2 Weeks with iPhone 5s

Watching the iPhone evolve from the first version, released six years ago, I’ve seen the device mature and grow year after year. It was incredibly liberating to possess a device in your pocket that could connect you to your email, all of your friends, family and business contacts, allow you to browse the full web (except for Flash, of course), and interact with apps and content via a smooth, reliable touch screen. The 3.5″ screen felt massive compared to my Razr phone, and most other cell phones of that time.

Here we are six years later, and that device has become more powerful, thinner, lighter, and capable of accessing hundreds of thousands of available apps and games. The cell phone forever changed, and now the trend seems to be pointing towards larger and larger screens. 3.5″ feels archaic and cramped now.

My girlfriend and I have been using the iPhone 4S since October of 2011, when it was brand new. We have been on a steady 2 year upgrade schedule (mostly due to our carrier contracts). From iPhone, to iPhone 3GS, to iPhone 4S, and now the 5s. This has been nice, because even though we miss out on the brand new form factor and “newness” of the redesigns (iPhone 4, iPhone 5), we get the “S” models, which include not only that new design, but usually that x-factor bonus feature or features — “blazing speed” on the 3GS, Siri on the 4S, Touch ID, 64 bit A7, M7 on the 5S. Typically, camera improvements are more profound on “S” models, and taking quality pictures is a huge priority for both of us as well.

After 2 years with the iPhone 4S, I was definitely ready for an upgrade. Let’s see what the 5s has to offer…

The 4 Inch Screen

I’ll be the first to admit, while the 3.5″ screen didn’t necessarily bother me, I did encounter times where a larger screen would have been nice. I’m a die hard believer in owning a phone that can be comfortably operated with one hand. This is my opinion based on my usage needs and of course others are entitled to their own.

I’m often multitasking, trying to do something on my phone while walking, holding coffee/the dog’s leash/any number of other random things, and not being able to use it with one hand would be a deal breaker.

Having used the 5s now for a couple of weeks, I am very much enjoying the 4″ screen. I think it’s a great compromise of having a larger screen while still being able to comfortably use the device. I think I could even go to 4.5″, but anything larger than that would be too much for me.

Weight and Performance

The first thing I noticed about the 5s, other than that extra half inch screen feels more significant than I thought it would, is how light it felt in my hand. It felt like a hollow store display that didn’t have any innards. But I can testify that this phone has plenty of guts! After having several mini heart attacks thinking I’d left my brand new phone at the store because it didn’t feel like it was in my pocket, I became used to the weight (or lack thereof) and began to focus on how fast this phone is.

Tasks that used to take ages (converting an iMovie project, mixing down a GarageBand project, downloading thousands of files through Dropbox, etc) all absolutely scream on this phone. I’m blown away by the performance. Loading web pages is practically instant. Loading apps is instant. Waiting for content to refresh (an eternally annoying plague on our iPhone 4Ss) seems to have all but been eliminated (no doubt thanks partly from the background app refresh features of iOS 7).

I remember on the iPad 1, when GarageBand first came out, I would routinely be interrupted by a dialog box that locked me out of the program and displayed an agonizingly slow “Optimizing” progress bar. See “Rocket in My Pocket” on this article for a reminder: http://arstechnica.com/apple/2011/11/garageband-for-iphone-8-track-studio-in-your-pocket/

To go from that experience to what the A7 processor delivers currently is bananas. This phone truly feels like a top of the line laptop from just a few short years ago. Think about that. It fits in your pocket. It goes all day on one charge. And it even makes phone calls! What sorcery is this?

On the Road (Maps, Siri, Performance, Battery Life)

My iPhone 5s was delivered a couple of days before a road trip I had scheduled, which was perfect timing as I was looking forward to taking it on the road with me to give it a full test. On the road it performed very well, allowing me to listen to my music and podcasts, as well as directing me with turn by turn directions via Siri (which worked extremely well aside from 1 or 2 minor hiccups). I was able to take lots of very high quality pictures, test the slow motion video recording (which is a lot of fun), and of course keep in touch with everything via phone calls, email and texting.

