Biometrical Genetics


This is a paper on biometrical genetics. Biometrical genetics uses the core principles of Mendelian genetics but instead of just a binary trait, we can use it to analyse more than one gene effect. These notes are taken from the biometrical genetics textbook by Neale The other changes as applicable (Luger, Dechassa, and Tremethick 2012).

Here is a model of the figure:


Let’s take a look at the table

Mother’s A a
a Aa aa

Table 1. When both parents are heterozygous then 25% of the offsprings are homozygous and 50% of the offsprings are heterozygous


Luger, Karolin, Mekonnen L. Dechassa, and David J. Tremethick. 2012. “New Insights into Nucleosome and Chromatin Structure: An Ordered State or a Disordered Affair?” Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 13 (7). Nature Publishing Group: 436–47. doi:10.1038/nrm3382.

Ode to curry

## For the love of curry

A nice tour of the history and evolution of curry from India to all the way North Korea via Japan. The Japanese curry of course is different in texture and taste from the Indian variety.


Nepal Earthquake Notes – 2 – Response

Our experiences their experiences

(This photo was taken from the Canterbury Public Health Response Document)

In 2011 February 22nd, Christchurch was struck with a 6.4 earthquake at about 12.51 PM in the afternoon. The epicentre of the earthquake was around a place known as Lyttleton. The city centre was badly affected, many buildings collapsed and particularly in the Eastern suburbs of Christchurch, the devastation was remarkable as hundreds of houses were immediately destroyed or were rendered useless for living. People were displaced and were accommodated in several shelters across the city and a massive restoration operation was launched. Immediately following the earthquake, the death tally stood at 185. Following the initial earthquake, the city suffered about 12,000 more aftershocks over the next three years. The citizens battled the aftershocks as they rebuilt the city. Four years later, Christchurch is again coming back to her former glory and plans are afoot for the renvewal of the city. But in the rebuild and reconstruction of the city of Christchurch hangs a tale that can have important lessons for everyone around the world.

In 2015 April 25th, Nepal, in Kathmandu suffered the result of a similar earthquake of much larger intensity 7.9 Richter scale epicentre located at Lamjang in the Kathmandu Valley and not far from Everest. This also led to massive damage, about 1900 lives lost in the first 24 hours itself, and massive losses of property. Several villages disappeared, and there were avalanches from Mount Everest and other mountains that added to the woe. At the time of writing this, rescue operations are underway and several aftershocks have already taken place.

At the time of writing this, a massive recovery operation is taking place, and you can learn more about the recovery operations here

I write this on the third day of the Nepal earthquake and would like to highlight some aspects of earthquake disaster management and strategies that I saw implemented in Christchurch. Some public health and disaster management measures certainly helped people of Christchurch and led to far fewer deaths and destructions that would otherwise occur. In no particular order,

  1. Immediately after the earthquake, the public health department issued warnings about boiling drinking water and restriction of the “flushing the toilet”. Which meant, the advisories were about conservation of water and keeping in mind that it was possible that the drinking water might be contaminated. It turns out that these two activities alone led to really less load of people with stomach related diseases that would otherwise occur.
  2. The city government formed a crisis management team and the mayor oversaw the operations. The control room effectively managed hundreds of visitors and worker bees who turned up to set up search and rescue operations that led to the recovery of bodies and clearing of people who were trapped in the debris.
  3. Several volunteer organisations set up shelters that allowed people to camp out and provided food, shelter, and clothing.
  4. In addition to medical services, several additional services such as mental health services and care were pressed into action.
  5. A thorough evaluation of every building was undertaken, and each building in each residential zone was “sticker”-ed, or colour coded so that the status of the building would be known.
  6. Fresh water was provided to the affected neighbourhoods
  7. Recovery operations were televised and tally of the deceased and recovered were made available to people.

A good description of the steps are available with the Wikipedia entry

Nepal Earthquake Notes Day One — Donation


On 25th April, 2015, around 12 PM Nepal time and 6 PM NZ Time, a devastating earthquake of 7.9 Richter scale (?10 kilometre) deep epicentre in Lamjang, struck Nepal. The tremors were felt in several cities across North India and in China.

