Category Archives: Hardware

WWDC 2019: Reaction to June’s keynote event

On 3 June 2019 Apple held their keynote address at their annual World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC).

There were lots of very interesting announcements related mainly to their software, however there was also one amazing hardware announcement.

In the video above I highlight just a handful of items that really caught my attention. I hope you enjoy!

Please click the like button if you like the video, and don’t forget to subscribe to my channel for lots more content! Thanks for watching!

New Mac Pro 2019 Preview

At the time of recording the above video in May 2019 we could be less than a month away from discovering what Apple’s revamped top of the range desktop Mac will look like. In this video I talk about what we might see and why not everyone is likely to be happy. Make sure you watch right to the end of the video because I offer a couple of opinions on the new Mac Pro that you probably haven’t heard.

When Apple released the first Mac Pro in August 2006 on the outside it looked very much like the Power Mac gee five it had replaced, however inside it was a totally new machine. It used the traditional tower format that most computers came in at the time but in a modern solid all metal chassis. It felt and looked premium. This computer would become affectionately known as the cheese grater. Outside it had plenty of ports five U S B two , 2 firewire 400, 2 firewire 800, optical, audio in and out and a dual layer super drive, It was a fully featured top of the range machine.

For professionals at the time, alarm bells rung because despite the Mac Pro being a great computer it was the last Mac to be transitioned from Power PC to Intel processors, the Mac Pro having two dual core Xeon chips at its heart. This was unfortunately a sign of things to come as the machine received little attention over the next few years with just a handful of spec bumps and generally unimpressive updates until even those stopped in 2012 with that update being barely noticeable from the version that had shipped in 2010.

This lacklustre support led many pro users to suspect that Apple didn’t care anymore and was only interested in selling phones and to a certain extent despite what the company says, there’s probably an element of truth about that. However at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013 a replacement machine was finally unveiled.

The new Mac Pro resembled a bin which is why it’s unaffectionately become known as the trash can. This computer has modern specs, internal SSD, fast RAM, thunderbolt 2 as well as USB but it has no internal storage and apart from RAM you’re pretty much stuck with how it leaves the factory, However that’s not the worst of it. Inside, the trashcan has 2 GPUs (that’s graphics cards to you and me) with Apple banking on software developers using the second ultra fast card for processing data – which is precisely what didn’t happen. In development terms it’s made much more sense to have a CPU (the processor) with lots of cores. It’s easier to program and has less of an overhead meaning that the expensive second GPU sits in the trashcan acting merely as part of the elaborate cooling system. Which incidentally does work rather well.

I bought a cheese grater Mac Pro in 2006 and upgraded to a trashcan in 2013. Well 2014 as it took weeks to get here.

In 2017 Apple admitted that they had got it wrong and the trashcan’s second graphics card is not the way to do it. But worse than that the architecture can’t cope with faster CPUs with more cores. In their own words they’d engineered themselves into a thermal corner.

Which is quite an achievement when you work in round building.

They said that a new totally revamped modular machine would follow in 2019. And although nothing can be certain, June’s WWDC seems a fair shout for a sneak peek at it.

But what exactly does modular mean?

Some commentators have speculated that a modular Mac Pro will be like some kind of lego computer made up of different boxes that you can slot together like some kind of silicon jenga. You want a faster Mac Pro, buy a CPU upgrade box. You want faster graphics, but a graphics module. For a while I thought there may be some merit to that argument even if I didn’t think that it would work quite like that, however the release of the 2018 Mac Mini gave me serious doubts. After all, why release a pro oriented mini when an entry level lego Mac Pro would probably be the same kind of machine? 

It all seems a bit far fetched to me, to be honest, I feel that it’s far more likely the modular refers to the factory assembly line, how Apple put together and build the machines and later change elements of it without having to re-tool large parts of their production line.

At the other end of the scale there are vocal supporters of bringing back something akin to the cheese grater. It’s certainly possible that this will happen, although if it does I feel it’ll be far more compact and I also think that the one big thing that cheese grater supporters often want, which is to be able to plug in just about any piece of internal update that they want to into the chassis just won’t happen, Not on your nelly.  No. No No. You won’t be able to plug an nvidia card into the new machine. It just won’t happen. It’ll be upgradable, for sure, however it’ll be with a limited set of Apple supplied components. Perhaps that’s the modular element after all?

There’s one other thing to bear in mind about the new Mac Pro. The old machine was many things to many people. I’m an app and web developer and no other Mac was really up to the job for me, however that’s just not the case now. There are plenty of options out there if you use a Mac professionally. I now use an iMac Pro and think it’s wonderful, other professionals would find a laptop or the new pro oriented Mac Mini would do the job for them very nicely.

I think the new Mac Pro will be for the very highest demanding customers that Apple has. People who need such extraordinary processing power that mere mortals don’t need on a day to day basis, People in science or with multiple simultaneous demanding tasks. Most people just won’t think it’s worth it.

So why make it at all? They probably won’t sell that many, but McClaren don’t sell many F1s. That doesn’t stop them making them.

There’s one other part of this that is my own opinion and not one I’ve heard anybody else mention. What if the new Mac Pro is also a perfect machine to be a server? A modern day XServe? Why not get back into that market? Yes, MacOS server is a seriously crippled and basically useless update not worth getting out of bed for, but that could change? A powerful space grey Apple Server would be something to seriously lust after. In a totally non pervy way, of course. What do you think?

Another really off the wall idea is that the new Mac Pro will ship with Apple based ARM processors and be the first Mac to ship without Intel on board. It’s inevitable that Apple will shift to their CPUs at some point and now may be a touch too soon, however it’s got to happen at some point…!

If Apple do make an announcement in June then I’ll follow up later that month with my thoughts.

What do you want from the new Mac Pro, be sure to leave your comments on my YouTube channel and don’t forget to hit that subscribe and like buttons as that encourages me to make content for the channel.

An introduction to Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto)

If there’s been something that’s never really worked all that well since the introduction of the smartphone, it’s how they integrate with your car.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise as car manufacturers work many years in advance and they want to control as much of how you interact with their vehicles as they can. However, customers have been crying out for them to add support for Android Auto and CarPlay, the systems written by Google and Apple respectively to enable their mobile devices to communicate with vehicles.

Gradually support has improved and most manufacturers now offer both Android and Apple variants. Some (I’m looking at you BMW) are trying to charge their customers an annual fee to access the service (do what?) but most simply include it as part of the package.

And it does make a difference!

Yes, on older cars without Android Auto or CarPlay, you can still plug in your phone via USB or WiFi and see your contacts and sometimes music on the in-car display, however the implementation has been pretty unconvincing. What Android Auto and Apple CarPlay give you is access to the apps you might like to use on your phone while you’re in your car using a familiar interface. They also support Google Assistant and Siri making the whole experience even better. Say what you like about Siri, but when it comes to natural language queries, it’s generally far better than Alexa and therefore much better for when you’re on the move. Google Assistant is also no slouch in this area and is the pick of the bunch for this kind of task.

In the video accompanying this post, I take a brief look at Apple’s CarPlay and discuss it’s merits (and those of Android Auto, although not being an Android user I can’t demonstrate it in the film). I’ve only just started using CarPlay so if you have any questions please post them to my YouTube channel (or below) and I’ll make a follow up film.

Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to hit that like button!

What Mac did I buy in November 2018?

When it comes to buying a new computer, it’s not something that I do every day! Or even every year. Or every 2 years. In fact sometimes I go almost a decade between purchases.

When I bought my first Mac, a Mac Mini, it was 2005 and some people thought I was bonkers as Windows was very much king in those days. However, I’d become a bit disappointed with the annual wipe-and-reinstall that seemed to be necessary to keep Windows XP running optimally. Plus my experience with Windows Phone (on a crappy Motorola filp-phone) had nearly sent me insane. It was time for a change!

I loved Mac OS X Panther so much that 18 months after my Mac Mini purchase I bought a first generation Mac Pro. This was the last Mac to receive an update to Intel processors.

My next Mac came several years later, in 2014. A “trashcan” Mac Pro.

