UPDATE – Another one Bites the Dust – So Long Olio

I have a small update to this post…

I’ve always liked watches, but it appears I’m a much bigger watch geek than I thought I was. I’m still watching, still waiting for something to come out of Olio; and like most of what’s going on in wearable tech today, I continue to get disappointed.

If you click on the link, above, you’ll be taken to all that’s left of Olio’s website – an HTTP403 Forbidden error.

olio forbidden

As I write this on the eve of Apple’s Fall iPhone event, its nice to know that Apple will be releasing – or at least announcing the release – of watchOS 4 tomorrow. The Olio Model One, while nearly almost completely devoid of its original functionality (except anything that is directly provided by its connection with your mobile device, like notifications, phone and music control), remains a favorite of mine. It looks really nice and it still tells time. However, I’ve noticed that lack of a connection to my iPhone causes it to fall behind as far as telling time is concerned… which is very confusing… There appears to be a LOT of communication going on between the Olio Model One and my iPhone that I – and likely EVERYONE else wasn’t aware of.

I told the sad tale of how Olio died about a month ago. You can see that article here. Unfortunately, at this point… things are worse.

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Google Drive is Out of Support in December 2017

If you don’t have Google Backup and Sync, you better get crackin’…

Google drive

In July of 2017, Google announced that it was introducing a new file synchronization product called Google Backup and Sync. The desktop and smartphone/ tablet app is meant to replace Google Drive, as Backup and Sync does nearly everything that Drive does.

However, Google has stated that its going to stop supporting Google Drive in December of 2017 and will stop working entirely on 2018-03-18. This delay in the overall transition plan between Drive and Backup and Sync is designed to make the transition to the newer service a bit easier on folks who are really invested into Drive. The changes to the service allow users to sync files and folders on your Desktop as well as making all of your photos part of Google Photos as well.

The differences in the service is revealed when you enable its broader file synchronization abilities. Until then, it does the same thing as Google Drive. If you area G Suite user, you can also take advantage of File Streaming. This lets organizations store files solely in the cloud, allowing laptop users to stream them to their local hard drives when working on them, otherwise keeping local storage free and unused.

If you’re interested in getting a jump on the required update to Google Drive, you can transition over to Backup and Sync now. All you have to do is install the software.

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Microsoft Ends Groove Music Pass

If you really have to have music from Microsoft, they suggest Spotify…

In a week when it seems nearly everything is coming to an end except how people are arguing gun control and NFL protests, comes additional news out of Redmond that Microsoft’s music offering, Groove Music Pass, is being shut down. Microsoft is killing the service and offering customers “a seamless transition to Spotify.” Microsoft will also remove all music from its Windows Store as well.

Microsoft is trying to be positive about this development, offering the following spin, according to Microsoft GM Jerry Johnson,

“We’re excited to announce that we’re expanding our partnership with Spotify to bring the world’s largest music streaming service to our Groove Music Pass customers. Groove Music Pass customers can easily move all their curated playlists and collections directly into Spotify.”

On 2017-12-31, Microsoft will shut down Groove Music Pass completely. At that time, anyone with any time lift on their subscription, will get a prorated refund, directly from Microsoft.

Groove Music Pass

Music is also being removed from the Windows Store. However, Microsoft has indicated they will continue to sell movies, TV shows and ebooks. The Groove Music app will still be offered as part of Windows 10, but users won’t be able to stream or otherwise access subscription based content with the app. Instead the app will play music on your hard drive, or will stream music you have stored on Microsoft OneDrive.

Groove Music Pass has always felt like a me-too effort out of Microsoft. The service never really had an identity of its own and the service always felt forced in my opinion. Microsoft never really got behind the service, and never really did anything to make it stand out in a market that seems dominated by Apple and other streaming services, including Spotify.

The only problem with streaming services like Spotify, is that you can’t upload your own music to the service. You get the Spotify catalog and that’s it. Some have indicated that it might be nice if Spotify could play music from a file sync service like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, but as far as I can tell, that isn’t in the cards.

Microsoft and music have always had issues. For some reason, they just haven’t had anyone on their team that had any kind of real vision for the service, or the Store, or really anything to do with Music at all. Its unfortunate. They’ve nearly always had their feet wet when it comes to music; but all they seem to have gotten is soggy socks.

They’ve had one giant miscue after another with ALL kinds of content when it comes to ecosystem based content. Just ask any (former) Zune owner. They’ll tell you how big of a cluster bump this has been in the Microsoft camp.

Its certainly NOT been pretty.

Did you have a Groove Music Pass? Did you even know Microsoft HAD music in their Windows Store? Is this something that you think the world will miss, or will Spotify struly, uh… hit the spot?

Let me know your thoughts! Give me your take on this development in the Discussion area below. I’d love to hear from you, especially if you had a Groove Music Pass, or if you think the loss of the service will create a hole that needs to be filled with some other MS based service.

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Should I Upgrade or Not..? – Part 2

Based on the information at hand, here’s my take on Apple’s announcements from 2017-09-12…

So, if you’re looking for information on the new iPhones that Apple announced the other day, you should read this article. I cover both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X pretty thoroughly.

