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How far can the iPad fall?

“Many observers have been waiting for a while now for the iPad to find its level—for sales to flatten back out and reveal what size Apple’s iPad business will really be going forward. It’s clear that the heady days where Apple sold 80 million iPads in a year are gone, and won’t be coming back for quite a while. But as sales continue to decline, it’s worth asking when it will all stop.

At this point, Apple’s selling iPads at a rate of approximately 48 million iPads per year—roughly the rate it was selling them in 2011, at the very start of the iPad’s lifespan, just before iPad sales kicked into gear. So is this the bottom? Or will it get worse before it gets better?”

Jason Snell ponders the future of the iPad. He particularly looks at four points that may have contributed to its fall in sales, but none of them answer the problem entirely. I think the iPad solved a problem that many people didn’t know they had, but that most people simply don’t need or want one.

As tech writers, we tend to assume that everyone has a computer (or used to), and needs a computing device. More and more people make do with their smartphones – hence the success of phablets – and don’t need anything else. I know lots of people who love the iPad, and use it as their “computer,” not owning a device with a keyboard and display. But maybe there aren’t that many who really need such a device. And those who do, maybe they don’t feel the need to upgrade. I’m sure Apple is trying to figure this out, and, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that their solution – the iPad Pro – is the right one. Maybe they’ll finally have to compete on price.

Source: How far can the iPad fall? | Macworld

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OS X El Capitan and tvOS still a bag of hurt for people with motion sickness and other vestibular disorders

I’m starting to feel like Apple has a vendetta against anyone with a vestibular disorder. tvOS recently appeared with a ‘Reduce Motion’ setting so ineffective that it may as well have played a little sniggering noise when activated. And I’ve now, grudgingly, updated my main work Mac to OS X El Capitan. I’m not having fun.

Craig Grannell has been writing about this for a while. He has a vestibular issue which causes dizziness when certain visual stimuli move around. I have a similar, yet less serious issue, and I, too, find that the swimmy motion in iOS and OS X is painful at times. (Remember the constantly moving background when you used to enter Time Machine to restore files?) I’ve turned off as much of the motion as I can, not just because it’s problematic for me, but because it’s useless eye candy.

But it’s not just motion, it’s Apple’s general approach. In many iOS apps, fonts are too small and can’t be changed, or contrast isn’t ideal. This has improved – look at the Notes app in iOS 8, and now in iOS 9 – but it’s still not ideal. And third-party apps are worse. So many apps either don’t let you change fonts and sizes, or impose just a few limited size options. Or they don’t use Apple’s system-wide font size setting on iOS. The entire Apple/iOS developer community needs to pay more attention to these issues; we’re not all 25-year olds with excellent vision.

A number of times, I’ve written to developers asking why they don’t offer font options, at least to change the size. The ones who reply generally say that they’ll add it to their list of potential “features.” But allowing users to change the size of fonts isn’t a feature, it’s a basic requirement.

Source: OS X El Capitan and tvOS still a bag of hurt for people with motion sickness and other vestibular disorders

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The Committed Podcast Talks About Live Music, Apple’s Earnings, and More

The Committed Podcast Icon 1400x1400 01In this week’s episode of The Committed podcast, Ian Schray, Rob Griffiths and I welcome The Mac Observer’s Dave Hamilton to the show to talk about fitness trackers, live music, Apple’s financials, the Apple Watch, and whether or not drummers are musicians.

Listen to The Committed, Episode 114: “Tangents Are Our Show”

If you like The Committed podcast, you can subscribe or leave a rating or review on iTunes, or with your favorite podcatcher.

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Dodgy USB Type-C cable fries vigilante engineer’s $1,000 laptop

“Benson Leung’s good intentions have finally caught up with him. The Google engineer who launched a crusade against bad USB-C cables in late 2015 just uncovered another sub-standard USB-C cable—and this time it’s cost him a $1,000 laptop.

The Google engineer recently tested Surjtech’s 3M USB 3.1 Type-C to standard Type-A USB 3.0 adapter cable, but those tests didn’t get very far at all. Leung said that as soon as he connected the cable to his Chromebook Pixel, via a small USB power delivery (PD) analyzer, both the PD and his laptop ceased working properly.”

I recently wrote about Leung and his reviews. What I wonder, reading the above, is what the company’s liability is. Clearly if the cable caused the demise of a computer, Leung should be able to get the value of his laptop from them.

But this leads to an even broader question. If the USB-C specification is such that a bad cable can fry a computer, it seems that this is not a cable that should be used. This worries me, since I own a 12″ MacBook. I bought two Apple adapters, but if, in a pinch, I needed another cable to charge my MacBook, I’d be very worried that I might not be able to find one that meets the specifications. I have never had any computer or electronic device where it was possible that a cable sold as being the right type might actually cause damage to it.

Source: Dodgy USB Type-C cable fries vigilante engineer’s $1,000 laptop | Macworld

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Don’t Convert Existing Audio Files to Lossless; They Don’t Sound Better

With digital music, there are several types of files.

  • Lossy compressed files such as AAC or MP3 files. These use several techniques to make music files smaller, including psychoacoustic modeling (removing sounds you don’t hear), and standard file compression (shrinking parts of files when repeated strings of characters are found). When you compress a file to a lossy format, such as when you rip a CD, you lose some of the original sound data. (But not 90% of it, as Neil Young wants you to believe.)
  • Lossless compressed files such as Apple Lossless or FLAC. These files retain all the original musical data while taking up much less space than the uncompressed files on CDs. Audio from a CD ripped in Apple Lossless format takes up about 250–400 MB, or around 7 MB per minute, depending on the type of music. When you play these files, they are uncompressed on the fly, and they become bit-perfect equivalents of the original CDs or uncompressed files.
  • Uncompressed files are AIFF and WAV files, which encapsulate raw sound data from a music CD in file headers so the data can be used on computers. This uncompressed format takes up a lot of space, around 600–700 MB per disc, or about 10 MB per minute of audio.

I get a fair number of emails from people who think that they can convert their lossy (MP3 or AAC) files to a lossless format and have better quality files.

This is simply wrong. Once that data is lost, it’s gone. You can convert an MP3 or AAC file to an Apple Lossless or FLAC file, but it will be exactly the same quality as the original lossy file. The only way to create lossless files is to rip your CDs in a lossless format, or purchase downloads in Apple Lossless or FLAC formats.

So if you think you’re going to get better sound by converting your lossy files to lossless, you won’t. You’ll simply be wasting your time, and using more disk space to store the files.

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Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn