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Apple.com Is Currently Sold Out of AirPods Until January

18 December, by John Gruber[ —]

This is a shame, because they really are fantastic products, and they’re such an obvious gift idea.

Update: Some retail Apple Stores still have them in stock — you can order online and pick them up at the store.

★ First Impressions of the New iMac Pro

17 December, by John Gruber[ —]

Apple held a small briefing yesterday in New York City to officially unveil the new iMac Pros, which went on sale today.

It is decidedly more expensive than its non-pro iMac siblings — the iMac Pro starts at $4999, but most configurations will cost significantly more. But make no mistake — if you buy one of these, you’re getting true professional performance for your money. You’re not just getting (admittedly gorgeous) space gray anodized aluminum.

The entire lineup of iMac Pros is based on Intel’s new Xeon W CPUs, and they are exclusively SSD-based. There are no configurations with spinning hard drives or Fusion drives — according to Apple, the system architecture is designed only to work with SSDs for internal storage. These components are all high-end: the RAM is 2666 MHz DDR 4 ECC; the SSD storage has write speeds of 3.3 GB/sec and read speeds of 2.8 GB/sec. They have more Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports than the regular iMacs (including support for attaching up to two 5K external displays), 10-gigabit Ethernet (regular iMacs have plain old gigabit Ethernet), and the iMac Pro even has better-sounding speakers.

Here’s how quickly the price can escalate though: the base model $4999 iMac Pro has an 8-core CPU, 32 GB of RAM, a 1 TB SSD, a Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics card, and the exclusive space gray Magic Mouse. If you upgrade to 64 GB of RAM, 2 TB SSD, the Vega 64 graphics card, and the space gray Magic Trackpad (instead of, not in addition to, the Magic Mouse), the price goes to $7,249. A 10-core iMac Pro with maxed out RAM (128 GB) and SSD storage (4 TB) and the Vega 64 graphics card is $11,599.

Apple is not fucking around with these machines, and neither are the people who will be buying them.

Apple invited a nice array of third-party developers to demo their software on the iMac Pro. My notes:

  • Adobe Dimension CC: Dimension is a relatively new app from Adobe. It lets designers create photo-realistic 3D renderings from 2D designs — for example, consumer packaging labels. Dimension’s rendering performance scales linearly with the number of CPU cores, which means it renders 2-5 times faster on iMac Pro compared to a regular iMac or MacBook Pro.

  • Gravity Sketch: VR-based 3D sketching. Very cool. I got to try it out, and in a nut, it’s almost more like sculpting than drawing. The iMac Pro is the only Mac capable of supporting Gravity Sketch.

  • Twinmotion: A real-time 3D visualization app. Architects can use Twinmotion to create 3D models from CAD drawings, and turn them into something akin to a 3D video game where you can, effectively, walk around and see what it would look like to be there. It includes features like setting the time of day, and even simulating various weather conditions and seasons of the year, all of which affect the lighting. And it’s all rendered in real time.

  • Electronauts: A VR music production app from a company called Survios, heretofore known for creating VR games. Electronauts was only officially announced today. It’s primarily a DJ app — creating, recording, and performing live electronic music, but it’s mixed with a game-like atmosphere akin to something like Guitar Hero. The interface is entirely VR-based — there is no non-VR UI, and the iMac Pro (a) runs Electronauts wonderfully — perfectly smooth at a high frame rate, and (b) is the only Mac capable of running it at all.

  • Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X: Logic now allows massively multi-tracked projects to play in real-time. On any other Mac, sufficently complex projects would require either pre-rendering or real-time playback with compressed fidelity. Today’s new release of Final Cut Pro X adds editing features for VR experiences. Again, only on iMac Pro.

The bottom line is that for some tasks, the iMac Pros now handle full-fidelity playback in real-time that on any other Mac — MacBook Pro or Mac Pro — would require rendering or lower-fidelity playback. For other tasks, notably VR, the iMac Pro supports software that simply cannot run on any other Mac today.1

Apple has been effectively out of the professional desktop hardware game for a few years. The “trash can” Mac Pro design of 2013 languished, unchanged technically, in Apple’s product line for reasons unexplained until last April, when Apple took the unprecedented step of holding a small media summit to announce (a) that they were working on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, and (b) had a pro-targeted iMac in the works that would ship by the end of 2017.

The new iMac Pros that started shipping today deliver on half of that promise. These are serious, undeniably professional machines. The Mac has gone from being a non-player in the burgeoning world of VR to a credible contender in one fell swoop. Two questions remain in my mind:

First, when is the “completely rethought” Mac Pro going to ship, and what is it going to offer above and beyond the iMac Pro besides separating the computer hardware from the display? Apple had nothing to say regarding the new Mac Pro other than that it is still forthcoming. If I needed the performance of modern professional desktop hardware, I would order an iMac Pro today. I wouldn’t wait.

Second, and to me far more importantly: how committed is Apple to keeping the iMac Pro up to date? It’s an impressive piece of engineering — do not let the appearance fool you into thinking that the iMac Pro is just an iMac with a dark finish and speed-bumped processors. Internally, it’s a completely different architecture. But the 2013 Mac Pro was an impressive piece of engineering and design that Apple put a lot of effort into, too.

My hope is that the iMac Pro has been designed with the future in mind. VR is moving fast. Even on today’s leading hardware, the best VR experience is still insufficient — resolution is low (individual pixels are visible, clearly) and latency is still a huge problem. The end game for VR is an experience equivalent to our real-world vision. Every year’s worth of CPU and GPU improvements will be needed to get from here to there, so the iMac Pro will need to be updated on a roughly annual basis to remain relevant.

