Posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2007
And It's just a frakkin' cool as I knew it would be...
Amazing how handy it is to have Google Maps and the entire internet with me everywhere. I find myself turning to iPhone constantly, and I've only had it one day. Heaven only knows what my life will be like once its been fully integrated. Sure AT&T's EDGE network is painfully slow, but do I really care when I'm out in the middle of nowhere and need driving directions? To get un-lost, I'm happy to wait a minute for a map.
What really gets me is how great this is for a version 1.0 product, and I can't fathom what cool stuff Apple will be adding in the next update. iPhone is an incredibly functional and useful tool that's a joy to use. And, get this... the phone quality is not sacrificed... calls are SO much nicer than with my old P.O.S. mobile phone. Now that I have iPhone, I can't imagine going back to anything else.
Side note: Dave's wish list for iPhone 2.0: GPS functionality that integrates with Google Maps. Automated voice dialing.
Anyway, on my way back from work, I passed through Thomaston, Georgia, and couldn't resist stopping at the local Piggie Park drive-in for a grilled cheese sandwich and some fries...
My sandwich was a very reasonable $1.35!! I can't remember the last time I paid under $2.00 for a sandwich...
The place has been around since 1950, and is very popular. Even at 2:00, the place had a steady stream of customers. At the lunch hour it must be over-run...
And from the "totally tasteless but funny department," I saw this sign for a mailing service today...
Tonight will be my first night in four days where I'll actually have time to get some decent sleep. Needless to say, I am looking forward to that. The only thing that worries me is the impending thunderstorms which iPhone says are due to hit both Georgia and Wisconsin for the next couple days. I wonder what the odds are that I'm going to be stuck in Atlanta? Given my luck, the airport will be completely destroyed.
Oh well. It's not like I'll care... I'VE GOT MY iPHONE, bitches!
Posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2007
We're all doomed.
Forget about the meek inheriting the earth... it's the stupid people who are the real inheritors, and they're suing their way to dominance. Every time I turn around, I'm reading how some dumbass has done something fantastically moronic and then sued somebody to profit from their stupidity. It makes me very sad for future generations, and has me questioning whether the human race deserves to survive.
And it all started with my inbox.
This morning I got an email from somebody who decided to "warn" be about my recent Twitter addiction. If the email had stopped there, it would have been kind of nice, albeit misguided. But it did not stop. By the end of the email, I was taken to task for not warning people that Twitter isn't free as advertised. It would seem that this person signed up for the service, then racked up a massive mobile phone bill because they updated their Twitter using SMS messaging. "TWITTER LIES! IT ISN'T FREE, THEY CHARGE YOU FOR UPDATING!!"
To which I responded "No, Twitter didn't charge you anything. That was your mobile phone company... didn't you read your contract when you got your phone? Don't blame Twitter because you didn't understand how much it costs to send an SMS on your network!"
This seemed almost TOO obvious, so I thought I'd do a Google search to see if anybody else was complaining about it.
And, of course, there were.
But my favorite comment on the situation actually came from Phil Wainewright at ZDNet who says: "Even though Twitter isn't responsible for those costs and makes no money from them, there's still a moral duty to make sure users are fully aware of the charges they could incur." (emphasis mine)
To which I can only say "you've got to be fucking kidding me."
A "moral duty" to hold the hand of people too stupid to know how much it costs to send SMS messages on their own phones? When I got my first phone, the SMS rates were printed right on the rate plan I signed up for. When I switched to iPhone, I was specifically asked if I wanted to upgrade my included 200 free SMS messages to an unlimited SMS plan. Everywhere I look, the messaging charges are clearly posted by the mobile phone companies. Are people choosing to ignore this information, or do they honestly think that Twitter has the ability to magically make all their messaging be free? I sometimes update Twitter over the internet, does that mean that my DSL internet charges are going to become magically free too? Sheesh. Accept that you made a mistake; pay your bill; chalk it up to a lesson learned (hopefully); and move on.
I am sick to death of the constant ass-covering that people and companies have to do to protect themselves from the profoundly stupid. Failing to do so only opens them up to insane lawsuits and unwarranted criticism.
Am I the only one who thinks that the first "moral duty" should be that people have to take responsibility for their own actions?
I sure hope not.
Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008
Today is the release of the new "Blackberry Storm" phone which, like we've all heard before, is supposed to be an "iPhone killer." I admit the click-screen sounds very cool, but there's nothing else about it that really appeals to me. iPhone is its own iPhone killer, because they keep updating it. Late last night Apple released version 2.2 software which adds some more cool stuff.
Podcasting. You can now download podcasts from the iTunes Store App directly from your iPhone. This is not a really big deal for me, because I don't listen to very many podcasts. About the only one I grab consistently is "Cereal Wednesday" because I love breakfast cereal, and it's got NYC Watchdog and (sometimes) Poppy in it.
It works pretty much as expected. You do a search for what interests you, then pick from the results. Simple...
Once your podcast has been downloaded, you can view it from the "Podcasts" tab in iPhone. Horizontal orientation video is supported, so you can flip the screen and make it bigger if you want...
I will probably end up listening to a lot more podcasts when stuck in airports that don't have free wireless, so this is pretty cool.
Google Maps Street View. This is one of those features which sounds like a novelty, but is actually very useful. Because I regularly travel to places I'm not familiar with, I like to pop up Street View so I can visualize my route before I head out. It's much, much easier to navigate your way when you've been there before... even if it was virtually.
The feature works as expected. Type in a destination and a new icon pops up if Street View is available. Then just navigate around by touching the arrows which appear when you drag around the 360-degree panorama. You can go back to the map by touching the little "angle of view map" in the lower right-hand corner (which also tells you which direction you're facing, so it's a compass too!). Very cool. The first thing I did was check out a few monuments in Washington, DC, and it worked great...
It's like visiting somewhere without leaving your house!
Interesting to note that if your maps don't load right away, it's like being on the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation...
And now, since I'm already talking about iPhone, here's a few apps I'm in love with right now...
MyWeather Mobile (iTunes Store Link). Sure iPhone comes with its own weather forecast app, but it's pretty limiting. Fortunately, there's a terrific app that adds all kinds of useful information. By far my favorite is the "weather trend" tab and animated weather radar maps... both of which can be put into full-screen view by rotating iPhone horizontally. A very handy travel companion, and well worth the $9.99 price tag...
USA Today Crosswords (iTunes Store Link). There are a few crosswords apps out there, but my favorite focuses on the USA Today Crossword PLUS the USA Today Quick Cross, which I love. Both new puzzles are downloadable daily, or you can switch to calendar view and grab older puzzles too. The only negative I have is the the top buttons should be moved so you don't accidentally press them while filling out a puzzle, but otherwise it's a great app. When stuck in an airport, the $4.99 price tag seems trivial given the hours of entertainment it provides...
Adventure (iTunes Store Link). Way back in 1979, Atari released the brilliant game "Adventure" for the Atari 2600 gaming console. It may not look like much now, but back in 1979 it was an instant classic. Nothing else like it had ever been released, and it was a fantastic beginning for all the action-adventure games that would come after. I fondly remember playing the game for hours... not so much to solve it, because that happened rather quickly, but to see what tricks and secrets I could uncover. Then there was "Speed Adventure" where you'd compete with friends to see how fast you could complete the quest. Not bad for a game that's only 4K large! The iPhone translation is perfect, looks and plays the same, and even has the secret "easter egg" surprise to be uncovered! Genius, and it's FREE...
The only thing I don't care for is the wacky tilt control (finger gestures would have been much nicer, but too complicated?!?) but it's a minor quibble.
And now lunch is over, so it's back to work...
Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
I'm sorry, there will be no blogging today because I'm too busy playing Orions: Legend of Wizards on my iPhone.
Playing it is a crack-like addiction that is very hard to overcome...
If you value having a life, do not buy this game!
(even if it is on sale for $1.99, which is amazing when you consider it costs $19.99 for other smartphone platforms!)
Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Blargh. What a long and horrifying day.
Winter travel is not for the faint of heart. It almost always comes with delays, cancelations, unexpected problems, and even danger. I accept this, because I've been conditioned to expect things to go wrong when I travel. This way, I'm not disappointed when shit happens. In the event that everything goes right, then that's an unexpected surprise I can be happy about.
Today there were more than a few upset people... and even one girl who was screaming, crying, and acting generally stupid because of problems going on. By the time she got her cell phone out, handed it to the gate agent, and said "MY DADDY WANTS TO TALK TO YOU" I was very much amused. What? Her daddy has the ability to bend time and space? Shit happened... get over it and move on! Otherwise, do everybody a favor and DON'T TRAVEL IN THE WINTER MONTHS IF THIS KIND OF STUFF FREAKS YOU OUT! It's pretty much inevitable.
On my final flight, I was sat next to a bitch who thinks rules don't apply to her. When they announced for us to turn off all electrical devices for take-off and landing, she felt this obviously meant everybody else. I know this because she fired up her iPod Touch and watched movies and listened to music for the entire trip... from the minute we left the gate right up until the minute we parked. And it wasn't like she didn't understand it was wrong, because she did her best to hide it from the flight attendant every time they walked through the cabin...
Well guess what, you piece of shit? You are nobody special. You have to follow the rules just like everybody else. And one day, when you sit next to a serial killer who thinks that trash like you shouldn't be fucking shit up for the rest of us, I will laugh my ass off when you're found dead in the gutter with that iPod shoved up your stupid ass.
I hate people today.
Probably because I'm hungry. I managed to grab breakfast, but didn't have time for anything else. By the time I got to my hotel, the restaurant had closed. Rummaging through my backpack and suitcase, I managed to find dinner...
A smashed up Rice Krispies Treat I got when I was in Wisconsin, and an old package of smoked almonds I didn't even know I had. Yum. I'm sitting here typing this while eating "dinner" and drinking a complimentary bottle of water. Yes, you read that right, a complimentary bottle of water.
Do you know how often you can find a hotel offering complimentary bottled water?
And, speaking of score... as I was waiting at the airport for my first of three flights for today, I happened to notice that the iTunes Music Store had just added Sim City!...
Sweet! This is one of my favorite games from back in the day when I actually had time to play video games. I was intrigued. $9.99 is a lot for a mobile game, and I wondered just how watered down it would be to fit on the iPhone. It's a pretty complicated game, so what would they take out? I was dubious about spending $9.99 to find out, but then I started browsing the screen snapshots and saw this...
OMG! THEY HAVE THE ALIEN INVASION?!?
That's all I needed to know! I bought the game and started playing right away (welcome to New Dave City!). From what I can tell, everything I remember is there and better than ever. There's even animated bits, like the smog from my oil-burning power plant...
As I made my way through menu after menu... amazed at how faithful the game was to the original... I noticed that the World Landmarks are even there for you to build! Awesome! As I was paging through the options, I saw they had Neuschwanstein Castle. I thought this was kind of cool, because I've actually been there. So I built it...
And then I noticed that I've been to a lot of the World Monuments in the game. Most of them in fact...
My mission is now clear. I need to finish off this list! A trip to Australia would get me the Sydney Opera House and the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. Moscow for St. Basil's. India for the Taj Mahal. And, if by "Daibutu" they mean "Daibutsu"... as in the famous Kamakura Daibutsu in Japan... then my list is complete!
At least I now know where my next vacations should be.
I have to get up for work in four hours. Yet another sleepless night.
Posted on Monday, December 29th, 2008
The snow is piling up and depressing me, so I thought I'd write a few reviews to take my mind off things...
w00t! It's Movie Review Time!
All the rumors you've heard are true... Slumdog Millionaire is a wholly remarkable film that is not to be missed. In a day and age when the world seems full of hate and anger and is teetering on the edge of annihilation, having a movie filled with hope, love, and life is a refreshing (and much-needed) change...
A film about a poor street-kid who surprises everyone in India with his success on a popular game show, I loved Slumdog Millionaire, and can't wait to see it again. Danny Boyle is sheer genius, but I expect nothing less from the man who brought us the amazing film Millions, another long-time favorite of mine. Bravo, Mr. Boyle!
w00t! It's iPhone App Review Time!
I'm a world geography junkie, so I was pretty psyched when I saw that there was a new trivia app called "inFact World" available at the iTunes Store. It's pretty sweet, and quizzes you on continents, flags, languages, bodies of water, and other nerdy stuff. The interface is dead-simple and easy to use...
The app sells for $2.99 and provides endless educational fun! Available at the iTunes Store for iPhone and iPod Touch.
w00t! It's DVD Review Time!
Shortly after posting about how much I hated Brokeback Mountain (which I maintain is one of the most boring, unsympathetic, bloated, overrated piece of cinematic FAIL ever made) I got an email from a reader telling me that I should try Yossi & Jagger, which they felt was a much better film along similar storylines.
Always looking for a good movie to watch, and not having a problem with gay-themed films (on the contrary, flicks like Philadelphia, The Birdcage, Longtime Companion, and Jeffrey are classics)... I decided to investigate further, because I had never heard of Yossi & Jagger before. What I found was a bunch of promotional images which led me to believe that it was just a lame excuse to parade man-candy around in army gear for some kind of queer military fetish soft-core porn. I decided to take a pass.
