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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. 

PowerPort Mini: The Charging Device Apple Should Have Made

When I travel, I try to bring as few plugs, cords, and other dinguses as possible. My typical mobile device loadout consists of an iPhone, Watch, and iPad. Occasionally I’ll bring my MacBook Pro but that travels with its own power cord, so I’ll exempt it from this discussion. My iPad is generally only used on planes and in airports so it’ll stay in a bag most of the trip. My iPhone and Watch are the only two devices I’d use on the regular and as such need to always keep charged. 

Anyone that’s stayed in a hotel knows the power outlet situation is varied. best case scenario there are plugs a plenty, even on the end table(s). Worst case scenario, there’s one, maybe two near-ish, though nothing within reach while in said bed. This means using as few outlets as possible is a must. 

Enter the Anker PowerPort Mini. A 2-port USB 2.4A wall plug with Power IQ support that’s about the size of a golf ball. The prongs fold in to make itself a bit more portable, which is nice when comparing it to the size of Apple’s single port 5W brick.

Powerport size comparison 1

While it’s not the smallest charging brick in the world, the fact that it provides two ports will more than make up for it. The alternative in this comparison is to have two Apple bricks that would take up two outlets. In the image above the coin in a Canadian quarter. The height is about 75% greater, but it definitely doesn’t feel big in my hand. If anything, holding the Apple brick afterward makes the Apple brick feel very small and almost inadequate. 

When it comes to weight, the Anker PowerPort Mini clocks in at 38 grams, a 41% increase in weight over the Apple brick (25 grams), but like its size, the increase doesn’t mean much. The packaging the PowerPort Mini travels in when you order reminds me of a bar of soap in size and weight (and that’s a two-pack).

Getting technical for a moment regarding the specs, the PowerPort Mini puts out a total of 12 watts at 2.4A. This means plugging one device into it gets a 12 watts 2.4A charge, and two devices gets 6 watts each. Not earth-shattering, but if you’re in need of charging several mobile-type devices overnight like I am, 6 watts will be perfect. 

You can pick up A PowerPort Mini 2-pack on Amazon for about $16 right now. I suggest you do. Anker’s quality is great for the price and while I’m sure there are cheaper options, spending the extra couple dollars gets you a sane purchase and a quality item. 

cmmx_system

MacPaw’s CleanMyMac X Review

If the name MacPaw sounds familiar to you, it should. They’re the folks behind a host of great Mac applications like The Unarchiver (I use it daily), the killer duplicate file finder Gemini 2, and CleanMyMac 3, the app that seems to do it all when thinking about eliminating crap that collects on your Mac.

The latest in their software lineup just dropped–a new version of CleanMyMac, and it’s pretty dang good. I wanted to take a few minutes to go over it and share some of my thoughts.

Editorial Note: I was invited to beta test the latest version of CleanMyMac, so my review is based on that version of their software alone.

When I first received the email that a new version of CleanMyMac was on its way, I couldn’t help but wonder if the world needed something like this. After spending some time with it, I think I have an answer.

CleanMyMac X comes with an array of options for purging the cruft that’s collecting on your computer. I can hear people saying now that with disks as large as they are, there’s no need for any of this! You might be right, though not everyone has massive disks and you’d be surprised how much can collect in the back corners of your operating system after several years of botched removals of apps, all those Docker containers that collect dust, etc.

The first stop for most folks is Smart Scan. This is the easy mode. If you’d rather just click a thing and be done with it, Smart Scan fits the bill perfectly. It’ll work through the Cleanup, Protection, and Speed tasks automatically and behave as if you said yes to everything each task offers. For those that like a bit more control, I recommend staying away from this option and working your way down the list, instead. Hit the Run button and you’ll be done in a few moments.

Cleanup

Those that are curious will inevitably want to stop at each entry on the list, especially System Junk. This is the same task as the first 1/3 of Smart Scan. You can opt to go with the defaults or hit Review Details to get a clearer, more detailed picture of what’s on the chopping block and exempt items as needed. On my list I have a few options unchecked because of personal preferences, but you’re free to be as selective (or not) as you want. In my case, I don’t want to drop the only disk image it found that I haven’t touched in a long time. It’s a copy of a photo CD from a waterproof camera we brought with us on vacation to the Caribbean last year. I’d be better off moving that disk image off my machine altogether to save that space.

Depending on what’s most important to you, the amount fo space that’s recovered will vary greatly. Even if you only remove one thing, it’s good to know where some of your storage is being used.