I love that the turn by turn now automatically goes into a night mode after sunset, making the screen far less jarring on your eyes when navigating at night. I also love how the notification sounds that come through while listening to music or on the phone are much shorter, and don’t turn the music down quite so low. This is a good balance between allowing you to continue listening to your music/podcasts, and knowing when a notification comes in.

While out of town I used turn by turn daily (always via Siri which was strikingly fast, within half a second of asking my request it was providing me with recognition of my request and getting the correct details). This is a tremendous improvement, as Siri on my 4S directly after updating to iOS 7.0 seemed like a huge step backwards, both in reliability and functionality.

All in all the iPhone 5s performed perfectly for me while out of town, and I was well pleased with it. The only thing I found that was a tad annoying was that the battery life wasn’t as good as I would have liked to see. Not every day, but several days, I had to plug it in during the day just to make it until bed time. Now, there are two caveats to that. First, the iPhone was brand new, and as such I was playing with it a lot, experiencing and enjoying all of the new features, and not wanting to put it down. This drained my battery much faster than “normal use”. Second, I was staying up very late, so “bed time” was typically 3am-4am, while still waking up around 8am-9am. So realistically, I was getting pretty good usage out of a single charge. The battery did drain just a little faster than I was comfortable with, and I hope that future iOS updates will work to improve the battery life more.

Touch ID (Fingerprint Scanner)

I was one of those people who never locked my phone with a passcode. My girlfriend didn’t, either. I work from home, and do minimal traveling, but even so the risk of losing our phones or having them stolen was a real one, and not having any sort of security on those devices always made me nervous. I just never liked having to type in a passcode every time I unlocked my phone, and even more so, I figure a 4 digit numeric passcode is so easy to bypass, that I wouldn’t really feel secure without the advanced passphrase option.

Now, with the 5s and Touch ID, I have enabled a strong passphrase to unlock my phone. This fourteen character passphrase would be a nightmare to type in every time I unlock my phone, but it does make the thing extremely secure. The idea of having this strong security combined with the convenience of not having to enter it in every time I unlock my phone sounded perfect, and in practice it has been very nice.

So far the scanner has worked very well for me, with a few exceptions. The first several days I had it, I would routinely be prompted to “Enter Passcode to Enable Touch ID”, which was very annoying (mostly because of my super strong 14 character passphrase). I had not restarted the phone, it just seemed to prompt for this randomly. A few other times, I would get the “Try Again” error several times in a row and this would kick me to a prompt to enter my passcode as well. However, the last week and a half or so, this has not happened. Maybe once or twice I’ve been promoted to enter my passcode, but all in all the Touch ID is working great for me. I will occasionally get the “Try Again” message but then removing my thumb and placing it back down quickly unlocks the phone properly.

Unfortunately, my girlfriend has been having more issues. It seems that several times a day, without fail, it is prompting her to enter her passcode. This has been very annoying for her, understandably so. We are going to try re-learning her fingerprints, as well as adding a couple other fingers (she only has her thumbs currently), so if the “Try Again” message happens, she has a backup option (such as her index finger). I am hoping this will improve the consistent issues she has been having with Touch ID. It could also be that her fingerprints aren’t as distinct as mine, or easily readable by the sensor. She is often painting or using glue for artistic and crafty activities, and it’s possible that glue or paint on her thumbs is throwing off the sensor, though it has struggled to unlock for her even at times when she did not have anything on her thumbs. We will be monitoring the issue and speaking with Apple if it continues.

Overall, I think the Touch ID is a fantastic feature, and works very well for me. If we can get it working as reliably on her phone, then it will clearly be a winner. Not having to type in a passcode (or longer passphrase) to unlock the phone or make a purchase from iTunes/App Store is a huge convenience factor. So much so that I already try to unlock our older phones and iPads by pressing my finger on the home button and waiting… and waiting… and oh yeah! No Touch ID! Whoops. I’m hoping Touch ID makes it to the iPads next year, once the supply constrain isn’t so severe.

iOS 7 and iCloud

When I first got the phone, restoring it from my previous backup was a breeze. It only took a few minutes, and -POOF- like magic, all of my old apps, content and settings appeared on the new device. What a wonderful experience. I still remember the old days when getting a new iPhone meant re-configuring everything from scratch. At the time it was fun and novel, and I enjoyed it, but now I truly appreciate the convenience of just hitting restore and having everything automatigically taken care of for me.

