Apple

Home made Time Capsule

R0001255Many people think of the networking gear in their houses (cable or DSL modem, WIFI router) like plumbing: they get it all installed and set up and then forget about it as it runs in the background.

The problem with this thinking is that the amount of stuff we have moving through this “pipe” is increasing at a rapid rate. It was acceptable to have a 300 baud dial up modem in the old days for email and AOL but now that we have the internet and streaming video and voice over IP and all sorts of other stuff running through the same pipe, having a faster internet connection is important.

In short, we upgrade our computers from time to time to take advantage of new and faster processing power but we tend to not upgrade our home networks.

In fact, cable modems can be upgraded and cable internet services can be upgraded as well and it’s useful these days to look into that if you have a lot of stuff connected to your cable modem and home network: AirPort router, Apple TV, computers, printers, thermostats, etc.

Downstream of the cable modem is the router which tends to be a bigger bottleneck than a cable modem. I’ve been using Apple AirPort routers since they appeared and while I’ve sometimes been slow to upgrade them, I do consider upgrading them when newer models have faster speeds or more capabilities.

The latest model of the AirPort Extreme has been made taller to incorporate larger antennas for better coverage and the wifi protocol has been upgraded to 802.11ac to accommodate the increased use of streaming video. We’ve been using one since they came out over a year ago and it’s improved our network speeds considerably and given us much better coverage both in and outside our house.

Backup

I use SuperDuper! to back up my MacBook Pro and I back up my wife’s MacBook Air with it as well (on a separate disk). I also have a hard disk dedicated to Time Machine which I manually connect to my MacBook Pro daily to make a different kind of backup. I stared using Apple’s Time Machine religiously when I bought a new computer and Migration Assistant balked at recognizing my SuperDuper backup disk and I had to use my Time Machine backup disk to migrate my stuff onto the new machine.

A piece of me will always like the SuperDuper (or Carbon Copy Cloner) kind of backup better: you’re left with a disk that is essentially a clone of your computer and you can boot from it. This means that if your computer has a problem, you can easily boot another one from your backup and be back in business immediately.

However, Time Machine has it’s selling points as well, the most important of which (for me) is that it’s automatic, happens over the air, and once it’s set up and working, falls into the background.

Apple has combined a Time Machine hard disk and an AirPort Extreme router in a product called Time Capsule which looks identical to an AirPort Extreme router except it’s got a 2 or 3TB hard disk in it.

This product has appealed to me for years but there’s something about having a hard disk built into a device in a way that makes it tough to replace that scares me. And, what happens when you buy a new Time Capsule to replace an old one? How easy or awkward is it to move your backups to a new one?

It would seem to me that it might be better to connect an external hard disk to the AirPort Extreme and treat it as a Time Capsule. This way you get the benefit of over the air backups but can replace or even remove (for safe keeping) the hard disk.

Experiments and what I learned

File sharing has been possible with AirPort Extreme routers for a long time now. You can plug a USB hard disk into the router, find it on your home network, and copy files to and from it. However, the Time Machine software would not work with disks connected this way. No doubt there were many reasons for this but the one that seems likely is that the firmware on the AirPort router has to be able to wake a connected disk from sleep when the Time Machine software wants to use it. And, once the copying is done, the disk needs to be able to spin down.

When I started researching this a few weeks ago I found this article on TidBits: Use Time Machine with the 802.11ac AirPort Extreme Base Station. The article is a few years old and comments are closed but it was a useful read for me.

Then I read the Time Machine entry on Wikipedia: Time Machine (OS X) and specifically noted this:

“On a Time Capsule, the backup data is stored in an HFS+ disk image and accessed via Apple Filing Protocol. Although it is not officially supported, users and manufacturers have configured Linux servers and network-attached storage systems to serve Time Machine-enabled Macs.”

I then did a bit more digging and found this from Apple: AirPort base stations: About USB disks

“OS X Time Machine supports compatible unencrypted USB disks connected to AirPort Time Capsule (802.11n and 802.11ac), and AirPort Extreme (802.11ac).”

