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Category Archives: Apple

I’m Obsessed with the New Instagram Update

Instagram has had a very similar UI since it was created. The tired old brown icon has occupied a space on the grid of my phone screen(s) for almost six years, but I’ve been using it less frequently over time. Simply put, I just got bored of it. The content became less interesting (blaming the friends I follow for that one) and the stagnant, dated UI didn’t compel me to check this drab feed of selfies and memes. Luckily, the update I got this morning for Instagram caught my attention immediately, and may have breathed new life into the application entirely.

Instagram ditched the brown and beige icon for a very eye catching gradient. The app itself has lost most of its color, opting for almost entirely black and white UI with a pink color for elements like notifications. It looks very “Apple”, and we’re expecting a similar look coming to Apple Music soon, which won’t matter to Android/Windows users, but there is definitely something that can be taken away from this update and the effect its having on users.

Instagram UI Update

Through exploring, I have found very few new features in the newest Instagram update, so it’s safe to say this is solely a UI update, and I’m so excited to use it again. As a developer or business owner, it would be worthwhile to take this into consideration for the systems your customers use. If adding new features or services isn’t having the effect you expected, or just isn’t something you’re doing right now, a new look can be enough to trigger more engagement.

Keeping your UI up to the current trends is critical to maintain and expand your user base. Unless you’re offering a highly specialized product, chances are there’s a competitor out there whose website or app has a cleaner, more user-friendly design. Users will gravitate towards interfaces that look simple, make it obvious where they should navigate to get their desired result. Using familiar elements to your design will make the user feel like they know what they’re doing, even if they’re seeing it for the first time.

The New Macbook: It’s Pink! … and That’s It.

The Original2016 Macbook

Apple’s 12” Macbook is a great travel laptop. It’s lighter than a Macbook Air and, unlike any iPad, can run full desktop versions of applications.

The complaints with the original Macbook were focused around the sometimes sluggish performance when working in processor-intensive apps. Its Intel Core M processor packs just enough punch to handle browsing, office document editing, and streaming, but is underpowered enough to leave a clear line for what makes a “Pro” user. The Macbook features a single USB-C port for data, power and video. While an awkward transition for people used to using several usb ports, dedicated power and multiple video ports like on the Macbook Pro, many users reported growing to appreciate the minimal approach to the laptop.

The Refresh

Here we are a year later and Apple has refreshed the Macbook with a new version of the same processor, yielding slightly better performance and battery life. Apple is also now offering the Macbook in rose gold, to match the new color of the iPhone 6s. Apple changed little else on the new version of the laptop, and made last year’s model available refurbished for about $200 less than retail.

The Verdict

If you already purchased a 2015 Macbook, the refresh doesn’t seem like a justifiable upgrade with only slightly improved performance. If you’re interested in picking up your first Macbook, unless you’re dead set on the rose gold one, maybe look at a refurbished model and save yourself a couple hundred dollars. It is likely that the Macbook will be replacing the Air entirely in Apple’s laptop lineup, so hopefully before that happens we will see a little more processing power from the machines in the coming years.

Apple: It Just (Doesn’t) Work [OPINION]

Apple has long been synonymous with user experience. One of the major appealing qualities of the OS X / iOS ecosystem is the synchronicity and simplicity of the native Apple Apps, powered by the iCloud service. Over the past several iterations of Apple’s operating systems, it seems like they have been losing sight of their original vision in regards to their software.

Many news sources and blogs have been criticizing Apple recently about this specific issue: their apps don’t work (or don’t work as well as they should). Users are installing third-party alternatives to applications and services that drew them to the iOS platform in the first place. Nate Ingraham, Senior Editor at Engadget epitomizes the experience of iPhone users struggling with Apple’s negligence:

“Raise your hand if you have a folder on your iPhone full of native Apple apps you never use … yup, that’s a lot of you. Now raise your hand if you use iCloud Mail, iCloud Drive or the default iOS Notes or Reminders apps instead of third-party options like Gmail, Dropbox, Wunderlist, Evernote and so on. Not nearly as many of you are raising your hand this time.”

So what is actually wrong with Apple’s apps? Each application truly has its own shortcomings. To truly understand what is wrong with the ecosystem as a whole you have to understand where and why each application is going wrong.



