The Mac Observer's CES 2017 coverage sponsored by:

  • iMazing
  • The Omni Group
  • Merlin Project
  • MacPaw
  • Elgato

Video: A Look Around Inside CES Unveiled 2017

· Dave Hamilton · Cool Stuff Found

As a reader of TMO and a listener of our podcasts, especially Mac Geek Gab, you see and hear us write and talk a lot about the various press events we attend. Many of these – Pepcom, ShowStoppers, and CES Unveiled – are very similar in nature. They’re like a trade show, with a few key differences. First, every vendor has basically the same-sized table at which to present their offerings. There are no big booths and no overly-flashy signs or anything of the sort. Everyone’s logos are well-presented, but mostly its about the products. The reason for this is the second key differentiator: all of the attendees are members of the media. There are no distributors there, no general consumers looking around, no aimless tire-kickers. Everyone is there to report about what they see. And, as you know, that’s what we do. With one exceptIon: we’ve never reported about what we see in general. We always show you specific things, but have never intentionally given you a glimpse of the event itself. Here, today, we change that with a look around inside CES Unveiled 2017, just about 15 minutes after the doors opened. Oh, and yes, there’s food. Yummy, tasty food. Enjoy!

Belkin Announces Linksys Velop Mesh Wi-Fi System

· Dave Hamilton · Cool Stuff Found

Linksys, a brand known for some of the earliest wireless routers, today joins the the market of mesh Wi-Fi providers with their own mesh offering called Velop. Shown here at the CES 2017 Unveiled event, Belkin’s Linksys Velop is a welcome entrant to the home mesh wireless market with a unique tri-band solution that allows for completely dynamic assignment of each unit’s three 2×2 radios. Velop can work in point-to-point, mesh, star, line or tree configurations, choosing whichever is best or most-appropriate for the current wireless environment. Each radio in the system is automatically mapped to the best configuration, and Ethernet backhaul is automatically detected and supported, as well. In a market that’s becoming quite crowded, I find the Velop an interesting contender, combining some of the better aspects of both the eero and NETGEAR Orbi platforms, priced exactly the same as the eero. Units are available for pre-order today in three ($499), two ($349) and one-unit ($199) packages and will start shipping on January 15th. We’ll be getting units to test and will report back with our findings, adding them to our existing mesh Wi-Fi coverage.

Defy Apple and Add a Touchscreen to Your MacBook with AirBar

· Jim Tanous · Cool Stuff Found

Apple recently doubled-down on its refusal to add a touchscreen to its MacBook line, but if you’re starting 2017 with a bit of Microsoft Surface envy, you’ll soon be able to turn your MacBook Air’s display into a touchscreen, regardless of what Jony Ive thinks. AirBar is a USB-powered sensor that attaches to the bottom of your screen and enables touch interactions right on the display thanks to the company’s “zForce AIR” light field technology. The company is launching support for the MacBook Air first with support for other models to follow. Interested users can sign up at the company’s website to be notified once pre-orders go live in March. There’s no word on pricing but AirBar already sells a version for Windows laptops for $69.

Control and Culture Clash in Iran over Mobile MMO 'Clash of Clans'

· Bryan Chaffin · Cool Stuff Found

Iran is in the process of banning Clash of Clans, a move that epitomizes that country’s attempts to control culture clash and behavior. According to TechCrunch, the game has been pulled from a popular third party app store in Iran called Cafe Bazaar and will soon be pulled from its other legitimate source. Here’s what’s interesting to me: Clash of Clans has only officially been available for a month in Iran, and it’s being played by two-thirds of the mobile gaming community. Iran’s religious leaders have deemed it to too addictive and promotes both violence and tribal conflict. At the same time, the game was being played on the black market before its release, where it will still be available. It will be interesting to see if there’s any kind of backlash from the country’s mobile gamers. I’m far from an expert on Iran, but it’s hard to see how the country could possibly stop the world at its borders forever. Don’t get me wrong. Clash of Clans—like Game of War and every other successful MMO—are addictive. But I’ve yet to see a successful attempt to legislate addictive behavior. Below is the SuperBowl 2015 commercial for the game that is pretty darned amusing.

Check Out SkyIMD's 1.7-gigapixel Apple Campus 2 Image

· Jeff Gamet · Cool Stuff Found

We’ve seen a lot of great photos of Apple’s spaceship campus, but never at 1.7-gigapixel resolution. SkyIMD did just that with a special camera rig attached to an airplane flying about 2,000 feet above Apple Campus 2. The image is a composite of about 380 shots and is so detailed you can pick out individual workers. It’s an amazing photo, but to really see how impressive it is you’ll need to head over to the SkyIMD website to see the full resolution image in their interactive viewer.

Check Out SkyIMD’s 1.7-gigapixel Apple Campus 2 Image

Did You Know You Can Order Personalized Sharpies?

