eXtensions - Saturday 30 March 2024

Weekend Review: Receding iPad Pro; Updating iPhones in the Box; Serif Bought by Canva; AppleTV and Netflix Comments

By Graham K. Rogers


As well as an update to Sonoma this week there were reported to be secret updates to iOS and iPadOS. Some thought this might signify final preparations for the new iPad Pro. Not so: that is now put back to May: problems producing OLED screens. Serif, which makes the renowned Affinity imaging applications has been sold to Canva. Not everyone approves. And the EU wants a flat landscape for smartphones. They think it should be possible to delete Photos and other pre-installed apps. Politicians won't be satisfied until the tech companies are neutered and carved up.

There was an update to macOS, Sonoma, which I saw early Tuesday morning. I ran a backup (as I always do before an OS update) then pressed the download button. The progress bar showed no more than a sliver of color and sat there unmoving. I left it a few minutes and tried again with the same result. I checked the internet connection and speeds, which were good. After restarting the Mac, I tried the download again and it worked as it should, with the download coming down right away. The update for computers with Apple silicon was 1.15GB

macOS Sonoma update

According to Mr. Macintosh, the updates covered,

In the notes Mr Macintosh also mentioned that there was an update to Safari (17.4.1) in the 14.4.1 update.

This week there was a surprise update to iOS and iPad OS. Not that it will appear in the lists. It is reported that this is a one-digit upgrade to the build number. You would have to go back to iOS 14.0 and then re-update. It was, however, suggested that this could include minor changes that would be downloaded to new iPads currently in production, suggesting to some people that a release of the new devices could be imminent (Edit Hardy, Cult of Mac). Not so fast. . . . While I had been hoping for a new iPad Pro release in March, that is certainly not going to happen, so we shifted our expectations to April.

Now, however that may not longer be on the cards. A report in a Bloomberg newsletter suggests that Apple is to announce this in May. The complexity of making the new OLED screens is said to be the major reason for the delay. Several reports covered this, but I was pleased to see the headline of another article by Ed Hardy (Cult of Mac), which reads, "New iPads won't arrive until May and we can't stop crying". Agreed.

Several reports have been hinting at problems producing the OLED panels, particularly for the 11" iPad Pro. Oliver Haslam (iMore) expands on this and explains that Samsung yield quality was not good enough and that now LG has come to the rescue. There had already been rumors about delays due to the screens, but this seems a fair (if unhappy) outline. Quality, delays, supplier-switching are bound to slow down the process. Imagine the headlines if Apple shipped an iPad Pro with display problems. Haslam also mentions other, related, changes, such as a new Apple Pencil and keyboard options. Over the last couple of years my own folio keyboard has taken a hammering with the way I work and is in dire need of replacement.

Folio Keyboard
Apple Folio Keyboard - At least the iPad Pro inside is protected

There was an interesting note this week concerning the way Apple updates its iPhones. I have found it annoying, on more than one occasion, to be halfway through setting up a new device, only to find that it wants to update to the latest version of the OS. I last experienced this on the iPhone 15 Pro I now use and once the update was downloaded, had to start the set up again, including typing in my complex WiFi password. A few months ago it was reported that Apple was looking at ways to update its devices while they were still sealed in the box. Malcolm Owen (AppleInsider) mentions this in reference to the iPhone, but I would hope this would also be possible - if not now, some time in the future - for all devices.

iPhone 15
iPhone 15 - Image courtesy of Apple

New hardware is expected to be installed in retail stores soon, although the report says it has been available for a while "outside of retail". The device powers up the iPhone in the box, installs the software, and the iPhone powers down automatically. "All Apple Store locations in the United States are expected to have the device in use by the early summer." I hope that what that means for those of us outside the USA is that for the moment the devices will be updated in distribution centers.

At the moment I am being shocked almost every week. The end of Titan, Nikon buying Red, and this week, Canva has bought Serif: the makers of the Affinity suite of applications. I went to their offices just outside Nottingham in 2016 and met some of the staff, taking some photos with the iPhone 6s I had then. I spoke to the CEO, Ashley Hewson, who came across as a nice guy, and awfully smart.

Serif/Affinity Serif/Affinity

Ashley Hewson CEO of Serif and Personnel at Wilford, Nottingham, August 2016

While the company has insisted that its pay-once-only plans will continue, there is a lot of discomfort online. Many commentators expressed doubts, and users are expecting a shift to subscriptions despite the assurances. With Pixelmator recently shifting its fee structures, Serif maintained its stance on fees. I do understand that they have to eat and a company has to make money. I avoid subscriptions if I can.

