eXtensions - Wednesday 24 April 2019


Cassandra - Midweek Review: Answered Prayers with iOS 13 and Photo-workflow Rumors; Innovation at What Cost; and Other Asides (Correction)

By Graham K. Rogers


The iPad Pro is almost there, but still needs a little more help. Rumors this week suggest that several improvements may be coming to the device, with the next iOS release. It is good to be ambitious, but Samsung has much in common with Icarus and may need to rethink its strategies of being first over the line: slow and sure may work better.

I think the main push for buying the iPad Pro was Apple's release video which showed me that a camera could be connected directly using the USB-C port. I already imported photos to the Mac using a cable, even though I do also have card readers, but the idea of doing this with a lighter, more portable tablet device was exciting.

iPad Pro and Nikon
iPad Pro and Nikon connected by USB-C cable

In practice, things may not work exactly as I had hoped and the ecology has some restrictions: I cannot save any images to a disk; and I have additional actions to go through if I want to open the images in an app like Pixelmator Photo or Darkroom. As I also save all the RAW images to a disk (SSD) I either have to wait until iCloud synchronization is complete and export originals; or I have to copy from the camera to the SSD, via the Mac, which defeats the idea of iPad Pro workflow efficiency. I wondered about how Apple might change this and allow more export options: currently just wireless transfers.

If a couple of rumors are to be believed, it may be that the next major release of iOS will cover exactly those points, and some more. Andrew O'Hara (AppleInsider) writes that it may be that both iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 will have new features that will allow different options for import and image handling. Likewise, Christian Zibreg (iDownloadBlog) includes information about use of an API so that "apps will be able to capture photos from external devices such as cameras and SD cards, without having to go through the Photos app". I wonder about the XQD card, although as the cable connection works fine, I am happy to stick with that; but the external disk (like my SSD) I do find exciting.

In another article on potential new features for iOS, Christian Zibreg also outlines the idea of mouse and trackpad support coming to the iPad Pro. It is not as daft as it sounds as the use of the touchscreen when I am using a horizontal keyboard, means that I have to change position and this is ergonomically unacceptable. A sideways hand movement to a mouse, or in my case the preferred trackpad, makes much more sense in terms of work efficiency, particularly for those who work for extended periods on images or text. An overview of the rumors concerning the upcoming iOS release, which is expected to be around September, is in a MacWorld article (Jason Cross).

iPad Pro and Nikon

One of the difficulties I have with the otherwise excellent iPad Pro is because I am left-handed. I tend to grab the device on the left when opening it up with the keyboard and case attached, but FaceID requires the camera and my left hand often covers this. There is a small message on the screen to indicate the camera is covered, so they already thought of that, but it doesn't stop mine doing it; at least not yet.

Another problem is autocorrect. When I type something on the iPad Pro, I look later on the Mac and cannot think why a particular series of words is there. I complain about students using this with Microsoft Word when writing academic papers, particularly when they do not check their work and leave it to someone like me to fix: when you are writing about offshore platforms, the right word is "tubular" and not "tabular"". When this appears more than once, the author is not checking and has too much faith in autocorrect. Turn it off. I have done this, although for the time being have left on the Predictive option. Also, when I highlight a word I know I have mistyped, I am given one or more options: that is fine. Letting iOS or Word take over may not work as expected.

I also found another problem this week, when trying to teach a class of Computer Engineering students. I wanted to show a video in class and connected the VGA projector to the USB-C port using the adapter I have; but I wanted sound output too. The only speakers available connect with the 3.5mm jack and the iPad Pro does not have a port for this. I considered other options, but the iPhone had a similar problem. Even though I have the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter, I still need the Lighting port to link to the projector.

I switched tasks and will come back to the videos next time, when I will take the Mac or the standard iPad. Since I bought the iPad Pro I have been using Bluetooth headphones so never noticed the lack of the port. Next week I will take the Mac.

BBEdit While I often use Notepad or iAWriter on iOS, which syncs to the Mac, most of my writing starts in a notebook. When I am ready I switch to the Mac and type using a text editor. I used TextWrangler from BareBones Software for several years for all my basic writing and I would still be using it if Apple had not made changes to macOS so that certain older apps will cease running soon.

BareBones also made BBEdit and I switched to that, although had to download from the developer site as this was no longer available on the MacApp Store. Last week, I noticed that this was now featured on the App Store startup screen and Jason Snell (6Colors) outlines the reasons for its return, but notes this is subscription-only, so if you want the one-time purchase like me, it means a visit to the BareBones site.

A couple of days ago I saw a message on Twitter that showed pre-release information for a Mac version of Waterlogue. This is an app from Tinrocket (who have a number of other interesting iOS apps) that I have been using for about 5 years. It has a simple concept: to turn a user's photographs into images like watercolor paintings. The iOS app has a dozen presets, giving a good range of output types. Its strength is in this simplicity: it does not seek to emulate artists' styles.


That this app has now been developed for macOS is quite a surprise, but I am enthusiastic and placed my pre-order right away for 1080 baht (about $33): not cheap, when the iOS version is $2.99. The video shows that there is a wider range of editing tools and implied a large selection of presets, one group of which is shown on the macStore; but there is nothing on Tinrocket's own pages (as yet). It is expected on 6 May

I bought the Nikon D850 in part because of its sensor which has around 47MP and produces RAW files of 97MB, but there are larger sensors (Hasselblad) and more development is on its way according to information from PhotoRumors. Nikon is expected to use a Sony-developed 50MP sensor, while Canon is looking at a 63MP full frame sensor. Sony, who make these things for their own cameras and to other camera-makers' specifications, is apparently to produce a 60MP sensor, but with different specifications to the one that Nikon will use. I feel that with the recent leaps in this area of technology, we could be seeing some serious jumps in sensor capacity in the next couple of years. This will see (potentially) better cameras, but also spin-off uses, such as in medical imaging technology.


I mentioned on Monday about the potential disaster Samsung has on its hands, with its expensive folding smartphone that was criticized by tech reviewers who found a number of problems. Patently Apple reports on a classic "shoot the messenger" approach by the press in South Korea, and not for the first time. There is a focus on a video produced by a WSJ reporter who, quite rightly, did not - could not - review the phone because the screen failed. How could anyone with a review phone do anything but comment on the rather obvious display problems.

What I found interesting in some of the comments highlighted in Patently Apple was the idea that the WSJ report was from a medium known to be partisan towards Apple. Indeed, in my examination of several WSJ reports, I have been critical of the negativity I found concerning Apple and its devices. Note that this is not the first time that a Samsung product has been found wanting and it would be irresponsible of any reviewer to praise a device with a non-functioning screen, or a propensity to self-combust: "Yeah its good value for $1980, even if only half the screen works sometimes. . . ."

Several other reviewers had problems with the device. I only saw one reviewer who did not, although Samsung retrieved even that device as they rush around taking all pre-release versions back. The release events have been cancelled and those who ordered early are being offered their money back. A number of commentators have questioned Samsung's rush into new technology when innovation should really be tempered by a few design restrictions, including full testing and running the device for some time in the street to see what might go wrong in day to day use.

Not all people read instructions. That plastic covering the screen is an obvious problem as of course some users will pull it off (I always pull Apple's protective coverings off on day one), their kids are going to be tempted by any possibility of a loose covering; and if it that critical, does it really have a reason to exist?

One writer who thinks so is Ramish Zafar (WCCTech) who may not be looking at the same product (at least not in the same objective way) as others. He writes, "the Korean tech giant's gadget is finely built, and exhibits the finish and look of a top-of-the-line smartphone." This is not what others seem to be reporting. Dismissing the "inconsistent display performance [sic]" he suggests Samsung has "designed other parts of the Galaxy Fold elegantly" and it "surpasses other gadgets (including the iPhone) in aesthetics." In a fantastic vote of confidence he adds "For an unfinished design, its performance is quite solid, and Samsung will narrow out the kinks as time progresses." For $1980 most users would prefer a design that was totally finished and ready to roll.

I was initially drawn to this article by the title: Apple Is Actively Pursuing A Foldable iPhone, And Testing Displays. Apple often looks at examples of new technology and at new solutions, but it may be a leap of faith to imply that Apple will produce such a phone; and the example of Samsung is not a lot to hang that faith on. Rather than WCCTEch, this seems to be more WTFTech.

Working iPhone

In the Guardian, Charles Arthur has a particularly critical look at the Fold and what other phone companies have been doing of late. Are they really aware of what the customer experience should be, or are they just throwing technology at the market, hoping some will stick? Chris Davies, too (SlashGear), is also critical of this rush to be first, which is one of the causes of this disaster (and others) that Samsung has brought upon itself

I have owned a couple of basic Samsung phones and they are not bad, but I always fret about the way I am asked to sign in for services I do not want: especially by Google. With the Samsung Fold having such a dire start, I also saw a critical review of the Galaxy S10+ by Ron Amadeo on ArsTechnica. Again this is not a cheap phone ($1000 up to $1600, but the review highlighted the number of sign-in requests or permissions to access data, while being most critical of the number of unsolicited advertisements that were displayed. I use some software for free that shows ads, and I accept that; but if I am paying top dollar for an app or a device, I do not want to be assailed by advertising; and I want to access the features, not be overwhelmed by bells and whistles.

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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