Tag Archives: Apple

A Tale of Two Drobos

(Yeah, I know it’s been a while.  I’ve been taking a break from running to let my body heal from the goofy stuff I attempted this spring, and allow the crazy heat of summer finally break.  While we all wait, I return you to some of my escapades into technology-ville…)

I can’t remember when I first heard about Drobo, but it was undoubtedly on some photography blog or podcast loads of years ago.  At that time, I was really scarfing for some way to manage my the growth of my already-large photo/scan/video catalog.  Drobo popped up in that quest, and while it was an interesting concept — RAID with any size or kind of drive that was laying around — I was nervous about their proprietary system, and didn’t pursue it.

Years of cobbling together oddball solutions, largely based on consumer offerings like Western Digital’s My Book Duo two-disk arrays… lots of them.  My thinking was that, despite the complexity of managing those discrete units and synchronizations among them, I was ahead of the game, because I could drop those almost anywhere, and they’d just work.

Late last year, Drobo ran a great deal on their 5Dt array, including an mSATA cache pre-installed, and three years of support, for a smoking hot price.  I couldn’t resist that, so I brought it in house, and filled it with Western Digital 6TB drives.  It worked so well for my day-to-day work, I put a Drobo 5C next to it, and used full array-to-array synchonizations to keep my stuff safe.

Fast forward to June, and Uncle Tim’s announcement of the new 5K iMac with Thunderbolt 3.  TB3 to me reads as “faster, faster, faster data”, and I snapped up a BTO model, and promptly dropped 64GB of RAM in it from Other World Computing.

And then it was Drobo’s turn.

Drobo announced a Thunderbolt 3 model of their array — dubbed the 5D3 — which would take advantage of my shiny new Mac’s TB3 ports.  Color me a happy camper.  I got one ordered a couple of days after ordering opened up, and I feverishly watched it’s march across the country until it got here.

My master plan was to sell my Drobo 5Dt, and daisy chain my 5C off the back of the new 5D3.  I reached out to Drobo on Facebook, and they quickly let me know that that configuration should work just fine.  That would simplify my cabling back to the iMac, and give me some nice ways to land the Drobo’s on my desk.

The 5D3 got here, and after a SUPER-SIMPLE migration of the drives from the 5Dt to the 5D3, I was up and running.

And noisy.

I reached back out to Drobo on Facebook to ask about the noisy fan in the 5D3.  They quickly reached out, let me know it shouldn’t be doing that, and wanted to give me a call.  Like I told Valorie from Drobo, them calling me was like getting a call from the mothership!  🙂

Valorie and I worked through some scenarios, and the only way the 5D3’s fans weren’t running full speed after five minutes of being active was to connect it via USB3.  That was a great discovery, as it kept me working, while Valorie arranged to have a new 5D3 shipped to me — overnight, no less!

It arrived today, and I moved my drives from the first 5D3 to the second.  Everything went smoothly, and after thirty minutes of speedy TB3 connectivity, I decided to attempt daisy chaining my 5Dt to the second TB3 port on the 5D3.  I’d gotten an Apple TB3-to-TB2 adapter, so I was set.

(And yeah, I decided to keep the 5Dt in the mix as the backup drive, rather than using the 5C.  If it had to become the primary, it’d be faster than the 5C, and it has a long period of DroboCare on it… why not use it?)

With the 5Dt connected, I fired everything up, and things stayed quiet for about thirty minutes.  I kicked of a 250GB copy between the arrays, just to give the new 5D3 a shot at getting hot.  It didn’t, and it’s sitting here, next to my iMac, purring right along.

Drobo couldn’t have made me happier with their support services.  I merely mentioned the noisy fan, and they committed themselves to understanding what was going on with my device, and making sure I stayed up and functional while my replacement unit shipped.  This was customer service executed in an amazing fashion.

So here I sit, Drobo’s silently humming along, cranking through video files, photos and music, and am enjoying my newfound speedy TB3 Drobo!!!

Say Hello to My Little Friend

iPod Shuffle (4th Gen)
iPod Shuffle (4th Gen)

I’ve had a love affair with music since I was a kid.  I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a huge piece of my life.  And because of that, I love running with music.

A long time ago, I picked up a tiny little iPod, the iPod Shuffle (2nd Generation) to carry music with me when I went cycling or traveling.  I loved that little thing, and it still works very, very well to this day.

