Soundbyte 351 – May 2024

ChristopherNews, SoundByte

Welcome to Soundbyte

In this issue:

May Meeting

Join us at 7pm, GMT+1, Monday, May, 13 for our next meet-up. We will be discussing the announcements from Apple’s May event. Per the colourful invite, we are expecting new iPads and maybe a Pencil to resolve the Pencilmania. We will start the evening with Newsbyte as usual.

Due to illness, we have postponed the AGM to July (after WWDC).

Check the email this newsletter came in for the Zoom link to the meeting. We will also post the link in our Slack General Channel. 

Follow the London Mac User Group on…Mastodon🐘! If you are not familiar with Mastodon, have a look at TidBit’s explainer here.

Repair or replace

The eco mantra of the 21st century so far is Reduce, Re-use and Recycle. Reduce means reducing the amount of new stuff we buy. For most of the past decade this has meant maybe keeping your iPhone for 2 or 3 years rather than replacing every year. Powerful Apple Silicon chips in iPads and Macs can extend this beyond 5 years. But with mobile devices there is an achilles heel that can force a trip to the Re-use station during mid-life of the device: battery health.

Poor battery health afflicted my 2018 iPad Pro recently. I noticed two problems in my 5.5-year old iPad. The charging port (USB-C) was occasionally unreliable and the battery would drop to 20% by noon. I followed some internet advice on how to check my iPad’s battery health and I calculated that it could hold only 75% of its original capacity. Apparently, the minimum capacity for replacing the battery is 80%. I had no complaints about the performance of this iPad, so I decided to spend the money on getting the battery replaced. On iPad, this isn’t simple, requiring a fair amount of complicated disassembly. Apple offers an in-store service, and the price estimate was reasonable (multiple times cheaper than buying a new iPad).

What happened next was fairly confusing until I spoke with our Technical Editor. I booked in at the Apple Store, and they said, it was common for the USB-C port to wear out over time, and they then ran some custom diagnostics. The diagnostics said the battery health was 81% and they couldn’t take on the job until the health was 80%. Maybe I could wait till then or was I interested in a trade-in for a new iPad?

Well, no, because there was nothing wrong with the performance of my iPad. Why spend hundreds of pounds to replace it? And I didn’t want to wait as the charging/old battery issue was starting to worry me (fire safety-wise). So I decided to look for a third-party Apple shop. I searched for Apple Repair and found a local shop that was an ‘Apple certified’, Apple Mac Repair Centre. On front of the shop it said ‘Apple Certified Technician’ and underneath were icons of a MacBook, iPad and iPhone. Was this legit? It appeared so and few days later I had a refreshed iPad (new battery) with a new USB-C port. But it turns out this is a bit of a minefield.

Chatting with our Technical Editor, he said, “What you find with Apple certified stores … is that the engineer has taken the Apple certification (which needs to be [re]taken each year) and has ordered the parts from Apple.” So at least ‘certified’ should indicate that genuine parts are being installed. However, he also said, “Each certificate is very specific” (e.g. to a version of Mac OS) and it costs £1,000 each time. The shop is also required to work only on Apple computers and to not resemble an Apple Store. To be fair, my local shop did match this description. But given the certificate requirements (which you can’t check are up-to-date or cover your device), you are reliant on the shop’s reputation, that they can expertly fix your specific device. For example my shop had 5-stars on Google Reviews.

Is there anything firmer to rely on? Well, there is another level called Apple Authorised Service Provider. Putting this into Google Maps produced confusing results. It still showed my local shop, but only 2 stores on my screen had ‘service provider’ in their description (not my local one). Our Technical Editor points out that Apple Provides a verification service to confirm if your local store has access to genuine parts and repair resources. In the top results only 1 appeared on the verification service. My shop didn’t, but does that actually mean I did not get genuine parts? I doubt it, I have not received any warning on the device about unrecognised parts; but I don’t know. I put the same search into Apple Maps and only 5 out of 7 on the first page of results matched in Apple’s verification service.

The lesson appears to be, if the Apple Store can’t help, start with Apple Maps to find an Apple Authorised Service Provider. Then run the name of the provider through Apple’s verification service to find one recognised by Apple. If that doesn’t work for you, your third option is to look for an Apple Certified Technician with a good reputation and cross your fingers. Hopefully Apple continues to increase access to genuine parts and resources to extend the life of our devices, enabling further re-use before recycling. If they don’t, it is likely they may be required by regulation, to do so anyway.

Half B-AI-ked

What a disappointment. After the buzz and excitement, it appears that neither of the heralded AI devices released recently live up to the hype. The Humane AI Pin has been panned:

And the Rabbit R1 isn’t much better:

The problem is that both devices appear have shipped long before they were ready. Significant and promised features are missing on each of them, and there are significant limitations. First is that the AI suffers from something called hallucination. This is where the AI is wrong but it is confident that it is right. The second is that these devices that don’t have access to everything you have on your phone, so they can’t provide something like hyper personalised assistance. Third, they are a separate device to carry that is far less powerful than your iPhone. Everyone expects Apple and Google to steal the show with similar functions on future iOS and Android updates. If you are interested in how AI works, have a look at this presentation below from Apple’s former Vice President of Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet:

But will they steal the show, or do the problems with these devices indicate a difficulty finding a compelling every day use for AI that people don’t already have (e.g spell check, image editing, music curation, translation)? What’s the new unimagined killer app? Adobe perhaps has professional one in their new Firefly AI here:

We won’t have long to wait to see Apple’s answer.

Fading Visions

Demand has fallen for the Vision Pro and the buzz seems to have died down. In the meantime Meta is busy adding Vision Pro features into its much cheaper Metaquest headset. Perhaps the required killer apps are being worked on right now, as developers figure out how Vision Pro works? But for many the Vision Pro is on the shelf, pending a compelling use-case. Sara Dietschy reviews the issues in the first part of her video below:

Future shock Part 5: real artists shipping soon

Following on from part 4, where Qualcomm unveiled Apple Silicon challenging chips from ex-Apple engineers, the first products for ARM powered PCs are due to be announced this month. Competition is good. More important (I think) is the low power (lower electricity bills and carbon) computing future this Snapdragon X Elite chip could help create. Have a look at the speculation from Max Tech below about the chip’s performance.

2024 won’t be like 1984, will it?

A world of disinformation and propaganda, with fake or manipulated news from distant wars, with people being silenced for having the wrong thoughts. No that’s not us at all! On a lighter note, read on the Guardian how to decode our corporate newspeak here. More seriously, have a look at how to navigate fake news through Orwells book here.

Looking back at Apple’s first camera

Did you know that Apple made one of the first Digital Cameras? Perhaps not as it wasn’t very popular. But have a look below why.

If that’s old, you might be surprised to learn that a major city is still relying on old style floppy disks!

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