Liftoff #99: Apollo 10 »

This time on Liftoff, Jason and I continue our series marking the 50th anniversary of each Apollo mission:

In May 1969, Tom Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan took their Apollo spacecraft within 48,000 feet of the lunar service.

Come for the views of the lunar surface, stay for the floating poop and weird space music.

My thanks to our sponsors:

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Apple Introduces Updated MacBook Pros, Extends Keyboard Service Program »

Apple has updated the MacBook Pro today, just two weeks before WWDC. Jason Snell has details:

These updates don’t bring any changes to the exterior of the MacBook Pro—it’s the same base design introduced in late 2016—but they do bring 9th-generation Intel processors with up to eight cores to the MacBook Pro for the first time. There’s also been yet another tweak to the controversial butterfly keyboard Apple first introduced in 2015.

On the CPU front, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has received a slight speed bump, but it is still using 8th-generation Intel quad core processors.

The models without the Touch Bar are still using older 7th-gen CPUs, as before, and like that machine, the 12-inch MacBook has gone another release cycle without an update.

The 15-inch got a bigger update, as outlined in Apple’s press release:

The 15-inch MacBook Pro now features faster 6- and 8-core Intel Core processors, delivering Turbo Boost speeds up to 5.0 GHz, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar features faster quad-core processors with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.7 GHz.

Here are some specs:

  • $2399: 2.6 GHz 6-core i7 (4.5 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • $2799: 2.3 GHz 8-core i9 (4.8 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • Configure-to-order option: 2.4 GHz 8-core i9 (5 GHz Turbo Boost)

I really like my 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro, but these are tempting.

All of the updated models come with a new, yet-again-revised-but-not-replaced butterfly keyboard. Again, Snell:

Apple says these new models also feature another change (I think this is the fifth?) to the butterfly keyboard in response to customer complaints that the keyboard would end up in a sad state where key presses were ignored or doubled. While Apple is quick to say that the vast majority of MacBook Pro customers haven’t experienced any keyboard issues, the company still keeps tweaking this design. It claims that the change made in these new MacBook Pro models will substantially reduce the incidence of ignored or doubled characters.

Jim Dalrymple reports:

To address the problem, Apple said they changed the material in the keyboard’s butterfly mechanism that should substantially reduce issues that some users have seen.

We’ll see how that turns out, but there is good news: Apple has extended its Keyboard Service Program to cover all machines with butterfly keyboards including the 2018 and brand-new 2019 notebooks.1

I can’t remember another time when Apple introduced a product and on day one, it was part of a repair extension program. It’s the right call for users, but damn.


  1. 2018 machines will receive the new 2019 keyboard if/when repaired under the program. 

The MacSparky Keyboard Maestro Field Guide »

David Sparks has launched his new Field Guide, a video course all about Keyboard Maestro.

Keyboard Maestro is one of those applications that can really make a Mac sing, but it can be a bit intimidating at first. In this course, David walks through its features in an easily-digestible way. I haven’t used Keyboard Maestro in years, and walked away with a much better understanding of this app and how it can make using macOS more efficient. In fact, I’ve installed it and have already created several macros that are helping me work more quickly. If you’re using a Mac as your main computer, this is $24 you will not regret spending.

This coming Sunday’s episode of Mac Power Users is dedicated to Keyboard Maestro, and we chat about what goes into making these Field Guides possible. I’m looking forward to publishing it.

Beyond the Tablet »

After months of work, Federico has published a manifesto of sorts about the working on the iPad Pro:

Seven years after I started (slowly) replacing my MacBook Air with an iPad, my life is different, but one principle still holds true: I never want to find myself forced to work on a computer that’s only effective at home, that can’t be held in my hands, or that can’t be customized for different setups. For this reason, the iPad Pro is the best computer for the kind of lifestyle I want.

However, the iPad is not perfect. And so in the spirit of offering one final update before WWDC and the massive release for iPad that iOS 13 will likely be, I thought I’d summarize seven years of daily iPad usage in one article that details how I work from the device and how I’d like the iPad platform to improve in the future.

In this story, I will explore four different major areas of working on the iPad using iOS 12 system features, third-party apps, and accessories. I’ll describe how I optimized each area to my needs, explain the solutions I implemented to work around the iPad’s software limitations, and argue how those workarounds shouldn’t be necessary anymore as the iPad approaches its tenth anniversary.

I read it over the weekend, and was impressed with just how many different areas of the iPad experience — both software and hardware — that he considers with thoughtful suggestions on how they could be improved. It’s well worth the time will take you to read it.

