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Should I buy the new MacBook Pro 2016?

What does the new MacBook Pro have in common with these shoes? Hint: More features.

That's the number one question I'm hearing since Apple announced the new MacBook Pro 2016 models last week.

The Internet's been alive with countless blog posts and podcasts diving into everything from the specifications to speculation about what if anything is Apple's strategy now, if any. And the reviews are mixed.

Some people think the new MacBook Pro 2016 is a stepping stone machine, like the first MacBook Air: Thinner and lighter, but at a price premium inconsistent with the power and specifications. Certainly $1200 for 2TB of storage confirms that.

At $1200, that's a pricey hard drive upgrade.

Other people are really disappointed.  I haven't seen this level of negative sentiment directed at Apple in a long time. Apple evolves their products in two ways: Major form factor changes, where the actual shape and physical design changes. The other way is small, iterative improvements under the hood. Things you don't always see, but often feel.  The MacBook Pro 2015 was a four-year-old form factor and due for a change.

For months the rumor mills were churning with talk of features and specifications. Liquid-metal hinges and OLED touch bar were obsessively talked about by nerds and geeks. And Apple gave them what they wanted:  The new MacBook Pro 2016 has a new hinge design, and the upper-end models have an OLED touch bar that, basically, is a glass strip that replaces the fixed function keys with a dynamic visual set of keys, depending on which application you're in.  That all sounds neat, in a very geeky way.

The other thing Apple did with the MacBook Pro 2016 was very, very Apple: They made the new MacBook Pros thinner and lighter, and replaced every port on the computer, except the headphone jack, with four USB-C ports. HDMI: Gone. SD card slot for camera memory? Gone. Standard USB ports, Thunderbolt 1/2 ports, and even the Magsafe charging port: All gone. 

And some folks are understandably confused. Apple just eliminated the headphone port on the iPhone 7, but it's the only port they're leaving on the new MacBook Pro? Some of the actual, real-life cabling situations captured in images circulating the Internet summarize the sentiment better than I could possibly write about it.

And then they revealed the pricing. At an average of $500 more at each level, the price is substantially higher than prior MacBook Pro models.  Vlad Savov at the Verge wrote a good article that explains why price increases were absolutely predictable as the personal computer market retracts. The bottom line: Apple's most profitable customers are willing to pay a much higher premium for a premium product, and Apple knows it and is pricing accordingly.

So all of this now brings me back to the original question:

Should I buy the new MacBook Pro 2016?

My answer to this question follows the same process I've used for nearly two decades.

First, do you need a new computer?

For example, I'm currently writing this on a MacBook Pro 2015. I have 16GB of RAM and the maximum storage available at the time, 1TB. All of this is more than I need. Think of it this way: My computer is probably about 50X better than the one that JJ Abrams used to actually create the first pilot episode of Lost. I'm probably using less than 1% of my computer's capabilities, and I use it for a lot: I consult with it daily, I manage the IT/tech of dozens of companies directly using it, I screen share constantly with it, I update my web site with it, I communicate in two languages with it, I tweet with it. This list goes on.

Do I need the new MacBook Pro 2016?  Is there anything it does that will make me more productive?

For me, the answers are: No and No.

Next, do I simply want the new MacBook Pro 2016?

This is the most interesting question this time, because my answer this time is different than every other MacBook made since my first Apple notebook, which was a PowerBook 100. I tend to upgrade with not just every form factor, but almost every update of every form factor.

But this time, things are different.

Let's start with form factor.

I'm not going to notice a few ounces of weight difference, or a few millimeters less thickness.

Now, regarding speed.

I'm not unhappy with my current MacBook Pro. An extra millisecond here and there will add up to a few minutes saved each day, but not hours per week.  However, if I were a production employee or self-employed artist who had to edit photographs or large video files all day long, the speed difference along makes it worth the purchase.  

Spend $4300 today, do it right now. Because at $150 per hour of billable time, you're going to make an extra $39,000 this year because of it. Very basic, simple math justifies the purchase.  Or take the extra time savings along and better yet, take a month off of work.  Does a $4300 investment pay off with an extra month to do something else?  You better believe it does.

This is the first time in years that I don't actually have any particular desire to buy the new MacBook Pro. I'm OK waiting for the 3rd or 4th generation of this forthcoming model.

What about Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) speed?

When I bought my 2015 MacBook Pro, one of the features I wanted was fast 20Gb/s Thunderbolt 2. I see it in action all the time, and I actually use it with a fantastics 12TB Lacie RAID with 2 x 6TB hard disks that are striped together, meaning, the data reads and writes across both disks simultaneously.  This allows my Mac to enjoy data transfer speed of 12Gb/s, which is twice the maximum speed of a regular hard disk.  When I'm opening up a 1.5TB Photos library, that speed makes a BIG difference.

Now do the math on what I just wrote: I justified a new computer partially based about about a 20% speed increase (in my case) above Thunderbolt 1.  I've never fully utilized Thunderbolt 2. And now they're doubling the speed again with Thunderbolt 3.  Even as I write this, no major hard disk maker has produced a simple, portable Thunderbolt 2 hard drive for Mac users.

This is the first major release of a new notebook by Apple that I haven't ordered.  I thought about very briefly, and even with the significant discount I receive through one Apple channel, it's still not enough to justify the purchase.

Way, way too many dongles in the Apple ecosystem now.

I'm incredibly happy with my MacBook Pro 2015, which I ordered about 1 month before the last set of rumors about a new notebook. Four generations into this form factor, my system is stable, rock solid reliable, and does everything I need it to do, and more. Add to that my ability to use HDMI in anyone's conference room worldwide, or to hook up to a TV in a hotel room, and my ability to plug in my iPhone with the regular lightning cable, and I'm happy I won't have to carry around (or forget) more dongles than I already have to remember.

What if you need a new MacBook Pro right now?