Then I found this piece by Apple: Backup disks you can use with Time Machine

“An external USB drive connected to an AirPort Time Capsule (any model) or AirPort Extreme (802.11ac model only)”

Time Machine has two different file protocols for two different ways storage devices are connected to a Mac. USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt disks directly connected to the Mac get a different type of backup than Time Capsules or disks connected via USB to an AirPort Extreme both of which are being written to over the air. I found this out by noting that when I first connected my already in-use Time Machine hard disk to my AirPort base station Time Machine would not continue to backup to the existing file(s), it kept wanting to make a new backup. This is because the local backup files are different from the networked backup files. This difference is probably because of security and possibly other speed related issues.

How to do it

You’ll need a hard disk or SSD with at least as much storage as the disk you’re backing up. A Time Capsule will back up multiple machines on a network so you need to add up the sizes of all the various machines you’re backing up.

Time Machine will continue making incremental backups until it runs out of room, then it starts deleting the oldest backups.

My wife has a MacBook Air with 128GB of SSD, I have a MacBook Pro with 1TB of SSD. Neither of us has more than half of our storage used.

I had an older 1TB Lacie Rugged Drive with a USB 3 port on it. Its not super fast (5400 RPM) but given that it’s connected via USB 2 I figured drive speed wasn’t an issue. If I buy another hard disk for this I’ll no doubt get a 3 or 4TB disk.

I found that desktop (AC powered) vs portable (bus powered) isn’t an issue as long as the disks adhere closely to the USB protocols (for mounting and sleeping).

Format the disk with disk utility as you would a normal, modern OS X disk: Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Consider naming it “Time Machine” or “Backup” or something other than “Untitled.”

Connect the formatted, empty disk to your AirPort Extreme base station’s USB port.

Run the AirPort Utility, click on your AirPort Extreme, and click “edit.”

Click the “Disks” tab.

Click Enable File Sharing.

Secure Shared disks with a password. It can be a simple password and each machine using this disk will store the password in its keychain.

You could also use “Accounts” to remember the Mac OS X accounts using the disk. We used password.

I did not click the “Share disks over WAN” checkbox. Checking this would allow you to get to this disk from outside your home network. This is probably safe but somehow it scares me. If anyone reading this has experience doing this I’d love to hear about it.

When you have this screen set up as you want it, click “Update” at the bottom to update the settings on your AirPort Extreme.

That’s it, you’re done.

You should see your AirPort Extreme base station in the finder on the left side of the main Finder window under “Shared” but if you don’t, you will the next time you log in or restart. You don’t need to interact with the disk there unless you want to use it for non-Time Machine related file sharing.

Go to the Apple Menu and choose System Preferences, then click on Time Machine in the bottom row of icons.

Turn Time Machine on if it was off, select disk and consider clicking the “Show Time Machine in Menu Bar” checkbox so you can monitor things easily as you get started with this.

After this, backups should happen automatically. The first backup takes a long time but what’s great about this is you just go about using your machine as always and it will stop and restart on its own. My machine’s screen went to sleep but as far as I know, Time Machine kept working in the background. My wife leaves her machine open but sleeping and it wakes up and does it’s backup, then goes back to sleep. Very slick.

You can monitor what’s happening in the Time Machine preferences pane which you can now get to easily in the Time Machine menu on the menu bar.

I’ve had this set up working for three days on both my wife’s and my machine and it’s simply amazing, no bumps, and while I’ve not tested the backups, I have run the Time Machine application on each of our machines and poked around in the backups and it’s working as it should.

So far, so good. Again, very slick.

Wish list for future AirPort / Time Capsule routers

It would be great if both the AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule had faster USB or some other, faster connection protocol. It would make the initial backup faster and allow faster file sharing on connected disks. It’s not essential but given that USB 3 is a standard on Apple devices and hard disks, that would be nice.

