Anker's New USB-C Charger

A friend recently turned me on to this USB Type-C charger from Anker. If you've got a USB-C charging MacBook, it's a great investment.

The 60W charger plugs into the wall and offers four USB and and one USB-C charging ports. I use this next to my bedside table, where I nightly plug in my various Apple devices. Previously I was using a standard USB to USB-C cable to charge the MacBook. It was quite slow. The USB-C charging port in this new device charges teh MacBook at full speed. The remaining USB ports also use Anker's PowerIQ to charge devices (like my iPad) at up to 2.4 amps.

I own a few of these devices and whenever I travel, I always take one with me. This new one just became the official MacSparky travel power adapter because of its faster charge rate. There is also surge protection and temperature control. Third party power adapters always felt sketchy to me but over the last few years, Anker has become my go-to brand.

MPU 318: Backing Up

It has been years since we gave proper attention to backing up your Mac, iPhone, and iPad on the Mac Power Users. This week’s episode dives deep on the current backup options along with our recommendations and tips for dealing with backups. We also cover some of the sticky issues, like online vs. local, family and friends that don’t cooperate, photos and video, and how to account for time-delayed ransomeware. This show came out great and has something for everybody.

Sponsors are:

  • TextExpander from Smile Type more with less effort! Expand short abbreviations into longer bits of text, even fill-ins, with TextExpander from Smile.
  • Marketcircle We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.
  • Squarespace: Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

Home Screens - Larry Salibra

This week’s home screen features Larry Salibra (Website) (Twitter). Larry, from Ohio but now living in Hong Kong, was a founder of pay4bugs.com and, among other endeavors, wrote an interesting post about how to put Live Photos on the web. So Larry, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Apple Music is my current favorite app. It’s really done a lot to introduce me to new music outside of my normal comfort zone. When I don’t know what I want to listen to, I listen to Beats 1. When I hear a song on Beats 1 I like, I’ll add it to my music and sometimes even dive deeper and explore that artist’s other works. Before Apple Music, music discovery via radio was much higher friction.

I use the Hong Kong Observatory’s weather app to check out weather radar whenever it looks like it’s going to rain to plan my driving route around any potential rain clouds. I drive a scooter, and like to avoid getting soaked. Hong Kong has a lot of mountains and islands and it’s amazing how by choosing a slightly different route - perhaps through a tunnel instead of over a bridge, or on the non-rainy side of a hill - to a destination you can avoid getting wet.

I like the Breadwallet bitcoin wallet. It’s well done both technically and visually.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Twitter. I love to see what’s going on and get involved in silly Twitter debates about China, cybersecurity or Bitcoin.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I’m definitely underusing OmniFocus. It’s my go to for everything I need to do, but I’m not as disciplined as I should be keeping it organized.

What is the app you are still missing?

I’m really looking forward to the Blockstack iOS client. Blockstack is a blockchain-based global internet database has the potential to revolutionize the way we as consumers manage our private information, store our login credentials and access information. Think decentralized domain names and decentralized FaceBook login secured by the Bitcoin blockchain.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

I use my iPhone all day. I’m using it listening to music on while I’m working. I keep sound notifications turned off and frequently set the phone (and my watch & mac) to do not disturb to escape from the constant deluge of iMessage, Whatsapp, Wechat, Telegram and other messages.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I’m using the Bitcoin ticker widget and the Air Quality widgets. I like to keep track of the price of Bitcoin and how much damage is being done to my lungs if I’m traveling in Mainland China. (The air in Hong Kong is usually pretty good!)

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

The camera is the best feature of my iPhone. It’s really changed how I keep in touch with my friends and family. My brother, who currently lives in Bulgaria recently called me on Facetime from the Munich airport on a layover on his business trip to the UK because he wanted to show me the planes he was watching from the observation deck. It’s amazing that we can still share these moments even though two brothers from Ohio spend most of our lives on opposite sides of the earth thousands of miles from home. iPhone enables that..

