Technology

Technology (22)

General Motors (GM) and French tire manufacturer Michelin announced a partnership for a new airless wheel called the Tweel. Actually, tire manufacturers have been working on airless wheels for decades but apparently, no one has really knocked it out of the park yet. And to be clear, the Tweel already exists but it’s mainly in use for forklifts and lawn mowers and low speed engines. But first of all, what exactly is a Tweel? According to wikipedia:

“The Tweel … an airless tire …  Its significant advantage over pneumatic tires is that the Tweel does not use a bladder full of compressed air, and therefore cannot burst, leak pressure, or become flat. Instead, the Tweels hub is connected to the rim via flexible polyurethane spokes which fulfil the shock-absorbing role provided by the compressed air in a traditional tire.”

Enter the new partnership between GM and Michelin who have partnered under the brand name Uptis. From the join GM/Michelin press release in Montreal:

“Uptis demonstrates that Michelin’s vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream. Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today. General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology. Uptis is an ideal fit for propelling the automotive industry into the future and a great example of how our customers benefit when we collaborate and innovate with our supplier partners.”

Okay. Sounds great. Also, the Tweel tread lasts longer and is replaceable which means much less waste. And I’ve had a tire blow up from hitting a pothole, and, probably just like you - had some tires punctured by nails and whatnot. Buying new tires sucks. So, when can I have one of these new fancy airless tires?

Alas … not until, maybe, 2024. Which sucks because I hate waiting. The other problem is that no one seems to know exactly how much they’ll … well … you know - cost. I mean, I’m one hundred percent on board for the airless tire revolution! But if the Tweels are, say - one thousand dollars each, then I might just have to stick with my trusty old air filled tires. Even if that makes me one of the uncool kids.

But whatever, I’m used to that by now.

Just bring me my airless tire at an affordable cost. That’s not so much to ask. Is it?

Weird, but cool. The reigning champion Korean baseball team, the SK Wyverns, unleashed an augmented reality (AR) image of their team name on audiences for opening day of Korean Baseball.

Fans began the performance by mass pressing the “cheer” button on the App and then the AR wyvern flew through the stadium and caused a bit of AR havoc. Audiences could watch the wyvern on the huge LED baseball screen or through their smartphone app.  

The AR wyvern event was masterminded by SK Telecom, a South Korean wireless telecommunications operator; which is part of the SK Group, one of the country's largest of South Korea’s family-owned business conglomerates.

An SK source said, "Media content service has grown more important recently, and we've come up with a service for baseball games," adding, "SK Telecom thus planned this event to provide a unique experience to spectators using AR and VR technologies."

Beginning this year, SK will bring their AR shows out of just South Korea and tour to larger audiences as well as big stadium events and concert halls in other parts of the world.

The robot uprising, continues. Back in December, Walmart announced a partnership with Brain Corp, a Sand Diego based software technology company. Brain Corp, it seems, will provide the world’s largest retailer with - AI robots! As janitors!

That’s right! Walmart now has robot janitors. Well, not all Walmart's. In fact, back in December it was a rollout program with about 300 or so robots in as many stores. But the program has proven to be wildly successful for the company and so Walmart announced it will add thousands of new robots in more than 4500+ stores. All of which should be operational by February 2020.

Basically, the robots scrub the floor. According to the Brain Corp website, the “Auto-C,” cleaner robots:

“...allow store associates to quickly map a route during an initial training ride and then activate autonomous floor cleaning with the press of a single button. The robot uses multiple sensors to scan its surroundings for people and obstacles … 

But that's not all they can do. They can also scan shelf inventory, scan boxes as they come off delivery trucks and then sort the boxes onto conveyor belts.

Obviously, Walmart puts a largely positive spin on the robot uprising saying the Auto-C is more efficient and that by the way, “no one really likes the job of janitor anyway” (Their words, not mine).  

While it’s true that robots are more efficient than people, it still means that a robot is taking the job of a person. Positive spin aside, I find it unlikely that someone would choose 1) I’m super happy to let a robot take my job vs. 2) I have a job. Especially, since many experts in the field agree that automation will take over approx. 40% of the U.S. jobs in 15-20 years. That’s - well … not great.

Walmart claims that their “smart assistants” will allow workers to focus on selling merchandise & customer service roles. That’s true. What Walmart doesn’t say is that they are going to have to get rid of a large portion of their work staff as they hand jobs over to “smart assistants.” So, yeah - the employees that remain will certainly have more time to focus on selling merchandise. Fact.

The folk that get laid off might want to take some classes in robot repair. That’s probably going to be a well sought after job in about 20 years. Just sayin.

We’re living in the future, for sure.

Why do I say that, you ask? Well, a few scientists have recently discovered that, in a galaxy, far, far away...something is sending radio waves our direction. Now, before you get excited at the thought of visitors from benevolent galaxies, or terrified that green tentacled horrors are invading, be aware that the “something,” I just mentioned - is probably "nothing." In fact, GCN's very own paranormal phenomenon radio program, "The Paracast," (host: Gene Steinberg) brings all this up in the opening of their most recent program, which you can find here.  

And now, I would like to mention that when I wrote “nothing," up above, I did not mean “absolutely nothing,” just - probably, not aliens. The most likely theory being tossed around is that the radio signals are created by, “astrological phenomenon.” Editor's note: Which, thanks, by the way, Scientist Folks - because "astrological phenomenon"  tells us absolutely nothing at all! The phrase could literally mean "anything happening out in space!" (But, in this case, probably means something like - a black hole).  

Anyway, this is not the first time radio waves have been discovered heading our direction. In the way back time of 2007 (before there was even an iPad!) an astrophysicist at Australia's Parkes Observatory was analyzing data from 2001 and discovered radio bursts. Movie pun not intended. That’s actually when it happened. Of course, astronomers of the day were skeptical and most thought it was just "interference;" but he published his findings and has since been proven accurate. And now we have multiple “fast radio bursts” on record but the 2007 case, and now a brand new one uncovered a few days-have something unique in common - a repeating signal.

Now, to my understanding (which, is limited to some very recent Googling, lots of wiki reading and some science journal perusing) the 2001 burst had a “single repeating fast radio burst.” The Jan. 9th, 2019 discovery has - six repeat bursts. Which as far as I understand, is extremely unusual to find that many repeating bursts occurring naturally; and while it certainly does not prove the existence of our beloved masters and eventual overlords … errr, I mean, aliens … it is still cool.

From the Jan. 9th, 2019 study reported in Journal:  

The discovery of a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) source. 1,2, FRB 121102, eliminated models involving cataclysmic events for this source. No other repeating FRB has hitherto been detected despite many recent discoveries and follow-ups. 3–5, suggesting that repeaters may be rare in the FRB population. Here we report the detection of six repeat bursts from FRB 180814.J0422+73, one of the 13 FRBs detected. 6 by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) FRB project7 during its pre-commissioning phase in July and August 2018. These repeat bursts are consistent with originating from a single position on the sky, with the same dispersion measure, about 189 pc cm−3. This traces approximately twice the expected Milky Way column density, and implies an upper limit on the source redshift of 0.1, at least a factor of about 2 closer than FRB 1211028. In some of the repeat bursts, we observe sub-pulse frequency structure, drifting, and spectral variation reminiscent of that seen in FRB 1211029,10, suggesting similar emission mechanisms and/or propagation effects. This second repeater, found among the first few CHIME/FRB discoveries, suggests that there exists—and that CHIME/FRB and other wide-field, sensitive radio telescopes will find—a substantial population of repeating FRBs.”

For the very first time in 19 years, I’ve been on hiatus for a while, with only occasional update to this site. I’ve also been going through a painful period of financial instability, which has certainly put a damper on my creative process.

 

At the same time, the rush of news from Apple hasn’t been nearly as frequent or interesting as it used to be, and repeating the old tropes about tech pundits attacking the company for the usual bogus reasons has become boring.

 

In this week’s main column, below, I also wonder for the first time about Apple at last becoming a “normal” company, in which its new products may not seem so exciting and innovative as they used to be. But I’ll get to that and its ramifications shortly.

 

In the meantime, I am working on lots of new articles, including a review of the Beats Studio 3 Wireless headset that debuted last month. I have always been a reluctant headphone user, even going back to the days when I worked in a traditional radio station studio. With its emphasis on style and comfort, I have high hopes for the new Beats gear, and I was able to get a review sample from the manufacturer.

 

Is the new Beats bass-heavy, as older models were supposed to be? Is it worth its $349 purchase price, the same range as the equivalent Bose Quiet Comfort? I’ll let you know soon.

 

That takes us to this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, in which we presented a special holiday season segment, featuring security guru Scott Nusbaum, senior incident response at TrustedSec (a white hat hacking firm). Its main focus was a frightening new risk to online shoppers called “formgrabbing.” Nusbaum also explained what this means when you place an order, and how online criminals can gather your personal information, such as your address and credit card numbers and use them to steal your money. Are there ways to protect yourself from this threat? Nusbaum covered the whole gamut of online shopping dangers and how to navigate through the troubled waters.

 

In a special encore segment, you also heard from commentator/podcaster Peter Cohen, who focused on “Right to Repair” and the upsides and downsides. Peter offered his personal experiences as the employee of an authorized Apple dealer and how it influenced his opinion about whether Apple and other companies need to allow more repair freedom. There was also a brief discussion about the concept of states’ rights and how it affects customers where such laws vary from state to state. The discussion also covered the HomePod and its possible value as a smart speaker. Both Gene and Peter explained, at length, why a HomePod is still not on their shopping lists, and whether Apple could sell more copies if it loosened its dependence on Apple’s ecosystem when it comes to being able to listen to your stuff.

 

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Randall present long-time UFO researcher and author Jerome Clark, who will discuss the third edition of his multivolume magnum opus, “The UFO Encyclopedia.” You’ll learn about the new material, the conclusions that were altered as the result of new research, particularly the Roswell UFO crash and how the case stands after all these years. Indeed, is any reported UFO crash credible? Randall and Jerry also debate the “experience anomaly,” and its impact on certain cases, such as abductions. Are all UFOs physical craft, or are other forces at work here? Jerry is also a songwriter whose music has been recorded or performed by musicians such as Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Tom T. Hall.

 

Has Apple become an old, boring company?

 

Our image of Apple, Inc. has long been that of a maverick company that defies the conventional wisdom and goes its own way. Here’s to the “crazy ones” indeed!

 

In the old days, the most famous example was the Macintosh personal computer. Where computers in the early days used an arcane text-based interface, paying lip service to color displays, Apple provided a graphic user interface designed to make it warm and fuzzy even to people who couldn’t adapt to the traditional PC.

 

Steve Jobs always envisioned the Mac as a computing appliance, and the original model actually offered no way for you to do any upgrades to memory and other components. In passing, the Apple of 2018 has mostly reverted to this concept, and what you buy is as upgradeable as your toaster oven. Period!

 

But Apple really attained prominence with the original iPhone that, in a few years, became the company’s best-selling product. Indeed, its success gave the more critical pundits ammunition to claim that, if iPhone sales declined — and nothing is forever — the company would be in deep trouble.

 

Each year, the iPhone received upgrades. Even when the new model seemed little different from its predecessor, at least externally, there were plenty of changes inside. Consider the iPhone 5s, which for all practical purposes wasn’t distinguishable from the iPhone 5. But in addition to faster performance and a better camera, it provided the first iteration of Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

 

If you examine the spec sheets year-over-year, lots of innovative engineering is present. Unlike all other smartphone makers, save for Samsung, Apple designs its own CPUs and, since last year, its own graphics hardware. The proof is in the pudding, as the latest “X” series iPhones tout performance that is in the range of the more powerful notebook computers. The latest iPad Pro promises graphics performance at the Xbox level.

 

At the same time, the annual double-digit growth of the iPhone is long ago and far away. Except for the poorest third-world countries, most anyone who wants or needs a smartphone has one. So most units sold are replacements, and Apple builds reliable gear and supports it with OS upgrades for several years, which slows the upgrade cycle.

 

Shorn of the new features, an iPhone 6, running iOS 12, can deliver credible performance that should satisfy most people except for those who require instant response, a better camera, and superior displays. Some features, such as 3D Touch, essentially went nowhere and isn’t even present on the iPhone XR.

 

Knowing that sales have flattened, Apple has devised other ways to boost revenue, beginning with the $999 iPhone X last year. For 2018, the iPhone XS Max begins at $1,099, and the price goes up fast if you choose larger storage options.

 

Even though Apple was criticized for ignoring the Mac in recent years, the very newest models are more expensive even as PC makers continue to rush towards the bottom in pricing their hardware. The presence of the controversial Touch Bar meant an increase of several hundred dollars for recent MacBook Pros.

 

After four years, Apple introduced a new, more powerful Mac mini, but the base price increased from $499 to $799. If you click Customize on Apple’s ordering page, you can increase the price to $4,199, and that’s before you acquire a keyboard, input device and display.

 

The professional grade iMac Pro starts at $4,999 and maxes out at $13,348 before you get to a VESA mounting kit. Heaven knows what the promised Mac Pro replacement will cost when optioned to the hilt.

 

This is not to say these prices are too high. When you compare the prices of Apple gear to direct PC competition, it is usually quite competitive. Apple just doesn’t play in the low end of the market.

 

The new iPad Pros are also more expensive too and so is the Apple Watch Series 4.

 

What this means is that the average sale price has gone up. So despite the complaints, it’s clear that millions of customers are happy to pay a higher price for a premium product. At the same time, Apple is offering services, such as Apple Music and iCloud, for which you pay monthly fees. The fastest growing segment of Apple’s business is, in fact, services.

 

Apple realizes that it can earn a lot more money from every satisfied customer.

 

But has it reached the point where these products have become so sophisticated that most users will never, ever use the new features? As I watched Apple’s Keynote slide shows listing the features of its newest gear at the iPad/Mac event in October, it started to become a blur. Dozens of amazing features, state-of-the-art performance, but how much did it mean for all but a tiny percentage of professionals?

 

It had a same old same old feel. A slick production, enticing videos to demonstrate the new capabilities and the amazing engineering, and boasting about what you can do with these machines.

 

This isn’t to say that smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and personal computers are good enough and there’s no need to improve them. As I said, the price of admission is no doubt worth it. By charging more money, and boosting services, Apple earns more revenue. Unit sales don’t matter so much, which is why it joined other companies in no longer revealing them in the quarterly financial reports.

 

Slick, professional, but is the excitement gone? Has a middle-aged Apple become just another boring multinational corporation? It’s a tricky question no doubt, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about of late.

 

Peace,

 

Gene

 

----

 

Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

To understand what the Apple Store meant to me, let me tell you a personal story. In the 1960s, I had a hobby, building radio and general audio gear. Some of it I bought for myself, others I assembled for friends — at no charge. Well, I was a teenager, living at home. I wasn’t rich, but I had a tape recorder and a radio and a mic, so I was mostly happy.

 

In those days, I made periodic trips to one of the early consumer electronics stores, Lafayette Radio. After going bankrupt in 1980, its assets ended up in the hands of the company that eventually became Circuit City.

