Apple Special Event October 2018 Notes

New ipad pros

Last month we had new iPhones, this time Apple has announced a new set of 11″ and 12.9″ iPad Pros, a new Mac Mini, and a new Retina-blessed MacBook Air. This event was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in New York City.

Tim Cook started out the show by talking about what creative people do with the Mac. A montage played of various well-known folks starting at their Mac laptop screens, notably included were Lin Manuel-Miranda, Paul McCartney, Kermit the Frog, U2, teachers, photographers, and many other people.

The 2018 MacBook Air

Apple’s laptop situation isn’t great. Earlier this year they released new 2018 MacBook Pros that may have allieviated some of the issues with the reliability of 2016/2017 model keyboards. At the same time they also acknowledged the issue and offered extended repairs for three years for anyone who bought those devices.

Last week, the only laptop Apple sold with USB type-A ports was the MacBook Air. It was oddly placed in the product line, because it was actually heavier than some of the other laptop models and was their only device with a screen that wasn’t high-enough of a resolution to be deemed Retina.

Still, starting at $1000, the MacBook Air appeared to be something Apple wanted to keep around way past the due date. They’ve updated it over time with small updates, but Apple has never done a significant redesign of the Air’s body style since it shipped in 2009. This 2018 MacBook Air update is long overdue.

Cook introduced the new Air with this video before handing the device’s introduction off to Apple’s VP of Engineering, Laura Legros:

Finally, finally, the MacBook Air, 2018, has a Retina screen. It also has Touch ID authentication through a single dedicated spot on the keyboard (without the Pro’s Touch Bar,) two USB Type-C connectors with Thunderbolt 3, a new keyboard, Hey Siri hotword detection, and an entirely new body with much thinner bezels around the 13.3″ screen.

Legros said that this was the “greenest Mac Ever” with 100% recycled aluminum, and then introduced this video:

This Air is also more expensive, starting at $1,200 for the base model with 8GB of RAM, a paltry 128GB SSD, and a 1.6 GHz dual-core i5 that can boost to 3.6 Ghz.

If you want 16 gigs of RAM and a 512GB SSD you’re looking at an $1800 MacBook Air. There is even a 1.5TB SSD option that brings the price up to $2,600!

Yow. Legros called this “…the most affordable Retina Mac we’ve ever offered.”

My impression is that this is the laptop that Apple wants to compete with the new 2018 iPad Pro for the future of labor and entertainment.

The 2018 MacBook Air can be purchased online now, or it’ll be in stores on the 7th of November.

The 2017 Air is still for sale, if you want Type-A USB ports and a non-Retina screen at a lower $1000 price.

If I needed to replace my MacBook Pro and wasn’t onboard with the XCode-less iPad, I’d get this Air in a second.

The 2018 Mac Mini

Speaking of overdue updates, it has been four years since the Mac Mini was last updated.

Cook came back out to introduce the 2018 Mac Mini with this sci-fi trailer:

After the video Tom Boger, Apple’s head of Mac Marketing walked onstage to talk about this updated Mini.

Boger specified that the new Mini doesn’t use “mobile parts” but didn’t call the CPU a desktop processor. It’s a 3.6Ghz Quad-Core processor to start.

Spinning disk options are gone in favor of SSD’s, internally. The external design is extremely similar to the old Mac Mini except Apple in 2018 is attacking the the port situation differently. The 2018 Mac Mini has just two USB 3 type-A ports, one HDMI 2.0, four USB type-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports, one ethernet port, and one”3.5 mm headphone” jack that looks particularly awkward to access between and just below the USB Type-A ports as reader basscomm points out.

Just like the Air, you can order a Mini today and they’ll be generally available on the 7th. They start at $800, the configuration I’d go with is the 3.2GHz i7 with 16 GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. That configuration is $1700.

The most expensive configuration you could do is the same CPU with 64GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD, 10 Gigabyte ethernet instead of Gigabit, and that is $4,200!

Yow.

The cheapest iMac Pro is $800 more at $5000, but it starts with a much more reasonable 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. That is a machine that could last ten years or more.

This mini is also supposed to be made of 100% recycled aluminum.

Retail Updates

Angela Ahrendts spoke about retail Apple Stores, and specifically the Today at Apple series of classes for people to learn how to create with Apple devices. Ahrendts introduced new classes, and talked about the renewable energy resources that power the stores.

The 2018 iPad Pro 11″ and 12.9″

Cook returned to talk about iPad sales, and showed this chart to demonstrate how Apple had sold more iPads in 2017 than “…the entire notebook lineup of all of the biggest notebook manufacturers.” Look at this chart, it has one notable exception missing from it:

More ipads than notebooks

Cook went on to boast that “…this makes iPad not only the most popular tablet, but the most popular computer in the world.”

Heavily rumored, and now proven to be correct, there is a new iPad Pro in two sizes: 11″ and 12.9″. They have no lightning ports, instead there is one USB Type-C port and a new “Smart Connector” that works with a new Apple keyboard case as well as a new Pencil stylus. Here’s the video that Cook used to introduce the new iPad:

The new iPad Pro tablets have a much smaller bezel, with Face ID that works in both landscape and portrait orientations. Just like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max, the home button has been replaced with gestures. The new iPad Pro still has an LCD screen, but it also has curved edges like the iPhone XR. Apple’s John Ternus reintroduced this concept, again calling it Liquid Retina.

The 11″ iPad Pro has the same physical width and height as the old 10.5″ garbage iPad Pro that can now be safely disposed of in the nearest fire before you upgrade. The 12.9″ iPad Pro is a smaller package than the old 12.9″, because of the edge-to-edge-ish design of the new Pro’s. The new 12.9″ iPad Pro is also a full millimeter thinner than the older 12.9″ design.

Both new iPad Pros have a look on the sides that resembles my favorite iPhone design, the 4S’s solid edges. They also both have an A12X system-on-a-chip instead of the A10X that last year’s design had.

The AnnX chips are supposed to focus on graphics performance, Ternus compared the new iPad to the equivilent of a portable Xbox One S.

Dropping the lightning port for USB type-C allows the iPad Pro to connect to other USB devices and external displays. No support was expressed for USB peripherals like mice, keyboards, or external storage options. Instead, it was demonstrated almost solely as a camera connector and for charging your iPhone which still ships with a type-A cable that can’t plug into any of the current generation of Apple laptops.

The Pencil stylus is particularly interesting, it magnetically anchors to the side of the iPad Pro and it also has contact charging. The 2018 Pencil has a new action accessible by double-tapping its side. The new Apple Pencil stylus is $130.

I’m curious about the usability of Apple’s new folio keyboard for the iPad Pro. They specifically called out that it could switch between two angles. One for use at a desk, and one for use on your lap. That functionality is exactly what I’ve been looking at third-party keyboards for, replacing all laptop usage scenarios. The new iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Folio is $180 for the 11″ iPad Pro, and $200 for the 12.9″. That is a lot. To compare, the Brydge keyboard that turns the 2017 iPad Pro 12.9″ into a clamshell-style laptop while supportting way more angles of operation is $150.

Apple showed off a free-to-play game from Ubisoft called Assassin’s Creed Rebellion and said it was at 120 frames-per-second. Then they said that it was something that “no console could deliver.” That is sort of true in the sense that the game looks like Ubisoft’s take on Fallout Shelter and TV displays don’t really exist to take advantage of higher frame-rates from consoles as far as I know.

Greg Thomas from Take Two’s 2k Sports division talked about NBA 2k Mobile on the new iPad Pro while his underling demonstrated it. Thomas said it runs at 60 fps at the full retina resolution with no upscaling, it didn’t look that great to me.

Adobe’s VP of design Jamie Myrold and Chantelle (no last name or title given) demonstrated the new version of Photoshop, they repeatedly insisted that this was “the real Photoshop” on the new iPad. It isn’t available yet, but it was clearly frustrating to work with for an on-stage demonstration. Chantelle eventually swapped the same image she was working on to an augmented reality experience with depth between the layers in a separate program they’re calling “Project Arrow.” Both products are supposed to be available in 2019.

Phil Schiller narrated this other video introducing the new iPad Pro tablets:

If I were going to swap my laptop for an iPad I would get a Mac Mini to handle the desktop computing tasks that the iPad can’t.

The new iPad Pro’s are up for order today with general availability on the 7th.

 

Guess where all the recycled aluminum for the Macs comes from? The runoff from iPads and iPhones. As a Philadelphian I will now refer to these new Macs made with recycled aluminum as “Scrapple Macs.”

Overall

I’m disappointed that the Macs on display here have 128GB SSDs by default. I believe that many people will need more storage, and then they’ll have to use an external disk.

Apple’s folks talked up the capabilities of the new MacBook Air for expansion through devices like external GPU kits to bring actual graphics acceleration capabilities, those external enclosures are expensive as-heck and they oddly didn’t mention them for the Mini.

The iMac, MacBook, and Mac Pro are now the most out of date Macs according to the Mac Rumors Buyer’s Guide at 512 days since the last update for the iMac and MacBook, and a whopping 1777 days since the Mac Pro was updated in 2013.

The iPad Mini hasn’t really been updated since 2015! It was rumored to receive an update at this event, but didn’t end up getting one. That size is still interesting to me, although now I would be more likely to use a 12.9″ iPad Pro as a laptop replacement.

These custom ARM chips that Apple is developing really make me wish for a smaller Mac single-board-computer targeted towards the hobbyists that originally made the first Apple computers. I believe that Apple’s A-series would be perfect for these applications and would outclass the competition in build quality and ease-of-use, even though they would certainly not be cheaper.

I have felt the urge to switch to an iPad for all of my photography and writing needs for some time, I sold my iPad Mini earlier this year and regretted that decision because there hasn’t been a good device to replace it with. All of these devices are great, but they are also far out of reach of everyone. I hope that more of the new iPad Pro features make their way to a new iPad Cheap next year.

ST:BC Got TNG DLC on WIN

If you’ve ever wanted to blow up the Enterprise D, I’ve got good news.

Burn baby burn

Star Trek: Bridge Crew looked fun before, but when they finally patched the Windows version to let you play without a virtual reality helmet of shame I wasn’t able to get the game to work thanks to an error message popping up every few minutes and destroying all of my progress.

Finally, the latest patch fixed whatever was broken and now I can stay in the game as long as my family will let me, and they’ve also just added Star Trek: The Next Generation content to the Windows version. I am almost as happy as a targ in shit, except the DLC has been available on the PlayStation VR Goggle System for months.

The good news is that if any of our cross-platform friends on that PlayStation 4 are still looking to crossover some chairs as oddly as you can, ST:BC TNG DLC absolutely won’t let them. Ubisoft’s bridge game is all business, don’t get any ideas Commander Riker.

Fire

The bad news is that the game’s art still has a very strange weird and plastic style that makes it look a little bit like something from 2005, at least when you’re in the non-VR mode. I haven’t tried ST:BC with an HMD yet. I’d guess that this is because Ubisoft wants to maintain a solid framerate on console VR systems so that nobody pukes on the bridge.

Ubisoft’s “CrewBots” that substitute when you don’t have enough friends to fill the ship’s roles are as dumb as bricks, they’ll routinely fly directly into asteroids and mines and incorrectly prioritize your orders. Want your shields at full strength? I hope you don’t mind giving the same order again and again. The hilarious excuse Ubisoft came up for the mediocre AI is that anything smarter would somehow destroy the game’s framerate for VR players:

Keep in mind that with VR, performance is at an extreme premium to keep framerates high to avoid player discomfort so highly sophisticated AI that heavily affects that performance was not in the cards. The crewbots are a very effective solution that meets the goals of providing basic crew substitutes without any negative impact on framerates.

The ST:BC:TNG:DLC:ABC:BBD does add the Borg and Romulans as foes, as well as other features and major changes to the Enterprise D’s UI, and then it doesn’t explain any of it. Good luck.

ST:BC:TNG:DLC:TLA is on Steam as well as through Ubisoft’s UPlay store for $15. The base Bridge Crew game goes for $40 and you can’t play the DLC without it.

Far Cry 5 is Disappointing and Available

I’ve loved Far Cry games in the past, 3 was a particular high point, but that was 6 years ago and Far Cry 4 lost me somewhere along the way. I never finished it. 5 looks to be more of the same kind of an outdoor adventure through a beautiful land that is beset upon with chaos, light RPG mechanics without the role-playing, and this time they’ve set it in Montana.

The most important difference with this game is that it once had some promise in making a statement about the current political situation. There’s a lot of things that it’d be incredible to see a game even try to talk about, but Far Cry 5 isn’t that game despite having all of the opportunity in the world to try.

Austin Walker:

Thematically, Far Cry 5 is such an inconsistent mess of ideas that there is hardly a recognizable through line at all. Instead, the game gestures towards ambiguity as if looking for a shield to save itself with.

This is a game that undeniably knows that Donald Trump is president, but cannot decide if that fact should be punchline or key plot device. When, in two different scenes, cult leaders make oblique references to “America’s leadership” or the failures of the person “who’s in charge” as proof of the American empire’s final days, the game reaches for sincere relevance. But an hour later, you’ll be recovering the notorious piss tape from a Russian spy in a pun-filled quest.

Jeff Gerstmann:

There’s probably a great story you could tell around a Christian Doomsday Prepper Cult that has you fighting them off as they prepare for the End Times by murdering everyone around them and stealing all the resources they can. That’s meat that few games even attempt to chew. But the ambitious setting doesn’t pay off in this story that seems to want to hedge every chance it gets. The end result is a story that goes nowhere, says nothing, and fails to live up to the previous settings and villains in the franchise. If you can get past that… the rest is pretty much fine if you’re up for another Far Cry game.

