eXtensions - Wednesday 18 July 2018


eXtensions - The Wednesday File (66): New Macs; and Changes to Working Methods for iOS Users and for Me

By Graham K. Rogers


As expected Apple released new Macs last week with more powerful processors and some changes to keyboards. We could expect more Macs soon. Some new releases of graphics software for the iPad are expected in the near future too. My own environment has changed a new camera and this week I installed Capture One, a high-end workflow application to smooth things out.

As I predicted, a few weeks after WWDC, which is a software developers conference, Apple announced some updates to the MacBook Pro range and these are now much faster. Jason Cross (Macworld) outlines some information about the 8th generation Core CPUs which will be producing some rather high clock speeds. As expected iFixit did its usual teardown of the new models and Roger Fingas (AppleInsider) summarises that.

One of the interesting finds in the iFixit teardown was that Apple has put some silicon feet round the base of each key and this certainly makes it quieter, but also reduces the risk of dust entering and crumbs becoming stuck under the keys. Although the keyboard redesign is thought by many to be overdue, this cannot be fitted to older Macs that had keyboard problems.

The better processors in the new Macs which took a long time coming from Intel, have made some people believe more that the time is due for Apple to produce its own processors. When the A-series first came out, I realised that should Apple make these available for desktop and notebook use, they could include features that no one else would be able to develop for months. We saw that on the iPhone with the Secure Enclaves for fingerprint ID and later Face ID and there are there was also the leap to 64-bit computing on iOS devices that sent everyone else into a panic. If only the computers would go that way. Michael Simon (MacWorld) has some valid points on this longed-for development, but this is not something we are likely to see for the next year or two, at least.

I also suggested a while back that as well as the MacBook Pro, we should expect updates to iMacs and other devices, and there is a recent rumour that the Mac mini could be due for its 4-year refresh. The one in my office just chugs on and deals with anything I throw at it.

AirPods More than a year after the eXtensions column was ended in the diluted Bangkok Post, the agents of a well-known company came to collect the last of the hardware items that I had on loan for testing purposes. I have my own equipment of course, including BlueTooth headphones, but the return of the AirPods had an immediate effect. Within an hour I was on my way into central Bangkok to buy my own. Like the originals I had in December 2016, I put them in my ear, clicked on the pairing panel on the iPhone and started listening to music.

MacWorld (Dieter Holger) reported that Apple is to end its printing service. You may see the feature in Photos, where a menu allows those in some countries to order books online. It was never available here and when I did set up a book in iPhoto (a long time ago) I took the output to a print shop Apple recommended and had a couple of books run off there as an experiment. It is now far easier to use an iPhone app like Printastic to send the images directly from the iPhone to the developer. They produce a book and shipping costs are included. The last time I tried this, I had one for myself and 3 copies sent to the family in the UK.

A couple of events at the end of last week, highlighted the importance of the tablet form. It was interesting to see that Adobe is to release a full version of its Photoshop for the iPad (Mark Gurman and Nico Grant, Bloomberg). On top of that, Serif are releasing a beta version of Affinity Designer for the iPad. Their Affinity Photo is one of the better image editing apps for the platform and Adobe may be responding to that, finally. I am not a fan of Photoshop because I think that many install it for the wrong reasons, but an article on Smithsonian reports on how Dana Berry uses the application to colorize those magnificent images from the Hubble Telescope and other space sources.

I sometimes edit photographs on the iPhone. Although the screen is a little small for really accurate work, I am able to make some general improvements. It is of course much easier to work on a larger screen, so the iPad is a good alternative to a small-screen Mac, such as my 13" MacBook Pro.

I recently bought one of the latest iPads. I was of course tempted by the iPad Pro, but ended up with the series 7 model, with my decision swayed by the point that I can also use the Apple Pencil with this. When I made the order online, I added that to the list. For some reason, the two items were delivered separately (a day apart) which is not as efficient as I would expect.

After a couple of weeks with the new iPad, which is indeed faster than the iPad Air 2 I already had, I realised that the older iPad was redundant. As it is a couple of years old, it is a waste of time trying to sell it, so I gave it to a student. There was a catch. Some of my Mechanical Engineering students were taking a summer course on Electronics. They have problems with the concepts, but all engineers must learn this sort of thing these days, along with programming. The teacher of the course and I came to an agreement that I would donate the iPad to the student who came top of the mid-term exam. I must admit I was a little surprised to see who the winner was - not one of my best students last semester - but maybe he will improve from now on.

