Category Archives: Apple

Apple Professionals Group – Part II

I just saw one of Intel’s new commercials. It claims 98% of the Cloud runs on Intel. I have no reason to doubt that, but it did bring me back to thinking about Apple.

With each passing year Apple introduces newer and faster A-Series processors. They’ve also introduced a new recycling program. When they receive phones, or other devices, through the program they take them apart. Why not use those old processors?

More What Ifs

Hello, Dr. Jones.I know, all I do is ask questions, but it’s fun to ask these types of questions. Why doesn’t Apple go about building servers using older tech? That’s right. Take the components pulled from, say, an iPhone 5s and put them to use in a small blade server that accepts daughter cards with a few A7 chips on them?

Think about running a stripped down version of macOS, or a pumped up version of iOS, on these servers. We know the two OS’es share a common core. Build some experimental hardware that is scalable by adding more cores via daughter cards(blades?) and see how they perform when used as web servers. Could you still serve up expected performance? I don’t know, but I’d imagine most things are I/O bound, network bound, or bound by poorly written software.

I know Apple doesn’t really care about server hardware, and why would they, it would be another fun thought experiment to create something like this. Why not, Apple has the money to spend on some fun and potentially useful technology that is also good for the environment.

Apple Professionals Group

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.I wrote down some thoughts a couple weeks back and thought I’d throw them up here. It’s mainly a bunch of questions with some ideas. Unlike a small group of Professionals I don’t need the stuff I talk about here. I’m perfectly happy with my work 2014 MacBook Pro and my 2011 MacBook Pro. Both computers are plenty powerful enough for iOS Development. Here are the thoughts.

Why doesn’t Apple create a Professionals Group dedicated to developing a lineup of serious Pro computers and software? Maybe it moves a bit more slowly than the rest of the company? Maybe you get a computer every two to three years, but it’s at the top of the range, always. Maybe the computers are completely upgradable and modular. Something like we’ve never seen Apple create.

Laptops with “bigger” bodies (think late 2014 15in MacBook Pro), with faster processors and lots of RAM. Maybe you can only get one type of laptop? E.G. 15in MacBook Awesome with the newest Core i7, 32GB RAM, and a 1TB drive, plus a discrete graphics card of some kind driving their already awesome Retina Display.

Think of a more rectangular Mac Pro. One you could open and add RAM, processors, and drives to, easily. Maybe there is a way to plug “modules” into the front and back to the device without cracking the case? Maybe the case is the size of a Mac Mini, but is stackable so you can add additional units Toolbeltthat extend processing power. E.G. pop off a small cover on the top that exposes a slot that the next “Mini” looking device sits right on top of. Oh, how about extending the iMac using these “modules”? That would give us a 5k display and give Pros the ability to scale it up from the base model. Maybe the primary “motherboard” is just a beautifully designed Apple Bus that allows that. Would it be difficult? I’d image it would, but isn’t that what Apple does? They find unique solutions to difficult problems.

Oh, how about creating a professional level display that is also a touchscreen and is on a swivel like the new Microsoft Surface Studio? Why not make it a standalone display that connects to one of these new Mac Pro bases and could also be used with a MacBook Awesome? Super high end stuff.

Apple has billions in the bank. Why not go out on a limb to advance computing down some crazy road with a small group of dedicated hardware, software, and design professionals targeting professionals?

Look. I’m not the ultimate target of such specialized hardware. It would be professionals making movies and dealing with big honking problems. As an iOS Developer I’m fine with a laptop, but I’d sure like to see Apple strike out to create something truly wonderful. Something that changes the computing game, again. This time in the favor of professionals.

Wouldn’t it be cool if they’ve been doing this all along and they just haven’t finished? That would be awesome.

I know this isn’t the type of thing Apple does, but look at what’s possible.

Here’s the Acer Predator line of gaming laptops. Extreme? You bet. But all the same, super powerful portable computers.

How about Project Valerie?

