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Recap of Apple’s Updated Hardware from Today’s Event in Brooklyn

Apple announced a host of updated bits of hardware at today’s event in Brooklyn. Here’s my recap on the important bits. Let’s dive right in, or jump to:

Mac Mini

Mac Mini Desktop setup display 10302018

The last update to the Mac Mini was in 2014, and it was underwhelming to say the least. Today’s announcement is a welcome refresh to those who still enjoy the small-form-factor Apple desktop computer.

Tech Specs

  • Processor: The Mac Mini comes in two main flavors, a 4-core 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 and a 6-core 3.0GHz Core i5 (with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz). Both can be upgraded to a 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz.
  • Memory: 8GB of 2666MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM memory is standard and both can be upgraded to 16, 32, or 64GB respectively.
  • Storage: Depending on the model, storage options start at 128GB or 256GB of PCIe SSD storage and can be upgraded to a max of 2TB.
  • Graphics: No configurability, just the Intel UHD Graphics 630 chip. Definitely not for gaming.
  • Ports: This new configuration starts with saying goodbye to some ports and hello to some others on the back of the metal desk platter of a computer. From left to right, expect to see:
    • Power
    • 1x Ethernet
      • 1GBase-T or 10GBase-T
    • 4x Thunderbolt 3 (40gbps) / USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (10gbps)
    • 1x HDMI 2.0
    • 2x USB-A 3.0 (5gbps)
    • 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
      • below USB 3.0
  • Wireless: 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0.
  • Displays: Up to 3 4K displays using a combination of Thunderbolt 3 and HDMI or one 5K and 4K display using the same port combination.

Mac Mini side ports 10302018

Pricing

The Mac Mini starts at $799 and can climb to $4199, depending on configuration. It’s available to pre-order now.


Macbook Air

MacBook Air family 10302018

We haven’t seen the MacBook Air receive a meaningful update in even more years than the Mac Mini. Until today, it rocked a 1280×800 non-retina display (and if you really want to punish yourself, you can still buy it). This version keeps the hard function keys but brings over Touch ID (and the T2) chip from the MacBook Pro line.

Here’s what’s up with the new model:

Tech Specs

  • Processor: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz.
  • Memory: 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory, upgradable to 16GB.
  • Storage: Depending on the model, storage options start at 128GB or 256GB of PCIe SSD storage and can be upgraded to a max of 1.5TB.
  • Graphics: No configurability, just the Intel UHD Graphics 630 chip. Definitely not for gaming.
  • Ports:
    • 2x Thunderbolt 3 40Gbps (USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, unto 10Gbps) ports.
      • Both support charging.
    • There’s also a headphone jack.
  • Wireless: 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2.
  • Display: 13.3″ 2560×1600 Retina display without TrueTone. This is the same size and resolution as the 13″ MacBook Pro.
  • Battery: Up to 12 hours on the Web, 13 hours of movie playback, 30 days standby thanks to a 50.3 watt-hour battery and a 30-watt USB-C power adapter
  • Colors: Gold, Silver, Space Gray

MacBook Air Keyboard and Ports 10302018

Pricing

The MacBook Air starts at $1199 and can climb to $2,599, depending on configuration. It’s available to pre-order now.


iPad Pro

iPad Pro with attached Apple Pencil 2nd-generation

The 3rd-generation iPad Pro comes with a host of design changes that weren’t a surprise to anyone following the rumors. The home button is gone and in its place is an edge-to-edge display (with no notch!) and Face ID support.

