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Backblaze updates Cloud Backup 7.0 with macOS Catalina support

 

Backblaze has updated its Cloud Backup software to version 7.0, enabling the online backup service to work with macOS 10.15 Catalina, as well as adding often-requested features including an extended version history and making uploads of large files more efficient.

Introduced on Tuesday, Backblaze’s Cloud Backup 7.0 now supports macOS 10.15 Catalina, which Apple released to the public on Monday. As part of the support to the newer operating system, Backblaze advises macOS Catalina requires apps to ask for permissions more frequently, and due to the service’s function, “you may notice more system messages when installing Backblaze on the new OS.”

A key change of the new software is the service’s option to extend the version history, the Time Machine-like function where multiple iterations of older files are retained for instances where files are mistakenly deleted or altered in the past. All accounts have a 30-day Version History by default, but now there are two other paid options that users can opt for.

Extending Version History to one year will cost $2 per month per device on top of an existing subscription, pro-rated depending on how a user is charged. A Forever Version History option that never removes files from a backup, even if they were fully deleted, is also offered at the same $2 prorated monthly cost, but with an addition charge of $0.005 per gigabyte per month for versions modified on a user’s computer more than one year ago.

The service’s backing up of large files involves breaking them apart into smaller chunks for upload, and this too has been changed, from 30 megabyte pieces to 100 megabytes. The update enables the app to transmit more efficiently by “better leveraging threading,” which improves upload performance and reduces sensitivity to latency.

The apps and installers have also been updated to look better on higher-resolution displays. Lastly, support for Microsoft Office 365 in Backblaze Groups as well as Single Sign On updates to the Inherit Backup State feature to support SSO-enabled accounts now means users can sign into Backblaze using their Office 365 credentials.

The new version will be auto-updating to all users in the coming weeks, with an update able to be triggered within the application if an earlier version is already installed, while the Backblaze website now offers downloads of version 7.0 by default.

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Apple’s Screen Time for macOS Catalina is a tool, not a nanny

Screen Time on the Mac will prevent you over-using social media and it will encourage you to step away from your Mac. Yet it’s still up to you whether or how much you let it help you.

We do have one elderly relative who hates Screen Time because, she thinks, it’s telling her to use her iPad more. For everyone else, though, it’s a genuinely useful reminder of just how long we’re spending on our iOS devices —and now also on the Mac. As of macOS Catalina, Screen Time has come to the Mac and it’s ready to help you get a better work/life balance.

That’s the stated benefit and it does come after years of Apple being blamed for everybody having their noses in an iPhone and losing the ability to speak. Only, you’re an adult and what’s more, your Mac may be how you earn your living. So if you are not a fan of Screen Time on iOS, you don’t have to pay it any attention on the Mac either.

The main Screen Time screen in System Preferences (in Dark Mode)

The main Screen Time screen in System Preferences (in Dark Mode)

However, there is more to it than just Apple waggling a finger at you for using the Mac for sixteen hours a day. Instead, it’s Apple telling you what you were doing for those sixteen hours — and that can be useful.

The time is right

Screen Time on macOS Catalina is a pane in System Preferences. Go to that whenever you like, or when prompted by weekly notifications, and you will see an overall total of the time you spent on your Mac.

Optionally, it can show you the amount of time you spent on all your Apple devices. However, that has to be switched on at each device. On iPhone and iPad, go to System Preferences, tap on Screen Time, scroll to the bottom of the list and make sure Share Across Devices is turned on.

Back on the Mac, the Screen Time preference pane shows you how that total time was divided across categories of work.

The categories are Productivity, Social Networking, and Entertainment.

They’re rather enormously broad categories, but they do cover everything you could be doing on your Mac.

They’re also not the final say on whether you’ve been naughty spending all your time on entertainment or nice spending all your time in productivity. Beneath the total time and the category division, Screen Time on the Mac shows you which apps you’ve been using and for how long.

That’s where this gets useful. And this is where you get more informed details about how you spend your time. If your Mac says you’ve been using Xcode for 60 hours this week, you know that this is all productivity because that app is solely for developing software. If you spent those 60 hours in a Sudoku app, you only have yourself to blame.

The time is not right

You can also argue, for instance, that if all your time was spent in Microsoft Word then you can’t be so certain which category that was in. You can reasonably assume that you need an aspirin, but there is no way to say you spent one hour on your marketing report for work and thirty on your novel.

Choose how much time you allow yourself in certain categories of apps. Or click through to nominate specific apps.

Choose how much time you allow yourself in certain categories of apps. Or click through to nominate specific apps.

It’s more than curiosity, too. If you’re billing a client for that marketing report, you need to know how much time you spent on it. And if you’re not, if you’re instead billing them for some overall job, your need to know how long you spent is even greater. The time you spent on it could make the difference between this job being economic for you or not.

The time you spent on it should make a difference to how long you tell future clients that similar jobs are going to take you.

If you need this information for work, you tend to need more than Apple offers with Screen Time. In which case you could look at Timing, an app for specifically built for tracking your time on the Mac in great detail.

Timing provides seriously useful detail, such as not just saying you spent half an hour every day in Mail, but which message threads you were following.

Or there’s Toggl, a service which records detail but also automatically do timesheets for you.

Systematic

Where Screen Time for the Mac wins, though, is in what you can do with the information you get —or rather, what it can get your Mac to do. Being Apple’s own solution, Screen Time is part of the macOS system, and it can use this deep-rooted access to your benefit.

So you can set limits on how long you use your Mac for certain things. You can limit your use of Twitter to five minutes per day, for instance.

Regardless of other settings, you can still have it so that the Mail must get through.

Regardless of other settings, you can still have it so that the Mail must get through.

You do that by going into App Limits and clicking the plus sign. You can then just tick the box next to Social Networking and limited your use of any app in that category, or you could click the disclosure triangle next to it and pick specific apps.

When you’ve done that, or you’re a parent and you’ve done it to your children’s MacBook Air, then that’s it. You get your five minutes in the Twitter app and not one minute more —except that you do get one minute more.

When you’re notified that the time is up, there is now an option to grant you another minute. That lets you save your work or log out, whatever last action you have to take today, and then that’s it until tomorrow.

Another sort of limit

There is only so much Apple can do, though, and only so much use that Screen Time can genuinely be in the fight against our worst habits.

For instance, you could dutifully tell Screen Time for Mac that you can only use the Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn apps for one minute per day —and then just go use each of those services in Safari instead.

Apple wants to help you walk away from your Mac —and the pressures we're all under to work 24 hours per day.

Apple wants to help you walk away from your Mac —and the pressures we’re all under to work 24 hours per day.

Still, there is also Downtime. This lets you say that you are not going to use anything at all on your Mac between, for example, 5pm today and 9am tomorrow.

Again, you can punch a hole through this Downtime wall and tell it that, yes, you want everything to be made unavailable, except Mail and Safari and Facebook and Twitter and Slack.

It’s not Apple’s job to teach us how to use our time, but Apple is giving us more and better tools to help us make these decisions.

Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.

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Project Catalyst aims to bring apps to the Mac, enhance titles for iPad

Project Catalyst is designed to enable many of the existing one million iPad apps to also work natively on the Mac in a way that’s effectively indistinguishable from existing Mac software and transparent to users. At the same time, it’s also expected to help fuel the supply of iPad optimized apps. Here’s how.

At its Worldwide Developer Conference this week, Apple showed the results of its last year of work to bring UIKit iOS apps to the Mac via Project Catalyst

The Catalytic Converter

As the name suggests, Catalyst is a way to make something new happen with less effort or cost. Coincidentally or not, the name also plays against macOS Catalina, which will be required to use new Mac titles created using it.

Last summer, Apple initially introduced the concept of Catalyst—without any formal name—as an internal experiment to bring four titles created for iOS to macOS Mojave: News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos.

At the time, we described the new apps in the Public Beta release as “definitely still a work in progress,” but also clearly showing “the potential for iOS-only apps to transition to the Mac with less work for developers while offering a far better experience for users than simply being offered a web app interface.”

Mojave’s Home app was initially stuck firmly in iOS land, but it showed off the potential for UIKit apps on Macs

Others were far more critical, focusing on specific rough edges in the ported apps rather than seeing any potential for where the puck might go. Some concluded that it would be impossible for iPad apps to ever feel at home on the Mac. Excessive cynicism was also a common mistake 20 years ago when Apple first began showing off the original Mac OS X, which initially felt far less optimized and “snappy” compared to Mac OS Classic. It took time to reveal that Apple’s new software would eventually deliver a vastly better experience.

We’re already seeing vast progress in Catalyst. Apple has now taken everything it’s learned over the last year to take its formerly internal tools and open them up to third-party developers, so they can convert their own apps built for iOS into native UIKit apps capable of running on macOS Catalina.

Apple’s chief software architect Craig Federighi described the strategy as a “no brainer.” And Apple is confident enough in Catalyst to be using it to power key apps in Catalina, including the new Find My and Podcasts apps.

Step one: make a great iPad app

Catalyst isn’t intended to run iPhone-sized apps as floating desk accessories on the Mac desktop. Rather, it’s designed to build full-blown Mac titles that can take advantage of virtually all of the features of Apple’s desktop platform. For that reason, Apple refers to Catalyst as porting iPad apps to the Mac, specifically noting that the first step in the conversion is to “build a great iPad app.”

Ever since the iPad was first unveiled by Steve Jobs back in 2010, Apple has stridently maintained that the iPad was intended to be a distinct, new experience rather than just a “big iPod touch.” It’s consistently pointed to the large library of apps specifically optimized for iPad as a major differentiator from other tablets serving as stretched out phone apps, or PC “hybrids” that aimed at layering touch or tablet concepts on top of a conventional Windows PC desktop.

After a decade of iterations on their different approaches, it’s impossible to argue that Apple was wrong. Google’s many years of efforts to make it easy to run scalable Android phone apps across an infinite spectrum of various sizes of Android devices has resulted in a tablet experience so terrible for users that even the Verge admits there’s a problem.

And while there are fervent proponents of PC laptops with touch screens, or detachable hybrid PC-tablets that support conventional windowing and a mouse-style pointer, none of those products are actually selling in meaningful numbers, nor are they inducing any exceptional library of optimized software that makes very effective use of touch or a slate form factor.

Apple’s intentionally separate silos of iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps have not only resulted in an unparalleled, vast library of tablet-optimized apps but has also resulted in Apple selling by far the most tablets, without crushing its sales of conventional Macs. In fact, Apple continues to maintain a growing installed base of Mac users even as it has created an even larger base of iPad users. Rather than being a temporary fad like netbooks, Apple’s iPad has established a sustainable platform of users with specific needs served by a streamlined tablet experience. And for many, iPad is complementary to using a Mac while being a distinct experience.

Last year, Apple’s chief of software Craig Federighi made it clear that “NO,” Apple wasn’t seeking to undo this or “converge” its iOS and Mac platforms. Instead, the Catalyst experiment aimed to leverage the fact that there were many iOS apps that would be great to have on the Mac, if only there were a way to port them over and convert them into distinctly different, desktop-optimized experience that would feel familiar to Mac users and not like a hosted, awkwardly foreign compatibility shim.

Why a Catalyst was needed

While iOS and macOS have always shared much of their core OS software and offer very similar approaches in how their apps are built, there are significant differences in the details of the API frameworks that developers use to write AppKit apps for Mac or UIKit apps for iPhone and iPad. In some cases, that’s due to hardware differences or related to the very distinct nature of the Mac’s pixel-precise mouse pointer compared to the much larger touch shadow of an iOS finger gesture. In other areas, Apple simply wrote elements of iOS APIs differently because it had the opportunity to start fresh and break from legacy compatibility constraints.

As a result, to be proficient in both Mac and iOS coding, a developer would have to understand all of these different implementations and approaches. Beyond that, the code written for each would need to be maintained separately, so every change, feature addition, and bug fix would not only need to be made twice, but also in slightly different ways. There are obviously companies that do maintain both Mac and iOS versions of their software, but in many cases, these are handled by entirely different groups.

By doing a tremendous amount of work to handle many of these differences itself with Catalyst, Apple is now enabling iOS developers to only make a limited set of implementation-specific changes to deliver their existing UIKit code to run on macOS Catalina. The source code for both can now be maintained in the same Xcode project, enabling most changes to only be made once, dramatically simplifying the work required to maintain and optimize evolving code.

Building a better mouse trope

Moving an iPad app to the Mac using Catalyst involves checking a platform target box in Xcode that compiles the code for the Mac. The work behind the scenes is largely handled by Apple, both leveraging its compiler work to generate code portable across its hardware architectures, and the new frameworks in macOS Catalina written to support UIKit as a native Mac framework.

Apple states that when developers add “Mac” as a target in their iPad Xcode projects, “fundamental Mac desktop and windowing features are added, and touch controls are adapted to the keyboard and mouse. Custom UI elements that you created with your code come across as-is. You can then continue to implement features in Xcode with UIKit APIs to make sure your app looks great and works seamlessly.”

The company has also detailed that Catalyst automatically adds Mac support for System Preferences, Touch Bar input, contextual menus for editing text, and file management. And OS-specific changes are also made for features such as Activity view, Split View, File browser, and Form sheet. Developers do have to understand how to lay out interfaces that make sense on the Mac. Apple notes that “iOS conventions such as swipe to delete, action sheet commands, and controls at the bottom of the screen are optimized for touch interactions on a handheld device,” in contrast to “macOS conventions such as dedicated keys and keyboard shortcuts, menu commands, and controls at the top of the window are optimized for keyboard, mouse, and trackpad interactions and a separate display.”

Catalyst is designed to deliver apps with platform-specific features

Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines detail a variety of ways where Mac conventions are fundamentally different from iOS, including the app layout and navigation conventions, which can be specific to the type and purpose of the app being delivered. So there is more work involved for developers than just clicking a button, but it’s far less than starting from scratch on the Mac, or working to transfer a mobile app into a generic web service accessed through a browser.

