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Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's a pretty good comparison between the latest Dell XPS 13 and latest MacBook Air with specifications, benchmarks and evaluation (without judging operating systems).
Tom's Guide said:
MacBook Air 2020 vs Dell XPS 13 2020: Which laptop wins?
... The MacBook Air 2020 shows that Apple's willing to adjust to user feedback, fixing its keyboard and lowering the starting price. Only time will tell if Apple will give its MacBook Air U-series processors, or if it will reserve them for the MacBook Pros. But with just the right mix of performance and price, the MacBook Air 2020 is the best MacBook for most people.

Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 is like Omar from The Wire: the king of the game. The InfinityEdge display is killer, its 1080p battery life is phenomenal and its keyboard makes for excellent typing.

As for the future? Apple is expected to release MacBooks with ARM processors, which could drive their battery test scores into the sky. But for now, the Dell XPS 13 2020 is the best ultraportable around.
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Mark Gurman has uniquely accurate sources for Apple information, and this article has an update about Apple's plans for moving the Mac from Intel to custom ARM processors.
Bloomberg said:
Apple Aims to Sell Macs With Its Own Chips Starting in 2021
... Apple is preparing to release at least one Mac with its own chip next year, according to the people. But the initiative to develop multiple chips, codenamed Kalamata, suggests the company will transition more of its Mac lineup away from current supplier Intel Corp.

... The first Mac processors will have eight high-performance cores, codenamed Firestorm, and at least four energy-efficient cores, known internally as Icestorm. Apple is exploring Mac processors with more than 12 cores for further in the future, the people said.

... The Kalamata project has been going for several years. In 2018, Apple developed a Mac chip based on the iPad Pro’s A12X processor for internal testing. That gave the company’s engineers confidence they could begin replacing Intel in Macs as early as 2020, Bloomberg News reported.

... Moving macOS from Intel’s chip architecture to an Arm-based design will be a technical challenge. Microsoft Corp. stumbled with a similar effort.
 


Mark Gurman has uniquely accurate sources for Apple information, and this article has an update about Apple's plans for moving the Mac from Intel to custom ARM processors.
Certainly could be true, but I still think it's cheaper, easier, goal-achieving, and customer-pleasing for them for them to simply mainstream iPadOS for everyday computing and leave a limited selection of Macs for pros, power users, and old timers. Their current actions (desktop Safari on iPad, external device support, more robust Files app, keyboard with trackpad for iPad, etc.) point in this direction.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Their current actions (desktop Safari on iPad, external device support, more robust Files app, keyboard with trackpad for iPad, etc.) point in this direction.
On the other hand, Apple's iOSification of macOS and Mac apps suggests the opposite. But Apple obviously intends to merge the two, one way or another.

Maybe we'll end up with a high-priced macOS Pro*, along with iPadOS/iMacOS, plus iOS, watchOS and tvOS.

(*Perhaps this could contain a new Apple hypervisor for virtualization, the same way Microsoft includes Hyper-V with Windows 10 Pro. Linux has QEMU.)
 


Using Windows 10 under VMWare Fusion I am able to easily run a full sandbox environment for development work on my 2010 Mac Pro - including a web application server, a custom development environment, and Oracle Personal Edition. The 12 CPUs on the Mac Pro barely tick over, regardless of what I am writing or running.

Will I no longer be able to use VMware Fusion once the Mac switches over to ARM? That seems likely to me.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
... Will I no longer be able to use VMware Fusion once the Mac switches over to ARM? That seems likely to me.
I actually noted this very briefly in a prior posting:
But here's a longer citation:
Columbia University said:
KVM/ARM: An Open-Source ARM Virtualization System
As ARM CPUs become increasingly common in mobile devices and servers, there is a growing demand for providing the benefits of virtualization for ARM-based devices. We present our experiences building the Linux ARM hypervisor, KVM/ARM, the first full system ARM virtualization solution that can run unmodified guest operating systems on ARM multicore hardware.

