My thoughts on Apple’s iPhone CPU throttling

Updated 12/29/17: Apple has posted an official response to this issue on their website. It’s the right response.

Everyone’s chiming in on this issue so I’m not going to rehash it, but I do have a practical suggestion that addresses it. You know what’s going on: older iPhones with older batteries tend to run slow (see this post). I noticed it as well and thought, like most people, that we (my wife and I) need to replace our iPhones, because they’re getting too old to handle the iOS upgrades and respective upgrades to the mobile apps we use.

As it turns out, Apple has been quietly throttling the CPU speeds of our iPhones in order to compensate for the fact that older Li-Ion batteries can’t sustain the voltages needed for those higher speeds. It was watching out for us, but without explaining it. And as it turns out in life, a lack of communication will cause problems. They only offered the explanation after people got upset — so upset that now several lawsuits have been filed against them (see this post). Only two lawsuits are mentioned in that post, but in another story I read today, the total went up to eight.

I’m not feeling sorry for Apple. They’re big boys, they have plenty of money to handle the lawsuits and their “we know better” attitude toward the customers, as well as their closed system approach to everything they develop, has always engendered a certain amount of anger from its customers. What they can and should do now is to suck it up and offer a good defense in court.

All of this could have been avoided if they’d simply done something similar to the “Low Power Mode” option that’s already offered on iPhones. That is an elegant and caring solution to a problem that users encounter every day.

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Something like this, let’s call it a “Battery Lifespan Advisory”, could be a feature launched with the next incremental upgrade to iOS 11, and it might let us toggle the “Automatic CPU Throttling” on or off when the battery nears the end of its projected lifespan. We could get a message on our screens, just like when Low Battery Mode is recommended, that would take us directly to the screen where we read an explanation and get to manage this option.

And that’s about all I have to say on this.

Fun with technology

I’ve had multiple Drobo units since 2007. To this day, I still enjoy adding a hard drive to a Drobo. It’s one of those things that can be an ordeal on other tech, but on a Drobo, it’s been made fun through proper planning and design.

It lets you that it’s low on space, you order a drive, and when it comes, you look at the app, which tells you exactly what size-drive is in each bay. Pressing a small lever on the side of the bay releases the drive, which slides out. You put the new one in, the Drobo immediately checks it and formats it, then begins striping the data set across it.

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I love this process. It’s so simple and so fun! The Drobo doesn’t care what hard drive you buy, as long as it’s larger than what you already had. It allows you to grow the capacity of your Drobo in time, as the prices for newer, bigger hard drives decrease, without any sort of headaches. This is technology done right.

Proposed EU measures to extend product lifetime

I am happy to let you know that things are underway within the EU to ensure that products will last longer and will be easier to repair in the future. These are proposed measures at the moment, they’re not law, but they soon could be. The idea, according to the EEB (European Environmental Bureau) is to:

  1. Extend the lifetime of products
  2. Extend the availability of repair services
  3. Improve consumer information and rights
  4. Make these measures binding, not voluntary

If you live within the EU, I encourage you to contact your representatives to the EU Parliament and to ask them to support these proposed measures.

Even if this isn’t law yet, I am happy to see my own feelings on the matter mirrored by those in a position to do something about it. You may recall that I wrote an article called “Truly sustainable computing” back in August of 2015, where I proposed that desktop computers have a projected lifespan of 20 years and laptops and mobiles phones have a projected lifespan of 10 years.

The proposed EU measures would apply to every category of products, not just to computing devices, so things like cars, electronics, appliances would all be covered by the new regulations, ensuring we would once again have quality products that last a long time.

I say “once again” because those of you who are younger than me may not recall we had this sort of thing before the 1970s. The idea of “planned obsolescence” was introduced in the 1960s by manufacturers and that’s when things started to go downhill for products in terms of durability, repairability and build quality. You could still get kitchen appliances made in the late 1960s that looked and worked perfectly even in the late 2000s. You can no longer do that with today’s appliances.

It’s irresponsible in so many ways for us to generate mountains of e-waste every year and it’s doubly irresponsible for manufacturers to make them, one because they’re using the Earth’s resources without any regard for the future and two, because they make them easily breakable and disposable, contributing to the enormous amounts of waste that we generate as a race. It’s time we did something quantifiable and legally binding about this!

