Monday, June 26, 2023

Will Apple Develop Its Own Dedicated Graphic Cards? (They Should)

 Apple has performed a miracle with what they could do with the Apple Silicon starting with the iPhone/iPad chips and then the M1 and, now, M2 chips. By and large, Apple has its competitors in the dust and scrambling for answers. We have yet to see it happen. Still, I do not think Apple is basking in its lead. Someone, perhaps one of its current competitors or a new startup will come up with something even better. It will happen eventually. It's call competition.

Still, one area where I feel Apple is behind is graphics. From 8 cores on the M2 to 76 cores on M2 Ultra, Apple has the users covered. I think Apple has most gamers covered as well. However, from what I am reading and seeing on Youtube, Apple's GPU power are mostly in the midrange of what competitor Nvidia offers in terms of pure processing power (though dedicated GPU uses more power). 

I should not be surprised or even disappointed. In terms of integrated graphics, Apple is doing amazing things with the M2. I cannot help but wonder if Apple decides to create its down dedicated GPU and even more neural engine processing power, adding more cores at a higher rate, Apple may be able to develop GPU that can complete with high end GPU in terms of raw power while using less energy. If Apple can do it, it would be a huge win for Apple and enable Apple to take back the graphics market as well as become an overnight player in the field of artificial intelligence.

Always to keep in mind when we think of raw processing power - a lot of benchmarks will show that Apple falls behind Intel, Nvidia, or AMD. And it's true. What these benchmarks do not show is how much more power and inefficient they are compared to Apple Silicon.  

In the Youtube video above, the comparison in Blender benchmark showed the M2 Ultra pretty much double the results of the M1 Ultra - given the doubling of GPU cores in the M2 vs the M1, I am not surprised. But the M2 Ultra trailed Nvidia - Nvidia is able to complete the rendering in half the time it took the M2 Ultra. But what at what cost in terms of power used?

In some cases, gaming laptops with high end GPU puts the MacBook Pro with M2 Max to shame. However, those results change quite a bit when the gaming laptops and the MacBook Pro are both running on batteries. Here is a great video showing just how far ahead Apple is when it comes to power efficiency.


Now imagine if Apple has its own GPU with the same amount of efficiency as the M2. It would give the MacBook, Mac Studio, or the Mac Pro the additional GPU power to really let professionals create 3D more efficiently than its competitors. 

I am not sure that Apple will do this or not but it definitely makes sense for Apple to give MacBook Pro and Mac Pro users the option to add its own dedicated GPU for gaming, 3D rendering, or AI work.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Apple Has Made It Easier For Users With Different Needs and Usage to Pick the Right Mac

I'm learning coding to use my MacBook. Okay, I know how to use one but what I mean is that I am trying to utilize in such a way that can expand what I an do at work, enhance my skills needed for my hobbies that may one day turn into a "gig". It is an old MacBook so I will, one, outgrow it because if the speed and capacity or, two, when apps or OS no longer work support my efforts. Both reasons are beginning to become apparent. Still, there is time for me until I need to go down to the Apple and pick up a new one. 

Let's go through the MacBook lineup and visit some specs to see which MacBook works for a certain type of user and what specs they may need.
If you use it for home as a consumer - browsing, banking, watching video, the MacBook Air, both the M1 and M2 works great for you. With the newer 15" Mabook Air, you get a bigger screen to watching Apple TV content or Youtube. The 13" Air was for this before the 15" came out and it's still fine now. The base model comes with 8 GB of memory and 256b GB of storage. It is fine as it is. If you have more videos and photos, then you can consider going for one with more storage options. As for memory, I find it to be a bit more tricky because for writing (for most non-engineering/science students, bloggers, writers), it's fine. However, if you're an user who requires more heavy lifting with things like photo and video editing, going to 16 GB might be an option. 

Even a MacBook with 8 GB can handle a majority of photo editing tasks without breaking a sweat from the things I have seen users through at the MacBook Air in articles and videos. I still cannot hep but want at least 16 GB for future proofing. When it comes to some video editing work, I definitely would want to have 16 GB. For instance, I am trying to put some videos of my dog for family (maybe Youtube). I am doing that on my iPad. So, I am sure a MacBook Air will be fine. For a lot of special efforts, cameras, and things that start to look sort of professional, I have seen the Air hold its own but some users have opt to go in a different direction.

That's where the MacBook Pro comes into view. 


The "Pro" sort of gives it away. The question if you should go with the MacBook Pro is obvious if you make your living generating apps, media (not just writing), and do work like machine learning or data analysis. There is no mistaking if you need a pro. As a professional, this is what you want. I did read online that if you do a lot of work on the cloud, perhaps, an Air would work.

It's when you're on the fence, "prosumer". You want to turn your hobby or you're about to get into coding and developing professional level work. While I am not there yet, I can see the dilemma faced by this group of users. One option is to max out the memory on the Air to 24 GB and that would give you some extra push for when you need it. Still, I cannot help but think that a Pro with 16 GB and the internal fan (the Air lack an internal fan so the M2 is throttle to prevent heat from becoming an issue) would provide you with greater horse power and endurance to handle your work. Also, the Pro starts with the M2 Pro so you already have extra processing power. I am squarely in the Pro camp if you want to go a step beyond sharing edited family video or social media video to TikTok or Youtube.

That's me. You probably want to consider weight, cost, and, again, the type of work you will be doing with the MacBook Air or Pro.

Here are things I am getting into and it it my opinion only based on what I am learning on the Internet and what I plan on doing.
  • Coding like Xcode - for beginners and even coders who are looking to get into the market, the Air works great. Of course, a MacBook Pro is better but it seems like the Air can hold its own. 
  • Coding Python and deep learning - It seems like many users are using the MacBook Air for coding in python and using it for machine learning. But people have noted that optimizing ML using the GPU cores improves time by as much as 25%. I cannot speak with any authority on this matter because I have yet to try it myself. 
  • Video editing - I'm an iMovie guy. I do some simple work stitching together video for my pup and add captions to other videos for fun. Should I decide to put something more professional looking for Youtube, I think I can get away with iMovie. And It's iMovie on my iPad. When Apple released Final Cut for the iPad Pro last month, I began to look more deeply at Final Cut. For me, the MacBook Air with iMovie or Final Cut would be fine. I'm not a professional or even a prosumer in this category of work. My video is shaky and makes people sick. 
  • Gaming? One quick thought games to mind: gamers do not use Mac for gaming. I disagree to the extent that the Mac gaming community is not as big as Windows' so there is not as many game. And it seems like unless games receive special attention from Apple during special events, most games on Mac are not optimized as they should be and any port almost always seem to be after-thoughts. Have said that, I believe the M-series chips and Apple's effort to court developers could help grow the Mac gaming community. Since the Air is a consumer level laptop, gaming on it 
I want to revisit coding here a bit and then more in follow-up posts. The Air is perfect for someone like me. A beginner and very excited about learning fast and really "leveling up". The main thing is that I want to incorporate ML in my own curriculum. Given the specs I want, I would get a MacBook Pro today - possible the 14" MacBook with 16 GB (I would go for a 32 GB version if I can find it on sale). I think in the next few years, ML and the ability to handle and manipulate big sets of data and working with a model to provide important and actionable results is highly important. That's where I want to be.

Another word for students. I have been one. A poor one. But I saved and saved while I was in school and got a Powerbook that lasted me for years. Back then, you like workstations like the ones from SGI for modeling and that took hours a best but many projects took a couple of days.  For students today, it depends on what you plan on using a MacBook for? Writing papers, articles, or research, the Air is perfect. All it matters is if you want the 13" or 15" versions. However, if you plan on doing more like coding, well, I would go with an Air as well. You likely have powerful workstations in computer labs at school that you can book or sign up for to use. However, I have not been inside a computer lab in years so I cannot be sure. I am sure it also depends on your school and funding. So, definitely an Air for me. 

I hope this helps. I want to revisit ML and coding on MacBooks in future posts but let me say that Apple has clearly defined the lines for various users depending on  their needs. I also believe that whatever choice you or I make, you will be very happy with it.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Apple Vision Pro: visionOS Versus the Oasis (Ready Player One)

Notes:

  • visionOS is Apple's first step walking to the world of VR. An apt comparison is the Oasis from Ready Player One by Earnest Cline
  • The Oasis is a platform that is a world itself that hosts thousands of other virtual worlds.
  • It is highly unlikely visionOS will evolve into the Oasis.
  • We can see how Apple operates the app store for the iPhone and iPad to get an idea of how users are likely to access apps and content. 
  • The Oasis is an immersive environment. Everything you see is virtual. Apple wants to provide a mix of virtual as well as reality-based experience. 

First! I am calling it. As far as I know, no one else has compared Apple spatial computing and the OS powering the Apple Vision Pro, visionOS, to the Oasis from Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. It is one of my favorite movies that I download onto my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook so I can watch it any time I want. I also have the ebook and audiobook download on my iPhone and Apple Watch. As I watched the keynote event this past Monday and Apple executives talked about the Vision Pro, RPO immediately popped into my head and I could see where Apple could one day take us.


First, a little explanation about Ready Player One - the year is 2045 and the world is in a very bad shape. So people went onto the Oasis, a platform that hosted an almost endless number of worlds where people go to work, shop, school, and entertainment. They use a VR headset along with accessories that provided haptic feedbacks. I'll leave it here to avoid spoilers and going too much into the plot. I truly recommend the book. If not, then at least watch the movie. 

Obviously, visionOS and Apple's headset is nowhere near the headset from RPO. In the book, the year was already 2045, a full 22 years into the future so Apple has more than two decades to bring visionOS up to the Oasis level. So, Apple has more than two decades to try to up its game.

It's not clear in RPO how the worlds and NPC (non-player characters) are populated but it seems like when the Oasis came online, many of the worlds were already there. For now, it does not seam like Apple will go the route of Oasis. Based on what we know, Apple is simply provide a platform much like iOS and iPadOS where app developers can create their own innovation and creativity to visionsOS and create apps. During the keynote,Apple seamed to be pushing the entertainment element of Vision Pro really hard - gaming is going to be a big deal for the platform. 

So, it's conceivable that developers will be able to create their own world for gaming, socializing, and maybe even work.

In RPO, users can enter in world or room at will though there is a feel that is associated with it. If you want to travel to a more distant world, you have to pay a fee. For this to exist on the Vision Pro at this time, any traveling between rooms or worlds will exist within apps. The Oasis has a big gaming and digital commerce element to it. Apple will probably provide developers tools to do much of the same considering that Apple will also be collecting 30% of all digital transactions and app sales.

Something that does bother me a great deal in RPO and a concern that I have read and heard voiced about the Vison Pro experience, though it applies to all VR experiences, is the isolation. I still have not figure out what Apple's plan for visionOS is in the long term. Right now, the isolation is very glaring. I know that Apple is aware of this because it has tried to address this with the screen at the front of the headset that projects the user's eyes to anyone the user may be interacting with.

Also, notice that Apple only shows one lone user in each of their photo and video. You never seen more than two people wearing the Vision Pro in the same room or having some sort of interaction. I believe that Apple will need to address this in future software and hardware updates. In RPO, both the movie and the book, users also appeared to be "in their own virtual world".

If you have not read Ready Player One, I recommend  you pick up a copy at your local book store or library and see where we may be headed. Apple and other companies venturing to VR or mixed VR will need to address the pros and cons of spatial computing and the potentially damaging isolation that could result from it.


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

A Weekend In Mammoth Mountains Made Me Really Wish I Had the Apple Watch Ultra But I'll Wait for the Next Upgrade

The Gist: I was charging my Apple Watch on and off during my three days to Mammoth, California. With the Apple Watch Ultra, I think I would not have been so worried about running out of battery. Plus, there are other Ultra features that could have come in handy. But I'll wait for the next Ultra upgrade.

