Last Minute Holiday Gifts and Stocking Stuffers

When it comes to the holiday shopping season, I like to get my Christmas shopping done early so I can avoid the last minute rush and spend time enjoying the holidays rather than stressing over them.

If you tend to procrastinate when it comes to holiday shopping or just need some last minute gift ideas, stocking stuffer suggestions or maybe even a gift to treat yourself, I’ve put together some items that may be worth consideration.

Check them out below and Happy Holidays!

Note: The items below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information. Firefox users may need to disable Content Blocking to properly view the content on this page.









Here We Go Again! Netgear FW v. Fixes Some Bugs; Creates New Issue on R7000

Just one week ago, Netgear officially released firmware version to address bugs with a previously released and abruptly removed firmware version for the Netgear R7000 router. While firmware version did appear to stabilize the R7000 router and resolve some of the issues with firmware version, it also created a new issue – sporadic reboots.

The sporadic reboots aren’t exactly new to me. In my experience with firmware version, I did experience a couple of sporadic reboots right before Netgear released firmware version along with the other issues. Those sporadic reboots may have been related to the out of memory issue which was one of the issues firmware version fixed.

After upgrading to firmware version, the Netgear R7000 router did appear to stabilize and operate normally for a couple of days. However, I started noticing sporadic reboots on the Netgear R7000 shortly thereafter. In the past week, the R7000 has sporadically rebooted at least twice. Upon reviewing posts on the Netgear Community site, I did find similar complaints about firmware version The consensus on how to fix the issue is to revert down to firmware version until Netgear releases a proper, stable firmware upgrade that addresses this issue.

I’m generally not a fan of downgrading firmware as downgrades can create their own havoc; however, in this circumstance, it appears to be the only viable option, so I’ve gone ahead and reverted down to firmware version Firmware version is generally stable; however, I did have issues with the built-in VPN functionality which seemed to be resolved in firmware version

Hopefully, lessons have been learned and we’ll get a stable firmware upgrade from Netgear that addresses all these issues soon! Until then, let’s hope reverting to firmware version restores order to this firmware chaos.

UPDATE: After further testing, I did notice issues with Wi-Fi connectivity and performance after reverting to firmware version Some devices had trouble reconnecting to the Wi-Fi network on both the 2.4G and 5G networks. After some attempts to resolve the issue, I decided to go back to firmware version While I could try a hard reset of the router, I’m not overly confident the result would differ. If you are able to revert to firmware version and get the R7000 stable, stick with it for now. If not, as in this case, go back to firmware version or consider getting another router. A new router seems inevitable.

Netgear Releases FW for R7000 Router; Fixes Bugs with FW v.

Netgear officially released firmware version late Tuesday to fix bugs with previously released and now removed firmware version Earlier on Tuesday, the new firmware version was available for download directly through the Netgear R7000 admin console; however, no release notes nor related documentation were available through the admin console or on the Netgear support website at the time.

Netgear has now provided release notes on firmware version as well as made the download link available on the Netgear support website. According to Netgear, firmware version includes the following bug fixes:

  • Fixes the issue where the WiFi performance drops

  • Improves the WAN throughput when the traffic meter is enabled

  • Fixes the attached device list issue where devices disappear from the list and cannot be edited in the GUI or Nighthawk app

  • Fixes some security issues

  • Fixes the installation wizard for AP mode.

  • Fixes the issue where the wrong connection type displays in the Access Control page

  • Fixes the issue where the speed test results always shows “0”

  • Fixes the issue where the BASIC page does not display the correct WiFi password when the security mode is in Enterprise mode

  • Fixes the issue where the same network names can be used for the main and guest 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz networks.

  • Fixes the issue where WPS still works even if the WiFi radio is disabled

  • Fixes the potential out of memory issue

If you’ve been experiencing issues after installing firmware version on a Netgear R7000 router, try upgrading to firmware version to see if it resolves your issues.

From my own experience, after upgrading to firmware version, I noticed issues including devices losing or dropping the connection to the 5G wireless network, unable to detect the 5G wireless network SSID, latency or loss of connectivity over the 5G wireless network, sporadic or intermittent connectivity issues over the wired network and spontaneous reboot of the Netgear R7000 router. The issues were occurring multiple times daily and seemingly getting worse.

Since upgrading to the new firmware version, the Netgear R7000 has been stable and operating normally. Granted, it’s only been slightly over a day since I’ve installed the new firmware, but it looks promising. Fingers crossed!

Connectivity Issues After Upgrading Netgear R7000 To Firmware v.

If you’ve recently upgraded your Netgear R7000 router to firmware version and have been experiencing intermittent or sporadic connectivity issues with your router’s 5G wireless network connection, wired network connection or the like, it may be due to the firmware. Issues that I’ve experienced include devices losing or dropping the connection to the 5G wireless network, unable to detect the 5G wireless network SSID, latency or loss of connectivity over the 5G wireless network, sporadic or intermittent connectivity issues over the wired network and spontaneous reboot of the Netgear R7000 router.

Netgear has quietly pulled firmware version along with its release notes and related documentation from their support website. The Netgear support website currently lists firmware version as the current version. You don’t necessarily need to revert to firmware version if you are currently on firmware version

Just as quietly as Netgear removed firmware version, Netgear has also quietly released firmware version, which is available for download via the Netgear R7000 router’s admin console. You’ll need to first login to your Netgear R7000 router. Upon successful login, you should see a message at the top of the admin console homepage indicating that a new firmware version for the Netgear R7000 is available. Clicking on the message should take you to the “Router Update” page where you can download and install firmware version Alternatively, from the admin console homepage, you can go to the “Advanced” tab then under “Administration,” go to “Router Update” and click “Check” to check for and install the new firmware. The router will require a reboot to complete the firmware upgrade.

Netgear has not provided any release notes or related documentation regarding firmware version as of the date of this post so be sure to check the Netgear support website for further updates.

Hopefully, firmware version does the trick!

Making The Move To Wireless Charging

Earlier this year, I decided to give wireless charging a try with my iPhone X. I researched different wireless charging pads from different manufacturers focusing on wireless charging pads that supported fast wireless charging (7.5W) for the iPhone X. I decided to try the Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad.

The Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad supports 7.5W fast charging on the iPhone 8/8 Plus/X (it should also work with the latest generation of iPhones - iPhone XS/XS Max/XR) and 10W fast charging on the Samsung S7/S8/S8+/S9/S9+ and Note 8. You can check the Anker website for a full list of currently supported devices.


The Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad includes everything you need to get started including the wireless charging pad, micro-USB to USB cable and a Quick Charge 3.0 AC Adapter (some wireless charging pads do not include the AC adapter). The Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad features a LED indicator to let you know that your device is charging, a case-friendly design allowing you to charge your device while in its case (most cases should work) and has a built-in cooling fan to prevent overheating.

I’ve been using the Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad since March and it works well. While I don’t necessarily mind using a cord to charge my device, I do like the convenience of not needing to have numerous cords lying around. I also like being able to charge my device while using Apple EarPods without the need for a dongle to split the lightning connector (ex: Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar). Of course, I could use Apple AirPods or Bluetooth-enabled earphones in lieu of Apple EarPods with the lightning connector.

The micro-USB to USB cable was just long enough for my purposes and you do need to center your device on the Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad to properly charge the device (this is where the LED indicator becomes quite helpful). There have been a couple of times where my device wasn’t properly centered and did not start charging. That said, I haven’t run into any major problems with the Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad and do recommend this wireless charging pad if you are in the market to get one.

The Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad costs around $50.

If you’re interested in the Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad, I’ve included a link below. I’ve also included a link to the Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar which allows you to charge your supported iPhone via the lightning connector while simultaneously using your Apple Earpods with lightning connector if you need to go the wired route.

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad (White) -

Anker PowerWave 7.5 Pad (Black) -

Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar -

Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector -

Apple AirPods -

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with AMD Radeon Pro Vega Graphics Now Available

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

If you’ve been holding off on buying a new Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch series in hopes of configuring it with one of the new AMD Radeon Pro Vega discrete mobile GPUs, the wait is over!

You can now configure a MacBook Pro 15-inch series with either a new AMD Radeon Pro Vega 16 with 4GB of High Bandwidth (HBM2) memory or the AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of High Bandwidth (HBM2) memory in lieu of the base AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. The AMD Radeon Pro Vega discrete mobile GPUs will provide up to 60% faster graphics performance than the MacBook Pro 15-inch’s base AMD Radeon Pro 560X mobile GPU.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

The AMD Radeon Pro Vega 16 and 20 discrete mobile GPUs do come at a premium with the Vega 16 adding an additional $250 and the Vega 20 adding an additional $350 to the overall cost of the MacBook Pro 15-inch.

When customizing the MacBook Pro 15-inch, be sure to select the MacBook Pro 15-inch model with Touch Bar and Touch ID, 2.6GHz 6-Core Processor, 512GB Storage model with the base AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory (starting price of $2,799) to get the Vega Pro discrete mobile GPUs as a customizable graphics option. If you select the MacBook Pro 15-inch model with Touch Bar and Touch ID, 2.2GHz 6-Core Processor, 256GB Storage with the base AMD Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory (starting price of $2,399), the Vega Pro discrete mobile GPU options will not be available.

With the customization of GPU from the base AMD Radeon Pro 560X to the AMD Radeon Pro Vega 16 or Vega 20 discrete mobile GPUs, you can expect the starting price of the MacBook Pro 15-inch model with Touch Bar and Touch ID, 2.6GHz 6-Core Processor, 512GB Storage model to increase from the base price of $2,799 to $3,049 or $3,149, respectively.

An iPad Pro, a broken headphone jack, an expired AppleCare warranty, oh my!

When I originally bought the first generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it was intended as a major upgrade from my aging second generation iPad. With the inability to upgrade iOS on my second generation iPad, lack of supported apps for an old version of iOS and terribly sluggish performance on a long discontinued and unsupported device, it was finally time to take the leap and upgrade to a new device.

With the 12.9-inch iPad Pro available, I decided to go with the larger form factor over the traditional 9.7-inch model. The added display real estate made it quite appealing. As I hadn’t upgraded my iPad in years and with Apple products demonstrating longevity, it made sense to invest a little bit more into a device that I’d be using for years to come. That said, I opted to get the 128GB model with Wi-Fi + Cellular, which I believe was the top of the line for the first generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro at the time.

Let me say, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro did not disappoint. The larger display made such a huge difference and the overall performance was fantastic. I practically used my 12.9-inch iPad Pro daily to watch TV, stream videos, surf the web, use apps and so forth. Since I did use my iPad Pro heavily to watch or listen to media content, I used the headphone jack practically every day, so that jack went through quite some wear and tear.

I’ve used plenty of Apple and non-Apple products over the years but it’s been quite some time since I’ve run into a problematic headphone jack let alone a broken headphone jack but that’s exactly what happened to my iPad Pro. One night while using my iPad Pro, I tried to insert my EarPods into the headphone jack, but it would only go about two-thirds of the way in before it got stuck. After a few attempts, I checked the jack and it was clear that there was an obstruction. Something inside the jack either bent or broke off and as a result, the EarPods could not be inserted properly into the headphone jack. Fortunately, the mechanism that detects whether headphones or earphones are inserted into the jack was not detecting that headphones or earphones were inserted; otherwise, the external speakers would not work. I was fortunate for that.