The news of this earthquake brought to my mind our experience of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and its aftermath. Right now it is time for relief operations to see as few lives are lost, and salvage as much as possible, and save as many people as possible, get people out of the disaster zones.

Following the news item, I tried peeking into the blogs and twitter feeds and Facebook pages. I have to picked up or stored images here (these are available throughout the web, quite gruesome), but I have started putting together some themes that I think are important for me to learn more about the earthquake that happened and what we can do about it. I shall continue to curate and learn about this earthquake and link to our own research and experiences as much as I can over the next few months. For that, I have saved “nepal” as a search term in twitter and will continue to search google for more information.

To summarise the main information sources, it seems that immediately after the earthquake about 1400 people died in Kathmandu and Pokhara. About 18 people, who went to the Everest mountains for trekking, died on the base camp. The base camp was damaged by avalanche from Mount Everest. These are significant losses. Equally, some agencies have set up relief camps and are accepting donations. There is a website that nicely lists them and it is important that we support these sites in their relief work.

One of the first things that come to mind about disasters is to help. For many of us, helping with materials may work, but it is easier and topical to help with money, particularly with online donations. There are some interesting perspectives that people have offered about online donations for disaster relief.

Finding out People

An important area of concern is to find out people. Here,

  • Google and Facebook are doing really well online. See this article by John Fingas, over at Endgadget where he reported that
  • Facebook has rolled out its recently introduced (recently refers to April 2015) Safety Check feature to tell people if contacts in the area are okay – survivors only have to report in to ease the mind of searchers.
  • Google India office revived its longstanding Person Finder to assist you in both locating loved ones and sharing news with others. You’ll want to get in direct contact or reach out an embassy if you’re still concerned about affected locals, but these internet tools could spare you from a lot of uncertainty.

  • Nepal Earthquake Search

    Donating and doing Something

The other area where you can help is by donating online. Christopher Dawson at CNN sums up,

  • The Nepal Red Cross Society is the epicenter of the relief efforts and is a direct way to help the people of Nepal. Here is its online donation link, NRCS, please note that their website connectivity is on and off, so you might not be able to get through.
  • AmeriCares has sent its response team to the impact zone and relief workers are preparing shipments of medical aid and relief supplies for survivors. You can help by donating online to their disaster relief fund.
  • CARE is on the ground and preparing to provide temporary shelter, ready-to-eat meals and water purification and latrine construction. You can learn more about their relief plans here or go directly to their donation page to help.

  • Global Giving has created a Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund to immediately help both local Nepalese nonprofits and international aid organizations. Supporters can donate online or text GIVE NEPAL to 80088 to donate $10.

  • Handicap International has been in Nepal since 2000 and the 47-person team is safe. They are providing wheelchairs and assistance to the local hospitals which they report are overwhelmed. You can go online to directly support their Nepal Earthquake Response .

  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is preparing an emergency response operation and is prepping resources from its hubs in New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. The federation is releasing funds from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to support the initial emergency response, and you can further support their efforts by donating here.

  • International Medical Corps is on the ground coordinating their response and sending additional staff and resources to support relief efforts. You can support the Nepal Earthquake Response online, or by texting MED to 80888 to give $10.

  • MercyCorps has launched the Nepal Earthquake Response fund to help provide food, water and temporary shelter in the aftermath of this disaster.

  • Oxfam International is working to help provide clean water, sanitation and emergency food for those affected by this disaster. Donate via Oxfam America here

  • Save the Children is working to protect vulnerable children and provide relief to families. You can donate online to directly support the Nepal Children’s Emergency Relief Fund

  • UNICEF is working with the government and other partners to meet children’s immediate needs in water and sanitation, protection, health and nutrition. You can help by donating online.

    Caveat Emptor while donating?

    Donation itself is great, however, it is also important that one should be careful while donating funds.
    Amrita Khalid has written this set of words to the wise,
    Amrita Khalid writes,

    Only hours after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake claimed an estimated nearly 1,000 lives in Nepal on Saturday morning, requests for donations are making the rounds on Twitter. Aid groups such as American Red Cross, CARE, and Save the Children are deploying on the ground assistance to help the Nepal earthquake victims. But it’s been five years since chaotic relief efforts in the wake of the Haiti earthquake drew worldwide controversy. If texting your $10 to help the victims of Nepal did nothing to eliminate that pit of worry in your stomach, it’s hard to blame you.

    According to The New York Times, the earthquake in Nepal was about 16 times more powerful than the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Lack of communication from the country further amplifies concerns over the exact scale of the earthquake’s destruction. While nothing should discourage you from contributing to such badly needed relief efforts, it’s normal to question whether aid groups have improved their disaster response since the last incident of such a massive scale.

    Many organizations such as the United Nations, aid groups and experts in the field have weighed in on what went wrong in Haiti and what needs to change in the light of another natural disaster of such a massive scale. Now is a timely opportunity to review the problems that first cropped up and what nations, aid workers and the general public can do to make sure the mistakes that happened with Haiti don’t repeat in Nepal.

    Research before donating

    If you were one of Wyclef Jean’s many Twitter followers who donated to Yéle in Haiti’s aftermath, you probably learned this lesson the hard way. Financial mismanagement riddled most of Yéle’s efforts in Haiti, with had raked in more than $16 million from the musician’s fans concerned about the earthquake. Following the Yéle’ fiasco, the Better Business Bureau came out with a list of mistakes to avoid when donating to disaster relef campaigns. First off, it’s best to stick with well-known organizations such as American Red Cross and Oxfam. If a charity’s name includes the name of the disaster, make sure it’s affiliated with an older, reputable organization and didn’t crop up overnight. Be sure the charity details the exact efforts your money is going towards. Will your dollars go to purchasing food and water for the victims, or to paying staff? BBB always warns against shipping off unsolicited donations such as food and clothing. Relief organizations prefer to buy such items near the site of the disaster in order to eliminate the time and costs associated with delivery.

    If you’re unsure of whether the charity you’re considering donating to is legit, BBB’s Wisegiving Alliance can give you a comprehensive report on how the organization measures up.

    Engage with the local community

    A big criticism of the international community’s response with Haiti was its lack of involvement with the people of Haiti in vital decisions.

    Francois Grünewald of Groupe URD noted that many aid workers arrived in Haiti with no knowledge of the local language. Many NGOs bypassed working with local municipal governments entirely.

    Writes Grünewald:

    “In the future, the aid system won’t be able to function as an ‘occupying alien’ as it largely did in Port-au- Prince, and instead will have to engage with local people, local authorities and local realities.”

    That being said, engaging with the local community is easier said than done, especially during times of turmoil and confusion in politically turbulent nations, as was the case with Haiti. United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes writes candidly of the first few months of his time in Haiti and details how frustratingly impossible a balancing act this can be, such as when the Haitian president refused food aid after the first few weeks of the earthquake. Especially during times of turmoil and confusion, the needs of a host country and the missions of a aid organization can conflict more often than one would think.

    Writes Holmes:

    “One of the most common criticisms of the response is that we failed to engage enough with local actors, even when they had begun to recover from the devastation of the earthquake, and failed to understand well enough the local political, economic and social dynamics. The early problems of access to the Minustah base, and of too many meetings in English, have been well-documented. These are certainly valid points. Many mistakes were made.”

    Don’t Fail to Keep NGO’s Accountable and Figure Out Who’s In Charge

    Because 99 percent of the aid provided to Haiti came from the way of outside nations and organizations, Haiti is often referred to as “The Republic of NGOs”. A weak, national government and a bevy of NGOs with no one entity to reign them all in was a recipe for disaster. The Nation reported that NGO’s in Haiti used a meager one percent of the money that poured in after the disaster on actually recovery assistance As Vijaya Ramachandra of the the Center for Global Development notes, “A system for registration of NGOs would be a good start, especially as the government still has limited capacity. Eventually, the government might be able to monitor NGO activities and ensure coordination.”

    Keep Expectations Realistic

    It’s likely the international community’s response to Nepal will be an indication of whether the status quo has changed for international aid. But aid workers and other experts often point out that what went wrong with Haiti has gone wrong during natural disasters in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. Lessons learned or not, the unplanned nature of natural disasters, the sheer scale of their destruction and the differing geographical, political and societal factor of the regions affected can make each recovery effort an entirely different challenge.

