Nicolas Magand on the internet

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

MacBook or Mac Pro? Which will be the first Mac to fully run on Apple processors?

Dan Moren, writing for Macworld, and asking when Apple will start the switch from Intel processors in its Macs, and more specifically, whether the MacBook or the next Mac Pro would be the first to fully run on Apple processors:

So where in this mix does the Mac Pro fit? Well, it could represent a whole new way of Apple doing things, and isn’t that what you want out of one of your flagship machines? Especially one aimed at a segment of the market that tends to be envelope-pushers.

I admit, it may be a less likely scenario than the MacBook, especially from a standpoint of performance. While the recent benchmarks of the new iPad Pro’s A12X chip have put it in the neighborhood of Apple’s high-end Macs for certain tasks, there’s a question of whether it can deliver the kind of performance people expect from a machine that is all about performance. Then again, maybe Apple has a surprise up its sleeve there, too.

If Apple processors are not hold back by power-efficiency and the heat/size constraints of a mobile phone or a tablet, I wonder what level of performance they may be able to reach.

Last April I tweeted that the rumoured new Mac Pro's delay may be explained by Apple really wanting to unveil it equiped with its own in-house processors, at least as an option. I still hope I was right, but I have to agree with Moren: the MacBook looks way more plausible as the first Mac running on a A12 or A-something chip.

In hindsight, it is truly remarkable what Apple has achieved with its in-house chips in just a few years. The benchmarks of the new iPad Pro must have caused a lot of tremors inside Intel's headquarters. Kudos to Anil Dash who called it years ago.

My phone's homescreen, November 2018 edition

Since my homescreen has pretty much stayed the same in the last couple of months – despite a few changes of phones and Android versions 1  – I figured I would share what has been one of the most stable digital setup for me.

Sixteen apps are living on my homescreen: three rows of four, and the bottom four apps. The other apps are on other screens, sometimes grouped in folders, sometimes not. The bottom four obviously stay on every screen.

The bottom four are, from left to right: Signal (which double as my SMS app), WhatsApp (my main messaging app), Tidal, AntennaPod.

The "top twelve" are, in no particular order: Instapaper, Readably (RSS reader that syncs with Feedbin), The Guardian, Mediapart, DuckDuckGo (which doubles as my main browser), Dropbox Paper (as of today, my main writing/notes app), Twitter, Fastmail, VSCO, Lightroom CC (mostly to back up my photos, since I use VSCO to edit them on the phone), the preinstalled photo gallery app, and the phone's default camera app.

I could add Hello Weather to the list, since it has an ongoing notification displaying the weather forecast at all times, and also Fleksy, my favourite keyboard on Android 2 .

Since this setup is never quite finished, or balanced, we will see what it will look like in a few weeks. Here you can see what my homescreen looks like.

  1. In 2018 I used: EMUI (Huawei P9), Oxygen OS (OnePlus 5T), briefly Android One (Xiaomi Mi A1), and currently MIUI (Xiaomi Mi 8) ↩︎

  2. Mostly for the reasons that it has an option for maintaining the key buttons as capital letters, and it allows me to switch the font of the keys from Roboto to Helvetica, as you should. ↩︎︎

Kara Swisher reigns supreme

One of my absolute role models, Kara Swisher, on Slate writing about her experiences of being a boss, and portraying the bosses she had during her career, including this one:

I’ve told this story before, but years later I ran into him, and he said, “Most people in this town stab you in the back, but you stabbed me in the front, and I appreciate that.” I said, “Anytime, you son of a bitch.” It was a great moment. I’m so glad he’s dead. Seriously, I’m glad he’s dead. He was a jackass. He deserved it.

After that, I had some great bosses at the Washington Post. I’ve mostly had male mentors and bosses, for some reason.

Unsurpringly, this article is a fantastic read, and — since it was published on October 11th — I took it as a great birthday present.

On the lack of diversity in newsrooms

Must-read from Jelani Cobb, on The Guardian:

The article represented not simply a case of a journalist missing a story. The story, to me, spoke to the problem of what happens when the demographics of the Times – and American newspapers in general – look nothing like the demographics of the communities they cover. The people who are most likely to appear in these kinds of stories are the least likely to have a say in how those stories are told.

