MacBook Air Is Still Alive…

… but it’s clearly on life support.

My 4 year old MacBook Pro died a little while ago, and I’ve been getting by with the Acer Chromebook R13. It’s good for about 90% of what I do. For example, I’m writing this post on my Chromebook. But when it comes to photo editing, working with Chromebook is still limited.

So I was eager to see what Apple had to offer the MacBook today at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in San Jose. And I watched it live on YouTube. Google’s Youtube.

It was rumored Apple would kill off the much loved MacBook Air today. The popular Air hadn’t received any updates since 2015, and since then Apple has introduced the lighter 12 inch MacBook and the 13 inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar. So the writing seemed to be on the wall that one of these would become Apple’s lower cost offering. (Lower, not low. Apple doesn’t sell cheap computers. Part of the brand identity is to sell premium priced products.) But both the 12 inch MB and the 13 inch MBP are more expensive than the already expensive Air. And that’s why customers still prefer the MacBook Air. For many, it’s good enough and still carries the Apple brand.

For cruising on the boat, I preferred the Air for it’s lower power consumption while still being productive in the real world. I also don’t like that Apple is in the habit of removing physical ports from it’s other MacBooks. For my purposes that makes them less practical.

The MacBook Air today received only a very minor upgrade. It was barely mentioned during the keynote. And Apple’s press release only had one line: “Apple today also updated the 13-inch MacBook Air with a 1.8 GHz processor.” That’s it. A slight bump in speed. The processor was upgraded from 1.6 GHz to 1.8 GHz. A processor which was available more than 2 years ago when they chose the 1.6 GHz. No upgrade to the substandard screen. No increase in RAM. No increase in storage. No update to the physical connections. No price reduction. At $1000, it’s an expensive 2 year old laptop with already outdated technology. But it’s still the least expensive MacBook. So people will buy it.

Apple did cut $200 from the price on the 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar. It went from US$1,500 to US$1,300. Another signal the Air is probably on it’s way out.

Despite the poor screen resolution, the Air would suit my needs for photo editing. Especially if I connected a separate screen. But I was hoping for more. Much more. And with the writing on the wall, I have to wonder how many more years (months?) it will be around and supported by Apple and 3rd party vendors.

Interestingly, Apple showcased the iOS 11 for the iPad that will be released to the general public this fall as a free upgrade. It’s promising with functions more like a laptop OS. It will have multitasking, drag and drop, and perhaps most importantly for some, access to his files, with a new files app. That, in itself, is significant and a major step forward as it would now allow me to access my files on the iPad and more importantly, on Google Drive, Dropbox, and other third party cloud storage providers.

Add Affinity Photo for iPad, which was showcased during today’s keynote (and available immediately), and an iPad Pro with iOS 11, a keyboard, and an Apple Pencil, might be the answer for me. Heck, it might be a better answer than the MacBook Air.

Until my MBP died, I had been using Affinity Photo. It easily replaced Photoshop. After spending thousands of dollars on Adobe products over the years, I felt betrayed when they went the subscription route. The onstage demo of Affinity Photo on the iPad Pro at the WWDC 2017 was impressive.

10.5-inch iPad Pro Price Breakdown
iPad Pro Wi-Fi 256GB: US$749.
Apple Pencil: US$99.
Smart Keyboard: US$159.
Total: US$1,007. < Essentially the same as the base MacBook Air with 128GB, when purchased in the U.S.

Here in Canada, the base MacBook Air is C$1200. The iPad Pro outfitted as described above, is C$1,347. The C$147 more than a MacBook Air.

So, better screen (HD Retina), touchscreen, faster processor, more memory, more compact, for the same price (if you live in the U.S.).

Go to the Apple website and the product you will see on the homepage is the iPad Pro. That’s just another indication that Apple’s message about their future focus is about iOS, the iPhone, and the iPad.

For me the iPad and other tablets have always been media consumption toys. Nice to have, but not necessary. With today’s announcements, for the first time, I’m starting to buy into Apple’s premise that an iPad can be a suitable replacement for a laptop and become a real-world productivity tool.

These are WWDC 2017 keynote highlights. 2.5 hours shrunk down to 19 minutes. 

The Secrets of a Canine Mind

Just how smart is Scout, my blonde Cairn Terrier?

Jeffrey Kluger at Time writes:

Dogs are like us in their joy and empathy and inexhaustible curiosity, and we–at least when we’re in their presence–become more like them. We are both better species for our very long union.

