How would you like your shiny new iPhone to last days before needing a recharge?

iPhones

I am guessing you would like that idea very much! Well, two developments may mean that our wish might come true sooner than we realise. At the University of Texas scientists have discovered a way to not only double the power of lithium-ion batteries but also reduce their size and the costs of manufacturing them.

Now if that wasn’t enough, there is even more good news as far as power consumption by devices such as our iPhones and iPads is concerned. By refining the software that runs on our devices, scientists are able to reduce the power consumption, holding out the promise that even though smartphones are getting smarter, their power requirements would reduce.

It’s all to do with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and search-based software engineering that helps find redundant code. This could offer up to 70% reduction in cpu power requirements, which together with advances in lithium-ion battery technology from University of Texas and elsewhere could mean that in the next 3-5 years we would only need to charge our devices maybe once a or twice a week. Together with the possibility of cheaper, lighter and smaller batteries this could make our digital lives a whole lot easier. It could also impact other areas such electric vehicles having greater range due to decreased weight and longer lasting batteries, or in making medical devices such as portable defibrillators or fridges smaller, lighter and longer lasting too. That would be a huge step forward when dealing with disasters or medical emergencies in areas where there is reduced or non-existent power available.

Check out these two articles on TechXplore website:

Never mind the iPhone X, battery life could soon take a great leap forward

Engineers develop new material for better lithium-ion batteries

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What is happening at Apple?

Apple's new iPhone 4S

As I die-hard fan of Apple I often find myself wondering about what Apple is up to, don’t you? Take the latest iPhones for instance. The iPhone X is their most expensive ever and it’s sooo expensive to repair. That shiny new OLED screen, for example, will cost you $279 to get fixed! The screen on their shiny new iPhone 8 Plus screen costs the same to repair as the one on the iPhone 7 Plus at $179. It doesn’t stop there either. Other repairs will cost you $549 which is breathtaking!

If you are not a US citizen then the current rate of exchange gives Apple the excuse to charge us Brits for example £286 to repair the iPhone X screen. The current rate of exchange means $279 + £212.52, which means us Brits are paying an extra £73.48! There is no way Apple can justify this. Its a similar situation with it’s other charges. This is particular galling in light of the billions of unpaid tax that Apple gets away with by using offshore banks to ‘launder its money’. Yes, you heard right, I said ‘launder its money’. Now normally the term ‘money laundering’ (which I didn’t use – take note any Apple lawyers reading this) is used to refer to criminals cleaning their ill-gotten gains through the use of complicit banks or supposedly legitimate businesses.

So, let’s be clear here folks, I am not accusing Apple of ‘money laundering’. I am saying however that its business practices as far as paying it’s fair shares of taxes in countries where it operates is as bad as those of criminals who do commit money-laundering. I say that because when a company doesn’t pay it’s fair share of taxes and instead uses all sorts of financials shenanigans to avoid doing so, it is not that dissimilar to my mind to the way a criminal organisations carries out it’s financial dealings.

It pains me to say that I have lost faith in Apple (and Amazon & Google as well) and no longer see them as some sort of benevolent organisation dedicated to bringing tech into the world that makes life better and does so without harming the environment or the communities it impacts. Unfortunately, all of us as consumers face a dilemma when it comes to the likes of Apple. Amazon and Google. We have become dependent on the tech they provide us with or use to provide their services to us. It’s difficult to see how we can extricate ourselves from this without significantly changing our lifestyles.

During Steve Job’s reign at Apple there was a feeling that the company was different from all the rest (Dell, IBM, HP and Compaq etc), that it’s ethos was altogether different. Now Apple is worth $752bn and has sales of $217.48bn a year. According to the IMF, it is, in fact, larger than the annual gross domestic products of every country on earth, bar 19 of them (based on GDP in US dollars, according to International Monetary Fund data for 2014). The truth is, companies like Apple, Amazon and Google are so big and so powerful that we can no longer think of them as benevolent companies who only seek to do good. Remember Google’s motto: “Don’t be evil“? Well, I am not sure anymore that any of these companies don’t do evil, in the sense that if you are not manifestly ‘doing good’ then you must be, even if only by omission, doing the opposite to some extent. Do you recall the quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It was Edmund Burke who said that. He was an Irish statesman born in Dublin, as well as an author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher who, after moving to London, served as a member of parliament for many years in the House of Commons with the Whig Party. [Wikipedia].