    Dr. Mirta Roses Periago of the United Nations sums up the problem with Haiti, and other natural disasters in a nutshell:

    “If the impact was unprecedented, the organization of the response was not. It followed the same chaotic pattern as past disasters. Information was scarce, decisions were not evidence-based, and overall sectoral coordination presented serious shortcomings. Management gaps noted in past crises were repeated and amplified in Haiti. The humanitarian community failed to put into practice the lessons learned

    Notable Sites where you can send help

    So, there are mixed messages, and a lot of opportunities out there to go and help out there.

    An Online Presence for Researchers » AJE Expert Edge

    An old post from the American Journal of Epidemiology has some nifty guidance about building an online portfolio for academics. Starts with LinkedIn, Orcid, Twitter, Impactstory, Figshare and others. Recently, there are other additions, and in particular if you are interested to simplify your publicaiton, there are tools such as ShareLaTeX and Authorea. I have put the entire post here for your review. Check out their website https://www.aje.com/en/author-resources for more resources.

    An Online Presence for Researchers » AJE Expert Edge

    Much of the activity around the world now takes place online. Researchers store data online, communicate via e-mail, and of course, read scholarly articles published online. But there is more online than just one’s data. As with any other job, it’s very important for researchers to control their own online presence. When someone enters your name into Google, what will they find? What do you want them to find? Here are some suggestions for improving your online visibility so that others find the information you want them to see.

    LinkedIn is a rapidly growing professional networking site. Many of you may already have LinkedIn profiles, but it may be time to improve them to maximize your impact. Your LinkedIn profile may very well be the top item on a Google search using your name, so be sure that the information there is accurate and engaging. Here are a few specific ideas:

    • Add a professional-looking photograph of yourself. Profiles without pictures are far less likely to be read. Use a photo that clearly shows your face and fills the entire space available for the profile picture.
    • Customize your profile’s URL to include your name. This extra step will help increase traffic when people search for you online (for example, my public profile URL is http://www.linkedin.com/in/benmudrak ). You should see your public profile URL underneath your picture on your profile page. Click ‘edit’ to choose your own (e.g., linkedin.com/in/FirstnameLastname).
    • Be sure to share your publication list, important conference presentations, editorial positions, etc. If it is important to you, you can find an appropriate section on your profile. LinkedIn offers a number of options for section headings, so choose the ones that fit you best. You can also customize which parts of your profile can be seen by the public (your entire profile will be visible to any of your connections).

    Twitter is increasingly popular among scientists as a place to share opinions and recent publications, with instant feedback possible from colleagues around the world (including people you may never have the chance to talk to in person!). Consider signing up for a Twitter account and connecting to the sea of colleagues, journals, publishers, universities, and other groups already on Twitter. Some additional thoughts

    • Choose a short user name! You only have 140 characters in each tweet, and if someone wants to mention you, your name counts against that limit. Make it easy by going as short as possible while still being recognizable.
    • Look for hashtags used in your field. You will encounter these terms, which begin with the hash or pound symbol (#). Click on a hashtag (such as #peerreview ) to find out what people are saying about that topic. Many conferences also suggest a hashtag so you can see tweets about the event, even if you’re not there!
    • Use URL shorteners like bit.ly to help save space when you are sending links. If you include short links, you are more likely to be retweeted or mentioned by others.

    Profiles focused on your research products
    Most scientists want to focus on their research when creating an online profile. Specifically, the publication record is still the major highlight of one’s professional CV. Here are a couple of sites that specifically focus on your research. Creating and maintaining profiles on these sites will help others become aware of your productivity and help you see the impact your work has on the research community and greater public.

    • ORCID: A non-profit organization, ORCID provides a unique identifier for each researcher . This identifier helps make sure that you get credit for all your work, even if the name you publish under changes for some reason. When signing up for your ORCID number, you can fill in your profile to ensure that all your work is represented.
    • ImpactStory: Another non-profit, ImpactStory lets you create an online CV of all your research products , not just published articles (data sets, websites, software, etc.). In addition to demonstrating the full picture of your productivity in one place, ImpactStory also provides information about how frequently your work is cited, mentioned, and discussed around the web. You can even embed ImpactStory badges on your online CV or lab website.
    • figshare: figshare is a repository where researchers can deposit any research output for public access . Each object (e.g., a raw data set, movie, poster, or preprint) receives a DOI, so it’s citable in peer-reviewed literature. Putting some of your work on figshare is an excellent way to present your true expertise to the research community (and provide access to data that others can build on).

