Wednesday, May 29, 2024

When are the Macs Getting M4 Chips? Prediction: MacBook Pro With M4 At the WWDC

What are the new M4 chips? Presumably, Macs could get the M4 chip tomorrow if Apple decides to pull the trigger on them. 

First, let's address the question of why we are even talking about M4 based Macs when the M3 MacBooks were just realized about 7 months ago? Earlier this month, Apple released an all new slate of iPads - iPad Air and iPad Pro. The Air were upgraded to the M2 chip, the same chip that my MacBook Air has now. To the surprise of everyone even though rumors had suggested this weeks ago, the iPad Pro got the M4 chips. Traditionally, the iPad Pro felt like an after thought to the Mac but I am sure that is not really how Apple looks at it. 

This would be the first time that the iPad Pro with the M4 chip outperformed the Mac in terms of sheer horsepower - both in the single core and multi-core performance. However, a small segment of the iPad Pro users lament the fact that the performance of the M4 is wasted as the iPadOS 17 does not really take advantage of all the power of the M4 chip. Personally, I have this to say to these users - who cares? 

The question for these users should be when are the Macs getting the M4 love? I think we could be in for a June surprise at the WWDC when Apple talks about the future of its platforms on June 10th. If this does not happen in June, the next window of opportunity for Apple is this fall, probably October. 

Here is why I think it could happen in a little more than two weeks. Apple really cannot afford to let the Macs sort of languish with the M3 chip. And the M3 chips are powerful. Compared to the M4 though, I think power users really are looking forward to the M4 Pro and M4 Max. Apple will likely refresh the whole MacBook line up but don't be surprised if Apple only upgrades the MacBook Pro. After all, the WWDC is really about the pro users - programmers if you will. 

Apple could then complete the MacBook upgrade with the MacBook Air and possible a new MacBook, which would be another surprise and another post, later this fall in October. 

Another reason why I believe Apple will move on the M4 upgrade now rather than later is competition. With Intel waking up to Apple's threat and Qualcomm releasing its own ARM chips that rival Apple's own chips, Apple cannot afford to fall behind. Even a tie would be a blow to the chip design prowess that Apple has gained in the industry. Furthermore, it is all about artificial intelligence these days. The consumer understanding of AI is mediocre at best which is why these tech companies are all about AI this and AI that. Having the fastest chip only gives Apple bragging rights but its legendary integration between  hardware and software will give it an edge that Wintel or WinQual cannot never match.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

iPad and WWDC Prediction: Apple Will Upgrade Siri And Users Will Not Be Able to Choose Between ChatGPT or Gemini

At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple is set to unveil major upgrades to its virtual assistant Siri. These enhancements will integrate the company's own advanced AI models across all of Apple's operating systems - iOS/iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS However, Apple remains committed to its walled garden philosophy and curate AI experience for its users. 

Right now, there is no indication how Apple plans implement its AI chat version. There is no indication that Apple is planning any chat feature like Gemini or ChatGPT at all.

First, a short history about Siri - it was introduced in 2011 along with the iPhone 4S. It has gained popular and use over the years with different iterations. While it has improved over the last twelve years, for many users, the usefulness and responsiveness of Sir has felt it a "once step forward and two step back" experience.

The hope among Apple fans and investors is that Siri in 2024 will be vastly improved. It may well be but it'll be. However, Apple will not open the floodgates to allowing users to freely choose between competing AI providers. Instead, all queries and AI processing will be streamlined and vetted through Siri. This gatekeeper approach ensures Apple maintains its firm grip on curation, privacy, and the overall user experience.

Under the hood, Siri may leverage multi-source AI models and knowledge bases. This approach has been taken by Apple in the past and may allow Siri to function better and more useful and return Apple to its "it just works" approach.

There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to Apple regarding AI. Given its history, any improvement to Siri beyond what Apple will unveil at the WWDC will take time. Apple likes to let things simmer over time. And other consideration is that we simply have no idea what direction Apple mean to take its AI initiatives. Whatever AI models ChatGPT, Microsoft, Google, or anyone takes, Apple's approach will likely be different. 

At the end of the day, it will be the kinds of results that are delivered that matter. Other models might offer better access to information without a lot of rules and limitations. Apple might take AI in another direction - access is limited but offer better results.

So don't expect Apple to give users a choice of Siri, ChatGPT, or Gemini like they do with search engines on Safari.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

MacBook Air M2 - I Love It And Any Laptop You Get Will Always Be Right For the Time

The 2016 MacBook sitting off to the side still has some value as I gleefully starting using my MacBook Air M2 that I got for a decent price that includes 16GB of RAM and 512 GB of space. And with a fully working keyboard, and, wow, faster chip, I feel I'm more able to do the projects that I want to do and feel like I have the right tool to do them with. 

When I started on this short journey to find a replacement for my aging MacBook, I fully did not expect to get the MacBook Air. Apple did release this laptop back in the summer of 2022. Typically, when I get a new laptop, I pretty much wait just after the latest release. So this was quite unusual for me.

For the old me, the latest would be the MacBook Pro with M3. And I spec'd the heck out of the MacBook Pro. I went from just the base $1999 with the M3 Pro all the way up to the M3 Max with 48Gb of RAM. And I was close to pulling the trigger on the base model many times. I would be getting a better and bigger screen. Not to mention the M3 Pro chip as well as 18GB of RAM.

Perhaps it's my age but I also opt for portability. And the M2 chip is no slouch. Plus some of the work that I'll be doing can be handled by the cloud. So, I decided on the M2. I think I saved an additional $250 off the retail price. 

I am sure the if I would have gotten the MacBook Pro base model, I would be pretty happy with it but I'm also glad that I saved about $800 when you add in the additional taxes. And I have rounded up that $800 to $1000 and invested so when I need to upgrade in a few years, it may well be enough to pay for another laptop in a few years. I do not plan on holding on this MBA for 7-8 years. The 12" MacBook was a special situation because its form factor was so unique and portable.

For now, the M2 is handling things quite nicely - everything is faster. Compiling, rendering, the Internet, and, yes, gaming as well. It's a full package. As my needs grow in the next year or two, I am confident the M2 chip will meet my needs. 

I want to get into the cloud aspect of computing as I explore how I can do a lot of work and letting the processing take place elsewhere because it is a very unique situation for someone new looking to explore this process.

One last thought before I end here - I also considered the $749 Black Friday deal for the MacBook Air M1. It was great on the first day it came out and it has aged well given the price drops. I heard on a podcast where the hosts were discussing it. They suggest that Apple is likely to keep the MacBook Air with M1 around while dropping the M2 and replacing it with the M3 in the MacBook Air while possibly dropping the price. It would be a great deal for users if they could end up getting the MacBook Air at $700 or lower. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

So Why Are People Using Their Laptops Longer Than Ever?

I have been contemplating getting a new laptop for a long time. A new MacBook in fact. It'll be an upgrade from my 2016 MacBook with its perfect 12" screen. It's going on seven years now. And true be told, I can still hold onto it a bit longer if it was not for the fact that the keyboard requires that I type certain way or that the arrow keys no longer work after a bound of water spill. As I am writing this article, I sport have to position my fingers across the keyboard and tap harder on some keys to make the letters come out. At times, I've resorted to dictation out of frustration.

Then I came across a forum where someone posed the question of why he is seeing people use "ancient' laptops from as far back as 2012. I can easily answer that. 

Laptops have become our companion in ways that even the more earnest and hard working assistants can never be. They are simply our go to device to be productive. Our laptops has given us more power and increase in productivity than any other generations in the past. I believe more so than smartphones. Smartphones help us stay connected but laptops allow us to work and generate results that so far is not matched. 

For some people, I can see an intimacy that developed over time with their laptops. Recall your first laptop and the joy you had using it. You might still be using it. I am happy for you. If your laptop is older, it might not run the latest OS or applications anymore. Mine doesn't. And yet, if you give up your laptop, you feel like you're losing an old friend. Plus, some people even accessorize and personalize their laptops with covers and, of course, stickers. One analogy I can think of is like a lone cowboy and his horse trekking across the plains. The horse being the laptop, not the cowboy.

