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  • 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.
    GeorgeBMacelijahgmazda 3s
  • 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.
  • 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.