 

After moving to the Phoenix area in 1993, I shopped occasionally at a local Circuit City, but mostly for CDs. If I wanted a new Mac, I went online and saved money. It’s not that Circuit City didn’t carry Macs. They had some, and I remember visiting the retailer a few years later and seeing a few dusty models placed haphazardly on a single display table off to the rear

somewhere. Most had been left off. The few that were running mostly displayed a Hypercard slide show that didn’t really entice anyone to buy anything.

 

Besides, the salespeople were busy encouraging you to check out the real center of the action, the PC tables.

 

I recall a report some time later, about Steve Jobs admonishing Apple dealers to give Macs a fair shake. Make that demanding in very raw language. It was, after all, vintage Steve Jobs.

Apple finally decided to go its own way, by establishing its own retail chain. Jobs recruited former Target retail executive Ron Johnson to help him design the new stores.

 

When the first two Apple stores had their grand openings in 2001, in Glendale, CA and Tyson’s Corner, VA, the tech pundits were skeptical. Other electronics manufacturers, including Sony and Gateway, launched chains of branded stores, but they really didn’t go anywhere.

 

In large part, it’s because they were just ordinary retailers, only focused on a single brand. So why go to one when you could get the very same merchandise at the same price — or less — at a store with a far greater selection?

 

Apple’s approach was to customize your shopping experience with a specialty boutique with what appeared to be a remarkably noncommercial approach to retail sales. For one thing, you weren’t confronted with greedy salespeople trolling for a sale. Indeed, nobody pushed you to buy anything, or even to leave if you just wanted to just hang out.

 

If you had a problem with your Apple gadget, there was the Genius Bar where you could get advice, or authorized repairs by a factory trained specialist.

 

As a contributor to the Arizona Republic, and later Gannett and its national newspaper, USA Today, I attended two of the openings in the Phoenix area. At the Chandler, AZ Fashion Center, I met  Johnson, then Apple’s retail chief. I also got an Apple Store T-shirt.

 

I remember the opening ceremony, where the newly-minded employees welcomed customers with loud rounds of applause.

 

In 2002, I received a VIP invite to attend the grand opening of an Apple Store in New York’s SoHo district. I was part of an exclusive group that included Apple executives, even Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller, fellow tech reporters and a smattering of show business types.

 

While there, I had a chance to speak with Jobs for a few moments before he pulled his usual stunt to end a conversation, which was to walk away in mid-sentence. But I also spent several minutes speaking with the comic actor Tim Allen, who starred in one of my favorite movies, “Galaxy Quest.”

 

Recalling that the film ended in a way that a sequel might have been filmed, Allen said that one key factor that hurt the effort was a motorcycle accident that actor Daryl Mitchell, who portrayed the starship’s navigator, suffered the previous year. The mishap left him paralyzed from the waist down. Despite the handicap, by the way, Mitchell has remained active in show business. These days, he’s a featured player in a hit CBS series, “NCIS: New Orleans.”

 

But there’s still hope for a “Galaxy Quest” revival on Amazon, despite the 2016 death of Alan Rickman, another star of the cult classic.

 

Now my feelings about the arrival of the Apple Store in the Phoenix area were mixed. Before they arrived, I made a decent income as a Mac consultant. But Apple could provide much of what I offered, at least to people who didn’t mind carrying their gear to the store, at no charge. It didn’t take long for most of my clients to choose the obvious alternative, even when I lowered my hourly rates.

 

At first I focused on older gear, mostly Macs that were too old for Apple to provide direct support. As my customers grew older, however, that business mostly faded.

 

Despite my bittersweet feelings about the matter, I do get to an Apple Store from time to time to check out the new gear. Overall, the shopping experience remains mostly good, but the Genius Bar is often overwhelmed, so you have to reserve a session before you pay a visit.

 

As to Ron Johnson, he finally left Apple and went on to JCPenney to overhaul the shopping experience over there. But it proved to be a poor fit, and Johnson departed after the struggling retailer’s situation only worsened from his attempts to move them upscale. These days he’s connected with Enjoy, a startup that hopes to overhaul the shopping experience.

Peace,

 

Gene

 

----

 

Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

In large part, the success with the iPhone in recent years was fueled by the release of larger handsets, starting with the iPhone 6 series, with one model at 4.7 niches and a “Plus” variant at 5.5 inches. Supposedly, then, all iPhone uses were expected to adapt.

 

But that’s not quite how things worked out. There are still many users who don’t want the larger displays an the difficulties involved in single-handed use. This is why Apple came out with the iPhone SE in 2016, which had most of the features and performance of the iPhone 6s installed in what was essentially the case of an iPhone 5s.

 

Although there has been speculation about an iPhone SE2, with specs matching the more recent models, it hasn’t happened. As of last week’s announcements about a new iPhone lineup, the SE has been removed from the lineup, with no word on when or if a replacement will come.

 

This isn’t to say the iPhone SE is a bad phone, or necessarily obsolete. Sure, it doesn’t have Face ID, but it’s small, slim, lightweight and more than enough phone for many people. With iOS 12, performance is more than sufficient to satisfy most people, so why did Apple bid it farewell?