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

I’d like to see Apple do something about Apple Maps in Hong Kong. It hasn’t received any of the improvements maps in the rest of the world has and is light years behinds the maps they offer their customers in Mainland China. The obvious solution would be to let us use the maps users in Mainland China get since the China supplier’s maps of Hong Kong are much, much better than what we’re forced to use.

(Here are some tweets that show the difference between Apple Maps view of same place from both sides of the border.

I’d also like to see them improve the UX of Apple Notes. Folders work inconsistently across platforms and the app sometimes feels sluggish with a lot of notes.

iMessage is also another common source of problems. The phone number/apple id aspect of iMessage causes a lot of problems. I usually give people my apple id and tell them they can reach me via iMessage. Most people don’t even know that you can send iMessages to “emails”. What will then happen, is that person sends me an iMessage that comes from their phone number. Our messages stop getting delivered as soon at the person changes phone numbers by switching SIMs. I live in a part of the world where people are always changing numbers. Hong Kong’s country code (852) covers an area the size of New York City and most people don’t want to pay for roaming, so they usually switch to a local sim card as soon as they board the plane or cross the border, not realizing that switching sims will “break” their iMessage. If you exchanged Apple IDs with each other, it keeps working as you’d expect. If you didn’t (most people don’t), your messages just never get delivered or one party will suddenly get a message from a new unknown number.

Apple could easily fix this by making iMessage send from Apple ID by default, but it’s probably too late in many markets where Whatsapp or Wechat reigns supreme and many people have removed the Messages app from their home screen altogether.

Do you have an Apple Watch? Show us your watch face tell us about it.

Yes. I have the Apple Watch Sport 38mm with the white band. I’m using the utility watch with the activity, weather and sunset/sunrise complications. I like to do outdoor activities like hiking or swimming, so it’s important to know how many more hours of daylight I have. I also often stay up late and want to make sure I get to sleep before the sun comes up.

The killer app for my watch is turn by turn driving directions on my Vespa - much safer than how I’d previously have to pull over to the side of the road in busy traffic, take off my riding gloves, fumble to get my iPhone out of my pocket and then hope I could memorize the upcoming turns. It’s been a real life saver - literally!

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I recently changed to a colorful cityscape I found online. I really like how it brings out the capabilities of the iPhone 6s Plus screen and brightens up what has been a rather dark and rainy spring. Honestly, though I don’t see it very often, because I’m usually listening to music so the album artwork is on my lock screen.

Thanks Larry.

Drafts App Sale Plus Screencasts

Over the last month I've been busy creating screencasts on how to use Drafts on my iPhone and iPad. There is a whole slew of them. This is, essentially, a full MacSparky Video Field Guide and if you've ever wondered about Drafts, here's your chance to master it. Drafts is going to release the screencasts over time and you can read all about it right here.

There is also a 30% off sale on the app from now through May 2 so if you've been on the fence, you've really got no excuse now. Below is the Overview screencast that gives you a good idea what you can do with this essential app.

Apple Music Recommendations. Not "For Me"

Apple Music has been great for our family. We all love music and we all listen to different kinds of music. Thanks to Apple Music we are listening to more music than ever and spending less money doing so. I know this shouldn’t be news for anybody that’s been in the subscription music game for any amount of time, but with the $15 a month family price point, it’s really been great for us.

All of that said, I really hate Apple Music recommendations. Below is my “for you” recommendations earlier today.

With the exception of a single Miles Davis album none of those are “for me”. I suspect the reason I get so many pop recommendations is because my family shared a single iTunes account for many years. However, we are now all on separate family sharing accounts and I can assure you that I’ve never favorited a Beyoncé album. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

My favorite music largely includes obscure living jazz artists and less obscure dead jazz artists. I’ve wasted hours favoriting albums and marking other “recommended” playlists as ones I don’t like. Nevertheless, I open iTunes nearly every day as I work at my iMac and get the same Selina Gomez album thrown at me in place of Thelonkous Monk.