Fast forward to last week while I'm killing time at the airport, and I run across an article called "hidden gems on DVD" (or something like that) and lo-and-behold there's Yossi & Jagger. Since I had seen other films on the list and enjoyed them, I thought I'd give it a try...
It was a brilliant, but odd film.
Odd because it's an Israeli film about the armed services, but doesn't have any kind of political agenda. Odd because it's a film about gays in the military, but isn't trying to make any statement about it. Odd because it's a gay love story, but doesn't come from an exclusively gay point of view. Very odd because it's less than an hour long.
Yossi is a company commander in the IDF who is calm, reserved and very private. Jagger is Yossi's subordinate platoon leader and is much more open and less guarded. Somehow they end up together, and this film is kind of a "day in the life" that's filled with humor, compassion, and tragedy. Apparently Israel doesn't distinguish between gays and straights when it comes to their mandatory military service, which is an interesting part of the film. You get the feeling that some of the other characters know something is going on between Yossi and Jagger... but none of them really care. All they care about is having superior officers that are competent and are looking out for them, which is the entire point, I guess.
Yossi & Jagger is a touching and entertaining love story that made for a great short film. As if that weren't enough, it's supposedly based on a true story. If you're looking for something different, it's worth a rental. (DVD is in Hebrew with English subtitles and available at Netflix).
w00t! It's Early Bedtime!
Because I have to be up very, very early in the morning...
Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2009
Am I the only one who is scared shitless whenever that freaky woman pops up on television to whore the Palm Pre in their ads?
She's like a drugged-out Borg Queen at an Italian Renaissance fair who is telling you to buy one of her phones or else she's going to stab you while you sleep. She's so frightening that my testicles retreat into my torso whenever she appears. If I were to ever meet her in person, my balls would probably go missing for weeks.
Forget zombies and vampires, HERE'S the Halloween costume to beat this year...
I've played with the Palm Pre, and it's not a bad smartphone. If the iPhone didn't exist, it would be a serious contender for my mobile of choice. But since the iPhone does exist, Palm felt they couldn't really compete and needed to use scare tactics to sell the thing?
I guess that's one strategy.
In other news... a few people didn't understand what I meant by the whole Guinness on Lough Tay thing, so I added this frame to show how the lake kind of looks like a glass of Guinness...
And that's all for tonight, as I am half-asleep already.
Please don't let me have Palm Pre Bitch nightmares...
Posted on Sunday, September 27th, 2009
Sweet! It's the 150th edition of Bullet Sunday!
• AT&T FAIL! I am quickly becoming disenamoured with the AT&T mobile service for my iPhone. At first, everything was swell and I found the service to be on-par with Verizon, my previous mobile provider. But as more and more people jump on the iPhone bandwagon, AT&T's service keeps getting progressively worse. When I was in Las Vegas, I tried to place a call to Jenny across town (who also has an iPhone). We could not get a call to connect for more than a few seconds no matter how many times we tried. Then when I was in Alaska, I was barely able to make phone calls or use data over Edge in any port. I can only guess that the service is overwhelmed whenever cruise ships pull into port (which must really suck if you're a local). You'd think AT&T would build more capacity for these obviously high-use areas, but no. They don't even have 3G. It's as if AT&T is totally shocked over the massive success of the iPhone, and never bothered to prepare otherwise. Dumbasses. If Apple is smart, they'll choose NOT to renew their exclusive contract with AT&T and spread the congestion around on other networks. Which is where I'll be if AT&T doesn't get their shit together.
• Ghosts! I like Halloween for a lot of reasons, bit the biggest? THE CANDY! In addition to Candy Corn, which is one of my favorite sweets, I like all the "fun-sized" versions of my old favorites. Even better is the "special edition" items that are released just for the holiday. Like GHOST DOTS! It's one of the best candies ever...
Awwww... cute! And delicious! Even though the pieces all look the same, they are actually flavored just like the original DOTS candies. The package says "Which Flavor? Which Ghost? IT'S A MYSTERY!" which just makes a fun candy even better!
• Bears! After going through the 317 photos that were worth keeping from my trip to Alaska, I've come to the conclusion that I love bears. Of all the images I took, the pictures with bears are far-and-away my favorites...
One day I've got to plan a vacation that revolves around bear-watching. That would have to be one of the best trips for a photographer ever.
• Search Me! Today is Google's 11th birthday! Amazing how in all these years that no other search engine has come along which can touch it. I had hopes that Microsoft's "Bing!" would at least pose a challenge and up the search game, but so far I've been unimpressed. Here's wishing Google more innovation (and a little luck!) for another 11 years.
And now I suppose I really should finish unpacking so I can start re-packing for next week. Life. She is a viscious circle, no?
Posted on Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
It's Bullet Sunday from a surprisingly cold and unexpectedly rainy section of rural Georgia!
• Bring on The Hate. Just like Friday night, Saturday evening was a non-stop party on the 11th floor of the Hilton Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. No less than six people were laughing it up in the room to the right of me. People were having sex in the room above me (at least I hope that's what it was). The hallway was filled with drunken douchebags until 2:00am. And doors kept slamming into the early morning down the corridor. Sleep was next to impossible, so I begged the front desk to give me a late check-out of 2:30 so I could (maybe) take a nap and not spend my first day of work as a zombie. I then spent my evening listening to my iPod at full volume. It's at times like this I really hate people.
• As God Intended. I had read about Google's wonderful gift of Free WiFi at major airports across the USA, and was happy to discover that Seattle was among them when I flew out this past Friday. What I was not prepared for was that this was going to be a gift that keeps on giving...
That's right... apparently Google is going to continue the free internet at Seattle-Tacoma International INDEFINITELY! This is fantastic news, because I stopped paying for internet access at airports once I got my iPhone, but miss being able to use my laptop. Thanks, Google!
• TripIt Social. I think I've mentioned a couple of times how my frequent travels are made much, much easier now that I use TripIt to manage all my travel plans. I simply forward all my confirmation emails to TripIt, and the free service automatically builds my itinerary and keep all my information together in one place. It's brilliant, and has quickly become an indispensable tool. Things got even better when they launched a free iPhone companion app. And I was in heaven when they launched a "TripIt Pro" version which adds flight monitoring and other goodies for a nominal annual fee. Genius!
As I have become hopelessly reliant on TripIt, you can imagine my horror when I found the latest update to their iPhone app crashed every time I launched it. I wouldn't have minded so much if I was using the free version, but I am a paid TripIt Pro member, and expect better. I then Tweeted my frustration thusly...
Not ten minutes later, somebody at TripIt had seen my Tweet, tracked down my email address, and emailed me a solution to the problem (delete it off my iPhone and reinstall it). Things worked perfectly after that, and then I noticed that there was another update at the iTunes Store to solve the problem. Odds are that TripIt fixed the problem immediately, but Apple's hideously slow draconian "approval" process meant there was a long delay before iPhone users could actually get their hands on it. In any event, way to go, TripIt! it's nice to know that companies are starting to make use of social media for GOOD instead of the EVIL bullshit I've become accustomed to (oh how I hate Twitter spam!).
• Dungeon Master Revisited. One of my all-time favorite games is Dungeon Master, which I played constantly on my old Atari ST computer. It was fantasy role playing at its best, and did an incredible job (for the time) of immersing you in another world for hours of adventure. I spent years trying to find a worthy successor, but none came. As computers got faster and graphics got better, flashy animation and complex battle mechanics seemed to take precedence over gameplay. This wasn't nearly as much fun for me, as I preferred the elegant simplicity of the original. So while I can appreciate terrific games like Dragon Age, nothing that has come out since has been able to recapture those heady days and nights I spent engrossed in Dungeon Master back in the late 1980's.
Until now. Enter Undercroft for the iPhone...
It's so similar to Dungeon Master as to be spooky, but definitely manages to strike out in a direction all its own. I am having more fun with Undercroft than I've had with a video game for ages, and the fact it fits in my pocket is just icing on the cake. About the only thing I don't like about it is the idea that it's eventually going to end. I can only hope that the developer, Rake In Grass, is game for a sequel. If you've got an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can get a taste of the fun for FREE with the Undercroft Lite Demo.
And now it's time to get my caffeine on so that I can stay awake all night long for work. Hopefully my brain will not turn to moosh before the job is done tomorrow morning.
Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
I do not envy those whose job it is to come up with the ad campaigns for new mobile smart phones. No matter how cool a phone you have to work with, you're fighting a battle with a huge disadvantage... it's not an iPhone. Apple came out of nowhere to totally own the market, and everybody is desperately trying to catch up. The simple truth is that unless a phone is developed that gives the user an orgasm every time it rings, Apple isn't going anywhere (talk about the ultimate ringtone!). But still the contenders try.
The latest iPhone wannabe is the T-Mobile MyTouch. It offers a few new nifty features but there's nothing terribly compelling to put it in a class above the iPhone. So what do the marketers do? Push the personalization features... like the life-changing ability to customize the wallpaper behind the app icons and placing widgets (like a clock!) on the desktop. They also tout being able to skin your MyTouch with whatever you want, which is kind of pathetic considering you can skin just about anything you can think of at the SkinIt site, including the iPhone...
But even worse than touting unique "features" that aren't really unique is their ad campaign. They have famous and quasi-famous people tell stories about how they made their MyTouch "100% mine." What's so laughable is that it's just a retread of Apple's old "What's on my PowerBook" ads...
Except the Apple ads side-stepped the famous people coming across as pompous assholes by setting them on the same level as "ordinary people" (like the priest with Todd Rundgren above). This made the ads rather charming, because everybody could relate. MyTouch decided not to bother with "charming" and goes flat-out pretentious. My favorite print ad has "international explorer" Josh Bernstein say "I love that I can customize my MyTouch skin with my own photos. I'm thinking I'll start with one from Egypt... or maybe Papua, New Guinea. Tough call." Wow... that is a tough call. But when compared to the "ordinary" person having to make the really tough call as to whether they pay their medical bills or buy food... errrr... not so much.
But it gets better! The ads on the official MyTouch site goes BEYOND pretentious to downright scary...
Don't ask me how anybody watches these celebrities talk about the crazy-ass shit they do with their MyTouch and says "Wow! I've got to get me one of those!" But apparently such relational logic didn't enter into the equation when T-Mobile was planning out their ads, so there you have it.
Not that it makes any difference.
No mobile phone could ever hope to compete with iPhone for one reason and one reason only... the free Ask Dave! app is currently only available for iPhone...
Maybe one day somebody will port the app over to other mobile phones but, until then, we'll just have to wait for the ringtone orgasm.
What I find amusing is that Verizon finally gave up on trying to market iPhone alternatives and has turned to attacking AT&T's shitty service and bad 3G coverage. It's all well and good, but until Verizon can sell an iPhone to run on their superior network, AT&T still ends up with the advantage because they've got what people want...
"Want better coverage? There's a map for that!"
And right now what I want is some sleep!
Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2010
And so I had an unexpected day-trip to Chicago come up. But it's not really a day-trip when it takes a day to get there and a day to get back. And, when you have to start your day at 3:30am after staying up past midnight, it feels very much like a four-day trip.
So yes, it sucks... and yes, I feel like death... and yes, I know I promised myself I'd stay home the month of January... but we don't always get what we want, do we?
But there was something to look forward to. New stamps to add to my Gowalla Passport!
Or so I thought.
Between the weak GPS in my iPhone and the shitty state of wireless service from AT&T, using Gowalla is more a frustration than a fun scavenger hunt...
Yes, I can't get a 3G signal IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING CHICAGO!
And even though I get EDGE with full bars, there's NO data connection! AT&T FAIL!
And it seems like just yesterday that I was bragging that I had only had one bad experience with AT&T's wireless. It was when I was in Las Vegas calling Jenny. And now I'm in Chicago, and it's WORSE. Coverage SUCKS! My iPhone gears down from 3G to EDGE so often that you'd think Chicago didn't even have 3G. And even when you DO manage to get online, you've got a very real chance of not getting any data linkage AT ALL.
So this is what everybody has been bitching about!
Though, I am now thinking that it's not AT&T's fault. Because Jenny lives in Chicago. And the last time I had problems in Las Vegas, Jenny was in Las Vegas. And since I haven't had problems anywhere else on earth, I'm thinking that clearly the problem here... is Jenny!
Though that doesn't explain the myriad of problems I've had with my iPhone GPS lately. Like trying to check in at a Chicago Landmark, The Bean, only to find the GPS has me outside of check-in range...
When clearly I am there. What do I have to do, sit on top of it? I mean, I understand that sometimes tall buildings and trees can obstruct GPS signal... BUT I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF OPEN SPACE!! WTF?!? It leaves me standing in Milennium Park wanting to scream NO! I'M HERE YOU MORON!!
Oh well. Tomorrow after work Jenny and I are going to go see Avatar in 3D IMAX over at Navy Pier. It's apparently so good that people are becoming depressed when they wake up the next day and find out that the world is not a beautiful as the fictional world of "Pandora" in the movie...