However, as I’ve started to do more running, I’ve discovered that you cannot control that model of Shuffle with the on-cable controls — no volume adjustments, next/previous track, etc.  When I’m running, I’ll find that a particular track at a particular time doesn’t hit me quite right, and I wanna skip it.  Sometimes, I’ll find a track that was so good with my pace that I wanna repeat it.  While you can do that from the front of the Shuffle, you sorta have to fiddle with it on your waistband or pocket, and that’s a little distracting to me.

4th and 2nd Generation iPod Shuffles
4th and 2nd Generation iPod Shuffles

As I started to research, I got tangled up between the newer iPod Nano (I have an older one of those too!) and the newer Shuffle.  The new Shuffle pays attention to those on-cable controls and is really teeny, but the new Nano had Bluetooth for headphones.  I even bought some new Bluetooth running headphones to see if I could get them to fit my earholes and get used to them.  No deal.  You see, I love my Bose sport earbuds, despite being cabled.  They fit my ears like they were custom made for them, and ultimately, that’s what made my decision easy.  Shuffleland, here I came.

A few things of note.  First off, the price now is about half what I paid for my first Shuffle.  They both only sport 2GB of storage, but with an option in iTunes, you can “down convert” files to 128kb/s, putting more music in the small space.  Even at 128kb/s, the audio quality is fine for my old ears when I’m out running or riding, and 2GB has always given me plenty of variety when I’m out putting trails behind me.

I’ve had this little thing for a couple of weeks now, and I really love it.  It’s teency, even smaller than the previously diminutive Shuffle.  This time, I even got it engraved at the factory. The only complaint I have about the engraving is that it is really, really small, and is more like a printed message, making it very hard to see.  Still, I know it’s there, and that’s a good thing.  🙂


I was struck with the reduction in the size of the packaging.  In the photo, you can see the difference in size between the little plastic coffins these two devices were shipped in.  Apple’s gone to some lengths to minimize the amount of packaging in many of their products, and it really shows with the tiny little box for the new one.  One casualty of that move — you only get one Apple sticker, instead of two.


The charging system has also gotten smaller.  With the second generation device, there was a long cable and a little dock.  The new Shuffle has a little pigtail cable that plugs directly into the headphone plug.  I kinda like that, especially given that I’ll be traveling with this one to races around the country.  In fairness, it is a little awkward to plug into the back of a Mac or iMac, but works great with my MacBook or a USB hub.

So, after a couple of weeks of putting it through its paces, I think I’ve decided this new little piece of gear is a keeper.  Hopefully, it’ll last as long as my first Shuffle!

New Gear: The New MacBook

The New MacBook
The New MacBook

Apple is incredibly good at building sexy hardware… hardware I have a tough time avoiding!

A while back, I bought the then-brand new MacBook Pro with Retina screen (MBPr).  I fell in love with the luscious new screen, with it’s high resolution and vivid color.  Add to that a solid-state drive, and even with the big 15″ screen, the machine was a pound lighter overall than a regular MBP.  And it was fast.  Screaming fast.

At the time, I was really trying to build a very portable footprint, and the MBPr was a big part of that.  As it ends up, I began working from home last summer, and I began growing a less mobile desktop platform based on the new cylinder MacPro.

And then Apple announced the new MacBook.

Frankly, this new machine hit me a little funny.  This little laptop was gonna be light — just about two pounds — but have a pretty slow processor (by modern standards), and a 12-inch screen.  Add to that some shenanigans around a lack of built-in ports for USB3 and Thunderbolt, and this new machine was a little ho hum for me.

As I took in through some spring destination races this year, I kinda found that I needed something a little more laptop-like and less iPad-like for races on the road.  I didn’t like carrying the MBPr to away races, because that usually meant carrying a laptop bag, and while that wasn’t a ton of extra weight when packing for an “away” race, it did make things a little more clunky for travelling.

Those away races made me reconsider the little MacBook, and little by little, I started to fall for this wee beast.

Looking at how I use a laptop, I really wasn’t doing powerful photo processing, massive spreadsheets, or using other high-powered solutions when I was away from my desk.  Even with my MBPr, I was only using it to surf, write, and do a little light Photoshop work.

Suddenly, the little MacBook started to look a little more attractive.

I even came to terms with the weird situation with external ports.  The new MacBook only has a lonely USB-C connector, which is used for power and just about anything else, and a headphone connector.  That’s it.  Anything that’s externally wired has to go through the USB-C connector, which means a handful of dongles for USB3, Ethernet, video, Thunderbolt… and the list goes on.

Again, thinking about my use case, all that connectivity wasn’t that big a deal most of the time, and I didn’t mind too much having a dongle or two for those rare instances when I needed them.  Heck, I was doing that with my MBPr occasionally anyway, so that wasn’t exactly new territory.

I’d finally rationalized all the perceived shortcomings, and was ready to buy not long after they began to ship in April.  That’s when I discovered a wrinkle in my newfound excitement for this new laptop.

There was no availability.  Anywhere.  Apple couldn’t ship them out fast enough, with five week ship times for standard configurations.  Third party providers didn’t have them.  The supply pipeline just wasn’t full, which is pretty rare for Apple with a new product.  It’s usually demand that dries up the pipeline, but in this case, Apple simply didn’t have very many to ship out.

I watched for quite a while to see if the ship times from Apple would get better.  They didn’t.  And then one night I was looking at Best Buy’s web site, and on a lark, did a search for the new MacBook.

And shockingly, in mid-June, Best Buy had them in stock for shipping, and in the configuration I wanted:  1.2Ghz Intel M processor, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD — one of the standard configurations.  I wasted no time in making an order, and in a few days, the shipping box arrived with my new laptop inside.

The first thing that struck me was the weight of the box when the UPS delivery guy put it in my hand.  It weighed nothing.  I kinda wondered if the box was just empty.

Opening it up, I found the Apple box inside, and once again I was struck with the diminutive size.  The white-box was really tiny.  I had just packed up my 15″ MBPr for its new owner, so I was used to seeing a bigger box.  This thing was itsy-bitsy by comparison.

I opened the box, unpacked the machine and lifted the lid, firing up my new 12″ MacBook.  Once again, the Apple setup experience for the new machine was simply amazing.  It’s easy, quick, and everything just works, right out of the box.

And now, about a month downstream from my unboxing, the experience has been great.

So, to be fair, there are times when I notice the difference in processor speed… for a second.  That’s barely noticeable, and certainly not impactful.  I regularly use the Adobe Cloud apps, Microsoft office apps and iLife apps, and never find myself questioning the speed of the laptop.  It’s fast enough for what I need, and I think that’s the niche this machine fills… fast enough.

You’re not gonna do processor intensive work on this machine.  But, to be fair, it’s really not designed for that.  It’s designed to be the lightest OS X footprint device you can buy, trading weight for power.  It’s kinda like the lovechild of a full-sized MacBook and an iPad Air.  For me, that’s perfect.

The screen is really nice, with (apparently) even tighter pixels than my 15″ MBPr.  In fact, they’re tight enough that even with a 12″ footprint, you can watch full HD resolution content, and have some screen real estate left over.  The colors are vivid, and text is ultra-crisp.  And with the less powerful processor, there are no fans in the machine.  It is dead silent when running… almost unnervingly so.

Apple also introduced a new butterfly switch under the keys on the keyboard.  This has a really different feel than anything I’ve felt from them.  The keys have great tactile feedback, but don’t travel very far.  I know there are a lot of folks that don’t like the new feel, but for me, it seems pretty natural.  The other keyboards Apple’s been shipping always felt kinda “mushy” to me.  This one definitely doesn’t feel like that.  The key illumination is much better too, with each key having it’s own LED to brighten it up in dim conditions.

There’s also new trackpad.  And if I have any issues with the new MacBook, it’s with the new Force Touch trackpad.  This new trackpad allows for sensing how hard you click.  So, for example, a light click might do one thing, and a harder click might do something different.  For me, that’s taken some getting used to, as I’ve discovered I’m a heavy clicker.  It’s taken a lot of practice to get the real click-action I intended, and at times, that’s still a work in progress.

But, wait, there’s more!  The new trackpad is big, and with the smaller dimensions of the laptop, there’s not much room around it to rest your wrist while typing.  It’s very common for me to be typing, and suddenly have some kind of force-click action pop up.  If you’re a classically trained typist, and are used to keeping your wrists up, this won’t be a problem.  If you’re a lazy typist — like me! — that close proximity to the keyboard might be an issue.

