SoundByte 337 – March 2023

ChristopherNews, SoundByte

Welcome to SoundByte! In this issue:

March Meeting

Join us at 7pm, Tuesday, March 14, for our March Meeting. We will start the evening with our regular look at Apple news in NewsByte and then we are excited to be presenting a show and tell on scanning. How can we digitise old documents and photos and why?

Check the email this newsletter came in for the Zoom link and follow the London 😜 Mac User Group on…Mastodon🐘! If you are not familiar with Mastodon, have a look at TidBit’s explainer here.

HomePod 2 Review

The Home Pod 2 is now available in the UK for £299. The reviews are in and, despite having fewer internal speakers, the overall sound is improved along with having improved performance. If you can hear the difference, it supports Apple Lossless audio from Apple Music too. Have a look at this review below from an audiphile:

Staying on music for a moment, there are signs that Apple has something cooking. As with all rumours there’s no promise of realisation in any particular form. Markers have appeared in Apple software that may indicate a new music service that could fill a kettle drum sized hole. Watch below:

Learn Final Cut in one hour?

This seems too good to be true and indeed this is not a full training course for Apple’s professional video editor: Final Cut Pro. But, if you are starting out wanting to make the next blockbuster; hit pilot episode or viral TikTok (who – ED?), this might be an excellent place to start. Hat tip to LMUG’s technical editor for recommending this to our membership.

Bugs and scams and more scams!

Urgh. Well, let’s start with some good news. The debilitaing wi-fi issues I reported last month, in my new M2 Pro Mac Mini were resolved completely in the macOS Ventura 13.2.1 update. Wireless internet on my Mac Mini is now reliable and fast.

Next, if you have an iPhone with 5G, it’s likely that like me, you’re also enjoying some great internet performance. But depending on where you live, lots of people on 5G might cause some network congestion issues in your locale. If you find yourself in dire straits, one option you have, to work around this, might be to turn off the 5G radio in your iPhone (it will fall back to 4G). Again, depending on your mobile network’s 4G quality or location in the country, this might not actually resolve the issue(!) but it’s something to keep in the toolbox as an option, review the instructions on LifeWire here so you know how.

Ok, I think we’re ready for the bad news now. This is sad for me because of the great experience I had with Apple Support over my Mac Mini issue, but they are now being impersonated by scammers who want to steal your money (all of it if given the chance). If you’re notified that your Apple ID is compromised, squint hard to look closer at the sender and think twice before believing it. Wise-up to how this devious scam works, via this article on the Which website. It gets worse for Apple, as some of their customer support logins were found online in stolen data. Hopefully this was discovered and resolved a long time ago.

But that’s the not worst news this month. In continuing bombshells from the recently revealed Last Pass breach, it is reported that one of their admin’s login credentials were stolen too in their breach! Have a look at this update from Security Now which goes over this, the implications and aftermath.

Put an AirTag in your luggage!

Here is an obvious reason to go out and buy an AirTag right now, before your next flight. Especially in current times where certain airports may drag their feet to re-staff their baggage-handling-ground-operations after the pandemic you may want to keep track of your own bag-dropped luggage. That’s exactly what some Canadian travellers did with shocking results when their luggage was lost. Read on in PC Mag here.

Greenwashing: intended or unintended

Greenwashing is where companies market their environmental policies in a way that ends up not reflecting the dirty reality. It may mask or fail to address serious issues in their environmental foot print or supplier actions.

One such example puts Apple Air Tags in a starring role highlighting the Greenwashing shoe recycling programme in Singapore that did no such thing, potentially even adding to Landfill. Read about it and watch the video in this Reuters Special Report.

But despite best intentions around recycling, reducing dangerous materials and lowering their carbon foot print, a dirty (not so) secret also exists in relation to Apple’s (horrors! ED) MacBooks. In fact it’s more than one issue. The first relates to the high-level built-in security in the MacBooks. This security comes at a cost if you forget your AppleID password when you have Find My enabled. If you forget this, it’s game over, your device is good only for recycling and sadly landfill, many years ahead of its lifespan. Not very sustainable and it seems not uncommon. Always keep a copy of your main password somewhere safe, secure and separate to your laptop.

