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Newsletter Issue #936


It’s a sure thing that some people won’t switch to a Mac largely because Apple won’t produce one in the configuration they want. But if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, so to speak, you may be able to solve that problem, by building what is sometimes called a “Hackintosh.” If you visit the site with that name, you’ll find detailed instructions on how to take generic PC parts — at least some of them — and assemble a computer onto which you can install macOS.

This is not the same thing as taking a Windows PC and putting Linux on it, though. Apple engages in lots of customizations to optimize macOS, offers a limited hardware repertoire, and you may thus have to jump through hoops to find the right components, and fine-tune the installation to allow you to have a relatively good experience.

At the end of the day, the process is not quite as perfect as just buying a Mac, but you’ll at least have a wider selection of hardware, and you can even assemble a gaming computer for much less than what you’d pay for a genuine Mac.

Which takes us to this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, which included outspoken columnist Jeff Butts, of The Mac Observer. During his first visit to the show, he explained how he first switched to the macOS when his PC failed, by converting it to a “Hackintosh,” a computer hacked to run Apple’s OS. He also explained how he modified a PC to run macOS High Sierra. Jeff also discussed the iPhone X, which remained seriously backordered during its first weekend on sale; will he buy one? Gene and Jeff also examined the misleading statistics from Gartner and IDC that indicated disappointing Mac sales during the September 2017 quarter. In fact, Apple revealed that sales grew by 10%, way ahead of the industry, with revenue increasing by 25%, making for a record quarter. There was also a brief pop culture discussion, in which Gene mentioned that movie and TV composer Danny Elfman has become the composer for “Justice League,” and that he’s included portions of his original 1989 Batman theme in the score.

That’s quite a change from the dark and thundering soundtracks of recent movies based on DC Comics characters. But it’s also part of an effort to lighten up newest movies to reach and satisfy a wider audience. It’s also reported that the iconic John Williams’ Superman theme will also find its way into “Justice League.”

In a special encore appearance, you also heard from writer/editor Adam Engst, of TidBITS, who covered the new Apple Watch Series 3, which includes an LTE radio that can make phone calls. He reflected on how the product has become more of a health and fitness accessory as Apple has continued to develop it. Gene and Adam also talked about the iPhone X, the notch and its impact, plus Apple’s last minute change to the High Sierra OS that no longer supports Macs with Fusion drives. You also heard an extended discussion about the Apple TV, its new features, and about the growing fragmentation of TV streaming services. This is creating a situation where you may have to join a number of these services to watch their exclusive shows. How does this impact cable cord cutting? Does it end up costing more than cable and satellite what with all the separate services?

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present outspoken UFO researcher Kevin Randle to discuss Encounter in the Desert: The Case For Alien Contact At Socorro. Says the publisher, “The UFO landing at Socorro has been wrapped in controversy almost from the moment that police officer Lonnie Zamora watched a craft descend and land. Zamora saw alien beings near the craft and a symbol on its side but was told that he shouldn’t mention either. [This book] reveals, for the first time, exactly what he saw in that arroyo in 1964 and what an examination of the landing revealed to investigators.” During this episode, Kevin will address such questions as whether there were other witnesses, and claims that the sighting was the result of a hoax.


So let’s just look at the conventional wisdom that prevailed ahead of Apple’s release, last week,  of its financials for the quarter ending September 2017. As usual, industry and financial analysts delivered their estimates, but there were some assumptions that different pundits made in the weeks preceding the official announcements.

Take sales of the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus. They are a little more expensive than their predecessors, and since a supposedly far better model was forthcoming, sales were said to be poor. Certainly there were few problems getting the configuration you wanted. Since these iPhones weren’t altogether different from their immediate predecessors in the iPhone 7 family, some people were no doubt happy to buy last year’s models and save money.

I should say that a sale is a sale, but let me continue.

As it stands, Apple did better than expected across its product lines. Sales of iPhones were up slightly, indicating that possible reduced demand for the mainstream models wasn’t so reduced after all. Besides, even if sales were down overall, the expectation that things would turn around this quarter meant that it was likely to make up for any loss.

Skeptics were also complaining that Apple was confronting lots of difficulties in ramping up production of the iPhone X, particularly in light of all the newly designed components, such as those that make up Face ID, including the TrueDepth camera system. Despite weeks and weeks of trumpeting production hangups, Apple has managed to reduce the backorder situation from the original five to six weeks to three to four weeks.

Evidently they also had enough stocks on hand to satisfy at least a portion of the customers who lined up at Apple Stores around the world. It was also reported that some people who preordered theirs discovered that they would receive deliveries ahead of schedule.

Lest we forget, the iPhone X is surely not the first iPhone to be backordered for a while. This has happened with other iPhones over the years. Consider last year’s iPhone 7 Plus, which suffered from constrained supplies for several weeks because the sales skewed more towards the phablet than Apple expected.

Customers have a nasty habit of doing their thing contrary to the expectations of the best marketing people.

And what about the alleged Mac sales decline? How did estimates of flat or lower sales from IDC and Gartner align with the news that sales increased to record levels, including double-digit growth in the educational market?

How’d that happen, and how did those industry sources get it all wrong? Sure, maybe their bills are paid by competitors to Apple, but what’s the value of publishing marketing and sales data that’s wrong, especially if the errors will soon become public? It isn’t the first time they have underestimated Mac sales, and I wonder why customers of IDC and Gartner aren’t complaining and asking for refunds for the faulty data.

Consider that, when some auto makers fudged their fuel economy estimates, the U.S. EPA forced them to fix the ratings, and, in some cases, give partial refunds or rebates to customers.

I’m more concerned over a tech media that takes estimates from industry surveys at face value, and doesn’t take a few moments to do some research to check their track records. How does quoting without comment or perspective serve the interest of the reader?

Or maybe I’m taking to myself.

The real surprising news from Apple was the report of double-digit sales growth for the iPad. It’s the second consecutive quarter of increased sales. After several years of flagging demand, does that indicate that Apple has finally discovered the magic bullet to grow its tablet? Certainly the new Pro models helped, and I’m sure the release of a $329 iPad in the original 9.7-inch configuration served as a highly affordable upgrade path for those with older models.

What also helped is the fact that iOS 11 included a number of features that advanced iPad multitasking to a level that clearly recognized its potential for productivity. I wouldn’t replace my MacBook Pro with one, at least not yet, but the possibilities are more intriguing. And isn’t it interesting to see Apple copy or modify some macOS features, such as the Dock, to deliver an iOS equivalent that improves multitasking? That’s an interesting turn of events, especially since some people complained that Apple was engaged in the iOSification of the macOS interface. Maybe a little, but that might just be more about greater consistency across platforms.

Despite all the negative press about the Apple Watch, it’s clear customers are embracing them more and more. When you read about sales improvements on the 50% range, it’s clear there’s still lots of potential in the platform. I found it particularly interesting how the Apple Watch may have, in fact, influenced the development of the iPhone X, at least according to a recent AppleInsider article from tech columnist Daniel Eran Dilger.

So until the skeptics find new and unlikely things to complain about, Apple is definitely on a roll as far as positive press is concerned.


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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