macintosh mobile wired culture

AnandTech | Apple’s Cyclone Microarchitecture Detailed

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

So for now, Cyclone’s performance is really used to exploit race to sleep and get the device into a low power state as quickly as possible.

via AnandTech | Apple’s Cyclone Microarchitecture Detailed.

Race to sleep, is the new, new thing for mobile cpus. Power conservation at a given clock speed is all done through parceling out a task and with more cores or higher clock speed. All cores execute and comple the task then cores are put to sleep or a much lower power state. That’s how you get things done and maintain a 10 hour battery life for an iPad Air or iPhone 5s.

So even though a mobile processor could be the equal of the average desktop cpu, it’s the race to sleep state that is the big differentiation now. That is what Apple’s adopting of a 64bit ARM vers. 8 architecture is bringing to market, the race to sleep. At the very beginning of the hints and rumors 64bit seemed more like an attempt to address more DRAM or gain some desktop level performance capability. But it’s all for the sake of executing quick and going into sleep mode to preserve the battery capacity.

I’m thinking now of some past articles covering the nascent, emerging market for lower power, massively parallel data center servers. 64bits was an absolute necessary first step to get ARM cpus into blades and rack servers destined for low power data centers. Memory addressing is considered a non-negotiable feature that even the most power efficient server must have. Didn’t matter what CPU it is designed around, memory address HAS got to be 64bits or it cannot be considered. That rule still applies today and will be the sticking point still for folks sitting back and ignoring the Tilera architecture or SeaMicro’s interesting cloud in a box designs. To date, it seems like Apple was first to market with a 64bit ARM design, without ARM actually supplying the base circuit design and layouts for the new generation of 64bit ARM. Apple instead did the heavy lifting and engineering themselves to get the 64bit memory addressing it needed to continue its drive to better battery life. Time will tell if this will herald other efficiency or performance improvements in raw compute power.

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computers macintosh mobile technology

AppleInsider | Rumor: Apple investigating USB 3.0 for Macs ahead of Intel

USB Connector

A new report claims Apple has continued to investigate implementing USB 3.0 in its Mac computers independent of Intels plans to eventually support USB 3.0 at the chipset level.

via AppleInsider | Rumor: Apple investigating USB 3.0 for Macs ahead of Intel.

This is interesting to read, I have not paid much attention to USB 3.0 due to how slowly it has been adopted by the PC manufacturing world. But in the past Apple has been quicker to adopt some mainstream technologies than it’s PC manufacturing counterparts. The value add is increased as more and more devices also adopt the new interface, namely anything that runs the iOS. The surest sign there’s a move going on will be whether or not there is USB 3.0 support in the iOS 5.x and whether or not there is hardware support in the next Revision of the iPhone.

And now it appears Apple is releasing two iPhones, a minor iPhone 4 update and a new iPhone 5 at roughly the same time. Given reports that the new iPhone 5 has a lot of RAM installed, I’m curious about how much of the storage is NAND based Flash memory. Will we see something on the order of 64GB again or more this time around when the new phones are released.  The upshot is for instances where you can tether your device to sync it to the Mac, with a USB 3.0 compliant interface the file transfer speed will make the chore of pulling out the cables worth the effort. However, the all encompassing sharing of data all the time between Apple devices may make the whole adoption of USB 3.0 seem less necessary if every device can find its partner and sync over the airwaves instead of over iPod connectors.

Still it would be nice to have a dedicated high speed cable for the inevitable external Hard drive connection necessary in these days of the smaller laptops like the Macbook Air, or the Mac mini. Less space internally means these devices will need a supplement to the internal hard drive, one even that the Apple iCloud cannot fulfill especially considering the size of video files coming off each new generation of HD video cameras. I don’t care what Apple says but 250GBs of AVCHD files is going to sync very,…very,… slowly. All the more reason to adopt USB 3.0 as soon as possible.

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Augmented Reality Maps and Directions Coming to iPhone

iOS logo
Image via Wikipedia

Of course, there are already turn-by-turn GPS apps for iOS, Android and other operating systems, but having an augmented reality-based navigational system thats native to the phone is pretty unique.

via Augmented Reality Maps and Directions Coming to iPhone.

In the deadly navigation battle between Google Android and Apple iOS a new front is being formed, Augmented Reality. Apple has also shown that it’s driven to create a duplicate of the Google Maps app for iOS in an attempt to maintain its independence from the Googleplex by all means possible. Though Apple may re-invent the wheel (of network available maps), you will be pleasantly surprised what other bells & whistles get thrown in as well.

