eXtensions - Saturday 29 October 2022


Saturday Notes: Ups and Downs in Stocks; Surprise Mac mini; Update Discoveries; and More

By Graham K. Rogers


Quarterly reports from several tech companies, ranging from record to awful. With the arrival of Ventura I was stuck with Big Sur on my 2014 Mac mini, but when the upgrade failed due to lack of space I ordered a new one. That had not been in my plans at breakfast time. A couple of changes to iPadOS and iWork caused me problems; but Photos in Ventura at last has Perspective and Keystone adjustments: after how many years?

Amazon, Apple Google, Intel and Meta (in alphabetical order) have announced their latest quarterly results with Amazon seeing a dip in earnings. Apple did well, but Google disappointed some analysts, while Amazon shares fell some 13%. Meta (formerly Facebook) had a less than stellar quarter, which follows its losses in the last year. In a newsletter from Bloomberg one result is that, "Mark Zuckerberg's fortune plunged by $11 billion after Facebook-parent Meta reported a second-straight quarter of disappointing earnings. That means Zuckerberg has lost more than $100 billion in just 13 months." I can't quite put my finger on why that might be.

Although some had expected bad news with the recent planned layoffs, Intel reported a profit (Ryan Smith, Anand Tech), but there is a sting in that tail. Revenue showed a decline year over year, but there was a profit of $1 billion, which may suggest the brakes have been successfully applied, although a tax "benefit" certainly helped. Intel is still bleeding money.

Apple, on the other hand had record quarterly revenue of $90.15 billion, beating analysts' guesses by $1.38 billion. That produced $20.7 billion profit and Apple has declared a $0.23 dividend. Even with record iPhone sales in China, some analysts had predicted higher sales for the device - $42.63B against a predicted $43.21B - and are apparently negative because of this (Brian Heater, TechCrunch). I would recommend finding some new analysts. Many of these self-elected experts are persistently wrong. This is what Apple reports:

"Our record September quarter results continue to demonstrate our ability to execute effectively in spite of a challenging and volatile macroeconomic backdrop," said Luca Maestri, Apple's CFO. "We continued to invest in our long-term growth plans, generated over $24 billion in operating cash flow, and returned over $29 billion to our shareholders during the quarter. The strength of our ecosystem, unmatched customer loyalty, and record sales spurred our active installed base of devices to a new all-time high. This quarter capped another record-breaking year for Apple, with revenue growing over $28 billion and operating cash flow up $18 billion versus last year."

After the report, Tim Cook and Luca Maestri made statements then answered questions from analysts. Jason Snell of Six Colors has the transcript on this hour-long event. This is a useful (if long) read that gives a number of insights to the company. The executives have the answers but they still have to think on their feet.

Several analysts were proved wrong again and one had the grace to admit it. Perhaps they will rethink how they look at Apple and not see negatives in every change in the wind. Why do these analysts think that Warren Buffet and others hold on to Apple and make huge investments in the company? The share price rose 8% in contrast to many other stock prices, underlining the long term differences here. I bet Mark Zuckerberg wishes he was holding Apple shares this week and not Meta. Note, however, that in the conference call, Luca Maestri said, after outlining product deliveries, "we expect Mac revenue to decline substantially year-over-year during the December quarter."

iPad Gen 10
Latest iPad - Image courtesy of Apple

I had already decided that I would not buy the iPhone 14 when it was announced. I tend to replace these nowadays on a 2-year cycle and the iPhone 13 Pro was working fine. I briefly considered the Apple Watch 8, particularly when I saw that this had temperature capabilities, although this was not quite what I wanted and was developed for a different purpose. The iPad Pro that was to have the M2 chip went on my possibles list next, but when it arrived, the benefits for a user who already uses the iPad Pro with M1 chip were not great enough to make the leap. However, Ed Hardy (Cult of Mac) is impressed with the new device, noting that it is 20% faster than its predecessor, but 80% faster than the A-series version before that.

For those changing from the last A-series version, that M2 chip will make all the difference. Several sources have made comments on the same lines: this update is not a game-changer, but an edge forward. Some of the changes in the new 10th generation iPad, point to a more extensive update for the iPad Pro next time although it appears that the USB-C port is limited to USB 2.0 speeds and 4K 30Hz video output: Lightning with an updated port.

Just after the release of these two iPads as expected iPadOS 16.1 and the new Ventura were released. There was also an iOS 16.1 update with some security fixes. Over breakfast, I started with iPadOS on the iPad mini and iOS 16.1. These were quick and easy with no obvious problems. Once I had finished reading the news, I updated the iPad Pro with similar ease. Ventura on the MacBook Pro was less willing.

Installing Ventura

When it downloaded an installer screen appeared, but this was ignored as System Preferences wanted another download of Ventura. When that was complete it refused to install until I quit that Installer screen. I was beginning to feel justified in all the backups I had done. Fortunately these were not needed. With the installer screen dealt with, the install itself was fairly quick and I was able to have a quick look before heading off for work. That night I started the backups again and had two complete ones on each disk before I was satisfied. However. . . .

With the relative success of Ventura at home on the MacBook Pro (eventually), I had a look at the Mac mini in my office. I bought this in 2014 and it has lasted really well. I was aware it was one of those devices that could not have Ventura installed. Instead I download the update for Big Sur. However, when it came to install, a panel told me there was not enough room, despite the space on the disk being reported as more than was needed. I guess the installer and Finder measure disk space differently. With only a 256GB SSD I was unlikely to find enough spare capacity, particularly as the Photos album is already on an external disk and most data is in the cloud.

Mac mini

The solution was obvious, although not what I had anticipated that morning over breakfast. I looked at the online store and saw that the price of the basic Mac mini I have was 22,900 baht, but with the 512GB SSD this would be 29,900: still less than the iPad Pro I had originally budgeted for. I saved the details and thought about it most of the day. I ordered it later that evening. On Wednesday evening a note from Apple told me it had shipped. It arrived early Friday afternoon and I will begin the setup process over the weekend. I noticed that the box had been dented but I am unsure if this was after it was packed for delivery, although the Mac itself does not show any marks. I took photographs of the boxes just in case.

Mac minis
Mac minis: old and new (top)

I began to have a look at the new iPadOS while I was working on Tuesday and of course turned on Stage Manager. I turned it off Wednesday morning. There has been much comment on this through the beta stages and it is rumored that iPadOS 16 was delayed because of this. The way this grouped apps is intended to increase efficiency for users, but with the Magic Keyboard this is already taken care of. Federico Viticci (MacStories) has a long look at the feature and, despite all the good intentions, it does not suit. Federico's lengthy article with a good range of moving images to show how the displays and panels can work, show me exactly why I do not want this. Perhaps there would be some potential when the capability for working with a second (non-mirrored) screen is working, but I want to focus on one app at a time. I haven't even tried on the Mac.

As there is a Dock and I am able to use keystrokes to switch between open apps like on a Mac, Stage manager began to slow me down, albeit this was a new wrinkle that would have to be learned for the best effects. I don't even like Split View really. While some apps, such as Mail, were usable in a partial screen display, I found myself enlarging most app panels as that is how I like to view my information: text, browser, photos, et al. Out of the box, this was not working for me.

On the Mac I had a look at the new Settings app (replacing System Preferences) and note how some panels have been moved around. An example is Time Machine which is normally permanently open on my Macs. Instead of its own panel, this is now one of the options in General, which has had other changes. I do not see a problem with this as, like in the past, those panels I want to use often will become familiar while I will track down any specific controls I want from time to time as and when I need them: learning on the go.

Time Machine in Ventura
Time Machine in Ventura: System Settings > General

I also had to check out a presentation on the Mac. I had partially rewritten it on the iPad Pro the day before. I had just found out that I was teaching a graduate group on Friday. The department had forgotten to tell me and I had two days to fix it. I had not taught in a classroom for almost 2 years so needed a rehearsal. Working through the presentation at home using two screens so I would have some idea of what it would look like when projected onto a screen, I decided that an older image of a page from my notebook should be replaced. I also switched to a browser and showed the students the final result on the Emulsive site: first ideas to finished product.

