New MacBook gets rose gold finish and faster internals, but is it fast enough?

Apple on Tuesday unveiled an updated MacBook – its “next generation” laptop which first saw the light of day in 2015. Is the new Mac right for you?


First, a quick refresher on the MacBook: Apple’s newest laptop design debuted a year ago. The MacBook is a very different creature than its Air and Pro counterparts. It’s Apple’s thinnest, lightest laptop, barely heavier than a 10-inch iPad. Equipped with a Retina display, “Force Touch” trackpad and single USB-C interface, used both for power and data transfer.

It’s also Apple’s first laptop to come in different colored cases – since the MacBook, that is. Wait, what?

What’s the difference between this MacBook and the other MacBooks?

Background on the MacBook: This name has appeared before.

Apple first used the MacBook moniker after making the Intel transition in 2006. The MacBook was the Intel-based successor to the venerable PowerPC-based iBook line. The MacBook  was positioned as Apple’s consumer laptop model, alongside the MacBook Pro. They’d be joined by the MacBook Air. In 2010 Apple discontinued the MacBook as consumer tastes, improved manufacturing efficiencies and Apple’s marketing efforts pushed the MacBook Air into the consumer market. Since then, Apple’s most affordable laptop has been the MacBook Air.

When Apple reintroduced the MacBook in 2015, they took a very different approach. They bill it as “the future of the notebook.” Instead of a durable system built for use in schoolrooms, they’ve reimagined the MacBook as a thin, elegant, stylish lifestyle computer. Starting with the case, which shows a lot more bling than the rest of the Mac line. So, just like Apple’s other consumer products, the MacBook comes in Space Gray, Silver and Gold, and there’s now a new Rose Gold finish.

The biggest changes are under the hood: The company has replaced the slow 1.1 GHz Intel Core M processor with a 1.2 GHz model built around the sixth generation of Intel’s Core processor architecture (known by its code-name Skylake). It’s also managed to squeeze another hour of battery life, so you can surf the web for about 10 hours without needing to recharge. The new MacBook retains its previous price starting at $1,299.

Apple estimates that graphics performance is up to 25 percent better on this model than last year’s, and the system has faster memory and faster PCIe-based storage, as well. Apple repeatedly emphasized the improved performance of the new MacBook, which is telling: The original didn’t exactly set the world on fire with its extraordinary performance.

Nor, quite frankly, will this model. The MacBook is purpose-designed and it’s not a laptop that should be used by someone who’s really demanding on their hardware. Having said that, this is certainly movement in the right direction, and the MacBook’s raw performance should be more appealing to more users than anyone before.

What’s wrong with the MacBook?

My top advice is to go to an Apple Store and play with the MacBook to see if you like it. The screen resolution is excellent but at 12 inches it’s physically small. If your vision is corrected or if you just don’t like to look at small images and type, you may find the screen’s too small for your needs.

The MacBook keyboard feels different, because Apple uses a different kind of switching mechanism under the key cap itself. I like it more myself, but people generally don’t like disruptions to their sense of touch, so there can be a transitionary period while you adjust to the new keyboard. And if you already have an iPhone 6S or 6S Plus, you’re already familiar with the mechanism of Force Touch, which Apple markets as 3D Touch on those devices – the bottom line is that the trackpad supports more delicate and intricate gestures using force feedback than the multi-touch trackpad on other older Apple laptops.

Besides performance, the biggest overall complaint about the first generation MacBook was its single USB-C port, and this has not changed. Apple’s vision for this computer is as a completely wireless device – connecting to the Internet via 802.11ac Wi-Fi predominantly, but also able to be tethered to an iPhone via Apple’s Handoff technology so you can stay connected anywhere.

The single USB-C port does provide ample bandwidth to connect an external display, external storage devices, exotic networking interfaces and more, but it will require you to invest in bulky, inelegant and ugly cables that will clutter your bag or desk, really disrupting the core design concept of the MacBook, which is as an elegant, diminutive but complete portable workstation.

One passing note: Despite the Skylake underpinnings under the hood, Thunderbolt 3 has not been included in the MacBook: That USB-C port is USB 3.1 only.

