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  • Newsletter Issue #966

    June 5th, 2018

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    So will Apple move Macs to its ARM processors? It’s a romantic ideal, but it’s not something that appears to be in the cards right now, maybe never. One clue was the fact that developers would have to be clued in early about a processor change, and nothing was said about it at this year’s WWDC keynote.

    That, however, doesn’t mean there aren’t Macs with A-series CPUs running in Apple’s test labs. That’s really par for the course to always have alternatives in case Intel’s slipping processor roadmaps continue to slip even further. It will also be interesting to see how much Apple has managed to boost CPU performance for the next generation iPhones. As it stands, they benchmark in the same range as most notebook PCs, with double-digit boosts every year.

    At the same time, you will no doubt see those fancy system-on-a-chip additions to new Macs to manage low-level functions, and free the Intel chips to crunch  numbers with less overhead. Remember, too, that developers will be able to port iOS apps to macOS next year — a few Apple apps are getting that treatment for macOS 10.14 Mojave this fall — and that might be a clue as to what’s coming.

    In the meantime, on the weekend before Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), the Night Owl assembled a panel of expert commentators to speculate on what Apple might announce. The main expected development was. as was borne out, the launch of the newest operating systems for iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Macs. Were there loads of new tentpole features, or, as some rumors claim, will Apple take a more measured approach, to reduce the possibility of bugs, a problem that hurt the reliability of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra?

    Our guest panel also speculated on whether or not Apple plans to introduce new Macs and other products. There has been speculation on both sides, mentioning at least some new hardware, or no hardware at all. What about the possibility that Apple will someday release at least some Macs using Apple’s ARM-based CPU? Is that the result of the obstacles Intel has confronted in releasing new silicon? You heard speculation about whether Apple is prepared to demonstrate its promised revision to the Mac Pro, which is expected to be released in 2019, and is the Mac mini an endangered species despite a recent statement from CEO Tim Cook that the company “loves” its smallest and cheapest Mac?

    Our guest panel included outspoken commentator and podcaster Peter Cohen, and commentator Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles, who also explained why he finds it difficult, if not impossible, to recommend any of Apple’s current Macs. Josh also talked about the confusion surrounding all those updated privacy statements to comply with the EU’s difficult-to-understand GDPR regulations.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast:  Gene and cutting-edge commentator Greg Bishop, host of “Radio Misterioso”  spend the episode discussing a variety of subjects related to the world of the paranormal. What, for example, is Greg’s co-creation theory about UFOs and other phenomena all about anyway? Does it mean that he’s unwilling to accept the extraterrestrial hypothesis as the answer to the UFO mystery? A wide-range of topics are discussed, including spirit phenomena and other weird events. And in a short pop culture segment, Greg mentions that the late comic actor, Mel Blanc, the legendary “man of a thousand voices,” actually sang a song with the words “flying saucers” in the title.

    WWDC 2018: FORGET THE HARDWARE

    Last week, there were contrary rumors about whether new Macs, and possibly iPads, would debut this week at the WWDC. It was largely wishful thinking, because there were few indications of impending hardware updates, but since last year’s developer event was flush with hot new gear, there was always a possibility. I even thought Apple might demonstrate the next Mac Pro, expected in 2019. But that didn’t happen either.

    This is not to say there was nothing that would impact hardware. There is a set of performance boosts for iOS 12 that will benefit many iPhone and iPad users, especially those with older hardware who have experienced slowdowns whenever major OS updates arrive.

    It’s a common theme, those slowdowns, which fuel the theory that Apple really wants you to buy new hardware, and thus throttles performance of older gear to hasten the process. It’s not just that the new OS requires more resources to effectively access new features. And this is what has caused people to expect the worst when Apple did release an iOS update that actually reduced performance on some older models.

    Although it was evidently done innocently, Apple failed to explain, at first, that the “fix” was made to keep older iPhones, with deteriorating batteries, from unexpectedly shutting down. Had the release notes been fleshed out correctly, a number of class-action lawsuits may not have been filed. But with iOS 11.3, Apple did something they should have done a long time ago, which was to provide a Battery Health indicator. You can also turn off the throttling feature, but it will return should the unit power down due to a failing battery.

    Now with iOS 12, Apple has evidently focused heavily on ways to boost performance, promising up to 40% faster app launches, up 50% faster keyboard display, and up to 70% faster access to the camera. These performance improvements are based on tests of the iPhone 6s Plus, but evidently applies to newer gear as well.

    iOS 12 will also run on precisely the same hardware as iOS 11, meaning you won’t have to upgrade your gear just yet. You might even find good reason to keep them longer since they will perform noticeably better, assuming Apple’s benchmarks are in the range of what they claim.

    While published reports indicated that Apple would focus mostly on under-the-hood stuff in iOS 12, there are other new features worth a second glance. In response to complaints from Apple’s shareholders, there will be tools to help you reduce the use of certain features, a way to deal with smartphone addiction. Parents will also have extra controls to manage how much time their children spend on their devices.

    Obviously, Apple doesn’t live in a bubble.

    Among the features that don’t excite me in the least is Memoji, additions to the iPhone X’s Animoji feature, which I didn’t care about either.

    This one has possibilities: FaceTime will be able to manage video chats with up to 32 people, potentially a boon for large families that never seem to get together and perhaps workgroups. Apple’s augmented reality tools are also enhanced.

    Mac users get some of the joy too with macOS Mojave. The name had been previously revealed, along with some screenshots that allegedly depicted some of the new features. The Dark Mode is what it says, with APIs for developers to bring their apps in line.

    A Desktop Stacks feature will help you deal with desktop clutter, where files will be organized into piles divided by category. Anyone who has had hundreds or thousands of files flood their desktop will appreciate a feature that should have been added years ago.

    The first group of ported iOS apps will include News, Voice Memos, Stocks and Home. Developers will be able to use Xcode to port their apps by next year.

    And, at long last, Apple will bring its new APFS file system to Macs with Fusion Drives. It’s only a year late. Developers also received betas of the new OS, and the public betas will probably arrive in a few weeks, when the bug list is slimmed some.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that my 2010 MacBook Pro will run macOS 10.14. It evidently requires support for Metal graphics, which mostly limits Mojave to models released in 2012 or later, with the exceptions of some Mac Pros. Still, that’s a mostly six-year spread; no apologies necessary.

    In other announcements, Facebook will not appreciate what Apple is doing to Safari privacy features, which include shutting off the ability to comment, like or share by default. These tools are used by Facebook and other social networks to track site visitors and inflict ads upon them.

    It’s clearly becoming the “in thing” to hate Facebook. I understand teens are also abandoning the service in droves, but that doesn’t mean they are opting for anything better.

    Apple TV 4K and Apple Watch also get some new features. So Dolby Atmos, the most advanced surround sound protocol yet, comes to the former. The dream of the legendary Dick Tracy watch is further realized by adding a walkie-talkie feature to the latter. And to think I remember when my friends and I would make primitive walkie-talkies using empty cans connected by strings.

    Update on Consumer Reports Glitches: The June 2018 issue has a report on smartphone insurance plans, with a chart depicting what it costs to fix common problems, such as battery failures, and broken screens. But rather than getting data from Apple on repairing smartphones, they used a third-party repair tracking service. Maybe that’s the problem. The prices are reportedly based on two 2017 models, the iPhone 8 and the Samsung Galaxy S8+. But why not the iPhone 8 Plus?

    Anyway, the chart claims it will cost $83 to replace a broken headphone jack on an iPhone 8. Evidently CR has forgotten the well-known fact that Apple ditched those old fashioned jacks beginning with the iPhone 7.

    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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