All posts by Mark Webster

Apple commentator and trainer, history writer, publisher

Inside iPhone 8, inside iOS 11, inside Apple Watch 3, best ARKit apps for iOS 11


Inside iPhone 8: Apple’s A11 Bionic introduces 5 new custom silicon engines — Apple’s new A11 Bionic chip used in iPhone 8 and the upcoming iPhone X packs in an array of processing cores and sophisticated controllers, each optimised for specific tasks. We only know a bit about these, let alone what else is packed into this SoC. Here’s a look at the new Apple GPU, Neural Engine, its 6 core CPU, NVMe SSD controller and new custom video encoder inside the package.
Apple’s first internally-designed GPU, built into the A11 Bionic Application Processor, claims to be 30 percent faster than the Imagination-based GPU used in iPhone 7 models–which was already the leading graphics architecture in smartphones. First iPhone 8 teardown reveals few internal design changes. iPhone 8 has survived a harsh scratch and bend test in a new Apple video.
iPhone 8 Plus best performing smartphone camera ever, iPhone X expected to be better. Apple says it studied famous painters & photographers for Portrait Lighting on iPhone X & 8 Plus – Apple looked at lighting by photographers like Annie Leibovitz and Richard Avedon – and painters like Johannes Vermeer – when building the Portrait Lighting feature found on the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 Plus, the company claimed in an interview published on Friday, coinciding with the launch of the iPhone 8 line.
Apple’s new video ad is 8 things to love about iPhone 8, looking to hook viewers on its latest smartphone, shipping today. After decade of iPhone launches, there was still a line in San Francisco. This unboxing shows all three colours of iPhone 8.

Inside iOS 11 — iOS 11 rocketed to over 65 of internet usage in just two days after launch, according to independent web analytics company StatCounter. Its research arm StatCounter Global Stats finds that iOS 11 reached 6.2% of all iOS versions worldwide Wednesday. iOS 11 has some big changes for iPhone and iPad users, one of which involves the photos we take thanks to HEIF, an image format supported by both iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra.In older versions of the operating system our photos were saved as JPEG, but in iOS 11 they’re saved as HEIF.
HEIF (for high efficiency image format) is an image file format that offers some advantages over JPEG. Image files are about half the size of comparable JPEG images and compared to the same shots saved in the older format are higher quality, too.
Apple debuted a new safety feature in iOS 11 with Do Not Disturb While Driving. AppleInsider corralled a co-pilot to test it out – here’s how it works. (Even if not connected to a car, it can detect that the car is moving, and enable the feature accordingly. Regardless, CarPlay functionality stays live. Navigation and music playback still work.)
iOS 11 has a new one-hand keyboard option for iPhone that lets you do exactly what it says: type with just one hand. It’s easy to get at, but a little confusing why you may not see it.

Unboxing both Apple Watch Series 3 Edition models … at once — Apple released its all-new LTE-connected Apple Watch Series 3 lineup on Friday, including two Edition models sporting sleek ceramic cases. AppleInsider presents a special dual unboxing of the high-end wearables, in both gray and white. A new app dock scrolls vertically, offers access to all apps.

How to control music on your iPhone using watchOS 4 — You can use your Apple Watch and watchOS 4 to control music on your iPhone, or you can enjoy music on your Apple Watch without the smartphone. and here’s how to pair your Apple Watch with your new iPhone without losing any data.

First look: Apple TV 4K with tweaked Siri remote design — If you owned the previous fourth-generation Apple TV with Siri remote, you’ll be hard pressed to find any differences with the new fifth-generation Apple TV 4K, aside from a white, raised ring around the Menu button on the remote. [The new model starts at NZ$299.]

The best ARKit apps you can download now on iOS 11 — One of the most hyped features of Apple’s new iOS 11 update is ARKit, a series of tools for developers that make it easier than ever to create augmented reality apps. with ARKit apps now available on the App Store, AppleInsider gives you some of the best options you can test out right now.

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Mexican donations, inside the Theater, Imagination Technologies sale, movies rental extension


One of Apple’s images of its new theatre

Apple donates $1 million to earthquake recovery efforts in Mexico — In a Twitter post, Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company is donating US$1 million toward earthquake recovery efforts in Mexico. The company has also donated to hurricane recovery efforts in Texas and Florida.

The intriguing design of The Steve Jobs Theater explained — Author Cybart had a close-up look at the Steve Jobs Theater when he attended Apple’s September 12 event. His very detailed and revealing article includes photos from Apple and himself as well as a side-view schematic of the underground layout.

Imagination Technologies sells to China-backed equity firm for 550 million pounds — Canyon Bridge, an equity firm backed by Chinese fund Yitai Capital, on Friday announced an agreement to acquire British chipmaker, and soon-to-be-former Apple partner, Imagination Technologies. The sales is contingent on the completion of a separate sale involving MIPS, Imagination’s US unit.

Apple extends iTunes movie rental viewing window to 48 hours — To coincide with the launch of Apple TV 4K and iPhone 8 series, Apple on Friday updated its website with new information regarding movie rentals, saying viewers now have up to 48 hours to complete their rented titles after first pressing play.

The Apocalypticon ~ Trump’s Facebook, hackering, Japanese thunder, dads are mutants, super malaria, bison shot, Nestlé, diesel deaths, vote


A note about The Apocalypticon: I found so many apocalyptical news stories researching for the aforementioned Futurology, probably thanks to Donald Trump more than anything, I started  following my weekend Futurology column with this, on the premise that if nightmares truly are strengthening our psyches against possible disasters, this might serve similarly. That said, I try and end on a positive note (I’ve always liked D, myself). 

Thanks to the terrifying wonders of social media, President Trump has launched targeted digital ads on Facebook, , only on a much larger scale than he did. Most seem to be offering conflicting versions of his plans for the border wall. Facebook is attempting to regulate political ads, apparently – yeah right, coz if Zuckerberg does run for president, don’t expect that to continue! But hey, it’ not all bad – Facebook plans to read our thoughts one day. I thought it was already. I guess that’s what you get with a CEO whose name means’Sugar Mountain’.

Amazon knows if you’re trying to make a bomb. Amazon’s listings for ingredients commonly used in DIY bombs are often accompanied by ‘frequently bought together’ suggestions for the exact chemicals necessary to turn relatively harmless substances into viable weapons.

In other software/wetware news, if you’re a gamer who installed the Steam Inventory Helper on your PC, you may want to uninstall it as soon as possible. Recent reports suggest this extension used to buy and sell digital goods on Steam is spying on its users. [Ha ha, I have a Mac.] Also, the Feds in the US are ditching Kapersky ‘security tools‘ citing the company’s potential ties to the Russian government.

Thunderous Japanese particle accelerator — Thunderclouds rolled into the Japanese beach town of Uchinada early one December morning in 2015. The scientists expected the storms; they’d staked out the location specifically for studying something normally only seen by satellites. Sometime after 5am, a flash of lightning struck a wind turbine. And along came a more perplexing weather phenomenon, too: The thunderstorm turned into a particle accelerator and blasted gamma radiation at the ground.

Dads are mutants — Children inherit four times as many new mutations from their fathers than their mothers, according to research that suggests faults in the men’s DNA are a driver for rare childhood diseases. Bugger.

Nestlé makes millions bottling free water — But you knew this, right? This is, after all, the company that invested heavily in stopping third world mum’s breastfeeding so they’d buy its milk powder. Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, has been bottling water since 1843 and has grown into the largest seller of bottled water. But a detailed report on Bloomberg uncovers the company’s operation in Michigan, revealing that Nestle has come to dominate in the industry in part by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws [LIKE NEW ZEALAND!]. It makes billions selling a product for which it pays close to nothing.
[Which makes Nestlé and ilk (Coca-Cola, for example) clever and the New Zealand government really, really stupid. Cows freely shit in lots of our NZ water, and what’s left pure-ish we virtually give away to overseas corporations to sell. Duh!]

Diesel cars and trucks kill 5000 a year in Europe — Emissions from diesel cars rigged to appear eco-friendly may be responsible for 5000 air pollution deaths per year in Europe alone, according to a study. The numbers are in line with previous assessments of deaths due to the so-called Dieselgate scandal, which erupted when carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on vehicle emissions tests. [Imagine what the figures would be in China and India.]
But hey, now you can build virtual roads in what must be a truly maddening game.

Super-malaria — A newly-mutated strain of drug-resistant malaria has spread into Vietnam, complicating efforts to contain the the mosquito-borne virus in Southeast Asia and potentially posing a global threat.

First wild bison appears in Germany in 250 years, and is promptly shot dead — seriously! The World Wildlife Fund will be pursuing charges against a local official who, upon receiving a report of the first sighting of a wild bison in Germany in over 250 years, promptly ordered hunters to shoot the animal dead.

And the good news? Ah … I hope you voted. You get a one-in-roughly-four-million chance to affect the future every three years, so you may as well use it.

Futurology ~ A word about the future, strange in the Solar System, NZ AI baby, cars and wheels, molecular robots, tooth vaccine, Aboriginal migration


A New Zealand company has constructed an artificial intelligence baby that plays the piano

A note about this once-a-weekend blogpost, which I call Futurology (another entry in a succession of words I have tried to invent over the last three decades). I started this as there was a lack of Apple news on weekends and I’d discover all sorts of non-Apple-related links in my week of web crawling. I start out in space, but I don’t stay there: the column moves on to interesting inventions, and when theres revelatory news about the past, back in time, so don’t be put off by a picture of an asteroid or something, glance down to see if there’s anything else that interests you!

Is it an asteroid? A comet? Both? Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope are revealing new details about a strange binary asteroid that’s performing double-duty as a comet. It’s the first time scientists have ever seen such a thing.
Back in 2006, Spacewatch discovered an asteroid named 300163 (2006 VW139). Astronomers using the Pan-STARRS telescope detected some comet-like activity coming from the object in 2011, so it was also given a comet designation of 288P. But things have changed again. When the object made its closest approach to the Sun last year, a German-led team of scientists used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to make observations, revealing not one but two asteroids. Which means it’s a binary system.
~ Well, I’ve committed that catchy name to memory!

Disturbing New Zealand AI baby plays the piano — A New Zealand company called Soul Machines has built a disturbingly lifelike virtual baby powered by artificial intelligence software. BabyX, the virtual creation of Mark Sagar and his researchers, looks impossibly real.. The work is built off the research of Mark Sagar, the company’s CEO, who is on a quest to mimic human consciousness in a machine. Sagar used to work at Weta creating lifelike faces for films like King Kong and Avatar and is now building these very realistic looking virtual avatars and pumping them full of code that not only handles things like speech but that also replicates the nervous system and brain function.
~ And your AI baby future is Aryan … 

Electric cars of the future — This year’s Frankfurt show, the largest of its kind in the world, was packed with designs that preview all those new models coming over the next few years. If you want to see where the auto industry’s headed over the next decade and beyond, just take a whirl through the gallery above, and get ready for a real shock.
~ EVs still aren’t making an impact, but they all soon. 

3-wheeler retro-futurist car — The proposed specs on the NOBE, with a design is clearly based on a late ’50s to early ’60s-era European automotive design vocabulary, are that its electric, making a maximum 45kW, or 60 horsepower –  pretty substantial for something like this. That 60hp seems to be spread over three motors each making 20hp.
~ It has a novel charging method, too. 

Wheels and tyres that adjust to conditions — Continental has a tyre concept that can adjust itself to suit the weather conditions and your driving intentions. The Continental ContiAdapt is a smart wheel which can change between four different pre-set widths to suit wet, uneven, slippery and normal road conditions. “Micro-compressors” in each wheel expand or contract the variable width rim to suit the driving conditions – normal road conditions call for a small contact patch and high tyre pressure, where a larger contact patch and lower pressure means more grip for slippery conditions.
~ So rich people in the best cars can feel even safer, no doubt.

Molecular robot builds molecules — Scientists at The University of Manchester in the UK have created the world’s first “molecular robot” that is capable of performing basic tasks including building other molecules. The tiny robots, which are a millionth of a millimeter in size, can be programmed to move and build molecular cargo, using a tiny robotic arm. Each individual robot is capable of manipulating a single molecule and is made up of just 150 carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms.
~ Anyone seen that molecular robot? 

Chinese vaccine against tooth cavities — Scientists at Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences developed low side effects and high protective efficiency using flagellin-rPAc fusion protein KFD2-rPAc, a promising vaccine candidate to banish tooth decay. In rat challenge models, KFD2-rPAc induces a robust rPAc-specific IgA response, and confers efficient prophylactic and therapeutic efficiency as does KF-rPAc, while the flagellin-specific inflammatory antibody responses are highly reduced.
~ Hope it fixes rat-breath at the same time!

Australian migrations via Aboriginal artefacts — Decades after collection, hair samples long filed away in small manila envelopes have become a source of DNA for Ray Tobler and Alan Cooper. Specialists in ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, they wanted to know how humans first migrated across this continent, thousands of years ago.
~ Yes, thousands of years before white invaders ‘discovered’ Australia. 

Five Tip Friday ~ If you’ve made the jump to iOS 11, here are some tips for you


1/  A Safari finger gesture opens links in the background Immediately — In iOS 11 there is a way to open links immediately in the background while browsing Safari. You’ll need to go into Settings>Safari and turn on Open Links, and choose to open links in the background.
Now you can long-press the link, or 3D Touch the link. This lets you open web pages without navigating away from the current page. (This feature may have been around at least since iOS 10, and it works on iPhone and iPad).
(If you don’t have 3D Touch, try tapping the link with two fingers.)

2/ Using AirDrop in iOS 11 — The first, and arguably easiest, way to toggle AirDrop in iOS 11 is through the Control Center. Open the Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. The platter in the top left corner will show you Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Cellular Data, if you have it on your iOS device.
If you long-press or 3D Touch deep press on that platter, it will open up a couple more options (left) for you. One of those is AirDrop, which you can just tap on.
Then, choose whether you want the feature off, available to everyone, or available to just your contacts.
If you prefer, you can also find the toggle for AirDrop in the Settings app. Open Settings -> General -> AirDrop.
Then you can find the same configurations for AirDrop as in Control Center: Everyone, Contacts Only, or Off.

3/ Focus Lock the iPhone’s default camera — The iPhone’s default camera app is good, but sometimes there are one or two features you’re looking for that it doesn’t have, such as locking the focus or shooting in RAW. But it turns out that you can focus lock the camera, it’s just hidden away behind a gesture. Focus lock means that the camera will stay focused on a certain object even when you move around. Here’s how to do it.
Locking the focus isn’t new in iOS 11, but since the user interface is different it’s time for a refresher. You may already know that when you’re taking a photo with the default camera app, you can tap on the screen to focus on something specific in your frame. Now, to focus lock, you have to press and hold anywhere you want to focus on for a second.
The yellow reticle will flash a couple of times, and it will lock onto the object until you close the app or tap on another part of the screen.
After you lock the focus you can tap on the sun icon and swipe up or down to control the exposure. Swiping down will darken the image and lower the intensity of highlights so you get more detail.

4/ Turn Photos into custom Apple Watch faces — You’ll need at least one photo, but you can use up to ten for your custom watch face. Open the Photos app on your iPhone to get started. Now do this:
Select a photo you want to use as your custom watch face. You can pick up to 10.
Tap the Share icon in the bottom left corner of the screen
Choose Create Watch Face from the Share locations
Tap the Share icon (left) then the watch face icon (right) to turn your photo into a custom watch face
If you chose a single photo now you can set it as a Photos or Kaleidoscope watch face
Fine tune your custom watch face settings
Next, you can set where the time shows and if any complications are visible
Tap Add
Now head over to the Watch app to select your custom watch face
Now head over to the Watch app and select your new custom watch face. If you included multiple photos in your custom face they’ll change when you lift your watch.

5/ Customize taps for each of your AirPods — Take your AirPods out of their case (or just open it), launch your Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, and then touch Bluetooth.
Under that section, you should see your AirPods by name. Touch the “i” next to them first.
On the subsequent screen, there’s a “Double-Tap on AirPod” section, now separated into left and right.
So just touch the side you want to configure, and you’ll see your choices.
Tap the behaviour you want, go back to set up the opposite AirPod, and then you’ll see what you’ve chosen out on the previous Settings > Bluetooth > AirPods screen.

iPhone 8 available, inside iOS 11, ARKit apps, iTunes and apps, HDR movies, Apple TV, Apple Watch and WiFi


(Image from Apple NZ’s iPhone 8 page)

iPhone 8 is available — It’s here in New Zealand, available to buy. As Apple says, it has “The most durable glass ever in a smartphone, front and back. A colour‑matched, aerospace-grade aluminium band. New space grey, silver and gold finishes.”
You can buy it from the usual places or direct from Apple,  (call 0800-692-7753).
If you get to get rid of your old iPhone in favour of a new one, here’s how. If you’d rather wait for the break-the-bank iPhone X, Mujo already has bespoke leather cases ready for them.

Inside iOS 11: Apple’s new one-handed keyboard allows for easier typing — Although most recent iPhones aren’t as friendly to one-handed users as the iPhone SE, Apple’s new iOS 11 does offer a special one-handed keyboard that compresses buttons into one corner of the screen. Here’s how to use it. The iOS 11 Cover Sheet mimics the lock screen and foretells swipe up to unlock for iPhone X. The launch of iOS 11 brings about a convergence of the iPhone’s Notification Center and Lock Screen for a new feature called Cover Sheet. Presenting a user’s notifications and other events, the feature also offers a glimpse at how the new home-button-free iPhone X will work when it debuts in November. It has quick screen recording comes right inside Control Center, invoked through a command in the overhauled Control Center interface. You add this via the Customise ability.
The iOS 11 App Store renovation for iPhone and iPad was inspired by Apple Music, and has  speed enhancements and new multitasking feature. This has been showcased in new ads.

Looking for more ARKit Apps? There’s a new App Store Section for that — Apple’s revamped App Store in iOS 11 aims to improve discoverability, and that’s good news if you’re on the hunt for more apps that show off what you can do with augmented reality.

You can still restore iOS apps from your hard drive — There are still a couple of options to let you restore iOS apps from your hard drive. Yes, Apple has taken away much of our ability to manage apps in iTunes 12.7. However, that doesn’t mean all of your IPA files are worthless. In fact, you can even still use iTunes to load them onto your devices.

Apple throws iTunes spotlight on 4K HDR movies ahead of Apple TV 4K release — Ahead of Friday’s public release of Apple TV 4K, Apple on Wednesday updated its iTunes Store with a special section dedicated to available 4K HDR movies, content that highlights the new set-top streamer’s high-definition capabilities. Apple TV 4K impressions positive, depending on how bought-in users are to iTunes, but Apple TV 4K won’t play 4K YouTube videos because of missing Google codec.

watchOS 4 restricts browsing of connected iPhone music library — With the release of watchOS 4, Apple no longer allows users to browse their iPhone’s music library, restricting song list viewing to tunes stored on device.

How to ditch bad Wi-Fi info so Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular has better connectivity — The Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE has a bug related to how it decides to stay on shoddy Wi-Fi, or shift to LTE. This can be remedied somewhat by cleaning up your known networks and not connecting to the some bad Wi-Fi hotspots in the first place: here’s how to do it.

Another dock, Freeter Pro, Office Time


OWC unveils new USB-C Travel Dock — OWC has announced the OWC USB-C Travel Dock, which lets you connect its integrated USB-C cable to a Mac or PC laptop or other computer to utilise its five ports of mobile connectivity from a dock small enough to fit in a pocket.
The included USB-C cable provides connectivity to the dock’s five ports (2xUSB 3, 1xUSB-C, HDMI, SD card)  for USB devices users need when travelling. It provides connectivity to USB devices through two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports to connect and power two USB devices, so users can have a full tablet and/or phone charge at all times. An HDMI port connects one 4K display, and an SD card slot allows users to access and store photos with one connection. [This has, in other words, a similar form factor to the Moshi symbus, without Ethernet but with the addition of an SD card reader.] It costs US$50, comes in four colours and is standalone (no additional power supply).

Freeter Pro: $9.99 — It doesn’t matter if you’re a designer, coder, blogger, or someone who has a lot of projects to manage, you need a way to stay on task. Freeter Pro is a Mac app that helps keep everything at your fingertips from task management to files and code snippets, websites, and more. Freeter Pro costs US$29, but it’s only US$9.99 with TMO’s special deal. [TMO also has a deal on Nisus Writer Pro at half price today.]

Office Time for macOS — Office Time for the Mac (as well as iOS and watchOS devices) makes sure none of those valuable dollars and cents slip through your fingers, and more importantly helps you bill that to a third party. It starts off as a general time tracking program. Office Time costs US$47 (about NZ$65).

Inside iOS 11, AirPlay 2, ARKit, download ceiling up, ProCreate update, Belkin RockStar, Watch 3 issues, Syntronik


iOS 11 Apple’s big productivity upgrade — Apple has released iOS 11 and this is the biggest release since the first iPhone shipped with iPhone OS. Is it worth installing, assuming your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch supports it? The short answer is yes, but iOS isn’t perfect. Read on to see what the Mac Observer likes and dislikes about iOS 11.
The Files app brings some user control of documents stored on an iPad or iPhone. Apple’s iOS 11 introduced this new Files app, allowing iPhone, iPad, and Mac users the ability to seamlessly share working documents across iCloud, as well as integrate other online storage services with compatible applications. It has me minor limitations, but  for the first time, users can move files between apps in a graphical user interface, and not rely on the inconsistent ShareSheet button to move files between apps.
Apple’s Photos app now has native support for animated GIFs, and also automatically sorts them into a dedicated folder of animated images, making it even easier to find the pictures you are looking for. Messages in iCloud has not implemented at present, but it’s coming in a future update to iOS 11.
There is quite a long list of bug and security fixes, and Apple Insider has a movie of all the new features, plus for watchOS and tvOS.
Apple has also posted three new iPad tutorial videos highlighting iOS 11 features like handwriting conversion.

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi aren’t full disabled when turned off in iOS 11’s Control Center — Apple says that when you toggle the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth buttons in Control Center, your device will immediately disconnect from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth accessories but Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will continue to be available, so you can use AirDrop, AirPlay, the Apple Pencil, the Apple Watch, Continuity features (such as Handoff and Instant Hotspot), and Locations services. [Presumably AirPlane Mode still works as it should.]

AirPlay 2 on existing speakers requires a firmware update, support for Apple’s AirPort Express unknown — The upcoming launch of AirPlay 2 comes with a caveat: old hardware will need a firmware update, at the very least, to work with the new protocol. With Apple said to have ceased development on its router products, it’s possible that AirPort Express owners using AirPlay could be left in the dust. [No!! I use this all the time!]

First ARKit apps hit App Store, including Strava’s Fitness AR and room dimensioning app PLNAR — With the release of iOS 11 on Tuesday, iPhone and iPad owners will see a flood of augmented reality titles hit the App Store thanks to Apple’s introduction of ARKit. Fitness tracking app maker Strava and room dimensioning title PLNAR [which needs something more powerful than an iPhone 6] are among the first to take advantage of the specialised API.

Apple sets new 150MB ceiling for over the air App Store downloads — To go along with Tuesday’s big iOS 11 release, Apple announced a change in App Store policy that allows users to download apps up to 150 megabytes in size when connected to a cellular network, up from a previous cap of 100MB.

Procreate 4 delivers drag and drop, Files app support, other iOS 11 enhancements — One of the App Store’s best third-party illustration apps, Procreate, received a massive update on Tuesday with an all-new imaging engine and iOS 11-specific features like drag and drop, Files app support and more.

Belkin rolls out 3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar Lightning adapter for iPhones without a headphone jack — The new 3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar allows Lightning-only devices to plug in headphone jack audio devices and a source of power or data and use both at the same time. The Lightning port allows for not just power, but data synchronisation as well.

Apple issues a statement on Apple Watch Series 3 cellular connection issues — Early reviewers for publications including The Verge and The Wall Street Journal have expressed connectivity issues with the Apple Watch Series 3, which will be available this Friday. Apple has issued a statement about the issue.

Syntronik is IK’s new synthesiser app that features the sound of “the most iconic machines to ever grace the planet” — Syntronik comprises 17 powerful virtual synths recreating the legendary sonic signature of 38 of the most sought-after classic analog synthesizers and string machines ever created, recognisable by their elegantly designed, easy-to-navigate interfaces. It’s a free app, which includes 25 instrument sounds from 17 synths, but Syntronik Full, which offers a more comprehensive experience, has introductory pricing of US$39.99 – this is available as an in-app purchase. Individual synths are also available via in-app purchase for US$9.99 each.

Cook on DACA, Jackson on Trump, iWork updates, Safari


The iWork suite of Pages, Numbers and Keynote for Mac has been updated to be more compatible with new iOS 11 features

Tim Cook issues strongest language yet regarding DACA, supporting DREAMers — Apple CEO Tim Cook reiterated his stance against DACA’s elimination in what is possibly his most candid and firmest statement on the matter since he first spoke on the matter.
This is unacceptable, this is not who we are as a country,” Cook said at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum on Wednesday morning regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order’s pending elimination. “I am personally shocked that there’s even a discussion on this. It’s not a political thing, at least I don’t see it that way at all. It’s about basic human decency and respect.”

Apple’s Lisa Jackson criticises Trump EPA for lack of transparency — Apple VP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson in an interview on Tuesday said the Environmental Protection Agency, which she led from 2009 to 2013, is under threat from President Donald Trump’s administration for a seeming lack of transparency.

Apple updates Pages, Numbers, Keynote with iOS 11 features — Following Tuesday’s release of iOS 11, Apple has updated its iWork suite of productivity apps to better take advantage of the new operating system’s features, with iPad-centric support for drag and drop, multitasking and more. Pages has a redesigned document manager for streamlined access to files stores in iCloud Drive and third-party cloud service providers. The word processor is also compatible with the new Files app, a central hub for local and cloud-based documents, images and more.
Apple’s Numbers receives many of the same iOS 11 changes with support for drag and drop, multitasking and the new Files app. Numbers also benefits from unspecified performance and stability improvements.
Apple’s Keynote update focuses on basic iOS 11 compatibility, with release notes for the software mentioning the redesigned document manager, drag and drop, multitasking and support for the Files app. Like its iWork stablemates, Keynote touts new shape and object commands, as well as performance and stability improvements.

Apple issues Safari 11 update for macOS Sierra & OS X El Capitan — Though it’s included by default with the upcoming macOS High Sierra, Apple on Tuesday released Safari 11 for macOS Sierra and OS X El Capitan, giving people early access to the finished browser’s features.
The update – available through the Mac App Store – prevents audio from auto-playing on “most” websites, according to Apple. Users can also configure things like auto-play, content blockers, and Reader on a per-site basis, or make settings universal.
The browser also includes performance boosts, new controls for HTML audio and video, and better AutoFill accuracy when pulling data from Contacts.

Review ~ Kensington SD5000T Thunderbolt 3 has enough ports for any storm


As I have said before, what you do when you get a Mac with only a couple of ports (four on the MacBook Pro 15-inch)? Barely anyone I know finds this enough, and Apple keeps changing ports on us. I’m not about to lambast Apple for this – if we didn’t believe in change, we’d still be using floppy discs and serial ports, and forget about smartphones.
The new USB-C ports on the MacBook are smaller than previous plugs, yet handle almost everything. Once upon a time you needed a Mac with a USB port or two (preferably more), Mini DisplayPort, perhaps HDMI, Thunderbolt, maybe FireWire, and SD card slot … now the confusingly-named Thunderbolt 3/USB-C (it’s the same thing on a MacBook, with the port sharing these duties) does all of those jobs.
But four USB-C ports still isn’t many, and most of us have things we’ve been plugging into our Macs for years already that we still want to plug into whatever new Macs we et. Personally, I have two printers, three hard drives, an extra monitor, a mouse, a wired extended keyboard, an audio interface, a light (I know, that’s just silly) and hey, I like to directly plug in an iPad or iPhone every now and again too, for faster sync and backups and, best f all, faster OS updates (via iTunes).

The Kensington SD5000T Dock is aimed at professional environments and therefore has a Kensington lock slot, plus it has been designed to be mounted to the rear of VESA-compatible displays with a separate bracket accessory as longs as it supports the pretty rare Zero Footprint Mounting system. For this to work, you need a display that includes accessible VESA mounting holes even with the display’s foot attached. Of course, like most docks, the SD5000T will also sit happily on a desk. I guess this means that, mounted onto a monitor and locked with a Kensington lock, it effectively locks up your monitor too, at least against those without the time and tools to remove it from the bracket.
The SD5000T is a serious looking thing, in black and silver, following the convention of two handy ports on the front and all the rest on the back for more sedentary tasks. Left to right, on the front in a sort of indentation on the right, is the more standard USB 3, which is backwards compatible to any older USB plugs that fit it (stepping down to their speeds) but which is not USB 3.1, plus an additional USB-C port (which boasts USB 3.1 speed anyway).


On the back of the Kensington SD5000T (shown above) there is, left to right: Ethernet (I noticed I had to restart my Mac with the Dock plugged into the MacBook Pro to get this connection to work, by the way), USB 3, Audio In, Audio Out, the Kensington lock slot (in the middle), 2xUSB-C (one of these needs to go into your Mac but there’s a pretty short USB-C cable supplied), DisplayPort and the AC power inlet.
Since the USB-C cable can charge up even a MacBook Pro 15-inch (thus releasing another USB-C port on the Mac, which is great), there’s a very large power brick that comes with this Dock – it’s almost the same size as the dock (you can see it below). In other words, the SD5000T dock serves to deal out signal to all these different ports and interfaces while also charging your MacBook, which is a very big tick in favour of USB-C, no?Using USB — The older USB 2.0 standard is capable of a theoretical maximum data transfer rate of 480 megabits per second while USB 3.0 is capable of 5 gigabits per second, or over 10 times faster.
USB 3.0 ports have a blue ‘tongue’ inside the plug. USB 3.1, released in July 2013, can theoretically hit 10Gbps, rivalling the speed of Ethernet and the original Thunderbolt standard – and that’s the same theoretical speed as USB-C, but not many devices ever implemented USB 3.1 whereas the USB-C version, thanks to Apple, is beginning to gain traction.