Heaven only knows I need more depression in my life!
Posted on Sunday, February 21st, 2010
It's Bullet Sunday from one of the most beautiful days I've ever seen in Seattle!
• Pet Shop. The hotel I'm staying in tonight is really, really nice (especially considering the bitchin' rate I got off PriceLine), but does have one minor draw-back. It's "pet friendly." Now, don't get me wrong... I love animals. I think it's great that there's hotels which accept our furry friends when they travel with us. I do not, however, think it's great to be woken up at 5:30am by a yappy little dog barking it's head off in the room next door on a Sunday morning. Though I suppose I should count myself lucky that it was just a dog and not a hyena or something.
• Zombie Walk. As far as iPhone games go, Plants Vs. Zombies may be the best game ever released. More addictive than crack (or so I'd guess), it's one of those games that you never want to stop playing. It looks great, plays amazing, and keeps gameplay fresh with new features for a good long time...
The game, in a nutshell, has wave after wave of zombies attacking your home, and you have to plant an ever-growing variety of vegetation to fend then off. Highest possible recommendation (unless you have a life, in which case it will will destroy you).
• Spell Check. If you're going to use the word "w00t!" then it's spelled in all lower-case letters with two ZEROS in the middle, like this...
If you don't believe me, you can look it up in the dictionary!
• Saturday Break. After working non-stop for the past several weeks, I decided to take a break and attend a blogger meet in Seattle... thanks to Ms. Sizzle and Chris for putting it together and giving me a much-needed distraction! The beautiful drive alone was worth the effort...
• ONE Ring? Great news! The Lord of the Rings trilogy is finally coming to Blu-Ray! How awesome is that? Oh... wait a second... not so awesome... BECAUSE THE GREEDY FUCKERS AT NEW LINE STUDIOS ARE RELEASING THE BUTCHERED THEATRICAL RELEASE INSTEAD OF THE FULL DIRECTOR'S CUT! They're waiting for everybody to buy the incomplete trilogy THEN they'll release the complete films on Blu-Ray so everybody will have to buy them AGAIN!
I mean, seriously, we already had to buy them twice on DVD, so why not give everybody what they want the first time around? Oh... that's right... NEW LINE IS RUN BY GREEDY FUCKERS! Blu-Ray easily allows the option of viewing both the theatrical release OR the director's cut on the SAME disc thanks to their "branching" technology, but why would we want to do that when we can sucker fans into buying the movies FOUR TIMES!
Well, as much as I'd like to see these beautiful films in HD, I'll take a pass until the COMPLETE films are released. Holy crap I hate it when studio executives try to pull this bullshit. And everybody wonders why otherwise law-abiding citizens turn to piracy! THE MOVIE STUDIOS FORCE THEM TO!
And another week bites the dust...
Posted on Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
My second full day home after vacation has been fairly uneventful.
Except the weather forecast, which was sunny and warm before I left but has now turned snowy and cold. This means the local orchards have giant fans running to keep their trees from freezing. And since there are three orchards within walking distance of my bedroom, it's been like trying to sleep in the middle of a cyclone tonight.
Which is to say that I'm not able to sleep at all, so I thought I'd blog about two new apps I got for my trip while they are still fresh in my mind.
My iPhone has quickly become an essential travel tool, eliminating the need for maps, dictionaries, guidebooks, and other necessities I usually take with me. Whether I am syncing my itineraries and reservations with Tripit or looking up exchange rates with eCurrency, there always seems to be an app for whatever I need to do. The two latest tools in my travel arsenel have made my iPhone even more essential.
First up is Trip Journal. This handy app allows you to document your travels using the iPhone's built-in GPS to plot your journey and add photos and notes to places you've been (and it can keep tracking, even when data roaming is off). As if that wasn't enough, it's absolutely beautiful...
But even better... you can export your GPS tracking data to a KMZ file that can then be imported into Google Earth so you can look at your trip on your computer...
The red lines are when the iPhone was actually able to get GPS coordinates. Whenever a GPS satellite can't be located, Trip Journal just draws a black line to connect the previous point to your current location. This is kind of nice, because the GPS receiver in the iPhone is pretty weak (as you can see by the crazy-ass routes it registers when you zoom in to street level). But putting the lack of pinpoint accuracy aside, you can still see how this would be a really nice and easy way to remember all the things you saw and the places you went while on a trip.
And next up is CityMaps2Go. While not quite as nice and comprehensive as the maps you get out of the Google Maps app that's built into the iPhone, CityMaps2Go has one huge advantage... all the maps are self-contained. This means you don't have to use expensive international roaming charges to load map data. Even better, once you buy the app, you can download maps for most major cities free of charge! Before I left for my recent trip, I just grabbed maps for Brussels, Prague, and Bucharest, knowing that I'd be able to find my way around those cities without having to be gouged for downloading them over 3G...
Of course, once you're outside the bounds of the map you've downloaded, you're out of luck and will have to switch back to Google Maps. Still, considering the money I saved overall, the app is still well worth getting.
And there you have it... two more awesome reasons to have an iPhone when you travel.
Posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
If the idea of a Certified Apple Whore bitching about the new iPad disturbs you... please look at the cute kitten below and ignore the rest of this entry. Come back tomorrow when there will be monkeys and pie!
I have named the new iPad "Paddington" and like him a lot. He is about the sexiest piece of tech to come along in quite a while, and Apple deserves a lot of credit for creating such a revolutionary device in a field that's been riddled with a crushing lack of success (including Apple's own "Newton" device). For the most part, I think iPad is dreamy, and there are a bajillion websites out there with reviews waxing poetic about how frickin' sweet it is.
And yet it is far from perfect.
But before I get to the astounding number of inexplicable failures in both functionality and usability, there's a few things I won't be covering that everybody else seems to be complaining about...
The iPad is a multi-functional device that becomes different appliances when apps are run on it. It's not a computer, it's not meant to be a computer, and trying to force computer-related baggage onto it is like being upset because your toaster doesn't make margaritas. This is a new kind of device for a new kind of user, and anybody needing that kind of stuff should just go buy a computer. Whining because iPad doesn't support the bloated, battery-draining, resource-stealing, crash-prone pile of garbage known as "Flash" is the kind of backwards thinking that drives me insane. If you need Flash functionality and iPad/iPhone/iPod users are important to you, then either simulate it with HTML5 or build an app if that doesn't work. Trying to change Steve Job's mind about Flash is just pointless, so let's move on. The future awaits.
To read what I DO have to say about the iPad, I've put the whole whiny mess in an extended entry. Enjoy!→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Saturday, April 10th, 2010
For those who are just sick of hearing about iPad, I apologize. But the more I play with it, the more I realize that Steve Jobs wasn't just blowing smoke up people's asses when he called iPad a "magical and revolutionary device"... minor criticisms aside, it really does feel a bit like magic sometimes... mostly because it has this uncanny ability to just disappear, leaving nothing between you and what you're interacting with.
As if that wasn't enough, iPad is responsible for Betty White, Apple Genius, to appear on Craig Ferguson...
Since iPad is so new there aren't a huge number of releases for it yet, but I have run across three great apps that are worth having...
Star Walk ($4.99). This astronomy app is a nice star map app with a good-sized catalog of stars, galaxies, planets, and other stellar objects. It's slick, polished, and beautiful, but what makes it so cool is the "Star Spotter" function it inherited from the iPhone version. Hold the iPad up to the night sky, and it will use your location and direction to follow your moves and display a map of what you're seeing. Magical...
Tap something on the display then hit the info button, and StarWalk zooms in and tells you all about it...
On the iPhone, the app was nice, but not very practical because the tiny size made usability difficult. But on iPad's beautiful big, display it's fantastic. If you have even a passing interest in astronomy, it's $5 well-spent.
Ocean Blue ($9.99). While $10 may seem pricy for a passive application like a virtual aquarium, the quality here is pretty amazing and it's the perfect app to show off your iPad. Just like StarWalk, you can move Ocean Blue around, and the virtual display will pan around the ocean, allowing you to "dive" and look around (you can also tap-navigate as well). There's currently not a big variety of fish you can choose from, but the developer has promised more in future updates. If they look and move as beautifully as the current batch, a terrific piece of software is just going to get better and better...
Sam & Max Episode 1: The Penal Zone ($6.99 for a limited time). One of my favorite cartoon creations, Sam & Max, Freelance Police have come to iPad with an adventure game that's pretty sweet. Things start out kinda confusing... homicidal rabbit-thingy Max has unexplained psychic powers, and you're dropped into the end of the story. From there, you have to piece together not only the mystery of what happened and how it happened, but how to stop it from happening again. Like I said, confusing... but still a lot of fun. I've run into occasional audio drop-outs and video stutters, but the overall game is so hilarious and clever that you won't be too disappointed. The game is played by moving the characters around and tapping on objects to interact with them. With the help of Max's psychic powers, you solve puzzles and move the story forward. But the best news? This is only the first episode, and there's four more to come...
Overall, not a bad start. As more and more developers start taking advantage of what the iPad is capable of, the future is going to be magical indeed.
Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Today was a heaping bowl of suck.
Then it started snowing, and my bowl of suck was suddenly topped with shit sprinkles. But that's okay, because I'm kind of getting used to it. Lately it seems as thought most everything in life comes with shit sprinkles on it. I think it all started when I noticed that the waistbands in my three-month-old Jockey boxers has already started to give out. Meanwhile, I've still got pairs of Joe Boxers that are three years old and still going strong. Nothing to get too depressed over, but it seems as though nothing is built to last any more. Nothing. And I can't help but be sad about that.
So I've decided to take a couple sleeping pills, go to bed, and not think about it.
If you're not into music synthesizers, you'll want to skip the rest of this entry.
...there's a frickin' AMAZING app that just dropped for the iPad. It's the KORG iMS-20 emulator! Here's a description from the iTunes product page...
iMS-20 is a complete music production app for iPad, consisting of a complete recreation of the legendary Korg MS-20 analog synth with patching capability, a 16-step analog sequencer based on Korg's SQ-10, a six-part drum machine with dedicated pads, and a seven-channel mixer with 14 types of effects.
It's about the coolest thing I've seen on the iPad yet...
It's all here, and you can zoom in on a section and swipe between them as you mix...
This video shows the Korg iMS-20 for iPad in action...
You can, of course, export your creations as high-quality .WAV files by "bouncing" them through iTunes. You can also share your creations via "SoundCloud," which makes collaborating with other iMS-20 users a snap. The sound seems like it would be good enough to incorporate into a live performance, and if they update the app to use Apple's forthcoming "AirPlay" technology, you would even be able to do so wirelessly! I don't know why, but being able to play in a band while sitting in the audience seems pretty funny to me.
Using the Korg app is fairly straightforward if you have any previous experience with synths. I was composing loops after goofing around for just 30 minutes. The only area that was a little rough for me was tapping out notes on the keyboard. The iPad's multi-touch screen makes chords possible, but I just can't get the hang of playing without actual keys. Zooming in helps, but it's going to be a while before I'm comfortable (or competent) enough to play actual music with it. There's an alternative, however, in the form of "Dual Kaoss Pads" where you can play the instrument by running your finger across them. It's kind of fun for free-form creation, but gimmicky if you've got a specific composition in mind. I'll just keep hoping somebody makes an iPad MIDI adapter so I can plug in a cheap physical keyboard.
The Korg iMS-20 app for iPad is so complete... so brilliant... so utterly killer... that it has me seriously wondering if there's anything you can't you do with an iPad given the right software. If you have any interest in composing on a synthesizer, buying this app is a no-brainer. The half-price sale price of just $15.99 is the icing on the cake (good until the end of the year). Highest possible recommendation. Click here to see it at the iTunes Store.
UPDATE: Holy crap. It just keeps getting better. ReBirth has just been released for iPad!
Amazing. Just amazing.
Posted on Monday, January 9th, 2012
Today while heading home from work I had to slam on my brakes to avoid being hit by somebody pulling out of a parking lot. I stopped so hard that I strained my neck. It was a crappy end to a crappy day... though, now that I think about it, there's still two hours left for something new to go terribly wrong.
In better news, today is the fifth anniversary of the original iPhone...
It hardly seems like it was five whole years ago. Partly because it still looks more beautiful and modern than the majority of mobiles on the market... but mostly because I know people who are still using their original iPhones to this day...
And I'm fairly certain I'd rather have a first-gen iPhone than anything I've tried from Android, Microsoft, or Blackberry (are they even around anymore?). Sure I'd miss the speed, the 3G data throughput, and the ability to run the latest version of iOS... but at least it's still an iPhone. Such is the price you pay for being an Apple Whore, I guess.
So happy birthday iPhone, and many more.
Now I'm taking a pill for my neck so I can go to bed. Yay.
Posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
Back in April, I wrote about a Kickstarter project that I desperately wanted funded...
"The holy grail for Stanley Kubrick fans (outside his movies, obviously) is a copy of a book called Full Metal Jacket Diary by Matthew Modine, who was an actor in the film. The reason it's such a big deal is twofold...
I was over the moon when the project was successfully funded.
Today the app was finally released. And it doesn't suck...
