Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Fruity Picks #7 - Get Control of your Power Schedule

By default OS X 10.11 gives you limited control over your power settings by allowing you to set times for when you want to start (or wake up) your Mac, and when you want to shutdown or sleep the machine. Of course, for many people even this is overkill, they just switch on the machine when they need it and close it down when they're done.

While I'm based overseas, I'm loathe to have my MBA plugged in all day, potentially screwing up the battery, especially when it's not actually being used for 8-10 hours of the day. (I rarely take the laptop into the office these days since almost all my needs can be met through my iDevices). However, I like my laptop to be on when I wake up in the morning, and then again when I get home in the evening. 


If you want this kind of flexibility then you have a couple of options. The first is to use the 'pmset' command line tool (see here for a tutorial), but this requires you to be prepared to go 'under the hood' and might not be that much of an option for more casual users. The second option is to get a copy of Dragon Software Power Manager which is a more user friendly option (albeit at a price - approx £40 at the time of writing).



In addition to setting up complex power management schedules, Power Manager, also allows scheduling of other actions - the only limit is most likely to be your imagination. There's even a remote version for iOS devices (iOS8/9 are not currently supported but the website suggests that a new version is under development).

£40 might feel a bit steep, but if you value your MBA battery, and consider the cost of replacement it could work out as a sensible investment!





Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2015 And All That (or Out with the Old, In with the New)

I can't believe it's been six months since my last post on the Apple Harvest blog - I do apologise! It's not like Apple have been slumbering since last June, and it's most certainly not because nothing has been going on at Apple Harvest HQ(s)...far from it. There's a shed load of new kit to write about and a few excellent iOS and OS X apps to boot. The problem is knowing where to start...how about a list or two? Hardware first...

  • MacBook Air (early 2015)
  • OWC Thunderbolt 2 Hub
  • New Magic Mouse, Keyboard and TrackPad
  • 4th Generation Apple TV
  • 2Tb TimeCapsule
  • Apple Watch Dock
  • Wireless Charging Devices

...and some of the software:

  • Dragon Systems PowerManager
  • TunaBelly TGPro
  • The Room 3
  • El Capitan
  • iOS9
  • Watch OS2
  • TV OS
  • Cloud Magic

...that should be enough to get started with over the next few posts! Let's just hope my accountant and bank manager aren't reading this. My long suffering girlfriend is already in the know, but she does at least get most of the hand-me-downs to try and ease the pain!

The Apple Harvest HQ returned to Prague in October this year - although I'm going to be doing quite a lot of additional travelling over the next few months. My early 2011 MBA has put in a stellar performance over the years and to be fair, it still got a lot of casual use left in it. But the 4Gb memory constraint is beginning to cause me problems and I knew an upgrade was on the cards. I just wasn't sure what to replace it with, or more critically when! In the end, I decided to stay with the 13" 256Gb MBA, with 8Gb of memory, and bumped up the processor to the 2.2GHz i7.

I would have liked to have had the luxury of waiting until the new lines were unleashed sometime in the new year, but nothing was going to be able to fix the memory issue which is also causing the fans to work overtime given the loads I was putting onto the processor. I also had a time constrained discount that I wanted to make use of (about 6% so nothing to be sneezed at!), and while Apple do have a limited presence in the Czech Republic it was a lot easier to deal with the purchase while in the UK over the Christmas period.

Christmas Market in Prague Old Town Square
Of course, when you think about it, the change from a 2011 MBA to the most recent 2015 model is a major upgrade. People have been whinging about the mediocre improvements between successive models, but since 2011 the MBA has got significantly better battery life, gone from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 1 to Thunderbolt 2, has faster SSD storage, more efficient processors (1.8GHz i7-2677M - Sandy Bridge to 2.2GHz i7-5650U - Broadwell (real geeks can see here for a comparison) and HD Graphics 3000 to HD Graphics 6000) and faster memory (1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM to 1600 MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM) as well as an improvement in wireless. with 802.11ac compatibility now built in. For some reason, handoff never worked out of the box with the 2011 MBA although it could be persuaded to (see Fruity Tips #2), but that's no longer anything to worry about with the new model.

Once the decision was made I made the order on the morning I left Prague. It arrived at my home in the UK first thing the next morning, less than 24 hours later. I cloned the old machine with Carbon Copy Cloner and by lunchtime I had a new working MBA. Over the course of the next few hours I had a few tweaks to make - there are always a few little things that don't work quite the way they're expected to, but then again, some things that were broken suddenly appear to work on a different machine.

The real test will be when I get back to Prague at the end of this week and plug into my Apple Harvest HQ rig in my apartment, but all the issues that I'd had problems with have happily disappeared - the new MBA is operating at a much lower temperature and the fans are usually silent. Most importantly, the beach ball doesn't seem to be making so many appearances, especially when iTunes, Safari and Photos are running alongside each other - a common scenario which was becoming unmanageable on the old machine.

Now, what to do when Apple announce the next generation MBA in the spring? Well, the moral of the story is that maybe there's no need to wait to get the newest and shiniest box on the shelf. I'm expecting this baby to last at least another four years!

Happy New Year!