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    Coming February 17: This week’s guests include commentator John Martellaro, Senior Editor, Analysis & Reviews for The Mac Observer. John’s talking points include the HomePod, and whether some of the critical reviewers, including Consumer Reports magazine, were expecting too much from it. He also brings up a possible sensitivity with nearby objects, where the presence of a salt shaker close to a HomePod seriously hurt sound quality. The discussion moves to 4K/UHD TV, which John says has finally come of age. In a slightly technical discussion, John explains how the expensive iMac Pro can exploit up to 18 cores and whether any of that holds any value for the typical Mac or PC user. There’s also a discussion about a blogger’s curious and overwrought reaction to a pair of visits to an Apple Store that, after some delays, had a favorable result. And why is Apple’s complex product lineup “perfect?”

    You’ll also hear from Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles, who explains how he got an Apple TV 4K at a big discount, and why he’s becoming disenchanted with the product and why he likes Google Chromecast  more and more. In turn, Gene reminds listeners that his VIZIO TV has an embedded Chomecast system known as SmartCast, and why he hasn’t used his Apple TV, an older model, in over two months. And what about the HomePod and the so-called scandal involving white rings being left on oiled or waxed wood surfaces by its silicone base? Should Apple have explained this limitation earlier? What about reports that the Sonos One leaves white traces from its silicone feet? Josh also explains why he’s about to give up on Apple Music.

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    The HomePod Report: Oil and Silicone Don’t Mix

    February 16th, 2018

    I suppose this is a subject we’ll get beyond, but it’s early the game for the HomePod, and there are still things left to be discovered. So as more and more reviewers and owners begin to try out their new HomePods, you can bet problems will be discovered. Some might relate to the early adopter phenomenon, where the initial shipments of a new gadget might have glitches of one sort or another.

    There are reports, for example, of early setup issues. Apple has already addressed some of the problems in support documents, and as the product spreads around the world, no doubt there will be more. But Apple can certainly release updates to address these and other issues. There will be an update in the future, for example, to allow you to set up a pair of HomePods for a more realistic stereo image and, I suppose, to convey the feel of surround sound.

    The audio quality may either be exceptional or pretty good with distinct flaws that may vary from musical track to musical track. By using the word “amazing,” Apple may have established unrealistic expectations for what it can do.

    Continue Reading...

    The HomePod Report: Are We Expecting Too Much?

    February 15th, 2018

    Long long ago, when I had a lot more money than I do now, I owned a fairly expensive stereo system. The centerpiece was the Carver Amazing Platinum Mark IV speakers. In polished black, they were truly imposing, with a 60-inch tall ribbon driver and four 12-inch subwoofers in each unit.

    I placed the electronics, which included a preamplifier equipped with tubes no less, in a black cabinet situated  between the speakers. Despite my feeling that they were extremely delicate, they came in a secure box and I moved three times during the years I owned them, but they never sustained damage from those long trips. I did have to replace the ribbon assembly on one of the units early on, however, due a manufacturing defect. But I also had help direct from the designer, my old friend Bob Carver. Yes, I got them at a discount.

    To be sure, they sounded great, but my listening habits changed over the years. As I explained in an earlier post, I sold the entire system, sans cabinet, more than a decade ago to raise funds for a relative suffering from deep financial stress.

    Continue Reading...

    Universal Apps: Is the Mac in Danger?

    February 14th, 2018

    Even though the Mac-oriented blogs are still dealing with the implications of the less-favorable review of the HomePod from Consumer Reports, I thought I’d take a breather. But CR has clearly learned that putting Apple in the headlines generates lots of coverage, especially if it’s negative.

    Now then: There have been published reports that, beginning with macOS 10.14 and iOS 12, you’ll be able to run an iPhone or iPad app on a Mac. And vice versa, although I can see some complexities that are being overlooked in the simplistic coverage about so-called Universal apps.

    But remember that none of this has been confirmed by Apple.

    Now this wouldn’t be the first time that Apple made it possible to develop apps running on two different processors. Besides, the Unix core of iOS and macOS were designed to be portable, capable of running on multiple processors. There was even an Intel version of NeXTSTEP, precursor to the original Mac OS X. So when Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel CPUs beginning in 2006, it wasn’t such a big deal. There was already a version of the OS running on Intel in the test labs just in case such a change became necessary.

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    HomePod Audio Quality: Let the Disconnect Begin!

    February 13th, 2018

    Let me put this in perspective. Consumer Reports magazine, supposedly an incorruptible source of product reviews and advice, is often at odds with other product reviewers. CR more or less implies that they have the advantage over other publications by dint of the fact that they buy all the products they test, usually anonymously. That way they cannot get a “ringer,” a product that may be specially modified by the manufacturer and thus is not a true example of what customers will get when purchasing the product via the usual channels.

    That said, having reviewed consumer products for over 25 years, I never encountered any evidence that I received anything that was different from what a regular customer would buy.

    I will also grant that CR will, when publishing reviews that have a subjective factor, such as the sound quality of an audio system or the picture quality of a TV set, may not reach the same conclusions as others.

    Continue Reading...