The lack of diversity – all kinds of diversity – is not only a problem for newsrooms, it is a threat to good journalism.

On that topic, I remember a very interesting piece from Owen Jones, also published on The Guardian a few years ago:

More than half of the top 100 media professionals attended a fee-paying school, even though just 7% of Britons overall did; and 43% of newspaper columnists were educated in the private sector. This is not just an unjust waste of talent, leaving aspiring journalists from more humble backgrounds unable to pursue their dream. It helps to ensure that the media reflects the opinions, prejudices and priorities of a gilded elite.

I'm afraid this is not a UK-only issue.

How good is the new iPad Pro for photographers?

His work with the iPad was already mentioned briefly, but Austin Mann's full explanations, tips and details are worth the read. This part, among all the gorgeous photos of Iceland, caught my attention:

I was working with Mavic Pro 2 1  in the black volcanic deserts of south Iceland. While sitting in the car (in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere), I decided to offload my images and review them. I pulled out the iPad Pro and a card reader, and within only a few moments I was reviewing them on screen. Next thing I knew I was editing them with the Pencil in Lightroom CC and then I shared one with my wife—all within just a few moments.

It’s really easy to sit just about anywhere (even with a steering wheel in your face) and not just use it, but use it to its full extent.

This is precisely what is the most tempting aspect of the iPad: not only its ease of use, but the fact that you actually want to use it. On my MacBook Air, whenever I want to edit photographs, I know I have to sit down at my desk, open up the laptop, type in my password, launch Lightroom 2 , load the pictures, and then – only then – can I start editing them. The editing process is not that smooth either 3 . The iPad doesn't seem to suffer from any of this.

The Hasselblad I’m shooting with (H6D-100c) captures 100-megapixel images. Each RAW file is 216MB (about 7x the size of a RAW file from a Canon 5D MK IV). Needless to say, these files are HUGE and if the iPad Pro can handle them, it can handle virtually any RAW image.

Long story short, it performed extremely well.

  1. This is a drone model: I had to look it up myself. ↩︎

  2. Adobe, if you're reading this, you know Lightroom is 2008-slow: fix it. ↩︎

  3. I can't really blame my MacBook: it is an entry model from early 2015. It is not only too old for this, but never really built to be a champion at this. ↩︎

On blogging every single day

Austin Kleon, on his, well, blog:

I had forgotten how wonderful blogging is as a mode of thinking. Blogging is, for me, more about discovering what I have to say, and tweeting more about having a thought, then saying it the right way. It’s also great to be able to go as long or as short as you want to go.

He perfectly said what I think, so I simply quoted Kleon here, even if his quote explicitely is about discovering what you have to say and write it with your own words…

Since November 1st I do my best to update this blog every single day. It is not easy 1 . I spend a lot of time at work, I try to learn Russian a little every day, I walk, I sleep, and I try to relax a little also 2 . It doesn't leave much time for properly reading articles, let alone writing about the most intriguing ones I come across.

This excellent piece by Austin Kleon, A few notes on daily blogging, which I read at the time, was always in my head when I was thinking of doing the same. Not for traffic, not for recognition, but for myself. For the exercice of writing. I consider it like brain-gym. Writing is for me the best way to refine thoughts and see things in a better light, and I, too, have been pretty frutrated lately with social media and the overwhelming effects of the various timelines.

Hopefully I will manage to stay on schedule. Hopefully I will be proud of the links shared here, and the written comments left with them. My Instapaper list is filled with articles I read, or saved, and found interesting enough, and I can't wait to share it with you through a good old blog.

  1. And it only has been one week! ↩︎

  2. Usually it means watching a show on Netflix (Hilda is highly recommended by the way), or a movie on Canal+ (I log all the films I watch on Letterboxd and you should join and do the same). ↩︎

The effective use of satire for convincing an audience

Elisabeth Preston, writing on Undark:

Over a decade’s worth of research shows that while satire does carry some risks, it can be an effective tool for communication. Satire can capture people’s attention and make complex topics accessible to a wider audience. In some circumstances, it can even sway beliefs. If scientists want to communicate with the public about a serious subject, they might try a joke.

It is not only good news though:

But humor could also manipulate audiences in the opposite direction. “Comedy could just as easily be used to engage people with perspectives that misrepresent or undermine science,” [Lauren Feldman, a communication researcher] says.