Serif offices in 2016
Serif offices in 2016

The Serif move which I have misgivings about was followed by one of the most stupid headlines I have seen for a while on iMore. I scrolled past initially, but came back when I digested the threat behind the headline. To be absolutely clear, iMore was just reporting the stupidity, but when I saw the headline, The EU thinks you should be able to uninstall core apps like Photos on your iPhone - competition chief reveals "Apple's compliance model does not seem to meet the objectives of this obligation", I blinked and thought, Why would anyone want to do that? I use Photos daily because it synchronises the images across my devices; but I have also installed other imaging software to improve what I do. Stephen Warwick who wrote the article was as mystified as me with what the European Competition chief, Margrethe Vestager had said.

This seems to be part of a combined effort by EU, UK and USA governments (and others) to gut some of the best tech companies (admittedly with faults) that have driven technology in the last 10 or more years. think what was done to the original American Telephone & Telgraph. The legislators are never going to be satisfied until the hardware and software are separate. What then would be the point of buying an iPhone?

my iPhone release notes my iPhone release notes

I still have the notes I made at the iPhone introduction in 2007. Steve Jobs was clear about the importance of software integration with the hardware: you can do anything with software. I was particularly impressed with the Alan Kay quote: "People who are really serious about software, should make their own hardware". The integration of software and hardware is a fundamental point that sails over the heads of those who demand a level playing field regardless of whether or not it will actually benefit users. That is just unrealistic. Perhaps they will not be happy until we are all running a hybrid iOS-Android system with all the problems that could bring. "OK, we know the security is shot, but all the phone makers are working on a level playing field now": be careful what you wish for.

There are several reports that Apple has renewed, "The Last Thing he Told her" for a second series. We also hear that series 3 of Foundation has made some progress. As this is one of the best series on AppleTv, I would hope that someone would step in and underwrite the production. It fully deserves being made. Series 3 of Invasion, another Sci-Fi hit on AppleTv, went into production last month and I look forward to that appearing. There could be a slight problem, as was found with the last series of Lost in Space: in the time between each series the teenage stars grow, dramatically. Maxwell Jenkins who played Will Robinson turned from a boy to a gangly teenager, although this was neatly written into the script.

Netflix has had a couple of series that are well worth taking time to watch. The final series of Young Royals has just appeared and although it is a bit mawkish there is a good play between duty, love and teenage confusion. Amor Vincit Omnia. Three series was about right and it has now ended. I was surprised by The Gentlemen on Netflix. I had distant memories of the movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which despite a star cast was a total disappointment (although financially successful). I knew that Giancarlo Esposito (Gus in Breaking Bad) was in The Gentlemen, so decided to watch.


My first surprise was when I saw that it was from Miramax TV, a name that carries some negativity. However, when I saw that this series was directed by Guy Ritchie, who made two of my favorite movies, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, I sat up. Ritchie also made a movie in 2019 named "The Gentlemen" and there are some shades of this in the new series. This series is an absolute delight, although there were a lot of dead bodies. Like those two movies, the strengths lie in the number of characters with their own separate behaviors and stories, including the character played by Esposito who is said to have earned his wealth producing meth - a nod to Breaking Bad. Also featuring is Ritchie favorite, Vinnie Jones, with another wonderfully understated performance, and a really strong cast.

After "The Gentlemen" I moved on to "Three Body Problem" also on Netflix. It is not about human bodies, although Heaven knows there are enough dead ones even in the opening sequences. The title refers to a physics problem when there are three objects - in this case suns - in orbit. Gravitational forces are almost unpredictable. I almost missed this series until I saw an interview in the Guardian - on the rise in excellent Irish actors - with Liam Cunningham who plays one of the main characters.

The story is based on a series by Chinese author Liu Cixin who also featured in a useful Guardian Interview. As Episode One warmed up I became more immersed in the science (and the fiction part of that) and began to speculate on where this was all going. I enjoy being wrong about this as much as being right. I was enthralled for example to see a binary computer in the days of a fictional Genghis Khan, made of over 30 million soldiers (the shot zooms out to give the sense of an integrated circuit). Each of the soldiers holds a flag which displays black or white (binary) allowing early and fairly rapid calculations. There were a number of other scenes that drew me in throughout the 8 episodes. And then series 1 ended. I hope Netflix has Series 2 and 3 lined 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 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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