CleanMyMac X offers up the ability to optimize your Photos library, as well. I couldn’t really test out this feature because I keep my photo library under control using a technique that involves putting it within a small .sparsebundle image. Photos.app manages the library based on how much disk space it has access to. Keeping the image small keeps my photo library small.

If you’re nerdy like I am in managing your photo library, this’ll wipe out all the cached full copies of photos and limit your library to small versions that are good for previewing. You’re always free to re-download full copies from iCloud later.

Note: Keep in mind that if your Mac is set to keep all the originals, don’t play around with this or you could end up losing photos.

If you have large email or iTunes archives, those options might be of use, though they weren’t entirely applicable to me, either (I use Spotify). The Trash Bin option is pretty straight forward but with a twist. Each drive on a mac has its own Trash. If the OS ever loses track of what’s in any of them, they can sit there collecting byte dust and take up space.

Protection

While they’re not as prone as Windows-based machines are, Macs can get viruses, too. If you find yourself in need of some viral remediation, you’ll find a process for that in CleanMyMac X.

Best case scenario, you see something like this:

The Privacy task is pretty self-explanatory. It clears your cookies and browser caches, autofills, etc. These are things you can do from within the browser so there’s nothing especially groundbreaking, here. It’ll also purge your chat logs, too.

Speed

These tasks are all things you can do elsewhere, though it might not be clear exactly how one would go about it so it’s nice there’re all in one place. I found myself needing to re-index spotlight a couple times because searching for an app brought up a document that referenced the app before the app itself. Re-indexing seemed to clear that up but as with just about everything computers, YMMV.

Applications

The Uninstaller is a nice feature to have. Sometimes, just dragging an app to the trash doesn’t clean up stuff in crazy alternative locations. CleanMyMac X touts a full purge of anything related to that app and even lets you see only the apps you’ve never used or are old and may soon be unsupported altogether.

From the Updater pane, you can work through applications and update them on the fly. This triggers the update process within the app. It’s not immediately clear how it knows or how it triggers–I’ll update this review when and if I learn. It’s pretty straight forward in how it works, though I couldn’t get it to update a couple apps. I suspect that’s an issue on my end rather than with the app itself given its hands-off approach to facilitating these updates.

Files

Last, CleanMyMac X allows you peruse your drives for the fattiest of files and permanently delete ones you’re not going to miss. Ironically enough, the top entry on my list was my iMovie Library. You can filter the list down by kind, size, and how long it’s been since you touched them. All helpful options.

So the question that’s on your mind: do you need this app? On the surface and as my initial response, I say yes, though consider what you’d actually want out of it before diving in. Some of its features might not serve your needs, specifically. They definitely don’t apply to me but they still serve their place in the ecosystem nonetheless. If you need an app that’s great for dumping cruft, uninstalling apps for real, and having a good spot for sweeping through app updates, I’d say absolutely buy it. If that’s not on your wish list, you’ll find other tools available for less that can just as well meet your needs.

Let’s talk pricing. CleanMyMac X access is available in three forms: yearly and lifetime and something cool I will share in a moment. I’m in firmly in the “buy it once” camp if I can help it so I’m going to personally recommend snagging the lifetime access for $89.95. If that seems a bit steep, MacPaw offers it up on a yearly basis for $39.95, as well. It’s available in the Mac Paw store starting September 5th. If that’s not your style, CleanMyMac X is a part of the Setapp application bundle that gives you access to literally a hundred awesome Mac apps for $10/month. If lifetime access isn’t in the budget this month and $10 is much easier to handle, consider that option, instead. Plus, for that same $10, you’ll land a load of other great apps.

Brilliant

I am always on the hunt for new tools to aid in learning. As someone that didn’t excel very well in a traditional educational environment–I repeated my last year of high school and it took me a bit over eight years to manage to get my college degree–alternative environments are especially intriguing because fulfilling the consumption of knowledge requirement I keep for myself in a way that both makes the material interesting and easy to digest has been hard.

I discovered Brilliant a couple weeks ago and yesterday, and jumping to the end for just a moment, I committed to a year of their premium service. I wanted to briefly discuss why I found Brilliant so appealing and why I think it can be the next great learning platform.

Brilliant’s missing is simple:

Finding and developing the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

They believe that accessibility is paramount. Those who are well off or have more access to resources generally find themselves excelling. For those who may not have access to the same resources, while they’re entirely driven and have great potential, excelling in a field can be hard.

Brilliant recommended

The list of recommended courses by type.

When you first sign up for Brilliant, you can pick any number of topics. The easiest place to start is my skimming the Recommended section and see what catches your eye. You’ll find a whole host of different categories to choose from in math, science, and computer science. If your goal is to bolster your knowledge that could most likely help in your career (and that career is at least partially technology or math-based), the Recommended > Professionals section is the place to start.

