Apple TV, 4th Generation

I wanted to wait a couple months or so before giving my review of the 4th gen AppleTV. Full disclosure here, I have owned every single generation of the device. My favorite one was the 2nd gen because I was able to jailbreak it and install third party software. I installed Plex that way and it was great for a good long time but the specs of that 2nd gen Apple TV eventually caught up to it. Father time is of course undefeated and catches up to everyone. Unfortunately, the 3rd gen Apple TV was never able to be jailbroken so I relied on Roku's to watch Plex. I eagerly waited for Apple to release a new version that had an App Store, that had more CPU/GPU power and it seemed like it would never happen. Well the long wait is now over!

In looking over the specs, the new Apple TV has the same specs as my iPhone 6 but improved a little. A dual
A8 but clocked to 1.5 GHz, a quad-core Power VR 6450, 2 GB of RAM, and a choice of 32 or 64 GB of storage. It has an HDMI port, Infrared receiver, Bluetooth 4, a USB-C port for diagnostics, Ethernet port, Siri remote, but the Optical Audio got eliminated. The overall outer case has gotten taller to probably accommodate a heatsink and larger power supply. This is a product that has the specs of a mobile device but since it can be plugged in all the time Apple was able to increase the A8 clock speed a little.

I have read that people are upset that they can't use the USB-C port but with Plex and other apps being able to stream content, that to me is a non-issue. And this time around Apple has made
sideloading content relatively easy. You can download the free X-code and use a USB-C to USB cable to sideload apps on to the Apple TV. There is an app named Provenance that is an emulator and allows you to play old NES, Sega Genesis games. In the past you would have had to jailbreak your Apple TV but now we can sideload. Progress.

macOS Sierra

As Scooby Doo used to say, "
Ruh Roh! That was my first thought when I read the hardware requirement for macOS Sierra. Apparently, Macs from 2007, 2008 and many from 2009 are not supported any longer and won't be able to install Sierra. And of course the media is quick to jump on that and spread gloom and doom. But is it really true? When I was upgrading my Mac Pro 2008 last summer to Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) I supposedly was not going to be able to enjoy all that it had to offer. The hardware just was not up to snuff to enjoy Handoff, Continuity, the Metal APIs, Airdrop, etc. Sure, that would have been true if I had a STOCK Mac Pro from 2008 that had never been upgraded.

Apple draws up these lists of hardware requirements for an OS and does so with the original specs of those various Mac models. So, while the original Wifi/Bluetooth 2.1 card would not support Handoff and Continuity, the updated
Wifi/Bluetooth 4 card I installed DOES support them. Likewise, the old nVidia 8800 GT card does not support Metal, but the nVidia GTX 680 card I installed DOES support it. I imagine it will be the same with Sierra, if you have upgraded components, there will be a way to install Sierra and it will probably run just fine.

When I built the Mac Pro (3,1) last summer I had the hope that it would last me 3 years. Well, one year down and two to go. Even if I can't update to Sierra, El Capitan is serving me well and Apple will issue security updates for it for the next couple years at least. It is fast, stable and I am able to use all of the features of 10.11.5.

These new features for Sierra just seem like window dressing to me. I don't use Siri on my iPhone and iPad, so why would I care if it is on my Mac Pro?

I don't use Photos but
Adobe Lightroom instead. Using Apple Pay on your Mac for purchases but still need to authenticate with Touch ID on another device? Why wouldn't I just make the purchase on my iPad to begin with? The improvements to iCloud Drive and little things like Universal Clipboard and the new file system they mentioned are more interesting to me but not earth shattering.

Sierra just looks like a very minor update that brings mobile iOS features to the desktop. I just can't get angry like some that are going on about how their Macs are no longer supported. People forget that Apple is not charging money for these OS upgrades anymore. So, they are to give away a free OS update year after year and still be expected to support computers from 8-9 years ago?
Come on! And it isn't like they close the door completely. I was able to get my old 2006 Mac Pro past 10.7.5 all the way to Mavericks 10.9.5 because of some hacks that Apple probably could have shut down but didn't. I have no doubt that the Mac hacker community will find ways to get many of those unsupported Macs to update to Sierra.


iPad Pro


I guess I am on the 3 year upgrade cycle for the iPad. I have had the first generation iPad, then the iPad Air and now the iPad Pro. The iPad Air wasn't giving me any issues and was still a very good tablet but I really wasn't happy with any of the bluetooth pressure sensitive stylus. Having a Wacom Intuos tablet and a small Cintiq really does spoil you and sets the bar pretty high. The limitations of what third parties like Adonit and Adobe had to work with made having a Wacom-like experience impossible. They did the best they could under the circumstances. But now with the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil we finally have a solution that nearly rivals Wacom. I say nearly because the Apple Pencil does not have programmable buttons or an eraser but this is the first iteration and maybe that will come later on in future editions.