Unfortunately, after checking my warranty status on the Apple website, I discovered that my iPad Pro was no longer under warranty. While I did purchase AppleCare for my iPad Pro, the AppleCare warranty had expired. While I could try to get the headphone jack repaired, the repair cost undoubtedly would not make sense.

So, what were my options?

Well, I had at least three viable options:

I could buy a new iPad. While certainly a viable option, it was not necessarily the most economical though quite tempting with the release of the brand new 2018 11” and 12.9” iPad Pros.

I could use a pair of Apple EarPods with a lightning connector and connect them via the lightning connector in lieu of the headphone jack. This option works if you have an iPad with a lightning connector and iOS 10 or above installed. Apple EarPods with lightning connector cost $29.00.

I could use Apple AirPods or other Bluetooth enabled headphones/earphones to connect wirelessly to the iPad Pro. Apple AirPods cost $159.00.

While I’m not thrilled about the broken headphone jack, there are cost-effective alternatives and workarounds to this unfortunate situation. My first generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro still works great. It’s running Apple’s latest version of iOS - iOS 12 and it’s still incredibly fast and performs extremely well. I hope to continue using this iPad Pro for quite some time.

Apple’s MacBook Pro 15-inch To Get New Radeon Pro Vega Graphics in November

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Apple’s MacBook Pro 15-inch models will come with new Radeon Pro Vega discrete mobile GPU offerings starting in late November. The MacBook Pro 15-inch models currently offer the AMD Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory and AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. The new GPU offerings will include the AMD Radeon Pro Vega 16 with 4GB of High Bandwidth (HBM2) memory and the AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of High Bandwidth (HBM2) memory.

The Vega GPUs will provide up to 60% faster graphics performance than the MacBook Pro 15-inch’s current top mobile GPU offering, the Radeon Pro 560X. The new offerings bring the MacBook Pro 15-inch series GPUs better in line with the iMac Pro series, which currently offer the AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 and AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 GPUs.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

The MacBook Pro 15-inch base model currently offers the AMD Radeon Pro 555X as the default GPU with the AMD Radeon Pro 560X available as a configurable upgrade for an additional $100. Pricing for the new Radeon Pro Vega GPU offerings have not been disclosed.

If you’re considering a new MacBook Pro 15-inch and want to take advantage of the new GPU offerings, hang tight until later this month!

Apple’s October 30th Special Event Brings New Macs & iPad Pros

On Tuesday, Apple held its October Special Event with new Macs and iPad Pros taking centerstage. Apple announced long-awaited updates to the MacBook Air and Mac Mini as well as the next generation of iPad Pros. Also announced were companion accessories for the new iPad Pros including the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) and a new Smart Keyboard Folio. Rounding off the event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the availability of iOS 12.1, which includes Group FaceTime with up to 32 people, support for dual SIM (SIM + eSIM) on the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, over seventy new emojis along with bug fixes and improvements. Singer-songwriters Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff helped close out the event with a special music performance.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

MacBook Air

As highly rumored and anticipated, Apple announced a brand new re-designed and re-engineered 13.3-inch MacBook Air. On the outside, the new MacBook Air is thinner, lighter and utilizes 17% less volume than the previous MacBook Air. It features a high-resolution Retina Display, Touch ID, new keyboard utilizing the butterfly mechanism, standard function keys (no Touch Bar), a Force Touch trackpad with 20% more surface area, new stereo speakers offering 2x the bass and 25% more volume, three microphones, 720p FaceTime camera, two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

On the inside, the new MacBook Air features a new 8th generation Amber Lake 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz), Apple’s T2 Security Chip, 128GB SSD Flash Storage (configurable to 256GB, 512GB and 1.5TB), 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM (configurable to 16GB) and Intel UHD Graphics 617.

The new MacBook Air offers up to 12 hours of battery life, weighs 2.75lbs (roughly a quarter pound less than the previous generation) and is made from 100% recycled aluminum. It will be available in three colors: Silver, Space Gray and Gold. The new MacBook Air starts at $1,199 ($200 more than the previous generation but $100 less than the base price of the 12-inch MacBook and 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with function keys) and will be available starting November 7th.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Mac Mini

Apple announced a new Mac Mini aimed at meeting the continuing needs of Apple users who enjoy the small form factor while giving it some real bite. The new Mac Mini features 8th generation Intel quad-core (starting at 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3) and six-core (starting at 3.0GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz and configurable up to 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz) processors offering up to 5x faster system performance, 8GB of 2666MHz DDR SO-DIMM RAM (configurable to 16GB, 32GB and 64GB), 128GB SSD Flash Storage (configurable to 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB), Intel UHD Graphics 630 offering up to 60% faster graphics, four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, HDMI 2.0, two USB 3 ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Ethernet (configurable up to 10Gb Ethernet), Bluetooth 5.0, the Apple T2 Security Chip and a new thermal architecture.

The new Mac Mini weighs 2.9lbs, comes in Space Gray and the aluminum enclosure is made from 100% recycled aluminum. The new Mac Mini starts at $799 and will be available starting November 7th.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

iPad Pro

Apple announced two new iPad Pros – an 11-inch model and a 12.9-inch model. Both models feature a new edge-to-edge Liquid Retina Display, the same display found on the new iPhone XR. Gone are the Home button, 3.5mm headphone jack and lightning connector. The iPad Pros support the same familiar gestures found on the iPhone X. The lightning connector is replaced with a new USB-C connector which will allow you to connect external displays, cameras and even charge your iPhone from your new iPad Pro. If you’re dead set on using headphones or earphones with a 3.5mm plug, you’ll need to get the new USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter, which will cost $9.00.