Maybe if I started a new iTunes account from scratch I would be in better shape. But that would require me to walk away from thousands of dollars of music, movies, and apps I purchased from iTunes in the past. I’m in a cage of Apple's creation and I believe they should figure a way out of it. At the very least, if I tell Apple Music I don’t like the One Direction playlist (again, not that there is anything wrong with that), Apple Music should not throw it at me again … every day … for the rest of my life. How does the algorithm not take into account when the user specifically says, "please don't show me this again"?

The net result of all of this is that I am unable to use Apple Music recommendations. I guess that’s okay because I know other ways to find new and interesting music but it also just kind of sucks.

The MacSparky Mailing List

For years I've been getting emails from readers asking me to put together a regular newsletter. I've decided to commit and start making a monthly newsletter. The newsletter will have some original content and point at other content that I hope is interesting. I'll be publishing the first such newsletter this week so if that's your thing, go sign up.

Sponsor: SaneBox and SaneReminders

I’d like to thank SaneBox for sponsoring MacSparky.com this week. SaneBox is a kick in the pants for your email. It adds a host of additional features to any email account and works with exchange, Google mail, or IMAP accounts.

There is a lot you can do with SaneBox to tame your email. One feature that a lot of users aren’t aware of is SaneReminders. Often you will send an email to someone and have some sort of expectation about a reply. That creates a pesky problem for you. Do you try and just remember to follow up on it in a week or two? Do you tie a string around your finger? Do you create a task in your task list application to remind you to check on whether or not there’s a reply? There really isn’t a simple, efficient way to handle that problem.

With SaneReminders, when you send an email to someone, you can blind copy it to SaneBox with some designated amount of time like, “1week@sanebox.com”. SaneBox then quietly watches out for a reply to that email. If you don’t get a reply within one week, you get a note from SaneBox reminding you. If you deal with a lot of people, this is a completely friction-free way to track email replies. I use this feature every day.

Learn more about all of the features of SaneBox over at SaneBox.com. If you sign up using the links in this post, you even get a nice discount. Who doesn’t want a nice discount? Thank you SaneBox for supporting MacSparky.com.

MPU 317: Myke Hurley: Collector of iPads

This week's episode of Mac Power Users features Myke Hurley, who talks about how he is using his iPad Pro and some of his favorite workflows for the business side of running a podcast network.

There was a problem with the feed (my fault) where some listeners got last week's episode (MPU 316) instead of the new one. If that's you, just re-download the episode and you're fine

Sponsors include:

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  • Automatic The connected car company that improves your driving and integrates your car into yoru digital life. Enter code MACPOWER to get 20% off your purchase. 
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.

Stanford's Latest iOS Course

Every year Stanford releases a course on iOS application development to iTunes U. It's always good and this year the materials are updated for iOS 9 and Swift. These courses aren't beginner level but they certainly aren't expert level either. If you're curious about these things, this is a pretty good place to start.

Speaking at the Release Notes Conference

I’m excited to be named as a speaker at this year’s Release Notes Conference in Indianapolis on September 27–29. The Release Notes Conference is all about independent developers and the challenges they face. Indie developers are some of my favorite people. They are entrepreneurs, geeks, and fearless trailblazers all at once. I can’t wait to talk to them about the perils and thrills of working for yourself.

FotoMagico 5

For years I've had the reputation in my friend and family groups as being the "slide show wizard". If somebody's getting married, or having an anniversary party, or whatever, they always come to me and ask me to put on their slide show.

I always hedge a bit, explaining that it is very time consuming and that if I'm going to do it, they should at least make sure I get extra cake and ice cream. They always agree to my terms.

What they don't know is that all this time I've simply been taking their pictures and dumping them in FotoMagico with some good music. The app does all the work.

