Why a new 12-inch MacBook Air could debut alongside Apple Watch

12-inch MacBook Air is in production for the second quarter of this year, reports the Wall Street Journal. That leads to a question about Apple’s “Spring Forward” press event this coming Monday: Will Apple introduce a new laptop alongside its Apple Watch?

There’s little doubt [company]Apple[/company] plans to reveal all of the Apple Watch details and unanswered questions next week; I’ll be at the event with a live blog and first impressions of any new products.

If Apple indeed does plan to offer a MacBook Air with a screen size between the currently available 11- and 13-inch models in the second quarter, a March event is plausible. The timing with respect to chips makes sense as well: Intel’s new Broadwell processors were announced in January and are becoming available to device makers. Production could be underway as a result; Apple would have waited for next-generation chips for a new MacBook Air at this point.

silvergray-copy

News of a 12-inch MacBook Air hit in January with 9to5Mac super-sleuth Mark Gurman detailing the product from internal Apple sources and publishing in-house renders (above) created from the information.

Gurman reported that the 12-inch laptop will actually be closer in size to the current 11-inch MacBook Air due to slimmer bezels, an edge-to-edge keyboard and fewer ports, along with a reversible Type-C USB connector that works for both data transfer and power. Gurman also said the new MacBook Air will have a higher-resolution screen, likely meaning what Apple calls a Retina display on its products.

While the Apple Watch could stand on its own at an event, it’s worth remembering that it’s an accessory product to an iPhone. To my knowledge, Apple has never held an event solely for an accessory, although the watch is a completely new product line.

In that regard, I think there’s a better than 50-50 chance we see a svelte new 12-inch MacBook Air on Monday. Unless Apple plans another event before its WorldWide Developer Conference, expected this year in early June, the timing is right for a new laptop announcement next week.

Now available: OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 beta with new Photos app

Apple released a beta version of its OS X Yosemite software on Monday, making it publicly available to all Mac hardware owners for the first time, says iMore. Aside from expected stability fixes and performance enhancements, OS X 10.10.3 provides a first look at Photos for OS X, the new app meant to replace both iPhotos and Aperture.

To get the new version of Yosemite and try Photos, which was announced last June, you’ll need to register with Apple here.

photos for OSX iOS

Last month, MacWorld took an early peek at Photos and found that the app has elements of both OS X and iOS in it, as you’d expect; [company]Apple[/company] has been merging together elements from the desktop and mobiles for some time. For example, you can view and group photos by Years, Collections, and Moments, just like you can on an iPhone or iPad. While you can save and sync photos from an iCloud account, it’s not a requirement.

Image editing appears simplified as well, combining several elements from both the old Photos app and Aperture, which has more advanced controls and features. Editing menus include Enhance, Rotate, Crop, Filters, Adjust, and Retouch; each of which having multiple methods to tweak pictures the way you want to.

 

How to avoid long waits at the Genius Bar before you get there

Cracked screens, dead batteries and water damage — sometimes you simply can’t avoid a trip to the Genius Bar to get your broken Apple device back in working order. You may have heard the rumors that Apple is in the process of overhauling the way that Genius Bar appointments are managed. Some of the changes will help streamline the process by introducing more communication about your appointment — like pinpointing exactly when and where to meet your Genius in the store. Other changes, like Apple prioritizing walk-in appointments so that more serious issues take precedence over less serious issues, may be less welcome — like not having a FastPass at Disney.

You will, however, still be able to make a Genius Bar appointment. But, depending on where you live, you often have to wait days for the next open appointment time. I typically perform the following series of checkups on the devices that I help manage before deciding that a trip to the Genius Bar is in order:

iOS Devices

Quit all running apps: Sometimes it’s not your device that is performing poorly, but one of your installed apps. A quick and easy way to get things back to running normally is to quit all of the running apps on your device. Press the home button two times, quickly, to reveal which apps are currently running. Swipe each app up in order to quit the app. If one app in particular is continually causing issues, check to see if there is an update and consider re-installing the problematic app or deleting it all together. Keeping up with iOS and app updates is key to avoiding most app related issues.

Power off and back on: iPhones and iPads are up and running all the time. It can help to give them a quick break every now and then by powering off and back on. If a battery issue may be affecting your performance, you can always try to use your iOS device when it is connected directly to a power source. You may even want to try to track down apps that could be contributing to battery drain before you take your device in to a Genius for evaluation. In the Settings app, go to General, Usage, Battery Usage to see which apps are using the most battery.

