On Time Tracking »

I went into 2019 with a lot of plates in the air, and a lot of change, having joined Mac Power Users. My schedule felt chaotic, so I restarted time tracking, something I haven’t done since 2015 when I first went independent with Relay FM.

My app of choice for this has been Toggl, but the tools aren’t the point; knowing how your time is spent is.

My friend Quinn Rose has been going though something similar, as she recently wrote:

Since I actually know how long tasks take me, I’m better at planning my days. Noticing where I was productive and where tracking dropped off helped me realize that I’m not very productive in the evening, so now I exercise after work instead of before, which increases my overall productive time and helps me get to the gym more consistently. Also, instead of wildly overestimating my ability to get things done, I’m checking off my full to-do list more days than not. I’m actually filling a work day and understanding when is best to be productive, instead of trying to “power through” a task even when I’m uninspired and distracted.

One thing I have noticed, even a few weeks in, is that my work feels more focused. I have a tendency to hop around from one task to another to another, sometimes in rapid succession. When I have to start and stop timers, it makes me settle into a specific task for longer, and I think that’s better for my brain, despite it being a little unnatural still. There’s a lot to this, and I’m still learning, but it’s been interesting. Here’s Quinn again:

Some time tracking tools automatically track what you do on your computer, which would certainly be even more accurate than the program I’m using now. However, even though Toggl can’t tell if I’m on Twitter, the timer forces me to actively choose to work or not work. If that timer is running but I’m on Instagram, I know that I’m cheating. It’s a neat psychological tool for holding myself accountable.

While I’m just a few weeks into this new habit, I am already reaping benefits from it. If you feel overwhelmed or overworked, having real data can help you make better decisions, and that is never a bad thing.

Kbase Article of the Week: MacBook Air Flash Storage Firmware Update 1.1 »

I had forgotten all about this:

Apple has discovered that a small percentage of flash storage drives in these MacBook Air models have an issue that may result in data loss. This update tests your drive and, in the majority of cases, installs new firmware to resolve the issue. If your drive cannot be updated, Apple will replace it, free of charge.

This firmware update is recommended for MacBook Air (mid 2012) models.

Eventually, Apple opened a Repair Extension Program for some of these machines.

Apple Announces New AirPods with ‘Hey Siri’ Support, Better Talk Time and Optional Wireless Charging Case »

Good news if your AirPods are slowly dying:

The new Apple-designed H1 chip, developed specifically for headphones, delivers performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time and the convenience of hands-free “Hey Siri.” AirPods come with either a standard charging case or a new Wireless Charging Case for convenient charging at home and on the go.

Here’s a bit more on the H1 chip, which replaces the W1 in the old models:

Powered by the all-new Apple H1 headphone chip, AirPods deliver a faster and more stable wireless connection to your devices — up to 2x faster when switching between active devices, and a 1.5x faster connection time for phone calls. The H1 chip also drives voice-enabled Siri access and delivers up to 30 percent lower gaming latency. So whether you’re playing games, listening to music, or enjoying podcasts, you’ll experience higher-quality sound.

I assume this chip will slowly replace the W1, and I would love to know why they changed the brand.

The case is perhaps even more interesting. Again, from the press release:

The new AirPods come with either the standard charging case or the new Wireless Charging Case. Each case holds additional charges for more than 24 hours of total listening time, ensuring AirPods are charged and ready to go whenever you are. The Wireless Charging Case is designed to offer the freedom of wireless charging with Qi-compatible charging solutions. An LED light indicator located on the front of the case conveniently shows the charge status with just a glance. Existing AirPods customers can purchase the standalone Wireless Charging Case.

Notably, there’s not a single mention of AirPower, despite a recent report from Guilherme Rambo saying support for the ill-fated charging mat is more robust than ever in the latest iOS 12.2 beta.

Then there’s this:

The new AirPods with the traditional case be $159;1 $199 will get you a pair with the wireless charging case. If you want the case for your old busted AirPods, that will be $79.

  1. The same price as the originals. 

Connected #235: Stephen’s Hellish Nightmare of Dates »

Busy, busy week:

The boys take some time to mark National Ravioli Day, then dive into Apple’s new iPads and iMacs before making predictions for the company’s upcoming media event.