  • Sizes: 11″ and 12.9″
  • Processor: Apple A12X Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture, Neural Engine, and Embedded M12 coprocessor.
    • 8-core CPU
    • 7-core GPU
  • Memory: Unknown, probably 3 or 4GB.
  • Storage: Both sizes have the same storage options:
    • 64GB
    • 256GB
    • 512GB
    • 1TB (new for the iPad Pro line)
  • Camera (rear): 12-megapixel, f/1.8 camera. Looks like it’s the same as the iPhone XR.
    • Records video at up to
      • 4K resolution and 60 frames per second.
      • 1080p 30/60/120 fps.
      • 720p 30/240 fps.
  • Camera (front): 7-megapixel f/2.2.
    • Records video at 1080p resolution at 30 or 60 frames per second.
  • Ports:
    • One USB-C.
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11ac dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
    • 80MHz channel width and MIMO support.
  • (optional) Cellular:
    • UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC‑HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
    • Gigabit-class LTE (Models A2013 and A2014: bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 29, 30, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 66, 71)
    • eSIM
    • Nano SIM
    • Assisted GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS
  • Display: Liquid Retina Display
    • 11″: 2388 x 1668 resolution at 264 pixels per inch
    • 12.9″ 2732 x 2048 resolution at 264 pixels per inch
    • P3 wide color gamut
    • TrueTone
    • 600 nits brightness
  • Battery:
  • Both models come with an 18W USB-C charger and have a reported 10 hours run time.
    • 11″: 29.37-watt-hour
    • 12.9″: 36.71-watt-hour
    • Cellular models have a reported 9-hour run time.
  • Colors: Gold, Silver, Space Gray

IPad Pro versatility monitor 10302018

Pricing

The 3rd-generation iPad Pro starts at:

  • $799 for the 11″ model (Wi-Fi only; $949 for WiFi+Cellular; max $1,699)
  • $999 for the 12.9″ model (Wi-Fi only; $1,149 for Wi-Fi+Cellular; max $1,899)

and is available to pre-order now.


Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)

It’s cool to see the Apple Pencil get some love. As a first-generation Pencil owner, the changes they’ve made are quite welcome, but some of them aren’t noticeable unless you’re also using it with the 3rd-generation 11″ or 12.9″ iPad Pro.

  • Touch surface that supports double-tapping.
  • Magnetic attachment, charging, and pairing to 3rd-generation iPad Pro.

The 2nd-generation Apple Pencil is available to pre-order now for $129.

Busting Cloudflare Cache when Posting to WordPress via XML-RPC

I love Cloudflare. I’ll come right out and say that now. It’s a great service and makes for incredibly performant sites if used right (aggressively). I don’t feel like I’m getting the most out of it until it’s caching just about everything possible. Most of my content is static and never changes (save for the home page and each paginated set of posts thereafter). Even then, the homepage changes maybe a couple times a day. It makes a lot of sense for Cloudflare to cache them all. I use pretty aggressive Page Rule-based caching to accomplish that.

Part of my regular blogging workflow involves posting using MarsEdit. It’s a great tool and uses XML-RPC to post content. One of the problems with this workflow is that most caching-management plugins for WordPress don’t consider any kind of content changes via XML-RPC, only via the WordPress Admin UI. This means that there’s virtually no support for engaging all the cache-cleaning activities when XML-RPC events take place and thus Cloudflare is never notified for purging.

Luckily, there’s a solution to this problem. It involves a bit of duct-tape-like hooking into core WordPress, but in my testing, it’s been pretty painless, and posting doesn’t seem to be noticeably slower (XML-RPC posting takes a few seconds, anyway, adding another second isn’t a big deal, in my opinion). All we need to do is add a filter to xmlrpc_publish_post.

Sounds easy, you say? It is!

function clear_cache() {
$curl = curl_init();
curl_setopt ($curl, CURLOPT_URL, CACHE_PURGE_URL);
curl_exec ($curl); curl_close ($curl);
}

add_filter( 'xmlrpc_publish_post', 'clear_cache');

I set CACHE_PURGE_URL in wp-config.php to be a local path that when triggered with a GET request, makes a POST request that looks like the equivalent of this CURL request:

curl -X POST "https://api.cloudflare.com/client/v4/zones/YOUR_ZONE_ID/purge_cache" \
-H "X-Auth-Email: YOUR_EMAIL_ADDRESS" \
-H "X-Auth-Key: YOUR_API_KEY" \
-H "Content-Type: application/json" \
--data '{"purge_everything":true}'

Replace YOUR_ZONE_ID, YOUR_EMAIL_ADDRESS, and YOUR_API_KEY and you’re set.

By making this request after xmlrpc_publish_post using add_filter(), we’ve already established our updated content so the trigger will have Cloudflare pull the freshest and not accidentally re-pull stale bits.

Right now, it’s an entry in my theme’s functions.php. If I was to do this truly right, I’d make this a plugin. Someday!

