Apple releases iOS 8.1 →

October 20, 2014 |

Apple today released iOS 8.1, the newest version of the iOS operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Jason Snell has a complete list of changes:

The big change is support for Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the U.S. The Camera Roll is also back, and iCloud Photo Library has been added in beta. There are plenty of other changes, so check out the change notes to see if your favorite bug is being addressed. (And if you want to wait to see if the update does something weird to some people’s phones, no one will blame you.)

You can download and install the update right from your iOS device. And if you run into storage problems, Rene Ritchie has you covered.

Happy updating!

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Flickr announces new iPad app →

October 20, 2014 |


Today, we’re extremely excited to announce Flickr for iPad. We’ve heard you loud and clear asking for an official app on Apple’s beautiful, large retina display, which makes it easy and enjoyable to access, organize and share your stunning photos from anywhere. The new Flickr for iPad app will be available globally in eleven languages.

It’s a universal app, so if you have the Flickr iPhone app installed on your iPad — like most sane people — the next time you update it you’ll get the iPad version automatically.

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The new iPads and the Retina iMac

October 17, 2014

Yesterday, among other announcements, Apple introduced the new iPad Air 2, the new iPad mini 3 and upgraded the long-neglected Mac mini. However, the real star of the show was the new iMac with Retina 5K display. What an incredible machine.

Let’s go over each of the new hardware announcements in a bit more detail.

The new iPads

Last year, Apple upgraded the iPad mini and gave it the same internals as the then-flagship iPad Air. Actually, both machines were so similar that it didn’t really make sense to call one of them the flagship. They were, for all practical purposes, the same device in two different sizes.1

This time around, though, things have changed.

(iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. Photo: Apple)

The iPad Air 2 is a typical year-over-year upgrade from Apple: it is thinner, a bit lighter, it has Touch ID, a much better camera and it’s powered by a faster chip.2 It also got a new laminated display and an anti-reflective coating, which should slightly improve the viewing experience, particularly in brightly lit places.

All in all, the iPad Air 2 is a nice upgrade that should make an already excellent device even more enjoyable to use. It’s not a dramatic improvement over the first-generation iPad Air, though. After all, the Air was already thin enough for most people, myself included. I’ve owned an iPad Air for over 6 months, and not once did I look at it and say to myself: “Gee, I love my iPad, if only it were a bit thinner it would be perfect”. If you already have an Air, I honestly see no compelling reason to upgrade, other than you can spare the money. Anything older, though, and the upgrade is much more compelling.

As a side note, it’s getting harder and harder every year to get excited about a thinner and lighter version of what is essentially the same product. That could be a factor in the sales slump the iPad has suffered this past year. The typical refresh cycle for a tablet seems to be significantly longer than for a phone; 2 or 3-year-old iPads are still being happily used and enjoyed by their owners, who probably don’t feel the same pressure to upgrade as they do with their iPhones. Not to mention that carrier subsidies contribute quite a bit to the phone-upgrade frenzy — spending $200 on a new phone every couple years is much easier to digest than buying a $600 tablet to replace the perfectly good one you already have.

The iPad mini 3 is a very different story, though. If you didn’t buy one last year thinking that this year’s version would be the one to get… well, you were wrong. Sorry about that. Apple took last year’s iPad mini with a Retina Display — now retroactively called iPad mini 2 — added Touch ID, a gold color option and called it a day. The iPad mini 3 is still powered by the same A7 chip as last year’s model, it’s just as thin and light — which, to be fair, is not bad at all — and judging from a picture in this article on iMore, it still has the same narrower color gamut display.

If Apple had replaced the iPad mini 2 with the 3 while maintaining the price, people wouldn’t have much reason to be excited, but the 3 would still make sense as a product. However, Apple decided to keep the iPad mini 2 in the lineup and dropped the price by a hundred bucks. Call me crazy but at $299, the iPad mini 2 seems like a far better deal. Touch ID and a gold color choice, while nice things to have, are not worth $100, in my opinion.