The new iPad Pros also feature Face ID which works in both portrait and landscape mode, an all-new A12X Bionic Chip with the new neural engine offering faster performance and up to 2x faster graphics, support for Apple Pencil (2nd generation) which includes the ability to pair and charge the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) wirelessly and attach the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) magnetically to the new iPad Pros. The Apple Pencil (2nd generation) also supports gesture controls. Also available is the new Smart Keyboard Folio which protects both the front and back side of the new iPad Pros, offers a keyboard and serves a stand with two viewing angles.

The new iPad Pros come in two colors: Silver and Space Gray with storage capacities of 64GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. Both iPad Pros come in Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999. Both iPad Pros will be available starting on November 7th. The Apple Pencil (2nd generation) will cost $129 and the new Smart Keyboard Folio will cost $179 for the 11-inch iPad Pro and $199 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Both the new Apple Pencil (2nd generation) and Smart Keyboard Folio will be available on November 7th.

For full product details, technical specifications, pricing and to watch the Apple Keynote, visit Apple’s website.

I’ve got issues . . . with my ISP’s DNS Servers

When an Internet Service Provider (ISP) provisions Internet service, the ISP will typically provide you with two DNS servers – a primary and a secondary (backup) DNS server to use for DNS resolution. If you are experiencing issues with your ISP’s DNS servers, you’ll want to check to see if both DNS servers are problematic (ex: DNS server latency, DNS server times out, errors resolving domain names or hostnames to their respective public IP addresses, etc.).

If your ISP’s primary DNS server is problematic but the secondary (or backup) DNS server is working properly, you can switch the priority between your primary and secondary DNS servers. If your router is setup for DHCP, you’ll need to make the DNS changes on the router and then reboot your computers and devices to ensure they receive the updated DNS changes. If your computer is setup using static IP addressing, you can update the DNS priority in the network settings of your OS. Keep in mind that you should report any issues with your ISP’s DNS servers to the ISP. This will ensure your ISP’s network engineers are aware of the issue, investigate and work towards a resolution.

If both of your ISP’s DNS servers (primary and secondary) are problematic, you can switch to a pair of Public DNS servers offered by reputable providers. Google, CloudFlare and OpenDNS are three popular providers that offer Public DNS servers which you may use in lieu of your ISP’s DNS servers.

The Public DNS servers for Google, CloudFlare and OpenDNS are listed below.

Google Public DNS

CloudFlare Public DNS

OpenDNS Public DNS

Whether you choose to use your ISP’s DNS servers or Public DNS servers from Google, CloudFlare, OpenDNS or other reputable providers is up to you; however, if you are experiencing issues with your ISP’s DNS servers, know that there are reliable Public DNS servers available from reputable providers which you can use on an interim basis until your ISP can resolve the issues with their DNS servers.

“There’s more in the making” . . . Apple announces October 30th Special Event

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

A day before pre-orders began for Apple’s all-new iPhone XR, Apple announced a highly rumored and anticipated October Special Event last Thursday. The Special Event will take place in one week on Tuesday, October 30th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, New York. The event will begin at 10am ET (not PT) and will also be live streamed on Apple’s website.

There have been quite a few rumors about what Apple might showcase at its event next week including new iPad Pros featuring a thinner bezel, Face ID support and the move from a lightning connector to USB-C, a new lower cost replacement for the MacBook Air, a possible refresh for the MacBook and a refresh of the Mac Mini and/or possibly a pro-level Mac Mini.

Will AirPower finally make an appearance or will we at least get an update on its status? Apple first announced AirPower last Fall; however, we have heard little about it since then. Apple also announced that a new wireless charging case for the AirPods was in the works, but it too has yet to make an appearance. A second generation of the AirPods is supposedly in the works as is a second generation Apple Pencil, both of which could be announced at next week’s event.

We’re just a week away from Apple’s October Special Event so stay tuned!

The Wait For iPhone XR Is Almost Over . . . Sort Of!

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

If you’ve been holding off on upgrading your iPhone or mobile phone in hopes of getting your hands on the all-new iPhone XR, the wait is almost over! Pre-orders for the iPhone XR will kick-off this Friday, October 19th with availability beginning on Friday, October 26th.

Apple announced the all-new iPhone XR, along with the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, at their Apple Special Event last month in Cupertino. The iPhone XR is a lower-cost alternative to the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max with a starting price of $749. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max start at $999 and $1,099, respectively.

The iPhone XR is made from a 7000 Series grade aluminum with a glass back to support wireless charging and is rated IP67 for water resistance meaning it can withstand a drop into water with a maximum depth of one meter for up to thirty minutes. It also features a new 6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina HD Display, a 7-nanometer A12 Bionic Chip with next generation neural engine (same chip as in the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max), a single 12MP wide-angle rear camera, 7MP front TrueDepth camera, Smart HDR, Haptic Touch (in lieu of 3D Touch), Face ID and dual SIMs (nano SIM + eSIM). As for battery life, the iPhone XR offers an additional ninety-minutes of battery life over that of the iPhone 8 Plus.

The iPhone XR will be available in a variety of colors including White, Black, Blue, Coral, Yellow and (Product) Red. Storage capacities will include 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. AppleCare+ for iPhone XR will cost $149 if paid in full or $7.99/month for up to 24 months if paid monthly and the new AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss Protection will cost $249 if paid in full or $12.99/month for up to 24 months if paid monthly.

If you plan on pre-ordering the iPhone XR through Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, Apple recommends that you use the Apple Store app on your iPhone to get pre-approved for the iPhone Upgrade Program before 7pm ET/4pm PT on Thursday, October 18th so you can pre-order and checkout on Friday, October 19th.

In A World of Loops and Smart Instruments

A couple of years ago, I began exploring Apple’s GarageBand. First, let me be perfectly clear that I’m not a musician in any way, shape or form. I did learn to play the recorder in Elementary School like some school children (I did not play well!) and then I learned to play the violin for a couple of years and participated in a couple of school performances in Junior High School (I played okay). But that was pretty much the extent of my “music career.”

So, on one January night, I sat down with my iPad, launched GarageBand and started to play around and try to figure out how GarageBand worked and what I could do in the application. I did some research online into GarageBand and eventually got into smart instruments and learned how to use the auto-play control knob to access a preset series of chord progressions within each class of smart instrument. From there, I started to experiment and combined, mixed, matched and edited different smart instruments and chord progressions using auto-play to create some interesting sounds.

Once I got past the initial learning curve, I challenged myself to test my creativity and see if I could create a single track comprised of different smart instruments and chord progressions using auto-play that would sound good. After a bit of exploration, trial and error and lots of time, I came up with my very first track which I called “The Journey.” It took quite some time to figure out an appropriate name for this track, but I eventually got there.

“The Journey” was inspired by a recent road trip that I had taken. While the initial base track took several hours to create, it would take another week or so to refine it until I got it to a point where I was comfortable. I was constantly tweaking the track and found a new appreciation for what professionals in the music industry must go through to put together a track. After creating “The Journey,” I decided to further challenge myself by trying to create a collection of tracks all inspired by my recent road trip. I eventually created tracks including “Charting The Course,” “A Call To Action,” “Reflection in Time,” “Paradise,” “On The Road,” “Onwards” and even an extended version of “The Journey.”

Creating and refining the tracks was just the beginning. I eventually went from creating tracks in GarageBand for iOS to creating and editing those tracks in GarageBand for macOS and then moved over to Logic Pro X. Now to be transparent, the move to Logic Pro X was primarily because I ran into some issues in GarageBand that I was able to solve with Logic Pro X. I also expanded into the world of Apple royalty-free loops, using loops along with smart instruments to create some amazing tracks like “Countdown,” “Discovery” and “Evolution” that I’m proud of.  

What started off as an exploration of Apple’s GarageBand turned into quite an amazing project and learning experience. I certainly don’t expect to win any awards, nor do I think that I fall within the company of the great musicians, composers, artists, performers and music professionals who create music and do this for a living. However, if anything, this project does showcase our potential to learn and explore new things, to open our minds and let our creativity out, to step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves beyond our limits.

I am incredibly proud to be able showcase the work from this project. You can listen to some of the tracks from this project by visiting the Media page of this website. Once you are on the Media page, scroll down to the section entitled Music Exploration. I will be adding more tracks from this project soon so please check back for more!

MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 Series . . . in 2018

Apple MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009

Apple MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009

Last year, Apple added the last of the polycarbonate unibody series, the MacBook 13.3-inch Mid 2010 series, to their list of Vintage and obsolete products, officially bringing an end of support to this product line.

While official support has ended for the polycarbonate unibody series, I’ve managed to get some extra life out of my MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series with a couple of upgrades that have kept it running through 2018. When I purchased the MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series, it included a 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM (base version came with 2GB RAM and Apple’s official maximum is 4GB RAM, but more on this in a moment), a 250GB 5400 RPM hard drive (upgradeable to a 500GB 5400 RPM hard drive), Nvidia GeForce 9400M with 256GB RAM and OS X v.10.6 Snow Leopard.

About a year before the AppleCare warranty on the MacBook was up, I decided to upgrade the 250GB 5400 RPM hard drive to a new Sandisk 240GB SSD. This gave the MacBook a significant performance and speed boost over the 5400 RPM traditional hard drive. At the time, solid state drives were still quite pricey for limited amounts of storage, so the Sandisk 240GB SSD was at a price level that I was comfortable investing in.

As for RAM, I initially operated under the belief that Apple’s official 4GB RAM limit was indeed the maximum. However, a couple of years after the AppleCare warranty had expired, I did some research and learned that the MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series (MacBook 6,1) could support a maximum of 8GB of RAM. After some extensive research, I was able to confirm that the 8GB RAM maximum limit was indeed accurate and went ahead and purchased the compatible memory modules (I’ll include a link to the modules at the end of this post) to max out the MacBook’s RAM. It worked perfectly!

Today, this MacBook is still running, albeit slower than newer computers, with a 240GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and macOS High Sierra. Newer MacBooks will certainly run circles around this nine year old MacBook and I do not use this MacBook for memory intensive or performance heavy loads; but, for e-mail, surfing the web, watching YouTube videos and general use, it still works.

This MacBook will not support Apple’s latest version of macOS - macOS Mojave which means this MacBook has reached its maximum upgrade potential. That said, I’m impressed with the extended life that I’ve gained from these upgrades and when the day comes to officially retire this MacBook from service, I’ll know that it had one heck of a run!

If you have a MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series with a model identifier of “MacBook 6,1” and want to know which memory modules I used to upgrade my MacBook to 8GB of RAM, check out the link below.

To find the model identifier for your MacBook, go to the Apple menu then select “About This Mac.” In “About This Mac,” select “System Report.” In the “System Report,” select “Hardware” then look for “Model Identifier.”

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

OWC 8.0GB (2 x 4GB) PC8500 DDR3 1066 MHz Memory Upgrade Kit -

I Upgraded to iOS 12 . . .

