eXtensions - Wednesday 13 December 2017


eXtensions: The Wednesday File (35) - Dvorak Muddies the Waters and other Inconsequentials

By Graham K. Rogers


This week John Dvorak who never properly understood Apple or the Mac confirmed that he still knows how to troll Mac users. His evidence of an Apple video extolling the benefits of the iPad Pro was used to prove that the Mac with $20 billion in annual sales was about to be out out to pasture, which Apple demonstrated by announcing that ordering for the $5,000 iMac Pro opens on Thursday.

This week, Twitter was enlivened for a few hours when someone posted a link to a John Dvorak article suggesting that Apple planned to scrap Macs, sooner or later. His argument seemed based on a couple of video advertisements that Apple had put out recently focussing on what can be done with the iPad - especially the iPad Pro. They are indeed the only device that some people need and I know a couple of people in Bangkok who do all their computing on small tablet devices.

iMac Their computing is not my computing; and my computing is not like what others do, for example making movies with Final Cut Pro. I do have it installed, and there is software for making movies on iOS. I have a number of examples on the iPhone, which I rarely use. There is nothing like a larger screen for imagining a finished product.

That has been an argument put forward by some people whose ears pricked up when they saw what Dvorak had written. Some genuinely want Apple to develop features that allow the connection of keyboard, mouse (or Trackpad) with a screen display. Some of this is possible (Bluetooth keyboard and screen) but making it a substitute computer, unlike can be done with Samsung, does not seem to be on Apple's list of priorities, but who knows?.

A strong argument, and one that I often make when writing about the iPad Pro (and even the iPhone) is that the platform is immaterial and the choice of device does not matter when I want to work on a file. Older users are application-centred, while Apple wants the file to be the main driver, so the user is device-agnostic. That works in the main, but this where I have a fuzzy dotted line. That Final Cut example is a case in point.

For most day to day work, I can work on any device that comes to hand. This file is not included in that as the software is Mac only and working on the file on iOS is not easy, unless I use another app, like iA Writer which is available on iOS and macOS. The problem is not the text, but the html markup and I am unwilling to make the shift, although I have done this once or twice on the road, but the workflow is not so smooth.

If I am taking photographs on the iPhone (and the iPhone X is far better here), there are enough editing tools available to me using Apple's Photos (still no White Balance or Sharpen) and a collection of apps with a wide range of features. It is when I use the DSLR or a film camera that I am bogged down on iOS. It is possible to download the RAW images from my Nikon to an iOS device using the Apple adapter for SD cards. It is not fast. There are also few apps that allow editing of RAW files, although recently RAW Power for iOS (also on the Mac) was made available and this most certainly does the job.

Software on the Mac is much better for editing the larger images that come from DSLR output. Some of the examples I regularly use are the filter and editing apps apps from Macphun, Affinity Photo, Graphic Converter and Pixelmator, along with Polarr and Priime Styles (some of these are on iOS too). I also still use Aperture even though Apple no longer develops this: as much for organisation as for the editing tools, although the appearance of Selective Color and other features in Photos on the Mac eases the pain here.

The other area where I see no iOS alternative is when I use a film camera. It is possible to have a studio scan the images and the last set of 10 rolls came with a disk of JPG images. I had to ask someone at work with an old PC to copy the images for me. At home I use a Canon 9000 to do the scanning myself and save all images as TIFF files. The scanning is part of a slower process of discovery that gives me pleasure as the image finally appears. Scanner software is VueScan from Hamrick: just updated today I see. There is a version for iOS but this only works with the newer print/fax/scan devices that connect over WiFi, so it is Mac only for me. There are also desktop versions for Windows and Linux, but let's not go there.

Scans Scans

Scans from Film Negatives

Two other areas limit me and both are connected to my website: FTP software; and RSS. On the Mac I use Fetch, which has been my choice since System 8 when I first used Macs. This has also been updated this week. On iOS I do have iFTP Pro (which I haven't yet set up on the iPhone X) and while this certainly works, I have not used it in a while. It was not as easy as managing files from the desktop on a Mac. I will upload this file to see how comfortable I am now.

Where this fails on iOS is with suitable software to manage creation and uploading of RSS feeds. I was shown a potential web-based management tool a couple of weeks ago but the subscription format was not to my liking. I am still looking.

iMac Pro Right in the middle of writing this, there was confirmation from Apple that the Mac is not likely to be abandoned for quite a while. In a simple email, with a stark image (used here with thanks to Apple), they announced that orders for the new iMac Pro will begin on 14 December: this Thursday.