Realistically, though, I’ve had nothing but fun with this new laptop.  I use it a ton, and am getting used to the subtle differences the new design introduced.  It’s crazy light, fully functional, and does everything I could possibly want.

Now, I’ve just gotta find an “away” race to give it a full road test!

New Gear : Apple AirPort Extreme

I’ve been using Apple networking gear for a long, long time.  I started switching the house over to Applely things in 2005, and about five years ago, I succeeded in getting everything in house sporting a Cupertino logo.

And it’s largely been a great experience.  But sometimes, bad things happen to good gear.

Over the last week, I’ve been having some weird things happening on the network inside the house.  I’d set it up years ago with a 4th generation Airport Extreme downstairs, close to the U-verse gear, and a 2nd generation Airport Express upstairs to extend the wireless network through the house.  Great plan, and it’s been solid as a rock.

At the time, I’d gone to great lengths to logically separate Uverse’s physical/wireless from my internal network.  I’d had some real trouble with AT&T’s DNS being really slow, and that drove me to separate the networks for a reason I coulda solved so much easier.  That was years and years ago, and needless to say, I didn’t document what I did, how I did it, or what should be what on the network.  That little lack of detail kinda hampers troubleshooting.

After working most of the week thinking there was a problem on the U-verse side (resetting their gear twice), I finally began to realize that something on my side was obviously wrong.  As I worked through it last night, my trusty Airport Extreme would no longer take a configuration.  That was a sign.

Apple Airport Extreme 802.11ac
Apple Airport Extreme 802.11ac

So, I started researching what Apple had out there, and found the Airport Extreme 802.11ac.  This unit was two generations later than mine, and would talk more quickly with our recent devices by using 802.11ac.  Nothing wrong with that.  Repair and an upgrade?  I’m good with that!

We have the good fortune living with fifteen miles of two Apple stores, and three Best Buy stores with Apple sections.  If I need something Apple, I can usually get it locally.  (Unless you’re looking for the new MacBook but that’s a story for another post.)  I looked at the closest Best Buy, and they had exactly what I needed in stock … and I had a 4x Reward Zone points coupon.  Perfect.

And it was on sale ($11 off).  Even better.

I walked in, and the shelf sporting the Airport Extremes was empty.  Ugh.

Have you tried to find a floor associate at Best Buy on a Friday night?  Apparently, that’s either the point of lowest staffing, or the time during the week when the whole staff is pulled into a meeting.  I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally found someone who could help me.  He was quick to tell me that he thought they were out of ’em, because someone was looking for them earlier in the week and couldn’t find them.  I told him that I had their website up on my iPhone, it said they had them, and I could order one online right now, and pick it up right there.  He walked off to find one.  🙂

Despite the portents of inventory-related doom and despair, he was able to find that they had plenty in stock.  He just didn’t know where they were.  Five or ten minutes later, he turned a corner, Apple goodness in hand.  Woot!

I got it home, prepared Becky for all the swearing she was gonna hear from the basement — me and networking don’t get along — and proceeded to start trying to bring the new device up.  Now, when you can’t get into the current network device, it’s hard to capture its configuration to transfer to the new one.

Did I mention I had no documentation on what I’d done?

I plugged ‘er in, attached the WAN and LAN cables, and hoped for the best.  I brought up the Airport Utility on my laptop, and it found the new device quickly.  And then, the heavens smiled upon me.

The utility asked me if I was gonna replace the old Airport Extreme with the new one, and proceeded to move the configuration over.  I was stunned.  In fairness, I still had to do a little tweaking, as all that weird separation I did years ago didn’t entirely move over.

And frankly, I didn’t need all that separation.  There was no reason to separate the networks just because of DNS.  I changed the DHCP server on the new Extreme to propagate a different DNS than AT&T’s, and all was well with the world.

But, the upstairs Airport Express still wasn’t playing nicely.  I tried resetting it several times, including taking it back to factory defaults, and never could get it connected to the network correctly.  A little time with Uncle Google, and I found someone mentioning that you could take a newly refreshed (or purchased) Airport device, and configure it in the wi-fi settings of the iPad.  That was new news to me.

