Items filtered by date: Thursday, 26 December 2019

It was 1989. After using Macs at the office for a couple of years, I decided that I needed one at home since I had begun to take outside assignment. So I went shopping.

To be sure, a Mac was pretty expensive in 1989 dollars. There were no budget models, but I shopped around and found a good deal from the same dealer who sold Macs to my employer.

After an afternoon’s consultation, I weighed my options, and I decided to take a chance, expecting that the freelance work would cover the costs. So I made a lease deal for a complete system. I acquired the Macintosh IIcx, an “affordable” alternative to the Macintosh IIx. It was maxed out with 8MB of RAM and a 100MB hard drive. Add to that a 14-inch Apple color display (later referred to as a “13-inch display,”, a LaserWriter NT PostScript printer, and several productivity apps, including QuarkXPress and Microsoft Word. The bill came to $14,000.

But don’t forget that my choice of a computer system 30 years ago covered, in large part, the middle of the pack. My budget would not cover the top-up-the-line.

As we close out 2019, that original investment explodes to $29,039.61. For that figure, using Apple’s current lineup, you can buy an iMac Pro, a 16-inch MacBook Pro, a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, an iPhone 11 Pro Max and an Apple Watch Series 5, all fully outfitted and still have nearly $5,000 left to cover sales tax, software, backup drives for the Macs, and some leftover cash for productivity apps.

Not that I have that much spare cash around, but it’s fun to wish.

In essence, the price of Apple gear today is actually lower, in proportion to today’s buying power, than it was then.

And then there’s the 2019 Mac Pro, where you can double that $29,039.61 price tag and still not quite get there to a maxed out system and display. In pricing this ultimate system, I checked every option, including wheels for the Mac Pro and a Pro Stand for the Pro Display XDR. It came to $60,797, again plus sales tax.

To put that figure in perspective, I can order a Tesla Model 3 Performance for $50,815 and a well-equipped BMW Model 3 sedan for $47,341.

Well, you get the picture.

But a Mac Pro is not strictly a plaything for the rich and the famous. For a subset of users, it’s the ideal workstation designed for high-end use, say for scientists and movie special effects artists. A director working on a $300 million superhero extravaganza would not mind at all having a network of $60,000 systems. If they went to other major vendors, such as Dell or HP, they’d likely pay more and still not get all the goodies Apple offers, such as the $2,000 Apple Afterburner card.

We’re talking of a flagship machine here, something designed to showcase the best of Apple’s technology, along with the best hardware from AMD and Intel. Other than the SSD, which has to be tuned to the T2 chip and thus must be changed by an Apple authorized repairperson, upgrades are dead simple. This is quite unlike any other Macs nowadays, where upgrades are impossible on notebooks, and of varying degrees of complexity depending on which desktop machine you pick.

Of course, for folks who hoped for something priced in the range if the original Mac Pro tower, only the entry-level model fits the bill. In other words, Apple has reached heights never before attempted. That, and the pro-level features included in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, clearly demonstrates Apple’s renewed commitment to the professional market.

Regardless, I can feel the ardor of Apple’s critics in criticizing the company for gouging its customers. That has been a typical argument for years, and the fact that Apple earns high profits from selling its gear only buttresses that point of view.

The attacks aren’t just focused on the final price, but on Apple’s alleged exorbitant price for upgrades. While you can easily acquire third-party RAM for the desktops, it’s soldered onto the logic boards for notebooks. Sure, Apple may be able to justify that decision on the basis of increased reliability and the fact that only a tiny percentage of buyers really want to do those upgrades.

Of course, nobody outside of Apple and its partners really has access to such statistics. On the surface, it looks credible. I speak with lots of people using Macs, and rarely hear complaints about the inability to do upgrades. Even with desktops, the RAM upgrade schemes may be hostile to the user, particularly with the Mac mini, the 21.5-inch iMac, and the iMac Pro.

I’m particularly disappointed with the decisions made about the latter, since it’s supposed to cater to professional users who want the simplicity of an all-in-one computer and may not be able to afford, or need, the pricy and more powerful components of a Mac Pro. With the iMac Pro, you have to basically remove the display, an annoying and delicate process, to add or replace RAM.

With the regular 27-inch iMac, it’s dead simple, and can be done in less than five minutes. Maybe it’s a compromise made to encompass the improved cooling scheme for the high-powered components? Perhaps, since I can’t believe that Apple would have made the process so difficult for any other reason.

And when it comes to the price offacgtory upgrades, I’ve done comparisons with gear from Dell and HP, and the costs aren’t altogether different. Third-party alternatives, particularly RAM, can be had for far more reasonable prices.

And one more thing: Even if I had the spare cash, and chose to invest it in a computer rather than a luxury car, I wouldn’t go so far. In fact, I can’t conceive of ever requiring the level of performance achieved by the Mac Pro. It’s not designed for me or most of you. Indeed, if someone offered me the equivalent of $60,000 in purchasing power, I’d get a more affordable car, say for up to $35,000, and allocate the rest for my dream collection of Apple gear, the one described above.

Of course, there have been demands, or requests, for Apple to deliver cheaper gear. But as has been said many many times by many analysts and journalists, there’s no profit in commodity gear. Apple has carved out for itself a profitable market niche.

There’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t want to pay the price — or settle for a refurbished or used Apple product — there are plenty of alternatives if you are prepared to desert the macOS, iOS, iPadOS and watchOS.

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST) and is the former host of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, which was on the network for ten years. The Paracast is still nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2019. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 
Published in Technology

Google is universally well known as a search and advertising company. Now Google is tapping into the $3.5 trillion healthcare market. To compete with the Apple Watch, Google acquired FitBit, the wearable exercise, heart rate, and sleep tracking device. Data is king.

Voluntarily worn fitness tracking devices are one thing, but Google has entered the realm of the brave new world.A government inquiry has brought to light Google’s “Nightingale Project” that collected private medical data from Ascension Health’s 2,600 sites of care across 20 states and D.C., unbeknownst to the patients. Dozens of Google employees had access to the data which included lab results, physician diagnoses, hospitalization records, and health histories, complete with patient names and dates of birth. Google claims that the project complies with the Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act (HIPAA) because it is a qualified business associate of Ascension Health. And unlike the ads for socks that appear on your computer a nanosecond after you purchased some tennis shoes, Google promises that the data won’t be combined with consumer data. Fat chance.

Amazon, which already knows our every thought, was not satisfied with merely creating software that can read medical records. Now they’ve created Transcribe Medical, a system that transcribes confidential patient-doctor conversations and uploads them directly into the electronic health record. Doctors would relinquish all control over “private” patient records. Google also has been working on its own automatic speech recognition “digital scribe” to upload multiple speaker conversations.

Not only is there a problem with inaccuracies that could lead to a patient receiving the wrong treatment, but we all know the ubiquitous problem of hacking—even in the Department of Defense and the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Disturbingly, certain circles oohed and aahed over the revelation that Google, using electronic health records (EHR), created an artificial intelligence program that could predict death better than doctors. Fortunately for humanity, many others found the thought of leaving doctors out of the equation horrifying. The cheerleaders crowed that it would decrease work for the doctors; they wouldn’t have to waste their time going through those pesky medical records to arrive at a conclusion. Using an artificial neural network to predict the death of a human being is a far cry from having a computer interpret an inanimate x-ray who is not a daughter, mother, sister, wife, or grandmother.

 If you put it all together, it adds up to a death panel of one. Google’s software would decide that there is not a high likelihood of walking out of the hospital, no treatment would be given. We are becoming witness to the devolution of humanity.

Moreover, the government is incentivizing workforce development in palliative care through the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act. Perhaps this is why the hospice team seems to greet the patient at the hospital door. Of note, once a person has signed on to the Medicare hospice program, Medicare will not pay for any curative treatment or medications. Medicare will not pay for an emergency room visit unless the hospice team arranged it or someone decides it is not related to the hospice diagnosis.

The number of hospice agencies participating in the Medicare program nearly doubled between 2000 and 2016, for a total of some 4,382 providers. In 2000, about 30 percent of hospice agencies were for-profit, compared to about 67 percent in 2016. In that same period, Medicare payments grew from $3 billion to $16.8 billion.

Hospice care is lucrative. The minimum Medicare payment is $196 per day regardless of the quantity or quality of services provided on that day. A July 2019 report from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services found that more than 80 percent of end-of-life facilities in the United States had at least one deficiency, and nearly 20 percent were poor performers with serious problems that jeopardized patient health and safety. It seems the compassionate medical service to care for suffering patients has turned into a heartless cash cow.

Is this what we want for our loved ones and eventually, ourselves? Medicare for All promises every type of medical care under the sun, including long-term care. Long-term care is expensive and if done properly, labor intensive. What better way to save money than to promote a computer program that convinces doctors that the patient is going to die no matter what they do. So the hospital tells the family that treatment or home care will drain their finances. For what? I’ll tell you for what. My parents died at home only after they were tired of doctors and ready to go. They strolled into heaven. They were not shoved in with a giant government backhoe.

 

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Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist. She is Immediate Past President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Her opinions are her own. This is an edited column that originally appeared at www.pennypressnv.com, reprinted with permission. 

 

 

Published in Technology