Enter the value-added feature of Augmented Reality. Apple is now filing patents on AR relating to handheld device navigation. And maybe this time ’round the Augmented Reality features will be a little more useful than marked up Geo Locations. To date Google Maps hasn’t quite approached this level of functionality, but do have most of the most valuable dataset (Street View) that would allow them to also add an Augmented Reality component. The question is who will get to market first with the most functional, and useful version of Augmented Reality maps?

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AppleInsider | Apple seen merging iOS, Mac OS X with custom A6 chip in 2012

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...
Image via Wikipedia

Rumors of an ARM-based MacBook Air are not new. In May, one report claimed that Apple had built a test notebook featuring the same low-power A5 processor found in the iPad 2. The report, which came from Japan, suggested that Apple officials were impressed by the results of the experiment.

via AppleInsider | Apple seen merging iOS, Mac OS X with custom A6 chip in 2012.

Following up on an article they did back on May 27th, and one prior to that on May 6th,  AppleInsider does a bit of prediction and prognosticating about the eventual fusion of iOS and Mac OS X. What they see triggering this is an ARM chip that would be able to execute 64-bit binaries across all of the product lines (A fabled ARM A-6). How long would it take to do this consolidation and interweaving? How many combined updaters, security patches, Pro App updaters would it take to get OS X 10.7 to be ‘more’ like iOS than it is today? Software development is going to take a while and it’s not just a matter of cross-compiling to an ARM chip from a software based on Intel chips.

Given that 64-bit Intel Atom chips are already running on the new Seamircro SM10000 (x64), it won’t be long now I’m sure before the ARM equivalent ARM-15 chip hits full stride. The designers have been aiming for a 4-core ARM design that will be encompassed by the ARM-15 release real soon now (RSN). The next step after that chip is licensed and piloted, tested and put into production will be a 64-bit clean design. I’m curious to see if 64-bit will be applied across ALL the different product lines within Apple. Especially when the issue of power-usage and Thermal Design power (TDM) is considered, will 64-bit ARM chips be as battery friendly? I wonder. True Intel has jumped the 64-bit divide on the desktop with the Core 2 Duo line some time ago and made them somewhat battery friendly. But they cannot compare at all to the 10 hours+ one gets on a 32-bit ARM chip today using the iPad.

Lastly, App Developers will also need to keep their Xcode environment up to date and merge in new changes constantly up to the big cutover to ARM x64. No telling what that’s going to be like apart from the previous 2 problems I have raised here. Apple in the 10.7 Lion run-up was very late in providing the support and tools to allow the developers to get their Apps ready. I will say though that in the history of migrations in Apple’s hardware/software, they have done more of them, more successfully than any other company. So I think they will be able to pull it off no doubt, but there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And hopefully we’ll see something better as the end-users of the technology, something better than a much bigger profit margin for Apple (though that seems to be the prime mover in most recent cases as Steve Jobs has done the long slow fade into obscurity).

If ARM x64 is inevitable and iOS on Everything too, then I’m hoping things don’t change so much I can’t do things similarly to the way I do them now on the desktop. Currently on OS X 10.7 I am ignoring completely:

  1. Gestures
  2. Misson Control
  3. Launch Pad
  4. AppStore (not really because I had to download Lion)

Let’s hope this roster doesn’t get even longer over time as the iOS becomes the de facto OS on all Apple Products. Because I was sure hoping the future would be brighter than this. And as AppleInsider quotes from May 6th,

“In addition to laptops, the report said that Apple would ‘presumably’ be looking to move its desktop Macs to ARM architecture as well. It characterized the transition to Apple-made chips for its line of computers as a ‘done deal’.”

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AppleInsider | Insider Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: Auto Save, File Versions and Time Machine

Original 1984 Macintosh desktop
Image via Wikipedia

However, Windows’ Shadow Copy is really intended for creating a snapshot of an entire volume for backup purposes; users can’t trigger the creation of a new version of an individual file in Windows. This makes Lion’s Versions a very different beast: its more akin to a versioning file system that works like Time Machine, but local to the user’s own disk.

via AppleInsider | Insider Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: Auto Save, File Versions and Time Machine [Page 2].

