iPad Pro


I guess I am on the 3 year upgrade cycle for the iPad. I have had the first generation iPad, then the iPad Air and now the iPad Pro. The iPad Air wasn't giving me any issues and was still a very good tablet but I really wasn't happy with any of the bluetooth pressure sensitive stylus. Having a Wacom Intuos tablet and a small Cintiq really does spoil you and sets the bar pretty high. The limitations of what third parties like Adonit and Adobe had to work with made having a Wacom-like experience impossible. They did the best they could under the circumstances. But now with the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil we finally have a solution that nearly rivals Wacom. I say nearly because the Apple Pencil does not have programmable buttons or an eraser but this is the first iteration and maybe that will come later on in future editions.

The one problem I had to figure out is which size to go for the large 12.9 inch or the regular 9.7 inch size? I worried that the larger screen would be more difficult to carry around and be on the go. It seemed that the smaller size was more appropriate for me and something that I was familiar with. It is the only size I have ever used. There are subtle differences between the two, the larger has 4 GB of RAM while the 9.7 inch has only 2 GB. The larger iPad Pro has more surface area so there is more room to dissipate the heat from the CPU/GPU. The smaller Pro has less surface area so the A9X chip is slightly underclocked, not much but a little (2.24GHz to 2.16 GHz). They both have the 4 corner speakers, smart connector but the smaller iPad Pro has additional features, improved cameras (can record 4K video), Retina Flash, and True Tone display. That True Tone display has caused some confusion, it isn't just a take it or leave type of deal, you can turn it off if you want. I expect the 12.9 inch iPad Pro to get these improved features with the next iteration, but for now, the little brother enjoys them exclusively.

I decided to have some color finally and picked the Rose Gold option. It is also great to finally have a Touch ID sensor on my iPad. I will do a more in depth blog post about the
Apple Pencil and give my thoughts on that soon.

Apple TV, 4th Generation

I wanted to wait a couple months or so before giving my review of the 4th gen AppleTV. Full disclosure here, I have owned every single generation of the device. My favorite one was the 2nd gen because I was able to jailbreak it and install third party software. I installed Plex that way and it was great for a good long time but the specs of that 2nd gen Apple TV eventually caught up to it. Father time is of course undefeated and catches up to everyone. Unfortunately, the 3rd gen Apple TV was never able to be jailbroken so I relied on Roku's to watch Plex. I eagerly waited for Apple to release a new version that had an App Store, that had more CPU/GPU power and it seemed like it would never happen. Well the long wait is now over!

In looking over the specs, the new Apple TV has the same specs as my iPhone 6 but improved a little. A dual
A8 but clocked to 1.5 GHz, a quad-core Power VR 6450, 2 GB of RAM, and a choice of 32 or 64 GB of storage. It has an HDMI port, Infrared receiver, Bluetooth 4, a USB-C port for diagnostics, Ethernet port, Siri remote, but the Optical Audio got eliminated. The overall outer case has gotten taller to probably accommodate a heatsink and larger power supply. This is a product that has the specs of a mobile device but since it can be plugged in all the time Apple was able to increase the A8 clock speed a little.

I have read that people are upset that they can't use the USB-C port but with Plex and other apps being able to stream content, that to me is a non-issue. And this time around Apple has made
sideloading content relatively easy. You can download the free X-code and use a USB-C to USB cable to sideload apps on to the Apple TV. There is an app named Provenance that is an emulator and allows you to play old NES, Sega Genesis games. In the past you would have had to jailbreak your Apple TV but now we can sideload. Progress.

Anker Soundcore

My previous experience with Anker's MP141 Cube bluetooth speaker was so great that I decided to check out what else they offered. I was looking for a dedicated speaker to use with my Mac Pro and was debating on whether it should be wired or bluetooth. I decided to go Bluetooth. Anker had just released this new Soundcore bluetooth speaker and I was able to buy it for $30 on Amazon. It is a dual 3 Watt (6 watt total) that sounds very good and has great battery life, 24 hours on a single charge and a range of 66 feet. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 and charges by micro-USB port and has an 18-month warranty.

Now I was skeptical of the battery life and range but turns out to be true in my experience. I was at my Mac Pro working and listening to music, got up to take a break and took the speaker with me. Went into the kitchen to fix something to eat and the music continued to play with no loss of signal,
some 30 feet away from the Mac Pro. Took my food and the speaker into the living room, some 50 feet away and still no loss of signal or quality in the music playing. I have been using it 3-4 hours a day and this Anker Soundcore goes 6-7 days before needing to recharge, so that 24 hour claim is realistic.

There are bluetooth speakers that sound better than the Soundcore and cost twice as much but do they last 24 hours and have 66 foot range? The Anker Souncore is a great bargain and Anker is a great company. I must have 5 or 6 of their products now.

SteelSeries Nimbus


I love the 4th generation Apple TV but using the Siri remote to play games with is not very enjoyable. Besides if you are playing a multiple player game it is good to have other controllers anyway, so I looked at what SteelSeries had to offer. This Nimbus game controller was hyped for the Apple TV and it seemed to be priced right and so I bought one. I was not disappointed. It is a great controller, the battery life is very good and it recharges by the use of the same Lightning cable that you use for your iPhone or iPad. They claim over 40+ hours on a single charge and that seems to be accurate. It is wireless and uses Bluetooth. They have an iOS app for the Nimbus so that you can install the latest updates. It is very solid, has good weight to it, nice construction and is very similar to what you would find in an Xbox or Playstation controller.

PCI-e based SSD

I had multiple SSDs and when it came time to find the fastest solution for my newer Mac Pro I came across this item from OWC. They are an outfit that I have bought Mac products from for over 15 years now. This OWC Accelsior S is a PCI card that an SSD drive plugs into to get faster speeds. Prior to this I was using the NewerTech AdaptaDrives so that the SSDs could be plugged into the same SATA bays as a normal hard drive. But by using this PCI card, the SSD is able to get faster speeds by using the PCI 2.0 bus. So, I have this PCI-e 240 GB SSD as my boot volume and another 240 GB SSD and a regular 1 TB hard drive plugged into the SATA drive bays.

New Mac Pro (sort of)...


No, no, you are not seeing double. Since I was not having any luck getting my Mac Pro 2006 (1,1) past Mac OS X 10.9.5, I decided to buy a new Mac Pro. If you remember a previous post I described how I had hacked the 2006 Mac Pro so that I could get around the
32-bit EFI limitation and install the new OS upgrades. I went from Mac OS X 10.7.5 to 10.9.5 but just couldn't get any further than that with any sort of stability. It is solid and stable stuck at 10.9.5 and I will continue to use it as a secondary machine but I needed a newer machine to run the latest OS and the latest graphic software.

When I looked at the latest offering from Apple, I thought well you could go for a retina iMac or go for the entry level cylindrical Mac Pro. Both just seemed well out of my budget and I must admit that I was intrigued at all of the older Mac Pro's from 2008-2012 that were on Ebay. I went and looked at some of the Geekbench benchmarks to see how those newer Macs compared to those Mac Pros from 2008-2012.

The retina iMac 4.0GHz had a Multi-Core 64-bit score of around
16,000, and the 4-core 3.7 GHz cylindrical Mac Pro (2013) had a score of 14,000. But the older Mac Pros from 2008-2012 were in the 12,000 to 27,000 range. The more recent Mac Pros are more expensive to buy on Ebay but it still seemed like a good avenue to pursue.

So, what I ended up doing was buying a Mac Pro from 2008, an
8 core Xeon, 3.0 GHz. It does not have Hyper-Threading but still 8 physical cores is respectable, even 7 years later. When I ran GeekBench on this Mac Pro it had a Multi-Core 64-Bit score of 12,500. Also of equal importance is that this 2008 machine had more options for graphics cards, the 2006 (1,1) model was really handicapped in this regard.

This Mac Pro (3,1) from 2008 has a
64-Bit EFI so upgrading to Yosemite and later to El Capitan won't be a problem. I was able to boost the rest of the system by putting in a PCI-e based SSD hard drive as the boot volume, installing a Broadcom WiFi/Bluetooth 4 module in the mini-PCI slot on the motherboard, and replacing the old Nvidia 8800 512 MB card with a Nvidia GTX 680. It had 8 slots for RAM and I filled them up with 4 GB Dimms, so 32 GB of RAM. Even with all of the upgrades it still came in at one-third the cost of a new iMac and one-fourth the cost of that entry level 2013 Mac Pro.

