Fact-checking Network World

I don’t know if you’ve seen this piece from Network World titled What the IoT Industry Can Learn from Apple’s Revival of the Mac. I’m sure the author has some great points to make, but those points are baseless when rooted in blatant misinformation. I’m not going to deconstruct the whole article — just the two paragraphs that John Gruber called, “maybe the dumbest two paragraphs about the Mac I’ve ever read.

Here are the paragraphs in question:

In 2007, the Mac was on life support. Consumers and companies bought Windows XP and Vista machines instead of Macs. The Mac had been very proprietary up until then. The hardware platform was based on the Motorola 6800 family, which came in third behind Intel and AMD and the PowerPC. It ran a proprietary OS with components of FreeBSD Unix, but it was not Unix compliant.

The Mac transitioned that same year. It had been a proprietary device running a proprietary operating system, with a beautiful proprietary user interface (UI) in an elegant ergonomically designed enclosure. Apple pivoted by shifting to the Intel platform and FreeBSD Unix, complying to the Single UNIX Specification (SUS). The Mac today is a PC running an open-source operating system with beautiful proprietary UI in even more elegantly designed enclosures. FreeBSD influenced the evolution of the MacOS. Since the transition, many FreeBSD Unix components were rewritten and many APIs were added.

So let’s take this a bit at a time.

“In 2007, the Mac was on life support.” Apple was moving over 1.5 billion Macs per quarter in 2007. It’s nothing compared to today, but it was far from life support. If you want to talk about life support, you have to jump back to the 1990s.

“The Mac had been very proprietary up until then.” If by proprietary, you mean using the same wireless standard as the rest of the industry, using widely adopted ports like USB and HDMI, having an operating system built on UNIX, a browser built on the open source WebKit, and using the standard x86 architecture in all of their computers, then sure. Apple today is arguably more proprietary than the Apple of 2007.

“The hardware platform was based on the Motorola 6800 family…” Oh my. It hurts. First, Apple used PowerPC processors from 1996 to 2006. Prior to that, they used Motorola 68000 processors, not 6800. By 2007, the year at the beginning of the article, Apple had entirely transitioned to Intel processors.

“The Mac transitioned that same year.” Nope on all counts but one. 2007 is the year Mac OS X complied with the Single UNIX Specification. But the operating system had been based on FreeBSD since 2001 (really since the 90s if you count its NextStep roots); Apple had transitioned to Intel in 2006.

“The Mac today is a PC running an open-source operating system with beautiful proprietary UI in even more elegantly designed enclosures.” Today’s macOS is really no more open than it was when it came out in 2001. If the author had been comparing today’s Macs to those of 1996, this might make sense, but he’s not.

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Maybe It’s a Piece of Dust

The Outline: The New MacBook Keyboard Is Ruining My Life

I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer’s black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn’t respond. There were no mysteriously faulty innerworkings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken — it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice.

“Maybe it’s a piece of dust,” the Genius had offered. The previous times I’d been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem — a misbehaving keyboard — Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn’t believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. “Hold on,” I said. “If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don’t you think that’s kind of a problem?”

In every other computer I’ve owned before I bought the latest MacBook Pro last fall, fixing this would have begun by removing the key and peering around in its well to see if it was simply dirty. Not this keyboard. In fact, all of Apple’s keyboards are now composed of a single, irreparable piece of technology. There is no fixing it; there is only replacing half the computer.

While I’m very excited about the direction of iOS — even to the point of considering an iPad as my next laptop — the Mac is concerning. Laptops are not supposed to be disposable devices. Computers, particularly ones that will cost well north of a thousand dollars, should be reliably long term investments.

Except for one MacBook Pro, all of my Macs have lasted over five years, and two have gone as long as seven. That second-generation MacBook Pro, my shortest-lived computer, still broke four years. I’d be nervous that one of the new MacBooks would do as well.

 

Luna Display’s New Button

Astro HQ: While Apple Is Taking Away Buttons, We Found a Way to Add One.

We set out to find an alternative to the Astropad ring. The obvious first option was to make a new gesture, but we realized pretty quickly that there was limited room for this. Every edge of the iPad is already occupied with an existing gesture: swipe up for your dock, left to search, and down for notifications. We really needed something novel to work with.

Our Astro HQ cofounder Giovanni Donelli said that the idea to turn the camera into a button came like lightning, “I had been staring at a white bezel iPad for so long, and I kept wishing there was another home button we could use. My eyes kept falling on the camera, and I really wanted to touch it!” Giovanni built an initial prototype of the Camera Button within an hour.

This whole article kind of blows my mind.

iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review: India

Austin Mann: iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review: India

I’m writing to you from a small hotel room in India having just experienced a magical adventure in western India orchestrated by friends at Ker & Downey. I’ve shot thousands of images and countless portraits with the iPhone 8 Plus and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.

