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  • Apple TV gets Dolby Atmos support, 'zero sign-on' for cable with tvOS 12

    It's unlikely it will support Dolby TrueHD; the bitrate is just too high for most users. Dolby Atmos works as a layer on top of Dolby TrueHD, Dolby AC-4, or Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3). Since DD+ is already used by services like Netflix, I'd suspect Apple will use DD+ as the bed for Atmos, but it's possible they might use the more-efficient AC-4.
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  • Future Macs could adopt Intel's new, high-performance discrete graphics chips

    macxpress said:
    They do in their A-Series chips and they work quite well, but I'm not sure how well it would work pushing the size/resolution of screens Apple uses for its Macs. Maybe they'd be good. Or, maybe they're also working on a desktop class GPU as well.
    The iPad Pro has a 2732 x 2048 resolution. A 15-inch MacBook Pro is 2880x1800. If the next iPad Pro has an Apple-designed GPU, then using that GPU in a MacBook is hardly a stretch. Given that the iPhone X has a resolution of 2436 x 1125 and uses an Apple-designed GPU, it's not that big a stretch.

    I can't see Apple using an Intel discrete GPU, for many reasons:

    • Intel has a long history of designing seriously underperforming integrated GPUs;
    • Intel hasn't designed discrete GPUs for 15 years, and they weren't competitive back then;
    • Apple has supposedly been actively trying to reduce its reliance on Intel parts;
    • Apple likes to develop hardware that works hand-in-glove with its software. The Apple GPU in the A11 Bionic is purpose-built for Metal, Apple's graphics API. With Apple depreciating OpenGL in macOS Mojave in favor of Metal, it's more likely Apple would design its own built-for-Metal GPU than use Intel's built-for-DirectX GPU;
    • If Apple indeed moves to an ARM-based Mac using the A-series processor, of course it's going to use the Apple GPU that's now part of the A-series chip.
  • Apple's 'experiential retail' success lies in improving a customer's life claims Angela Ah...

    The Apple retail experience has gotten steadily worse in the last few years, especially when you have a problem.

    Yes, the ability to pay via app is nice... except that it's not clear what products on the shelves you can actually do that with. It turns out that you can't do it for products that have serial-number barcodes that need to be registered... but the app doesn't make that clear. Last time I tried it, I just got a generic error message as if the barcode failed to scan.

    When you have an issue, the Apple Store becomes a Kafka-esque nightmare. Even with an appointment, you'll be facing a wait. You'll have to somehow figure out who the one person in the store who can check you in might be, and where they are; there's no signage or particular uniform to make this clear. They'll shuffle you off to someone else, who will eventually take you to a chair at the crowded Genius Bar to wait for yet another person to triage you, and eventually you'll get yet another person to take care of your problem.

    That is, if they have the parts on hand in the right box. I had a failed iPad Smart Keyboard. The store I went to was out of replacement keyboards in repair boxes in the back room, so I was told I'd have to come back in next week when they got more of them. That's a two-hour round trip for me. They couldn't ship the replacement to my home, because I'd come into the store to initiate the process. They couldn't give me one of the Smart Keyboards sitting on the display shelf, because it was in retail packaging, not repair packaging.

    Days later, it was another multiple-person wait-some-more dance just to get the replacement part out of the back room.

    It would've been a much more pleasant experience if there were a customer-service window and a queue, as in any other retail store. What Apple does today is just chaos.

    That experience told me that Apple has lost its customer focus. Wasting hours of a customer's time when your product fails under warranty because it wasn't designed properly—the Smart Keyboard hinge is not durable enough and the wires break quickly in regular use—is not something I expected from Apple. Compounding it by having a replacement part sitting in clear sight on a shelf and refusing to make the replacement? There's no way that doesn't result in customer resentment.

    Apple has become way too much about the form, and has completely forgotten about function, even in their stores.
  • Lutron's Aurora dimmer for Philips Hue lighting installs over a light switch

    It really doesn’t make any sense that anyone should have this problem to begin with. If you have wall switches, you have no business using Philips Hue. There are several far more appropriate ways to achieve smart home lighting without nuking a useful wall switch. 
    Unless you can't change the wall switch, because you live in an apartment. Change the wiring, no; change the cover plate, yes.

    Or you want the wall switch to control more than just the lights it's hardwired to.

    Or you want smart lights that do more than just dim, which is what you get with a smart hardwired wall switch like Lutron Casetá. And you'd rather not have a blank plate over the spot where your wall switch used to be, plus a Philips remote stuck to the wall next to it...

    This is a brilliant product. It's not for everyone, but it definitely serves a need and fulfills a hole in Philips' lineup.
  • Former Apple retail head Angela Ahrendts upset 'finely tuned balance'

    Last year, the Smart Keyboard of my iPad Pro 10.5" stopped working, likely due to a broken wire in the hinge. It was under warranty. I made the mistake of opting for an in-store replacement.

    After the 45-minute drive to the nearest store, it was the game of "find the greeter," akin to Where's Waldo?, the one person who does checkins who is in a random location at the front of the store... wearing the same uniform as every other employee (not to mention ten percent of the patrons—a blue T-shirt). Check in, get told to sit under a random poster on the wall among a throng of other people and wait. Eventually another employee comes to "check me in," and then after another wait a third employee comes to diagnose the problem. (So much for efficiency.)

    Half an hour of waiting around... to be told I'll have to come back a week later to get the replacement part as they're out of repair stock.

    Could they ship it to me? Nope, because I came into the store, I'll have to come back to pick it up.

    But wait... there's one sitting right there, on the shelf. Surely they can give me that one?

    Nope. It's "retail stock," not "repair stock." So I have to make a second two-hour round trip to the store to pick up a lightweight part, because the one they have is in the wrong box with the wrong barcode on it.

    That was when I realized that the Apple I loved, and recommended to others, was dead. And that Apple Support is now no better than any other manufacturer.

    I hope that they go back to what Apple Stores used to be, with a customer-support focus. I'd love to see them go back to having easily identifiable support and checkout areas. The stores are form over function now, much like MacBooks.
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  • Last remaining AirPort Wi-Fi accessories no longer on sale from Apple

    The original AirPort was important, because it was the first readily available consumer-grade WiFi router.

    But subsequent models had more problems than benefits.

    The AirPort Express brought an audio output jack... but it also required that you plug it straight into an outlet, which usually meant putting it someplace that wasn’t a good choice for a strong radio signal. It also didn’t work well if your (U.S.) wall outlets were getting old, because the weight would cause it to pull out of the wall. And if your outlets were oriented horizontally, the antenna pattern would work poorly.

    And they tended to have power supply issues due to overheating, since they were made as small as possible without much regard for heat dissipation. That problem was even worse in the first-generation Time Machine, which packed way too much stuff in a small case. It was a race—what would die from heat death first, the power supply or the hard drive?

    Frankly, Time Machine over a network is something of a crapshoot. I’ve had bad luck getting a network-based TM backup to restore. Where possible, I use local external drives; they’re faster and vastly more reliable. An unreliable backup is no backup at all.

    There are much better alternatives to the AirPort line when it comes to WiFi routers. For most people, I recommend the Ubiquiti AmpliFi series. It comes with a small cube-shaped router that configures easily via iOS app, and optionally one or two mesh units to extend the signal. It’s very old-Apple-like, and it’s not small for the sake of small.

    And for most people who say “but I get Wi-Fi with my cable modem from the cable company,” I point out that most cable companies put a monthly charge on that modem that you can avoid by buying your own modem and router... and in most cases, if you buy your own, you come out ahead within two years or less.