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Vizio, best known for manufacturing HDTVs, is a relative newcomer to the PC business. It’s been producing slim, minimalist laptops and all-in-one desktops for about 18 months. The Vizio CT15T-B1 is the latest iteration of the company’s 15.6-inch “Thin + Light” laptop, and its main selling point is a glossy HD touchscreen.

The CT15T-B1, which costs $1470 as of this writing, maintains the signature look of Vizio laptops: It has a smooth, gunmetal-gray metallic cover with neatly beveled edges, a spacious keyboard deck, and an edge-to-edge glass screen. In fact, Vizio hasn’t really updated its design at all from the CT15-A4. Because it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Minor issues we’ve seen in the past are still here.

Well, what’s on the inside of the CT15T-B1 is a little disappointing, since it was released before the launch of Intel’s fourth-generation Core (aka Haswell) processor. The CT15T-B1 sports a quad-core Intel i7-3635QM processor from the Ivy Bridge line, along with 8GB of DDR3/1600 memory and a 256GB SSD. It doesn’t disappoint when it comes to performance, though: With a Notebook Worldbench 8.1 score of 334, this is one of the speedier laptops we’ve tested. It’s a little more than three times faster than our Core i5–powered reference notebook.

Benchmark numbers

If you’re looking for a laptop that will perform various tasks quickly and efficiently, the CT15T-B1 is a good choice. One caveat: This machine doesn’t have a discrete graphics card, so its graphics performance is mediocre at best. In our Bioshock Infinite test (low resolution/low quality settings), it managed just 24.2 frames per second, nowhere near the 79.7 fps of the ultrafast Cyberpower FangBook EVO HX7-200.

Apart from gaming performance, the CT15T-B1 is a good buy with some minor design issues. The main attraction—its touchscreen—looks great. The 15.6-inch IPS (in-plane switching) display has a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. Colors are bright and accurate, text is crisp and clear, and the touchscreen is responsive and easy to use with smooth multitouch gestures. It’s not the best touchscreen I’ve tried—I did notice some minor snags and lags during my testing—but it’s pretty high up there.

Multimedia on the CT15T-B1 looks and sounds good, but not great, which is disappointing considering Vizio’s expertise in building HDTVs. Streaming HD video plays smoothly and with minimal artifacting and noise, but audio is another story. The speakers, located above the keyboard, aren’t the worst speakers I’ve heard on a laptop (that distinction belongs to Micro Express’s line of terrible-sounding laptops), but they’re not very good. Sound is fuzzy, a little distorted (even at lower levels), and generally difficult to listen to. These speakers will do in a pinch, but I don’t recommend using them if you don’t have to.

The same shortcomings 

Since Vizio hasn’t updated its design, minor issues we’ve seen in the past are still here. For example: This laptop has very few ports, even though it’s large and not really an Ultrabook. The left side houses a USB 3.0 port and a combo mic/headphone jack, while the right side houses another USB 3.0 port and an HDMI port. You’ll find no ethernet jack, nor a Kensington lock slot, an eSATA port, or anything cool. I understand that this is a “Thin + Light” laptop (frankly, it’s not all that light—it weighs almost 5 pounds without the power brick), but most of the little 14-inch Ultrabooks I’ve seen have at least three USB ports.

ROBERT CARDINVizio carried over most of the design elements from its first Thin + Light notebook.

Other design flaws include the keyboard, which is pretty to look at but offers very light, almost nonexistent feedback. In my tests, I managed a rate of around 85 words per minute, and I typically type 115 wpm. The cover is also hard to open, even with slim fingers and nails, since the indent on the lower half is so shallow.

While it’s disappointing to see that Vizio hasn’t fixed such minor annoyances—fixes that could make a good product great—the CT15T-B1 remains a good laptop if you’re looking for a slim and (relatively) light high-performance machine. It’s speedy, even though it doesn’t have a Haswell processor, and it has a nice, bright touchscreen for all your Windows 8 needs.

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In Tight Times, Thin Is In

In an IT world top heavy with bad news, there is at least one, albeit little known, bright spot on the horizon: thin clients.

Sales growth over the past three years has been double digit (at a time when PC sales are lucky to achieve low single digit growth if any) and, next Wednesday, Hewlett Packard plans to tap this growth when it re-enters market with a new product line dubbed Warbird.