On self-driving cars

Here is a video I made about self-driving cars, and which I recorded in our VW Passat Station Wagon, which has a feature called Adaptive Cruise Control. When I got this car, I was amazed at how it could apply braking and acceleration as needed in order to keep the car at a safe distance from those in front of it. The only thing I needed to do was keep my hands on the steering wheel.

Now that self-driving cars are beginning to enter the marketplace, we’ll be able to take our hands completely off the wheel and focus on tasks that are more useful to us, such as reading, looking out the window, talking to our spouse or children, even catching up on sleep.

I’d love to see self-driving cars become mainstream, with the option of turning off the auto-pilot and driving them manually every now and then!

Permanent data storage

We need to focus our efforts on finding more permanent ways to store data. What we have now is inadequate. Hard drives are susceptible to failure, data corruption and data erasure (see effects of EM pulses for example). CDs and DVDs become unreadable after several years and archival-quality optical media also stops working after 10-15 years, not to mention that the hardware itself that reads and writes to media changes so fast that media written in the past may become unreadable in the future simply because there’s nothing to read it anymore. I don’t think digital bits and codecs are a future-proof solution, but I do think imagery (stills or sequences of stills) and text are the way to go. It’s the way past cultures and civilizations have passed on their knowledge. However, we need to move past pictographs on cave walls and cuneiform writing on stone tablets. Our data storage needs are quite large and we need systems that can accommodate these requirements.

We need to be able to read/write data to permanent media that stores it for hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of years, so that we don’t lose our collective knowledge, so that future generations can benefit from all our discoveries, study us, find out what worked and what didn’t.

We need to find ways to store our knowledge permanently in ways that can be easily accessed and read in the future. We need to start thinking long-term when it comes to inventing and marketing data storage devices. I hope this post spurs you on to do some thinking of your own about this topic. Who knows what you might invent?

Mobile phones as desktop and laptop replacements

It’s high time we were able to come home and place our mobile phones in a dock that’s connected to a display, keyboard and mouse, and have it turn into a full-fledged desktop and laptop replacement. Mobile phones have sufficient computing power for most of our needs, they have the apps most of us use on desktops as well, and there are incredible energy savings to be had. Hardware manufacturers need to start making sincere, concerted efforts toward this end.

You may also want to read through this post of mine, where I tried my best to use a tablet (an iPad) as my main computer, only to be frustrated to no end by the lack of common ammenities and functionalities we’ve come to expect on desktops and laptops, simple things such as the use of a mouse, drag-and-drop functionality between folders, a finder/file explorer and the ability to easily access drives and files on the network.

I realize that people who engage in heavy computing on a daily basis, such as 4K video editing, 3D graphics and 3D video rendering, large-scale CAD projects, serious coding that requires powerful compilers and other such tasks, will still need very powerful desktop computers and even small server farms in order to do their jobs and I am in no way suggesting that they start using mobile phones to do their work.

We simply have to acknowledge that the majority of the population that uses computers can do just fine with the computing power of a mobile phone. I’m talking about the people who mostly check their email, use social networking sites and apps for social networking sites, plus some online banking and take casual photos and videos. What if all those people were able to use their mobiles phones as replacement desktops or replacement laptops? Wouldn’t that be a significant cost savings to them?

Looking at the greater picture, if all those people, or at least a significant portion of them did this, wouldn’t that translate into significant energy savings for cities, counties, states and countries? Aren’t we always talking about reducing our carbon footprint? Well, instead of using a laptop that consumes about 60W when plugged in, or a desktop that eats up about 200W, give or take, why not use a mobile phone that consumes 3-5W when plugged in?

My video recording setup

After working with this setup for over a year, I wanted to share it with you, having gained full knowledge of its advantages and disadvantages. It is what works for me at this time, in my particular situation, but it may help you as well, if like me, you make your own videos and don’t have a team working behind the scenes.

This 3-4 camera setup is what I use to film my wife’s shows: Ligia’s Kitchen and De Vorbă cu Ligia. For my own videos I use a more basic 1-2 camera setup, since I have to be both in front and behind the camera.

Let me state the advantage and disadvantages first and then I’ll give you the exact list of equipment.