It has a 5K 27-inch Retina display (5120 x 2880) with support for billions of colors. With 8-, 10 and 18-core options, basic RAM of 32 GB (configurable to 64 or 128GB) and 1TB of storage which has options for 2TB or 4TB SSD. t has connectors for headphone jack, SD card, USB and USB-C. The details and specifications are also shown in Thai on the pages here.

iMac Pro Pricing starts at $4,999. I am guessing this will be in the region of 180,000 baht or more here after VAT is added. As Apple had already seeded a few of these to selected Pro users a number of user impressions are available (Tory Foulk, iMore)

Others were prompted by the Dvorak article to make their own comments, including The Macalope, who takes the line that if Dvorak says Macs are going to be stopped, they are safe for a long time. This is a similar approach to that taken with Rob Enderle who has had the wrong end of the Apple stick for years, and with "Contrarian" Michael Blair on Seeking Alpha, who has been predicting Apple's fall for at least 3 years now and that the shares are about to collapse: everyone buys when Blair says Sell, and they have made a lot of money.

Taking pretty much the same basic direction as I have, John Martellaro on The MacObserver pushes it further, suggesting Apple is beating a dead horse with its iPad marketing. I am not going to agree with some of the points, especially when he suggests that all children need the experience of a computer. I would take the opposite view, by suggesting that some people will be able to do all the computing they need on an iPad: writing (Pages, Word), spreadsheets, photography (despite my comments above on my use), mail and web access. Martellaro's final word is valid: "there is much work to do."

Mouse When the first Macintosh appeared, Dvorak had famously written, that it ". . . uses an experimental pointing device called a "mouse". There is no evidence that people want to use these things". He had also said "Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone . . . [because it is just] going to be another phone in a crowded market" (John Brownlee, Cult of Mac).

Of course others, like Ballmer, also dismissed the original iPhone, as did local writer James Hein (the keyboard) who often writes that he will never buy another Apple product and last week showed how up to date he is by calling the latest device, "the Apple X".

A couple of local users have ordered the iPhone X while in the USA as a result of my comments online. I recognise after a couple of weeks use that there are some improvements still to be made and I am not alone there. Killian Bell on Cult of Mac has an eye-grabbing headline: 10 things I hate about iPhone X. The contents don't quite make this an anti-iPhone X comment, but the hits are there. He ends the article (after all his grousing) with "I still love iPhone X".

His 10 points start with the iPhone being too slippery. I thought that was just me. I had bought the Folio Case for protection so much of the slipperiness is not noticeable, but I am finding that the screen appears to have much lower friction than the iPhone 7. That means there is often spurious input, especially as I slide my finger left or right across the screen. I keep accidentally jumping to pages I don't want to view. What I am also finding is that sometimes screen input (Spacebar, Done) is not recognised or not accepted.

Folio Case Folio Case

Folio Case for iPhone X

I have not noticed if the iPhone X scratches easily. The cover I bought stopped that, but with my other iPhones I never bothered and accepted that as it happened. Bell likes FaceID but like me does find purchases are a little awkward. I do not however, find access to the Control Panel awkward. It took a day or so and it was fine. I usually hold the phone in both hands, but am able to open the panel using either left or right hand.

Customizing the status bar indicators is not possible and I deal with that. Once I found how the battery indicator displayed I was OK; but customizing is a no-win game as what I like, others may not. We are in a world of compromise here. I do agree with Bell on the way that apps are killed and hope Apple brings back some form of swiping, rather than the press to wait for the delete indicator now. He is right that there is no dark mode, but who knows if Apple is working on this. They should be, along with other improvements as I am also finding some odd situations with software, with some 3rd party apps not working at all well. There have been lots of updates however.

Portrait Photo

Portrait Mode (left) and a Close-up Photo from iPhone X

As for Portrait mode being trash, I can only disagree, particularly on the quality he has been able to achieve. Not every one is a masterpiece and some situations will never work with this feature. I may try Portrait mode, then switch to a normal photo option, often also making use of x2 magnification. I don't take those film shots by just waving my Hasselblad in the general direction of a subject.

The price of the iPhone X is high and living in a country like Thailand where there are always additions and taxes to be paid, the 46,500 baht ($1420) was a bit of a hit to the finances, but I knew it was coming so prepared, sort of.

After a couple of weeks trying to buy an iPhone 6s locally as a new year gift, I resorted to the online store again and it is being delivered this week. It should have been at my office on Wednesday, but the tracking information tells me it is already there: 2 working days. The local retail outlets are still displaying the iPhone 6s and the iPhone SE, but if you ask, they are not available. My purchase was sent over the weekend from Singapore to Bangkok via Hong Kong, which indicates they are available. They are just not being ordered by local stores.

I expect the argument is that they are focussing on iPhone 8 models and iPhone X, but the older models are not being bought by the same demographic. They are under 20,000 baht while the new models are far higher priced. For these to be unavailable means that sales are being lost. And remember not everyone would think about online ordering and may rather deal in cash transactions.

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 Twitter (@extensions_th)



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