Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

Sep 10 25 Conjecture on the livestream of the 9. sep Apple keynote

Excited to watch Apple’s new innovative products, millions of people tuned in to the live webcast where Tim Cook revealed iPhone 6, Apple Pay and Apple Watch.

As someone following the live stream while it happened, monitoring twitter feeds live chats during the event, one thing became clear to me immediately as the stream started to play: something was totally wrong with the stream.

On the surface, everything seemed to go well when the stream started playing around 15 minutes before the event. We saw video of the hall the event took place in, in beautiful HD, but something was off. Not everyone noticed this immediately, but two songs were playing on top of each other. It sounded horrible to my ears.

With 10-15 minutes to go before the event started, you can safely assume that at this point the streaming crew were trying to fix the problem so the start of Tim Cook’s talk wouldn’t be underlaid the otherwise great downtempo tracks playing in the background. Just before the event started, even 3 tracks were playing as the audio from the Flint Center was faded in.

We can only guess as to the cause of the multiple music tracks: Extra audio playing in the background of the computer/equipment used to do the stream (which is the wrong way to add music, and probably not what happened), two audio streams for different regions or a backup stream were accidentally combined, music was added at two different points of the encoding chain. We just don’t know.

The event began, the initial TV ad started playing as Apple likes to do at the beginning of events, but most of it was missing because of several restarts, audio errors and dropouts: They couldn’t fix the problem in time, and tried restarting the stream just before T+0:0, but to no avail. The keynote started, and the intro ad started playing, still underlaid with two, now increasingly annoying, simultaneous music tracks playing in the background.

When the stream was restarted, this screen was shown until the feed was buffered

At this point the stream started getting increasingly unstable (I don't think it was due to bandwidth, however, not yet), we saw the “Apple Special Event Flint Center Schedule” color bars multiple times as the crew perhaps tried restarting the stream.  After this, the sound completely stopped working as we can assume the streaming crew made an emergency decision and put the sound on mute before trying a different solution.

Chinese Translation

When the ad was over and Tim Cook went on stage, the streaming crew had fixed the music issue just in time, but unfortunately the issue was replaced with another one: The voice of Tim Cook was now underlaid the voice of a female chinese translator, translating the live stream for chinese users.

To me, it seems that since they could not resolve the music issue, they went ahead and used the Chinese stream as a back-up. (Update: it seems all audio streams; the japanese, chinese and english ones, were playing simultaneously throughout the start of the event, not that they switched to another stream - see the comments below) Unfortunately, this made the stream almost completely unwatchable for english-speaking users.

By now, at T+0:05, everyone watching the stream and participating on Twitter were aware that Apple had grave problems with their stream. The stream was restarted again, showing the color bars.

With Apple executives quickly advancing the keynote, went on to introducing the iPhone 6, just mere 10 minutes after the event had begun. The restarts and chinese translation continued for another 20 minutes or so, with the stream starting to lag out and getting increasingly hard to get ahold of - this time, I suspect, due to lack of bandwidth - due to the extreme amount of people trying to watch the stream by reloading the player.

At about T+0:25, something interesting happened; the stream started coming back, being increasingly more stable, but the chinese voice was gone – this time replaced by a much lower volume Japanese voice. Apparently the streaming crew now had a way to lower the volume of the translator.

But, by the time Philip Schiller was talking about how noone is using camcorders anymore, the Japanese/chinese voice also was gone, and the stream started getting a little more stable, still lagging out every couple of minutes. Now, however, lots of people had simply left in frustration, going to bed, to work, wanting to catch up later instead of wasting their time watching a completely broken stream.

The TWiT crew, broadcasting their live commentary to the event, was at this point getting increasingly aggravated, you could feel the exasperation coming from Sarah Lane in the studio.

It wasn’t until the very last 30 minutes of the stream, when Apple introduced Apple Watch, the stream started playing relatively smoothly.

The Akamai CDN error users experienced on during the stream

The Web site

While all of this was going on, lots and lots of users reported errors on, the whole site going down, coming from their underlying Akamai CDN. I’m guessing that this is stemming in part from users reloading the site and all the assets to their live-reloading liveblog Apple included as something new this time.


I’m sure that at this point Apple and their streaming partner has done a complete investigation of the causes of the many problems of the stream. Here’s what I think they have found:

  1. Not noticing the double-music issue at the same time as they went live, and the audience logging in to the stream. Now they had a measly 15 minutes to debug what, I assume, was a complex issue with the music that had a rather obscure fix, and were probably scrambling to find some solution. (Apparently, they were unable to simply stop the chinese translator and use the chinese stream as a backup, although I don’t know how big a part of the audience were chinese).
  2. Not enough streaming capacity. Truth be told, I and many others have experienced dropouts and lag every single time Apple has streamed an event. I understand why Apple is going with a do-it-yourself solution with the streaming platform, but they maybe should consider using a partner to handle the streaming (bandwidth) aspect of the events. This, perhaps, would open up for more platforms to see the stream as well as many Windows users want to watch the stream.
  3. Not consulting with CDNs to optimize their Web frontend. Apple did something new this year, hosting their own liveblog relaying news while the video was playing. I think they were expecting issues since they always have issues, and the liveblog mostly kept working as the stream went on. But I believe the continuously reloading liveblog together with users mashing Command+R to see the stream killed the site. Apple's Web site couldn't follow along with the swaths of users, triggering Access Denied errors from the CDN.