Learning To Sail My Ship

Think about how many times sailing terms are used in the office and our personal lives. Lately, I’ve heard references to the winds of change. To be successful we need an even keel and behave above board to staying afloat. Leaders navigate through troubled waters, and they may re-chart the course.

Sailing is like a metaphor for life’s journey. Sailors know they cannot control the sea or the wind. Each one of us must learn to navigate through waters that threaten to drown us. At times we might need to change course to avoid a storm or a collision. We might be faced with waves coming over the bow and need to know how to use pumps or bailers as the water rises above our ankles. When the wind blows stronger or from a different direction, we need to adjust our sails to hold our course.

Sailors know that drifting a couple of degrees off course for too long without correction can direct the ship towards rocky shores. They also know that sometimes it is necessary to go off the intended course to avoid an impending storm and reach our desired destination safely.

Sailors know that staying the course as the winds and seas become challenging is only possible if he has developed the necessary knowledge and skills. The more skills a sailor has acquired, the more comfortable he will be when the wind and sea become more challenging. When unexpected storms arise, his very survival may depend on this.

Just as we need to adjust to life’s ongoing emotional and practical challenges, one of the beauties of sailing is that it teaches us to acclimatizing to ever changing seascape and weather. Sometimes those challenging conditions mean our journey will be longer. Sometimes the strong winds will accelerate the voyage.

Many of us drift aimlessly driven along by the wind and life’s circumstances, just trying to survive. Meanwhile, others lean skills, find a suitable boat, harness the elements, set goals, strive to reach them, and thrive.

And when we do it well, we are rewarded with success, incredible beauty, contentment, and joy.

I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.

~ Louisa May Alcott

Force Encrypted SSL Connection HTTPS Using The .htaccess File

Forcing visitors to use the secure encrypted SSL connection to your site is a good idea and can be accomplished through your .htaccess file using mod_rewrite.

All you need to do is add the following rule to the top of your .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On 
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80 
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.exampledomain.com/$1 [R,L]

Remember to replace exampledomain.com with your actual domain name.

This can be done on a WordPress or non-WP site where you can modify the .htaccess file.

Remove WordPress Version Number

Simply because of it’s adoption rate, WordPress sites have become a huge target for hackers. WP now runs more than 56% of all web sites on the Internet. It’s so awesome and flexible it is used by large corporations and for personal blogs. But it also gets a lot of attention from folks that have nefarious intentions.

One of the things hackers do to find easier targets, is look for WordPress sites running older versions that have known bugs in them. So the wonderful folks at Automattic continually update the WordPress code, not only to add functionality, but to fix bugs and strengthen it against attackers.

So, to state the obvious, one way to stay ahead of being the next victim is to use the latest version of WordPress. However, some of you may feel more comfortable by hiding the version number, something known as security through obscurity. Continue reading “Remove WordPress Version Number”

Stop Spambots From Scraping Email Addresses From Your WordPress Site With The AntiSpamBot Function

There are a few useful plugins that will do this, but I like to use as few plugins as possible and want to keep my site as simple and bloat free as possible.

The fine folks at WordPress have built in a function that prevents spambots from gathering email address from your site. And it doesn’t involve adding any plugin.

Spambots are programs designed to collect email addresses from various parts of the Internet. The goal is to build mailing lists for sending spam. Continue reading “Stop Spambots From Scraping Email Addresses From Your WordPress Site With The AntiSpamBot Function”

Insert Current Date and Time Within WordPress

To add the current date and time into a pages and posts on a WordPress site with a shortcode, first add this code to your Theme Functions (functions.php) file.

// Display the Date and Time
function displaydate(){
return date('F jS, Y');
}
add_shortcode('date', 'displaydate');

After you have modified the functions.php file, add the shortcode [date] anywhere you want the date to appear in a page or post. The above code will display the date.

To modify the look of the date and add the time displayed,  refer to the Formatting Date and Time page at WordPress.org.

If you want to display the date in a sidebar, you may need to further hack the Theme Functions file to enable shortcodes in text widgets.

Enable Shortcodes in WordPress Text Widget

In WordPress, shortcodes provide an easier way to add functionality in pages and posts areas of your website. By default, shortcodes do not work within sidebar and footer widgets.

Sometimes, theme designers add the functionality. Other times you may need to do it yourself.

Luckily it’s an easy WordPress Hack to enable shortcodes within a WordPress Text Widget. Just add the following code to your Theme Functions (functions.php) file:

// Enable shortcodes in text widgets
add_filter('widget_text','do_shortcode');

That’s it. Just one description line and one line of code.

Once the modified functions file is saved, add a Text Widget to a sidebar, add your desired shortcode, and you should be good to go.