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  • Newsletter Issue #944

    January 1st, 2018

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Apple put itself in the thick of it when trying to do something that was actually meant to help improve the customer experience with iPhones. In confronting a problem where some iPhones would suddenly shut down even though the battery still had a charge, Apple evidently realized it only happened when the battery was in need of replacement. So it updated iOS to smooth the power spikes and allow for proper operation. But that also meant that peak performance potential was sharply reduced.

    I suppose it didn’t matter to most people, except perhaps for apps that took longer to launch and some functions took longer to do. Regardless, once it was discovered in benchmarks that these iPhones were running slower, the conspiracy theories had it that Apple crippled them to trick you into buying a new one.

    Evidently some people did just that.

    Better late than never, Apple admitted to something that customers should have been warned about from the get-go. When your battery charge hits 20%, you are given the choice of switching to a lower power mode to conserve battery life. But when performance is reduced because the battery is worn out, there is no warning.

    Faced with a growing number of complaints and class-action lawsuits, Apple agreed they screwed up. Until the end of 2018, you’ll be able to replace the battery of an iPhone 6 or later for $29, rather than the usual $79. I expect third-party dealers will have to follow suit. A future iOS update will allow you to check battery health on your device.

    But what about the people who bought new iPhones because they didn’t realize a simple battery replacement would fix their device? Are they entitled to refunds? Apple’s nanny state attitude was the wrong choice. Detailed release notes for the iOS updates that crippled performance, plus a prompt warning customers that the battery was in need of replacement, would have done wonders.

    In the meantime, some other smartphone makers allege they don’t reduce performance under such circumstances. Maybe so, but that would mean that customers with spent batteries must suffer the consequences and are thus left to fend for themselves.

    In the meantime, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured cybersecurity expert Dr. Eric Cole, Ph.D., who served as Cybersecurity Commissioner for President Obama, the personal cybersecurity advisor for Bill Gates and his family, is a former Senior Vice President at McAfee, and was the Chief Scientist at Lockheed Martin, where he specialized in secure network design advising the Dept. of Defense, the FBI, and the Dept. of Homeland Security. A leading expert on cybersecurity, Dr. Cole discussed consumer protection, major corporate hacks, such as the large-scale intrusion into Equifax that impacted tens of millions of people, and cybersecurity best practices. Dr. Eric Cole’s newest book is “Online Danger: How to protect yourself and your loved ones from the evil side of the internet.”

    You also heard from outspoken commentator and podcaster Peter Cohen, who had a lot to say about the recent revelation that Apple deliberately throttles iPhone performance when the battery is deteriorated. Confronted with class-action lawsuits, Apple has not only apologized for not informing customers in advance of what it was doing, but is offering to replace batteries on the affected models for $29, and release an iOS update that will allow you to check battery health. The difficulty in improving battery technology to make them hold a charge longer and handle more charging cycles was also discussed. Gene brought up the Apple TV 4K, and whether smart TV sets, such as the 2017 VIZIO M-Series display that he’s reviewing, which contains Google Chromecast, lessens the need for a separate streaming box.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present the return of internationally known cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, author of Mothman: Evil Incarnate, a brand new companion title to the late John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies (1975), which investigated the sightings of a winged creature called Mothman and became popularized in the 2002 movie of the same name starring Richard Gere. Loren is founder and director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine. The episode will also include a forthright discussion of the chatter surrounding the recent revelation of a secret Pentagon UFO research project.

    A REALITY CHECK ABOUT THE MOST EXPENSIVE MAC

    When the original Bondi blue iMac appeared in the summer of 1998, I would not have predicted where the product would go in the next 19 years. Not even close.

    At first, the iMac was marketed as a relatively low cost ($1,299) personal computer using repurposed PowerBook parts powering a 15-inch CRT display. At the time, the design got accolades for its translucent look, but not so much for the decision to dump legacy ports and focus on Ethernet and USB. There wasn’t even a floppy drive.

    Over the years, the iMac got faster. Beginning with the late 2009 27-inch model, it became a credible mainstream computer that, for many purposes, was near as useful as a Mac Pro. That’s when I made the switch.

    As you know, the Mac Pro languished. The new “trash can” version in 2013 might have won awards for industrial design, but it didn’t exactly meet the needs of customers. Until the spring of 2017, it seemed as if Apple just wanted to abandon the professional market for good.

    An April meeting with a small group of tech reporters brought the news that a new modular Mac Pro was under development, but it wouldn’t arrive in 2017. It’s expected in 2018 along with a redesigned Thunderbolt display. In passing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple offer an 8K display to accommodate the format being used by more and more movie makers. Even the latest Final Cut Pro X, version 10.4, supports editing 8K content.

    The other news was about adding pro features to the iMac, but I didn’t anticipate this meant a new model with the guts of what you’d expect to see in a Mac Pro. The iMac Pro, now shipping, features an Intel Xeon-W CPU with up to 18 cores, high-end AMD graphics, ECC RAM, and NVME storage of up to 4TB. It starts at $4,999 but, maxed out, it will cost $13,199.

    In comparison, a 2017 27-inch iMac 5K with all the goodies, including a 4.2GHz Intel Core i7 CPU, 64GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD, reaches $5,299. That’s still a pretty powerful beast that goes way beyond the capabilities, and market focus, of the original iMac.

    So when you are hitting prices that, in 2018 dollars, reach the personal computing stratosphere, the question is which Mac to buy if you must do professional work. If you can afford to spend approximately $5,000 on an all-in-one personal computer, do you consider the most expensive regular iMac or the cheapest iMac Pro?

    Now one argument against the iMac line is the inability to do much in the way of upgrades. While RAM replacements are simple on the iMac 5K, iMac Pro upgrades require taking the unit completely apart, a process probably best left to a dealer. But according to published teardown reports, the CPU, RAM and SSD are all socketed, so such upgrades are possible if you can get the parts. The graphics hardware, however, is evidently soldered to the logic board.

    Does that make the iMac Pro a poor choice for pros? Should they maybe wait for the arrival of the Mac Pro, and hope it’ll meet Apple’s promise about upgradeability?

    In an excellent review of the entry-level iMac Pro in AppleInsider, reviewer Max Yuryev, who has a video production background, makes an important point about the lack of easy upgrades.

    He writes: “It may seem that those making a living with a high-end computer would want a machine that is user upgradable — which is true in some cases — but talking to many of my colleagues, most of them buy a machine and use it for three to five years, until they feel like it’s time to buy a new one.”

    If Yuryev’s statement applies to most pros, that means there may only be a rarified audience for a modular Mac Pro.

    Regardless, the real issue is which iMac is best suited to one’s needs.

    You’d think that a machine with a minimum price shy of five grand would meet most anyone’s requirements in a personal computing workstation. But it goes to the focus of the chips Apple uses. Without going into the extensive details you’ll find in the AppleInsider piece, what is clear is that the regular iMac excels in single-core performance, whereas the iMac Pro does its best with multicore functions. That’s a key difference between the Core CPUs and the Xeons.

    Surprisingly, Final Cut Pro X actually ran a little faster on the iMac 5K. This is evidently due to a feature known as Intel Quick Sync, which is available on the Core chips that have integrated graphics, but not on the Xeons, since they don’t. Even Adobe Photoshop doesn’t run a whole lot faster on the iMac Pro.

    But a lot of specialty chores, including editing 8K video, are tailor made for a computer with a Xeon CPU. That’s where the iMac Pro comes into its own, and why it appears to be a tremendous value for Mac users who do that sort of work. For most of us, the iMac 5K is just the ticket, and they start at just $1,799.

    Indeed, when you factor in the value of Apple’s 5K display, its enhanced color palette and other goodies, the 27-inch iMac is a real bargain. If you try to find a standalone 5K display, about the only one out there appears to be the LG UltraFine 5K display, a product designed with Apple’s help. Promised models from Dell and HP aren’t even being advertised as current product.

    As to the most expensive Mac in the current lineup, published reports indicate that Apple’s pricing is very much in line with similarly equipped PCs. Now let’s see what they do with the Mac Pro. Will it just contain the guts of the iMac Pro in an expandable case, or go the whole hog and offer even more powerful and expensive parts?

    Meantime, the iMac Pro is clearly designed for a certain percentage of Mac users with specialized workflows. But for most of you, it’s little more than an expensive indulgence.

    THE FINAL WORD

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

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #944”

    1. John Blagden says:

      Re the proposed Mac Pro, not everyone is doing 8K video using Final Cut, which the iMac Pro is aiming at. I would guess that the majority of the computers in the design industry are working mainly using Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, all Adobe products. Adobe don’t have multiple-core expertise (or if they have they are hiding it well). They also use CUDA for acceleration, and no current Mac has an NVIDEA graphics card that will accelerate CUDA.

      Therefore, a modular Mac Pro with the ability to hold PCI Flash drives in RAID combinations, along with PCI slots for NVIDEA cards, Thunderbolt, USB-C etc, will give an upgrade path to all the people still using silver-tower Mac Pro’s or Hackintosh’s. The latter are probably doomed in the long term anyway as Apple makes installation of the OS using images harder by tying it to the particular Mac model.

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