Soundbyte 319 – September 2021

ChristopherNews, SoundByte

Pro Display XDR

Welcome to Soundbyte. In this issue:

  • September meeting
  • New app subscription options coming
  • Is Apple spying on your photos?
  • Air Tag nicked. What happened next?
  • Thunderbolt charged up on the iPad Pro
  • The cost of old PCs
  • Folding Fortunes
  • nVidia strong ARMed by U.K. Gov
  • Accessibility news – See and say it!
  • 4K to 5K – what monitor?
  • Offers for members

September meeting

Join us on Zoom from 6pm next Tuesday for our next meeting. In a change of plan, we will watch the Apple Keynote together. Watch here. Afterwards we will talk about Apples announcements and consider the post-pandemic future of LMUG meetings. We this change of meeting is due to unforeseen problem with our pub booking and the coincidence of Apple’s event happening on Tuesday from 6pm. The zoom invite is in the email sent to members with this newsletter.

Don’t forget to follow LMUG on twitter and in our podcast Brew & Byte. The latest podcast episode is called Keys and Cheese and considers mice and keyboards.

New app subscription options coming

In-app purchase on an iPhone

Facing regulatory scrutiny and lawsuits, Apple has made concessions to developers seeking to avoid Apple’s (15-30%) processing fees for payments in apps (in-app purchases). To settle a US class action lawsuit, they are paying out $100M to small developers, and Apple will explicitly allow them to email customers about how to subscribe to or buy their services. This was previously discouraged in favour of in-app purchases, where Apple took a share of the revenue on each transaction. Read more about this on Bloomberg.

In response to an investigation outcome from Japan’s Fair Trade Commision, Apple will allow makers of reader apps to include a link in their app to go to the app developer’s website to pay for their service. A reader app is where you pay a subscription to get access to a library of content e.g. Kindle and Netflix, rather than you purchasing each item individually. Directing users out of the app to a website to pay was previously banned, again, in favour of in-app purchases, where Apple took a cut of each transaction. It looks like Apple will be working with app makers to ensure their websites offer secure third-party payments. Read the details in Apple’s press release here.

Is Apple spying on your photos?

A huge controversy with some political reactions has erupted over a child-protection feature Apple is introducing in iCloud. When photos are uploaded or backed-up to iCloud, they will be compared against a database of illegal images. If a large number of matches occur, Apple will be notified to investigate and potentially take action. Privacy campaigners are concerned about the feature itself and also the implications: what else might Apple check for, and on behalf of which authoritarian government? Are our phones still safe to use?

Apple felt this had been widely mid-understood and Apple’s Head of Software explained all to the Wall Street Journal. Watch it below to see his explanation. In the meantime however, Apple has paused this feature to listen to feedback and re-think.

Air Tagged scooter nicked. What happened next?

Electric scooter with hidden Air Tag

Thieves in New York got a nasty surprise when they stole the scooter belonging to the CEO of a security research company. Read his Twitter thread to see what happened next…

Thunderbolt charged up on the iPad Pro

A sore weak point on the latest iPad Pro has been the slow performance of it’s Thunderbolt port. Apple hasn’t commented, but Constant Geekery is on the case. He has re-tested the iPad Pro with the upcoming iPadOS 15, and got some some promising results, Watch below:

The cost of old PCs

Old PCs in a skip

You can save money by keeping your old PC running, but if you are dependent on specific software, this could become difficult and ultimately costly. This is the situation the government is in, with a huge array of computers and old databases that need constant tweaking to stop creaking. Read more from the BBC.

Folding Fortunes

Samsung has released their 3rd generation of folding phones and this time, they might have a hit. Their new phones have heavily outsold their predecessor folders, in particular the smaller version. The larger version still has some reviewers scratching their heads but some have found charm in the smaller model. Have a look at Marques Brownlee’s review of it.

nVidia strong ARMed by U.K. Gov

Competition and Markets Authority

The US graphics card company nVidia, who are attempting to take over the Cambridge-based/Japanese-Owned computer chip-maker ARM (which powers Apple computers) are being investigated by the UK’s competition authority. The concerns are around the impact of the merger on innovation. Read more from the BBC.

Accessibility news – See and say it!