Beloved Hedwig.I’m sure a lot of the loudest of critics would pick these apart: “Oh, they’re too heavy”, “They’re ugly”, blah, blah, blah. Sure on all points. But they’re high performance devices from people thinking outside of the box. They’re not constrained by “Lighter and thinner” at all costs. Imagine what Apple might be able to do if they were willing to make something a bit heavier. Maybe they could so something really special. I don’t think we’ll ever find out. I have a feeling Apple is going to keep making the Mac thinner and lighter until they are so close to the iPad the Mac no longer matters.

Then Apple will stop selling the Mac.

App Stores

A snowflakeEvery once in a while developers drop interesting nuggets of information on Twitter or their weblogs on the state of Apple App Stores and how they relate to their businesses.

In late November longtime Mac and iOS developer, Panic, announced they would discontinue Status Board.

“First, we had hoped to find a sweet spot between consumer and pro users, but the market for Status Board turned out to be almost entirely pro, which limits potential sales on iOS — as we’ve learned the hard way over the past couple of years, there’s not a lot of overlap right now between “pro” and “iOS”.”

Panic is a shop I look to for direction and inspiration. They build solid, beautiful, easy to use applications. Their ratio of Mac to iOS Apps is pretty interesting. Their main Mac applications; Coda and Transmit, are aimed squarely at professionals. If you look at their remaining iOS applications two are complimentary to their Mac counterparts; Coda and Transmit, and the third, Prompt, is most likely built using code and knowledge gained from their other apps. That is not meant as a criticism. It makes total sense. Coda and Transmit are their big dogs, why not make iOS versions of them? I’m looking forward to Panic’s year end report. The last two have been amazing reads.

This morning as I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline, trying to avoid political talk, I noticed an exchange between Michael Love and David Barnard. As suspected, iPhone is the money maker and iPad is not pulling its weight.

Not long after that exchange I saw a nice tweet from James Thomson, of PCalc fame. It looks like the iOS App Store is his primary source of income.

Depending on the podcast I’m listening to, Core Intuition vs. Accidental Tech Podcast, I’m either excited about the state of the Mac or completely bummed about it. Regardless, it feels like Apple is pushing the iPad toward the Prosumer market and keeping the Mac alive for Professionals, mainly those creating iOS Apps (Hey, we need a platform for creating apps, right?)

Having said all that, I’d still like to take a shot at the Mac software market. I don’t need to make millions, but it would be nice to make hundreds. 😀

Windows 10 is a great alternative

Marco Arment: “Microsoft is boldly experimenting with PC hardware, but Windows and everything around Windows is woefully inferior to macOS and the Mac software ecosystem. Even if Microsoft did everything right, it would take Windows at least a decade to catch up — and they won’t do everything right.”

Bringing in the HarvestI doubt Marco will see this, and this is definitely not an attack, this is something I’d say to my friends. In the nicest of ways, to say it would take Windows at least a decade to catch up, is a bit hyperbolic.

I’m a fan of Microsoft’s Windows, I have been for years. It helped me get my start in this industry. I switched to the Mac around 2006 and haven’t looked back, I really do love the experience.

If we’re talking about performance, which seems to be the point of your piece, keep in mind that Windows can run on all kinds of hardware. Windows 10 can support up to 256 cores and 512GB of memory. That’s pretty nice. We know that some high end video production shops are abandoning the Mac in favor of Windows boxes because they need the horse power, another great example of why we need a new Mac Pro. But Windows as a tool of choice is very viable.

The development tools on Windows are quite good. Visual Studio is a great IDE. Microsoft’s .Net has become the standard way to develop for Windows, especially for backend services, but you can create beautiful client applications with it all the same. If you’d like you can still write C++ code to the Windows API, like Photoshop or the Microsoft Office apps.

I’m not sure what Marco’s primary complaint about Windows is? Is it just the general usability? Is it a stylistic thing? Maybe he can’t easily run his favorite tools on the platform? That’s a really big deal. I’d love to hear him go into detail about the issues with the platform.

I tell folks all the time. Microsoft’s NT Kernel is a beautifully designed Kernel. It can, and does, underpin different hardware. When it began life it ran on Dec Alpha, MIPS, x86, and eventually came to the PowerPC. Since that time the other architectures fell out of favor and it mainly became an Intel based platform, but it still powers other architectures.

In the end I’d never attempt to tell someone which platform they should choose, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Apple and Microsoft both provide great solutions in software and hardware form. This is great for us, the customer.