When I got my first iPod and installed iTunes for the first time, I was in complete awe. The act of importing CD’s and buying new music online was incredibly exciting, and I could plug in my iPod and take it all with me. That was it. That was iTunes. Now with the aggressive growth of streaming services taking a noticeable chunk out of Apple’s music sales, the media giant had to make a move into the streaming business. I will admit I love Apple Music. I ditched my concurrent Spotify and Tidal subscriptions for the individual Apple Music sub, and haven’t missed anything from my previous providers. This service works great on my iPhone, seamlessly integrating my (owned) music with the library I have collected through the streaming service. The desktop is a different story.

Whenever I accidentally click iTunes on my desktop, my heart skips a beat. The bulky music player/marketplace takes ages to load, then wants to analyze my entire computer for new music (as a musician who will have several versions of a song that I’m working on, this is a nightmare). Once iTunes decides it’s done with my hard drive it moves on to memory. I have relatively powerful Macs (Mid-Range desktop & laptop from 2015) and I still have trouble running iTunes smoothly with anything else open. Even if the application were running properly, the seamless combination of Apple Music and iTunes on my iPhone is nowhere to be found in desktop iTunes.

I don’t even listen to music on my computers anymore, because the experience of using iTunes is so awful.



The first thing I do when I upgrade my Mac or iPhone is install a new mail client. iCloud Mail (or Apple Mail) is slow, bulky, and if you’re using a custom mail server (anything not For example, my email that I host at Newtek) it is a major pain to set up. My third party client provides quick access to all five of my email accounts, with fast retrieval times (including my Gmail addresses, which any Apple user will tell you is atypical on Apple Mail), intelligent filtering and sorting, and a lightning fast search of indexed items..


The point of this post is not to sell anybody on third party software. One of Steve Jobs’ most recognizable quotes in reference to Apple products was “It just works”. Why doesn’t it just work anymore? Why do I have to download someone else’s email client, or stream music only on my cell phone, when Apple has the development power and certainly the ingenuity to develop their own powerful products? Perhaps they should focus less on cars and jewelry and spend some more of their resources improving the core product of their business. While it is great that a powerhouse like Apple wants to explore emerging technologies, if their core products don’t work the way they should, what is keeping any user from switching over to Android, and buying a Google self-driving car? I know I certainly trust Google Maps for navigation more than the native Apple Maps (which, to be fair, has seen improvement since 1.0).

I haven’t lost hope in Apple entirely. With almost every major consumer electronics news source calling Apple out for their recent shortcomings, and the Apple-to-Android conversion numbers sure to follow (especially with a new season of Android phones on the way), Apple will almost be forced to acknowledge and address the issues in their existing core applications. The only real question is: “Do I want to sit around and wait for them to fix it?”

Apple Makes a Move on Mobile Payments

applepay_applewatchSmartphone makers have been trying to replace our wallets with digital pay methods for several years. While the trend has yet to widely catch on outside of the tech sphere, Apple (so often the bridge between the super geeky and super chic) believes that they may be able to change that.

On Tuesday, Apple announced it would soon be offering its own version of the mobile wallet, dubbed Apple Pay. Apple claims to have already established relationships with three major credit card companies, and retail giants like Target and McDonald’s – meaning soon you’ll be paying for your Number 3 with your iPhone or Apple Watch.

While the mobile payments market remains in its frontier stages for now, Forrester Research expects it to reach $100 billion in the United States within the next five years. Apple feels that the opportunity is now ripe for them to make their move on the industry. Apple wants consumers to believe that Apple Pay is a safer payment method than traditional payment cards with “exposed numbers and the outdated and vulnerable mag stripe.” Apple promises that credit card information will not be stored on the devices or on Apple’s servers. But in light of the recent iCloud hacks, consumer’s unease over privacy and security may be cause for concern. However, if anyone has the power to persuade the general public, famous tastemaker Apple is the company to do so.

Initially, Apple Pay will only be available for the iPhone 6iPhone 6 Plus, and the Apple Watch.

