Categories
Apple Computers Photography Smartphones Videography

Apple iPhone 13 Event

The yearly iPhone 13 event has come and gone, and pre-orders for the new devices (except for the Apple Watch Series 7) have begun. I was pretty adamant, based on the rumors, that I would skip the iPhone 13 and stick with my trusty Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro. However, a few things changed my mind.

First, the upgrades this year are pretty modest. But, when you are dealing with a product as mature as the iPhone, you aren’t going to get revolutionary features every year.

What did we get? With the iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13, we got bigger batteries, slightly better camera lenses and sensors (though still limited to 12 megapixels), a new sensor shift (ie, image stabilization) feature, and of course, a new processor – the A15 Bionic. The new processor is the key feature, as it powers some nice new software features. Specifically, the Cinematic Mode that is present on all the iPhone 13 models. This feature allows you to perform rack focus in video, something that is sure to elevate the iPhone 13 from a nice tool to augment filmmakers, to one that can be at the center of their workflows. Another software upgrade to the camera app, Photograph Styles, allows you to apply photo filters to the live image while you are shooting to see what the filters will look like before you capture the shot. Apple claims that these filters apply only to the areas of the photo that you would want them to – specifically, leaving skin tones as natural.

The Pro models now feature the same identical camera systems, so the only real differentiator between the Pro and the Pro Max now are battery life and screen size.

What Apple did to differentiate the standard models from the Pro models this year is small tweaks throughout the features. These consist of:

  • 120hz refresh rate. This adaptive refresh rate ramps up and down depending upon what you are doing. But with support at 120hz for games, the gaming experience on the Pro models is going to feel significantly more premium than the base models. The big question is how will this affect battery life. I’ll let you know when my iPhone 13 Pro arrives.
  • More RAM (4GB on the iPhone 13 Mini/13, 6GB on the Pro/Pro Max)
  • Extra GPU Core – 4 on the standard models, 5 on the Pro
  • Batter cameras with faster apertures for the wide, ultra wide. Ultra wide cameras on the Pro models also feature auto focusing capabilities, giving them the ability to perform macro shots.
  • Ability to shoot in ProRes video recording. This is coming in a software update later this year. The ability to shoot in 4K ProRes is limited to the 256GB models (ProRes video formats created incredibly large files, and 128GB wouldn’t be enough to store more than a few minutes of 4K footage). 128GB models can shoot in 1080p ProRes.

So the value proposition is this: Apple improved the overall base model iPhone 13 experience in the batteries, cameras, processors, and added some nice video features (Cinematic Mode/Photograph Styles). The main reason to buy the 12 Pro (apart from the larger screen/battery of the 12 Pro Max), comes down to a better gaming experience, better photographic and video hardware and software), and the increased RAM giving your device the ability to keep more apps running simultaneously. I find the Pro value proposition quite smaller and more targeted this year than most other years. I’d really recommend the Pro models to people who either have to have the larger display size of the Pro Max, or people who actually use their phones for semi-pro or professional video applications. Everyone else will be better served to stick with the iPhone 13 standard models.

Apple Watch

So the Series 7 Apple Watch is one of the smaller updates to date. It received a small upgrade in screen size, and really… not much else. There’s speculation based upon supply chain leaks about what was expected vs what was delivered that Apple scrapped the real Series 7 plans a few months ago, and instead scrambled at the last minute to put together a substitute release. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it definitely feels like this release is small compared to other years. No new ground breaking applications for the Series 7, just small refinements to screen size and some other software editions. If you have a Series 6, you can save your money until next year and not feel like you are missing out on a lot.

iPad

The iPad mini got an update that brings it inline with the iPad Air. There’s no more Home Screen button, replaced with the fingerprint reader on the power button like the iPad Air. I’m not a fan of this design, as you get a mixed experience – navigating your iPad with gestures like you have FaceID, but authenticating with putting your finger on the power button, which, depending upon how you are holding the device, can be a bit of a disruption.

Otherwise, you get a slightly underclocked A15 chip in the mini, 5G support (in the cellular models, but no mmWave support), and some new colors. Fans of the minis form factor will probably be happy that it got some love, but at a $499/649 price point. for 64GB/256GB configurations, the mini isn’t the value proposition it once was.

The base model iPad got a small update as well. It is now sporting an A13 processor and a true-tone display. The base model also went form 32GB to 64GB. The entry level iPad remains one of the better technology buys at $329, not just from Apple, but from any company. The spec bumped version now features 256GB of storage, but at an increased cost of $479. Otherwise both still use the same accessories and case sizes as before.

