Apple Macbook 2016 Review

I had been struggling with my Apple Macbook Air for a few years now. I was really excited when I started to read about Apple was likely releasing a new Macbook Pro this year. There had been rumours about having a new LED bar. However, by mid August, it was seemingly clear that Apple was unlikely to release a new Macbook Pro by September.

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Replacing the Samsung Series 3 with a Macbook Air 2013

Although I really enjoyed my Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, I decided to recently replace it with a 2013 Macbook Air. The reason why I first got the Chromebook was because I wanted something light and cheap to port around to do basic surfing while I was away from the office. Over time, I felt that I needed something that could do more. I bought my Macbook Air as a replacement for my Chromebook and a supplement for my Macbook Pro. I use it as a secondary machine; something that I would be able to use when I’m not at my desk and still feel like I can adequately complete all of the things that I need to do including communicating via Google Hangout, edit documents as well as do some hard core development when needed.

Macbook Air 2013
Macbook Air Unboxing

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Apple vs Samsung – this is the real fight!

Mashable has recently announced that Samsung has sold twice as many devices as Apple in Q3 of 2012.It’s been pretty interesting how over the time the mobile argument has shifted from Apple versus Google to Apple versus Samsung. The Apple versus Google comparison didn’t make a ton of sense. Both Apple and Google are vastly different companies and you can tell by how they measure success of their mobile strategy. Apple measures success of their mobile strategy by the number of devices sold. Additions to iOS, introduction of the iCloud and Siri are all manoeuvres to retain or cause users to purchase new devices. Google measures their success by the number of accounts activated on Android devices. In order to facilitate this, Google gives away their software for free (OS and Tool sets), allows developers to publish their apps for free and more recently introducing high end hardware for cut throat margins.

The Apple versus Samsung argument is a (pardon the pun) closer apple to apple comparison. Both are hardware manufacturers who measure their success on units sold. And Apple has come out hard in their fight against Samsung – harder than they have against any organization. The most telling sign of course has been the $1B lawsuit that Apple levied against Samsung and won. There are a couple of interesting things about the lawsuit in general

It’s not about innovation

Both Apple and Samsung (through the Android ecosystem) have ideas that are not uniquely their own within their devices. Some really glaring things are the pull down gesture to show the notifications that are now on Apple devices have been a well-known Android paradigm since launch. The same can be said with putting icons on top of one another automatically creating groups has been a well-known Apple paradigm for a while now.

It’s not about money

Don’t get me wrong – $1B is a lot of money and I’m sure Samsung is not happy about losing $1B. But both Apple and Samsung are multi-hundred billion dollar companies. Apple doesn’t need the $1B to enhance their business and losing $1B will not hamper Samsung’s efforts in the market.

It’s about messaging

The one interesting thing to me that came out of the whole lawsuit was messaging. The message which Apple sent to the American people who is their power base is that Samsung is a copycat and a cheat; they are stealing and profiting on American innovation. At it’s heart, this is where Apple has been hurting the most. Apple has traditionally been the masters of brand and messaging. They have always been able to capture the imagination of their consumers by showing them how to purchase less than bleeding edge technology to its fullest. Samsung has copied much of Apple’s marketing playbook and has reaped much benefit from it.

So it will be interesting to see how this continues to play out. The end benefit though is better consumer products assuming that Samsung doesn’t get trapped in a quagmire of lawsuits

The Battle for Tablets is not over

Somehow people have associated the death of WebOS as the final victory of Apple in the Tablet War. I believe that the war has hardly begun. It wasn’t so long ago when Android phones were greatly lagging Apple’s iPhone and today it accounts between 40% to 60% of the smartphone market share depending on whose data you use. I’m by no means suggesting that Android will repeat the same success; just merely that history shows us that it is too early to tell.

I suspect what we’ll see is that Apple will continue to be a big part of the entire market but other manufacturers will erode a pretty big chunk of that share; Apple sits at 80% of higher of the share of tablets today. This will be driven largely because people want choice and have different needs. Apple has one way of solving people’s needs; other manufacturers will find solutions for other needs. I am hoping that the patent issues will be resolved without the sacrifice to innovation. Otherwise countries like the US will be the poorer for it.