    Social networking sites for researchers
    In addition to broad networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, there are sites geared specifically toward investigators. These sites are not as commonly visited as the big names in social media, but they still represent an opportunity to discover new research (and sometimes full-text articles), find collaborators, and maintain another online profile that will show up when someone searches for you. Here are two well known academic networking sites, but there are others, including field-specific networks like Malaria World .

    Lab or group websites
    Last, it is very helpful to maintain a current and detailed lab website (if applicable). Researchers do not always have control over their own website, but be sure to tell your university to update your publications list and section about research interests when necessary. You can also consider a lab blog, where you would control 100% of the content. Services like WordPress are free and not very difficult to use (note: we use WordPress for this site).

    We hope that this post has given you some ideas about how to maintain a strong presence online. If you have other tips or suggestions, please share them! You can also send us questions in the comment form below, on Twitter , or by e-mail . Best wishes!

    Thin is in: The 2015 MacBook hands-on review | Cult of Mac

    Nice review of the new Macbook by Cult of Mac. The proof of pudding, of course, is in eating, but this is as good as it gets. Quite detailed too.


    Thin is in: The 2015 MacBook hands-on review

    No USB, no problem. The new 2015 MacBook rocks. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

    Imagine an iPad Air sliced in half. The top half peels up to reveal a pin-sharp high-res screen. The other half has a full-size keyboard that’s almost flat.

    This is the new MacBook; Apple’s latest crazy thin laptop that, as usual, is dividing the tech punditsphere.

    With no ports but one, some think this machine is too radical, too new. It’s been called a glorified Netbook — short on features, and, to really rub it in, high on price.

    But I’m smitten. We have one in here at the Cult of Mac offices, and I’ve been putting it through its paces. Here’s what I found:

    This is the front edge of the new MacBook. Yeah, it’s thin. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac


    It’s a beauty and you should buy one.


    The new MacBook is Apple’s thinnest and lightest laptop yet. It’s no exaggeration to compare it to the iPad Air, which is near-anorexic itself.

    But since its unveiling at Apple’s “Spring Forward” press event in March, there’s been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about how the machine doesn’t do this or that. The list of complaints includes:

    • No USB ports
    • No memory card slot
    • Slow CPU
    • Horrid keyboard

    I’ve been a MacBook Air user for years. I’ve owned two generations of the MacBook Air — this machine’s predecessor — and in all those years, this is what I’ve never thought or cared about:

    • USB ports
    • Memory card slot
    • CPU speed
    • The keyboard

    I never use the USB slots. With the rise of the cloud, the world has gone wireless. We don’t need wires or slots any more. Photos, music, video and software are all streamed from online. If you want to share something; that’s wireless too. If I share anything from my computer, it’s via Dropbox, AirDrop or AirPlay.

    And I could give a hoot about the processor speed. It’s not relevant to what I do. I surf the web, read and write email, and open a thousand tabs in Safari and Chrome. I don’t edit pictures and I don’t do much video. Processor speed has minimal impact on what I do, but the amount of RAM does. More RAM = more tabs.

    The new MacBook is almost as radical as the first MacBook Air, which caused a shitstorm because it didn’t have a CD/DVD drive. At the time, no optical was seen as madness.

    It’s always the same with every new Apple machine that ditches legacy technology.

    This one ditches a few, but it gets some great new ones too.


    Gone is the glowing logo, replaced by a classy inlaid shiny one. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

    Pick it up, and it’s impossible not to marvel that it’s very, very thin. It measures just over 13mm thick, which is about the same as my iPhone in its case. It’s crazy. It seems impossibly svelte. How can it be this thin? It’s barely thicker than the headphone jack — the only opening on the right-hand side. (The only other opening is the USB-C power slot on the left.)

    It’s a handsome machine. It’s both angular (at the edges) and rounded (on the lid and the base). There are no ugly ports, doors and flaps to ruin the look. The shiny chrome Apple logo looks subtle and great. It’s got drool-appeal in spades.

    Silver, Gold or Space Gray?

    What color should you get: Gold, Silver or Space Gray?

    Silver is classic and always looks good. The gold is classy and not gaudy, but it’s outside my comfort zone for a laptop. My pick is Space Gray, which is handsome and stealth. It’s been a long time since Apple offered a laptop in a dark color, and it’s a great return to form.

    The case is metal, but the bead-blasted surface isn’t cold and metallic. The anodized aluminum is soft and pleasing to touch.

    The new MacBook compared to a recent MacBook Air, which once seemed impossibly slim and svelte. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

    The machine is about three-quarters of the size of the existing 13-inch MacBook Air, and it weighs just two pounds — about a pound lighter than the Air, which is already light and airy at 2.96 lb.

    It’s pretty gossamer. It’s so light, I actually have trouble balancing it on my lap. It skitters about.

    The build quality is superb, of course. The tolerances are tight. I can’t actually see the seam around the trackpad.

    Despite its lack of heft, it’s still possible to open the lid with one hand. It’s a feat of hidden engineering that’s a source of quiet pride to Jony Ive and his team. The hinge mechanism has a special clutch that lifts the lid without bringing the base up with it.

    It’s beautiful and subtle and one of the reasons you pay a premium for Apple’s devices. But to my mind, so worth it.


    Keeping things thin, the MacBook’s keyboard is almost flat. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

    Of all the changes, the keyboard is the most controversial. The haters are hating on the keyboard. It’s a dealbreaker for some.

    To make it so thin, Apple redesigned the keyboard with near-flat keys and a new mechanism.

    Apple swapped out its old “Chiclet” style keyboard. Instead of a “scissor” mechanism, which is kinda wobbly, the new keyboard has a “butterfly” design that eliminates all movement except straight up and down. Like Apple says, it’s stable and precise. This leads to better typing, Apple says, because keystrokes register no matter where your fingers strike.

    The keyboard is probably the most contentious feature of the new MacBook. Haters hate it. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

    How does the keyboard feel? Not bad. It definitely takes some getting used to. At first, it’s like typing on glass — but glass that unexpectedly clicks. There’s almost no travel, just a firm click with each keystroke. The clicking is a little strange.

    I’m still getting used to it. Long-term I’m sure it’ll be fine, and maybe even pleasant. I already like the tight precision of it.

    My coworker, however, hates it. The sound and feel reminds him of people cracking their knuckles. It makes his skin crawl.

    The keyboard is backlit, and because each key is lit by its own LED, there’s very little light leak. It’s very neat and precise.

    Force Touch trackpad

    The trackpad has also been redesigned and renamed. It’s now the Force Touch trackpad, and it has no moving parts — it’s all digital. And it’s deeply weird.

    The trackpad features sensors that detect how much pressure is being applied, and feedback via the Taptic Engine taken from the Apple Watch.

    Even though it doesn’t move, the Taptic Engine makes it feel like it does. Press on it, and it feels like a click. Press on it harder, which enables new pressure-based gestures, and it feels like a deeper, double click.

    But the trackpad is not moving at all; it’s the Taptic Engine tapping your finger to give the illusion of movement. You feel it even when aware of what’s happening, and you can’t unfeel it. It’s a bit uncanny and weird.

    Force click, the new right-click

    The Force Touch trackpad enables a new gestures called “Force click” that is invoked by clicking and then pushing. It takes some getting used to, but quickly becomes intuitive. Thanks to Taptic feedback, it feels like a double click where the second click goes slightly deeper. Again, the feeling is illusory.

    So far, I’ve used it mostly as a replacement for right click, although it does more.

    In email, Force clicking is pretty great for checking links without opening a browser window. Just Force click the link and an overlay pops up with the page. Same with tracking packages.

    I also found it useful for previewing files. Force clicking on a file’s icon in the Finder, and it pops up a Quick Look preview. It’s pretty handy, and a step easier than the old way of selecting the icon and pressing the Space bar.

    Force click can be used in the Dock, Safari, Maps, Photos and bunch of other apps. Apple promises more, and has opened up the API to developers.

    As for haptic feedback, there isn’t a lot yet, but I played with one in the new Photo app. When rotating a photo, it gives a little click at zero degrees. To be honest, it wasn’t that compelling, but I can see how this kind of feedback would be helpful when aligning text of photos in a word processing app, for example. You get a click when someting is properly aligned.