Some of the work that developers will do to tailor their iPad apps for the Mac will also help them to deliver better iPad apps that take full advantage of the more sophisticated environment offered by iPadOS. That includes support for a larger working area enabling multiple concurrent apps using Split View, Slide Over, and Picture in Picture, with drag-and-drop interactions between them. Apple also recommends that developers add support for keyboard shortcuts, which are expected by Mac users and also an enhancement for any iPad users who opt to use a keyboard.

ARM and a lag?

Catalyst isn’t positioned as the singular future of building all Mac apps, however. Today’s AppKit developers don’t have to worry about being obsolesced anytime soon. In fact, Apple is continuing to enhance AppKit with various features, including the new SwiftUI. Instead, Catalyst simply aims to enable the broader world of iOS UIKit developers to bring their work to the Mac without learning much of the unique APIs that have historically been used to build Mac software.

That’s critical for small teams working on an iOS project that can’t quite justify writing a Mac version of their app from scratch. It’s also important for internal corporate developers who build a series of custom apps for iPads, and would like an efficient way to make those products available to Mac users as well. In general, Apple’s Catalyst strategy promises to make developers more productive in a way that will result in a larger spectrum of more consistent software titles across Apple’s platforms.

Catalyst isn’t “emulation,” which would involve running ARM code on a Mac CPU pretending to be an iPad chip. It’s also not a required step for Apple to eventually deliver ARM-based Macs in the future. In fact, it’s sort of the opposite, as it enables UIKit code to be compiled to run natively on the Mac’s Intel processors.

It’s also not pursuing the universal “write once, run anywhere” concept of Java VMs or Android, which host translated bytecode on a Virtual Machine across different hardware. Catalyst Mac apps are native code; it’s simply developed with a different set of tools more familiar to coders experienced with working on iOS projects.

A fundamental misunderstanding

Writing for Digital Trends, Tyler Lacoma wrote “the goal of Catalyst is to make apps on both operating systems universal, which means that Mac apps will also be able to cross over to iOS.” He also suggested that it may be part of plans to “officially merge the iPadOS and MacOS at some point,” but neither of those ideas are accurate.

Owen Williams put together a far more bizarre take on Medium that imagined Catalyst was Apple’s effort to destroy Electron, a cross-platform tool for building web apps that try to look native on various platforms. He cynically described Apple’s Catalyst as a “hail Mary move designed to bring developers back to the company’s platform,” using paragraphs of dramatic language that desperately tried to portray the most successful tech company on the planet as a has-been dinosaur coughing up its last gasps at relevance while the really important players in the world, like Spotify and Slack, move to web apps.

He scoffed at the partners Apple demonstrated on stage at WWDC using Catalyst to deliver their iPad apps on the Mac as being “a racing game nobody’s heard of, and a handful of other forgettable products,” while wondering aloud why “big names like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video” were not there, without even mentioning Twitter.

Williams also cited what he called “a better example of this idea” in Google’s efforts to bring Android apps to Chromebooks. The entire article dripped with contempt and derision, but it failed to comprehend what the point of Catalyst even was.

Catalyst isn’t a ploy to get web services to build native Mac apps. It’s simply a way to leverage the fact that there are tons of native iPad apps, driven by the reality that there are around 400 million iPads in use. There are “only” 100 million Macs in the active installed base, and similarly proportional fewer developers who are fluent in building AppKit Mac software.

iPad development is bolstered by the fact that there are even vastly more iPhones in use. The potential for leveraging the existing base of developers with experience in UIKit coding to rapidly produce new Mac titles will be substantial. Last summer, Upwork cited UIKIt as one of the top twenty fastest growing skills among freelancers.

Catalyst will bring iPad games to the Mac with native Metal graphics

Games are one area in particular where existing iPad titles can be expected to make a splash on the Mac. Apple highlighted the work of Gameloft to bring its popular Asphalt 9 racing game to the Mac using Catalyst, stating that the team was able to make the initial transition in a day. Because modern iPad games make calls to Metal to draw their graphics, Catalyst can leverage Metal on the Mac to render scaled up graphics using their more powerful GPUs.

Williams scoffed at a game he wasn’t aware of, but gaming on iOS is huge because iOS itself is huge. Making it very easy to port the vast library of iPad games to the Mac will be blockbuster.

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No, Adobe did not cancel its popular $10 Creative Cloud Photography plan

 

A number of visitors to Adobe’s website recently noticed the popular $9.99 a month Creative Cloud Photography plan replaced by a $19.99 option, but the company says the change only impacts some customers and is not permanent. At least not yet.

Adobe

For some users, Adobe’s Photography webpage does not display a $9.99 plan option.

The removal of Adobe’s cheapest CC Photography plan, which includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom CC Classic, Photoshop CC and 20GB of cloud storage, was spotted by PetaPixel on Thursday.

Without an announcement from Adobe, it was speculated that the popular photography toolkit subscription option was no longer available for purchase, leaving customers with a $19.99 per month replacement that covers the same applications and 1TB of cloud storage. Some users are being presented with both the $19.99 a month Photography plan and a $9.99 per month Lightroom-only plan, the latter of which comes with the app, a dedicated website to display user work, social media tools and 1TB of storage.

Confusingly, the changes do not apply to all Adobe.com shoppers, as some are presented the new $19.99 Photography plan, while others still have access to the legacy $9.99 choice.

Clarifying the situation, Adobe in a statement to AppleInsider said it is evaluating a modification of product pricing.

“From time to time, we run tests on Adobe.com which cover a range of items, including plan options that may or may not be presented to all visitors to Adobe.com,” an Adobe spokesperson said. “We are currently running a number of tests on Adobe.com. The plan can be purchased at http://www.adobe.com/go/photo18sptst, via phone at 1-800-585-0774 or via major retailers.”

Adobe first launched the $9.99 a month Photography plan in 2013 as a limited time promotional deal, but has kept the tier active. Reflected pricing affords photographers access to the latest Lightroom and Photoshop technologies for approximately $120 a year, a substantial savings over Adobe’s $20.99 per month single-app rate.

Adobe did not specify when the current testing period s scheduled to expire, or whether the $9.99 plan will be reinstated at that time. Users concerned about a potential rate hike can guarantee cheaper pricing for at least another year by prepaying through Adobe’s special site. Alternatively, customers can lock in three years of access by purchasing multiple 12-month product keys from an authorized reseller like Adorama.

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Editorial: Will Apple’s 1990’s ‘Golden Age’ collapse repeat itself?

Once, long ago, Apple Computer, Inc. commissioned a new headquarters in Northern California just as it began losing its position as a leader in personal computing tech in the early ’90s. Could history repeat itself in our modern era?

1 Infinite Loop (top) was the first of Apple’s three largest California campuses

History repeats, always with a twist

As Apple more recently embarked upon its massive second modern expansion at Apple Park, pundits crafted a narrative claiming the company was fated to suffer from an ‘arrogant construction hubris’ and ultimately fail.

There’s certainly no sign of that supposed “Curse of the Edifice Complex” today, a few years later as Apple expands even further beyond Apple Park with surrounding buildings–including its monumentally lavish Visitors Center in Cupertino–and the nearby third facility known as Wolfe Campus.

The tech media’s future outlook for Apple appears to have always been pretty wrong. The same kind of handwringing that hung over Apple Park during its construction did not occur over thirty years ago when the company was completing its first major campus back in 1993, just prior to a period of actual uncertainty and upheaval that really did result in a dour Beleaguerment Era for the Mac maker.

To better understand some of the reasons why pundit advice and prognostication are so frequently misguided, take a look at the Old Apple during its first major campus project–in the context of what was happening at the company in contrast to what outsiders imagined was occurring based on a superficial understanding of the market–and consider what’s different this time around.

Apple’s 1990s “Golden Age” campus

Apple’s first major campus project in Northern California, known as 1 Infinite Loop, had just finishing completion in 1993 at the tail end of what at the time had been commonly called Apple’s Golden Age: the pinnacle of its then highly-regarded Macintosh business that was just approaching its ten year anniversary–not unlike today’s iPhone.

The Macintosh-centric Apple had pioneered the development of advanced concepts including QuickTime digital video editing, voice synthesis and recognition, ultra-fast desktop computer hardware, new hyperlinked worlds with explorable nodes of virtual reality, and the promise of a new generation of mobile Newton personal digital assistant tablets.

Across the ’80s, Apple had achieved a pattern of distantly outperforming the collective mainstream of commodity copycat cloners in the industry by seeking to achieve something much greater than just incremental hardware advancement. While almost entirely forgotten after its fall in the mid-’90s, Apple was commonly described at the time as having entered a Golden Age, a period of time where everything it delivered was impressive and exciting and desirable.

The new headquarters of 1 Infinite Loop reflected that Golden Age optimism while figuratively planting a nostalgic homage to representations of how it got there in its campus Sculpture Garden, a feature depicting cartoonish, low-resolution Mac icons sprouting from the lawn. The Apple of the early 90s could easily be mistaken for today’s Google.

Apple’s Golden Age meltdown

Anyone who lived through the 1990s, however, will no doubt recall a different descriptive phrase attached to the company. By the mid- to late-’90s it was virtually impossible to read anything about “Apple Computer, Inc.” without a specific introductory adjective that was, at the same time, wistful, disparaging, infantilizing and dismissive. The company was, and always was, referred to as the beleaguered Apple Computer.

Despite suffering the consequences of both internal issues of its own making and outside problems beyond its control, Apple wasn’t so much branded as being incompetent or victimized as it was just Beleaguered, as if it were inherently fated to always be chained to a hopeless dream and unachievable utopia that the company could envision and articulate but not instantiate in a viable, sustainable, commercially significant form.

But Apple’s problems weren’t really a romantic curse. There were solid, rational reasons why the company began drifting sideways, even if much of the media lacked any understanding of this–or even knew that things were headed in a bad direction at all.

Across the ’90s, Apple had defined airy visions of the future. Those included its Knowledge Navigator demonstration of a voice-based assistant concept and the nearly magical Newton Message Pad tablet, both championed by Apple’s late-80s CEO John Sculley.

The company actually defined the outer realms of possibility in computers by developing software powerful enough to anticipate the needs of non-technical artists with its intuitive Mac user interface. It then promised to allow them to author multimedia with QuickTime, the first non-linear digital video editing platform for personal computers. That futurist technology appeared for Macs at a time when commodity PCs were still struggling to play back simple audio.

QuickTime

Apple developed non-linear video editing for Macs before PCs could reliably play back audio

Apple promised to usher in the same kind of future-forward upgrades for advanced page layout and printing with QuickDraw GX; for 3D graphics with QuickDraw 3D; for sophisticated local document search with V-Twin; for advanced OS and User Interface development with Copland and Gershwin; for non-proprietary files with the document-based OpenDoc, and for tools to create and explore virtual reality worlds with QuickTime VR.

The company also delivered major hardware-based Mac upgrades enabling advanced AudioVisual capabilities using Digital Signal Processors from AT&T and later RISC-based PowerPC chips in its partnerships with IBM and Motorola. This allowed Apple’s computers to digitally ingest, edit and output video from a camcorder and to play or record CD quality audio right out of the box long before PCs could do either.

However, as the ’90s dragged on Apple’s consistent inability to actually deliver upon what it was promising at a price mainstream users would pay set it up for real-world failure. At the same time, the Mac maker began running into intense competition from generic DOS PCs.

Apple had been struggling with its own development plans for Copland, its modern new Mac operating system. It was still fighting to finish its Newton OS tablet software. And it had grown increasingly distracted with a series of other moonshots and side projects–including the Mac-based Pippin games console–that various teams of engineers were inventing within their personal fiefdoms inside Apple’s Advanced Technology Group and other think-tank silos funded by the revenues from the Mac’s Golden Age.

Newton and Pippin, harbingers of today’s side-project moonshots

Apple wasn’t just fudging things internally. It had also embarked upon three large-scale, ultimately ill-fated joint efforts with Motorola and IBM to design PowerPC chips, to develop a new next-generation cross-platform OS known as Taligent, and to build multimedia tools development tools at Kaleida Labs.

It had also launched a separate new mobile processor architecture for its Newton Message Pad, known as ARM, with partners Acorn and VLSI. There was a lot going on outside of Apple’s core Mac business, but none of it was making enough money to sustain itself.

Across the company’s first five years at 1 Infinite Loop, Apple appeared to be caught in the vortex of a swirling drain, losing its customers and market share to cheaper commodity PC makers while being forced to frantically delay and ultimately cancel failed initiatives such as QuickDraw GX and OpenDoc after they had wasted the time and resources of its third-party developers.

After a period of constant beleaguerment that seemed to last for a generation (but really only stretched from 1994 to 1998, shorter than either Microsoft’s Windows-Zune mobile meltdown a decade later, or Google’s increasingly bleak implosion of hardware attempts from Motorola to Nest to Nexus and Pixel today, two decades later), Apple began to emerge anew under the returned leadership of Steve Jobs, who slashed away failed experiments and underperforming business segments to focus on ones that customers would want and could afford and which could sustain Apple itself.

Could an Apple again fumble its Golden Age?

Today’s Apple under Tim Cook is wildly different from the Apple of the early ’90s. In part, that’s because much of the executive team —including Cook–experienced first hand the results of the lack of curation and focus that nearly doomed Apple in the mid-’90s as they began working to salvage the company under Jobs in the late ’90s. Jobs recruited Cook to Apple in 1998, at a time when many still dismissed the company as an unredeemable failure.

Other companies, including Microsoft, had only watched from afar as the Old Apple began rolling on its side. That allowed Microsoft’s executives to blissfully preside over a series of ill-considered and poorly planned and managed projects like the Zune music player, the KIN initiative aimed at building a new kind of phone from scratch targeting the youth demographic, and the ambitious but poorly conceived and implemented Surface RT project to make PCs lighter, thinner and more mobile using ARM chips that couldn’t run existing Windows software.

Microsoft’s Newton

Beyond those internal failings–which included Microsoft’s own Copland-like struggles with Vista, Windows 8, Windows Mobile and Windows 10–the company also engaged in dramatically bad partnerships and acquisitions. It spent $15 billion buying Nokia and aQuantive, with nothing remaining to show for either one apart from layoffs and losses.

Everyone one of those missteps was worse than Apple’s fall in the mid-’90s. Microsoft had enjoyed a much more resplendent Golden Age than the Old Apple had, but then lost its key market position and relevance as the world shifted to mobile devices. For Microsoft, there was no return of its founder Bill Gates to put the company’s old business back together again.

Following Microsoft, another Golden Age meltdown in tech

Microsoft wasn’t the only company to fail to learn anything from Apple’s mid-’90s brush with death: Google today has similarly spent billions on far-off ideas that failed to materialize as real businesses. Like Microsoft, Google also spent $15 billion to acquire two massive businesses, Motorola and Nest, then failed to do anything very productive with them as it fired thousands of workers and eventually sold off much of the remaining assets to China at a massive discount.

Google similarly had grandiose ideas about the future of computing but failed to deliver much more than a copy of Apple’s original work. Many of the novel parts of Android were removed and replaced with ideas taken from iOS. Chrome OS was initially envisioned as a PC web-based netbook but is now trying to morph into an iPad-like touchscreen tablet.

Even Google’s far off future “Fuchsia” OS strategy is abstractly named after a color, which not so subtly calls to mind the Blue and Pink cards Apple used while trying to lay out some deliverables for its Copland releases. Google has now been struggling to find a significant customer for Chrome OS a decade after it was outlined as a strategy in 2009. That’s reminiscent of Apple’s nebulous Newton strategy under early ’90s CEO John Sculley and Microsoft’s Tablet PC initiatives under Gates in the 2000s.

Rather than describing the failure of Chrome OS to find any traction anywhere apart from the very small, very unprofitable K-12 as being a Newton or Tablet PC type failure, today’s tech journalists have portraying Google’s struggling netbook as a problem for Apple, even though shipments of Chromebooks have had a minor impact on Apple’s U.S. sales in K12 and no real impact at all on iPads among consumers, the enterprise, and in massive new emerging markets including China.

In parallel, Google’s self-branded hardware efforts have been a mess despite double-digit billions in acquisitions and investment. Google’s Nexus offered low-priced devices that sold in disappointing quantities, much like Apple’s own ill-fated attempt at low-end Performa Macs from 1992-1997. Google’s subsequent Pixel products offered premium-priced devices that sold in disappointing quantities, much like Apple’s Newton and fancy vanity projects like the company’s Twentieth Anniversary Mac.

Google’s Newton

Google is also today pursuing a dual OS strategy involving two entirely different architectures (JavaVM-based Android and its web-based ChromeOS), not dissimilar to Apple’s Mac-Newton rift, or the problems Microsoft slogged through with DOS/Win95 vs NT, and again with the kernel disparity of Windows for PCs and Windows Mobile.

Three samples of failure exposed to varying amounts of criticism

For Apple, Microsoft and Google, launching a series of wild, unrestrained moonshots while having multiple, competing platforms all vying for attention in the same space while not actually selling much of anything turned out to be a really bad strategy with terrible results. But our science experiment subjects here also show the effects of outside stimulus.

The tech media initially cheered all on three because they didn’t seem to realize that making news is not the same as making money. Once reporters discovered that a decade of moonshots and wild, unrestrained spending without sustainable sales was actually a big problem, they turned on Apple and reviled it.

There has been less criticism of Microsoft despite its massive loss of control over the future of technology, and very little of Google at all. A lack of criticism results in a lack of course-correction. Relentless criticism of Apple has greatly improved the trajectory of the company, as demonstrated by its fixes for iCloud, Maps, and the App Store in response to media castigation. Apple has also materially changed the direction of Siri.

Tepid assurances by the media that Microsoft could reassume its monopoly control over mobile devices and take back tablets by simply copying elements of Apple’s strategy cooed the company to sleep. Today Microsoft has zero phone business and its tablet and PC sales are a low-profit busywork distraction that haven’t grown across many years of trying, not unlike Performa Macs of the 90s or Google’s more recent Nexus and Pixels.

Apple’s non-golden age

Today, Apple is focused on fewer products that sell in massive quantities at sustainable profits. The company’s software updates have achievable, short-term goals, rather than charting out far out future dreams or trying to deliver grandiose notions such as a voice-first ambient computing or an advertising-based social surveillance network that people may not even want once they see what it really means.

Apple’s modern developer APIs are generally stable enough to rely upon, rather than being promises that don’t ever fully materialize that are then thrown out once the focus changes. Yet Apple isn’t praised as sitting on a Golden Age today. It’s generally ridiculed by the media for not pursuing ambitiously entertaining public stories and moonshot ideas.

Apple Carrousel du Louvre

Apple today is defined by solid products customers can buy, not grandiouse vaporware the media can write about

Rather than declaring Apple’s wildly successful recent history as a Golden Age, pundits have been giving their lethal applause to Microsoft and Google. But those fun moonshots to nowhere–including blood sugar monitoring contacts that don’t actually exist, its Andy Rubin robot initiatives that had little real commercial value, its stabs at social networking that nobody cared about and its radical efforts to shift society and industry–from Wallet to Glass to Project ARA to Tango–have been an unbroken series of expensive projects that never went anywhere.

Across the 2000s and early 2010s, Apple far exceeded the accomplishments of its previous Golden Age of the late 80s and early 90s. And did so while being severely constrained operationally in its corporate office space.

The new Millennium Apple, under Jobs, focused on a flexible, new eye-catching material he made more valuable than gold as he and his hand-selected team turned Apple around, as the next segment will examine tomorrow.

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Apple seeds first macOS 10.14.5 beta to developers

 

Apple on Wednesday released the first beta of macOS 10.14.5 for developer testing, joining seeds of iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3.

Apple News+ on Mac

To get the beta, users must be registered Apple developers and use the correct Developer Center profile. For those already in the developer stream, it can be downloaded using Mojave’s Software Update tool.

Details of the latest macOS beta release are unknown, but it is believed that version 10.14.5 will be purely a maintenance update, cleaning up bugs and security flaws.

macOS 10.14.4 went live just this Monday, bringing with it things like Apple News+ support, an automatic Dark Mode in Safari, and new management options for push notifications. Some other highlights include air quality index readings in Maps for the U.S., UK and India, real-time text for phone calls made through a nearby iPhone, and second-generation AirPods compatibility.

The iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 betas incorporate Apple’s redesigned TV app, laying the groundwork for Apple TV+ and Apple TV Channels. Within the iOS Wallet app, users can see a longer transaction history setting the stage for the Apple Card.

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Here’s how to get started with your new iMac, Mac mini, MacBook, or MacBook Pro

Whether you’ve got a new Mac for yourself or you’re giving one to someone, you’ve heard that “it just works”. That’s actually true, for the most part, but it’s still going to take you or your lucky gift recipient a while to get used to the Mac. Let AppleInsider show you how to get going.

Editor’s note: If you’re a grizzled AppleInsider veteran, there is probably nothing new for you here. But, there are a lot of things that we can all take for granted when helping somebody else out. So, if you’re not there or just want to help somebody out, show them this, or print out our guide for them.