Size Matters – Some thoughts on mobile form factor

I’ve recently acquired my 7th mobile device in the last 12 months or so. I started out with a Nexus One, Points gave me a BlackBerry Bold 9000, picked up the HTC Desire Z, explored the ExoPC but didn’t like it. So I bought an Asus EEE Pad (EP 121) which I LOVE. Upgraded the BlackBerry Bold to a newer version and then recently picked up the HTC Flyer. The only other device I’d look to get this year is something with NFC. Truthfully, I hope to be done with mobile purchases this year. There were some lessons I learned over that time and the conclusion is that size matters when it comes to devices. OS matters as well bit to a lesser degree than size.

4 inches (aka the phone)
This is probably one of the more familiar form factors. It started with PDAs which evolved into smartphones. It is small enough to fit into a pocket and travels everywhere with me. It’s extremely versatile because of its size and the amount of computing power you can fit into that package these days.

At 4″, the screen is big enough to read things if you have at least a 6pt font and stripped away graphics to remove the clutter. However, given its small screen, reading a lot of text can be tedious at times. It doesn’t do well for managing information because in order to truly manage information, you often need other pieces of supporting data to do the job adequately. However, it is great for quick updates such as checking off tasks and creating reminder type notes.

Because of its constant availability, it’s usually where a lot of personal data is created and is likely the data master for this type of data. Some examples of this kind of data include information like credit card info, passwords, appointments and contact info. This is one device that you want extreme security with.

7 inches (aka the Playbook)
While there are many other 7″ device, I deem the Playbook to be the most prolific because they started this idea although the Samsung Galaxy Tab launched first. I remember hearing about the 7″ form factor and didn’t find myself interested in it until playing with the Samsung Galaxy Tab last year. It was naturally more phone then tablet and was surprisingly usable. It’s small enough to fit into the back of most of my jeans pockets bit has a large enough screen to read a lot of information efficiently. This makes the device quite portable but not portable to bring it every where with me like a phone. For instance, I can bring it with me to a meeting but not likely to bring it with me if I were stepping out with the guys for coffee, for instance.

Creating information on this form factor is a pleasure. I can opt to hold it with both hands and type or hold it in one hand and peck away at it. Two thumb typing (not to be confused by two hand typing) is actually quite great and ends up being the primary way I enter data. I like that I’m fast and have enough real estate on my screen to read and keep context of my data. This is also the average size for an e-book reader making it the natural device to do most of my reading from.

I like it because it’s versatile due to its size. I find myself using this device frequently whenever I think I’m going to consume information. This is the primary device I use when I’m not working or walking. So my main uses are at home, in transit to work or even travelling.

10 inches (aka the iPad)
I remember the fanfare that followed the launch of the iPad. It was yet another revolution for Apple. Yes, tablets have been around for almost 5 year’s at this point. Apple revolutionized the use of the device more than anything else.

The 10″ form factor is an awesome media consumption device. The screen is large enough where it’s often like reading a magazine. Watching movies on such a size is also quite the treat because it is large enough to see the important details. At 10″, most web pages will render legibly although just a little bit more dense than normal making it a very natural web driven device. One of the things that was recognized early is that an app created for a 4″ device doesn’t scale that well to a 10″ device. However, apps created for a 12″ device actually renders decently for a 10″ device.

Content creation for a 10″ device can be cumbersome that is similar to the 4″ device for portable information creation. It’s too long (and quickly becomes too heavy) for two thumbed content writing. It is actually quite comfortable to two-hand type on the device in portrait mode if you can place it down. However, in portrait mode, you quickly lose the real estate space for context which is personally quite important when considering content creation. You could attach a mouse and keyboard to the device but at that point, it is less functional than a desktop or laptop because of the small screen limitation. Although no hardware supports a digitizer today, I suspect using it as a pen input device would actually be a decent experience. The surface is large enough where you can write an adequate amount of information per screen on it.

This is an awesome form factor for travel and personal use. I like it for when I’m sitting around and want to peruse the internet but don’t really want to do a lot of work on it. Newer uses for it are as a cash register or sales tool which makes sense in a number of scenarios.

12 inches (aka the Asus EEE pad)
There are actually only a handful of devices in this form factor and none of them are particularly cheap. This is perhaps the original tablet form factor. The only OS so far available for it really is Microsoft Windows. You could put Ubuntu on it but even at Natty, Ubuntu is not ready for multi-touch use.

Like the 10″ device, it is an awesome media consumption device. If 10″ is nice, media on a 12″ is so much nicer. All web sites render like it should for this form factor. One thing to note though, a 12″ device as you’d expect would be the heaviest of all these form factors. So reading it would entail cradling the device on one arm and swiping screens with the other.

Content creation on a 12″ has many of the same challenges as the 10″ device. No one even thinks about two-thumb content creation on a 12″ device and you have the same challenges although it is slightly better with two-handed typing on a 12″ device. Writing on a 12″ device’s a joy. It is quite possible to hook up a mouse and keyboard to generate content on a 12″ device for an extended period of time.

The reality is that the 12″ device is often a full-blown notebook/laptop without a keyboard. So it has all of the hardware advantages and limitations of one. They often have powerful processors, gobs of RAM, lots of connectors and unfortunately also chew through battery. The power consumption is even more of an issue when the form factor limits the size of a battery that you can put on the device.

Hopefully if you’re looking for a new device or writing software for one, this helps with thinking about how form should factor into that decision making process

Gestures make the Macs oh so much better

One of the reasons why I fell in love with the Macs at Zoocasa was because of the gestures. Frankly I thought the whole concept was gimicky at first never thinking it would be useful outside of mobile devices. After using it for a few weeks, it became a very intuitive way of accessing functions of the Mac. I became so enamored with the idea that I bought the Magic Mouse when it came out. Gestures become an even more powerful tool when you can do custom configurations with it and my favorite tool to do that is Better Touch Tool. Better Touch Tool is great because you can customize both your TouchPad as well as the Magic Mouse. You can also customize gestures globally as well as by application.

Lately, I’ve been doing some customizations and decided that it’d be nice to share it with people who are looking into customizing gestures on their Macs as well. Here are some of my customizations

Global

Magic Mouse

  • Show Spaces –> Three Finger Click
  • Application Expose –> Two Finger Swipe Down
  • Expose –> Two Finger Swipe Up

Touch Pad

  • Launch ScreenSaver –> Five Finger Click

Firefox and Chrome

Magic Mouse

  • Move to the left browser tab –> Two Finger Swipe Left
  • Move to the right browser tab –> Two Finger Swipe Right

Touch Pad

  • Move to the left browser tab –> Three Finger Swipe Left
  • Move to the right browser tab –> Three Finger Swipe Right

Here’s my gestures file for those interested in using it.

Tweaking my Apple Magic Mouse

One of the biggest change in my technology profile after working for Zoocasa is that I’ve now started to become quite a Macbook fan boy. When the Apple Magic Mouse was released, I opted to get one because one of the things that I really like about the new Macbook’s is that I really like the gesture concept on the trackpad. I was hoping that the Apple Magic Mouse would offer the same. However, I was quickly disappointed with the minimal amount of gestures offered by the Magic Mouse out of the box. It really offered no more features than any other mouse in the market.

Enter three handy utilities that extend the functionality of the Magic Mouse: MouseWizard, MagicPrefs and BetterTouchTool (BTT). MouseWizard is not free but it’s relatively cheap to obtain – it’s only $2.50 to purchase it. MouseWizard actually doesn’t come with many additional gesture support – all in all, I count 5 new gestures but the one cool thing it can do which I like is that you could do your whole hand to call the screensaver which I use to lock my Macbook. That is neat. MagicPrefs is free and definitely more extensive at least in terms of available gestures that you could invoke. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get most of them to work for me. My favorite is BetterTouchTool so far because it allows you to not only configure the gestures on your mouse but also on the multitouch touchpad of your Macbook.

For the time being, I have programmed my mouse to activate Spaces on a two-finger tap, Show Desktop on a two-figer swipe up and Application Expose on a two finger swipe down for the mouse. For my mouse, I have the five finger tap setup to show the login screen.