Apple & IBM Join Forces

appleIBMOn Tuesday, Apple announced an agreement with IBM that signals the tech giant’s occupation of the enterprise market. Utilizing each company’s respective strengths, the plan is to build business apps and professional software that matches the quality and simplicity of Apple’s consumer applications. Apple will sell its devices (which will come preloaded with newly developed enterprise software) to IBM’s corporate customers, and also provide on-site support. IBM plans to make more than 100,000 employees available for the Apple initiative, which will develop more than 100 new apps for various industries.

After decades as competitors, Apple and IBM’s alliance is a major assault on traditional enterprise players. In the past, Apple has paid little attention to the corporate sector, allowing Microsoft to retain its stronghold on the market with its Windows operating system, and placidly allowing BlackBerry to… hang around.

Given our age of BYOD, iDevice’s undeniable popularity with consumers, and the recent missteps of traditional corporate players in the consumer device market (we’re looking at you Surface), this move may transform Apple into a major player in the business market.

UPDATE: July 16, 2014 – BlackBerry’s stock dipped by nearly 10% in midday trading Wednesday following the partnership announcement.


Best Books of 2013 (for the Well-Rounded Technologist)

It was the late Steve Jobs who famously said that technology alone was not enough, that the liberal arts, too, were essential for innovation. Or maybe he just felt sorry for all his broke friends walking around with English Lit degrees.

Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to talk about my favorite books of the year, here on our tech blog.

At minimum, this may be helpful if you’re looking for gift ideas. You can’t go wrong with a great book, and I promise you that the ten books listed here are absolutely that, at least according to me.

So, in no particular order, here’s my list of the year’s best books:

The Son, by Philipp Meyer (novel)

The term genius is thrown around too often, but Meyer might just be a legitimate one. The research that went into this book is insane, but what Meyer did with it is what’s truly amazing.
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Middle Men, by Jim Gavin (short stories)

middle-menThis review snippet says it best: “Sad and overtly hysterical, the stories dodge self-pity and indie quirk for pensive American tales of turn-of-the-20th century manchildren gesturing vaguely toward a future of eroded opportunity”

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Vampires in the Lemon Groves, by Karen Russell (short stories)

vampires-lemon-groveRussell is insanely young and even more insanely talented. I pretty much hate her. And don’t let the book title fool you – yeah, there is a story about a vampire in this collection, but this aint no cheesy teen vampire story.

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Hotel Juarez: Stories, Rooms and Loops, by Daniel Chacon (short stories)

hotel-juarezDaniel Chacon pulls off something magical here with this collection of stories. From a Chicano artist living in Paris to a young boy who invents his own math, each interesting piece adds up to a satisfying read.

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I Want to Show You More, By Jamie Quatro (short stories)

jamie-quatroAs you can tell so far, I have a lot of short story collections on this list. But for good reason. We’re living in a golden age of short story writing. Jamie Quatro has certainly written one of the best collections of the year.

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Tenth of December, by George Saunders (short stories)

tenth-of-decemberThe final story collection on this list (I promise), and by far the best reviewed of the year.

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Doctor Sleep, by Stephan King (Novel)

Doctor_SleepA well-executed sequel to The Shinning, King successfully leaves any trace of Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation behind.

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Shadow of Eden, by Louis Kirby (Novel)

shadow-eden-louis-kirby-paperback-cover-artDisclaimer: author Louis Kirby is a Newtek customer.

Make sure you free up your day before starting this one. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat right from the start. Louis Kirby has Dan Brown’s knack for plot momentum but is very much Crichtonesque when it comes to weaving plausible science with an incredible story.

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Midnight in Mexico, by Alfredo Corchado (Journalism)

midnight-in-mexicoNot your ordinary front-line reportage. Corchado discovers that the Mexican drug cartels may have put a target on his head. But instead of fleeing for his life, he investigates it. One of the best books to date on the violence plaguing Mexico.

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The Unknown University, by Roberto Bolano (Poetry)

the-unknown-universitySince his death a decade ago, Bolano’s work has taken the literary world by storm. One of his most recent translated works, The Unknown University, is a near-complete collection of his poetry.