In a hurry to beat the rush hour out of Los Angeles on Memorial Weekend, I had not paid attention to how much battery I had left on my Apple Watch 6 which currently is running at 80% capacity. That means, I charge my Apple Watch intermittently on any given day. Any given "normal" day. I can afford to do that because I have a charge at home, in the car, and at work to juice up my Apple Watch whenever I feel the need to do it or when it is running near empty. 

Friday was obviously not a normal day. I had expected to leave work early to begin the six hour drive to our lodge but unforeseen issues came up, which is a fact of life, you know? I rushed hone, put the stuff in the car and off we went (I didn't forget my wife and dog). During that time, I was so concentrated on getting underway that I had not checked to see how much my battery life remained on my watch.

By the time we got there, it was past midnight. After checking in and unloading everything, we were in bed by 1:30 after a quick shower. And then up again around 6 for breakfast, walking the dog, and checking out the record breaking snow. It was awesome and finally there. 

And I had probably charged my watch for around 15 minutes. 

By the time we set off for a trailhead, I think my Apple watch was only around 30% charged. I had used it to check my oxygen blood level and breathing/heart rate. Interestingly, my blood level had dropped to around 87% and heart rate was elevated. I suppose this was due to the 9,000-foot elevation. Boy, it was hard walking around. Both my wife and I felt light headed the first few times we bent down and stood up. Quite an interesting experience. 


Back to the watch - I charged 5 minutes here and there whenever we drove from one location to another. And we did drive a lot while we were there because we were constantly in search of trails that had not been snowed in. 


By the time dinner came around, I still had only managed to keep my Apple Watch charged around 30%. I thought to myself that if I had the Apple Watch Ultra with nearly double the battery life was the regular ones, I don't think I would have to worry at all about the battery life. 

So why not get the current Ultra? I would if I felt I need it right away or soon. I don't know where our next trip will be or when. Perhaps if it is only months away, I would likely get it whenever the next $50 off deal I see on Amazon rolls around. Given how little vacation time we have in the US, the next vacation is either Thanksgiving but I want to stick around town for that with family (ones that I like) and friends. So, perhaps Christmas then. 

By then, Apple might have released the Apple Watch Ultra 2 - I imagine it will have improved sensors, a more efficient CPU, and, rumor has it, bigger screen. Around town, my Apple Watch will continue to serve my needs.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

When the M3 Chip Comes Out, Will Apple Upgrade the Smaller MacBook Air To It Or Keep It At M2 and Lower The Price?

I'm waiting for the M3 chip to come out before I pull the trigger on a new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. I'm still secretly hoping for a 12" version but it looks more and more unlikely. So, I'm focused on the MacBook Air instead. Watching Youtube videos on the newly released MacBook Air with a bigger 15.3" screen versus the regular Air with 13.6" (why isn't it called Mabook Air with 14" screen since you would round up?), I'm realizing the 15" Air is now the flagship MacBook for the consumer.


Eventually, the Air will get upgraded to the M3 chip. The prevailing assumption is both versions of the Air will get the M3 ship. I'm going to step a bit back and ask what if Apple keeps the 13" Air with the M2 chip and lower the price from it's currently $1099 to $999. It may even keep the M1 version around where an even low price point could widen Apple reach.

Will it happen? I'm betting it could depend on one main factor: Apple's chip manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, aka TSMC. It will depend on the M3 yield. The M3 chip from Apple will be manufactured using the latest 3-nanometer process versus the M2 chip using an older 5nm process. 

Months ago, the speculation/rumors was that Apple was going to refresh the Air including introducing the 15" Air running on the M3 chip at this year's WWDC event. It makes sense since the MacBook Air with M2 was released at last year's WWDC event. Well, Apple did introduce the 15' Air but still using the M2 chip. 

Speculations and rumors aside, no one really knows except Apple what its chip roadmap is. Still, if TSMC is having yield issues, Apple had no choice but to release the 15" MacBook Air using the M2 if TMSC cannot produce enough M3 chips or have yet to ramp up.

