2015.03 News: Apple's Space-Age Campus under Construction

Apple CEO Tim Cook refers to the company's new "all together now" campus, currently under construction, as "the mother of all products". In the sense that this is where they will be conceived, incubated, and born, he's probably literally correct.


2015.03 Feature: Could You Draw the Apple Logo from Memory?

We see corporate logos all the time and instantly recognize them as inputs. But how about outputs? Are they so familiar to you that you could draw them from memory? Specifically, if confronted with a blank sketchpad, could you reproduce the Apple logo with any degree of accuracy? (No fair looking at the one on your computer while you try!)

Well, it turns out that you can test yourself on this and 9 other logos directly on your own screen thanks to this Time.com article.


2015.03 Cordiality: A Message — and an Invitation — from the Madison PC Users Group

The Madison PC User Group is sad to see the dissolution of the SWAG, our sister user group in Madison. We’d like to let your user community know that they are always welcome to our user group meetings. Our meetings are free and open to all.

And there are many personal contacts and friendships between the two groups! We don’t always have the knowledge base to directly address concerns and questions regarding the Apple platforms, but some of our members have reminded me that they do indeed know quite a bit about these realms, and many of our members use these technologies daily. And we'd be glad to discuss these things, and learn more about them ourselves. We do discuss more general topics in the worlds of computing and technology, which are useful to all computer and technology users. We are trying to keep up to date on all of these things (and I've definitely had friends laugh at my limitations in using smart phones, Twitter, and all sorts of other stuff!)

Our next meeting is Wednesday, March 11, 2015, at 7 PM. We will be exploring the brave new ideas and perhaps terrors of the Internet of Things. We meet very informally at 6 pm before the general meeting for some questions and answers and general discussion. The venue is the Community Room of the Village Co-Housing Community, 1104 Mound Street, Madison, WI 53715, at the corner with Mills Street. This is in the Vilas neighborhood, a few blocks from Meriter Hospital. The Community Room is set back behind a large courtyard. Parking is available on the neighborhood streets, and also in the Meriter Hospital parking ramp. More information at www.mpcug.com.

Our general meetings are free and open to the public. All are welcome!

—Bhim Nimgade, President
  Madison PC Users Group

2015.03 News: Apple TV Will Exclusively Stream HBO Content

HBO apparently intends to provide its content via your computer using a new streaming service exclusively from Apple. Even tho I’m a big Apple fan, I’ve never seen much need to adopt an Apple TV of my very own. But Tim Cook knows how to push my buttons. “Get one,” he’s saying in effect, “and Game of Thrones can be yours whenever you want it.” Dang it, he may be right!


2015.03 News: A Little More Teasification on the Apple Watch

No, it's still not here yet, but Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed a little more about what the new Apple Watch will be like when it finally arrives in late April.

This reminds me of the old joke about the woman who'd been married 3 times but was still a virgin. Husband #1 was a fundamentalist preacher who didn't believe in sex. Husband #2 was an old guy who expired of a heart attack on their wedding night just from the excitement of thinking about it. And Husband #3 was a marketing guy who spent all night sitting on the edge of the bed saying how great it was going to be.

2015.03 News: Microsoft Office 2016 Debuts (sort of)

Macworld reports that Microsoft seems to have reconciled itself to the continued existence of Apple and won't simply try to outwait it any more. In token whereof, it has updated its productivity-software suite for Macs under the rubric Office for Mac 2016 and is now offering a free Preview of it. (The term "Preview" refers to what everyone has heretofore thot of as a beta test; that is, it looks generally OK to the software developers [the alpha testers], but they'd like you, the users, to run it thru its paces and see what breaks, so they can fix it before they're ready to officially release it and charge you for a workable product.)

Apple, of course, has its own productivity software, which it used to bundle under the umbrella title of iWork. However, with the advent of the App Store, it no longer made sense to sell Pages, Numbers, and Keynote as Siamese triplets, and so for the past year or 2 you've been able to buy each of them individually. And for a reasonable price, too: $20 each at the App Store.

The (former) iWork apps are distinctively Maccish, and they only work on Apple hardware. But, with Office 2016, Microsoft is banking on the desire (if not outright need) for many Mac users to deal with software that's readily understandable to the far more numerous Windows users — not only file compatibility but also the user interface. And Microsoft pledges that, whatever Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook look like on a Windows machine, they'll look and feel almost exactly the same on your Mac.

This seems to be a new corporate philosophy at Microsoft, perhaps traceable to their new CEO Satya Nadella, mentioned by Holly McEntee in her previous post on this blog.

Microsoft is yet quite ready to abandon the concept of the software-combo suite for stand-alone products, however. It does want you to pay a subscription fee (rather than an outright-purchase price) for the whole 5-program shebang.

You probably know what the Big 3 matchups are:
  • word processing / page layout: Microsoft Word → Apple Pages
  • spreadsheet: Microsoft Excel → Apple Numbers
  • presentation: Microsoft PowerPoint → Apple Keynote
but the other 2 may be less familiar to you, because Apple doesn't think of its equivalents as sellable programs per se but rather as distinct utilities which it prefers to provide for free with your Mac OS:
  • mail processing / calendaring / address book: Microsoft Outlook → Apple Mail, Calendar, and Contacts
  • note-taking: Microsoft OneNote → Apple Notes, Reminders, and TextEdit
Now, "free" is a damn good price, but sometimes you get what you pay for. For example, Microsoft used to throw its piece-of-crap database manager, Microsoft Access, into each copy of Office for Windows for free (because nobody would ever want to pay for it on its own merits), but they never even bothered wasting their time trying to interest Mac users in it, because those of us who needed a good database manager were all perfectly willing to pay good money to get FileMaker Pro and thank our lucky stars that we weren't forced to deal with Access day in and day out. And, still recognizing this state of affairs, Microsoft has sensibly continued to omit Access from its Office for Mac 2016 bundle.

If anybody gives the new Office for Mac 2016 Preview a shot, please come back here and report on your experience.


Profiles of Jony Ive and Satya Nadella

By coincidence I recently read a pair of very good, meaty, and surprisingly complimentary articles.  The first, a 19-page article in the Feb. 23 / Mar 2. issue (the 90th anniversary issue!) of The New Yorker magazine, is about Jony Ive - the well-known Apple designer.  Not just about the man himself, but his recent involvement with Apple Watch and the tantalizing hints of an Apple self-driving car, his friendship with Steve Jobs and Lauren Powell Jobs and a behind-the-scenes look at Ive's design studios at Apple.  Plenty has been written before about Jony Ive, but this was one of the most accessible and interesting profiles I've read, and I highly recommend it.

The other article, in the February issue of Wired magazine, is about Satya Nadella (who? I know, right?), Microsoft's new CEO, and the corporate culture changes he's bringing to the company.  Things like, adopting open source code (!) and reaching out to collaborate - not acquire, necessarily - promising start-up companies.  He's also convinced the old boys in Redmond to pursue cloud services, after Microsoft fumbled the meteoritic rise of mobile computing.  Microsoft's big new thing now is Project HoloLens, and it sounds like it may bring a true paradigm shift in functional and comfortable 3-D personal technology.  What interested me about the article wasn't Project HoloLens so much but the switch in Microsoft's approach to their products - less obsession with dominance and bludgeoning, and more on the user experience.  We'll see how that goes.

Reading these two articles has newly re-kindled my curiosity for what's to come next in the realm of personal technology.  To infinity, and beyond?