I did not mind all of the tinkering under the hood so to speak with this "newer" Mac Pro. I had upgraded the old '06 Mac Pro constantly over the years, from Hard Drives to multiple SSDs, RAM and 3 different graphics cards. But it was that damn 32-Bit EFI limitation that really necessitated getting a newer machine or at least one without that EFI affliction.

Do I wish I had a new iMac or Mac Pro? Sure, but this '08 Mac Pro can make do for another 3 years I figure and then maybe I will take the plunge.

Xeon 5355s


My Mac Pro (1,1) from 2006 was the entry level 2.0 GHz model. It was a 4 core Xeon, it had dual processors but each with only 2 cores. I knew that it was possible to upgrade the CPU but really kept putting it off. Finally I decided to do it and the whole experience was rather fun and inexpensive, so much so that I am kicking myself for not having upgraded sooner!

I decided to go with the
Xeon 5355s, a matched set of 2.66 GHz 4 core processors. So, I am jumped from a 2.0 GHz, 4 core Mac Pro to an 8 core, 2.66 GHz and all it cost me was $45. For that price I got the matched set of Xeons and the Arctic Silver thermal paste. I watched three different people on Youtube do CPU upgrades on my particular Mac Pro model. My reasoning for watching all three is that while most of what they did overlapped one another, I did glean little tidbits and tips from each and so I finally felt comfortable to do the upgrade myself.

It went quick, in about 90 minutes, which may seem like a lot of time, but it wasn't. I took extra time to clean the inside of the Mac Pro, the heatsinks were a mess, but I got it all done and it started right up. One of the things I did do
is err on the side of caution and installed smcFanControl. This is an app that lets you control the fans and their speed (RPMs). The new Xeons are faster and there are more cores and thus more heat. Using smcFanControl I was able to get the temperatures down to the levels I had with the 4 core 2.0 GHz Xeons.

This is the first of many upgrades I will be doing to this old Mac Pro, trying to extend the life of it.

Anker 2nd Gen Astro


The Astro came in the same slick packaging that I have come to expect from
Anker. It is minimalistic and eco friendly with no plastic to worry about. You get the Astro external battery, a micro USB cable, an instruction manual and a mesh travel pouch. The Anker 2nd Gen Astro is an external battery that is always on, there is no on/off switch. They have an LED light display that shows the battery level. You give it a firm shake to start a charge or to see the remaining battery level. It is less than 5 ounces in weight and has a nice feel to it with a soft rubberized coating. The battery itself is charged by one micro-USB input port. There is only one USB port and it is intelligent in that it won't exceed the capacity of your device. In all the Astro has 6000 mAh of power and supports up to 2 Amps.

I decided to give the Astro a real workout so I planned a day where I would have to depend on it. I let my
Samsung 7" tablet and my iPhone 4S both get below 30% on their respective batteries. I made a day of taking the trolley downtown, taking pictures, using an app to record my steps, etc. I had the iPhone quickly use up what was left of it's charge. So, the Anker Astro charged it up while both were in my backpack. I then used my Samsung tablet while the iPhone was charging. Later on it was down to about 15% and I used the Astro to charge it back up to 100%.

The Samsung tablet has a 4000 mAh battery and the iPhone 4S a 1430 mAh battery. The Astro has a 6000 mAh battery and a percentage of that is lost in the charging process I believe. Anyway, both were able to get fully charged and the Astro had a single 10% segment left on the LED display. The tablets will chew up most of that capacity pretty quick. If I use the Anker 2nd Gen Astro just for the iPhone, I figure the Astro should be able to recharge it
three times before the external battery needs a full charge.


SanDisk Cruzer Fit

There are times when smaller is better. In the past I have had flash drives that are just too big and can be cumbersome. The low profile of this SanDisk Cruzer Fit flash drive allows you to leave it plugged in to your laptop all the time. With a conventional flash drive this isn't always the case as it may be an inch and half long. It could easily get snagged on something if you were tossing it into a backpack or bag. This flash drive, however, is tiny and with the cap on it is about the size of your thumbnail! There is a hole to attach a small lanyard if you find it difficult to remove from the USB port.

This is most definitely a flash drive that you want to just plug in and forget about it. I have a 32 GB Cruzer that I use with my
RAVPower. I can see myself loading music on this and plugging it into a car audio system too. So far, SanDisk has capacities of 16, 32, 64 GB with this Cruzer Fit but I imagine they will come out with 128 GB eventually.

Adobe Creative Stylus vs Adonit Jot Touch


I finally had an iPad Air with Bluetooth 4 support and now I wanted to find a pressure sensitive stylus to use. The top choices seemed to be the Adobe Creative Stylus and the Adonit Jot Touch. I have a number of apps that can use a stylus, from Sketchbook Pro to Procreate and even note taking apps like Penultimate. While both promise over 2000 level of pressure sensitivity and features like palm rejection, I found those claims to be iffy and varied wildly from app to app. I suppose they are doing the best they can with the restrictions of a device like the iPad but it is not anywhere close to my experience with my Wacom Intuos tablet and Cintiq. Granted those devices are way more expensive and maybe I am expecting too much from a stylus that costs less than $100. I actually bought both together for less than $120, but still, while they are not close to Wacom they are far better than a dumb stylus.

Both have programmable buttons and both take different routes in terms of the point of the pen. The Adobe Creative Stylus still uses a rubber nib and while they did reduce the size of it, I still find it too big. Adobe decided to go with a
AAAA battery to power the stylus, and while it may last a good amount of time, you still have the additional cost of buying batteries. And they are an odd size at that, some of the local drug stores and such did not have this size, they had AAA but not this smaller size. The case they provide is very nice, you can carry extra nibs, a battery, all in all a classy case. The stylus itself is sturdy, just not as much as the Adonit Jot Touch.

Adonit has a very solid constructed stylus with a screw on cap and it has more weight to it. They include a USB charger and the top of the pen snaps into the cradle magnetically to charge. This was a welcome addition.
Who likes to spend additional money on batteries? Adonit chose to go with a plastic disc on the tip instead of a rubber nib, it does take some time to get used to it. You really have to train yourself to use a stylus with a disc in this manner. While I was turned off at first, it quickly became apparent to me that it was better than the rubber nib. With the Creative Stylus, say I were to draw a circle freehand, that rubber nib still is too big and prevents me from seeing the point of what I am drawing. With the Jot Touch I have no such problem. I can see through to the tip, the disc is transparent. I can draw that same circle and close off that circle easily because I can see where I started without a rubber nib in the way.

The Jot Touch has become my go-to stylus because of it having no rubber nib, and for the easy recharging.


IOGear Bluetooth 4.0 USB Adapter

My Mac Pro had an older version of Bluetooth and I wanted to upgrade to the latest Bluetooth 4.0 LE (Low Energy) standard. In searching around I saw many USB adapters but most that were for Windows. I needed to find one that would work for Mac OS and be able to find drivers for it. Turns out this IOGear Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter was just what I needed. On Mountain Lion this adapter/dongle works fine and the drivers are ready to go but on Lion and earlier you have to do a bit of work. I ended up hacking the kernel extension for Bluetooth devices to get the IOGear driver working. This blog here was very helpful and made the process a snap.

I get great range with this and it works with all of my Bluetooth devices. The Kinivo headphones and the Anker speaker cube work wonderfully with my Mac Pro now. The dongle itself is tiny and it does have a blue light that stays on all the time. I keep it plugged in on the back of the keyboard so the light isn't much of an issue for me.


Kinivo BTH410 Stereo Headset


I wanted some decent quality bluetooth headphones but didn't want to spend much money. In February,
Amazon was offering these Kinivo BTH410s for $35.99 and they usually go for $60 elsewhere. It wasn't important what they looked like as they would be used for home. I was more concerned with the quality of sound, range and battery life. These Kinivo bluetooth headphones are Bluetooth 3.0 EDR and supports the audio codec aptX. This makes a huge difference in the sound of the streamed music. Range in my experience is about 60 feet and I have been getting more than the 8 hours listed battery time. Takes about 2 hours to recharge them and they give you the standard microUSB cable to facilitate that. Never got the chance to use them for hands-free calling yet so I can't write about the quality of the microphone.

Has a lot going for it but some point out the cheap plastic and build quality
but I say find me something better for $36! Many of the complaints I read about are probably because people are folding them up and tossing them in a purse or backpack. I think that, yes, if you use them on the go then they will probably get beat up quickly. With me however, these are for home use so I don't ever have the need to fold them up. Loved the fact that once I paired it with my iPhone, iPad, Mac Pro, Apple TV, Roku that it remembered those connections later on. These were great when I had heavy construction going on outside, up and down the street. I was able to watch something on Netflix with these paired to the Roku, for example, and was able to drown out the construction noise. Could also come in handy if you wanted to watch TV late into the night but not wake other people in the house.

I almost never got these headphones. Amazon delivered it by the postal service but my mailman delivered it to the wrong address. Two weeks went by and I contacted Amazon and they refunded my money. Then a few days later
the headphones are on my doorstep! I called Amazon and arranged for payment again. What good fortune though, I almost missed out on these great headphones at such a low price!

Anker Cube MP141

I keep striking out with Bluetooth products. Whether it was speakers or headphones, I just have not had a good experience. Now we have products and devices sporting Bluetooth 4.0 and I decided to try again. I had a couple people recommend the Anker Portable Mini Bluetooth Speaker [Drum]. When I saw they had a newer product, the Anker MP141 Portable Bluetooth Speaker [Cube], I chose to buy it instead.

The Cube has a 4-Watt Driver, a microphone to use it as a speakerphone and a 3.5 mm audio port to connect it to other devices. The wireless range is 30 feet
and it lasts 20 hours on a single charge. The battery life is impressive and the sound quality is very nice. Not enough people talk of packaging and extras that you get, but Anker knows how to do it right. They give you an audio cable, a micro USB cable to recharge it and printed manuals, but I loved the travel pouch best of all!

I highly recommend this speaker and believe it is a great bargain for the quality of the sound and the fit and finish of the components. It does not look, feel or sound cheap in any way. It was only $35 when I bought it on




So, you have an iPhone/Android phone or tablet and you don't have enough storage space. The solution for some is to just buy a phone or tablet with more capacity or buy a Micro SD card to expand your capacity. Being a Mac user I couldn't go the Micro SD card route
or could I? I found this on my exploration to solve the problem.

RAVPower is an all-in-one that can be a wireless card/USB reader, act as a WIFI hotspot, as a NAS file server, etc. It does everything pretty well. It is perhaps a half inch wider than a typical iPhone and I have been getting 5 hours on a single charge in average use. They have an app called Airstor that I used to set it up but I now just use an iOS app called FileBrowser to interact with it. I have a 32 GB SD card and a 32 GB USB flash drive plugged in so my iPhone and iPad have an additional 64 GB of storage.

One of the coolest features it has going for it is that it can stream to 5 different devices. Imagine you go on a road trip and you load up movies/tv shows on this RAVPower. While you are driving, the wife, dog and 3 kids can all have their phones/tablets out and watch different streaming movies.

In a pinch you can use this in an emergency to charge your phone. I have read where many call this a nice swiss army knife type of gadget and they are right. The price fluctuates wildly on
Amazon. Some weeks I have seen it selling for as low as $38 and other times for as high as $100.

Anker 5 Port USB charger

Living in this digital age, with so many devices that need to be charged, you can quickly find yourself charging devices throughout the house. I wanted to find something that could handle recharging multiple devices while only using a single power cord.

This is where the
Anker 40W, 8A 5-Port USB Charger came in and has worked out beautifully. It has been able to simultaneously charge my iPhone, iPad, Speaker, Camera, Bluetooth Stylus, etc, and haven't had any issues so far. There is a 25 Watt, 5 Amp version that is slightly less expensive but it doesn't have the extra juice needed to recharge everything that the big brother can do with ease. I really like the products that Anker produces. They have excellent build quality and the packaging and instruction are very good as well.


iPad Air


I bought the very first iPad when it came out but it has not aged well. Oh, it still works but the apps and games have now matured to the point where the specs of that first generation iPad are excluding it from the party. It only had a single A4 chip running at 1GHz and only had 256 MB of RAM and the display was 1024 x 768, and it was stuck at iOS 5.1. So, it served me faithfully but it was time to get a new one. I sold the first gen iPad to a friend and bought the new iPad Air.

The specs of this new
iPad Air are impressive. It now has a dual-core A7 running at 1.4 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, a quad-core PowerVR 6430, a resolution of 2048 x 1536, has front and back cameras, Bluetooth 4 and comes standard with iOS 7. Now I have no problems running the latest apps or games and now can finally use bluetooth accessories.

It is exciting to see the payoff of Apple's acquisitions of
P.A. Semi and Intrinisity. The A7 chip is based on ARM processors but Apple licenses the design and architecture to build their own custom chips in-house using the expertise of the engineers that they acquired from PA Semi and Intrinisity. The A-series line is developing pretty fast. It will be interesting to see how fast and powerful these CPUs are in 5 years time, or in 10 years time. Could they rival Intel's desktop chips 10 years from now?

Roku 2 XD


I had jailbroken my Apple TV to install Plex on it but had a second TV which needed some loving. I am not too keen on having televisions that are smart TVs because I feel you are at the mercy of those manufacturers and updating apps and widgets is not their top priority. Better to buy dumb TVs and set them up with smart boxes like an Apple TV or a Roku. When I saw this Roku 2 XD on sale for $40 at the local Walmart, I decided to give it a shot. Plex has a channel for the Roku that you can download for free and it works well. The Plex interface is not as nice as the Apple TV but it just works and updates smoothly.

With the Apple TV, whenever Apple comes up with an update it usually means I have to jump through hoops to wait for a jailbreak, and then install Plex again, etc. It isn't just set it up once and forget it. Roku has that set it and forget down pat and that is very appealing at the end of the day. I do think Netflix is much nicer looking on my Apple TV, but that may be subjective on my part. I do know that I don't like how the Roku/Netflix combo handles subtitles. With Roku if I turn on subtitles for one movie then it continues on for all other movies that I may watch. It should be smart enough to know that I only want it on in that one example, or be smart enough to turn them on by default if it is a foreign movie.

Outside of a few quibbles, I find it to be a nice little box and Roku works hard at improving the hardware and software with every iteration. If I had bought TVs with all of these smart TV aspects built in then you are limited later on. How do you go about upgrading that hardware in 5 years time? 10 years time? External boxes like the Roku and Apple TV are the way to go and give you the most flexibility.

Apple TV, 3rd Gen

After my success at jailbreaking my 2nd Gen Apple TV and installing Plex and other software, I wasn't looking to buy another one. When I found a great deal on this 3rd gen I couldn't help myself, always a sucker for a great deal. I use it primarily to watch Netflix on the living room TV. Can't help but feel Apple is really missing out with this little device. I can use Airplay with my iPad and iPhone to stream music, movies and such to the Apple TV and even play games that way too, but it could do so much more. If they opened up the SDK and had an App Store, I think games would really take off in a big way. What with the Roku and others entering the smart TV market, Apple needs to step up their game.


Wacom Cintiq Set Up


Yes, I
lusted over the Wacom Cintiq 24HD and the 21UX but they were way out of my budget so I settled, uh, found a great deal on a Cintiq 12WX! Actually the smaller size wasn't an issue for me because I had been using an Intuos 3 4x6" tablet. That makes the Cintiq look big in comparison. One of the benefits of having the 12WX is that it is based on the Intuos 3 line. The pen, drivers, programmable buttons are all the same. I am able to use the Intuos Grip Pen and the 6D Art Pen with the Cintiq. So, I was able to have one grip pen with the brush nib and the second grip pen with a felt nib and programed both switches the same.

The one thing that I really didn't care for
was the display stand. I found a bunch of users on YouTube that were mounting their Cintiq's on monitor arms. I bought an LCD monitor arm from Ergotron and it works fairly well. It supports up to 22 pounds and the Cintiq is only 4.5 pounds.