Recently Boinx released version 5 of FotoMagico and now I'll look even better. They've now got features like:

* Resolution independence. Your slide show will play on any projector up to 4K

* Adding video

* New slide transitions and better text animation

One of my tricks for weddings is to always get a shot of the bride and groom's first kiss and then add it to the end of the slide show for the reception. Everybody loves that. Now FotoMagico makes that job easier with a pre-built snippet for just that purpose.

There's more, like export functions, synchronization with music beats, and other fancy tricks but to me the real value in this app is how easily it makes a great slideshow. Learn more over at Boinx Software.

Drawing on iPad Word

I don't know what they're feeding the Microsoft iOS development team but I wish they'd give some of it to the Mac team too. I've been using Word's latest new feature that lets you annotate Microsoft Word documents on the iPad with the Apple Pencil. It feels super natural and makes a great deal of sense once you get the workflow down. I was going to write it up but Jeff Richardson covered it thoroughly today so I'm just going to point you over there.

At this point I'm beginning to wonder if it's inevitable that I'll be moving my Apple Pages template documents over to Word and just go all-in for Word. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

Five Weeks

Today Apple announced an update to the MacBook. Overall, the new machine looks pretty solid. Faster SSD. Better processor. More battery life. The shocking thing to me is how little I care. Last week I had to get my laptop out and found a letter open on it that I had started writing … five weeks ago. I knew it had been awhile since I used the laptop. I didn't realize it was five weeks.

Don't get me wrong. I spend hours a day using my iMac. But for mobile work, the iPad Pro has largely been getting the job done for me. As iOS further matures, I'm just not so sure I'll have much need for a laptop. Trust me. I'm as surprised by this realization as anybody else.

Typing on Glass

I've made no secret over the years about the fact that I'm not particularly good at typing on glass. Part of the reason is ham-hands and my preference for dictation. Those, however, are just excusees. The real reason is that after a lifetime of touch typing, I've never felt particularly good at typing on glass. It felt like productivity molasses.

A few things, however, have swayed me. It started with the iPad Air. On that machine I got quite good at thumb typing in portrait mode. It's nothing like touch typing but still pretty great to sit on an airplane and thumb my way through an outline or a pile of email.

Speaking of airplanes, I recently took a flight where I was seated right between the window and a big guy that made pulling down the tray and using my iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard cover impossible. I had four hours on that plane and was determined not to thrown in the towel. So I placed the iPad on my lap and started typing. I then went into one of those hypnotic work-states that I often feel on airplanes and before I knew it the pilot announced we were about to land.

I got a lot of work done typing on glass that day and it really opened my eyes. There's a lot to like about typing on the 12.9" iPad glass. You can switch keyboards easily. If you're paying attention, the recommended word selections are pretty good and can speed things up. That eye-opening flight was a month ago and now I find myself typing on glass a lot more than I've ever done before. This post was typed on glass (more out of convenience than to prove a point). When you get right down to it I really don't think there is much a speed loss typing on glass with the big iPad Pro.

Jason Snell's brought math to this party. He recently ran his own typing tests where he found he only had a 17% loss in speed typing on the 12.9" iPad pro glass over a keyboard. While I don't think it is quite that close for me, I don't think Jason is far off. Moreover, if I spent a little bit more time getting better at this glass keyboard, I'm certain I could close the gap further.

All of that said, there are still definite pain points. Text selection is still far easier for me using a keyboard. Also, typing on glass at least once a day my finger accidentally hits the keyboard switch button which brings my work to a screeching halt. On that note if I were in charge, I'd make the keyboard selection button something where you had to press and hold to switch between keyboards.

I'm not ready to give up my Apple Smart Keyboard cover anytime soon but I can tell you I'm much more receptive to typing on glass now than I've ever been before. 

MPU 316: Locking Down Your Technology

There seem to be a lot of shenanigans lately with other people trying to get at your personal information. In this week's episode Katie and I explain how to lock up your Apple technology. My thanks to this weeks Mac Power Users sponsors.

  • Igloo: An intranet you’ll actually like, free for up to 10 people.
  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
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  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad.