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Tuesday, Dec. 10th 2019

Mac Pro (2019) and Pro Display XDR Initial Roundup #

Apple Mac Pro

Apple: Buy Mac Pro, Apple: Mac Pro Tech Specs

Processor: Configure from an 8‑core to 28‑core Intel Xeon W processor

Memory: Configure up to 1.5TB of DDR4 ECC memory in 12 user-accessible DIMM slots

Graphics: Configure two MPX Modules with up to four GPUs

AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo

  • Two Vega II GPUs, each with 64 compute units and 4096 stream processors
  • 64GB of HBM2 memory (32GB per GPU), each with 1TB/s memory bandwidth
  • Up to 28.3 teraflops single precision or 56.6 teraflops half precision
  • Onboard Infinity Fabric Link connection connects the two Vega II GPUs at up to 84GB/s
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports and one HDMI 2.0 port on card
  • Four DisplayPort connections routed to system to support internal Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Support for up to eight 4K displays, four 5K displays, or four Pro Display XDRs
  • Full-height MPX Module fills an MPX bay and uses extra power and PCIe bandwidth

Power Supply: 1.4 kilowatts

Expansion Slots: Eight PCI Express expansion slots

Storage: Configure up to 8TB of SSD storage

Two USB 3 ports

  • Support for USB-A (up to 5Gb/s)

Two Thunderbolt 3 ports

  • Support for Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
  • Support for USB-C (up to 10Gb/s)
  • Support for DisplayPort

Two 10Gb Ethernet ports

Apple Pro Display XDR

Apple: Buy Pro Display XDR, Apple: Pro Display XDR Tech Specs

Retina 6K Display

  • 32-inch (diagonal) IPS LCD display with oxide TFT technology
  • Resolution: 6016 by 3384 pixels (20.4 million pixels) at 218 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • 2D backlighting system using 576 full array local dimming zones
  • Apple-designed timing controller (TCON) chip engineered to precisely control high-speed modulation of both 20.4 million LCD pixels and 576 LEDs in backlight for seamless synchronization
  • True Tone technology with dual ambient light sensor (ALS) design to ensure an accurate viewing experience in any ambient lighting condition
  • One upstream port for Mac Pro or other Thunderbolt 3 host (96W host charging)
  • Three USB-C (USB 2) ports for charging or syncing

Pro Display XDR is compatible with the following Mac models running macOS Catalina 10.15.2 or later:

  • Mac Pro (2019) with MPX Module GPUs
  • 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018)
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019)
  • 21.5-inch iMac (2019)
  • 27-inch iMac (2019)
  • Any Mac model with Thunderbolt 3 ports paired with Blackmagic eGPU or Blackmagic eGPU Pro

The iMac Pro is missing from this list.

Blogs and Tweets

mjtsai

I’m happy that the new Mac Pro exists, but for my purposes it feels like they built the wrong product, too late. Apple has a great history of making modular desktop Macs, at sane prices, and this is not that.

I agree that a cheaper modular pro Mac doesn’t exist, but I’m not really sure if there’s much of a market.

It seems like there’s still a hole in the lineup. … Meanwhile, the iMac Pro hasn’t been updated since 2017 and is likely slower than the regular iMac.

This hole should be filled by an update to the iMac and iMac Pro. But it seems like these holes in Apple’s lineup appear faster than they can fill them.

@thomasgcarter

A 47min TV episode we’re cutting, exported directly to h.264 takes 2mins 40secs. Previously 12mins on iMacPro.

Podcasts

Mac Power Users 514: Apple is Listening — The 2019 Mac Pro, with Thomas Grove Carter

Videos

MKBHD: Mac Pro Unboxing & Second Impressions: The Power is Back!

iJustine: Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR 8K Unboxing!

Jonathan Morrison: MASSIVE Mac Pro + Pro Display XDR Unboxing!

Misc

Apple: Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR Accessories

The Verge: Logitech made a bespoke $200 magnetic 4K webcam for Apple’s Pro Display XDR

A Pro webcam for a Pro Display

The 4K Pro Magnetic Webcam attaches magnetically to the display with a stand designed to perfectly fit the screen. Logitech says that the magnet is strong enough that it’ll stay attached even when rotated sideways into portrait mode. It can even automatically rotate the video input when the rest of the display is rotated so that you can still video chat no matter what your screen orientation is.

Closing Thoughts

I’m really happy that there is, once again, Apple hardware that is much faster than what I would need or can afford. It felt strange to me, that at times, even the top of the line Apple laptop or iMac was what I would use for my design and programming work. There are certainly professions that need faster computers than me.

Apple hardware should span a large gradient of needs and idioms. Now that there is a range from the $329 USD iPad to a fully loaded $52,748 USD Mac Pro (display not incl.) I think this gradient is larger and stronger than ever before.

Wednesday, Nov. 13th 2019

16-inch Macbook Pro (Late 2019) Review Roundup #

MacBook Pro 16-inch laptop

Jason Snell at sixcolors.com / Key upgrade: A first look at the 16-inch MacBook Pro

On Wednesday Apple announced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, with a completely redesigned keyboard, bigger display, increased battery life, ninth-generation Intel processors, upgraded graphics processors, expanded storage, and improved audio input and output. And despite the rumors that Apple’s newest laptop would be a super-premium product at the top of the price list, in fact that 16-inch MacBook Pro is replacing the 15-inch model at the same base prices of $2399 and $2799.

The 16-inch display can also alter its refresh rate, which is especially helpful for video editors. You can choose from 47.95, 48, 50, 59.94, and 60 Hertz refresh rates. (The MacBook Pro can also drive up to two of Apple’s high-end Pro XDR displays, once they arrive—presumably alongside the Mac Pro, which is officially shipping in December.)

A big part of the story of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is offering even more to people who need as much of anything as Apple can give them. So these laptops can be loaded with up to 64GB of 2666Mhz DDR4 memory. And you can configure them with up to 8TB of storage, which Apple says is the largest solid-state drive ever in a laptop.

I can always use more memory. But I think 64GB will satiate my memory hunger for a few years.

The heat sink’s surface area increased by 35 percent, and the fans have larger impellers and more blades so they can move 28 percent more air.

Because this laptop comes with the same processors in the outgoing 15.4-inch MacBook Pro, I think this is the first time a new mac product has come out with the same processors as the product it replaces. However, because of the improved cooling, it sounds like it is benchmarking and compiling faster than the predecessor.

Marco Arment / Photo of 16-inch MacBook Pro

Marco Arment / The 16-inch MacBook Pro

The new MacBook Pro has no massive asterisks or qualifications. It’s a great computer, period, and it feels so good to be able to say that again.

This is the first time, in a long time, that I am excited again for mac laptops.

Daring Fireball / 16-Inch MacBook Pro First Impressions: Great Keyboard, Outstanding Speakers

The new 16-inch display has a native resolution of 3072 × 1920 pixels, with a density of 226 pixels per inch. The old 15-inch retina display was 2880 × 1800 pixels, with a density of 220 pixels per inch.

I would have loved if the resolution density could have been high enough for the default resolution on the laptop to be true 2x.

512px / Apple Unveils 16-inch MacBook Pro

That’s not to say these won’t sell; contrary to the rumors, this is not a new high-end MacBook Pro. It replaces the 15.4-inch machine entirely. If you want a MacBook Pro, they come in two sizes: 13 and 16 inches.

I am really hoping that a similar 14-inch follows.

Starting at the top of the keyboard, the Touch Bar and Touch ID sensor are still present, joined this time by a physical Escape key.

The ESC key is used pretty often in design and programming tools. The software ESC key really scared me away from getting a laptop with a TouchBar because of this. I’ve heard that some people are so frustrated with the software ESC they use 3rd party tools to disable the standard TouchBar and replace it with a bunch of software ESC buttons.

Kaya Thomas on Twitter

The 16" MacBook Pro is much faster for fresh builds and incremental builds in Xcode. Some stats below for the @Calm app:

MBP 15": 216 seconds for a fresh build 7 seconds for an incremental build

MBP 16": 135 seconds for a fresh build 2 seconds for an incremental build

c|net.com / Apple’s Phil Schiller on reinventing the new MacBook Pro keyboard

But a few years back, we decided that while we were advancing the butterfly keyboard, we would also—specifically for our pro customer—go back and really talk to many pro customers about what they most want in a keyboard and did a bunch of research. That’s been a really impressive project, the way the engineering team has gotten into the physiology of typing and the psychology of typing—what people love.

