eXtensions - Wednesday 26 June 2024

Wednesday Review: More on Apple Intelligence; iPad Pro Notes; Adobe and Apple Against the Enforcers; New Apple Store in Kuala Lumpur; Netflix and Apple TV Output

By Graham K. Rogers


There have been some useful follow-up ideas on Apple Intelligence. More comments on the iPad Pro, plus a protective, leather sleeve I found. Final Cut Pro on the iPad: a first look; and using Kino for videos. Adobe are in the sights of the FTC for unfavourable subscription rules, while Apple falls foul of the EU again. With the confusion about the Digital Markets Act, the EU may not see AI features with iOS 18 - serves them right. Streaming TV here seems more than healthy.

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After any Apple event there is a range of analysis, catchup, speculation and release of factual information, not necessarily in that order. Sometimes it pays to wait. In the last comment, I looked at John Gruber's Talk Show Live during which he interviewed Greg Joswiak, Craig Federighi and John Giannandrea. That session revealed a lot more background information. Gruber has taken it a bit further now in the following week. He has had time to think, analyze, and has come up with a well-reasoned comment on what Apple Intelligence may mean for users (John Gruber). Note particularly the extended bullet points nearer the end in which there is some useful speculation, although this has the sense more of likelihood in several parts. The Fall is going to be exciting (earlier for those who try the beta releases), although perhaps less so for those in the EU.

With beta releases of Apple's future operating systems, details leak out from time to time, such as the first look at the use of the iPhone mirroring with Sequoia (Jay Peters, TechCrunch). One new feature that had not been covered at the WWDC Keynote, was the news that with the next full release of iPadOS it will be possible to format an external disk. There is no information so far on whether that will also be available with iOS (Federico Viticci, MacStories). That is going to be a really useful feature, particularly for those who do not have Macs but use the iPad, or for anyone who is on the road just with the iPad.

One of the relatively few problems I had with the M1 iPad Pro concerned the Folio case. The ability to use a keyboard, with many of the key-commands I was familiar with on the Mac, was a real boost to my efficiency. It changed my reliance from the MacBook Pro to the iPad Pro, with the added advantage of reduced weight in my bag. The contents of the bag however, including cameras and other objects took a toll on the Folio Case and by the time the M4 iPad Pro was announced, the exterior was much the worse for wear. I am grateful, however, for the way that this obviously protected the iPad itself.

iPad Pro protection

When it came time to order the new iPad Pro, I had wanted to continue with a Folio Case but ended up buying the Magic Keyboard. I was delighted when it arrived. The Folio Case had been a step up. This was a leap. The back of the Magic Keyboard, however, was made of a material either the same or similar to my Folio Case and I envisaged that a year or so down the road this would also have similar scars. Initially, as a simple form of protection, I used a manila envelope and a file clasp. Although it was creased, for the time being it kept everything nice and clean. It was clear, however, that there must be something better.

iPad Pro protection

An initial search online did not reveal anything that would allow me to carry the iPad and keyboard safely. There were a couple of nice leather sleeves that would protect the iPad Pro, but not if it was with the Magic Keyboard. I eventually found Capra Leather had just what I wanted. As well as black or brown, there was a subtle blue shown as $99. I was sold on this immediately. When ordered, this appeared as a charge on my credit card of 4436 baht, which included Fedex delivery. The site has a fairly wide range of bags and other items, not just for computers and the like.

iPad Pro protection

I made the order on 18 June and it was in my hands on the afternoon of the 25th. It was contained in a raw linen bag with a leather tag (nice touch - see below). My first reaction when I unpacked this was, "F*** hell, this feels good". There was a follow-up email with some information about the company: "All of our pieces are hand made to order at our Bogotá studio, a place where creativity and dedication meet." I am not receiving anything for this mention: I just like the look (and feel) of the product.

iPad Pro protection

Last weekend I downloaded Final Cut Pro to the iPad and it took me only a few minutes to put together a short movie containing a number of clips that I had taken with Kino. This is completely different from Final Cut on the Mac (much easier too), but having found where a few of the controls are and what they do, I will hopefully improve with my next video attempt.

Final Cut Pro for the iPad That learning also applies to Kino, which has some quirks (and has been updated a number of times). I found that it is probably best not to take a video in the style that will finally be used (in my case black and white): better to take the basic video then duplicate in Photos and re-edit the clip; or use the duplicate to edit in Kino. Some may want their initial choice of course, but I like flexibility. Photos now allows a fair amount of flexibility with regard to editing. It used to be possible only to crop the clip, but now the Adjust, Filters and Crop menus are all available (Mac and handheld devices), so Perspective and Keystone can be adjusted, the clip can be changed from (say) 6x9 to square; and Adjust can be used to edit the image completely, including a vignette.

Final Cut Pro needs me to accept a subscription plan, which here is 1,990 baht for a year or 199 baht for a month. I took the monthly route. As I mention above, my first forays are quite acceptable, in terms of ease of use, and output. I expect to use it more in the new future, like during an imminent trip to Krabi. I am not a fan of subscriptions and either try for an all-out purchase, or find another app. I had not been a user of Adobe products for years but was disappointed when they moved to subscription-only mode, although the number of people who had been running this as if it were free software made this somewhat inevitable. Other developers, however, manage quite well with purchase plans rather than subscriptions.

Adobe has been caught with its fingers in the cookie jar, although they deny this completely. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking at Adobe's "deceptive practices" - if users try to cancel the subscription Adobe applies hidden fees (Ashley Bellanger, ArsTechnica). It has not been a good year for this developer, particularly in the eyes of many photographers. A few months ago Adobe put forward its new AI solution that produced images without photographers, saving businesses thousands of dollars, but probably putting several photographers out of work. There was severe criticism of this in photography magazines and other online sources including PetaPixel: Jeremy Gray and Skip the Photoshoot. When I go in to the Siam Paragon mall, two or three of the high end retailers on the Mezzanine floor have beautiful, large photographs of models or products (they change these frequently) and I love to look at these to see what lessons I can learn.

Only recently Adobe changed its Terms & Conditions and that made it seem as if they could access and use any of the work that was being stored in the facility (Jeremy Gray). There was a considerable outcry, particularly as some media developers used the storage for projects which were under Non-disclosure agreements. Last week, the FTC took Adobe to task with its subscription rules. Not only are these unfair, but they may well be illegal. With Final Cut Pro, if I decide it is not for me, I can cancel the subscription "at least one day before each renewal date". Adobe insisted that cancelling a subscription (this is not through the Apple Store of course - the EU should note) would mean that the user was on the hook for 50% of the subscription to the end of the current agreement. That is unacceptable says the FTC, but "Adobe plans to defend its business practices against the FTC's claims". This sort of reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Christopher Marlowe (a contemporary of Shakespeare), when Young Mortimer (defeated) says,

Base Fortune, now I see, that in thy wheel
There is a point, to which when men aspire,
They tumble headlong down. . .

I am surprised that the EU did not notice this transgression by Adobe earlier with their hawk-like attitude to some US tech companies. They have been focused so long on Apple (and slightly less on Google) that this one must have slipped through the net although this may be far more egregious than what Apple is alleged to do. However, now Apple appears to have had enough, or they are playing a game of brinksmanship. The EU is about to charge Apple with violating the Digital Markets Act, even though Apple claims they have tried to comply Joe Rossignol, MacRumors). As a result the company will not be bringing Apple Intelligence features to iPhones or iPads used in the EU: with the current lack of clarity, the features may fall foul of Margrethe Vestager who just made side-loading a reality. That is not what Apple said of course, but it is she who has been gunning for Apple for the last few years. Be careful what you wish for.

Although Apple has a smaller market in the EU than the USA they still sold some 12.4 million iPhones in 2023 (Asif Iqbal Shaik, SammMobile); which could mean upwards of 12 million users pissed off if their next iPhone does not have the promised Apple Intelligence features. They have side-loading, but could miss out on some star features that the rest of us will have. Monopoly may mean different things to different people, although 25% of a market does not sound much of a monopoly to me.

Apple has been drifting eastwards for years. There has always been a solid base in Singapore, and China has long been a favorite although that may be a little tarnished these days. South-east Asia has always had some link with Cupertino and for years some accessories and parts for the devices have been made here in Thailand. Lately, Vietnam has joined the party and perhaps Indonesia will too. Malaysia has also benefited a little from its proximity to Singapore, but like Thailand, the retail arm depended on franchise stores. They are well-controlled here nowadays, but that was not always the case; and Apple has also opened two of its own stores in Bangkok: Central World, and Icon Siam. Both are popular. Most Saturdays it is hard to move in the Central World store, but the staff are always polite and helpful.

Apple Store _ The Exchange TRX
The Exchange TRX - Image courtesy of Apple

Malaysia has now joined the Apple Store party with a rather splendid, 3-floor building located at the TunRazak Exchange (TRX) which is to be known as Apple The Exchange TRX. The images that Apple has provided do make it look rather splendid. The front view reminds me of the New York store a few years back, while the view down to the store area from the 3rd floor has some flavor of the Regent Street store in London.

Apple Store _ The Exchange TRX
The Exchange TRX - Image courtesy of Apple

The first reports after its opening this weekend were that it was crowded. When the first store opened here at Icon Siam which looks over the river, it was busy and it was hard to move in there on some occasions. I remember trying to buy the first iPad when I attended a conference in Kuala Lumpur but was not overly impressed with the retail outlets that were selling Apple products. At that time, those in Bangkok were not much better but saw a marked improvement later. They have improved even more now that Apple has two stores here.

Apple Store _ The Exchange TRX
The Exchange TRX - Image courtesy of Apple

Halide was one of the earlier apps that allowed users to take RAW images and it was clear that the developers were keen on photography. One of these, Sebastian de With, produced a convincing argument for shooting with RAW that I read just before downloading the app for the first time. This was followed by an item on Editing Raw This was originally written some 6 years ago and both parts (shooting, and editing) are still worth reading.

With video in mind, I was pleased to see that the same developers had come up with a video app: Kino. This is not cheap at 399 baht but there is no subscription which I think is a major plus (see above). Although it is possible to set it up for manual adjustments, the auto settings are quite enough for my use and I was quickly able to take a couple of reasonable clips, restricting myself to about 30 seconds just to try things out. On the iPhone 15 Pro, 4 lens options were available: 0.5, x1, x2 and x3. One nice feature is the ability to select a range of presets giving different color outputs, with one black and white option as well. In the settings I also added a grid to the screen to help vertical and horizontal positioning.

Kino interface
Straightforward Kino interface in auto mode

As I am a lover of black and white output I tried this first and took three quite usable clips. This was probably a mistake as I was unable to return to the original color, or use the other effects. I found it better to take a clip with no effects then duplicate the clip in Photos and apply the filter to the new clip. All of the clips are saved to Photos automatically although there is an option to save to another location (such as a folder or external media). A major advantage with Photos on the iPhone and iPad now is that the full range of editing options is available for the videos: Video (clip length), Adjust (edit), Filters, and Crop (straighten, perspective, keystone, and resolution).

Kino video using black and white filter
Kino video (screenshot) using black and white filter

Taking video direct from the iPhone camera allows a number of extra settings, such as ProRes (4K at 60fps with suitable external media). I also have Blackmagic Cam which is a highly flexible video app with a range of features allowing production of high quality videos. This was used at the Scary Fast Apple event last year to film the entire announcement of the new products. Kino falls somewhere between the two giving me 4K clips (3840 x 2160) at 30.01 fps: with HDR files of 88.9MB for 32 seconds. A 33 second black and white clip was 93.6MB. No location was recorded in the Kino app.

