One of the major announcements at Apple’s 2020 Worldwide Developer Conference was their transition from Intel chips to their new Silicon chips for future Mac product lines. The goal of the new processors is to increase performance while reducing power consumption. They will be similar to the A-series chips used in iPhones and iPads. They are also expected to provide exceptional graphics performance.

As an indicator of the improved performance expected from the Silicon chips, consider the performance of the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models, with the A12X and A12Z chips, respectively – they’re close in speed to the 2018 MacBook Pro. Apple has also been using their Silicon T1 and T2 chips to power certain components of several Mac models for the last few years, so the change isn’t as abrupt as it might appear. Using their own technology, rather than Intel chips, will also allow Apple more control and regularity in their update schedule.

This transition is set to occur over the next few years, with the first Silicon chip Macs expected in late 2020. The transition will be an interesting time for software developers. When Apple transitioned from PowerPC to Intel chips in the mid-2000s, it was with the aid of a Mac application called Rosetta, which effectively translated software from one system to the other. A similar transition tool will come available with the upcoming release of MacOS Big Sur this fall. It is called, predictably, Rosetta 2 (hey, Apple’s technology is innovative – their product naming conventions, maybe not so much). It’s reported that Adobe and Microsoft have already begun updating their applications to run natively on Apple Silicon.

For anyone who has recently purchased an Apple computer, fear not, you’re not being left out in the cold: Apple will continue to support and release software updates for the Intel-based Macs for years to come. Nonetheless, this is an exciting announcement for Apple fans, and we at Mac Ranch look forward to watching this technology evolve over the next few years. If you’re having trouble with an older Mac and considering holding out for the Silicon chips before you buy new, stop in at Mac Ranch – we can tune up your current machine to get you by until the new generation. You just have to promise to bring in your new one for us to play with!

iOS 14 Arrives!

On September 16, Apple released iOS 14, the latest iPhone operating system. It was released in conjunction with iPadOS 14, the iPad’s operating system and they include many of the same upgrades, with the iPad version being optimized for the iPad’s larger display. Here are some of the exciting new features!

  • Widgets!
    • You can now add widgets to your phone’s home page. Widgets are larger versions (small, medium or large) of an app’s regular icon, that show a preview of that app’s most useful information without having to actually open it. Widgets are currently available for many Apple apps, with other app developers expected to start updating with widget functionality soon
    • My personal favorites so far are the music and podcast widgets, which show what you’ve been listening to most recently, and the weather widget, which shows a handy little blurb of the next few hours’ forecast
Admittedly, widgets seem easy to get carried away with…
  • New features in Maps
    • The Apple Maps app can now provide cycling directions
    • It also includes new features for electric vehicles, include route mapping for charging stations and accounting for charging time (…is this relevant in Steamboat? Can an electric car get up Rabbit Ears? Has anyone ever tried??)
    • Apple is gradually rolling out their new Guides feature for certain cities, which include recommendations on places to eat or shop and other local attractions
  • App Library!
    • The App Library is a sort of extra home page, which appears at the right of your rightmost page. It shows all of your applications by category, and can show you recent apps even if they’re not currently installed on your iPhone, making it a handy way to access apps that you use very infrequently and don’t want cluttering up your home page the rest of the time
A legitimately useful feature for the 3 times a year I want the iTunes Store.
  • The new Translate app
    • …I don’t think I actually have a blurb for this one. It does what it says on the tin, folks.
  • Compact calls!
    • An unexpectedly nice feature of iOS 14 is the new way incoming phone calls are handled – they now appear as a little window, like a notification, at the top of your screen, rather than taking over the entire phone screen. You can answer a call and put it on speaker from that little window, without ever interrupting whatever you were looking at when the call came in
    • Another thing you’ll notice on calls is a new security feature, where you get a tiny green dot in the upper left corner of your screen when your microphone is in use. The dot turns orange if the camera is in use, too. So if that dot ever pops up when it shouldn’t, you know an app is being sneaky
Much better than monopolizing my entire phone screen
  • New Safari features
    • Safari now includes a Privacy Report feature, which lets you know how many and what kind of trackers Safari has blocked recently. iOS 14 also includes other nice privacy features, like privacy reports on an app’s App Store page, and increased control and transparency regarding apps’ tracking permissions. These features haven’t been fully implemented yet, but should arrive in coming months
    • Safari also has a new, very useful password monitoring feature, which alerts you if any of your web passwords may have been involved in a data breach
  • Pin conversations in Messages!
    • This is, hands down, my favorite iOS 14 feature. It’s SO HANDY. You can now “pin” certain conversations to the top of your conversation list in Messages, so that they’ll always be there for easy access even if they’re not your most recent conversations. You can pin up to nine conversations
I don’t actually have 9 people I want to text that regularly,
but that says more about me than iOS 14.