To sum them up again, they’re expensive. Both phones come in 64GB and 256GB sizes. If you don’t buy the bigger one, and you have more than 64GB of content, you’re going to need to get a decent enough data plan to allow you to stream everything. The carrier is going to get your money one way or another… You’re just gonna have to get over it.

Apple also released some other products. Let’s take a quick look at those and see what’s what…

Screenshot_2

Apple Watch Series 3
Apple has introduced four different models of the Apple Watch Series 3 smartwatch in two sizes, a number of colors, in two different case types for two of the models; and at least two different variations. I’m going to try to run everything down here, as quickly as possible.

In general, all models of every Apple Watch come in either 38mm or 42mm sizes. So you get every Watch in small and large sizes. Over and above that, here’s the break down on all of the Series 3 variations that are available.

Series 3 – GPS + Cellular
The Series 3 GPS + Cellular comes in two different variations – Apple Watch and Apple Watch Nike Plus. With the Apple Watch, you get two different case offerings and two different band options with each case type. You can choose from an aluminum or stainless-steel case. If you get the Apple Watch in the aluminum case, you can choose from either a Sport Band or the Sport Loop band. If you go with the stainless-steel case, you get a choice of either the Sport Band or the Milanese Loop band.

If you choose Apple Watch Nike+, you get an aluminum case with either a Nike Sport band or a Nike Sport Loop band.

The big deal here is the cellular capabilities in the new Apple Watch Series 3. The Watch will update itself and communicate with everything on the internet, letting you leave your phone in the car or at home. You can even take and place calls on the thing.

However, if you do use it for talk, you’re going to have to be very careful. The battery in the Watch, while technically a bit bigger, can’t sustain cellular phone calls for any length of time. I’ve seen reports on Twitter and on Facebook that indicate that there’s only enough power to last about an hour or so of any dedicated cellular activity.

Cellular calls burn through the battery like its bleeding water from a sieve. I’ve seen reports where a 10 minute cellular call on the Watch via its dedicated LTE radio (as opposed to via Bluetooth while connected to your phone) will eat through 10% or more of your available battery… potentially more if your battery is below 50%.

Just because it can, doesn’t mean that the Watch is MEANT to replace your phone for all things. It really isn’t. Its “all day battery” rating expects your phone to pick up most of the heavy LTE lifting, allow the Watch and your iPhone to swap data like a Series 0, Series 1 or Series 2 Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch Series 3 – GPS + Cellular and Apple Watch Nike+ GPS + Cellular start at $399.

Series 3 – GPS
The Series 3 GPS comes in two different variations – Apple Watch and Apple Watch Nike Plus. With the Apple Watch, you get aluminum case with a Sport Band. If you choose Apple Watch Nike Plus, you get an aluminum case with a Nike Sport Band.

The Series 3 – GPS can do everything that the Series 0, Series 1 and Series 2 can do. It can also do nearly everything that the Series 3 can do, except it can’t do LTE based data on its own. This edition requires your iPhone to do all internet based calls including communicating via social media, making and placing phone calls and text messages, and receiving notifications. However, it is $70 less.

What you’re going to get here in terms of an upgrade from Series 2 is a better processor, a slightly better battery and better water resistance. The battery life here is going to be very good, and you’ll definitely get the all-day battery that everyone is expecting.

The thing that you’re going to have to ask yourself is, is all of this worth the cost of the upgrade. The Series 2 is a decent watch. Everything looks the same, and the battery life in it is very, very good compared to the Series 0 and even the Series 1. What you’re going to need to determine is, how deep and how long will you dive or be under water? How much longer do you need the battery to last? The newer processor will make the watch a bit faster and more efficient; but given that you don’t see a lot of direct computing done directly on the Watch, you have to wonder how much of an advantage its going to be. That is a personal decision, and I’ll have my own thoughts on this, below, in the Conclusion.

The Apple Watch Series 3 – GPS and Apple Watch Nike+ – GPS start at $329.

Series 3 Hermès
The Apple Watch Hermés offers everything that the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular does. Here, however, you default to the stainless steel case and of course, the branded Hermés watch face and signature leather band. You also get an additional sport band included with your purchase (which, realistically accounts for the last $49 you’re charged).

There are a number of things here that bother me with the Hermés editions. Mostly, it’s the bands and their outrageously high (and overpriced) price tags. While I’m CERTAIN that the bands are high quality and are superior to just about anything and everything like them out there, paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars for an inch and a half wide strip of leather with some holes punched in it just seems not silly; but stupid.

Those that can afford the Hermés edition will tell me that I just don’t get it and that this is part of the reason why the Hermés edition is not for me. I’d have to agree with them. I don’t really care how much money I have to burn, paying $340 USD for the Single Tour band and $490 USD Double Tour band is a horrible waste of money. Especially when you can find reasonably priced and just as comfortable knock-offs for a fraction of the price on Amazon or other online realtors.

Yes, you won’t have the designer branding or the custom watch face to go along with it; and maybe that’s the point – you’re paying for the branding… however, when the functionality is exactly the same on the Hermés edition as it is on every other Apple Watch with a stainless steel case, I have to look at what I’m getting for the extra dough, and when all I see is a watch face, a band and a brand name, I don’t see a lot of value added equity. What I see is vanity, and it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

I’d appreciate some help here, kids. If you’ve even tried on an Hermés band and settle for a knock-off, I’d love to hear from you and get your thoughts and impressions here. It might help make some sense of how folks that purchase this edition justify the cost. Fee free to drop me a line or leave a comment, below.

