An Apple A Day…

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Apple is having their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week and the big news is the plethora of updates coming to their operating system platforms this fall. Check out iDropNews for all of the latest updates from the conference. There wasn’t any new hardware presented at the keynote address on Monday, but it’s likely we will see upgraded Apple devices coming by the end of the year. A new iPhone is pretty much guaranteed and hopefully an update to the Apple Watch.

What I’m really looking forward to with the new software updates is the ability to unlock a MacBook with the Apple Watch. Hopefully the iPhone will be added to that at some point. Also, Siri is coming to Mac finally (I admit I don’t use Cortana on my PC, but I do on my Xbox).

The best thing about these new updates is that they will be free to owners of Apple computers and devices. It’s wonderful! Of course, some older Apple devices will not be upgradeable to the new software. This is usually because of hardware limitations. Thankfully, my MacBook Pro 2011 model is still upgradeable, and hopefully that will be true for many more years to come.

 

Performing Surgery on MacBook Pro

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I’m a techie, and I know hardware. I’ve been building computers for most of my life. A few years ago I thought I’d give that up and instead buy designer computers. It started with the first MacBook Pro that I bought myself, extended to my Alienware m17x laptop, and for a while I thought I was done messing with the insides of computers. Well, I ended up upgrading the Alienware laptop’s video card myself and eventually replaced that laptop with an Alienware x51, a portable desktop PC. I’ve done my fair share upgrading parts in it.

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I’m happy with my PC for gaming, but I still used a Mac Mini for work. However, that computer was just too slow for me, so I gave it to my mom (she didn’t have a working computer) and took back the MacBook Pro I had bought back in 2011. It wasn’t working, and it was in pretty bad shape. I was able to get it to boot and reinstalled OS X. I was amazed how fast it was compared to my Mini even though it was 5 years older (to be fair, the MacBook Pro has a faster processor).

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While it was nice to have a laptop again, there were a few things I wanted to change:

  1. The first thing I did was swap out the original hard drive with my Crucial 500gb solid state drive. It was a simple to do and it really sped up the laptop. I can boot up in about 7 seconds give or take. I also added what I’d guess to be about 2 hours of battery life, the best reason to put one in a laptop. Less power is a good thing, in this case.
  2. After that, I soon realized that I no longer had the Handoff feature and AirDrop didn’t work with newer devices. That’s because the wireless card in my MacBook Pro had Bluetooth 2.0. For the features I was missing you need the 4.o standard. Thankfully Bluetooth 4.0 came out a year to two after my model was manufactured and I discovered that I could replace my old wireless card with one that has Bluetooth 4.0. It took a little bit more effort to replace than the hard drive and I had to “hack” my computer to get it to work, but now I have the full function of AirDrop, Handrop, and Instant Hotspot (that’s going to be nice when I travel).
  3. Today I did something more drastic, I replaced the upper and lower case on my MacBook Pro. My brother had dropped the laptop when I gave it to him a few years ago. There was a severe dent where the battery indicator button was and the case was scratched up and dented in other places. I was happy to find a replacement are at a fair price, but I had to dismantle the computer. Every part had to be disconnected. You can see my handy work in the photos.

The whole process took me several hours since it was my first time taking the whole thing apart. It was fun, with a few frustrating moments. Thankfully I didn’t seem to damage anything, and my tinkering was a success. Now I feel like I have a brand new MacBook Pro.

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As you can see it still works. 🙂 There are only three features that I’m missing: USB 3.0, Force Touch, and the Retina display. I COULD get those features on my MacBook Pro by adding external devices. For the USB ports, there’s an adapter that plugs in my thunderbolt port that can give me USB 3.0 ports. The Apple Magic Track Pad 2 is an external pad that has the force touch technology. It allows additional functions that are similar to the iPhone’s 3D touch. Finally, I could buy an external Apple monitor that has the retina display technology in it, but that’s too expensive!

For a company that isn’t known for having upgradable computers, I really lucked out with this laptop! The best part is that now I should be happy with this computer for years to come. And I got to spend some time playing Mac doctor.

Apple iWork Versus Microsoft Office

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Apple has made a real effort building software to compete with Microsoft Office. I remember buying iWork 09 when I got my first Mac. Eventually Apple did a very nice thing by making the Mac and online versions of iWork free. You still have to buy the iOS version sadly, but I rarely use that since I don’t have an iPad anymore, so you could probably live without it.

I remember using Word Perfect, back in the day, most of my word pressing training was done with that software. I’ve spent a lot of time with MS Office, even on my mac, and unfortunately the last version of MS Office for Mac came out in 2011. It wasn’t until this year that we saw a new version for OS X.

Universities and corporations still require MS Office for students and employees, but Apple’s iWork software shouldn’t be overlooked. There are some advantages to using Pages over Word if you are a Mac user. I admit that in the past I typically used MS Word the most, even for writing my articles for iDropNews. Recently, I’ve switched back to Pages to do the bulk of my writing for work and then finish up with MS Word.

Let’s look at some of the features I like about Pages. First, by far the best feature, is how the app saves documents. Every file created in Pages is saved in the iCloud. This allows users to work on their documents with any Apple device be it Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Since the file is stored in one location, it’s easy to work on multiple devices. Another useful feature is the saving feature. Every keystroke or change is automatically saved. Of course, there still is the option to manually save, but why bother? The third, and perhaps not really a feature per-say, it the simplistic look and feel of Pages. It just works, it’s not flashy, and doesn’t take long to load.

Windows users obviously can’t use the iWork software, unless they opt for the web version. Word also has more features than Pages, though many of them require some research. I still have to use Word as the articles I write need to be in docx format. I can convert my documents from Pages into Word format with ease.

Microsoft has their own cloud service, now called One Drive, which works most of the time. The difference between iCloud and One Drive is how files are stored. Microsoft uses two copies, one in the cloud, and the other stored on your computer. It syncs the files instead of having just one storage place. In theory it sounds like a redundancy backup option, but when there is a discrepancy between the two copies there are problems.

Sometimes you may be forced to chose which copy of a file to keep. The server version or the computer version, should the two copies not match. It may be hard to know which one to keep. Usually I would chose the most recent file, but somehow it always seemed to end up being an older version of the document I was working on, forcing me to re-write large sections of the document. This happened to me once or twice when I was at school.

All in all, I like Pages more than Word. While MS Office is more widely used by most people, I think Pages shines with it’s reliability.  I was able to adjust to Pages fairly easily and with the few powerful features that I like, it’s the best way to make sure you don’t lose those important documents.