Actual speeds — Copying a 6.05GB movie file from the very fast internal 1TB SSD in a 2017 MacBook Pro to a USB 3 (traditional, not Solid State) hard drive, in this case a LaCie Rugged plugged into a USB 3 port on the back of a Dell U2715H monitor (which is plugged in, in turn, via an adapter into one of the MacBook’s USB-C ports) took one minute 28 seconds (1:28). I didn’t expect it to make any difference, but I also tried this plugged into the front USB 3 port on the SD5000T. (It’s amazing how quickly you get annoyed at having to get the damn USB 3 plug in the right way up, after just a few days using USB-C!) Sure enough, a virtually similar 1:29 (which means that USB 3 hub on the back of the Dell is better than I thought, anyhow).
As an interesting comparison, I also have at hand an OWC SSD in an external housing – the same 6.05GB movie file copied to this, also over the USB 3 port, in under 20 seconds, or in 22.5% of the time! Almost five times faster.
I also, out of interest, plugged the same USB 3 cable into the USB-C port via a USB-C to USB 3 adapter and got 1:36. This should be distinctly faster through a USB-C cable to a USB-C hard drive. There are a few available already, and I’d love to try one. But suffice to say if you have a faster hard drive, you will get faster performance. Anyway, I figured I’d end up using the LaCie plugged into the Dock, but that’s pointless now as I may as well leave into plugged in the more difficult-to-reach Dell, since it stays mounted.
The Blackmagic Disk Speed tests for these drives, by the way, were 63.9MB/s read and 66.8MB/s write for the 1TB LaCie USB 3 Rugged external drive, 290MB/s read and 420MB/s write for the 512GB OWC Elite mini U3FW. I could not measure my own internal 1TB SSD, but Apple reckons this runs at a blazing 3.1GB/s read and 2.2GB/s write.

Conclusion — A handsome unit with an unexpected design benefit that it quickly becomes a handy receptacle for paperclips and pens as the top has raised edges – it can act as a little tray. This Kensington Thunderbolt 3 dock has a handy (OK, indispensable) array of ports and the fact that it charges even a 2017 MacBook Pro 15-inch is a big positive. I actually have an additional monitor with DisplayPort and getting that was the first time I even saw that type of port, being more used to HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. Unfortunately I don’t have a DisplayPort cable to try it with (I’ve been using the Dell with a DisplayPort to USB-3 cable – the Dell did not come with a DisplayPort cable. But it drives it find with this cable via USB-C.

What’s great — Useful array of ports, attractive and useful design.
What’s not — Expensive compared to other docks but its ‘sensible’ design, plus the possibility to lift it off the desk into the back of the right VESA-compatible monitor plus the Kensington Lock Slot should justify this for enterprise users.
Needs — Anyone with the need for more than four USB-C ports on a new MacBook.Kensington SD5000T Dock, NZ RRP $519.95 (US$349.99)

System — Mac OS, Mac OS 10.5, Mac OS 10.6, Mac OS 10.7, Mac OS 10.8, Mac OS 10.9, Mac OS X 10.10, Mac OS X 10.11, Mac OS Sierra 10.12

More information — Kensington.

iOS 11 is here, TestFlight and Playgrounds, OmniFocus, goodbye 32-bit, iPhone 8, TV app, watchOS 4


Apple has releases lots of iDevice updates today, including tvOS 11

iOS 11 is [almost] here! And before you upgrade, it’s important to back up your device. If you sync with a Mac, you can back up in iTunes. You can also [slower] back up to iCloud. There are also two ways to install iOS 11. The first allows you to do it directly on your iPhone or iPad. The second lets you do it by connecting your device to your Mac. The upgrade process will take several minutes, and you should probably use a Wi-Fi connection so you don’t eat up your data allocation with your service provider. [Not available in NZ at 6:30am, but it should show up soon.]
There are lots of new features, and Apple’s Control Center has become modular and customisable. It also brings better Siri, ARKit, H.265, AirPlay 2 and more.

Apple updates TestFlight & Swift Playgrounds for iOS 11’s new tech — In conjunction with the release of iOS 11, Apple has also released new versions of TestFlight and Swift Playgrounds, redesigning the former’s interface and adding an things like an Augmented Reality challenge to the latter.

OmniFocus update exploits powerful new features in iOS 11 — The latest version from the Omni Group updates for iOS 11 compatibility, but also takes advantages of changes to Siri and adds drag and drop.

How to find the 32-bit apps on your iPhone or iPad that won’t work in iOS 11 at all — The day has come: Apple will disallow 32-bit apps from running on iOS 11. If you haven’t updated because of worries of incompatibility, AppleInsider shows you how to identify which apps installed on your iPhone are 32-bit allowing you to decide if you want to upgrade or wait.

iPhone 8 wireless charging speed will improve with future firmware update from Apple — At launch, the iPhone 8 will recharge via inductive wireless technology at a rate comparable to the standard 5-watt charger that ships with the handset. But Apple plans to improve that speed with a future software update.
This video shows everything you need to know about Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus,

Fun in PCalc — A new update for the app uses iOS 11’s ARKit feature to bring augmented reality into your number-filled world. Just tap the info button on the calculator keypad, choose Help, then tap About PCalc. Once you see the floating 42 badge tap anywhere on the screen to bring up the AR controls so you can throw marbles, dice, and bananas into your virtual world.

Apple launches tvOS 11 for Apple TV, adding live news & sports in TV app — As promised Apple on Tuesday released the finished version of tvOS 11, build 15J381, an update for fourth-generation Apple TVs that brings mostly evolutionary improvements, the most significant being groundwork for live news and sports features in the TV app. Apple has rolled out tvOS 11 with AirPlay 2, which offers multi-room audio support. It also includes the ability to automatically switch between light and dark interface modes.

