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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Dead products walking?

If you had asked me the future of the Mac mini one year ago, I would have been worried that the smallest Mac in Apple’s lineup may have been on its way out. Thankfully, 2018 proved this fear misplaced, and we have a new Mac mini that is a noticeably better and more flexible computer than it was.

Looking at Apple’s lineup, there are some products that feel like they are on death’s doorstep. Will 2019 breathe new life into these devices? My crystal ball runs Windows 95, so I have no idea.

iPad mini

The smallest iPad costs $399 for 128 GB of storage. It’s the only size available; the only options you have when ordering are the color and whether you want LTE or not.

For your $400, you get a 7.9-inch laminated Retina display, but just behind the glass is Apple’s A8 system on a chip, which first showed up on the iPhone 6 back in 2014.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: What’s a pro?

In that love-it-or-hate-it iPad commercial, it was asked “What’s a computer?”. The answer to that may still be unclear to some, but with the new Mac mini, Apple has another head-scratcher for us:

“What’s a pro?”

When Tom Boger, Apple’s head of Mac product marketing, introduced the new machine, he joked that it came in space gray because “pro customers are going to love that,” before praising it for being “an absolute beast on the inside.”

Boger then laid out his case. The new Mac mini comes with four or six processor cores in every model, can support up to 64 GB of user accessible RAM, and up to 2 TB of SSD storage, leaving all spinning media in the past. This is accessed via four Thunderbolt 3 ports, as well as a couple of USB A ports and an optional 10Gb ethernet upgrade. Apple’s custom T2 chip is onboard, keeping things safe, secure and speedy, and the Mac mini has an all-new cooling system designed to keep all of this hardware cool, quietly.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: iOS Needs to Grow to Meet the Needs of Big iPhones

This year, all of Apple’s flagship phones are over 5.8 inches in size. They make the iPhone 8 and even the 8 Plus the smaller phones of yesteryear, like the iPhone 5S before them.

When I first upgraded to an iPhone 6 Plus, iOS 8 was the latest and greatest, but it felt like iOS wasn’t really designed for screens as large as that found on the Plus. Even though Control Center was, at the time, revealed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, just about every app had its controls pinned at the top of the screen, as they always had.

At the time, I figured that by iOS 9 or 10, Apple would start migrating things to the bottom of the screen, and that Reachability was just a short-term hack until iOS could evolve to meet the needs of users with larger phones.

Sadly, I was wrong.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Thinking about AirPods 2

I really like my AirPods. I got them in the early days, when you still had to tackle people in the Apple Store line each morning for a chance to pick them up.

Since then, I’ve used them consistently. They are great at the gym, while pacing around my office on conference calls and doing the dishes. I’ve worn them on airplanes, in subways and even on the roof of my house while clearing out gutters. (Gotta get those podcasts listening hours in!)

I honestly think AirPods are my favorite new Apple product over the last several years, edging out the iPhone X and even my iMac Pro in terms of how much they have improved my daily life.

I don’t think we’re going to see AirPods 2 this fall, but there are a few features I wouldn’t mind seeing Apple add to the wireless earbuds.

Gesture Support. By far the thing I wish for the most is gesture support.…

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By Stephen Hackett

Spending time on the Apple Online Store

Everlast

I recently had to help a family member replace the charger for their MacBook Air, and it gave me an idea: what are some of the weirdest things for sale on apple.com, besides the 2013 Mac Pro?

Pegasus3 80 TB RAID. At $7,999, one of the most expensive items in the “Mac Accessories” section of the store is the PROMISE Pegasus3 R8 80TB RAID Storage. For that pile of cash, you get a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure equipped with eight 10 TB hard drives, with up to 40 Gbps connectivity and the ability to connect up to six daisy-chained devices on a single Thunderbolt 3 port.

RED RAVEN Camera Kit. While we’re here on the expensive list, we have to talk about the $14,999.95 RED RAVEN Camera Kit, which comes with Final Cut Pro X in addition to the 4.5K camera and a bunch of other RED parts and accessories.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Summer of Betas

It’s the summer (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) and that means it is time for Apple software betas!

For many years, Apple has run a Public Beta program, giving non-developer nerds access to the new versions of macOS, iOS and tvOS.

Installing these betas is easy. After logging into Apple’s site, you’ll download a certificate that allows your device to download the latest and greatest.

Preparing for the betas is a little more work. While going back to the non-public version of iOS or macOS isn’t always easy — or even possible — it’s still important to have a backup of your data, and to have as much of it synced to services like iCloud as possible.

For an iOS device, I will run iCloud backup on the beta OS, but I’ll make a backup using iTunes to have in cold storage if I need it later.

On the Mac, I generally run the betas on an external SSD, leaving the stable OS and all of my data safe and sound on my laptop’s internal drive.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Hopes for Mac Hardware at WWDC

A dumb X-Files joke
A dumb X-Files joke

WWDC 2017 was a real winner when it came to Mac hardware. The notebooks got refreshed, as did the Retina iMac. Then, of course, was the unveiling of the iMac Pro, in all of its Space Gray, Xeon processing, Vega-powered glory. While it didn’t ship until the end of the year, the announcement put a smile on the faces of Mac enthusiasts everywhere.

