Sleuthing the MacBook Pro Battery Issues

Gordan Mah Ung at Macworld recently spent some time researching battery issues with the new MacBook Pros. He did comparative tests with different tasks and came to the conclusion that the problem is the MacBook Pro getting stuck on the discreet graphics card, which chews through battery much faster than the integrated graphics. Some of these issues were improved with the most recent macOS update but still your mileage may vary. I'm getting, fairly reliably, seven hours on my new 15" MacBook Pro, which is less than Apple's advertised 10.

I think with this trend toward hyper-tuning the hardware and software towards battery life, estimates are no longer as reliable as they used to be. For optimal battery life these days, you need to satisfy certain conditions (like not using the discreet graphics card) and a lot of users, like me, stray out of those perfect conditions often.

A Few Thoughts about iPad

Apple recently announced their quarterly earnings and it turns out the fruit company is doing well. The iPhone sales return to growth, the Mac is doing well, revenue from services is up. The outlier was the iPad. 

The iPad's sales are down for the 2016 holidays compared to the 2015 holidays. Not surprisingly, the iPad is now the whipping boy (again) for Apple pundits.

A lot of folks are arguing that the reason iPad isn't selling that well is because it's built too well. People keep their iPads a long time and don't feel any burning desire to upgrade. I've seen anecdotal evidence of this in my life. I was talking to a physician friend of mine that uses her iPad every day. She's carrying the first generation iPad Air (which is now nearly four years old) and she still loves it. I asked her why she didn't upgrade to the iPad Pro and she looked at me like I was crazy. "Why should I? This one works great!"

I don't view this as a problem. The fact that Apple makes devices of sufficient quality that people can use them for years is a reason why people come to Apple in the first place.

In my mind, the issue is that users are not pushing the iPad harder to do more work for them, which would naturally end up in users wanting to buy newer, faster, and better iPads. Put simply, I think the issue is software.

While iOS 9 made some productivity strides to the iPad operating system, iOS 10 did not. I was hoping we would see an update to iOS 10 sometime after launch that improves productivity on the iPad but now we're in iOS 10.3 beta, and there are no signs of anything like that coming. June isn't that far away and I think the next opportunity is iOS 11.

I know this is one of my pet issues and every time I write about it, I get emails explaining that making the iPad more complex would cause more problems than it would solve. I disagree. Consumers have been using the iOS operating system now for 10 years. People generally understand how it works. I believe the smart people at Apple could make the iOS operating system for the iPad more powerful (and a bit more complex) without substantially interfering with consumers that want to keep it simple. Moreover, giving it some more powerful tools (even something as simple as making it easier to select and manipulate multiple objects and files at once) would substantially increase the ability for users to get productive work done with their iPads.

At last year's iPad Pro event Apple made a big deal about how the iPad is powerful enough to replace a PC laptop. I believe for a lot of people that could be true. But it's not quite there yet because of the software limitations.

In my informal observations at coffee shops and courthouses, I'm seeing increasing numbers of Microsoft Surface laptop computers. I believe people do want an ultralight computer to help get their work done. I am certain some percentage of those Microsoft customers considered an iPad but for whatever reason chose not use one. I'd even argue that for a lot of those people the iPad was perfectly up to the task of whatever it is they're doing on that Microsoft computer.

If Apple wants to see an increase in iPad sales, I think the answer is making them more useful and getting the word out. Apple should get serious about adding features to iOS that allows users to be more productive in getting their work done. On top of that, Apple should start demonstrating to the public with some its clever advertising how lots of normal people are getting work done on the iPad. I'm not talking about videos of people taking the iPad deep-sea diving but instead how people use it to make spreadsheets, write documents, and all the other work that most of us do to pay for our shoes.

Fantastical for iOS 2.8

Fantastical for iPad and iPhone updated today to version 2.8. The new update includes rich notifications and and haptic feedback on iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Now in Fantastical on the iPhone 7, when you scroll dates or times, you feel a nice little click under your finger. I like the way developers are doing haptic feedback in their apps. It's subtle, but useful. I hope other developers follow suit.

The new version also adds a sticker pack with a calendar-themed stickers. They're animated and useful for doing things, like inviting a friend to lunch. Learn more here.