I hope this doesn’t mean that the butterfly keyboard is going to continue to ship with new products. I could possibly see an argument made for it to remain on the MacBook Air. However, if this new keyboard is as good as it sounds, I don’t see any great reason to keep the butterfly keyboard around.

Apple Insider / MD details the 16-inch MacBook Pro's Radeon Pro 5000M-series GPUs

AMD has revealed the specifications of the new Radeon Pro 5000M-series GPU options available in the just-launched 16-inch MacBook Pro, with the Radeon Pro 5300M and 5500M offering better graphics performance and an option for up to 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM.

The Radeon Pro 5500M GPU is equipped with 24 compute units, 1,536 stream processors, a peak engine clock of 1,300MHz, and can provide up to 4 teraflops of single-precision floating-point performance. The Radeon Pro 5300M GPU has 20 compute units and 1,280 stream processors, along with a peak engine clock of 1,250MHz, giving it up to 3.2 teraflops of performance.

In a comparison of the highest-performing GPUs for each, consisting of the Vega 20 with 4GB of VRAM against the 8GB Radeon Pro 5500M, Apple claims there is an 80-percent increase of graphical performance for the 16-inch MacBook Pro's GPU.

That is impressive. I’m glad we’re starting to get better GPUs in mac laptops. Although, I think there could always be more in this area!

Additional Media

Podcasts

Upgrade, Accidental Tech Podcast, Under The Radar

Video Reviews

MKBHD, The Verge, Jonathan Morrison

Closing Thoughts

With the 2016 MacBook Pro redesign, while initially exciting, it became pretty clear that there were large design compromises made. I hope this is an indication that there has been a notable re-balancing of those compromises. It would be even better if they could figure out something useful to do with the TouchBar. But at least now the fundamentals seem to be solid again.

I am happy to be excited about mac laptops again. Even if this is a seemingly small step in the right direction.

Tuesday, Oct. 8th 2019

macOS Catalina Review Roundup #

Jason Snell at Six Colors / macOS Catalina review: New era ahead, proceed with caution

Sometimes software upgrades just fuzz together, all part of a continuum of changes over time. Others are more momentous, when there’s a clean break from what has come before. After a few years of fuzzy updates, macOS Catalina is one of those clean breaks.

...

If you need to upgrade but have one key app you just can’t live without, consider making a disk image of your existing Mac (even better, make it a fresh install with just your important apps) and using it in an emulator such as VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop.

...

This is the promise of Mac Catalyst: That iOS developers who have been more or less locked out of the Mac for the past decade (unless they learn an entirely different set of development skills and build alternate versions of their apps) will now finally have access to that platform.

I've tried dabbling with Cocoa/AppKit, but it has never really clicked in the same way that UIKit has. I'm excited for Catalyst. Plus, being independent as a single designer and developer (and tech support and book keeper and well, everything) it doesn't make sense for me to work on and update a separate mac and iOS app.

Despite this initial rush of interest, it feels like it’s going to take months, if not years, for us to see just how Mac Catalyst might change the Mac and the software that we use on them every day.

It's a helluva lot more difficult than just "checking a box in Xcode" as Apple is advertising.

Then there’s the interesting problem that Mac Catalyst apps are entirely separate from their iOS equivalents when it comes to the App Store. For a lot of developers with existing iOS apps, that’s a dealbreaker, since they want the option of letting their existing iOS customers use the Mac version without re-buying. A shared store may be coming, but it’s going to be a while.

This is a huge hurdle and complication for me. This has to be addressed.

512pixels.net

Some developers will probably be tempted to stop at this point, but to make an iPad app really feel native on macOS, additional time will be needed to polish them for an environment without a touchscreen present.

I can't emphasize enough how different a touch vs cursor based interface is.