The menu system is fantastic, and disappears when not needed.
The photos change as you scroll the text, which you can have author/actor Matthew Modine read to you.
All the amazing photos have been scanned at hi-resolution and can be zoomed in on at any time.
On the contrary, it is a stunning app. Not only do you get the entirety of the original diary book, but you get complete audio narration by author Matthew Modine. All of which means nothing if the app is bad and hard to use... but it isn't. This project was a labor of love through and through and it shows. Everything is really well thought out... and optimized for Retina Display, which means if looks fantastic.
If you have any interest in film and want some insight into the mind of a true artist of the medium... or you're a fan of Full Metal Jacket... or you're a fan of Kubrick... or you just want to see the kind of apps that iPad was made for... click here to go get a copy. It's just $14.95, and worth every penny.
Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2012
Apple sued Samsung because Samsung copied the iPhone.
Samsung claimed that they totally didn't copy the iPhone... even though it was kind of obvious that they did. But, then again, Samsung copies most everything from Apple. There are even blogs dedicated to showing all the stuff they copy.
Today the jury dropped their verdict, which supports Apple's claims and totally called Samsung out for being fucking tracers...
And now all the hand-wringing has started because Samsung is crying that this verdict will stifle innovation. That companies won't make smartphones anymore because they'll worry about being sued by Apple. That consumer choice will be limited in the US because only Apple will be making phones.
Which is all a load of crap. Anybody can make a smartphone... just stop fucking tracing over Apple!
Instead, why not make your own damn smartphone design? Like the Nokia did with their Windows Lumia phone...
Looks nothing like Apple. Nobody's going to confuse that with an iPhone.
Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S...
Just admit it, Samsung. You're a fucking tracer!
And, because I just can't stop myself...
Such an awesome movie.
Posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
I started the day with a flat tire. That would be bad enough, but we're on fire again.
I thought my hometown would make it through the summer without a massive wildfire outbreak in the area but, alas, it was not to be. The flames they are a ragin' in the canyons throughout the valley. Fortunately, things aren't nearly as bad as they were back in 2004, but the skies are filled with a smokey haze and the smell permeates everything...
This is bad news for me, because strong smells like smoke and incense make me sick. I get bad cramping that makes me feel like I have to poop 24 hours a day, on top of having a sore throat and headache. Sleeping is almost impossible. Working is a struggle. Eating makes me sicker. If things get much worse, I'm going to have to flee to the coast just to be able to function.
It's always something. Some cities get earthquakes. Some cities get hurricanes. Some cities get flooding. We get wildfires.
C'est la vie.
And in Apple news, this happened...
As a Certified Apple Whore, of course I want a new iPhone 5. I love everything about it.
Even though its improvements are not quite as drastic from the 4S than I had expected.
My main gripe with iPhone is that it just isn't as smart as it should be for a smartPHONE. With iOS 6, we're getting a new feature called "Do Not Disturb" which will help with some of my complaints...
My phone will be on "Do Not Disturb" 24 hours a day. Because 99 times out of 100, the calls I get are ones I don't give a shit about. Today while I was on my way to get my tire fixed, I got a robocall from a fucking furniture company wanting to give me a free wine rack for attending some kind of stupid event. After screaming FUCK YOU! at the recording, I was so enraged that I very nearly threw my iPhone out the window. "Do Not Disturb" will make this kind of bullshit a thing of the past.
But there's four more things that need to happen after that...
These are basic features that have been around forever, and are things that anything claiming to be a "smartphone" should be able to handle. Except the iPhone can't. But, hey... the new model is 18% thinner! Or whatever.
Maybe one day, when Apple has given us an iPhone that has artificial intelligence, a 3-D holographic projector, and fits on your fingernail, they'll finally get around to the basics.
Until then, I'll be sitting here watching the world burn.
Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
And so Apple has (finally) unleashed the latest version of there iPhone-iPodTouch-iPad operating system. Unlike the Mac OS X updates which get cool names like "Mountain Lion," iOS updates get a boring number increment, which means we're at "iOS 6" now.
I had no problem updating my iPad 3, iPhone 4, & iPhone 4S and, so far as I know, everything is working perfectly. I'll get to my thoughts on the bulk of the iOS 6 new features tomorrow. But tonight I want to focus on Apple's controversial virtual assistant software named "Siri."
Siri is considered "controversial" because "she" is a feature that sparks a lot of strong feelings amongst iPhone users. Some people I know love her. Some people I know hate her. Most people I know ignore her and rarely (if ever) use Siri. Personally, I love love love Siri and use her constantly. For the most part, she understands me and interprets my instructions correctly. And there's just something magical about being able to say "I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow at 3pm" only to have Siri add it to your calendar without you having to type a thing. Welcome to the future!
Because, unlike the computer on Star Trek, Siri can be one fickle bitch. One minute she will understand something odd that you never thought she would get... the next minute she'll completely blow a simple instruction for reasons you can't fathom. Fortunately, Apple is improving Siri all the time, so she's getting smarter and more capable with each new release, but life with Siri is far from perfect.
One of the new thing Siri understands with iOS 6 is movies. I had thought this would be limited to displaying showtimes at local theaters, but she's much smarter than that. Want to know what the last movie Gene Hackman appeared in? No need for IMDB, Siri has got you covered...
Interesting that Siri knows to capitalize "Hackman" but not "Gene"... even though she spelled "Gene" correctly. But she still knows how to answer, which is pretty darn cool. Unfortunately, she's less smart for other queries. For example, Siri will still ask you "Which one?" when asking about a movie title that's been used for multiple movies, even if you specify the one you want...
With the new iOS 6 update, Siri also knows sports. As I type this, the Mariners are playing a game. When I ask how they are doing, Siri responds with a score and some stats...
Nice! One of the things Siri also knows about is players. At the Apple Event where iOS 6 was introduced, they showed how you could find out "Who is taller, Kobe or LeBron?" just by asking. This seemed very cool... until I found out that the number of players Siri knows is severely limited. If I want to check up on how Jarrod Saltalamacchia is doing, Siri goes brain dead. She doesn't know who Salty is no matter how I pronounce his name... or even if I ask for him by number. And she doesn't seem to know what "stats" are, even if you say a player she recognizes. This seems crazy given that she will bring up a player stats card when you ask somebody's height, but oh well...
Siri does have Saltalamacchia listed as a player, so I guess there's that...
Siri is supposed to have a handle on international sports, so I thought I'd try a name that wasn't as complicated as "Saltalamacchia." Like Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard...
Lampard is a hugely famous player. He's been with Chelsea for ten years now. How can Siri not know who he is? I dunno... maybe if I were in the UK this would be different, but overall I find player stats to be a hugely underwhelming feature (unless you're wanting to know about Kobe Bryant or LeBron James!). Maybe I'm asking wrong or something. But I tried dozens of questions about Frank Lampard covering everything from his height to goals and still nothing.
One area I was hoping Siri would get smarter about is travel, because she doesn't seem to know a damn thing. Train schedules, bus routes, flight times, or whatever... Siri is clueless. And nothing has changed in iOS 6. This would seem to be a no-brainer. I would love to get to the train station and ask "When does the next train arrive?", but I guess that's too complex for Siri to figure out. And she knows it...
When it comes to alarms, Siri can still be inexplicably stupid. She can't even recognize alarms she just made for you...
You can't set, change, or find an alarm for a specific day? Why the fuck not? These are the very basic things a virtual assistant should know how to do. And you set the alarm just fine, so why is deleting the alarm with the same language I used to set it a problem? It's things like this that make me understand why some people are not Siri fans.
One of my favorite things I use Siri for on my iPhone is setting reminders. They are frickin' genius because they are location-based. Tell Siri to remind you to make a call when you get to work, and she will do exactly that. So now that Siri is available on third-generation iPads, I was excited that I could add reminders from there too. Except... turns out you can't...
Can't create location-based reminders on this device? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!? You DO realize that any reminders I make on my iPad will be synced to my iPhone, right? I mean, I know that my WiFi iPad doesn't have a GPS, but I'm not expecting it to remind me of a damn thing... that's what my iPHONE is for! Siri should just create the damn reminder and warn you that it will only work for iPhone or something... not flat-out refuse to do something that makes total sense.
With iOS 6, Siri now knows about dining. You can ask her about restaurants in your area or types of foods or whatever, and she'll link with Yelp! to help you out. This is a very nice feature for travelers like me who end up in cities they're unfamiliar with. It can also be a very depressing feature when you're hungry for falafel and the nearest place to get it is over 70 miles away...
Added coolness points to Siri for being able to link up with OpenTable so you can make reservations in the restaurant you find.
Another new feature is being able to post to Twitter and Facebook as easily as you can send texts and emails. Siri will even warn you if you need to set this up before she can take action...
As always, Siri dumps anything she doesn't understand into a catch-all "Wanna look that up in a web search?"...
Not that I was expecting Siri to get into a deep discussion over how Mitt Romney has been so terminally fucking stupid every time he opens his mouth lately... or how utterly fucking tragic it is that politicians are screwing the men and women who risk their lives to defend this country... I just wanted to show how Siri does a bang-up job of figuring out what I'm saying, even if she doesn't know what to do with it.
And so there she is... the new and improved Siri virtual assistant.
Slowly getting smarter, but still in desperate need of an intelligence upgrade.
Which pretty much describes every person on this planet, so it's hard for me to fault Siri. Most of the time I still love her more than buttered toast.
To be continued...
Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
And now... continued from yesterday... my observations on Apple's iOS 6 update. For everybody who hates Apple stuff, sorry... but you have one more day to go.
• Messages. If there's one feature I was most excited about when it comes to iOS 6... it would be Unified Messaging. This means that whether I am on my iPhone, my iPad, iMac, or my MacBook... any time somebody texts me via Apple Messages it will appear on all of them. And I can reply from all of them using my mobile number as the return address so it's seamless to the person I'm communicating with. As if that weren't awesome enough, all my devices archive the complete conversation so it's seamless for me to move between them too. This feature alone makes the upgrade to iOS 6 worthwhile.
The only problem is setting it up. I thought it would all happen automatically but, when it didn't, I finally figured out that you need to log out and log back into your iCloud account on your iPhone, THEN do the same on all your other devices and computers. Works like a charm. All you have to do is choose which email addresses you want people to message you at... and whether you want your mobile phone number to receive messages on that device. Easy.
• Mail. Apple always seems to be hesitant to adopt things they didn't invent. Even when those things are superior to what they've developed. Which is why you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out that Mail has adopted "pull to refresh"... a feature I've loved ever since I first saw it in Tweetie. Not only that, but they added a really cool widget that stretches and snaps when you pull. It's awesome. And I've been begging for it to happen in Mail for a long time. Another new feature is a VIP Mailbox which collects important email from Very Important People you designate. This can be tied to VIP alerts which will let you know when VIP email arrives. It's quite cool...
AND DID I MENTION THEY FRICKIN' ADDED PULL TO REFRESH?!? HOLY CRAP DOES THAT MAKE ME HAPPY!
• Do Not Disturb. It's a bit tough for me to dig up praise for a feature THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED ON iPHONE FROM DAY ONE. but I'm going to try. Because being able to have your iPhone or iPad shut the hell up during the middle of the night is something worth praising. Even if it's years overdue. Suffice to say that being able to selectively (or automatically) make your iPhone ignore everything but calls from critical people you designate is part of what makes a smartphone a SMART ... PHONE! Long overdue and much appreciated.
• Passbook. One of the buzzword technologies hitting mobile phones is "NFC" which is "Near Field Communication." This allows you to buy stuff or unlock stuff or transfer stuff very simply over very short distances. It sounds kinda cool. No more fumbling for your credit card or airline ticket or room key when you've got your mobile phone! Except... not many people are using it. Yet. And, like all new tech, we don't know if it will really catch on. So Apple is conveniently ignoring it. For now. As a stop-gap, they've come up with Passbook. It's kind of like a wallet for your cards and tickets and stuff. Except instead of using NFC, it relies on good old-fashioned bar codes...
The above image comes from Apple, because Passbook itself hasn't really caught on yet. I think it will. It's just too good of an idea to be ignored. Especially since the cards/tickets/whatever are "location aware" and will pop up automatically when you are near the place they can be used. I look forward to using it. Eventually.
• Facebook/Twitter. And so now you can Tweet and Facebook directly from the Notification Center. You can also Tweet and Facebook stuff from other various apps like Photos and Safari courtesy of the "Share" button. It's kinda nifty...
• Maps. There's no subtle way to say this... Apple's replacement for Google Maps (titled simply "Maps")... sucks. And sucks hard. First of all, there's NO Public Transit Directions. This is just awful for somebody like me who travels to new places a lot and uses public transportation. Second of all, the map data is often good, but sometimes pretty terrible. Things are missing or on the wrong place. Satellite views for some locations are so bad as to be indecipherable. It's just a mess, and even if Apple starts throwing millions of dollars at the problem, it's going to be a while before they are even close to Google Maps.