TV availability in tvOS spreading — Apple began the rollout of TV app in Australia, Canada ahead of iOS 11 & tvOS 11 debut. tvOS 11 release, which will deliver the one-stop streaming hub to seven additional countries later this year. Apple is expanding availability of the TV app to seven countries — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway and the UK — by the end of 2017.
Apple TV owners running the latest tvOS software in Australia [which may include NZ, does anyone know? Since NZ is administered mostly from Sydney] and Canada discovered the TV app, or at least its icon, on their home screen earlier today and took to Twitter to note the the change. On fourth-generation Apple TV units, the TV app seems to be a placeholder instead of a functional app, but its presence hints at an imminent release likely timed to coincide with tomorrow’s iOS 11 and tvOS 11 launch. The TV app acts as a central hub for browsing, discovering and managing streaming content across a variety of providers and owned media.

Apple launches watchOS 4 for Apple Watch with improved Activity & Workout tracking, revamped Music app, Siri watch face — The Apple Watch interface has been refined and improved with today’s launch of watchOS 4, including a new vertically scrolling app dock, the ability to view installed apps in a list view instead of grid, and new watch faces including a Siri smart assistant and characters from the iconic “Toy Story” films.

watchOS 4 no longer lets you browse iPhone music library on your Apple Watch — In a major change to how the Apple Watch operates, users can no longer browse their iPhone’s music library after updating to watchOS 4, and instead can only view songs stored on the watch itself.

Mac games coming, Basketball apps


The future Mac games that have Ric Molina excited — Sometimes, there are simply too many Mac games to cover! Believing that nothing is going on with Mac gaming because no one mentions anything would be a shame. To remedy that, here’s an overview of the most exciting Mac games he’s discovered recently: SteamWorld Dig 2 (coming September 22nd), for example, is a platform mining adventure about digging deep, gaining riches, and exploring an underworld filled with dangers. [Yay, let’s warm someone else’s planet!] And there are more: Tropico 6, Tannenberg, Pillars of Eternity II and Sociable Soccer.

LineUp, LineUp Pro are new basketball stat apps for macOS — StatGeek has announced Lineup and Lineup Plus for the Mac. They allow users to produce advanced basketball statistics along with statistics on 5-man groups, 2-man groups and 3-man groups in seconds.

Tuesday Talk ~ iPhones 8 and 10


(Images from Apple’s iPhone NZ page)

Is an X sexier than a 10? It’s bolder-looking, anyhow, but begs being expressed as ‘Ex’ instead of ‘ten’. I remember how uncomfortable Apple used to be about people saying ‘Oh Ess Ex’ (just say it a couple of times) yet they persisted, I wondered if changing the nomenclature to ‘macOS X’ was a part of the gradually persuasive campaign to get people to pronounce it as ‘macOS Ten’ instead (it used to just be ‘OS X’ but then iOS and watchOS became big players).

And should you wait for an iPhone X or spring for an 8? They have many of the same features, Personally, I don’t like phablets as they’re simply too big for the pocket, so the 8 is the natural choice for me for three reasons: it’s cheaper, it’s smaller and it’s available now.
I still have an iPhone 6. I bought it three years ago. I took all the pictures in my latest book with it. It’s getting a little shoddy but it still performs perfectly well and I like the slim form factor (virtually the same as the 8). If I can hang on till the iPhone 8s, I will, but it may not last that long. The iPhone 8 is a wonderful phone with an Apple-developed A11 Bionic CPU that blitzes the chips from all them other smartphone makers. That’s pretty compelling, although I have to admit, since I don’t play games on my iPhone, the camera advances are likely to be more useful to me. I have noticed my 6 processing photos quite slowly these days, so I will definitely appreciate more core-power.
Apple is using the new A11 Bionic in its iPhone 8/8 Plus models but it’s the same as that in the iPhone X. The scores Geekbench outlines for the three models show some variation between them (less than 5% in single core and around 7% in multicore), likely related to the difference in display resolution and offset by a difference in RAM.
The A11 Bionic is 25% faster in single core and 80% faster in multicore scores than iPhone 7. This is particularly noteworthy because Apple’s latest chip delivers new neural net, camera ISP and GPU capabilities above and beyond what a generic processor benchmark measures. With more Augmented and Virtual Reality apps due to start arriving soon, thanks to Apple’s ARKit promotion, this performance will become ever more useful.

I guess this all begs the question ‘are we excited about iPhone 8 and X?’ I don’t know if ‘excited’ is the right word for me, but that normally happens once an Apple expert talks me through a new device. These are very solid improvements, no doubt. I have always lauded Apple’s dedication to improving things and making them more useful. On that spectrum, these are pretty dramatic advances.
I’m really looking forward to a new iPhone for myself, for sure, and it’s not like me to imagine waiting another 12 months for something I really want and need, so we’ll see. For me, the 8 ticks all the boxes.
But do I understand the allure of the iPhone X model? I have to say no, for the same reason I don’t ‘get’ Porsches. They’re technically amazing, for sure, but you can’t drive them anywhere near their performance, so what’s the point? Apart from showing off. I’ve never been one to own things merely to show off, and to me so far, at it’s ridiculous price point, the X hints more of that.

I don’t believe this is just reverse-snobbery, by the way. I like to use something to at least 50% of its capabilities. Driving a supercar on a New Zealand road, you’re getting 20% of its potential at best. Paying a premium to do that is very far away from common sense.
I feel the same way about an iPhone X. At least there are no speed limitations for it, but very few iPhone users will be pushing it to anywhere near its potential.
So what’s the point, unless you have the ego of a Mike Hosking? (And indeed, what’s the point of Mike Hosking’s ego? It’s without worth.)