KVM/ARM introduces split-mode virtualization, allowing a hypervisor to split its execution across CPU modes and be integrated into the Linux kernel. This allows KVM/ARM to leverage existing Linux hardware support and functionality to simplify hypervisor development and maintainability while utilizing recent ARM hardware virtualization extensions to run virtual machines with comparable performance to native execution.

KVM/ARM has been successfully merged into the mainline Linux kernel, ensuring that it will gain wide adoption as the virtualization platform of choice for ARM. We provide the first measurements on real hardware of a complete hypervisor using ARM hardware virtualization support. Our results demonstrate that KVM/ARM has modest virtualization performance and power costs, and can achieve lower performance and power costs compared to x86-based Linux virtualization on multicore hardware.
 


On the other hand, Apple's iOSification of macOS and Mac apps suggests the opposite. But Apple obviously intends to merge the two, one way or another.
I don't know that it's so obvious. If anything, I think it's halfhearted, like most of what Apple has put into macOS over the last several years that isn't iCloud. Catalyst doesn't appear to be much embraced by developers, from what I can tell, including Apple. iTunes has been exploded (not illogically) into component apps, but that's mostly about better supporting their paid services strategy. The rest of the Mac is still the Mac, except that it keeps getting slower and slower from all the iCloud services, and less and less pleasant to use because of all the (admittely necessary, but still) security enhancements.

Even with the pointless reorganization of the System Preferences in Catalina, the poorly renamed "Apple ID" pane isn't even aligned with iOS's iCloud settings! There is so much daylight between the user experiences of current iOS and macOS, even among apps of the same name (like Music, Calendar, etc), that at their current rate of minor Mac incrementalism, some kind of true merging into a single OS seems unlikely to ever be completed.

macOS is gigantic. Creating a single operating system that would be suitable for both touch and mouse-based usage while retaining compatibility with existing Mac apps (even with architecture adaptation) and iPad apps would have to be a singular focus of the company like it was for Microsoft in getting to Windows 10 – and which nearly killed them with Windows 8 – and I just don't see that kind of energy coming from Apple. The Mac is the Mac. They're gonna sideline it over time, because they don't care enough about it to truly figure out what it would mean to make it touchable in a seamless, integrated way that's compatible with their mobile operating systems.

As for some kind of Hyper-V, I'd like to see it, but it seems unlikely. It's not Apple-esque in terms of experience; it would be poor performance if it's doing CPU instruction translation, and Apple hates the past, except when it comes to keeping obsolete products for sale for the sake of meeting every conceivable price point.

A seamless Rosetta-type solution would be the only thing I could see them implementing, while developers got on board with porting their apps to the new architecture; but I feel as though Apple puts so little effort into making the Mac experience better that I'm not sure they'd bother.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Catalyst doesn't appear to be much embraced by developers, from what I can tell, including Apple. iTunes has been exploded (not illogically) into component apps, but that's mostly about better supporting their paid services strategy. The rest of the Mac is still the Mac, except that it keeps getting slower and slower from all the iCloud services, and less and less pleasant to use because of all the (admittely necessary, but still) security enhancements.
I wrote before about all the fundamental changes to the Mac operating system itself that go far beyond Catalyst and dumb Apple apps and have brought a lot of instability. It seems to me that Apple has been working to merge iOS and macOS at the foundational level of the operating systems, which certainly makes sense in terms of allocating limited development resources.

Of course, the higher-level user interface libraries are very different currently – being derived one from the iPhone touch model and the other from the original mouse-based model – but aren't these getting mashed together as well, in iPadOS as the prime example?
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's some interesting perspective on Apple's current attempts to make big iPads function more like Macs:
Josh Ginter said:
Magic Keyboard: Turning the iPad Into Something New
... First came a dedicated Files app. Second came USB-C and read/write capabilities for external storage. Third came a desktop-class browser. Now, we see honest-to-goodness keyboard and trackpad support. In the future, I bet we see proper external display support, continued improvement in I/O (specifically around the Magic Keyboard’s USB-C port), and a keen eye ensuring software continues to improve for the enterprise-arena. ... The iPad Magic Keyboard feels like a doubling down of Apple’s focus to giving its customers what they want and what they need to get their jobs done each day.
 


Here's some interesting perspective on Apple's current attempts to make big iPads function more like Macs:
... continued improvement in I/O (specifically around the Magic Keyboard’s USB-C port), and a keen eye ensuring software continues to improve for the enterprise-arena....​
There as some "big leaps" here.

1) The Magic Keyboard only sends power to the iPad Pro.
Apple said:
Set up and use Magic Keyboard for iPad
The USB-C port on Magic Keyboard provides power, but it doesn't transmit data. This means you can't use this port with an input device such as a USB-C mouse. Never connect one end of a USB-C cable to the USB-C port on your iPad and the other end to the USB-C port on your Magic Keyboard.
The fact that it can't even run a simple mouse is indicative that it is a big stretch to label this a USB Type-C port – it is more like the USB-C port on a power adapter than it is a "USB" port — a physical connector shape/form-factor with no substantive "USB" signal aspect to it.

One review pointed that charging via the keyboard was slower. (I'm not sure if they charged the other way, with the keyboard in backlight mode consuming its max power and bleeding power off the iPad.)

2) There are only three "pins" in the smart connector. How much bidirectional data can run on three pins where a power and likely a ground are soaking up two of those? Apple could switch to a bigger connector in the future, but a much simpler path to putting two full-fledged USB-C ports on a future iPad Pro would be to simply just put them on the iPad Pro itself. Could still use this as a power port, so wouldn't be stuck with a "one data port wonder" system.

It isn't like there are 4+ pairs of connections here and the Magic Keyboard for iPad just happens to use a small subset of them. All the keyboard has to do now is route power. If they needed to put some kind of USB hub/router in the keyboard also, that would present some modest issues.

Apple coming up with an A14X+ chip that can handle two external USB 3.x connections, as opposed to one, probably would match up well with being used in a MacBook-like product with the same chip coupled to a different OS.

If there were sufficient penetration of the iPadOS software ecosystem of apps that could deal well with keyboard+trackpad mode, then perhaps that would open the door for an "iBook"-like device – iPadOS on a clamshell device which could switch modes when you fold 'away' the keyboard/trackpad or remove it with a different connector.

The iPad Pro plus this substantive keyboard ends up heavier than the old MacBook. If we really want a keyboard the vast majority of the time, then there is a better product solution path. As a "home" (or "work") dock, it makes more sense.
 


There are only three "pins" in the smart connector. How much bidirectional data can run on three pins where a power and likely a ground are soaking up two of those?
Quite a bit actually. Developed for automotive applications, the 1000BASE-T1 variant of Gigabit Ethernet allows bidirectional gigabit speeds over a single wire pair over distances of up to 40m.

I don't think there's a technical reason why you couldn't deliver phantom power over this as well. (Remember analog phone lines where a single wire-pair is used to transmit and receive audio as well as power the phone itself.)

Of course, the fact that it is physically possible doesn't mean Apple will actually do it.
 


I can certainly understand the appeal of replacing a laptop with an iPad. When I tried the Magic Keyboard it came close, although I found the trackpad on the 11" to be too small. My biggest issue, however, was that the Magic Keyboard needed to be removed if I wanted to read a book or take my iPad to the gym, as the only position it supports is the "floating" landscape one. Hopefully v. 2.0 will address some of these issues...
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Steam abandoning Apple's Mac VR:
The Verge said:
Steam ends Mac support for SteamVR
Steam will no longer support SteamVR on macOS. RIP! It is the end of a very short era. Steam introduced SteamVR for Apple computers way back in the mists of time — 2017’s Worldwide Developers Conference. As The Verge wrote then: “Valve has been working with Apple on this since last summer, which shows a high level of technical and business confidence in Apple’s VR efforts.”
SnazzyLabs said:
Quinn Nelson on Twitter
Further proves Gabe Newell’s 2007 quote.