The advantages:

  • The big iPad displays allow for proper framing, focusing and exposure control. I always disliked those tiny screens on DSLRs and video cameras.
  • The iPads have big batteries (except for the iPod Touch) that allow for hours of filming.
  • The featherweight iPod Touch can be mounted  in all sorts of unusual spots (including overhead).
  • Live viewing and control of the video feeds (things such as focus, exposure, white balance), including instantaneous switching between the feeds, from a master iPad. One person can manage all of the cameras at once. This setup allows up to four angles at a time.
  • Lightweight, small and highly portable setup.
  • With the aid of dedicated apps, you can get very good control of the video quality and look, right in the camera, without having to resort to a lot of post-editing.

The disadvantages:

  • Video quality isn’t on par with what you can obtain from a good DSLR with a good lens or better yet, from a dedicated, professional video camera. The dynamic range isn’t there, the noise levels are fairly high, the focus isn’t crisp enough. What you’ll need to do to compensate is to make sure your lighting is as good as you can get it.
  • The battery life of the iPod Touch is terrible. Have an external power source (plug or power bank) readily available if you need to record more than 30-45 minutes of video.
  • Also, the iPod Touch has a much slower processor than the iPad, so don’t attempt to use it as a master controller or for video editing. Use it only as a slave camera and be prepared to wait for good, long times when it updates itself with new Apple software and apps.
  • The on-camera (iPad Air and iPod Touch) microphones don’t offer good sound. The iPad’s microphone is passable from a close distance when nothing else is available, but that of the iPod Touch sounds tinny, no matter the situation. Use shotgun, dedicated or lavalier microphones for better sound.
  • You’ll need good WiFi signal in the room where you’re recording video, if you’re going to want to manage the video feeds from each iPad camera on a master iPad.

The equipment list:

  • 4 iPad Air units: mine are 128 GB first-generation models, I got a great deal on them at B&H Photo about 1 ½ years ago, I think they were old stock and they were making room for the 2nd generation iPads. I went for the largest capacity available because I wanted to be able to record lots of video without needing to stop and download. It just so happened that they also had 4G LTE, which was a nice plus. It was the right decision.
  • 1 iPod Touch unit: I got this because it was small and I wanted to use it for overhead angles, where a heavy camera might fall on my head. I didn’t want to use my iPhone, just in case it ever fell from its rigging. (An iPod is cheaper to replace than an iPhone.) It was the right decision. The short battery life and slow performance were unexpected and disappointing, but it does its job when needed.
  • 5 iOgrapher cases for the iPads and iPod Touch: check out their website, they keep working on their cases and have developed new ones to fit the new gadgets from Apple. I love their cases because they work both handheld (they have two big handles on each side) or mounted on a tripod. And they have mounts for external microphones and lights, right on top where they’re needed.
  • 5-6 iOgrapher lenses: I use a mix of Telephoto and Wide Angle lenses made for the iOgrapher cases, they use a 37 mm mount. They’re not pro-level lenses and they have a bit of distortion and chromatic aberration around the edges, but they’ll do the job.
  • 2 Rode smartLav+ lavalier microphones. This is where our iPhones are useful. We put them on Airplane mode, plug these mics into them, start up the Voice Memos app and slide them in our pockets. We get to record great audio with little fuss.
  • The following iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone apps: the built-in Camera app that comes with iOS, RecoLive MultiCam and Filmic Pro.
  • 1 or more video lights. There are a ton of options here. We use this one. Its advantage is that it comes with interchangeable color filters that shift the temperature of the light.
  • 2 or more softboxes mounted on C-stands for each set.
  • 1 hair light such as this one. I mounted it on a C-stand that I extended to its maximum height and lateral length. You may need to use some sandbags to stabilize the stand.
  • We also use the room’s own lighting for effect and illumination. I tend to use cold temperatures for the studio lights (white CFLs and LEDs) and warm temperatures for the room lights. I know people say you shouldn’t mix light colors when you’re shooting video or photos, but I like it. When they’re mixed the right way, they give me a “live” white balance, an in-studio “look” for my video, which is better than doing it in post.

If you have any questions or if I’ve forgotten to mention anything, let me know in the comments. I hope this helps you!