I'm very interested in figuring out exactly what happened, and so far this is just speculation, so if you think I'm wrong in any of this, don't hesitate to correct me in the comments below.

Updated 4/oct/14: Changed title and article to reflect that this post is speculation.

Feb 9 0 Apple Predictions for 2012 – 2013

  • All Apple products with screens will begin to have Retina-grade displays, starting with the iPad 3 coming in the first half of 2012, then the MacBooks and finally the Thunderbolt display and iMacs.
  • iPad 3 will have, other than retina display, double the ram, quad core processor, better 8MP camera, thinner, but same 10hr battery life. The design will be similar to that of iPad 2. Oh, and Siri. Coming Q1 2012.
  • Mac OS X will merge with iOS in the next version coming late 2013, potentially removing a lot of functionality, upsetting professionals. There will be no 10.8. It will simply be called iOS. (They've run out of cat names)
  • iMacs will never have touch-screens though.
  • Apple's 42" television set will premiere before 2013. It will look like a large Thunderbolt Display. It will feature iOS. Apple will also partner with TV stations to offer more on-demand programming. It will probably feature Siri so you can channel surf without moving your body. It will be available in black and white.
  • Mac Pro will be discontinued after the next and final generation comes when Intel's new chipset is ready in mid 2012, so sometime in late 2013. Super fast Thunderbolt-equipped iMacs will take over Mac Pro's market.
  • Apple's server offerings will be replaced with cloud services and the increasingly powerful Mac Mini. (Apple doesn't even use their own hardware for servers anymore)
  • Final Cut Pro X will receive rigorous updates. Video professionals will regret their shift to Media Composer as digital formats replace tape.
  • We will see the transition to ARM-based Macs in late 2013 or the beginning of 2014, starting with the MacBook Air.
  • As battery life will be longer, we'll begin to see security features in the MacBook power adapters like Apple recently patented.
  • iPhone 5 mid-late 2012 will have a new, thinner design going back to round corners plus Siri will end its beta phase at the same time. It will have LTE support. iPhone 5 won't have any exceptional features, but it will be the best selling iPhone ever.
  • iPod Classic will be discontinued and replaced with the iPod touch which will be renamed iPod. It will be expensive because of the 128GB SSD.
  • iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano will merge.

Apple will become more consumer and entertainment oriented and will slim its product line accordingly.

Right now, Apple is preparing and conditioning us for the iOS merge with their Lion operating system.

As we've seen with the release of Lion and the 10.7.3 update, retina support on Macs is coming soon.

ARM-based Macs are further away; it's simply not fast enough yet. But it'll come unless something drastic happens at Intel.

Apple's TV will become the best selling  TV ever, no doubt about it. Right now, TVs suck with their slow menus and bloated designs with huge bezels and bright LED lights. Consumers want an easy to use, minimalist designed, internet-connected television with an Apple logo on it. And they'll pay a premium for it.

Mac Pro is becoming a legacy machine. Apple will probably have to release a new one to please their professional market, but they're not happy about it. Thunderbolt display will mostly be a dock for Macbooks.

Right now is an exciting time at Apple. It seems like their growth can't stop. But will their changes succeed? Will the competition finally pull itself together and release products worth buying?

Aug 23 38 Mediacenter PC Review: Zotac ZBOX ID41

In this article I'll be reviewing the Zotac ZBOX ID41, which is an inexpensive mini PC from Zotac. The thing about this PC is that it's particularly appealing to media center owners and budget-constrained customers due to its price and small size.

In this review I'll look at some of the factors that are important to me for a HTPC: noise, HD playback, expansion features and power usage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 24 0 MacBook Pro update: ThunderBolt, up to 6 displays?

Today Apple updated their MacBook Pro line of notebooks and adding several substantial features. I think the biggest of them all was the introduction of ThunderBolt. A new, high-speed port that allows the user to daisy chain 6 devices. The port is more than twice as fast as USB 3.0 with its 10 Gbit transfer speed.

What makes ThunderBolt great is that by daisy-chaining, up to six can be linked up from a single port, and with simple adapters a Thunderbolt connection can be turned into HDMI, VGA, DVI, gigabit ethernet, FireWire or USB.

This means you could plug 6 DVI ports, connecting 6 displays to your notebook, where you could previously connect just 1 extra display. We'll see if this will actually work when the first reviews begin to appear on the web.

In other news, a developer preview of Mac OS X Lion has been released today with several exciting features, including multitouch support, global auto-save, backup, versioning and fullscreen support. I can't wait for it to be released this summer!