The good news is that when Maps works, it's pretty frickin' incredible... and so very very pretty. PLUS YOU CAN MAKE THE LABELS BIG SO YOU CAN ACTUALLY READ THEM! Sweet! But the feature that sets Apple Maps apart is their amazing "Flyover" feature that allows you to swoop around some cities in beautiful 3-D. I could play with it for hours...
Turning off the satellite gives you the geometry for Flyover...
There is some freaky imagery with Flyover in places... but when it works, it's pretty great. Like the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago...
Some famous places like The Coliseum and The Vatican are well-rendered...
Others, like the Eiffel Tower? Not so much...
I have no doubt that Apple is going to invest the time and money to keep improving Maps to the point that it eventually eclipses Google. The question then becomes... how long is that going to take? Could be years. Which means I really need my Google Maps back for serious use. Hopefully Google will give us an app for that... but, until then, I guess there's always their mobile maps site. Sure I'll lose the "turn-by-turn directions" that Apple has... but I'd take time-tested, reliable maps over flashy add-ons any day.
• Photo Stream. One of the things that drives me insane is how difficult it is to transfer photos. Transfer to my iPad. Transfer to my Mac. Transfer to friends. Transfer anywhere, really. At first I just emailed them to myself. Then I bought an app that had a klutzy way of setting up a link between my iPhone and my Mac. Apple's "Photostream" technology came along, but YOU don't choose what gets put there. Enter "Shared Photo Streams" with iOS 6. Now you can create your own custom streams, invite whomever you want to view them, then post photos until your heart's content. Bonus? You and others can COMMENT on the photos. Pretty sweet. It's not direct, instant transfer to somebody you're talking to, but it's good enough.
• Facetime. And so FaceTime over cellular is now possible with iOS 6. Unless you're unwilling to give up your grandfathered unlimited data plan. Then AT&T decides they're going to FUCK YOU JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN... THEY ARE GOING TO DENY YOU THE ABILITY TO FACETIME OVER CELLULAR LIKE THE GREEDY BASTARDS THEY ARE. Data is data. How they can differentiate how you use that data is pretty fucked up and should be illegal. And what about their customers that are deaf?!? A deaf person could really make use of this technology... but only if they want to sign up for a data plan that AT&T decides they can make money off of. Holy crap do I loathe cell companies.
That's not all the new features in iOS 6, but it's the ones that matter to me. Sure there are loads of other niceties... like being able to dismiss calls with a text... and the nifty panorama camera feature that's head and shoulders above the third-party apps for shooting panos... and shared iCloud tabs across devices from Apple's Safari browser is sure handy... etc. etc.
Well, as I said, Maps is a problem. It can be pretty, but it's not nearly as usable as the Google Maps it replaces. At least not yet. I wish Apple would have waited a while longer until their Maps were more functional. Other than that? Not a lot. My older iPhones don't seem to run any slower, which is always a concern. All the features that are available on each of my iPhones seem to be working as advertised. I suppose I could nitpick on little things, but the truth is that I am very happy with iOS 6... despite the fact that it's not much of a leap over previous iOS versions when it comes to the experience. Probably because Apple got it right the first time, but I fully admit I'd like to see a few more bells and whistles in the way things work. The iPhone 5 that's coming out tomorrow is leagues faster and more powerful than the original iPhone... why doesn't it have more whiz-bang visuals to take advantage of that? Not enough to distract or slow-down the gadgets running iOS, but something to make it feel a bit fresher than the original iPhone.
Because other mobile OS's like Windows 8 and Android may be behind the curve... but they're closing in a lot faster than Apple is willing to admit. Publicly. Hopefully behind the closed doors of Cupertino it's a different story.
Posted on Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
ROBERT: "Bottom line it for me, dude."
DAVE2: "Well, if you have an
Having owned or used every model Apple's made, I can say that the
And with that out of the way, here we go...
• Design. iPhone 5 is crafted out of aluminum and glass. I picked the black version, but a part of me now regrets that decision. The dark anodized aluminum looks like it's going to scratch quite easily. I don't think this will be a problem with the white iPhone 5, because the aluminum was left uncolored. Hopefully I'll find a cool case for it that will help me keep it looking pretty. The iPhone itself feels really solid despite being thinner than earlier models. It's also noticeably taller than other models, but still very comfortable in my grip. But the biggest change I notice is this... it is so frickin' LIGHT! It feels almost weightless and ethereal. Even when compared to my previous iPhone, which was already pretty light-weight. I'd give he design an A+ if it weren't for my fear of scratches.
• Cellular. Much to my shock and delight, my small rural city has 4G coverage. Note that I did not say
• Speed. Everything on iPhone 5 is fast. Very fast. The ultimate test of speed comes from goofing around with Maps Flyover, and it screams...
Everything feels snappier and more responsive. It's the most awesome iOS experience I've had.
• Display. Gorgeous. It's a Retina Display, so it's tack-sharp. It's got one less layer of material, so it's lush, saturated, and has less glare. And now it also has a larger 16x9 HD ratio, which makes modern television programs and movies bigger since there's no letterboxing. This extra space also allows for an extra row of app icons on the home screen, which is nice. I admit that at first I was worried I wouldn't like the taller screen (the old one felt perfect), but it's grown on me and I love it. Thankfully they didn't go wider so I can still operate the thing one-handed.
• Camera. I've pretty much ditched my pocket cameras. The iPhone cameras just keep getting better and better so there's really no point carrying two pieces of hardware. The new camera on the iPhone 5 is remarkable for a number of reasons. The light sensitivity is much improved. The video quality (1080p at 30fps!) is amazing. And the built-in panorama mode, which previously required a third-party app, is incredible. Not just because it works so amazingly well and is dead-simple to use, but because the resulting image is fantastic...
Given how smokey it is here, that's pretty darn good. But what if I told you that pano photo shown there is only part of the full picture I captured?
The full width of the image is 5400 pixels, all with terrific detail. I can't wait to try this somewhere with great scenery... and no smoke.
• Sound. The built-in speakers are urprisingly good for a frickin' phone. Louder and clearer than you'd think. Enough to fill a small room, really. And now Apple has new "EarPods" headphones that they're bundling with all their new gadgets...
The big selling point on these is that they've been designed to fit the widest possible variety of ears while still sounding great. Well, they got half of that right. They do sound pretty good... better than the previous Apple earbuds. But they don't fit my ear very well at all. The weight of the cord is enough to eventually dislodge them if you start moving even a little bit. If I were to dance around with them, they'd fall out immediately. This either means that I have mutant ears... or Apple is full of shit. Oh well. I didn't plan on giving up my in-ear headphones anyway. I guess my EarPods will make a good backup or something.
• Lightning. There's quite an uproar over Apple's decision to ditch the bulky and antiquated iPhone "dock connector" for their new, smaller "Lightning connector" which comes with digital goodness baked in. Needless to say, everybody who is sitting on a load of iPhone peripherals that require the dock connector are now sitting on obsolete technology. Apple has a "dock converter" which can help (in most cases) but that adds big bulk and big bucks ($29). Personally, this isn't a problem for me. The only dock connector peripheral I have (my car charger) also has a USB port. No big whoop. All that being said, I love the new Lighting port. It's tiny, but fits securely. What I don't understand is why Apple didn't design this to be a "MagSafe" type connector which attaches by magnet like a MacBook. Seems like a no-brainer if you ask me. Well, it is what it is. Since the only reason to plug in my iPhone is to charge it, I guess it's not a big deal. Wireless charging would have been nice, but I'm sure this would have added size and weight to the phone, so I'm okay that Apple didn't go that route. And I really don't give a crap that they didn't go with stupid "micro USB" either, because I don't have anything else that uses it.
• Battery. I've been using iPhone heavily all day... whether it be goofing around with it non-stop... or waiting for it to download all my apps and photos and crap. Still have 17% battery left. Given how much thinner the thing is, this is kind of surprising. If I can get away with using it all day and only plugging it in each night, I'll be very happy. With my previous iPhones, I've had to buy an external battery.
• Una Problema. As I've written about more than once, using your Apple ID for all your iCloud-based services is a handy feature that's implemented badly. If Apple is going to force you down this road, they really need to be on the fucking ball, but they aren't. Not by a longshot. Just as I get one problem with Apple ID fixed, another takes its place. And, sure enough, upgrading my iPhone caused my Apple ID to get all fucked up. Again. Now my iMac isn't registering for Messages again. AGAIN! I have no idea why Apple can't get this shit so it works reliably, but it's pissing me the hell off. So now my Macs aren't registering all my Messages conversations like they should. Random Messages are missing on my MacBook. They're gone completely on my iMac. No idea why this is happening when they were working flawlessly before I upgraded my phone. Guess I'll be calling AppleCare again. AGAIN!
• The End. No bones about it. I love the iPhone 5. Everything about it screams quality. Apple sweated the small stuff and it shows. I have my pick of any mobile on the market, and this is the one I'd pick every day of the week and twice on Sunday. None of the current competitors I've seen or worked with come close. Yes, there are a few features on other phones I wouldn't mind having... but I would be sacrificing too much on the features I use every day that Apple gets so perfectly. And that pretty much sums thing up... for me at least, iPhone 5 is perfect.
Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
And so... today I got pulled over for expired license tabs. Which means that I never got my renewal notice, because I always pay my annual licensing fees immediately after I receive that little card in the mail. Fortunately, the police officer wasn't a dick about it, and just asked me to get it taken care of. Which I did, straight away. And now I've told my iPhone to remind me every year so I don't have to rely on state government efficiency.
In other driving-related news... Google Maps is now available as an app for iOS...
Apple dropped Google for their mapping service because Google wasn't updating the iOS maps as quickly as their own Android mapping service. Android got turn-by-turn directions... the iPhone did not. And so on. This put Apple at a competitive disadvantage, so they really had no choice but to drop Google and create something of their own that would feature-map what the competition was getting.
And we all know how that turned out.
Now that I've actually been using Apple Maps... I prefer some aspects of their app more than I do Google (even on my Android phone). Especially when it comes to caching map data, turn-by-turn directions, and the look and feel. But there was one area where Apple falls flat. And continues to do so. Location data. Google's database for mapping locations is insanely massive. Apple's is pretty much shit. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, it's also stupid. Google can make pretty good guesses, even when you misspell something. Apple has a hard time finding shit even if you spell it out completely and accurately.
This is something that Apple will get better at with time.
And they do have to keep getting better (=cough= public transit maps =cough=).
Because that's what's going to keep Google from shitting all over iPhone users by refusing to give them the same features of their own Android OS maps. Odds are, if Apple hadn't dumped Google, we would still be without turn-by-turn directions.
But now iOS users have turn-by-turn on both Apple maps and Google maps. They can choose what works best for them.
For me, it will probably be a combination of both.
Whichever one will get me to the Department of Licensing on time.
Posted on Monday, March 18th, 2013
Left for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on-time for once.
Finally had my first problem with Apple Maps giving me crap directions.*
Discovered that the WiFi didn't work on my flight to Atlanta.
Grabbed my phone after landing to get the gate for my connecting flight, only to find out that my connecting flight had been canceled. Apparently there was a hail-storm in Atlanta, which caused cancelations and delays across the board.
Delta re-booked me on a new connecting flight... which just happened to be on the exact same plane with broken WiFi that I just climbed out of.
Finally made it to my destination.
Now trying to write a blog entry at my airport hotel with a melted brain.
It's been one of those days.
*I've been using Apple Maps exclusively since the last iOS update. I have had -zero- problems, and vastly prefer the Apple Maps over Google Maps for a half-dozen reasons I won't bore you with here. And every time I read a story about errors with Apple Maps, I ignore it because it's never happened to me no matter where I've traveled.
Here is where Apple Maps thinks my off-site Airport Parking is located...
I didn't even look at where the pin dropped, because I assumed it would be correct. I just started up turn-by-turn directions and was on my way. But, as I got closer, I started to feel that something was wrong. I had never been through this area any of the dozens of other times I've used the off-site parking. That's because the location is actually here...
Yes... all the way across a river and the highway. Which is not a simple course correction. It is, in fact, 15-20 minutes away (depending on traffic)...
Lucky for me, I had plenty of time to get to the airport. But had I been running late? I would have been totally screwed by Apple Maps because the data they're using in this case is completely wrong.
Apple makes it easy to report an error, and asked me to drag the pin to the correct location, which I did...
Apparently Apple purchased their map data from TomTom. This was probably a mistake, because an error like this is pretty obvious.
Oh well. I guess they had to start somewhere. Given time, I'm sure Apple will get it all sorted out. But, in the meanwhile, I guess I'm going to have to double-check the routes I am given every damn time I use the product.
Otherwise there's no telling where I might end up.
Posted on Monday, April 8th, 2013
What a hunk of crap.
A little less than a year ago I was on a Kickstarter high, backing a lot of projects that looked interesting and useful. One of those projects was for the "Pebble Smart Watch," where my $115 pledge would get me an actual watch once the unit went into production.
My thinking was that something like this would be really useful when I travel. Often times I'm in strange places or potentially dangerous situations where I don't want to be flashing my iPhone around. Why invite somebody to steal it? Enter Pebble. This "smart watch" communicates with iPhone and can display notifications for calls, emails, texts, and such. It will also allow you to do simple tasks like control your music. So, cool, I can monitor my notifications without having to whip out my iPhone every time. Sounds good.