The next issue sadly affects the hard drive in MacBooks. These SSDs, like the spinning hard drives in older Mac and PowerBooks, have a limited lifespan. This life span should be similar to the expected life of the machine, but if you’re hammering it day in, day out (e.g heavy video editing on the internal drive) you may unitentionally shorten the life of your (un-replaceable) built-in drive. This could also occur by, for example, persistently running large professional apps on a MacBook with limited RAM (e.g. 8GB). This would cause heavy use of your SSD drive, for virtual memory. Also due to way Apple electronics are tightly designed, it’s possible that an electrical short (by unknown reasons) could damage the drive directly (and unfortunately, this appears perhaps, not as uncommon an issue as we might like). The lesson here for users is always maintain a backup and consider using external USB/thunderbolt drives for heavy file based work! But this won’t stop the premature landfill if your Mac dies early…

Artificial Intelligence leaps forward: friend or foe?

The next generation of search engine is nearly upon us, boosted by artificial intelligence. Microsoft has hit the ground first by building an advanced intelligent assistant into its Bing search engine. This is their attempt to out-Google Google with a huge leap in technology that answers questions and can converse with you. You can watch their introduction below, but read on below that for the unfortunate story of what happened next:

A really bad problem came with early testing with the artificial intelligence and its co-piloting chat function. Whereas we know Siri can have a gently humorous personality, the one built into Bing seemed half-baked or perhaps immature and slightly scary. Daring Fireball had a look at one of the troubling conversations and Microsoft’s actions in response here.

There is a bigger problem still. What is the nature of the intelligence, is it just looking for connections and popularity which might not be true or looking for truth? Marques Brownlee took a closer look here.

It gets worse because we also know that AI is trained and when trained on certain traits it may get a false understanding of reality, and when trained by humans it may learn their biases. This especially affects older digital and web cams which get confused with darker skin and this is something Google markets heavily in their Pixel phones.

So take AI with a pinch of salt and open eyes. With that said, is any of this garden-fence peeping relevant to Apple? Of course yes, Apple already uses AI to improve photos on the iPhone, and neural engines are built into every iPhone and Mac for a variety of machine learning tasks. I suspect the most recent advances will be used to make Siri smarter, for example being able to understand and do more things in Home Kit or answer more complex questions with perhaps a built-in fact checker!

But you don’t have to wait for Apple. You can access the next generation technology Microsoft is using (called ChatGPT and OpenAI) right now via Siri Shortcuts. There are some detailed instructions and examples in this Medium post, or you can watch this explanation and demo below if you’re brave enough to try it.

Future Shock part 3: Windows on Mac goes legit

Long time SoundByte readers may recall our Future Shock article from SoundByte in 2020. This speculated on the impact of low power yet powerful Apple Silicon powered laptops on the high power PC laptop industry. While the new MacBooks were true mobile workstations that could be used anywhere at full speed, powerful PC laptops had to be plugged into a wall to get their full performance. This did not seem like a sustainable situation and a year later rumblings started, with MediaTek working on a new ARM chip for PCs to mimic Apple Silicon. It would appear that 2 years later, new chips like this below, for new more powerful ARM PC laptops may be on the horizon this year. Techradar reports on their own Future Shock here.

A significant enabler for the shift of PCs to ARM is the completed development of a fully operational Death Star…I mean Windows 11. As I mentioned last month, Window 11 works really well on Apple Silicon (the fastest ARM chips), but I also mentioned that Microsoft Windows on the Mac wasn’t supported officially.

Well no more. Microsoft has now officially endorsed use of Windows 11 Professional within Parallels Desktop on the Mac. Last month I advised that purchasing a Windows licence was around £100 but Windows Pro is over £200. There is a cheaper option via a company that claims to be fully legitimate, but I would proceed at your own risk in that regard.

Finally, speaking of Future shock, something like the reverse is happening with the younger generation as they enter the workforce and encounter the older technologies prevalent in offices like scanners. Be kind if you encounter this, read on from the Guardian here.

And in a final rebuke to Future Shock, a follow-up from the surprising news last month that the archaic Acorn OS remains alive and in some sort of development. Who remembers the Amiga? I recall it was a games machine, but apparently was also very popular in music production and maybe other creative industries. And guess what, it’s not dead either. Somehow it remains alive and in some sort of development just like Acorn. Have a look at the curious state of affairs below as it lingers on into 2023 on of all things, PowerPC Macs?Enjoy!🤔


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