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  • Newsletter Issue #960

    April 23rd, 2018

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Some Apple commentators are known to speak out of turn, meaning in this case about matters they know little or nothing about. Take the story that Apple will bundle iOS and macOS apps as fat binaries so they can run at both platforms. It turns out that these stories were based on what appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding of how Apple’s development process works. Let’s leave it at that.

    There are also the renewed set of rumors that Apple is prepping a switch f0r Macs to ARM processors, similar or the same as the ones used in iPads. But is this possible? That part of the story may be credible, since both iOS and macOS are based on the same core. The switch from PowerPC to Intel was mostly free of serious problems, so moving the Mac to Apple’s own chip designs might even be an easier process.

    There will still have to be an Intel emulation scheme so you can run your old apps. But what happens to Boot Camp and virtual machines that can run Windows and other operating systems with great performance? What do you give up?

    That depends on what sort of emulation scheme Apple devises, and whether the ARM-based chips are so powerful that the performance loss might be barely noticeable. If the processor, run without the tight restrictions of a mobile platform, can run much faster, it might be possible.

    I suppose Apple could also license some Intel technology, and have them fabricate the Apple-on-ARM processors to provide an ongoing income stream even after the switchover.

    In any case, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented outspoken commentator and podcaster Peter Cohen, who focused on such topics as recent concerns about the alleged poor sales of Apple’s HomePod smart speaker system. You also heard Peter explain why he loves his Apple Watch, what he uses it for, and about its ongoing success; it’s now the best selling wearable in the world. And what about the possibilities for the next Mac Pro, due some time in 2019 according to Apple? What about renewed rumors that Apple plans to move Macs from Intel processors to its own ARM-based designs? Are there pitfalls? What about emulating Intel apps, at least at the start, and running Windows apps as you can do now on a Mac? To be brief, Gene remains skeptical that it’s going to happen anytime soon, despite the fact that it seems quite possible for Apple to deal with the potential pitfalls.

    You also heard from John Martellaro, Senior Editor, Analysis & Reviews for The Mac Observer. The bill of fare this week included Apple CEO Tim Cook’s denial that Apple plans to merge iOS and macOS into some sort of converged product. What about Amazon’s Fire TV Edition sets, and will they do what Apple TV can’t? Should Apple be licensing its set-top box technology to TV makers? John also discussed the reported sales struggles of the HomePod, and how the next Mac Pro, due in 2019, will be “fundamentally different” from previous models because Apple plans to focus heavily on making professional workflows run more efficiently. And what about Apple’s recent educational event, where a new $329 iPad was introduced? Could it be that Apple is attempting to regain traction in the educational market with an obsolete formula? Can they possibly turn things around, or are Chromebooks going to continue to stay ahead?

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast:  Gene, special guest cohost Don Ecker, and panelist Michael Allen, welcome Dr. Dean Radinto The Paracast. Dr. Radin is the author of “Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe.” He is Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and Associated Distinguished Professor of Integral and Transpersonal Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He earned an MS in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Before joining the research staff at IONS in 2001, he held appointments at AT&T Bell Labs, Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, and SRI International.

    USING AN ISP’S ROUTER — NOT SO FAST!

    As most of you know, Apple hasn’t updated its AirPort routers in five years. Even though development has reportedly ceased, there have been occasional firmware updates, and the aging products are still being sold by Apple for the same prices. Perhaps the company feels that the technology hasn’t changed all that much. Most new routers merely refine existing technology, except for those so-called “mesh” gadgets designed to provide better coverage by using multiple devices in a larger home or business.

    A quick visit to your local consumer electronics store will reveal a decent selection ranging from the inexpensive to the costlier models that promise better coverage and speed. Unfortunately, the specs don’t reveal much to the prospective purchaser, and they aren’t always as easy to set up as they should be. This is where the AirPort excelled.

    The ones I’ve tried recently come with a setup assistant designed to configure the unit to your system. Some offer default network names and tough passwords; others don’t consider password security, which means they are easy to guess unless changed.

    But ISPs also offer cable or DSL modems with built-in routers, so where’s the need to buy one? If you don’t buy your own equipment, you’ll be leasing one for roughly $10 a month, which you pay forever, unless you realize that buying might be best. Well, at least until a new technology comes out.

    So some cable companies are rolling out equipment that support the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which makes it possible to achieve gigabit downloads without replacing all the wiring to your home with fiber. It’s done via a clever mix of multiple streams. In the Phoenix area, Cox offers Gigablast, but it only runs that fast with downloads. Uploads are limited to 35 megabits for now, but a “full duplex” version of DOCSIS 3.1, introduced last year, will allow gigabit speeds in both directions someday.

    Since I need to make do with lower cost packages, I’ve opted for the best bundles I can find, and tolerate the slower performance. For a while, I lived in a home where “amenity” Internet was provided free, The service, supported by Access Media 3, offered 15 megabit downloads, 3 megabit uploads, plus a free basic Dish Network package to all residents.

    While both Cox and CenturyLink are available in the Phoenix area, not all residential units support both. Many apartments and housing complexes are wired by one or the other, thus excluding the competitor. That’s my problem where I live now, where CenturyLink is the sole option. But the packages offered are decent enough with “lifetime” pricing guarantees.

    The lat apartment I lived at offered both. I opted for Cox, and the leased cable modem, an Arris Panoramic, offered decent Wi-Fi coverage. So I put my existing review routers on the bookshelf.

    Now that I’m in a new and more affordable home, I had to choose CenturyLink. The installer set up a Zyxel C3000Z, a DSL modem that also includes Wi-Fi. But switching from wired to wireless took a huge toll on performance, more so than the Arris modem with the Cox connection. At best, I’d get half the rated speed.

    After spending about an hour with CenturyLink support, I ended up frustrated. They claimed it was due to all the devices I was using, but even when it was culled to one, I observed little difference.

    So I looked over two review products from Amped Wireless that I had been meaning to test.

    I switched off the Wi-Fi radios on the CenturyLink router, and attached the high-end Athena-R2 High Power AC2600 router, listing for $199.99, to one of the Ethernet ports of the Zyxel. Quick benchmarks revealed up to a 25% performance boost over the native setup that was maintained consistently regardless of the distance from my office area in the apartment.

    Within a day, I ran into a glitch I’d encountered before, where the unit randomly power cycled. It would act is if I pulled the power cord and reinserted it, thus causing a short lapse in service until it rebooted. The company claims the problem is highly unusual and is attempting to figure out a cause.

    Next I attached yet another router from the company, the $179.99 Helios High Power AC2200 Trim-Band Wi-FI Router. This unit is optimized to manage more connections, and thus contains a second 5 GHz stream.

    This was the magic bullet. While Wi-Fi connection speeds were lower than Ethernet, the loss was maybe 30% in the bedroom with all my gear connected. I can live with that. It’s surprising that the cheaper product, with three rather than four antennas, offers superior performance.

    It also goes to show that you may not want to depend on the gear your ISP supplies. If you want the best possible performance, you may also want to consider my solution, a separate router, particularly if you didn’t sign up for the fastest broadband package offered.

    (Update!) Apple’s AirPort is no longer an item to consider to replace your ISP’s router. The lineup has been discontinued, and remaining inventory is being sold off,

    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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    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #960”

    1. dfs says:

      One nice thing about Apple’s Airport Express: the audio jack. When I wanted to convert a pair of speakers (with a built-in amp) which use a 3.5 mm. plug into wireless speakers, all I had to do was dig an old Express out of a drawer and in no time at all I was good to go. Works with headphones too. Many more modern wi-fi systems lack this very useful feature.

    2. Seth Lewin says:

      Comcast’s gigabit X1 gateway device is another problematic one. Fed by coax it provides internet and phone, serving as a WiFi router as well. Trouble is, it assigns IPv6 addresses to devices on your LAN and makes it almost impossible to figure out which is which. This was so aggravating that I put it in bridge mode, added a Netgear Nighthawk series router behind it and all was well; no problems; everything worked as it was expected to. Nasty surprise, though, not being able to find my NAS or printers. Not such a bright idea, Comcast.

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