On the iPad Pro’s A12Z being a rename of the A12X with an enabled GPU core

Start off with this 9to5Mac post from Chance Miller, “Report claims new iPad Pro’s A12Z Bionic chip is just a ‘renamed A12X with an enabled GPU core’”:

In its press release for the new iPad Pro, Apple said that one of the changes with the A12Z Bionic processor was the addition of an eighth GPU core. Notebook Check, however, claims that it has confirmed the A12X Bionic processor from 2018 actually features 8 GPU cores, but that one is disabled. This would imply that Apple has simply enabled that eighth GPU core and changed the marketing name of the processor.

While this may be true, it’s worth reading this thread from Quinn Nelson:

https://twitter.com/SnazzyQ/status/1243356754554961920

In a nutshell, Quinn explains that this practice is longstanding and widespread in the industry and, likely, nothing new for Apple. And, more importantly, nothing sinister.

Another take on the so-called practice of “chip binning”:

Chip binning is a common practice in the silicon industry, and the theory goes like this: For repeatable structures like a GPU core, each added core adds to a potential defect rate. By disabling one core by design, you can ship more viable dies at a given target performance.

Apple says MacBook Air with retina display can exhibit anti-reflective coating issues, unclear if eligible for free repairs

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Apple this week acknowledged that MacBook Air models with Retina displays can exhibit anti-reflective coating issues, as indicated in a memo shared with Apple Authorized Service Providers and obtained by MacRumors.

“Retina displays on some MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro computers can exhibit anti-reflective (AR) coating issues,” the memo states.

And:

Apple has a free repair program for the anti-reflective coating issue in place internally, but it has yet to add any MacBook Air models to its list of eligible models, despite mentioning it elsewhere in the documentation. However, with Apple at least acknowledging that the MacBook Air can exhibit the issue, customers may have a valid argument for at least a free in-warranty repair.

Follow the headline link for a picture that tells the story, shows what this “staining” looks like.

Also, this from John Gruber:

I have it on good authority that the MacBook Air, retina display or otherwise, is not covered by the repair program. Unclear to me is how widespread the problem is with Airs.

Also, also, this MacBook Air “Staingate” rollup page from Michael Tsai is worth a visit.

50 meter optical Thunderbolt 3 cables

Few people will need this, but cool to know that optical is becoming an option for Thunderbolt 3. If you need the extra cable length, optical is the path.

Ever since I was a kid, I found fiber optic cable’s ability to transmit signals over vast distances with zero degradation to be fascinating. If this interests you at all, check out this physics demo where water acts as a fiber optic “cable”.

iFixit: There’s something new in the (MacBook) Air

This is one of the most enjoyable-to-read teardowns I’ve made my way through in a long time. But that aside, Apple has clearly made some headway in Mac repairability.

One nugget in particular leapt out at me:

That new trackpad cable configuration pays dividends! Where last year the trackpad cables were trapped under the logic board, they are now free to be disconnected anytime—meaning trackpad removal can happen as soon as the back cover comes off. And since the battery rests under these same cables, this new configuration also greatly speeds up battery removal by leaving the logic board in place.

This alone makes the MacBook Air a big leap forward for me. Glad to see it.

Dell now lets you control iPhones from its PCs

Jon Porter, The Verge:

If you’re an iPhone user with a modern Dell computer, you can now mirror your phone’s screen to your PC and control it using Dell’s Mobile Connect app. Version 3 of the iOS app lets you control your phone using your PC’s keyboard and mouse, and you can also drag and drop photo and video files to transfer them between the two devices. You can also now send SMS messages without needing to keep the iPhone app open in the foreground.

No easy thing, breaching those ecosystem walls!

Slack CEO shares riveting account of Slack demand growth amid coronavirus surge

As our economies grind to a crawl, some companies experience an overwhelming surge in demand. Health care and Amazon leap to mind. But as more and more of us are forced to work from home, add apps like Skype, Zoom, and Slack to that list.