With the next-generation Mac Pro a “2019 product,” according to Apple, this year’s keynote probably won’t be as flashy when it comes to new Mac hardware. However, there are still plenty of things Apple could announce in San Jose.

The obvious choice is a redesigned, more robust keyboard for the MacBook and MacBook Pro. The problems of debris and broken keycaps is well covered, so I won’t re-tread them here, but I really think Apple needs to address the issues with these machines.

I don’t expect Apple to break from the “Thunderbolt 3 or Bust” design of these notebooks, but I’d love to see an SD card slot return to the MacBook Pro.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: It’s All Puzzle Pieces but no Box Top

WWDC is just a few short weeks away, and while no one is quite ready to draft their predictions just yet, there is a lot to consider when thinking about what Apple could announce concerning the Mac.

Dating back to December of 2017, rumors have been swirling that Apple is planning to give iOS developers a way to get their apps up and running on macOS. Mark Gurman and others have reported that this project, dubbed Marzipan, will take the form of new tools for the Mac, which will supersede the Mac’s aging AppKit frameworks.

There are a million questions about this. Depending on your overall feeling about the state of the Mac, these questions can be hopeful or filled with dread.

Will these apps “feel” like the Mac apps we are used to today? Will developers be able to charge separately for iOS and macOS versions of their software?…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Apple and Education and the Future

With Apple’s event this month centering on the education market and tools for the classroom, I was suddenly propelled back to early memories of using a Mac at school.

I’ve written about my high school newspaper experience before, but the memories that recently sprang to mind were of elementary school and a rather uninteresting line of beige all-in-one Macs, like the LC 520 and its offspring.

I don’t remember using the computers for much, as I think my access was only in 4th and 5th grade, with only two Macs in each classroom for student use.

(There was a third Mac that our teacher would use for work and to display content on a large CRT television strapped to the top of a cart.)

My most vivid memory from these early computing days are that of a game. Specifically, Odell Down Under, whose PC version is playable online thanks to the Internet Archive.

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: The Future of Mail and Calendar

There’s a lot of talk that Apple is altering course when it comes to software development, being more willing to push features back a year if they need more time to ship as complete, polished parts of the operating system.

I’m in favor of this approach. I think a more thoughtful, well-paced Apple development organization will only stand to benefit the company and its users.

There is one part of this that makes me a little sad, though: the Mac’s built-in apps.

Whether it is comparing Calendar to Fantastical or BusyCal, or looking at Mail next to something like Airmail or Spark, an obvious pattern appears.

Apple’s first-party apps, especially on the Mac, are kept rather basic to meet the needs of many. Apple knows power users can go find something more powerful and flexible to better meet their specific needs. That’s why I’m typing this in Byword and not TextEdit, and will paste it into Google Docs running in Chrome when I’m done with it, as opposed to saving a Pages document in iCloud Drive.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Living with Multiple Macs

For a long time, I used a notebook as my only computer. Through a string of MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, I would carry my entire digital life around in my backpack, then dock it at my desk to an external display, keyboard, mouse, hard drives and more.

That changed when I bought my 5K iMac about a year and a half ago, when I built out my studio and office space. I wanted an iMac to have more screen real estate and power for editing, but the biggest upside was that work suddenly had a place. Sitting down at this door I chopped into a desk, in front of a 27-inch Retina display tells my brain It’s time to work.

For the times I need to record podcasts on the road or elect to work from the couch or my favorite coffee shop, I have an Early 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Holding off on the iMac Pro

New iMac

When Apple announced the iMac Pro back at WWDC, I thought it’d be my next desktop. I love my Late 2015 iMac with 5K display, and the iMac Pro promised to take everything about it and make it better.

Like Jason, much of my work would benefit from being able to max out more cores. I do a ton of audio processing and editing, in addition to a fair amount of 4K video editing in Final Cut Pro X.

Before I saw the iMac Pro’s pricing, I had thought I’d opt for the 10-core machine, which seems to be the sweet spot between clock speed and core count. When I saw that the final pricing, I knew the only machine I could afford (and justify) would be the base model that Jason ordered.

I settled into that but had a problem. Instead of tapping the purchase button as quickly as I could, I found myself unsure about my decision.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: It’s… Complicated

I feel like there are fewer clear answers with Apple advice these days.

For several years after Steve Jobs’ return to Apple, the company made just four products, arranged in a grid:

If you were a professional, you just had to decide if you wanted a portable or not. If you were into desktops, you just had to choose how much money you wanted to spend and how much power you needed.

Things have changed a little. Last year, Tim Cook made this comment to The Washington Post:

We’re a bit larger today, so we can do a bit more than we could do 10 years ago or even five years ago. But we still have, for our size, an extremely focused product line. You can literally put every product we make on this table. That really is an indication of how focused it is. I think that’s a good thing.

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Revisiting App Subscription Fatigue

When Apple introduced iOS App Store subscriptions last year, there was a lot of talk about subscription fatigue. It was unknown how many people would be willing to pay monthly or annually for apps, and many people had a dim outlook on developers’ prospects of making regular income from everyday users.