One thing that would get me to dump my home made set up and buy a “real” Apple Time Capsule would be if the Time Capsule backed up iOS devices like my iPhone and iPad. The fact that I have to use the kludge that is iTunes to back those devices up to my Mac, then have my Mac backed up is awkward. No doubt Apple wants to sell more iCloud backup space for iOS devices but a local backup would be good as well.

No doubt there’s a lot more Apple might do with the AirPort Extreme to support the coming home control (HomeKit) devices people will be connecting to their networks.

Until then, my home made Time Capsule is working just fine. Let me know if you give this a try or have suggestions for improvement.

Trackpad mode in iOS 9

One of the many reasons I’m writing this post on my MacBook Pro (with MarsEdit) as opposed to my iPad Air 2 or my new iPhone 6s is because I prefer a hardware keyboard and a trackpad or even better, a mouse, for moving the cursor/insertion point around and selecting text. Over the years, text editing in iOS has improved but its still awkward compared with doing it on a Mac.

in iOS 9, Apple has added a feature that helps quite a bit. If you’ve got any iPad or iPhone running iOS 9 (except the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus which I’ll discuss in a minute) try this:

Run any app that uses Apple’s standard on-screen keyboard.

Type some text.

Place two fingertips anywhere on the on-screen keyboard and press down lightly, the keyboard will dim and turn into a trackpad (trackpad mode). This will initially take a bit of practice as there are two gestures possible here.

A touch with a shorter duration will allow you to move the cursor by dragging your two fingers across the keyboard/trackpad. A touch with a slightly longer duration will allow you to drag/select text from the initial touch point to another (like shift clicking text in Mac OS).

This is a brilliant use of multi-touch and once you get used to it it really works.

If you have an iOS device with a “force touch” or 3D Touch screen (at this point the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus), you can do this a bit differently and more easily.

Run any app that uses Apple’s standard on-screen keyboard.

Type some text.

With a single finger, press down firmly on the keyboard and you’ll feel the “taptic feedback” of 3D Touch kicking in, the keyboard will dim (trackpad mode) and you can drag the cursor around with your finger. Once in this mode to select a single word, move the cursor over a word and press a bit more firmly, the word will highlight. If you release pressure and drag up, down, left or right you can select larger chunks of text. This is taking some practice for me to get but I’m getting it.

These kinds of details are great to know about and while I’ll continue to do most of my writing on my Mac because I’m more comfortable with its hardware keyboard, mouse or trackpad, and Mac OS text editing conventions which I’ve been using since 1984, these kinds of features which make great use of multi-touch will allow me to use my iOS devices a bit more for informal writing where I might have avoided them.

For more on this including a video (with obnoxious music): How to use iOS 9’s keyboard as a trackpad with 3D Touch on iPhone 6s.

Here’s another post on Trackpad mode: On trackpad mode in iOS 9 and the iPhone.

An iPhone 6s story

My wife Anne and I have had iPhone 5s’ for a few years and we decided it was time to update our iPhones. We’ve been looking at the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus at the Grand Central Apple store on trips to New York and have discussed the idea of a bigger iPhone to aid in readability and usability.

So, when Apple opened pre-orders on the iPhone 6s I ordered two iPhone 6s Plus’ for us. The day after I placed the orders, I changed mine to an iPhone 6s (non plus). More on why I did this below.

Given that we don’t want to upgrade our iPhones each year I didn’t see the advantage of using Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program so I bit the bullet and bought both iPhones outright from Apple directly. Frankly, I don’t think Apple has made clear whether there is any advantage in using their upgrade program if one plans to keep one’s iPhone longer than a year.

More on the new iPhones after some back story.

Bigger Screen?

Every now and then while hiking I meet up with one of the Berkshire AMC ridge runners, Dennis. Dennis has a large Samsung smart phone and in watching him use both maps and a variety of apps in the field, it occurred to me that for mapping, a larger phone would be useful.

