May 2021 Newsletter
New M1-based 24-inch iMac, iPad Pro, AirTag, Apple TV 4K, and more
On April 20th, Apple took to the Internet to stream its “Spring Loaded” event
. Pundits had been unable to figure out a theme based on the name, but Apple was being blunt: the event was taking place in the spring, and it was loaded with announcements.
With Apple CEO Tim Cook bookending the presentation—and doing a cameo as a master thief at 37:26 into the presentation—the company announced an M1-based 24-inch iMac, M1-based iPad Pro models, the long-rumored AirTag item tracker, and an enhanced Apple TV 4K with a redesigned Siri Remote. Orders for all these items started on Friday, April 30th, but some won’t ship until the second half of May.
More on these shortly, but briefly, Apple also unveiled the new Apple Card Family program
, which allows two people to co-own an Apple Card and share it with their children, complete with spending limits. And for those still looking for a colorful iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 mini, it now comes in purple
M1-Based 24-inch iMac comes in spring colors
Apple has continued replacing Macs at the lower end of the product line with new models featuring the company’s homegrown M1 chip. While the first Macs to get the M1—the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini—didn’t receive any design changes, Apple radically overhauled things for the new M1-based 24-inch iMac
At 11.5 mm thick, the 24-inch iMac is thinner than the original iPhone. It comes in seven colors: green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, and silver. The back of the iMac—which is often visible, such as on a receptionist’s desk—is a bold, vibrant color, whereas the front uses a muted version of the color and a light gray bezel. It looks like a 24-inch iPad clipped to an aluminum stand. It’s so thin that there’s no room for a standard power jack, so it comes with an external power adapter that includes an optional Ethernet jack.
Behind the iMac’s “chin” is the guts of the computer, most notably the same M1 chip as in other M1-based Macs. Overall performance will be stellar thanks to the M1’s 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, but you can tweak the price/performance curve slightly by choosing a 7-core GPU instead and by picking either 8 GB or 16 GB of unified memory.
The screen, which actually measures 23.5 inches diagonally, offers 4480-by-2520 resolution, making it a 4.5K Retina display, between the 4K display on the now-discontinued 21.5-inch iMac and the 5K display on the 27-inch iMac. It’s topped by a 1080p FaceTime HD camera that, with help from the M1 chip’s image signal processor—and advanced microphones and speakers—should offer excellent out-of-the-box videoconferencing quality.
Apple introduced three new color-matched versions of the Magic Keyboard as well. One adds dedicated keys for Spotlight, Dictation, Do Not Disturb, Lock, and Emoji; the second trades the Lock key for the first Touch ID sensor on a standalone keyboard; and the third includes both Touch ID and a numeric keypad. They come with color-matched models of the Magic Mouse, or you can upgrade to a color-matched Magic Trackpad instead.
Two models of the 24-inch iMac are available:
- $1299 gets you that 7-core GPU, two Thunderbolt ports, 256 GB of storage that’s upgradable to 1 TB, optional Gigabit Ethernet, and a standard Magic Keyboard. It’s available in only blue, green, pink, and silver.
- $1499 gets you the 8-core GPU, 256 GB of storage upgradeable to 2 TB, two Thunderbolt ports and two USB 3 ports, standard Gigabit Ethernet, and a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. And you can pick from all seven colors.
Our take is that the new 24-inch iMac is a fabulous Mac for a family, student, or front-office worker where everyone will appreciate its striking color and design. It may not offer everything a pro wants, but the Intel-based 27-inch iMac remains available, and Apple will be releasing even more powerful Macs based on Apple silicon for professionals, likely later this year.
M1-based iPad Pro gains Thunderbolt and Liquid Retina XDR display
Unlike the 24-inch iMac, there are no major industrial design changes in either iPad Pro
model, but Apple has made significant upgrades under the hood, most notably switching from the previous A12Z Bionic chip to the M1 chip that now powers an increasing number of Macs. The M1 chip offers roughly 50% greater performance, significantly differentiating the 11-inch iPad Pro from the highly capable fourth-generation iPad Air introduced late last year.
Apple also updated the iPad Pro’s port from USB-C to Thunderbolt/USB 4, allowing users to take advantage of higher-performance hardware, such as external storage devices and high-resolution external displays. You can even connect Apple’s Pro Display XDR at its full 6K resolution. As welcome as Thunderbolt is, iPadOS could use enhancements to enable users to take full advantage of it.
For those who need constant connectivity while out and about, the cellular models of the iPad Pro now support 5G wireless networking, including the millimeter-wave version that offers the greatest throughput. Although 5G coverage is still extremely spotty, it’s only getting better, and supporting it will help future-proof these iPad Pro models.
Both iPad Pro models also receive a new 12-megapixel Ultra Wide TrueDepth camera on the front. Along with help from the M1 chip’s machine-learning capabilities, it enables a new feature called Center Stage that recognizes you in video calls and pans and zooms to keep you in the frame as you move around. It will work with FaceTime, of course, and Apple says third-party services will also be able to support it.
Last but far from least is a new display for just the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Based on the technology behind Apple’s $5000 Pro Display XDR, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s Liquid Retina Display XDR is lit by more than 10,000 miniature LEDs, combined into nearly 2600 dimming zones. (The previous model’s screen had 72 LEDs.) The result is a display that’s brighter and offers more contrast than before, making it ideal for photo or video editing. If you think screen quality is the deciding factor between the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, we encourage you to compare them in person with the same images or videos.
Pricing has changed a little for the iPad Pros. The 11-inch model continues to start at $799 with 128 GB of storage. However, the 12.9-inch model is $100 more expensive than previously, thanks to the Liquid Retina XDR display, starting at $1099 for 128 GB. Both are upgradeable to 256 GB ($100), 512 GB ($300), 1 TB ($700), or 2 TB ($1100), and note that the models with 512 GB and less come with 8 GB of unified memory, whereas the 1 TB and 2 TB models have 16 GB of memory. Adding 5G cellular now costs $200, up $50, although special deals with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon may reduce or erase that cost.
Find Your keys, purse, or backpack with an AirTag
The long-rumored AirTag
has finally appeared, promising to help us all stop misplacing our keys, purses, backpacks, and more. An AirTag is a small disc that you put inside or attach to something you might need help finding. Should that item go missing, you use the Find My app on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad, or in iCloud to locate the associated AirTag, just as you can use Find My to locate missing Apple devices or find family members. The Find My network leverages nearly 1 billion Apple devices to relay the location of lost items back to you, all without compromising anyone’s privacy. Plus, Apple has built in alerts if someone tries to track you with an AirTag.
AirTags are 1.26 inches in diameter and .31 inches high—roughly the size of four half-dollar coins—and run on a standard user-replaceable CR2032 battery. They communicate with nearby Apple devices via Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband, the latter of which works with an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 to provide Precision Finding that directs you to the exact location of the AirTag. (“You’re getting warmer…”)
To make it easier to attach an AirTag to your keys or backpack, Apple offers a variety of key rings and loops, including some pricey Hermès versions. We anticipate third-party manufacturers will offer numerous alternatives.
A single AirTag costs $29, or you can buy a four-pack for $99. Apple offers free engraving, although the company limits the emoji available to prevent pictographic rudeness. We’re looking forward to giving an AirTag a try.
Apple TV 4K offers enhanced video and redesigned Siri remote
After four years, Apple has finally updated the hardware inside the Apple TV 4K
, giving its second-generation model a faster A12 Bionic processor, HDMI 2.1, and 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking. The speedier processor enables playback of HDR and Dolby Vision video at 60 frames per second, and the other hardware changes could enable new capabilities in the future, like 4K video at 120 fps.
In software, Apple added a new color calibration feature that lets you use any Face ID-enabled iPhone running iOS 14.5 or later to calibrate the colors on your TV; it will also be available to the Apple TV HD and first-generation Apple TV 4K. Also new is support for Thread, a cross-platform mesh networking protocol for home automation devices, which could play a role in the future of HomeKit.