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William Rose is Vice President of Marketing & Communications for Newtek Technology Services. You can reach him at



4 Signs Your Biz. Is Ready For a Mobile App

HiResFor the last few years, mobile app usage has grown to such a colossal point that lately it seems like every business thinks it’s a necessary part of their development; “App up or perish in obscurity” is the new thinking. The problem: not every small business needs a mobile app, nor does

If you develop an app that your customers never end up using, not only will you have wasted significant money, but every time someone looks at your app, sitting unused on their device, they will begin to subconsciously associate your company is stagnancy and irrelevance – not exactly great branding. This is what we mean when we say that as much as a well-timed, highly engaging app can give your company a marked boost, an app that serves no practical purpose can do more than fail to help your company – it can actually hurt it.

If your company is currently debating whether or not to take your business mobile, take note of the following 4 signs. These are good markers for whether or not mobile app development would be a smart use of your time and resources.

1.     You have enough money

Mobile app development is not cheap, nor should it be. By now, there are individuals and companies out there who offer super cheap mobile apps but this is a situation where you truly do get what you pay for. The only thing worse than not having a mobile app when you could genuinely benefit from one is having one that looks or functions cheaply. Don’t cut corners here: if you don’t have enough money to hire a fantastic developer, you don’t have enough money for a mobile app right now.

2.     Your app opens growth potential

Like any other investment you make, there needs to be a possibility that the addition of a mobile app to your customer outreach arsenal is going to foster growth for your company. How exactly that looks for your business is a very unique formula, but that’s what makes the research part before development so crucial – you need to identify which parts of your market you aren’t currently fully engaged in, figure out how to reach them, and brainstorm ways to trigger that engagement with a mobile app. Until you’ve figured out that equation, there’s no real reason to dig into the process of going mobile.

3.     Your app fills a need in your market

You absolutely must check out what your competition is doing in the mobile market (and really, you should always be aware of your competition, not just when it comes to mobile) before you solidify your plans. Even companies who offer similar services and products can function very differently in terms of what their mobile app does. Ideally, your app will be the only one to fill a certain need in a market.

4.     Your app serves your business model

For example, if you run a yoga studio, maybe your app allows students to sign up for classes, pay their dues, and check schedules. The idea is to find a way to have an app support your preexisting business model, not create some brand new service or function that you didn’t have before.

The Algorithm You DON’T Know About (Yet) That’s About to CHANGE the WORLD

GS2The debate about which computer algorithm is truly “the most important” rages on. Yet, in most circles, there are a few answers that are generally accepted (and they usually appear in this order):

  1. Binary search – the first non-trivial algorithm that most learn and still do today.
  2. Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) – amazing. When combined with Convolution theorem, it’s close to magic.
  3. Hashing – thought it’s not actually and algorithm, it is one of Computer Science’s most powerful ideas.

Now, there are a few others, but that’s them just above, for the most part. Wait. Hold up. We are talking about changing the world here. And despite our tech-savvy audience, this may all sound like gibberish.

Let’s back up a minute.

Just so we’re all on the same page, an algorithm may “sort of” be defined as an effective method by which to solve a problem, expressed as a finite list. In short, an algorithm might be best expressed as “a set of rules that precisely defines a sequence of operations.”

Now the list above certainly contains the ingredients of such iterations that have undeniably changed the way we connect with and “see” our world. But, today’s article is about something just a tad more mainstream (unless you are a developer and understand the sheer beauty of the previously listed examples.)

Time to switch gears. Know anything about the stock market?

Well, the best and most highly compensated traders on Wall Street have gained huge amounts of wealth with a benchmark of being correct on their trades approximately 56 percent of the time. To put that in perspective, that’s a mere smidge above 50 percent, or a simple flip of an unbiased coin. To them, the difference really is just a smidge.

Now traders don’t place trades on every stock. No, they gather information, widdle down their choices to a select few, and then try to make educated guesses about what’s to come. They use tons of software, formulas, theorems, gut feelings, historical precedent, and yes, algorithms as tools to make better decisions. Again, the great ones – they’re right about 56 percent of the time. And those people … trust me, they’re loaded (and regarded as super hero’s amongst the financial world’s elite.)

Now, keep in mind, the financial markets aren’t the only free trade market that garners the attention of all creatures great and small. Another one is resultant of all the action that takes place in the wide world of sports. You guessed it … wagering.

