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Apple Announces New Macs Featuring Apple Silicon

During Apple’s third major event this year titled “One More Thing,” the company announced the latest additions to its computer line and its first to feature Apple Silicon.

Defined as the “next generation of Mac,” Apple promises better efficiency and industry-leading power thanks to it’s silicon. The new computers are powered by Apple M1, a new chip designed specifically for Apple’s new computers.

M1 delivers a giant leap in performance per watt and is the first system on chip, or SOC, for Mac. Until now, Macs needed multiple chips to deliver all of its processes. The M1 combines those into one and dramatically improves performance and power efficiency. Apple claims its CPU core is the world’s fastest, and the M1 has four of them.

Apple said that its new Mac operating system, Big Sur, was designed specifically with Apple’s new chip in mind. The OS is capable of instant-wake on Apple silicon, similar to how fast an iPhone or iPad wakes. Apple also promises 3D animation and video editing will be significantly faster on its new chipset combined with Big Sur.

The updates to the three computers announced today feature the largest jump in performance between generations of any Apple product before.

MacBook Air

Apple’s most popular MacBook features 3.5 times faster processing than the previous Air and promises “unheard of” speeds editing large RAW file libraries specifically in Lightroom. It delivers up to five times faster graphics performance as well.

Apple claims it is faster than 98% of PC laptops sold in the last year.

The MacBook Air also claims two times faster SSD speeds for faster access to data. The new Air delivers higher performance with no fan and is completely silent. Additionally, it can achieve 18 hours of video playback and 15 hours of general use. This is the longest battery life ever in a MacBook air.

Compared to the previous MacBook Air, this new model can export a project for the web with iMovie up to three times faster, integrate 3D effects into video in Final Cut Pro up to five times faster, play back and edit multiple streams of full-quality, 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro without dropping a frame, export photos from Lightroom up to twice as fast, use ML-based features like Smart Conform in Final Cut Pro to intelligently frame a clip up to 4.3 times faster, and will extend FaceTime and other video calls for up to twice as long on a single charge.

Speaking of video calls, Apple has also updated the front-facing camera, integrating the company’s latest image signal processor to make users look “more natural” on facetime calls. Apple did not say if the camera itself would see a resolution bump, however.

Apple also has given the MacBook Air support for P3 wide color, which it claims results in a more vibrant, true-to-life Retina display. Finally, Wi-Fi 6 delivers faster wireless performance, along with two Thunderbolt ports with USB 4 support.

The Air will retail starting at $999.

Mac Mini

Apple is bringing back the Mac Mini, this time featuring Apple silicon. It promises up to three times faster CPU performance than the previous quad-core version, a six-fold increase in faster performance. This new model features what Apple is calling an “advanced thermal design” that allows it to sustain its performance while staying cool and quiet.

Apple claims it’s up to five times faster than the top-selling PC desktop. Compared to the previous generation Mac Mini, this new model can compile code in Xcode up to three times faster, play graphics-intensive games with up to 4 times higher frame rates, render a complex timeline in Final Cut Pro up to six times faster, can use up to three times as many real-time plug-ins in Logic Pro, and increase the resolution of a photo in Pixelmator Pro up to 15 times faster.

The Mac Mini has support for up to two displays including Apple’s Pro Display XDR in full 6K resolution, and Wi-Fi 6 for faster wireless performance.

It starts at $699, $100 lower than the previous generation.

13-Inch MacBook Pro

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs just three pounds and offers 2.8 times faster overall performance and the GPU is up to five times faster than the previous MacBook Pro. Apple claims it’s up to three times faster than the best-selling Windows laptop in its class. For example, it can play back full-quality, 8K ProRes video in DaVinci Resolve without dropping a single frame.

Compared to the previous generation, the MacBook Pro can build code in Xcode up to 2.8 times faster, render a complex 3D title in Final Cut Pro up to 5.9 times faster, fluidly design intricate game scenes in Unity Editor up to 3.5 times faster and perform ML tasks in Create ML up to 11 times faster.

Apple has updated the microphones on the MacBook Pro to include what it is calling “studio-quality” mics for clearer recordings and calls. Also, similar to the MacBook Air, it uses Apple’s latest image signal processing via the M1 chip to enable shaper images with moe detail in the shadows and highlights on video calls. Also like the MacBook Air, Apple made no mention of a camera resolution bump.

The battery life has been increased to up to 17 hours of wireless browsing, and up to 20 hours of video playback, making it the longest-lasting Macbook ever.

It features two Thunderbolt ports with USB 4 support, which includes being able to connect to Apple’s Pro Display XDR in full 6K resolution.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon will retail for $1299.

MacOs Big Sur will be available on Thursday, November 12 and the Macbook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini are all available to order today and will begin shipping next week.

UK Passport Photo Checker Shows Bias Against Dark-Skinned Women

According to an investigation by the BBC, women with darker skin are more than twice as likely to fail the automated United Kingdom passport rules than fair-skinned men when submitted online through the nation’s automated government checker.

The United Kingdom offers an online service to submit your own images for use on passports, which would theoretically allow a person to get their passports more quickly. If you follow a set of guidelines, a person could also avoid paying to have a photo taken of them if they have the means to photograph themselves at home. Those guidelines include having a neutral expression, keeping a closed mouth, and looking directly at the camera. If a photo is submitted that does not meet all of the criteria, it is rejected as being “poor quality.”

According to the BBC, a student named Elaine Owusu found that the automatic online portal rejected her image for having an “open mouth,” which if you see the image yourself was clearly not the case. Owusu did manage to eventually get the photo approved after challenging the verdict, but she had to write a note arguing that her mouth was indeed closed.

Though she did win, she wasn’t happy about it. “I shouldn’t have to celebrate overriding a system that wasn’t built for me,” she told the BBC.

To determine if there was a systemic problem, the BBC fed more than 1,000 photographs of politicians (based on the Gender Shades study) into the system to see if there were any patterns. They found that dark-skinned men were told that the image was of poor quality 15% of the time when compared to 9% of the time for light-skinned men. For women, it was worse: 22% of the time dark-skinned women’s images were rejected while women with light skin were told their images were of poor quality 14% of the time.

Computers are only biased when the information they are given is biased. In 2019, The New York Times published a detailed article explaining the history of racial bias built into the basics of photography, and that issue continues to show itself in newer technologies like the UK’s automatic photo checker.

“The accuracy of face detection systems partly depends on the diversity of the data they were trained on,” David Leslie of the Alan Turing Institute wrote in response to the BBC investigation. “The labels we use to classify racial, ethnic and gender groups reflect cultural norms, and could lead to racism and prejudice being built into automated systems.”

When a system like this doesn’t work for everyone, the designer of the software would normally be asked to explain. Unfortunately, the government declined to name the external company that provided the automated checker.

As a result, a solution to the problem uncovered by this investigation – where the system in place fails for a disproportionate number of dark-skinned people – is not immediately apparent.

(Via BBC)