosing between the iPhone 6 and the larger 6 Plus. I eventually chose the 6 Plus and am very happy with it. David Sparks of MacSparky had a similar dilemma but made the opposite choice. He exchanged his 5.5in initial choice phone for the smaller 4.7in device which suits him better as he explains here.

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iPhone 6 Plus: Nightmare at the bedside

Posted on by Mike Evans

Choosing between the new iPhone 6 and the huge 6 Plus is a problem for everyone. I outline some of the differences in my article on Macfilos/tech. But what of photographers? Many, I know, carry an iPad as a showcase for favourite shots and there is no doubt that the larger screen of the Air or, even, the iPad mini, is a great showcase for photographs. 

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Relonch camera turns your iPhone into a bokehlicious device

Posted on by Mike Evans

After last week's flurry of news from Apple I turned my attention quickly to Photokina in Cologne and you can find my many reports on Macfilos Photography. One item that caught my attention and has a tech/Apple flavour is the Relonch camera which turns marries the iPhone with a pro f/2 prime lens. Read all about it here.

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Phone is just an app which is not frequently used

Posted on by Mike Evans

I am fully with Horace Dediu on this:

Phone is just an app which, for me at least, is not frequently used. I communicate with my iPhone but the go-to app is iMessage or FaceTime or Skype or maybe Email or Twitter. Phone is something I use so rarely that the interface sometimes baffles me. And yes, it’s an Internet appliance. Browsing is something I do quite a bit but many of the browsing jobs-to-be-done are done better by apps. News, shopping Facebook and maps are “things which were once done in a browser."

He makes the point that when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone he described it as a combination of a wide-screen iPod, a phone and a breakthrough internet connector. These three things, says Dediu, are no longer the most used features.

Similarly, the Apple Watch was launched as a precise timepiece, a new, intimate way to communicate and a comprehensive health and fitness device. But it will develop over the coming years and who is to say what its most useful features will be seven years hence?

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iPhone 6 Plus: Is this the the end of carrying around two devices?

Posted on by Mike Evans

There's only one snag to carrying just one communications device. Occasionally I leave home without my iPhone and only realise when I've gone too far to make it reasonable to return. Now, of course, I can turn to the iPad which can do everything the iPhone can do except make cellular calls.

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iWatch: The next big thing is coming

Posted on by Mike Evans

A few hours from now we will be introduced to the iWatch and I do not expect to be disappointed. Apple has put so much into this project. It has recruited experts from the luxury watch and luxury good markets and already knows more about what is necessary to succeed than any other manufacture.

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Swizerland in deep doodoo as Sir Jony polishes his designer iWatch

Posted on by Mike Evans

Apple design supremo, Jony Ive, is reported to have suggested that Switzerland and its watch industry could be in deep mire when Apple finally announces the iWatch (or whatever it is to be called). Hyperbole? Probably. But even if he was jesting there's a grain of truth in the statement. I am a typical customer for Swiss watches: I love the mechanical perfection and the hewn-from-solid appearance of my IWC Fliegerchronograph. I would be reluctant to swap it for a jony-come-lately from Cupertino. But....

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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. 

Transformation

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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Thunderbolt on a roll at last

Posted on by Mike Evans

Thunderbolt is on a roll. A few months ago we were moaning about a lack of peripherals. Suddenly there are disk drives and docks, such as the new Elgato Thunderbolt Dock, appearing by the day. All this is before most of us get our hands on Thunderbolt 2 which is already here on the new MacPro and, presumably, scheduled to migrate to other models in the range this year.

  Back of Elgato's new Thunderbolt Dock which will retail for around £200 including an otherwise expensive Thunderbolt cable. It is just one of the dozens of new peripherals being launched to support the standard

Back of Elgato's new Thunderbolt Dock which will retail for around £200 including an otherwise expensive Thunderbolt cable. It is just one of the dozens of new peripherals being launched to support the standard

Things are hotting up. Today, from MacRumors, we hear that Intel is planning yet another enhancement, code-named Alpine Ridge, that will increase bandwidth from TB2's 20Gbps to a blistering 40Gpbs.