I have been writing what turned into a series on Photo Workflow over the last few weeks. I was prompted to examine this because of the new camera I have. This does not work with Aperture and I am using Photos instead for the time being. I had expected that at some time Aperture would become end of life and started looking for alternatives as long ago as 2015. At that time, it appeared that the best for my needs would be Capture One, then Version 8.

Unedited RAW image in Photos

Since then I have also been using Hasselblad's Phocus, but this is not quite as smooth as either Aperture or Capture One. What prompted me to write the first part of the workflow examination was a try of ON1 RAW which is a nice application, but would not handle my scanned negatives. Once I had begun to write the first part, I was tempted to examine further what it is I do, including how my own methods of taking photographs have changed with the arrival of digital media, the iPhone and latterly a return to film photography with an older Hasselblad medium format camera.

I have now come full circle as Photos is not really up to handling the 95MB RAW files from the Nikon D850 I use and I have returned to Capture One. I began to look at this last week as a serious replacement for Aperture. I went through the Phase One site (the software was written for the super-expensive cameras) and viewed a number of videos on the site and on YouTube, before finally making a decision. I had made sure all of my Aperture libraries were on disk (plus backup) and downloaded the file on Monday. I am running the 30-day trial version right now, and then I will have to decide if I buy outright (€299) or the subscription version (€180 for 12 months). The subscription looks the better value for when the application is updated, rather than paying an upgrade fee.

When I installed Capture One on Monday evening, I began to import images to the application, starting with my 8 Aperture libraries on a 2GB LaCie disk. Before going to bed, I brought in the earliest two of the libraries: the process is not totally straightforward with the way Apple put this together, but my purpose is less using these early images, but archiving them so that they are accessible now that Aperture has given up the ghost. The images stay on the external disk, but a database (for each library) is added to the Pictures folder on the Mac.

When I have all the Aperture libraries, I will start work on the SSD with the RAW files from the D850. Again, I will leave them on the disk, perhaps deleting some eventually. When I import them into Capture One, I will try to organise them better than I have them now: month by month. It should be possible (according to a video on the Phase One site) to have them put into sub-folders. If not, I will begin that process of organizing when I start using the camera with Capture One instead of Photos.

Capture One
Edited RAW image from May 2009 in Capture One

Netflix experienced some of the same that Apple faces quarter after quarter when, despite its own rosy predictions for the future, subscriptions were shown not to be rising by as much as Wall street was expecting and down went the share prices this week. I often think this is one of the worst aspects of capitalism: that a healthy company, with a good future may be brought to its knees (and sometimes destroyed) to massage egos of some analysts, who probably don't understand the company as well as (perhaps) the company's own executives.

Apple of course is a prime example of this and a couple of illustrations are worth considering. On my Facebook account, a writer asked me about the rumour that the iPhone X was to be discontinued, adding, "but what does that actually mean?" My response to that was that the pundits had probably run out of ideas, but I also wrote,

I have been following and writing about Apple since about 2003 and so much comment (particularly post-iPhone arrival) is either a desperate attempt for hits, or (particularly with certain Asian and US sites) an attempt to influence share price. That the iPhone will evolve is probably a safer view and if that means a model change, so be it; but the end of the iPhone X sounds as if a terrible mistake has been made and Apple must sweep it all away. Some need to examine the technology fully (FaceID, TouchBar) before making uninformed comment".

I do not know the source for the question about the iPhone X being discontinued, but it would not surprise me if it were Bloomberg, Fortune or Digitimes, each of which tends to time such rumours as the next quarter approaches (Q3 2018 is 31 July).

In the comments above I mentioned the TouchBar, one of the most-maligned features that Apple has introduced in the last few years, particularly by those who have never used it, or by those whose experience is limited to around 5 minutes. Initially only supporting Apple applications, a few 3rd party developers soon joined in. Its use does not necessarily come naturally or instantly (like learning keystrokes for certain apps instead of using menus). I found there has been a slow integration to my workflows, whether it be browsing or running through Photos libraries.

Last week, for example, I was editing a thesis which needed hundreds of corrections. I began to find that instead of having to retype wrongly entered words, just putting the cursor over a word would show suggestions in the TouchBar. With just a tap, the fix was done, just like I do when typing on the iPhone. This saved me a lot of time.

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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