Swift, on Windows?

Brent Simmons: “What if — and it’s a big if — Microsoft made Swift a peer with C# and provided some good app frameworks?”

When I published What Ifs and Why Nots I hadn’t read Brent’s piece. He’s actually asking the same questions. What would it take to pull Mac developers to Windows? It would take more than Swift, I’m pretty certain. In a Microsoft .Net world where would Swift fit? Would Microsoft just create a version of Swift that works with the .Net garbage collector, or would it be a compiled language? I’d bet on the former given Microsoft’s all-in on .Net and garbage collection.

The bigger questions is Frameworks. Let’s just say Microsoft does a .Net version of Swift. To create a Windows application you’d have to embrace WinRT. You could use your knowledge of Swift, but you’d have to learn a completely new way of writing applications.

Think about all the things Foundation does for you. If you were to move to Windows and Swift on Windows was all .Net based you couldn’t even reuse your non-UI based classes. You could, of course, reimplement your shared classes to use .Net stuff and maintain your interfaces, but you’d have to do a considerable amount of coding to fit on the platform.

Maybe you don’t make Swift a .Net language. Maybe you bring Foundation over to Windows using the Windows API, which is very different from a development standpoint, and not the preferred way to code new apps on Windows. This could also work. You would have a compiled Swift that could natively link to Foundation, which in turn uses Windows API’s to do any platform level stuff. You could then reuse some of your code investment, like those shared non-UI classes and work on creation of a native Windows UI for your application.

Also, of note. Microsoft already has a great set of Frameworks to use, just use them. It would be like coming to the Mac from Windows and saying “Apple needs to provide some good app frameworks.” They already do, you just need to learn to use them to make the best experience for your users. That is the biggest hurdle for any developer.

Learning the new frameworks and a new OS can be quite daunting. When I came to iOS from doing Windows and Linux based UI’s (using Qt mind) I fought with Interface Builder and decided I had to do everything in code because I couldn’t figure it out. Later I made my peace with it. I still think Visual Studio is the better development environment, but Xcode is a very close second, maybe tied, at this point.

Eat your own dog food.I’m kind of a knucklehead. I spent almost 20-years doing native Windows API based applications so I was very comfortable with Visual Studio and that entire ecosystem. If I can learn to write iOS Applications and embrace the tools, then anyone doing Mac or iOS apps could learn to do Windows based stuff today. Just embrace it, don’t try to force your tools into the platform. Now, if you have some code that can easily come over, you might as well use it, but we all know the best apps feel right on the platform. Embrace the platform.

The new Surface Studio is the first bit of Windows based hardware that has excited me this much about the platform in a very long time. I’d love to work on a new design app for Windows, if I could. Maybe even one that works on both platforms; Windows and Mac. Why not? I mean besides time and money, what else does one need to do something so ambitious? 😀

What Ifs and Why Nots

Apple announces new MacBooks to the world this week and geeks aren’t overly impressed. It’s OK. My gut reaction wasn’t overly positive, but what the heck did I expect? There were enough leaks in the press to warn us about what to expect.

As a Professional Software Developer I don’t need a thinner, lighter, laptop with an integrated touchscreen on the keyboard, but it also doesn’t cause any damage to have those things. I am definitely more interested in having a great piece of hardware that serves my needs.

My Needs

Will write C/C++ for foodI’m not obsessed with the looks of Apple products. They are beautifully designed. I’m a bit more pragmatic. I want my hardware to be fast and dependable. Apple makes fast and dependable hardware. I will never understand their obsession with “thin and light” but that’s ok. It’s their thing.

In the end I’ve been very happy, and I’m still happy, with my late 2011 15in. MacBook Pro. Work provided me with a 2014 15in. MacBook Pro and I can imagine it will work just fine for years to come. At some point down the road macOS will outgrow the hardware and I’ll upgrade. Until that day, I’m fine with what I have.

What If?

It’s too early to tell but what if Apple is in the middle of a transformation from macOS based devices to completely iOS based device? If we were to base that question solely on this weeks announcements it might be a completely reasonable guess, but what if they’re not done announcing new macOS based devices?