After skimming the list I came to realize that I ultimately want to learn all of it and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that idea. But you have to start somewhere. Personally, I started with the Logic topic. It contains a few critical thinking questions that were actually exciting to solve and know the correct answer to, as well!

Brilliant course detail

Each course breaks down the material is easy to digest sections.

With your course selected, it makes the most sense to start at the beginning. Every course opens the intro topic to you for free so you can get a sense if the platform is going to work out for you and even if there are enough topics of interest to make the price worth it. You can skim through the list to see if it’s something you’d like to give into and if so, start with the first entry always! Each topic is broken down very logically and contain easy to digest questions and solutions that do a great job of explaining.

Brilliant question

The questions are simple and clutter-free.

Each question is presented on its own. Most questions are multiple choice with some requiring you to fill in the answer (though they often give you several chances in case you have a typo). If you’re not sure, guess!

If you find yourself stumped, you can view the solution and it’ll go into great detail about the question, the underlying topic, and provide examples. After reading the solution, if you understand it, make sure to hit the thumbs up button at the bottom. If not, hit the thumbs down button and explain why. Once you’re ready you can proceed to the next question.

As someone that has always been a visual learner, there were a few that I found difficult and definitely got wrong because I’m trying to convert words into something I can visualize which can be hard. It took a couple re-reads of the solution to fully get it, but there wasn’t a time when I didn’t understand the material. (In other words, the solutions often have visual aids to help explain the material).

Beyond all the knowledge you can learn, Brilliant takes things one step further and acts as a platform for students to be discovered. They cite a couple particularly interesting examples. Mursalin Habib is 16 years old and explained induction in great detail and in a way that make sense. Anastasiya Romanova started a calculus contest for fun.

Don’t think for a moment, though, that Brilliant is just for high school and college-aged people. There’s no age limit and whether you’re 16 or 60, you’ll find something to learn.

I strongly recommend this service to everyone. Brilliant does a great job of taking complex categories if knowledge and breaking them down into super bite sized chunks that build on each other and make learning them an actually satisfying experience. At $24.99/month, it’s a bit steep, but if you find yourself thinking that you’d see yourself using it for at least a few months, definitely go for the annual plan instead. At $119.88/year ($9.99/month), paying monthly would end up costing more at month 5 and beyond, though you definitely lose a bit of the flexibility. Given the amount of content, spend a couple hours a week and you’ll have enough to keep you busy for quite a while.

You can check out Brilliant here and get started with an absolutely free trial. If you stick around, you’ll also likely be presented with a 20% off discount on the annual plan that’s only good for 2 days. This makes the break even point occur during month 3, instead. For me that was a no-brainer. I can see myself sticking around for at least 4 months and I’m sure you will, too, with all sorts of awesome new knowledge gained in the process.

Publisher-publication

Affinity Publisher Beta

I have been a fan of the Affinity product line from Serif since they first released Affinity Photo. As someone who has spent a decent amount of time working with desktop publishing tools some years ago, I got excited when I received the announcement that Affinity Publisher was now in beta and ready to be poked at by the general public.

Right away it’s clear that Affinity Publisher carries the same design language and ease of use that Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer present to users immediately upon opening the app for the first time. I would expect this app to go head-to-head with Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress and handily beat them out in the most common use cases.

If you’re not a fan of Adobe’s monthly, never-own-your-license methodology, that alone might be enough to switch. Adobe InDesign requires at least $30/month to access and QXP is $849 (or $399 if coming from InDesign). I’d imagine Affinity Publisher debuts at $49.99 given that both Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer are $49.99 each.

With the third product on the way, I can also see the three titles being released as a bundle for something like $129. At either price point, it’s a killer deal.

Ashley Hewson is the Managing Director at Serif and when asked about the overall goal Serif had for their product line, she said:

From the earliest days of visualising the Affinity range, we planned an unrivalled trio of sleek, super-modern apps created to work with the latest technology – ultra-fast, with stunning power and completely stripped of bloat.

The final step towards realising that initial ambition will come with the launch of Affinity Publisher.

It’s an all-new app which we believe will revolutionise desktop publishing in the same way Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer have shaken up professional photo editing and vector graphic design.

I absolutely believe her. Affinity Publisher brings with it tier 1 publishing features like master pages, page spreads, linked resources, full CMYK support, and advanced typography management.

While in beta, there’s bound to be some rough edges. Serif set up a specific forum to discuss beta issues, so if you run into any, head there first.

The free beta is open to everyone and is available to download here for Windows and macOS. an iPad version is coming later.

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