So what swayed me to get the iPhone 13 Pro instead of holding steady with my 12 Pro? First off, the new Cinematic Video features look impressive, and will be a welcome addition to my videography toolset. Second, the addition of macro photography is another feature that I could justify upgrading for. Finally, the improvement in battery life sealed the deal. Battery life on my 12 Pro hasn’t been bad, but I’ve noticed in the last month or so that I’m running out of battery regularly before the day is over. The Battery Health is rated at 88%, so I’ve had 12% degradation in about a year of everyday use. This isn’t terrible, but it’s enough that had I kept my iPhone 12 Pro, I probably would have opted for a battery upgrade before the year was out. Upgrading to the new model solves that problem for me, and gets me some very nice photo/video features as well.

Categories
Electric Vehicles Tesla

2021 Tesla Model 3 Review

For 8 months and 8,000 miles, I put the 2021 Model 3 Long Range edition through its paces. Here are my thoughts.

Full disclosure: The 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range is the first EV I’ve owned. I’ve owned hybrids before (Honda Insight), but this is a different beast altogether.

Buying Experience

I purchased the Model 3 Long Range edition in late December 2021. I had taken a test drive in early December at the Atlanta Tesla Showroom. Of course, with COVID protocols, I was unable to have a Tesla representative in the car with me, and without them in the car, they wouldn’t let me test full self driving. They did their best to pitch it to me in the showroom, but there was no way I was going to plunk down $10K for a software upgrade without being able to test it.

The Tesla representative offered to let me take the Model 3 I was testing home for the night to get a better feel for it. I can’t stress how important this was to assuage my concerns (and my wife’s) about buying an EV.

I put my order in online, and used a referral code from a friend. This ensured that both he and I got 1000 free supercharging miles (good for 6 months after delivery). I can’t stress this enough – if you buy a Tesla, use the referral code. If you don’t have one already, you can use mine – https://www.tesla.com/referral/theodore90943.

I was trading a vehicle in, and this process was a little different than other car dealers. I received an email pointing me to Tesla’s website. Here I was able to provide details about my trade, and upload photos of the car from various angles. After submitting, I had an offer for my trade within a few hours. The offer itself was inline with what you should expect from a valuation from any of the online sites.

Delivery took a little over 2 weeks, and again, was ‘contactless’. I took delivery at night, which I wouldn’t recommend. You’ll want to inspect your car thoroughly for any build issues, and it’s best to do that during the day. Luckily, my Model 3 didn’t have any, so it wasn’t an issue.

For the first month I charged at home with the provided charger off an outlet in my garage. I purchased the Wall Connector and had it professionally installed. The charger itself was $500. The installation cost me about $1100. Depending upon where your breaker box is, this may cost more or less. This gives me a charging rate of about 50 miles/hour. I was also able to get special ‘super off-peak’ charging deal from Georgia Power. This rate is essentially 1 cent per kwh if I charge between 11pm and 7am, which is when I set the car to charge.

Fit and Finish

The Model 3 has a spartan interior. Everything is handled via a steering wheel with two stocks (one for wiper control, the other for drive/park/reverse/neutral. Environmental controls are handled either via voice command or the center touch screen console. This takes some getting used to, but the voice commands allow you change climate without taking your hands off the wheel, which is definitely safer than fiddling with a knob.

The seat themselves are fake leather. I stuck with the black finish, and I’m happy I did. The seats are comfortable for long drives (a bit more on that later), and offer electric controls to adjust height and position. You can save these settings as a profile, so if you have multiple people driving the car, you can easily swap between settings.

Tesla Model 3 Interior

Much has been made about the lack of physical controls and having to do everything from the steering wheel or the touchscreen. It takes some getting used to, but now whenever I drive my other cars, I feel the dash controls are over cluttered. Having the ability to do just about everything via voice commands makes the Model 3 a joy to use, and makes me miss that feature when I’m driving other cars.

One of the improvements in the 2021 edition of the Model 3 is the addition of a powered trunk. There’s also a button on the bottom of the trunk to make it close itself. It’s a nice improvement. Other 2021 improvements include USB-C ports in the center console, wireless charging pads, a new heat pump system, and a better/improved battery with increased range and efficiency (more on the later). On the exterior, the 2021 edition removes all of the chrome around the car and replaces it with black. I was never a fan of the chrome look, and I’m glad they ditched it.