So, coming back to my original question:”what is happening at Apple?”, I don’t really know but they say that you can know a tree by it’s fruit and for me, I can only see bad apples are starting to make up more of the crop from their particular tree. It’s not just about money (well it is, mostly) but also about how materialism, consumerism, capitalis – whatever ‘ism’ you choose -are impacting our lives, fuelling our desires for more expensive tech. Examples would be the scheme where you can get a new iPhone every year. This is consuming so many resources and I would doubt that all the energy and resources spent on fuelling this are recovered through recycling. So, whatever the degree to which the iPhones over 1 year old are recycled there will still be a net cost to the environment. At the rate Apple is growing this must be unsustainable and frankly someone needs to hold Apple to account. I know that I won’t be jumping on that particular bandwagon. I am keeping my iPhone 6 Plus for at least another year and then I will make sure it gets recycled. Who knows, I may continue to use long after Apple brings out the iPhone XI or whatever they will name it.

Oh, in case you are wondering, I am writing this on my Mid 2014 MacBook Pro. I also have a Mac Pro made in 2009, which I regularly use. It has a graphics card that is almost as old. Believe it or not, I even have a G3 in the shed that last time I dusted it off still worked and ran OS 8!

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New life for an old dog?


Apple introduces the Mac Pro 12 Core DesktopI have two Macs – a Macbook Pro and a Mac Pro (2009 4-core). My laptop is reasonably new (MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014) but my Mac Pro is  getting a bit tired, to say the least. I did update the graphics card with an AMD Radeon 4000 series pc card and boosted the RAM to 16GB. I also installed additional drives inc a SSD. However, I do see too much of the spinning beach ball these days. That may be to me running Windows 8.1 under Parallels but even when just running OS X alone I still see the beach ball spin far too often.

The question is, is it time to retire the old dog? Shall I invest in a shiny new iMac 27″ all-singing, all-dancing Skylake super computer? Thoughts anyone and if you know of a cost-effective to squeeze more life out of the old dog do let me know.

“Hey Siri, give us a hint.”


“Hey Siri, give us a hint.” So Apple has decided to tease us all again with a hint about the announcements to come on September 9 at 10 a.m. PDT.

Apple Event Sept 9th 2015

Speculation, as always, has been rife about exactly what is to come. Most commentators agree that it will be a new iPhone though no-one can agree if it’s effectively an iPhone 7 or an iPhone 6s. However, the reference to Siri may mean that Siri is going to get an update (none to soon either for some of us). Microsoft’s Cortana is impressive and Apple needs to pull something special out of the bag if it’s to regain its crown.

Other mooted announcements will an option to have the new iPhone in Rose Gold, along with Force Touch, brought over from the new MacBook. There are rumours too of an improved camera. Another expected announcement is an update to the Apple TV, which is also in need of an update. However, no-one really expects an actual Apple Television. Finally, the next big thing that is a possibility is an iPad Pro, with a larger screen, somewhere around 12″.

However, we don’t have long to wait and I for one will be watching the Keynote live.

Mavericks issue solved


A while back I posted I was having issues with Mavericks. I am happy to say that these are now resolved. The solution that finally resolved the remaining issues left unresolved by updates to Mavericks was to remove two hard drives from my Mac Pro. I had hoped that the two hard drives in question, which were somewhat long in the tooth would be suitable for using with Parallels for the Windows side of things. Alas, it was not to be. For whatever reason they were causing problems with the Mac side of things and had to go. Since I took them out things have vastly improved. Maybe it was because they were formatted as NTFS as I wanted to use them as backup for data on the Windows side of things. Maybe it was an issue with Paragon’s NTFS for Mac. Who really knows? Certainly, as the actual need for them was minimal I decided it was simpler to remove them. Now my Mac boots up in 10 seconds and all apps run without trouble (most of the time)!

So I guess the moral of this story is, if you are going to add extra drives to the bays of your Mac Pro (pre-2013 version that is) it’s probably best to install brand-new ones. In the meantime, I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year!