I am either going to dominate those predictions or lose by a mile.

My thanks to our sponsors this week:

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  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code CONNECTED at checkout for 10% off.

Apple Tweaks iMac Pro Options (Updated) »

In addition to the iMac changes, Apple has quietly adjusted many options for the iMac Pro, as Joe Rossignol reports:

Alongside a spec bump to standard iMac models, Apple today quietly added 256GB RAM and Radeon Pro Vega 64X graphics options to the iMac Pro.

Upgrading to 256GB of 2,666MHz DDR4 ECC memory will set you back a steep $5,200, more than the $4,999 price of the base iMac Pro itself. Radeon Pro Vega 64X graphics can be added for $700. Both are configure-to-order options.

Prices on RAM amounts, SSD capacities and the Vega Pro 64 GPU have dropped as well:

I dig it.

Updated: Prices for RAM and storage on a bunch of other Macs have been lowered as well.

Upgrade #237: New iMacs, iPads, and the 2019 March Event Draft »

There’s a big episode of Jason Snell and Myke Hurley’s Upgrade podcast hot off the presses:

After nearly two years, Apple has released new iMacs, and Jason has an exclusive interview with Apple’s iMac product manager, Colleen Novielli. We also discuss the surprising new iPad Air and iPad mini announcements, and then it’s time for another Upgrade draft, as we make our choices for what will be on stage at Apple’s services event next Monday!

Apple Updates iMac Line With New CPU, GPU Options »

Apple is at it again this morning, this time updating its iMac line:

Apple today updated its iMac line with up to 8-core Intel 9th-generation processors for the first time and powerful Vega graphics options, delivering dramatic increases in both compute and graphics performance. From consumers to pros alike, users will notice their iMac is faster for everyday tasks all the way up to the most demanding pro workloads. This boost in performance, combined with its gorgeous Retina display, sleek all-in-one design, quiet operation, fast storage and memory, modern connectivity and macOS Mojave, makes iMac the world’s best desktop.


Let’s talk about specs.

All 27-inch 5K iMacs now start with six cores. The two lower models with 8th generation Intel i5s, while the $2,299 SKU comes with 9th-gen chips. The 5K iMac can be optioned with a 8-core Intel i9 for a few hundred dollars.

Interestingly, the only way to get an i7 iMac is to custom-build a 21.5-inch 4K machine. Here, the base machine comes with a quad-core i3, while the $1,499 4K iMac comes with a six-core i5.

All Retina iMacs come with Radeon Pro GPUs with GDDR5 memory, but custom-built machines can be outfitted with Vega parts. The 4K machine can ship with a Radeon Pro Vega 20 GPU with 4 GB HBM2 memory; the 5K machine gets a Vega 48 and 8 GB HBM2 memory.

While still shy of what’s in the iMac Pro, these GPUs mean the regular iMac has a lot more grunt in terms of video processing.

The iMac is still shy of the iMac Pro’s $4,999 price point, but like before, a fully decked out iMac will cross that line. For $5,249, you can get an iMac with an 8-core i9, 64 GB of RAM, 2 TB of SSD storage and the Vega 48 GPU. My entry-level iMac Pro has less RAM and a smaller SSD, but should still outperform this machine in most tasks — especially those that are multithreaded. The iMac is still going to beat it in singlethreaded tasks, however.

A Complaint About Storage

Every 27-inch iMac comes standard with a Fusion Drive — even at the top end of the range. It’s $100 to go from a 2 TB Fusion Drive to a 512 GB SSD, and over $1,000 to match the Fusion Drive’s capacity. I understand why Apple continues to do this, but I wish it wasn’t so.

Here are the default storage options for the 27-inch machines:

My bigger problem is with the 21.5-inch machines. The non-Retina machine and the entry-level 4K model both come with 1 TB hard drives spinning at a pitiful 5400 RPM, which really take the wind out of the sails when it comes to performance. Just look at these default options:

If we can’t live in an all-SSD world yet, I would like to see these slower systems put out to pasture. A spinning drive really brings these machines to their knees. There’s nothing like seeing the spinning beach ball on a brand-new iMac.