Apple released the latest version of iOS, iOS 12, last Monday, September 17th. As with previous iOS major releases, I did not upgrade on launch day for several reasons including potentially slow download speeds with many users hitting Apple’s download servers simultaneously for iOS 12 and the potential for bugs/compatibility issues, as we saw with the release of iOS 11 last year.

With iOS 12, Apple appears to have put this latest version of iOS through more rigorous beta testing and improved quality control. The reviews have pointed towards iOS 12 beta versions being stable and it is reflected in the final release. Since upgrading my iOS devices to iOS 12, my devices have been stable, running smoothly and I haven’t run into any major issues.

I have noticed a nice performance and speed boost with iOS 12. iOS 12 appears to run faster and smoother than iOS 11. On iPhone X, I like that iOS 12 has simplified the process for closing apps. In iOS 11, it required swiping midway up the screen to see all the open apps and then required that you press or hold down on the screen before swiping up to close the apps. In iOS 12, you no longer need to press or hold down on the screen first. Once you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to approximately the middle of the screen and see all the open apps, you can release your finger for a moment and then swipe up to close the respective apps. There is a small adjustment period coming off iOS 11, but you’ll get used to it quickly.

The new Measure app, which utilizes Augmented Reality, allows you to have a measuring tape readily available whenever you need one. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had to search for a measuring tape on the fly; however, with the new Measure app, you can be confident that you’ll have a handy measuring tape available always.

I did experiment with Memojis and it’s okay. I couldn’t quite create a Memoji that I truly liked but I did give it a try. I think I’ll stick with the Animojis!

As for battery life, I haven’t experienced any issues with the battery draining faster on iOS 12 versus that of iOS 11, which is a plus. It seems like battery life is comparable to the latest version of iOS 11. Obviously, battery life does heavily depend on how you use your iOS device and the apps that you are running so my experience may vary from those experiences of others.

iOS 12 appears to be a good and “safe” upgrade. If you plan on upgrading your iOS device to iOS 12, be sure to backup your iOS device to your computer via iTunes or to the cloud via iCloud. Also, make sure to check Apple’s website to be certain your device is compatible with iOS 12. If you use any apps that are vital or mission-critical, be sure to check the App Store and/or with the App Developer to confirm compatibility with iOS 12.

The Apple MacBook 12-inch: I said I wouldn’t get one . . . then, I did!


When Apple first released the MacBook 12-inch in 2015, I was adamant that I wouldn’t get one. I felt the MacBook 12-inch was overpriced, under-powered and just did not offer a good bang for the buck. While the MacBook 12-inch included some nice features like a smaller form factor, being lightweight (slightly over 2 lbs), having a Retina display and incorporating current technology, it was simply too difficult to justify spending $1,299 for the base model when you could get more bang for the buck from either a MacBook Air 13.3-inch (starting at $999) or MacBook Pro 13.3-inch with function keys (starting at $1,299).

That said, I did eventually get a 2016 MacBook 12-inch base model. I bought the MacBook 12-inch to take on a two-week trip. I needed to bring a laptop with me (a tablet just wouldn’t cut it) but it had to be smaller and lighter than a MacBook Air 13.3-inch as I simply had very limited space to pack it. Thinking about it carefully, if I was going to invest the money in something smaller and lighter, it would have to be something reliable. At the end of the day, while Apple products are more expensive, Apple does make good, reliable products with longevity, so it made sense.

I must say that I have grown to enjoy using the MacBook 12-inch when traveling, whenever I need to carry a laptop around or just need true portability. The lightweight and smaller form factor are a major plus. While I prefer the keyboard on the 2017 model more than the one on the 2016 model, it’s still better than the 2015. I’ve managed to get around the single USB-C port by using an adapter either from Apple or Satechi (I’ll include links to the adapters I use at the end of this post). The Retina display is quite impressive and the improved audio & speakers on the MacBook 12-inch give the MacBook Air and older MacBook Pros a run for the money in the audio/sound department. I am disappointed that the built-in camera is only 480p when the MacBook Air 11.6-inch model included a 720p camera. The quality is really pixelated and choppy, but I have managed to avoid using the 480p camera.

Performance-wise, the MacBook 12-inch base model with the Intel Core m3 1.1 GHz processor and 8GB RAM handles relatively well for normal, average use. I have edited some short videos in Final Cut Pro X using the MacBook 12-inch but transcoding and rendering does take quite some time to complete (it’s really, really slow!). I have experienced a few crashes while trying to work in Final Cut Pro X. I’ve also run into issues trying to connect two external SSD drives via an adapter to the MacBook 12-inch where one of the drives would randomly disconnect. I did test the two external SSD drives by connecting them to a MacBook Air 13.3-inch and there were no issues. I’m guessing it could be a power issue/limitation when connecting an adapter to the single USB-C port. Obviously, the MacBook 12-inch isn’t intended for processor intensive or performance heavy work like graphics & design (ex: Adobe Photoshop) and video editing (ex: Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere). However, if you are using it for general multi-tasking, music and video streaming, it should work perfectly fine.

Is it the best bang for your buck? No, but if you are looking for ultra-portability, current technology, you’re using it for non-processor and non-performance intensive applications and you’re willing to throw out the additional cash, then the MacBook 12-inch will do nicely. Apple is reportedly working on a less expensive replacement for the MacBook Air 13.3-inch, so if you are not in a rush to get a MacBook 12-inch, I would suggest holding off a bit to see what Apple has in store.

I’ve put together a list of accessories that I have/use with my MacBook 12-inch. If you’re interested, feel free to check them out below.

