Computer User Groups of Yore

Original Mac (1984)

Steve T. in our group referred me to a great article which appeared recently on ArsTechnica. It describes the great camaraderie and influence user groups had in the 80’s and 90’s and why they have all but disappeared in the past decade. That said, ApplePickers remains as one of the few Apple user groups and the only one in Indiana, so come to our meetings (virtual for the duration of the pandemic) and learn and contribute just like it once was years ago.

iTunes Match Subscribers Were Robbed

Voila_Capture 2016-01-31_03-29-58_PMApparently Apple announced two weeks ago that it was discontinuing iAd supported radio in iTunes. This passed quietly since few people use iTunes Radio. What was less clear and something I for one missed is that the ad-free streaming music that was part of the iTunes match service was also being axed in the process. While I never associated the two since I pay for iTunes Match was that Apple considered these one in the same features. I respectfully disagree, but they don’t listen to me. So what is it that I’m talking about you ask?

Up until January 28, one could click on any of the pre-configured genres of music under the Radio tab in iTunes and listen to music with ads periodically inserted into the stream. You could also create custom radio stream based on an artist of your choosing. If you subscribed to Apple Music or iTunes Match you were spared having to listen to the ads. While Apple Music has many more features than this, it was one that came along with the $9.99/mo service. iTunes Match ($24.99/yr) is an entirely different service that allows you to store your own music collection in iCloud and not having to store the content on either your computer or iOS device; a boon to those of us with minimal storage space on our phones or iPads that can be put to better use. However the ability to also listen to ad-free music was a nice bonus to Match subscribers, but alas, no more. Now if you click on one of the preconfigured radio stations you get a snarky pop-up inviting you to subscribe to Apple Music – yeh at 5 times the price. Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 4.52.19 PM

To be fair, there are a few radio stations that continue to work – at least for now. They are NPR, ESPN and BBC World Service. Most likely this is due to not having to pay song artists and greedy copyright holders that were previously being paid through iAds.

Frankly, I don’t care for any of the other features of Apple Music and I don’t subscribe. I really don’t care for the odious cacophony of Beat’s One or any of the DJ’s Dre and company have come up with. My musical tastes live in the past, a fuddy-duddy, I suppose, but there are more of us than Apple cares to admit. So Apple has quietly taken away a valuable feature of its iTunes Match service, not reduced the price nor compensated existing subscribers. If more people were interested, I would anticipate a class-action lawsuit with good rationale. Apple has been sued for less.

Apple WWDC 2015 Announcements

El Capitan

Several new and exciting updates were announced this week at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference.

  • OS X El Capitan (aka Mac OS 10.11) refines the Mac experience with enhancements to window management, built-in apps, and Spotlight search. The new OS promises to be more responsive.
  • With iOS 9, your iPhone and iPad become more intelligent and proactive with powerful search and improved Siri features that help you find what you’re looking for before you even ask.New multitasking features designed specifically for iPad allow you to work with two apps side-by-side, or with Picture in Picture continue watching a video while you navigate to another app. And built-in apps are now even more powerful with a completely redesigned Notes app, transit information in Maps, and an all-new News app that collects all the stories you want to read from top news sources based on the topics you’re most interested in.
  • WatchOS 2 features new watch faces that use your photos or photo albums as well as Time-Lapse which shows 24 hours in iconic locations around the world. It also includes watch complications featuring third-party app information and new communication capabilities in Mail, Friends, and Digital Touch. Now developers can take advantage of innovative hardware features including the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, and heart rate sensor combined with software APIs to build new app experiences.
  • Apple Music combines the best ways to enjoy music—all in one place. The new streaming music service pioneers worldwide live radio station from Apple broadcasting 24/7, and is a great new way for music fans to connect with their favorite artists. Starting June 30, Apple Music will be available in over 100 countries and is priced at $9.99/mo ($14.99/mo for a family plan). A free three-month trial membership gives music fans the full Apple Music experience on their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac and PC. And it’s coming to Apple TV and Android smartphones this fall.

All new software is planned for release in the Fall 2015.

Updated Apple Hardware

Today, Apple announced updated 15-in MacBook Pros with ForceTouch trackpads. The lower end model for $1999 retains a 2.2Gz i7 and 256 GB flash storage and Intel Iris Pro graphics, but boosts internal memory to 16Gb. The $2,499 model upgrades to 512 GB of flash storage and a 2.5-GHz CPU, adding AMD Radeon R9 M370X discrete graphics hardware with 2 GB of VRAM.