My advice if you’re considering buying the entry-level, $399 iPad mini 3, is to get the $349 32GB iPad mini 2 instead. It’s just a better use of your money: you get twice the storage capacity and you get to save 50 bucks. However, if you do need 64 GB of storage — and many people do — your only option is the iPad mini 3.

Oh, and Apple also decided to keep the original iPad mini and sell it for $249. I can’t even begin to understand why someone would buy it over the iPad mini 2, but there it is. Make of it what you will.

If you’re a fan of the iPad mini form factor, the worst part of yesterday’s event is that Apple all but confirmed its role as a second-class citizen in the iPad lineup. Last year’s refresh now seems like a fluke, and we are left to think that the mini will probably remain one generation behind the Air for the foreseeable future.

The upgraded Mac Mini

Not much to say here, other than the obvious. The Mac mini got a decent upgrade with faster processors and a new starting price of $499. After two years without being upgraded, the smallest member of the Mac family is once again an attractive entry-level option into the OS X ecosystem. Not bad.

Mac mini 2014

(Mac mini. Photo: Apple)

The iMac with Retina 5K display

This is the computer we’ve all been waiting for ever since we saw our first Retina display. For some, that goes as back as the iPhone 4 — for me personally, it was the 4S. It’s such a striking difference that you must see it with your own eyes to really believe it. However, even though Apple has been relentlessly pushing display technology forward for years, a true desktop Retina experience remained elusive, until now.

(iMac with Retina 5K display. Photo: Apple)

I have to say, I’m impressed they could pull it off, and at this price: $2499 for that display alone would be a bargain. Considering it comes with a pretty good computer inside, it feels unreal. Granted, it’s still a lot of money, but if you’ve ever stared at a Retina display, you know it’s worth every penny. I can’t wait to see one of these in person.

iMacs are extraordinarily resilient machines. Mine is from early 2008 and it’s still in perfect working condition. It’s an investment you’ll never regret.


Yesterday’s Apple event wasn’t particularly exciting or jam-packed with incredible announcements, but it marked another step forward for Apple and the maturity of their ecosystem. We’ve finally come to a point where all Apple devices are able to seamlessly communicate and work with each other. From the outside this may look deceptively easy, but it’s the result of many years’ worth of work. It’s a cheesy line, I’ll admit, but it’s absolutely true that only Apple could create an experience as cohesive and solid as this, and we’re only just beginning to realize its potential.

Whether you own a Mac or an iOS device — or both — this is a great time to be an Apple user.

  1. The only real differences last year were that the iPad mini had a slightly slower version of the same processor and a display panel with a narrower color gamut.

  2. Interestingly, Apple chose not to go with its A8 chip — the same one they used in last month’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus — and instead opted for a different design, dubbed A8X, which is probably a tweaked version of the A8 to improve its graphics performance.

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Sarah Wilson's beautiful pimped bike →

October 17, 2014 |

My bike is the most valuable material possession I own, apart from my couch, if we’re talking from a financial POV. From an attachment POV, my bike is number one by a mile.

I’m attached. The reason is this…it represents a story and a process. Allow me to share the story (it does have a point).

I totally get where she’s coming from. There’s something special about an object with a past life going back decades. It’s a feeling you won’t find on a new bicycle, no matter how much you spend. Classic road bikes from the 70’s or so are incredible feats of craftsmanship. Those things were built to last a lifetime, and many of them are still actively being used every day.

I’d much prefer to put $500 towards restoring a classic, handmade italian frame than spending them on a new bike.

Come to think of it, I actually did. But that’s a story for another day.

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Marco Arment compares the Retina iMac and the Mac Pro (on paper) →

October 17, 2014 |

Marco has an excellent and thorough article on the differences between both models:

The 5K Retina iMac is out, and it looks incredible so far on paper — so incredible that I’m seriously considering selling my new Mac Pro to get the Retina iMac instead. In fact, the case for the Mac Pro for anyone but advanced video editors, 3D modelers, and heavy OpenCL users is now weaker than ever.