The specification shows a 50 percent reduction in power consumption and new sockets which can also handle device charging up to 100 Watts. There will be adapters for backward compatibility with TB1 and 2. The development means that everything, including all peripherals, additional ports and even the MacBook's power supply will soon be handled by just one cable.

No news yet on a date for the introduction of Thunderbolt 3 but all this activity is encouraging for those of us who have committed to Thunderbolt in preference to the slower but ubiquitous USB 3.0 standard. The renewed confidence will encourage the sale of the still-expensive disk drives and other peripherals.

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My Passport Pro: Thunderbolt advances, cheaper too

Posted on by Mike Evans

Last year I was not alone in worrying about the future of Thunderbolt. Despite Apple's wholesale change to the new interface, peripherals have been slow to appear and prices have been surprisingly high. Meanwhile, the slower and cheaper USB 3.0 standard has been making great headway.

Western Digital has now introduced a portable drive that, for the first time, gives hope that Thunderbolt is here to stay. With a capacity of up to 4TB and a starting price under £300, the My Passport Pro is an attractive external drive and is one of the cheapest Thunderbolt storage devices I have seen. It is also unusual in not requiring an external source.

The most exciting feature, however, is that this is a dual-drive system which can be set up in RAID 0 (for maximum storage) or RAID 1 (for maximum security). The drives also support Apple Time Machine. With a short built-in Thunderbolt cable, the Pro is sure to be an excellent travelling companion for any Mac power user. 

The 2TB My Passport Pro with twin 1TB 2.5in disks retails at £299 (including VAT) while the larger capacity (and 14.5mm thicker) 4TB configuration costs £409.

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Backup Strategy: Choosing a RAID or separate disks

Posted on by Mike Evans

  The Seagate Backup Plus USB 3.0 drives can be mounted on the two-port Thunderbolt Adapter to provide a very flexible expansion solution

The Seagate Backup Plus USB 3.0 drives can be mounted on the two-port Thunderbolt Adapter to provide a very flexible expansion solution

After writing about my photo archive backup strategy two days ago I did spent more time investigating RAID back-up options. While I did not change my conclusion about the effectiveness of the 6TB LaCie 2big Thunderbolt drive, I did acquire severe misgivings about the noise level from this unit. While reading a number of independent reviews, I decided I would more than likely regret having such a noisy drive near to the computer. Until we get longer (optical) Thunderbolt cables at a reasonable price, this is always going to be a factor. Instead, I settled on two 4TB Seagate Backup Plus USB 3.0 drives and one

Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter .

Although these drives are billed as USB 3.0, it is possible to add the Thunderbolt adaptor to increase data transmission speeds. The adaptor features two Thunderbolt ports (unlike many single-disk Thunderbolt drives such as those from LaCie) so additional drives can be daisychained. I would never again buy a Thunderbolt drive with just one port because it always has to be end of the line and kills expansion opportunities.

The three items, two drives and one adapter, work out at £50 less than the cost of the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt but there is no Thunderbolt cable included (as it is with the LaCie). So price is more or less on par.

I will use the Thunderbolt adaptor with one drive, thus establishing a fast storage location for my photo archives, while the second drive will be used for mirroring (a daily Carbon Copy Cloner backup) via USB 3.0. This works for me because my photo archive files seldom change (bearing in mind the current files are on the MacBook Pro's internal disk). If you are looking for an external drive for live use, perhaps for storing most of your computer's working data which changes from minute to minute, then RAID 1 configuration offers the most secure option.

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In From the Cold: Spam, spam and more spam.

Posted on by Mike Evans

220px-Spam_with_cans.jpg

It is advisable to keep Spam in the fridge once the can has been opened. Alarmingly, though,  it seems it could be lurking in your freezer without your knowledge. Research from the USA suggests that smart household appliances, including fridges, could be responsible for sending up to 325,000 spam emails a week. in the two weeks to January 6 no fewer than 100,000 home gadgets were pushing out spam email in rapid bursts. Apparently, the new kitchen and living room denizens of the Internet of Things are not protected in the same way that (we hope) our computers are shielded. Worrying.

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