¶ Anticipation

In a few short hours Apple's giant countdown clock will reach zero and Tim Cook and his pals will show us what they have been working on for a while. The buzz around this particular event is palpable. I mean, not only is there the aforementioned countdown clock, but Apple has built a significantly sized building at their event venue. And that venue is the Flint Center, where the original Macintosh was revealed 30 years ago.

Everything about this event is exciting so far. iOS 8 is bringing app extensions and TouchID everywhere. OS X Yosemite is bringing a new look and Continuity with iOS.

New, larger iPhones (yes, plural) are a shoe in at this point. I have a 3D print that a friend of a friend made for me of the 4.7-inch model. While it is still pocketable for me, it does seem a bit too large. My thumb does not travel across the screen area well. I'm reserving judgment until I can use an actual device, though.

Those are the knowns, and they are exciting enough in their own right.

It's the unknowns that are really driving the hype. What is in that structure they are building? Some have suggested it is a mock home to showcase HomeKit enabled devices. The wearable (I refuse to call it an iWatch right now) has enough smoke that there has to be a fire. What will the wearable do? Is it simply a Fitbit replacement, or is it going to tie our other devices a bit closer to our lives?

Whatever is going to happen tomorrow is going to be big. Between the rumors, the venue, and that mysterious building, I'd say whatever happens tomorrow is going to set the stage for Apple for at least the next half decade — or maybe even the next 30 years.

¶ The Annoying State of the Apple Wireless Keyboard

Lately I have had conversations with a couple friends after I expressed rage frustration at how quickly my Apple Wireless Keyboard chews through a pair of Eneloop AA's1. Naturally, once I began to resent one thing, I began to notice the rest of its flaws compared to the modern state of other Bluetooth keyboards. What follows are my gripes with the Apple Wireless Keyboard, and how they should be fixed.

Tim Cook, if you're reading, I would give my kingdom for this keyboard.

The Battery

AA's, while fairly universal, are ridiculous in this day & age of Apple devices. The iPad and the MacBook Air get amazing battery life. I'd like to see Apple bring their expertise in battery tech to their peripherals. Ditch the tube shape on the back that holds batteries, and go to a MacBook Air-like wedge shape with a good sized internal battery. Recharge it via a Lightning cable when needed, and have it still usable while plugged into your Mac.

Also, I imagine moving to Bluetooth 4 would help with energy usage, and every new Apple device in the past couple years has come equipped with that.

The Keys

If you've been paying attention to any of Apple's portable Macs in the last few years, you'd know that the white keys of the Apple Wireless Keyboard look like a turd compared to the elegant black keys of portable Macs. Can you imagine how mismatched this keyboard looks next to the new Mac Pro?

Another thing Apple could borrow from the MacBook line is backlit keys. My proposed wedge shape, which could accommodate a nicely sized rechargeable battery, with a more energy efficient Bluetooth 4, could hopefully handle powering backlit keys. It's darn near 2014, it is time to have black, backlit keys on a wireless keyboard.

Easy to Use Multiple Device Support

The Logitech K811 keyboard is almost the keyboard of my dreams, except it is a little on the ugly side with that black stripe across the top. It has black, backlit keys, an internal rechargeable battery (but over the sucky micro-USB), and this amazing ability to switch between a Mac, iPhone, & iPad with the press of a button. They call it EasySwitch for a reason.

When one of Apple's main goals is to get you to own a Mac, iPhone, & iPad, they should be selling a keyboard that gives extremely low friction in using it with all three devices.

Conclusion

There are some really great keyboards out there that are close to my dream keyboard, the aforelinked Logitech K811 being the closest, save for being a bit on the ugly side. I want Apple to step into this decade of technology with their keyboard, and utilize many of the technologies they've been pushing forward.

So let's recap what the next Apple Keyboard should be like.

  • Wedge shape, like the MacBook Air
  • Good-sized internal battery
  • Lightning port for recharging from an outlet or Mac.
  • Bluetooth 4
  • Black keys
  • Backlit keys
  • Ability to switch quickly and easily between Mac, iPhone, & iPad.