For several years, Mrs. Steinberg made do with an iPhone 5c because it fit comfortably into her tiny purses. A larger iPhone would be a squeeze, but a closeout SE might be just the ticket for her if they can be found. Let’s face it, her present iPhone is obsolete, being saddled with iOS 10, and it feels mighty sluggish compared to more recent models. It also became a problem when we stayed at a motel where reception on the AT&T network wasn’t so good, which meant that she’d miss half the calls, because they’d go to voicemail.

 

Will Apple reconsider an SE successor? If there was a market for it, perhaps. But it may just be that sales of the existing model, available for $349 (the cheapest iPhone ever), just didn’t sell terribly well.

 

This weekend, we presented a thorough look at tech, microchip credit cards, and identity theft with credit repair specialist Darius Norman, author of “Rewriting Financial Rules.” Following the introduction of microchip equipped credit cards in 2015 in the United States, which make the cards difficult to counterfeit, criminals focused on new forms of account fraud. We are also seeing thieves going after our children’s social security numbers to do this, so our children are in danger and may never know until they are old enough to apply for credit themselves. What do we do? Darius also focused on what you should do in the event your credit history or identity are compromised, as Gene revealed some of his personal experiences.

 

You also heard from tech editor Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer. During this segment, Bryan talked at length about Apple’s September 12th media event, in which three new iPhone X variants were demonstrated. Bryan covered his experiences in ordering one of the new smartphones, plus an Apple Watch Series 4. As a long-time user of luxury watches, Bryan related his experience with an Apple Watch Series 2 and his expectations for the Series 4, which includes more health-related features, such as an ECG to measure the health of your heart. There was also some talk about iOS 12. which was released on September 17th.

 

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Randall presented Bryan Bonner of the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. For over two decades Bryan, with a healthy dose of skepticism,  has examined a wide range of reported paranormal phenomena, including ghosts, poltergeists, psychics, UFOs, conspiracy theories, urban legends, and much more. Unlike others in the field, Bryan has made sure not to run around cemeteries, screaming and scaring the group with overactive imaginations.  From the field to the lab, he tests bizarre beliefs and practices, conducts experiments and on-site investigations, and recreates unusual events. He has confronted hauntings, Ouija board activity, levitation, psychic readings, alien abductions, and telephones that try to talk to the dead.

 

A PREDICTABLE APPLE MEDIA EVENT WITH A PREDICTABLE OUTCOME

 

In the run-up to Apple’s September 12th media event last week, there was speculation aplenty. But most of it coalesced on three new iPhones and an Apple Watch Series 4, the new operating systems under test since June — and not much else.

 

This is not to say that Apple’s announcements were disappointing. The new products are tempting, particularly one reasonably affordable iPhone that I’ll mention shortly. But it may well be that the Apple Watch Series 4 turned out to be the star of the show.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

So as predicted, there are three new iPhones fashioned after last year’s iPhone X. Typical of Apple’s mostly usual approach, there’s the tick-tock pattern. The brand new design one year, the minor refresh the next.

 

So this year, the iPhone X was replaced with the iPhone XS. Despite predictions that it would be $100 cheaper, it remains at $999. Based on Apple’s report that it has been the best-selling smartphone on the planet for months, Apple had no reason to change its pricing strategy.

 

In addition to the 5.8-inch model, there is a “Plus” model, dubbed iPhone XS Max, which offers a 6.5-inch display and retails for $1,099 for the 64GB model. But since Samsung offers a maxed out Galaxy Note9 for $1,249, Apple is not really going overboard, although its maxed out Max costs even more.

 

Being an “S” model, just what do you get that wasn’t on last year’s iPhone X? Well, there’s of course the A12 Bionic CPU, with the promise of 15% faster performance with 40% greater power efficiency. The four-core graphics processor offers 50% greater performance than its predecessor according to Apple.

 

But the one feature that has true geek appeal is the fact that the A12 is fabricated on a 7-nanometer manufacturing process, with some 6.9 billion transistors. This comes at the same time that Intel is reportedly encountering problems building chips with a 14-nanometer process. Indeed, I read a story that Intel might actually outsource support to one of Apple’s key CPU makers, TSMC.

 

There are the usual improvements in camera quality and processing features, along with tougher glass, reputedly Corning Gorilla Glass 6, and improved water- and dust-proofing. More power efficiency means that the iPhone XS will offer the promise of 30 minutes longer battery life; it’s up to an hour and a half more on the iPhone XS Max.

 

Yet the real star of the new lineup may very well be the 6.1-inch LCD version dubbed iPhone XR. At a starting price of $749, it provides most of the features of its bigger brothers, and the tradeoffs seem sensible enough.

 

So the new display doesn’t offer HDR, which promises richer colors with the right content, and a single camera rather than two, although there will evidently still be a way to take portrait-style photos. 3D touch is missing in action, as if anyone cares. Also you can only safely dunk it in one meter of water rather than two meters.