Eleven months later, guess what shows up in my mailbox? That's right, Pebble!
And it's pretty shitty.
First of all, it's huge. Massively huge. If you have boney little toddler arms like mine, it might as well be a brick...
As if that weren't bad enough, look how THICK this fucker is...
Oh... and did you notice all the little specs of dust in the case seams? IT CAME THAT WAY! I just took it out of the box, and it comes pre-dirty. And given the number of ugly seams scattered all over Pebble, I can only guess that it's going to look even worse once I actually walk around with it and it gets exposed to the elements.
What's so shocking is that this makes the bulky old Casio Calculator Watch I had in high school look positively svelte. Seriously, until you strap one of these massive things to your wrist, you have no idea how obtrusive and uncomfortable an accessory can be. There is no fucking way I am going to be wearing this around day to day.
If I were to actually consider wearing this pile of crap, I'd probably take time to do a complete review of the thing. Since I'm not, I can say this from the five minutes I played with Pebble...
And that's about it, really.
Rumor has it that Apple is working on a "smart watch" of their own. Why I didn't wait for that, I will never know.
If you've got big wrists and like the retro-future possibilities that Pebble is promising, this may be a watch for you (hey, I'll sell you mine for $50 plus shipping! SOLD!)... otherwise, I'd give Pebble a pass.
Posted on Monday, June 10th, 2013
Alrighty then. As a Certified Apple Whore, it's required by law that I post my thoughts on all the stuff Apple talked about in the keynote speech of the 2013 World Wide Developer's Conference (watch it for yourself right here!).
So for all you Apple-haters, I apologize. Come back tomorrow and I promise to draw a monkey or something.
At Apple, our new visual design direction is lickable like it's 1998!
Apple's new iCEO, Tim Cook, is no Steve Jobs... but I really like the guy. He gives a good presentation, represents Apple well, and inspires confidence in his company, which is all that matters. Seeing Phil Schiller is always fun. The guy has a genuine enthusiasm about Apple that's hard to beat. It's good to see more from Eddy Cue, Apple's internet services guru too. But the real standout this time around? Craig Federighi, vice president of software engineering. The guy is funny as hell, and has a conversational tone when he's presenting that sucks you in and compels you love Apple and the things they do. Seriously, the keynote is totally worth watching just to see this guy at the top of his game.
MAC OS X!
It looks like most of the stuff going on here is under-the-hood improvements, which is fine. But there are a chunk of notable usability enhancements as well, so I'm hopeful that I won't have as many problems with Mavericks as I had with Mountain Lion. Unfortunately, the one thing... THE ONE THING I WANTED TO SEE... was not shown. And that's the option to keep the menu bar showing at all times with full-screen apps. I am so sick and fucking tired of dealing with the bouncing menu bar intruding when I don't want it... and having to go hunt for it when I do want it... WHICH IS ALL THE TIME!!! The clock is there. My battery status is there. My sound volume indicator is there. Just give me a check-box option to keep the menu bar showing always and I'll be fine. Anyway... on with the show...
I love my MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It is unquestionably the best bit of tech I have ever owned, and the size, weight, features, and speed are amazing. That being said, there are times when I'm traveling where I would really appreciate having a much smaller machine to lug around. Basically, an iPad that's a fully-functional computer when I need it. The tiny 11-inch MacBook Air has always been so close to what I wanted. Now I think it's there. All I need is a thousand dollars and I'm golden.
"Can't innovate any more, my ass! — Phil Schiller, Vice President of World-Wide Marketing.
I honestly don't know where to go with this. I finally gave up on Apple ever releasing a new Mac Pro a year ago, and am now using an iMac that I'm quite happy with. That being said, I would much rather have a "pro" machine that can tear through the bigger projects I have to work on... especially when it comes to 3-D modeling and rendering... and video editing. And here it is. Except... it's not really a "pro" machine, is it? Sure it's got all kinds of killer pro features and looks fucking amazing... BUT EXTERNAL EXPANSION ONLY?!???? WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK?!?? One of the major differences between consumer machines and pro machines is that you can open the guts and configure the thing the way you need it for the kind of work you're going to be doing. But Apple has lived up to every criticism by choosing design over functionality, and it's a load of bullshit. Because it's BADLY DESIGNED! So you can rotate it to plug things in. That sounds cool, right? But what happens when you've got a ton of crap plugged into it? How does it rotate around when you've got a dozen cables anchoring it in place? I'm not debating whether innovations like the new "tri-core cooling technology" is cool... it's frickin' awesome... but this is not the machine pros are after, and it's a really shitty thing for Apple to do to those who have been waiting so damn long for a new Pro machine to come out. When I bought my iMac, I worried I was making a mistake, and a new Mac Pro would be released that would work so much better for my needs. Well all those worries are gone. If I had the choice even today between an iMac and a Mac "Pro"... I'd go with the iMac. This is the fucking Mac Cube all over again! Did NOBODY at Apple learn a damn thing from that fiasco?
Nobody is more convinced that the future of computing lies in The Cloud than I am. Having access to all your stuff wherever you are with whatever device you have is the future. The problem is that nobody is doing it very well... including Apple. But, to their credit, they do seem to be the most interested in figuring it all out. More and more cloud functionality is coming into place. Apple's cloud services are getting more reliable and robust every day. And things like iTunes Match are demonstrating the promise of what "cloud computing" is all about... have access to my entire music and movie/television library anywhere there's internet from my Mac, iPad, or iPhone? Yes please. It's all magic, right? Well... not really. Because Apple is constantly sabotaging themselves. Want to stream your purchased movies to your Mac or iDevice? Tough shit! Apple only allows streaming to AppleTV... anything else requires that you download the whole fucking file first. Never mind that Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and the rest of the known fucking universe allows video streaming, Apple doesn't. Will this be fixed with iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks? Who the fuck knows? Will Apple fix the myriad of problems that prevent developers from integrating iCloud into their apps? Who the fuck knows? It goes on and on. The fact that Apple is working so hard on getting The Cloud done right is meaningless if they can't see the forest for the trees. YOU HAVE TO FUCKING COMPETE! Except Apple doesn't seem to care when the competition is trouncing all over them... they're Apple, so they don't have to! Except they really do. We finally get keychain syncing back, but it almost feels like too little too late when services like Dropbox and solutions like 1Password stepped up to the plate when Apple wouldn't for so damn long. And there's the crux of everything that's wrong at Apple... THEY decide what's important to their users rather than responding to what users find important and are actually doing. I love Apple and all, but I'm just so fucking sick of this.
Well, it looks a little more polished than Spotify or Pandora... and it looks a lot smarter, even if the details are sketchy (how many skips do you get an hour?). I will probably use it. I will probably discover new music. I will probably end up buying a shitload more music than I am now. So, mission accomplished, I guess. The fact that iTunes Match subscribers don't have to deal with ads is kind of a nice bonus.
Oh... so Apple hasn't killed iWork on the Mac after all! It's just so hard to tell, what with them NOT UPDATING IT FOREVER. Just like with Aperture, buying iWork almost immediately makes you feel like you've purchased abandonware. Sure they'll fix a big or add a little fluff every once in a while (NEW! Documents in The Cloud!)... but it's hard to have faith with Apple as a serious app developer when they don't maintain a consistent release schedule. Years can go by with no major release or update, so you just never know. And here we are at long last... iWork is getting updated. Or is it? Because the focus seems to be on competing with Google Docs with a browser-based solution. Well, I have to tell you, this has me worried. Very worried. And it all comes down to this... will future releases of iWork (the app) be limited by iWork (the web app)? Is an Apple software engineer going to say "Here's a great idea for iWork Numbers... won't it be cool to give our users this functionality?" Only to be greeted with "Oh shit, we can't add that feature... we'd never be able to implement that in a web browser!" Well, I just don't know. But that would suck. And it wouldn't be surprising from Apple. All that being said? How frickin' amazing was that demo of iWork in the Cloud?
Well, here it is... the moment the world has been waiting for... the next generation of Apple's iOS. The operating system which powers gazillions of iPhones, iPods, iPads, and whatever new iDevices Apple comes up with (iWatch?). I'll reserve comment on the new design visuals until I've actually seen them up-close-and-personal, but my initial reaction is mixed. I like the flatness of it all, which feels modern and forward-thinking. The typography and the stark, clean layouts are stellar. But the bright candy colors that I thought were banished with the old iMac aesthetic feel more "dated and tired" than "retro cool." Yet... Apple is nothing if not a trend-setter, so maybe it's a look that's making a comeback. I guess we'll find out this Fall. If I were to summarize, I'd say that I like most of what I'm seeing... but not everything. If nothing else, I think it's a consistent visual language that competitors lack will help keep Apple at the top of the heap.
Okay. There's one thing I saw in the keynote that has completely haunted me about the new design, and I love it more than sliced bread. The new iOS is multi-plane display capable...
This basically means that everything is set on three-dimensional layers, so as you move your phone around, the different planes move to communicate depth. Allowing you to "see around" stuff on upper layers as the camera is rotated. In video games and animation, this is called "parallax scrolling" (or something like that), and it's some visual trickery that really pays off. The idea of having such lush visuals on my frickin' PHONE is pretty spectacular. It's the little touches like this that makes Apple be Apple, and keeps Apple Whores such as myself in a constant state of geek heaven.
Annnnnnd... the end.
For now. As I get a better look at all this stuff, I'm sure I'll have more to say.
Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
I strapped my iPhone to my sun visor for the drive over Stevens Pass in Washington State (through the Cascade Mountain Range on US Route 2). The rough road and weight of the iPhone moving the visor made for a messy (but pretty!) video... but everybody who keeps asking me to post a movie of the trip finally get's their wish! Music is Dream of Me (Based on Love's Theme) by OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) off their amazing album Liberator (and you can buy it here).
Pretty drive, is it not? I don't mind it so much when the roads are bare and the weather is nice, like today.
And... back to Real Life for a while.
Posted on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Three big announcements from Apple yesterday. All of which would have been surprising if it all hadn't been leaked to the internet weeks ago. If you haven't seen the keynote video, it's over at Apple's site for your viewing pleasure.
• iPhone 6... And so the inevitable happened... iPhone got bigger. But the user interface didn't get bigger with it. Meaning it's not any easier for people to navigate if they have poor eyesight (me), or older eyes (me), or vision problems (me). Nope... the tiny icons and text have just been moved further apart on the bigger screens of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus...
Except... Apple mentioned something called "Display Zoom" which sounds interesting. The iPhone 6 can apparently render the text and icons larger than previous models on command...
Huzzah! But... I can't find much detail as to how this works. Can you leave "Display Zoom" on all the time, or is it a temporary thing? Does it work everywhere, or only with apps that support it? However it works, it looks to be a step in the right direction for people like me who need an easier time of it when trying to use their phone. My fear is that this only works on the home screen, but I guess that's better than nothing.
The new seamless, ergonomic design of the iPhone 6 is just beautiful. Apple's mobile aesthetic has been looking dated for a while now compared to what the competition is doing, so this is a welcome sight...
A pity that you have to slap a case on that sexy design in order to keep it from smashing to bits if you happen to drop it. With this in mind, Apple is introducing both a leather and a silicone case to protect your investment. Hopefully this time they'll be available at launch so your iPhone is made safer from day one.
Screen resolutions are getting to be ridiculous... with some newer phones having pixels that are smaller than the eye can detect. Which means wasting precious battery life to power something that you probably won't even notice. Apple increased the density on their "Retina Display" screens, but didn't go too crazy (326 ppi on the 6 and 401 ppi on the 6 Plus). This should strike a good balance between getting a beautiful display while still being battery efficient.
Not surprisingly, Apple is using a new 64-bit A8 chip for the brains of their latest and greatest. If you watched the game demo during the keynote, you've seen what this kind of power is bringing to the table. But power, of course, comes at a price. Lucky for us Apple has made advances with the iPhone power cell as well, so you can still get decent battery life with the faster processor.
But what about the feature I use most on my iPhone? What about the camera? And I'm not talking about all the bells and whistles like "face detection" and "burst mode" and "HDR"... I'm talking about the actual camera element. The specs say that iPhone 6 is still stuck at 8 megapixels, which is a bit surprising. I mean sure, megapixels aren't the sole determining factor in getting great photos... but higher pixel counts do allow for more detail. So if not the megapixels, what has been improved?
Well, the lens has been bumped up to an f/2.2 aperture, which is a bit brighter than before. That's a good thing. Exposure control should make getting shots with wildly disparate lighting conditions a bit easier. Also a good thing. And Apple has come up with "auto stabilization" to reduce motion blur and shake. That's a very good thing. BUT, if you've been waiting for actual OPTICAL stabilization, you can get it at long last... but ONLY on the iPhone 6 Plus. That's a not-so-good thing for me, because I don't want to have to start carrying a purse so I have a place to put my iPhone.