So I tried it.  The wi-fi settings saw the “blank” Airport Express, and asked me if I wanted to use it to extend the existing network.  YES!

And sonofagun, it actually worked.  The Apple networking magic was truly wonderful, and saved the backside of both me and my network.    Color me very, very impressed.

The Aperture Is Closing

TrashingApertureMacRumors updated their sub-site for OS X Yosemite to include info about the new Photos app, which appears destined to launch with the next drop of Yosemite.  I’d guess that’ll be in March or April.

Frankly, it’s the time I dreaded.

The news about Photos isn’t good, at least not for me.  Aperture has essentially been deprecated (although it still runs, and likely will for a while), but the ecosystem that keeps it functional will no longer be developed.  No more versions of Aperture are to come, which is very sad.

Several years ago, I was a Lightroom junkie, and loved the product.  However, it didn’t handle geodata very well.  While that’s not the most important thing in the world, it’s pretty dang nice.  And for files that couldn’t take metadata natively (like RAW files), it was necessary to generate sidecar files to carry that info so you could see it from the OS.  That’s all well and good inside the application, but from the OS, it was awful.  When I’d do a Spotlight search for some piece of metadata in my images, I’d get a ton of sidecar files as search results, rather than the actual images.  This meant that I couldn’t see thumbnails for these images in Finder’s display of the results, so I had no idea if the images pointed to by the sidecar files were of Elvis, space aliens or Santa Claus.

And that’s when I made the switch to Aperture.

It wasn’t easy, but I was careful about my exports from Lightroom,  preserving my directory structure that I’d been carrying since 2002, and I got everything into Aperture.  I’ve been way happy with it, and its integration into the Mac OS.  However, with Yosemite, the announcement was made that Apple would have a new application called Photos, and with that, the speculation about what that meant for Aperture (and iPhoto) began.

When that writing hit the wall,  it was obvious that Aperture was going to be shuttered, and with that, there was a huge clatter of noise from pro photographers about moving to Lightroom.  Even Apple said that was the right destination for professional photographers.  And based on what I read on MacRumors today, I’d have to agree.

Photos will not allow plugins, which is a cornerstone for photo editing in most photography applications.  I use Nik, OnOne and other filters in editing my images, and giving up that kind of control and capability within the application is a pretty tough pill to swallow.

And based on what I gather, Photos wants to own the location of my images, meaning that my carefully manicured old-fashioned file folder-based system of filing my images would no longer be supported.  Aperture was happy to deal with that via referenced images, and that was perfect for me.  Call me a control freak, but knowing where things are lets me sleep better at night.

I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg, however.  I’m betting that if you like iPhoto, this’ll feel like a big ol’ improvement.  For those of us that loved Aperture, this is a big step backward.

So, Lightroom, here I come.  Have the things that drove me to Aperture been fixed?  Can I get all the nuggets of metadata out of Aperture, and into Lightroom?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Adobe has some basic instructions for how to make that migration, and is promising a tool that will make that much more automated.  While I’ve got Lightroom 5 installed, I’m waiting for the tools to catch up to the reality of actually cutting over to Lightroom from Aperture.

For now, I’ll just hide and watch, eagerly awaiting the time to actually make the cutover to Adobe’s Lightroom, and turn out the lights on Aperture for a final time.



Clickety-Clack Goes the Keyboard

Some of the best keyboards I ever used were the old IBM Model M keyboards.  I used ’em on old IBM PC’s, PC clones and IBM terminals.  They were great, mechanical beasts, weighing a few pounds, and having a very distinct “clicky” sound and feel when you typed.  And they have a huge fanbase, despite it being so long since they were last produced by IBM.  (Take a look at ClickyKeyboards for some real cool “keyboard porn” about this keyboard from the 1980’s.)

When I moved over to the Mac about a dozen years ago, I found the keyboards to be a little squishy, but they were the “right” keyboards for my new Apple existence.  I’ve lived with those for a long time.

Until today.

I got an email from Other World Computing (OWC).  These guys are just about the best Mac aftermarket dealers out there, with all kinds of things to enhance the Mac life.  I get their emails frequently, usually full of hard drive and memory deals.  This week, however, they mentioned the Matias Tactile Pro 4.0 keyboard.

