Thursday, 25 June 2015

Fruity Picks #6 - Kanex Thunderbolt Adapter (USB 3/Ethernet)

When I'm at Apple Harvest HQ my 2011 MacBook Air is usually connected to a Thunderbolt hub. For a long time it's been the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock (original model) which I reviewed in July 2013. I've now moved this to my partner's house for when I'm taking refuge with her and I've set up the new OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock at HQ.

When I'm on the road, especially abroad, it isn't convenient to transport a full blown hub around especially with the power bricks they generally require, but I still want to harness USB 3.0 and Ethernet capabilities normally provided by the hub.

The Kanex KTU20 Thunderbolt adapter is an ideal compromise to solve the problem. This little black box plugs into the Thunderbolt slot on the MacBook Air and adds a USB 3.0 port and a Gigabit Ethernet port to enhance the MBA capabilities. The adapter is about 5x8x2 cm and weighs just 91g.

It's not a particularly cheap solution - it'll set you back about £75 - but it is compact and it doesn't require any additional power cables. I used it most recently on my 7 month stay in Prague where I used it to connect to the apartment's router and the HGST Touro Desk Pro 4Tb USB 3 hard drive I took with me. By combining this with a 7 port USB hub I had access to all my USB requirements (albeit running at USB 2 speeds but none of these devices were performance critical).

The Kanex KTU20 will stay packed my travel bag - it's ideal for short trips involving hotel stopovers. It's just a shame it doesn't have Thunderbolt pass-through capability...but now I'm just being greedy!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Fruity Tips #2 - Enable Handoff and Continuity on older Macs

One of the things I got really excited about when Yosemite (OS X 10.10) was announced was the ability to start a task on a Mac and then seamlessly pick it up on an iDevice. In Apple terminology this is called Handoff which is a sub-function of the over Continuity function.  Continuity is dependent primarily on Bluetooth 4 LE hardware.

I was under the impression that my mid-2011 MacBook Air would support the technology but it wasn't until I tried to get it to work that the penny dropped, and although the hardware supports Handoff and Continuity, my MBA was telling me a different story - until now.

When I did a comparison of the Bluetooth configuration on the MBA and my late 2012 iMac (which categorically does support Handoff out of the box) it seemed that the specs were actually better on the older machine. Which seemed a bit perverse. So I did some more investigation and discovered that the ability of any particular model of Mac to handle Handoff depends on hardware, software and a configuration (.kext) file which contains the model names of supported machines. If the appropriate .kext files are modified, it is possible to persuade the OS that the machine will support Continuity and Handoff. 

After a bit more research I found this web site from which you can download a tool which will patch the appropriate files and enable you to turn on Handoff. The whole process took less than 10 minutes and my first test proved successful. I loaded my web mail page in Safari and switched on my iPhone and in the bottom left corner of the lock screen was the Safari icon. I swiped up on the icon and my web mail page appeared on my iPhone.

As with any system modification you do this at your own risk, and you absolutely must read the instructions before you attempt to make the modification, and it would be prudent to take a back-up or better clone your start-up disk before running the tool.

If this works for you, don't forget to make a donation to the guys who did all the work. There's a place for you to do so on the site!