 

But the XR still comes equipped with Face ID and an edge-to-edge display complete with the famous notch. Since it’s also equipped with the A12 CPU, performance should be identical to its big brothers. It also comes with a less expensive case design and a wider choice of colors.

 

The original iPhone X is gone.  The iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 remain in the product lineup at cheaper prices to give customers more options, but there’s nothing to match the $349 iPhone SE.

 

Assuming the XR’s Liquid Retina display is as good as Apple claims, and you can live with the few tradeoffs, $749 is far friendlier than $999 and up, even if you consider a monthly payment plan. But you’ll have to wait, since it won’t arrive until roughly a month after the rest of the lineup.

 

Predictions for the Apple Watch Series 4 were quite in line with predictions. It’s slimmer with narrower screen bezels, thus allowing for larger displays. One of the most important health-related features is an FDA-certified electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor. So is the Apple Watch now a Tricorder or does it need some additional health-tracking features to make the grade?

 

It can also call emergency services you fall and you can’t get up for a minute or longer. Prices start at $399, and the version with an LTE radio is $100 more.

 

The two OLED iPhones and the Apple Watch Series 4 ship this weekend, and have already garnered mostly positive reviews.

 

Golden Masters of the various Apple OS upgrades were seeded to developers and public beta testers last week, and final version so everything but macOS Mojave shipped on September 17th. The macOS Mojave upgrade will arrive next week, but the GM should pretty much be it except for a possible last-minute change before the final release.

 

All in all, Apple did what it expected to do. I can’t say I’m prepared to buy any of the new gear for the time being, but I am using the GMs of iOS 12 and macOS Mojave with mostly good success so far. And, yes, I still have my $12.88 stainless steel Walmart calendar watch. An Apple Watch is not on the horizon for me.

Peace,

 

Gene

 

----


Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

 

It’s no secret that the Apple TV isn’t doing terribly well compared to similar gear from Amazon, Google and market leader Roku. While Apple was the pioneer in this space, it took far too long to modernize the product.

 

Even when Apple introduced an all-new model in 2015, it made it much more expensive, yet still lacking 4K support at a time when tens of millions of TV sets featured the higher resolution capability. So it left the customers with a dilemma. If they still wanted to stick with the Apple ecosystem, the entry-level 32GB model was $149, compared to $99 for the third generation model before it was discounted.

 

I suppose some might have found the new features, which included an enhanced remote, and Siri and app support, to be reasonably compelling, but did it really matter? How many people really strayed beyond iTunes and Netflix anyway.

 

In 2017, Apple discovered 4K. Rather than keep the same price, or, better, reduce it, the entry-level unit was priced $30 higher. This may have been necessary to the bean counters who evaluated such matters as the price of raw materials and such, but it made even less sense.

 

Other than Apple’s ecosystem, the $99.99 Roku Ultra offered a similar lineup of useful features, including 4K and HDR. If you just wanted Netflix and maybe Amazon Prime, Hulu along with VUDU for movie rentals, the $69.99 Roku Streaming Stick also features 4K and HDR.

When you look at the numbers, paying $179 for an Apple gadget seems outrageous.

 

Now some might cite the same argument for a Mac or an iPhone, but it’s not valid. Compared to premium PCs, the Mac is in the same ballpark. Compared to premium smartphones, so is the iPhone, and you can make the same argument for the iPad or an Apple Watch.

 

None of this justifies paying $79 more for an Apple TV 4K compared to a Roku Ultra beyond the commitment to Apple’s own services. The added features just aren’t compelling enough for most people, and picture quality isn’t so much different. A TV set’s own upscaling of HD content produces similar results, except for the HDR enhancements.

 

As most of you know, I haven’t been using my vintage third generation Apple TV since late 2017. When VIZIO sent me a 4K TV for long-term review, I tried out its embedded SmartCast app, which is based on Google Chromecast. My iTunes movie library is scant, and it was easily transferred to Movies Anywhere so I can play them on almost any streaming device. The VIZIO remote offers one-touch access to Netflix, Hulu, VUDU and other services with a decent interface.

 

If the price of an Apple TV 4K was cut in half, I still wouldn’t buy one even if I had the spare cash, and I suspect a lot of devoted Apple customers have come to the same decision for various reasons.

 

So what is Apple to do, other than cutting the price to a sensible level?

 

It’s doubtful Apple will join its competitors and license Apple TV technology to a TV set. I actually think it would be a good idea, but would probably work only if tvOS took over a TV’s interface completely. Coming up with something similar CarPlay is a half-baked solution.

Is there another alternative for Apple?

 

Well, apparently there is, although it apparently involves sometimes giving an Apple TV 4K away. This is what DirecTV apparently did for a while to launch its NOW! streaming service. If you signed up for three months at $35 per month, and paid the total of $105 in advance, a 32GB Apple TV came along with the package. To some, it was a great way to get one cheap, since there was no requirement to keep the service after that period.

 

Just recently, I read a report that Charter TV, the second largest cable provider in the U.S., will offer an Apple TV 4K to pay-TV customers along with a Spectrum TV app. This means you may be able to bypass the service’s own DVR. I am not at all sure whether it’ll be offered for sale, for rent, or both.