iOS 7 is a really huge update, and there have been countless debates about whether or not it is a good update. I am in the camp of thinking it is a great update, with a few niggles and of course the standard “1.0” issues. As a software developer, I can appreciate that, and will wait patiently for updates to fix things. I’ve posted my thoughts on this blog about iOS 7, so I won’t get into that. Suffice it to say that iOS 7 was clearly meant to run on the iPhone 5s, and it has been running very nicely on our new phones. With the two latest updates (we’re up to 7.0.3 now), I have seen marked improvements across the board in battery life, reliability & stability, and bringing back features and simplifying tasks.

One thing I immediately did after the 7.0.3 update came out, was go to Settings – General – Accessibility and turn on the Reduce Motion setting. All of the animations and physics effects were very cool for a short time, and then quickly became annoying simply because they were too slow. Turning these off has greatly improved the speed, and made my iPhone 5S feel much faster than it initially did. I am grateful for that option, thank you Apple.

Other issues with the iTunes Store, Siri, apps crashing etc seem to have been polished up nicely. More and more this is feeling like a robust, stable update and I am enjoying all of the thoughtful new features.

iCloud seems to be working okay, though Photo Stream seems unreliable. Many times I will snap a few pictures, go to my Mac to grab them from iPhoto, and they are simply not there. Pictures in my Photo Stream are several weeks old, even though I’ve taken plenty of pictures since then.

Another frustration that both my girlfriend and I have had, is the constant “Not Enough Storage to Complete iCloud Backup”. I’ve looked at both our phones and cannot figure out for the life of me why even though we both have 5GB of iCloud storage each, and only have about 1-2GB in the camera roll, that our “Next Backup” will take 5.5GB, 6GB, or even more. Besides pictures, the only thing being backed up is application data, system settings, and our text messages. Why the heck would that data be 3+GB?? This issue never happened to either of us on iOS 6. I will be doing some more research into this problem and I hope I can solve it soon. Not having nightly backups of our devices is troublesome, and this needs to be fixed!

The M7 Motion Coprocessor

While not an active feature that you can interact with regularly, I am really enjoying the functionality that the M7 provides. I’ve been using the Pedometer app, which has provided me with useful insight into my workouts and daily activity.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Pedometer, and the newly released Nike Move app, were able to pull motion data from before the apps were even installed. So I have movement data all the way back to the first day I got the phone. Very cool!

It seems pretty darn accurate, and has showed no negative impact on my battery life, even with using several apps that utilize the coprocessor. I think this is a great win for Apple, and I look forward to playing with more apps that take advantage of this feature as they become available.

Picking a Case

Even though covering the sleek, thin, lightweight iPhone with a case seems like heresy, I’ve always cased mine. I’ve seen (and experienced) too many iPhones with smashed screens after being dropped.

I also find the body of iPhones to be too slippery for my liking. They feel great initially, but the minute it slips out of your hand or slowly slides off your jeans when you set it on your leg, you may wish for a slightly grippier surface.

Finding a case that provides adequate protection (especially of the screen) while not defeating the slim and light design of the iPhone is hard. I’ve had good luck with the OtterBox Impact case (though all of their others are far too heavy, bulky and annoying to deal with). Unfortunately there isn’t an Impact case out for the iPhone 5s yet.

After searching for awhile, I was able to find a case that I thought was comparable. We ordered two Spigen cases hoping they would work well. I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived, and I find it much better than the Impact case. It is slim, light, has a lip on the front to protect the screen when dropped, provides just enough grip, and looks very handsome on the iPhone (both space grey and silver).

My only gripe with the case is that, like most iPhone cases, it provides limited access to the headphone port. It works fine for the included EarPods and other slim headphone cables, but bulkier cables (like those found on high end headphones and some car aux input cables) don’t fit. I’m going to see if I can file down the connector on my car aux cable, but if that doesn’t work I will replace the cable with a slim fit one. I’m tired of always having to deal with this issue.

