Review: Kanex’s Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock is a handy MacBook hub with middle-of-pack features, pricing

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As I’ve said before, Thunderbolt 2 docks are a really great idea for MacBook users. Before now, there were three major options: Belkin’s $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express HD DockElgato’s $220 Thunderbolt 2 Dock (review), and CalDigit’s $226 Thunderbolt Station 2 (review). All three are designed for the same purpose — to connect a bunch of peripherals (including hard drives, a monitor, and audio cables) to your Mac with one Thunderbolt 2 cable — and they all have the same core peripheral ports, with small differences to set them apart from one another.

This month, Kanex is entering the fray with the Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock ($250), which looks a lot like Belkin’s dock but is closer in price to Elgato’s and CalDigit’s. Aluminum on the top and bottom with a black plastic core, it has a front-mounted USB 3.0 port with two more on the back, and comes bundled with a power adapter and 3.3-foot Thunderbolt cable. While it doesn’t stand out in any major way from its earlier rivals, it’s competently executed and attractively designed, with some modest feature tweaks that prospective buyers should know about…

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Review: Swapping MagSafe for SnapFit, BatteryBox adds 60Wh of portable power to MacBook Airs, Pros

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Thanks to Apple’s patent on the MagSafe connectors used in MacBook Airs and Pros, the list of third-party external batteries for MacBooks previously began with Hyper’s HyperJuice/HyperJuice 2 and ended with Lenmar’s ChugPlug — not much of a variety. Apple’s legal department chased Hyper for attaching harvested MagSafe connectors to its batteries, and Lenmar chose a workaround, sending ChugPlug’s power indirectly though an Apple wall adapter. Neither solution was ideal. It took until now for a completely different third solution to appear: BatteryBox ($220) from Gbatteries Energy.

BatteryBox is the first MacBook power option I’ve tested that doesn’t require either MagSafe or an Apple wall adapter to function. Since the developers went out of their way to create something that won’t run afoul of Apple’s legal team, there’s absolutely nothing Mac-like about its brick-like rectangular design. And it’s not cheap, priced between the two HyperJuices and higher than ChugPlug, which can now be had for only $100. But it works, adding a 60-watt-hour additional battery to the 38-95-watt-hour cells already inside MacBook Airs and Pros. So if you’re on the road without access to a power outlet and need to add hours of additional runtime to your Apple laptop, this is a viable alternative….

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Inklet plug-in adds pressure-sensitive drawing on new Force Touch MacBook trackpad

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Ten One Design has released an updated version of its drawing plug-in, Inklet, adding pressure-sensitive drawing on the new Force Touch trackpad in all Mac drawing apps, including Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture and Illustrator. The new trackpad was introduced by Apple on the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

This means MacBook owners with the new trackpad will enjoy enhanced, highly-accurate pressure sensitivity when drawing on the trackpad whether drawing with a stylus or with a finger.

Inklet for Mac adds an icon to your menubar that you click when you want to draw on your trackpad in your chosen app …  Read more

Feature: Becoming the Apple stereotype of writing a novel on a MacBook in Starbucks

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Of all the stereotypes we hear about Apple owners, there is perhaps none so enduring as the guy writing a novel on his MacBook in Starbucks. Well, one November, I became that guy. Fast-forward a few years, and I have a 110,000-word technothriller ready to unleash on an unsuspecting public.

I’d had an idea for a novel years earlier, but I’d initially done what almost everyone does when they have an idea for a novel: absolutely nothing. The gap between having an idea and having a completed novel seemed too enormous to contemplate, especially when it would have to be combined with, you know, working for a living.

But then someone told me about something called NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. Every November, around 400,000 people across the USA, UK, Canada and a number of other countries around the world attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel. I decided to become one of them–using Apple technology, naturally …  Read more

Happy Hour Podcast 006 | New Apple Watch details, a controversial Steve Jobs flick, and the future of USB-C with Apple

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Welcome to Happy Hour 006. In this episode Zac, Seth, and Benjamin discuss new Apple Watch details and wrap up the need-to-know information, a new controversial Steve Jobs documentary, and the future of USB-C. How will it affect future iOS devices and Macs? The Happy Hour podcast is available for download on iTunes and through our dedicated RSS feed…

Click here to subscribe on iTunes or listen to the episode embedded above.

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Apple seeds OS X 10.10.3 build 14D105 to developers and Public Beta users

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Less than a week following the previous seed, Apple has released build 14D105 of the upcoming OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 to both developers and users of the Public Beta. Apple has not yet said when 10.10.3 will be released to all OS X Yosemite users, but the increase in seeds in recent weeks likely indicates that a wider launch is fast approaching. As we’ve previously detailed, 10.10.3 will include the all new iCloud-based Photos app for the Mac, developer APIs for the new Force Touch Trackpad on the MacBook and MacBook Pro with Retina display, and a new Emoji picker across the system.

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Brace yourself – Core M benchmarks illustrate likely low-end performance from new MacBook

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Lenovo’s Yoga 3 Pro convertible laptop–which uses the same Broadwell Core M processor as Apple’s new ultraportable MacBook–has provided the first look at its likely performance. AnandTech‘s numbers show that in overall performance terms, the Yoga 3 Pro was delivering a little over 90% of the performance of the early 2014 MacBook Air which has far fewer pixels than the Retina MacBook…

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Opinion: Are we bidding farewell to MagSafe, and does it matter?

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When Apple unveiled the new 12-inch MacBook with just a single port (plus a headphone socket), it was doing not just one radical thing, but two. Reducing a machine to just one port was the first; dropping MagSafe was the second.

MagSafe has been one of the key features of MacBooks since it was first introduced by Apple in 2006. It is still highlighted on Apple’s website as one of the key design features of both the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

MacBook Air offers innovations you won’t find anywhere else — like the MagSafe 2 power connector, which breaks cleanly away from the notebook if you accidentally trip over the power cord.

The magnetic power cord attaches securely and detaches cleanly.

It’s one of the features that even the most die-hard opponents of Macs tend to grudgingly admit is a good idea. And yet that (very) shiny new MacBook aimed at the largest slice of the MacBook Air market doesn’t have it. Is this a one-off move for a single model, or will we see USB C power replacing MagSafe across the entire MacBook range … ?  Read more

Happy Hour Podcast 005 | Discussing Apple’s 12-inch MacBook, Apple Watch, and other ‘Spring Forward’ announcements

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Happy Hour is back and this week we’re discussing all of Apple’s latest announcements. The Spring Forward event brought along a few new Apple Watch details, slight MacBook Pro/Air updates, and the anticipated 12-inch MacBook with Retina Display. In this episode, we’re breaking down the announcements and serving up all of the need-to-know information about Apple’s latest and greatest for 2015. The Happy Hour podcast is available for download on iTunes and through our dedicated RSS feed…

Click here to subscribe on iTunes or listen to the episode embedded above.

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Opinion: Apple’s Spring Forward event signals huge changes ahead for Mac, iPad, Apple TV + Apple itself

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Although many people expected that Apple’s Spring Forward event would mostly focus on the Apple Watch, more than half of the event — notably, the first part — covered other topics. Collectively, there were so many interesting developments that their individual significance was somewhat lost, particularly given that long-awaited Watch pricing news wrapped up the event.

That’s why I wanted to reconsider what Spring Forward revealed about some of Apple’s non-Watch products. Some of the announcements signal that big changes are ahead for Apple’s Mac, iPad, and Apple TV product lines, as well as Apple itself. Read on for my thoughts, and add yours to the comments section below…

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USB-C cable gallery, compare to Lightning and Micro-USB, specs and Apple’s future

We’ve been poring over Apple’s change to the 8.4mm by 2.6mm USB Type C standard since we got tipped the design of the new MacBook late last year. It is a big change for Apple and puts the future of longstanding technologies like Thunderbolt and MagSafe into questionable status.  Even Lightning seems a whole lot more vulnerable when an adapter that is marginally bigger, but has the whole industry behind it, shows up in Apple’s future flagship laptop.

Some quick, fun facts on USB Type C that make it pretty amazing: Read more