And hey, while we're at it, let's update the Magic Trackpad with the wedge shape, internal battery, Lightning port, and Bluetooth 4.

Again, I'd give my kingdom for peripherals like this.


  1. It is widely believed Apple uses relabeled Eneloops for their rechargeable battery kit.

It's Adjustable

Studio Neat has unveiled a new Glif. The Glif is a fantastic little tripod mount, originally for the iPhone 4/4S, and it has a second generation for the 5/5S. The former Glifs had a couple drawbacks: you needed a new one whenever Apple changed the iPhone design, and you needed to remove your case if you had one.

The new Glif is adjustable. It can accomodate not just an iPhone in a case now, but any phone within a reasonable size limit. Better yet, it looks a lot more secure than the previous Glif design. I loved my Glif for the iPhone 4, but never got around to buying one for my iPhone 5. Seeing as how this should be future-proofed for a good long while, it was an insta-order. Apologies to relatives who already find me hard to shop for.

Once it arrives, I'll see about posting a review of how well it works.

Pencil

When I was younger, it was very hard to pull me away from my colored pencil set and a good sketch pad. Then college came around and my time was consumed with writing papers all the time, and sketching fell a bit by the wayside.

Now, my five-year-old son loves to draw and sketch and I am reminded of my youth. While pencil and paper is still the best way to sketch, in my opinion, the day & age of being able to do so digitally on an iPad is also so much fun.

While I still do not sketch often (I can keep blaming time constraints, right?), I do enjoy seeing what is possible on my iPad. Naturally, I reach for Paper, by FiftyThree.

I also use a Cosmonaut stylus on occasion, and I love it, it does have some inflexibilities. I love the weight, the feel, and just generally how it handles. The tip is a bit broad, though.

Today, FiftyThree announced the Pencil, a perfect complement to Paper. It looks superb, and looks to be very versatil, as it has a bluetooth connection instead of being a passive hunk of rubber-coated aluminum. The only thing that is a bit of a downer for me is it looks like it only works great with Paper, and not other apps. I may be wrong there.

However, I adore their video to introduce it. Some friends of mine did not enjoy the motion in it, but I think it is a clever, fun, and delightful amount of whimsy.

¶ Elevation Dock | Review

I don't think anybody really likes using just the cable that comes in the box when they set their iPhone down at night to charge. I'm certainly no fan of just laying my phone down flat on my nightstand.

And since the iPhone's first day, Apple has known this, too. They included a charging dock in the box with the first iPhone. A year later, with the iPhone 3G, they realized people would probably drop a cool $30 on one, and they decided to instead sell it as an accessory.

When I had an iPhone 3G, I used Apple's dock on my nightstand. It sucked. It wasn't heavy enough in comparison to the iPhone, so the slightest bump would tip it over. And when you are fumbling for your phone in the early hours of the morning, you're probably going to bump it before you grasp it.

Not only that, but taking the iPhone out of the dock required both hands. Lifting the iPhone single-handedly would bring the dock along with it. That gets old fast.

So, with my iPhone 4, I have been in search of the perfect dock. I've tried many things, and for the past year, I had settled on the Bluelounge Refresh. That was okay, but still required both hands to disconnect the iPhone, and it was a little too large for my small nightstand.

And then, about six months ago, the Elevation Dock was announced on Kickstarter. Its creator, Casey Hopkins, had the same frustrations as me. So he set out to make a dock to vanquish those problems.

It took a long time, but the wait was definitely worth it. Yesterday, two Elevation Docks (one for me and one for my wife) arrived.

Elevation 5
Elevation 5

This dock is awesome. It works exactly as advertised. Here's a few more pictures.

Elevation 1
Elevation 1
Elevation 2
Elevation 2
Elevation 3
Elevation 3
Elevation 4
Elevation 4

There really isn't a whole lot more to say about the Elevation Dock. It is, after all, just a dock. It does one thing and it does it extremely well.

The machining and precision of craftsmanship on the Elevation Dock is outstanding. This is the dock you would have expected Apple to make.