As you can see, my Mac life has entirely consisted of the headless variety. I brought my own keyboard and mouse (in latter years, those offered by Apple were my preferred options). However, in November 2018 I suddenly found myself needing to buy a new machine. The Mac Pro has something of a disappointing recent history and this isn’t going to be fixed until a completely revamped model comes out at some point in 2019, so what was I to do?

In the video above, you can find out what Mac I bought next, and why.

Thanks for watching! Catch you next time.

First steps into the Smart Home

Here’s a video where I look at three options for smart home lighting: Philips Hue, Ikea’s TRÅDFRI and Lifx.

I won’t give anything away about which of the three systems I choose. Please watch the video to find out!

Please give the video a thumbs up if you enjoyed it. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified when new videos are uploaded.

Networking update – the finished system

It’s been a while since my last blog post (over 2 months) however I’ve been active on my YouTube channel uploading several videos. One of them, is the fourth part of my networking series (above).

In this video I get to the final stage of the process putting everything into the cabinet – very nice!

There’s a follow up video (below) where I take the network to the next stage by expanding it to elsewhere in my home.

Apologies for not posting these films to my blog before now. Please subscribe to my channel on YouTube to find out when I upload new videos.

I hope you enjoy!

iPad Pro 10.5 inch unboxing

Here’s a video where I unbox my new iPad Pro 10.5 inch and compare it with two older generation iPads.

The iPads on show are the 3rd generation that was launched in January 2012 and the iPad Air from 2013/4.

We look at the difference in screen sizes, bezels and thickness (or thinness as Apple insist on calling it). I don’t mention one of the major enhancements in this newer iPad and that is the 120Hz refresh rate. I’ll likely cover that more if I purchase an Apple Pencil (watch this space)!

If you like unboxing videos of Apple products then I have two more on the way before the end of the year. Not huge products, but they’re in a box so qualify as unboxing videos. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified when the videos are uploaded.

The fourth part of my networking series is on the way soon!

Thanks for watching. 🙂

Home office networking progress

It’s been a while since I posted part 2 of my network series, but finally after a short delay, I’m pleased to be able to post part 3 where we really get cracking with the install!

In the video above you’ll be able to see me talk through the final few parts I bought for the new rack as well as see the equipment installed into its new home.

The whole point of this project was to improve my office environment by getting rid of excess cables, extension leads and equipment dotted around different work surfaces. As you will see when you watch the latest part, I’ve largely achieved that goal. However, there is one thing that is going to prevent me from calling this project complete and will mean that I will have to have a “part 4”. Watch the video to find out the reason for this unexpected turn of events.

If you have any comments to make on this project, you can do so here or over on my YouTube channel (click the icon at the top of the page). Thanks for watching!

The home network revamp continues!

It’s time for the second part of my network upgrade series.

This may be extremely geeky, and I’m yet to get to what will pass (even vaguely) as interesting in this project, however if you’re sticking with me over this journey then I’ll show my first purchases and, crucially, unveil the main event – the rack!

There’s not much more to say. Please watch the video to see what I’ve bought.

Coming next will be two supplementary videos in the series where I unbox my new rack mounted switch and my UPS. After that will be part 3 of the revamp series when things really start coming together.

My office revamp. The big cable untangle!

My home office has had more or less the same layout since I first moved into my current home in 2009. Sure, I’ve altered things here and there and slopped a new colour of paint on the walls every so often but the basic layout has pretty much stayed the same.

Until now.

As a project for the remainder of 2017, I’m going to revamp my home office and bring it in to the 21st century. I’ll be replacing the radiator and will have a bright new colour scheme, however the headline change here is the introduction of a rack cabinet.

Racks are more usually found in Data Centres and are in use there because they enable many servers to be stacked in the most space saving way possible along with tidy and organised cable and power management. I’m going to use the same philosophy for my home office. By introducing a rack I’ll be able to put the vast majority of my equipment in one space and greatly enhance my power and cable routing.

The video above talks briefly about my plans and shows the extent of the problem I’m hoping to overcome: lots of disorganised cables and equipment dotted all over my office; some – like my NAS – not in the ideal location!

I hope you’ll join me on this journey as I seek out a UPS, rack mounted switch, PDU’s and the like and re-organise my space to be much more efficient. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified when part 2 goes live and let me know what you think!