“Out of the HP merger (with Compaq) there was a recommitment to thin client space,” said Tad Bodeman, HP’s director of Thin Client Marketing. “This really is, from the ground up, an HP engineered and designed, architected solution that incorporates all the architectural issues that allow us to deliver a robust product right out of the box that doesn’t require a lot of customization on location, and has the ability to be managed with industry standard management solution.”

“We think we’ll pick up more business from that — the fact they’re drumming up demand — than we could possibly lose by them selling products they are sourcing from another factory in China,” said Rand.

Bob O’Donnell, who follows thin client for IDC, predicts a 27% growth rate for thin clients in 2003. This comes on the heels of an ’01 growth rate of 22.1%, and an ’02 growth rate of 18.5%.

“I see this market moving forward at a very respectable pace and it starting to take a larger percentage of total PC shipments,” he said.

Of course, it’s easy to post double-digit growth rates when total ships are less than 2 million units annually, said O’Donnell. Still, he believes the trend away from PCs towards thin clients will continue for some time as companies continue to keep IT budgets in check and save money wherever possible. And even though most of the IT world barely knows the No. 1 and No. 2 players, Wyse and Neoware respectively, that will change as well.

“Thin clients, over the long haul, they do have a compelling value proposition,” he said.

So what is driving companies into the arms of thin-client vendors? In a word, money, or the lack thereof to be precise. But networks, call centers, the rise of hosted software and browser based access to applications, also play a part in the rise of thin clients, say industry watchers.

Cost Savings

At $4,000 over four years it costs about half as much to field a thin client (including maintenance, hardware and software) as it does to field a PC, so companies are looking to put thin clients in areas where they once may have placed a PC, said HP’s Bodeman.

The biggest deployments still occur in logical places like call centers, not the home office, but even that space is ripe for thin clients as broadband continue to push rich content computing onto the network.

“There probably isn’t a single company in the Fortune 500 list that hasn’t deployed thin client already, is in the process of deploying thin client, or has a thin client pilot evaluation going on today,” he said. This includes deployments of Windows Terminal Server and Citrix Metaframe as well as networked hardware/software installs from companies like Wyse.

This sentiment is echoed by Zeus Karravala, an infrastructure analyst at IDC, who sees the rise of thin client as part of a larger technology adoption trend brought about by the growth of broadband and WiFi networks that feed ever increasing numbers of peripheral devices like PDAs and laptops, not to mention the family refrigerator if some companies have their way.

“Those two things have really driven us going back to (thin clients) but as soon as those things catch up with processing power, then you can make the application more fat,” he said. “We’ll continue to go through waves of this every 10 to 12 years.”

Also, with HP back in the game, this should help drive sales in larger enterprises as the company begins to market in earnest reaching a population of IT managers heretofore untouched by the existing thin client players, said Bodeman.

“Typically they’ve got five to 10 salespeople nationally,” said Bodeman. “Most of them handle Latin America out of their North American offices and stuff like that. They’re not geared from an enterprise ready standpoint. When HP begins shipping this month, this new product line, were bringing this thin-client industry into today’s standards-based experience.”

Of course, Wyse’s Rand sees things a little differently, stating it’s Wyse’s domain expertise that will win the day and its tinkering with Windows CE, the preferred OS for thin client, that makes its systems work as well as they do.

“We’re the ones that live and breath this every day,” he said. “Reliability: if it means that it’s still a little bit of a craft to make it work perfectly, yes, absolutely. If there were system failures we wouldn’t be growing like we are.”

Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air Review

This review is based on my use of the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air-55 roller bag in my role as a Unit Photographer on my current project, ‘The Commons’ for Sony TV and Stan.

Highly Recommended

Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air-55

Durable, functional, versatile and spacious.

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I have no affiliation with Manfrotto, conversely, I won’t review products that I don’t think will hold up to the demands of my job.

$25k of gear in this bag is a pretty good incentive to be reasonably confident the bag has what it takes…

Let’s have a closer look at this popular rolling camera bag to see if it hits the mark.


Compact size

Exterior design and interior layout

Build quality

Water resistant exterior

Smooth opening and closing of the dual height travel handle.