By all means, if you actually need a new computer because your old one is on borrowed time, then buy one.

If my MacBook Pro were 3-4 years old, then reliability starts to become more important than whether or not speed and features still satisfy. If you're in that situation, I highly recommend purchasing a new Mac.

Which leads to an interesting option I knew about, but did not consider in the past: As long as Apple still has special deals on 2015 MacBook Pros, I highly recommend considering them in addition to the MacBook Pro 2016, for all the above reasons. And if you're in the market and want to get your hands on 2015 hardware, Apple has a special site just for that.

Some concluding thoughts

Last week I wrote about the kind of announcement I hoped Apple would make. I still think the current Apple leadership has the potential to do some amazing things consistent with Steve Jobs original vision. They certainly have the cash on hand, they're making hundreds of millions of dollars in acquisitions, and they have the company that Steve Jobs built.

But Apple did not do or reveal anything strategic regarding their products.  Once again, it was a focus on features and specs. And in my opinion, as someone who has bought almost every notebook Apple has ever made, the feature set is not compelling enough to upgrade if you have a computer that does what you need it to do. I'm concerned because there are several things Apple could have done that are risky, but they didn't. I'm primarily concerned about whether or not the fear that I wrote about last week - the fear that commonly affects larger, successful businesses - has finally started set in.  I hope not.

For now, hopefully this post helps you if you're trying to decide whether or not to order the new MacBook Pro 2016.  The good news is that you have more great alternatives than usual if you're looking for them.

As for me, until Apple releases something insanely great, I'm very, very happy with my 2015 MacBook Pro and will be taking very good care of it.


James Coleman is the technologist with an MBA, and founder+director of TechRoom. He helps business owners and individuals take their technology from practical to masterful with TechRoom Concierge.

Have a question for the blog or podcast? Send James an email here.

Will Apple step up?

We keep talking about mobile replacing desktop.  

But what if Apple changes the game? What if the iPhone is really just an extension of the Mac?

I've been thinking a lot about Apple's upcoming event.  

Mostly because the last event marketing was so obvious: the blurred bokeh image elements and the tag line: "see you" at the event. To anyone who knows anything about photography, it was completely obvious that they were going to do something with photos. Combine that with the iPhone product cycle and most of the announcements were completely obvious.

This time around, most if not all of the speculation and rumors around the Apple announcements are related to projected/forecasted new hardware specifications, and maybe, at best, improved form factors (shapes) of current products.

I think we're possibly in for something much, much bigger. 

I think Apple may announce something completely new. At least, dramatically new.

At least I hope so.

Apple doesn't do anything by accident.  The logo this time clearly represents a major theme or concept. What that concept is is up to a lot of interpretation.  

Apple has been doing exactly what a company should do when it intentionally creates a product as radical, as impactful, and as in-demand within a tech-hungry culture as the iPhone: Focus on selling as much of that product as possible.  Two reasons: The first reason is, you always want to sell as much of your product as you can (duh).  The second reason: When you're first to market, it can be to your advantage in a number of ways.  Think of how locked in Apple customers are to the iTunes and App stores.  When you buy a new iPhone, you're transferring hundreds of dollars in software investments that only work with the App Store, and hundreds (thousands?) of dollars of music and other media bought in the iTunes store.  Are you going to ditch all that to buy a cheaper phone, saving a hundred or two hundred dollars?  Hardly.  Now that's strategy.

As soon as the last event was over, the blogosphere erupted - as it typically has with the past several events - with sighs, whines and gripes that Apple had continued to neglect its desktop customers. Was Apple abandoning the Mac in lieu of iOS? Are desktops dead? Questions like these get thrown around, while some of the nerds on twitter self-promote their newly configured iOS-only productivity, entirely devoid of any Macs, notebook or desktop. From a consumer standpoint, it appears that Apple's investing everything into mobile.

At least, that's what we can see.

Today's Apple doesn't have limited resources, not like the Apple of 10 years ago, and certainly not like most companies.  The amount of cash on hand (and cash flow) is mind-boggling.  Anyone involved in any growth-oriented, mature, well-managed company knows that nothing accidentally falls behind.  The MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, Mac Pro, and Mac Mini are not managed like the Newton team that Steve Jobs canned for missing deadlines repeatedly and producing little to nothing of value on time. No part of Apple has operated like that since the Newton team was disbanded. These teams, as well as the teams of people who have been acquired (see Apple's list of acquisitions) must be incredibly busy doing something.

The current blogosphere and twittersphere of rumors out there are boring. One of the bloggers I respect the most posted a grid of all of Apple's products, color coded for what he thinks will get updated. That's a mature company's tactical game plan (see below for more), and those kind of companies are usually about as great as they're going to get.  I don't think that's Apple.

At least I hope not.

It's my belief that there are only two possibilities about the forthcoming announcements:

The first possibility is that we'll be blown away by something really big.

I mean, really big. Even bigger than an entirely new form factor. Imagine something completely new that replaces both the Mac Mini and a Mac Pro. And what if Apple were to announce a new kind of desktop that even becomes the new Siri agent in your home (think making Alexa look like a trinket). Creepiness aside, how much could Siri really know if it can go through your bills, your photos, your email and messages. Sure, Alexa is a neat device that works really well.

Hello again.

The AI in Her did far more than just order products. It read him email while he was driving, reviewed a day's agenda on the calendar, made reservations or confirmed dates, and even more personal things.  I personally don't believe Apple's going to let Siri fail, or that Siri is the strategy.  I think Siri is only part of the strategy. What if Apple announces the first new member of your family since your last child was born?

Think about it: Apple has the technology to do this right now.  The medium of data sharing is in place (iCloud, rendezvous), the processors are fast enough, and they have been acquiring machine learning and AI companies continuously since acquiring Siri. Home kit seems to be the scaffolding they need to tie in all the disparate IoT devices into your home's new immobile (for now) robot.

