eXtensions - Thursday 18 November 2021


Thursday Review: Apple Making Changes; Right to Repair; Online TV; Film Deliveries

By Graham K. Rogers


Before the legislators decide, Apple is opening up repairs for some devices. As well as beta releases, a minor update to iOS 15 (15.1.1) was put out to fix call connection problems on the iPhone 12 and 13. Comment on streaming TV services, AppleTV+ and Netflix. Film delivery problems solved this week.

This week Apple announced some changes that affect the ways its products can be fixed. These will be rolled out in the USA first. For a number of years people have complained that, while some individuals and some shops had the ability to fix Apple products, there were too many restrictions. Although many components were cited, this was particularly with regard to battery and screen replacement. The latter came to the fore recently when it was found that replacing a screen, if not done by an Apple authorized service, could cause an iPhone to become unusable.

That was more a problem with software I understand and is being fixed, although it certainly heightened the complaints. With some countries considering legislation, Apple decided to loosen the reins, although this sounds as if - in typical Apple fashion - it is being rolled out bit by bit. Not only will they allow users to repair certain devices, but there will be a special kit, including tools and help manuals.

Although this has been reported widely, I refer to the PetaPixel text, by Jaron Schneider who writes that "the program will first start with the iPhone 12 and 13 models and soon be followed by Mac computers that feature M1 chips". The article has a link to a short "Right to Repair" video that outlines the concept. There is also information about some of the US pressures that might have prompted this move now.

iPhone 13
iPhone 13 - Image courtesy of Apple

I am all for the right to repair, but would not like to attempt anything but basic fixes to my devices. In the early days of my personal computing I owned a massive PC with a lid that opened. This made it wonderfully easy to add or change expansion cards, and also clean out the occasional lizard. Ants were more persistent. However, one day I was tinkering and the screwdriver I had in my had touched something. There was a click - nothing more - and I had killed the main board.

The update, done in Mahboonkrong, which was the center of computing then, before the rise of Phantip Plaza, cost me a couple of thousand baht, but I was upgraded to a 286 board. Heady days. Not long after I bought a 386 at a computer show in The Queen SiriKit Center and that had my first hard disk. I ordered one that was 20MB (yes, megabytes) as who would want anything more? That was another lesson, along with more memory (RAM).

Long a proponent of the right to repair, iFixit has praised the move by Apple, but (as Stephen Warwick reports in iMore) wants the company to take this further, suggesting that "everyone's enough of a genius to fix an iPhone". I am not convinced of that.

iOS update This week saw a minor update to iOS bringing it to version 15.1.1. This provides a fix for dropped calls that sometimes occurred on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12. As this only affects those models, there are no updates for other iPhones, nor for the iPad. When downloading, I saw that the whole download took around 2 seconds - I had to be really quick to make the screenshot - which suggests that the changes are quite small. I did not see a file size.

With the release of several beta versions of Apple software, including macOS 12.1, it looks as if the next update for users will not arrive for at least a week: maybe more. As the initial release was on 29 October, this is three weeks or more that many users have been faced with devices that will not connect properly via USB. It only affects me in one regard: the webcam I use for online meetings.

I can circumvent that with the installed camera in the Mac for now, but that does not have the quality of my Logitech device. I am also finding a problem with a Bluetooth connection on a relatively new device, although older devices (including one from the same manufacturer) are unaffected. The speaker works fine with AppleTV and iOS devices.

Another problem that some users have found with Monterey is that of memory leaks, although the reason seems now to have been discovered. Writing on The Eclectic Light Company, hoakley reports on the findings of the engineers at Mozilla. The explanation links to the Mozilla findings, but this section particularly caught my eye:

The cause has now been isolated to a single group of settings in one preference pane, Accessibility. All Macs which appear to suffer this leak are using custom pointer controls in the Pointer tab of the Display, specifically a larger than normal Pointer size and custom outline and fill colours. The latter two items are one of the new features in Monterey, and have proved popular with users. (Note that this interface device is termed a pointer, not a cursor, a common error.)

I do have that setting turned on, but rarely use it - certainly not since the update - so that may be why I have not seen this. Once a problem has been isolated and a cause found, the solution should become available: at least whenever Monterey is updated.

With the beta releases, the experts go digging in the code to see what is new and this week there is a hint of a new SportsKit framework. Filipe Epósito on 9to5Mac links this to investment and hire of sports professionals to work in its TV division. He notes that "SportsKit is currently being developed as a private framework. This means the feature won't be available to every developer", reminding us of the lucrative deals that are a feature of sports coverage.

This is why (for example) I cannot subscribe to Formula One's own live TV service here. I can only subscribe to a full package with a local cable supplier. No thank you. There are some more details in the article with some speculation, but with the commercial nature of such events, I would not expect to see this available here, except for some limited coverage.

Although Apple makes a big noise about its major updates, there is only ever time in a presentation (or space on a press release) to outline the most important changes. Writing on Six Colors, Dan Moren reports a discovery by Dan Petrov, a developer, who has found a new command line utility in the release. This is run in Terminal and has the name networkQuality. Typing that in, and hitting Enter produces a readout of network information. I already use the menu bar utility, iStat Menus, which gives me more information than I can handle, but this is a nice quick way to show how the uploads and downloads are going.

Terminal and networkQuality

I had not been aware that Apple had released a white paper earlier in the year about the problems it sees with side-loading on iOS devices, although this has always been possible with Macs. In a note I saw today about this and Craig Federighi's recent presentation on the problems Apple sees. John Gruber on Daring Fireball examines this presentation and provides some useful comments, noting that this was almost identical to a white paper released earlier in the year. John Gruber also refers us to his earlier comments on the document. There are some interesting comments from Gruber (as always) and a number of good points made in the Apple document itself, although the argument about Macs may need some beefing up.

I had previously been quite happy with earlier episodes of Invasion on AppleTV+, despite the different scenes that viewers were exposed to. Japan the UK, Afghanistan and the United States each had different scenarios that we were following. While I now understand that Sam Neill was killed off in Episode 1, the main US-focused story was the only one used for the most recent episode. The female protagonist, Aneesha Malik, returned to the house in desperation, but the scenes that followed involving the owner, his wife, Aneesha's family and the alien were in almost complete darkness. I found this very hard to view.

The other problem for me was that instead of the speed of the earlier episodes, we only saw this one group of characters throughout the entire program. I can only hope that next week we will switch to a different location, although if it is the Afghan scenes I will be disappointed. I am already unhappy with that scenario because of the way the character has been written. Although the first three episodes were able to speed up the action by switching to different locations and characters, Episode 4 slowed it down to an experience almost as boring as Mr Corman and I was not impressed.

Foundation - Image courtesy of Apple

This week also sees the final episode of Foundation, Series One. The first episode which set some of the parameters was a little slow, but that was rescued by the scope and scale of the production. David S. Goyer met with Apple TV executives about making Foundation into a series, James Hibberd (Hollywood Reporter) writes, adding that when he was asked to pitch it in one sentence, he said, "It's a 1,000-year chess game between Hari Seldon and the Empire, and all the characters in between are the pawns, but some of the pawns over the course of this saga end up becoming kings and queens."

Apple recently green-lighted (lit?) Series 2, but the suggestion from the producers and Goyer that this could run to 80 episodes is intriguing. I really hope it does. That will be less than the 10 series and 134 episodes of Suits, which neither has the scope, the breadth nor the style of Foundation.

Nikon F3 camera
Nikon F3 camera

I looked in the fridge at the weekend and saw that I was almost out of film. I stick to two or three main films although sometimes try something as an experiment. An example of this was Fantôme 8: 5 rolls of ISO 8 film which, as expected gives much contrast. As they only offer this in 35mm, I shot two rolls on the Nikon F3 which was a gift from some former students, now all PhD profs. I have a couple of examples here, but there are more on the Emulsive site.

With the empty film boxes in the fridge, I first went to the Kosmo Foto site, but for the first time since I found this film, it was out of stock. On CameraFilmPhoto there were also several films out of stock, including Ilford SFX200, another favourite of mine. To compensate, the KosmoFoto Mono 100 was available. I ordered this plus some other Ilford film and a few reels of the Berger Pancro 400 that I also use regularly. I also selected a camera strap in olive green.

KosmoFotoMono 100 film
KosmoFotoMono 100 film

I was surprised with a phone call on Tuesday afternoon. The FedEx man (who is a regular here) was about to arrive. The box he delivered did not contain the film and when I opened the small box with the strap, it was the wrong color. This was unusual. Then I saw the packing slip with the name of someone in New York State with the same name as a member of the Grateful Dead. It looks as if the orders were switched accidentally so I contacted Camera Film Photo and sent photos of the box and shipping note. Not long after, another email arrived with an apology. I was told that this would be collected the following day. My order would also be sent again. I wondered if the original order was headed for New York.

I was later sent some PDF documents for the pickup, but I do not have a printer. Email the next morning asked me to contact TNT and ask them to have the driver bring the necessary forms for my signature. TNT, which is also FedEx here (which explains the FedEx driver), have an automatic voice response system. These are often awful. With this one I was quickly in touch with a helpful operator who listened to my outline and asked me for details. She understood perfectly and was really patient: totally unflustered. We eventually sorted the form problem: the driver would bring it, but as I am teaching around noon, this was another problem.

The driver called when he arrived but had no printed papers for me to sign - he knew nothing - but after I showed him the PDFs quickly made a call to his office. He gave me an email address to send the PDFs to and took the return package. In the meantime I have been overwhelmed (almost) with updates to the corrected delivery that was dispatched Wednesday morning. Just as I was getting ready to go out Thursday morning, a message arrived telling me that the package would arrive that day. I changed my plans and remained local: a quick run to the stores then home.

At 3:15pm, just a little more than 30 hours after it was shipped from Hong Kong, the package was in my hands: films and strap all correct. The driver also confirmed that the forms I had sent were properly received and dealt with.

Package from CameraFilmPhoto
Package from CameraFilmPhoto

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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