The one problem I had to figure out is which size to go for the large 12.9 inch or the regular 9.7 inch size? I worried that the larger screen would be more difficult to carry around and be on the go. It seemed that the smaller size was more appropriate for me and something that I was familiar with. It is the only size I have ever used. There are subtle differences between the two, the larger has 4 GB of RAM while the 9.7 inch has only 2 GB. The larger iPad Pro has more surface area so there is more room to dissipate the heat from the CPU/GPU. The smaller Pro has less surface area so the A9X chip is slightly underclocked, not much but a little (2.24GHz to 2.16 GHz). They both have the 4 corner speakers, smart connector but the smaller iPad Pro has additional features, improved cameras (can record 4K video), Retina Flash, and True Tone display. That True Tone display has caused some confusion, it isn't just a take it or leave type of deal, you can turn it off if you want. I expect the 12.9 inch iPad Pro to get these improved features with the next iteration, but for now, the little brother enjoys them exclusively.

I decided to have some color finally and picked the Rose Gold option. It is also great to finally have a Touch ID sensor on my iPad. I will do a more in depth blog post about the
Apple Pencil and give my thoughts on that soon.

iPad Air


I bought the very first iPad when it came out but it has not aged well. Oh, it still works but the apps and games have now matured to the point where the specs of that first generation iPad are excluding it from the party. It only had a single A4 chip running at 1GHz and only had 256 MB of RAM and the display was 1024 x 768, and it was stuck at iOS 5.1. So, it served me faithfully but it was time to get a new one. I sold the first gen iPad to a friend and bought the new iPad Air.

The specs of this new
iPad Air are impressive. It now has a dual-core A7 running at 1.4 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, a quad-core PowerVR 6430, a resolution of 2048 x 1536, has front and back cameras, Bluetooth 4 and comes standard with iOS 7. Now I have no problems running the latest apps or games and now can finally use bluetooth accessories.

It is exciting to see the payoff of Apple's acquisitions of
P.A. Semi and Intrinisity. The A7 chip is based on ARM processors but Apple licenses the design and architecture to build their own custom chips in-house using the expertise of the engineers that they acquired from PA Semi and Intrinisity. The A-series line is developing pretty fast. It will be interesting to see how fast and powerful these CPUs are in 5 years time, or in 10 years time. Could they rival Intel's desktop chips 10 years from now?

New Mac Pro (sort of)...


No, no, you are not seeing double. Since I was not having any luck getting my Mac Pro 2006 (1,1) past Mac OS X 10.9.5, I decided to buy a new Mac Pro. If you remember a previous post I described how I had hacked the 2006 Mac Pro so that I could get around the
32-bit EFI limitation and install the new OS upgrades. I went from Mac OS X 10.7.5 to 10.9.5 but just couldn't get any further than that with any sort of stability. It is solid and stable stuck at 10.9.5 and I will continue to use it as a secondary machine but I needed a newer machine to run the latest OS and the latest graphic software.

When I looked at the latest offering from Apple, I thought well you could go for a retina iMac or go for the entry level cylindrical Mac Pro. Both just seemed well out of my budget and I must admit that I was intrigued at all of the older Mac Pro's from 2008-2012 that were on Ebay. I went and looked at some of the Geekbench benchmarks to see how those newer Macs compared to those Mac Pros from 2008-2012.

The retina iMac 4.0GHz had a Multi-Core 64-bit score of around
16,000, and the 4-core 3.7 GHz cylindrical Mac Pro (2013) had a score of 14,000. But the older Mac Pros from 2008-2012 were in the 12,000 to 27,000 range. The more recent Mac Pros are more expensive to buy on Ebay but it still seemed like a good avenue to pursue.

So, what I ended up doing was buying a Mac Pro from 2008, an
8 core Xeon, 3.0 GHz. It does not have Hyper-Threading but still 8 physical cores is respectable, even 7 years later. When I ran GeekBench on this Mac Pro it had a Multi-Core 64-Bit score of 12,500. Also of equal importance is that this 2008 machine had more options for graphics cards, the 2006 (1,1) model was really handicapped in this regard.

This Mac Pro (3,1) from 2008 has a
64-Bit EFI so upgrading to Yosemite and later to El Capitan won't be a problem. I was able to boost the rest of the system by putting in a PCI-e based SSD hard drive as the boot volume, installing a Broadcom WiFi/Bluetooth 4 module in the mini-PCI slot on the motherboard, and replacing the old Nvidia 8800 512 MB card with a Nvidia GTX 680. It had 8 slots for RAM and I filled them up with 4 GB Dimms, so 32 GB of RAM. Even with all of the upgrades it still came in at one-third the cost of a new iMac and one-fourth the cost of that entry level 2013 Mac Pro.

I did not mind all of the tinkering under the hood so to speak with this "newer" Mac Pro. I had upgraded the old '06 Mac Pro constantly over the years, from Hard Drives to multiple SSDs, RAM and 3 different graphics cards. But it was that damn 32-Bit EFI limitation that really necessitated getting a newer machine or at least one without that EFI affliction.

Do I wish I had a new iMac or Mac Pro? Sure, but this '08 Mac Pro can make do for another 3 years I figure and then maybe I will take the plunge.