But the big news is that Apple redesigned the much-reviled Siri Remote, adding more buttons and reducing the emphasis on the touchpad surface. The new Siri Remote features a circular clickpad controller with five-way navigation, a touch-sensitive surface for swiping in the middle, and a touch-sensitive outer ring that works as a jog control for navigating within a video. It also features dedicated power and mute—at last!—buttons for your TV. Finally, there’s a new side button for invoking Siri so you don’t accidentally press it in the dark. It has a rechargeable battery that should last for months. The only thing lacking? The necessary hardware so you can use the Find My app to ferret it out from inside the couch.
Apple is bundling the new Siri Remote with the new Apple TV 4K ($179 for 32 GB or $199 for 64 GB) and the old Apple TV HD ($149), and if you already have an Apple TV HD or 4K, you can buy the new Siri Remote by itself for $59.
Privacy tip: Don’t post vaccination record cards on social media
So you’ve gotten your COVID-19 vaccination. Congratulations, and thank you for nudging the planet closer to the herd immunity needed for life to return to normal!
It’s a good idea to take a photo of your card as a backup before filing it with your other important papers, just in case. (If you lose the original, you may be able to get a new one from the site where you got the vaccine or through your state’s Immunization Information System.)
However, we do want to offer a note of caution. Resist the urge to post that photo—or one of you gleefully brandishing your card—on social media. The cards include your name, date of birth, vaccine location, and other personal information that could be used to steal your identity, and any digital miscreant worth their salt is already trawling through your social media feeds for as much personal information as they can find.
Use Messages to share your location quickly
We’ve all gotten that panicked “Where are you?!?” text message at some point. Sometimes it’s an easy question to answer, but at other times, the answer is “Well, right here, wherever that is.” That’s unsatisfying, of course, but using Messages on your iPhone, you can do better.
Tap the person’s name at the top of the conversation, tap the Info button, and in the screen that appears, tap Send My Current Location. Messages immediately sends a little thumbnail map showing where you are, and if the recipient taps it, they can see a larger map, get directions, or open it in Maps. It’s a brilliant little feature!
Ed Davison Field
Since our wonderful father Ed passed away in 2016, my brother Bret and I have searched for a proper way to honor him and his legacy. We have found something we believe to be perfect and are asking for your help to make it a reality.
Dad was a believer in sports. He’d played baseball growing up and experienced for himself the transformational nature of athletics. When Bret and I fell in love with soccer in the 1970s, he didn’t hesitate to learn all he could and coach. He knew that sports help kids by teaching teamwork, self-reliance, responsibility, winning and losing with grace, camaraderie, and so many other character-building attributes.
In the early ‘80s, Dad created the Sprague Sabres, a soccer club designed to bring as many opportunities as possible to kids in the Salem area. We went to more tournaments than I can remember, took a couple teams to play in Costa Rica, and made a difference in kids’ lives. This last point I know to be true because late in his life he received letters (and sometimes checks) from his former players saying, “You changed my life.”
The Sprague Sabres eventually merged and morphed into a soccer club called Capital FC (CFC)
. I have coached there, and all three of my kids played at CFC. (My youngest, Jillian, continues to play competitively there.) The club serves thousands of kids every soccer season—3,000 kids this season, about half of whom are considered "at-risk."
Bret and I have partnered with and made a major financial contribution to CFC to build a new, $1.5 million turf soccer pitch, “Ed Davison Field.” It will be the centerpiece of a multi-million dollar regional sports complex here in Salem. This complex is estimated to have a positive $12 million impact annually for Salem. But for Bret and myself, it's really about helping kids and honoring Dad. It's our attempt to express our love and admiration for him and what he brought to the kids of Salem.
You can learn more about Ed Davison Field here: https://donorbox.org/help-build-ed-davison-field
We would be honored by any (tax-deductible) donation you might choose to make. We are endeavoring to help a lot of families and kids just as Dad did and taught us to do. I hope you’ll join us.