I’ve always found the iMac to be a near perfect computer but now it’s getting ridiculous. Even the completely redesigned Mac Pro compares poorly, particularly considering it won’t be getting an external Retina display anytime soon:

It may be possible to use two Thunderbolt 2 cables to power a 5K display, but only if the GPU could treat each port as its own full-bandwidth DisplayPort 1.2 channel, the sum of which represented one logical display, and had the panel using something like MST to combine the two at the other end. But the only Mac with more than one Thunderbolt bus (not port) is the current Mac Pro, and I can’t see today’s Apple shipping an external display that none of their laptops can use.

If you’re in the market for a high-end desktop computer, the Retina iMac looks like a no-brainer.

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Jason Snell's first thoughts about the Apple event →

October 17, 2014 |

Speaking of Jason Snell:

Let’s step through that one again. People will forsake their Mac Pros for this iMac, until there comes a day when a screen like this is available as an external display option for the Mac Pro. For $2500 or less. People who would never have considered buying an iMac will buy this iMac.

I have to say, I agree. I haven’t even seen this iMac yet, and I already want it. A few months ago I said I probably wouldn’t replace my current iMac — a 24-inch Early 2008 model — until it died on me, but an iMac with a Retina display is a whole different animal.

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Apple temporarily pulls blood glucose measurements from Health app

October 16, 2014

Federico Viticci and Stephen Hackett today pointed out that Apple is temporarily pulling support for blood glucose measurements from the Health app. I know it sounds serious, but here’s why it’s probably not a big deal.

The truth is, blood glucose measurement support in the Health app is ridiculously rudimentary as it is, even if it worked properly. A typical person with diabetes needs to monitor their blood sugar levels anywhere from 3 to 10 times a day, sometimes even more (you need to take additional tests in case of hypoglycemia, which is a fairly common event). There’s no way a significant portion of those people are going to take the extra effort to manually log each and every measurement in the Health app. I know I don’t, and if this feature has failed to encourage me — an Apple enthusiast and technologically savvy young man — to use it, its chances of convincing regular users are pretty slim.

Blood glucose tracking in the Health app, at least in its current incarnation, is an irrelevant feature, because all diabetics already have a device that can do that for them: the very glucose meter they use to take the measurement in the first place. All glucose meters have a built-in memory to store the user’s history, and virtually all of them offer ways to export and/or visualize that data.

The ability to manually log blood glucose measurements on an iPhone app is a complementary feature, for example in case you forget your glucose meter and need to borrow another device (I’ve tested my levels using my father’s glucose meter occasionally). It’s nice to have it, but it’s by no means an essential or particularly compelling feature.

As a central repository of data, the Health app makes sense, but it will only be really useful for diabetics if one of these things happen first:

  • Either Apple implements support for automatic data transfer between the Health app and several commercially available blood glucose meters (ideally the most popular ones), or…

  • …3rd-party apps implement this support and share the blood glucose data with the Health app. In this case, though, the Health app becomes redundant because the 3rd-party app would surely support some sort of data visualization features itself. It would also be unlikely, because due to the medical nature of this data (and hence, its confidentiality), I’m not sure a 3rd-party developer would be legally able — let alone inclined — to share that data with anyone.

The blood glucose feature in the Health app, as it stands today, is merely an afterthought on Apple’s part. This bug itself is proof of that: failing to consider both mg/dL and mmol/L as valid units is not just an oversight, it’s one of the very first things a developer has to deal with — and one of the most important ones — when designing a diabetes-related app. The fact that they didn’t clearly shows that it’s not a priority for them.

In the end, the only sensible thing they could do is pull the feature. It’s much better to not have a feature, than to have a poorly implemented version of one, particularly in an app as important as Health. I hope they take their time to fix it and bring it back with the support it deserves, because otherwise it will continue to be irrelevant to most diabetics. And that would be a shame.

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