Over the many years I’ve been hiking on the Appalachian Trail I’ve seen many thru hikers who have a variety of smart phones and a few who have cellular iPad minis which they use to look at maps, communicate with their families, post to weblogs and watch Netflix streaming movies in tents on rainy days. This is an incredible use of the iPad and it’s gotten me thinking about how to balance portability with a larger screen. Yes, one could use a smartphone to do these things but the larger screen on the iPad (mini or Air) makes them much easier. When I was thinking about this, the idea of tethering a wifi iPad to a cellular iPhone wasn’t in the cards for me as I had an unlimited data plan with AT&T.

A few weeks ago I was in the passenger seat driving into New York on a rainy afternoon. I was using Apple Maps on my iPhone 5s to see where the traffic was so we could choose our route to avoid it. It was amazing and it worked extremely well and while I could never have done this while driving, it was easy to both look ahead and provide navigation help to my friend Jimmy who was driving.

I was doing a considerable amount of multi-touch zooming on the small 5s screen and I had the realization that a larger screen would allow me to see more without so much close-in zooming. That could have been the Plus size iPhone or a cellular iPad mini or Air 2. Or, an iPad tethered to an iPhone.

Tethering

I knew there was the capacity to tether another device to the iPhone (called “personal hotspot”) but my A&T plan, grandfathered from my first iPhone, had unlimited data which did not allow tethering to be turned on (too much data for unlimited).

A few days after the New York Apple Maps experience I was having a conversation with my friend Steve who’s been using Apple products for as long as I have (1984) and who’s personal use of Apple products is much like mine. I always enjoy talking with Steve, we connect on many levels and he told me something about his family’s use of iPhones that changed the way I was thinking about this stuff.

He too had unlimited data with AT&T grandfathered from his first iPhone but decided to change his family plan to a 15GB Next plan with AT&T. He found out that even after that change, he never touched the 15GB data limit and that’s with his daughter watching Netflix streaming movies on her iPad tethered to her iPhone (spotty wifi in her college dorm room).

Most of us probably don’t look closely at our data usage on our phones but this conversation pushed me to take a look.

Anne and I both use our phones all the time but had never used more than 512MB (1/2 GB) of data combined in a month in all the time we’ve been using iPhones. This was a huge revelation and I feel a bit sheepish admitting it because I’ve been protecting this unlimited data plan for years (and paying for it).

So, I immediately changed our AT&T plan to a 15GB Next plan saving us about $50 a month. I probably could have gone down to 5GB but I’ll try this for a year and see what happens.

Once I made that change in our plan I could immediately turn on Personal Hotspot in Settings on my iPhone 5s.

Before I get into how easy all of this was I should say that for a while now, I’ve been on the fence about buying a cellular iPad mini to use as a bigger device for the situations I described above but I never did it.

A few days after talking with Steve I found myself with the same friend (Jimmy) on our way to New York again but this time on the train. I brought my iPhone 5s, my iPad Air 2 and turned on personal hotspot on the 5s on the train. I set a password and connected to the iPhone with the iPad. The entire process was incredibly easy.

I then put the iPhone aside and used the iPad all the way to New York for doing all of the things I’d be doing with it at home which I find difficult to do on the small iPhone screen.

I did this again on my way home on the train, this time plugging my iPhone 5s into a Jackery battery as it was getting low. Amazingly, it was both my wifi router and was able to get fully charged at the same time.

So, why did I change my order from an iPhone 6s Plus to an iPhone 6s? Because I knew I could tether my iPad for the times I need a bigger screen and this way I can have the convenience of the smaller phone.

I’m still considering an iPad mini for hiking and as a smaller big screen but it will not be cellular now that I know how easy it is to tether the iPad (or a Mac) to my iPhone.

iPhone 6s

Let me say this up front: the iPhone 6s is absolutely incredible. Using it reminds me of how great the SE/30 felt after earlier iterations of the Mac: it takes all of one’s familiar actions and, instead of waiting for the tool to catch up, the tool is with you all the way. In a word, the iPhone 6s is extremely fast and not just at launching apps, it’s fast at everything.