Reset network settings: Many iOS device problems are network-related — connecting to a network, dropping network connectivity, slower than expected download speeds and even not joining a known network when you are within range. From within the Settings app, navigate to General, then Reset. Here you will find a series of reset options. Select Reset Network Settings. When you do reset your network settings, all passwords used to join those networks will be lost. You will have to re-join and enter the network passwords all over again. If you don’t know your network passwords, hold off on this fix.

Backup, erase all content and settings: As a last resort, you can try to erase all content and settings then restore from a prior backup. Before you begin, make sure that you have a current backup of your device. There are three types of backups you can consider performing — iCloud backupsiTunes backups and an iMazing backups. iMazing ($30, Mac/PC) is a third-party app that will create a full archive of everything on your device. This can be a time-consuming task and if it proves not to be of any help, you will at least have a current backup of your device prior to taking it in to the Genius Bar. That is one of the first things they will ask you before taking a look at your device.

OS X devices

Log off and back on: Some of the remedies for iOS are applicable to Macs as well, but the manner in which you execute the remedy is different. In order to quit all of your running apps, you can either use the keyboard shortcut (Command+Q) or you can Force Quit (Command+Option+Esc) any and all running applications. You can also just log off and back on to your Mac. This ensures that all of the running apps and background processes associated with your user account quit running.

Shutdown and restart: While Macs do tend to reboot quickly, many Mac owners see this as an option of last resort. OS X in general does a lot of work in the background to optimize the resources that are in use. As a result, Macs tend to be able to stay up and running for long periods of time. Months may pass between reboots. That does not mean that an occasionally planned reboot wouldn’t hurt. This goes beyond logging off and on and will restart additional process that are running for all users. While this exercise will flush out some of the issues you may encounter, you can also use a utility like Koingo’s MacCleanse ($30, Mac) or MacPaw’s CleanMyMac2 ($40, Mac) to clear out the rest.

Turn your Wi-Fi off and back on: Forcing your Mac to forget the networks that it has joined in the past isn’t as easy as it is on iOS. Turning your Wi-Fi off and back on again from the menu bar can resolve many connectivity issues, but not all of them. To forget a Wi-Fi network entirely, you will need to open Network Preferences and click on the Advanced button associated with the Wi-Fi adapter. Here you will see a list of Preferred Networks. Simple remove the networks you wish to forget by clicking on the minus sign. If you are having issues on one particular network, you may want to run some diagnostics using an app like NetSpot (Free, Mac) and see if interference from other radio signals is causing the issue.

Reset PRAM and SMC: Macs exhibit odd behavior from time to time. If your fans start running at full blast, the lights on you keyboard don’t turn on when they should, your Mac won’t go to sleep or wake up properly, or your video settings get reset, you may think you’re experiencing hardware failure. A simple yet effective remedy is to reset either your PRAM, SMC or both. Depending on how old your Mac is, you perform this task by holding down the Option, Command, P, and R keys simultaneously while your Mac is starting up.  You will be amazed at what sorts of weird issues this will fix.

Screen sharing could be a future Apple FaceTime feature

Apple’s FaceTime service is currently just a method of two-way personal communication, but it could become much more. A patent granted to Apple shows how FaceTime would work as a collaborative productivity tool, complete with data and app sharing.

AppleInsider noted the new patent grant on Tuesday, with images such as this one showing how screens could be shared over FaceTime on an [company]Apple[/company] iPad while the app maintains a two-way video conversation.

facetime screen sharing patent

This particular example also shows that FaceTime users could control what application data is shared between two parties; on the right you can see shared calendar information.

The patent describes how data controls would work — determing what can be shared based on user controls or the type of connection. ranging from specifying exactly what can be shared based on user controls or by the type of connection. Sharing a screen or an app over Wi-Fi might be preferable to sharing it over an LTE connection, for example.

Apple’s FaceTime service is only available on iOS and OS X devices, of course, so don’t expect to share your Windows Desktop or apps any time soon using FaceTime, even if Apple does implement what’s described in the patent. Besides, there are plenty of third-party apps that offer that functionality now on non-Apple devices.

Soon non-developers will be able to try beta versions of iOS

If you want to check out what Apple’s cooking up in the next update of iOS, you currently have to sign up for its $99 per year developer program or give your device UDID to a sketchy service in order to install public beta builds on your iPhone or iPad. That’s changing soon: According to the reliable Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac, Apple is planning to extend its Appleseed public beta program to iOS starting with version iOS 8.3 next month.

iOS 8.3 is already public and in the hands of developers. [company]Apple[/company] is probably not going to launch a public beta of iOS 9 or other major releases before they’re announced. Gurman points out that iOS 8.4 will probably include Apple’s new streaming music service, so beta testers may get first access to the next episode of Beats Music.