Quite frankly, I can’t think of a single practical reason why Thunderbolt 3 needs to be on the MacBook. Apple hasn’t released a single computer with Thunderbolt 3, though PCs began shipping with it months ago. Thunderbolt 3 is great, just not something this particular Mac model needs to be a fully functional system.

This isn’t a review of the new MacBook – I haven’t gotten my hands on one. My top advice to you is to get to an Apple Store and check it out. Decide for yourself if it’s the right machine for you, and don’t worry too much about specs. Figure out if it’s fast enough to do what you need it to, and let that be the basis for your decision.

How to get rid of QuickTime for Windows

If you’re running QuickTime on Windows – software from Apple bundled with some of its installers – now is a good time to get rid of it. Turns out it’s a security risk to your PC, and Apple has no plans to patch it – it’s deprecated software, no longer actively supported. Here’s how to remove it.

Several security warnings were posted this past week advising Windows users to get rid of QuickTime, which Apple isn’t updating anymore, and which Trend Micro has discovered has potential security flaws. These flaws haven’t been exploited by hackers yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time.

To get rid of QuickTime on your PC, if you’re running Windows 10. Other versions of Windows work similarly:

  1. Click on the Start menu.
  2. Click on All Apps.
  3. Scroll down the list until you see the QuickTime folder.
  4. Open Uninstall QuickTime.Uninstallqt
  5. Click Remove, then click NextRemoveqt
  6. It’ll confirm that’s what you want to do, click Yes. The installer will then remove QuickTime from your system.Removeyes

Once it’s done, restart your PC.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t find the QuickTime uninstaller, you can still remove QuickTime yourself. Just open your Control Panel, click on Programs, then click on Programs and Features, select QuickTime 7 and then click Uninstall.

Mac app notifications driving you crazy? Fix it with this tip

When you install a new Mac app, you find it “chattier” than you’d prefer. Maybe it’s popping up notifications on your screen or polluting your Mac’s notification center with lots of messages. Maybe the red badge on the app icon in your Dock is making your OCD twitch. Or maybe it’s making noise, as I discovered TextExpander 6 did when I installed it last week.

Well, this problem is easy to fix. All you have to do is open up the Notifications system preference and adjust the app’s behavior. Here’s how

How to shut up Mac app notifications

  1. Click the  menu.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. Click Notifications.
  4. Scroll through the list of apps until you find the chatty one you’d like to shut up.Cf8ZI FUUAEbQ 4 jpg large
  5. Adjust the settings accordingly, then close the notification window.

And that’s it! You’re done!

How to save your frayed Mac laptop power supply

Apple’s penchant for minimalist design has some practical downsides. One of those downsides is that sometimes the kit can be a bit more delicate than it probably should be, and I can’t think of a single place this is more true than when it comes to Apple laptop power connectors. Apple’s redesigned the power connectors its laptops use twice and they still haven’t gotten it right. They still fray and get damaged easily because they flex so much, because they’re designed so darned thin.

What’s worse, Apple power supplies are expensive – about $80 a pop, full retail. You can usually shave a few bucks buying online, but the only way people save any big money is to buy a cheap third-party adapter, and those are, quite frankly, utter garbage.

If you have a frayed Apple power cord, you may be nervous to use it, because of the risk of electrical fires, overloaded circuitry and so on – and that’s smart. Bundling it up with electrical tape is an ugly solution at best, but there’s another option in the form of a moldable craft material called Sugru and a couple of plastic twist ties. It’s a technique perfected by Adi “The PC Doc” Kingsley-Hughes, who outlines his process in a new piece he’s posted on ZDNet. Definitely worth checking out. 

You can order Sugru online through and direct from the manufacturer. If you’re really hooked on the DIY aspect, you can make a Sugru analog yourself – there are a few web sites with Sugru-like recipes, too.

