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Opinion: The Abysmal State of the Mac in 2016


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#21 Camper-Hunter

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Posted 10 August 2016 - 12:06 AM

Matt, are you saying they're stuck in an infinite loop? :)

#22 Tibur

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Posted 10 August 2016 - 11:07 AM

View PostMatt Diamond, on 09 August 2016 - 09:32 PM, said:


My new theory is that they are all spending their time fighting over who gets the corner office in Apple's new headquarters. "It's mine!" "No, mine!"

Too bad the building is round. :)

#23 Matt Diamond

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Posted 10 August 2016 - 12:10 PM

View PostTibur, on 10 August 2016 - 11:07 AM, said:

Too bad the building is round. :)
Too bad you didn't read the last line of my post. :)
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#24 Matt Diamond

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Posted 10 August 2016 - 02:17 PM

Finally, a whisper of a ghost of a rumor of a possible update to the MacBook Pro.
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#25 Tibur

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Posted 10 August 2016 - 08:03 PM

View PostMatt Diamond, on 10 August 2016 - 12:10 PM, said:

Too bad you didn't read the last line of my post. :)
D'oh!

#26 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 10 August 2016 - 10:41 PM

I had a thought earlier today. I know, scary huh? Anyway, I was thinking about how Apple hasn't updated the Mac Pro in a long time and never bothered updating their stand alone 27" display that might have gone with it. Instead, they just discontinue the display altogether. So they don't make or sell a display for the most powerful desktop computer they sell do they?

I'm not entirely sure what to make of that but it doesn't look very good to me.
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#27 Frost

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Posted 10 August 2016 - 10:50 PM

View PostDirtyHarry50, on 10 August 2016 - 10:41 PM, said:

I had a thought earlier today. I know, scary huh? Anyway, I was thinking about how Apple hasn't updated the Mac Pro in a long time and never bothered updating their stand alone 27" display that might have gone with it. Instead, they just discontinue the display altogether. So they don't make or sell a display for the most powerful desktop computer they sell do they?

I'm not entirely sure what to make of that but it doesn't look very good to me.

That display had craptacular build quality and was one of the most failure-prone products in their current lineup according to an Apple source of mine. There might not be anything between the lines with their statement that they think there are plenty of good third party offerings for Mac users. Maybe they don't think an Apple-branded standalone monitor is worth the hassle anymore and don't want to devote resources to it.

That or they're tired of selling the things until they've got a better offering available.
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#28 macdude22

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 06:50 AM

View PostFrost, on 10 August 2016 - 10:50 PM, said:

That display had craptacular build quality and was one of the most failure-prone products in their current lineup according to an Apple source of mine.


Speaking from experience, they were notorious for the ethernet going out.

I have had this discussion with our rep, it is very un-apple like to not have a turnkey solution (albeit an expensive one). We have employee's that want that turnkey solution from the mouse to the monitor. The fanboi in me hopes there is a kickass new monitor in the pipe. But the practical answer is that "numbers man Tim" doesn't see slow moving products like monitors as something to devote resources to anymore. In the past Apple would have made a low production item because it was cool, or they thought it the right thing to do. Stuff like the Apple IIe Card or the Apple PC Drive. Or iPod sock. Lol. Man those were dum. Nobody could have thought they were going to make a mint off socks but they made em. Hell they used to ship paperclips in an Apple bag to techs, they really wanted to "own the whole widget". But Tim's apple seems to be really devoted to investor performance, and if that results in something cool, great! The old Apple used to be devoted to really cool stuff, if it drove investor performance, great!
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#29 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 09:34 AM

View Postmacdude22, on 11 August 2016 - 06:50 AM, said:

But the practical answer is that "numbers man Tim" doesn't see slow moving products like monitors as something to devote resources to anymore.

Which is reason I think to wonder about slow moving desktop computers anymore. I have wondered if they may move toward MacBooks for computers and then all the other stuff while working on the likes of self-driving cars with iPads built into the dash no doubt. You really have to wonder when they allow a computer line that was growing while PC sales continued to suffer to just languish without upgrades and worse, let some designer guy turn the Mac Pro into a freaking coke can that Apple offers no Retina display for.

I have difficulty believing that this would be going on if Steve Jobs was still at the helm. Speaking of which, current Apple seems to try to imagine things we don't know we need yet, except it turns out we actually don't need them. Losing Steve Jobs was akin to a world famous band losing their lead singer. It can't ever be the same, not even close really. Not when the lead singer was as good as he was.

Tim Cook is a nice guy and a very capable manager but unfortunately he is no tech visionary. He is not in love with what he sells and manages supply chains for, etc. It's all about the management, investor relations, profits, etc. Exciting new products, exciting new upgrades and design refinements, cutting edge tech leadership, world class software, quality assurance, all of this is not the kind of thing that excites Tim Cook unless he sees big dollar signs associated with it. Jobs worried about greatness and let the money follow. Tim operates in reverse of that and increasingly it shows.

Just another little example, Apple brings Siri finally to macOS well over a year after Microsoft brings Cortana to Windows 10. Apple has had Siri for how long now? Microsoft actually does something first? I still see neither as a big deal personally because they are both dumb as a rock for lack of serious AI to back them up. You have to memorize the magic words which is not a hell of a lot different than sitting at a blinking command prompt and needing to remember the magic words there too. That is progress? Well, sorta. The speech recognition isn't bad but that is nothing new. That was true a decade ago. The UI still sucks and there's no meaningful AI to back any of that hype up still. That is why it does not impress me. Sure enough, when I ask Cortana to open up some app and I don't say the name exactly right or she misrecognizes it, I wind up in Microsoft Edge (regardless of my default browser choice btw) with a search for what I was trying to get her to run because all she can do without the magic words is feed them to the browser to search for it. Funny thing is, the browser tends to get it right. Maybe Microsoft should setup a little date between Cortana and Bing and see how that all turns out. I don't know who Siri could go out with but she needs a partner too.

In any event, in terms of establishing who put speech into the OS first for whatever that is worth, Microsoft just kicked Apple's sorry butt. I consider that really shameful. I think Jobs would have been raging over it although I doubt he'd have allowed that to happen.

One thing I will give Cortana who does get it right sometimes is that she also has useful built in functionality you can access the good old fashioned way, by typing in what you want such as reminders she'll then pop up at the appropriate time. So she's a good start. Maybe Siri will be too when she finally shows up.
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#30 Matt Diamond

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 02:23 PM

> I had a thought earlier today.

View PostDirtyHarry50, on 10 August 2016 - 10:41 PM, said:

I had a thought earlier today. I know, scary huh?

Don't panic! If you wait a while it usually goes away on its own.

Monitor: what I like about my Apple monitor is the thunderbolt and magsafe connectivity. It's expensive for just a monitor, but not for a monitor-dock-combo.. But I guess I can just shell out for a thunderbolt hub instead.

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One thing I will give Cortana who does get it right sometimes is that she also has useful built in functionality you can access the good old fashioned way, by typing in what you want such as reminders she'll then pop up at the appropriate time.

Not sure I follow. You can ask Siri to remind you at a certain time, or when you get to a certain location. And you can use Apple's Reminders app to enter the same things manually. What is the Cortana feature?
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#31 macdude22

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 02:29 PM

View PostMatt Diamond, on 11 August 2016 - 02:23 PM, said:

Not sure I follow. You can ask Siri to remind you at a certain time, or when you get to a certain location. And you can use Apple's Reminders app to enter the same things manually. What is the Cortana feature?

I assume he means the speech on his mac. I use the phone feature all the time. Siri remind me to buy cat needles when I get to grinnell is said often.
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#32 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 04:16 PM

View PostMatt Diamond, on 11 August 2016 - 02:23 PM, said:

> I had a thought earlier today.


Don't panic! If you wait a while it usually goes away on its own.

Monitor: what I like about my Apple monitor is the thunderbolt and magsafe connectivity. It's expensive for just a monitor, but not for a monitor-dock-combo.. But I guess I can just shell out for a thunderbolt hub instead.



Not sure I follow. You can ask Siri to remind you at a certain time, or when you get to a certain location. And you can use Apple's Reminders app to enter the same things manually. What is the Cortana feature?

I was thinking of the desktop and actually didn't mean it as any comparison to Siri at all but rather a mention of something Cortana happens to be useful for in her first implementation on the desktop. I might be able to tell her to do that if I learned the syntax but that goes back to my complaint about having to learn the syntax. I did not mention it but what I liked there too was there is no reminders app at all. There's no need where it is built in to Cortana. I just thought it was good they built that in.

I have never bothered using Siri on my iPhone other than for amusement briefly because I was not willing to deal with any learning curve when I can already quickly do anything she can without needing to learn anything new to get it done or deal with mistakes due to all kinds of environmental noise, less than optimal microphone input, etc. on a phone. I know it works but I couldn't be bothered. I notice other people in my family couldn't be bothered either. The learning curve caused by a lack of AI smarts is a barrier to entry for plenty of people I think. I can see techie people using it and getting something out of it but I bet a lot of people ignore voice recognition on phones and I'd bet even more will on desktop computers, particularly in seas of cubicles where I can't imagine everyone telling the computers what to do knowing they can be heard and human nature being what it is being self conscious about that. It's cool in theory so far but not yet in practice and in some situations I doubt it ever will be.
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#33 bobbob

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 08:38 PM

View PostDirtyHarry50, on 11 August 2016 - 04:16 PM, said:

I have never bothered using Siri on my iPhone other than for amusement briefly because I was not willing to deal with any learning curve when I can already quickly do anything she can without needing to learn anything new to get it done or deal with mistakes
I use her to set the alarm. It usually takes a second though sometimes I have to repeat myself, but I don't even have to reach over to the nightstand to do it or fumble around trying to find the clock app. For a while I didn't even realize alarms were in the clock app. She'll even repeat it back to me afterwards, or if I forgot if I set it I can just ask her, too.

Also, god forbid you see some of the bullpopsnizzle that's still being sold as voice recognition. My father in law bought a new GMC Sierra truck, and the phone call by name isn't a Siri button like most other cars, it's matching your voice to recorded snippets of you saying each name. Imagine entering that.

I'll add that you have to say the number, too, and if any name sounds 'too similar' to one of the other names or commands it won't allow it. And it's not good at hearing it right, so you'll be angrily shouting most of them in the recordings and calling people Gordy because Gord sounds too much like 'Home'. Plus, you can't edit numbers or name snippets once you're done, it's either erase everyone and start over or just give up. That's what Siri's competing with.

#34 Frost

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 04:38 PM

I think voice recognition can potentially be a lot better, it's just that what most of us are exposed to is kind of sub par. Much as I love my Charger, Dodge's voice recognition is very meh. And as bad as that is, Dodge's voice recognition is practically SkyNet compared to most other automakers'. Like bobbob said, next to those, Siri and Cortana look amazing.

The problem is Siri and Cortana are both very susceptible to interference from background noise, they don't like certain syntax and don't get non-standard verbiage, etc. etc.

I think right now the gold standard is Google. It's not perfect either, but the difference in Google compared to Siri and Cortana is huge. I have NEVER had a syntax problem with Google. I can throw a Texas-ism at it and it will still get what I'm telling it. It also has far less issues understanding me; I think this is due to processing voice locally instead of compressing it to hell and then offloading it to the cloud. Which is another plus. If I kill the wifi on my iPod Touch and my Shield Portable right now, I can tell Siri on my iPod to get me to the HEB on Highway 6 and she'll be all, "NO INTERNET, ME DEAF." Even with internet half the time she'll go, "here's what I found on the web for Get a GED" or some bullpopsnizzle like that.

I can tell Google on my Shield, "Get me to the HEB on Highway 6" with my V8 going in the background and it'll go boo-bleep, show what I said exactly correctly even without internet access. Then as long as I do have access, it'll pull up the directions. Without access, I can still tell it to navigate me home and it'll bring up directions home as long as I'm within an area I have offline maps downloaded for. Unfortunately I use all Apple products right now and I am not inclined to switch to Android because I like the iOS ecosystem better, but still, I can give credit where it's due. Google's offering the only solution in speech recognition where I feel I can just phrase something however it comes to my mind, and the point will get across. And it even does it offline!

IMO Google's the innovator in this area right now. Apple and Microsoft are playing catch up, and most other voice recognition can barely be called a me-too effort.
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#35 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 09:40 PM

That is interesting about Google apparently devoting more resources to AI with speech along with the wise choice to keep it local which as you note is bound to improve recognition performance.

A limited vocabulary is how command and control speech recognition gets away with little or no AI working in concert with it. It is also how it gets around poor recognition conditions by strictly limiting what has to be recognized. Further, this lets them get away with skipping user training of the vocabulary (sampled) to improve performance. So in other words, the Siri and Cortana implementations are pretty half-baked compared to what is already possible with speech recognition but in fairness the reasoning has been mobile hardware limitations up until this point probably more than anything else. In any event, this is why the current syntax issue I complain about exists and it has existed for many years before either Siri or Cortana ever saw the light of day.

I am not surprised that speech recognition performs poorly in vehicles as it is probably similarly half-baked and it is trying to operate in a very hostile environment if you will for what it does.

High quality speech recognition depends on a variety of factors that current implementations attempt to get around as best they can owing to what they are trying to run it on and this is why so many times it does not perform as well as users would hope for and this is just the recognition component of the system, not taking into account whether there is any AI at all working with it which most often there is not.

I am not down on or negative about speech recognition technology at all I want to point out. i think it is amazing but I am also realistic about what needs to happen before performance in every day consumer applications becomes amazing. It is not amazing yet, not to my standards anyway. It is not anywhere near where it can be still unfortunately and progress has been a lot slower than one might hope for but I think a lot of that has to do with the separation of people good at the recognition side of things and people good at AI programming. The marriage of AI to speech recognition has not happened yet but I am sure it is in the works at Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Google, Nuance and elsewhere. This is a technological challenge of epic proportions but I do believe it will be met and the promise of speech recognition technology will be realized in a far greater way in the future. It is good to see it getting mainstream exposure and to varying degrees even being somewhat useful. There is also the wow and fun factor of it for consumers that is a good thing.

This is what I worked on for years in software development, well before iPhones and Siri existed. I was on the project for Microsoft's very first command and control speech product for Windows which was a limited and not very useful boxed product with a too cheap desktop microphone included and a very limited vocabulary that we did require the user to train so that it could be used to open certain applications, minimize, restore and maximize windows, close programs, shutdown Windows, etc. The package came in a sizable white box with the Microsoft brand on it but actually we made and tested it along with them testing and ultimately approving it. It was called Microsoft Voicepilot and it retailed for a hundred bucks. Market acceptance was lukewarm understandably and no version 2 ever happened. A fair number of people did get a kick out of the curiosity that it was though and what it hinted at for the future. To think, that was over 20 years ago now. This was the original Cortana of sorts a very long time ago for an early version of Windows. I believe it was Windows 95.

I also worked on IBM's Via Voice product, the DragonTools Developer API, two retail releases of DragonDictate and I forget what else now. Oh, yeah, a demo I cooked up was used to demo our developer API at the Comdex trade show one year.  I was kind of proud of that where the company owners heard I'd made it for test purposes, came to see it and decided to use it for that with some interface touch ups I applied for the occasion.

I actually have a deep personal love of this technology and what it can do for people. That is why I am so critical of its shortcomings when I know that a long time ago we were already imagining the ways in which it could be much better but how slow development on that front has been. I do not accept it currently as anywhere near good enough because I know how good it can be with further development and the issue isn't the recognition side of things aside of hardware issues that are going to be very tough to overcome. However, that it is not to say there is not more work to be done in recognition as well. I can tell you though that recognition was already as good as you experience now twenty years ago. I was using it then daily. I suppose that is why when Tim takes to the stage or whoever it was and makes a deal about Siri coming to macOS Sierra I am not terribly impressed to see them finally include technology I was using two decades ago. Yes, they have added some smarts to it that relies on other apps and components but honestly, it just is not a big technological achievement or anything at this point, at all.