Another risk: people might not get the joke.

You already know what I will say but yes, I think The Onion is doing an terrific job when it comes to satire: humourous pieces with a real message; my favourite category being American Voices, where they publish fake one-line opinions from the public regarding a very real issue.

Evolution, climate change, and long-snouted dolphins

Ultimate biology nerd clickbait title right?

Ed Jong, on the Atlantic, giving a possible explanation on why a few fossil dolphin species had an unusual long snout, sometimes as much as five times longer than their heads:

Crucially, these long-snouted species arose during a time in the middle of the Miocene when ocean temperatures started climbing. In cold water, warm-blooded predators like dolphins have an advantage over cold-blooded prey like fish or squid, because they’re better at maintaining a high metabolism and swimming at high speeds. As the oceans warm, fish can move faster and the dolphins’ advantage disappears. Perhaps some of them regained the upper hand by evolving long snouts that could swiftly sweep through shoals of prey.

Nature is fascinating.

The new iPad Pro

When the day of replacing my good old MacBook Air will sadly come, I want to consider the iPad Pro as a candidate. As Apple unveiled the new version last week and the reviews got published today, I thought I would check if my main use cases would be improved, possible, and enjoyable.

My main three use cases would be web browsing, writing, and photo editing. Obviously the web browsing experience would be different but somehow much improved – the simple thought of reading my Instapaper list on a screen like the iPad's is dreamy, especially coming from a non-retina 11" Air. For the other – secondary – use cases, I can still use the computer from work. The perfect portability and the screen quality of the iPad Pro alone, in my opinion, justify considering it as my next main computing device.

So I focused my reviews reviewing process on two things: the keyboard accessory 1 , and Lightroom.

Chris Velazco, on Engagdet:

writing this story on the iPad's Smart Keyboard has been relatively painless: It's still covered in the same liquid-resistant fabric, which feels odd, but it's perfectly usable even for long stretches of drafting. And Lightroom CC has been terrific at editing the photos I imported onto the iPad

Matthew Panzarino, at TechCrunch:

The general effect here is that the Smart Keyboard is much much more stable than previous generations and, I’m happy to report, is approved for lap use. It’s still not going to be quite as stable as a laptop, but you can absolutely slap this on your knees on a train or plane and get work done. That was pretty much impossible with its floppier predecessor.

John Gruber, on Daring Fireball:

At the hands-on area after last week’s event, Apple was showing Adobe Lightroom editing 50 megapixel RAW images from a Hasselblad camera. The photos were by Austin Mann, who was there, and helpfully demoed the software, showing what a real pro photographer would do in real life with real images. The experience was completely fluid and instantaneous.

Jeffrey Van Camp, on WIRED:

Photographers and video editors might like the new storage options. The Pro comes with 64GB of memory by default, but you can bump that number as high as 1TB. And since this tablet has a USB-C charging port, you can more easily connect it to a camera, external monitor, and other accessories.

Geoffrey A. Fowler 2 , on the Washington Post:

Inside the new iPad, there’s also a new A12X chip Apple says is more powerful than 92 percent of laptops available on the market. It was robust enough to handle any processing task I sent its way, including editing and sorting through thousands of photos in Adobe’s Lightroom. (Next year, Adobe says it will bring to the iPad Pro a full-fledged version of its Photoshop app, too.)

A new kind of port on the iPad Pro can also drive a second screen. I plugged it into my office monitor just like I do my laptop.

Well, consider me convinced. 3 

  1. I am just talking about the typing comfort here: I already know that the copying and pasting, the switching tabs process, and the lack of touchpad may require some getting used to. ↩︎

  2. I tried to find a review written by a woman, but apparently, that is not as easy to find as I hoped↩︎

  3. The cheapest model is still quite expensive, but that may well enough for my needs. ↩︎

Video of outer-Shanghai shows an infinity of buildings

Last week I came accross this video posted on Twitter by James O'Malley, showing what the outskirts of Shanghai looked like between two train stations. As O'Malley describes it:

If you've ever wondered how China has room for 1.3bn people… this is how.