· Bryan Chaffin · Cool Stuff Found

Quick show of hands: who here is a Sharpie fanatic? OK, that’s what I thought. We’re all Sharpie fanatics! Did you know you can order personalized Sharpies? It’s Kelly Guimont’s fault. She told me about this. And now I’m telling you. And now we’re all going to be spending all our disposable income not already being sent to Apple on personalized Sharpies…anyway. There’s a list of things you can’t do, and personalized colors are limited to black, red, green, blue, magenta, turquoise, purple and lime green. You can preview your personalizations, and each pen will also have the Sharpie logo. There are a variety of fonts you can choose from, and you also have the option of adding clipart, as shown below, in addition to your personalized message. Warning: the personalization engine uses Flash.

Did You Know You Can Order Personalized Sharpies?

Want to Know if You'd Survive a Nuclear Bomb? There's a Site for That

· Jeff Gamet · Cool Stuff Found

“I wonder if I live in a place that’ll survive a nuclear bomb” is something we used to ask in the 1960s and 70s, and it seems to have come back into vogue. Back then, we had to do things like go to the library and do research. But now, we can sit in the comfort of our potentially safe homes and check the Would I Survive a Nuke website. Spoiler: I probably won’t in Boulder, but you might be more lucky. The site is getting hit pretty hard, so you may have to try a few times. Seems a lot of people are really interested in knowing their potential fate.

Want to Know if You’d Survive a Nuclear Bomb? There’s a Site for That

Bricklayer Falling Domino Trick with Killer Finishing Move

· Bryan Chaffin · Cool Stuff Found

Human ingenuity! I love it. Check out these Aussie bricklayers (via Gizmodo). They built a falling-dominos thing out of bricks. The slow motion pace and clunk of the brinks is satisfying to watch and hear, but boom! The finishing move is way cool. It’s only 52 seconds, but it’s the final few seconds that are the really, really cool part of this video. Hats off, Aussie bricklayers. The beers are on me next time I’m Down Under.

AirPod Alerts for Your Local Apple Store

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

When AirPods went on sale for preorder on December 13, Apple quickly became backordered. Customers found that delivery estimate for their order were up to 4-6 weeks out. Apple Stores have been receiving shipments of AirPods every day or so. Other stores like BestBuy and Target are also getting regular shipments. If you haven’t ordered AirPods yet, and don’t want to have to check with each store, you can use this handy website to get AirPod Alerts. You enter your email address and the physical address of your local Apple Store. Then, you’ll be notified whenever your store gets a new shipment of AirPods.

AirPod Alerts for Your Local Apple Store

Sylvania Announces Smartbulbs for Apple HomeKit, No Hub Required [Update]

· Bryan Chaffin · Cool Stuff Found

Sylvania announced Tuesday it was launching an LED smartbulb in its LEDVANCE product line with support for Apple’s HomeKit (yay!). Better yet, the Smart Multicolor A19 doesn’t require a hub—just plug it in, find it with Apple’s Home app, and you’re good to go. Sylvania said the device will be sold through Amazon and ship in “early 2017.” This will be a great addition to the HomeKit ecosystem. To that end, I’ve been seeing more HomeKit stuff in my inbox during the last few weeks for CES 2017. It’s almost as if Apple’s smarthome platform is finally coming alive. Let’s hope, at any rate. I’ve left messages with Sylvania reps asking about pricing, which wasn’t announced. Sylvania also didn’t release images of the new bulb—the image below is of current products in the company’s smartbulb line. [Update: Sylvania’s PR folks got back to me—pricing is definitely unannounced. I also added a rendered image of the A19. We’ll be visiting with the company next week at CES. – Bryan]

Sylvania Announces Smartbulbs for Apple HomeKit, No Hub Required [Update]

Apple's First 10 Employee Roundup

· Bryan Chaffin · Cool Stuff Found

BusinessInsider did a roundup of Apple’s first ten employees: Gary Martin, Sherry Livingston, Chris Espinosa, Michael “Scotty” Scott, Randy Wigginton, Rod Holt, Bill Fernandez, Mike Markkula, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak. That’s in reverse order of their employee number, with a bonus segment on cofounder Ron Wayne. The publication billed it as a “where are they now” piece, but there’s very little about where most of them are now. Really it’s more of a roundup with information about what they did while they were at Apple. I love history and lore, especially about Apple. And as much as I know about the company, there were a couple of tidbits that were new to me. Michael Scott, Apple’s first CEO, helped fill in some of the details for article, and there are photographs of everyone, as well as a bonus photo of some early Apple files (because [Apple]!).

Apple’s First 10 Employee Roundup

HandBrake Video Converter App Leaves Beta After 13 Years

· Jeff Gamet · Cool Stuff Found

It only took about 13 years, but HandBrake is finally out of beta. Version 1.0 was released on December 24th, and is the go-to tool for video transcoding. In layman’s terms, HandBrake is what you use to convert DVDs into video files you can play on your Mac. Version 1.0 improves audio and video syncing for difficult sources, adds new device presets, adds new MKV and JSON presets, improves performance Skylake-based Macs, and more. HandBrake isn’t, however, completely leaving the beta world behind thanks to its new less technical documentation that’s tagged beta. You can download HandBrake at the HandBrake website for free.