Handling

The real selling feature of the car is how it handles. Any electric car is going to bowl you over with how much toque it can produce, and how quickly it can accelerate. The Model 3 is no different. I think the main thing that this car has that has spoiled me on driving ICE vehicles is the smoothness of going from a full stop to a 60 or so miles per hour. Along with using regenerative breaking (where instead of using the breaks to stop, you simply let up on the gas and let the car slow itself to a complete stop) you get a nice smooth ride all around.

Battery

The biggest improvement in the 2021 Model 3 is the software and battery upgrades. In the Long Range model, range is bumped up to 353 miles. One of the things you will realize once you drive an EV for any amount of time, is that projected range and real world range often do not mesh, and usually real world range will fall short of what the projected range is. Sometimes that is by a small amount, other times, it’s by a large amount. Many factors can play in to how close your range is to projected range. Factors like how you drive and what type of wheels you use are within your control. Factors like road incline, wind resistance, rain, and other environmental factors are not within your control.

How you use your car and where you live will determine how big of a deal range is to you. For smaller commutes and trips, having a project range off by a few miles or percent isn’t a big deal. For use on longer trips (where getting to a Tesla Supercharger in the recharge window is imperative) it can mean the difference between getting to your destination or calling road side service for a tow to the closest supercharger location.

Obviously, if you are considering ponying up for the Model 3 Long Range edition, range matters to you. During the 8 months I’ve owned my M3LR, I’ve taken it on 3 road trips. Two to Orlando, which is a 500 mile one way trip for me. And one to a location that was 144 miles away.

One the first road trip to Orlando (just a few days after purchasing the vehicle), I departed my home with 100% charge. The Tesla navigation had me make 2 charge stops. The first was a quick charge of 20 minutes, the second was a charge of 40 minutes. This got me to my destination with about 20% of charge. Luckily the hotel I was staying at did have a Level 2 charger that was free to use to guests (there were actually 2 chargers, but one was in-operative. This happens a lot. Be prepared). And I was even luckier that I got to the charger before some of the other guests who had EVs did. I was able to charge back up to 90% and had plenty of juice to get me started on my trip back. But if my hotel didn’t have a charger I could use, I would have had to find the closest supercharger to the hotel, and get charged up there and head back to the hotel. For a short trip, this isn’t exactly ideal.

For my second road trip, we drove to a resort not far from my home (about 2 hours). The navigation pegged it as 114 miles from my home. We left with 100% charge, and when we arrived, the car had expended 45% of its charge. Being a rural area, there were no superchargers close by. The hotel itself had 3 outlets available to EVs, but all 3 were in use when I arrived and none became available. As such, I was limited in being able to explore the area around the hotel, and when we drove home, we were very nervous that we wouldn’t make it without running out of juice. I drove super conservatively, and didn’t engage any of the environmental systems so I could maximize my range. I ended up at home with 5%. Not ideal and not an experience I would like to go thru again.

For my third road trip, I once again travelled to Orlando. This trip wasn’t as smooth as the first. At our first supercharger stop, all the chargers were occupied except one. And when I connected to that one, it reported an error and wouldn’t charge. There was a Tesla technician at the charger doing work, so obviously it was being addressed. I could have waited, but I knew there was another Supercharger about 50 minutes further on the path that was free and opted to travel to that one. It meant a slightly longer charge at that location, but it was next to a Moe’s, so I didn’t mind.

But that brings me to my next concern – Supercharger availability. When you get to a gas station and there’s a car or two ahead of you and you have to wait, it’s no big deal. Most people take 5 minutes or less to fill up an ICE car. But at a Supercharger, most people are spending between 20 – 40 minutes. The turnover isn’t quick, so arriving at a full Supercharger with a few cars in front of you can mean a half hour or more waiting your turn, on top of the 20 – 40 minutes to charge. If you have some place to be, this isn’t ideal.

Now Tesla has announced they are going to open their Supercharging network to non Tesla cars. In the long term, this will be good. It will mean Tesla has expanded their ability to make the Supercharger network profitable, and should be able to put those profits back in to build more Superchargers. In the short term though, it means busy, crowded Superchargers are only going to get busier and more crowded.

Battery Degradation

The achilles heal of EVs is the battery. At the time of this writing, Lithium Ion batteries, for all of their wonders they enable, are a flawed technology. They have a life span, and as they age, their ability to hold a charge decreases. How much of that ability is lost depends upon many factors – charging habits, environment, driving habits and so on.