Smile “adjusts” TextExpander plans

Smile Software introduced a new version of its popular keyboard shortcut utility for Mac and iOS (and now for Windows), TextExpander. Sweeping changes to the way the app works and its payment model – switching from a perpetual license to a subscription program – caused significant user backlash. So Smile on Tuesday announced “adjustments” to TextExpander to make the transition less painful for its customers.

Among the changes is a lifetime discount for existing users to migrate to the new service. What’s more, the company plans to continue to sell and support the previous versions of TextExpander for OS X and iOS.

Smile’s likely to have lost some customers who have already moved or will move to other shortcut utilities, but this should stave off most of the bleeding. Greg Scown admits that Smile fumbled the TextExpander launch and promised to do better in the future.

I don’t think Scown and company are wrong to evolve TextExpander to a service instead of just an application. Obviously you can’t blindly reinvent your product around the idea of switching the payment model, but that doesn’t mean new payment models shouldn’t be tried.

The Apple Watch is a dud? Some dud

Re/code posted the results of an Apple Watch survey earlier this week that garnered some chatter on the Mac social web – the attention-grabbing headline concluded that the Apple Watch was perceived as a dud, though the article and the research it was based on show a much different perspective from, y’know, actual Apple Watch users.

I’ve had my Apple Watch since June of 2015, and have worn it with an exception or two every day since then. It’s single-handedly changed my mind about wearables, which I thought of largely as frivolous and unnecessary, for narcissists and obsessive athletes but having little practical purpose.

IMG 9139  1

Obviously I was wrong.

In the months before I got my Apple Watch, I underwent a profound medical change following gastric bypass surgery. I rapidly lost weight for the first time in my adult life and started to exercise more. The Apple Watch came out at a perfect time, when I began tracking my exercise and activity much more consistently than before. I also found the Apple Watch to be enormously helpful in reminding me to take the myriad supplements I need to take throughout the day to help maintain my health.

Quite frankly, these are tasks I’d certainly be able to manage without the Apple Watch, but with it it’s less executive function work for me. It just happens.

IMG 0203

I’ve found other great uses for it, too. I take calls on the Apple Watch regularly (when I’m home and it’s socially acceptable to do so, anyway). I use Siri on the Apple Watch every chance I get. Checking the kitchen for supplies and adding things to the grocery list, for example. Or sending text messages to family members.

One of my most-used Apple Watch apps is the Remote app, which lets me navigate my Apple TV menus without needing to look for the pesky, tiny, infinitely losable remote control that ships with the Apple TV.

I’ve installed a few third-party applications that offer some nice benefits for Apple Watch users, like an app to control my Elgato Avea and Calcbot.

I was there when the Mac was young. I was there when the iPhone was young. And I recognize the same nascent qualities in watch OS and the Apple Watch. It’s not a finished product, any more than the Mac or iPhone are, 30 and almost 10 years later, respectively. This isn’t a product that Apple is going to walk away from, and it’s just going to keep getting better.

Looking for a good deal on a Mac? Go with an Apple refurb

People love Macs, but sometimes don’t love the price tags that come with them. We can debate the price of the Mac compared with a PC, compare total cost of ownership, the value of the software Apple bundles with the computer and more to judge whether that price is fair, but the bottom line is that a lot of people are looking for a deal. The good news is that there are deals to be had – straight from Apple.

Apple sells refurbished Macs (and other Apple gear) directly from their online store, and the savings can be dramatic. Most of the gear they sell is either current-model or previous-model systems, and the availability is catch as catch can. You don’t have the same configure-to-order flexibility that you do buying a new machine. Savings typically run 15 to 30 percent, but you can find some spectacular deals if you look.




I see other companies like Other World Computing selling used Mac gear online for less – so why bother buying from Apple at all when you can get a cheaper system used? There’s a difference between refurbished and used – Apple’s refurbed gear has been returned in a fairly short period of time from when it was purchased, and it’s thoroughly gone over to make sure it’s in good shape. You’ll get the hardware delivered in a plain cardboard box instead of Apple’s usual packaging, but it’s indistinguishable from new. I’ve bought two computers and a few accessories from Apple as refurbished, and years later they still work great.