Follow the headline link to read Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield’s diary of demand buildup as coronavirus became more and more real.

Polygon: “Mythic Quest is sitcom comfort-viewing, and Charlotte Nicdao is its breakout star”

Matt Patches, writing for Polygon, opens with this sentence:

Last February, one of the most enjoyable sitcoms of the last few years slipped onto Apple TV Plus.

Couldn’t agree more. And clearly one of the biggest reasons for Mythic Quest’s success is Charlotte Nicdao. To me, she is the beating heart of a top-notch ensemble cast.

If you are a fan of the show, follow the link and read on. And if you’ve not yet watched, now would be an excellent opportunity to dig in.

A pair of Apple sneakers has sold online for more than AU$16,000

Brad Nash, GQ:

First built as prototypes for Apple employees in the early ’90s, they obviously drew on the most prolific training shoe styles of the time, and have such become a cult relic from the sneaker scene of that time.

Follow the link, check out the pic. These kicks scream ’90s, early Apple. Paging Matthew Panzarino.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the auction itself. Looks like the sale was in AUD, not USD. Headline updated. [H/T AppleInsider’s Mike Wuerthele]

100,000 miles and one week with an iPad Pro

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch Editor-in-Chief, took his iPad Pro on a one-week trip to Brazil:

The trip changed my mind completely about whether I could run TechCrunch wholly from a tablet. It turns out that it was lighter, smoother and more willing than my MacBook at nearly every turn. I never went back.

Balance that comment with:

The new iPad Pro offers an attractive refresh for new buyers, but not current ones.

That last is not a complaint, as much as a note that the new A12Z Bionic processor appears to be in-line, power wise with the A12X in the previous iPad Pro, the so-called third generation, introduced in October 2018.

Obviously, there’s much more to this fourth gen iPad Pro, including the celebrated LiDAR Scanner (early days for AR, but a machine ready for those apps as they come), eight-core CPU and GPU, doubling of base storage to 128 GB and, of course, the soon-to-arrive Magic Keyboard.

Great, real world review. If you’re considering the new iPad Pro, this is worth reading.

Magic Keyboard scissor-switch suppliers ramping up production, see no cutbacks in orders

DigiTimes:

Suppliers engaged in the supply chain for Apple’s new products featuring its redesigned scissor-switch Magic Keyboard are ramping up production and have seen no cutbacks in the orders despite concerns over the coronavirus, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

And:

So far, Apple has not cut any of its orders with the upstream supply chain for 2020, but related upstream suppliers are still closely monitoring the coronavirus development.

Note that the same Magic Keyboard scissor mechanism is used in the external Magic Keyboard, shipping in May, as well as internally in the new MacBook Air and the 16″ MacBook Pro.

Bloomberg: Apple may start reopening stores in first half of April

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. told staff that some of its retail stores may reopen in April on a staggered basis and has extended remote work abilities for many employees through at least April 5.

And:

“For all of our retail stores outside of Greater China, we will reopen our stores on a staggered basis. At this time, we anticipate some stores may be able to open in the first half of April depending on the conditions in their community,” O’Brien wrote. “We will provide updates for each store as soon as specific dates are established.”

Take with a grain of salt, for many reasons, not the least of them being the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus spread.

That said, I’ll take it. A bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

Apple’s official take on disinfecting your screens and keyboard

I had a question: What’s the right way to disinfect my screens and keyboards without damaging them?

I did a lot of reading, found a lot of conflicting advice. Fortunately, I came across this Apple Support page, which offered this highlighted addition:

Is it OK to use a disinfectant on my Apple product?

Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don’t submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents. Don’t use on fabric or leather surfaces.

Good to know.

Apple Music adds AI-generated “Get Up!” playlist

Launch your Music app, tap the For You tab, scroll that top row to the side, and you should see a “Get Up! Mix” slide into view. For me, it was the second item, right next to my Favorites Mix.