It is expected that your cars top range will decrease over time. If you’ve owned a smart phone or computer, you are familiar with the problem. Tesla sets no expectation of how much it will decrease and at what rate. So there’s only real world examples to go on.

As I said, I’ve owned my Model 3 Long Range for 8 months and have drive about 8000 miles. I’ve followed the recommended charging behaviors of avoiding letting the battery go below 10% (happened only once on the road trip described above), and charging to 80 or 90% daily. I’ve only charged to 100% a handful of times, usually when I’m going on a long trip.

My top range for the first month I owned the car was 353 miles. As of my last 100% charge from my last trip, my top range was 322 miles. That’s a 31 mile drop in 8 months. Obviously, I’m concerned about this. It’s possible that my battery just needs to be recalibrated (which I will try soon). But it’s also possible that factors like the Georgia heat are contributing to me losing range faster than I would like.

Tesla’s battery is warrantied for 8 years or 100,000 miles. Tesla guarantees your battery will retain 70% of its capacity over this lifetime. I’m 8 months in and have already lost about 9% of my range. Obviously if this trend is real and not reversible I’m going to be a prime candidate for a new battery. I’m not sure how this will play out but I’ll keep updating this site with information as it becomes available.

Full Self Driving

As I mentioned, I wasn’t able to test the Full Self Driving option at the test drive, so I opted not to purchase it. It was announced shortly after I purchased that FSD would be available via a subscription. Tesla has just made good on this promise. You can now purchase FSD on a monthly basis at $199.00 (plus tax) a month. There’s no minimum commitment and you can cancel and or restart at anytime. If you have an older Model 3, you may need a hardware upgrade to be able to use FSD. The cost is $1000. Any 2020 or newer Model 3 will have hardware capable of FSD.

When the subscription became available, I purchased it and put it through it’s paces in Orland, FL and here in my hometown.

And the short of it is – it’s not ready for primetime.

Now, I wouldn’t have even considered FSD had I not seen several videos showing it working. From the videos I watched, it looked very competent. In my experience, that was not the case.

Case in point – I was driving home from Florida on the highway with Full Self Driving enabled. The car wanted me to get off the highway at a particular exit and take a back road for the last 100 miles or so. I opted to stay on the highway for a bit longer and take a different back road a few dozen miles up the road. As I passed the exit the car had wanted me to take, it started slowing down drastically – from about 75 mph to about 30 mph – while I was in the center lane of the highway. This wasn’t a confidence inspiring move.

One thing I noticed after I ponied up for the one month of FSD is that most of the videos I was watching on FSD are people who are involved in the FSD Beta program. FSD Beta 9 will include auto steer on city streets. This is not present in the current FSD you can subscribe to. To my knowledge, you can’t get in to the FSD Beta program unless you have purchased the FSD package outright, so any evaluation on my part of FSD 9 will have to wait.

I really like driving the Model 3, so I’m not keen to pony up a large sum of money to have the car drive itself. That said, I can see myself laying down for a month of FSD if I’m planning a road trip, provided they can get the bugs worked out.

Wrap Up

There’s a lot to like about the Tesla Model 3. It handles exceptionally well. It has tremendous power. It’s a comfortable ride and provides lots of cabin amenities. It’s in-expensive to own (maintenance and fuel cost wise). It’s futuristic. But electric vehicles are not mainstream yet and owning one means things you took for granted before, like re-fueling easily on long trips, are now potential pain points. How much pain these points will be to you depend upon your lifestyle and travel habits.

For me, since I own a very nice and capable ICE car along with the Model 3, I’ll probably opt to take the ICE car on any road trip that would require more than one supercharger pit stop.

If you do decide to buy a Tesla, please consider using my referral code – https://www.tesla.com/referral/theodore90943. We will both receive 1000 free supercharging miles. It’s a win-win.

Categories
Apple Computers

WWDC 2021: No new hardware

All the rumors pointed to new M1X MacBook Pros being released today at WWDC, but it did not come to pass. Perhaps the global chop shortage is to blame. Or maybe it’s the constrained availability of the mini LED displays expected to be used in the 14″ version. Whatever the reason, we will have to keep waiting for new professional M1 powered Mac laptops.