Reading this article from Apple Insider’s series of previews of Mac OS X 10.7 has been an education in both the iOS based universe and the good ol’ desktop universe I already know and love. At first I was apprehensive about the desktop OS taking such a back seat to the mobile devices Apple has been introducing at an increasingly fast pace. From iPods to iPhones to iPod Touch and now the iPad, there’s no end to the permutations iOS based devices can take. Prior to the iPhone and iPod Touch releases, Apple was using an embedded OS with none of the sophistication and capability of a real desktop operating system. This was both a frugal and conservative approach as media players while having real CPUs inside were never intended to have network stacks, garbage collection on UI servers, etc. There was always enough there to present a User Interface off some sort, with access to a local file system and ability to sync files between a host based iTunes client and the device (whichever generation iPod it might be). Along with that each generation hardware most likely varied by degrees as video playback  became a touted feature in newer iPods with bigger internal hard drives (so-called video ipods). I can imagine that got complicated quickly as CPU and video chips and media playback capabilities ranged widely up and down the product line. As each device required its own tweaks to the embedded OS, and iTunes was tweaked to accommodate these local variations, I’m sure the all seeing eye of Steve Jobs began to wince at the increasing complexity of the iPod product line. Enter the iOS, a smaller, cleaner fully optimized OS for low power mobile devices. It’s got everything a desktop OS has without any of the legacy device concerns (backward compatibility) of a typical desktop OS. This allowed for creating ‘just enough’ capability in the networking capability the UI Server and the local storage. Apps written for iOS were unique to that environment though they might have started out as Mac OS X apps. By taking the original code base, re-factoring it and doing complete low level rewrites from top to bottom, you got a version of the Safari web browser on a mobile device. It could display ANY webpage and kind of do some display optimizations of the page on the fly. And there were a number of developers rushing to get an app to run on the new devices. So wither the Apple Mac OS X?

Well in the rush of creating an iOS app universe, the iOS development team added many features along the way. One great gap was the missing cut & paste analogy long enjoyed on desktop OSes. Eventually this feature made it in, and others like it slowly got integrated. Apple’s custom A4 chip using and ARM Core 8 cpu was tearing up the charts, out competing every other mobile phone OS on the market. Similarly the iPad took that same approach of getting out there with new features and becoming a more desktop like mobile device. A year has passed since the original iPad hit the market, the Mac OS is due for a change, the big question is what does Steve Jobs think? There were hints and rumors he wanted everyone to enjoy the clean room design of the iOS, dump the legacy messiness of old Mac OS X. Dan Lyons of Newsweek gave voice to these concerns quite clearly in his June 8 article in Newseek. Steve Jobs would eventually reply directly to this author and state emphatically he was wrong. Actions speak louder than words, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in 2010 seemed to really hard sell the advantages of developing for the new iOS. Conversely, Microsoft has proven over and over again, legacy support in an OS is a wonderful source of income, once you have established your monopoly. However, Apple has navigated the legacy hardware seas before with its first big migration from Motorola 68000 processors to the PowerPC chip, then subsequently the migration from PowerPC to Intel chips. From a software standpoint attrition occurs as people dump their legacy hardware anyways (not uncommon amongst Apple users to eventually get rid of their older hardware). So to help deliver the benefit of newer software requirements are now fully in place that even certain first gen Intel based Macs won’t be able to run the newest Mac OS X (that’s the word now). Similarly legacy support for PowerPC native apps running under Intel in emulation (using the Rosetta software) will also go away. Which then brings us to the point of this whole blog posting, where’s the beef?

The beef dear reader is not in the computers but in ourselves. As Macintosh OSes evolve so do the workflow and the new paradigm being foisted upon us through the use of mobile devices is the lack of need to go to the File Menu -> Choose Save or Save As… That’s what the new iOS design portends in the future. Same goes for open documents in process, everything is done for you at long last. The computer does what finally you thought it did all the time and what Microsoft eventually built into Word (not the OS itself), Autosave. Newly developed versions of TextEdit made by Apple to run under OS X 10.7 were tested and tried out to see how they work under the new Auto Save and Versions architecture. Now, you just make a new document and the computer (safely) assumes you will most likely want to save the document as you are working on it, and you may want to go back and undo some changes you made. After all these years of using desktop computers, this is now built right in at long last. So from the commandline to the GUI and now to the Mobile OS, computer architects and UI engineers have a good idea of what you might want to do before you choose to do it, and it’s built in at the lowest level of the OS finally! And all of these are going to be in the next version of Mac OS X, due for release this July, 2011. After reading these articles from AppleInsider looking at the screenshots, I’m way more enthused and willing to change and adapt the way I work to the new regime of hybrid iOS and MacOS X going forward.

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iPod classic stock dwindling at Apple

iPod classic
Image by Freimut via Flickr

Apple could potentially upgrade the Classic to use a recent 220GB Toshiba drive, sized at the 1.8 inches the player would need.

via iPod classic stock dwindling at Apple, other retailers | iPodNN.

Interesting indeed, it appears Apple is letting supplies run low for the iPod Classic. No word immediately as to why but there could be a number of reasons as speculated in this article. Most technology news websites understand the divide between the iPhone/Touch operating system and all the old legacy iPod devices (an embedded OS that only runs the device itself). Apple would like to consolidate its consumer products development efforts by slowly winnowing out non-iOS based ipods. However, due to the hardware requirements demanded by iOS, Apple will be hard pressed to jam such a full featured bit of software into iPod nano and iPod shuffles. So whither the old click wheel interface iPod empire?