Bottom Line

The build quality, weight, size and performance of this phone are all top of the line. Battery life has been improving as iOS 7 learns my usage patterns and I slowly get to a point where I don’t have to constantly unlock the phone and admire it. The 4″ screen seems like a great compromise of size and usability. Any larger and I would begin to wrestle with the size when using one-handed, which is a requirement for me.

I am constantly impressed by the design of iOS 7 and the speed of the A7 chip. The M7 provides great functionality that previously was unavailable or caused significant battery drain.

All in all, the iPhone 5s is a great upgrade, and if you’re coming from an iPhone 4 or 4S, it’s a no brainer. Aside from a few hiccups (mostly attributed to the 1.0 nature of the brand new iOS 7), this phone has performed admirably and I look forward to spending the next 2 years with it.

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iOS 7 — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

iOS 7 — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I’ve been using iOS 7 for a few weeks now. Everything is new and different, and that isn’t a bad thing. There is a lot to really like about this new version of iOS.

I’ve been using iOS 7 on an iPhone 4S and an iPad 3. My iPhone 5S is on its way, but won’t be delivered until next week.

For the first week or two, it was a honeymoon. I loved all of the new design interactions, the animations, the new features — especially iTunes Radio, improved Safari, improved Mail, Control Center, and even the new icons (though a few are less than perfect, but they don’t “bug” me like they do some people).

Having used it for awhile now, there are some things that have started to annoy me. We will get to those in a minute. First, let’s talk about what iOS 7 does well.

The Good

Clarity. For the most part, it is easier to get to your information. Case in point, Control Center, showing timers and alarms on the lock screen, smart mailboxes in Mail, beautiful typography that still impresses me every time I use my phone, and the Weather app, which is like looking out a window (it’s accurate and very fun). Time stamps in Messages was always missing, and while not a big deal most of the time, was critical to me at certain points. Not having access to this data in iOS 6 was very annoying at times.

The new years, collections and moments views in Photos are nice. It makes it fun and even a little easier/quicker to find the photo you’re looking for. I also like the new frosted look of folders, though I wish they showed more icons per page like in iOS 6 — especially on the iPad!

Depth. I enjoy how objects move and interact with each other while following the rules of physics and physical space. I like how things stack on top of each other, and zoom in and out as you move. This makes it easy to follow the path of where you’re going. I like the gaussian blur effects when you bring up panels that cover UI elements.

Safari, for the most part, is a vast improvement (with one caveat, which I’ll cover below). The interface is streamlined, and the ability to have more than 8 tabs is hugely liberating. Even the unified URL/search bar is nice. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it, and I kept hitting a period when I tried to use the spacebar. I still do this, but it’s not as bad. My muscle memory is still training to help avoid this issue.

There’s a lot more to love about iOS 7, and many reviews have covered this already. Overall, there is a lot of good here, and I am really enjoying iOS 7. However, now we need to discuss some of the ugly issues I’ve ran into.

The Bad

Safari’s new unified URL and search bar no longer shows the full URL of the page you’re on. On top of that, it no longer shows the title of the page you’re viewing! This is a ridiculous misstep in my opinion. Maybe 80% of people won’t notice or care, but one, or preferably both, of these critical pieces of information need to be shown to the user.

There are numerous reasons for why this is, including security, convenience and clarity. I really hope it gets addressed soon. It’s a minor niggle, but one that truly bothers me every single time I’m using Safari.

There are some areas of the system that lack polish. Saving attachments from emails, for example. Some icons have no obvious symbolism, so the only way to figure out what they do is to tap them and see what happens, or consult the manual. This was never the case with iOS 6.

Sometimes, my lock screen controls for music, podcasts etc. just simply stop working. This has only happened once or twice, but when it does it is very annoying (and unsafe). Having to unlock the phone and switch to the app to simply pause or skip around is a major nuisance, especially when driving or walking.

Some animations are too slow. Especially going into and out of folders and the app icons cascading onto the home screen when the phone is unlocked (EVERY TIME!!). There is also a noticeable 1-2 second delay when hitting the Home button, before the phone actually goes home. This happens every single time. These animation durations need to be cut in half, and any delays between the button presses and the actions need to be completely removed. Even though the phone feels fast and smooth most of the time, these (intentionally) slow animations and delays make the phone feel much slower than it is, and definitely add up over time. Apple, please fix this!