Apple started offering public beta versions of its desktop OS last year, allowing Mac users to check out OS X Yosemite before it was officially launched. Not only does this keep hardcore [company]Apple[/company] fans happy, but it can also help squash bugs, which according to anecdotal evidence, seem to be increasing in recent years due to Apple’s aggressive release schedule. Last fall, Apple pushed an embarrassing incremental iOS update that killed cellular service for many iPhone users, for instance. The OS X beta program was limited to the first million users to sign up, so it’s possible the iOS beta program will have a cap too.

Here’s the Appleseed landing page and here’s the OS X beta signup page. Keep an eye on them if you want to be one of the first non-Apple employees to check out iOS 8.3.

 

Report: Apple’s new MacBook Air will have a single next-gen USB port

The Apple Watch isn’t the only new product expected out of Cupertino in 2015. Apple’s also been preparing a new 12-inch MacBook Air, and according to information obtained by 9to5Mac, the company may change a lot of what users know and love about the MacBook Air.

The new MacBook Air will have a 12-inch screen, but it will be narrower than the current 11-inch MacBook Air. The bezels around the MacBook Air screen have been shrunk, so the display panel — and keyboard — will take up a larger proportion of laptop’s usable area.

9to5mac 12 inch macbook air

The keyboard could be “noticeably” changed, cramming the keys together to take up less area. There are also a few key changes — the power button, for instance, has moved to the left-hand upper corner, to the left of the escape key. The travel on the trackpad has also reportedly been removed in the interest of keeping the laptop slim.

One piece of information to take with a grain of salt: Apparently, the new MacBook Air will only come with only two ports — a headphone jack, and a single USB Type-C port. It’s hard to imagine a MacBook without a Thunderbolt connection or MagSafe charger, but the new USB specification supports driving displays as well as device charging.

The port selection indicates it’s possible that [company]Apple[/company] will update its Cinema Display, which hasn’t been touched in years and will not work with a machine with a single USB Type-C port. (At least, not without a ton of adapters.) Perhaps Apple is working on a docking port for this machine.

You can expect the new MacBook Air to use one of Intel’s new dual-core Broadwell chips.

If you’re in the market for an Apple laptop and you don’t need it today, you should probably hold off until the “MacBook Stealth” launches, most likely later this year, perhaps in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference. There are a few slick custom renders approximating what it could look like when it’s launched over on 9to5Mac.

Critical flaw leads Apple to push OS X update for first time

Apple has pushed an automatic update to Macs for the first time, in order to fix a critical vulnerability in the network time protocol (NTP), which is used to synchronize computers’ clocks.

The company typically uses its software update mechanism to issue security updates, with users consciously being involved in the process, but this one was extraordinarily urgent, and led [company]Apple[/company] to use an automatic update mechanism that it developed a couple years back but had not used until Monday.

Apple spokesman Bill Evans told Reuters that the firm wanted to protect customers as quickly as possible – and indeed, when it was first released on Monday ahead of the automated push, the update was unusually entitled: “Install this update as soon as possible.”

The flaw was discovered by [company]Google[/company] researchers and flagged up by the U.S. government on Friday – it doesn’t just affect Macs, but also systems all the way up to industrial control systems, and the government needed to warn those running critical infrastructure. According to that warning:

These vulnerabilities could be exploited remotely. Exploits that target these vulnerabilities are publicly available…
A remote attacker can send a carefully crafted packet that can overflow a stack buffer and potentially allow malicious code to be executed with the privilege level of the [NTP daemon] process.

Evans told Reuters that Apple was not aware of any exploitations of the flaw in Macs. The update, which doesn’t require a restart, was released for OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.5, OS X Mavericks v10.9.5, and OS X Yosemite v10.10.1.

This article was updated a couple minutes after initial publication to change the word “forces” in the headline to “leads” — it occurred to me that “forces” sounded unnecessarily harsh, given that the company is trying to protect its users from a vulnerability that wasn’t of its own making.

Ex-Skypers unveil Wire app, offering voice, messaging and more

The free service is currently available on iOS, Android and OS X, though an in-browser version will arrive soon. It’s been under development for two years and has a very credible team behind it. However, its security mechanisms remain a mystery.