Whether you’re on an iMac, a Mac mini MacBook, you are going to see how it’s the ease of use that makes people so passionate about Apple. Macs are certainly gorgeously designed machines but that extends far deeper than the metal shell and into a sense of just getting on with what you want to do rather than fiddling all the time.

Apple doesn’t do that peculiar thing that many companies do of congratulating you for getting their product, but we will. Well done, you’ve got yourself a great thing here. And if you’re giving one to someone, you are a star.

Getting it out of the box

There are countless unboxing videos on YouTube and it’s not like you really needed any to figure out how to open up the packaging. Once you get beyond that, once the device is in your hands, that’s when everything really starts.

Unboxing a Mac

Unboxing a Mac

There was a TV ad once for Apple that said the three steps to getting a Mac onto the internet were 1) plug it into the mains, 2) plug it into the internet and 3 – there’s no step 3. It was a funny ad at the time and a huge contrast to the fiddling you had to do with PCs plus it’s still true. Except step 2 is a bit more involved now.

Back then you had a phone line and you plugged it into the wall; now we have Wi-Fi and that takes a touch more setting up.

We also have iPhones, iPads, portable Macs, Apple Watches, Touch ID, data privacy settings, iCloud —we just have a lot of stuff and your Mac plugs into all of it. So step 2 now involves setting up things about you such as what language you want to use plus what your wifi network is.

It is a little frustrating: you switch on your Mac for the first time and have to go through a fair few questions before you can do anything. They each make sense, they’re each important and you can’t believe how gorgeous the text type design is along the way. This isn’t your parents’ dialog boxes, this is as close to aesthetically pleasing as filling out a form will ever be.

The differences

Every Mac takes you through the same steps as you set it up —except for two things. The first is that if you bought any MacBook model then just opening the lid starts the setup process. It can do that because the machine ships with a charged battery but that will have depleted since it left the factory. Even though you’ve got a portable, plug it into power anyway.

The other difference is also with MacBooks but specifically the MacBook Pro with Touch ID and that’s what is different —you need to set up Touch ID. If you’ve got one of these MacBooks, you’ll be prompted to add Touch ID toward the end of the setup process.

Setting up Touch ID later (credit: Apple)

Setting up Touch ID later (credit: Apple)

This is something you can skip during the initial setup process and add later through System Preferences, Touch ID. Whether you do it right away or after you’ve got everything else set up, do go through this process.

The ability to unlock your MacBook by pressing your finger or thumb on the Touch Bar is what sells this to us but you can also use it with Apple Pay when you’re buying online.

Back to the regular setup

Excluding Touch ID, the setup procedure for a Mac takes ten steps and if that seems a lot, it is doubtlessly the very fewest that Apple could make it. The aim is to get you through to working on your Mac in the fastest way but also while making it clear what you’re doing.

There’s also the case that you might be entirely new to a Mac and need to understand more about the steps. Equally, you could be coming from an older Mac and so need to know about moving your old data.

Getting closer

Getting closer

To cover all of the possibilities in the most efficient way, each new Mac begins with a Setup Assistant.

Getting started with Setup Assistant

The very first thing your Mac does after starting up is to ask you what country you’re in. You’ll see a map of the world: click on your country. Then you’ll be asked about your preferred language.

Apple is a US company so if you live in the States you can practically click through all the defaults but if you prefer to write in French or British English, for instance, you may need to click on Show All to see every possible option.

Choosing this now sets up many things and you’ll see one of them next because after you’ve clicked on Continue, your Mac will ask you about your keyboard.

Even if you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro which obviously comes with a keyboard built in, you’ll be asked this because your answer changes how that or any other keyboard is treated by the Mac.

If you’ve said that you’re in the States, the Mac will default to offering you US QWERTY and if that’s what you want, you just click Continue again. However, here’s where you can say you prefer France’s AZERTY layout.

It obviously won’t physically change, for instance, the Q key on your keyboard to an A, but it will change what you get the keys on your keyboard but it will change what you get when you press that Q.

Later you can make many changes to what keyboard layout your Mac uses

Later you can make many changes to what keyboard layout your Mac uses

Next, Wi-Fi

Next you’re asked about your Wi-Fi network. This is the same network you’ve already got —if you’ve already got one. If you haven’t then you can skip this step and worry about it later but otherwise get your Wi-Fi username and password from the back of your router and type that in.

Now you’re asked about that old Mac you might have. It is unquestionably a superb thing that Apple includes this: you can just say yes, you’ve got an old Mac and Apple will connect to it over WiFi or a cable and take your files and documents for you. Brilliant and superb. Just very, very slow.

That’s not unreasonable: you could have gigantic numbers of documents, photos and movies. Yet you’ve got this Mac, you’re getting fidgety answering these few questions, the Migration Assistant as its called could take so long that Christmas Day will be over before it’s finished. So between us, even if you do have an old Mac, skip this step for now. Later tonight you can run Migration Assistant and leave it doing its stuff while you sleep. For now, skip.

Nearly there. Just another layer of protective plastic to go

Nearly there. Just another layer of protective plastic to go

Having got you online to your Wi-Fi network and also asked you what country you’re in, your Mac wants to go a touch further and asks you to enable location services. This is your saying okay, yes, apps I use can know where my Mac is. Do it. Later when you open Maps to find a route somewhere or to eye up a friend’s fancy new house, Maps will start at your place instead of a general view of the world.

Apple ID and iCloud

You need an Apple ID. It’s how you sign in to your Mac, it’s how you sign in to iCloud. So it’s part of what means your documents are safe from anyone else who happens by your computer and it’s how you identify yourself so that you can buy apps or music and know that it’s your credit card that gets dinged instead of someone else’s.

Apple ID is a can of worms, though: if you’re starting out fresh and this is not only your first Mac but your first Apple device, we rather envy you. Choose Create a Free Apple ID and set one up here.

Your Apple ID is central to everything you do on a Mac

Your Apple ID is central to everything you do on a Mac

If you’re already an iPhone or iPad user, though, you’ve already got an Apple ID. You could create a new one and many, many Mac users have somehow ended up with several of these things but that is precisely why we say it’s

a can with worms in. You can’t believe how endlessly confusing it can be having multiple Apple IDs. So if you have one from your iPhone, use that. If you haven’t, create a new free one and let us never speak of this again.

Terms and Conditions

We should caution you that the terms and conditions are important and that you should always read them —but you won’t do it and we’ve only done it a few times.

User account

You’ve got an Apple ID and you have the Mac in front of you, that should be enough to be getting on with but macOS needs more. Any one Mac can be used by many people and each one gets their own account. It’s so that they can open up the Mac, log in and do their work, see their documents, without seeing anyone else’s.

Only, even if you are the sole person who will ever work on this one, you still have to setup an account. It means providing a username and a password. By default, macOS will suggest a username that it derives from the full name you have registered in your Apple ID.

You can change that, though, and you can set any password you like. Similarly, you can also change the image that’s associated with your new user account. By default, macOS assigns a brightly colored symbol but you can later change it to a photograph of yourself.

