eXtensions - Friday 18 March 2022


Friday Notes: OS Updates; Ideas on the Mac Studio; Damage Caused by Rumors

By Graham K. Rogers


With several updates this week from Apple there was a lot going on. Universal Control is now available, but some newer Macs with motherboard replacements had problems with the Monterey update. We are beginning to see reviews on the Mac Studio and this is better than some thought. I am tired of rumors: they take the fun out of wondering what Apple will do and are repeated as if they are the truth. None of the rumor sources mentioned anything about the M1 Ultra. Drive to Survive is back on Netflix, but Apple is planning a documentary on Lewis Hamilton

I see that McLaren Racing have signed a long term sponsorship deal with Google and the cars now carry Android identification on the air box and Chrome-colored wheel trims (McLaren). I was at an event in San Francisco years ago when one of the party suggested that Apple - with its Mac name - should sponsor McLaren, but the sour look on the faces of some of the Apple personnel suggested they did not share the same enthusiasm. However, as John Gruber points out, Apple did sponsor a Porsche at Le Mans in 1980. He calls the livery "A thing of beauty".

I can remember GP racing from the days when the engines were in the front and the colors of the cars depended on the country they were from. There was the occasional sticker, for example from Castrol, but things went wild with cigarette sponsorship. Some deals have gone sour, with the latest being the sponsorship that the Haas team had from the father of Nikita Mazepin, a Russian Oligarch. The driver was dismissed and the sponsorship dumped with the threat of litigation now in the air. Somehow I do not think that Google will be so dramatic. McLaren's other sponsors (and there are many) include Dell and WebEx.

This week the next versions of Apple's operating systems were released and one of the new features is Universal Control. I saw that the macOS release (12.3) was available first through Mr Macintosh who had additional information as did hoakley of The Eclectic Light Company. As that was downloading there was a warning that the download had changed and that I should start again. I had never seen that before. Before the restart I had to enter the password as I work in a User account. That is not needed for the older Mac mini with its Intel chip and no T2 security. I had backed up the Mac just before starting the update process and when it was complete I backed up again. Redundancy reduces tears.

OS updates OS updates OS updates

I also updated the iPhone while I was waiting. When that restarted I was asked to setup Face ID again for mask use. When done there were other options for using different glasses. The maskID works exactly as I would expect: they eyes have it of course. Not that it affects me, but HomePodOS was updated. There was also a new version of tvOS that I left until late in the day. WatchOS (8.5) was downloaded to the device and updated while I had a shower.

As I was working on the iPad Pro, I tried the iPad mini update first, but that did not go well. A spinning wheel showed it was searching for the update but that did not change. By this time I had already updated iOS on the iPhone, so wondered why the iPad mini was misbehaving. Back to basics: I restarted it. When I tried again a panel appeared for a moment telling me that I was not connected to the internet. I had seen the wifi indicator on the device the first time I tried. That panel disappeared immediately and the update panel appeared allowing me to download the file. The iPadOS (15.4) download on the iPad Pro appeared immediately when I started this process a few minutes later.

I have not fully tried Universal Control so far, but it does link the iPad Pro, the MacBook Pro and the iPad mini side by side, although I am still seeing how far this can be pushed. In System Preferences > Displays there is a button for this that reveals a panel. I turned on all three options. I particularly want to access files on the iPad Pro when in a Webex meeting and I still have to try that out. I shall stick to the cable connection and QuickTime until I am 100% sure. The Mac mini with its Dell screen does not work with the new feature, but I was not surprised my this.

Universal Control

A problem with Focus was revealed at bedtime the day I updated the iPhone. I like this feature as it enables me to cut incoming messages to all devices in one go. However, after I activated this before going to bed, I heard a message arrive on the iPad. When I checked, Focus was not active. I turned that on and went to sleep.

I checked the next morning and confirmed that using Focus from the iPhone did not activate Focus on the iPad and vice versa. However, using Focus on the iPad mini activated Focus on the iPad Pro, but not the iPhone. The same happened when I activated Focus on the iPad Pro: iPad mini, but not iPad Pro. Both had been updated the previous day along with the iPhone. The problem was with the iPhone, so after playing with the Focus On/Off buttons on all devices with no effect, I restarted the iPhone. That fixed it. However, messages appeared on the iPads showing that the iPhone was now identified as a new device. That had not happened the day before, but I had been to the office and the wifi there had been used. That is the only variable.

Others have been less fortunate, particularly those who have had the motherboard replaced and there are several reports (e.g. Sami Fathi, MacRumors) that the device cannot be updated. My guess is that this is collected to the inbuilt security. This was the responsibility of the T2 chip on previous Macs, but with the SOC, the security setup is not recognizing specifics regarding the new hardware and this has stopped the update. That will need a software change, or perhaps even firmware. Later in the week there were updates to the MRT ConfigData and to XProtectPlistConfigData files.

The AppleTV update was smooth, if slightly long, but there was a change when the device rebooted after the tvOS update. I was offered a choice between prioritized local content or keeping the same settings. I guessed the localized choice would offer me more Thai language programs and movies. I watch these occasionally, although prefer English language content, followed by some of the excellent European series and movies, usually with subtitles. I kept the usual settings as I have been quite happy so far, except for the missing CODA, which still goes on winning more awards. Ted Lasso which is available here, also keeps winning. An unusual series, but the formula was just silly enough to win viewers.

A number of reports have begun to appear after Mac Studio computers have been examined by media outlets. I expect these have been in their hands for a week or more but no comments were online as Apple usually has an embargo. That has now been lifted. My favorites for their different points of view are from Jaron Schneider (Petapixel), who says that it is "overall the most powerful computer we have tested for photography applications"; and from Ramon Loyola, Macworld, who provides some benchmarks in the review and regards it as a good investment despite the price.

Also, Andrew Cunningham on Ars Technical wrote a fairly lengthy review entitled The Mac Studio Shows us Exactly why Apple left Intel Behind. That in itself confirms what some of us have been suggesting for a while now. Intel was a drag on development as it is creating chips for such a wide range of PCs that any specific features that Apple wanted were hamstrung by the needs of PC developers. Apple silicon sets it free, while giving Apple a huge advantage in the new ideas it can build into its chips, and its software.

Apple M1 Ultra Chip
M1 Ultra Chip - Image courtesy of Apple

As the M2 did not appear in the list of announcements this week, rumors about when it will appear will multiply. Juli Clover on MacRumors airs a couple of rumors: about the M2 and future uses of the M1. Sources expect the M2 will be produced using a 4nm process, which is not unexpected, although the aim surely was 3nm. Whichever process is used it will certainly enhance output from the next iteration. It is expected that these chips will be used in MacBook Air and Max mini. The Ultra will not be used in a notebook. As was noted in the video outline, the Mac Studio has two fans, and later reports showed that the M1 Max-equipped version had an aluminum thermal module, while the Ultra-equipped Studio had one made of copper: there is some heat coming out of that one. Remember the G5 Mac notebook computers? They never existed (or at least were never released) as heat was a major problem; and it was this that brought about the shift to Intel chips.

I had a G4 in my office for a year or two, and later ran a G5 Power Mac for a couple of weeks, but Apple was unable to put this in any notebook. It was this failure by IBM to meet promises on the PowerPC chip development that was the main cause of Apple's switch to Intel. In the same way, Intel's stodgy approach to development of its chips - one size fits all manufacturers - pushed Apple to producing its own: Apple silicon. This of course was a long time coming: Apple does not rush new products.

Logitech WebCam When the M1 was ready, it was released. I have heard of few problems with the new computers now running the M1 chips, although I (and others) did have problems with accessories after the update to Monterey. I have fixed the webcam by buying a new device that connects with USB-C rather than an adapter. The old webcam was recognized in the system report, but just would not work with the specific apps I wanted. The probability is that this was a power supply problem. I also had a rebate from Amazon this week from the extra customs fees that were charged.

The other accessory that has a problem with the M1 Mac is my M&O Beolit 20 speaker. It works fine with the iPhone and iPads, but not with the Mac, since Monterey was released. The Help desk at B&O suggest this is a Bluetooth problem and they are unable to offer support as PC BT has too many variants: smartphones and tablets are supported as the OS offers fewer BT installations.

I have a thing about rumors. More particularly about the damage some do and the surprise about new products that they remove. Although some told us that the Mac Studio was to be announced, they totally missed the M1 Ultra chip that was the surprise announcement of the year so far and shows how scalable Apple silicon can be. Despite the tame presentation, the products announced and the inferences from Apple of what is still to come guarantee some surprises in the next few months: but not if the professional rumor mongers have their way, however.

Mark Gurman has often made predictions that are right on the button, although he and everyone else missed the Ultra chip. We were told to expect the M2. He is still trying to cover that in what is to come. This is hardly rumor any more as John Ternus told us that the Ultra was the end of development for the M1 series, although what can still be done with the M1 is open for some debate. Remember, when Apple released this chip initially in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini, there were three (slightly) different versions of that one chip. The many-colored iMac followed not long after.

I read Gurman's news letter when it arrives, then look online and see a score of others taking the rumors as Gospel truth, putting out layer on layer of embellished Gurman. Another oft-cited rumor source is Ming-Chi Kuo, who has put out several new predictions since the Apple Event, some of which fly in the face of what Apple has announced, while others are potentially damaging. Most notable are that the MacPro will not be coming until 2023 when John Ternan said it would be announced in the next couple of months (announcement and release do not always coincide of course); the next iPhone will use 2 chips, with only the Pro and Max versions having the latest A15 processor; and the Mac mini is not going to be updated this year. Each of these generated several articles that repeated the information as if it were fact.

Having found some unusual freedoms with his new Twitter account, Ming-Chi Kuo has flooded us with negatives on Apple a few days after an Event that revealed not just new products, but the route that Apple is taking. With shares rising and several Wall Street pundits positive on Apple, the brakes are then applied, although a Covid outbreak in China causing Foxconn to close factories put more pressure on later. He was not finished and later Joe Rossignol, MacRumors, reports on a Tweet that insists Apple will need to reorganize its car team if it is to be in production by 2025. I am sure Apple is aware of the needs and that perhaps the team has been dissolved as it is no longer needed. Needless to say several reports picked up on these rumors including Wall Street commentators the next day.

The message reminded me of Trip Chowdhury's infamous message about Apple announcing the iWatch (sic). It had to be done within 6 months or Apple was doomed. The Apple Watch appeared when Apple was ready and Apple has not been damaged at all, despite the efforts of rumor-mongers and Wall Street analysts.

Lewis Hamilton
Sir Lewis Hamilton - Image courtesy of Mercedes-AMG-Petronas

Netflix released its next season of the F1 fly on the wall documentary, and Apple has announced a small coup with its intention to produce a Lewis Hamilton documentary (MacDaily News). The 7-time F1 World Champion had a long struggle but overcame most if not all challenges by superior skill, determination and perhaps a little luck too. This is in part what has driven him to become political: his own experiences making it in a world as a black kid from Stevenage were catalytic. Most of us have no experiences to relate to this. I hope there is good exposure of those childhood and teen years to show what he (and many others) have to face daily.

In the first series of the Netflix documentary, Mercedes-Benz was notably absent as Toto Wolfe, the team principle, was reluctant, in part, to expose the team to cameras and related staff. The effect of that fist season softened the stance and the team participated in what followed. This Apple documentary, however, may be a way not only for Wolfe to give the team more exposure after the season final controversies, but dovetails neatly with Apple's support for what are patronizingly called, minorities. The term itself disadvantages those groups and they should be called what they are: Black, Moslem, Asian, et al.

Apple has been doing a good job of equalizing - providing balance - and the Hamilton documentary will add to that. For me, too, it will equalize the US-centric approach on AppleTV as Sir Lewis Hamilton is a Brit. Mario Andretti and Phil Hill were the only US F1 World Champions, although the highly respected Dan Gurney came close.

Coming Soon: What will the next Mac Pro be?

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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