eXtensions - Sunday 16 August 2020


Sunday Notes: Slow Photos on Mac; Tethering on iOS Devices; iCloud Payment Problem Solved

By Graham K. Rogers


My Photos app is faltering, suggesting it is time for that new Mac. Tethering on the iPad or iPhone can only be done with Hasselblad so far: other digital camera makers are falling behind. I had an iCloud account payment problem this week: resolved with Apple Help. It was no, no, no to a Netflix survey online

Several sites reported that Apple had released a supplemental update to 10.15.6 this week. I saw it in System Preferences as I was preparing for another online class and decided to wait until that was done rather than risk any unexpected changes. If I had updated, I would have been pulling my hair out when the class started if students were unable to join. That was exactly what happened without any updating. I was sitting in front of the screen for a couple of minutes - Thai students are often late - but it was clear they were not joining the room. A look in LINE showed me some activity and a couple of messages about being unable to join.

Like the classes earlier in the week, I had sent the URL that Webex had provided for me when I set up the room, but that was not working for them. Although I had sent the room number and password I guessed they had not saved that (rightly as the URL should be enough) so I sent it again on LINE. Almost immediately the little panels began to appear on my screen and I knew we had a class. After the class, I checked the Webex link, and the URL on the page was identical to the one that I had sent the students. I am still working my way through that one.

Webex class
Running a class using Webex

I installed the Catalina supplemental update later and all seemed OK. There was nothing in it that was likely to affect me: even the wake from sleep problem had not appeared on my devices. I scanned a number of negatives later which I dropped into Photos. While editing I wanted to make some changes to certain areas of a couple of the images (dodge and burn), so used Pixelmator as a Photos extension as I had done several times before. With each photograph the initial edit was OK, but when it came to re-editing, or editing a second image, everything stopped dead. Not only did I have to quit Photos but I had to restart the Mac. I think that I am reaching the limits of what the MacBook Pro can do as the scanned images were large (144MB). Normal editing of these images was slow, but the additional strain of the extension was perhaps too much.

I tried one of the recalcitrant images later on the MacBook Air with its 1.1GHz i3 processor and half the memory. The 2020 Mac model has a different graphics card and a later SSD of 250GB. It is running a beta version of Big Sur, but the Pixelmator extension worked without causing any interruption to Photos. Time for a new MacBook Pro, perhaps: one of those with the Apple silicon will do just fine. I notice that a number of developers are already preparing applications that will be able to run on these future Macs from day one.

There were also updates to iOS and iPadOS with the 13.6.1 release that had the simple "bug fixes" explanation. One of these involved a thermal management issue that could turn the screen green after it was unlocked. I downloaded both.

Earlier this month it was revealed that Nikon had developed beta software - Windows only for now - that enabled users to connect a DSLR to a computer so that it could be used for conferencing. Canon had released software earlier and, although there is a 3rd party solution to do this with a Nikon, it seems a little late. One of the limitations that I find with the iPad Pro is that, although I can connect the D850 and download photographs, there is no tethering software. I wrote to Nikon a while back when Hasselblad released a version of Phocus suggesting that tethering should be made available. They replied with the Apple style, Nikon does not discuss future product developments, which was fair enough. I had filed the request.

Hasselblad has now released Phocus 2, and not only is it possible to connect cameras to the iPad, but there is also a version for the iPhone too. I did try both versions with my D850, but on the iPhone I had no suitable cable and WiFi did not connect. On the iPhone I had the USB-C cable as I sometimes download images to photos directly from the Nikon. As with version 1 of the app, this did not work; nor did the WiFi connection. Jeremy Gray (DPReview) writes,

Phocus Mobile 2 offers photographers advanced remote control, live view, tethered image capture and importing, image conversion and exporting, image rating and filtering, and the ability to update the firmware of your camera and lenses directly in the app. On the iPad version, users can also edit their raw files and perform color correction.

Phocus 2 for iPad
Trying to connect with Phocus 2 on iPad Pro

This is a Hasselblad-only app and good for them. However, this only emphasizes how far Nikon, Canon and others are lagging. If photographers have the option of reducing weight in the field by using an iPad Pro most would jump at that considering the editing capabilities of the device. Phocus 2 on the iPhone gives a photographer on the street some additional nimbleness, especially when using tethering: that would enable previews and post-shot discussions of images.

With Photos or the Nikon Snapbridge app I have limited options. I can download images directly from the camera using cable (Photos on iPad) or WiFi (Snapbridge on iPhone) although these methods are slow, while tethering, often used by professionals allows far more interaction. As it is I have to use the Mac with a 3rd party tethering application if I want to do this. The iPad Pro is not as Pro as it should be.

I often moan about Wall Street analysts and the press - business and technical - that neither understand Apple fully nor treat the corporation in the same was as other industrial giants. For a long time Apple was doomed. For a while it really was of course. That did not stop when Gil Amelio bought NeXT along with its CEO, Steve Jobs, who within months had taken some massive steps within the existing organization for product consolidation, and preparing future product lines. That was when he walked into Jony Ives and his design department.

When Jobs died that of course upped the shrillness of the chorus of the doomed, with some disgraceful actions and articles at the end of 2012 and the start of 2013: CEO Cook's head was about to fall and Apple was doomed. The real story has turned into something different, but as Horace Dediu notes in a Tweet, doom may still be in the vocabulary but the tone has changed:

Narratives about Apple have switched from being doomed (because iPhone) to being an invincible juggernaut (hence doomed by regulation). The switch came suddenly.

Horace Dediu Tweet

I had email about my Apple account a few days ago that I thought was an attempt at phishing, so I forwarded to Apple it as per instructions. On Saturday, a message panel appeared on my iPhone to tell me that there was a problem with billing on my Apple iCloud account. As I have two Apple IDs there is sometimes confusion. While I had updated my iTunes and App Store information when a new credit card arrived, this was not done with iCloud. I had mistakenly thought that payments went through the single service. There was a risk that my 2TB account would be shrunk to 5GB. As I have over 18,000 photos, this was of serious concern. I dropped everything and got to work.

iCloud I tried updating on the iPhone, but was unable to make the link. There was a similar problem on the Mac. As I do not want to lose the 2TB setup, I decided to contact Apple and elected to take a phone call. This happened almost instantly, but then I was on hold for a while. During the wait, I also looked at the iPad Pro and, sure enough, just like the iPhone, there was a red 1 on the Settings icon. When I had a look it showed that payment details needed updating.

I was able eventually to enter the right page and update the information, in time for a long chat with Apple online help. During the call, in which I allowed screen access, several confirmations were made as well as a number of suggestions. Although the card seemed now to be acceptable, other ideas for payment were put forward, like Apple Wallet and iTunes Gift Cards. I had to point out that neither of these were options here. I find the lack of Gift Cards here particularly irking. I had allowed access in the lengthy help sessions that fixed a synchronization problem of photos to the iPhone 11 some months ago and found this helped me and the member of Apple staff when working together. I trust the Apple helpers, but would nor suggest such connections with just anyone.

It was confirmed during the call that details were up to date on both accounts and all should be OK. I had to wait for another attempt from Apple to collect the payment due. I was somewhat relieved at breakfast on Sunday when I saw an automated email from Apple notifying me that the payment had gone through.

Netflix sent email asking me to complete a survey and as I thought there might be questions on service improvements, and I was pleased by my current viewing of Godlesss, I decided to try this. At the beginning the questions were of the type one expects in a survey, setting demographic parameters, but later these veered towards allowing people access to the account. I don't; and as I live on my own, there is no one here to access the account. If someone comes and the TV is turned on, a visitor might watch for a while. No one outside has any access and I do not share account information.

The questions on this area, with speculation as to what I might do if offers were made or services restrictions appeared became so persistent - like picking at a scab - that I began to get annoyed and shut the browser page. I look at a lot of surveys, both online and when looking at graduate work. A survey should not disturb the person being surveyed. I am fairly happy with the service I have here, but don't push it guys.

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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