    When it rolls out more widely, it’s going very handy and be a big time saver.


    The new USB-C connector is the first non-standard power plug Apple has used in a laptop. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

    The brand new USB-C power plug looks a lot like the iPhone/iPad’s Lightning connector. It’s small and compact and reversible. It pops with a nice click.

    On the plus side, the cord and brick are a lot smaller and easier to carry than previous power adapters. On the negative, it sticks like glue to the machine.

    For all my forward-thinking enthusiasm for this MacBook, I’ll miss the old Magsafe power adapter, which attaches via magnets. My blundering kids are always tripping on wires, and I can see the MacBook taking a violent trip across the living room.

    It’s the first time Apple has used a non-proprietary power adapter. Apple hasn’t explained why, but the company seems to be developing USB-C as a standard, which might help it with Euro-zone laws demanding electronics companies use standard charging devices.

    The USB-C power connector has several different functions. As well as power, it provides USB 3.1 connectivity and three different video outputs: DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA.

    Apple offers a couple of USB-C dongles for connecting HDMI or VGI displays, which also function as standard USB adapters. At $79 each they’re expensive, of course. A USB-C to USB adapter is available for $19.

    I know the prospect of buying yet more dongles fills some people with rage. I have a drawer-full myself. But I’ve never bought a dongle or adapter for my iPad and iPhone — everything’s wireless — and I’m pretty sure it’ll be the same for the MacBook.

    It’s wireless all the way.


    Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

    The 12-inch Retina display is gorgeous. It is razor sharp and vibrant. It’s immediately obvious it’s a Retina display, which means individual pixels can’t be distinguished at normal viewing distances. Heck, I can’t distinguish them squinting up close.

    The screen has a resolution of 2304 x 1440 and a 16:10 aspect ratio. The screen and lid are extremely thin. Apple calls it “paper thin,” which isn’t too much of an exaggeration. The glass measures just 0.5 millimeters and the entire lid is just 0.88mm thick. While it’s thin, its rigid. It doesn’t flex. In fact, the whole machine is pretty sturdy and inflexible.

    Because there’s no room, the MacBook ditches the beloved glowing Apple logo. Instead, there’s an shiny inlaid Apple logo like the logo on the iPhone and iPad. I like it. It’s classy.


    One of the things I didn’t realize is how easy it has become to set up a new machine.

    Unlike days of old, when you backed up and copied files from one machine to another or to external drives, it’s all done with a few clicks now.

    A lot of stuff is brought over via iCloud, including all your internet accounts — email, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It’s a huge relief not to have input these setting one app at a time. If you’re using Apple’s iCloud services like iCloud Photo Library and iTunes Match, your photos and music are brought over too.

    There’s still the tedious chore of downloading apps (starting with Dropbox and 1Password), but if they were downloaded from the Mac App store, it’s dead easy to reinstall your list of “purchased” apps.

    What used to take several hours is now a 30-minute job.


    The MacBook is the first Apple notebook without a fan, thanks to Intel’s low-power Core M processors and integrated HD 5300 graphics. The logic board is impressively small. It’s closer to an iPad logic board than a laptop’s.

    The new MacBook comes in two configurations, each with 5th-generation Intel Broadwell processors, which are optimized for battery life over processing power. The $1,299 model has a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M chip. The $1,599 model has a slightly faster 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M.

    The chips feature Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, which can bump speeds to 2.4 GHz and 2.6GHz, respectively. Turbo Boost is like overclocking on demand. When activated, the chip jumps to its highest performance state.

    Performance wise, benchmarks show the 1.1GHz machine is on par with the MacBook Air from 2011 — a big step backwards. The 1.2GHz machine fares better, with CPU performance comparable to the 2014 MacBook Air (albeit the low-end models). There’s a build-to-order 1.3GHz machine, but it’s not shipping yet and the benchmarks aren’t yet available. However, the benchmarks do not measure graphics performance, which should be a greatly improved from a 2011 machine, thanks to the Intel HD 5300 graphics.

