eXtensions - Wednesday 11 April 2018


eXtensions - The Wednesday File (52): Nikon D850 First Look; Further Decline of News; Mac Pro and other Apple Products

By Graham K. Rogers


This week I was finally able to order the new iPad, just after buying a Nikon D850 DSLR. RAW on the Nikon and RAW on the iPhone. A year since the eXtensions column ended, I am still here, but traditional news is having a thin time. Mac Pro and other news from Apple.

As well as the release of a Product (RED) iPhone 8, this week the new iPad was finally available for ordering on the Apple online store in Thailand. I placed my order as soon as I saw this, adding some engraving (self-indulgence), along with the Apple Pencil. The information from Apple in an email later told me that the iPad would be arriving next Wednesday, but the Apple Pencil (which is in the shops here) would be with me the next day. I wish Apple would get this part of its act together. The same happened with the iPhone X: the iPhone arrived on a Wednesday, but the case did not come until the next day.

iPad order

I ordered some film on Sunday evening from a shop in Hong Kong and a few minutes after leaving work, I was in a taxi when the phone rang: I have a parcel for you. Two days from Hong Kong. I was suitably impressed and, if the film experiment works out I will be ordering from this source again. There is a better variety of film available and I will be able to experiment. This time, one of my choices is Ilford black and white film at ISO 50: they should be sharp if the light is good.

D850 I left early today as the credit card had just opened up for me. I made a payment last Thursday and this was finally shown on my account. In the meantime, several purchases I made (including the film) were shown added to the account within seconds of the order being made. That use of my money does not benefit me at all.

My purpose Tuesday afternoon was to buy a camera: a decision I made months ago really, but the stars aligned this week. As soon as I saw the specifications for the Nikon D850, particularly its 47mps sensor, I wanted this. The D7000 has begun to show some signs of age, although it still takes good photographs, but I am not really in Hasselblad country and I won't touch Sony since their disgraceful root-kit débacle. That was actually 2005, but how could anyone trust them after that?

I bought the camera in Siam Paragon and the first disappointment came when I mentioned the 12 months interest-free payments with my credit card. I was told that they only did 6 months. I was going to have the camera anyway, so took that on the chin. I was aware that wifi was not really wifi and uses Nikon's own system and this does not transfer TIFF or NEF (RAW): a bit big really. GPS was shown on the specifications, but that also depends on the Nikon app. Thus far I have not been able to make that work.

First shot in the kitchen

I knew that the D850 used a new type of SDXD card as well as the SD card (there are ports for both), so I asked at the shop for one of the new cards. When I arrived home, I found that I had a CE card: a type I had last used on the D70 I think. The SD was OK, but I was unable to transfer images directly by cable (maybe that is only for tethering) and transferring the images into Photos was not as smooth as I have been used to with the D7000: some learning to be done. The manual in the box was in Thai (understandably) so I am tracking down a PDF.

ISO 64 from the window

I tried a few images once I had set things up and charged the battery and it was all I expected, with ISO from 64 to 25600 I had some beautiful blue skies and some night shots without using flash. Each image is around 8256 x 5504 (depending on lens) with file sizes around 98 MB. I will have to be careful of that.

ISO 25600 late evening

With the Wednesday File now at 52 weeks, this means it is 12 months since I last wrote for the Bangkok Post after several years as a freelance contributor. I was dumped twice: once when they had a panic reorganisation, which saw several talented staff leave; and a second time, which I had expected when statistics about its site showed that it was only just in the top 100 and falling. Since those last cuts it is not even in that top 100 list.

All could easily be foreseen as those in charge did not respond properly to the new medium and are still locked into a print and paper mindset. Many newspapers have been going through this dangerous contraction, and it was clear that easy access through the internet was the preferred source of information for many, particularly the young.

As the internet grew, news particularly suffered from the early free days as this was no way to make money. Advertising, which had always been the real life blood of news, was not really enough (unless you are Google) and subscriptions were not at all attractive for online use. There were a few exceptions, such as Bloomberg where the product was so well controlled by the source that paying up front was the only way to continue to access the (essential) information. Newspapers do not have that luxury.

Nor, now, does television. Traditional scheduled programming is giving way to internet streaming. This affects other services, and I particularly think of Formula One that is going through its own reshaping with new owners. I no longer follow this as it was the only thing I watched on the cable service, having moved the rest of my viewing to internet-based content. Apple TV here, even with its limited services (no HBO for example) and features (no Siri, for heaven's sake) has more than enough to keep me going.

I have been able to watch some good TV series that I would never have seen using cable as well as plenty of movies. A main advantage, on top of this richer content, is that I am not tied to any schedule (apart from live sport) and if I want a bathroom break in the middle, I just pause the feed and pick up when I come back.

For me, live sport means motor racing and as I was only watching Formula One on cable, the 1500 baht a month for about 2 races a month was uneconomical. There was some news that the new management, Liberty Media, who should understand these things but are already beginning to alienate fans, has an internet service in the pipeline. This is a couple of years behind motorcycle racing whose services I have subscribed to for 3 or 4 years, and in any case will not be made available in South-east Asia. With viewing numbers already in decline, which means advertising is less effective, Formula One is looking at a slow economic death unless there is change, and soon.

When I look at what Dorna has been doing with MotoGP, it is clear that this is where F1 should be headed. I happily subscribe to the MotoGP package every year and watch most Sunday races (there are 3 classes). Some meetings take place late night here, but the service allows me to run (and re-run) the recorded races the next day or later if I want.


With an archive going back years, I am kept entertained. This is not on AppleTV, so I watch on the iPad and stream that (through the home wifi and AppleTV) to my televison. The Mac feed still uses Flash, but late last year Dorna started to run an experimental HTML5 feed. This year it is still shown as experimental, but it is working fine. Bye bye, F1.

As for the Bangkok Post, it is thinner than ever as it reduces local content and relies on wire services. A warning this week came from Politico (Shawn Musgrave and Matthew Nussbaum) who note areas where there is little local traditional news content were the places that Trump did best in the elections. I do not see the Bangkok Post surviving more than a year in paper form. If the print version is shut down there will have to be major improvements in the web presence for it to continue to be relevant.

A while back Apple invited journalists in to talk about its Pro desktop offerings which had not been updated in a while. Apple was alert to the criticisms that this area of its product line had not been updated for too long and admitted that the advanced design of the "trash-can" Mac Pro, which I still think is attractive in a radical way, was the very reason it could not be updated.

Mac Pro The cheese-grater Mac Pro, itself descended from the G5 Power Mac, is still the favorite among many users and we have a couple at this office. However, it needs major changes to cope with modern technology (chips, displays, storage). That is not going to happen.

Apple explained all this to its guests and explained that a Mac Pro was coming, but in the meantime an iMac Pro would be developed. While the 5K display is the same as the current basic iMac top of the range, the space gray finish and the processors inside are not. As beautiful as it looks, as fast as it is, it is not really expandable (once chips are installed at the factory) and so we wait for the Mac Pro.

Last week Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch) reported on his revisit to Cupertino and what he was told about Mac Pro developments. This is worth reading. In short, as Apple is starting over, 2019 is the best that it can (or is willing to) do.

An interesting point was that not only is Apple using its own employees in the development, but that Pro users are also onboard to help Apple understand to understand their actual workflow. Some of the reasons Apple asked journalists to return for this update is to let customers know - a new transparency that Apple has now - and to inform institutional buyers or other large customers who may be waiting to spend budget on such purchases.

During the week we heard that over the last year, the number of apps in the iTunes App Store had actually declined. Well, good. There are so many that it is almost impossible to find what I want sometimes, and unless I catch a hint when an app is released I may never see some of the gems that do come out. An example is the RAW-capable app DSLR Camera which somehow bubbled to the surface a few months back. As soon as I started using it I realised what a good app it was, but it had been totally invisible before.

As I am more interested in RAW-capable apps on the iPhone (and the results I can see from using them) I have collected several now. So far I have a number of comments online about RAW on the iPhone:

Apple selections

I know there must be more RAW-capable iOS apps, but the App Store does not give up its treasures easily, so this week I went looking and found 8 more which I will be writing about soon (the new Nikon may delay that of course). Then on Tuesday morning Apple had a whole section on RAW-capable apps in its Daily List. I had some already, but downloaded a couple more which I have added to the list.

Part of the reason there are fewer apps in the App Store now, Shannon Liao (The Verge) writes is that Apple has been doing some housework. Some were due obviously to the move away from 32-bit apps, but virus-scanning apps, clones of other apps, and "low quality apps" were also removed. Bearing those three categories in mind, it appears that Google Play is expanding.

Apple needs to keep cleaning out these Augean stables and think about the user experience. I found it far easier to find and manage iOS apps via the interface on the Mac than I do on the iPhone (or iPad), although even there, search became harder. Even when looking in a specific category, it was impossible to see all of the apps available and the only way to find some was to have the exact name, although that was not always a guarantee.

Apple is in a hiring mood at the moment and there were reports last week of new appointments that seem to have been poached from competitors. Patently Apple tells us that the former Google AI head was hired, followed by John McCormack, HP's global head of software. As per my comments on the lack of Siri on AppleTV here, comments about Siri on HomePod (no date of arrival in Thailand as yet) when compared to the competition, may have stirred Apple into making some improvements here. Patently Apple does note, however, that criticisms of Apple software in general over the last few months may also be behind the latter appointment.

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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