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6 less-well-known Mac productivity tips

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Most anyone who uses a Mac day to day likely already knows the power of the Command-space command to get things done. But there are other, lesser-known ways, of being even more productive on a Mac.

Here are six of my favorite lesser-known tips.

Get out the way

Try this: Command-Option click any visible part of your Desktop and all the windows from all your open applications will disappear. It’s the easiest way to get there. Then use Command-Tab (App Switcher) to bring forward and get to the ones you need to work with.

Select text easily, one word at a time

When working with text, tap Option+left/right to tab through your copy one word at a time. Press shift at the same time to select the word — keep pressing and tapping to select more than one word. This is a super easy way to get to the right word when working with/editing documents.

Save time when you Save

If you work on multiple projects and save your content across multiple folders, it can become quite annoying to find the correct folder when saving a file.

You don’t have to do it that way; there’s a built-in Unix command to make life a little easier: When saving a file, type a / in the Save dialog box and you will be able to find your way to the correct folder from within that dialog.

I saved this file in Users/My Name/Documents/Folder name, for example.

You can also type /~/Pictures to save items into your Pictures folder, or /~/Documents to place them inside your Documents folder. That means that if you learn the path, you’ll even be able to save to a dedicated folder easily from within the Save dialog by typing /~/Documents/Folder name, for example.

Where did I put that file?

Sometimes you can find items in Spotlight, but can’t quite tell where they are on your Mac. Other times, you need to get the complete file path for other uses, such as developing software or even creating your own Automator scrips.

This is the easy way to get that info.

  • Find the file in Spotlight or Finder.
  • Right click the file to get the contextual menu.
  • Hold down the alt key while you do so, and you’ll see the Copy File command turn to Copy Path to File.
  • Choose this to copy the path to the file to your Clipboard and paste it where you must place it.

Don’t neglect that you can also drag your most frequently used folders into the Favorites section in Finder for easy access . And a quick tap of Option-Command-Space will open a new Finder window wherever you happen to be.

The power of the Favicon

When working in a Saved document, you’ll see a small icon appear to the left of the file name at the top of the document window. The icon isn’t just decorative. Pop your cursor above it, select it, and you can then move that little icon around just as if it were the document itself. Use this to drop it into different folders, pop it into emails or messages, or even place the item inside other applications for further processing. Once you’re accustomed to using this, it should save you a ton of time.

Image conversion

If you take a lot of screenshots or collect lots of images, and need to convert them into a different format, you can save yourself a lot of hassle using either of these tips:

Convert Image

Select the image and right click to get to the contextual menu, where you choose Convert Image; you can then select the image format (JPEG, PNG, HEIF) and Image Size, with or without image data.

Use a Folder Action

Create a new Folder, perhaps on your Desktop and give it a name, such as “Images for Website.” You’re going to build a Folder Action — a powerful automation that will transform any image you pop into that folder into the relevant dimensions.

Select the folder, right click and in the contextual menu choose Services>Folder Actions /Setup…. You’ll be asked to click the Run Service button.

An unattractive dialog box will appear with a bunch of options. For this tutorial choose Image — Duplicate as JPEG.scpt. Save and ensure Enable Folder Actions is ticked to on.

In the future, any image you drop into that folder will be converted for you.

If you want an even more powerful image conversion automation, you can create one in Automator. I use one of these to both convert and resize images for use on a website. Follow this simple guide (or this one) to learn some of the principles of building these.

For fun

Tap Control-Command-Space to open your Emoji selector, just tap one to place it. Or keep pressing a character on your keyboard to access alternate uses, such as e or é.

Want more?

I’ve curated multiple collections of Mac tips — here are 10 more productivity tips for Mac.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

5 more out-of-sight options to supercharge Google Assistant on Android

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Google Assistant may not be the shiny new A.I. superstar of the moment, but it’s a surprisingly useful resource just waiting to hop in and help on any Android phone you’re carrying.

And some of its most helpful options are buried deep within the service’s virtual bowels.

Continuing on the theme of hidden settings for a smarter Assistant Android experience, today, we’ll pick up where we left off on Wednesday and explore another five easily overlooked Google Assistant Android options. Dig ’em up, check ’em out, and add ’em into your own personal Assistant setup, and you’ll find your favorite familiar helper growing ever more helpful and tuned into your needs.

Google Assistant Android option No. 1: The shortcut supernova

Few mere mortals realize it, but Google Assistant’s got a whole universe of time-saving shortcuts just waiting to be activated on your favorite Android phone.