Hopefully Apple drops these before July. I have a kid heading off to college in August, and I was hoping to send her with my current work machine, the M1 MacBook Air, while I moved up to the 14″ MacBook Pro. But I’m kind of torn about it, as the M1 MacBook Air I have been using as my main work computer is working quite well now that Docker and Homebrew are M1 native. There have been a few quirks to work through (mostly related to NodeJS and the lack of an M1 native version for any Node version earlier than 15), but overall, it’s been a lightweight very capable dev machine. If they offered a version with 32GB of RAM and a few more USB-C ports, I’d probably not even need the 14″ MacBook Pro.

Here’s hoping to an Apple event in July.

Categories
Apple Politics Social Media

Apple, Google, Amazon and Parler

Big Tech creates rules of the road, and applies them inconsistently.

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 3 weeks or so (and if you have, I really envy you), you are probably aware of the Capital riots and the aftermath that saw Apple and Google both boot Parler from their App Stores, and then a few days later, Amazon giving Parler 24 hours to find new hosting before they kicked them off of AWS.

Now, whatever your thoughts are on Parler, you should be concerned about this concerted effort by the titans of tech to remove an upstart social media platform simply because of it’s political slant.

Google removed Parler from it’s Play Store with nary a reason. Apple at least tried to feign impartiality by giving Parler time to outline a plan it could implement that would tackle it’s “moderation problem”. Parler’s response to Apple’s query was that it would improve it’s tools to allow for ‘self policing’, meaning it would rely on other users to report bad behavior. Apple didn’t like that answer, and booted Parler from the App Store, with the condition that they could be re-instated if they improved their moderation practices.

Amazon didn’t give Parler any such “consideration”, and instead just gave Parler 24 hours notice before it deactivated their AWS account.

The rub here is that Twitter uses AWS as it’s backend. And Twitter, by distinction of being a larger platform, was used far more than Parler for any violence that was incited at the Capital and many other riots that have taken place over the last year. Hell, you could argue that violent idea domestic terrorists Antifa have used Twitter for organization and incitement of violence for four years. As if to make the point as clearly as it could be made, the same day that Parler was being booted from AWS for “incitement to violence” and lack of moderation, the phrase #HangPence was being promoted and trending on Twitter.

Yet Twitter remains an AWS customer, and is still available for download in both Google and Apple App Stores.

Tech has long told conservatives that if they don’t like the rules of the liberal platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter et all, that they should go and build their own platforms.

With Parler, they did just that. Parler was a hot mess of UI and app issues, and it’s infrastructure was constantly falling over. But in spite of that, it was growing like gang busters. It was the #1 app in the Apple App Store for many months, right up until Apple booted it. Conservatives had built their own social media platform, and at the first opportunity, Google, Apple and Amazon got their guns out and shot it right in the head.

Amazon’s move is the most egregious, because without the breadth and scale of AWS, it’s hard for any up and coming social media platform to compete with the likes of Twitter. Twitter has used AWS to handle their scalability and infrastructure problems as it moved from a desktop micro blogging platform to a tool on millions of peoples phones. That Amazon took out a competitor to Twitter for purporting to incite violence, when Twitter has been used to incite violence since it’s very inception and continues to be used still, reeks of collusion. At the very least it is a demonstrable case of a company unequally applying a set of rules to two different companies.

Parler has launched a lawsuit against Amazon, and I feel they have a good shot at winning it. In the interim, Parler is working to restore it’s service, though with the bad press garnered from the shunning by Amazon, Apple and Google, they will find it hard to find a new infrastructure provider who can give them what Amazon did. Building out your own infrastructure at this scale is difficult and costly, and extremely risky when you have the titans of tech gunning for you and able to cut you off at the knees at every chance they get.

The time for Big Tech to be regulated has passed. It’s not just the repeal of Section 230 that is needed. New restrictions on these companies that hold immense power need to be enacted. Sadly, with the Biden administration in power, these companies will be publicly chided, and privately courted by those with the power. The best free speech advocates (and those persecuted by Big Tech) can hope for is wins in the courts that will make it harder for these companies to hide behind the mantra that they are “platforms and not publishers”.

Until then, expect freedom of speech online to continue to be attacked and driven to extinction.

Categories
Apple Software Videography

Final Cut Pro X 10.5.1 – what kind of bullshit is this?

I use Final Cut Pro X for all my videos. I love the feature set, and I’ve been happy with the way that Apple has constantly updated it since it’s release 9 years ago and haven’t charged any users for upgrades in that time.