Parallels Desktop for Mac

Parallels Desktop for Mac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Mac Pro (the old one!)


Mac Pro unboxing photos, batch 1 #technopr0n

In case you are confused, I have recently purchased a Mac Pro, but its not the new one (its not out yet so how cool would that be!). No, its a Mac Pro 4.1 (aka the early 2009 Quad Core 2.66 GHz one). It came with just 3GB of RAM, 640GB HD and the rather old NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 graphics card. I managed to get a great deal on it from Albion Computers. Once it arrived I wasted little time in installing an old PC graphics card – the Radeon 4870. I had to first order 2 power cables on eBay (came the very next day – great job there 7systems!) before I could install it. Once it was installed and the external monitor was connected I fired it up and waited anxiously to see if it worked…. and it did! No need to install drivers or flash the card before-hand (it being a PC card and therefore not a specific Apple model).

As the RAM is a measly 3GB I decided to upgrade the RAM and after some research and online price comparisons I discovered it was cheaper to buy 16GB from the US than here in the UK. I also managed to get a deal on the latest version of Parallels and still save money, even after I pay the VAT once it arrives in UK at Customs. How mad is that! My only mistake was not to carefully check shipping times as I choose to ship via the USPS. I later discovered that this means my RAM etc may take up to 45 days to arrive! That’s the worst-case scenario according to the MacSales representative I had an online chat with to query why my order had yet to arrive. So far its been 10 days and counting. I’ll let you know when it arrives.

So, until it arrives I have been keeping myself busy trying out a few old PC hard drives in the 3 free drive bays. Two of them worked ok and I have formatted them as NTFS in readiness for installing Windows once my copy of Parallels arrives. I have also been busy plugging in old Mac ext drives to access my back catalogue of files created on earlier models of Macs (5 at least!). I am very happy to be back on a Mac (having donated my last MacBook Pro to my daughter for her college studies) and very glad (to say the least) not to have to work constantly on the HP laptop I use in my day job. All that time wasted with security updates, scans and trouble-shooting Windows issues.  I know I said I am installing Parallels (as soon as it arrives that is) but I will be g;ad to be using Windows on a Mac to be honest – it makes more sense than using a Windows laptop – believe me I know form experience!

Once I have the RAM installed and Windows (courtesy of Parallels) installed I will get to grips with Creative Cloud on the Mac. Having run it for a year on a PC laptop I am looking forward to getting back to the Mac way of doing things, I can tell you. I am also looking forward to Phase 2 of my grand plan – to install an SSD RAID to run Maverick from!

Waiting patiently for news of Mac Pro refresh!


English: Side view of a Power Mac G5 (left) an...

English: Side view of a Power Mac G5 (left) and an Mac Pro (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Its been a long time since we had a refresh to the Mac Pro range of workstations (leaving aside the minor tweak in 2012). many professionals working with video or 3d graphics have already deserted Apple and bought into workstations from the likes of HP and Scan. Who can blame them.
As it did with Xserve and some of its high-end applications, Apple seems to have treated the professional with a fair degree of disdain. If it wasn’t for Tim Cook saying that a new Mac Pro was in the wings I doubt anyone would be waiting with bated breath fro an announcement at the forthcoming WWDC.
So, will we see a new Mac Pro, made in the USA and if so, what form will it take? Will it be a full tower or some sort of mini-towers as some have been speculating. Here, for its worth, are my hopes (as I hope to be the proud owner of one at some point in the near future).

  1. Multi-core (x4, x8, x12)
  2. Upgradeable graphics
  3. Multiple Thunderbolt ports (at least two) and USB 3
  4. Multi-drive slots so that RAID can be internal on a high-speed bus

Other than that it doesn’t really matter what it looks like or what else it comes with. It needs to be fast and its needs to be upgradeable, otherwise what is the point? Price-wise it would be good if the cheapest model came in below the most expensive iMac so that buyers would have the option of a powerful Mac with a built-in screen or choose to use their own existing ones or just to have the option of specifying something more suited to their needs. This is especially relevant for video-editors and the like.
Will we actually see this announced at the WWDC? if not then there had better be something said about when we will see a refresh or all hell will be let loose, that I can guarantee.