Modernizing the iMac? Check Back Later.

While the new CPU and GPU options are welcome, they are all that is really new about these machines. They use the same case design, which harkens back to the Late 2012 iMacs. This includes the same cooling system, which worries me.

Before I bought my iMac Pro in December 2017, I tried out an i7 iMac with the 5K display. The fan would loudly spin up under any load, making it untenable for recording audio. I can’t imagine that the 8-core i9 will do any better. If you value a quiet desktop, you may be in for a surprise here.

Then there’s the matter of the T2 chip which is noticeably absent from these machines. That means that all the security benefits it brings are not available on Apple’s most popular desktop models. The iMac doesn’t have the secure boot capabilities and fast (and encrypted!) data access1 that something like the MacBook Air boasts.

That’s … not great.

All in all, today’s iMacs are a spec bump. While I’m pumped to see the iMac continue to get more powerful CPU and GPU options, I was wanting Apple to modernize the iMac, bringing it in line with its other machines. There’s always next time, I suppose.

  1. Moving to the T2 would require an all-SSD lineup, which Apple manages to fit into things like the Mac mini. 

Apple Announces New iPad Air, iPad mini »

With its media event just a week away, it seems that Apple is clearing the decks a bit.

This morning, the company announced a new iPad, as well as an updated iPad mini.

iPad Air

The new non-Pro iPad is now called the “iPad Air” again, and sports a 10.5-inch screen, like the old iPad Pro. While the 10.5-inch Pro was on sale yesterday, it is now gone. It supports both the Smart Keyboard and first-generation Apple Pencil, and it comes with a fully laminated display unlike the cheaper 9.7-inch iPad.

It seems that the product has morphed into this new iPad Air in the form of a spec bump, but without support for ProMotion or for storage options larger than 256 GB. The Air also lacks the Pro’s quad speaker setup, and can only capture 1080p video, not 4K footage.

In short, the iPad Air is better than the old 10.5-inch iPad Pro in some ways, but worse in others.

The new iPad Air is powered by the A12 Bionic, but doesn’t support Face ID. It comes in Silver, Space Gray and Gold, starting at $499 for a 64 GB model. A 256 GB model can be picked up for $649, with LTE models $130 more.

iPad mini

The new iPad mini may be a more surprising announcement. Still 7.9-inches and complete with a Home button, the new iPad mini is powered by the A12 Bionic chip, and supports the first-generation Apple Pencil. It also comes with True Tone and wide color support for the first time.

(The previous iPad mini 4 was launched in September 2015, so it had some catching up to do.)

Like the Air, the mini cannot capture 4K video, and comes with a two-speaker audio system.

The iPad mini comes in Silver, Space Gray and Gold, starting at $399 for a 64 GB model. A 256 GB model can be picked up for $549, with LTE models $130 more.

The 2019 iPad Family

The new iPad Air sits between the 9.7-inch iPad and the iPad Pro, as Apple notes in its press release:

The new iPad Air and iPad mini join the most affordable 9.7-inch iPad and the most advanced iPad Pro models, offering the best, most innovative iPad lineup ever. The complete lineup now includes Apple Pencil support, best-in-class performance, advanced displays and all-day battery life6 for an experience unmatched by any other device.

To be clear, there are a lot of iPads to choose from now, but I think the line forms a pretty clear picture now. If you want the cheapest iPad you can get, buy the 9.7-inch. If you want something small, the iPad mini is for you. If you want a keyboard, but don’t want to spring for the more expensive iPad Pro, the new iPad Air looks like a real winner.

I think the iPad Air may become the new default iPad. It supports the Pencil, Smart Keyboard, and is noticeably larger than the 9.7-inch model. It even sits at the classic iPad price point of $499.

Report: Apple Has Five Shows Wrapped »

John Koblin at The New York Times, writing about Apple’s media event happening a week from today:

The event at the Apple Park campus in Cupertino is also meant to drive home — for iPhone fans and anyone in Hollywood who hasn’t been paying attention — just how many shows Apple has pulled together. Five series have completed filming. Around a half dozen more are on the verge of wrapping production, according to several people familiar with the shows who were not authorized to speak publicly. And the number of original productions is expected to increase in 2020.