P.S. Please forward this to anyone who might want to contribute/share in this effort.
As a company we communicate through phone calls and email.
Our main phone line (503-507-0410) is staffed during regular business hours
. Please call if you need help or information. If our main team is unavailable when you call we will return your call by the end of the next business day. Importantly, we do not offer emergency or same-day service
We also use email. If you're a client and have a question or problem, firstname.lastname@example.org is your friend.
This pops your email into our support ticketing system. Because we serve hundreds of clients, using this system allows us to handle incoming requests efficiently. Clients can also email with quick questions about an issue. We're happen to provide a free, quick answer if we can.
Potential new clients can email us at email@example.com
Support or information request emails to specific MacAtoZ employees are likely to delay service
. (That said if you have comments for a specific staff member that are not time-sensitive, you're absolutely welcome to email them.)
Unless otherwise instructed, please do not call or text MacAtoZ employees directly
We help people with Apple technology. Thank you for working with us to maximize our ability to do this.
macOS 10.14.6 Mojave
. We are not crazy about macOS 10.15.7 Catalina. It's had a lot of reliability issues and still has a Mail app bug that can cause the loss of email when a user moves a lot of messages. That said, Catalina is acceptable from a security perspective. We do not yet recommend macOS 11 Big Sur, though we expect to this summer. We are testing version 11.3.1. If it comes on your new Mac, it's unavoidable and that's fine. If you have Big Sur you should immediately upgrade to 11.3.1
for security reasons. Earlier versions of Big Sur are not secure.
macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra is no longer secure. It and earlier macOS versions should be upgraded ASAP
unless your Mac never goes online. You can see your Mac's operating system version by going to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and choosing "About This Mac."
Any iPhone running iOS 14 should be updated to iOS 14.5.1 immediately for security reasons. If you're not sure what iOS version you have, you can see your iPhone or iPad's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version. (iOS 12.5.3 is also acceptable for older iPhones.)
Similar to the iPhone, any iPad running iPadOS 14 should be immediately upgraded to 14.5.1.
Older versions of WatchOS acceptable if necessary; upgrade if your devices (iPhone and Apple Watch) support it. You can see your Apple Watch's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version. Generally, one does not have to worry about AppleWatch software security.
. tvOS 13.4.8 and tvOS 12 also acceptable. Note that earlier models of Apple TV do not run tvOS and are fine for what they do; not all channels, features, or apps will be available. You can see if there's a software update available for your Apple TV by going to Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software. Generally, one does not have to worry about tvOS security.
- MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
- MacBook Air (Mid-2012 or later)
- MacBook Pro (Mid-2012 or later)
- Note that 2016-2019 MacBook Pro models have a higher than usual keyboard failure rate. Used 2015 models, which use a different style keyboard, may be a more reliable option. The new 2019 MacBook Pro 16" model uses a new keyboard mechanism and should be fine.
- Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
- iMac (Late 2012 or later)
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro (Late 2013 or newer)
These are minimum
hardware recommendations based on what is necessary to run a secure operating system (macOS 10.14.6 Mojave or macOS 10.15.7 Catalina). If your Mac does not meet these specifications—that is, it will not run Mojave or Catalina—it needs to be replaced soon unless you will not be using it online. macOS 10.13 High Sierra is no longer secure.
macOS 11 Big Sur was released in November 2020 and has its own set of system requirements.
iPhone and iPad
- iPhone 6S or newer. Older iPhones cannot run iOS 14.
- iPhone 7 models have a higher than normal failure rate over time. Given the choice, we would recommend iPhone SE (2020) model as a strong alternative to iPhone 7 models.
- iPad Air 2 or newer
- iPad mini 4 or newer
- iPad Pro (all models)
- iPad 5th generation or newer
The iPad line is made confusing by the multitude of model names and types (Air, mini, Pro, and just plain iPad). Generally speaking, devices introduced in October 2014 and later will run iPadOS. iPads that will not run iPadOS and should be replaced unless they will not be used on the internet.
