I've been a happy Dropbox subscriber for several years. The service works great, but I've been having some challenges and I want to consolidate my paid cloud services. I'm currently paying for two iCloud accounts and a Dropbox account. I don't see iCloud going anywhere with its seamless iOS backup and photo/video storage, so that's tipping things away from Dropbox. The other advantage is I want to take advantage of macOS's storage optimization.
In recent years, the challenge with Dropbox is syncing to devices with SSD storage. Everything was good when there was hundreds of gigabytes of storage on laptops and terabytes on desktops. It now, however, can be a challenge to sync across all devices when the contents of the cloud accounts could fill up drives. I've managed this by using selective sync, but that's has some frustrating management requirements and usually has me downloading content via the website when needed.
macOS solves this by automatically removing older, larger files as needed from local storage. When local storage gets tight, the local copies of files on iCloud Drive get purged. If you want those purged files, you can download them on-demand. It all works transparently, and with modern reliable broadband, it is usually at most a minor inconvenience waiting a few moments to download.
I've been late to this optimized storage party because this concept is unsettling. The idea that my files are evaporating to the cloud from my computer without my control or even knowledge is unnerving. Still, the sync juggling almost made me switch last year, but Sierra and its updated optimized storage features had just shipped by time my Dropbox subscription was up for renewal. This time around, Apple's solution seems proven and I'm willing to take the leap.
Another problem I'm looking to solve is, at least to my understanding, my Dropbox files must live locally somewhere. My solution has been a desktop with a large storage to house a master of my large files. iCloud Drive doesn't work this way. I could upload 50 GB, it would live in the cloud, and then be offloaded to free up local space when needed.
Apple also recently doubled its $10/mo storage tier. I currently pay for 200 GB to handle basically device backup and my photos/videos. I don't have a need for 2 TB of storage, but I'm liking the idea of not thinking about my storage both in the cloud and locally. The other news out of WWDC this month was that we'll finally be able to share storage plans with Family Sharing. So, I'm expecting I can shut down the second iCloud subscription.
This is a leap of faith, but my safety net is I've got Time Machine backups on various machines. I'll still though will maintain external drives to keep everything safe. My hope is if something goes sideways, everything on my iCloud Drive will have a backup somewhere. Fingers crossed.
The life and death of FireWire
Ars Technica has a great feature on FireWire. FireWire was a marvel when it launched, but ultimately lost the port race due to lack of vision and widespread support.
The final design specification ran over 300 pages--a complex technology with elegant functionality. Ratified as IEEE 1394 in 1995, it allowed for speeds up to 400 megabits (50 MB) per second, simultaneously in both directions, over cables up to 4.5 meters long. Cables could power connected devices with as much as 1.5 amperes of electrical current (at up to 30 volts). As many as 63 devices could be networked together on the same bus, and all were hot-swappable. Everything was configured automatically on connection, too, so you didn't need to worry about network termination or device addresses. And FireWire had its own micro-controller, so it was unaffected by fluctuations in CPU load.
Before the mid-90's, if you wanted work on digital video, you generally needed a pretty significant capture hardware. Targus cards would run $2,000+ as a means of capturing uncompressed analog video to something manageable that a hard disk array could handle. They were NuBus cards, which is another blast from the past. When FireWire came along, it brought with it the new DV digital video standard that Sony put into its camcorders. Reasonably good quality video for the day could be transferred digitally for comparably free. My first Mac to have this was the Bondi blue PowerMac G3. Digital video suddenly became possible for regular consumers.
FireWire also saved us from SCSI. Thinking back, SCSI seemed insane. Various flavors that were not compatible, terminators, and outrageously expensive cables. Chaining devices together was a sort of black magic. Along comes FireWire that does the above quote and changed everything.
We now have Thunderbolt, which seems on its way to grave yard itself, USB 3.0, and most recently USB-C. Good news is Apple still supports FireWire with one of its any white dongles. I still use it almost daily, which is kind of neat considering how much has changed.
Report: Apple renegotiating streaming music rates
A report from Bloomberg states that Apple is currently negotiating better rates for Apple Music. Apple's current agreement reportedly expires at the end of the month. Negotiations are also reported going well so a stalemate is not expected. Apple appears to be looking to improve its rates similarly to how Spotify recently negotiated better share of revenues.