The footing pouch for your tripod or monopod.

Vertical balance, the centre of gravity sits towards the rear even with a Laptop stored in the front pouch.


A very small aesthetic point, I’d like to see a little more tread on those wheels.

Weight: 3.74 kg (131.9)

External Dimensions: 13.98 x 9.06 x 21.65″ (35.5 x 23 x 55cm)

Internal Dimensions: 12.60 x 7.09 x 18.50″ (32 x 18 x 47cm)

Laptop Compartment Dimensions: 12.60 x 0.98 x 16.93″ (32 x 2.5 x 43cm)

Material: RipStop, Synthetic Fabric

In addition to the laptop pocket, there is another compartment at the front of the bag designed for a tablet. My 13″ iPad pro with cover fits comfortably within this space.

Build & Appearance

The Reloader Air-55 is nice and compact with its combination of a black body and red trim giving it a stylish appearance.

The bag’s exterior is covered in Pro-Light Rip-Stop fabric with additional protection on the underside corners for when the bag is laid flat.

The heavy-duty zips run smoothly as you’d expect. A smart piece of design is the flattened bottom corners which remove any issues with the zips grabbing as they can when the corners are round.

The toggles to the three additional exterior compartments are strongly made and easily accessible due to the rigid plastic end pieces.

Exterior Features

The Reloader Air-55‘s exterior has two padded handles, top and side as well as an open sleeve hand-grip on the underside to assist in lifting the bag when laying it flat.

There are three exterior compartments:

Compartment 1: The biggest compartment will comfortably fit a 15″ laptop and 9″ tablet in separate sleeves. According to Manfrotto, the compartment is designed to hold a 17″ laptop – but in my view, a computer this large would force you to move any tablet to the secondary compartment.

If you do go with a 15″ laptop there is enough space to also store the bag’s wet weather cover.

Compartment 2: The second of the compartments is perfect for a larger tablet and will store my 13″ iPad pro. With a 15″ laptop in the main compartment and 13″ iPad in the second, things get a bit tight.

There is an additional pocket within this larger compartment designed to carry small accessories; this is of limited use if laptops and tablets are on board.

Compartment 3: The third compartment on the Reloader Air-55 is located at the side of the bag and measures 15cm x 16cm. It’s designed for personal accessories, keys, notebook, pens, etc. For me it will store a 2TB Lacie Rugged HD.

As an additional security measure there is a nylon strap within the third compartment that tethers all three exterior compartment zip toggles to the TSA lock.

On the opposite side of the bag to the third compartment are straps to hold a tripod or monopod with a neoprene footer.

On the Reloader Air-55’s rear there is a 7cm x 10cm see-through sleeve that is possibly designed to accommodate a name/address label, but as there is no zip it’s hard to keep it secure.

The bag’s removable wheels give 2cm of clearance and run smoothly and quietly, with the 14cm of hard plastic protection shielding the bottom of the bag against scrapes when lifting the bag over curbs or up stairs.

The bag balances nicely on its rear feet even on soft carpet and when a little front heavy with my 15″ laptop and 13″ tablet placed in the two front pouches.

Interior Features

The first thing that struck me when opening the Air-55 was the generous padding of the bag’s five main dividers. I also like the two dividers that allow the stacking of lenses – very handy for compact primes.

With the additional 14 standard dividers, it would seem to me that Manfrotto have supplied enough padding options to cover the vast majority of packing scenarios.

Within the lid are four accessory pouches; the top two share the same zip.

Storage Capacity

I use two Fuji X-H1‘s with battery grips, a Fuji GFX-50s with battery grip and GF45mm f/2.8 lens.

My Fuji XF lenses include XF50-140mm f/2.8 and XF16-55mm f/2.8 zooms. Along with these are five XF primes: 16mm, 23mm, 35mm, 56mm and 90mm. (16 & 23mm stacked 56 & 35mm stacked.)

All fit comfortably within the Reloader Air-55 with two accessory pouches (one comes with the bag) and a Black Rapid Double Breathe twin camera harness (under the XF50-140mm).

With all my gear packed I had one of the main and three standard dividers spare.

The four accessory pouches within the lid are useful for smaller flat items and have enough ‘give’ to allow your hands to reach well within them. Remember that whatever you place within these pouches will sit on top of your equipment, so choose carefully.

One thing that needs to be questioned is Manfrotto’s and other manufacturers’ insistence that these bags are airline carry-on suitable.

In my research I have found the majority of airlines, with the exception of British Airways (who allow 23kg), but including all Australian domestic carriers, allow between 7-12kg carry-on luggage. At almost 4kg empty you won’t be carrying much gear to reach that limit.

Yet on their website Manfrotto state that the bag is “designed for professional traveling photographers and videographers. Manufactured and designed specifically for travelers, it fits international airline carry-on sizes”.

Add to this the TSA-approved locks and you may think the bag is built to go as checked luggage – why else would you need TSA locks? They are selling something that can’t be delivered (unless you fly British Airlines).

So, be warned, check before you fly.

Ease of Use/Comfort

The Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air-55 roller bag ticks a lot of boxes in regards to ease of use. The telescopic handle has two height positions. Its central spring-loaded lock releases the handle which glides smoothly to either open or close.

I like the removable straps that hold the lid vertical. Originally I wasn’t sure, but once I started working with the bag on set I found having the lid upright allows both easier access to the four accessory pouches and also saves space without getting in the way when you pack or unpack gear.

The wheels are quiet and roll smoothly over a variety of terrain. They are removable for ease of cleaning.

I also like the squared-off corners which prevent the main zips from sticking as they can and do on bags with rounded corners.

Value for Money

When you consider it’s overall design, the quality of it’s exterior build and interior camera protection, at around US$380, I believe the bag is well priced.

Manfrotto is known for making high-quality, durable products catering to the demands of professional photographers, and that’s no different with its Air-55.

I’m confident that this bag will take years of abuse, and continue to do a good job protecting my camera gear wherever I travel.

I like the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air-55 and will continue to use it on set. As I normally work alone its size and weight make it a great option for me.

The bag’s storage is a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis – compact on the outside with more capacity than expected within.

Looking at the bag’s design I can see Manfrotto have thought outside the box: the top cover hinging at the bag’s base instead of the side, the removable interior straps that keep the lid vertical and accessory pouches accessible, the squared off zipper corners… there’s clearly a lot of thought that has gone into making the Air-55.

A film set can be described as organised chaos. There are times when my gear has to move in short notice to keep it out of shot. The fact that the bag is on wheels and compact is a time saver. It’s much more likely that another crew member will feel comfortable to move the bag for me if I am not in the immediate vicinity.

All of the above make the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air-55 a very welcome find and a bag that I expect will give me years of service.

Highly Recommended

Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air-55

Durable, functional, versatile and spacious.

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Keychron K3 Pro Review: The Thin Keyboard To Beat

Take this K3 Pro, for example. Keychron took the low-profile, budget design of the K3, and zhuzhed it up with a few of the premium features more often found on its Q series. Not only does this make it a remarkable little board on its own merits, it’s among the best low-profile, travel-friendly mechanical boards on the market in terms of value. 

See what I mean? Unfair to the competition, unfair to the reviewer. Just unfair. And I mean that in the best way possible. 

Note: This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best wireless keyboards. Go there to learn more about competing products, what to look for in a wireless keyboard, and buying recommendations.


Great size and layout

High-end features

Unbeatable price


VIA programming is a little tricky

Our Verdict

Keychron’s K3 Pro is the best small keyboard around. It has features formerly reserved for boards at twice the price, and it’s flexible enough for the most demanding power users.

Best Prices Today: Keychron K3 Pro





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Keychron Pro 3: The specs

The K3 Pro is an upgraded version of the low-profile Keychron K3. That much is obvious, but the upgrades come in some surprising areas. The most obvious is a bump up from ABS plastic keycaps to the more premium PBT plastic, not to mention a shift to a more conventional OEM-style key profile. 

The K3 Pro has almost exactly the same layout as the Logitech MX Keys Mini.

Gateron’s switches feel a lot better than the Cherry Ultra-Low Profile switches found in the Corsair K100 Air, but that’s not really a fair comparison—those switches are designed for high-end gaming laptops, and putting them in a separate keyboard is something of a novelty. A better comparison is with the low-profile switches on Razer’s new Deathstalker. Gateron’s switches have a little less travel, but they’re stiffer, resulting in a similar feel. It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other—but if I was forced to choose, I’d go with Keychron for the superior keycaps. 

Michael Crider/IDG

Those low-profile parts result in a keyboard just 22mm tall, without the dual-stage feet (a nice touch). Fully extended, it’s about 35mm, which is still barely taller than a standard MX switch and keycap. It’s easy to throw in a bag, especially with the dedicated off switch. Just don’t get it confused with the mode switch that’s closer to the edge of the case—an old design choice that Keychron seems loathe to abandon. 

Michael Crider/IDG

And the K3 Pro is excellent for traveling. In addition to its Bluetooth wireless and cable backup, the compact 75 percent layout means that it’ll go pretty much anywhere a full-sized tablet will, and it’ll recharge from the same USB-C cable. It lasted for more than a week with RGB backlighting—it should go for months if you don’t need the light show. I can’t say I love the default layout of some of the function keys, especially Delete and Print Screen, but that’s easy enough to change. 

Michael Crider/IDG

I won’t lie, even VIA, the more user-friendly option, isn’t quite as idiot-proof as something like the programming tools that come with gaming keyboards. It requires putting the keyboard in wired mode, using a web tool, enabling permissions, and uploading a JSON file from Keychron’s website. Even then, I had to fiddle around with a lot of settings before the tool would actually recognize the board. 

Should you buy a Keychron Pro 3?

The K3 Pro comes with other choices in addition to the switch colors. Buyers can opt for standard white backlighting or RGB, both of which can be customized. And you can choose between soldered key switches or hot-swappable. At the moment there are so few options for low-profile switches that I don’t see a huge value add for the upgrade, and I’ve never seen the point of RGB lighting, so the cheapest model at $94 is the one I’d go with. But blinging out the keyboard isn’t that expensive either—both add-on options are just $10, for a maximum price of $114. 

Michael Crider/IDG

And even at its highest price, the price is remarkable. Low-profile keyboards in the same general size range from Apple and Logitech start at about $100. Logitech wants $150 for the MX Mechanical Mini, with an identical layout, fewer programming options, and no hot-swap switches or RGB lighting. 

What about the gaming choices? Razer, Logitech, and Corsair all have low-profile tenkeyless boards that are all more than $200 at retail. Cooler Master’s SK621 seems to be out of production, but its cramped layout is a non-starter for me. (The K3 Pro’s Bluetooth isn’t great for gaming, but it has 1,000Hz polling in wired mode.) 

Michael Crider/IDG

At the moment the only real competition I could find with a similar feature set was the NuPhy Air75, with the same layout and switch choices, plus a 2.4GHz wireless option. It’s $130, which seems fair given its extra connection and more robust case…but it also lacks the programming options of the K3 Pro. 

In short, Keychron is absolutely killing it versus more mainstream brands in terms of value, even as it moves into more conventional territory with low-profile, travel-friendly designs. With excellent hardware, solid wireless, and a great price, it’s the teeny-tiny, low-profile mechanical board to beat. 

Eczema Treatment: Topical Medication, Light Therapy, Natural Remedies

Topical medications, light therapy, and natural remedies are all used to treat eczema.

A common skin condition that causes irritation and redness is eczema.

Chronic skin inflammation and itching are symptoms of eczema. Other symptoms, including dry skin and a rash, can also result in redness, swelling, and blistering. Although it can affect anyone, new-borns and small children are the most frequently affected. Eczema comes in various forms, such as atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and contact dermatitis. Eczema is thought to be brought on by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, while the specific etiology is unknown.

There are many treatments for eczema, including topical medications, light therapy, and natural remedies.

Topical Medications

The type and severity of the problem, the patient’s age, general health, and several other variables will all affect the optimal course of action for treating eczema. Topical drugs, administered directly to the skin, are a frequent eczema treatment. These medications can include creams, ointments, and lotions and may contain ingredients such as corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors, and other medicines that can reduce inflammation and itching.

Light Therapy

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is another treatment option that can be effective for eczema. This treatment involves exposing the skin to specific wavelengths of light, usually using a machine called a phototherapy unit. Light therapy can help to reduce inflammation and improve the appearance of the skin. Many natural remedies may be effective in treating eczema. These can include using natural moisturizers, such as coconut oil or shea butter, to keep the skin hydrated and reduce itching. Some people find relief from eczema by using natural substances like colloidal oatmeal or chamomile, which can be applied directly to the skin.

It is important to note that eczema is a chronic condition with no cure.

However, with proper treatment and management, it is possible to control the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected. Before beginning any new regimen, you should discuss your treatment options with a healthcare professional.

Topical medications are the most common type of treatment for eczema. They are applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and redness. Topical medications are a standard treatment option for eczema and are applied directly to the skin. They can be found as creams, ointments, or lotions and may include several active chemicals that can help to lessen eczema-related symptoms like itchiness and irritation.

Corticosteroids are a type of topical medication that is commonly used to treat eczema. These anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling, redness, and itching. They are available in different strengths and can be applied directly to the affected areas of the skin.

Calcineurin inhibitors are another topical medication that can effectively treat eczema. These medications work by inhibiting the production of specific immune cells that contribute to inflammation. They are often used with corticosteroids and can be applied to the skin as a cream or ointment.

In addition to these medications, may use several other topical treatments to treat eczema. These can include topical antibiotics, which can be used to treat or prevent infections due to eczema, and antihistamines, which can help reduce itching.

It is important to note that while topical medications can effectively manage the symptoms of eczema, they may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may experience side effects from these medications, such as skin irritation or thinning of the skin. Before beginning any new regimen, you should discuss your treatment options with a healthcare professional.

 Light therapy is another type of treatment for eczema. It uses light to help the skin heal.

A treatment option for eczema is light therapy, sometimes referred to as phototherapy. It involves exposing the skin to specific wavelengths of light to improve the appearance and condition of the skin. This treatment is usually administered using a machine called a phototherapy unit, which can be used to deliver the light in a controlled and safe manner.

Narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB), broadband UVB, and photochemotherapy are a few of the various types of light therapy used to treat eczema. The type and severity of eczema, the patient’s age, and general health will all affect the light treatment employed.

Light therapy can be an effective treatment for eczema because it can help to reduce inflammation and improve the appearance of the skin. It may also help to relieve itching and other symptoms associated with eczema.

Light therapy is generally considered safe, but it is essential to follow the instructions of a healthcare provider when undergoing this treatment. Protecting the skin from the sun while undergoing light therapy is also necessary, as it may be more sensitive to the sun’s rays.

Light therapy can be a helpful eczema treatment option, but it is inappropriate for everyone. Before beginning any new regimen, you should discuss your treatment options with a healthcare professional.

Natural remedies are also sometimes used to treat eczema. These remedies include herbal supplements and topical creams.

Natural remedies can be an alternative or complementary treatment option for people with eczema and may be used in addition to traditional medications or on their own. These remedies can include herbal supplements, topical creams, and other products made from natural ingredients believed to have anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.

Some examples of natural remedies that may use to treat eczema include −

Colloidal oatmeal − These finely ground oats can mix with water to create a paste. When applied to the skin, colloidal oatmeal can help to soothe irritation and reduce itching.

Chamomile − Herb, known as chamomile, is frequently used in topical treatments and drinks. When applied to the skin, it contains anti-inflammatory qualities and might help to lessen redness and swelling.

Coconut oil − Natural moisturizer coconut oil is known to have anti-inflammatory qualities. You can directly apply it to the skin to help moisturize the skin and calm the nerves.

Shea Butter − Shea butter is a natural oil extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. It is often used as a moisturizer and may help to reduce inflammation and improve the appearance of the skin.

In addition to these remedies, you may use several herbal supplements to treat eczema. These can include supplements made from herbs like evening primrose oil, turmeric, and ginseng, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

It is important to remember that each person may respond to natural treatments for eczema differently, and some may develop allergies to specific components. Before beginning any new treatment plan, including biological therapies, it is always a good idea to see a healthcare professional.

Catalina’s Screen Time Problems Show An Apple Stretched Too Thin

macOS Catalina introduces new features and functionality for the Mac. Among them is Screen Time, the tool that enables users to see what apps and services they’re spending time using. Screen Time follows the convention of features that make their debut on iOS later migrating to the Mac. Unfortunately, Screen Time’s Mac implementation leaves something to be desired.