#gaming #VR #Steam
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Apple posted financial results for its most recent fiscal quarter that were very surprising in the face of the global pandemic...
So what do you do when you have many billions of dollars in cash sitting around? Why take out billions more in loans, of course!

Hmmm, here's something interesting I hadn't noticed before...
MarketWatch said:
Apple Inc.

2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
Net Goodwill​
5.12B​
5.41B​
5.72B​
-​
-​
Similarly posted here.

What happened to Apple's Goodwill from 2018 on?
 


So what do you do when you have many billions of dollars in cash sitting around? Why take out billions more in loans, of course!
Perhaps some of those many billions of dollars in cash are not simply "sitting around" but are invested in instruments that are (1) easily liquidable, and therefore regarded as cash, and (2) earning interest at rates higher than at least the short-term rates at which Apple is borrowing. (Invested capital is a pretty large part of the balance sheet in the Yahoo chart.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Perhaps some of those many billions of dollars in cash are not simply "sitting around" but are invested in instruments that are (1) easily liquidable, and therefore regarded as cash, and (2) earning interest at rates higher than at least the short-term rates at which Apple is borrowing. (Invested capital is a pretty large part of the balance sheet in the Yahoo chart.)
I didn't mean to imply that Apple wasn't smart about managing its money. (In fact, maybe it's a little too smart about it....)
 


Hmmm, here's something interesting I hadn't noticed before...
Apple Inc.
Similarly posted here.
What happened to Apple's Goodwill from 2018 on?
I am no financial expert, but the first thing that comes to mind is the massive corporate tax cut that was handed to all the poor, suffering multi-nationals.

Looking at that MarketWatch link, there are a number of things that changed abruptly after 2017. Most notable are the things that vanished or appeared:

- Bad Debt/Doubtful Accounts​
- Intangible Assets (Net Goodwill & Net Other)​
+ Provision for Risks & Charges​
- Assets - Total - Growth​

"Deferred Taxes - Credit" dropped substantially in 2018 after a multi-year increase. Also, the odd flip between the two categories under "Other Liabilities" in 2019 is odd. May be a delayed result due to when actions/filings occur or show up.

Any or all of this may be completely unrelated to the 2017 tax bill and/or Apple moving their tax haven(s), but it is interesting timing. One change can have a major ripple effect in other categories when a large corporation starts shuffling their financial deck.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
... Any or all of this may be completely unrelated to the 2017 tax bill and/or Apple moving their tax haven(s), but it is interesting timing. One change can have a major ripple effect in other categories when a large corporation starts shuffling their financial deck.
Actually, I vaguely recall changes to corporate accounting/reporting/tax laws a while back – maybe this is related. I'll have to do some digging for that, if no one else has the facts handy.
 





Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Microsoft announced some new hardware products that will compete with Apple:
CNBC said:
Microsoft unveils a couple of new laptops — including a tiny one for $399
  • Microsoft announced several new products on Wednesday including the Surface Go 2 and the Surface Book 3.
  • The Surface Go 2 is an affordable tablet that starts at $399, and the Surface Book 3 is a laptop with a screen you can remove and use as a tablet.
  • Microsoft also unveiled the new Surface Headphones 2 and a release date for its AirPods competitor, the Surface Earbuds.
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Wow... I had just been lusting after both a Dell XPS 15 and a 17" screen (like that of the ultralight LG Gram 17"), and a friend emailed me about brand-new new Dell XPS models, which include a new 17" screen! (Unfortunately, with revenue way down after Amazon's drastic commission cut, a purchase may not be viable. I'm also curious about Linux compatibility.)

