SoundByte 341 – July 2023

ChristopherNews, SoundByte

Welcome to SoundByte! In this issue:

July Meeting

Join us at 7pm, GMT+1, Tuesday, July 11, for our July Meeting. We will start the evening with our regular look at Apple news in NewsByte and then we’ll have a look at what’s coming from Apple in their next updates.

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.

A New Vision

In one of those industry bending moments that Apple has had over the past decades, first with the Mac, then iPod then iPhone, Apple announced Vision OS, their platform for spatial computing, at their World Wide Developer Conference in June.

Vision OS is the outcome of maybe a decade of innovations in Apple, much of which has been in plain sight. AR and Lidar on iPad and then iPhone Pro. Spatial Audio on AirPods and Home Pod. High performance but low power Apple Silicon. These technologies have been combined with with a revolutionary new user interface. Rather than a mouse or finger pointer, Vision OS tracks your eyes and hands. You look at the icon and pinch your finger to click it. Those who have tried it say it just works.

“It”, is the product that Apple unveiled at the same time. The Apple Vision Pro is a mixed reality headset. You wear it on your head over your eyes. The headset includes one high resolution display for each eye that passes through a picture of the real world in front of you. Vision OS is then composited over the real world (Augmented Reality). There is one obvious use case for this that Apple demonstrated. If the displays are covering your eyes, they can show a massive screen. Imagine using that to watch a movie or working on a spreadsheet, photos or video editing at high (retina) resolution. Or imagine having big screens all around you, that you just look at, speak to (via Siri) and work on, as if you have mind control. That’s new and quite a jump from what we’re used to.

The spatial computing part is the ability to create depth. That includes 3D and VR, which isn’t new, especially not to Apple.

Virtual Reality headsets have been on the market for several years now with the main vendor today being Meta (formally Oculus/Facebook). So far these are fairly niche and not mainstream. Most of them have a low resolution and are not great for productivity (low resolution creates eye strain). Instead the main purpose of these current devices is entertainment, especially gaming. Apple didn’t feature gaming in their demo, instead they showed a Spatial video of a child’s birthday party that seems to have garnered an emotional reaction from everyone that saw it.

The point here is that spatial computing, as opposed to VR gaming, is not just new, it is undiscovered. What does it mean to work on a spreadsheet or write a letter in a 3D space. Imagine a DJ app on an iPad. It might show some records spinning on the screen. In spatial computing will you see a visual DJ deck in front of you? Is that better? The Verge is unsure. Is watching 3D movies and a big screen enough for a successful product? Apple’s demo of the birthday party shows they want more, but like with the Apple Watch, they need 3rd-party developers to create the killer apps to make the Vision Pro a successful product. Killer apps that will clearly work better on the Vision Pro, than on a iPad, iPhone or Mac.

Perhaps acknowledging this, the Vision Pro (note the Pro) is not a mainstream product in the vein of the iPhone. Before it was announced, there was a general belief that the technology for Vision Pro wasn’t ready or didn’t exist. The reveal of a product that looks like a VR headset rather than a pair of glasses is a surprise or maybe I’d go so far as to say a disappointment mitigated by the astonishing features. Clearly, Apple has set the standard with Vision OS for spatial computing and implemented their most advanced technologies to create a minimum viable product to run it.

How far off are the mythical Apple Glasses? Well the Vision Pro has a measly 2 hour battery life, after which its dangled battery (gasp!) needs to be plugged into a power supply. This is likely due to the high resolution/energy screens. Maybe a bigger issue is the weight, which may make it uncomfortable to wear for long stretches. This is due to the glass and aluminium design (more recyclable than plastic VR headsets). I think if they can figure out the recycling, they may have a solution that can replace the aluminium. But apparently they have solved audio, including some kind of spatial audio speakers in the design. They also think they have solved the problem of wearing a doo-dangle on your face like a ski helmet. The Vision Pro includes a screen on the front (more weight) that presents your eyes as if the device was transparent (like glasses).