Intrigued by their advert, I started looking into this keyboard, and found a boatload of other folks who lamented losing the clicky, mechanical feel of the old IBM Model M keyboards and had switched to the Matias Tactile Pro.  Folks talked about the sound, feel and speed of these keyboards, especially for folks that have a “heavy” typing style like I do.

I was so intrigued that I ordered one yesterday, and found it on the doorstep today.

This thing is awesome.  It’s heavy — about three pounds, I’d guess — and utilizes ALPS keyboard switches for every key.  They sound and feel so much like the old IBM keyboard, and man, can I fly on the keys.  This is a keyboard I can fall in love with.

Now, there’s probably some downsides for some folks:

  • It’s a cabled keyboard — not wireless — but the cable is a six-footer, which is crazy long, and harkens back to the old IBM keyboards.
  • It is noisy — I like that, but it may not be for everyone.
  • To me, the keys seem visually off-center as compared to the footprint of the keyboard.  I’m slowly getting used to that, but it’s just a little weird.
  • It’s a little spendy.  Through OWC, it was about $130.

There’s also a some plusses:

  • Each key has extra notation for some of the other characters that can be generated.  For example. the “2” key has the “2” and “@” as expected, but also shows the “™” and “€” symbols, which are created by using the Option key.  Pretty dang cool!
  • Of course, one of the things you’d be concerned about is all that notation going away over time.  I think this is less likely to happen than with a printed keyboard, because Matias laser etches the keycaps, which oughta give them a ton of life.
  • There are three USB 2.0 ports, well-distributed around the keyboard — one on each side, and on on the back of the keyboard. You can’t charge an iPad with those, but an iPhone, memory stick or Garmin USB ANT stick should work just fine.

So, why a new keyboard?  You buy a Mac, you get a keyboard, so what’s all the fuss?

Well, when you sit in front of a screen all day like I do, having a comfortable workspace is key.  You want the chair to be comfy, the desk to be spacious and useful, and the lighting to be good.  Why wouldn’t you want your fingers to have the same level of comfort and functionality as the rest of your home office experience?  For me, it was an easy spend to give me a even better experience with my Mac, and so far, it’s been well worth it.

Well done, Matias!

A Byte of the AAPL

It’s no secret that I’m a big ol’ Apple nerd, and have been for almost ten years,  Becky knows that, too.

The day before my birthday, I was upstairs having lunch when the phone rang.  The caller ID showed it was from Charles Schwab.  Now, us and Chuckie have no relationship, and I love playing with scammers on the phone, so I picked it up.

A very articulate American-sounding gentlemen identified himself, and asked for “Rebecca.”  She was at work, and I offered to take a message.  He indicated he was calling about setting up her new account.  New account?  I took his info, and called Beck.

She thought it could be a scammer, or a friend of ours turning us in for a cold sales call.  She was gonna check it out, and call me back.  While she was doing that, I started looking up the number from the caller ID on the ‘Net.  Sure enough, the displayed number was the real customer service number for Schwab.  Hmmm…

Not long after that, I got a call from Becky.  She was standing in the Schwab office in the Valley, and thought she should call.  As it ends up, she had indeed opened an account, and was concerned that I was gonna be all freaked out that we’d been hacked.  She opened the account (and funded it) so I could buy a share of Apple for my birthday.

So now, I’m not just a fanboy, I’m a shareholder.

Apple MacPro, OS X Yosemite and Wi-Fi … The Honeymoon’s Over

OK, so I’ll admit it.  I’m an Apple fanboy, and have been since making the switch to Macs in 2005.  For geek profile purposes, I would tell ya that I’m an early adopter, and a realist about problems that may show up.  It’s hardware, and software, and even though there’s tight synergy granted from both sides of that coming from the same complex in Cupertino, I recognize that things will go bump every now and then.

That said, let me introduce you to my latest saga with the Apple ecosystem.

AirDrop is a pretty cool technology that allows Macs, and now iPhones with iOS 8, to create short-lived, ad hoc networks to transfer files.  This is pretty cool, especially if you use your iPhone as a primary form of photography (And for Rick and Tom, I’m not naming names here!), and for probably other uses as well.  Once I got both Yosemite and iOS 8.1 down, I wanted to give AirDrop a try.  The first prompt I got was to turn on the wi-fi card in my late-2013 Mac Pro cylinder.