The only great announcement this Thursday is one that gets an Oh myyy from @georgetakei.

Apple's announcement has to be that good. (I'll be checking George's twitter feed throughout the event)

The other, much more boring possibility

is that they release one or more computers that iterate on the past by adding neat features, improves specifications, or maybe if we're lucky some kind of major form factor or software functionality, like entirely touch oriented notebooks, iOS apps now run on macOS. 

An OLED touch bar? Longer battery life? Faster processors? Touch ID? Flatter keyboard a la MacBook? USB-C?

omg Boring.  

These feature iterations still need to happen.  Apple has two types of customers looking for new, cutting-edge features.  The first group are those who will buy the latest model of anything Apple produces, and typically the maximum configuration.  This group includes high-end affluent consumers, and to a lesser degree, techies.  The second group are those with aging Macs. There are consumers who value the longevity of a Mac.  I'm one of them: Compared to a PC, a Mac is a viable computer, much longer than a typical PC.  But there are those who look at amortizing expense, not value, and when a computer dies they're going to look for another computer, and the only thing that will woo these over to Apple will be features radically standout enough to override the "it's more expensive" argument.

Why I hope Apple surprises us

I really hope Apple surprises us. A new notebook is nice, but I don't need it.  I need them to fix the software that runs my 2015 MacBook Pro.

What's more, I see where Apple appears to be in the business lifecycle (maturing). Apple has changed and they're continuing to change, and not always in a good way. Take for example something I'm dealing with this week that would never have occurred in the old Apple: I'm waiting for a team of Apple employees to figure out how to re-ship a MacBook Pro sitting in one of their warehouses that I paid for almost a month ago.  Yes, it's my property, and sitting in a warehouse. The key issue?  Apparently two: One team at Apple can't talk to the other team other than via email, and they apparently don't. The other issue?  It's not in their process.  Yes, they've become too big for someone to go walk up to the notebook, stick a shipping label on it, and get it (the customer's property) to the customer.  Instead, corporate friction at its finest.  The Apple I remember was awesome at looking deep, enabling and empowering accountable individuals to make decisions to keep moving forward.  

Is Apple approaching - or at - middle age again?

Why is this personal anecdote relevant to my concern about Apple in its business lifecycle? Simple: Because it's a fact that when businesses become extremely successful, a kind of fear of failure can set in. Taking risks is consistent with increasing the probability of failure. The person who can and should but hasn't shipped my notebook is afraid of something.  Otherwise it wouldn't take 3-4 weeks and dozens of emails.

What if this kind of fear of failure has set in somewhere higher up?  What about higher up?  Even higher?  Afraid of the media?  Of Congress? Of all the eyes on you now that you're the biggest 800 lb tech gorilla?

I personally don't think the fear exists with Tim. I think he has something special at his core that prevents him from operating with secretive fear in control. I think he, like some other American entrepreneurs who have a certain special perspective, has the guts to bring something completely new forward.  And I think he's been hinting at it a lot lately.

But while Apple hit it big with the iPhone, and continues to produce new iterations of our favorite mobile device, Apple hasn't really done anything strategic since the App Store. In fact, when look at the innovation over the years since Jobs passing, most of it has been acquisitions of other smaller startups with a neat, nascent technology. Take Siri for example. Siri was acquired by Apple in 2010. Today, in 2016, Siri still can't understand my wife's very common Japanese name if I use Siri in English.  And if I train it to understand her name, it goes on to completely misinterpret any other Japanese person's name that starts with the same initial sound.

What have they been doing with Siri since 2010?

I hope we get to say Hello to something Insanely Great this Thursday.

The right way to switch to a new iPhone

I feel enormous guilt, even though I shouldn't. Every time a friend gets a new iPhone, it’s inevitable that I’ll get a call about some basic configuration they used to have, and need help finding out how to put back.  Then I find out they just switched phones. And by this point it’s too late: They just came back from the retail store, and the damage is done.  They won’t even know it, but they’re going to waste several hours over the next week that I could have prevented.

There’s a right way to switch to a new iPhone.  It takes a few minutes of your time, and saves you several, maybe dozens of hours of time.

Done wrong, you’ll be stressed, waste dozens of hours of your time, and possibly lose precious memories or important information.

The unfortunate reality is that most people do it wrong. In fact, I’ve been to over 50 Apple Stores in the US and abroad, and even several Verizon Wireless stores, and not only did I never once hear a customer being told how to do it the right way, but when I asked, they didn’t even know how.  

I’m going to show you the ultimate time-saver that can help you switch to a new iPhone seamlessly. Once I show you the steps, you’ll be able to restore a perfect backup to the same or a new iPhone easily by yourself, whether the switch is intentional, or an accident, like in my friend Steve’s case:

It was Saturday just after 11:00AM when my iPhone chirped. When I get calls on the weekend, they’re usually urgent. It was a long-time customer in upstate New York.

“James! I’m sorry to do this to you on a Saturday buddy… but I just made a mistake.”

“Steve, no worries, tell me what’s going on.”

He explained that he had some friends visiting, so he was mentally preoccupied with entertaining them.  Pool side.  And he had just joined then in the pool…. with his iPhone in his pocket.

I asked if he had the new one already.  He told me he just came back from the store, new iPhone in hand.  He was pretty stressed, and told me about how he dreaded going back to the busy retail store.

“Don’t worry,” I comforted him, “You won’t need to go back to the store. Let’s follow the plan.”

About one hour later, Steve’s new phone was perfect: Every app was back, located in precisely the right spot. His email accounts were perfect, as were his calendars and contacts. His photos and music were identical to the old phone.  Even the pictures he used as his wallpaper and lock screen were the same. Best of all, Steve and I spent maybe about 5 minutes in total getting the new iPhone restored.  “It’s perfect,” said Steve, “Absolutely perfect.”

