eXtensions - Thursday 14 March 2024

Thursday Comment: Netflix Changes; Nikon Shifts Goalposts; Vision Pro Potential; Office Mac mini (2) - Update (punctuation and word fixes)

By Graham K. Rogers


Local Netflix users may want to check their subscriptions. Like a bolt out of the blue, RED was taken over by Nikon last week. iPad Pro coming soon: I hope so. Apple is finding more and more uses for the Vision Pro, just like they did when the iPads first appeared. While my home Mac installation is fine, peripherals on the office Mac mini are misbehaving.

I had seen news on a number of sources that Netflix was changing the way it charged subscribers. Instead of using the App Store, users would be required to subscribe directly. It was not wholly a surprise to see a message on Tuesday evening informing me that my subscription was ending and that I could resubscribe, using the link in the message. There were two problems with this: I could not remember Netflix having sent me a message this way in the past; and the link in the message looked suspicious with "account-hu.com" in the link.


The next morning I contacted Netflix via their website - having noted the Change Payment Method button - and asked about the subscription. The nice young lady from the call center listened as I outlined my problem. When I asked about the link, she said, "I don't think that is one of ours", confirming my suspicions. From her center she cancelled the Apple subscription. I checked the App Store later and that was done, then I resubscribed using the web page. The process was fairly easy, but I took a screen shot just in case and will find out next Tuesday when the subscription changes take place.

It is not often that I am stopped in my tracks (the end of Titan was one case), but I had a "Good God" moment when I read the headline in a PetaPixel newsletter, "Nikon Acquires US Company RED in Shakeup Of Cinema Camera Market", Matt Growcoot writes. It sounds like a massive step to me. I expect that Nikon would keep the top of the range RED cameras - they would be foolish not to - but there is a lot of technology that could be used in the video features of the still cameras. They work hard improving the cameras, with a firmware update for the Z9 this week. As Growcoot notes, the companies were in dispute about video compression patents not so long ago. Now Nikon owns the company, presumably it also owns the patents. Haje Jan Kamps (TechCrunch) who gives some good background and history about RED, writes that "Nikon's acquisition of the camera brand is monumental and strategically extremely shrewd."

Nikon DSLR camera
Nikon D850 DSLR camera

While I would prefer a still camera without video capabilities - I rarely use these features, and it is easier to run the iPhone - there is also room for a lower tier video camera. RED caters to movie makers, so the YouTubers could benefit from a quality device that falls into a lower price range. What Nikon does do with the new flexibility it now has is not known at this stage. Currently RED is based in California, while Nikon makes its cameras in Thailand.

A few hours after uploading my last eXtensions item there were updates to Sonoma (14.4), tvOS (17.4) and watchOS (10.4). The revisions to the iPads are still pending, with some variations on the date this will happen, depending on the source. These range from this week (11 March on), some other time in March, or even April. Dennis Sellers (AppleWorld Today), for example, suggests 18 or 19 March (but also adds a maybe April caveat). Others are also suggesting late March or April. As the rumored iPad Pro (11") is a must-have for me, I am gritting my teeth as I try to be patient.

M1 iPad Pro
M1 iPad Pro with case showing signs of hard use

We do expect that the iPad Pro will come with OLED screens, meaning that without a backlight the devices will be slightly thinner. However, late reports suggest that Samsung is having problems producing enough screens for the smaller iPad Pro (the one I want) and there may be initial shortages (Connor Jewiss, iMore). Rumors now are also suggesting that, although these will see a price rise, the massive increase previously rumored will not be the case. A couple of hundred dollars I will accept, $500 would have been harder to take. Hartley Charlton (MacRumors) has an extensive and useful look at the rumors and speculation about the iPad Pro, including the potential price increases due to the (rumored) OLED screens. The article also suggests that a new Apple Pencil could be on the way.

With Project Titan scrapped, one might think that Apple was shying away from cars at the moment, but Tim Cook was engaged with Porsche recently (albeit from the office) when the car company made a successful run at the lap record for EVs at the Laguna Seca race track: one of my favorites for motorcycle racing. Not only did the Taycan beat the current record, but a second car then shaved some more off the time.

Porsche Taycan lap record
Taycan lap record - Image courtesy of Porsche

Needless to say Porsche personnel were delighted and after the trackside report, the video I saw, embedded in an article on MacRumors (Hartley Charlton) switched to Porsche offices and Porsche CEO Oliver Blume who was wearing the Apple Vision Pro. Porsche have developed a "custom race engineer cockpit app for the Vision Pro that allows a spectator to view laps from the perspective of the driver accompanied by key statistics and a track map in 3D space." Needless to say, Tim Cook was similarly delighted and outlined the ways the device can be used to enhance he user experience: "spatial computing has the potential to revolutionize virtually every industry."

That also includes the healthcare industry. When I first tried the early Microsoft headset some 7 or more years ago, the ability to see anything in the goggles was somewhat restricted: nowhere near as clear as Vision Pro. The Microsoft personnel were keen to outline its potential use and even then medical uses were being considered, such as a surgeon being able to call up articles or patient notes while operating. I think they had the wrong end of the stick, but the use of documents was high in Microsoft thinking then. Apple is firmly embracing the potential of the Vision Pro in healthcare.

CyranoHealth, an app for medical equipment training
CyranoHealth by Boston Children's Hospital: an app for training on new medical equipment - Image courtesy of Apple

There have been a couple of examples concerning the use of Vision Pro in medical scenarios. Connor Jewiss (iMore) reports on a study concerning knee and hip replacement surgery and how integrating the Vision Pro into the process could prove to be a transformative tool for surgeons, for example with the use of interactive holograms bringing human anatomy to life. Also mentioned is the use of medical records (see comments above on Microsoft) and several other ways in which the device could enhance healthcare are being considered.

Further to this, Hartley Charlton (iMore) outlines a real life case of an operation in which Vision Pro was actually used to assist in a spinal operation carried out recently in the UK (where the Vision Pro has yet to be officially released). The surgeon, who was not wearing the device, was delighted with the outcome. Instead the scrub nurse used the Exex AI technology to keep a note of each stage of the operation. The information available gives personnel valuable information that they might not otherwise have.

I had been experiencing problems with the older hard disk I had been using for Time Machine backups for my office Mac mini. Age was probably part of the problem, but capacity was also a factor. As the backups were causing problems, so the wireless keyboard became unreliable (after several years). I replaced this and the trackpad as that had been a problem since I dropped it. Solution: take more care.

I bought a new 4TB disk for the Time Machine backups. The previous 2TB disk had been showing some unpredictable behavior and claimed that the disk was full (it was). Time Machine is supposed to delete old backups, but the list of folders I expected to see was not there. When I erased the backup disk and tried again, it reported that it was unable to complete the first backup as it was full. The storage on the Mac is 500GB so I was at a loss to understand why this happened (see below), other than the potential for bad sectors on the external disk. I had to be honest it was way past its shelf life.

4TB WD hard disk
4TB WD hard disk

I formatted the new disk at home and when I connected it to the Mac mini, it was immediately recognized as a potential back up disk and offered to run the process. I agreed, but had to enter a suitable password first for the encrypted backup. It started and seemed to chug along OK, although showed that it would take around 4 hours, so I looked at the information displayed. This showed that with 9.5% completed, 107.47GB had been copied. Just looking at the figures suggested a problem. I grabbed a calculator and worked out that 100% would be 1,143,29787GB - well over a Terabyte of data (a later check gave me a figure of 1.3TB - it was far more at the end). I let it carry on and went to lunch. It ended up taking far longer than the promised 4 hours.

It was still working away when I returned, but the time left and the amount of data copied (so far) looked more realistic. It was still climbing above the known capacity of the hard disk (500 GB with 233GB of data). This prompted me to look at the options panel in the Time Machine settings. Although I had two data disks connected to the computer, these were not shown as being excluded, which gave me my answer as to why the backups were so large; and why the disk was reported as full.

Initial Time Machine backup
Slow initial Time Machine backup

I had connected two disks with thousands of images. With 90% complete, the disk had used 1.77TB and it was still going, finally finishing after about 8 hours: double the time initially estimated. When I restarted the Mac on Monday morning and ran the second backup, the information displayed showed that 1.97 TB was available. I am hoping that will last for a while.

The overrun of the previous backup disk was poor disk management on my part. A new, larger disk was certainly needed, although I will have to monitor the backup files to ensure they are being saved correctly. An initial look in a Finder window showed the two backups correctly displayed.

However, I am now experiencing unpredictable behavior from both the new keyboard and new trackpad. It is as if some settings have been returned to defaults, particularly when the Mac comes out of sleep, but these change later. It has nothing to do with the 14.4 Sonoma update as this began before I had installed that, although Bluetooth may be at the root of the problem. I am still investigating.

Apple wireless keyboard

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 X (@extensions_th). The RSS feed for the articles is http://www.extensions.in.th/ext_link.xml - copy and paste into your feed reader.


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