World's Greatest Apple Watch Stand

Despite being an Apple Watch fan, I'd never purchased a dock for it. Laying it on its side always seemed good enough for me. That was until I saw this little beauty, which I immediately bought from Amazon for $15. This may be a generational thing but it sure is nice having a classic Mac on my desk again, even if it is a lot smaller than the last one. (I particularly love how they got the little hole for a paper clip to force eject a floppy disk.)

You may be asking why I charge the watch on my desk as opposed to the nightstand. That's because I've been wearing the watch to bed as of late. The second edition watch is pretty great on battery life and charging it in this adorable stand while I work for an hour or two each day is plenty enough charge to get me through the day (and night).

The MacCast Amigos

I joined Adam Christianson, Victor Cajiao, and Ken Ray on the MacCast podcast to discuss Apple’s music and media content strategy, how we think Apple did in 2016 and what we hope to see from Apple in 2017, and the future for Apple’s Siri technology in the next version of iOS. Plus we each talked about some of our favorite technology.

Home Screens – Dan Fenner

Dan Fenner pays for his shoes as a data specialist. At night, he teaches English to adult immigrants. Dan is pretty passionate about travel and blogs about it at MuchoSpanish.com. Throughout it all, Dan’s relies on his trusty iPhone and iPad. He even uses his iPad as his primary computer. So Dan, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

iPhone: 

Overcast Podcast Player, Audible, Music, OperaVPN, Kindle.

iPad:

Pixelmator and Procreate: I use these for my Instagram images. I bought Pixelmator the day it came out. I just started using Procreate, since I just bought my Baby Pro in October 2016.

PDF Expert: This is my main PDF annotation app, mostly because of its Focus presentation feature. When I trace a box around a section of a document, everything outside the box darkens about 50%, which helps the focus on exactly the part I want them, too. Settings says PDF Expert is using 3.9 GBS of iCloud space.

Coda: I can make CSS changes to different websites that I run. I also like using Coda as my FTP app. I even designed a custom Wordpress them in Coda.

Pages: I can design the lessons for my night class very easily and they look great.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I love spending time in Instagram and YouTube. Sometimes I search photos from places we’ll be traveling to.

What app makes you most productive?

Notes, since I can refer to it for everything in my life, especially now that we can lock them. I store SFTP info and website security questions, I keep to do lists here because I can write notes about the to-do item or take a photo and add it to the note, allowing me to get my head back into the task much more quickly. I love that I can use Siri to remind me about Notes.

What is the app you are still missing?

I don’t feel I’m missing out on any Mac apps, but I wish a lot of these iPad apps were more-fully functional.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

I’m on my iPad all day long. My iPad is now my main computer at work. I love it because it’s so light and portable. I can put it down anywhere and start getting some work done.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

Outlook (there are some work emails and meetings I can’t miss), Maps Destinations (so easy to get the best route to/from work), Calendar. I’ve also found that Siri App Suggestions has become very good at know what I want at specific times of the day.

What is your favorite feature of the iPad?

My favorite feature is the Pencil.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

I would focus on making the iPad a more productive device. Split screen and keyboard shortcuts were a great addition. I look forward to seeing new productivity features this spring.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

Currently, I have an artistic rendition of my beautiful wife that I created on my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil.

Thanks Dan.

PDF Troubles

I am receiving a lot of email lately from readers encountering PDF problems on the Mac. If that’s you, you’re not alone. Apparently with the release of macOS Sierra, Apple rewrote many of the PDFKit frameworks used in Preview and several other third party PDF applications. (This is why the Fujitsu ScanSnap took longer to become Sierra-friendly.) 

The underlying problem is that Apple wants to use the same foundational PDF code for both macOS and iOS. Sierra is where they started implementing this. Unfortunately, in doing so, they broke much of the code PDF apps rely upon. It was a good idea hatched too early. Adam Engst did his usual bang-up job talking to developers about this over at TidBITS.

I spend most of my time working with PDFs in PDFpen, which largely does not rely on Apple’s frameworks and works fine. After getting all this email, however, I decided to use Preview for a few days to see how bad it is. It’s a mess. Preview cannot not display (or properly save) some of my form PDFs and seems to be wiping the OCR text layer out of previously OCR’d PDFs.

I fully expect this will get fixed but in the meantime, I'm sticking with PDFpen and I recommend you do the same.

Chris Lattner on Accidental Tech Podcast

This week Chris Lattner, the recently departed Apple employee that pioneered the Swift programming language, guested on the Accidental Tech Podcast. The interview, overall, is very comforting for people worried about the future of Swift and other things Apple. The ATP gang handled the interview with aplomb. Listening to Chris made me want to jump deeper into learning Swift. If only I had a time turner.

I also like the fact that this interview took place on a podcast. 

Apple News - Worth a Second Look

Without thinking too much about it, I’ve switched over to Apple News as nearly my exclusive source for news over the past six months. The iOS 10 Apple News re-design works for me. As a frequent user of the iPad and iPhone I like the way Apple News fits into my workflow. It gives me notifications, but not nearly as many as other news sources. Likewise, when I'm in the lock screen, the Apple News widget gives me just what I need and no more.

Apple News does a good job of finding news interesting to me. However, at the same time I still get important news from other sources. Apple News doesn't isolate me in my own little self-created bubble. I like that.

One of my favorite things about Apple News is that it is self contained. I can spend 20 minutes in the app and get a pretty good idea what’s going on in the world without falling into the news rabbit-hole, spending 3 hours reading and getting nothing else done.

Talking to some friends, it appears I'm not alone in coming around to Apple News. If you haven’t tried Apple News lately, you should.

MPU 360: Workflows with Charles Perry

This week Charles Perry, one of the organizers of the Release Notes conference, joins us to talk about turning his passion into a business, then a podcast, then a successful conference and the tools and logistics behind all of it.

Sponsors include:

  • Ministry of Supply: Dress smarter. Work smarter. Get a free pair of Smarter Dress Socks with your first purchase.
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  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Marketcircle We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.

Terminology 4.0 - A Word Tool

I spend a lot of time working with words so I am always looking for apps that can help me out. Terminology (Website) (App Store) is one of those apps. Terminology's been in active development since 2010 and this week Agile Tortoise, the developer, released Terminology version 4.0. Features include:

Dictionary

There’s a full off-line root word dictionary and semantic reference with concise definitions for common words and phrases. 

Thesaurus

I use this feature often. It shows word relations, including synonyms and antonyms and it runs deeper than most of the other apps I’ve tried. This also works through an extension so you can look for new words from anywhere on iOS.

Reference Tool

You can use the application as a jumping off point for Google searches, Wikipedia, and other web resources. With the Pro version you can even make custom URL-based actions. Terminology is very automation friendly. This shouldn’t surprise you. It’s developed by the same guy that makes Drafts.

Terminology 4 is universal for iPhone and iPad and they have a new model with a free download and a $1.99 Pro unlock to remove ads and enable custom actions and dark mode. Below is a video showing off some of the features.

Sponsor: CardioBot Heart Rate and Activity Monitor

Something you may not realize if you are wearing an Apple Watch is that it is checking your heart rate every 4 minutes during the day. (It’s much more frequent when you are working out.) Your heart rate data is really useful to understanding your overall health. Heart rate data helps assess periods of fat burning and high intensity during workouts and even helps you understand your sleep quality.

The problem is finding a way to access and comprehend that data. That’s where CardioBot comes in. CardioBot takes your heart rate data and displays it for you in easy to understand charts and graphs. It tracks your minimum, maximum, and average heart rate during the day. Here’s my data for January 14.

 

Moreover, when you workout there are additional charts showing the highest intensity, fat burning periods. In this workout I started with weights and later got on the treadmill, which really got my ticker going.

CardioBot doesn’t add to your battery drain. It simply takes your heart data and puts it in simple (and attractive!) charts that you can easily understand. 

CardioBot can also help you improve your sleep using detailed sleep analysis. I really like the design of this app and for just $3 it sure is nice to have easy access to my heart rate data. I'm looking forward to dropping this on my doctor at my next checkup. If you’ve got an Apple Watch, this one is absolutely worth it. You can find it today on the App Store.