The Lombard PowerBook G3 (Bronze Keyboard) 

This week marks the second anniversary of the 512 Pixels Membership. To mark the occasion, I am sharing this article, which was sent in this month’s members-only newsletter. To learn more and sign up, visit this page.


Today, the vast majority of Macs sold are notebooks, and as we Mac nerds eagerly await a redesigned MacBook Pro, it’s easy to forget just how far Mac notebooks have come over the years.

In May 1999, Apple introduced the “PowerBook G3 (Bronze Keyboard)” which was an update to the black, curvy notebooks of the day. True to its name, it shipped with semi-transparent bronze keys that exposed the keyframes underneath under direct light.

Technically, that is a photo of my “Pismo” PowerBook G3, but the keyboard color is the same on both machines.

Packing a 1024 x 768 14.1-inch display, this machine — nicknamed “Lombard” — was a full two pounds lighter than its predecessor, coming in at 5.9 pounds.

Inside was a 333 MHz PowerPC G3, with a 400 MHz CPU as an option for those willing to spend more. It had a memory cap of 384 MB of RAM and came with 8 MB of graphics memory, thanks to the ATI Rage LT Pro. However, this G3 had a slower Level 2 cache, making the old machine faster under certain workloads.

Awkward.

The Lombard, like other PowerBooks of the era, had two bays, one under each side of the keyboard. This allowed users to swap in modules like optical drives and even a second battery, for a potential 16 hours of battery life. The slid and locked into place until ejected by pulling a small plastic lever. It would never fly with today’s Apple, but it made the PowerBook G3 line of notebooks extremely customizable.

This particular generation of PowerBook G3 is special. It was the first to come with USB ports, shedding the ADB and serial ports found on the previous machine.

(The next generation, dubbed the “Pismo” would add FireWire 400.)

This port change no doubt upset some long-time Mac users, but it means that the Lombard was a bridge to the future. Inside, there were more changes, as it was the last PowerBook with built-in SCSI support and the first with a New World ROM.

As with many Macs of this era, the Lombard can run a wide range of operating system. In this case, anything between Mac OS 8.6 to Mac OS X 10.3.9.

The Lombard was for sale for less than a year, and about 18 months after it was announced, the Titanium PowerBook brought the G4 to Apple’s notebook line. As such, it’s basically a forgotten Mac, but one that was an important step in moving the Mac forward.

Review: Timery Improves Toggl Time Tracking in Every Way »

2019 has brought a lot of changes to my workload. I joined Mac Power Users, which radically changed how my work week looks, bringing to an end to a couple of projects and requiring changes to others.

I knew that to make informed decisions about my time as an indie, I needed data. Your gut will always be wrong about how you think you spend your time, but raw numbers don’t lie.

For time tracking, I turned to Toggl. It’s a robust time-tracking platform with apps on the web, Mac and iOS, and the free plan was more than enough to meet my needs.

To begin, I made a list of all the different categories a single task could fall into. My list is long, but broad enough for my needs.

Relay FM

  • Relay Admin
  • Relay Development
  • Relay Membership
  • Relay Travel
  • Connected
  • Download
  • Liftoff
  • MPU
  • Ungeniused
  • Other Shows

512 Pixels

  • Blogging
  • 512 Membership
  • YouTUbe

Hackett Technical Media

  • LLC Admin
  • Consulting
  • Freelance Writing

Misc.

  • Content Research1
  • Nerd Overhead2
  • Studio Maintenance
  • OBS3

Setting all this up in Toggl was easy enough, but the service’s apps are a little … lacking. I run the website as a Fluid app but on iOS, Toggl’s official app is seriously bad. Just this month, they shipped their first iPad version. Yikes.

Enter Timery, a new iOS app by Joe Hribar:

Once logged into Toggl with Timery, the app syncs seamlessly — and shockingly quickly — with the service. I’ve stopped a timer on my phone to see it stop in the web browser instantly. As far as apps that sync with web services, Timery earns a gold medal.

It doesn’t end there, though. Timery’s design is far better than Toggl’s, and the app comes with a bunch of goodies including a widget, a nice dark mode, a customizable homescreen icon and Siri support for starting, stopping and checking on timers.

Many of these features are unlocked via subscription for $9.99/year. If you’re tracking your time, it’s money well spent.

