• Newsletter Issue #888

    December 5th, 2016


    On last week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, columnist Joe Wilcox told us he loves his new 13-inch MacBook Pro, but he was concerned about the subpar battery life. While Apple claims up to 10 hours on a full charge, Joe was getting a little over five hours. Was he alone?

    Well, it doesn’t appear so. According to published reports, some users are reporting similar troubles, with the battery using up its charge much faster than they expected based on Apple’s promises. Now to be fair, Apple’s estimates are based on specific conditions that are outlined on the promotional page for these notebooks. If you follow those conditions roughly the same way, you should experience a similar result. Obviously, it’s possible to run these computers full-bore and get less, much less.

    So while reviewers have reported battery life close to Apple’s estimates, and some users agree, there may also be software bugs that result in some functions using more power than expected. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened to a Mac notebook or to an iPhone or an iPad. So it’s possible forthcoming OS updates will address the problem, but if you’re affected, it doesn’t hurt to contact Apple and let them know about it. Might as well make sure it’s not a defective battery.

    In the meantime, on this weekend’s show, we featured commentator John Martellaro, Senior Editor, Analysis & Reviews for The Mac Observer. His bill of fare included the “tribal warfare” that often surrounds the Apple ecosystem, the difficulties in “extracting truth” from Apple, along with how the company has been blindsided by such products as the Microsoft Surface Stereo all-in-one desktop and HP’s Z2 Mini Workstation; the latter is designed to compete as a higher-end alternative to the Mac mini. John also focused on Apple’s mistakes in releasing a fourth-generation Apple TV set-top box without such key features as 4K and HDR support, coming at a time when 4K TVs are really taking off.

    Indeed, I would have thought that Apple would have done something to address the feature limits of the Apple TV this year, instead of just pushing a new TV app. 4K TV has really come into its own, and Apple needs to get with the program.

    You also heard from outspoken columnist and podcaster Kirk McElhearn, also known as Macworld’s “iTunes Guy.” Gene and Kirk began the discussion covering the so-called resurgence of vinyl, and Gene’s personal experiences listening to some of the most famous recordings on the cheap record player his parents bought him. The two also provided a no-nonsense look at the real differences between analog and digital. Kirk moved into rant mode as he complained about the delays in shipping the Late 2016 MacBook Pro and the fact that, except for a brief period, the LG 5K display that was supposed to accompany Apple’s upgraded notebooks was not available to order. Kirk has called it “bait and switch.”

    I have a different point of view, which I’ll explain in more detail in the next article.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast:  Gene and Chris present noted Ufologist Philip Mantle. His interest in UFO research began in 1979 when he joined the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA), and Yorkshire UFO Society (YUFOS), and he is considered one of the UK’s top experts. Philip is well known for doggedly tackling the “Alien Autopsy” controversy, quickly becoming the top investigator into this strangely-curious affair that took place in the late summer of 1995. He has written the definitive book on the subject, Alien Autopsy Inquest, along with a number of other books. In addition, Philip and his colleague, Paul Stonehill, are considered to be the top researchers of Russian UFO cases.


    Once upon a time, I placed an order for a brand new car intended to showcase an innovative engine technology that promised to revolutionize the industry. It was the early 1970s, and I was anxious to acquire a Mazda RX-2, with the Wankel rotary engine. It was due to arrive in the northeast U.S. as a 1972 model. A dealer in the Philadelphia area advertised that it was coming real soon now. It did, months later than they originally promised; at least they didn’t request a deposit to hold one.

    Days after the first stocks appeared on the dealer’s lot, I purchased a yellow 1972 RX-2. As some of you might recall, for a vehicle with a state-of-the-art engine, it was really nondescript, not externally dissimilar from compact cars from Toyota and other makers of the time. But I was the first on the block with this “exotic” machine. It wasn’t the first time that I confronted missed deadlines when I wanted to buy something new.

    Segue to the 1990s, when I purchased a brand new PowerBook every year or two. In every single case. the one I wanted wouldn’t arrive until weeks after I placed an order. Apple wasn’t so good about meeting product deadlines then, and maybe things haven’t changed all that much.

    When Apple acquired NeXT and a world class Unix-based OS at the end of 1996, you might have expected a major revision to the Mac OS before long. From the days of Rhapsody to Aqua, Apple seemed to take far longer and longer to meld NeXTSTEP and Mac OS together. I suspect the release of a Public Beta in September 2000 was done as much to demonstrate that Apple was serious about its new operating system as to get the public’s reaction.

    The following March, the “final” version of Mac OS X 10.0, code-named Cheetah, went on sale. If you paid $29.95 for the public beta, you’d get a credit for the purchase of the final version. Only it wasn’t really final. Printer support was very hit and mess, CDs weren’t recognized. and Steve Jobs admitted the release was meant for developers and power users. Better to wait for 10.1, Puma, which arrived by fall, to get something that was actually usable. But some believe that 10.3, Panther, was the first release to begin to justify Mac OS X’s promise.

    Since then, Apple has skewed close to schedule on OS releases, but the arrival of new hardware has been less dependable. So in 2013, after it appeared the Mac Pro would be abandoned, Apple demonstrated a totally new model at that June’s WWDC. The promised ship date was before the end of the year, and Apple barely made it. A few units made it to customers by the end of December, but most of those early orders weren’t filled until a few weeks later.

    The deadline was technically met, but for only a few lucky customers.

    Whenever major upgrades to the iPhone are announced, supplies are generally constrained as Apple ramps up production. There are hard deadlines, which now call for a September launch, with deliveries starting within 10 days or so. After the initial allotment is gone, and it may happen within no more than a few hours after orders are accepted, you may have to wait a month or two to receive the model you want.

    For the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, it didn’t take long for the former to ship in quantity. But you better rush if you want a Plus before Christmas. The new MacBook Pro remains highly constrained, and Apple claims there’s high demand for this controversial notebook lineup.

    Although Apple made a big deal of the 5K LG display they demonstrated at the MacBook Pro media event, it’s not that you can even buy one yet. Except for a brief period, orders were still not being taken as of the time I wrote this column.

    According to outspoken columnist Kirk McElhearn, the promise of a 5K display that can be connected via a single cable to a Late 2016 MacBook Pro is a case of “bait and switch.” Apple has no business promising a product until it knows it could actually deliver the goods. On this week’s episode of “The Tech Night Owl LIVE,” he expanded on those views, but I don’t agree with him.

    Now it may well be that the shipping delay rests on LG’s shoulders, that the company had problems producing the 5K panels, although they reportedly supply the very same hardware for the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display. Regardless. LG’s shipping schedule isn’t controlled by Tim Cook or his supply chain lieutenants at Apple.

    To Kirk, however. Apple needs to do a better job of making sure product is available when the promised ship date arrives. Otherwise, they shouldn’t announce the product at all. Better to wait until it’s ready.

    Perhaps. But the situation with the MacBook Pro was far more complicated. Months had passed since any new Mac was announced, and that was a minor refresh for the MacBook Pro last April. Mac sales had declined, and I suppose it’s possible some of the lost or delayed sales were due to the fact that the hardware was getting a little long in the tooth. From a marketing standpoint, it was important to announce the new models as soon as possible, even though they would be slow to ship for a while. The negative connotations of not updating any Macs might have, again, hurt sales, this time for the ever-important holiday season.

    You can argue with Apple’s design priorities for the new notebooks. But a 5K display only serves a small subset of MacBook Pro users, and they are just going to have to be patient. It’s not as if there are many 5K display alternatives out there, and none that I know of that operate with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable hookup.

    I understand Kirk’s point. But I can see where Apple had little choice but to get these product intros out of the way before November arrived regardless of possible shipping delays. Except for the LG 5K display of course, and perhaps it’ll actually go on sale some time this month.


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

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
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