Waiting for Thunderbolt

Last week Macworld Senior Editor Roman Loyola and I arrived at Apple bright and early for a briefing about the latest generation of iMacs—the same four 2011 iMac models we reviewed earlier this week. That iMac unveiling gave us the chance to see the new Thunderbolt connection technology in action.

I was out of the country back in February when the new MacBook Pro models introduced Thunderbolt to Mac users for the first time. And though we’ve had those models in our lab since we reviewed them two months ago, we still don’t have any Thunderbolt devices in our offices to test with Apple’s revamped hardware.

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Eye-Fi connects to iPhone, gets more useful

The Eye-Fi app receives images directly from my camera.
I’ve been using the Eye-Fi series of Wi-Fi-enabled memory cards for a couple of years now. But I have to admit, they’ve always been cooler on paper than in practice. Yes, they let your camera connect to a Wi-Fi network and upload photos to photo-sharing services and even back to your Mac, and there’s some Wi-Fi-based geotagging capability. But camera interfaces just aren’t rich enough to give users control over the Eye-Fi’s features out in the field, and most of the places I take pictures don’t have Wi-Fi. Without a Wi-Fi connection, there’s no way to send back the pictures and the geotagging feature won’t work, either.

But recently two developments have made me reassess the value of an Eye-Fi card. First was the arrival of the iPhone’s personal hotspot feature, which eliminated the problem of the Eye-Fi card not being able to find a Wi-Fi network when I’m out taking a hike. With the Eye-Fi set to connect to my iPhone 4’s personal hotspot, it can share my iPhone’s cellular-data connection.

But even better was the introduction of “Direct Mode”, a feature rolled out in April for the X2 series of cards that turns the Eye-Fi card inside a camera into a portable hotspot. Here’s how it works: you connect your iPad or iPhone to the Eye-Fi card once so that your iOS device remembers the name and password of your Eye-Fi card’s hotspot. Then, when you’re out shooting, you launch the free Eye-Fi app and the pictures you’ve taken will be transmitted wirelessly from your camera to the app and saved at full resolution in the Camera Roll on your iOS device.

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Apple's unique brand of crisis management

Steve Jobs on stage during Apple's iPhone 4 antenna press conference.

I knew for certain that Apple had a public-relations problem on its hands with iOS location tracking when I got the e-mail from my mom:

What about this thing with iPhone & iPad that Apple included that tracking system?

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How Apple devices saved me thousands on my new car

Late last year we bought a new car. And in doing so, I realized that the auto industry is undoubtedly one of the industries that has been severely disrupted by Apple in the past decade.

Yes, every new car in existence seems to offer a USB port with iPod connectivity, and my family’s new minivan is no exception. I plugged in my old hard-drive-based iPod and all of a sudden, our car has my entire music collection on tap. It’s got Bluetooth, too, so I can answer my iPhone from the dashboard and talk over built-in speakers and microphones, and even listen to music streamed wirelessly from the iPhone in my pocket.

(This car is basically the shuttlecraft from the USS Enterprise. Especially when compared to our other car, a 1994 Honda Civic.)

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New MacBook Airs and the circle of life

An AppleInsider report by Kasper Jade Friday quotes Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo as claiming that new MacBook Air models are on the horizon.

Kuo says his Asian manufacturing sources suggest that the new MacBook Airs would likely be available in June, and would feature an upgrade from the relatively slow Core 2 Duo processors in the current Airs with Intel’s Sandy Bridge chipset as well as integrated Intel graphics and the Thunderbolt connectivity technology.

As a long-time MacBook Air fan and the current user of an 11-inch model, I’m excited by the report. Any time you can make the MacBook Air faster (in this case by replacing the two-year-old processors currently in there with cutting-edge low-power Core i5 or i7 chips) and boost graphics performance, I’m happy to hear about it. By all accounts, this current generation of MacBook Air has been a big success for Apple, and a new generation of systems should continue the growth of the Air as a major part of the MacBook line.

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Apple's truck

It's late October. Steve Jobs stands center-stage at a media event billed as “Back to the Mac,” in front of a crowd of journalists and analysts. The audience is looking forward to hearing some Mac news from a company that’s been pretty focused on iOS lately, and the Mac-themed invitation has actually served to suppress the crowd, since iPhone- and iPad-mad reporters don’t care so much about the boring old Mac.

The assumption most of us are making at this moment, as Jobs walks out at the front of that tiny theater on the Apple campus in Cupertino, is that “Back to the Mac” is a message from Apple that it’s not ignoring the Mac, as many pundits have said, and that the company is finally giving Mac OS X the attention it deserves.

But as the presentation goes on—with the release of iLife ’11, a preview of the next version of Mac OS X, and the announcement of a forthcoming Mac App Store—it becomes clear that “Back to the Mac” has a second meaning: That technologies, philosophies and interface designs from the iOS are being rolled back into the Mac. The Mac didn’t just help spawn the iOS; now the iOS is returning the favor by changing the Mac OS to be more iOS-like.

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A new MacBook Air? Playing the guessing game

Rumor has it that at Wednesday’s Mac-themed event in Cupertino, Apple may introduce a major revision to the MacBook Air, a product whose exterior has remained unchanged since it was introduced three years ago. The Air is near and dear to my heart—I have used one almost every single day of its existence—which may qualify me as its biggest booster and critic.

A couple years back, when all the pre-iPad rumors of Apple releasing a Netbook were raging, I hacked a PC Netbook to run OS X and tried to imagine what Apple would release if it chose to make its next tiny device a Mac rather than the more obvious choice of a larger iPhone-based tablet. That process gave me some insight, I believe, on Apple’s self-imposed limits when it comes to laptop design.

Sizing things up

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