While Timery supports the vast majority of features found in Toggl, there is one that I’d like to see, if possible: reporting. In his review on MacStories, John Voorhees has the same wish I do:

The Toggl web and iOS apps include charts to visualize how you spend your time. Weekly, monthly, and yearly reports can be generated and compared with time logged for earlier periods. If you’re a Toggl subscriber, project-level reports are also available broken down by each project’s tasks. I rely on these reports to give me a sense of what I’m working on relative to other projects and prior periods and see if how I feel about my workload is borne out by the data. It’s the kind of information that allows me to evaluate if I’m working on the right projects and make periodic adjustments. I know this is on developer Joe Hribar’s radar and look forward to seeing what he comes up with in the future.

Even without reports, Timery has earned a place on the homescreen of my iPhone and iPad, and I hope it makes the jump to the Mac sooner rather than later.


  1. Anytime I am doing research for something that may end up in columns and podcasts, it goes here. When I’m watching the WWDC keynote in two weeks, this will be the timer that is running. 
  2. This includes running my off-site backups, tinkering with my home network or switching to-do apps. 
  3. I’m on the Board of Directors for Operation Broken Silence, a non-profit run by my brother focused on issues in Sudan. 

Kbase Article of the Week: Cannot Select GeForce 9400M Graphics in Windows on MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2008), MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2009), MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2009), and MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2009) »

Long title; short article:

You may notice that the built-in NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics subsystem does not appear in the Device Manager and cannot be used with Microsoft Windows XP or Vista.

Windows is not able to take advantage of the GeForce 9400M graphics processor and by default uses the GeForce 9600M GT discrete graphics processor.

Bitcode May Be Key to x86/ARM Developer Transition »

Steven Troughton-Smith has spent some time testing one route to get from x86 to ARM for Mac apps:

Of course, the specter of macOS on ARM has been in the public psyche for many years now, and many have pondered whether Bitcode will make this transition more straightforward. The commonly held belief is that Bitcode is not suited to massive architectural changes like moving between Intel and ARM.

I was unconvinced, so I decided to test the theory!

I don’t think Apple would automatically recompile everything in the Mac App Store for ARM, but I do think this will be the way forward for Mac developers as the Intel Mac Era comes to a close very soon.

Marzipan Apps and the Mac App Store »

Dave Mark, writing at The Loop:

Interesting difference between the Mac and iOS is the ability to download and run a Mac app without any involvement from Apple. While you can sideload an iOS app using Apple’s Mobile Device Management, Test Flight, or by building the app yourself, none of those offer the freedom the Mac brings.

Will Marzipan change that, even a bit? Will I be able to download a Marzipan app from a developer’s site and just run it on my Mac? Or will Marzipan restrict apps to the Mac App Store?

I would bet good money that Marzipan apps are only available through the Mac App Store.

Artemis’ Pending Battles 

Artemis — the new name for NASA’s initiative to put humans back on the moon by the end of 2024 — may be defined by its new, flashy goal, but as Loren Grush writes, it has an up-hill battle to even have a shot at the lunar surface:

NASA’s first big hurdle is a political one. Over the next few months, the space agency must sell this initiative to Congress, which controls the government’s budget. Lawmakers may like the idea of putting women on the Moon, but they may not want to raid the budgets of other federal programs to help NASA achieve its goal. Plus, Congress has to buy into NASA’s blueprint for this lunar return mission, and lawmakers will be taking a close look at how the space agency plans to get there.

On Monday, the White House and NASA announced an extra $1.6 billion in funding for the agency, but the source of the money is worrisome, as reported by Jill Colvin:

Under a budget amendment sent to Congress Monday evening, the administration would use an additional $1.9 billion in surplus Pell Grant money to fund other budget priorities, including an infusion of new cash for NASA “so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” President Donald Trump tweeted.

[…]

Officials insisted the re-allocation of the Pell Grant money would have no impact on those currently receiving grants, which help low-income students pay for college.

“This does not cut any spending for Pell Grant programs as the budget continues to ensure all students will get their full Pell Grant and keeps the program on sound fiscal footing,” Office of Management and Budget spokesman Wesley Denton said in a statement.

Enrollment in the program has declined since 2011, leading to a surplus of nearly $9 billion, according to the budget office.

That’s certainly complicated to consider, and it means that Congress may have a hard time approving it, but it may not matter, as the $1.6 billion is probably just the start of what it will take to put boots on the lunar surface, and much of the needed hardware is nowhere near ready — and may require more time than the deadline allows.

I don’t think Artemis is impossible, but I can’t help but think the nation is not ready to get behind it like it was in the 1960s when Kennedy challenged us to go the moon the first time.