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The personal site of Jamie Knight, a slightly autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

2016 MacBook Pro Thoughts

Last week Apple had an event to introduce new MacBook Pros to the world. Its had the most negative response i’ve seen from a Mac announcement in a while. With everyone else writing their thoughts and as someone who’s in the market for a new laptop here are my thoughts.

The good…

Let’s start with the positives. The new MacBooks are amazing feats of engineering. They are smaller, lighter, more powerful (sometimes) and they have can drive dual 4k or 5k displays (woohoo!).

On the higher end models the Touch Bar seems a pretty amazing bit of technology too. It adds a new input method which i cant wait to play with.

These MacBooks are amazing computers and apple needs to be recognised for producing something which is both high quality and sticking to a bold visions.

The bad…

That bold vision is where it gets complicated. The Apple MacBooks embrace three trends and not all of those trends benefit the user much today.

Lets dig into that.

The lightness and size is impressive and as portable computers being lighter and smaller is useful. However, there is a cost. To achieve the 25% reduction in volume Apple have also compromised the performance. These MacBooks are not as fast as they could be, they don’t have the Memory they could have had and they don’t have the battery life they could have had.

The port situation is better than on the MacBook but it shares many of the same issues. The thunderbolt 3 ports are amazingly flexible, but loosing the magnetic charging cable and having no other ports to use is a big compromise Apple didn’t need to make. In day to day life with a MacBook Pro today i will need half a dozen adaptors.

Finally, the touch bar is neat, but its adding a huge amount to the price. The entry level has gone up hugely in the UK. In the past a new entry level MacBook worth having was around £999-1099, now with the combined effect of Brexit and the new technology an entry level MacBook Pro worth having is £1750. Thats a HUGE increase and it wipes out all of the gains from the other decisions.

Is it worth updating?

In simple terms it’s not worth me updating my MacBook Pro this year unless there is a compelling business reason to do so. To upgrade like for like with my Current MacBook would be a £1250 investment assuming i get £750 from the sale of my current MacBook. Thats a whole lot of money for very little real world benefit. In three years the MacBook Pros have only got 15% faster and the battery life has not improved much either.

Back in March i decided to stop waiting for the MacBook Pro of my dreams and just go for an iMac 5k. I’m really glad i did. The iMac is a brilliant fit for my needs and by making the decision then i saved over £1000 compared to making the same decision today.

All in, while the new MacBook Pro are feats of engineering, today they don’t make much sense and i cannot see me buying one or recommending them to people.

Published: 2 November 2016 | Categories: Permalink

Notes on the CVAA

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a workshop run by Jon Moltz on the CVAA (21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act). This is relevant to my team at BBC as we are taking on more projects for launch in the USA.

This is a quick summery of my notes. Mostly written for myself but published here in case they are useful to other.

What is the CVAA

The CVAA is a law passed in 2010 which aims to ensure that online video had the same or better accessibility than broadcast video.

It’s managed by the FCC and gets lots of updates and notes. Some of it is ‘normative’ (a rule) and some is ‘non normative’ (not a rule).

The updates come out often and are issued as PDFs.

How is it structured.

The law is split into two parts.

Title 1 deal with phone and phone like real time communication applications.

Title 2 deals with online video.

The main points.

Title 1 effects things like help systems if they include two way communication (like text chat inside an app, or on a web page). For those sort of apps there are requirements around reporting but we didn’t discuss it much because our apps don’t do that.

Title 2 effects video and video players. All video plays must be ‘accessible’ and the act mentions blindness and hearing impairments.

Additionally, if content is tied to a broadcast (e.g. Is a TV show on catch up, or pre-roll) then it must have Captions and probably should have audio description (I’m not 100% sure)

The CVAA requires that users are able to customise the way captions are displayed.

That sounds okay.

My take away is that the CVAA at a high level is not that difficult. We do almost all of it already for other reasons and have work in progress on the rest.

However CVAA is not the only law relevant to us. There is the Americans With Disabilities Act which is broader and also applies. However we didn’t dig into that so much.

Final notes.

I think that covers the bulk of it. These are just my notes etc so they may be way wrong! Hopefully it’s helpful to share them.

Published: 11 October 2016 Permalink

Apple Display & displayOS

When the rumours of a new 5K external display started a few months ago no one blinked an eye when the rumours included a GPU. Little did we know so much more than a GPU was involved. Today, Apple announced the new Apple Display line and in one fell swoop changed what we expect from our desktop computers.

There are two takes to be had on the Apple Display. One take is that it is iOS scaled up to be the most capable firmware ever conceived for a monitor, the other take is that it is macOS scaled down to work with ARM.

Lets start with what Apple Display does the same as any other external monitor. You can plug Macs into it via USB-C and use it to expand the size of your screen. Much like the cinema display before it, when used this way all the ports become available to the Mac and the Apple Display becomes an amazing docking solution.

The place where the Apple Display gets really interesting is when it is being used stand alone. Apple have breathed some of their experience with the Apple TV and iPad into the displays firmware and have created a whole new place to get stuff done.

The underlying system – displayOS – is iOS reimagined for the big screen keyboard and mouse environment. It is following in the footsteps of the iPad and comes preloaded with Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Garageband, iMovie and Photos. Thats a whole lot of utility in a small package. Embedded inside the Apple Display are the guts of an iPad Pro to keep everything running smoothly.

For a long time people have speculated that the Mac will move to ARM, but i don’t think anyone predicted that iOS would get its own desktop vision.

With Apple Display and displayOS Apple is planting another flag in its vision for the future. Only time will tell if it pays off.

This is a spoof, Apple have not announced such a thing…. though i wish they did!

Published: 7 October 2016 | Categories: Permalink

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