What we did was simple, but the basic steps are almost never provided as an option to customers at retail stores, including Apple Stores: 

  1. We enabled iCloud backup before the accident happened.  
  2. We only used iCloud backup to restore. 
  3. We do not use iTunes.

iCloud backup, used properly to restore a new iPhone, is absolutely the best way to switch phones.  Here are the reasons why:

  • Every single app you had on your phone will be back, exactly where you had it.  Most of us get used to finding our apps with “muscle memory”.  Try finding an app on someone else’s phone without using spotlight and you’ll get a taste of how it feels to not be able to easily find things.  iCloud backup restores everything, as long as 1) it’s still an available app on the App store, and 2) you have the Apple ID and password that first bought the App or installed it on your phone.  
  • Your iPhone camera albums will be fully restored.  Not just Photostream or iCloud shared photos, but everything that you had on the other phone, no matter how many gigabytes of photos and videos you had.
  • Your Mail, Calendar and Contacts accounts will be completed restored, as well as your settings.  This is a big deal.  Remember how I shared my feeling guilty when my friends or colleagues come to me for help with something?  Well, that something is almost always a pain-in-the-ass issue with their email not being the way it was before, or their contacts not being fully complete (that’s another blog post to follow). When you use iCloud backup to restore a new phone, all you need to remember is your email account password, which you’ll need just once after restore is complete.
  • Downloaded music, playlists, ringtones, settings.. I think you get the picture.  It’s simply everything.  Even the awesome pictures you set for your lock screen and wallpaper will be restored.  

If you want a detailed, on-screen video version showing you the entire process, I’ve created a downloadable Quicktime movie you can play on Mac or PC showing you how.  Just click here to join the Switcher Genius community and get the video for free, along with other great tools to help you save time and enjoy your technology more.  

Ready for the steps?  If you’re just looking for the basic steps, here they are:

  1. Start by enabling iCloud backup in your Settings App.  Make sure you have enough storage to back up your entire iPhone and all of it’s data. 
  2. Once you’ve enabled iCloud backup, make a full backup of your iPhone.  You do this in the iCloud backup settings section. Make sure you’re on WiFi and preferably plugged into power.
  3. Once the backup is complete, you’re ready to restore to a new iPhone.  If the iPhone has already been partially set up, you’ll need to back up or safely get all the irreplaceable information off the new phone first.  That includes photos, text messages you may need, new contact information, audio memos, and anything else that you may want.  Unfortunately there is no way to merge two backups, so that means that you’ll need to start with a phone in a like-new condition, completely erased, at the initial welcome screen.  To do this, you’ll use the “Erase all contents and settings” under General and Reset within your Settings App.  WARNING:  Do not erase your phone until you’re 100% sure that you won’t lose anything.  If you need help, let me know.
  4. Once the phone is reset, you’ll be welcomed again.  This time, instead of setting up as a new iPhone, use “Restore using iCloud backup”.  You’ll need your iCloud login and password, and once you’ve logged in, you’ll be presented with a list of iCloud backups for any devices on your account.  Identify the one that you just completed for your old phone, and select it.
  5. The iPhone will go to a black screen with a white progress bar moving across it.  This is called the “Foreground Restore”, which means you can’t use your phone while it’s restoring the first part of the data.  The Foreground Restore is pretty quick, and over a decent WiFi connection typically takes between 5-15 minutes.  Once the Foreground Restore is complete, the iPhone will reboot.
  6. Next, the iPhone will boot up to what looks very similar to your backed up iPhone.  A message will appear that says the iPhone will now perform a background restore.  You can click continue or OK.  You’ll start getting prompts at this time for logins and passwords, including Apple IDs for music and Apps, as well as passwords for Internet accounts that were configured for mail, contacts and calendars on your phone.  Make sure you have all these passwords at this time and log in each account.
  7. You can use the phone to make calls, text and work the Internet while the phone restores.  As long as you’re on WiFi the phone will restore all the apps quietly in the background.  If you need to leave the network, it’s no problem.  The restore will simply pause, and then resume once you’re on a WiFi network again.  Depending on how much data you have and how fast your WiFi connection is, the background restore can take an hour to several hours.  I’ve let mine restore overnight while I sleep, but that’s because I have about 40GB of data on a 128GB iPhone, so it takes more time.

That’s it! You just switched to a new phone the right way.

A couple suggestions and precautions I recommend you take:

  1. If you have the luxury of holding onto your old iPhone for a little while, I recommend it.  iCloud restore has failed me twice, and both times I spent several hours on calls with AppleCare support, for which I’m at an advantage having not only worked with AppleCare engineers for over 20 years, but also having a background in the NetApp technology that powers iCloud.  I don’t accept no for an answer when it comes to restoring from a backup.  The point is, you don’t want to be in that position.  So keeping your original iPhone is valuable.
  2. If the switch is a proactive switch, and not the result of walking into a hot tub with your iPhone or anything else that can destroy the phone, then I recommend backing up all your iPhone data locally to your computer.  I explain the process for backing up the iPhone photos, texts and everything else in detail in my free eBook and screencast on how to back up, archive and explore the contents of your iPhone.

So why wouldn’t Apple Stores, Verizon Stores and everyone else in the business of selling and servicing iPhones inform every customer about the benefits of iCloud backup? I’ve talked with a lot of employees in both stores about this. This one key piece of information about the best way to backup an iPhone, and the best way to switch to a new iPhone, could save customers a LOT of wasted time and frustration.  

My theory is that it takes too much time to explain, and too much time to stay with the customer through the process: Restoring from iCloud backup is a multi-step process that isn’t intuitive, and requires a lot of really good communication to help the iPhone owner understand explain the benefits and be willing to make a perceived investment of time.  As for time, the process only takes a few minutes of hands-on time, but requires anywhere from a half hour to even a few hours to complete over a WiFi connection.  The retail stores just aren’t set up to do this. 