These are just some of the highlights of iOS 14. If you have an iPhone 6s or newer, you can upgrade! If you’re not sure how to go about it or have questions about iOS 14, give us a call (970.879.1270) or drop in here at Mac Ranch (Monday-Friday 10:00-4:30) and give me an excuse to geek out!

Here at Mac Ranch, we get a lot of customers who come to us after getting fed up with tech support. Apple’s phone support is better than some (I’m looking at you, Comcast…), but it can still be a slog to work with. Wait times can be very long, and have only gotten longer with Covid. With an especially tricky problem, you may get bounced around between different departments and levels of their support hierarchy. Worst of all, you run a major risk: tech support scams.

Here’s the thing about Google: they like to make money. So when you run a Google search for, say, Mac computer help, the first result isn’t necessarily the best result (ie: Apple), it’s just whoever paid to be the first result (ie: just some guy). If you follow that first result and call a number, suffice to say the person at the other end does not have your best interests in mind.

See that weird international number? Danger, Will Robinson!

Another option for tech support for your Apple products is, of course, an Apple store. You know, like the one in Denver. 150 miles away. And when you get there, you’ll need to wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait some more. You think I jest, but I recently spoke to a customer who spent 6 hours(!) in line at the Apple store.

This sort of dramatic alert is another red flag!

So what’s the alternative to these unreliable, tedious options? Your friendly neighborhood computer shop, of course, the Mac Ranch. If you’re having trouble with your Apple computer, don’t waste your time and energy on a phone support line. Solving computer problems is what we do! Just give us a call at 970.879.1270 or drop by the shop on 12th Street. We’re here to help!

Early this week, Apple hosted their 2020 World Wide Developers Conference. The yearly WWDC has been Apple’s major media event since it began in 1987. This year’s conference brought news of exciting upgrades coming to Apple software, including improvements in the upcoming iOS 14, iPadOS 14, MacOS Big Sur, and watchOS 7.

Some of the major iOS updates will include:

  • Widgets on the home screen, which will provide little blurbs of important info – like a weather widget to see the current forecast without having to open the app
  • A picture-in-picture feature that will shrink a video down to a little floating window, so you can leave your video playing but look at something else on the rest of your iPhone screen – or even leave the audio playing, but shrink the video down to just a button
  • A digital car key feature that will allow you to use your iPhone to unlock and start cars of compatible models/manufacturers
  • More Memoji (the delightfully stupid name for those little customized emojis that look like you) with fun features like emotions and less fun features like little face masks (I’m honestly not sure how to feel about that particular new feature…)
  • The ability to set a default browser and email app
  • A dedicated cycling view in Apple Maps, and another view showing charging stations for drivers of electric vehicles (as someone who’s driven across Texas far too many times, I assume that particular state will just be labeled “NO”)
I’m not much of a cyclist, but this actually looks pretty neat

Next up, some iPadOS 14 updates (which should technically be iPadOS 2 in my book, but apparently Apple is less pedantic than I am).

  • Pretty much all the same new features of iOS 14
  • Plus a new sidebar for easier app navigation
  • A redesigned search feature
  • And a cool new feature called Scribble, which converts writing in a text field with the Apple Pencil into text, detects context, and opens the appropriate app. This feature will support multiple languages
  • Widgets will come to iPadOS too
Nifty new features!

