Opinion: Will Apple’s Smart Home concept bring home automation to the masses?

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It’s the 21st Century: weren’t we all supposed to be living in automated homes by now? Where we walk in the door after a long day to have our home playing some soothing music, informing us that it’s run us a bath and that dinner will be ready in 45 minutes? Where a robot has done the cleaning, changed the flowers, accepted a parcel that arrived while we were at work and fed the cat?

That dream seems to be a long time coming. I’m a reasonably techy guy who loves the idea of home automation, yet even I only have three examples in my home (which I’ll mention along the way). Most mass-market consumers haven’t even noticed that the products exist, and the few who have tend to view it all as too complicated or fiddly.

If anyone can change that perception, it’s Apple. Which is why the Financial Times report yesterday that Apple is working on a new approach to home automation that may be unveiled at WWDC next week caught my attention …  Read more

Rumor: Apple working on ARM-based Mac variants with larger trackpad built into keyboard

Mac mini mid-2011 (Apple Thunderbolt Display, MagicTrackPad)

MacBidouille is the source of an interesting new rumor [translation] that Apple is currently experimenting with new ARM-powered Mac variants that include a Magic trackpad built into the system’s keyboard. The company is also reportedly working on a new version of OS X that will be compatible with these ARM machines.

According to MacBidouille’s sources, Apple is developing three new machines with this configuration: the aforementioned iMac and Mac mini as well as a 13″ MacBook, presumably a MacBook Air. The iMac and notebook are both said to have “4 or 8″ quad-core arm64 processors, while the Mac mini has only four.

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Mini review: Elgato Thunderbolt Dock

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There are Mac accessories that are exciting or fun, and others that are boring but useful. The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock most definitely falls into the latter category.

As regular readers will know, I’m of the view that wires are evil. Anything that can be wireless should be wireless, and any wires that are unavoidable should be hidden from sight. This is particularly easy if you have an Apple Thunderbolt Display, of course, since all you need in the way of wires from a MacBook is power and Thunderbolt: everything else can be plugged into the back of the monitor.

But if you share my aversion to visible wires and don’t have a Thunderbolt display, or you are frequently connecting and disconnecting your MacBook from a bunch of devices on your desk, the Elgato Thunderbolt Dock may be the answer …

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Apple reportedly planning massive Q3 rollout for iWatch, iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV updates

 

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KGI Research analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a timeline indicating that Apple is planning a massive rollout for multiple new products in Q3 2014. According to the Kuo, the only thing we can expect to see in the first half of the year is a small iMac update. Starting at the end of the third quarter and continuing into the beginning of the fourth, however, Apple will update most of its product lineup: iPad Air and mini, the Apple TV, and the MacBook family.

Two new products reportedly planned for this timeframe are the iWatch, which Kuo says will be available in two different sizes, and the long-rumored 4.7-inch iPhone. The 5.5-inch iPhone that was reportedly delayed due to manufacturing issues with the display is said to be coming near the end of Q4, making it the last release for this year. Read more

30-second smartphone charge demonstrated using biological semiconductors

I’d find this video hard to believe were it not for its credentials. The WSJ reports that StoreDot, the start-up behind the technology, has its background in the Nanotechnology department of Tel Aviv University, and it’s been demonstrated at Microsoft’s Think Next conference.

Ultra-fast battery charging has been seen before, but using special (and not very portable) battery technology. This system charges batteries compact enough for smartphones. It’s demonstrated here with a Samsung Galaxy S3, but the company says that it plans to make versions for other phones, which will could certainly include the iPhone …  Read more

When is Apple going to release a Retina MacBook Air? More signs point to ‘soon’

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Following a forum post from a Chinese website, Digitimes is reporting that Apple will indeed ship a brand new MacBook Air with Retina display in the second half of this year.

The Digitimes article offers no specifics on what the new MacBook Air will feature, aside from the Retina display. A forum poster (who has a track record of accuracy) from last week said that the new model of laptop would feature a fan-less design in an even thinner form factor than the current MacBook Airs’ enclosure.

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Review: $90 Kanex SimpleDock is a beautiful USB 3/Gigabit Ethernet Mac dock, without expensive Thunderbolt

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We’ve reviewed a fair bit of Thunderbolt docks for Mac here and one thing remains constant: The starting prices range well over $200 (Belkin’s a deal at $150) and that’s before you buy an expensive $30 Thunderbolt cable. The question is: Do you really need Thunderbolt to have a quality/usable dock for your MacBook? Can you get almost all of what you need just from USB 3?

Kanex sent me their $90 USB 3 SimpleDock a few months ago and I’ve put it through its paces ever since.  The first thing you’ll notice out of the box is that it is made extremely well, looks very ‘Apple’ and is substantial in weight. It doesn’t move when you plug in devices because of that weight and a rubberized bottom. On top, all you’ll see is a space that coincidentally fits an iPhone perfectly with a charger cable hole through the bottom. Around back, you’ll find 3 USB 3 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port as well as a 10W high powered ‘Charge-only’ port.

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So you are getting 3 products in one here: An iOS device quick charger, a USB3->Gigabit Ethernet adapter and 3 port USB 3 hub. The question is: Is the SimpleDock worth the $90?

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Rumor: 12-inch Retina MacBook/Air updates coming soon without fan or mechanical trackpad button

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A forum poster with a reputable history on WeiPhone.com [Google translate] (via MacRumors) claims to have information about an upcoming MacBook/Air refresh. According to this source, the new model will sport a 12-inch design close to the current 11.6-inch model, but will feature significant internal differences.

The updated MacBook will reportedly not have a fan, will feature a Retina display, and redesigned trackpad. This new trackpad will ditch the mechanical button that has been in the multi-touch trackpads since they first debuted. Instead, the new Air will use only tap gestures for clicking but may feature some tactile feedback to simulate a click.

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TwelveSouth announces new hand-finished ‘Rutledge BookBook’ case for MacBooks

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TwelveSouth, the company behind the popular BookBook series of cases for Apple devices that we’ve reviewed several times in the past, today announced a brand new option for MacBook users. The new “Rutledge BookBook” for MacBook is the first new product in the BookBook lineup in almost three years and the company says it’s also its most unique yet.

While the overall look of the case is much the same as BookBooks that came before it, TwelveSouth says the Rutledge case features a new process of finishing the leather by hand that makes it look even more like an authentic old book. It also makes every Rutledge BookBook unique: Read more

RIP Mac optical drives? Rumor suggests Apple to drop last non-Retina MacBook Pro this year

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DigiTimes is claiming that Apple will cease production of the non-Retina version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro this year as it prepares to launch refreshed Retina models toward the end of the year.

Apple is expected to stop production of the 13-inch MacBook Pro in the second half of 2014 and will replace the product line with thinner models equipped with a Retina display. Meanwhile, Intel will offer second-generation ultrabooks in the fourth quarter of 2014, pushing the notebook industry further into the ultra-thin era, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers …  Read more

Review: How I transformed my workspace w/ LandingZone’s MacBook Pro Dock

Think of it as an iPhone-style dock for your MacBook. At home you might have several things plugged into your MacBook’s various ports (hard drives, USB products, speakers, etc), which means disconnecting and reconnecting everything each time you leave or return with your MacBook. With LandingZone, everything gets connected to ports in the back of the dock, allowing you to simply place your MacBook in the dock and instantly connect to all your peripherals. When you leave, you can pop out your Mac and walk away in seconds without thinking twice about all the connected cables. It also packs in a 5-port USB hub, ethernet adapter, HDMI, and Mini DisplayPort all while reducing cable clutter on your desk. I’ve been using the latest LandingZone Dock model for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro for a couple weeks and it has truly transformed my workspace. Read more

Jimmy Fallon scrambles to hide his MacBook during Bill Gates interview (Video)

Bill Gates stopped by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night to talk about his various charitable endeavours and to promote the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual letter published today. Despite the serious subject matter, Jimmy still managed to squeeze in a few laughs including apologizing for the MacBook and Apple keyboard and mouse that sit on his desk each night before removing them for the rest of the interview.

And then there was this: Read more