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Broadway Ditches Age-Old Processes To Run Shows with iPads

On last week's episode of Connected, I mentioned having heard from a couple of MacStories readers who work at different Broadway production companies, who told me they're increasingly switching their workflows to be portable and iPad-only. Here's Samantha Murphy Kelly, writing for CNN (via David L. Jones):

Several shows, including Kinky Boots and Pretty Woman: The Musical, are shifting to a paperless system that packs the script, lyrics, videos, and costume and prop notes, into one spot for the director, crew and cast members.

The productions are leaning on an app from startup ProductionPro, which is already used at companies such as Walt Disney Studios to help produce film and TV shows.

During a recent rehearsal of Pretty Woman: The Musical attended by a handful of reporters, production stage manager Thomas Recktenwald ran lines with three cast members subbing in for an evening performance. Swiping through the ProductionPro app on an iPad Pro, Recktenwald showed off recent changes made to the script. It had notes scribbled into the margins via an Apple Pencil, and he tapped his way through videos that highlight blocking, broken down scene by scene.

Also interesting: ProductionPro can be tried for free, but unlocking the complete feature set (which includes collaboration and bigger file sizes) requires a $19.99/month subscription.

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Getting the iPad to Pro

Thoughtful essay by Craig Mod on the limitations and virtues of working from an iPad Pro. This point about breaking the flow of getting work done while moving across apps is extremely relatable:

Switching contexts is also cumbersome. If you’re researching in a browser and frequently jumping back and forth between, say, (the actually quite wonderful) Notes.app and Safari, you’ll sometimes find your cursor position lost. The Notes.app document you were just editing fully occasionally resetting to the top of itself. For a long document, this is infuriating and makes every CMD-Tab feel dangerous. It doesn’t always happen, the behavior is unpredictable, making things worse. This interface “brittleness” makes you feel like you’re using an OS in the wrong way.

In other writing apps, the page position might remain after a CMD-Tab, but cursor position is lost. Leading to a frustrating circus of: CMD-Tab, start typing, realize nothing is happening, tap on screen, cursor inserts to wrong position, long-press on screen to get more precise input, move cursor to where it needs to be, start typing. This murders flow. It creates a cost to switching contexts that simply doesn’t exist on the macOS, and shouldn’t exist on any modern computing device.

This stuff has been broken on iPad for years (essentially since 2015, when Split View was introduced in iOS 9). Don't even get me started on figuring out which app in a Split View pair is the "active" one receiving keyboard input (and therefore listening for keyboard shortcuts). These small interaction annoyances might have been okay three years ago as we all sort of imagined Apple was just getting started with bringing serious multitasking to iPad; now that we've reached this generation of iPad Pros, they're just downright inexcusable.

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Austin Mann: A Photographer’s Review of the iPad Pro

Source: austinmann.com

Source: austinmann.com

Austin Mann has published a review of the new iPad Pro for photographers. Mann, a professional photographer, is in Iceland shooting 100-megapixel images with a Hasselblad H6D-100c that generates 216MB RAW files that are a great test of Apple’s new hardware. Mann demonstrates how well the iPad Pro handles those images by zooming in and out and panning around with little lag in a video demo of Adobe Lightroom CC.

Beyond the sheer performance of the hardware though, Mann has been impressed with the versatility and portability of the device. As he explains:

I was working with Mavic Pro 2 in the black volcanic deserts of south Iceland. While sitting in the car (in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere), I decided to offload my images and review them.

I pulled out the iPad Pro and a card reader, and within only a few moments I was reviewing them on screen. Next thing I knew I was editing them with the Pencil in Lightroom CC and then I shared one with my wife—all within just a few moments.

It’s really easy to sit just about anywhere (even with a steering wheel in your face) and not just use it, but use it to its full extent. Another cool feature in this scenario is eSIM. Because the iPad Pro is connected to cellular, even in the middle of nowhere Iceland, I could quickly share the images without even thinking about my connection, WiFi, hotspots, etc. Time wasn’t mission critical on this shoot, but in a scenario where time is of the essence, this kind of workflow could be a game-changer.

That’s a sort of power the iPad Pro brings to bear that can’t be measured in chip speeds or other specs. It’s a flexibility that allows photographers and other creative professionals to work in more contexts and with greater efficiency. It’s hard to quantify but just as important.

Be sure to check out Mann’s review for more on his iPad Pro photography workflow and his beautiful photos of Iceland.

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Phil Schiller and Anand Shimpi Discuss the iPad Pro’s A12X Chip

Ars Technica interviewed Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, and Anand Shimpi, from Apple’s Hardware Technologies group, about the new iPad Pro’s A12X system on a chip. The article also benchmarks the iPad Pro against other iOS devices, Macs, and competing products. The results of Ars Technica’s tests are impressive. The iPad is not only the fastest iOS device available, but it also compares favorably with Apple’s pro Mac lineup.

In the interview, Samuel Axon of Ars leads off by asking about the iPad’s CPU. Shimpi explains how the chip outperforms the A10X:

“We've got our own custom-designed performance controller that lets you use all eight at the same time,” Shimpi told Ars. “And so when you're running these heavily-threaded workloads, things that you might find in pro workflows and pro applications, that's where you see the up to 90 percent improvement over A10X.”

Regarding the GPU, Shimpi says:

“It's our first 7-core implementation of our own custom-designed GPU," he said. "Each one of these cores is both faster and more efficient than what we had in the A10X and the result is, that's how you get to the 2x improved graphics performance. It's unheard of in this form factor, this is really an Xbox One S class GPU. And again, it's in a completely fanless design."

Apple is predictably tight-lipped about the Neural Engine, which powers machine learning tasks. In response to why the company keeps pushing its chip technology forward so rapidly despite its lead, Schiller pointed to Apple’s culture:

We don't care if they're doing something that isn’t interesting to us. We don't care if we're lapping them. Good. We’ll lap them ten times. It doesn't matter because it's in service to the user, not the competition.

It’s not surprising that Apple was unwilling to share much detail about how and why it’s pushing so aggressively with its custom silicon solutions. What’s clear, however, is that the company is well aware of the advantage its custom solution provides and is moving forward as fast as ever to improve it even further.

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AppStories, Episode 86 – Apps and the New iPad Pro

On this week's episode of AppStories, we talk about the new iPad Pros announced at the event held by Apple in Brooklyn, New York, the apps announced onstage and that Federico tried in the hands-on area, Apple’s dubious comparison of the iPad GPU to the Xbox One S, and the first-party apps we expected but didn’t see.

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Inside MacStadium’s Mac Data Center

If you’ve been around the Apple community a while, you’ve probably heard of MacStadium, but you may not understand the scale at which it operates. Snazzy Labs paid a visit to MacStadium’s data center in Las Vegas to check out some of the company’s roughly 8,000 Mac minis humming away powering websites like MacStories and performing all sorts of other tasks. During the segment, Snazzy Labs interviews MacStadium’s Brian Stucki about the Mac minis, hundreds of Mac Pros, iMac Pros, and even some Xserves that the company uses. Besides the huge number of Macs in operation, the customizations made to the Macs for things like data storage, redundant power, and networking are fascinating.

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Captivating the Creative Community with ‘Today at Apple’

Michael Steeber of 9to5Mac writes about the increasing importance of 'Today at Apple' as a unique competitive strength for the company:

Would you go to a Photo Walk at a Microsoft store? Do you trust a Google retail employee to teach you how to draw? Is there a group of passionate musicians dedicated to Samsung platforms?

Apple has captivated the creative community for over 40 years, and many people across the world have done their life’s work with Apple products. This year’s “Behind the Mac” ad campaign perfectly encapsulates why people are excited about Today at Apple.

In-store sessions aren’t totally new. Apple stores have held workshops in one form or another since their introduction in 2001. But until Today at Apple, sessions were more focused on technical training and lacked the same creative spark.