Apple Watch Edition
This is a far cry from what the Series 0 Apple Watch Edition USED to be. The original Apple Watch Edition went as high as $18,000 for a special 18k Gold version that wrapped the exact same Series 0 guts in an overly expensive, unbelievably priced gold watch case that only uber rich could even THINK of purchasing. Sales of this particular line of Series 0 Watch were beyond embarrassingly low; and Apple promptly moved past the uber fashion statement into something that was a bit more reasonable.

With the Series 3 Apple Watch, Apple is providing a ceramic case – in either Pebble White or Space Gray – with a White or Black Sport band. Ceramic is (supposed to be) very durable and resistant to both scratches and dents. For this combination of case and band, the Apple Watch provides you with all of the Series 3 LTE and GPS goodness you find in all of the other LTE based models; and that’s an important distinction.

The Apple Watch Edition doesn’t come in just a GPS version. Here, you get a choice of color, size (either the standard 38mm or 42mm cases) and that’s it. The Apple Watch Edition comes in the LTE version. Period. The Watch also comes with a similarly colored Sport Band. If you want another band or bracelet, you can shop Apple’s available watch band collection. As always, Apple Watch bands fit both case sizes of every edition Apple Watch, regardless of version or Series.

The Apple Watch Edition starts at $1299.

To Answer the Question
So, to answer the question, “should I upgrade or not?” doesn’t really require a lot of thinking. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, now is a great time to buy in. At $329, the fitness and smartwatch functionality you get is a GREAT value. watchOS runs well on the Series 0; but this will likely be the last version of watchOS that will run on the original Watch. Performance does take a minor – but noticeable – hit.

If you want to be able to swim with the Watch and would like to have its GPS functionality, the Series 2 can be found for some really great deals. I found a Series 2 Nike + version for $249 recently. That’s $170 off the Series 2 full price.

If you have a Series 2 and are considering a Series 3, then you should be considering the LTE version. The Series 3 GPS version doesn’t offer any compelling reason to upgrade from the Series 2 at all, even with the slightly larger battery, faster processor and more accurate GPS receiver. The Series 3 LTE version is really compelling IF you really want to run AND stream audio while you run; or if you’re looking to update your running or workout app with live data while you run or exercise.

Other than that, even with their current price structure, I don’t see a compelling reason to upgrade from any series Apple Watch to the Series 3. Every version of every Series Apple Watch is still very usable today; and I would expect them to last for a while, too. When non-electronic watches can last years – even decades – and cost about as much as the Apple Watch does, you’d expect Apple to build longevity into the Watch more than anything else… I’m just sayin’.

AppleTV 4K
Aside from the iPhone 8 , I think the news on the AppleTV was some of the most exciting news I took away from the September keynote.

The big news here wasn’t an increase in storage capacity, a better processor, or even improvements to Siri or even tvOS. This year’s big news was all about 4K HDR. According to Apple,

“4K gives you a crisper picture using four times more pixels than standard HD. High Dynamic Range (HDR) delivers brighter, more realistic colors and greater detail. From the hottest new movie to your favorite TV show, everything is more lifelike than ever.”

This means that everything that you watch on the AppleTV that comes in 4kHDR is going to look stunning. The colors are gonna pop off the screen, and the detail and resolution is going to be crazy accurate and high. However, there’s one additional point here that really sets this whole thing off – if you bought video content from the iTunes Store in HD, Apple is upgrading all of your titles to 4KHDR content… for free. 4kHDR titles will also be available for the same price as regular HD titles today, which, to be very honest, is HUGE.

My understanding is that you won’t be able to download 4KHDR files, but you WILL be able to stream them, and to be honest, the AppleTV is a streaming box. While you CAN store either 32GB or 64GB of content on the device, that small amount of storage won’t hold more than a couple files at most, and to be honest, you probably wouldn’t want to store 4KHDR files anyway. They’re likely going to require terabytes of storage to keep laying around.

If you don’t have an AppleTV, now is a good time to jump on board. This version is also a decent upgrade option if you have an AppleTV and are looking for a reason to get the latest version.

The big concern I have here, however, is cost. At $179, the 4K version is perhaps the most compelling of new model AppleTV’s, but its also the highest priced entry point into a streaming box that runs on the Apple ecosystem. The AppleTV still starts at $149; but only comes in a 32GB version.

However, the standard HD version still runs the current version of tvOS; so, unless you have a need for 4KHDR content, this should be a very good substitute. Unfortunately, you won’t get the benefits of the new versions enhancements; but it will do everything that the 4K version does.

To Answer the Question
So, to answer the question, “should I upgrade or no?” that’s going to depend on if you have or are planning on getting a 4K TV. If you do, then you’re likely going to want to spend the extra $30 bucks and get the 4K version.
If you don’t have a 4K TV, and aren’t planning on getting one any time soon, then you may want to hold off until you do. However, spending $30 to future proof your AppleTV isn’t a lot of money to think about or give up.

