eXtensions - Friday 6 January 2017
Cassandra: Friday Review - Apple Damned if it Does, Damned if it Doesn't Again
By Graham K. Rogers
Apple decided not to take up the invitation, to avoid any appearance that might be taken as an attempt to prejudice future outcomes, so in this way Apple and Cook are respecting the process completely, but that is not enough for some politicians who think instead that this is some sort of snub. Miller writes, "Sending Cook to Ireland would only cause a rush of press coverage, again putting Apple's questionable tax maneuvering in the limelight."
I have been looking at some of the announcements from Nevada and notice that there are plenty of smart home devices at CES along with a number of other items including health applications that have me interested. Some of these may eventually work with Apple's HomeKit and HealthKit.
Having just found one USB-C hard disk in Bangkok (one: what are the retailers up to apart from selling smartphone cases?) I am alert to this subject. That disk was from LaCie and I see that LaCie is working with Seagate for some more MacBook Pro compatible drives (Ashley Wright, AppleInsider). One of the new drives is in LaCie's Rugged series and there are also drives in the d2 Thunderbolt 3 series, with configurations up to 10 terabytes. "The drive is coming in 6TN, 8TB and 10TB and start at $429.99" and should ship soon, but who knows when they may arrive, if ever here (and at what price).
A few months ago I looked at a GMate glucose test devices and frightened myself with results I saw. A check at the doctor's showed my blood sugar was within reasonable limits. About the same time I found out that it was possible to detect the helicobacter pylori bacteria (the one that causes stomach ulcers) with a breath test and this can be analysed in Bangkok.
A considerable amount of research is being done currently with chemically sensitive devices to detect changes in levels using electrical sensors, and some of this can be used in health applications. Note also an article on illness detection using breath by Steve Dent (EnGadget): "Simple breath test can detect cancer and 16 other diseases."
At CES, AppleInsider saw the LEVLpro iOS connected device that uses breath to to measure a user's fat burning state, by checking on acetone levels. Data recorded can be sent to health professionals such as is possible with HealthKit apps that are already in use. Currently this device does not offer integration with HealthKit, but the developers are aware of the benefits of this, "and they view it as a natural fit for their product".
A Bluetooth device that attaches to a smartphone and measures radiation was reported at CES by Ben Lovejoy on 9to5 Mac. The Dosime device measures real-time exposure rate and accumulated doses of ionizing radiation from whatever source: natural or human (power stations). This will be coming in February at a cost of $249 from Amazon, but it does not ship to Thailad.
Also announced at CES was a revival of Kodak's Ektachrome film. This type of film produces slides and the output was highly rated when the film was in general use. While the parent company has its problems (and its patents) the film division was reworked with the help of enthusiasts who recognise that film is not dead and is now called Kodak Alaris. Dunja Djudjic (DIY Photography) outlines the information about the announcement at CES adding that this will be available late in the year although pricing is not yet known.
A local user messaged me on Thursday with a link to a video of the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro which he sees as where Apple should be going with its tablets and computers, especially with regard to the education market. We have discussed the particular point several times of an ARM-equipped Mac, but I do not totally see the need with the task-oriented approach that Apple is taking. Nonetheless, others do see such a gap in the product lineup and this should be (probably is) considered at Cupertino.
Mind you, the Mac side of things is suffering. Although this is certainly in terms of perception, there are also clear gaps. The MacBook Pro that was just released was an essential: Apple couldn't not release a new Mac at the end of 2016 and there was no point waiting for Intel to catch up with suitable Kaby Lake processors. Of course, as soon as January rolls round, Intel announces these processors, so we may expect a MacBook Pro update this year, which in turn will anger those who bought the 2016 MacBook Pro, like me. However, the new processors may not satisfy everyone and Mark Walton on Ars Technica wonders about future development of desktop machines, which may put the comments on the Mac Pro (below) in a different context.
There are certain to be questions and comments on the Mac at the Conference Call on 31 January when Apple releases its latest quarterly figures. We may expect a week or two of really negative articles on Apple from Wall Street-related sources and hangers-on to make sure the share price is depressed.
The two or three Mac models that are giving most concern to commentators are the iMac (an important consumer and Pro machine), the MacPro and the Mac mini. The last two have not had updates for three years or more, with the MacPro not being updated at all since its initial release. Following an online comment by Pro user Chris Adamson who bought one recently, because there was nothing else suitable, even John Gruber (who is one of the most pro-Apple writers around) was moved to comment, "Given his situation and needs, I think he made a reasonable decision. But "capitulation" is exactly the right word."
However, note the comments of Mark Walton on the lack of effort by Intel on its Kaby Lake announcement:
for the enthusiast - where the latest and greatest should perform better than what came before - Kaby Lake desktop chips are a disappointment, a stopgap solution that does little more than give OEMs something new to stick on a label in a 2017 product stack.
Several reports from pro uses appeared online within days of these Macs going on sale (a couple before) and many were negative, although I still fail to see how a few hours (at best) could have them decide the MacBook Pro was dead in the water. Other reports at around the same time were reporting the exact opposite, but the hooray Henries took up the negatives only, including two or three Twitter users here who most certainly did not have these Macs.
A couple of weeks into the distribution worldwide of these new MacBook Pro models and there is a better idea of what they can do, despite the apparent limitations of the RAM (max 16GB) and battery life, which I have not noticed.
A wide-ranging assessment of a MacBook Pro was carried out by Larry Jordan who actually does the job of editing video so needs the power. His comments both positive and negative are balanced and show clearly the capabilities and a few limits of the 15" MacBook Pro he has been using. Like me he also has a 13" 2013 MacBook Pro so the comparisons are similar to what I have been experiencing.
This is a longish read as he looks carefully not only at the mechanics of using the Mac but the philosophy (the intentions, if you like) and includes some useful results from test software. This is well worth a look, especially if all you have read are the "nattering nabobs of negativism" (Spiro Agnew).
The tragedy here for me is that I had to order these adapters via Amazon and that I have seen only one USB-C hard disk here (I am told there is one other disk) when computers with these new ports (Apple, Dell and HP) have been in the market since the end of 2015. This over-cautious approach by retailers loses tem sales as (like me) many users look online (and overseas) for the products they need and don't bother with the shops here.
I made one prediction this year and I was wrong. I expected the date of Apple's First Quarter 2017 results announcement would be 24 January and it is set for 31st.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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