We had iOS 9 running on our iPhone 5s’ before we got the iPhone 6s’ so we were familiar with a few of the new features, like improved maps and the migration of “Passbook” to “Wallet” and many more. Still, iOS 9.0.2 running on the iPhone 6s is a different animal; the speed of the phone makes old and new features feel more natural, more in sync with one’s actions, especially if one normally works ahead of the iPhone.

One thing that bothered me about the 5s when I first got it was Touch ID. It just did not work well for me. I thought it was my old, beat up thumbs but in fact, as iOS got updated Touch ID improved in its ease of use and for the past year my 5s was recognizing my thumb print and opening almost every time on first try.

On the iPhone 6s Touch ID is completely revamped and works quickly, accurately, and does not get in the way. I’m pretty sure Apple changed the mechanism from the ground up and it shows. Brilliant.

Siri is becoming a seriously useful tool now and “Hey Siri” takes it to an entirely new level. “Hey Siri” is a new feature that allows you to train Siri to your voice so it won’t be triggered with someone else’s voice or by ambient sound. Siri, and dictation are a lot more accurate now and extremely fast. And, I’ve used Siri on cellular with one bar of service and it’s just as fast and accurate. This was never true before.

All of the radios and antennas are improved which means better reception all the way around which also helps speed. We have one or two bars of AT&T cellular coverage in our house so many years ago we bought an AT&T MicroCell which gives us excellent reception anywhere in the house. For some reason the MicroCell did not pick up the new iPhones and calling AT&T got me the all too typical response: it’s Apple’s fault, you’ll have to wait for iOS 9.1 to fix it.

Somehow, last week, with no upgrade to iOS 9.1 in sight, the MicroCell magically started picking up for Anne’s iPhone 6s Plus, then my iPhone 6s. Guess AT&T got some complaints and fixed things.

I haven’t used 3D Touch all that much yet although I can see its potential. For the most part I’m using my new iPhone the way I used my old one and it’s a pleasure in every way. Anne feels the same way about her new iPhone 6s Plus. It’s taking her some time to get used to the larger form factor but she’s enjoying being able to read books on it and use it for more of the things she used to use her iPad for. I remain glad I did not go for the bigger iPhone.

Migration Issues

Before getting the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus both Anne and I went through our iPhone 5s’ and did some house cleaning, getting rid of unused apps, making sure that everything we had on our iPhones was up to date and working well.

We both use iTunes on our respective Macs to back up and sync our iPhones and both of us backed up our iPhone 5s’ a few times prior to the arrival of the new iPhones.

One thing that we weren’t doing that I started doing on both machines is encrypting backups on iTunes. Turning on “encrypt backups” means that the stored backups of our phones on our Macs cannot be opened without a password (which gets set during the first encrypted backup). The other thing encrypted backups do is back up more passwords and settings than non-encrypted backups do which means restoring from an encrypted backup is potentially less work logging into various accounts people usually have set up on their iPhones. This is an important detail given what happened to me a bit later.

We both did one last (encrypted) backup before starting up the new iPhones and restoring our data onto them. I got the restore started on my iPhone 6s and then started working on Anne’s 6s Plus. She has a lot of books in her iBooks library and it took some doing to get them all synced correctly. I don’t know where the bugs, are, iTunes or iBooks or both but there were some small bumps in getting her new iPhone set up and fully synced with her books.

Once my iPhone 6s was finished I started it up and got through the various welcome screens and started poking around to see how things worked. All was well until I opened Wallet. I had an Apple Store gift card in Passbook/Wallet and was about to fly to LA and so, had a United boarding pass sent over from the United App (which is a piece of crap but that’s another story).