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

Mosiso Laptop Sleeve/Case for MacBook 12-inch -

Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Adapter with USB-C Pass-Through, HDMI, Two USB 3.0 ports -

Apple USB-C Digital AV Multi-Port Adapter -

Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD with 30W Power Delivery Charger -

Apple Announces Apple Watch Series 4, New iPhones at September 12th Special Event

Apple CEO Tim Cook and the Apple team took the stage this morning at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino to announce Apple Watch Series 4, three new iPhones and release dates for iOS 12, watchOS 5, tvOS 12 and macOS Mojave.

iOS, watchOS, tvOS and macOS

iOS 12, watchOS 5 and tvOS 12 will all be available this coming Monday, September 17th. macOS Mojave will be available a week later on Monday, September 24th.

Apple Watch

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Apple Watch Series 4 was the first product announced at today’s Special Event. The Series 4 comes in new 40mm and 44mm cases. The Series 4 features a new edge-to-edge display with curved edges and a viewing area that is thirty-percent larger, a black ceramic and sapphire crystal back, new Digital Crown with Haptic feedback, a fourth generation S4 64-bit Dual-Core processor which is up to 2x faster, a 50% louder speaker, the microphone has been moved to the opposite side for noise reduction, a new watch face which supports eight customizable complications and up to 18 hours of battery life on a single charge. The new Series 4 accelerometer and gyroscope add fall detection. Series 4 also adds new heart health features including low heart rate & atrial fibrillation detection and an electrocardiogram (ECG).   

The aluminum case will come in Silver, Gold and Space Gray. The stainless-steel case will come in Silver, Space Black and Gold. Existing Apple Watch bands will be compatible with the new Apple Watch Series 4.

The Series 4 wireless models will start at $399 and the cellular models will start at $499. Apple will begin accepting orders for Apple Watch Series 4 on September 14th and the Series 4 will be available beginning September 21st.

Apple is also reducing prices on Apple Watch Series 3 with pricing starting at $279.


Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Following the announcement of Apple Watch Series 4, Apple announced three new iPhones today – iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR.

The first two new iPhones announced were the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are made from a surgical grade stainless-steel and come with Super Retina HD OLED 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch displays respectively, a 7-nanometer A12 Bionic Chip with a 6-Core CPU, 4-Core GPU and next-generation 8-Core Neural Engine offering faster app launches by up to thirty-percent, dual 12MP (wide-angle and telephoto) rear cameras, 7MP front TrueDepth camera, Smart HDR and dual SIMs (nano SIM + eSIM). The iPhone XS and XS Max also include a new feature that lets you adjust the depth of field of photos AFTER you’ve taken them from an aperture of f/1.4 to f/16. The iPhone XS offers an additional thirty-minutes of battery life over the iPhone X while the iPhone XS Max offers an additional ninety-minutes of battery life over the iPhone X.

Both the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max come in Gold, Silver and Space Gray. Capacities will include 64GB, 256GB and 512GB. The iPhone XS will start at $999 and the iPhone XS Max will start at $1,099. Apple will begin accepting orders for iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max on September 14th and both devices will be available on September 21st. 

The third new iPhone announced at today’s event was the iPhone XR. The iPhone XR is made from a 7000 Series grade aluminum with a glass back and features a new 6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina HD Display, the same 7-nanometer A12 Bionic Chip available in the XS and XS Max, a single 12MP wide-angle rear camera, 7MP front TrueDepth camera, Smart HDR, Haptic Touch instead of 3D Touch, Face ID and dual SIMs (nano SIM + eSIM). The iPhone XR offers an additional ninety-minutes of battery life over the iPhone 8 Plus.

The iPhone XR comes in White, Black, Blue, Coral, Yellow and (Product) Red. Capacities will include 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. The iPhone XR will start at $749. Apple will begin accepting orders on October 19th and the iPhone XR will be available on October 26th.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Apple is keeping the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 in their iPhone product line. The iPhone 7 will now start at $449 and the iPhone 8 will start at $599. The original iPhone X has been discontinued.

For full product details, technical specifications and pricing, visit Apple’s website.

Turn Wi-Fi Assist OFF To Save Your Data!

Starting with iOS 9, Apple introduced a feature in iOS called Wi-Fi Assist. When enabled, Wi-Fi Assist utilizes your cellular connection whenever your Wi-Fi service is weak, ensuring a seamless Internet connection. For instance, if you were visiting a webpage on your iPhone and your Wi-Fi connection became weak, Wi-Fi Assist would step in and use your cellular connection to ensure the webpage would load without issue.

While a good feature, not too long after the introduction of Wi-Fi Assist, there were reports of users experiencing unusual data consumption with their cellular data plans. The recommendation to users running iOS 9 was to turn off Wi-Fi Assist to avoid unintentionally burning through their cellular data. Though this recommendation came out several years ago, it still holds true today with iOS 11.

By default, Wi-Fi Assist is enabled in iOS 9 and later. If you want to check to see if your Wi-Fi Assist setting is enabled or disabled and/or if you want to disable Wi-Fi Assist to avoid unnecessary data consumption, go to Settings then Cellular. Under Cellular, scroll down to the bottom of the page until you see Wi-Fi Assist. There will be a toggle switch next to Wi-Fi Assist. If the toggle switch is green, it means Wi-Fi Assist is enabled. If the toggle switch is white/off-white, it means Wi-Fi Assist is disabled.

If you’ve been experiencing unusual data consumption, check your Wi-Fi Assist settings. It may be the culprit!

The Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) – Part II: A Real World Situation

I recently ran into a Blue Screen situation on a Dell Vostro 430 mini-tower computer running Windows 7 Professional. First, a bit of backstory . . . this is a computer that’s about seven or eight years old. While it’s clearly not current, it does the job it’s intended for. The computer originally came with a 250GB SATA HD. The SATA HD was experiencing performance issues and after running a series of diagnostics, it appeared that the SATA HD was at risk of potentially failing. Not surprising given the age of the computer. After reviewing several options, the first plan was to try and clone the SATA HD onto a solid state drive (SSD) and then replace the SATA HD with the cloned SSD. If the plan worked, the computer would be up and running with minimal downtime.