At the end of the day, it’s a little more than $50 additional dollars for the larger 4K HDR version; and that’s not a lot to ask for, but if you aren’t going to use it, then it may not be the best use of the extra money. That’s up to you…

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OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock

For those that have the right equipment, this TB3 dock has a lot to offer…

http://appleinsider.com/articles/17/05/14/review—owc-thunderbolt-3-dock-is-the-only-game-in-town-for-firewire-800

Introduction
As I mentioned in my Mid 2017 MacBook Pro Review in the USB-C Ports section, you’re really going to want some kind of docking station for working with Apple’s new notebooks featuring their TouchBar (and those without…).

Over the years, I’ve found that having a docking station for my notebook computer is important. I hate plugging and chugging cables in and out of my notebook computer when I want to compute on the go; and I’ve found that doing so – plugging and unplugging cables in and out of a notebook – can actually be damaging to both the PC and the cables. At some point, you’re going to rush, and you’re going to tweak either a port or a cable, and then it won’t work right any longer. That can get expensive if it’s the PC or very inconvenient if it’s a cable you have to replace.

A little more than a year and a half ago, I reviewed the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for 15″ MacBook Retina. The dock was awesome and to be honest, the type of dock that I really wanted for my family member for use with their Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro, but when we purchased the notebook back in June, the USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 version of the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock wasn’t supposed to be available for purchase until September 2017. Well, September 2017 is here, and the dock… well, it isn’t.

Thankfully, I got rescued by OWC and their Thunderbolt 3 Dock. It’s one of the best and most affordable Thunderbolt 3 docks available today.

As I noted in my Mid 2017 MacBook Pro Review, the notebook in and of itself is missing a LOT of ports. While it has four (4) USB-C ports that also support Thunderbolt 3, finding the peripherals you need that will work through these ports – keyboard, mouse, thumb drives, your phone, etc. – don’t actually exist yet. While all of these peripherals are available, they don’t have USB-C ports yet, and as such, aren’t supported natively on the Mid 2017 MacBook Pro.

Ports o’ Plenty
Thankfully, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock resolves all this. It has thirteen (13) ports, to provide you with all of the legacy connectivity you need. It has

• 5 USB-A 3.1 Ports, including 2 high power ports
• 1 S/PDF Out Port
• 1 Fire wire 800 Port
• 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
• 2 USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 Ports
• 1 miniDisplay Port Port
• 1 SD Card Reader Port
• 1 Audio Out Port

owc-thunderbolt-3-dock-sg-ports-ms@2x

The nice thing here, is that if you find you need more ports than are offered on this dock, you can daisy chain another hub or dock to the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock either via one of the High Power USB-A 3.1 Ports, or one of the USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 ports. So, the dock is expandable, if you will. This is important, in that you may have more than five USB-A peripherals, for example. I know that I do. Between printers (plural) a DVD-R/W drive, desktop storage, a keyboard and dedicated ports for my phone, DSLR, Apple Watch and even my Firewire 800 powered Time Machine Drive.

Connectivity and Speed
When connecting devices to these ports, you’re going to be very pleased and very surprised. Nearly everything works with nearly every device in both macOS and Windows (under Boot Camp). However, you’ll find that the dock’s Firewire port will not work under Boot Camp, so, it won’t work with your Mac’s ability to boot into native Windows.

The ports that do work, however, work; and work very well. Thunderbolt 3 supports up to 40Gbps (gigabits per second). In reality when working with other USB 3.1 related devices, however, you’ll get about 10Gbps. It’s hard to know just how fast drive or data transfer rates will be for things like a USB 2.0 compatible thumb drive, but trust me… you’re really going to be impressed. When moving large data files, I was getting speeds equivalent to 80MBps (megabytes per second). This converts to about 0.625Gbps or 640Mbps (megabits per second). In comparison, some of the best REAL internet download speeds I’ve ever seen have been in the range of 150 – 195Mbps, and those downloads were lightning quick… LITERALLY. You’ll be able to copy large movie files in minutes instead of 30+ minutes or more to and from locally connected media.

The Dock also comes with an SD card reader. This is a huge deal, as nearly every Mac laptop has had an SD card slot for the last ten or so years. The fact that the MacBook Pro no longer has one is a huge issue in my mind. The fact that the dock has one makes it all that much more valuable. Its fast, too. When you pair Thunderbolt 3 speeds with this card slot, you get a really wonderful, really fast connectivity solution.

Conclusion
I’ve used a number of different docks and docking stations over the years with the computers that I’ve owned. On the Windows side of the world, this has been easy. Docking solutions on that side of the fence are many and myriad. On the Mac side, however, not so much. Macs don’t have specialized dock connectors that allow dedicated and quick connection to a permanent dock. In most cases, you either have to attach every port to a single docking solution (the those provided by Henge Docks) or you sacrifice a single native port for a port replicator styled dock like the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock.

There’s not much difference between how the two solutions provide connectivity. One uses all the native ports, the other only uses one, connecting you to the dock via a cable. Thanks to TB3 technology, though you’re going to get some of the best performance you’ve ever experienced when working with your peripherals.