More importantly, these old laptops still work. I am sure if I break out my 2012 laptop, it will run Word and Excel documents just fine. Most Excel sheets are just data in cells so I am sure my laptop could handle them just well enough. It might have some trouble if the files are too big with a lot of formulas but I am not sure there are a lot of those out there. The browser might be a little slower opening up some websites so you don't want to keep too many tabs open but it'll work just fine. And for just writing, Word Pad on Windows or Pages on the Mac are adequate. I've seen some artists generate awesome drawings using older copies of Paint or Inkscape on Windows (perhaps not as efficient as using something like Illustrator).

I am certain the battery life on those laptops are not even close to what they once were. Getting a couple of hours of writing done from a 2012 laptop at the local cafe is not bad at all. This is especially true if the user is fortunate enough to find an outlet. With the juice flowing, he can be there all day.

On MacBook, I am continuously getting five hours of batter life of mix use. Surfing the web, writing, emails, and watching a bit of video. I think that is decent compared to even new laptops from 2012. But for more challenging tasks like rendering 3D models, I imagine it could take more processing and GPU power than the current CPU and integrated graphics in my MacBook can handle.

Personally, I have my eyes on the just released MacBook Pro with M3 chips - which one I end up getting largely depends on how much power I realize I need. And I like to save this little gem for another article. And one of those "needs" would make me want to keep my perfect laptop longer if that is I end up doing with it. Oh, the suspense. The article will come out soon. I promise.

My MacBook should continue to serve me well for many years to come even with a new MacBook on the horizon. Not giving up this friend so easily, if ever.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

X (Formerly Twitter) and Social Media - Misinformation Is A Way Of Life and It'll Get A Lot Worse But There Is A Solution

I want to begin with the best advice I can offer when it comes to using social media - do not count on social media to provide you with accurate information. Having said that, there are a number of uses for social media that can be productive and even informative but you should not use it as a source of up to date information. Unless you're the guy on the ground or the person provide you with information on the other end is some you trust with your life, I would take nearly everything we consume on Facebook, X, or any other social media with a big bag of salt.

I am sure by now, we all know what is going on in Israel. Thousands dead, hostages, and a conflict that threats to erupt into a regional war instigated by very well coordinated terror attack by Hamas. I generally keep away from news on weekends but this caught my eyes. I went to Apple News, Google News, CNN, and Wikipedia to find out more what just happened. I then went to X to see what people are saying about it. 

I saw a video of a helicopter being shot down by a shoulder mounted missile, like the Stinger. One one tweet, the caption said it was a Hamas attack on an IDF helicopter. In another tweet with the same video, it was a Hamas helicopter (I did not know Hamas had attack helicopters). Apparently, while it looked realistic, it was from a video game. I just did a quiet look at X. A whole lot of misinformation. 

I did some research and here are suggestions on dealing with social media:
  • If the headline or the tweet seems inflammatory, it likely include misinformation. It is meant to engage your emotions one way or another.
  • A lot of posts or tweets will have the same photo or wording. Bots? I could never tell what is real or which are generated by bots. Perhaps Elon Musk is correct and X should charge users to cut out bots.
  • If you read something on social media, verify, verify,verify. If it is only available in one place, it probably isn't real.
  • Know yourself - your biases, political leanings, and pre-conditioning. You will likely find tweets you that agree with your views more compelling than others even if it could contain misinformation.
  • Verify, verify, verify - check the sources and check the facts.
Lately, I have been doing some house cleaning with my Twitter account. Getting rid of dead accounts, accounts that no longer send me tweets I am interested in, and accounts that I already get articles from newsletters or directly from websites.