Some other exciting announcements:

  • The AirPods Pro (very cool, but still a stupid name) will provide spatial audio for a more immersive experience
  • watchOS is getting new features for tracking sleep, hand washing, and even dancing as a workout type (now they just need to track snow shoveling!)
  • Apple computers will be switching from Intel-based processors to their own silicon in future models. The complete transition is planned to take two years

So who else is excited for the new features? If you’ve got questions on how these upgrades will impact your Apple devices, or have been inspired to check out getting a new one, give us a call or stop by at Mac Ranch so I can geek out at you!

In this month’s exciting Mac news, Apple has updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro. This (finally!) follows the November 2019 update of the 16-inch model – here at Mac Ranch, we’ve been eagerly awaiting this update since then. Even with the base model, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro makes for a considerable improvement on the previous generation if for no other reason than the keyboard update. The last few generations of MBP had the butterfly style keyboard, which proved wildly unpopular with consumers. The 2020 model marks the return of the scissor style keyboard – more responsive and vastly less prone to sticky keys and dust damage.

image:apple.com
Pretty and functional!

The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro is of course very customizable. It is available with 2 or 4 Thunderbolt ports, and with the Intel Core i5 or i7 processors. For those who need a real workhorse of a computer, it is upgradable with up to 32GB of RAM (that’s a lot!). Those who need such processing power, like professional videographers, usually need a lot of storage capacity too – and the new MBP can be perfect for this, with a maximum capacity of a whopping 4TB of SSD storage (that’s enormous!).

image:apple.com

The 13-inch MBP has a gorgeous Retina display equipped with Apple’s True Tone technology – this automatically adjusts the screen’s white balance based on the color temperature of the environmental light, creating a natural and comfortable viewing experience. The MBP also includes the Touch Bar, Touch ID and the T2 security chip.

This new model makes for an excellent update for those who need a truly powerful and truly portable computer. The 2020 13-inch MBP is smaller and lighter than the 16-inch model, but sacrifices nothing in terms of display quality, keyboard comfort, and sheer processing power. If you’re tempted by the new model but need some help figuring out what configuration is right for you or how to transfer your data, give us a call or stop by (call ahead please!) and see us here at Mac Ranch – we’re happy to help.

For many people, current events have led to a baptism by fire when it comes to navigating video calling applications on phones and computers. There’s a wide variety of choices: Zoom has become arguably the most well known, with Webex being another contender. If you and your family are on Apple devices, however, you have a built-in option in FaceTime.

Why do we at Mac Ranch recommend FaceTime so strongly? Allow me to give you a rundown of approximately what your grandmother has to do to take a Zoom call from you on her MacBook:

  • Navigate to Zoom’s website
  • Download the Zoom application installer
  • Find the installer in Downloads and run it
    • Navigate through the installer and agree to various and sundry terms and conditions
  • Once it’s installed, find the Zoom app, which may or may not open automatically
  • Upon opening, Zoom will freak out. Now she must:
    • Navigate to System Preferences and the Privacy pane
    • Give Zoom accessibility access (whatever that means, right?)
    • Give Zoom microphone access
    • Give Zoom camera access
  • Open Zoom again – finally! But we’re not done…
  • Now she needs to join your Zoom meeting. This requires:
    • The Zoom meeting ID (it’s 9 or 10 digits, by the way)
    • And the Zoom meeting password (6 digits of gobbledygook)
  • Once you’ve figured those out (no, Grandma, those last few digits were 981, not 918… that’s okay, try again…), congratulations! You’ve accomplished video calling with Zoom.

Now, let’s compare what a FaceTime call entails for Grandma. Just to up the difficulty, we’ll even say Grandma’s calling you (since if you call her, the process is just “hit the accept button and you’re done”).

  • Navigate to the FaceTime application, already installed on any Apple device
  • Enter the contact name of the person you want to call
  • Hit the start video call button (looks like a camcorder)
    • I guess waiting for them to pick up counts as a step…
  • Congrats, you’re there!
image:apple.com
With about 2 more taps in the menu, you can even add the rest of the family.

…So everybody’s on board with FaceTime now, right? If not, give us a call here at Mac Ranch – I’m ready and willing to rant about Zoom until you’ve switched to FaceTime just to make it stop.

The New iPhone SE

Apple announced the second generation of the iPhone SE a few days ago. It’s been 4 years since the first generation iPhone SE, so the new model comes with some serious upgrades. The second generation has a larger, high definition display.

image:apple.com
Not too big, though, which is nice if you’re not a fan of giant phones.

The new SE is powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic chip – for reference, the first generation ran on the A9. This means a serious increase in speed and capabilities when it comes to launching and running apps. It’s the same chip the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro run on and it’s also designed for increased battery life. The new SE has only one camera, but it’s a really, really nice one (hilariously referred to in their press release as a “single-camera system” – as opposed to, you know, “a camera.” We love you, Apple, but you are occasionally needlessly pretentious). The camera is capable of portrait mode (an awesome new feature shared by the iPhone 11 camera line), depth control, and lots of fun lighting effects. The iPhone SE runs iOS 13 and is equipped with Touch ID.

image:apple.com
It even comes in 3 colors! …is white technically a color or the absence of color? Quick, somebody really pedantic help me out.

Perhaps the most appealing feature of the new iPhone SE is that it starts at just $399, and can be as low as $299 with a trade-in – making it Apple’s cheapest iPhone by quite a lot. The iPhone SE is currently available for preorder, and will be released this Friday (April 24). If you’re looking to upgrade and need a little help navigating the process, well… don’t actually come by Mac Ranch right now, but do feel free to give us a call or take advantage of our contact form! Help distract us and yourself from literally everything else.

In light of current events, the Mac Ranch in Steamboat will be open by appointment only for approximately the next two weeks. We are also available for remote tech support – not all problems can be solved remotely, but if your computer will turn on and access the internet, we may be able to assist you that way. If you would like to set up a remote support session, please contact [email protected]. If you need to come in for a physical repair, please call us at 970.879.1270 to make an appointment.

(Or take your chances with this delightful flowchart, courtesy of Mac Ranch’s official favorite webcomic, xkcd.)

Thank you and stay well – Jae & Keegan

Spring is (maybe, hopefully, eventually) coming here in Steamboat Springs, so we’ve got spring cleaning on the mind here at Mac Ranch. Cleaning your Mac doesn’t just mean physically cleaning your computer (although we recommend that too!) – it also means cleaning out files and applications you no longer need in order to free up space on your Mac’s hard drive. Although your hard drive has to get pretty full before you’ll see an impact on your Mac’s speed, it’s always nice to have free space when you need it.

First, though, a few quick tips on actually cleaning your Mac. Whether you have an iMac or laptop, the best tool for cleaning your Mac is a dry, clean microfiber cloth (the clean part is important!). Here’s a 24-pack from Amazon. Smooth microfiber cloths (like these) are fine too, as long as they’re clean and dry. Stay away from those individually wrapped cleaning wipes – they can damage certain types of Mac display. Always shut your Mac down completely before you clean it.

Now that your Mac’s sparkling clean, what about cleaning up all those old files? You may be familiar with your computer’s About This Mac information panel (you can access it from the Apple menu), which includes a report of how much storage your Mac has, how much is being used, and what it’s being used for. It’s… somewhat helpful.

The Mac storage report: it’s better than literally nothing.

As you can see, this report is pretty minimalistic. Here at Mac Ranch, we’re big fans of another storage visualization tool called DaisyDisk. Here’s an idea of the sort of report DaisyDisk gives you:

Bonus points for pretty colors!

This is a much more elaborate report, with a user friendly interface that lets you poke through a visualization of your hard drive and spot where large files might be hiding. When it comes to random things eating more than their fair share of storage, some frequent culprits we see at Mac Ranch are old iPhone and iPad backups, connection logs from Mac Mail, and old operating system installers. DaisyDisk (check out their website here – there’s a free trial) also gives you the option to easily delete any unnecessary files you find. When it comes to certain areas of your hard drive, however, like anything in your Library folder, be very careful – you could accidentally delete something essential to your operating system if you get carried away. If you’re not sure what some folder is or why you need it, stop by Mac Ranch and we’ll help you figure it out.

Speaking of old installers… if you’re not running a computer repair shop, you don’t need these. I’m not even sure we need all these.

If you’ve already cleaned out files you no longer need and your Mac’s storage is still uncomfortably full, consider utilizing iCloud storage to free up more space. You’ll likely need to move to a paid plan to get a significant amount of space, but they’re very reasonably priced – you can get 50GB of iCloud storage (plenty for most people) for just $0.99/month.

So what do you do with all that iCloud storage once you have it? There are two major ways to utilize it, depending on what’s taking up space on your computer. One way is to store your Desktop and Documents folders in iCloud, if that’s where most of your large files are. But for many people, it’s not files taking up space – it’s pictures. If you have a large Photos library, consider enabling two settings in Photos Preferences – iCloud Photo Library and Optimize Mac Storage, which combined will shrink the size of the library that’s actually stored on your hard drive, storing the full size version in iCloud.

Speaking of your desktop… are you one of those Mac users who just dumps everything there for easy access?

Who’s accumulating random screenshots in random places? Me? I would never.

Personally, my idea of spring cleaning my Mac is to periodically neurotically organize every single file in folders inside folders inside folders (…look, I’ve got to procrastinate organizing my actual closet somehow). If you feel like your Mac has become awfully cluttered over time and you’d like to get it more organized, stop by Mac Ranch and let me convert you to my obsessive, hierarchical folder ways!

Technology has become so pervasive in all of our lives that for many people, it’s started to get a little unsettling. It can feel a little like a science fiction novel, like we’re living in some dystopia where we’re surrounded by machines that are watching and listening to us all day, every day. Part of why we’re such big fans of Apple devices here at Mac Ranch is that they, for one, are not listening to us (as for that new Facebook tablet…. I make no promises).

Now, those of you who are fans of Siri may have an immediate question about this claim: surely Siri is listening all the time, otherwise how would it know when you’ve said “Hey Siri”, right? But that’s not quite the case. When you set up Siri, you’re required to speak the phrase “Hey Siri” into your iPhone – this way it knows what it sounds like when you, personally, speak that exact phrase. iPhones and Apple Watch microphones aren’t really listening to you, because they don’t know what you’re saying – all they can do is detect whether they hear that exact sound of you saying “Hey Siri.” It’s not quite flawless – use a phrase like “okay seriously” in conversation, and it may trigger Siri due to the very similar sound. But it’s not until the microphone has detected that trigger phrase that the phone “wakes up” and starts actually processing what you say.

image:apple.com

So if your iPhone isn’t actually listening to you, why do weird coincidences happen sometimes – you mention some item in conversation and then get an ad for it? For the most part, it’s coincidence. iPhones will do some limited targeted advertising, but it’s based on your location – if you have this enabled and look at Apple News or the App Store, you may get some advertising relevant to local services. But as a privacy measure, you can always turn this off – just go your iPhone settings, privacy, location services, then system services and turn off “Location-Based Apple Ads.”

Another question we frequently hear regarding concerns about hacking is about the security of a Mac’s FaceTime camera. In short, these cameras are virtually impossible to hack (Jae has a recollection of hearing one was hacked once – over a decade ago, by an entire research team at Berkeley, and under strictly controlled circumstances). So trust us – you don’t really need to cover yours with a sticker.

As tech companies go, Apple has excellent security measures and a far better track record when it comes to protecting their customers’ data and privacy than many others. But if you’ve noticed something unusual about your iPhone or Mac and want it checked out, stop by Mac Ranch – we’re here to set your mind at ease. Unless you’ve got an Amazon Alexa that laughs to itself in the middle of the night – those things are creepy and you’re on your own.