I won’t get into the details about the hard drive cloning process in this post, but if you’re interested in what I used to clone the SATA HD to a SSD, I’ll provide links at the end of this post.

After cloning the SATA hard drive to a solid state drive (took a couple hours), I replaced the SATA HD with the newly cloned SSD. The SSD booted into Windows without any issues and the cloned SSD worked perfectly like the original SATA hard drive, but with a significant performance boost. I ran a series of diagnostics on the cloned SSD and all diagnostics passed without any errors. I left the computer on overnight and would check on it in the morning.

The next morning, I noticed the computer had frozen. After restarting the computer, the computer appeared fine. The system logs did not show anything unusual that would have shed light on why the computer froze. After running a series of additional diagnostics, all of which passed, I began looking at the BIOS. The BIOS was out-of-date and I recall replacing a SATA HD with a new SSD in another Dell Vostro 430 mini-tower computer some years ago, but I recalled I had upgraded the BIOS when I replaced the SATA HD with a SSD.

In that scenario though, I did a clean installation of Windows rather than a clone of the hard drive. I’m generally not a fan of cloning hard drives and prefer to perform clean installations, whenever possible. To put it into perspective, I haven’t cloned a hard drive since the days of Norton Ghost. However, for the current scenario, cloning the existing SATA HD was preferable.

I went ahead and upgraded the BIOS to the latest version and for a few days the computer appeared to be stable. I continued to perform diagnostics and monitored the computer to make sure everything was running properly.

After a week or so, the computer began experiencing random crashing and Blue Screens. The Blue Screens indicated an issue with iastor.sys. With this information, I was able to isolate the issue to the Intel Storage Controller. Unfortunately, before I could take any actionable steps, the computer began to experience continuous Blue Screens. I was unable to sign-in via the Windows login screen without hitting a BSOD. Shutting down and booting up the computer didn’t help either. I checked the BIOS configuration to make sure the settings were correct, and I tried to run the Windows Repair Utility but still could not get into Windows without running into a Blue Screen. Fortunately, I was able to Safe Boot into Windows to uninstall the existing Intel Storage Controller located within Device Manager | IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers.

After uninstalling the device driver, I restarted the computer. The computer booted into Windows and upon login, Windows detected the “new device” and began the process of locating, downloading and re-installing an appropriate Intel Storage Controller for the computer. After a couple of additional restarts, the computer was once again stable and running properly. I ran some additional diagnostics to make sure there were no other detectable issues and continued to monitor performance and stability in the following weeks.

While this Blue Screen situation ended on a positive note, not all BSOD situations will be the same, so remember to take steps to backup your computer to external storage frequently and when you do experience issues, don’t turn a blind eye. Look into the problem or contact an IT professional as soon as possible. Make note of any vital information displayed on the Blue Screen (ex: what file or files may have caused the Blue Screen) and any error codes which might be displayed. This information can be extremely helpful when troubleshooting the issue. Be proactive and not reactive!

If you’re interested in what I used to clone the SATA HD to SSD, check out the links below. For the SSD, I had an older model Samsung solid state drive lying around, which I used as the target drive, but I’m providing links to some of the current SSDs on the market from Crucial, a brand that I use frequently for drive replacements and in external hard drive enclosures. I've also used SSDs from Intel, Sandisk and Samsung. Please check for compatibility with your specific hardware.

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

Cloning Software

Macrium Reflect 7 (Free Version) -

Instructions for cloning a disk with Macrium Reflect -

External Adapter for connecting SSD to computer via USB 3.0 for hard drive cloning

Anker USB 3.0 to SATA Adapter -

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Crucial MX500 250GB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD –

Crucial MX500 500GB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD –

Crucial MX500 1TB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD –

Crucial MX500 2TB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD –

“Gather Round” . . . Apple’s next Special Event set for September 12th

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

The stage is set for Apple’s September 2018 Special Event. The Special Event will take place on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at the Steve Jobs Theater.

As with previous Apple events, if you weren’t fortunate enough to be invited to the special event, you can watch the livestream on Apple’s website starting at 10am PDT / 1pm EDT.

We are expecting Apple to announce new iPhones at the September 12th event. Rumors are pointing to the announcement of three new iPhones – a 5.8” OLED model, a 6.5” OLED model and a less expensive 6.1” LCD model. The models may be called iPhone XS, iPhone XS Plus and iPhone 9; respectively. The OLED model is expected to be available in a new gold version and the LCD model is expected to come in a variety of colors.

It’s also rumored that Apple will announce Apple Watch Series 4, which will include a larger display and new watch face interface that takes advantage of the added real estate. We may also get final release dates for iOS 12, macOS Mojave, watchOS 5 and tvOS 12.

Last year, Apple announced that they were working on AirPower, a wireless charging mat that would allow you to charge your compatible iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods simultaneously. Apple also announced that they were working on a new compatible case for AirPods which would work with AirPower. To date, neither product has been released, so Apple may provide an update at the September 12th event.

Apple is rumored to be working on a less expensive replacement for the MacBook Air that would include updated hardware as well as a new iPad Pro. While possible, I’m doubtful that Apple will make such an announcement at the September 12th event. If Apple does plan on making these announcements before year end, they may hold a separate event in time for the start of the holiday season or make announcements via press release if we’re looking at a product refresh.

We’re about a week and a half away from the September 12th event, so stay tuned!