Screen Time’s intent is to make you more aware of where you’re spending your time – reading news, surfing the web, using social media apps, playing games. Just as important, Screen Time can provide essential details for parents concerned about their kids’ device usage. The app also provides parents with lock-out and limitings features to help reign in their kids’ use.

Not the Screen Time we need

For the past year, Screen Time has been the exclusive purview of the iPhone and iPad, but that changed with October’s release of Catalina, which brings Screen Time to the Mac. But Author, podcaster, and tech columnist Kirk McElhearn recently uncovered some troubling news about Catalina’s implementation of Screen Time. Kirk noted that the Catalina version of the app simply displays how long apps are open, rather than how long they’re being used.

So if I keep Safari open on my Mac all the time, it reports that duration – even if Safari is in the background while I’m doing other things, like writing this editorial. Like Kirk, I keep many apps open when I’m not using them – at the moment I have 11 apps open on my Mac. I quickly command-tab between them to get my work done. Knowing how long each has been open is not useful data to me – I want to know how long I’ve been actively using each one, and I’d prefer to know how I’m using it.

These are details that I can actually find and drill down into using third-party tracking activities. Such tools have been indispensable to me over the years as a freelancer, in order to effectively bill my clients for my time. But these apps cost money, and they’re from third party makers, which means their use is niche, at best.

There are other problems, too – the way the Mac version of Screen Time accounts for notifications, the way it accounts for “Pickups,” for example – the number of times you wake your Mac from sleep – all add up to one thing. It’s painfully obvious that Catalina’s implementation of Screen Time is little more than a rushed conversion of the iOS tool, with little, if any, thought about how different the Mac usage experience is, or what meaningful and useful data Mac users might need.

For years, we’ve been hearing dire warnings from prognosticators who are concerned about the “iOSification” of the Macintosh. Apple’s pushed back on this hysteria by saying that it fully recognizes Macs and Mac users are different than iOS and iOS users, and they consider the Mac and iOS devices to be distinct user experiences.

Setting the stage for the future

Yet blurring the lines between Mac and iOS is fine for Apple, and for Mac users, at least when it makes sense to do so – hence Apple’s Handoff technology. I love being able to take a photo on my iPhone from my Mac, for example, or open Safari on my Mac and go straight to the web page open on my phone. Draft an email on my phone then finish it off on my Mac? Perfect. When it works. Sometimes it doesn’t, even years after some of this tech debuted on the Mac.

We don’t need to fear these integrations when they happen, but we do need to be vigilant and stay wary when Apple gives the Mac short shrift, as I think it’s readily apparent they did with some aspects of Catalina. I’ll even give Apple the benefit of the doubt – for now – that Screen Time is a work in progress, rushed to market. It’s patently obvious that Apple stretched itself way too thin this year – there are way too many warts apparent in iOS and macOS, way too many growing pains that we as Apple device owners shouldn’t have to put up with.

Catalina is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the most divisive Mac system upgrades I can remember. Apple’s really upset a lot of long-standing developers for migrating to a radically more restrictive security model with this release; one that’s making it difficult if not impossible for some third-party app makers to update their software to work. And while Catalina’s 64-bit-only architecture shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s been getting dialog boxes warning them of needing to upgrade apps, that has predictably created a lot of user friction. It’s also generated a fair amount of head-scratching from Windows users who don’t understand why Apple has such a hard time managing this compared to Microsoft.

Make no mistake – Apple is playing the long game here, and Catalina is essential to pave the way for what’s to come on the Mac for the next decade, if not longer. Every time one of these tectonic shifts happens, there is discomfort from developers and users alike. You just have to think back to Apple’s shift from Motorola 68K to PowerPC, and from PowerPC to Intel, to see examples. Each time this happened, some users and some developers were left behind because they lacked the resources or the patience to make the move with Apple. I have no doubt Apple is developing ARM-based Macs to succeed the Intel-based Macs we use today, and some of the changes Apple has made in Catalina herald what’s to come.

But it’s essential that Apple makes sure that all of its platforms provide a superlative user experience. And when we suffer cracks in the wall, like a Mac implementation of Screen Time that feels much more “me too” than best of class, it shows Apple needs to reassess its priorities.

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