When I opened Wallet the Apple gift card and boarding pass were there, but they were over-sized, like they thought they were running on a bigger screen. I couldn’t get to the edges of them and to the “i” button to interact with the back end of them. I quit the app, ran it again, restarted the iPhone but Wallet was messed up. I did manage to add a credit card to Apple Pay and got email confirmation from my bank but had no occasion to use it and was sort of scared to given the fact that Wallet was broken.

My iPhone 6s was running fine except for this but it bothered me because I use Wallet a lot for travel and was looking forward to using Apple Pay on the new iPhone.

Even though the old iPhone 5s wasn’t working as a cell phone anymore (the SIM was deactivated when I got the new iPhone 6s started up) I could still run the 5s and check out its Wallet. It’s Wallet looked and worked fine with the same cards in it. No Apple Pay but all other cards looked fine.

So, this problem was either something wrong with the encrypted backup with iTunes or with the iPhone 6s.

I called AppleCare and got a very nice support rep named Tod on the phone. Sometimes you can tell right away that a support person is going to be good and I knew that Tod was knowledgeable, personable, and would probably help me get to the bottom of this issue.

We went through re-syncing the 5s and then I erased all the data on the 6s but before I restored the backed up data, I started up the iPhone 6s as a new iPhone so I could get to the home screen and run Wallet to see if it looked weird before I restored my 5s data onto it. In fact, Wallet looked fine. That meant that my 5s data was corrupted in some way.

Given that everything else worked fine, I restored the 5s data again and got the 6s working with a broken Wallet. I told Todd I was off to LA and would continue to work on this there, he said to call him back if I figured anything out or we needed to swap for another new iPhone. He gave me his number and extension (unusual for a support person) and was sensitive to the fact that I didn’t want to have to explain all of this from scratch to another person.

I flew off to LA, the broken Wallet in fact did work to get me through checking in (the barcode showed and that’s what counts). On the flight I decided that in LA I’d do a clean install, leaving the 5s image out of it and just build up my app collection from scratch. It took some time but in fact I did just that in LA and while it’s not a lot of fun, a clean install isn’t a bad thing to do from time to time.

Wallet was fine, my boarding pass looked fine as did my Apple gift card. But, there was a new problem: Apple Pay would not allow me to add a card. So, either Wallet was still broken like it was, or it was broken in a new way.

Other than that, the iPhone was working fine and I continued to work with it under the assumption that the problems I was having were either corrupted data (now fixed), or cloud-based and that I’d be able to fix them at some point.

When I got home to Connecticut I found a message from Todd on our land line asking me how things were going. Again, this was above and beyond and it made me feel good to know I was on a list somewhere.

I called him up and described what I’d done. He told me that in fact, a clean install was on his list of things for me to do but it’s enough work so it was a last resort. He was glad I’d done it.

I described the Apple Pay issue and we discussed the various pieces of Apple Pay. He asked me to call my credit card’s bank to see if they could see a problem on their end.

I got a great person at Chase who listened carefully, checked my account and saw that Apple Pay was in fact hooked up to my iPhone. I asked her to delete the connection so that I’d be able to try it again from scratch. She did it, saying to call her back personally if I ran into problems. Another great support person.

This did not solve the problem, Apple Pay would not accept any credit cards at all. So, I called Tod back and he had talked with an engineer in his building who had heard of this issue.

Todd told me to delete my credit card associated with iCloud, log out of iCloud, then log back in and put the card back in. I did this and then went to wallet and lo and behold, the problem was fixed and I set up Apple Pay.

Todd logged this as a potential problem, asked me if there was anything else I needed and we hung up. Case closed.

My iPhone has continued to work perfectly although I’ve not had occasion to use Apple Pay to buy something yet. I have confidence that when I do, it will work flawlessly.

Epilogue

The iPhone 6s is a work of art and hits the sweet spot of what a smartphone should be. I’m prone to hyperbole but I’ll say it: the iPhone 6s is by far the best iPhone I’ve ever used. If you’re on the fence about upgrading don’t be, this iPhone is incredible.

That said, iTunes, migration bug or not, is not a work of art and it needs the same amount of attention that the iPhone is getting. I hate to think that Apple is avoiding making iTunes great to push people to use iCloud to back up their phones. I prefer to back up to my computer, which is always backed up.

What I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that I was protecting my old AT&T unlimited data plan for no reason, that tethering is fantastic and extremely useful, that Apple has continued to improve the iPhone significantly, and that some support people can take the sting out of the inevitable bumps in the road.

The Life and Death of an iPhone

The Life and Death of an iPhone

Sorry, I thought I’d be able to get an embed out of it. Follow the link to see the video, it’s well worth it.

This is a fantastic video from The Atlantic, shot on an iPhone about an iPhone. One of the best shorts on the use of smartphones I’ve seen in a while.

If anyone has any lingering doubt that compelling films can be shot on a phone, this creative short might squash it. Director Paul Trillo takes us through the life cycle of an iPhone from its perspective—from factory inception all the way to the screen-shattering end. Here, we get a snapshot of a young man’s life, and the mundane thrills and tribulations of being a young smartphone user. The short was filmed entirely on an iPhone and edited using the Vimeo app, Cameo.

The app effect

I saw this video during the less than wonderful 2015 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference keynote presentation but unfortunately, it was lost in a mess of a presentation.

It’s a brilliant video, and it reminds me of the old Knowledge Navigator video Apple made in 1987 to explore what computing might look like in the future.

This app effect video isn’t a mockup, it’s real now and yes, it’s all about Apple devices and apps, but it’s also about all handheld devices that have the ability to add applications that haven’t been thought of yet.

Of course, we’ve had this relationship of hardware and software (applications) since the dawn of personal computing in the late 1970’s but hand-held devices change the equation in powerful ways.

Paul Rand

My wife and I went to a small show at the Museum of the City of New York: Everything is Design: The Work of Paul Rand. I’ve been a fan of Paul Rand since my undergraduate days in fine arts when I’d pour through his work in Adweek annual compilations. An incredible amount of modern graphic art is standing on his shoulders.

Paul Rand is best known for iconic corporate logo designs for IBM, Westinghouse, NeXT*, UPS, ABC, and more but he did all types of design work: magazines page layout, all types of advertising, IBM Selectric typewriters, and more. He also illustrated children’s books that his wife wrote: I Know a Lot of Things and Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words.

The Cooper Hewitt has a very nice biography with illustrations: Paul Rand, American, 1914-1996, Illustrations/Objects.

There is also a connection to the work of Charles and Ray Eames here: similar Bauhaus influence and the “modern” 1950s which was wide open to this kind of work.

*The fact that Steve Jobs paid him $100,000 for the NeXT logo and corporate ID is a legendary story.

Lightroom 6

Adobe has released a new version of its photo editing and cataloging software, Lightroom.

Version 6 adds a few capabilities, fixes bugs, but most importantly it uses the GPU chips in modern computers more than previous versions which increases its speed dramatically in processor-intensive tasks. Check out the chart in this review: Lightroom 6 arrives with performance improvements and new tools.

Personally, I’m no fan of Adobe. While I think Lightroom is the best tool available there are UI and UX design issues that have persisted in it since it was born and as you will see below, Adobe just does not get user experience at all and treats users like thieves.

I was hoping that Apple’s new Photos application that has replaced both iPhoto and Aperture might be good enough for me to leave the Adobe ship once and for all, but after using Photos for a week I can say for sure that while it will no doubt improve in future versions, and I’ve moved my entire iPhoto library into it and thrown out iPhoto, Photos is not a replacement for Lightroom or Aperture for serious work with images.

Lightroom remains the best image editing and organizing tool out there for my photographic process and I upgraded to Lightroom 6 yesterday.