While the iPhone 8 Plus looks essentially the same as the phone we’ve had since the 6 Plus, there are some new features in the 8 Plus which really impact creative pros across the board — most notably Portrait Lighting, along with a few other hidden gems.

From what I hear, the Pixel 2 has an excellent camera too. The arms race in technology used to be about raw speed. Now that we’ve moved to more convergent mobile devices, I’d say the camera is the new and most exciting battlefront.

The Definitive iOS 11 Review

iOS 11: The MacStories Review

If you’ve ever read any of John Siracusa’s incredibly detailed OS X reviews for Ars Technica, that’s what you are in for whenever Federico Viticci reviews an iOS release. So save this for when you have some time on your hands. Then brew a pot of tea, get comfortable, and enjoy.

One quote:

iOS 11 shows that perhaps we’ve been looking at the iPad’s trajectory from a distorted angle – guilty of framing our expectations with an iPhone model that the iPad can’t follow. Maybe the iPad doesn’t need to be in the same lane as the iPhone, advancing at the same speed every year. As iPad users, maybe we shouldn’t expect the future to be reinvented on an annual basis.

More than a follow-up to iOS 9, iOS 11 feels like a reintroduction of the iPad seven years after its launch. It would have been easier for Apple to take what worked in iOS 9 and smooth it out around the edges, releasing a spiritual “iOS 9.5”. A lot of iPad-only users would have been satisfied with such a release.

But Apple has bigger ambitions. With the tablet industry at an inflection point, iOS 11 sets the iPad on a bold, adventurous mission:

Rethinking the Mac.

Some Apple Watch Series 3 Reading

Daring Fireball: Apple Watch Series 3

With the addition of cellular networking in Series 3, Apple Watch gains something essential: independence. It’s not just a cool feature. It’s aimed smack dab in the middle of the two things people like best about Apple Watch: notifications and fitness. When are you separated from your iPhone? When you’re exercising. What do you miss most when you’re away from your phone? Messages and phone calls.

Phone anxiety is a weird, and, for me at least, irrational thing. I know that mankind survived for millennia without the ability to communicate with each other out of earshot. But once you get used to having your phone with you at all times, you get used to feeling that if anyone needs you, they can get you.

Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular networking completely alleviates this anxiety. It is not a replacement for a phone, and is not supposed to be.But it lets you leave your phone at home when you go for a run, or in your locker while you’re at the gym, or in your hotel while you go to the beach, and not worry in the least that you’re out of touch.

The New York Times: Apple Watch Series 3 Excels, Even if You Don’t Need Cellular

Although I think most people can skip buying the cellular model, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smart watch I can confidently recommend that people buy. While I don’t personally find it attractive enough to replace my wristwatch, the new Apple Watch is a well-designed, durable and easy-to-use fitness tracker for people who want analytics on their workouts and general health (R.I.P., Fitbit).

Important features like the stopwatch, calendar and Siri work quickly and reliably. And unlike its predecessors, the watch has impressive battery life — on average, I had more than 40 percent battery remaining after a full day of use.

So the final verdict? The Apple Watch Series 3 is the first sign that wearable computers are maturing and may eventually become a staple in consumer electronics.

The Verge: Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE Review: Missed Connections

Phone calls did sometimes work from the Watch, but I had to manually tap through my contacts or recent calls list on the Watch and initiate the call that way. (Calls through Bluetooth headphones sound good, but the Watch’s built-in audio isn’t ideal for extended conversations.) By 11:42 that morning, after 60 minutes of working out with LTE, multiple attempts to use Siri, and two seven-minute phone calls, the Watch’s battery had drained to 27 percent.

So Apple replaced my original review unit with a second Series 3 Watch, also connected to AT&T’s wireless network. Siri was now audibly responding, which the company later said was attributable to the fact that the first batch of preproduction units hadn’t been set up properly with Siri.

But that doesn’t mean the LTE connectivity issues went away. On more than one occasion, I detached myself from the phone, traveled blocks away from my home or office, and watched the Watch struggle to connect to LTE. It would appear to pick up a single bar of some random Wi-Fi signal, and hang on that, rather than switching to LTE.

The Verge: Apple Admits to Apple Watch LTE Problems Just Before It Ships

Eventually, the company issued an official statement, acknowledging the issue. “We have discovered that when Apple Watch Series 3 joins unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks without connectivity, it may at times prevent the watch from using cellular,” an Apple spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are investigating a fix for a future software release.”