Some excellent reports from other writers who attended yesterday’s briefing:

  1. All of the VR demos at Apple’s briefing yesterday used the HTC Vive VR headset and controllers. None of them used the Oculus Rift. ↩︎

[Sponsor] Microsoft App Center

17 December, by Daring Fireball Department of Commerce[ —]

Microsoft has recently introduced App Center, a continuous integration, delivery, and feedback service for iOS and macOS developers. App Center lets you automate your development release cycle in minutes by connecting to your GitHub or Bitbucket repo. After pushing new code, you can automatically build your app on App Center’s Mac cloud machines, run automated UI tests on thousands of real iOS devices in their hosted device lab, distribute your builds to testers or to the App Store, and monitor your app with advanced crash reporting and analytics.

App Center is the next generation of HockeyApp and Xamarin Test Cloud. The basic HockeyApp and Xamarin Test Cloud features like beta distribution, crash reporting, and UI testing got a revamped user interface, and Microsoft added new features for build, analytics, and push notifications.

You can use these features together, or integrate just the features of App Center you need using open-sourced SDKs and APIs. Spend less time on drudgery, and more time on your app. Sign up now.

Trump Administration Gives CDC a List of Forbidden Words

16 December, by John Gruber[ —]

Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilperin, reporting for The Washington Post:

The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

That evidence and science are dirty words to these shitheads tells you everything you need to know about them. This is pre-Enlightenment bullshit. 300 years later and it’s still a fight to argue that reason, science, and tolerance should guide us. I said it a year ago and it stands today: Trump voters are ignoramuses, bigots, and/or fools.

From the ‘Let’s Figure Out a Way to Make This Ostensibly About Apple’ Department

16 December, by John Gruber[ —]

Headline for a Bloomberg report by Mark Gurman, Yuan Gao, Scott Moritz, and Selina Wang, “China’s Top Phone Makers Poised to Challenge Apple on Home Turf”:

China’s top smartphone makers are ready to challenge Apple Inc. on its home turf after trouncing the iPhone maker in their own market.

Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. are in talks with U.S. wireless operators about selling flagship smartphones to American consumers as soon as next year, according to people familiar with the matter. The handset makers are negotiating with carriers including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Talks are still fluid and it’s possible no agreements will materialize, they said.

Apple only competes in the high end of the market in the U.S. This entire article compares these companies only by “market share”, which is never a good way to evaluate Apple’s success. The idea that phones sold in the U.S. from Huawei and Xiaomi are going to be targeted at Apple is highly questionable.

It seems more likely that if Huawei and/or Xiaomi were to achieve any sort of success here in the U.S., it would come at the expense of Samsung, which has phones that run the gamut from high-end to low-end. And though Apple’s sales in China have indeed waned in the last few years, the iPhone X seems poised to turn that around — not by market share, of course, but by capturing a larger share of the premium market. The company that is truly getting “trounced” — to use Bloomberg’s terms — in China is Samsung, which is a non-player in China.

Apple has a lot at stake in the U.S., where it is the leading smartphone maker. In years past, it’s been insulated from competition by strong support from carriers, which used to subsidize its expensive iPhones and lowered the upfront price for customers. These subsidies or discounts have gone away, as carriers moved to phone financing that spreads costs over two years.

The idea that Apple was “insulated from competition” in the U.S. has got to be a joke. It’s not like carrier subsidies only applied to iPhones. They applied to all phones, from all handset makers. Verizon and AT&T spent untold millions trying to prop up BlackBerry and Motorola as alternatives to the iPhone.

Yours Truly on Vector With Daniel Jalkut and Rene Ritchie

16 December, by John Gruber[ —]

Vector episode 37:

Rene speaks with MarsEdit developer, Daniel Jalkut, and John Gruber of Daring Fireball about the history and release of MarsEdit 4, blogging tools, the Mac App Store, and more.

Much fun talking about one of my most-used and most-loved apps.

Daring Fireball 24-Hour T-Shirt Spectacular

14 December, by John Gruber[ —]

Thumbnail of an asphalt gray long sleeve Daring Fireball shirt.

This week only: classic logo DF t-shirts — including, for the first time ever, long sleeve shirts. Get them while the getting is good. Seriously: this week only.

Phil Schiller Interview With Dan Grabham

13 December, by John Gruber[ —]

Phil Schiller on the development of the iPhone X, in a wide-ranging interview with Dan Grabham for T3:

At the time, at the beginning, it seemed almost impossible. Not just almost. It seemed impossible. And to pull off what feels impossible and make it possible — and not only that, but just something we love using — is just a great achievement.

“Clearly there was a point in the process where we had to commit to the fact that it would be a full top-to-bottom screen on the front with no home button, which means you’re counting on Face ID working as we’d hope, and being as good.

That’s an exciting moment, when you have to sort of… the old saying: ‘Burn the boats. Leave the past behind, and commit.’ Knowing that the team was willing to make that gamble was a key point early enough in the process.

Cabel Sasser’s First Look at the iMac Pro

12 December, by John Gruber[ —]

Speaking of Twitter threads, here’s a short one from Cabel Sasser, after a few days with the iMac Pro:

Games. Fired up the ol’ Firewatch, to test the iMac Pro (Radeon Pro Vega 64) vs. my current Retina 5K iMac (Radeon R9 M295X). At 2560 × 1440, the iMac topped out at 25 FPS, the iMac Pro at 62 FPS (!).

You have to love the black Lightning cable.

How to Design for iPhone X (Without an iPhone X)

12 December, by John Gruber[ —]

Sebastiaan de With on how he (and developer partner Ben Sandofsky) designed the iPhone X version of Halide before they had an iPhone X. Halide is truly one of the very nicest apps I’ve ever seen. And I just love de With’s “world map of the iPhone X for your fingers” — and it’s fascinating to see how this “map” affected the layout of controls when Halide is running on the iPhone X.

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