Technology and the power of our smartphones has got to the point where they can recognise what they are looking at and tell you what they saw. We might know about this from Google Lens, which can translate foreign language signs into English, but the technology behind this can be highly valuable to those with a vision impairment. This technology, which was once slow and unwieldy is now instantaneous. Watch this video below, which looks at what came before and where we are now:

4K to 5K – what monitor?

Monitor resolutions
Monitor resolutions

If you have a Mac Mini or a Mac Pro, you need a monitor to go with it. You might also want an additional large display if you use a MacBook or iPad. I’m typing this on my iPad Pro via a 24-inch FHD (full high definition, 1920×1080) LG display. I’m thinking of selling and upgrading it and I thought I would share my thinking/desires.

Apple’s OSes work fine at FHD, but for years now, Apple has been designing for Retina displays, which are similar to the sharpness of a 4K TV. So if you want something to approach the quality of an Apple Display, you need a monitor that is at least 4K (3840×2160 pixels). There are some other features to consider as well if you want something like an Apple display:

  • Does it have good enough colour accuracy?
  • Does the monitor have an IPS type display?
  • Can it be driven by Type-C cable or just HDMI/Mini-DisplayPort (with a dongle)?
  • If you connect with a Type-C cable can the monitor charge your Macbook/iPad?
Apple Pro Display XDR

Apple has a solution for all of this in the Apple Pro Display XDR. Unfortunately, this costs at least £4,600 pounds, which is out of reach for most Mac user’s budgets. It is also unlike any other monitor, at a massive 6K resolution – which is needed by elite graphic artists, designers, and imaging enthusiasts. So what are the best Mac-like options for the rest of us who might want to edit photos or home movies and get a similar picture quality to what our MacBooks/iPads deliver?

First, I should be clear that 4K monitors that connect over HDMI are quite common nowadays. If you are happy to use HDMI (with a dongle for MacBook/iPad); and you’re not too concerned about colour accuracy, you can get a large 4K screen from just £200.

However, I spent more for my LG back-in-the day because it was the same high-quality panel as used in the 24-inch iMac at the time. I can’t do that today, because the latest iMac has an unusual 4.5K display (4480×2520 – much wider and a bit taller than 4K) that seems exclusive to the new iMac. Apple did work with LG on a similar size 4K display, but I think I want something larger, like the 27-inch iMac’s display: bigger for easier productivity, but not ultra-wide or curved (which is great for hard-core gamers). Well, LG and Apple have an option there too, although it is rather expensive. Some users choose a Dell monitor instead and some are keenly priced. But I’m not sure I want to look at a Dell logo or any logo all-day. Another popular option is this LG monitor, which at 32-inches is the same size as the Apple Pro XDR display (but still 4K rather than 6K). All sensible options and I’m sure there are others (share your suggestions in our FaceBook or Slack channels or LMUG-Talk).

But looking over the garden fence, I saw something that has tempted me to think different. Huawei, a company linked to the Chinese Government, has some trust issues with their networking equipment, and this has had a knock-on impact to their Android phones and tablets. But their other devices are perhaps more infamous for being flagrant knock-offs of Apple designs. Their MateBook X, is a close copy of the MacBook Air.

Huawei MateBook X

And their new monitor, to my eyes, looks very similar (to a distasteful degree) to Apple’s Pro Display XDR.

Huawei MateView
Huawei MateView

Bad Karma all around then. But in this case, I recall that Steve Jobs did say that ‘good artists copy’ and in this case, Huawei have created something somewhat unique. The MateView (which appears to be on early bird sale in the UK) isn’t simply 4K. Similarly to the new iMac, it is slightly larger. Where the iMac is a somewhat wider than 4K, the MateView is somewhat taller, making it a 3:2 ratio display, similar to the old non-widescreen MacBooks. And at over 28-inches, it should be able to accommodate my home office work and writing (like this newsletter) with ease, while giving me a close look at my photos. It also has a built-in speaker, so I can hear my iPad when that’s connected. And in keeping with Apple’s design, the logo is on the back, so I don’t need to be reminded of the copy-cat’s name. It also has some special features for Huawei phones and tablets, but as indicated above, I suggest you avoid those… Have a look at this review below to see what you think.

Offers for members

Please find below the special discounts and offers for our paying members. Members can access these through the members section of the website:

  • Free Lessons for Apple User Groups from Dan’s Tutorials
  • 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
  • TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals: Get a free month of tips and articles!