On a bright note though, I do believe when future breakthroughs come in terms of speech recognition improvements, the incorporation of AI in a big way, UI improvements, hardware improvements and this all comes together at some point then speech recognition at the consumer level everywhere will be what Steve Jobs would call insanely great. I do think that is coming and I hope I am here to see it.
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#36 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 09:58 PM

I forgot to mention one last item you guys might find interesting. We had an engineer assigned solely to Apple and he was under a strict NDA to never discuss with anyone aside of the owners and probably the director of software engineering what he was doing with and for Apple. Although I was friendly with him and at one point shared a tool I'd cooked up to automate project creation with all the standard files, customized headers, etc. I never asked him about any of that since we respected and took non-disclosure very, very seriously given the major corporations we worked with who were our bread and butter.

All these years later my guess would be though that he was sharing patented technology Apple would have paid DragonSystems for as they were working on the early stages of what would later become Siri although it is likely they didn't know yet exactly how they'd apply this to a product in particular at that time as this was so far in advance of the iPhone. Back then they'd have been thinking about incorporating it into MacOS I suppose but who knows what else R&D at Apple was working on back then. A lot of things begin many years before people ever become aware of them outside of where they are being developed. In any event, Apple was working on speech recognition in the mid 90s and probably earlier and I know my company was helping them along with Microsoft and IBM not to mention our own industry leading products. Jim and Janet Baker who founded DragonSystems which was later bought by Nuance (that is a long and very sad story that maybe I will share some other time) were pioneers in the field of speech recognition, both of them brilliant people who played a major role in what in everyone is using today along with certain other leaders in the field going back that far.
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#37 Matt Diamond

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Posted 14 August 2016 - 10:24 AM

Interesting background.

Keep in mind that Siri was created by a startup company, which was then bought by Apple in 2010. So yes, Apple was working on speech recognition all along, but it didn't evolve into Siri. (Though I've no way of knowing if what Apple did was entirely replaced by Siri or if the efforts were merged.)

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Jim and Tammy Baker who founded DragonSystems

I did a double take there. But the disgraced televangelists who share those names spelled it "Bakker".
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#38 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 14 August 2016 - 12:33 PM

View PostMatt Diamond, on 14 August 2016 - 10:24 AM, said:

Interesting background.

Keep in mind that Siri was created by a startup company, which was then bought by Apple in 2010. So yes, Apple was working on speech recognition all along, but it didn't evolve into Siri. (Though I've no way of knowing if what Apple did was entirely replaced by Siri or if the efforts were merged.)



I did a double take there. But the disgraced televangelists who share those names spelled it "Bakker".

Oh, my God! I can't believe I did that. Her name is not Tammy so I must have had those same people in the back of my head and the wires crossed. Wow. Her name is Janet Baker and I just went back and made the correction right away! I'm glad you caught that if embarrassed.

I would think they bought that company and merged the best of what they had with some element(s) of what the startup had versus tossing many years of work for whatever the startup company had come up with. That is interesting though. I was not aware of Siri's history and just assumed it to be an internal Apple project all the way. There's no way to know what they did of course but given what I'd expect they had by 2010 I doubt very much they needed a complete replacement by any means.
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#39 the Battle Cat

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 09:42 AM

View PostDirtyHarry50, on 14 August 2016 - 12:33 PM, said:

Oh, my God! I can't believe I did that. Her name is not Tammy so I must have had those same people in the back of my head and the wires crossed. Wow. Her name is Janet Baker and I just went back and made the correction right away! I'm glad you caught that if embarrassed.

Now I have this mental image of Siri with mascara running down her cheeks.
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#40 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 06:32 PM

View Postthe Battle Cat, on 25 August 2016 - 09:42 AM, said:

Now I have this mental image of Siri with mascara running down her cheeks.

Poor Siri! She had no idea what was going on behind her back. She just thought she was very blessed was all.
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