Unfortunately, we still don’t know when that software release is expected, or exactly how it will fix the issue of the Watch connecting to cellular networks when it’s supposed to.

iMore: Apple Watch Series 3’s “LTE Problems” Are Actually an Existing Wi-Fi Bug

Essentially, the Series 3 GPS + Cellular watch tries to save battery life at all times by using your iPhone’s connection, or failing that, a Wi-Fi network. What’s happening here is that the watch is attempting to jump on a so-called “captive” network — a public network with an interstitial login prompt or terms and conditions agreement. (You’ve probably seen these at a Starbucks, McDonalds, or Panera.)

In theory, the Apple Watch shouldn’t be allowed to connect to captive networks at all, because there’s no way for it to get through that interstitial layer. Unfortunately, watchOS 4 has a bug where captive networks are being recognized identically to normal saved Wi-Fi networks — so while you’re technically “connected” to a network, you won’t be able to connect to the internet; nor will you be able to go to cellular, because the Watch’s auto-switching prevents you from connecting.

When the Apple Watch first came out, I was pretty unmoved. It was interesting only in that it was an Apple product in which I felt no interest. Then Series 2 came out, and I came *this close* to buying one. Series 3 might put me over the edge, especially since my employer allows us to claim them as wellness devices for which we can receive reimbursement.

I’ll probably opt for the GPS-only model. I’m not ready to add a watch to my data plan quite yet; I’d also like to give Apple some time to get the connectivity issues reliably hammered out.

John Gruber On the iPhone 8

Daring Fireball: The iPhones 8

No one is going to describe the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus as having a radical new design. But they do have new glass backs that are the biggest change to their finishings since this general form factor started with the iPhone 6. The displays have gained True Tone. The cameras are significantly improved, both for still images and video. (Did I mention that both the 8 and 8 Plus can shoot true 4K video at 60 frames per second when you use the new HEVC format instead of the more compatible H.264?) The iPhone 8 Plus gets the new Portrait mode lighting effects. Both phones have the amazing A11 Bionic chip. They get inductive charging.

These are solid year-over-year updates — at least as impressive as the iPhone 7 was over the iPhone 6S. If they hadn’t debuted alongside the iPhone X we’d be arguing about whether these are the most impressive new iPhone models since the iPhone 6. There’s a lot to love about them and nothing to dislike.

John Gruber’s impressions are clear and concise. If all you want is the latest and greatest tech, the iPhone 8 isn’t going to impress you. However, it’s unfair to say they haven’t made any serious improvements since the last generation. My wife’s phone (an iPhone 6) is ready to be replaced, and I was ready to settle on an iPhone 7 after the press event. Reading this review gives me confidence the iPhone 8 will be a better move in the long run.

Another Day, Another Vulnerability

Mashable:

The vulnerability, known as BlueBorne, was discovered by security research firm Armis. The researchers were able to infiltrate a Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy phones, an LG Sports Watch, and a car audio system by attacking Bluetooth, according to the report. The researchers were able to remotely steal data from the devices and take control of their cameras.

The researchers also noted that the other devices are at risk, including Android, Microsoft, Samsung, and Linux products, and iPhones and iPads that haven’t been upgraded to iOS 10.

We can talk all day about the advantages and disadvantages of Apple products, but as long as they are at the top of the heap when it comes to privacy and security, all of the other arguments become moot.

Advertisers Don’t Like Privacy

Adweek: Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser

Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice. As organizations devoted to innovation and growth in the consumer economy, we will actively oppose any actions like this by companies that harm consumers by distorting the digital advertising ecosystem and undermining its operations.

Put another way, Apple’s approach to cookies is bad because it makes it harder for products and brands to stalk you online. And there is nothing “innovative” about making sure the highest bidder is always what’s most visible to consumers.

It takes a special level of evil to take something that’s universally acknowledged as bad (like perpetual online behavior tracking) and try to sell the idea that this is good for consumers. I guess it’s just marketing. This is where the ad industry is.

Unpacking Apple’s September 12 Event

This fall’s Apple iPhone event has come and gone almost exactly as expected. Still, there were a few surprising moments in the script, and some of the technology was pretty incredible to see live on stage. And that was the point. Apple’s keynotes — while not above hyperbole and the occasional celebrity walk-on — tend to be calmer affairs. They focus on the products and often let them speak for themselves.

On Retail

Apple’s big focus here is to make their stores even more of a gathering place than they already are. It’s interesting to see them pushing forward in this area despite the fact they already have incredibly successful retail locations. Our local Apple store is easily the most trafficked location in its mall, perhaps even more than the food court. Retail is the experiment that conventional wisdom said wouldn’t work, yet it has for Apple.

One of the best ways to sell an Apple product is to put it in someone’s hands. Apple retail locations offer that experience far better than any online research or big box store could. Their focus on classes and events gives people a reason to come back time and again. That they’re not resting on their past success here shows they don’t want to lose that magic.