As a note, I don’t usually keep wi-fi enabled on my Mac Pro.  This machine never travels, and does some big data moves across my network, so hardwiring it at gig-e speeds just makes sense for me.

When I tried to turn on the wi-fi on my shiny cylinder o’ fun, I clicked the button on the network preferences panel… and nothing happened.  I clicked it again.  Nothing.  And like any good techie, I continued clicking it periodically over the next few minutes.  Nada.

I decided to restart my Mac, and as though by magic, I was able to turn on wi-fi in my system.  I played with AirDrop, and then turned off wi-fi.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I took a walk at lunch.  Normally, I use a Garmin Forerunner 310XT to capture my travels, but for some reason, it was having trouble finding the satellites, so I did my walk, and then wanted to check the distance.  My go-to answer for years has been Google Maps, but I figured that since Apple had included this cool Maps application on the desktop, I’d use it.

Well… it barked about not being able to find my position without wi-fi being turned on, which means the app barks incessantly about how it can’t determine my location.  I even tried to feed it my location to shut it up, and it still was pretty dang insistent.  I know my Mac doesn’t have a GPS device embedded in it, so it’s obviously using my wi-fi network name to figure where I am, based on the network I’m connected to.  If I’m out in public, that’s pretty cool.  Sitting in my house, that’s a little creepy.  TMI, say I!  However, that misgiving aside, I turned on my wi-fi.

Or tried to.

Once again, I was left with a wi-fi system that didn’t seem to be active, regardless of what I’d do.  Once again, I restarted my machine.  I paid close attention this time, and noticed that the wi-fi was on when the machine came back up.  Whether I had hit the button an odd number of times, resulting in the post-reboot status being active, or if it just remembered that I was trying to turn it on, my cylindrical Mac came back up with wi-fi happy.  Oh, and Maps was much happier as well.

So, what’s this mean?  I’m not entirely sure.  Except that I need to be planful around when I want to use AirDrop or Maps, or anything else requiring the lil’ Mac Pro to have its wi-fi enabled.

I’ve done a ton of searches on this issue.  Unfortunately, there are loads of as-yet-unresolved issues with Yosemite around wi-fi performance and dropping networks, and those are clouding my searches with a lot of wild goose chases.  If I had to guess, I’d bet that something is being flagged to turn on wi-fi, but can’t complete until after a restart for some reason.  Or, wi-fi is really active, but all the indicators in the network preferences aren’t there. I should probably watch my Apple network gear (using my iPad or iPhone) to see if there’s every anything showing up on the router’s side, which could help narrow things down.

Just a little spot on my otherwise shiny Apple!

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I decided to get an Apple iPhone 6 Plus. It’s arrived, and here’s some of my thoughts.  (Granted, there’s probably nothing earth-shatteringly new here, but sometimes, ya just gotta say stuff.)

First off, the device is big. Really big, and that’s something that’s probably important to some people. For me, the way I use my phone is more as an Internet terminal rather than a phone, so the larger size is not all that important. When I need to use my phone as a phone, I’m usually using it with the speaker phone function turned on, so that mammoth physical size is really not that big an issue.

And frankly, while the width and height are generous, the thing is really slim, and doesn’t seem to weigh a ton.  And yes, it does fit in your pocket nicely … at least in my jeans.  If you’re a painted-on skinny jeans person, first off, I’m jealous, and secondly, it probably ain’t gonna fit in your pocket nearly as well as me in my baggy 550’s.

I love the rounded corners.  I tend to vacillate on this quite a bit.  When the iPhone 5 came out, I wasn’t a huge fan of the sharp edges, but I grew to like ’em.  Now, the smooth contours of the iPhone 6 Plus have really seduced me.  It feels slick, curvaceous, and well molded for your hand.  I did buy a case (Spigen Thin Fit A), and while the case nicely fits the phone, and feels very protective, I really like the feel of the phone without it.  This case is small enough (but still sturdy!) that if you didn’t know the phone had a case on it, you might mistake it for part of the phone.  I’ve run with my phones both naked and covered, and this might be a phone that is prone to running around naked.  It’s just that nice.

iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 Plus
iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 Plus

The new screen is gorgeous.  It’s full 1080, and watching HD video on it is a dream.  Star Trek: Into Darkness is my favorite film to show off the crisp new display.  It just rocks on this device.  Really, really sharp, clear images from a well-done HD film.