It’s not for ego. It’s for when two or more people are using the Mac. Having a photo of you both makes it that much quicker to see which account you want to log in to.

Diagnostics, Siri and that could be it

You’re into the home stretch now and the next question is particularly easy and simple. Apple asks if you are okay with your Mac automatically sending bug reports to Apple itself and to the developers of software you use. Just say yes to both by ticking the two boxes.

It’s not as if Microsoft will be sent your Great American Novel every time Word crashes. It’s that the apps can report more technical of what was happening when something goes wrong and it is just in all ways a good thing.

Siri in action on a MacBook

Siri in action on a MacBook

Next, you need to tick to say that yes, you want Siri. Even if we could argue for an age about how Siri is infinitely more useful on an iOS device or the Apple Watch, it is at least a little useful everywhere. So this is another one where we recommend that you switch it on now.

If you have a MacBook Pro with Touch ID, now is the time you’re prompted through setting it up. It’s very similar to the process you had on iPhones plus if you’re in a hurry, you can add one fingerprint now and leave others to later.

Then there is just one more choice and it’s a new one. The last thing you’re asked is to Choose Your Look. You’re given a choice between a Light or a Dark appearance to your Mac.

The Light one is how Macs have always looked. The Dark mode is a recent addition that changes all the bright white parts of your screen to a more subdued dark or black.

The choice is entirely aesthetic and if you already know which one appeals to you the most, choose it. Otherwise, just accept Light as the default.

Finder and macOS

At last, your Mac is on and waiting for you. The first thing you see is called the Finder: it’s the part of the Mac you use to start applications like Excel that you want to work with, it’s where you store and move documents around. The line at the very top of your screen is called the menubar and the bigger, more colorful one at the very bottom is called the Dock.

While you can hide either of these if you want to, usually they are there and fairly unchanging. The Dock is a collection of shortcuts to applications and Apple has put a few in there but you can add your own —and you will.

The menubar is different in every application but it always has an Apple menu at the far left and a clock plus your name toward the right. On the very furthest right it’s got a magnifying glass called Spotlight and an icon of what looks like a list and is called Notification Center.

We’d say Notification Center is where you get notified of things like events in your calendar, the local weather, the most recent emails you’ve received, but in practice you’re likely to forget it’s even there. Maybe that’s just us: it’s a useful feature and well worth your looking at, but we don’t tend to use it.

What we use constantly is the Dock. Click on Pages in the Dock and you’ll see the icon bounce a little as the application starts up, then you’re out of the Finder and into the word processor. The menubar has changed to give you tools for writing in Pages but you’ve still got the Dock. Unless you hunt that Dock down and hide it, you’ve always got it and can always click on any icon to launch another app or switch to one.

Working on the Dock of the Mac

The Dock is more useful than just being a collection of shortcuts. Look at the far right of it and you’ll see icons for the latest apps you’ve opened or the latest documents you’ve downloaded.

Look instead at the far left of the Dock and you’ll see a happy Mac icon which is your Finder. Any time you’re doing anything in any application, you can click on that to go back to the Finder to look for documents.

You just might not realize you’ve done it: you’ll click on the Finder and it will come to the fore but you’ll still see all the documents and windows from Pages or whatever your app is. Click again on the Finder and it will pop open a folder of documents. Or under the Apple menu, choose Hide Others and every other app you’re running will appear to disappear, leaving you to concentrate on the Finder.

Next to the happy Mac face in the Dock you get a Siri icon. Click on this to get Siri to listen to your voice commands. If you’ve got one of the 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models, you can just say “Hey, Siri” and forget this button is here.

Later you can go into System Preferences, Siri and set up a keyboard shortcut to start Siri listening.

If you have any other Mac, well, you might also forget that it’s here but it’s useful when you remember.

After Siri, there’s what looks like a rocket in a circle. This is another way to launch applications: think of the Dock as holding the things you use and like the most but this rocket, called Launch Center, contains everything. If you have an iPhone, you’ll recognise that Launch Center is trying to look like iOS’s home screens with applications arranged in rows.

You get all these apps, by the way, either from the makers’ websites or from the Mac App Store and that’s what the next icon along is. The “A” in a circle is the App Store and is convenient for buying and down- loading tools. It’s like the iPhone App Store except not as essential, really just not as good.

We won’t take you through every icon in your Dock because you have a life and you will also have a different set to us because everyone does. It’s quite fascinating how over time your Dock comes to reflect you and your interests. However, scoot back over to the far right of it where you’ll see a trashcan icon.

The trashcan is where you’ll delete things: drag something into that and the icon will change to show you it’s got files in there. Right-click (or hold down the Ctrl key and click) and you get a menu that includes Empty Trash. When you chose that, that’s when you really delete whatever you’ve thrown away.

Now it’s up to you

If you do nothing else, your Mac is now ready for serious work. It’s got the Pages word processor, for instance, and the Numbers spreadsheet. Unlike PCs, you could never need to add anything else to your Mac.

There is just one last thing we recommend, though.

Take a moment to relish the screen on your Mac. If you got a Mac mini or a Mac Pro and added a rubbish monitor then you’re on your own. However, if you have any iMac or any MacBook, just look at how gorgeous that display is.

You’ve spent a lot of money on this Mac but there won’t be a minute that you regret it.

Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.

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Apple testing USB security key support for Safari

 

Apple’s latest Safari Technology Preview includes support for the WebAuthentication API, which allows users to validate website login credentials via hardware security keys that typically come in the form of a USB stick.

Safari

Apple’s Safari web browser.

According to release notes covering Apple’s Safari Technology Preview version 71, which was released on Wednesday alongside iOS and macOS software updates, the new WebAuthn capability supports USB-based CTAP2 devices.

Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the FIDO Alliance, WebAuthn is an effort to standardize and enhance the user authentication process across various systems and online gateways. The specification Apple is testing — Client-to-Authenticator Protocol 2 — is a product of the wider FIDO2 standard that enables hardware-backed authentication across the web.

USB-based CTAP2 devices, also known as authenticators or USB security keys, grant a higher level of protection than simple text-based passwords. Instead of relying solely on text-based passwords, which can be stolen or forgotten, the system introduces a physical hardware component into the mix.

Some solutions that rely on the technology require another form of authentication alongside the authenticator. Depending on the system, authentication might involve biometrics, location information, time stamps or password re-entry, among other safeguards. The end result is a strong, multi-factor security protocol that can be deployed across multiple compliant platforms with relative ease.

As noted by CNET, which reported on the Safari Technology Preview earlier today, FIDO2 also supports Bluetooth and near-field communications for hardware authentication, though the current Safari test build is restricted to direct USB connections. The limitation means users will need to insert a security key into their Mac when accessing sites that support CTAP and CTAP2, like Dropbox and Twitter.

WebAuthn in Safari is considered an “experimental feature,” though it could show up in a future version of Apple’s web browser.

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Review: Apple and Blackmagic’s eGPU with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity

AppleInsider takes an in-depth look at Apple and Blackmagic’s Thunderbolt-enabled eGPU, testing the MacBook-accelerating hardware with a gamut of tests from 5K gaming to video editing. We show you everything that sets this eGPU apart from the pack.

