eXtensions - Saturday 12 December 2020


Saturday Digression: iPad apps on M1 Macs; Apple Modem Chips; the Apple Monopoly; F*ceB**k and Oculus

By Graham K. Rogers


I am still waiting for certain iPad apps to be made available for the M1 Mac; but an update for Pixelmator Photo, as good as it is, was not the change I wanted. Cydia is suing Apple for being an illegal monopoly; while movies held back by studios are now to be released much to the annoyance of the artists. Qualcomm thinks Apple has done well with the M1 chip. In the meantime Apple is developing a modem chip to cease reliance on Qualcomm.

I had commented in the last couple of notes about my slight disappointment over the ability to run iPad apps on the M-series MacBook Pro and what I found in the real world. So far all the apps shown as available in the list of those I have bought since 2008 are also all marked as not being optimized. That is not unreasonable.

However there are several apps I have bought over the years which I would love to be able to use on my Macs. Some of these like DarkRoom, Pixelmator Pro and Affinity Photo have Mac and iOS (or iPadOS) versions. I would really like Pixelmator Photo - an iPad only app - to be made available for the Mac. It is one of my favorite image-editing apps on the iPad (particularly the iPad Pro) with just enough of the right sort of tools to make photo-editing quick and easy. It also has an interface that reminds me of the lamented Aperture (and I know I am not alone in this), right down to the way that the tools panel can be located left or right of the screen. Few image editing app developers think of that.

Pixelmator Photo This week, Pixelmator released an update for the app and I checked through the notes really carefully just in case there were some hint about the Mac. I also checked the App Store on the M1 Mac, but it had not slipped by. I am still on hold there. However, what they have done is to improve an already good photo-editing app.

While Pixelmator Pro and Affinity Photo, like Adobe Photoshop and other image editing applications have valuable toolsets that allows editing right down to the pixel level, with several ways in which to change and improve the images (not just photographs), Pixelmator Photo, like Darkroom is a photo-editing app and the changes that can be done with this are more in the type of overview changes. If the contrast is changed, the contrast for the whole image is changed in the same proportions. It is the same with the many other settings available.

This is how I like to edit my images most of the time, keeping faithful to the original idea that I saw when I took the shot. If I do need a specific localized change (such as dodge or burn) that can be done with one of the other apps (e.g. Pixelmator Pro) although I prefer doing this on the Mac using Photos extensions.

App Store on iPad

Apple is being sued (of course, why not?) by Cydia who ran an operation before the App Store was set up to allow users to download apps and install on jail-break devices. I sense ethical and legal problems there, but Cydia claims the monopoly situation is illegal (Timothy B. Lee, Ars Techica). Not that I am a legal expert, but Apple is under pressure from legislators and litigants, as are most of the big tech companies (Google, Facebook, et al). Whether it is found to be a monopoly or not in future cases (or changes in the law), I would not want to buy any apps that I install on my devices from any source other than Apple. With the amount of control they apply, quality and security are checked: not always perfectly, but the risks are fewer.

With all the problems related to COVID-19 entertainment seems minor, but we need the Arts, whatever some may say. Several performers and theater groups are adapting to online presentations, but cinema has problems. Many films are being released directly to TV sources, like Netflix and AppleTV+, but they really demand a big screen, even if some of the larger screens have been made smaller in recent years. I do not mind movies on the television, but going to the movies - which used to be a family thing when I was a child in the 1950s - is still special; not that I am hoping to take the risk right now. Many in the UK, USA and other countries would do well to avoid this.

A conflict has arisen between the film makers and the studios. The former have artistic reasons for delaying the release of their works until cinemas are open, while the studios (and the cinemas) need income. There have been some compromises with limited movie house shows combined with online services (Warner, Disney, Netflix, Apple) releasing movies through their delivery mechanisms, but the latest Bond movie is still delayed, as is Tenet, although that is about to end, with the director and cast not happy about release decisions.

As part of the online release on 15 December, there is already a 6-minute teaser for Tenet on YouTube. I was already keen to see the movie, but these opening scenes had me hooked. I was pleased to see that the movie is listed in the iTunes Store here so I pre-ordered for its release day. That is next Tuesday, although with international time zones, I may have to wait until Wednesday.

A couple of hours after I posted a comment (Thursday Notes) on Facebook's potential problems with legal questions concerning monopoly, much of Facebook and its satellites were offline. Reports in a number of sources showed that a mix of Instagram, Messenger and Facebook connections were affected (Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac) and not just in North America. There were also reports that users were unable to connect in Europe and Australia as well as parts of Asia, although I checked my Instagram account and that seemed OK. The outages seem to have been fixed now.

With all the pressure on Facebook, I wondered if someone at Menlo Park had had a hissy fit and pulled the plug: now see how much you need us. To me that would prove the opposite: if a problem with one part of the organization affects all parts, they need to be separated: redundant systems.

There are some in the US Government (and elsewhere) who believe that Facebook is now too powerful. I included a Tweet from Christopher Wylie last time who was in no doubt about this. We have seen the way that social networking sites have increased their sway in elections, particularly with regard to the way Cambridge Analytica used FB data and then targeted advertisements to redirect opinions. Just because Cambridge Analytica is no more does not mean that this has all gone away. The useful Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, showed how pervasive this is.

Another nail in the coffin may (to mix metaphors) have been self-inflicted by Mr FB himself. The robotic replies, and the evasion when asked questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee would not have endeared him to many politicians who were already wary of the way Facebook and Google (in particular) have been playing fast and loose with everyone's data. I have been teaching this for the last few years, but it seems that the politicians have finally caught up.

As if it could not be any worse, Natasha Lomas (TechCrunch) reports that Facebook is facing another lawsuit, this time in Germany, over tying Oculus users to Facebook accounts. When it took over Oculus current users were told they had to move to FB by 2023, while new users had to use Facebook accounts only: sounds like a monopoly to me.

M1 Processor

The M1 chip is now a reality and AMD are looking to develop their own version. The idea of the system on a chip (SOC) has more attractions for Apple who prefer to control the whole show. One area in which there were problems concerned modem chips and this year an extended dispute between Qualcomm and Apple was ended with a sort of agreement that ties Apple to taking the former's products for 6 years. That is like a red rag to a bull and it is no surprise to hear that Apple is beginning development of its own chips. Samuel Axon (Ars Technica) has news from Johnny Srouji that seems to confirm that Apple is about to make its own modem chips for the iPhone having acquired Intel's modem business last year; but will this be a separate chip or incorporated into the A-series processors?

In a comment related to the development of the M1 processors, the president of Qualcomm has considerable praise for what Apple has done and says that this validates Qualcomm's belief that "the mobile user is defining what they expect out of the PC experience". There is some more in an interview with Dieter Bohn, but the report from Joe Wituschek (iMore) has that significant quote.

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. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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