Soundbyte 321 – November 2021

ChristopherNews

Welcome to Soundbyte! In this issue:

  • November’s meet-up
  • What’s new in Monterey?
  • Hello stranger! New MacBooks
  • AirPods 3 released
  • Erase unwanted people… like Stalin?
  • The domination of Apple Watch
  • The least bad ways to get Windows

November’s meet-up

Join LMUG on Monday, November 8 at 7pm for our November meeting. We are in a new location: The Calthorpe Arms, which is just 10 minutes walk from Russell Square tube station. It will be a hybrid meeting, so the Zoom link will still be in the email this Soundbyte came in.

We will be discussing the biggest news from Apple. The roadmap for their new Apple Silicon processors and how to choose the right notebook for what you need. We will hold a raffle for those attending. The prize will an an AirFly Pro, a Bluetooth transmitter for your next flight, so you can connect to the in-flight entertainment from your AirPods (or other Bluetooth headphones).

What’s new in Monterey?

No, not the farmer’s market, I mean the new version of macOS, which was released this month. Monterey contains a wealth of new features, but perhaps most important are those implemented in response to the pandemic and the ‘new normal’. These are focused in FaceTime which has got a huge upgrade. You can share your TV (coming soon) and watch together, share your music and listen together, share your screen and work together and (finally) share your conversation with Android and Windows users, in group video calls. On top of this are improvements to the audio so it sounds like you’re in the room with your caller (spatial audio); portrait mode to blur your background [sounds familiar…ED] and a grid view that highlights the person talking [cough Zoom…ED].

I’ve definitely not seen this before – the new FaceTime in macOS Monterey

Additional features include a new version of Safari which features tab groups, to better organise your web sites; quick notes, live text (copying the text from photographs) and other features shared now with iOS. A major feature announced but not yet here is the ability to fully integrate an iPad with the Mac using the Mouse. It would pass between the two devices like magic. In the meantime, have a look below at some of the highlights:

Hello Stranger! New MacBooks

It’s back to the future with Apple’s new 14 and 16-inch professional laptops. Back precisely to 2016, when Apple released the first MacBook Pro with just ThunderBolt ports. Professional users started complaining immediately. They missed having a built-in SD card reader for A/V work and hated having to use a dongle to connect to a display for presentations. They found the keyboard to be too unreliable; the MacBook Air-like case got too hot and would slow down under professional workloads and the Touchbar was more of a hindrance than a help to them. It appears that Apple heard them loud and clear. But it takes at least 3 years for Apple to create a new computer and so here we are.

The 2015 MacBook Pro

It is as if the past 5 years didn’t happen! This new successor to the 2015 MacBook Pro has 3 high powered and super fast ThunderBolt 4 ports while retaining its SD card reader and a full sized HDMI port. The headphone jack is also upgraded to support professional headphones that need more power. The keyboard is directly from the iMac with big function keys for pros instead of the Touchbar. The design is filled out and slightly heavier, rather than ‘ultra-light’ wedge shaped. This gives more room for battery, quieter cooling and better speakers. It’s still an Apple though. Although it appears thicker, it has large feet for better airflow. The main body is actually slightly thinner.

The 2021 MacBook Pro

All this drama though is a side-show to the biggest features. It offers real Mac Pro-level performance in a quiet laptop. It does this by including M1 Pro and Max CPUs with specific components to accelerate video work. It’s screen is based on the Pro Display XDR. It is built using mini-LEDs, enabling very high contrast and it supports Pro Motion for smoother animations. Read this sixcolors article on the different options before buying and watch the video below to see Marques Brownlee’s review:

It is not all perfect. Apart from the notch, which isn’t really an issue, there are some future proofing issues. The HDMI port supports today’s 4K, but not tommorow’s 8K. The SD card reader supports UHS-II cards but not the future UHS-III cards. Finally, the super fast ThunderBolt port might not reach full speed with your hard drives.

Despite this, the reception is overwhelmingly positive and, Apple is again, giddy with delight. They have successfully answered the question of whether the M1 chip could be expanded to support professional level applications, watch the interview below to see their reaction:

AirPods 3 released

Apple AirPods – 3rd Generation

The non-pro AirPods have been redesigned and feature improved audio. Imagine AirPods Pro without the rubber tips or noise-cancelling and that’s basically it. It looks like an easy choice if you want to buy new Bluetooth earbuds, but make sure it fits your ears! Watch Sara Dietschy below to see what I mean.

Erase unwanted people… like Stalin?

Google “Magic Eraser” on the Pixel 6 smartphone

A notorious aspect of the communist era was how photographs of Stalin were altered to purge his opponents and enemies from history as well as life. Well, you can replicate the effect, but without the evil, on Google’s new Android phone, the Pixel 6. In an incredible advance of artificial intelligence on Google’s new ARM chip, Pixel users can now remove unwanted by-standers from their photos. Read more about the phone from the BBC here. You can also see how Google is catching-up with Apple on security here.

The dominance of the Apple Watch

Have a look at this analysis of the effect of the Apple Watch on the mainstream watch industry. Is it enough for the Swiss makers to have celebrities using them when most people opt for Apple?

The least bad ways to get Windows on your M1 mac

I have talked about Windows a few times on SoundByte. Sometimes its needed for that one app or game that doesn’t have a Mac version, or that one document that just doesn’t work right. This is possible using Bootcamp or Parallels/VM Ware on Intel Macs. But let me start by re-stating a truth. If you have an M1 Mac, there is no good, supported way to run Windows on your new Mac. Sorry.

Now that’s out of the way. Three main routes seem to have settled into view.

  • Emulation
  • Virtualisation
  • Substitution

Emulation is making Windows think it is sitting on an Intel processor within an real PC. There is an app called UTM that can emulate PCs and different versions of Windows and Linux. Emulators are usually slow (although Apple has created a fast one on Mac OS called Rosetta for Intel Mac apps). UTM might be enough for that random Windows app you need once in a while. Have a look at it below:

Virtualisation is making Windows think it is working directly on your Mac. This means Windows is talking to the M1 processor. It can do that because the M1 uses ARM and Windows now can use ARM. There are only a few ARM applications, so Microsoft has written its own fast emulator for Windows Apps. This is fast enough for more complex applications and some games. The best option here appears to be Parallels.

Substitution is replicating the bits of Windows that Windows applications need on the Mac. This means not having to run the full version of Windows, so its faster. But it also means emulating Intel commands, so it is slower. The main app here is Crossover, and they appear focused on fast gaming performance. See how gaming performs on the M1 below:

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