It’s been a little over a year since subscriptions were turned on in the App Store, and a bunch of popular apps have made the move. I was curious to see how many apps I’ve signed up to pay for on an on-going devices, so I opened the App Store on my iPhone, navigated to my account settings and opened the Subscriptions page to see.

(A quick side note on this screen of the App Store. It feels and acts like a web view, as opposed to a native screen within the App Store app. It’s really odd, and I can’t quite put my finger on why Apple would build it this way…)

There were a few more apps in this list than I had anticipated.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: The Great Red Dot

Perhaps the most decisive thing about the new Apple Watch with LTE isn’t the lack of roaming or cross-country support, the $10/month the service will set you back or even the big battery life hit that takes place when using the LTE radio.

It’s the red cap at the end of the Digital Crown. I’ve come to calling it the Great Red Dot.

The reaction to the Great Red Dot has been all over the map. Some people don’t mind it at all, while others think its a travesty beyond redemption.

Personally, I don’t mind it on my stainless steel watch, but I think it looks better on this model and the white ceramic Apple Watch edition than the other cases offered with LTE.

Even if the case finish isn’t an issue, I do think the red cap can limit what bands I will use with this watch. The bright orange sport band I bought a few years ago is probably destined for retirement now.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Tapping the reset button

Assuming nothing bonkers happens between now and then, next month will mark the release of iOS 11, macOS High Sierra, watchOS 4 and tvOS 11.

The Apple TV and Apple Watch updates seem like they’ll be nice, but I don’t think they will change the way I work day to day. High Sierra is a bigger deal than tvOS 11 or watchOS 4, but as nice as it is to have a “Snow Leopard” year, I think the biggest changes to my workflow will come with iOS 11.

That’s no surprise, of course. The new multitasking scheme, complete with the Dock and Spaces, coupled with drag and drop, promises to make the iPad a much more serious machine for work for those like me who have generally chosen the Mac as their tool of choice when it comes to work.

I think any OS update, regardless of impact and scope, offers an opportunity to start afresh.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: The case for the Mac mini

When it was introduced at Macworld 2005, Steve Jobs pitched the Mac mini as the easiest way to switch to Mac OS X. It was the BYODKM Mac — bring your display, keyboard and mouse. A PC user could unhook their Dell or HP or whatever, drop in a Mac mini and be off to the races. The incredibly low price of $499 just sweetened the deal for would-be switchers.

Over the years, the Mac mini became more than just the budget Mac for new users. Higher-end models became more powerful and more expensive, creating a real fanbase for the little computer.

Mac mini enthusiasts were soon hooking the machines up to televisions, using them as in-car entertainment systems and even running them as servers, something that Apple recognized and blessed with separate “Server” SKUs that often came with more storage and a copy of OS X sever. Heck, there are companies that colocate Mac minis in data centers now.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Revising my iPad Productivity

Outside of recording and editing podcasts, my next-biggest chunk of time at work is spent on administration. Generally, this involves a lot of email, PDFs and spreadsheets. These tasks can be done on an iPad, but I’ve always found myself more comfortable completing them on a Mac.

Perhaps I’ve never taken the time to adjust my workflows to better fit the limitations present on iOS, but I find myself feeling constrained in ways that I don’t on macOS.

Take the task of creating a PDF from an email and uploading it to Freshbooks, the web-based accounting tool we use at Relay FM. On the Mac, I can select Export as PDF… from the file menu, save the PDF to my Desktop, tab over to Safari and upload it.

(As macOS supports creating your own custom keyboard shortcuts, I don’t even have to manually pull down the File menu to start the task, which is an added bonus.)…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Thoughts on macOS 10.13

WWDC is just around the corner, and that means it’s about to get real busy for those of covering Apple.

Back in the day, the Mac enjoyed all of WWDC’s stage time, but that’s not the case anymore. We are almost guaranteed to see new versions of macOS and iOS get unwrapped. watchOS and tvOS may enjoy stage time, too, if Apple has something big to show on those fronts this year. Throw in services like Apple Music, Siri and iMessage, possible hardware refreshes and maybe even something altogether new, and it will be a very busy week.

But I — as will surprise no one reading this — want to get back to the Mac.

macOS is an incredibly mature operating system at this point. The days of massive release notes for each major version are long behind us, but that isn’t to say that Apple should ship Sierra forever.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Three months of Touch Bar

When the new MacBook Pros came out, I ordered a stock $1499 model. That’s the 13-inch model without the Touch Bar.

I left my review with a bit of a meh feeling about the whole thing. I liked the new design, but Dongle Life and poor battery performance had me down.

I spent quite a bit of time in that review explaining why I didn’t pony up for a Touch Bar model, but in January, I needed a new-in-box Mac for a YouTube video. I went to my local Apple store and picked up the $1799 machine. It’s the entry-level, 13-inch with Touch Bar. I shot my video and then figured that, since I had some time before I had to return it, I should get to know the Touch Bar a little bit.

If you haven’t caught on, that’s the laptop that I am currently typing on. (Shocking, right?) Out of the box, the increased power was a welcome addition.…

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