If you don’t see it, you can also ask Siri to:

Play Get Up Mix

Both worked for me, even on my HomePod.

As to the mix itself, I absolutely love it. Great selection of songs, all of them in line with music I love. Not a dud in the bunch. Definitely worth checking out.

Apple’s push towards “universal purchase”

Apple, on their developer site:

The macOS version of your app can now be included in a universal purchase, allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS by purchasing only once.

John Voorhees, MacStories:

Prior to universal purchase, Mac apps were treated as separate products by Apple’s stores, which meant developers had to either charge separately for apps and, in some cases, jump through complex receipt-checking hoops to bundle their apps. This change should make the process of charging a single price or signing up for one subscription for apps across the Mac, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS much simpler and will enable cross-platform In-App purchases too.

Universal purchase will certainly make life simpler, both for developers and for users.

Foxconn’s recovery

Nikkei Asian Review:

Foxconn, the top assembler of Apple’s iPhones, said it has secured enough workers to meet “seasonal demand” at all major Chinese plants, stressing a steady recovery from the labor shortage caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic on the mainland.

And:

The company is expected to hit a peak production period after July to manufacture iPhones for release in the fall.

This is certainly good news for Apple and for the economy. But it only addresses the supply side of the equation. It remains to be seen when demand for electronics will recover, given the massive impact the coronavirus crisis has had on the stock market, jobs, and buyers’ budgets.

Jeff Bezos coronavirus memo to all employees

Over the weekend, Jeff Bezos sent out a memo to all employees. Follow the headline link to read the whole thing, but here are a few excerpts: Across the world, people are feeling the economic effects of this crisis, and … Continued

The secret call to Andy Grove that may have helped Apple buy NeXT

Stumbled on this Cake post over the weekend, wherein Cake co-founder Chris MacAskill talks about setting up a call with Intel CEO Andy Grove behind Steve Jobs’ back.

A tiny taste:

I got Andy’s assistant on the phone. His assistants were executives-in-training who spent 2 years mentoring under Andy. I explained that if Steve heard about this call I would be fired. I justified the call by saying sometimes history has shown you have to do the right thing and keep it secret from Steve until later, as the Mac team famously did when they hid a Sony engineer in the Apple building so Steve wouldn’t find out.

I said I had no idea what Steve’s relationship with Andy was. For all I knew, Steve thought Intel chips were shit (the word Steve would have used). But I knew Steve liked people at the top of their fields who admired and mentored him. Could I meet with Andy and explain our situation so Andy could call Steve?

Great read. If you’ve got some time on your hands.

You can now ask Siri if you have coronavirus

In a nutshell, fire up Siri and ask:

Do I have coronavirus?

Siri will respond by running you through the current CDC protocol, asking about fever, dry cough, and exposure to other COVID-19 cases.

Works on HomePod Siri as well.

Interestingly, if you ask Siri if you have the Chinese virus, Siri will correct you, lead you down the path to learning about coronavirus.

Apple lifts purchase limits on iPhones, new iPad Pro, and new MacBook Air outside of China

Frank McShan, MacRumors:

Apple this past week had set purchase limits across several of its products. For example, the new ‌MacBook Air‌ and Mac mini were limited to five orders per customer, the new ‌iPad Pro‌ was limited to two 11-inch models per customer and two 12.9-inch models per customer, and iPhones were limited to two of each model per customer.

Why the limits? Could be a campaign to combat gray-market in response to supply chain shortages.

Why lift the limit? What changed? Not clear.

Amazon Prime delivery delays are now as long as a month

Jason Del Rey, Recode:

Amazon announced earlier this week that it would start prioritizing the most in-demand essential items in its warehouses, as the e-commerce giant struggles to keep up with customer demand during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Now the other shoe has dropped.

To be clear, there are definitely long shipping delays on certain items, but most Prime items I checked (as of this writing) still deliver in a few days. This is about demand and Amazon’s attempts to keep essential goods flowing.