These shortcuts are highly customizable and connected to specific apps installed on your device. They’re some of Assistant’s most useful on-demand commands — if you figure out how to activate ’em.

[Psst: If you love shortcuts, come check out my free Android Shortcut Supercourse next. It’ll teach you tons of time-saving tricks for your phone — going way beyond just Assistant!]

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple’s $117.2 billion Q1 misses earnings expectations

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Apple on Thursday reported revenues of $117.2 billion in the first fiscal quarter, off 5% from a year earlier. While there were several bright spots, the financial report confirmed iPhone supply challenges plagued the company in the last three months of 2022, compounded by the effects of a strong dollar.

The numbers game

The overall numbers tell the story:

  • Product sales generated $96.3 billion compared to $104.4 billion in Q1 FY 22.
  • Services generated $20.7 billion, up from $19.5 billion a year ago.

Apple’s execs cited a difficult foreign exchange environment and supply chain challenges as the main problems. They explained the company revenue did grow on a “constant currency basis” — though the currency wasn’t constant and revenue didn’t grow as a result.

It could have been worse. Apple had anticipated the strong dollar would shave 10% off company revenue; the actual impact was 8%.

Notably, research and development spending rose considerably, from $6.3 billion in Q1 FY 22 to $7.7 billion in the most recent quarter. That’s a big increase as Apple preps new products and services over the coming 12 months.

And while quarterly revenue was down from the year ago quarter, it was up on every other quarter back to 2018. The company also returned its second-highest ever earnings per share, iPhone and services revenue in the quarter.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple’s growth story is consistent and sustained

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No matter the recent issues with Apple’s supply chain, the war in Ukraine, and COVID-19, when you zoom out, you’ll see a bigger picture of success for the company. 

It’s the picture of consistent growth.

Growth? But Mac sales are down, year on year — right? Yes, they are. But PC sales have fallen further, Apple is gaining market share and while the overall PC market has declined massively, the Mac has gone from strength to strength.

Just look at the data. IDC results for 2019-2022 show that across the last three years the Mac has seen a 60% increase in market share while the PC market grew 6%, as Jamf CEO Dean Hager has pointed out.

That’s why Macs now account for 10.8% of all global PC shipments and 17% in the US.

But this isn’t just happening to the Mac.

Growth (again)

When it comes to smartphones, Apple is experiencing steady increases in its industry share; it leads when it comes to wearables, and even the tablet industry (which consists of iPads, but also covers low budget, low power slates) delivers strong numbers.

While we may see some weakness in the current quarter (financial results will be out later today) and relative disappointment during any recession, the momentum favors Apple. It’s also generating larger share in emerging economies.

I don’t need to repeat myself with how these gains in consumer markets are also delivering benefits in enterprise IT. The tech professionals who read Softwaretoolapps are surely already experiencing that as multitudinous surveys show the ascent of Apple in the enterprise. This has almost become a given.

More growth in mobile

Look closely and you may recognize that, for a generation at least, the company seems set to continue this progress, particularly around mobile devices.

You can also discern the direction of travel in the MDM enterprise markets.

What I think I’m seeing is more movement toward mergers and acquisitions affecting those vendors that try to serve multiple operating systems, while integrated single vendor firms seem to be thriving a little more.

That’s not intended as a slam against the companies in that space that do support all operating systems — I see the good work you do — just to point out that the focus remains on Apple. That’s where the market is going, which means any Apple-focused MDM solution cannot be limited by the other platforms they support.

Slow and steady is better

Seventeenth-century French playwright, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (better known as Moliere) put it this way: “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”

That makes sense in gardening, and certainly applies in Apple’s case.

The company which once hovered around 4% market share and was bought back from the brink of oblivion by a smart man with an iMac vision; a firm that switched successfully to Unix-based OS X, which it then put through an alchemical transfiguration to turn into dominance (or at least leadership) in mobile, is now growing in all its business sectors at a faster rate than the rest of the industry.

At least, that’s how it seems when you zoom out.

Short term struggles — the “one-step-forward, one-step-back” routine we all endure –— are normal. The trick is to stay focused on what you’ll do once temporal troubles take flight, the “stay hungry” approach some may recall from a former Apple CEO.

But as Apple’s trees head into bloom, and while many forces (competitors, regulators, and a handful of charlatans) aim to seize some of their crop, the big picture seems positive, despite short term problems.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

5 hidden settings for a smarter Google Assistant Android experience

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Ah, Google Assistant. Sure seems like our trusty ol’ Android-dwellin’ pal is getting brushed over a lot as of late, doesn’t it?

First came the fact that Google made nary a mention of its honey-voiced virtual genie at the big honkin’ Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas last month — and that’s after years of Assistant and its “Hey Google” catchphrase being placarded practically everywhere at that event and being the company’s core focus.

But even more broadly is the ongoing emphasis on ChatGPT-like artificial intelligence tools right now and the awkward disconnect between what those services can offer and what Assistant has long been able to handle. While the A.I. in those newer tools absolutely goes further than Assistant’s current capabilities, it’s curious that hardly anyone’s making the connection or talking about the fact that all this new stuff feels like more of an upgrade to what’s already available with Assistant than any sort of wholly new setup.

We’re expecting to hear a whole lot more about Google’s expanding A.I. ambitions at this year’s Google I/O event in the spring, but in the meantime, I thought it’d be a fine time to focus on our familiar Android A.I. companion and work on unearthing some of its current underappreciated abilities.

All easily forgotten Assistant commands aside, Google Assistant’s got some splendidly useful settings that are out of sight and all too easy to overlook — and if you take the time to dig ’em up and revisit ’em, you’ll find yourself enjoying a smarter, more efficient, and more productive Assistant experience this very minute.

Keep reading to see what you’ve been missing — and when you’re ready for even more advanced Android knowledge, come check out my free Android Shortcut Supercourse. We’ll go way beyond Assistant and explore tons of time-saving tricks for every part of your personal Android experience.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

US agency calls Apple, Google App Stores ‘harmful’

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Apple appears to have been given yet another set of reasons to expand its legal team as the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) calls for antitrust action to force Apple and Google to make big changes to their mobile app store business models.

What’s the problem?

NTIA is the principal advisor on telecommunications and Internet policy to the Biden administration. It argues that the way things are run at present may be “harmful,” arguing that Google’s and Apple’s “gatekeeper” positions may harm consumers by raising prices and reducing innovation.

Among a raft of criticisms, the agency argues that some restrictions favor some apps over others. “In some areas, such as in-app payments, it is unclear how the current system benefits anyone other than Apple and Google,” NTIA says.

While it does concede the existing status quo has provided a range of benefits to app developers and users, the regulators still want to force both ecosystems to open up to greater competition.

The criticism does at least pay some lip service to Apple’s strong arguments concerning security and privacy and how its stores provide both, but on the strength of 150 conversations seems to think those should become a “feature” (see below).

It’s about ‘fairness’

Following President Biden’s Wall Street Journal piece in which the president called for a bipartisan approach to reeling in the Big Tech firms and how they use personal data, this is the icing on the cake of criticism from regulators worldwide concerning both companies’ business practices.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple wants to build a new computing platform with AR

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Apple’s plan to create an App Store and an easy way to create mixed-reality apps offers an important insight into its strategy and confirms that the company sees these devices as platforms, not peripherals. And when considering the business case for them, we need to see whether they hit that mark.

A new platform

The big-ticket news is that Apple wants to make it possible for any user to create AR/VR apps for these devices. (It even seems ready to allow Siri to drop items into virtual experiences.)

Critics argue that Apple may not have identified a key app for these unannounced systems. And they note that the cost of the device (apparently $2,000+), limited battery life, and small content catalogue at launch means consumers will be less interested.

But I never believed Apple is gunning for the consumer market just yet. It has a larger objective. I think it sees the first iterations of these devices as the birth of a new computing platform, more like the introduction of the Mac than of the iPhone.

Apple wants to build a new paradigm

Think back to two other great computing inflection points: the invention of desktop publishing and the creation of the first significant mobile app store for iPhone.

Just as desktop publishing spawned tens of thousands of computer-driven graphic designers and the App Store begat hundreds of thousands of app developers, Apple wants its mixed-reality glasses to have the same degree of impact.

It wants to both present these new environments and democratize the process of building for them.

The Information even reports you’ll be able to use a Mac keyboard and mouse with these systems, while using the glasses to replace the computer display. Apple is also said to be developing a gesture-based system so that you don’t even need a keyboard, though this isn’t ready yet.

These won’t only be lean-back entertainment systems, nor will they just be augmented reality guides – they’ll do both, but Apple seems to want its glasses to become creative tools.

It wants them to become important creative tools to enable expression and innovation at the intersection of technology in the liberal arts, because that’s what it usually wants its products to become.

This is a creative platform

Apple doesn’t want to be wholly responsible for content on its device. It wants to bring in its army of developers and audience of creatives and empower them to stake new frontiers in Apple reality.

Just as desktop publishing meant everyone in the world suddenly believed they could design pizza menus, approachable AR app creation will (perhaps) unlock new creative possibilities, some of which will become iconic.

The Information tells us the company is prepared to make a loss on product sales but is also developing lower-cost systems for release in two or three years.

This leads me to think this release won’t be about the hardware, but about the ecosystem – and that also means bringing a bona fide creative platform to market.

What this means to business

OK, so you’re a business, why should this matter to you?

Take training. Given around two-thirds of businesses are expected to use solutions like these for employee training systems, bringing home an approachable app development ecosystem means building such apps will be more affordable.

Add a little AI, a sugaring of machine vision intelligence, location awareness, and spatial sensors — and your business may suddenly find itself empowered to affordably create digital twins for use across a wide range of disciplines.

Just ask Siri to scan an object you want to use, choose a physics engine, and watch it run. That looks like a great front end for complex modeling.

The 22nd Century Mac

These things aren’t intended to be a console game or TV set you get to wear.vThey are Macs you’ll wear like sunglasses, and whatever Apple brings to market will only be the first step toward that.

After all, as another tech CEO famously said, “Our goal is not only to win, but to accelerate its arrival.” 

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

MacStadium sees a ‘massive opportunity’ for Apple in business markets

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After Apple introduced its amazing M2 Mac mini, I caught up with one of the world’s biggest Mac mini customers, MacStadium, for some insights into how the company views the new systems.

“I’ve never been more optimistic for the Mac platform,” said Chris Chapman, MacStadium’s CTO. “When we first started, the rate of change for Macs was something like five to seven years per model. It was specific.

“Their proliferation into the business and enterprise market was still a little fuzzy because iPhones were new, and Macs were good for specific people,” he said. “This has changed — they are becoming the de facto standard for laptop, desktop, and phone and you’re really starting to see it become pervasive. It starts with the consumer but has grown to pervade business and enterprises everywhere.”

We agreed that this is another illustration of the need to keep enterprise tech consumer simple, but enterprise capable.

The pandemic drove many to switch to Macs for professional work, and the move to Apple Silicon accelerated that existing trend.

“It’s amazing how much cheaper and how much more performant these things are becoming, generation over generation, it’s providing an Incredible platform for us to build off,” Chapman said. (MacStadium last year supplemented its traditional Mac server offer when it began offering virtual Mac desktops.

Apple and the enterprise

Apple has a lot of room for growth in enterprise markets, which remain Windows based — though, perhaps, not forever.

After all, we already know employees will select Macs more often than any other platform if given a choice. And as Apple iterates its processors and delivers faster and more powerful machines at a consistent rate, many in the business world are realizing, probably belatedly, that Macs are for everyone.

There’s a strong business case to be made.

“I think there’s a massive opportunity for them in the business and enterprise market, and I think the way they’ve turned the tables on being the fastest, most energy-efficient computers out there mean the switch makes a ton of sense to business,” said Chapman.

With a strong, vibrant ecosystem of enterprise-focused, Apple-savvy service providers available to help businesses use Apple’s platforms, the migration is easier than ever before.

MacStadium feeds into this mix, as it means businesses can quickly provision global teams with virtual Macs and enterprise developers can hire the horsepower they need for rapid compiling and testing of code.

Mac Stadium doesn’t just offer its own services; it can also help companies move toward Macs from their existing systems. “We don’t just provide the tools but also the enterprise expertise to show how it fits into your business,” he said.

The bottom line is that in some business scenarios, provisioning is much easier using hosted Macs. The service also means any user considering a switch can try one or more remote Macs first for the cost of a month’s rental.

The last years of Intel Mac support?

Mac Stadium offers Mac as a service for developers, enterprises, hybrid-work setups and many other groups of users. These are proper Macs hosted in data centers that work like Macs. You can run Xcode and Mac apps on these virtualized desktops (with both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs available). Mac Stadium will deploy Mac mini M2 models next.

“We already have them ordered,” Chapman said They’ll be “up on the racks” as soon as they arrive, he said, predicting the GPU and CPU improvements in these models will deliver much better customer experiences.

“From a hardware perspective I think the new M2 platform trumps some of the best desktop PCs anywhere in a form factor that’s ridiculously small and supports all the monitors you need,” he says. “I think business and customers will gravitate to the platform.”

Mac Stadium continues to offer Intel Macs as a service, in part because developer customers need access to them as they must build on both platforms. But Chapman thinks the pace of Apple Silicon evolution and the steady migration across the Mac range means support for Intel Macs will fade out in the next couple of years.

“I think we’re reaching the end of the journey for Intel in terms of the support perspective,” he said, “as customers roll into Apple Silicon…. I think in a year or two there will be a very small percentage of Intel Macs in use in the Mac world.”

This suggests Apple will remove Intel support at some point.

Down on the (server) farm

It is interesting to note that fitting Mac minis into the standard enclosures used in data centers required some proprietary design. MacStadium had to build racks to accomodate their Macs that fitted the industry standard spaces provided by data centers.

(Apple’s Studio Mac is also rackable in this way, but “we can only get 48 of them into the rack, compared to 96 Mac minis in the same space,” Chapman said.)

One of the most important features of Apple’s M-series chips is their low power consumption, even at computational maximums.

That’s important to any business running multiple Macs. With something like 30,000 Macs on its racks, Mac Stadium’s experience seems worth sharing.

Chapman explained that data centers sell space by the square foot, and calculate energy costs within that calculation. However, the power efficiency of Apple Silicon means MacStadium doesn’t hit those energy expectations.

“They’re always calling us up to tell us we’re not using enough power for the space,” he said.

This low power also means less heat, which makes it possible to engineer the Mac racks to hold many more Macs in the space.

“Macs are just very, very power efficient,” he said. That’s going to make a real difference to any company chasing climate change targets, as reducing energy costs across their computing stack may help meet those aims.

“We want to use much less energy; we think that’s the best thing for the world,” Chapman said.

It’s perhaps the biggest illustration yet of the consequence of high performance at low wattage.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

9 handy hidden features in Google Docs on Android

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Few apps are as essential to mobile productivity as the humble word processor. I think I’ve probably spent a solid seven years of my life staring at Google Docs on one device or another at this point, and those minutes only keep ticking up with practically every passing day.

While we can’t do much about the need to gaze at that word-filled white screen, what we can do is learn how to make every moment spent within Docs count — and in the Docs Android app, specifically, there are some pretty spectacular tucked-away time-savers just waiting to be discovered.

Make a mental note of these advanced shortcuts and options, and put ’em to good use the next time you find yourself staring at Docs on your own device.

Google Docs Android feature No. 1: In-app multitasking

We’ll save the best for, erm, first — ’cause the easily overlooked feature we’re kickin’ things off with really has the potential to change the way you work from your phone. It’s called Explore, and it’s one of those options I always forget to use and then periodically realize how much I’m missing out on as a result.

The basic point of Explore is to let you research any subject you’re writing about without ever leaving the Docs app. Just tap the three-dot menu icon in Docs’ upper-right corner while you’re editing a document and then select Explore — and just like that, you’ll get a list of suggested topics and images related to terms found within your document.

Google Docs Android: ExploreJR

You can tap on any topic to drill down further and browse through actual web results for the term, and the results will pop up right then and there as an overlay atop your in-progress document. You can even view entire web pages in that same arrangement, without the need for any cumbersome app switching or awkward split-screen setups.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Cisco’s Mac choice scheme confirms Apple’s future in enterprise tech

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Two-thirds of employees would use a Mac at work if given the choice, and companies that fail to offer hardware options to their employees are making a mistake.

That’s one of the inferences I see reprised in a report exploring Cisco’s approach to Mac deployment across its business that crossed my desk last week. Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin looked at Cisco’s Mac enterprise team, now led by former IBM CIO Fletcher Previn.

At IBM, Previn shared vast amounts of internal data to show that employees preferred Macs and those who do cost the company less in tech support, are more loyal, and they’re more productive.

“Mac users are happier and more productive,” Previn said.

He believes the IT you provide to workers reflects how your company thinks about its employees. One way to show respect: offer them platform choice.

Bajarin says too many companies don’t — and even those that seemingly do offer platform options do so half-heartedly, without full tech support. 

“Often, it means getting cut off from managed upgrades, support tickets, and often lack of access to applications,” he writes. “Most IT organizations keep the Mac users in their organization at arm’s length.”

When given the choice, users go Mac

But that’s not the case at Cisco. The company says 59% of new hires are choosing Macs and 65% of existing workers switch to Apple’s platform when they get the chance to upgrade.

There are 56,000 Macs in use at Cisco. These work alongside 68,000 Windows PCs (under 50% of which are used by internal employees). There are also 56,000 mobile devices, 85% of them running iOS.

This tech stack is spread across 500 offices in 99 nations with 140,000 employees requiring tech support.

Cisco has found that when employees using Windows laptops were given the chance to upgrade, 24% of them chose to switch to Mac.

The direction of travel isn’t terribly hard to see. IDC estimates the average penetration of Macs in use across US enterprise has already hit 23%.

The employee experience is your business

Employee satisfaction benefits from choice and the desire to use the same great technologies at work that’s available at home. Business must see that failing to provide tech choice erodes employee experience, which in turn generates poor productivity and damages staff retention. This demoralization also reduces employee engagement, which then impacts the customer experience.

In other words, not offering device choice is bad for business. No wonder Bajarin believes there’s a great deal of “pent-up demand for Macs in the workplace.”

We know the demand is accelerating because, as Jamf CEO Dean Hager once told me, “Technology isn’t just part of the employee experience, it is the entire employee experience. So employers are going to want to make it a good one.”

The evolution of enterprise tech

The momentum Apple has built in the enterprise has spawned a vast ecosystem of enterprise-friendly solutions providers who can help integrate its kit into existing deployments. Cisco even spoke at Jamf’s annual JNUC event to explain how it supports Macs across its business. (You can watch that video here.)

That means for most organizations there is no good argument to deny Apple’s platforms full white-glove tech support, device management, or managed upgrades.

At Cisco (as at IBM, SAP and elsewhere) we’ve seen big companies bring Mac expertise in-house to ensure users on their teams don’t suffer through a second-rate experience. Why, to coin a phrase, live like the Jetsons at home and the Flintstones at work?

“The Mac has become an essential workplace tool and there is no escaping that reality,” writes Bajarin.

Considering all the recent evidence, it’s hard to do anything but agree.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

13 advanced tips for Android 13

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Let’s get one thing out of the way here: Android 13 absolutely isn’t your average Android update.

There’s no way around it: Google’s most recent Android version looks pretty ho-hum on the surface. It almost seems like a subtle refinement to last year’s far more consequential-feeling Android 12 release, with few marquee features and the appearance of more polish than progression.

The reality is much more complicated. Android 13 actually is significant — monumentally so. In fact, it may ultimately prove to be one of Android’s most important releases. But its most consequential changes are aimed at the tablet and foldable front, and most of us won’t feel the full effect of their presence quite yet.

While the software’s impact on the traditional phone front may be relatively limited, though, Android 13 definitely does deliver some noteworthy new stuff. And whether you’ve had the software on your phone for months or you received it much more recently, there’s bound to be something useful you haven’t yet discovered.

Here, fittingly, are 13 such treasures just waiting to be found.

Note that these features are presented as they apply to Google-made Pixel phones and Samsung-made Galaxy devices, specifically. Different device-makers modify Android in different ways, so if you’re using a phone made by any other company, the availability and exact presentation of some items may vary.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Microsoft says cloud demand waning, plans to infuse AI into products

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Microsoft on Tuesday said it expects the growth across its cloud business to temper down through 2023 as enterprises brace for economic headwinds.

The Windows-maker reported 29% growth in total cloud revenue to $21.5 billion for the second quarter of fiscal year 2023, slowing from Q1, 2023 where the company posted 31% growth for the segment. These numbers exclude the impact of currency fluctuations. Microsoft said it expects its third quarter cloud gross margin to decrease by one percentage point, driven by Azure.

Microsoft Azure and other cloud services grew 38% in constant currency terms on a year-on-year basis, slowing down by 4% from the previous sequential quarter. 

“As I noted earlier, we exited Q2 with Azure growth in the mid-30s in constant currency. And from that, we expect Q3 growth to decelerate roughly four to five points in constant currency,” Amy Hood, chief financial officer at Microsoft, said during an earnings call.

The growth in cloud number is expected to slow down further through the year, warned Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella.

“As I meet with customers and partners, a few things are increasingly clear. Just as we saw customers accelerate their digital spend during the pandemic, we are now seeing them optimize that spend,” Nadella said during the earnings call, adding that enterprises were exercising caution in spending on cloud.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Review: The M2 Mac mini is the perfect desktop for most users

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Nothing is the same with Apple Silicon. While the leap from M1 to M2 chips doesn’t deliver quite as big a  performance improvement as the jump from previous Mac chips to Apple Silicon did, it still adds enough juice to ensure that even the entry-level M2 Mac mini does what most people need.

The Geekbench tests

Here are some Geekbench performance figures for entry-level Mac mini configurations dating back to 2011. The M2 system data was generated by a test machine made available by Apple:

  • Mid 2011: 506 single-core, 1,262 multi-core.
  • Late 2012: 570 single-core, 1,278 multi-core.
  • Late 2014: 771 single-core, 1,503 multi-core.
  • Late 2018: 895 single-core, 3,183 multi-core.
  • Mini M1 late 2020: 1,715 single-core, 7,442 multi-core.
  • Mini M2 early 2023: 1,943 single-core, 8,916 multi-core*.

Data only tells part of the story, of course. But what’s clear is that generation by generation, Apple on Intel achieved relatively modest performance gains. Then Apple Silicon arrived, and now you can expect far more significant generational improvements across the line.

Word is that high-end Mac mini M2 Pro systems compete with Apple’s current King of Desktops, the Mac Studio, at least in benchmark terms. And these entry-level Macs deliver the same kind of computational ability as the Intel-based iMac Pro. That’s significant.

Apple continues to exploit its control over the hardware, software, and (now) processor to tweak systems to do the things you need better. In this release, you get faster processors and graphics processors, as well as much higher memory bandwidth and far better media handling.

What Mac mini do I have?

I’ve been using Apple’s $799 Mac mini. That’s the same basic model as the $599 version, but with double the SSD storage (512GB instead of 256GB) and the same 8GB memory. Otherwise, it offers the same specifications, which include an 8-core CPU with a 10-core GPU and support for up to 24GB of unified memory running at 100GBps.

When I looked at the first Mac mini with an M1 chip I ran a range of tests. I repeated them this time and the new mini handled anything I threw at it; never once did it seem to struggle.

It’s cool, quiet, capable, and barely got warm to the touch even when working with multiple music tracks. Imaging improvements were evident: Pixelmator handled image transitions significantly faster, Photoshop was happier and GarageBand trundled out its tunes while I manically added additional instrument tracks.

A couple of additional benchmarks:

  • Cinebench gave scores of 8606 (multi-core) and 1,623 (single-core).
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0 returned a score of 2,146 at 1920×1080-pixel resolution, though this test relies on Rosetta emulation and has not been optimized to run natively on Apple Silicon.

Both tests confirm big improvements in graphics performance compared to the M1, just as Apple promised. (Apple boasted of 35% faster GPU performance, and I’m  seeing that.) That means you can expect a 50% improvement when handling files in Photoshop, for example. You’ll also fly through apps, thanks to the 50% faster memory bandwidth.

All this performance starts at $599 — though you do need a keyboard, mouse, and display. The M2 Mac mini will support up to two displays, one at up to 6K.

Which brings something else to mind….

Is the age of all-in-one over?

There was a time when I preferred all-in-one systems, but I’ve moved on. Repair is expensive, recycling a pain and because you lose your display as well as your computer when you do upgrade it feels like separates may be a better environmental choice.

It just makes sense to upgrade the computer but keep the keyboard, mouse, and display. It also makes upgrades more affordable, as you can buy the PC but keep the rest. At $599 per seat, the Mac mini hits this need head on. As the benchmark data and my anecdotal experience show, you get a powerful Mac capable of most daily tasks while also fit for processor-intensive work.

If you are migrating to Macs in your business or putting employee choice schemes in place, it is worth noting that these use far less energy than other competing desktops and may also be compatible with the keyboards, mice, and monitors your teams already use, reducing switching costs.

Businesses should also think about the computer power-per-watt with these systems, as at scale the Mac mini is a cheaper PC to run. I’d also argue that in combination with an iPad Air for light mobile tasks, this may be all the computer some knowledge workers need. 

The upgrade quandary

Is it a big enough upgrade compared to the M1 Mac mini?

Honestly, I was so impressed with that model that I purchased one of my own. This time around? I’m considering it because the price is right and the performance a definite improvement on M1.

However, if you or your teams are using Intel-based Macs, the M2 absolutely justifies the upgrade. Apple’s Mac development road map currently suggests we’ll see yet more improvement (especially around energy use) with the 3-nanometer M3 chips; those may reach Mac mini in late 2024 and offer another leap in performance.

What’s not to like?

The most trivial criticism might be that the Mac mini shape hasn’t changed much — it’s the same small discreet box it’s always been (and will probably remain). A second criticism: the M2 model features just two Thunderbolt and two USB-A ports, though if you need additional Thunderbolt ports the (more expensive, but also more powerful) M2 Pro system offers four.

A third criticism would be the cost of additional BTO storage, which is always high, and the difficulty of replacing the SSD storage modules. It may be best to use innovative peripherals such as those from Satechi to help meet any additional storage/I/O needs, as once again this modular approach makes it easier and more affordable to upgrade the core system.

One criticism that doesn’t really exist since the introduction of the last M1 Mac mini is that most key third-party applications should now run natively on the processor. The ones that don’t should be replaced.

Must or miss?

Apple’s Mac mini has at last shown itself to be the swan in waiting it always was.  More flexible than all-in-one systems and delivering power far beyond its price-driven punch, the mini’s latest improvements make it tempting, but probably not mandatory, to existing M1 Mac users.

The mini is a definite contender for anyone still on an Intel Mac or a Windows PC who wants to make the transition to a desktop Apple Silicon Mac. It’s a fabulous low(er) cost system for switchers or employers provisioning desk-based employees who want their work machines to be as good as the ones they use at home.

And this is the paradigm shift in action. Nothing is the same with Apple Silicon. Apple’s new processor architecture means each Mac Apple ships is improving at a pace we’ve never seen the company deliver before. As it does, it’s changing the language (and the market share) of the PC industry, and this new beginning has only just begun for Cupertino.

Other than the needs of high-end creatives and the trend toward mobile Macs, I really see no compromise in this machine. The Mac mini M2 is a fantastic desktop Mac for most of us. 

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Apple appeals UK probe, but is it just buying time?

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Apple has filed an appeal against the UK competition watchdog’s decision to launch an investigation against it and Google into their dominance of mobile services.

Apple has appeal

The iPhone maker’s legal team argues that the probe should be reviewed, arguiing it missed timing requirements to launch an investigation, Reuters explains. Then UK  Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will continue to look into the matter while defending its decision.

The CMA argues that the investigation aims to give UK consumers more choice while providing developers with more opportunity to innovate. It also notes that 97% of all UK mobile web browsing relies on either Apple’s or Google’s browser engines.

What issues are being investigated?

The CMA announced plans to launch an investigation in November. There are three primary strands that affect Apple:

  • One involves the impact of control of the browser market on developers.
  • Another involves Apple’s insistence that browsers on its platform use its own WebKit browsing technology. In its November announcement, the CMA warned this may hold back “potentially disruptive innovation.”
  • And the CMA is also looking at Apple’s refusal to permit cloud gaming services on the App store.

“We plan to investigate whether the concerns we have heard are justified and, if so, identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors,” Sarah Cardell, the CMA interim CEO, said announcing the investigation.

What is the effect of the appeal?

Apple’s appeal of the investigation may or may not succeed, but it seems plausible — given the nature of UK law — that the investigation could be slowed. Ultimately the CMA aims to finish its investigation by or before early summer 2024.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

8 advanced Android clipboard tricks

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You’d never know it, but one of the most potential-packed parts of your favorite Android phone is a feature you rarely actually see.

It’s mostly invisible by design, in fact — and yet, if you teach yourself how to tap into it, you’ll save time, increase your efficiency, and feel like a total smartphone sorcerer.

The feature of which we speak is the humble-seeming Android clipboard — the simple virtual space where anything you copy stays tucked away out of sight ’til you’re ready to use it.

If you haven’t spent much time thinking about the Android clipboard, believe me: You aren’t alone. But my goodness, are you ever missing out.

So allow me to introduce you to some of the most advanced and easily overlooked productivity boosters hiding away in your phone’s invisible holding space. Copy these tricks into your noggin, and before you know it, you’ll be slashing all sorts of wasted seconds out of your day.

[Psst: Love shortcuts? My Android Shortcut Supercourse will teach you tons of time-saving tricks for your phone. Sign up now for free!]

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

iCloud for Windows: What is it (and how do you use it)?

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If you use both Apple and Windows devices, then you should also be using iCloud for Windows. It’s an app for your Windows system that enables you to access iCloud data and features from your PC.

To get started, first download the app from Microsoft’s App Store.

iCloud for Windows Microsoft

iCloud for Windows is avalable in MIcrsofot’s App Store.

What is Apple’s iCloud?

iCloud is an essential component across the Apple universe. It’s used to share iCloud Drive files, sync contacts, devices, and other personal data, and to provide access to a variety of Apple’s services including key apps such as Photos and Mail. You also get access to limited collaboration and sharing features along with a powerful password manager.

Apple understands that many of its customers rely on multiple platforms for different tasks, using, for exmple, an iPhone and a Windows PC. With that in mind, it recently introduced new applications to replace iTunes for Windows, including dedicated TV, Music, and device management apps.

It is also why the company works to make iCloud services cross-platform through the iCloud for Windows app; in addition to being a free download from Microsoft’s App Stores, it’s also available directly from Apple.

Then app requires a PC running Windows 10 (the 64-bit May 2019 Update or later) or Windows 11.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.