Steeber's point about other big tech companies is a great one. I wouldn't look to any other tech giant for creative lessons in areas of music, photography, or drawing, and I don't think any other average customer would either. But with Apple, the story's different. The company has always held a special level of credibility among creators, and that remains true today.

I've never attended a Today at Apple session, but over time I've grown more and more intrigued by Apple's major retail initiative. Unlike the intense scrutiny given to everything else Apple does, Today at Apple seems to receive very little attention from the world of tech journalism. Yet Apple clearly believes it's on to something with Today at Apple, and it shows every time Angela Ahrendts or Tim Cook spend time at an event lauding the program.

It's hard to care too much about Today at Apple when your closest Apple Store is far enough away to be an inconvenience, which is perhaps why I never seriously considered attending a session while living in the suburbs of Dallas. Now that I'm in the urban environment of New York City, however, with Apple Stores all around and in walking distance, the idea of popping in for a session to help sharpen my creative senses is really appealing. It doesn't hurt that Apple's latest retail store work is so visually stunning, making a great environment for learning.

Moving forward, I'm definitely eager to keep a close eye on Today at Apple.

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Jony Ive Reflects on the Design of the New iPad Pros, Apple Pencil, and MacBook Air in a New Interview

Jony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, sat for an interview with David Phelan of The Independent to talk about designing Apple products in general and the new iPad Pros, Apple Pencil, and MacBook Air in particular.

On redesigning successful products Ive said:

Because when a product has been highly regarded there is often a desire from people to see it redesigned. I think one of the most important things is that you change something not to make it different but to make it better.

If you are making changes that are in the service of making something better, then you don’t need to convince people to fall in love with it again. Our sense of habit and familiarity with something is so developed, there is always that initial reaction that is more of a comment on something being different rather than necessarily better or worse. In my experience, if we try very hard to make material improvements, people quickly recognise those and make the sort of connection they had before with the product.

Ive also revealed that the original iPad was designed to be used primarily in a portrait orientation, while the new iPad Pros have no orientation:

So, in the new iPad Pro, one of the things we’ve been wanting to get to for a long time is a sense that the product is not oriented in a primary and then, therefore, in a secondary way.

The first iPad had a very clear orientation which was portrait. It had the ability to be used in landscape, I think very well, but it was pretty clear how the product was designed. And I think with the first iPad you had the sense that it was a product made up of distinct and somewhat separate components.

What I think marks the new iPad Pro as particularly special is it doesn’t have an orientation. It has speakers all the way around the perimeter. By getting rid of the Home Button and developing Face ID, the tablet is able to work in all of these different orientations.

On the Apple Pencil, Ive describes how its design abstracts away the underlying technical complexity to focus the user on the task at hand:

I think the way it just snaps onto the side, well, that’s a nice example of a sort of that magical feeling. It’s unexpected, we don’t quite understand how it’s working and even more incomprehensible is the fact that it’s also charging. You can see how that’s aligned with this idea that you can just pick the product up and use it without thought.

Actually, you’re using it with tremendous thought, but it’s based on what you want to be doing rather than wondering if you’re holding the tablet the right way up.

Phelan’s interview is full of many other wonderful insights and tidbits about the products Apple revealed earlier this week in New York and should be read in its entirety.

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Justin O’Beirne Evaluates Apple’s New Maps and How They Stack Up Against Google Maps

Source: justinobeirne.com

Source: justinobeirne.com

Justin O'Beirne has written about the evolution of Apple Maps and how the app compares to Google Maps several times in the past, which we’ve covered on MacStories. In his most recent analysis, O’Beirne asks whether Apple’s new efforts to update Maps has closed the gap with Google Maps. Backed up by over 100 images comparing the two sets of map data, the answer appears to be a qualified yes. In some respects, Apple has caught up and even passed Google, but in other areas, it remains behind.

Apple also has a long way to go before its Maps update is complete. As O’Beirne notes, the currently-updated map data covers a small fraction of the globe consisting of Northern California and a slice of Nevada. However, those 48 California and 4 Nevada counties contain a lot of new details.

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