All posts in “Gadgets”

iFixit finds dust covers in latest MacBook Pro keyboard

Apple released a refreshed MacBook Pro this week and top among the new features is a tweaked keyboard. Apple says its quieter than the last version and in our tests, we agree. But iFixit found something else: thin, silicone barriers that could improve the keyboard’s reliability.

This is big news. Users have long reported the butterfly switch keyboard found in MacBook Pros were less reliable than past models. There are countless reports of dust and lint and crumbs causing keys to stick or fail. Personally, I have not had any issues, but many at TechCrunch have. To date Apple has yet to issue a recall for the keyboard..

iFixit found a thin layer of rubberized material covering the new butterfly mechanism. The repair outlet also points to an Apple patent for this exact technology that’s designed to “prevent and/or alleviate contaminant ingress.”

According to Apple, which held a big media unveiling for new models, the changes to the keyboard were designed to address the loud clickity-clack and not the keyboard’s tendency to get mucked up by dust. And that makes sense, too. If Apple held an event and said “We fixed the keyboards” it would mean Apple was admitting something was wrong with the keyboards. Instead Apple held an event and said “We made the keyboards quieter” admitting the past keyboards were loud, and not faulty.

We just got our review unit and will report back on the keyboard’s reliability after a day or two at the beach. Because science.

Apple announces clean energy fund in China

Apple has announced a new investment fund to foster clean energy usage in China. The company isn’t just trying to switch its own offices and facilities. Apple is also working with its suppliers to expand the use of clean energy across the board.

For this fund in particular, Apple and 10 suppliers will invest $300 million over the next four years. Overall, the company expects to finance multiple clean energy projects to produce 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in China.

Apple isn’t going to manage the fund itself. The company is partnering with DWS Group, a division of Deutsche Bank. DWS will also participate in the fund.

The company started working on renewable energy projects a few years ago. Earlier this year, Apple claimed that 100 percent of its offices, retail stores, data centers and Apple-owned facilities are now powered by renewable energy.

Apple is not there yet when it comes to suppliers. The company has launched the Supplier Clean Energy Program back in 2015 with 23 manufacturing partners, and regularly shares updates — Foxconn seems to be missing so far.

By 2020, Apple and its suppliers hope to generate 4 gigawatts of clean energy. And let’s be honest, this is great news for the planet.

Sales of PCs just grew for the first time in six years

Don’t look now, but the PC might not be dead. According to Gartner, collector of marketshare and industry metrics, worldwide shipments of personal computers just experienced the first year-over-year growth since 2012. Shipments totaled 62.1 million units, which is a 1.4 percent increase from the same time period in 2017. The report states “experienced some growth compared with a year ago” but goes on to caution declaring the PC industry as in recovery just yet.

The top five PC vendors all experienced growth with Lenovo seeing the largest gains of 10.5% — though that could be from Lenovo completing a joint venture with Fujitsu. HP grew 6.1%, Dell 9.5%, Apple 3% and Acer 3.1%. All good signs for an industry long thought stagnate. This report excludes Chromebooks from its data. PC vendors experienced growth without the help of Chromebooks, which are the latest challenger to the notebook computer.

Gartner points to the business market as the source of the increased demand. The consumer market, it states, is still decreasing as consumers increasing use mobile devices. Yet growth in the business sector will not last, it says.

“In the business segment, PC momentum will weaken in two years when the replacement peak for Windows 10 passes.” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner said in the report. “PC vendors should look for ways to maintain growth in the business market as the Windows 10 upgrade cycle tails off.”

Consumers will likely continue, for the most part, to keep a computer around but since the web is the new desktop, the upgrade cycle for a causal user will keep getting longer. As long as a home has a computer that can run Chrome, that’s likely good enough for most people.

Adobe could bring Photoshop to the iPad

Adobe currently has three dozens apps in the App Store. But one app is still missing. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company could be working on a full-fledged version of Photoshop for the iPad. And it makes sense for a ton of reasons.

First, it’s clear that the iPad has become powerful enough to run complicated image editing software. Just two days ago, Serif launched Affinity Designer for the iPad, an Adobe Illustrator competitor. You can also look at benchmarks to find out that the iPad Pro is now more powerful than most mid-range laptops.

Second, now that you can effortlessly sync your files and projects across multiple devices, many people work using multiple devices. It’s been true for many years if you’re just working on a Microsoft Word file on your work computer and your personal laptop for instance. Maybe you use Dropbox or OneDrive to stay on the same page. But it’s also true with huge media libraries now.

A few years ago, people looked at their devices based on contexts. Maybe you had a work laptop, a couch-computing iPad, a big desktop computer for games, etc. But this is a thing of the past now that you can literally work from all your devices.

And when it comes to Photoshop, the Apple Pencil and touch screen makes the iPad a particularly useful device. Maybe you need a big screen to look at a photo, but maybe you want to use the Apple Pencil to interact with the photo.

Bringing Photoshop to the iPad could let you seamlessly work on the same file across multiple devices, switching back and forth between those two devices. Illustrators could really use this kind of flexibility and ditch their Wacom tablet.

You might remember that Apple has put together a Pro Workflow Team for the same reason. You could imagine launching Final Cut Pro X or Logic Pro X on an iMac and on an iPad to interact with a project in different ways. Apple may not be working on Macs with a touchscreen, but it’s clear that there will be ways to interact with a creative project using your finger or the Apple Pencil.

Finally, bringing Photoshop to the iPad makes sense on a business model perspective. Now that Adobe has shifted to a subscription model, the company needs to increase stickiness as much as possible. If you end up spending more time in Adobe apps because your favorite app is on all platforms, you’ll keep paying for Creative Cloud every month.

This project will be an engineering achievement. But this isn’t the first time Adobe is developing a single app for multiple platforms.

Bloomberg says that we might hear more from Photoshop for iPad at the Adobe Max conference in October. Adobe’s chief product officer of Creative Cloud Scott Belsky confirmed that the company was working on releasing these new versions as quickly as possible.

Blue Origin could charge $200k-$300k for a trip to space

How much would you pay to leave our dumpster fire of a world for just a few minutes? Blue Origin is considering charging $200,000 to $300,000 according to a Reuters report. For that price, passengers would get a seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, the commercial space vehicle from Jeff Bezos’ rocket company.

The rocket would take passengers to suborbital space to experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. This is done autonomously and can hold six passengers. Parachutes will return the capsule back to solid ground.

This claim comes from two people with knowledge of the space program’s pricing, Reuters says.

Passengers have time to start saving. Ferrying passengers to space is still a ways off for Blue Origin. The company has completed eight test flights including landing the rocket vertically, but has yet to strap a human into one of the seats. That’s apparently coming within weeks, one employee is quoted on saying in the Reuters’ report.

Blue Origin isn’t the only one selling tickets to space. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic says it has sold about 650 $250,000 tickets to space aboard its craft; launch dates have yet to be announced for that trip too.

Bezos has larger ambitions than just being an amusement ride. In May, speaking at the Space Development Conference in Los Angeles with the inimitable Alan Boyle, Bezos chatted about the idea of making the moon a center for heavy industry, which he thinks will help conserve resources here on Earth. When the time comes, he hopes that lunar residence and industry will be a shared privilege, with countries working together in a “lunar village” and combining their strengths rather than testing them against one another.