Why you need to switch your business to the cloud

It's a question I'm asked often, so I thought it may be helpful to provide some of my thoughts on the subject.  

If this is a question you've been pondering for your business, I hope this post helps you by providing some structure around the question, and explaining how I walk a business owner through determining if switching to the cloud makes sense to pursue or not.

When I first wrote this post, I got to the end having documented my entire process for working with a business owner through the process of evaluating and designing a switch to a new system, like moving from their own servers to the cloud.  Then I realized that I skipped the most basic questions people want to know.  So first, the basics:

  • Yes, you can move to the cloud and get rid of your servers.
  • In this day and age no one should own an Exchange server of their own.  It's a waste of money, time and it's slowing you down.
  • Most people don't need Exchange, they just believe they do. They think using Outlook is a reason to keep it.  It's not.
  • Any law firm or business/administrative operation can go to a cloud-based file and document storage and management system. And if it's done correctly, it will be more secure than what's in your office to begin with.
  • Only a few businesses should keep a local file server around, and in a few specific situations.  Designers and architects with complex and referenced file systems are two examples.  This may and probably will change in the future, too.
  • You'll save a ton of money and get back a ton of time if you switch to the cloud the right way.  

There's a right way, and a wrong way, which is why I've written the rest of this post.  Read on if interested!

First, clarify purpose: Why switch?

When I first meet a business owner (usually on a Skype video call, sometimes face-to-face in person) I always start with the purpose.  Their purpose. Why are you interested in switching to the cloud? It almost always boils down to two things:

  1. Saving time by not having to hassle with technology yourself
  2. Saving money by getting rid of stuff and reducing complexity

In my experience, every single business owner out there is already thinking about 1 & 2.  One of the most common statements I hear from savvy business owners is: "I'm wondering if there's a better way of doing things."

Next, imagine expected results: The Future Picture.

Once I'm clear on why the business owner is thinking about switching to the cloud, the next step is to define a Future Picture.  I've personally watched dozens of techs skip right to products (e.g. Office 365) and features (e.g. remote access, sync, etc.). This is absolutely not the time to get into products. Resist the urge to talk tech.  It's not time, and frankly, it's dangerous at this stage.

Ask yourself the question: If you switch to the cloud, if everything goes perfectly, what looks different to you when we're done? (remember, completely ignore all product and company names)

Can you imagine your employees and you getting more done each day with less hassles? Are you able to respond to your clients better?  Faster? Can you find the information you need in less time?

Do you sleep better at night knowing that you don't have the old server in the office to a) break b) fail c) be stolen or d) get hit with ransomware, shutting down your business at any moment?

Will you see your tech/consultant 50%... maybe even 90% less? Or will you have an employee currently spending time on tech get to put 100% of their time back on the job you hired them to do?

The reason you don't start naming vendors or products at this point, even if you love one in particular or think you're already sold on one, is because every tech company out there wants to sell you on their solution. Mac, PCs, smartphones and the cloud are all marketed the same way as laundry detergent and razors. And unfortunately the marketing work because we're used to buying products to fix problems. Have a stain? Buy this detergent. Need a close shave? Buy this razor. The ads focus on how fast, smooth, powerful, etc. their product is. We remember the promises and we buy it. If we like it, great.  If we don't, we buy a different product next time, until we find the one we stick it.

This works great for most things, but not tech. Every tech system, even if you're a one-person business, is an ecosystem of various parts: A computer, the operating system on the computer, applications that do things, settings and configurations that the apps need to run, fonts, network settings, browser settings, security settings, printers and other devices, email, calendar, contacts, the habits and training of the user of the computer, and more. The problem is, switching, adding or removing one piece of the system is a lot like taking medicine prescribed by a doctor: there are a lot of possible side effects from drug interactions.

Just stay focused on what you want to accomplish, without worrying about the how.  How will you measure the results when everything is said and done?  Will you get 20 hours back per week? Will your employees produce 20% more and your technology cost you the same or less per month?

Next, do an 80/20 assessment.

If you work backwards from your customer cutting you and your business a check, you'll immediately identify what products and services they are buying (or you want them to buy), and more important, you can identify what you and your employees actually do to get them to buy, and then to deliver.  In the preceding step, you starting with what you want as final results: More time, more money, happier customers, happier employees.  Now look backwards through your operations to find where things need to happen faster or more effectively.

I did this recently for a law firm of 8 people, including 5 attorneys.  The managing partner had decided to buy a new accounting system that had a lot of features that their old accounting system didn't have. The partner wanted to find out if the system was going to solve the firm's problems, so I was hired to evaluate the technology in the operations.

In my meeting with the attorneys I learned that they had daily trouble finding files for clients calling in. Email always had problems and search was next to impossible. And everyone had different workarounds for the same problems. They each told me how many times per day they experienced the issues, walked me through how they overcome the issues, and told me how many minutes it takes each time.  Did they ever mention accounting once?  It never came up.

I reported back to management: Fix the problems upstream of accounting.  The 5 attorneys can together produce $1,000,000 more per year, with no additional resources or overtime, if the problems with email and search are made to go away.  That's $1M to the bottom line that adds to your profitability.  The owner wanted to invest tens of thousands of dollars into a system that would have a 5% impact on his business, while he was missing a 20% opportunity right in front of him.

Next, project plan it. Here's where we get technical.

Fixing the email problems for the attorneys wasn't as easy as running an update or buying an application.  There were three different ways to do it, and each way would require 4-5 other major changes to make sure the entire system continued to work after the email problem was fixed.  Remember: Drug interactions.  The technical detail needs to be vetted and every possible problem, preventive step or remedy worked out proactively. The project planning stage is usually dismissed as not valuable because techs usually only place value on activities like fixing, installing, transferring and upgrading. And that's how whack-a-mole gets started. 

The best part of planning in my opinion is that opportunities to improve can actually compound. It's like writing a good paper: Once you have the complete first draft out there, you re-read it. And you notice a ton of opportunities to improve.  For me, usually I review and rework until about the 15th or 16th revision.  Sometimes even 2-3 dozen revisions later I have a plan that is ready to review with the owner.

Finally, it's time to review the plan and budget with the owner.

The plan usually presents like this:

  1. What does the current "big picture" look like?  What's working? What's not?
  2. What does the target state "big picture" look like? What works better? How will we measure it? In hours, dollars, reputation, risk?
  3. What is the strategy recommended: How will we do it?  Why is this way better than the other 5-6 or more way of doing the same thing?
  4. What products and service are required, in what order and what do they cost?  Every single line item, down to the last cable, should have a purpose and expected result identified.

When the plan is designed in line with a business owner's priorities their own business objectives, everything presented will make sense.  The key work to accomplish in this step is communication. Every business owner needs to truly understand for themselves at some level why the plan makes sense, otherwise they can't approve it.  It's my job to help them understand my thinking and alignment to their thinking.  Then they can own the plan because it becomes theirs, not mine.  My last job is usually to carry it out and deliver on the promise.

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ALSO, HURRY OVER TO MY UPCOMING ONLINE CLASS ON PHOTOS FOR MAC WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME.

This is a one-time opportunity to join me in a special class where I'll be teaching everything about Photos on the Mac, from the basics to some crazy fun advanced stuff. This course is designed for anyone who loves photos and wants to learn how to save, organize, share and do more with their photos, with no limitations. I will teach each student how to set up their own photos storage solution and I am also providing several hours of live workshop and training, including one-on-one training, as well as unlimited email support (and more).

When we're done, every student will be a master of their own photos, whether they're using an iPhone or using a sophisticated digital camera. I normally charge over $2500 for the services I'm offering as part of this course, but I'm offering the class for only $299 (with coupon code PHOTOS100) because getting student questions and input during the course is hugely valuable to me, and will be the foundation of future course content.  Sign up now. The course enrollment will close this month, so hurry and reserve your space.

What Inspires Me

I'm stressing in a good way right now to get several things done that NEED to get done:

  1. A more streamlined welcome process for the newsletter (thanks for the feedback Scott!)
  2. Some video samples for the Photos class I'm starting (by popular demand)
  3. Some answers to the really interesting questions in response to the last newsletter

I can't believe the amazing feedback. I'm stressed because it hit me all at once, while I'm juggling being a dad and taking care of customers during the day. But it's good stress. I love it. 

If you're reading this, I'm super thankful. I'm putting more effort and energy daily into this, so check back often.  Good stuff to come.  In the meantime, I want to share one of my inspirations with you: My dad performing his own arrangement of the Cantina music from the original Star Wars.  It's old and high-def wasn't available back then, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

ABOUT BATTERY LIFE ON MACS (+ A COOL VIDEO)

Apple makes a pretty bold statement that your battery "is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 1,000 charge cycles".  What's a charge cycle?  There's a good description here, along with a matrix of Macs and the number of charge cycles you can expect.

In reality, I haven't experienced 80% of the original capacity, even at 500 charge cycles. I think Apple marketing sometimes gets a little too aggressive with their language. Recently my wife told me that her MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013 model) was only getting about 15 minutes of battery life on a full charge.  

Her battery had 539 charge cycles and the battery status said "service battery".  And it did cut out at 15 minutes. My battery in a MacBook Pro Retina (mid 2014 model) was at 350 charge cycles, and I was routinely getting about 2-2.5 hours of life at my normal full throttle use. That's nowhere near the advertised 1000 and 80%.

I decided to replace both of our batteries, something my team at TechRoom does routinely for customers. The results were great.  She now gets an average of 7 hours of battery life and I get well over 5 hours.

After replacing the first battery, I decided to record the second replacement to video just to show you the work involved. There are a lot of tools involved that most people don't think about: I use a Magsnap wrist strap that is properly grounded to largely prevent ESD damage, and I am very, very meticulous about the connectors.  This is not a do-it-yourself job. The smallest slip or mistake can ruin the entire computer. The entire process took 38 minutes.  This video is sped up to show the work in 5:

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Please sign up for my newsletter and connect with me on twitter.

Also, hurry over to my upcoming online class on Photos for MacThe first pre-release class will get several hours of live workshop and training, worth over $1,500. Sign up now before the presale ends and get $100 off using coupon PHOTOS100.

APPLE'S NIGHT SHIFT

Apple wants to help us sleep better.

An update just came out for our iPhones that includes a feature called Night Shift, which can reduce the cool, blue light from our phones and make the screen warmer, and more red-orange tinted.

How does my iPhone or iPad affect my sleep?

There's a lot of research on how blue light impacts our ability to fall sleep. The initial discovery of blue light impact was during research on bird migration, but then 15 years ago scientists discovered a new photoreceptor in our eyes (besides the rods and cones most of us have heard about) called Melanopsin. Research demonstrated that the average person reading on a tablet or phone for a couple hours before bed would find their ability to sleep delayed by about an hour.

I played with Night Shift last night before bed, testing different levels of warmth. My goal was to be mindful and sensitive: What was I feeling? At first it feels a little strange, but after a few minutes the medium setting feels natural. This was my same experience using f.lux on my Mac which it first came out. 

From left to right: No Night Shift, Medium (default) Night Shift, and maximum Night Shift

The trouble with Night Shift is that it doesn't really solve the problem of sleeplessness. It just slightly mitigates it. I noticed my near-constant desire to crank the screen color back to normal in the same manner in which I find myself wanting to crank the brightness up to maximum. If I'm reading email, I want to be 100% on.  If I'm watching a movie, I don't want to do it through rose-colored glasses.