It sounds like, based on recent reporting, that Apple is out of the display business. I know that’s sad for a lot of folks, but for me it adds a ring of truth to the idea of Apple moving away from the desktop. Based on that one rumor I half expect Apple to mothball the Mac Pro, Mac Mini, and iMac. What if they do that? It’s fine, they don’t need to make desktop devices any longer. They’re moving to a completely mobile world driven by iOS and the iPhone. Yes, people do real work using just their iOS devices.

That brings us to this; Apple will continue to push the iPad as a professional device for most people. They concede the desktop to everyone else, including Microsoft (who owns the productivity worker space anyway.) That leaves them with the consumer and prosumer markets, which is a perfect fit for them.

Where does that leave professional developers, designers, illustrators, and artists of all kinds? Like I said before, I don’t need a Mac Pro to do my job, but some people do, or at a minimum believe they do (which by extension means they do.) We’ve seen some cases in the high end video production world where shops have abandoned the Mac in favor of more powerful Windows based computers. Designers, illustrators, and artists have the option of the iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, and Microsoft’s recent entrance into this market with Surface Studio. Will a lack of a Mac desktop offering hurt these professions? In some ways it probably will, in others I honestly believe folks will adapt if the software can meet their needs head on. As far as high end workflows go, I’m not so sure. What do folks at Pixar use? Are they completely tied to their Macs or do they depend on Cintiq’s for their daily workflow? I don’t have the slightest clue, but this is where Apple could really disappoint a professional market. I’d love to hear from someone inside Pixar, ILM, Disney, or DreamWorks to see how this could effect them. Remember, outside of the software development and power user communities, most people see their computers as a carpenter would see their hammer. It’s an essential tool and they may have a preference, but a compute is a means to an end.

Why Not?

AHHHHHH!If Apple decides to abandon the desktop in favor of an iOS world, why not create a hardware specification to allow licensed third-party hardware vendors to sale computers with macOS? At a minimum spec out supported hardware configurations and allow people to buy a macOS license to run on their Hackintosh computers.

Another controversial why not. Why not port Xcode to Windows and offer an alternative, lesser expensive, choice to developers that could also let people buy super fast computers to code with? I know, it’s a crazy idea, but as of this writing I’d prefer a Windows computer over an iPad as my primary development computer if I couldn’t get updated desktop or laptop hardware directly from Apple.

Since Microsoft is moving to LLVM why not get Objective-C and Swift running in that environment and provide the iOS simulator on Windows? This also seems like a decent alternative to an all iPad development environment.

All crazy ideas, I know, but things I think about.

Then again, Apple could surprise us in the spring with a brand new Mac Pro and iMac that blows all these crazy ideas right out of the water.

Hey Mac

Bringing in the HarvestJust some quick takes from around the web on Apple’s new MacBook Pro lineup.

iMore: “So, is this new 13-inch really a lean and mean upgrade for MacBook Air owners, or is it just an artificially crippled MacBook Pro meant to lower the cost of entry?

A bit of both, depending on your point of view.”

Charged: “Touch Bar is a great example of this. First, it feels like an excuse to not just add touch to the Mac in the first place. While Microsoft is busy letting you touch the entire display, Apple’s making you look down at your keyboard to interact instead — bizarre.”

JavaScript Scene: “People are losing their minds. Like many MacBook fans, I’m feeling seriously let down. I’ve been waiting a long time for a great MacBook Pro with touch screen.”

512 Pixels: “Desktop Macs didn’t get a single mention, or a silent hardware update after the announcements were done. While last-minute rumors claimed that the iMac wouldn’t be ready in time, it — and the Mac mini — would have been well-served with CPU bumps and Thunderbolt 3. The 27-inch iMac has become a workhorse for professionals like me, and in a world where the Mac Pro is in the shape its in, annual updates should be a must on Apple’s part.”

Ars Technica: “Phil Schiller quickly breezed by the Apple T1 during the presentation yesterday, but the company later confirmed to us that it was its first custom-designed SoC built for the Mac. And developers who have dug into the software and documentation (particularly the tireless Steve Troughton-Smith, whose recent Twitter sabbatical made my feed much more boring) have confirmed that it has an ARMv7 CPU core and is actually running an offshoot of watchOS, all of which helps it interact with the rest of the Mac.”

