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    DOWNLOAD — GCN Version: On this week’s all-star episode, we feature Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer. In addition to a brief pop culture segment where Gene schools Jeff on the correct pronunciation of the wacky DC Comics character, “Mister Mxyzptlk,” the discussion focuses on the MacBook Pro and the controversy over the battery tests from Consumer Reports, in which Apple’s notebooks were at first not recommended until retested. And what about all the great gadgets introduced at the CES in Las Vegas? According to Jeff, there were more products that appeared to be ready to sell, rather than to show off an idea that may never make it into production.

    You’ll also hear from Russell Holly, managing editor of VRHeads. After a brief focus on smartphone sales, and whether the market can continue to grow quickly, the discussion moves to the upcoming Nintendo Switch gaming console. Nintendo is trying to get a leg up on the competition from Microsoft and Sony by including a small embedded tablet that can be used for gameplay on the road. You’ll also hear about popular gadgets at the CES, but the main focus is Russell’s special introduction to VR technology. Are those goggles poised to take over the consumer electronics market in a big way? What about shared experiences among more than a single player? Are there any downsides other than the relatively high price of admission for the best VR gear?

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    Newsletter Issue #894: It’s All on Apple — As Usual

    January 16th, 2017

    So consider some of the so-called conventional wisdoms we hear about in the tech business. You know what I mean: The smartphone has reached the zenith of its development curve. Everyone who wants one has one, except for developing countries where people are just catching up. Besides, cheap gear from Chinese handset makers, with all or most of the features of the expensive gear from Apple and Samsung. will soon take over. It’s the PC playbook all over again. Companies are already racing to the bottom in trying to build gear that costs less and less. Profits be damned!

    I suppose that seems logical enough. Existing gear is probably good enough for most people, and except for countries where people just can’t afford them, what magnificent features can manufacturers devise to entice people to upgrade in massive numbers? And if the existing gear keeps working well enough — and doesn’t need a new battery or some other costly repair — users are more inclined to hang onto them for a little longer.

    So what’s Apple going to do in order to boost smartphone sales?

    Continue Reading…

    Contrary to Expectations, Mac Sales May Be on the Rise Again

    January 13th, 2017

    The ingredients may have been there for Mac sales to continue to fall. Up till the fall of 2016, only one Mac had been refreshed, the MacBook with the usual processor upgrades. While OS X became macOS with the release of Sierra in late September, not a peep was heard from Apple about any further Mac upgrades.

    The rumor mills had mentioned just one Mac getting the love, the MacBook Pro, which had received its last update in 2015. While one might take rumors with tiny grains of salt, it didn’t take long for them to coalesce on something resembling the final design. So it would be thinner and lighter, following Apple’s obsession with such things. The venerable function keypad would be replaced by a context-sensitive touchscreen with an OLED display. The final name was revealed at Apple’s October media event — the Touch Bar.

    Now the Late 2016 MacBook Pro was one of the most controversial products ever released by Apple. The chatter — and the complaints — just didn’t stop. It was not professional enough, it was too expensive, it needed more RAM, and the Touch Bar? It’s just an silly extravagance.

    Continue Reading...

    There Are Battery Tests and There Are Battery Tests

    January 12th, 2017

    So as we speak — more or less — Consumer Reports is rerunning its MacBook Pro battery tests. These are the ones that resulted in a non-recommended rating. That’s the first time such a thing happened to an Apple product, so it had to be extremely important. Potentially, it could hurt sales, and it sure brought lots of attention to CR, which garnered major headlines as a result.

    Thus it came as no surprise when Apple marketing VP Philip Schiller responded — a rarity when it comes to a negative review — and explained that the company was working with the publication to see what was up.

    On Tuesday, both Apple and CR posted updates on the controversial test results. Those posts got coverage in the tech media, but not so much in the mainstream press that made a huge deal of the original report, flawed as it was. What do I mean by flawed? Well, it seems that CR’s battery test consists of downloading 10 sites from a default server using a notebook’s default browser. This process is repeated until the battery dies.

    Continue Reading...

    Consumer Reports’ Deck Stacking — or Incompetence — Exposed

    January 11th, 2017

    Macs tend to fare second best in Consumer Reports testing, partly because the magazine lives in ignorance of the differences between Apple’s computers and Windows boxes. But they’ve always been recommended, until recently. I can quibble about the way the tests appear to emphasize features over performance, usability and reliability. In fact, I have.

    But it took a poor rating by CR to trigger a dialogue that revealed a serious flaw in their testing. The tests also triggered an obscure bug in Safari for macOS Sierra that might otherwise have remained undiscovered and unfixed.

    It all started when CR reported wildly divergent battery life results, ranging from 3.75 hours up to 19 hours over three tests for each product. The latter is way more than Apple’s estimates, which range up to 10 hours.

    Now all three MacBook Pro models exhibited similar behavior. A clue that something might be amiss was the fact that CR uses the default browser, in this case Safari. When the tests were rerun in Google Chrome, battery life was within acceptable limits.

    Continue Reading...