As most students (and quite a few academics) want to start with the finished product this is a worthwhile illustration. I found the pages I wanted in an old notebook. I keep them all, including the notes I took at the 2007 iPhone introduction and took 3 photographs. I took the notebooks into the class and the grad students were quite interested in the 2007 notebook. The point about notes was made.

When I synchronized the three images to Photos on the Mac, I selected then cropped the image, but when I tried to straighten the picture, the control wheel was missing. I reexamined the panel and at the top were now 3 options: Straighten, Vertical (Perspective) and Horizontal (Keystone). It has taken several years for these controls - which are in Photos on the iPhone and iPad - to appear on the Mac. I guess we should be grateful for small mercies.

New controls in Photos on Ventura
New Perspective and Keystone controls in Photos on Ventura

Apple released updates for Keynote, Numbers and Pages this week. I used Keynote on the Mac and that appeared no different: the changes to slides, then the presentation sailed through as normal. However, I also have to make a weekly report for my office and I use Numbers on the iPad for that. Making the changes (I use Apple Pencil) were fine, but when it came to exporting to a PDF, the item was missing in the pull down menu on the right (3 dots in a circle). The Help information told me to do exactly what I had done, so I hunted round for a solution that worked.

I tried removing the iPad Pro from the Smart Folio case, but that did not work. I looked carefully at what was displayed, making changes on the screen, accessing the Files folder and examining the file information (hard press on the file icon); but then I noticed that the name of the file in Numbers was not centered as it has been for the last few years. As normal there was a small down arrow next to the name. When I tried that, several of the options had been moved here, including Export. I checked Pages and Keynote on the iPad. The same changes had been made there. Whose bright idea was that? Export on the Mac from these apps uses an option in the File menu as before.

Changed menus in iWork

Apple has recognized the obvious with the EU decision on the use of USB-C connections for portable devices in the future. Greg Joswiak said that Apple respects the decision, "indirectly confirming Apple will move to USB-C in the future" Sami Fathi (MacRumors) writes. Several other sites were reporting this. The regulation will come into effect soon and by the end of 2024 all affected devices will have USB-C connectors. Did anyone think that Apple would not do this? I am not particularly sorry myself as most of my devices already use this connector and I have several USB-C accessories, like hard disks The new Mac mini will have 2 USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) as well as 2 USB-A ports. The one that is being replaced has 4 USB-A and 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports. I am not sure if I ever used them.

However, I do note the number of people still using older devices, for example those Android phones with plastic buttons that use micro-USB to connect to their chargers. Although they seem to have an unusual longevity, at some stage they will be replaced. All the cables and chargers will be trashed. While some of the assemblies, like the metals in cables and circuits might be recyclable, there is much that will end up as waste.

Netflix scored highly for me this week with 2 movies: The Good Nurse, with Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain; and All Quiet on the Western Front. Redmayne plays a nurse who murders patients at random by putting insulin into bags of saline solution. The real life character on which this is based pleaded guilty to 29 counts, though there could have been 400. Currently in England another nurse is on trial for killing new born babies by administering drugs to them.

I have seen 3 versions of All Quiet on the Western Front: the 1930 version in black and white, with Lew Ayres; a 1979 television version which also had a cinema release; and now the Netflix release which misses some of the scenes I remember from the other two versions and the book which I also read, but which has a harsh reality in the battlefields and trenches, also repeated well in War Horse. The ending was also more plausible than the 1979 version.

Next on my list are a couple of Apple movies: Sidney, about Sidney Poitier; and Black and Blue on the life of Louis Armstrong. They will be followed by Series 2 of Young Royals back on Netflix. I only watched Series 1 because it was a fallow time and nothing much else interested me. Once it was under way, like many of the Scandinavian and German series I have enjoyed, it had an unusual story to it, with the young actors putting in some sterling performances.

Oh, and Elon Musk has finally got his hands on Twitter. . . .

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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