HandBrake Video Converter App Leaves Beta After 13 Years

See the History of Space Exploration in the Chart of Cosmic Exploration

· Jeff Gamet · Cool Stuff Found

The history of space flight is amazing, especially when you take into account the vast distances between planets and the complex flight paths spacecraft take to get to their otherworldly destinations. Pop Chart Lab does a great job of showing what humans have accomplished in their beautiful Chart of Cosmic Exploration. The 39-inch by 27-inch color print details the routes for about 100 different craft that have gone to the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. The print costs US$38 and you can pick it up at the Pop Chart Lab website.

See the History of Space Exploration in the Chart of Cosmic Exploration

Apple Posts Its Public Encryption Key, Encourages Customers to Verify Emails

· Bryan Chaffin · Cool Stuff Found

Apple has a new support document encouraging customers to verify encrypted emails, especially security emails from Apple. The document includes Apple’s own public PGP key for those verifications. Apple noted that its current PGP key will be valid until May of 2018. PGP, or “pretty good privacy” is one of the most popular encryption schemes in general use today, through both the PGP Corporation and the open source GnuPGP. Apple posted links to both. You can subscribe to Apple’s Security-announce emails at Apple’s website.

Apple Posts Its Public Encryption Key, Encourages Customers to Verify Emails

Hey Quark Fans, Check Out QuarkXPress for Dummies

· Jeff Gamet · Cool Stuff Found

It’s been a while since a quality QuarkXPress book came out, so my long time friend and graphic design expert Jay Nelson stepped up to the plate with a QuarkXPress for Dummies. Jay explains print and digital publishing workflows, color management, image resolution, fonts, output formats, and more. He also explains the evolution of QuarkXPress, which is great for understanding how it went from being the premier desktop publishing tool to the more specialized product it is today. QuarkXPress for Dummies is available now on Amazon for US$34.99.

Hey Quark Fans, Check Out QuarkXPress for Dummies

Raspberry Pi Brings PIXEL Desktop Environment to the Mac

· Jeff Gamet · Cool Stuff Found

The team behind the super affordable Raspberry Pi computer platform has been working on their own desktop environment called PIXEL, and now it’s available for the Mac. PIXEL is built on Debian, so it’s a fully bootable system, and includes everything you need to be productive, the Chromium web browser, and more. They designed it so you can pop it on a USB flash drive or DVD and run it from there. PIXEL is still in an experimental stage, so don’t rely on it as your primary OS. It’s a free download at the Raspberry Pi website.

Raspberry Pi Brings PIXEL Desktop Environment to the Mac

iOS 10.2 Fixed Issues With MFi Hearing Aids

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

If you use hearing aids that are certified Made For iPhone (MFi), you may have noticed a couple of bugs. A Reddit user mentions (via MacRumors) that his Resound 9-series hearing aids had problems with FaceTime and Find My iPhone. He noticed that the ringing associated with outgoing FaceTime calls routed through his iPhone speaker instead of his hearing aids, even though it worked with other Bluetooth devices. Additionally, the pinging that Find My iPhone uses played through his hearing aids, rather than on the missing device, which made it impossible to find his phone. iOS 10.2 fixed both issues, something the hearing-impaired community will no doubt be delighted to learn. Apple maintains a list of MFi-certified hearing aids on its website.

iOS 10.2 Fixed Issues With MFi Hearing Aids

Galactic Empire Rocks the Star Wars Theme

· Jeff Gamet · Cool Stuff Found

Just because the Empire is big and evil and hates the Jedi doesn’t mean they don’t know how to rock. To see just how well Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, and Boba Fett can rock, check out Galactic Empire’s cover of the Star Wars theme. And remember if you’re ever in charge of Vader’s guitar don’t screw up. Ever.

1Password 6.5 for iOS Adds Native Apple Watch App

· Bryan Chaffin · Cool Stuff Found

AgileBits announced Tuesday the release of 1Password 6.5 for iOS. This release offers device syncing through 1Password.com and gets the iOS version up to date with 1Password 6.5 for Mac. The company also made the Apple Watch app native, which should mean it will be much faster (you can read more about that in the AgileBits blog). In addition to being faster, the native app allows you to access entries to any vault, including vaults stored in 1Password.com—previously, you could only access items in your primary vault. You can download the update through the App Store.

1Password 6.5 for iOS Adds Native Apple Watch App

A Drone Big Enough to Pull a Snowboarder? Yes Please

· Jeff Gamet · Cool Stuff Found

Drones are pretty cool, but a drone big enough to pull a snowboarder? Now that’s really cool. Casey Neistat enlisted the help of some friends to build a drone powerful enough to pull him on his snowboard up hill, and even take him on short flights off snow jumps and ramps. He zips through a ski town to show off his drone boarding skills, and it’s frakking awesome. Check out the video to see Casey’s drone boarding adventures—and don’t try this with your own drone. Casey is a professional crazy man with a custom built drone.