eXtensions - Tuesday 25 May 2021


Tuesday Diversion: 11" M1 iPad Pro in Thailand - an Increase in Productivity

By Graham K. Rogers


WWDC runs online from 7-11 June this year. Apple updates its OS versions. An order of an iPad Pro arrived in my hands at the start of this week: a little earlier than expected. After setting it up, an import of RAW images was faster and took more files than the older iPad Pro. A stand-in keyboard is workable, but a Folio Keyboard will be coming soon.

Apple has put out its invitation to WWDC which will run from 7 - 11 June. The Keynote presentation during which some of the outline secrets for the coming months will be revealed is at 10am on the first day, which is about midnight here. I will catch the headline in the morning and look at the presentation on AppleTV later in the day. After the Keynote, the focus is on developers with a state of the Union address at 2pm Cupertino time. John Voorhees (MacStories) reports that there will be over 200 sessions for developers, with one on one online labs covered by over 1000 experts. There is much more outlined in the article.

WWDC invitation - Image courtesy of Apple

Of course there are plenty of rumors about what Apple will or even must do, although I tend to ignore most of these until the announcement from Apple itself. For example, I saw one rumor that the M1X was coming next, but another said the M2 would power the next MacBook Air, which would seem unlikely. There are probabilities, such as chip development, although I am not sure that the M1 will power the iPhone; but then I did not think it would find its way into the iPad Pro; and I cannot say that I am sorry I was wrong there. New cameras for the iPhone are likely, and we may hear about a new Mac. With the new iMacs having just arrived, this could be a little early, although Apple has said it will move all Macs to Apple silicon this year.

On Tuesday morning I saw that a number of updates were available from Apple. I did the iOS and iPadOS updates while having breakfast, but I always wait until I have had time to run a couple of Time Machine backups on the Mac before updating that (just in case), and another when the update has been done. The WatchOS update was done while I had a shower. AppleTV will come later. A video on Twitter posted by Josh Centers, showed that when the user's account was selected, nothing happened: a password panel should open. He fixed it with a reboot, but we may expect an update to fix this, if it is a widespread problem. It did not happen when I updated my Mac.

When I uploaded the last Review to my website, I noted that the iPad Pro I had ordered had just moved from Processing to Preparing for Shipping and then, almost right away to Shipped. I expected that might arrive some time early in the week. On Saturday, I had just come off the MRT on Petchkasem Road - still about 15 Kms from base - when the phone rang. It was DHL and they had my parcel. That was efficient, so I wonder if it had been shipped from China or elsewhere. A check of the shipping information showed that it had come from Singapore. I now wonder if Apple had shipped a load there from wherever they were made for easier distribution in the SE Asia region. The iPad Pro is assembled in China. No matter: the DHL man said he would deliver on Monday.

It was interesting to see, in a post on Facebook on Monday morning, that two of my colleagues had also bought the iPad Pro. As I was leaving campus later I saw a couple of grad students with a just-arrived iPad and Apple Pencil both still in their boxes. For several years I had commented on Apple products and there was reluctance to move away from the PC platform. Although some years back a number of academics returning from the United States, also brought Macs with them.

It is also noticeable that the number of students who use the iPad is quite significant, particularly in online classes, where they are able to take notes quite easily. That does cause problems in my classes, when I insist that students use paper for the writing process. It is not quite the same as writing on an iPad. One of the features of tablets is the ability to convert text to text. I want the students to have the real experience of typing their content from the paper into a computer. That allows them to edit on the go, and the brain processes the information in a different way. OCR does not allow that.

iPad Pro
M1 iPad Pro in the box

Just before lunch on Monday, the phone rang and a DHL driver said he had arrived on campus. I walked the few meters to the steps as he drove up and handed me the box. I had been wondering if the new one would work with my current folio case. Although Apple has the Magic Keyboard with its raised display for the 11" iPad Pro (9990 baht), I had not realized that the Smart Keyboard Folio which I have been using for my current iPad Pro was also available.

Apart from the attraction of its lower price (5990 baht), I am so used to working with this input method that I would rather keep it the same. Then I wondered about the electrical contacts: are they the same? When I checked, they are, however, the cameras are different. While the new iPad Pro will (sort of) fit, the camera cutout will not. I rarely take photographs with my iPads anyway, even with the new iPad-optimised Halide; but it looks ugly, and we can't have that. I had expected to pay extra for the new case, but the Folio keyboard will suit.

During lunch I had a "Help Me" message from the friend who had my old Intel MacBook Pro at the beginning of the year. I helped him set it up and recommended a User account as well as the Admin account. I feel it adds a layer of security, although part of that is the need to enter Admin passwords for updates and other installations. An update appeared, probably of a 3rd party installation, and he had forgotten the password. This is not used as often, and memory becomes rusty. I write mine down on paper then lock that away. This was a suggestion from Bill Gates years ago. It allows us to use complex passwords - less easily broken - without the need to remember them, although I did tend to have my semi-random passwords lodged in my brain eventually, apart from the WiFi. Not so my friend.

I made some suggestions about steps he might take but in the end he looked up help on the internet from HelloTech and reset the password via Recovery Mode and Terminal. He entered the resetpassword command and that was done a little too easily for my comfort. With accounts that are used as main accounts, this can affect the Keychain settings and it may be difficult to access some services or accounts, because the user is pestered for the original password (the one that was forgotten). With this setup, as Admin is not used as a day to day account, it may be OK. If not, it may be in his interests to set up a second Admin account, then delete the first one. And write the password down, then lock it away.

At home after removing the iPad Pro from its box and taking a couple of photographs, I began the setup process which these days is far easier in most cases. I did not even need to find the WiFi password and used the weird image code that is developed. All was going through OK, until I tried to use data from a backup. The iPhone was not right, so I had to begin the process with the iPad. Again, when it came to the backup, instead of using one from a couple of days ago, I selected backup now and the process on the new iPad stopped after a minute or so. I had to go back to the beginning, but this time, no image code was developed. It had to be a manual setup. I made sure that the update was done on the old device, but on the way was asked to sign in again to my iCloud account. I am sure I could have shortcut these delays with better preparation.

I found the WiFi password and that got things underway, including signing in to iCloud and selecting the latest backup. Just as I thought it was all going smoothly, an update to 14.5.1 appeared and that had to be done. Once updated, I was asked for another password as the iTunes account uses a different email. Then the process of restoring from iCloud was begun. That entailed another restart, but after 3 minutes, I was ready to start using the new iPad Pro, while apps and data were being downloaded in the background. One of the apps that was ready to use was Notes, and this sentence was typed on the new device; then finished on the old one.

iPad at work
New iPad Pro, old Smart Keyboard Folio

The Apple Pencil was still connected to the old iPad Pro, but shifting it to the new one was easier than I expected. I just attached it to the side of the iPad and it was recognized, while on the other iPad it was shown as Not Connected in Bluetooth. I did try the old Smart Keyboard Folio, and am typing this using that so the connection is not a problem. Both lenses are available if I want to take a photograph, but the case back covers the LIDAR scanner and flash unit. I can work with it for now, but will go for a new Smart Keyboard Folio in a day or so. Other than that and a few missing photos which began to catch up when I connected the power cable, I switched fully to the new iPad within an hour or so of taking it out of the box. I changed the wallpaper, because, Why not? I will be sorry to see the other one go.

While checking some apps, I tried Numbers and looked at a file I had been working on earlier. I saw a warning about unavailable fonts. I was surprised that the fonts I had been using had not been carried over, but as this involves security settings, that may be the cause. In January I installed AnyFont and downloaded a selection of fonts, including Doves Type (the one that was thrown in the Thames) and Rubbish Regular, along with the fonts that are used in official Thai communications: THSarabun. It was fairly easy to go through the 6 separate installations and now the spreadsheet is displaying properly.


The next morning, having done the 14.5.1 update out of the box, the latest (14.6) update to iPadOS was waiting for me. I did that while I was reading news on the old iPad. I did have to update data and accounts for a couple of the apps, which stretched the time a little. There was a noticeable difference when I used the previous iPad Pro to type something in Notes, while reading news on the new one. If ever there was a case for an external keyboard, I convinced myself there and then.

iPadOS update

I am used to typing on the iPhone and a little on the old iPad, but I needed to write a sizable paragraph with text, numbers and characters using the basic iPad Pro keyboard. It is much faster even with the older Smart Keyboard Folio that I have. I remember when I first had the previous iPad Pro and tried the wooden wireless keyboard in my office. It was so much easier to work with that I went to the shops as soon as I could and picked up the Smart Keyboard Folio and there was an immediate increase in productivity, so much so that on many days I stopped taking the MacBook Pro to the office and relied almost wholly on the iPad Pro.

My next question was about how the new iPad works concerns the DSLR camera. This ability to handle DSLR transfers using the USB-C port was a major reason for buying my first iPad Pro. However, previously the iPad Pro would balk at importing more than about 15 RAW images from the Nikon D850 I have. These are sizable files and the chip was less powerful than the M1. There was also less storage: 64GB as opposed to the current 128GB. That basic amount had been enough for all activities apart from importing images. If I had a large number (say 200 after a day out) I would use the Mac. Sometimes with a smaller number I found it just as easy to use the iPad Pro, but imported in groups of around 15.

I took 40 images with the Nikon just to see how this would work. Although I have the latest Thunderbolt 4 cables, these cannot be used as the camera has the micro-USB port, unlike the Nikon Z series or the Hasselblad X1D. Rather than taking the XQD card out and using a reader, I prefer the direct cable connection and I have a couple of Belkin cables for this purpose: micro-USB one end, USB C the other. I connected the cables, opened Photos and turned on the camera. As usual the images appeared on the screen and I selected Import All. Without a moment's hesitation, they were all imported in under a minute: a real boost to my productivity

Test photo
One of 40 test images imported to iPad Pro

As 40 images of tins of nuts and oatmeal are unlikely to be of much use, I will delete 39 of them and keep a single reference image.

Some are writing that the iPad Pro now has too much power, although I am not sure that is a thing having started with computers in the mid-1980s with a twin-floppy disk setup, no hard disk and MS-DOS 2.7. My last PC had a 20MB hard disk that I thought I would never fill. Julian Cholkkattu (Wired) complains that the software does not match the power of the M1 chip and the OS needs beefing up. The iPad Pro also lacks desktop apps, he complains. Apple covered that last month.

Nate Swanner on Dice discusses whether XCode should be on the iPad Pro and notes the input from John Ternus, who said (among other things), ". . . we're not going to get all caught up in theories around merging [platforms] or anything like that". His conclusion is that it may be useful to have a light version of XCode, but with Swift Playgrounds already available, it may not be worth the cost, particularly with how much memory it needs.

I have seen similar discussions about Final Cut Pro on the iPad Pro. This is a big investment anyway and those who make full use of it usually have large desktop computers, with powerful processors and oodles of RAM. A diluted version might not deliver, but there are already several suitable movie-making apps on the iOS and iPadOS platforms, such as LumaFusion (899 baht here - just under $29) which I may look at.

Last time, I mentioned another delivery problem - of food. It so irked me that I made a comment to the company on Friday using its Twitter feed. That did not go unnoticed and within an hour or so, there was a mild apology and a request for the order number: further investigation. I provided that and I am still waiting for a further response, some 4 days later. I am not holding my breath. I do not want any compensation, even if I was charged for an Express Delivery which arrived about 7 hours later (I was phoned and told this would be the new time). What I want is reliability in delivery and better availability of listed products. If the time is not available, don't show it; if it is shown and the user selects that time, deliver. While DHL, FedEx et al have the logistics well I under control, some other operations here need to sharpen up.

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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