From Vegas, to Monte Carlo, to office pools, to high school locker rooms, wagers of all types are placed. Millions per day, in fact, with dollar figures extending beyond 10- to 100-times that. Internationally, this market (whether “above or below the line,” legally/geographically notwithstanding) is worth billions, upon billions … upon billions, of dollars.

So what’s the point?

Apparently, an upstart (or start-up, whichever you prefer) alliance of anonymous “Gray Suits” (allegedly a “coven” of mathematicians, computer scientists, finance guys, and perhaps one or two white-bearded wizards) have debuted their app, the Gray Suit Project, on both The App Store and Google Play (for Droid).

Here’s the thing, it predicts major North American sports outcomes at an unprecedented rate of nearly 65 percent. While the app is new, their audited results go back years. That means their new algorithm, is, well world-changing.


Well, they can’t predict the entire future. BUT … anyone with any sense can figure out what they CAN do. You see, when they pick (selections anointed as winners by their delicious, mysterious, and insanely private proprietary algorithm), they’re right a good bit more than half of the time. Yes, it seems they are predicting the future at a pace that means bankable results.

So, what’s the catch? Downloading the app will cost you 99 cents. Say what?

Now, if you want the day’s algorithm-selected picks for any of the particular sports on season … it’s another $1.99.

Um, yeah, a buck ninety-nine.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Right. Definitely not a serious price to pay for what amounts to MUCH more than a “smidge.” Something tells me these “Suits” are driven by something other than money. No, I would bet they are after something far bigger. They want to be right. They want to keep being right. And, while I don’t know for sure, I bet they aim to be right about a few more applications, beyond sports, as time passes – and, at least for now, it seems they’re beginning to get some attention. And I bet, they bet, that sports was the quickest way to get there.

Yeah, so I’m thinking this might be the just thing to DOMINATE my office football pool. Oh what, you’re not?

Find out more about the Gray Suit Project.

[News Ticker] Music Streaming Site Debuts Two New Features

turntable-fm-avatarsThe streaming service is one of my favorite things. It’s the perfect combination of internet radio and social network. It’s like a hundred different chat rooms for music lovers with around the clock, hand-selected, genre specific (or not if you prefer to keep things random), uninterrupted spins from like-minded humans around the U.S.

But the user interface (whilst whimsical and amusing) looks like a children’s game. Rendering it almost impossible to use at work, which is precisely where a never-ending loop of streaming music is most effective.

Lucky for me, and other office minions of the world, has added a mini player! The mini player will display a very stripped-down version of Turntable rooms, which is particularly accommodating for users at work. Turntable CEO Billy Chasen says the new mini player was created for users that “just want to relax and listen.”

In addition to the mini player, is launching a pay-what-you-wish premium membership called Turntable Gold. Admittedly, after using Turntable for free for over two years – I was a bit annoyed when I caught wind of this subscription news. But after checking it out, and verifying that it is actually pay-what-you-want ($1 – sorry not sorry), you’re looking at a new Turntable Gold Member. Of course the service is still available completely free, but the Gold addition gives users some fancy extras to spice up the environment a bit. If you haven’t already, I urge you, check out The service is available in a desktop version and as a native app for Android and iOS devices.

jp tt

The best room you ask? Why Trance Out! of course.

[News Ticker] What Will Apple Call Apple TV if They Actually Make a TV?


                      No, this isn’t really ‘it’ …

Beyond the Apple TV set-top streaming box, word has it that Apple is putting together an all-in-one TV.

Yeah, I want one. I do. Even with it’s likely insufferable would-be price tag.

I mean, it’s gotta be cool, doesn’t it? Even if Apple’s not nearly as cool as it was prior to Mr. Jobs untimely departure (yes, we all know it’s true). At any rate, word has it the Silicone Valley-based tech giant has been doing more than just a little bit of sniffing around int PrimeSense’s (3D tech developers used in Microsoft’s Kinect sensor) back yard … hinting at some hand motion remote-a-bility, perhaps?

And why?

Well maybe its not just you and me that doesn’t really have the need (or want for) a game console as a requisite part of every media center throughout the house? I’ll bet the overpriced Apple TV would be less expensive than say, a new television and an Xbox.

Needless to say, we’ll be lined up to take a look. Did someone say Cyber Monday?

[source: Quartz]