 

According to a published report from Bloomberg, Verizon plans to offer an Apple TV or Google TV when it rolls out its 5G broadband to homes, which is due later this year. I’m not at all sure how an Apple TV will be offered, and whether it will embed a Verizon app of some sort with a streaming service offering.

 

I suppose it’s possible that Apple is poised to launch its own streaming service, something rumored for years before it was reported that it couldn’t strike deals with the entertainment industry. But with Apple busy creating original TV shows, maybe there will be an offering that will mix content from iTunes, including TV shows, with the new programming. That is if Apple doesn’t make it part of Apple Music.

 

But is giving away an Apple TV as a premium for pay-TV systems, or allowing them to offer it cheaply, going to save the Apple TV? Consider the value of replacing set-top boxes with an Apple gadget that offers a custom app to navigate these services and manage time-shifting.

That might be a worthy goal, one that will save Apple TV. If I had the choice, the Apple TV 4K would probably be superior to the set-top boxes from the cable and satellite providers. Well, if

 

Apple also offered a cloud-based DVR system.

 

Peace,

 

Gene

 

----


Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

 

On the surface, it may seem that macOS Mojave is an extremely minor update. Other than Dark Mode and the reliance on Metal graphics, it doesn’t seem a whole lot different when you look it over, as I did starting last month. But the mere fact of choosing Metal means that Macs without support for that graphics technology have been made obsolete.

 

Before Mojave was announced, I had planned (hoped) to test the betas on my 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro. Obviously that’s not possible, despite the fact that it has an SSD formatted with the APFS file system. That’s because its graphics hardware, state of the art eight years ago, preceded the arrival of Metal.

 

A 2012 MacBook Pro,  where a Retina display debuted on Macs, works just fine. So do older Mac Pros with graphics cards that support Metal. So, my only option was the iMac. With a Fusion drive, it lost out on the APFS conversion last year, because Apple couldn’t make it compatible. It appeared on the early betas of High Sierra, but was soon pulled.

 

There was a certain promise from Apple software chief Craig Federighi that APFS support would return in a “future update.” Nothing more was said on the subject until May, weeks ahead of the WWDC and the launch of High Sierra’s successor, Mojave. I wouldn’t assume Federighi expected it wouldn’t arrive till then, but if he knew it would take the full year all along, he wouldn’t admit it.

 

This time it was clear APFS was expected to work. So, with multiple backups, I was willing to take the chance. If something went wrong, I could just restore the computer.

My only concern at the time was the report from Rogue Amoeba, publisher of Audio Hijack, which we use to capture audio for the radio show, that it wasn’t compatible with Mojave. Apparently the ACE component, used for instant capture, doesn’t work as of this writing. So far, the publisher hasn’t even hinted at when that update will arrive, though it is expected to appear when Mojave is released. I asked their support people if I might make it work without ACE, and the answer wasn’t definite.

 

Based on experience with previous versions of macOS, where this component had to be updated, I suspect that the main issue would be that I couldn’t capture audio with an app running. Audio Hijack would have to launch it first. If the app is running, it’ll put up a prompt that you click to quit and relaunch the app. Yes, an assumption, but I decided to go for it.

 

So on a Friday night, I backed up all my content via Carbon Copy Cloner to a second drive. I was ready.

 

I didn’t monitor the entire installation, except for an occasional glance. When I woke up the next morning, my iMac was running Mojave, and for the most part it didn’t look terribly different. Well, until I launched Disk Utility, and discovered that the drive was indeed using APFS. There was no warning and no option to block it. There it was, and it seemed OK.

 

I assume Apple has tested Fusion drives to know that it would be successful, and so far Mojave is mostly behaving. I do see slightly speedier performance, and I like the idea of being able to duplicate files to another portion of the drive almost instantaneously.

 

But what about Audio Hijack?

 

I launched it, selected my workflow and started a recording. As I suspected, Skype launched and everything went normally. If, however, I started a recording while Skype was running, Audio Hijack would put up a prompt to quit and relaunch. That’s no different from the way it worked before the ACE or instant capture component was developed.

 

I’m still waiting for an update from Rogue Amoeba — they aren’t sure when it’ll be ready — but I’m happy to accept this very minor inconvenience to produce my radio shows. Now maybe some other features, such as scheduling, are also affected, but I don’t use them.

 

As for Mojave, it does seem a tad snappier, but I’ll await official benchmarks with the release version. The iMac’s startup takes nearly twice as long, though. It stops a little more than halfway through, and resumes a short time later. I assume that glitch will also disappear from the release version, though I grant that Apple has allowed OS bugs to persist through a beta process in the past.

 

This week, Apple released developer beta six, which is the fifth beta made available to public beta testers. Within the next four to six weeks, a Golden Master candidate ought to be out, which means that the rest of the development process will mostly involve fine tuning. Once it’s released, Apple will go full steam into the first update, 10.14.1.

 

In the meantime,  I’ve looked over Mojave’s Dark Mode and turned it off. Maybe I’m too set in my ways. Unfortunately, the latest beta has essentially made my Brother printer useless. Whenever I attempt to print a document, any document, the printer driver app displays an error, “Unable to startup session, error =-10.”