The only bad thing I've noticed is that the camera lens now protrudes from the shell. Seems like that's an invitation for damage if you're not using a case on your iPhone... but superior camera features are going to have a trade-off, and this is what you have to pay...
If you shoot video, there's a slew of improvements on that front. Automated time-lapse. 240 frames per second slo-mo at 720p. And while there's no 4K option, you do get beautiful 1080p HD video running at 60 frames per second... all with cinematic video stabilization. Sold!
Of course Apple included Touch ID on the iPhone 6 models... which nicely addresses my bitching from yesterday about the shitty password security Apple is using on pre-Touch ID models. AND it dovetails nicely into another big announcement today...
• Apple Pay... And heeeeeere's Apple's new "digital wallet" functionality! Many others have tried to bring us this golden carrot of the modern age... but they've all failed. This October, we'll see if Apple has the muscle to get their version accepted by merchants around the globe. Something tells me they can. But... what about security? Well, it would seem that Apple has put some real thought into Apple Pay, because its security features are pretty well-rounded. First of all, you no longer have to disclose your credit card number, name, and security code like you do when you hand over your credit card. Instead, Apple Pay creates a Device Account Number that is stored on a new Security Element chip on your phone... not on Apple's servers... to conduct the transaction. Furthermore, Apple is actually adding privacy to the transaction by keeping them private. No details will be stored or transmitted, so your purchases can't be tracked back to you. Well, through the payment anyway. And since Apple Pay also has an online component, this should make it easy for Conservative lawmakers to get their gay porn fix anonymously.
I'm in love with the idea of not having credit cards bulk up my wallet. But that day isn't coming any time soon. So long as one retailer you deal with doesn't accept Apple Pay, you're going to have to hold on to your plastic. And while it's nice that you won't have to dig them out as often as this technology get adopted, it's not like using a physical credit card is such a huge burden that it's going to matter all that much in the end.
Verdict? Cautiously optimistic.
• Apple Watch... Praise be to Jobs that we seem to have escaped from the "i" branding that's dominated Apple for the past several years. By naming their wearable "Apple Watch" instead of "iWatch" I will be able to purchase one without screaming.
And, yes, you read that right... I am buying one.
The minute I saw this image hit the screen, the decision was made...
Everything else is gravy, because I'd buy the watch if all it did was display the time using an animated Mickey Mouse (he taps his foot with the time!).
And about that gravy...
The health crap is nice, but probably not something I'm going to make use of. The whole "send your heartbeat" "tap a friend" and "send a sketch" stuff isn't very compelling to me. Heck, a lot of the features being touted aren't compelling to me. Yes, it will be nice to not have to go fishing for my iPhone every time I've got an alert or a message or whatever, but the defining feature to me? We're one step closer to Dick Tracy, baby...
The day I can hold a FaceTime conversation on my Apple Watch will be one of the greatest days of my life.
In the meanwhile, I'll just have to settle for the dozens of things that Apple Watch can do right now.
All of which wouldn't mean shit if Apple Watch wasn't something I wanted to wear. Fortunately, that was never really a concern. I knew Apple would come up with something good-looking and wearable... and they did...
...IN TWO FRICKIN' SIZES!!!
Which means that if the larger one is like a brick on my bony arm, I have another option available. Sadly, it doesn't look like it gets any thinner, which has always been the problem with so-called "smart watches." I mean, just look at this boat anchor...
To be honest, I really thought Apple's watch would be thinner than this. I thought they'd find a way to put the battery in the band... or make it run on nuclear fusion... or something to make it not be so obvious...
Maybe they're saving that for Apple Watch 2.0.
The one thing that did turn out as expected was the interface. Apple being Apple, they weren't content to force a Phone interface on their watch. That's what other companies do. No no... they started from scratch and came up with something more appropriate to the smaller size of the device. Using the "crown" for interactivity so it doesn't obscure the screen is genius. Using "deep presses" for touch selection is genius. Having the watch tap you for attention instead of jolting you with a buzz is genius. The MagSafe contact charger is genius. The customization options are genius. Everything about the Apple Watch is genius...
Battery life? Memory size? Durability? Water resistance? Who knows? Who cares?
Well, except the wait. "Early 2015" is pretty non-specific, and could mean as late as May.
Another sticking point could be the price. "Starting at $349" leaves a lot of latitude. The style/band you want could run much, much higher.
Not that it matters. If I have to sell a kidney to get my digital Mickey Mouse... that's definitely on the table.
So... a banner day for Apple and Apple Whores alike!
It's hard to know for sure until I find out if I'm going to be down a kidney or not.
Posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
While I was half-a-world away, my new iPhone 6 was delivered. Now that I'm back, I've had a little time to play with it. And since I have a blog, I'm obligated to tell everybody what I think.
So here it is.
Aesthetically? The iPhone 6 is a beautiful phone. I love the way the glass marries to the case. It feels really good in the hand. It looks sexy in a way most phones can only dream of (including my previous favorite, the HTC One). Too bad it has to go in a case to cover that up.
I'm not a fan of the larger size in my hand and would have preferred a phone the size of my smaller iPhone 5. That being said, the "display zoom" feature which makes everything bigger on the 6 is wonderful. So much easier on my eyes and far easier to use. Except... things do not seem as sharp as they have been on previous models, even when display zoom is off. Would a higher pixel density help with the lack of sharpness?
Apple's "reachability" feature which drops the top-half of the screen down with a light-double-tap of the home button (so you can reach it one-handed) is a nifty feature. I can't seem to get in the habit of using it, but appreciate that Apple at least tried to compensate for the biggest inconvenience that a bigger phone saddles you with.
I am not liking the on/off button being moved to the side. It was more intuitive on the top.
Yes, the phone is very thin. I would have gladly endured a bit more thickness if it would have meant a bit better battery life but... still, the battery life isn't terrible.
Performance is stellar, and it's the snappiest, smoothest phone I've ever used.
I'm disappointed that the sound hasn't been improved much over previous models. It's 2014. Is stereo too much to ask for? Especially on a phone this big?
The camera is fantastic, but it would have been nice to have had the optical image stabilization of the 6+ over the less capable digital stabilization in the 6. Also? While the image the camera produces are nicer overall, the contrast seems weak and inconsistent. Physically having the camera protrude from the back of the phone is a bit of a design flaw (though most people will eliminate this problem by putting their phone in a case).
And, speaking of cases...
I went with the Speck CandyShell Grip...
It's a nice enough case and the rubberized grip is very good. But I really, really hate two things about it... 1) Why in the hell do manufacturers insist on plastering their name all over your frickin' phone? Nobody cares and it's just lame and stupid. And 2) the photo of the product looks like the case is a matte color, but it's not. It's insanely glossy which looks absolutely terrible once fingerprints and smears get plastered all over it. If Speck were to take their damn name off and use a matte plastic, this would be a killer case. As it is? I'm not digging it. At all.
Overall, I'm happy with the iPhone 6.
No, it's not a critical leap over the previous generation, but call quality seems a bit improved in low-signal areas over iPhone 5, so I'll definitely take it.
Ultimately it's a phone, after all.
Posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2014
After a month (plus) with my iPhone 6 (not plus) I don't have much to say.
Do I like it? Oh yes. In fact, there are many things I love about it. Starting with Apple Pay, which is pretty much the bomb (when and where you can use it, that is).
There are, of course, things I'm not thrilled about as well. Mostly minor stuff that's not worth mentioning.
And one big thing that is. Which would be that it's too dang big!
The size of the 5s was perfect. It fit really well in my hand. It was super easy to operate one-handed. Typing on it was a joy.
The size of the 6 is oafish, clutzy, and difficult to mange... even with two hands... even with Apple's "Reachability" feature (double-touching the home button will drop the screen down in reach of your thumb). I can't even fathom how much worse the 6+ would be.
I just hope this means Apple will give us an option to go down a size with the iPhone 7.
Posted on Sunday, March 1st, 2015
Don't let the drone surveillance get you down... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• Vaccinate! Classic...
And yet... the measles epidemic rages on. Thanks, Jenny McCarthy!
You're a horrible, horrible person.
• MURICA! Because nothing says "freedom" better than being able to scream "YOU'RE FIRED, FAGGOT!" when you find out that one of your employees is gay, and being 100% within the law... Arkansas has passed an anti-non-discrimination bill SB 202...
I've heard of legislating morality... but legislating immorality? Way to go, Arkansas. There's some terrific things about your state, but this is a fucking embarrassment. Shame on everyone who had a hand in dragging "The Natural State" back to less enlightened times.
• Widow! The hype machine for Avengers: Age of Ultron is really amping up, with individual character posters being released this week. Could not possibly be more excited to see this film come May...
Looks like Black Widow may finally... finally be getting some tech that ups her game. They showed her using a built-in taser in the last Avengers film, but that's a far cry from the "Widow's Bite" blasters she sports in the comics. I certainly hope it comes to pass, because it seems completely illogical that Tony Stark wouldn't give her some advanced weaponry to make her a stronger part of the team.
• Laugh? The Matthew Perry version of The Odd Couple finally debuted and it's far, far worse than I imagined. Mostly because they're using a frickin' laugh track. This idiotic and antiquated method of attempting to make unfunny crap seem hilarious is just pathetic, and only serves to underline how funny something is not to modern audiences...
What kills me is how Matthew Perry can't seem to find a lead role in a vehicle that's worth his talent lately. He was essential viewing in Friends, he was a revelation as Joe Quincy on The West Wing, he was bordering on genius on Studio 60, and he was terrific on The Good Wife... I even liked his movies okay. But when it comes to finding a new show, he's been rolling in shit. Mr. Sunshine was abysmal. Go On was horrific. And now there's this hot mess? Sad. Just sad.
• MARCIA MARCIA MARCIA! Hot on the heels of Snicker's awesome Brady Bunch/Danny Trejo mashup comes this epic art installation...
I love it when companies create ad campaigns you actually want to see. In case you missed the original commercial, here you go...
The teaser ad was equally filled with awesome...
Yep. That's advertising done right, right there.
• Photographic! I used to carry a pocket camera with me everywhere I went to capture those unexpected moments that are begging for a picture to be taken. Then the iPhone 4 came along with its terrific built-in camera, and I started leaving my pocket camera at home more often than not. Why bother when I can get shots like this...
Then the iPhone 5 was released with an even better camera, and suddenly I found myself ditching the pocket camera completely. Now that I've got an iPhone 6 with its amazing camera, I've been doing something I never thought I'd do... go on some of my travels without taking my DSLR with me. It's a mind-boggling prospect, but the shots I can get out of a frickin' camera phone are so good that it's not a much of a sacrifice at all.
This week Apple finally realized what most of us already know... the iPhone is a really good camera. And they've started a nifty ad campaign to let everybody else know it too. They've also added an amazing "World Gallery" to their website...
Shot by Silke W. in Bali, Indonesia
A lot of people are carrying smart phone with them everywhere they go now-a-days. Which means a lot of people have a camera on them all the times. Which means a lot of photo opportunities that were once missed are being captured. It's an amazing time we live in.
And... I'm wrecked. See you next Sunday.
Posted on Monday, June 3rd, 2019
I typed some notes during Apple's streaming presentation of the World Wide Developer's Conference keynote this morning. Since I know absolutely everybody is dying to know my thoughts on things*, this post is for you!
• Eco-Unfriendly! And here's Tim Cook to start things off. Right off the bat he's touting how Apple is a sweet ecosystem that marries hardware, software, and services to create an experience unlike any other...
Say what you like about Apple, but it's totally true. The problem is that when one part of their ecosystem sucks, you get a bad experience. This applies to hardware (I fucking hate the MacBook Pro keyboard, and will avoid buying one of their shitty laptops for as long as I can), software (when they aren't abandoning critical in-house software like Aperture, they create fucking garbage like HomeKit), and services (their media streaming is unbelievably shitty and I'm furious that they always blame my internet, when my fiber connection streams flawlessly from everybody else). I used to put up with everything because, hey, at least it was better than Windows, but is that really true anymore?
• Apple Arcade! Now Tim is talking about "Apple Arcade"... a new membership service where you get access to a lot of cool and exclusive games. Out of everything announced, I only give a crap about LEGO Brawls, so this is probably not going to be for me...
• Apple TV PLUS! Ugh. I mean, really? Yet another streaming service? I admit that the clip shown from the alternate-history space-race drama For All Mankind looks interesting, but enough for me to pay up a monthly fee? Doubtful. Disney+ is absolutely on my radar because of all the Marvel Studios and Star Wars shows in development, but it would take a heck of a lot for me to buy into Apple's random non-catalog of shows.
• Apple TV! Apple TV has one of the shittiest interfaces in tech history. It takes forever to find the stuff you want to watch. Even if you know where to get to it, you still have to scroll and scroll and scroll. Apple added Siri to AppleTV so you can just tell it what you want, but I find it to be flakey and not always accurate. Why would I buy something from iTunes when it's available streaming from Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or whatever? I thought that "TV" was supposed to prioritize stuff you already have over stuff you have to pay for, but that hasn't been my experience. But I digress. They've apparently redesigned everything to be less shitty. EXCEPT THEY ARE USING CLIP PREVIEWS LIKE NETFLIX WHICH I FUCKING HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE!!! Fuck this. I hope to God they allow you to turn that shit off.