You have to watch it to believe it, but is it both fascinating and kind of shocking. Shocking in the sense that I know we are only seeing the tip of an iceberg here, and the scale of this city landscape is just remarkable.

Cigarette filters: useless for your health, harmful to the environment

A few weeks ago, I learned a lot from the Quartz Obsession newsletter, one focused on cigarette filters. A few highlights:

New research suggests that cigarette filters, usually made out of synthetic fibers, are the single largest component of ocean trash.

Print this on cigarette packs.

“Filters are the deadliest fraud in the history of human civilization,” Stanford professor and tobacco industry critic Robert Proctor told the New York Times. “They are put on cigarettes to save on the cost of tobacco and to fool people. They don’t filter at all."

And the kicker:

It’s not entirely fair to say that cigarette filters do nothing—they are actually an ingenious piece of engineering that makes smoking feel healthier by diluting the smoke with air, a technique known as ventilation. That lessens the harshness of the smoke—sort of like watering down grain alcohol with water. You can see the problem: Smokers still ingest the same amount of tar, carbon monoxide, and other toxic chemicals.

The huge number of people smoking in Paris is still astounding to me.

The communication campaign against filters writes itself: photos of clean rivers, clean beaches, clean streets, with the hashtag #nofilter printed on it in big letters.

Global smartphone shipments down 6.0%

The newest IDC report is out:

[S]martphone vendors shipped a total of 355.2 million units during the third quarter of 2018 (3Q18), resulting in a year-over-year decline of 6.0%. This was the fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year declines for the global smartphone market, which raises questions about the market's future. IDC maintains its view that the market will return to growth in 2019, but at this stage it is too early to tell what that growth will look like.

Always interesting report, but it only tells one half of the story: there is no real indication in this report of the value of those shipments, or the average selling price. For a company, in the end, only money matters. If there is not much loyalty from all those shipments, volume will not mean much in a few months (think Nokia in 2008).

In a shrinking global market by volume – and 6% is not a small decrease – it is interesting to see some companies having huge growth, while Samsung is shrinking. Hard to tell what is happening from only those numbers, but it looks like Samsung is losing marketshare mostly in the low-end to middle-range market, while its shares in the high end do not grow much. I would not be surprised if Samsung would now only focus on the high end of the market, where they might be fine with smaller marketshare in volume, while maintaining a good reputation untainted by cheaper phones, and higher margins.

Intriguing to see Apple still gaining marketshare while raising the average selling price of iPhone ($793 versus $618 last year). Seems like Apple – strong in the high end market (selling 43% of all phones priced above $400) – anticipated this trend and betted on higher price to compensate for a lack of growth.

Fascinating too that China alone represents a third of the global shipments.

"Live the internet at your own pace"

Manu Moreale, on why he is getting rid of feeds in his digital routine:

I don’t want to live a life where “staying up to date” is a priority. I don’t need that. I don’t need to always know what’s going on everywhere and with everyone. And neither do you (probably). Which doesn’t mean that I stopped reading or listening to what people have to say. I still enjoy reading good blog posts and listening to great podcast episodes. It simply means that I’m no longer subscribed to their feeds.

I see his point, but it implies that feeds have to be read now, and that unread counters have to be down to zero.

I have the opposite approach : I use feeds for most things (RSS, Twitter, newsletter) – even for YouTube channels I use RSS – but I don't mind an unread counter; from time to time I just mark everything as read. I prefer feeds because it is a centralised way of following topics I care about and minds I value. Feeds are a way for me to not wander too much. I have a few websites that I keep checking via direct access, but mostly because of their superior homepage.

I join Moreale on his conclusion though :

Good content is rarely time sensitive. You don’t need to consume it NOW. Take your time, live the internet at your own pace.

Exactly. That is also why I don't follow too many people on Twitter, I don't subscribe to too many podcasts, etc. Same goal, different ways.

Check also

Whenever I watch Columbo, as you should, I take some screenshots.

Making lists is something on which I love to waste time; my—ever-changing—favourite songs list was a real challenge.

On the great Letterboxd, I keep a log of the movies I watch, rate them, sometimes review them. 

If you speak French, I highly recommend my friend Nabil's podcast: Art Oriented.

Click here if you want to go back to the contact page — Twitter me here / RSS me there.

Copyright © 2013–2018 Nicolas Magand