That said, the latest update released – 10.5.1, features a major downgrade.

Prior to this release, you could export and upload your video in one step thru the sharing feature to YouTube. This made it extremely convenient to render and upload, and set your title, keywords and description all from within the Final Cut Pro X export dialog.

With 10.5.1, Apple has replaced this with a “YouTube and Facebook” option, which just exports the video to your disk at the “recommended” export settings for those services. This is a huge step back and takes what was a once step process before, and turns it in to a multi step process.

Now, I have to export the video. Then I have to login to YouTube, navigate to the Creator portal, click Upload Video, and then find the video on my filesystem and drag it to the browser. The main thing that’s annoying is that during this upload, I feel the need not to do any serious browsing, because if I somehow cause the browser to be unstable, and it crashes, I have to start the entire upload over again.

I’m sure Apple took this route because keeping compatibility with YouTube’s upload API was resource consuming. But it was a major friction point that Apple had turned in to a simple one step process.

I really hope they listen to their users and roll this feature back to how it was.

Categories
Apple Computers Software

How to tell if an application is Apple Silicon native

If you are using one of the new M1 Apple Silicon Macs, you may be wondering how to tell if an app you have is optimized for Apple Silicon. There are a couple of ways to deduce this.

  1. Get Info: The first option is to use the “Get Info” option in the Finder. Navigate to the app’s location (usually in /Applications), click on the app, and the use Command-I. Under the “General” heading will be listing for “Kind:”, with three possible options – Application(Universal), Application(Intel), Application (Apple Silicon). The Intel and Apple Silicon options should be self explanatory. The “Universal” option means that the app is a “fat binary”, containing the code for both Intel and Apple Silicon versions. “Fat Binaries” have more coverage than an app compiled for either architectures, but they are also nearly twice the size of a standard binary.
  2. Activity Monitor: If the app is already running, you can open the Activity Monitor (located in /Applications/Utilities). Here you will see a list of all running applications. In the column labeled ‘Architecture’, you will see either Intel or Apple Silicon listed. Activity Monitor shows you the code that is being executed, so even if the application is a fat binary, it will only show the platform code that is currently being run.
Categories
3D Apple Computers

More benchmarks: Blender – MacBook Air M1 vs. MacBook Pro 16″ i9

A few other comparative benchmarks on the new MacBook Air M1 (16GB/512GB configuration), pitted against a MacBook Pro 16” (i9/64GB/4TB/Radeon 5500M-8GB).

Blender (running in Rosetta 2 on the M1). Demo files can be found here.

Fishy Cat (1 frame):

  • MacBook Air M1: 1 min 35 sec
  • MacBook Pro i9: 37 sec

Mr. Elephant (1 frame):

  • MacBook Air M1: 2 min 18 sec
  • MacBook Pro i9: 1 min 13 sec

Racing Car (1 frame):

  • MacBook Air M1: 13 min 22 sec
  • MacBook Pro i9: 8 min 52 sec

Now, of course this is hardly a fair fight. The i9 MacBook Pro has a discrete GPU (in this case, a Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB). And Blender is being run via Rosetta. But in the wake of the ridiculous walloping all the Intel Macs are receiving by these entry level M1 machines, I thought it’d be nice to share an area where the Intel Macs are still (at least for the moment) worth their money.

Categories
Science

End of a scientific era: So long Arecibo

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, one of the symbols of our scientific search of the cosmos was the Arecibo Observatory, located in Puerto Rico. This huge radio telescope and it’s massive dish was a formidable sight to behold. This telescope has searched the skies for 50 years for the National Science Foundation. In 1974, the telescope was used to transmit the ‘Arecibo Message’, a simple message pointed in the direction of the globular cluster Messier 13 (approx. 25,000 light-years away) built in binary code (0s and 1s) that sent a bitmap image that included numbers, stick figures, chemical formulae and a rendering of the telescope itself.

It was further used later by the SETI and METI projects in the search for extra terrestrial life.

In the last few years it had become damaged, and it has been deemed too risky to repair. So the huge telescope will be destroyed. No one knows if there will be a replacement built in its place.

So pour one out for the iconic telescope. It brought us closer to first contact. It served as an amazing backdrop in a Bond film. It was a symbol of scientific exploration here on earth that will never be forgotten.

Image Credit: Todd Van Hoosear
Categories
Apple Developers Software

Apple reducing App Store commission fee for small businesses

Apple today announced that they will be reducing the App Store commission rate from 30% to 15% for developers who earn less than $1 million USD from the App Store. This comes as Apple has been under pressure from developers like Epic Games and Spotify, who have called Apple’s 30% commission unfair and anti-competitive.

The reduced fees will apply to both app sales and subscriptions. Once a developer’s sales expand beyond the $1 million USD mark, then all additional sales are subject to the 30% rate.

John Gruber writes in his article:

Let’s say a new developer enters the program (and thus qualifies for the 15 percent commission) and their apps are on pace to generate $1.2M in sales. At 15 percent, $1.2M in revenue would generate $1.02M in earnings — putting them over the threshold, so their entire earnings the next year would face a 30 percent commission. If their sales remain flat the next year, the same $1.2M in revenue would earn them only $840K at 30 percent. They’d have to generate $1.5M in revenue to earn the same profit that $1.2M in sales brought them the year before. Basically, if the end of the year draws near and a developer in the Small Business Program has revenue approaching $1.2M, they’re incentivized to pull their apps or reduce their prices to keep from going over the threshold.

John makes an interesting point. The $300k difference between $1.5M and $1.2M means the difference between being able to pay for an entire developer’s salary for a year. For a small business, it’s a legitimate concern.

And kudos to John for finally figuring out that higher taxes on earnings can disincentivize people and businesses from wanting to produce. Though I’m sure the comparison will be lost on him.

Categories
Apple Computers

Apple Silicon Macs are here, and wow.

Ok, I’ll admit my previous post about the release of Apple Silicon powered Macs gave the impression that there wasn’t much exciting about the CPU switch, but boy, was I wrong.

I’ve had my hands on the M1 powered MacBook Air (with 16GB RAM/512GB SSD) for just a few hours now, and after putting it thru it’s paces, I’m floored.

I’ve run two benchmarks – XcodeBenchmark and Bruce X. These are more akin to real world benchmarks. I’m not knocking Geekbench of Cinebench, but these benchmarks involve actual applications that people will use, and actual projects that simulate what real world performance will look like. And after running each of these, and comparing it against my $4400 MacBook Pro 16″ i9/64GB RAM/4TB SSD machine, I’m floored.

Bruce X Benchmark

  • MacBook Pro i9 2.4ghz/64GB/4TB SSD: 16.03 seconds
  • MacBook Air (M1) – 16GB/512GB SSD: 11.69 seconds

XcodeBenchmark

  • MacBook Pro i9 2.4ghz/64GB/4TB SSD: 223.016 seconds
  • MacBook Air (M1) – 16GB/512GB SSD: 127.713 seconds

Again, these are real world benchmarks using real projects for Xcode and Final Cut Pro. And the MacBook Air doesn’t even have a fan. During the Xcode benchmark, the MacBook Pro’s fans spun up and were quite loud. The MacBook Air was dead silent. Of course, during sustained CPU usage the fan will be a benefit, as it will keep the CPU cooler, whereas with the MacBook Air M1, the CPU will throttle down to prevent the computer from overheating.

Here’s another comparison: I have a Logic Pro X project I’m working on that contains about a twenty tracks – 16 of which are audio tracks, the other 4 are software instruments, and of course, there are various effects applied to all the tracks. This project couldn’t play smoothly without stuttering on my MacBook Air 2020 i5 16/512GB machine. On the M1 MacBook Air, it plays as smooth as butter.

App performance isn’t the whole story though. The entire OS feels much faster. Apps (those that are Apple Silicon enabled) open incredibly fast. I’ve only tried a few apps that weren’t optimized for Apple Silicon, and the results have been great. For example, the original Pixelmator, which I still use for day to day graphics tasks, isn’t optimized for Apple Silicon. It opens quickly, and using it feels just as fast and performant as it does on my i9 MacBook Pro. Every app is different, of course, but Rosetta 2 looks like another incredible feat of engineering from Apple.

On the software development front outside of Xcode, things are a different story. There isn’t much of my everyday work toolchain that is ready for Apple Silicon yet. Stuff like HomeBrew, NodeJS, Docker and other web technologies are not quite ready for Apple’s new chip, and anyone who works with these technologies would be advised to wait before upgrading to the new machines.

But for everyone else – come on in, the water is fine.

The short of this is: If you are using your Mac for Xcode, Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro X, you are going to be blown away at what these Macs with the M1 chip are capable of.

Amazon is currently dropping $50 off the price of the M1 powered MacBook Air and Pro.