 

I went through the usual troubleshooting routines, including restarting. resetting the iMac’s printing system, resetting the printer, and reinstalling the latest drivers from Brother. They are rated for High Sierra. So this is clearly a problem that Apple or Brother — or both — must fix.

For now, I can’t print, since my other printer, an Epson All-in-One, is at a storage facility along with most of my stuff.

 

So I’m bummed out a little, though it is time I cure the printing habit, so maybe it’s all good.

 

As to Mojave, I don’t regret installing the betas. At this late stage, it’s probably in decent shape — well except for that printer glitch. But if you’ve waited this long without fretting over it, you might as well wait for the final release that’ll probably arrive at the end of September or early in October.

 

Peace,

 

Gene

 

----


Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

 

What I read last week is so typical of anti-Apple foolishness, but I was hardly surprised. As you know, we’re less than two months away from an expected Apple event to introduce new iPhones and no doubt an updated Apple Watch. Whether or not any other gear will be launched is a question mark, even though new iPads and Macs (in addition to the ones launched last week) are expected.

 

But it’s not too early for the usual gang of Apple haters to claim that whatever is going to happen is wrongheaded, that the company with the world’s largest market cap is just incapable of doing things right. Or perhaps following the foolish speculation from a wayward and ill-informed blogger. If Apple doesn’t follow the erratic and illogical twists and turns of would-be journalists, they will never succeed. All that’s happened to them so far is some gigantic fluke.

 

Some day, any time now, the market will self-correct and the “right” companies will retake control.

 

Any time now.

 

With that in mind, there has been some new speculation from industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, whose predictions about new Apple gear are often close to the mark. On that basis, There are reports about refreshed Macs, including the long-awaited Mac mini, a new low-end Mac notebook, and refreshes for the rest of the lineup, and the iPad. But there is one wrinkle with Apple’s tablet, an 11-inch model that evidently replaces the 10.5-in model, and the addition of Face ID to replace Touch ID.

 

So far, we have the 2018 MacBook Pro sporting huge speed and feature improvements, including a six-core CPU and an available 4TB SSD for a humongous amount of money as notebook computers go.

 

His predictions about the iPhone haven’t changed. There will be two versions of the iPhone X, a minor update to the existing model and an iPhone X Plus with a 6.5-inch display. Prices may drop on the cheaper model by $100, which would leave the bigger handset at the same price point as the previous iPhone X that was regarded as too expensive at the same time it became a top seller. In addition, he predicts an LCD model with a 6.1-inch TFT LCD display. The usual range of older models will probably stick around with lower prices, but what about the iPhone SE?

 

Speculation about the iPhone updates is enough to send the hater hearts aflutter. Especially the lack of an update for the smallest and cheapest iPhone. Does that mean there won’t be any changes, or maybe the existence of an update has been overlooked so far? Well, there was some speculation about a minor CPU update earlier this year, which has faded.

 

So does that mean the rumored iPhone SE 2 will never appear?

 

Obviously the complaint is that failing to produce a low-end model is a bad move for Apple, and thus you can expect abject failure this fall. I don’t pretend to know how many units have been sold so far, though it’s clear most customers appear to prefer the units with larger displays, and, in fact, the most expensive models. But that doesn’t mean that Apple is ignorant of the fact that lots of people still want smaller handsets, and why not satisfy those needs?

 

The current iPhone SE uses parts from the iPhone 6s, but that’s no reason to panic, for one reason that the distressed blogger overlooks, or maybe doesn’t know about.

 

As most readers know, Apple is touting huge performance boosts on iPhones with iOS 12, focusing on the iPhone 6 as receiving improvements of 50% or faster. While no promises are being made about the iPhone 6s, one assumes it’ll also receive a decent level of improvement, and you should expect that too with the iPhone SE.

 

So even without any change, the existing SE should deliver more than enough performance for most users. Sure, the camera won’t change, but it delivers pretty good photos as it is.

But maybe Apple is planning an SE update. While this model is not a huge seller in the scheme of things, even sales of a few million are quite significant and would be substantial for most other companies. A speed bump and camera enhancement, without actually changing the look, would involve at best a minor R&D expenditure to Apple.

 

Then again, one might raise the very same logical arguments for updating the Mac mini, which hasn’t been touched in four years. That is an even less defensible position, especially since the last revision actually downgraded the model apparently in exchange for a $100 reduction in price. You could no longer upgrade RAM, and the CPUs topped out at two cores. The four-core models that some cherished for use in data centers were no longer available, and Apple never explained why.

 

Now it; only one Mac line has been enhanced this year so far.

 

It’s also quite possible that the iPhone SE won’t be changed this year, or that Apple will replace it with something else that’s still relatively small, but perhaps has further enhancements to bring it in line with current models.

 

But if that doesn’t happen, it won’t signal a fatal mistake for Apple so long as people are still buying the existing SE. Obviously Apple has no obligation to meet the demands of yet another blogger with an inflated sense of self worth.

Peace,

 

Gene

 

----


Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 

 

Page 1 of 2