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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.
  • Microsoft surpasses Apple, retakes crown of world's most valuable company

    I’m about as rabid an Apple fan as one can find, but at this point, even I have to say that Apple has lost their mojo under Cook.

    Yeah, Apple had misfires under Jobs, but not of the same magnitude or frequency. And the products were generally better designed and tested.

    The Power Mac G3/G4 design was the most elegant tower case I’ve ever seen. It was incredibly easy to work on the internals. It understood that people buying a top-end computer with pro power and features value the ability to customize, expand, and even repair their system. Today, we have the cylindrical Mac Pro, which not only can’t be expanded internally and can’t easily be repaired by the user, but its “elegant design” backed it into a corner meaning it hasn’t seen an update in years.

    The iMac G5 was stylish and compact, but also user-serviceable. Not only could you upgrade the RAM, you could replace the hard drive, power supply, and other components. Apple even offered do-it-yourself repairs, where they’d ship you the replacement part. Today’s iMacs can’t be upgraded and are inexplicably difficult to repair even for a trained service provider. But they’re thin and stylish.

    The iPhone X series, for most people, doesn’t offer much in the way of real, everyday functional improvement over the much cheaper iPhone 8. The CPU in the 8 is fast enough for virtually any normal person. The AR features in the newer processors seem to be a solution in search of a problem, so far. Yes, there’s a better camera, but for most people the more basic camera is more than good enough. It’s difficult to find a compelling reason to push someone from an 8 to an Xs or Xr other than “but it’s newer and will be declared obsolete later!”

    It used to be that I could argue Apple’s operating systems were head and shoulders above the competition. They just worked. They were intuitive. They were secure. They were compatible. They were simple for beginners but offered incredible depth for advanced users. That’s not true any longer. Apple’s software is now frequently unusable on release due to bugs. Features are removed as often as they’re added, particularly advanced features. Serious vulnerabilities are increasingly common. And too often, Design (with a capital D and a patronizing British accent) trumps usability and intuitive operation.

    Never mind bugs like updates bricking Apple Watches... or major features slipping from OS releases... or outright vaporware like AirPower.

    Frankly, Microsoft has caught up, and Apple has slacked off.

    It used to be I couldn’t imagine using Windows every day by choice. Today, although Windows 10 has plenty of annoyances—especially around privacy—it’s stable, it’s usable, it’s flexible, and it generally works about as well as macOS. Microsoft is stepping up its integration game, too: the integration between Windows 10 and the Xbox shows just how little effort Apple has put into the Apple TV.

    Meanwhile, Apple can’t even design a laptop without an overdesigned, overwrought keyboard that has Elegant Design but breaks when presented with a cookie crumb, requiring a $500 repair that may take weeks to process. Not because the keyboard works better; not because the keyboard is more joyful to type on; not because the design solved a fundamental problem with the concept of typing. No, because it shaved a millimeter off the thickness of the laptop.

    Apple no longer designs computers that are the best they can possibly be. They no longer make software that can be used by anyone—rank beginner or serious professional. They no longer make devices that are designed to be the best they can be at what they do.

    Apple designs anorexic computers for casual users with high disposable income. Some of those computers are phones, tablets, and watches.

    Apple is teetering under the weight of its own hubris lately, which is ironic given Apple’s thin fetish under Jony Ives.
  • 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.