One of the factors that drove me to this model over the regular iPhone 6 was the optical image stabilization in the camera.  On paper, this sounds like a really good thing.  In practice, I’ve only shot once where I was rocking’ and rollin’ (in the Jeep, handheld, going over some rocks), and it seemed to make a difference.  That’s not very scientific though, and is something I should try in a little more controlled environment against something like a GoPro, that doesn’t have IS.

Battery life seems to be much nicer than my iPhone 5.  I’ve found that the Facebook really drained the battery on my iPhone 5, and that seems better with the iPhone 6 (and that was with running the new iOS on both phones).  On the iPhone 5, I’d drain out to about 30% across a day of normal usage (including Facebook).  On the iPhone 6 Plus, I might drain down to 70% or so across the day.

And I really like TouchId.  Being able to identify my via the “belly button” is awesome.  I love not having to key in a passcode to unlock, and now having some applications using that as authentication within the application just makes it more magical.  Very, very cool!

Now for the ugly… The buttons.

The case redesign moved the volume and power switch, and I’m just not a fan of where they landed.  I like the fact that the power button isn’t on top, but my muscle memory always goes to the right side of the phone for volume, and that’s where the power button was relocated.  So when I try to change volume when listening to music, I turn off the iPhone.  Boo.  It’s just retraining, and I get that, but for someone that relies on knowing how to use his tools without looking, I don’t like changes to where controls are.  That’s one of the reasons that I tend to stick with the same brand on my toys — Canon cameras, Taylor guitars, etc. — so there’s not much (if any) retraining of my old brain.  I’m sure there’s a reason the volume control was moved, but I think you could move the power switch without relocating the volume control too.

One more thing I’d mention is the camera lens.  I really don’t like that the lens protrudes beyond the back case.  I don’t think you could hurt it, but that’s another great reason to have a case on the thing.  It’ll definitely keep it flat on a table.

So… a whole lot of goodness, and just those silly button relocations as a negative for me.  YMMV!


Once Again, Into the Fray

Last week, Apple announced the new iPhone 6 models and the Apple Watch.  Since the Apple Watch doesn’t ship until next year, I went ahead and ordered the iPhone 6.  🙂

We’ve been with Verizon for the last two years, and it’s been a good relationship.  Unfortunately, Darla and I came into our iPhone purchases a little late, so we weren’t eligible until early October to order new phones, and I had resigned myself to a new iPhone arriving sometime in November.  Until today.

Upgrade Time!One of my coworkers clued me in that Verizon had changed the eligibility for some folks, so I called #874, and waited for the return text message…  Success!

With that, I pounced on ordering my new phone.  I skip every other version, so my iPhone 5 was starting to look a little long in the tooth.  I had a smaller memory model, expecting to leverage the cloud for my files, and while I’ve done that, I also like having my stuff with me.

With the announcement last week, folks have been asking me what model I was going to order.  Frankly, it was a pretty easy decision for me.  I use my iPhone more as a internet terminal than a phone most of the time.  And when I am using it as a phone, it’s either Bluetooth tethered to the Jeep, or on speakerphone mode.  I rarely hold it to my head.

With all that in mind, true 1080 HD resolution, and optical camera stabilization, it was easy to fall in line behind the iPhone 6 Plus.  Capacity was another question though.  For years, I’d bought the largest amount of storage I could get on my Apple i-devices.  In my last round of purchases, I’d opted for a smaller memory footprint, and leverage stuff in the cloud.  However, after two years of working within a small footprint, I’ve decided bigger is better, and opted for a 128GB device.  And if you’re keeping score at home, I ordered a Space Gray.

With all that said, the target delivery date range is October 16th – 23rd.  Had I ordered on October 3rd, it really would’ve been November!

I’m looking forward to playing with the new camera more than anything else.  I’ve always been impressed with the ubiquity of my iPhone, and it’s been my “best camera” because it’s the one that’s with me.  With the camera improvements, I expect that’ll get even more use from me.  And with the larger storage, I’m betting I’ll use it as much as my other camera rigs.

So watch this space — a month from now! — and we’ll see just what the iPhone 6 Plus brings to my world!