John Voorhees at Mac Stories / macOS Catalina: The MacStories Review

The Mac isn’t in crisis, but it isn’t healthy either. Waiting until the Mac is on life support isn’t viable. Instead, Apple has opted to reimagine the Mac in the context of today’s computing landscape before its survival is threatened. The solution is to tie macOS more closely to iOS and iPadOS, making it an integrated point on the continuum of Apple’s devices that respects the hardware differences of the platform but isn’t different simply for the sake of difference.

Anyone who has browsed through the Mac App Store in the last few years would agree that the mac is probably in need of something to change. But there's also a lot of great things about the Mac that make it amazing. I have a lot more thoughts as well about the expectations of bespoke software on iOS (probably mostly driven by design orgs…) and the exact opposite expectations of consistency and similarity on macOS.

Catalina is a cold splash of water in the face of users accustomed to small incremental changes to macOS in recent years. What makes Catalina different from updates in years past is Apple’s renewed commitment to the Mac.

I really hope so. I love the mac. The richness and robustness of Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4 is what really piqued my interest in being a software designer.

Catalina is a careful balancing act between the old and new. One of the most successful advances by Catalina is the breakup of iTunes. I expected far more of the legacy features to be shed from the app than actually were.

I think it's going to be a relatively slow transition, but I think when we look back in five to ten years it will be shocking how different apps on 10.14 Mojave looked and felt (hopefully for the better…).

These reviews are pretty meaty and I highly suggest you give them a read. There's a lot of great information about new features and theory about the future of the mac.

In the near future I'd like to do a quick roundup and design review of Catalyst apps. I don't think anyone has really solved the transition from touch to cursor based interface (re: Windows Metro). I'll be watching for any successful Catalyst apps.

Wednesday, Sept. 11th 2019

Apple’s Fall Operating System Release Dates #

There were a lot of different dates thrown around yesterday at Apple's iPhone Event. I collected all of the OS release dates that they announced in the table below.

OS Release Date
iOS 13 September 19, 2019
watchOS 6 September 19, 20191
iOS 13.1 September 30 243, 2019
iPadOS2 September 30 243, 2019
tvOS September 30, 2019
macOS 10.15 Catalina October 2019
HomePod ?

1 watchOS 6 will be available later this fall for Apple Watch Series 1 and 2
2 I'm unsure if this is iPadOS 13.0 or 13.1. I would assume 13.1.
3 On September 19, 2019 Apple moved up the release date of iOS 13.1 from September 30 to the September 24. Source: macrumors.com

Monday, Aug. 12th 2019

Verge: The US Navy will replace its touchscreen controls with mechanical ones on its destroyers #

The Verge:

The US Navy will replace the touchscreen throttle and helm controls currently installed in its destroyers with mechanical ones starting in 2020

The move comes after the National Transportation Safety Board released an accident report from a 2017 collision, which cites the design of the ship’s controls as a factor in the accident.

The NTSB report calls out the configuration of the bridge’s systems, pointing out that the decision to transfer controls while in the strait helped lead to the accident, and that the procedures for transferring the controls from one station to another were complicated, further contributing to the confusion. Specifically, the board points to the touchscreens on the bridge, noting that mechanical throttles are generally preferred because “they provide both immediate and tactile feedback to the operator.” The report notes that had mechanical controls been present, the helmsmen would have likely been alerted that there was an issue early on, and recommends that the Navy better adhere to better design standards.

This makes sense. But also, bad UI, whether physical or software is just bad UI.

Following the incident, the Navy conducted fleet-wide surveys, and according to Rear Admiral Bill Galinis, the Program Executive Officer for Ships, personnel indicated that they would prefer mechanical controls.

This user research would have been helpful before the accident.

Touchscreens weren’t the only issue in the collision: the report calls out that several crew members on the bridge at the time weren’t familiar with the systems that they were overseeing and were inexperienced in their roles, and that many were fatigued, with an average of 4.9 hours of sleep between the 14 crew members present. The report recommended that the Navy conduct better training for the bridge systems, update the controls and associated documentation, and ensure that Navy personnel aren’t tired when they’re on the job.

There's also that…

See also: Wikipedia: Boeing 737 Max worldwide grounding

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