I was a bit hard on the announcement yesterday, of course I’d like to have a new MacBook Pro 15in even if one of its main features is thinner and lighter. The Touch Bar is going to be fun for developers to play with and I have a feeling some apps will do some amazing and creative implementations. I mainly develop stuff all day and touch type so I don’t see how this helps me in any way, but that’s ok. It’s not for me to use, it’s there so I can create for it. That’s a good thing.

Also, what is James Thomson up to?

Is Apple the new Microsoft?

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.Dave Rogers [permalink isn’t working, sorry]: “My tech obsession with modern Apple and its current products is definitely and completely over. There’s little “special” about Apple anymore. They’re simply the latest incarnation of the 600-lb gorilla. First there was IBM, then there was Microsoft, now there’s Apple. Eventually it’ll be either Google or Amazon. Apple today is just another Microsoft, and there’s little that’s going on there that’s exciting, or even very good. Siri is a joke. Photos is a cruel trick. I actually stuck up for Apple Maps in Colorado, using it to navigate whenever it was my turn, as none of my traveling companions trusted it. I was rewarded for my loyalty by a total mapping clusterfuck on our last day, as Siri tried to get us to ‘take an immediate right’ from an interstate at 70mph.”

Scrappy companies, like Apple pre-iPhone, are able to move a bit more quickly than big companies. IBM went through its own growing pains, so did Microsoft, and now it’s Apple’s turn. From the inside there is probably a bit of grumbling from the ranks, but nothing too bad. I’m sure there are folks on the ground, in multiple groups, that would like more time to improve their efforts. This ties right into something I spotted on Twitter last night.

Steve Frank is a Panic co-Founder and by all accounts a fantastic software developer, just look at their well regarded lineup of applications as proof. I have a great deal of respect for Panic and its team, just as I do for Apple and its teams. I’m a nobody but I have worked on a couple complex software systems through the years. When you’re working on a system with dependencies on other teams it slows things down and introduces strange behaviors and bugs. As much as everyone cares about the end product, it happens.

I’ve never worked at Apple and I don’t know how it works on the inside. But you can bet it’s full of software engineers that know their craft and care deeply about shipping a quality product. Big systems are inherently difficult to maintain and change.

Apple has been making moves over that last few years that introduce greater complexity and deeper integration between their own hardware and services. These are the same moves Microsoft was making in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Deep integration. When this stuff works, it’s like magic, when it fails it’s often times extremely frustrating for the user. You have no idea where things went sideways. Was it the client, the service, or somewhere in between? Which piece of hardware blew it? Why did my notification arrive an hour late, or not at all?

Like other big companies that take these deep dives Apple will work itself out of the weirdness.

Is Apple the new Microsoft? That’s a question for you to answer.

P.S. – I completely understand the place Steve is coming from. He wants to dig in and not come up for air until he’s solved big problems. That’s very admirable.

Dash

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.iMore: “At this point, though, it’s time to forget working it out. Mistakes were clearly made on both sides, and there may be no way for the real truth to ever be known, or for everyone to win. But there’s a way to stop anyone else from losing further: Fix it, unilaterally, because you’re Apple, and you can.”

I was going to write about this, but Rene Ritchie capture my feelings perfectly. Mistakes were made on both side.

It would be nice for Apple to forgive and forget.

Battersea Power Station

London Evening Standard: “Apple will occupy the top six floors inside the former boiler house around a huge central atrium. There will also be three floors of shops, 253 apartments around a “garden square in the sky”, a 2,000-seater auditorium and cinemas in a scheme designed by London architects Wilkinson Eyre.”

If you know me you know I love seeing companies move into an area to refurbish an iconic building. I wish more companies would do stuff like this instead of buying a piece of land and putting up a new building.

I have a thing about downtown Fresno and Detroit. I’ve witnessed some great moves in downtown Fresno thanks to the leadership behind Bitwise Industries. They have big ambitions and I’m hopeful they’ll pull a rabbit out of the hat. I’ve heard Detroit’s once glorious downtown is making a comeback.

I’m more interested in this project than the new spaceship, if you can believe that.