Far Cry 5 is up now on Steam for Windows, as well as your Xbox One or PlayStation 4. It’s also got the traditional slap in the face of $60 not being enough, and offering both Deluxe ($70) and Gold ($90) editions.

I have a stack of open-world Ubisoft games that I haven’t finished, Far Cry 5 isn’t joining them.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is Another Surprise

Ubisoft has developed XCOM: Baby Mode with a Nintendo license for the Switch called Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. It reminds me of my favorite JRPG, Super Mario RPG, because both games were developed by third-parties using a Mario license to get a genre of games out to more people than would normally try them. With Super Mario RPG, that was the JRPG, with Mario + Rabbids, it’s the turn-based strategy from old DOS games brought to life again but this time Mario has a gun for some reason.

Chris Scullion reviewed it:

…the game’s still funny thanks to the character animations. From the way Rabbid Mario poses like he thinks he’s God’s gift to hares, to the way Rabbid Peach takes selfies of herself while one particular boss plummets to its doom (as Luigi looks on disturbed), the cutscenes and animations constantly had me chuckling in ways the dialogue never threatened to.

Ultimately, despite the exploration sections and the writing being slightly underwhelming, the main meat of Mario + Rabbids remains the turn-based combat sections so it’s a good job this is where the game truly shines.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is out now on the Nintendo Switch.

Grow Home on TimeDoctor.org Live

Grow Home is going to be put out on the Playstation 4 soon so I thought this would be as good an excuse as any to go back and play one of my favorite games from earlier this year. You can get it right now on Steam, and I would recommend that you do so. It’s an amazing game.

Ubisoft’s E3 2015 News

Rayman’s Raving Press Conference starts now:

  • South Park: The Stick of Truth is getting a sequel with superheroes instead of medieval stuff. It’s called South Park: The Fractured, but Whole. Get it?
  • Lots of dumb butt-hole jokes with Matt Stone and Trey Parker on-stage. Apparently it’ll be using the same formula as the first Stick of Truth game, so expect more RPG in the same engine.
  • So many dumb jokes about other things including “tea-bagging.”
  • Reddit jokes.
  • Trailer for something called For Honor. Medieval dudes fighting. Vikings too? There’s a dude with a way too well manicured beard on stage with a cane. Two teams of four are now playing a demo. Looks like it is a cross between Chivalry and Mount & Blade.
  • The Crew is getting motorcycles and monster trucks in The Crew: Wild Run. November 15th.
  • A horse is galloping and shooting fire out of it’s nostrils with a weird cat thing that has a ray gun. It’s a new Trials game.
  • More Tom Clancy’s: The Division. Third-person multiplayer shooting. Sphero’s. A wilhelm scream as an NPC dies. Your team can betray other teams that you come across in the multiplayer. Or you can betray your whole team and take their loot for yourself. Betas for console and Windows early next year. The Division comes out March 8th, 2016.
  • Anno 2205, November 3rd. It’s Ubisoft’s city building game. They mention a beta later this year so I’m not sure if that is 2015’s November or 2016. The PC versions of these games have been pretty terrible in terms of DRM that only has a few activations before you can’t play it again.
  • They’re trying to make meme jokes with some dude in the audience who is wearing the most embarrassing cosplay and is not prepared for this at all.
  • Just Dance 2016 on all motion platforms. Xbox One, Playstation 4, Wii-U. There’s Jason Derulo singing to a completely unresponsive crowd. Even the host of the show won’t get up and dance with the singer when he attempts to pull her on stage. After the song Derulo even mentions how awkward it was. There’s a subscription streaming service called Just Dance Unlimited for Just Dance 2016.
  • Of course what follows up dancing and singing better than terrorism in Rainbow Six: Seige. Angela Bassett was in the trailer, now she’s on stage. Bassett is your boss in the game. Terrorist Hunt is in this, if it’s anything like VegasTerrorist Hunt mode I will be psyched. There’s an on-stage demo, it looks awesome. You can break through walls with battering rams. Beta starts September 24th, 2015.
  • Trackmania: Turbo is up. Francois and Francois are here to show us some single player. It looks amazing. There’s a procedurally generated track mode. Francois flubs it the first time on the new track and hits a sign on a jump, flipping his car over.
  • Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. Horse-drawn carriages and mutton chops mean it’s victorian England business. Not one assassination yet. Guns and wrist-blades are seen at the end. There’s some kind of in-person demo kiosks available in various locations around the world but the only United States location is in Los Angeles.
  • We couldn’t go through another press conference without mentioning “IP” and you bet it’s “new IP.”
  • The new IP is Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands. It’s some kind of open-world third-person shooter. Tom Clancy’s name is getting a real workout for so much that he isn’t involved with. I guess that counts as new IP since the gameplay is kind of new,

That’s it.