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is $299 and is available from their website.

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Five of the Best Screen Shot Apps for macOS

Take great screen shots on your Mac with these best of breed tools…

Introduction
I love my Mac. In my opinion, it’s easier to use than a Windows machine, especially when it comes to the creative side of my life. The tools that exist on the Mac side of the world, in my opinion, are much better than their Windows counterparts… but that’s just my opinion, and there are many different kinds of creative tools.

One kind of tool allows you to take screen shots of your desktop and other, running applications. These tools are in many ways both powerful and easy to use; and there are quite a few of them. I’ve taken a few moments to find some of the best screen shot utilities available for Mac, and pulled the best together here for you.

macOS Native Tools
The one thing that every Mac user knows is the two different utilities built into every version of macOS. These screen shot utilities allow you to take full screens as well as screen shots of specific areas. These native tools are helpful, but sometimes, they just are NOT enough. Nor are they really part of this roundup. They need to be mentioned, as they are part of the OS, and if all you need are basic tools, they’ll do the job just time. When you need more, though, you may need to look elsewhere.

Command+Shift+3
This keyboard combination will take a full screen, screen shot of each desktop/ monitor connected to your Mac. Since it does every monitor, you have to make certain you grab the right one, if you’re looking for something specific.

Command+Shift+4
This keyboard combination will change the mouse cursor into a cross hair and will allow you to capture a portion of it. Press Command+Shift+4, locate the area you want to capture and click and hold the left mouse button. When you want to stop capturing, let go of the mouse button. You’ll hear a camera shutter and the snip you took will appear as a file on your desktop.

 

Screenshot Plus
SSPlus
For those, like me, that still use the old Mac Dashboard, there’s a freeware dashboard widget that will allow you to take professional level screen shots, quickly and easily.

Screenshot Plus can take full screen captures, capture specific screen areas, and capture other objects, such as windows, desktop icons, and other widgets. Once captured, screens can be saved to the clipboard or as files on your hard drive. They can also be exported to any application on your Mac, directly from the widget.

After you take a shot with Screenshot Plus, it displays a preview of capture you took. It will also give you the ability to directly save or import the shot. Shots can also be directly placed into Photos.

Captures can be saved to JPG, PNG, TIF, GIF and PDF. The widget also supports, English, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Dutch and Japanese languages

Captures may be saved in the formats: jpg, png, tif, gif and pdf. The following languages are supported:

Screen shot plus is free and can be downloaded here.

 

SnagIt
Snagit
SnagIt is perhaps one of the VERY best screen shot utilities available on the market. It’s been around forever and a day, going back to the 1990’s, and its more than reasonably priced. It comes with a wide array of tools that allow you to take screen shots, and then annotate, highlight and draw attention to specific areas within the shot. The app also comes with a fully activated, full featured 15 day trial. You get to use the whole sha-bang for two weeks. If you have need for ANY type of call out or annotation on just even a fairly regular basis – even if its once or twice a month – this likely going to be the app for you.

If you’re looking for a free alternative, you can try Jing. While it is free, you kinda limited to sharing images over TechSmith’s social service.

SnagIt is $49.99 for a single, user license and can be downloaded here. Jing is free and can be downloaded here.

 

Monosnap

As I’m certain you’ll agree, anything free is awesome; and this is doubly true of Monosnap. Monosnap is a free macOS extension that loads in the Menu bar of your Mac, making it available whenever you need it. Its accessible via either mouse click or keyboard shortcut, and allows you to take full and freeform screen shots. The application comes with a wide array of annotation tools; and allows you to export shots as either JPG or PNG files. You can even export shots to an external editor, like Photoshop, if needed.

Both Monosnap for Mac (and Windows) are free to download and use. However, small donations of $1 to $25 will unlock the app, providing additional storage and app integration options. You can download the application here.

 

Snapz Pro X
Snapz Pro X
Snapz Pro X is a professional screen capturing app, in the same class as SnagIt. The app is invoked via a keyboard command – the default is Command-Shift-5 – which should be easy to remember, it’s just one to two numbers away from your Mac’s native screenshot tools. It also complements them very well, as you can use the Native tools when something quick and easy is needed; and Snapz Pro X when you need something a little more serious.

With Snapz Pro X, you can capture areas, full screens, objects (read: Windows) or full, on screen video. After you’ve decided what to capture, and you invoke that part of the app, you get a nice little tool box of on screen settings to help you fine tune the capture.

Snapz Pro X is $69; but comes with a 15 day free trial. After the trial expires, a watermark is placed in the center of each screen capture. You can download the application < a href=”http://www.ambrosiasw.com/utilities/snapzprox/”>here.

 

Conclusion
If you don’t have a lot of screen shot needs, then save your money and use the macOS Native Tools. They’re free and can get the job done. Unfortunately, when you go this route, you don’t get any annotation tools or gadgets to enhance your shots so you can draw attention to specific areas of the graphic.

If you need something more, but don’t have, or don’t want to spend a lot of money on this, you can choose Screenshot Plus or Monosnap. Both are free to use, though Screenshot plus requires that you use the Macintosh Dashboard, something that isn’t in wide use any longer; and Monosnap doesn’t include a lot of its cooler, cloud storage features without some kind of donation or cost.

While the average user doesn’t need the professional tools – or price tags – on tools like SnagIt or Snapz Pro X, their tools are really nice. At some point, most every computer user is going to find that they need some kind of screen shot taking and annotation tool. There are both free and paid options.

You’ve got some decent choices here. If you find others that you like, I’d love to hear about them in the Discussion area below.

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OWC USB-C Dock

If you have a USB-C equipped computer, then you really need to check this out!

I’ve been a notebook junkie since the early 1990’s when Windows 3.1 and Windows 3.11 for Workgroups was all the rage. Back then, I started out with an 8088 and did my best to make the hardware stretch as far as it could. I did more with underpowered, but more affordable hardware, than most people considered prudent… but it was what I could afford, and it was what I had to do to get the job done. My desire was not just to do more with less, but to be able to do everything that a desktop PC could do, but I wanted to do it with a unit that I could also take out and about with me.

When I had a family member approach me recently with a request to find them a better Mac, my thoughts immediately went to the Mid-2017 MacBook Pro with TouchBar. They wanted a 15″ device, as they wanted the bigger screen and the somewhat larger – or wider spaced – keyboard. The device was going to have all of the newest hardware, but it did have one big problem – USB-C ports. And ONLY USB-C ports…

This is where things got a bit tricky. The newer MacBook Pro’s only have USB-C ports. Period. They don’t have any other wired connectivity at all. While they do have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and connect well to higher bandwidth devices as well as Bluetooth powered accessories, wired LAN connections, memory card readers, flash drives and other USB accessories, as well as monitors, etc. aren’t possible without some kind of adapter or dongle. While this may be ok for occasional connectivity issues while you’re away from your home or corporate office, when you’re actually in a formal, office setting, it’s a pain in the butt.

Enter the OWC USB-C Dock.

ports-front

The OWC USB-C Dock works with any USB-C powered computer. It features 10 ports to handle all of your connectivity needs:

• 4 USB 3.1 ports with USB-A connectors, including 2 high power capacity ports (one on the front and one on the back)
• 1 USB 3.1 port with USB-C connector (on the back)
• 1 SD Card Slot
• 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
• 1 USB-C powered PC connector Port (marked with a laptop over it)
• 1 HDMI Port
• 1 Audio out port
• A DC In, 20v/ 4A connector (required to power the dock, its connected peripherals and the computer)

ports-back

You should note the following – This dock
• WILL support video connectors/ dongles that support an HDMI pass through
• Will NOT support Thunderbolt 3 connections through its USB-C port. If you want that, you’re going to need a different dock.
• Does NOT have a miniDisplay Port connection
• MAY support a miniDisplay Port connection via a dongle connected to its one, single USB-C port.

Then again, I may just need to use an existing USB-C Port on the MacBook Pro for my miniDisplay Port powered 27″ 2011 Apple Cinema Display.

Currently, this dock is unfortunately giving me a bit of a hard time.

It comes with a USB-C cable that goes from the computer to a specific port on the back of the dock. It’s clearly marked, and I’ve got the included cable plugged in there and the other end in my MacBook Pro.

Unfortunately, the green data connection light doesn’t come on. I’ve tried a different cable. I’ve tried different USB-C ports on the notebook. The dock simply won’t make a data connection with my Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro.

As of this writing, I’ve got a note out to OWC looking for an answer as to why. It may be that you simply can’t use the USB-C Dock with a USB-C port that is Thunderbolt 3 compatible. It may be that you must use OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock with any USB-C powered MacBook Pro.

Unfortunately, I don’t know, as of this writing, I have yet to hear back from OWC; and I’ve been waiting on an answer since 2017-09-11. As soon as I hear back from them, I will update this review with their answer.

Unfortunately, until that time, this dock is a bit of a dud for me. I don’t have any other USB-C powered computers to try this with.

This should be a slam dunk; as everything else that I’ve ever gotten from OWC has been awesome. The build quality of the dock is out of this world. Its solid. Its well-built; but unless I have a defective unit, it simply doesn’t work with EVERY USB-C powered notebook available today.
Again, as soon as I hear back from OWC, I’ll post a quick update to this review, and hopeful have some information on peripheral connectivity as well.

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Apple’s Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro

Its new. Its controversial; but is it up to the task..?

Introduction
I’ve been a Mac since Apple dropped the PowerPC chip and embraced Intel. I have said many times that I bought my first Mac to be a Windows machine, largely because the hardware itself was so powerful and so elegant. To be honest, it took a while for me to be won over by OS X and macOS. However now, it is my OS of choice; and the Mac… well the Mac is still my go to computer eleven years later.

The Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro is quite a computer. Its powerful. Its thin. Its missing ports… Let’s take a look, however, and see if it is really worth all the hype, all the change and all the money that is required to make it work.

Hardware
Over the past couple of months while I’ve been waiting for accessory hardware to arrive so I can set up this device for an out of town family member, I’ve had a few friends ask me why in the world they purchased this computer, especially considering the cost.

The answer was simple – build quality.

I mean, have you SEEN this thing? If you haven’t, then you need to take a quick look at the unboxing video I did for Soft32 that was published just a few days ago. The hardware is seriously sweet.