One major selling point of Kino is the access to useful documentation, with a Quick-Start guide and more detailed text information on what can be done with Kino. There is also a YouTube channel which has videos on Halide and Kino, with I expect more to be added. As is common there is a FAQ section and easy Contact Support access.

There has been some good output on Netflix of late. On AppleTV+ we are waiting for Foundation, Silo and Slow Horses all of which should be with us soon. It is a bit thin at the moment with Loot and Palm Royale. The 3rd season of Trying, however, and Dark Matter are worth taking time over. A new series, Presumed Innocent (Jake Gyllenhall), started recently and the tension is being raised week by week. It reminded me in some ways of one of the first AppleTV+ series, Defending Jacob. In both series: did he or didn't he? Despite some negative reviews, I watched the first two episodes of Presumed Innocent and was hooked. I just finished Episode 4. And Time Bandits? This looks like a rehash of the classic Terry Gilliam movie with a kids' flavored angle. Later news about AppleTV content reports that The Morning Show is returning soon with some topical content on the use of AI. The subplot here is about the risks of misinformation and deepfakes (Oliver Haslam, iMore)

Something to look forward to on Netflix is a movie of Peaky Blinders. Cillian Murphy is apparently willing and the other ducks are almost in line. Netflix has put out some interesting content recently. Most recently with Eric: ostensibly a missing child mini-series, but with several subplots and a manic father (alcoholism, addiction) with a genius streak, played ably by Benedict Cumberbatch. This is one of his best roles in recent years and he certainly pushed himself as the missing boy's father.

There have been one or two disasters in my viewing list, including Unfrosted - cereal wars in the Midwest, which was more like cold oatmeal than snap, crackle, pot. I could not finish it. However, a couple of others made up for that. The Outfit, starring a low-key Mark Rylance was one high point in the last few weeks. The quiet ones are always the most dangerous. It had the feel of a stage play turned into a movie, but it lost nothing for that as the story unfolded piece by piece, with Ryland's character subtly changing his explanations about how and why he came to the city (remember the Joker changing the reasons for his scarred face?). As Rylance is so quiet throughout, the violent ending had more effect.

To Catch a Killer was an unusual and delightful film about tracking down a sniper and serial killer. It was somewhat gritty with the main character a persistent beat cop, played by Shailene Woodley, seconded to the investigation because she acts and observes. Like many of these types of movies, where would we be without the personal demons. Rotten Tomatoes describes it as an "above-average thriller with some surprises, even if it never quite hits the heights scaled by true genre classics." Nonetheless, it was good viewing.

The personal demons were on full display with a German movie, The Perfumier. Like another well produced German series, Perfume, this borrows from the original novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind that I read when it was first published in 1985. It was later made into a movie (2006), starring Ben Wishaw as the perfumier/murderer, with appearances by (among others) Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman. That movie is also still on Netflix. My Netflix list was topped by Jeff Daniels in A Man in Full: an uncompromising businessman is caught up in his own wheeling and dealing, with the bank trying hard to take away his empire. This is Daniels at his most forceful and although slightly less believable - his Atlanta property magnate was done years ago Texas style by John Ross "J.R." Ewing Jr - Daniels produced a compelling performance and this was good television.

As a final note, Tammy Rogers (iMore) reports that Lewis Hamilton's Formula One movie, with Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and Tobias Menzies, will be coming to theaters in 2025 (27 June). The movie is an Apple Original, so after that release, it should become available on AppleTV+. Also due to arrive soon is The Instigators with Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. Due later in the year (October) is a series, Disclaimer, starring Cate Blanchett and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

iPad Pro protection
A nice touch - the Capra linen bag for the iPad Pro sleeve

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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