Night Shift will make a difference, but it's not a solution

Still, I think it's great Apple implemented Night Shift. Apple is the best example of a mission-driven, purpose-oriented company, and the impact they can have on health and wellness with the iOS platform is unprecedented. But the bright screens that we look at all day are a price we pay for access to that platform. I can't help but think of Luis Von Ahn who created Captchas, those little codes we enter with numbers and letters on web sites to prove we're human. When Luis Von Ahn calculated that people were losing 500,000 hours per day entering some 2 millions captchas (an activity everyone hates), he got depressed and wanted to do something about it. So he created reCaptcha, so at least all the human hours spent reading letters and numbers could go to something useful: Book digitization. With over 100 million iPhone users in the US alone, the amount of lost sleep per night eclipses most wastes of time.

What does it look like?  Screen shots can't help you compare, because Night Shift doesn't actually change the color data, it just changes the light put out by the iPhone. I took photos of my home screen this morning without artificial light, using my Canon 7D Mark II with an EF 100mm 2.8 IS macro lens (click the picture to enlarge):

If Night Shift even has a 5% impact (it will probably be more) on the 100 million users in the US alone, and even more globally, then that's definitely a good thing.

Apple's Night Shift is a good start, and helpful if you have to be on your device. I'll use it the same was I use Sleep Cycle (link to App store). If I have no choice but to sleep 5-6 hours and I have to get up, I'd rather use Sleep Cycle to detect the best time to wake me that will have the least negative impact on my day.

How to stop tech from making you tired

Instead of shifting, I recommend stepping on the brakes. Take a break from tech. If you want really good sleep, which means both quality and quantity, I recommend some basics that are proven to help you get good sleep:

  • Ignore and don't use devices and electronics during the hours leading up to bedtime. No computer, no phone, no iPad, no TV. There's proven research that shows that the biggest issue affecting sleep isn't blue light, it's cognitive stimulus. Just using a device or watching a video can make sleeping more difficult, and reduce the quality of sleep.
  • Sleep in a pitch-black dar room, with unnatural light sources removed.
  • Schedule to get 8-9 hours of sleep. Some people feel 7 is the right number, others 8. I know from practical experience that at least 8 hours of quality sleep can drastically change your outlook throughout the day, your performance all day long, and even help you accelerate fitness goals.

Finally, I recommend you read Michael Hyatt's 6 Strategies to Sleep Soundly, Wake Rested, and Accomplish More. Especially focus in on points 5 & 6.  It's good advice and it works. 

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And sign up for my newsletter to get updated when I post new how-tos, and to get great content that is exclusive to my mailing list. 

Also, hurry over to my upcoming online class on Photos for MacThe first pre-release class will get several hours of live workshop and training, worth over $1,500. Sign up now before the presale ends and get $100 off using coupon PHOTOS100.

NEW COURSE ON PHOTOS FOR THE MAC AVAILABLE NOW

If you're like me, you take a gazillion photos on your iPhone. I also have a Canon DSLR camera (7D Mark II) with some great lenses, and came home today from my older son's sports event with over 1,200 new photos. Taking photos is one thing, but collecting, organizing, de-duplicating, editing, sharing and backup up is a whole other subject.

I am happy to announce early enrollment (PRESALE) of a new Photos for Mac online course I am creating.  The course will officially launch July 1, 2016, but I'm opening it up early to select group of students who want to get involved, learn and get extra support and help along the way.  When the course formally launches, these students will also get the full course, unlimited and forever.

I'm currently deep in development of the course, and I'm ready to welcome a small group of students in so we can work on your questions, challenges and problems together. I think this is the best way to create the solutions, answers and great resources that will make this course incredible.  For early-bird ("presale") course purchasers, I'm providing an extra bonus:

  1. 90 days of unlimited email support
  2. 1-hour live online workshop/training sessions with me between now and when the course launches.  That's at least 6 hours of live online workshop/training time to go over your questions, implement solutions, and to get and give feedback so you can become even more awesome at managing your photos.  That's over $1,500 worth of support, included for free for presale course purchases.

The course will launch for $399 on July 1, 2016, and will go up in price to $499 starting August 1. For a limited number of students, you can enroll right now using coupon code PHOTOS100 to get $100 off, making the course price $299.  Once you enroll, I'll email you an agenda and schedule for our online training, and you'll start receiving weekly updates with new lectures and course materials you can start using right away.

I am looking for awesome people who want to have fun, learn a ton and get a huge amount of value out of me, especially over the next three months.  Are you in?  Sign up here.

UPDATE MICROSOFT OFFICE FOR MAC

When Microsoft released Office 2016 for Mac, I jumped on it immediately.  I wish I didn't have a dependency of any kind of Office, but I still use Excel primarily because it's what I used all the way through business school. The other apps, PowerPoint and Word, are just there to use when people send me documents via email.

While it was nice that Office 2016 finally supported my MacBook Pro's Retina display, the downside was that Microsoft probably released the Office suite 3 months too early. Or more probably they weren't paying attention to Apple's development cycle, because right after release both Office 2016 and Office 2011 experienced more spinning beachballs, freezes and crashes than I had seen in over a decade.  It was pretty bad, and a slew of near-weekly updates started coming out to address the issues.

The last round of updates just came out, and they seem to make Office 2016 much more stable, and even a bit faster launching.  I highly recommend downloading and installing the updates right now.  

How do you update Microsoft Office 2016 or 2011 on a Mac?

  1. Run any of the Office applications
  2. Then select the Help menu at the top of the screen
  3. Select Check for Updates from the pull-down menu
  4. Once Office finds the updates, quit all your Office apps, run the updates and then reboot.

Things should run much better after the updates.  That said, keep saving changes, and I recommend updating your autosave preferences to 1) make sure they're on and 2) adjust for the number of minutes you're OK potentially losing work in the event of an Office panic-attack (aka crash).  Go to your application menu (e.g. Excel, Work, etc.) and select Preferences, then select Save:

Then make sure your Autosave is turned on, and the number of minutes is adjusted to your preference:

IRRITABLE INBOX

Our email inbox is kind of like another "system" we use every day.  Stuff goes in, stuff goes out. At least it's supposed to go out.  The reality is most inboxes get clogged up. And it gets worse the older you get.  More email, and more straining processing it. 

I call it irritable inbox. And it's painful.

You need an Inbox Cleansing.

Fortunately, I've got the prescription. And everything's available over the Internet.

WHAT'S A HEALTHY INBOX LOOK LIKE?

  1. Your email syncs perfectly on all your devices.
  2. 99% of your time is spent on email you care about.
  3. 1% or less of your time is spent on email you don't care about.
  4. AND you can choose to spend 50% less time trying to push email out.

Less pushing, more flow. Sound good? Here's how:

STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR EMAIL PROVIDER CAREFULLY.

There are basically five major options for email today:

  1. Free email (e.g. Yahoo, Gmail, iCloud, AOL, etc.)
  2. Host your own email server
  3. A gazillion different "2nd-class" companies selling hosted email (Godaddy, Network Solutions, your PC consultant reselling it under a 'white label' aka Cpanel, etc.)
  4. Office 365 from Microsoft
  5. Google Apps for Work (Business-class gmail with your own domain name)

Free email: OK if you can tolerate subtle, aching pain over a long period of time.

  • Spam = usually a problem
  • Privacy? What privacy. Bring on the ads.
  • Use your own domain name?  Nope.

Host your own email server: Don't do it.  There's not a single good reason to do this anymore.

Hosted email from 2nd-class companies: You're putting off the inevitable switch to Google or Microsoft and you'll trade any cost savings with current and future loss of time and productivity.

  • They're rarely better than free email services, maybe with just less or no direct advertising.
  • Almost no one offers a complete email+calendar+contacts solution other than reselling Office 365, which isn't nearly as good on an iPhone, Mail and Calendar as their competitor's product, Google Apps for Work.

Office 365: Unless you are totally dependent on Microsoft Exchange, you really don't need it. 

  • Office 365 goes down a lot more compared to Google, and even compared to iCloud.
  • The back-end interface is written for tech nerds, and is both unintuitive and irritating. And who needs more irritation? A business owner or head of household ought to be able to manage their own email, users, preferences, etc., and not have to retain a Microsoft Certified tech.
  • Poor search capabilities compared to using Google Apps and Spotlight on a Mac.

Google Apps for Work: Full disclosure: I switched to Google Apps about 8 years ago. And I haven't been disappointed.

  • Google and Apple may be rivals, but Google works swimmingly with Mac and iPhone apps. I don't use Chrome, except for some housekeeping.  I use Mac Mail, Calendar and Contacts, powered by Google on the back end.
  • Amazing search capabilities.
  • An admin dashboard designed for neophytes as well as hard-core tech nerds.
  • The most useful server-side filters in the Observable Universe: This is the killer functionality that can give you back 500 hours per year.
  • Works better than Office 365 for Mac users and Windows users with iPhones or Androids.

STEP 2: SET UP SERVER-SIDE FILTERS.

Ok, so you switched to Google Apps for Work.  Good call.  If you didn't, tweetemail or call me.  I can help you switch, usually in a few hours, and you never need to leave home or the office.

Next, set up your filters.  I wrote an article on the best email feature ever a few years back.  It still applies today.  I estimate that I have an extra 500 hours per year back to my life because of it. You can too.

STEP 3: USE (OR GET) YOUR OWN DOMAIN NAME.

There are tons of reasons to do this. Basically, when you own your own domain name, you can keep your same email address no matter who you switch to for email today, and in the future. Keeping your email address means all you need is to move your historical email. No notifying people of a new email address, missing emails, getting phone calls asking why your old email is bouncing back, etc. More Switchability® is a good thing.

STEP 4: TUNE YOUR EMAIL APP.

There's a lot to this.  Whether you're using Google, Office 365 or anyone else's email service, the application you're using is probably Mail or Outlook (or any variety of other things out there). Some of the young lads and lasses out there use Chrome, which is cool too.  For any of these, knowing what all the settings and preferences do, and configuring them properly, can make a big difference in your productivity.  

For example, did you know that if you have Google Apps (business gmail), you should turn off Junk Mail Filtering?  If you don't, Apple's OS can get overaggressive and start throwing valid emails in spam, which you don't need because Google does an excellent job at it already.  So if you're on Google Apps, turn it off.   

STEP 5: KNOW WHY, WHEN AND HOW TO SWITCH EMAIL VENDORS.

Email feel out of control?  Or backed-up? That's the 1st sign you need to switch email vendors. 

Are you spending more than 5% of your time redundantly deleting the same kind of messages - things you don't want, spam, etc. - every day? That's the 2nd sign.

Has this been going on longer than a month without resolution?  That's the final straw.  And it's a sign that it's time to switch to email that works.  There's a saying: "We only change when the pain gets too great."  The problem with email is that it's a dull, lingering pain.  By the time it's too great, you'll turn around and regret having wasted thousands of hours.  

Being "too busy" with anything is not a good excuse to put this off.  The last three migrations I performed for business owners required less than 90 minutes of the business owner's time over three calendar days, and they continued working while the migration happened in the background.

What a Clean Inbox feels like

It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't experienced it, but boy oh boy does it feel good. You'll sleep better at night.  You'll have a better time at the dinner table with family. You may even feel inspired to go for a jog, do some yoga, or whatever floats your boat. 

Getting email in and out every day is an awesome feeling.  It's even better if you end each day with zero messages in your inbox.  Processing email with tips and tricks like the ones that Tim FerrissPat Flynn and Michael Hyatt talk about is only half the solution.  The first challenge is getting a platform that works well and can be automated without having to be a tech and without having to spend countless hours tweaking.  

If you need help getting your email platform set up, let me know by dropping me a line at TechRoom or connecting with me on Twitter.

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