The Ugly

Apps crash pretty frequently. No, not all the time. Not even once an hour, but on iOS 6 I guess I was spoiled by the stability. Even 1-2 crashes a day is unacceptable to me in a bulletproof product, as I’ve come to expect from Apple.

Mail has repeatedly crashed when trying to save attachments, but other times it works fine.

Siri is really bad. Sure, the new voices sound great. And that’s about it. On iOS 6 I could use it and it would function about 8/10 times. On iOS 7, Siri is abysmal. I’d say about 2/10 requests work. I either get an “I’m sorry, I can’t do that right now, try again later” error, or it just randomly puts up sports scores and/or lineups?? What the heck is that all about? It’s gotten so bad that I don’t even use Siri much anymore, which was a beloved and fairly reliable feature of iOS 6.

In the Music app, trying to find an album is much much harder now. Used to be you tapped Albums, selected the artist, and just saw a scrolling list of albums. Now, the album view also shows all of the tracks. So when you have 10+ albums by a single artist, you have to scroll and scroll and scroll just to find the album you want. Plus, the albums seem to be sorted by date released, or some other random metric. Not alphabetically. Even worse!

The text selection lasso has become less usable. It is very squirrelly, and positioning the cursor has become much more difficult than it was in iOS 6 (and it already wasn’t a joy to use in iOS 6).

The Calendar is ugly, and harder to use. Yes, scrolling from month to month is very nice. But I miss a dedicated list view. You can tap the magnifying glass to search and see events for the day. However, they are laid out on a vertical grid for time of day. This means as you’re switching between days, you have to scroll up and down A LOT just to see the events you have for that day. This scrolling is needless and annoying. The stark white background and red text is jarring. This whole app needs an overhaul. Visually, it needs to be less grating, and functionally, we need a better dedicated list view for the day’s events. I really hope this gets polished, and SOON.

Battery life has noticeably decreased since updating to iOS 7. This could have something to do with my 4S battery being 2 years old, but still I had noticeably better battery life with iOS 6.

Overall

I know iOS 7 is still essentially a 1.0 (1.0.2 to be exact) release, and these bugs will be ironed out. That is of little comfort for the frustrations I am experience right now. Overall, I am well pleased with the direction of iOS 7, and very excited for the future of iOS. There are some annoyances, and design decisions that don’t make perfect sense, but I am confident that over the next several months, these areas will become more polished.

iTunes 11 First Impressions

If you make a change to the song playing in a smart playlist, and the change removes the song from the playlist, music playback completely stops. On iTunes 10, the song would simply be removed from the playlist and playback would continue to the next song.

Can’t scrub through a song from the mini player — I used that all the time on iTunes 10. Hrm.

No cover flow view? Maybe I just can’t find it. I never really used this feature, but still surprised they took it out.

Wow this is fast. Much faster than the old iTunes 10. App loads quickly, tiles fly by, much of the lull and lag of the old iTunes is gone.

I love the new interface. Album view is awesome. I love the way they recognize and use the colors. Very cool. Works for albums that aren’t in the iTunes Music Store as well. For example, here’s an album I wrote, recorded and released back in 2008:

Image

The use the album’s background color for the background, and even analyze the text font color for the text. Very, very slick.

Being able to play songs next without interrupting your flow is a godsend. Previously, when you would double-click a song to listen to it, you’d lose your playlist and wherever you were in it. Now you can resume back to your playlist at any time. This is great when shuffling, because songs that have already played won’t play again. Sifting through your songs and quickly adding them to the Up Next queue is wonderful. Re-arranging songs in the queue and removing songs you know you won’t want to hear is really nice too.