Another big advantage buying refurbed from Apple is that the gear is eligible for coverage under AppleCare, Apple’s extended service plan. Especially if you’re planning on getting a Mac laptop or other mobile device, I think AppleCare is money well spent: it triples the duration of the warranty from one to three years from the date of purchase, and if you do need to use it, you’ll likely make your money back (plus more) after the first repair – parts aren’t cheap, and Apple-certified labor isn’t, either.

How to remove Flash on the Mac

Word has emerged about a “ransomware” exploit involving Adobe Flash. Adobe has responded with an update. The ransomware exploit is, for now, limited to users of Windows, but the update has been made to all supported platforms, so it’s an update to essential Flash code, not just something Windows-ish.

This illustrates that you need to be very careful about what you keep on your computer, and that you may want to periodically rethink the software you have installed.

To that end, if you absolutely need Adobe Flash to access content on the web that you need, at least make sure you’ve updated to the most recent version. Following another heinous Flash problem last March, I posted details about to update Flash safely on your Mac.

Those some rules apply today if you need to update. But if you don’t need Flash, you’ll be better off without it all together. It’s a gaping security problem, can cause performance and battery drain issues and is increasingly irrelevant to the web as more developers use HTML5 and other media-rich non-proprietary tech.

So why not remove it all together? If you already have Flash installed on your Mac and you’ve decided that enough is enough, here’s how to get rid of it once and for all.

How to remove Adobe Flash from the Mac

  1. Open your Utilities folder.
  2. Double-click on Adobe Flash Player Install Manager.Flash 1
  3.  Click the Uninstall button.Flash 2
  4. Type your administrator password and click OK.Flash 3
  5. The software will then remove Adobe Flash software from your computer.Flash 4

Once it’s done, and you quit, the removal app should disappear all together.

If you ever want to reinstall Adobe Flash Player, simply visit Adobe’s web site and download the installer.

Also, bear in mind that it’s perfectly fine to have a Mac that doesn’t have Flash installed but still access Flash content. The trick is to use Google’s Chrome browser. Chrome “sandboxes” Flash inside itself, so you can still see Flash content on the web without it possibly affecting the rest of your computer.

Pangea’s sale is the end of an era

For almost as long as there’s been a Mac, Pangea Software has been making games and other software for Apple devices. Today Brian Greenstone, Pangea’s founder, announced in an email that he’s retiring from game development and plans to sell the business. It’s the end of an era, especially for old-school Mac gamers like me.

Pangea got started in 1987, originally as an Apple II developer, but Greenstone found his most solid footing as the developer of Mac games. From the mid 90s to the mid-oughts, every consumer Mac shipped from Apple came with a Pangea game. The company successfully transitioned to iOS after Apple released programming tools for developers. All told, Pangea shipped more than a dozen games for the Mac and close to a dozen and a half for iOS, along with some utility software too.

Greenstone is in no hurry to sell Pangea and says he’ll only do it if he can find a buyer who promises to carry on the company’s legacy. “Pangea still has a decent revenue stream, and lots of IP assets, not to mention a contact network that many developers would cut off their right leg to get,” said Greenstone. So the games won’t disappear tomorrow, nor will they stop working – he plans to continue to support and update his existing library, he just won’t do any new development.

My first experience with Pangea was with a Centipede clone called Firefall, circa 1993. I loved classic arcade games and I loved gaming on the Mac, so Firefall was like catnip for me.


Pangea followed with a string of hits like Power Pete, published by MacPlay and later resurrected as Mighty Mike. More hits followed: the flying game Nanosaur, the racing game Cro-Mag Rally, a hilarious send-up of 50s B-movie Sci Fi called Otto Matic, the colorful, fun action game Bugdom, and the challenging physics puzzler Enigmo, along with a string of sequels. Most of these ultimately found their way to iOS, which helped a new generation of gamers become familiar with Greenstone’s work.

Greenstone, for his part, has found new professional and personal satisfaction in something about as far away from software development as you can imagine: Mineral and fossil sales. I wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor. I only hope he can find a new owner for Pangea who can carry the legacy forward for a new generation of Mac and iOS gamers.