How to buy and/or upgrade

Adobe would like you to subscribe to their “Creative Cloud” which, for $9.99 a month gives you access to Lightroom and Photoshop and apps that run on mobile devices and a small amount of cloud space to store images to sync to multiple devices. I was concerned that this was the only way they were selling Lightroom and as a long time user I’m only interested in having the software running on my computer, not my iPad or iPhone.

If you’re not logged into the Adobe site and you scroll to the bottom of this page you’ll see 5 rectangles, the one in the bottom right says: Lightroom 6: For desktop only. Mobile capabilities not included, Buy Now. It pisses me off that Adobe buries the stand-alone application and they really want us all to subscribe so they’re pushing one over the other. I was logged into the Adobe site when I first went looking for this and it was not to be found. If you don’t see it, make sure you’re logged out (you can log back in later in the process).

Once you hit “Buy Now” and are looking at your cart, you’ll see Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 in your basket. Now comes the incredibly unintuitive part.

I was concerned that there was no upgrade path for users of earlier versions of Lightroom but in fact, there is but Adobe in all of it’s infinite wisdom (not) chose to bury it, again trying to force you to pay full price again. Ugh.

Click the “Edit” button on the right and you’ll notice that things will change on the left.

Where is says: “I want to buy: Full” note that “Full” is now a pulldown menu. Pull it down and choose “Upgrade.”

The next line is: “I own:” and a pulldown menu for the version of Lightroom you own. I own Lightroom 5.X so I chose it.

Lastly the click the orange “Save Changes” button at the bottom. The price will change from the full $149 price to the $79 upgrade price.

The orange button is now “Checkout” and once you click there you can pay for the upgrade and a screen or two later, download the Mac or Win version.

The rest is Adobe’s convoluted serial number entering process which, if you use their products you’ll be painfully familiar with.

Note: A big thank you to my good friend Edward for help with this. I had no clue it was possible to upgrade until he showed me the steps above.

Is it worth it?

In a word, yes. After opening my 8000 image library up (a mixture of Canon 5D RAWs, Ricoh GR RAWs and Sony RX100 RAWs) and moving through it I can say that on my mid-2014 Retina MacBook Pro (2.8 GHz Core i7, 16 GB memory, Intel Iris Pro 1536, 1TB SSD this upgrade of Lightroom is significantly faster at almost everything.

At some point this summer I plan to buy a Retina iMac for image editing and book creation and I was concerned that the rumors of Lightroom being slow on the huge, high resolution screen would be an issue. I’m pretty sure Adobe took care of that with this version which makes better use of the GPU to render images much faster.

All of my presets, both in the Develop module and the Print module are there and the application just feels snappier which is very nice considering I’m using it on a very fast computer.

For me and the kind of work I do this upgrade is worth it. $79 every two years might seem like a lot of money in this time where we buy apps from the Mac app store for $5 and they upgrade automatically for free, but in fact, Lightroom is a different animal and while I wish Adobe would put it in the app store with automatic .X upgrades, I don’t resent paying this kind of money for it as it’s a serious, industrial-strength application that does what it does well.

If you’re a desktop computer Lightroom user this upgrade is well worth doing.

Jason Snell on the new MacBook

The MacBook doesn’t need you to love it, but someone will

Coincidentally, Jason Snell has weighed in at almost the same time as I did on the new MacBook.

Apple shouldn’t build new tech to support people who are reluctant to give up old habits.

That’s a brilliant piece of thinking and writing and while I don’t feel it applies to me, it applies to many.

My questions about the new MacBook are less about the MacBook, more about my computing setup in general. The MacBook appeals to me as an outrigger to an iMac. If I weren’t considering an iMac I’m not sure I’d be considering a MacBook.

But, that brings up an interesting question: how many people will buy and use the MacBook as their only computer? If a person already has a portable computer (like me with a 15″ MacBook Pro) is there still a need for the MacBook as a more portable computing platform.

Maybe. People are attempting to use iPads as their only computing platform and if one can do that, one could use the MacBook as well.