One small gripe: not sure if this is a bug, or intended behavior, but I want to mention it. When using the mini player, you cannot see the artist and song name if you have one of the playback buttons highlighted. I’ve setup my keyboard to let me tab through all controls (as many folks I’ve seen do). Whenever you switch to the mini player, the rewind button automatically gets the focus:

When the rewind button has the focus, the view will never switch to the artist/song name. I wondered why for an hour I could not view the name of the song that was playing in the mini player. It was driving me nuts! But now, I realize you have to tab four times over to the Up Next button in order to see the text. This is kind of annoying and should be fixed. I’ll be submitting this feedback to Apple.

I will be updating this post with more thoughts throughout the day.

Mediasonic ProBox 4 Bay Hard Drive Enclosure Review

The Problem

When I sold my Mac Pro tower and got a 2012 MacBook Air, one of the main selling points for me was the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt high speed I/O. I cannot wait to take advantage of Thunderbolt, but those enclosures are a bit too expensive for me at this point, and the drives I have aren’t fast enough to take advantage of those speeds anyway.

I started looking around for the best way to use my existing 4 SATA hard drives from my Mac Pro with my new MacBook Air. I love everything about the Air, but I need lots of fast storage for all of my files, as well as a reliable backup system.

The Perfect Solution (or so I thought)

2 weeks ago, I found this, and decided to order it:

Mediasonic ProBox 4 Bay USB 3.0 Enclosure

For the first week or more, the enclosure was pretty much useless to me, for a number of reasons. I worked with Apple and Medisonic to come up with an answer. Mediasonic tech support was good. Their technician called me back multiple times with information as he was researching the problem. They offered a full refund, but I opted to hold on for a fix because I liked the enclosure so much.

It turns out that the main issue was with the board inside of the ProBox – it wasn’t passing the connection signal to the USB bus long enough for the MacBook Air to recognize it, preventing it from mounting the drives.

Their technician made the adjustment on a replacement board and it was shipped to me promptly. It arrived a few days later and was very easy to install. 12 screws and 10 minutes later, I tried again.

Step 1. Remove the six back plate screws

Step 2. Unplug the fan and remove 6 screws from the board

Step 3. Unplug the data cable, remove the old board, and reverse the process with new board

The Fixes

Success! Now the drives mount every time. All four drives are performing at their respective theoretical maximum speeds, just as fast as they were when they were internally plugged into my Mac Pro. Impressive!

However, there was another issue. When I used the right USB 3.0 port of the MacBook Air, all four drives would eject on their own every time I initiated a file transfer from one drive to another. I tried multiple USB 3.0 cables, same issue. So, I decided to try the left USB 3.0 port. Problem solved!

Left Port Good Port, Right Port Bad Port

When I plug the ProBox into the left USB 3.0 port, next to the MagSafe 2 port, the drives connect and remain connected with no issues. I have transferred about 600GB around, started a new Time Machine backup, and ran various performance tests on the drives through this enclosure. So far everything is working great.

I don’t know if I have a defective USB 3.0 port on the right side (though it worked perfectly for my Vantec NexStar3 enclosure, and other peripherals I’ve tried). It may be that the right port does not supply enough power for the multi-bay enclosure. I will be visiting an Apple Store later this month to have it checked out. In the meantime, it is working exactly as I’d hoped.

Final Thoughts

The ProBox offers a syncing feature that is supposed to sleep the drives and enclosure or turn the whole thing off when the computer goes to sleep or is disconnected. I found this feature to cause issues with drives disconnecting when I put the MacBook Air to sleep. Turning the sync mode off, however, seems to fix this for the most part. Every once in awhile when I wake up the computer, I get this error:

However, the drives come right back up, and since the computer was asleep anyway I don’t believe there is any risk of damage to the drives. More importantly, Power Nap, Air Video Server and File Sharing all work with the MacBook Air asleep. So I can access files on the external drives from other computers in the house at any time.

Verdict

This enclosure is pretty darn close to the perfect storage solution for my MacBook Air. It is well built and sturdy (not plastic), it is small, the drives can slide in and out with no tools, the fan is quiet (and adjustable), and it’s very fast. However, there is no way of knowing if you’ll get one with the fixed board or not. If you do decide to order this, and your drives do not mount through USB 3.0, contact their tech support and they should be able to send you a replacement board. I am hoping they’ll get this issue sorted out so that the fix goes into immediate production.

I will be watching the ProBox closely over the next few days and I’ll report back if I notice any other issues.