    I opted for the entry-level CPU, and so far everything’s been fine. Critics say they are weak processors designed for tablets as much as PCs and won’t be powerful enough to handle most normal users’ needs. However, I found that Web pages render instantly and hundreds of email messages load quickly. I’ve seen the spinning beachball only once, when I first opened the new Photos app in Yosemite. It was mostly, I think, because it was loading a huge photo library in the background. It’s not the zippiest CPU, but day-to-day, I’m pretty sure it’ll be fine.

    Battery Life

    Most of the case is taken up with big battery packs. The batteries — there’s several — are terraced to efficiently fill the maximum amount of space inside.

    Apple calls it an “all-day” battery and estimates up to nine hours of web browsing or up to 10 hours of iTunes movie playback.

    Some early reviewers got less than this — about seven hours — but I got 11 hours of general use, which is above Apple’s estimate.

    True, it wasn’t doing anything taxing like playing HD videos or generating Mandelbrot sets. I was writing, surfing and emailing. But I didn;t dim the screen or any battery-saving tricks like that.

    I think it’s pretty great. I hate lugging around a charger. I’m confident the MAcBook can be taken out all day — and I mean all day, from dusk to dawn, without the need for a charger.

    Memory, storage, camera, and connectivity

    The MacBook comes with 8GB of RAM, which isn’t huge but it’s adequate. My old MacBook Air had 4GB and it would occasionally choke if I was on a particularly egregious browser tab binge. Apple’s always been stingy with RAM, and there’s no RAM upgrade available when ordering or after market; it’s soldered on. 8GB is all you get, and for that you’ll be thankful.

    Storage is solid-state and speedy. The MacBook boots up in a flash and apps open instantly. You can choose between 256GB or 512GB. Wi-Fi is 802.11ac (also very fast) and there’s the latest Bluetooth 4.0.

    The FaceTime camera is only 480p, which is lower resolution than the MacBook Air and Pro, but who cares? I rarely use it anyway.

    It has stereo speakers and dual microphones. The speakers on Apple’s laptops have never been a strong point, but these speakers are surprisingly good.


    Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

    Shocker: the MacBook is in short supply.

    When I went to the Apple Store last week to try on some Apple Watches, there was almost as big a crowd around the new MacBooks. They are on display, but alas, not in stock. One can not simply walk into an Apple Store and pick up a new MacBook. It’s available only online and most models are taking weeks to ship.

    It’s easiest to get a pre-configured Silver MacBook. Both models are shipping in one to three days, according to the online store. The Gold and Space Gray models are taking three to four weeks, as are custom orders with the 1.3GHz processor upgrade.


    The tech industry tends to equate value with features. More features equals more value. So when Apple takes away things like USB slots, it’s seen as delivering less value.

    But taking away is Apple’s way of moving on, and that’s why the machines that make the biggest technological leaps are the most exciting.

    The fact that Apple named this machine simply “the MacBook,” rather than adding a suffix, like the Air or the Nano, suggests this is the future of its laptops.

    It almost certainly is. The world is wireless and the new digital hub is the cloud. The iPhone and iPad are pure wireless. They don’t have USB ports and have no need for them. The laptop is finally catching up.


    Weekend Reading of Interest

    Poor Availability of Healthy Food in American Samoa

    CDC epidemiologists recently conducted a survey in American Samoa on the availability of healthy food items in convenience and grocery stores. Convenience stores were defined as outlets where they had only one cash register while grocery stores were defined as places where they had more than one cash register. It was also known that in American Samoa, about 75% of residents are obese; it was hypothesised that this may be due to less availability of healthy food items that people can buy from convenience or other food marts. The investigators decided to survey only one island and sampled about 90 stores including convenience stores, grocery stores, and restaurants. They found that compared with unhealthy food items (such as fatty meat, and fries, etc), heathy food items were more expensive and were less likely to be sold from grocery stores and convenience stores. There was slightly more availability in grocery stores and less availability in the convenience stores. These findings, according to the investigators are not much different from what you can expect in a regular American context.

    The full study is described here

    Future of Taptic Keyboards

    Expect in future in computers and tablets and phones from Apple not to have regular keys. Instead, like their just introduced concepts of flat surface pressure sensitive trackpads, we shall have “key labels” that will be force tapped to produce the fonts and glyphs”
    Interesting idea