The new 5K retina iMac model is now priced at $1,999 with a 27-inch, 5120 x 2880 Retina display, 3.3-GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU and AMD Radeon R9 M290 graphics (2GB of VRAM), along with 8 GB of memory, a 1TB, 7200-RPM hard drive and dual Thunderbolt 2 ports. The $2,299 model, which got a price cut, boosts quad-core i5 speed to 3.5 GHz, graphics hardware to AMD Radeon R9 M290X (4 GB of VRAM), and storage to a 1TB Fusion Drive.

Apple also announced a new Lightning dock with a 3.5mm audio line-out port in the back, which supports headphone remote control. No AC adapter is supplied, so MGRM2charging power comes via a Lightning port that you must connect to your own power adapter and cable. The dock is priced at $39.

Apple’s Spring Forward Event


This afternoon Apple had it’s Spring Forward event in San Francisco where it announced a new MacBook. The new MacBook is just 13.1 mm thick at its thickest side and weighs just 2 pounds. The new MacBook comes in three colors, silver, gold, and space gray, and uses the new Intel Core M processor. The $1299 model features 256Gb PCIe flash storage and a 1.1 GHz processor and the $1599 model has 512 Gb PCIe flash storage with a 1.2 GHz processor. Both units have a 12 inch Retina display and 8Gb internal memory.

The Force Touch trackpad is engineered to deliver a responsive, uniform click no matter where you press the surface and has haptic tactile feedback like the Apple watch. The keyboard stretches across the entire width of the unit allowing each key to be slightly wider but have less vertical travel. The keys are also more stable thanks to a butterfly switch mechanism rather than the more traditional scissor switch. Each key is lit by it’s own LED light.

More details were also given about the new Apple watch. There are 38 models in three groups with prices ranging from $349 to $17,000. The Apple watch with aluminum casing comes in 20 models depending on the band selected and size while there are 10 Stainless steel models and 8 Edition models All come in 38 or 42 mm sizes. The Apple watch goes on sale April 24 with pre-order beginning April 10.

Apple also announced a price reduction on the Apple TV which will now retail for just $69 instead of $99. The Apple TV will be the first unit to support HBO Now which allows the subscriber to watch all HBO content without having a Cable TV contract. High speed Internet is required of course and it will cost $14.99 per month.

OS X 10.10.3 beta available

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I as well as many others received an email from Apple today announcing the availability of OSX 10.10.3 beta which includes the new Photos application. If interested you need to sign up through the beta program.

Photos is the new replacement for iPhoto and Aperture. It is reported to be more capable than iPhoto, but may not have all the features a professional photographer would want and found in Aperture. The big advantage is that it makes your entire photos library available through iCloud so that photos you take on your iPad or iPhone can be edited on any of your Apple devices, and those edits are instantly seen on any of your other devices. That advantage could come at a significant price, since it’s an all or nothing deal. If you want all your photos in one library shared between all your devices including your iCloud account, you could easily exceed the 5Gb free file storage you have on iCloud. Of course you can get more space. 20 Gb is only $12/year, but 1Tb is $240; more that twice what it is on Google drive or Dropbox.

The easiest way to get around this is to split up your existing large iPhoto library into smaller ones and only share the library that has the most recent pictures you want on all your devices or share with others through iPhoto Sharing. On the other hand, $12/year is not so bad and can probably accommodate 2000 pictures or so depending on resolution.


Apple to Update Walk-in Genius Appointments

According to a recent article on 9 to 5, Apple will be modifying the way walk-in Genius appointments work at the Apple Store. Currently a user can walk in to an Apple store, describe the problem they may be having and get a return time appointment when someone is available to address their problem. Starting March 9, that user will be met by a Concierge who will input the problem to an application on their iPad, and based on the complexity of the issue, an appointment will be scheduled. The difference being that a problem that can be readily addressed by most of the geniuses present will be seen sooner than a complex one that may take more time. Appointments can still be scheduled online as usual.

End to an Era …

Movie Clipping 2About a week ago (yes, I’m slow sometimes …) Chris Breen, Senior Editor at Macworld, announced that he was leaving Macworld and taking a job at a “fruit-flavored tech company sandwiched between Santa Clara and Sunnyvale” which we can only assume is Apple.

As many readers will know, Chris was a prolific writer of illuminating articles of how to use Macs and troubleshooting problems when they arose. In the past, we were able to reprint his Mac911 posts that he specifically made available to Mac User groups, but later we learned that they were restricted to print only and could not be included in electronic distributions. His Mac911 and regular review articles that used to appear in Macworld will be missed.

See this link for further information and his last Mac911 post.

Apple to Repair Displays on MacBook Pros

Apple has determined that a small percentage of MacBook Pro systems may exhibit distorted video, no video, or unexpected system restarts. These MacBook Pro systems were sold between February 2011 and December 2013.

Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will repair affected MacBook Pro systems, free of charge. See linked article for more details.