[embedded content]

The Blackmagic eGPU, built in cooperation with Apple, might seem pricey at $699, but it comes packing a Radeon Pro 580 GPU, the same chip that comes in the top-spec 2017 5K iMac. By itself, the silicon is worth just under $300, and you can now get it bundled with some other eGPU’s for around $500.

So why would anyone want to pay extra for this particular unit from Blackmagic and Apple?

For one, the Blackmagic is the first eGPU to support Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C monitors like LG’s 4K and 5K UltraFine displays, meaning well-heeled MacBook Pro owners can turn their portable rig into something closer to a desktop.

If you don’t have or don’t plan on buying an LG UltraFine display, the Blackmagic also works with any USB-C or HDMI monitor. DisplayPort screens are also supported with the help of a separate adapter.

In addition to the two Thunderbolt 3 ports, the Blackmagic packs in four USB 3.1 ports and an HDMI 2 slot, besting a number of competing eGPU boxes. The extra inputs and outputs can be used to connect external storage drives, keyboards, mice, or simply charge an iPhone.

The Blackmagic works with any Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac, and it provides 85 watts of charging for your MacBooks. For now, the setup is a macOS-only affair, as the eGPU does not yet support Windows 10.

From a design standpoint, it’s undoubtedly the best-looking eGPU we’ve ever seen, and it’s built with high-quality materials.

This leads us to one of the biggest reasons why you would choose this eGPU over another model: incredibly quiet fan noise and low temperatures. It features a large fan that sucks air through the bottom and pushes it out of the top, just like the late 2013 Mac Pro.

It’s incredibly quiet, even at full load, a major upgrade from competing hardware that gets increasingly loud as operating temperatures heat up. In fact, the Blackmagic is so quiet that we forgot it was on while playing a demanding session of Fortnite at 5K resolutions.

Performance

The eGPU drastically improved the gaming performance of a base model 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. With the MacBook’s internal Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 running at maxed-out resolution and high video quality settings, we were able to achieve around 15 frames per second while playing Fortnite. Those speeds dropped down to 7fps at times and the laptop’s fans were on full blast.

We turned the settings down to around 1080p at medium graphics settings and saw frame rates rise to around 40 to 45fps, but we still experienced frame drops that made the game unplayable.

Connecting the Blackmagic eGPU and LG’s 5K display, we set the game’s resolution to 5K, or 5,120-by-2,880 pixels. Graphics quality (obviously) improved and frame rates were hovering at around 30fps. Unlike the MacBook Pro’s integrated graphics chip, the eGPU was able to keep things much more consistent, with no frame drops that ruined gameplay.

Dropping graphics settings to medium boosted frame rates to about 40fps, and everything still looked great.

We also hooked it up to a regular 4K display using a Thunderbolt 3-to-DisplayPort cable and saw around the same 35fps at 4K “Epic” settings.

Throughout testing, both the Blackmagic eGPU and the MacBook Pro were whisper quiet.

Photo & Video Editing

If you’re a photo editor, an eGPU won’t really make a difference, since apps like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom mostly rely on Mac’s CPU for heavy lifting. We were hoping to see an improvement while editing 42MP RAW images in Lightroom, but the lag is still there despite some assistance from the eGPU.

Video editing, however, is a different story. In Final Cut Pro X, the Blackmagic eGPU allows the 13-inch MacBook Pro to export a five minute 4K h.264 clip with added effects in less than half the time of the integrated GPU. That puts the smaller MacBook Pro’s performance nearly on par with the base 15-inch MacBook Pro. Interestingly, in some cases the 15-inch MacBook Pro gets slower when using the eGPU.

For example, when attached to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the eGPU cut processing time in half for a one minute 4.5K Red RAW clip with added effects. However, the 15-inch MacBook Pro was almost twice as slow when combined with the eGPU.

Stabilizing a 4K clip on the 13-inch with eGPU was basically just as fast as the base 15-inch MacBook Pro, both with and without the eGPU. To our surprise, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the eGPU was faster in the Bruce X 5K benchmark, finishing almost three times faster than the 15-inch MacBook Pro’s discrete GPU.

We tested 4K 60fps Canon Cinema RAW Lite footage in a one minute project with color corrections and a LUT applied on the 15-inch MacBook Pro, with and without the eGPU. We saw a vast improvement not only in export speeds, but timeline smoothness as well. We went from not being able to play back the footage in full resolution to smooth playback in 4K, in both 24fps and 30fps.

Benchmarks

We performed benchmarks by attaching the Blackmagic to a base model 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro and a top-of-the-line 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro with 2.9GHz i9 CPU, 4GB Radeon Pro 560X graphics, and 32GB of DDR4 memory.

Geekbench 4’s OpenCL test shows us the raw graphics performance of each GPU, and as you can see, it’s a massive improvement over the 15-inch MacBook Pro’s GPU.

We also ran the Unigine Heaven gaming benchmark and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Blackmagic eGPU greatly outperformed the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The 13-inch model fell behind by a couple of frames when compared to the 15-inch with the eGPU.

Conclusion

Our testing shows the Blackmagic eGPU is not really worth the extra money if you already own a 15-inch MacBook Pro, are not a video editor and intend to use the hardware without an external monitor.

On the other hand, if you own an LG UltraFine display or a 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro, the solution is definitely appealing. With the 13-inch MacBook Pro, you get added portability when on the go and a quad-core, 8GB Radeon Pro 580 workstation in the home or office, nearing the performance levels of a 15-inch Macbook Pro with i9 CPU.

Overall, the Blackmagic eGPU is a specialty product that makes a lot of sense for a smaller group of people. It’s more expensive than other solutions using the same GPU, and it’s not upgradable. If you need Thunderbolt 3 support and would like a near silent experience, however, there’s nothing else like it.

Score: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

Blackmagic’s eGPU sells for $699 and is available through the company’s website and Apple.com.

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Over 4 million people participate in Apple’s software beta programs

 

Apple CEO Tim Cook reveals that an extraordinarily large number of people are taking part in the company’s beta program, which covers early versions of iOS, macOS and the company’s other major operating systems.

Apple WWDC 2018

In an investor conference call following Apple’s release of fiscal quarter three earnings on Thursday, Cook said some four million people are running beta software on their iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV devices.

“In June, we hosted an extremely successful developers conference that previewed many major advances coming this fall to our four operating systems: iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS,” Cook said. “Developer and customer reaction has been very positive and we have over four million users participating in our new OS beta programs.”

The number of beta program participants is not something that Apple typically releases, so it’s unclear how that number compares to past years. Also unknown is how the participation statistics break down by operating system, and whether developers are included in the number.

Apple frequently touts both the growth of the App Store and its contributions to the app development profession as a whole, so it’s a good guess that the four million figure for software beta participants in one year is among the largest ever for Apple, if not for the history of computing altogether.

At WWDC, Apple unveiled iOS 12, Mac OS 10.14, watchOS 5 and TV OS 12, and has periodically released beta editions of each in the weeks since. The full releases are scheduled for this fall.