Now, there has been one concern recently surrounding the rumors that Apple may change the dock connector on the next iPhone. Hopkins has assured should that happen, Elevation will make new circuit boards that users can purchase and install themselves (the board is held in by three little screws).

I can't recommend the Elevation Dock enough. It's beautiful. It does what a great dock should do. Elevation Lab is still fulfilling Kickstarter orders, but you can preorder one from their site.

With that, I'm going to leave you with their Kickstarter pitch video, which I think illustrates Hopkins' drive and passion well.

MacBook Pro Updated, Thunderbolt Included

Today Apple did a refresh of their MacBook Pro line, something that has been due for some time, as the previous refresh was in April of 2010.

Processors & Graphics

The entire MacBook Pro line is on the latest Intel processors. The 13-inch models have finally graduated from the Core 2 Duo processors to dual-core Core i5 on the low-end and Core i7 on the high end. Apple says the new 13-inch model is twice as fast as the previous generation. The 15- and 17-inch models all sport Core i7 processors instead of i5 processors, and they are quad-core!

All models have shifted to Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics. I am unsure how I feel about this as Intel's integrated graphics have never been known as fantastic. However, Intel blocked NVIDIA from making integrated chipsets for the Core i-Series of processors (this is why Apple stuck with the Core 2 Duo for so long on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. They preferred NVIDIA's chipsets).

Whereas the 13-inch model relies solely on the Intel graphics chip, the 15- and 17-inch models can automatically switch to higher-end AMD discrete graphics when some extra horsepower is needed. The low-end 15-inch sports the AMD Radeon HD 6490M with 256MB GDDR5, and the high-end 15-inch and the 17-inch models have the AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 1GB GDDR5. Nice.

FaceTime HD

The new MacBook Pro's have a new HD camera in the monitor bezel. These used to be called iSight's, but since the iPhone 4 was introduced, Apple has been rebranding with FaceTime. The MacBook Air was the first Mac to receive the FaceTime Camera moniker, and the MacBook Pro now has FaceTime HD.

Thunderbolt — One Port to Rule Them All

This section quite possibly deserves a post all in itself. Thunderbolt is a new port that handles, well, everything. It was a project by Intel to create a port that just about anything can plug into. Intel and Apple worked together to make this port, which has taken on the form-factor of Apple's mini-DisplayPort plug.

Thunderbolt can transfer data at 10 Gbps (USB 3.0 does 5 Gbps), connect storage devices, storage arrays, displays, and even connect to networks. It even supplies 10-watts of power to power devices.

So, what does this mean for future Macs? Well, one of the things I was hoping for in this refresh was that the MacBook Pro would become more like the MacBook Air. Especially in adopting the thin wedge profile. There are four main things that stand in the way of the MacBook Pro getting much thinner: hard drive, optical drive, Ethernet, and FireWire.

The hard drive will eventually go solely SSD in portable Macs, I am convinced of this. The optical drive can go the way of the floppy, and users who need it can have an external drive, like we see with the MacBook Air today.

But Ethernet and FireWire are large ports that aren't going away in the near future — or at least weren't, since there wasn't a viable replacement. Thunderbolt is that replacement.

Apple and Intel designed Thunderbolt to continue to support existing USB, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, and Fibre Channel networks using simple adapters. And since Thunderbolt is based on mini-DisplayPort, users can still use existing adapters to connect DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, or VGA displays.

Thunderbolt literally wraps all the ports on the side of the MacBook Pro into one connector. This is just the first step.

As Thunderbolt takes off and is included with other devices natively, Apple (and other manufacturers) could offer a bunch of Thunderbolt ports on their computers, and retire ports such as Ethernet, FireWire, and maybe even USB.

Imagine if thumbdrives had a Thunderbolt plug instead of USB. This one port design could very well be the future.

Conclusions

This is an impressive update to the MacBook Pro line. If you've had your eye on a new MacBook Pro, now is the time to get one. Mine is doing fine, and I am honestly waiting for the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air to hook up. Not to mention that the inclusion of Thunderbolt has me waiting to see a simplified I/O and thinner designs.