I still find X very useful for other things:
  • I read sports tweets
  • Funny videos
  • I like science tweets
  • There are still reputable accounts on X. Plenty. Some I am interested in. Others, not so much. I usually follow accounts that provide useful information. I recently watched a video on X on how to make French toast and sourdough bread. My bread was not so successful (I'll have to try again) but my French toast wasn't bad.
  • I have been using X to look for information on how people are using AI. I have yet to find good information elsewhere for this.
One of the issues that the news media is focusing on is the explosion of misinformation just before the 2024 general election in the United States. I have yet to make up my mind on who I am voting for (though I know who I will not be voting for - this is a simple one and I think a lot of voters are in the same situation). I have made a general effort to avoid political tweets because of the biases and just awesome personal attacks that have nothing to do with policies. It will get worse. I do not see any great effort to curtail political and attack tweets.

The only solution I have, and it's a perfect one, is to avoid posts has all the profiles of being misinformation. Almost every social media has a way for you to let them know when something that appears on your feed is of no value or interest to you. Let them know what you do not want to see. I think that is one of the best tools we have available. Tell Facebook or X enough time that you don't care for misinformation or tweets/posts that are of no interest to you, less of those will appear on your feed.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Is Weight Loss and Portion Control the Key To Dealing With Climate Change and Its Effects?

I was watching the morning news while eating my usual breakfast of oatmeal and a hash brown (a little treat before my Friday meetings, which I always dread—where's my 4-day work week?). A segment caught my attention: grocery sales are down due to people pursuing weight loss through a new drug called Ozempic. This reminded me of a subject I've thought a lot about and want to write about.

The effects of Ozempic, a drug created as an anti diabetic mediation, was found to have weight loss effect. Despite its long list of side-effects (nausea, diarrhea, fatigue to name a few), its use has promising results for patients in terms of weight loss. It has even impacted sales of grocery, snacks, and even alcohol.

Medical issues aside, what got me thinking was just how a small portion of the population who are taking weight loss drugs can have on the overall economics of our food chain. For me, exercise is important to my own weight control and loss, what has really helped me was portion control. 

Let us be honest: American portions are hu Once in a while, this subject of big plates with huge amount of food comes up but iit quickly gives way other news or more interesting subjects.Also of interest form time to time is how the Japanese or some other culture are able to stay thin and live long healthy lives focusing on what they eat. A lot of time, I found what they eat is not all that different from what I eat. What got missed is how much of it they eat compared to how much I consume. Mediterranean diets? Sure, sounds great except our servings are 50% to 100% more.

I can only speak for Americans here. Let's assume we all reduced our food portions by even just one third. That would mean one third less food waste, lower transportation emissions from moving food around, and less water required to grow crops and raise livestock for dairy, eggs, and meat. According to the USDA, shrinking portions by a third could eliminate 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually - the equivalent of taking 42 coal power plants offline. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, smaller portions would also lower water use, fertilizer runoff pollution, and energy needs across the food system. This simple change could transform the environmental impact of the entire food industry.

Again, all it takes is eating less. And guess what? It could also mean weight loss, better overall health, and increased self-esteem for some. Oh, and one extra bonus: extra cash in your pocket!

I came up with something called "less bites'. It means eating less at every meal. 

  1. If I go out, I make sure not to finish my meal. If I can, I share a meal with my wife or I order smaller portions. I also take home anything I don't finish. It usually becomes my lunch the next day. 
  2. I eat more veggies and fiber. These are usually pretty cheap compared to processed food or meat. Healthier and less calories. Also, better calories as well. 
  3. I look at what I want to eat and I cook about 75% of what I want to eat.
  4. If I am eating at a friends or the food is family style, I look at what I want to eat and I take 75% of it. 
  5. I eat slower now. It helps a lot. Try it.
  6. I snack but I also have smaller portions. I have been making my own healthier snacks - nuts, fruits, popcorn. I even tried making my own protein bars. It doesn't look like protein bars but it'll do in terms of taste and what my body needs. I still eat Cheetos and chocolate chip cookies in smaller portions and not as often.
Over the last year, I have lost about 12 pounds but I really feel I should have made greater progress. So, I am in the midst of my 100 meals of "less bites". It comes out roughly to 33 days of dining where I am consuming 25% less than I did last month while forging salty and sugary snacks during this time. This personal challenge ends just before Halloween. You can figure out why that is. 