Tim Berners-Lee’s Successor to The Internet

I hadn’t planned on posting anything of substance, today, but I came across this fresh post from Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the modern Internet as we know it, and director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and knew immediately I had to share it. He’s sharing news about his latest project, a successor to the Internet as it stands in its current form. I’ll let him explain it:

I’ve always believed the web is for everyone. That’s why I and others fight fiercely to protect it. The changes we’ve managed to bring have created a better and more connected world. But for all the good we’ve achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.

Today, I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible — and necessary.

This is why I have, over recent years, been working with a few people at MIT and elsewhere to develop Solid, an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web.

Solid changes the current model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value. As we’ve all discovered, this hasn’t been in our best interests. Solid is how we evolve the web in order to restore balance — by giving every one of us complete control over data, personal or not, in a revolutionary way.

The goal, to summarize those four paragraphs, is to create a more decentralized Internet where ones data isn’t kept hostage by a service provider. The owner of data is the individual and it’s up to you to allow services to access it.

On the surface, this sounds like nothing more than the next decentralized fad. I almost started laughing when I read the article because I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to put in the time to set this up for themselves when easier alternatives already exist.

Let me explain.

Stride defines a way for an individual to set up a “pod” that contains their data. These pods can be hosted in a variety of different places, provided the hosting provider supports it. If you’re more technically inclined, you’re likely to host your pod on your own.

On the surface, that all sounds great, but there are a few fundamental problems to this:

  1. What is there to stop a hosting provider from wanting to monetize this pod of data? Say Google started offering this service… you can imagine they’d go nuts trying to figure out a way to get ads in your face that have something to do with the data of yours they’re keeping. And at this point, how is this any different than the current scenario? Ok, so mainstream providers are out.
  2. Smaller joints could just as well provide pod hosting support. How are you going to vet them, and make sure they don’t go fuck it up? Are you comfortable trusting any random name to host what would eventually become a treasure trove of personal data, photos, emails, etc? Maybe that’s not a great idea, either.
  3. Ok, so host it yourself. That’s hilarious. No one’s going to want to do that, except for the nerd super-minority.

So we have some issues. Adoption is either difficult or looks closely like the current situation. There’s a snowball’s chance in hell that mainstream providers people will actually recognize will agree to let ones data travel to and fro off their servers. I don’t describing a web host, really, but that’s a term that would make a lot of folks’ eyes glaze over.

Not to mention the security implications. What Tim is proposing is a giant cache of everything a hacker would get so excited over, they’d need to change their pants. There isn’t any obvious explanations as to how this new standard would be secured.

One of the advertised benefits of Solid POD is the owner controls who can interact with the data therein. This is ripe for abuse, just as android apps can ask for permission (on older OSes) to touch anything and everything and there’s not a damned thing you, the user, can do about it.

As far as using it for identity is concerned, I would not be surprised if this goes so far as to be a form of identification on the Internet or financial transactions. See my “a hacker’s dream” comment from earlier.

A Solid POD server is Node.js-based so react to that information as you will.

My goal in picking this apart is that these things would be talked about, clarified, discussed. I love the idea of this type of information exchange. I would likely be the kind of person to host my own POD server for my family, but I can’t imagine many would be in that boat.

One of the biggest hurdles above all else will be overcoming the challenge of “how is this better/easier” than what I do, now? If it even remotely smells of more complication, people will drop the idea like a bad habit. If no one they know is doing it, they’ll pretend it doesn’t exist. The key is finding a way to establish mainstream support. The Internet as we know it now had a lot of these same challenges but with one major difference… there wasn’t an already mainstream high tech way of sharing information, cat photos, videos, memes, status updates, and the like, in real time with everyone someone cared about in an instant.

Solid has a massive uphill battle and I look forward to seeing how it progresses. If it can’t tackle the mainstream problem, though, Solid will end up relegating itself to yet another nerd corner of the Internet and eventually die out. Someone might even tweet abodut it.

College and the Fear of Change

An Internet friend of mine, John Saddington, created a blog post about College that really got me thinking. The purpose of this post is to share some of those thoughts.

I spent 8 years, off-and-on getting my Bachelor of Science degree. I hopped around a few schools and could never really find my groove until 2013 when I landed at Western Governor’s University. Looking back on it, I wish I had done things a lot differently. Namely, just getting a basic Associates degree and transferring would have saved me a lot of time and money.

Getting my degree from an online not-for-profit, I feel like I missed out on some of the interactivity and community-building. You hear stories about how someone spent time in a fraternity/sorority, was a part of X, Y, and Z clubs, and did all these cool things with people they shared dorm buildings with. Would I have been super active in all that? Probably not, but there’s a definite networking aspect to college that one might not ever get by taking alternative paths, depending on the alternative path they take. As much as we don’t want this to be the case, some recruiters and hiring managers see degrees as an indicator that this person was able to complete a long-term project/commitment successfully.

Putting all the fluffy parts aside, there’s a part I still struggle with when thinking about the amount of time I spent on my education. I can’t help but wonder if it’ll make a difference at this point. My degree is in Information Technology. It came with a handful of industry certifications that say on pieces of paper that I know enough about a list of topics to qualify for said pieces of paper. I learned most of that information not from my college studies, but from the real world. Learning as I went. Doing. Getting things wrong. Fixing them. Getting things right. Repeat.

That’s not to say the education I received would not have been valuable to someone. I know for a fact that some find it entirely useful, though I imagine that’s more because of the material than how it was delivered. There’s nothing unique about the delivery method. Alternative forms of education exist and should be encouraged. The idea that a college is the only way to learn a certain set of skills is a tired one, even considering hands-on training.

This thought process creates a very fine line, though. No one paid close enough attention and “schools” like DeVry and ITT Tech popped up, promising quality educations. Most of the time, the only thing that happened was the student ended up being out of way too much money for an education that didn’t mean anything.

How do we find a solution to this that involves both breaking the mold and maintaining quality, trustable educational pathways?

Are coding bootcamps the answer? Probably not. There’s no good set of standards for ensuring it’s not just a $10 Udemy course wrapped in a $14,000 tuition price tag. We just trust that because they have a building and teachers and dedicated learning times that it’ll be something that just works. We’re trading one set of problems for another.

Most of this got John and I talking about the hard requirement aspect of some careers. Right now, in order to become a lawyer, you have to go to school, take a test, go to another school, and become a member of the Bar Association. Without that, no lawyering for you. Are we sure that’s still the best way to make such a career happen for someone? Obviously everything up to the Bar Association admission is useless without said admission if the goal is to be lawyering your way around a court room, so what if we could change some of that? Why is it important for someone to go to Harvard if they want to work for a quality firm? (This is part rhetorical, part genuine question).

Technology has the power to change the way we learn and establish ourselves. There’s nothing that says the way things are will stay the same forever–literally all of society is a great example of that. Innovation and disruption are a required component of moving forward as a society and sometimes (a lot of times) it also comes with some discomfort. There are always individuals who wish to keep the status quo. It’s a comfortable position to take. I’m guilty of this sometimes, too.

There isn’t one right answer, here, and whatever form this disruption takes, my generation won’t likely be around to see it. I hope my children are offered more unique and high quality opportunities than I had. In fact, if they exist, I want to encourage them. One should be able to do whatever they so desire and establish themselves along the way in the manner and format they see fit. If that means spending time in a classroom, learning from pre-defined sets of materials in a certain order or if that means a virtual environment that includes hands-on training at an affiliated location, it all sounds good to me. If 100% of it was real-world, apprenticeship-style learning right next to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, that’s also fantastic!

I say yes to all of it! Put those who wish to excel in business next to those who have actually excelled in business, not just in a classroom. if someone wants to become an expert in animal husbandry, they should learn from the experts themselves.

Education is education and education is valuable. We should be finding as many ways to enhance that value as possible.

All the iPhone XS and XS Max Reviews in One Place

Launch day for the iPhone XS is tomorrow. While we wait, it seems only pertinent to round up all the reviews for the iPhone XS and share them in one page. 

Note: I didn’t bother splitting them out by XS and XS Max. There is no need. Both phones are the same except for their size. It doesn’t make sense to differentiate them just as little as it makes sense to review two different sizes of the same model television. 

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography