Walt Mossberg has a super helpful article in the Wall Street Journal on what is coming for laptops later this year — both Windows and likely Macs — and why you should hold off on buying one now so you can take advantage of these improvements in the late summer or fall:
If you’re thinking of buying a new laptop this spring, my advice is to think again. Unless your laptop is on its last legs and you have to move quickly, there are compelling reasons to wait until at least the summer, and probably the fall, to buy a new machine, especially if you are looking for a Windows PC, but even if you are in the market for a Mac.
That makes this annual spring buyer’s guide a bit different. People always worry that buying tech products today carries a risk of obsolescence. Most of the time, that fear is overblown. But this spring really is a bad time to buy a new laptop, because genuinely big changes are due in the coming months.
Here’s a quick summary of what’s coming.
For Windows Users (if you must!…)
- Windows 8. Windows 8 is scheduled to be out in the fall and will be a major redesign. It will likely be oriented to tablet-like touchscreen navigation, and many PC makers are “planning convertible Windows 8 models for the holiday shopping season that can act as tablets or regular clamshell laptops.”
- Touchscreen laptops. Here’s a simpler way to put it: sounds like touchscreen laptops are coming. Current laptops will be able to upgrade to Windows 8, but won’t be able to take advantage of all the features.
For Mac Users
- Mountain Lion. Mountain Lion will likely be out this summer. Of course, this will run on previous Macs as well (unless Apple does something really strange). But:
- Redesigned MacBook Pros. As most know, “Apple is overdue for redesigned laptops, especially in its MacBook Pro line.” I think Mossberg is right that “it is a good bet that new, possibly heavily redesigned, models will begin appearing later this year.” I would expect the new MacBook Pros to be closer to MacBook Airs, without sacrificing performance. However, I don’t know if the spring refresh will do this, or if the spring will see another small refresh with the more major redesign coming in the fall. See MacRumors’ buying guide for more.
- What would be best of all. My wish, though I have little basis for this hope right now: 500 GB solid state drives becoming standard on MacBook Pros. Spinning hard drives should no longer exist. Enough with them. They crash, they are slow, and solid state drives are awesome.
If you do need to get a new laptop this spring, at the end of the article Mossberg gives some helpful guidelines on choosing.
Other Interesting Things (Not From that Article)
- The iPad Mini. Apparently Apple is considering an iPad mini. My first reaction: this should not exist. If someone wants an iPad mini, they should just get a regular iPad so they have the full experience. Cost should not be taken into consideration when getting iPads.
- The iPad Mini, part 2. But, my more measured reaction is: I see a place for this given that it will likely be priced between $249 and $250. That’s a big savings over the regular iPad (typically at least $600 if you do it right), and that level of costs savings just might make it a good idea for it to exist.
- The iPhone 5. It looks like the iPhone 5 will probably be out in the fall.
Finally. This sounds great.
If you have 1Password and haven’t set it up to sync through Dropbox already, it is well worth doing. Instead of having to remember to sync your iPhone and iPad versions of 1Password with your Mac manually through WiFi, you can move your data file into Dropbox so that all your devices stay in sync automatically.
Here’s a very simple, easy-to-follow guide for setting it up.
Here. (Note: Opens in Apple’s App Store for the Mac.)
Notables include: iA Writer, 1Password (a must have), Day One, Fantastical, and Evernote.
And, here’s Macworld’s app Hall of Fame.
If you upgraded to the iPhone 4S, Gizmodo has some good suggestions on places you can easily sell your (now) old iPhone 4.
After about 21 days of using the Kindle Fire myself, I am in agreement with Michael Hyatt’s very helpful, non-technical review.
Here’s his conclusion:
Overall, the Kindle Fire is no iPad killer. If you can afford the iPad, I’d buy that instead. It is just much more polished and, with so many available apps, can do so much more.
However, if your primary goal is media consumption at an outstanding price, you won’t go wrong with a Kindle Fire. With Amazon’s backing, it will only improve with time.
I agree with this: the main reason to get a Kindle Fire would be price. If that’s your goal, it’s a good device.
And I would add one more suggestion: At this point in time, price should not be a factor in choosing electronic devices. We are at a stage in history right now where the benefits of a truly exceptional device (such as the iPad) far, far outweigh the price difference between those devices and the lower priced attempts.
Additionally, the benefits of an iPad, iPhone, and so forth go far beyond the actual things you can do with the devices. The primary benefits are in how they affect your thinking, helping you see what’s possible and what’s next and how technology can be utilized to do good to the greatest possible extent. You cut yourself off from the fullness of those benefits when you go with budget models, and for a few hundred dollars savings, it’s not worth it.
Save money in other areas. Seeking to save money in technology is not worth the price.
One of the things that was a bit annoying at first about Mac OS X Lion is that Spaces and Expose were integrated into Mission Control. I like the changes overall, as it brings the best of both together in one place, but they also changed the location of some features I liked to use in Spaces.
In fact, they changed the location of these features so significantly that it is almost impossible to figure out on your own, without having to spend more than a few minutes (a critical usability problem, in my view).
I just found this article which outlines the changes made and how to access the old features in Spaces you may have liked but which aren’t immediately evident in Mission Control. Here it is in case it’s helpful to you as well.
A friend of mine in my small group just published this book with Microsoft Press. I’m impressed. Way to go, Phil!
For any out there in IT who work with SharePoint, this book looks like a helpful resource worth checking out.
I had the same initial reservations as Michael Hyatt: It seems like you get most of the advancements through the iOS5 software, and the iPhone 4 is already really great. Is it worth it to upgrade to the iPhone 4s?
After his daughter convinced him to give it a try, he upgraded — and is very glad he did. He gives a great summary of the three biggest benefits in upgrading, and has me convinced.
I should add that, with something like an iPhone, it is generally my policy to get every upgrade, because the increase in speed alone is usually worth it. It also helps keep you up to date on the advancements in technology, by experience rather than simply hearing second-hand. I think that is important for keeping our thinking up to date so that we can fully maximize technology for good.
But I was reluctant here, giving slightly higher priority to saving money than I usually do. As is typical, though, I’ve found that the intent to save money often ends up shooting you in the foot when the issue at stake is, as here, an investment in tools that exist to equip you in doing good. So, with this lesson reinforced once again, I will be getting the iPhone 4s.
The reason I’m asking is because I use Firefox on my Mac, but want my bookmarks to be synced with my iPhone — and, at least until recently, the only way to do that was to sync them to Safari first. Then, Safari syncs them to your iPhone via Mobile Me.
I have traditionally used XMarks to accomplish this, but I’m having trouble with it and want to stop using it.
Does anyone know either (1) if there is now a way to sync bookmarks directly from Firefox to your iPhone/iPad or (2) if there is a better way to sync your bookmarks between Firefox and Safari on the Mac?
A great summary of some of the best new features coming to iOS 5.
This is a guest post by my friend Andy Naselli. Andy is research manager for DA Carson and editor of the online theological journal Themelios. He has two (!) PhDs and blogs at andynaselli.com, which I highly recommend.
From Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 113, 117–18:
During a time of singing at a recent conference, I spotted a woman raising one hand in worship while sending a text message with the other one. We mix worship with our work and pleasure. Why are we surprised when we can only give partial attention to any one of them? . . .
One way we pursue the virtue of efficiency is by becoming multitaskers. If we are driven by efficiency, it is not enough that we work quickly; we must also work on many things simultaneously. Imitating our computers, we seek to switch seamlessly from one task to the next, from one priority to another. At our desks we work on our projects while chatting on instant messengers, sending off text messages, and glancing at our favorite blogs. Even in our entertainment we want to be able to do many things at once—to be able to watch television while sending a text message and checking in on our friends’ Facebook pages.
A rash of recent studies shows that multitasking is not a solution. In fact, studies show that multitasking is actually a misnomer. While we think we are multitasking, we are actually task switching, doing a little bit of one thing and then doing a little bit of another. Our brains just won’t allow us to perform two complex operations at the same time with the same skill. Quality necessarily suffers, as does depth. Not only that, but multitasking is not even very efficient. David E. Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, found that “people who switch back and forth between two tasks, like exchanging e-mail and writing a report, may spend 50 percent more time on those tasks than if they work on them separately, completing one before starting the other.”
Meanwhile, if we surround ourselves by too many stimuli, we force our brains into a state of continuous partial attention, a state in which we keep tabs on everything without giving focused attention to anything. . . .
Whether through multitasking or through monitoring so many sources of input that we remain in continuous partial attention, we lose the ability to think in a sustained way. . . .
This is as true in worship as it is in the workplace. Efficiency is a dangerous mind-set to bring to our faith. We do not want to be efficient worshipers, driven by a desire to get more of God in a shorter amount of time. We do not want to be hurried worshipers who value speed over quality.
Here’s a preview of iOS 5 from Engadget.
Andy Naselli has a helpful post where he shares the apps he uses for his iPad and how he organizes them. It is well worth checking out.
He also includes some my thoughts on organizing your iPad apps, which I sent him after he sent me an early draft of the post.
Al Mohler. Here’s an excerpt:
Being in a bookstore helps me to think. I find that my mind makes connections between authors and books and ideas as I walk along the shelves and look at the tables. When I get a case of writer’s block, I head for a bookstore. The experience of walking among the books is curative.
. . .
My Kindle and iPad are filled with digital books, and the e-book will be one of the dominant book forms and formats of the future. When I need an e-book, a push of a button makes it happen. Who wouldn’t welcome that development? But the e-book is not the same as a physical book, and both the digital and the printed book have their own charms.
Mike Shatzkin thinks the handwriting is already on the wall — “Book stores are going away.” He may be right, but I hold out hope that he is not. If he is, it is far more than bookstores that we will lose.
I’m looking forward to Tim Challies’ new book, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. The book releases April 1, but you can also pre-order to get a signed copy).
Here’s a commercial for the book that Tim debuted on his blog this week:
I’m sure I’ll be blogging more about Tim’s book as the release gets closer. The issue of technology and faith is something that we all deal with and can understand better, and, in my view, there are few who have thought through this issue with the insight and depth that Tim brings.
I’m slowly beginning to read more and more books on my Kindle or iPad, rather than in printed form. I enjoy reading books electronically, but there are two large drawbacks.
First, it is hard to thumb through the book quickly. You can click “next page” over and over, but this is still relatively slow compared to just quickly turning through the pages of a physical book. The ability to thumb through a book quickly is extremely important for maximizing your comprehension of the book because it enables you to preview the content rapidly before your main read, and it allows you to review the content rapidly when you want to look back and reinforce what you’ve learned. E-books just go too slow to make this work well.
Second, it is hard to quickly go through the book to find a particular section or quote. I know you can easily review all your underlined portions together, which is a nice advantage. But sometimes the section I want isn’t something I underlined. It becomes cumbersome to get to the point I want.
What is the solution to these two problems? Here’s what I would like to see. It is probably technologically impossible right now, but it would almost be a perfect solution.
What I would like to see is a digital book with actual pages. It would have about 300 pages, like a printed book. The difference with a printed book, though, is that each of those pages would utilize electronic ink. As a result, when you decide to read, say, George Bush’s Decision Points, the whole book becomes that book. When you select a different book to read, the whole book then becomes that other book. And so forth.
In other words, instead of having a single screen that displays the contents of the book, like the Kindle does, you have actual pages which allow you to read the electronic book just like a printed book. To go on to the next page, instead of hitting “next page” and waiting for the screen to change, you actually turn the page and there it is — just like in a printed book. This creates a more natural experience and allows you to flip through the pages quickly in order to preview and review, thus solving the two problems I outlined above.
But unlike a real book, this book can be turned into any book you want. For, since the pages use digital ink, the contents of the book can be changed to whatever electronic book you have purchased and want to read. At the beginning of the book could be your library and the primary controls (similar to the “home” section on the Kindle), which would then serve as your control center where you can browse your library, select what book you want to be reading, shop for more books, and so forth.
If a book is longer than the 300 pages that this electronic book would have built into it, when you get to page 300 you just push an icon on the screen to tell it to change the pages to show 300 to the end, rather than pages 1 to 300. Or something like that.
Obviously the big challenge with this type of e-reader is creating pages which display digital ink and are able to bend like real pages. That might be a large obstacle! But it would seem that there should be some way to get that figured out.
There may be other drawbacks as well, making this an utter pie-in-the-sky dream. But it sure would be great to see something like this.
I’m a bit late here, but just in case you haven’t heard (or updated) yet, iOS 4.2 is now available for the iPad (and iPhone).
There are more than 100 new features, but in my view just having the ability to organize your apps in folders makes the iPad immensely more useful.
It might be worth considering AT&T’s 3G Microcell:
AT&T 3G MicroCell acts like a mini cellular tower in your home or small business environment. It connects to AT&T’s network via your existing broadband Internet service (such as U-verse, DSL or cable) and is designed to support up to four simultaneous users in a home or small business setting.
We live squarely in the Twin Cities metro area. Nonetheless, I get only 2-3 bars of coverage on the main floor of my house, and only 1 bar in the basement. Just about every call that I take in my basement is bound to be dropped if it lasts more than 5 minutes, which is a problem because that’s where my home office is. So I’m eager to see how this works.
From the Google blog:
People tell us all that time that they’re getting more and more mail and often feel overwhelmed by it all. We know what you mean—here at Google we run on email. Our inboxes are slammed with hundreds, sometimes thousands of messages a day—mail from colleagues, from lists, about appointments and automated mail that’s often not important. It’s time-consuming to figure out what needs to be read and what needs a reply. Today, we’re happy to introduce Priority Inbox (in beta)—an experimental new way of taking on information overload in Gmail.
Gmail has always been pretty good at filtering junk mail into the “spam” folder. But today, in addition to spam, people get a lot of mail that isn’t outright junk but isn’t very important—bologna, or “bacn.” So we’ve evolved Gmail’s filter to address this problem and extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this “bologna” from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules.
You can learn more about how this works and how to get started using it in the full post.