As invoiced, the unit that I’m configuring has the following tech specs

Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID
• 2.8GHz quad-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
• 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
• 1TB SSD storage
• Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory
• Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
• Backlit Keyboard – US English
• Silver, Aluminum Case

This configuration retails for $3100 USD. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is $299 USD. So this particular installation, minus some minor accessories and apps, cost my family member $3400, plus tax, shipped.

…and this is where most folks choke and gag. The prices for the newest MacBook Pros are just totally nuts.

However, this notebook is likely going to last for at least 10 years before it will need to be replaced. When you compare that to a $1000 Windows PC that might last three or so years, the overall cost, is about the same. However, you’re likely going to buy at least two if not three Windows PC’s in that same time frame. So again, the prices are about the same.

That doesn’t make the new MacBook Pro’s cost any easier to stomach, though. It might justify it a bit more, but that down stroke is awfully steep. Its awfully steep… but let’s talk a bit about what you get for that price.

Form Factor
The new MacBook Pro is thin. Its REALLY thin. The original iPad’s dimensions can be found in the table below along with the Mid 2009 and Late 2013 MacBook Pros:

Size and Weight

Height Width Depth Weight
Orig. iPad 0.50 in (1.27 cm) 7.47 in. (18.97 cm) 9.56 in. (24.28 cm) 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg)
Mid 2017 0.61 In. (1.55 cm) 13.75 In. (34.93 cm) 9.48 In. (24.07 cm) 4.02 pounds (1.83 kg)
Late 2013 0.71 In. (1.8 cm) 14.13 In. (35.89 cm) 9.73 In. (24.71 cm) 4.46 pounds (2.02 kg)
Mid 2009 0.95 In. (2.41 cm) 14.35 In. (36.4 cm) 9.82 In. (24.9 cm) 5.6 pounds (2.54 kg)

As you can see from the above, the original iPad and the newest, 2017 15″ MacBook Pro are about as thick as each other. In truth, that extra tenth of an inch that the Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro has on the original 9.7″ iPad really only amounts to a diference of 0.254 cm (2.52 mm). Its also about as deep as the original iPad, too.

This should tell you something… Apple’s latest 15″ notebook has form factor specs in line with the original iPad… meaning that this notebook is thin. Oh, my goodness is it thin! In fact, (when the clam shell is closed) its as thin as Apple’s original tablet (the tenth of an inch is negligible). I think that’s amazing.

The last thing that I want to mention, and that I think is of note here is the 7th generation Core i7 processor. Apple introduced their Kaby Lake processor to the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro; and its made a difference in terms of speed, especially when you compare it to the Mid 2009 and Late 2013 models that I have in the house. The Mid 2017 is noticeably faster than both.

The Full 360

DSC_5227 - Top DSC_5229 - Front Edge
The three 15″ MacBook Pro’s – From top to bottom: Mid 2017, Late 2013 and Mid 2009 You can really tell how thin these things are. Remember, the Mid 2017 is as thin as Apple’s Original iPad
DSC_5230 - Right Edge DSC_5231 - Rear Edge
From the top down, Mid 2017: 2 USB-C ports and the headphone jack, Late 2013: USB-A port, HDMI Port and the SD Card slot, Mid 2009: Apple SuperDrive and the Kensington Lock Notice that the Mid 2017 doesn’t have any kind of black bar spacer on the lid hinge
DSC_5232 - Left Ege
From the top down. Mid 2017: 2 USB-C ports, Late 2013: MagSafe2 Power Port, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, USB –A port and the headphone jack, Mid 2009: MagSafe Power port, 10/100 Ethernet port, FireWire 400 port, mini Display Port, 2 USB-A ports, SD Card slot, microphone jack, headphone jack, (near the front of the MBP – battery test button and the battery power indicator)

TouchBar
This is going to be short and sweet. The TouchBar is new for the 2017 MacBook Pros. It provides an OLED strip of touch sensitive screen for context sensitive buttons that are governed by the active, running application.

DSC_5233 - TouchBar OS

Many are going to say that the TouchBar is nothing more than a gimmick. They may be right. The context sensitive buttons are cool; but I can see no real value to the feature.

DSC_5234 TouchBar OS 2

While it looks thanks to its OLED display, its nothing necessary. Having one doesn’t provide you with any advantage over not having one. That may change in coming generations as functionality for this feature grows and matures. However right now, its eye candy… nothing more.

DSC_5235 TouchBar Word

If you have a contrary opinion, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment in the Discussion area, below, and let me know.

USB-C Ports
This is probably the most controversial feature of Apple’s newer MacBook Pros. Apple has removed all ports on their new notebooks and replaced them with four – two on each side – USB-C ports.

I’ve spent the last couple of days setting up this new notebook and configuring it for my family member. They are moving from a Mid 2009 15″ MacBook Pro, and it has a number of different ports on it. This is going to take them a bit of getting used to.

Even me, with my Late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro… I’m having issues getting used to the fact that there aren’t any legacy ports on the new, Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro. I have had at least three incidents over the past 24 hours where the lack of any real port connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth excluded) was a big problem. When most of your accessories, thumb drives, etc., are all USB-A and all you’ve got is USB-C ports, you’re going to have a problem moving data, printing or connecting one device to another. When you’re trying to move data from one PC to another, for example, this can be a huge issue. In fact, it can be downright impossible.