Finally the price. In the US it is priced at $3,500. This is excruciatingly high, in the same way the price of the Pro Display XDR is unfathomably high. Here we can see that Apple isn’t competing with the gamer headsets. They are offering a higher quality device at the same or lower price to the leaders: Varjo and Microsoft. The markets are professional (note the Pro) and even industrial. So for most of us, we can ignore the product and wait for the killer apps that will define how Vision OS may create a spatial computing future. Are you ready?

macOS Sonoma unveiled

The next version of macOS, named macOS Sonoma has been unveiled. It’s contains a number of new features. Catching up on the post-pandemic new normal, Apple has included a presenter overlay feature meaning you can be composited over what you are presenting in a video conference. Widgets can be placed on the Mac desktop and Safari gains separate user profiles and shareable passwords and passkeys. There are many more updates but unfortunately if your Mac is over 5 years old (and doesn’t have a T2 chip), Sonoma will not officially work on it. Everyone else, have a look at Sonoma below:

Here are a few tips and tricks for Mac Users:

  • If you suffering with poor Wifi. Have a look at this handy guide to see if there’s a simple solution.
  • Have you tried the Stage Manager feature in Ventura? If you are feeling stressed at your computer, maybe you should. If you have multiple screens visible at the same time that could be part of the problem. Have a look at this article from Life Hacker to see if mono-tasking can add some wellbeing to your digital life.
  • Do you like ad Blockers? If so, you need to know that YouTube may block you if you try to block their incessant ads. If this comes to pass, the only alternative is to white list YouTube in your ad-blocker or pay for premium. [Ed – I pay for premium, but still have to skip through the in-video on-screen ads – but at least I can skip through them).

Finally, unless you have been using a Mac for decades, you might not be aware of some of the time-saving innovations that make the Mac better than a PC. Have a look at this video below – how many did you know?

Mac Pro arrives!

Apple have completed their transition to their own Apple Silicon processors with the unveiling of the Mac Pro. This is another product that many thought was impossible for Apple to make. Impossible because many of those clamouring for the Mac Pro wanted a Mac version of the PC developer workstations that have high-powered Nvidia graphics. With the M2 Ultra chip that is in the Mac Pro, this dream remains a just a dream. The reason, is that that Apple Silicon uses shared memory, with the processor and graphics integrated together on one chip. Apple could not find a practical way to add an additional graphics card to this mix.

Instead, Apple has looked at some popular professional workflows and designed the Mac Pro to master them. In photo editing, companies like Adobe have accelerated their software using the Neural engine, making photo editing faster on the Mac than most PCs. In video editing, Apple built hardware accelerated media engines into the M2 chips, making video editing much faster. Where Apple is weaker, is 3D design where they need to catch up to Nvidia in the same way they have caught up to Intel. Perhaps that’s just a matter of time or it needs more required software optimisations for Apple Silicon.

The Mac Pro retains the same design, which means it includes the same (but upgraded) slots as before. If the slots aren’t going to work with graphics cards, what are they for? Apple is catering for niches that require large fast storage, super fast networking, and massive data transfers. You will know, if you need a Mac Pro.

Call me by your name…

In iOS17, also unveiled at WWDC, one big change is to Siri. Rather than saying Hey Siri, you can just call it Siri. “Siri turn on the light, for example”. Siri doesn’t get much smarter aside from being able to make a sequence of requests at once, “Siri turn on the light and the fan”. We know that smarter AI chatbots can have a darker edge if unrestrained, but there is one change to ensure autocorrect learns your preferences, that is perhaps overdue.

Another change is the ability to set an image as your contact when you’re calling them. Have a look through the other new features below with Linus:

Big Air

Apparently it was harder than it looks, but Apple has zoomed in and made a 15-inch version of the MacBook Air. This may instantly become the best selling Mac, the power and silence of the M2 on a bigger screen that most will appreciate. Have a look at this unboxing below:

Offers for members

Find below the special offers available to our paying members. Access these great discounts from the discounts page in the member’s section of the LMUG website. 

  • Rolling Square Hardware: 20% Discount
  • AgileBits 1Password 7: 25% Discount
  • Eve Products: 25% 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
  • TechTool Pro: 50% Discount
  • TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals: Get a free month of tips and articles!