One thing to keep in mind: Some delays don’t show up until checkout. On the product page, it might say 2 day shipping, but verify the arrival date on the checkout page before you complete your purchase.

Apple Books offers ‘stay at home’ collection of free read-alongs for kids, cozy mysteries, and audiobooks

Bradley Chambers, 9to5Mac:

Earlier today, the Apple Books app sent out a push notification offering a free Apple Book to users. The notification mentioned read-alongs for kids, cozy mysteries, and audiobooks for the whole family.

Welcome timing and worth checking out.

To get a sense of what’s free (limited time or not):

  • Fire up the Books app on your iOS device
  • Tap the Book Store tab
  • Side scroll that first section to find “Free books for everyone, from kid…” (that’s what it says on my iPhone)
  • Tap the image to take you to the Free Books collection
  • Scroll down for other free content

Bill Gates AMA on coronavirus

Fascinating read. Be sure to click the “View Entire Discussion” button, then focus on Bill’s responses, labeled with the user name thisisbillgates.

Gruber: How to correctly use a computer

John Gruber, referring to this new ad Apple released with their new iPad Pro:

It’s impossible to miss that MacBooks are just as much the butt of the jokes as any PC. “Do not touch the screen.” “Your computer comes with a standard arrow cursor.” “You must stay within reach of a Wi-Fi signal.” “It does not have a camera; to connect one, refer to your instruction manual.”

And:

I get it, all of these are things that make iPads fun and useful. The Mac can take it — it’s the mature workhorse platform. But it’s a little incongruous coming on the same day Apple launched its best-ever MacBook Air.

Fair point. Until Apple releases their version of the the Microsoft Surface that replaces both the Mac and iPad (a mighty big if), they could have kept some distance between the MacBook Air and iPad Pro releases. Odd choice to have that ad drop on the same day as the new MacBook Air.

Apple finally admits Microsoft was right about tablets

Well, no, Apple never said any such thing.

The Verge article paints the path that Microsoft took to bring the touch screen Surface to market, while Apple maintained the chasm between the Mac and iPad.

That chasm has been bridged, first by enabling a mouse on the iPad via Accessibility settings, and now by the trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4.

But, to me, rather than being an admission that Microsoft was right all along, the 13.4 addition of trackpad support is more like the emergence of Apple Watch (and a very different approach than the glued on feel of mouse support via Accessibility). As they do, Apple took their time bringing Apple Watch to market, creating something different than the rest of the electronic watches in the market. And, as history has proven, Apple got it right.

Microsoft Surface is, in effect, a touch-screen laptop, with little UI difference between mouse on the tablet and the mouse on a laptop or desktop. To me, the finger is a second class citizen on the Surface and in Windows 10. Apple took a different path here.

With your finger, the elements on your screen are passive. Until you tap on an element, the screen waits for input, with no sense of where your finger is, or is going, until it makes contact with the screen.

With a trackpad, there is context. As you slide the trackpad cursor, and it approaches an element, the cursor animates to give you a sense of context, and the object being approached by the cursor might animate as well. This is a hybrid approach. While it might not be ready for prime-time (time will tell), this shows how carefully Apple is considering this problem, how much they care about creating something that works well, without losing responsiveness.

Looking forward to watching this new hybrid model evolve. Also wondering if the new hybrid model will cross the chasm as iPad apps make their way to macOS via Catalyst.

Is this a cat?

A fun little machine learning exercise. Upload an image, the site will tell you if it’s a cat (a la the hot dog identifying app from a few years ago on HBO’s Silicon Valley).

The story of Steve Jobs Xerox PARC demo that changed everything

[VIDEO] Click over to the main Loop post, jump to about 30:32 in, and listen to Larry Tesler tell the story of taking Steve on the tour that led to Macintosh, and the deal that gave Apple access to some pretty important Crown Jewels.

And if you have the time, the whole video is worth watching.