David Pogue on the MagSafe 2 Adapter

David Pogue writes about the MagSafe 2 adapter:

The MagSafe 2 connector fails that balance test. Badly. The magnet is too weak. It’s so weak, it keeps falling out. It falls out if you brush it. It falls out if you tip the laptop slightly. It falls out if you look at it funny. It’s a huge, huge pain.

That weakness is compounded by a second problem: a return to the “T” design of older MagSafe connectors. In other words, this thing comes straight into the side of the laptop — the cable shoots out at 90 degrees — instead of hugging the side with the cord parallel, like the old “L” connectors. As a result, it protrudes a half inch beyond the left edge. You can’t rest the left side of the laptop on your thigh. It’s constantly getting bumped. And since the magnet has all the grip strength of an elderly gnat, guess what happens?

Gruber weighs in on the issue:

Can’t say I’ve noticed this with the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, but I don’t move that around while charging. Maybe it’s more of a problem with Airs?

I can agree with Pogue on this one, the adapter is very annoying to use, especially when the laptop is on your lap. My leg knocks the adapter out about every 30 seconds. Maybe this indeed isn’t such an issue on the MBP-Retina, but I don’t have one to test the MagSafe 2 adapter on.

The MagSafe 2 adapter does work, I use it every day to plug in my Thunderbolt Cinema Display to the MacBook Air. It is only when you try to move the laptop around and use it on surfaces other than a desk that the issue becomes apparent. I wish Apple had thought this adapter idea out just a little more.

USB 3.0 Enclosure Compatible with 2012 MacBook Air

I have been having issues finding drive enclosures that are compatible with Apple’s new USB 3.0 ports. Some have issues that make them unusable, and others work okay but don’t perform at the speeds they should be. However, I have found one enclosure that works great with my new MacBook Air: the Vantec NexStar3.

This enclosure is easy to install, has no issues with my MacBook Air, is quiet, and most importantly, it is fast. Here is a performance chart of the MacBook Air’s internal drive, the Vantec, and a USB 2.0 enclosure:

iPad BeanPad Review

iPad BeanPad StandThe BeanPad is a beanbag stand for iPad, made by a company called Vantage Point. I picked up two of them a couple of months ago when they were on sale over at Woot.

I’ve used many iPad stands. I’ve used cases with built in stands, stands from Twelve South, no name stands, stands picked up at Best Buy, or Bed Bath & Beyond. None of them worked the way I wanted them to.

Enter the BeanPad. Yes, it is bulky. Yes, it is heavy. However, this really is the perfect stand for your iPad. It works on couches, tables, beds, floors, counters, car dashboards, uneven surfaces, pretty much anywhere. You can smoosh it under a car headrest and play movies for the kids in the backseat. It rotates and tilts to just about any angle and remains stable. The plastic casing is designed well. It is very easy to snap the iPad in and out, but I haven’t worried about the iPad falling out on its own. It fits very snug inside the plastic.

All of the buttons are accessible, it works with a smart cover attached, and the speakers and camera are not covered up.

I paid $14.99 each when I bought mine. They are now going for around $50 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beanpad-iPad-Gen-White/dp/B006422BWS

Would I pay $50 for one now? Yes. It’s the only stand I feel comfortable with sitting on my desk, sitting on top of a P.A. speaker while performing a gig, sitting on a shelf in the kitchen, even laying on the edge of the bed. The beanbag design gives this stand great stability that I haven’t been able to find with “kickstand” style stands or even heavier metal stands. Being able to rotate and angle to any position you want is definitely an added bonus.

The only downside I can come up is the size and weight – this isn’t a stand you can throw in a small travel bag, and you’ll notice the weight in your backpack. It is great for around the house or the office, though, and is easy enough to throw in the car when traveling.

Pros

Great stability on all surfaces

Works almost anywhere

Good design compatible with all ports speakers and buttons

Easy to snap iPad in and out, fits very snug

Cons

Bulky, heavy (though this is necessary by design)

Somewhat expensive ($50 retail price is a bit high)

Verdict

Recommended for anyone looking for a stable, customizable stand that just works on practically any surface.