The new XPS 15 starts at just $1299.99 with delivery in early June and is $1509.99 for an appealing configuration:
  • 10th Generation Intel Core i5-10300H (8MB Cache, up to 4.5 GHz, 4 cores)
  • Windows 10 Pro, 64-bit, English
  • Intel UHD Graphics
  • 16GB, 2x8GB, DDR4, 2933MHz
  • 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
  • two Thunderbolt 3 ports with DisplayPort and Power Delivery
  • a USB-C port with DisplayPort and Power Delivery
  • USB-C to USB-A and HDMI 2.0 adapter included
  • full-size SD card reader
  • 3.5mm combo headphone/mic jack
  • WiFi 6
  • fingerprint/IR camera unlock
  • lock slot
Also appealing is its 1080p 16:10, 500-nit display:
  • 15.6" laptop with a refined 16:10 InfinityEdge display delivering up to 100% Adobe RGB color
An anti-glare 4K screen is optional (with higher power demands) with or without touch capability (which adds weight/bulk). A GTX 1650 Ti GPU is also optional.

The new XPS 17 is not yet available for ordering (it apparently starts at $1499) but features graphics hardware up to a GeForce RTX 2060. It's billed as a "17-inch laptop in a 15-inch size", offering up to a 4K UHD display, as well as an "advanced thermal design" with a "massive vapor chamber." It also offers four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Dave Lee has a video preview of pre-production versions of both new models:
YouTube said:
The new XPS 17 and XPS 15!
Before a I review the XPS 17 9700 and XPS 15 9500 for 2020, here are my early hands on impressions. Better than an Apple MacBook in many ways, these are the best laptops from Dell!
In sharp contrast to Apple's MacBook Pros, Dell provides for user upgrades of both NVMe SSDs and RAM.

The MacBook Pro 16" continues to have the best sound playback, but the new XPS has improved a lot.

I'll also note that the inexpensive Inspiron 5491 2n1 I've been using as a Windows/Linux test bed has the best keyboard of any of the many keyboards I currently have available – better than any Mac laptop or Apple keyboard, other than the hard-wired and too-large Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (no longer available) or the ancient Apple Extended Keyboard (an ADB, not USB, device).

The new XPS laptops have a new keyboard that looks good (with 1.3mm key travel), but I don't know exactly how their keyboard compares to the others.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's another video preview of Dell's new XPS 15 and XPS 17 with some more MacBook Pro 16" comparisons:
ShortCircuit said:
The MacBook Pro's Biggest Rival - Dell XPS 15 9500 & 17 9700 Laptops
The Dell XPS finally got a radical update rather than just a spec upgrade. Can it compete against the Apple Macbook for the top spot with laptops?

Let's compare Apple's MacBook Pro vs. Dell's new XPS 15 (leaving aside OS differences):

Price​
$2,399.00
$2,199.99
CPU​
6-core i7, 4.5 GHz boost​
6-core i7, 5.0 GHz boost
GPU​
Radeon Pro 5300M (4GB)​
GeForce GTX 1650 Ti (4GB)​
RAM​
16GB, 2666MHz DDR4​
16GB 2933MHz
SSD​
512GB T2
512GB M.2
wireless​
802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0​
Wi-Fi 6 AX1650, Bluetooth 5.0​
battery/adapter​
100 Whr/95W​
86WHr/130W
Thunderbolt 3four portstwo ports (plus A/C adapter and USB-C ports)
SD Card slotnoyes
headphone/mic jacknoyes
OSmacOS CatalinaWindows 10 Pro (or Linux?)

Display:
resolution​
3072‑by‑1920​
3840 x 2400
brightness​
500 nits​
500 nits​
touch?​
no​
yes

Additional notes:
  • The XPS 15 starts at just $1299.99. The MacBook Pro starts at $2399.
  • The XPS 15 has upgradable, standard RAM and SSD; the MacBook Pro does not.
  • The MacBook Pro's proprietary T2-based security/storage/boot system is radically different from standard systems in Dell's XPS 15, Apple's pre-2016 Macs, and other computers.
 


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