Under Apple's current deal, record labels at first received about 58 percent of revenue from Apple Music subscribers, a higher cut than from other major streaming services including Spotify, the largest paid music-streaming service in the world. Spotify reduced its rate to 52 percent from 55 percent in recent negotiations with labels, tied to certain guarantees on subscriber growth. The labels are open to a reduction in Apple's rate -- provided it's also able to expand subscriber rolls and meet other requirements, the people said.
Scott Forstall gives in-depth talk about making the iPhone
The iPhone's 10th anniversary continues to be recognized with a special event the Computer History Museum near San Francisco. Former Apple VP Scott Forstall give an in-depth interview about the development of the original iPhone. A bunch of interesting bits, some of which have been told before, but some stuff I haven't heard.
He details how he and Steve Jobs first demonstrated the iPhone prototype to Cingular executives just weeks before the product's unveiling, how Jobs helped him get through a serious illness, and how Jobs operated a dastardly scheme to scam the Apple cafeteria.
The scam part was the Apple campus cafeteria allowed employees to pay by scanning their ID. Charges would be deducted from their paycheck, however, Jobs salary was only $1 a year. I'd guess someone in accounting got to deal with that every couple weeks.
Apple Camp offers sessions for kids
Apple released new in-store sessions for kids 8-12. The special sessions are called Apple Camp and run through July.
There are three different camps for coding, music, and video. Each camp is three sessions of 90-minutes each.
To attend a camp, you just select your store, then choose one of the three topics. You can then reserve series of sessions.
$99 annual Apple Music subscription option appears
Those looking to save some money on an Apple Music subscription have been able to get a $99 pre-paid gift card. You don't need to go through the hassle of getting a card as the option is now available within the app. Customers can now adjust their subscription terms for either a $9.99 per month or $99 per year for single licenses. The $15 family plan still don't offer an annual subscription discount.
OWC offers memory upgrades for latest iMacs
Other World Computing Monday announced support for memory upgrades to the latest 2017 21.5-inch iMac.
The upgrades are DDR4 memory modules and are offered in two kits. A 16 GB upgrade starts at $154.99 and a 32 GB kit starts at $319.99. For a few bucks more, kits are available with tools to assist in the install.
The kits are cheaper than Apple's built-to-order option, which is currently $200 to upgrade to 16 GB. Furthermore, Apple doesn't offer a 32 GB option.
Apple hires Sony Pictures Television vets
Apple today announced that Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two of television's most creative and successful executives, are joining Apple in newly created positions overseeing all aspects of video programming. Erlicht and Van Amburg will lead video programming worldwide, reporting to Eddy Cue. They join Apple from Sony Pictures Television where they have served as presidents since 2005, and have been responsible for some of the most popular and widely acclaimed programming of the past decade, including favorites such as Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul, The Crown, Rescue Me and many more.
The duo have an impressive list of shows that were produced while at Sony. It would seem Apple is looking to replicate that for its streaming platforms.
Tim Cook on Donald Trump, the HomePod, and the Legacy of Steve Jobs
Bloomberg Business Week has an extensive feature interview with Tim Cook. The interview is a part of the magazine's June 19 edition, and now available online.
There's a lot here, but this is a good tidbit on why Apple thinks it can make a dent in the enterprise market:
The other thing that has changed is that the most forward-thinking chief information officers and chief executives are saying, "The top thing is, let's have happy and productive employees." When you care about people's happiness and productivity, you give them what brings out the best in them and their creativity. And if you give them a choice, they'll say, "I want an iPhone" or "I want a Mac." We think we can win a lot of corporate decisions at that level
Essentially, that's how Apple beat Blackberry for smartphones. The IT managers largely wanted Blackberry because it was a product built for them. End users wanted iPhones because it was made for them. The end users quickly flipped marketshare.
Report: Apple looking be hub for your medical info
CNBC has learned that a secretive team within Apple's growing health unit has been in talks with developers, hospitals and other industry groups about bringing clinical data, such as detailed lab results and allergy lists, to the iPhone, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the team. And from there, users could choose to share it with third parties, like hospitals and health developers.
Time will tell, but this seems to have the pieces for a good opportunity. Apple has the foundation for such a thing with its HealthKit and strong security. Medical data is also fragmented between health systems and consumer services/vendors.