• Newsletter Issue #820

    August 17th, 2015


    Did we really need a new photo management app for Macs and iOS gear? Well, Apple clearly felt that the twin offerings of iPhoto and Aperture needed to be replaced. This was particularly true with the more sophisticated needs of some users for managing and editing photo libraries, since Adobe Lightroom got much of that action, while Aperture, with middling reviews, played second fiddle.

    So Apple decided to compromise by delivering Photos. The interface is minimalist, there’s heavy emphasis on cloud storage, but you aren’t forced to use it, and there are more editing features than iPhoto. But not as many as Aperture. But with upcoming support for extensions in OS X El Capitan, third-party developers will have the chance to enhance the app’s features; maybe even make them more robust than Aperture. So it has possibilities, and Apple is also adding features that replace or enhance the ones that were already available in iPhoto.

    To get Photos, you need OS 10.10.3 or later, so you’re stuck with iPhoto with earlier OS X versions. Since the majority of Mac users are already using Yosemite, and will likely to migrate to El Capitan, that’s not so serious an issue. For the rest of you, iPhoto continues to work just fine.

    In any case, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured Jeff Carlson, Senior Editor for TidBITS, who attempted to explain what Google’s complex migration to a holding company known as Alphabet is all about. He also talked about Apple’s replacement for iPhoto and Aperture known as Photos for OS X. There’s also an iOS version. The discussion moved on to Apple Watch, where Jeff gave you a brief crash course on using Apple’s fancy new smartwatch.

    You also heard from one of our show regulars, columnist Kirk McElhearn, Macworld’s “iTunes Guy,” who focused the main part of his discussions on Apple Music, and the various problems users have reported since the subscription music service debuted on June 30. Do the iTunes 12.2.2 and iOS 8.4.1 updates fix those problems, or are there more issues for Apple to resolve? Gene and Kirk also switched into pop culture mode, talking about the need for daylight savings time, remaking old TV shows as movies, such as “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” (which tanked this week at the box office), and about British and Australian actors who attempt to sound American. And vice versa.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Legend has it that the Montauk Project involved a set of secret tests conducted at the Montauk Air Force Station in Montauk, New York. It was purportedly designed to develop psychological warfare techniques and exotic research. It is said to be related to the legend of the Philadelphia Experiment due to its supposed time travel connection, and there are even claims of a possible connection with extraterrestrials. Well, independent producer and director Christopher Garetano has reportedly spent more than 10 years probing this alleged conspiracy, and has released a documentary film, “Montauk Chronicles,” to present his findings. Was the Montauk Project real, or just a bunch of tall tales devised by a handful of people for reasons best known to themselves?

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’ve got swag! We’re taking orders direct from our Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.


    Apple is no doubt busy crafting and manufacturing fall updates for many products. There will be new iPhones, maybe a new Apple TV, and perhaps updated iPads. There might even be something new in the Mac universe due to Intel beginning to ship those more powerful and energy efficient Skylake chips.

    But not Apple Watch, which debuted in April and only needs an OS update to come into its own. But if Apple needs to fix something to make this product hot for the holiday season, you can bet they’ll do it on the software side of things, not to mention spending a bundle on promotion.

    When it comes to the iPhone, it’s sort of predictable, or has been since the product debuted in 2007. A new design appears, and the following year, the same casings are used, with minor modifications, but internal parts are enhanced. So there will likely be an iPhone 6s and an iPhone 6s Plus, with brand new components. That means a rumored A9 processor, perhaps a better camera with more megapixels (maybe with 4K support), and enhancements to Wi-Fi and LTE. There may even be Force Touch, since Apple already debuted that feature on the Apple Watch and assorted gear from the MacBook line.

    Force Touch lets you dig deeper when touching the screen (or a MacBook trackpad) to deliver context-related features. Pushing harder could, for example, engage fast forward mode on a video. The technology seems to work fine. I’m not hearing of any particular glitches, and it’s now up to third parties to spread the joy.

    There may even be a beefier aluminum alloy structure, but those writing about this possibility mistakenly believe that the previous model was unduly sensitive to stress and bent too easily in one’s back pocket. That was an unproven claim; the iPhones fared perfectly fine in actual tests by recognized sources, such as Consumer Reports.

    Some Apple critics claim that iPhone sales won’t increase as fast as before, since the refresh is “minor,” forgetting that much of what the product does is controlled by the internal workings. The case doesn’t matter. Besides, most people who will be upgrading — or switching from other platforms — do not own last year’s model. To them, it’s all new.

    So it appears the critics somehow believe people expect to buy the latest and greatest every single year, not realizing that’s a tiny minority. Besides, it’s not just the looks that make a product different, but they don’t get that either.

    For now, I’ll dismiss the possibility that Apple will move up a full version number to iPhone 7. That’s a marketing decision. of course. And if the looks aren’t substantially changed, wouldn’t customers somehow feel cheated? Or are we returning to the “looks are everything” argument.

    A big question mark is when Apple will release a new Apple TV. The previous model, with one very minor processor change that had nothing to do with performance potential, has been around since 2012. So it certainly is about time. Apple has reduced the price of the current model to $69, which leaves room for a new $99 model with a better, more usable, remote and no doubt 4K support.

    Yes, I said 4K. TV makers and even content delivery services, such as Amazon Instant Video and Netflix, are moving towards higher resolution fare. Even though 4K sets take only single digits in the marketplace, new models starting at just a few hundred dollars are probably sufficient to encourage customers to make the move. VIZIO, one of the largest TV makers, is clever enough to keep only the entry-level E Series at 1080p. The rest of the lineup has gone to 4K, but 3D support is history. That format did very little to jump start the saturated TV market.

    In addition, some Macs support 4K output, and don’t forget the iMac with 5K Retina display. Apple isn’t going to spend huge amounts of money on building gear with higher resolution capability without a reason. They see where the market is going. The new iMacs even let you edit 4K movies at their native resolution with sufficient room for menu bars and palettes.

    The next iPhones will also probably support 4K video, at least with the rear camera. So there’s no logical reason for Apple to keep the feature out of the Apple TV, or somehow activate it later for no known reason.

    What about the iPad? Some stories suggest Apple might pass a refresh by for unknown reasons. It doesn’t seem as if it would cost a lot to take the iPad Air 2 and make it an iPad Air 3 with higher performance parts. Some rumors suggest the next iPad mini will more closely resemble a smaller iPad Air, and that would make sense, as would upgrading the parts.

    The outside rumor is all about a larger model, an iPad Pro with a display that exceeds 12 inches. Certainly content creators and businesses are apt to cherish a grown up iPad. The enhanced multitasking capability in the forthcoming iOS 9 are ideal for the bigger form factor. Apple’s business relationship with IBM also means that they will be making a huge effort to move more iPads into the enterprise.

    So the case for an iPad Pro seems only sensible. There have been rumors about it for a while, but it may just be that Apple was waiting for iOS to come along so the package would be integrated with better multitasking. Indeed, I can almost see a case for a Split View feature that allows for four windows on the iPad’s big brother, although nothing of that sort has been announced.

    What’s left? Well, perhaps the iMac. The last hardware change came about with the original 5K Retina display model in late 2014. The new Intel chips might be the ticket, and it could also justify an entire iMac refresh, with the 21.5-inch model also gaining 5K capability. Perhaps Apple will deliver a new Mac mini with the latest components.

    But don’t expect any changes to the note-books. They were already upgraded in the spring, and new versions probably won’t appear until next year. The Mac Pro is coming up on two years since the original version appeared, so perhaps Apple will take advantage of newer generation Intel Xeon chips and some other enhancements to justify a refresh this fall.

    You’ve already heard about iOS 9, which is expected to debut in late September, and is in the final stages of beta testing via Apple’s developer program and those who signed up for public betas. OS X El Capitan is moving along, but Apple hasn’t released OS X revisions until late October. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t arrive earlier this year, since it’s not actually tied to any hardware upgrade.

    What’s left? Other than something nobody anticipates, I suppose there’s always Apple’s expected TV subscription service. There have been ongoing stories of active if slow negotiations with the networks to make it happen. One story had it that Apple wants to include your local TV stations, and that would make sense if the deals could be done. So it was claimed that the networks might try to craft such deals with the support, or acting in behalf, of their local affiliates. But what about unaffiliated stations? Shouldn’t they be allowed to play that game?

    The larger question is what Apple can bring to the table compared to other streaming video schemes. A cross-section of content would appear to be similar in concept to Dish Network’s Sling TV. That service offers a basic package of channels, similar to basic cable but without the local stations. There are higher-priced tiers with more channels, with the promise of local stations coming in the future.

    But a service of that sort requires plenty of network capacity. Dish evidently encountered glitches because their network wasn’t tuned, or large enough, to handle the initial demand for Sling TV. With all those infamous iCloud troubles to consider, you’d expect Apple would want to make sure its servers are up to the task of handling the early-adopter demand. That, in addition, to actually getting the TV networks on board.

    Indeed, getting the network running efficiently might be the larger problem. Apple doesn’t have a good reputation for delivering cloud-based fare without the hiccups. Imagine if millions signed up to watch TV for several hours a day — mostly during the same prime time hours. It could be a catastrophe in the making if Apple doesn’t consider the landmines, and gets things set up properly.

    And a one more thing? There’s not much in the rumor columns. There’s even skepticism about reports that Apple might produce a smaller iPhone, an iPhone 6c with a four-inch display.

    But whatever Apple does, the critics will pronounce it all as boring. It is always thus.


    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
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