Apple likely decided to make lemonade with the lemon of a situation it had on its hands. When M3 yield does improve but not the point that Apple needs, Apple may have no choice but to use whatever M3 chips it can get its hands on to upgrade 15" MacBook Air and keep the 13" Air at M2. There are advantages to Apple using different chip. It looks like the newer Air is going to be wildly popular judging by the response. Apple will sell tons of it and it will be  even more popular when it is upgraded with the M3 chip.

Meanwhile, the 13" Air with M2 will still have its own segment of the market at $1099 - I am sure it is yielding even better profit margin than ever before. And what if Apple lowers the price down to $999? The 13" Air at $999 will be flying off the shelves.

We will not know for sure next we get to the next MacBook Air upgrade cycle and when the M3 will be ready to be used in volume. Whatever Apple does, I am sure most Mac users will be quite happy. If Apple does keep the 13" Air using the M2 ship, some might disappointed. But hey, join the club. I'm still sore the 12" MacBook went the way of the dodo.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Apple Watch Helped Me Lose Weight And Kept It Off So Far

I've lost about 15 pounds in the last twelve months and have managed to keep it off all thanks to my Apple Watch. It is not much but for someone who has struggled with weight on and off, it's great to have such a device that is so capable of helping me through this journey to become fit and, more importantly, stay fit. Let me stress this important point: Apple Watch is helping me keep the pounds from coming back.

I could have rushed headlong into losing 20-25 pounds in months but that had not yielded the results that I wanted which was to keep it off. Because the few times that I have managed to do that, the pounds slowly came back. Lose five here, gain six back. Lose fifteen and see ten or twelve come back weeks laster. 

Apple Watch is a great companion that allowed me to keep track of my movements, calorie counts, and reminders to get moving. I work in an office environment. I think many folks who work in offices also know how easy it is to just want to sit there and get lost into the work. So, I make sure that I able to get a walk or run out before work and a few steps during work before my evening walk after dinner. 

During this past winter, California received much relief in terms of rainfall and record snowpack through out most of the of state but alleviated an ongoing multi-year drought. From about December through March, we received 80% more than we normally get here in Los Angeles. Thank goodness for those atmospheric rivers. Personally, I hope more will come.

This does come at a cost to my weight loss scheme - I definitely cannot run as much as I like. It meant that I'm not able to be as active outdoors. I still have to take my dog out for her walks but she is not a fan of the rain so our walks are brief. That means I have to do more indoor exercises. More steps indoor.  A lot of walking in circles. I'm able to achieve my goals and close the rings on most days.

Before the Apple Watch, I would not known exactly how I was doing through the day to help me achieve my fitness goals. I suppose this is why weights came back. I simply did not know what it would take. When the iPhone gained a pedometer feature through apps using the accelerometer, it was very useful. On the larger iPhones like the Max, it becomes a bit cumbersome carry such a big piece of glass and metal in your pocket the whole day. It was easier on the smaller iPhones like the iPhone SE for instance. With the bigger iPhones, I left it on my desk most of the time.

In the past years with more wet weathers, I probably would have gained back the ten pounds I lost over the previous months. However, this winter, with the aid of the Apple Watch, I was happy that I did not gain one single pound. I did not lose any either. I supposed I just had to be more active to continue to lose weight but closing the rings was enough to help me keep the gains at bay.

While I was entirely shocked by the lack of weight gain, I am happy to know that I have achieved a level of activity that allows me to maintain a healthy level of physical activity and health. 

I am not beholden to my Apple Watch. I suppose I can get a $5 pedometer and try to achieve the thirteen thousand steps I have been averaging a day for 2023. And it is not all about the Apple Watch. It's what I consume that is just as important and how much I eat. 

As with an weight loss programs or weight training regimen, it is important that we continue to put in the work. The Apple Watch can only do so much. It cannot make lose the pounds for me. That was all me. It can only help me prepare ahead of time my meals and how much I should consume. Whether I overeat or still to my portion controls is entirely up to me.

Still, having the data from the Apple Watch and recording them daily on my Numbers sheet has given me a good idea of just how I am doing overall. 

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 enhanc...