- Apple Watch Series 4, 5, or 6 or SE highly recommended.
- All versions (Series 0 through Series 6 and SE) are secure and acceptable though Apple Watch Series 0, 1, and 2 will not run the latest version of WatchOS and therefore lack both the speed and features of later Apple Watches.
- Apple TV 4K is recommended. Apple TV HD (4th generation) is fine as well.
- Older models of Apple TV do not support tvOS and cannot run Apple TV Store apps, though we are unaware of any major security issues.
A secure operating system
See Software Recommendations for details. If you're not running a secure operating system, it will be difficult to impossible to protect your data.
We recommend using Apple's built-in whole disk encryption, FileVault. It can be turned on in System Preferences > Security & Privacy.
We recommend and use Apple's built-in Time Machine backup system. You'll need an external hard drive
so that the data is automatically saved to a second location. Off-site backup remains important in mitigating the risk of fire or theft. We use and recommend Backblaze
. At a cost of $6 a month per Mac, Backblaze will encrypt then backup an unlimited amount of data from your Mac. Data has a 30-day retention window, though longer time periods are possible for an additional couple bucks.
Sentinel, Sentinel+, Sentinel Ultra, Sentinel AM
[warning: we are tooting our own horn here]
Sentinel provides professional 24/7 oversight of the health of your Mac. We're monitoring all kinds of things (RAM, hard drive, Time Machine backups, battery, etc.)—150 different data points every hour.
Sentinel+ adds maintenance and security to Sentinel's 24/7 monitoring. Sentinel+ will handle most software updates so you don't have to as well as run maintenance routines to keep things running tip-top. This is includes basic scanning and quarantine of malware.
Sentinel Ultra is our top-of-the-line, four-in-one service that includes everything in Sentinel and Sentinel+. Ultra blocks malicious web sites, filters objectionable content, protects against email phishing threats, and even increases the speed of your web surfing. It's proactive security. Ultra represents our best effort and the best tool in our arsenal to keep clients safe on the web.
Sentinel AM is our anti-malware offering. It's a $5/mo add-on for Sentinel+ or Sentinel Ultra services.
A secure web browser with ad blocking
with the free open source content blocker uBlock Origin
is our first choice. Safari with AdGuard
(and blocking cross-site tracking turned on) is another fine option. AdGuard is no longer free, but Safari extensions are getting enhanced in macOS 11 Big Sur, so we're hopeful that getting uBlock Origin (our favorite) back on Safari is just a matter of time.
There's really no good reason to use Google, Bing, or any of the other search engines. Not only does DuckDuckGo
return excellent search results, you can use commands in the search bar (like "!g"—that's exclamation point plus the letter g) to search Google anonymously. You can search other search engines anonymously too via DuckDuckGo, and DuckDuckGo won't track you. In the search engine preferences for either Safari or Firefox, you can set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine.
A Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is an encrypted tunnel between your Mac (or iPhone or iPad) and another computer run by the VPN company. It protects your internet traffic so that anyone who might want to spy on your traffic locally can't. We use PIA VPN
which covers multiple devices (Mac, iPad, iPhone) for about $75 a year.
A Password Manager
We consider password managers like 1Password
indispensible. Instead of having to remember lengthy passwords or reusing the handful that we can remember, we remember one password to unlock 1Password, and the program takes care of the rest. 1Password can be a little complex to set up, so we typically will help clients with that. Actual use isn't too bad though and is typically within the reach of even basic users.
A Spam Filter
Apple's built in Junk Mail filter works for most spam assuming your email address isn't widely dispersed on the internet. If you're swamped with spam email, though, SpamSieve
can rescue you.
Avoid Social Media
If you're posting to social media like Facebook, you're not just telling your friends something. You're telling Facebook, and Facebook is hardly keeping your information top secret. Want to say something privately to a friend? Use Apple Messages or Apple's FaceTime. Both are end-to-end encrypted, and not even Apple has the keys.