Now, if there was only a way to keep track of the waste, savings, and weight loss all together in one app, that would be perfect for what millions of Americans and I want to achieve.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Apple releases New Macs, Which Week Is It Likely To Do So

Conflicting reports about whether Apple will release a new MacBook before the end of 2023 have created uncertainty about if I will be able to get one this year. I am hoping a new model does come out soon, as I have been waiting to upgrade my 2016 MacBook.

I had hoped to wait until my needs grow and my coding skills improve. However, if you know anything about the butterfly keyboard issue that has plagued years of MacBook releases, then you know what I am talking about. Apple even has a dedicated web page to deal with that. I think I have come to the end of the road with my MacBook's keyboard (down arrow is out of commission, the space bar works but it uneven, and the right shift eye is sticky, and the whole keyboard feeling shallow).

And yes, while I had previously stated that I would try to wait until my needs warrant an updated MacBook, six to seven years of dealing with the keyboard issue is enough. So, while there is a good chance Apple might skip this year's fall MacBook update, there is still a chance. At the end of the September iPhone 15 event, Apple CEO Tim Cook thanked the hard working Apple employees who made the iPhone possible, he did not indicate that Apple was done with new hardware for the year. In past years, he let the media and fans know Apple was done for the year. So I am going to assume that Apple will indeed release new MacBooks.

With October still in the early innings, Apple still has a lot of time to release new Mac hardware. Just when is Apple like to release them? For the fun of it, I'm more interested in which week of October or November will we be getting new Macs.

Before I get into it, here is an interesting fact: Apple did not release any new Macs in the fall of 2022. The last time was week of October 18, 2021. Here are the breakdown of the M-series laptop release dates:
  • Macbook Air M1 - week of November 9th, 2020
  • Macbook Air M2 13.6" - week of June 6th, 2022
  • Macbook Air M2 15" - week of June 5th, 2023
  • Macbook Pro M1 Pro/Max - week of October 18th, 2021
  • Macbook Pro M2 Pro/Max - week of January 16th, 2023
As you can see, Apple does not follow any sort of pattern. However, it does seem like Apple will do releases around the middle October to early November.

Starting the week of October 9th, almost a month since Apple unveiled the iPhone 15, I like to think that if Apple is holding a press event, Apple would send out the invitation this week for an unveiling the week after, October 16th. Following Apple's previous release patterns, it would mean that preorder could happen the same week and new hardware starting shipping the week of October 23rd and starting arriving on the 27th, Friday. 

If everything is pushed by a week from the 16th, you just push all those previously mentioned dates back by a week. And if Apple makes their release two weeks from the 16th, then everything is pushed back by two weeks. Makes sense right? An October 30th release means November 10th arrival dates for a lot of the new Macs. 
  • October 16th release. Ordering starts Friday of October 20th, shipping on the 23rd and arriving on the 27th
  • October 23rd release. Ordering starts Friday of October 27th, shipping on the 30th and arriving on November 3rd. 
  • October 30th release. Ordering starts Friday of November 3rd, shipping on the 6th, and arriving on November 10th.

I think this is the ideal window for Apple. That leaves plenty of time for the Holidays to ramp up sales. Of course, Apple has done November releases a few times and really push things up against Black Friday. 

The argument for a likely November release of new Macs came from a rumor that Apple could be using new screen technology in new MacBook Pro. I am not sure how that would work. What are we talking about here - better M2 Pro/Max chips than the ones already released or M3 Pro/Max chips? If it is new M3 chips, that means Apple will have leased the MacBook Pro with newer chips before the MacBook Air, a first since Apple moved to its own silicon. 

We are only a day away. If nothing happens this week, we can eagerly await each of the coming Mondays through the beginning of November at the latest to see what Apple has in store for us. I'm strictly talking about MacBooks here but Apple could still do hardware releases in the form new iMacs or even just iPads. I simply do not think Apple is done with 2023 yet.

When are the Macs Getting M4 Chips? Prediction: MacBook Pro With M4 At the WWDC

What are the new M4 chips? Presumably, Macs could get the M4 chip tomorrow if Apple decides to pull the trigger on them.  First, let's a...