On Apple TV

I didn’t get to see my mythical Apple TV set, but their streaming box gained 4K and the two major HDR standards. It’s also way more powerful, running the same architecture that’s in the current iPad Pro lineup. Unfortunately, Apple has chose not to compete on price. The non-4K Apple TV is starting at $149 with 4K coming in at $179.

To offset that price a bit comes iTunes movie pricing. Apple will be offering 4K content at the same price as HD content. This means no messy upgrade fees like when iTunes transitioned from SD to HD. Right now, The Lego Batman Movie is $30 for digital 4K from Google Play, but it will be $20 in iTunes. If this same pricing structure carries over to movie rentals, I see this being an advantage for Apple.

On Apple Watch

Apple isn’t the first to bring out a cellular connected watch. I believe that honor goes to Samsung. However, all evidence points to the fact that Apple Watch eclipses all other smart watch sales at this time, so this will be new to most people. It’s hard to say how much being able to make calls and texts independently from your watch may shift the mobile industry, but I think this could be a game changer for Apple Watch. Maybe Apple executives will finally start reporting sales numbers on their financial calls.

On iPone 8

It’s a faster iPhone 7. At the end of the day, had Apple retained their naming pattern, this would have been iPhone 7S. It really is just a refinement of the previous generation, which is a good thing in itself. It also features double the storage of the current iPhone 7 models on Apple’s site, but the color options have become conspicuously more limited.

If you are on the fence between an iPhone 7 and an iPhone 8, the decision should come down to one factor: can you live with 32 GB of storage? If the answer to that is yes, save $150 and go with the iPhone 7. If, like me, you find 32 GB restrictive, opt for the iPhone 8.

On iPhone X

This is where the real news is. If iPhone 8 is an iteration of all that the iPhone line has built up to over the past decade, iPhone X (inexplicably pronounced “ten”) represents a break from that tradition to explore new territory. At $999, this model is going to be too expensive for many consumers who will instead pine for iPhone X while purchasing iPhone 8. I think that’s the point.

As noted by others, Apple has a scale problem. Apple usually ships over 200 million new iPhones a year. Even their biggest competitor, Samsung, may only ship a quarter of that number for their most recent flagship. This means Apple can’t include a new technology that can’t be efficiently produced 200 million times a year. Enter iPhone X. Unlike iPhone 8, Apple plans on not shipping 200 million of these, giving them the time to ramp up production on the more advanced features that will eventually trickle down to future standard models.

Do I want an iPhone X? Absolutely, I do. Am I actually going to get one? There’s almost no chance. Here’s the trickier question: does it justify its price tag? I think it does, based on three factors:

  1. The OLED screen. There aren’t many OLED phones on the market, and that’s because the technology is still expensive. Check out TV prices at your local Best Buy, and you will notice most 55″ televisions are under $1,000. In contrast, the least expensive OLED you will find is the LG B7 at about $2,000. If you want a 75″ OLED, you’ll be paying over $10,000 as opposed to roughly $3,000 for an LED. Apple isn’t dealing with screens this size, but the transition to OLED will still be a significant factor in the price.
  2. The Facial Technology. The Animoji demo might have been overly cute, but it did demonstrate just how good Apple’s facial mapping technology is. It looks on par with what I’ve seen in Adobe Character Animator CC, which is $19.99 a month (or almost $240 a year) with After Effects. Time will tell how secure or reliable it is in unlocking your phone, but there’s no denying some expensive tech went into that feature.
  3. The Processor. This is the one advanced feature iPhone X shares with iPhone 8. Early benchmarks put the A11 processor on par with the processor shipping in Apple’s 13″ MacBook Pro.

You put those together with the build quality and other features, and, yes, you have a $999 device in your hands. Whether or not you feel a phone is worth that to you is your call, but iPhone X earns its price tag.

No-shows and Conclusion

This event didn’t talk about the Mac at all, but I was foolish to hope it would. Apple seldom mentions the Mac at their fall iPhone events. They are too focused for that. If the Mac mini is to receive an update, it will probably be a stealth upgrade on their site. As for the iMac Pro or the future Mac Pro, they will get an event all to themselves.

I was a little disappointed the iPod touch or iPad mini didn’t get speed bumps. They are clearly running the oldest architecture of iOS devices, and it’s beginning to show. If Apple doesn’t give them some love soon, I feel strongly they should simply discontinue them.

In the end, Apple made a strong showing that will spur much enthusiasm and discussion. It was an event punctuated by the past — given in the Steve Jobs theater complete with a tribute to the former CEO, nods to the evolution of the original iPhone he introduced, background music featured in ads of Apple past. It also gave us a view of the future, bringing out a phone that is as much prototype as it is product.

The last few months have been interesting for Apple, after a period of time where it felt like they were coasting, Apple seems intent on reinventing themselves again, and that’s always when they are at their strongest.