I tried to transfer this file – this review – back and forth between my Late 2013 MacBook Pro and the Mid 2017 MacBook Pro. The easiest way to do this is with a thumb drive. Unfortunately, thumb drives make use of a USB-A connection. The only way I was able to put a file on a thumb drive was with the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock. This was fine because I was in a home office setting. However, this would be an issue if I was out and about.

Unfortunately, items like a USB-C Flash Drive aren’t as wide spread available as they should be. They’re available, but not as mainstreamed as I would like… and besides that, I don’t have any. Nor would I think, any normal consumer as yet.

If you don’t have one, and you plan on taking your Mid 2017 MacBook Pro out and about with you, then you’re likely going to need one of these. Juiced Systems makes a 6 port USB-C Adapter that is a must have to anyone that plans to use this advanced Apple notebook outside of an office setting where a dock of some sorts, exists. If you don’t have it, don’t count on using any of your standard, mainstream, widely available, low cost accessories with your new Mid 2017″ MacBook Pro. Models exist for both 13″ and 15″ notebooks. Currently, they’re available for about $70 USD, and they’re probably going to be $70 of the best dollars you’re going to spend on this new notebook. I know I’m wishing I had one for this review.

Keyboard & Trackpad

Keyboard
Because the device is now thinner than it used to be (see the chart, above), Apple had to do something different with the keyboard. There really isn’t a lot of room in the case any longer. The new keyboard uses the same butterfly switches made popular in the original 2015 12″ MacBook. The switches used in the new Mid 2017 MacBook Pros are the next generation butterfly switches. The second generation switches have a lower profile than even the first generation butterfly switches.

So, what does all this mean? It means you’re gonna have a really clacky keyboard. It also means that there isn’t going to be a lot of keyboard travel, either. What you’re left with is a very different typing experience. In order to completely experience what the typing experience was going to be like, I pulled this review over to the new computer and decided to at least write this portion of the review there.

The typing experience is definitely different than on older MacBook Pros. There isn’t a lot of keyboard travel. The keyboard is very stiff, and yes… very clacky. Its not too difficult to use, but it may take some folks a bit to get used to.

It may also be a bit of a detractor for some.

Keyboard feel and travel, the elements that make up the typing experience are definitely different. Again, its not bad, but it may take you a bit to get used to it.

Trackpad
The first thing that you notice about the trackpad is that its huge. Its at least twice the size of trackpads on older MacBook Pros. Its very much like the trackpad on Apple’s 12″ MacBook. Large and Force Touch enabled.

I haven’t used or even put my hands on the 12″ MacBook; and while I have 3D Touch on my iPhone 7 Plus, experiencing Force Touch on a notebook computer is very different. Its easy to understand how it simulates a click. What’s really gonna blow your mind, though, is how the secondary, force click actually works and feels like. It truly feels as though the trackpad not only depresses for the click, but depresses even deeper for the force click. Its truly a strange feeling. Its really cool; but its really strange. You’d never expect that there was a deeper click in that trackpad.

The new trackpad is a total winner. I’d love to have it on my Late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro.

Conclusion
This device is super thin and super light. In fact, it’s the thinnest and lightest notebook I’ve ever worked with. The new 7th generation Intel Core i7 quad core processor is fast. Its going to crunch through more than you think it will, in less time, too.

The TouchBar is cool; but I’m not certain if it’s the kind of enhancement that I would have picked had I been given the option. The bar is completely contextual and changes as needed by the active application. This is both good and bad, especially if you touch type and are used to tapping function keys with a certain finger, though in truth, doing this is a bit of a stretch for your hands. At the end of the day, the context sensitive buttons are kinda cool, but its really more of a gimmick than anything else.

The trackpad is awesome. I was really surprised that it was a Force Touch related component without any moving parts. It truly feels as though it has two levels of physical distance and travel with you press it.

The keyboard isn’t bad, but its not great. The level of key travel is greatly diminished and unfortunately, its stiff and clacky. Its not the greatest typing experience and will require some getting used to. For some, this may be a deal breaker.

The biggest issue with this device are its USB-C ports and the lack of any native legacy port on it. Its going to be difficult for anyone to use any kind of legacy device with this notebook computer without some kind of dongle, dock or adapter. Unfortunately, this means you have to carry some other attachment in order to use what you need to get your work done.

Okokokok… so what’s the bottom line?

As always, Apple has created a GREAT notebook computer that should last any user at least seven to ten years, provide you baby the crap out of it. Its expensive, for certain. In fact, it may be too expensive. The Late 2013 MBP that I bought was the top of the line machine, and it cost me just under $3000. The top of the line 15″ in the current generation is $4200, or $1200 more than what I paid nearly four years ago (this coming December). Most of that is going to be attributable to the 2GB SSD that’s available for it; but that price is still outrageous.

This machine is awesome, but it requires a great deal of compromises. If you don’t mind making them, and have enough money to get the machine that will grow with you, the new Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro may be the right machine for you.

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