Soundbyte 317 – July 2021

ChristopherNews, SoundByte

Right to Repair

Welcome to Soundbyte. In this issue:

  • July meeting
  • A new audacious Apple Store
  • Here come the Mag Safe accessories!
  • Apple’s VPN alternative
  • Spatial audio update
  • An app for everything?
  • Right to repair
  • Windows hits back?
  • Is Chrome a bad Mac app?
  • Warning for MyBook Live users
  • 4G on the tube!
  • Offers for users

July Meeting

Join us this Monday July 12th at 7pm for an evening of Show and Tell! We will have a series of short talks and discussions on four topics:

You can find the connection details for Zoom in the email Soundbyte came with. As usual, you can keep up with LMUG regularly on our growing podcast. Subscribe here!

A new audacious Apple Store

Apple continues its expansion of Apples Stores around the world. The lastest one is closer to their home, in Los Angeles and this one is another unusual and extraordinary renovation of a locally historic building: The Tower Theatre. Watch Brian Tong’s review of the opening below:

Here come the Mag Safe accessories!

MagSafe charger cases have arrived

You gotta have some accessories for your new Apple kit! Do you have a nice leather case for you iPhone? Maybe you’d appreciate something on your MagSafe Charger to match? Yes, you can now get a leather case for the disc shaped magnetic charger for the latest iPhones. Read about it on the Verge.

Apple’s VPN alternative

ICloud+ Private Relay at work

If you listen to many podcasts or YouTube videos, it won’t be long until you hear an advert with a discount code for a VPN service. VPN means virtual private network, a private tunnel across the internet that protects your communications like sensitive work documents or online banking. The privacy offered by a VPN includes the benefit that you can mask your identity. Certain countries do not have free internet access and you could face difficulties for researching certain events unless you can hide who you are from the authorities. The flip-side of this that you can take advantage of this privacy to purchase cheaper airline tickets by pretending to be buying it from a different country to where you are located, or watch TV shows on streaming services like Netflix which are restricted to certain countries (usually the US) by pretending to be living there.

Apple entered the field this summer with a new feature called Private Relay that will be free to anyone who pays for iCloud (now called iCloud+). Even if you are paying just 79p a month for 50GB of extra storage, you will get iCloud+ with Private Relay. Private Relay isn’t a VPN with the same “advantages” of VPNs, instead it focuses on privacy and stopping you being tracked by advertisers. You can read a proper description of it on the Mac Observer here.

Spatial audio update

Dolby Atmos

Last month, I told you about Apple’s new spatial audio feature where Apple is starting to replace stereo tracks in Apple Music (subscription required) with binaural audio which places the instruments and voices on a sound stage around your head, as intended by the artists. Unfortunately I appear to have drunk the Kool-aid in Apple’s press release when I said you had to buy Beats or AirPods to hear it.

According to the main DJ at Apple Music (Zane Lowe) you just need headphones. Ideally good quality ones that fit well. If you are an Apple Music subscriber you can hear this for yourself by listening to Zane’s demonstration of the technology.

What Apple’s press release last month failed to explain was that the user experience is crippled if you don’t buy Apple’s headphones or ear buds. 9-to-5 Mac explains here that to hear spatial audio on 3rd party headphones, you have to manually change Apple Music’s settings to “Always On” for Dolby Atmos. But the default setting is Automatic. The problem is that with 3rd party headphones, normal stereo songs sound much worse when the Music app is set to always play in Atmos. Only Apple’s headphones and earbuds can utilise the automatic setting to turn spatial audio on and off depending on if the music track uses Dolby Atmos or stereo. But surely the Music app knows what it is playing and can do this automatically regardless of what you use to listen to it? Unless there is a good reason, it appears to me to be an anti-competitive move against non-Apple headphones. Perhaps Apple has a good technical reason for these choices in the Music app, but these are not clear to me.

An app for everything?

The App Store comes the iPhone 3G – There’s an app for everything

Whatever you need to do on your iPhone, there is famously an app for that. But for some Apple users, there are some apps that they want that aren’t allowed on the App Store. Some might want to emulate a games console, scan for WiFi networks or plug their iPhone into a scanner that just doesn’t work due the rules Apple place on apps in the App Store.

Apple is facing a number of investigations into its practices following accusations that these rules are anti-competitive. Apple is clear however that its rules exist to protect iPhone and iPad users from serious and numerous security threats. Read what Tim Cook has said on Ars Technica.

Right to repair

In one area, concerns about anti-competitive practices have resulted in an executive order against them by the President of the United States. If you take your computer to a computer shop for repair, you expect them to have the spare parts to fix it. But increasingly and not only concerning Apple, consumers can only get repairs from the original manufacturer at their (often higher) prices. For example, some farmers are no longer able to get parts to repair their own tractors. Tesla car owners also face difficulty getting their cars serviced by anyone other than Tesla at Tesla’s prices. A key long-time campaigner for reform has been an independent Apple repair shop owner in New York and you can see his reaction to the news and explanation of what President Biden signed below (warning, he’s from New York so there is some swearing):

Windows hits back?

You might remember the Future Shock article in the December Soundbyte. In that article, I asked:

What does this mean if ARM is the future for mainstream computing (remember 10x less electricity use) and PC makers are stuck with slow ARM chips or less efficient Intel chips? I suspect big shifts and change are coming for PC chip makers.

Soundbyte, December 2020

Well, good news. Qualcomm is now working on new ARM chips for Windows laptops that they believe will compete with Apple Silicon. This might leave Intel in the dust, but that might be what’s needed for the future of PCs. Watch this analysis below from Constant Geekery:

A good example of the unsustainable situation is what has happened to the latest version of Windows, Windows 11. In a bizarre mis-step (explained by ZDNet here), Microsoft has managed to ensure Windows 11 runs on older Apple Macs(!) but not certain expensive Microsoft PCs that are on sale today!

For those of you using Windows on your Mac, you can read more about Windows 11 on Windows Central. One of the changes is that the blue screen of death will…change colour. Perhaps more interesting, is to have another peak over Soundbyte’s garden fence. What are PC makers up to now? Folding laptops. OK, our laptops already fold shut, but Lenovo has taken this to a new level. Watch Sarah Dietschy’s review below.

Is Chrome a bad Mac app?

Is your Mac slow? There are lots of clean up utilities you can use to speed up your Mac (see the special offers for members below, including 20% off Mac Cleanse 8 and a free month of tips from Tidbits) . But one problem might be hiding under your nose if you use Chrome. It might be Chrome itself? Read this short story from chrome is bad in case you recognise yourself in it…

If you find yourself running back to Safari, make sure you have a look at this nifty utility recommended by Alastair, LMUG’s technical officer. If you run your web browser with a lot of tabs open, OneTab might be able to help you tame them into a more management list.

Warning for MyBook Live users

MyBook Live hard drives are at risk of serious data loss

Also from our Technical Officer, a warning for those of using Western Digital network hard drives called MyBook Live. Make yourself aware of this bug so you can ensure your files are protected. See the Krebs on Security article here.

4G on the tube!

This might be good or bad news depending on your point of view, but 4G is starting to be rolled out across the tube. This is different to the current service where you can get a brief WiFi signal when the train is in the station. This service works while in motion BETWEEN stations. Read all about it on Engadget here.

Unfortunately, as Pietro, LMUG’s treasurer discovered, these services will only work if your mobile phone network supports them. Check this with your providers, because some don’t. Here is his story and some advice:

I was really upset to discover earlier this week that my all-inclusive Vodafone contract now does not include WiFi in the underground 😞. So I called the Vodafone complaint’s team, hoping they will remove the early termination charges and allow me to switch.

They didn’t accept that, but they instead offered to give me a discount, so my monthly bill would be £28 (from £30) and also include the entertainment package (Amazon Prime or other things).

Given it was Prime day, I was happy with it and accepted the change. I enabled Prime and was ready to order stuff, but I immediately got an email from Amazon saying Vodafone had disabled Prime for some reason!

I called Vodafone again to ask them what was going on and they said there’s a problem with Amazon and asked how much it costs to enable it. I said £7.99/month.So they gave me a refund of £191.76 (7.99 times 24 months even if my contract is up in 9 months) and also a £30 good will gesture!

Sharing in case anyone is in the same boat. – Pietro Falcone

Offers for members

Please find below this month‘s special offers. As usual these discounts are only available with paid memberships and can be accessed via the website in the members area.

  • Eve Products: 25% Discount
  • TechTool Pro: 50% Discount
  • AgileBits 1Password 7: 25% Discount
  • MacCleanse 8 Software: 20% Discount
  • EverWeb by RAGE Software: 50% Discount 
  • Opus ][ Complete Collection: 25% Discount
  • Que Publishing Products: 35-45% Discount
  • Take Control Books: 30% Discount on All eBooks
  • Teams ID, a Password Manager for Teams: 33% Discount
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