Ooh! And now Apple is saying that you will be able to use controllers from Xbox One and Playstation to control games on AppleTV! Yay! Except... where is support for my Nintendo Switch Pro controller? Oh well. I don't have time to play many games anyway.
Okay... I love the new underwater 4K screen saver! Reminds me of the serene scene aquarium screen saver I had on my Mac ages ago...
• Apple Watch! Ya know? I'd sure like to have an Apple Watch, but I just know I would never wear it because it's so damn thick. Until they fix that, they can throw all the new "watch faces" at me they want... I'm not biting. Except... ZOMG! A CALCULATOR APP! Just like my old calc digital watch had back in the 80's!
The new WatchOS will be able to run apps independently of the companion iPhone app. That seems like a pretty critical feature, but I don't know how they have the memory available for such a thing? This allows you to install apps from the App Store directly on your Apple Watch which, again, seems like a critical feature to have.
I like the idea of how the Apple Watch can help you out by monitoring your health... but I know darn well I would stop using it when I see just how unhealthy my lifestyle is, so that's not a big draw for me. For the ladies there's a menstrual cycle tracker now that will help you to know when your period is coming and when you are most fertile for the baby-making.
• iOS 13! Apparently the next version of iOS will focus a lot on speed. Face ID will unlock 30% faster... apps will install faster... apps will launch faster... that kinda thing. Naturally, it's hard not to be happy about that. And I most certainly hope that it launches the camera faster so I don't miss as many time-critical shots like I do now. A more reliable camera that isn't locking up all the time would also be nice.
I'm torn on the new "Dark Mode"... I stopped using it on my Mac because it was wildly inconsistent between apps, sometimes making it impossible to use apps that weren't patched to accommodate it. Perhaps if they did a better job of it for my iPhone I will have better luck? I dunno. It costs nothing to try. And, may I just say, that Apple using Depeche Mode's Black Celebration for their demo is about the best thing I've seen from this keynote so far?
I've been using Google's keyboard for a long time now because it supported swipe typing. Problem is, my iPhone is forever reverting back to Apple's keyboard even though I've not asked it to. Now that Apple supports swipe typing, maybe it will be a better experience? I sure hope so. All the new predictive input stuff is nice, but I often find that my iPhone gets it wrong far more often than it guesses correctly. Maybe their new "machine learning engine" will improve this? One can only hope.
• Maps! And so... shots fired at Google Maps! But here's the deal. Unless Apple gets into the traffic monitoring game like Google and Google-owned Waze, I'm probably sticking with Waze. Pretty is pretty, but I'll take the better functionality every time...
Meg Frost is up in her cool future-wheelchair to demo Maps. Holy crap is it a beautiful app! I may use it a lot more, but the navigation of Waze will be hard to leave behind...
Apple is doing their OWN version of "street view" and it looks spectacular...
I'll definitely be using Apple Maps for armchair traveling, but for actual driving? The jury is out.
• Security! And here's where Apple takes an even bigger swing at Google... privacy and security. Companies like Google and Facebook track everything you do and monitor all the activity on your phone because they are selling ads. To be effective at selling ads, they need to know who you are and what you do. I don't give much of a crap about this (hey, I'm a blogger, all that stuff is online for anybody to see anyway), but I do like Apple's philosophy of erring on the side of caution. It started with ApplePay, which securely pays for stuff without tying the purchases to a credit card (which is nice), and I absolutely love the convenience of it. And now Apple is moving their privacy mandate into other areas at a system level. I approve.
Location monitoring by your phone could be a very big problem if you don't know it's happening and you're a thief or having an affair or whatever. Apple is putting the kibosh on that by being more proactive about how your location is used and how long an app gets to use it. That's totally swell.
And, as if the shots fired weren't obvious enough, here's Craig Federighi telling the whole world that they are seriously going after Facebook and Google by creating their very own "Sign in with Apple" login service! Sweet!
No personal information whatsoever handed over. I think it's pretty obviously that absolutely everybody will switch to Apple's login service the minute it becomes available on sites. I know I sure as hell will be.
Okay, THIS is huge. Apple is coming up with their own privacy email forwarding service! You can immediately establish a temporary email ID... then use or dispose of it for as long as you want! NICE.
I've used random forwarding addresses for a very long time, but having to set them up is always such a pain. Now that it's an OS-level feature, it will be so much easier. Kudos, Apple!
Interesting. Apple is adding their own security camera streaming service to their heinously shitty HomeKit home automation bullshit. The privacy features are admittedly compelling, even though I just don't care that much. So people can hack my account and watch me talking to my cats... whoop-dee-do. However... On one hand, I would love to get rid of all my Google NestCam shit and their fucking "NestAware" idiocy for something better. So maybe. Except I hate hate hate shitty HomeKit so much that I just don't think it's a viable option. Maybe one day? I just don't know.
• Memoji! While I think the idea of Apple's Animoji and Memoji are cute, they just aren't something I'm interested in using. I tried it a few times just for fun, but the idea of using it day-in and day-out makes zero sense. The novelty wears off far too quickly. Except... NOW THEY'VE ADDED MAKEUP?!? And piercings? AND HATS?!? Ooh! Maybe I will have to use Memoji now that I can add eyeshadow and lipstick!
Memoji stickers are actually pretty cool. I don't use stickers very often, but I might use something like this.
• Photos! I take far, far, far more photos on my iPhone than any camera I have ever owned. It's just too convenient and the quality is just too good (and getting better!). The fact that Apple keeps adding cool editing features just gives me even more reason to keep shooting with iPhone. I've always got it with me anyway.
And now you can apply effects to video as well as... gasp!... ROTATE VIDEO AS WELL!
The new machine-learning photo management tools are pretty great too. I really should go delete all the duplicates and junk photos I've taken. Could probably cut the number of photos I've got stored in half. Probably more.
• AirPods! I like everything about the concept of AirPods... but hate the AirPods themselves. They absolutely 100% do NOT stay in my ears. And given the number of people complaining about losing them, I'm guessing it's a serious problem for everybody. I pretty much only use them when traveling because then it's worth the time to put the silicone tips on them so they actually stay in my ears. My thinking is that this will be the first and last pair of AirPods I buy until Apple starts making them so they fit... and are more sustainable. As it is now, there's nothing you can do except throw them away when the battery fails. Wasteful. Shamefully wasteful for a company that professes to be on the cutting edge of "green sustainability."
Having messages announced through your AirPods would drive me insane and I would most definitely not have that feature turned on. One feature I do like, however, is the AirPod Audio Sharing feature. How cool is that? So long as you both have AirPods, very cool!
• HomePod! Whatever, dude. Drop the price by half and I might consider purchasing one. Until then? My SONOS system is doing just fine.
• CarPlay! I would be thrilled to have a CarPlay enabled stereo in my auto, because the integration features with my iPhone are just too good. But I am just not in my car often enough to justify the cost. Happy that Apple keeps improving the CarPlay experience though, because maybe one day...
• Speech! The new "Neural TTS" (Text To Speech) quality is insane. Once more update and they will probably have something indistinguishable from an actual human! Hell, my iPhone already speaks in a way that's more intelligible and human than our President!
• iPad! I may die of un-shock... iPads will no longer be using a forked version of iOS but instead run a custom iPadOS. Given how Apple keeps pushing iPad to encroach on what desktop computers do (and compete with Microsoft's Surface tablet), it was something that pretty much had to happen. And it just makes sense. iPad is more than just a big iPhone. Better split-view... gestures designed for a larger screen... drag and drop... this is all stuff that, frankly, Apple should have had years ago.
One thing that had to happen to make iPad more of a desktop equivalent is to have far better file handling. It looks like Apple realizes this and is working to add more and more functionality. All the features are nice... but nowhere is this new direction more easily understood than by the fact that you can plug a thumb-drive into your iPad now...
• Pencil! I love my first-generation iPad pencil and would dearly love the features of the second-gen... if only my older iPad supported it. Perhaps eventually I will use my iPad a lot more often for my artistic endeavors, so it'll be worth it to invest the money. But that's just not in the cards right now.
• Mac! "WE LOVE THE MAC!" Tim Cook exclaims! Which is hard to take seriously when they are putting shitty keyboards on their laptops that render them useless... or just make them impossible to type on. As if you couldn't tell from my numerous posts on the topic, I am fucking livid that Apple has essentially flushed their MacBook line down the toilet thanks to their "butterfly keyboards" that nobody wants.
• Cheese! Is it just me... or does Apple's new $6000 MacPro look like a cheese grater? A pretty cheese grater, yes... but a fucking cheese grater...
Would I love to own one? Of course I would. But I just can't justify the absurd cost. Yes, Apple put a lot of work into making the thing worth the price tag, but it's all stuff that's not essential to what I do. Maybe if I start composing music with thousands of instruments or editing 6K video, I'll have a need, but this is just silly. At least it's a vastly more configurable and expandable "Pro" computer than the laughably shitty "trash can" machine they released last time.
• Display! The new Apple Pro Display XDR is an absolute steal at $5,000. I sincerely doubt that there is anything out there that can touch it at any price. But, then again, FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A COMPUTER DISPLAY!
• Catalina! Keeping up with their "Places of California" motif for naming their MacOS releases, we now get Catalina. That should make for some very pretty desktop backdrop photos!
• iTunes! At least Apple is self-aware enough to realize what a bloated pile of shit iTunes has become... and can even joke about it. Except... forgive me for not finding it funny that they are only just now addressing the problem when it's been a major hassle for years. And so now iTunes is dead and being replaced with Music... Podcasts... and TV...
That's all great and stuff... but until the server farm delivering my Apple-purchased media content is made much more stable, reliable, and actually worth a shit, it all means pretty much nothing to me.
• Sidecar! Use your iPad as a second screen? Yes please! That could come in SO handy sometimes when I just need a readout that's not covering up what I'm working on!
• Voice Control! At home, I am talking to my house (through Alexa) all the time. She controls absolutely everything, and I'm so accustomed to it that I don't even think about it any more. "Turn on the television!" and "Turn off the porch light!" and "Lock the door!" and "Show my the Catio Camera!" are just... natural(?)... to me now. But, for whatever reason, I just don't think of talking to my Mac. Maybe as it becomes more and more voice aware, that will change. From what they showed at the keynote, however, this could be a huge help to disabled persons who can't use keyboards or mice.
• Find My! Being able to find your devices, even when they are offline? Fantastic. This is the same concept of my "Tile" trackers that I have on my keys, in my backpack and in my wallet. It talks to nearby devices with extremely low power consumption so that you have a much better chance of finding your iPhone, MacBook, iPad, or whatever, that's gone missing.
• Locked! You can remotely lock/wipe your iPhone so that it becomes useless if stolen. There's no doubt in my mind that this is curbing theft of these devices. Why risk jail-time if you can't do anything with it? And now that technology is coming to the Mac, which is nice.
• Developers! Developers! Developers! The new Catalyst project that allows you to compile iPhone apps for the Mac... plus new advancements with their Swift programming language... plus continuing advancements in allowing easy integration of new technologies like AR (augmented reality)... Apple has (mostly) always made sure that developing for their products is as painless as possible, and it looks like they are serious about making sure that tradition continues. Good on you, Apple!
• Reality! And speaking of AR... the new "Reality Composer" sure looks interesting! It can automatically extract people so that rendered objects and move around them! Cool! And the Minecraft demo of how that works is pretty spectacular. This is the future of technology, and it's only a matter of time before we see it around our home... in our car windshields... and on our glasses...
Right now it's pretty much a technology demo... but you can see where it's all going. Eventually.
And that's the end of that, I guess. This keynote seemed a lot more "evolution" over "revolution," but there's some real winners in there that have me more optimistic than I was yesterday as to how much I want to be in bed with Apple any more. Given how pissed off I've been with them lately, that was no easy task. Having to wait until Fall to get at any of it is a bit of a bummer, but that's the way the Apple falls.
*Okay, I know practically nobody actually cares what I think, but that's probably the case for most subjects I blog about... why should this be any different?
Posted on Tuesday, October 1st, 2019
Look, I'm just going to say it... if you've got an iPhone X or XS, then the only reason to upgrade to the iPhone 11 Pro is for the camera update, which is significant. Everything else is hardly a revolutionary step up... and, in one case, Apple even takes a step backwards.
And so, I'll just run through everything quickly before getting to the camera, which is why we're all here isn't it?
Still $1000 for the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro. It's too much. But that's the price you pay for tech like this. I can barely fill up 2/3 of the smallest memory configuration, so 64GB is plenty for me. If you use tons of apps and store a bunch of movies and stuff in local memory then you'll want more... and pay more. There's the bigger iPhone 11 Pro Max, which wouldn't fit in my pocket (or my budget) so I took a pass. The good news is that my monthly payment in Apple's iPhone upgrade program is unchanged.
Make no mistake, this phone is gorgeous. The new frosted glass back has a nice matte feel (assuming you don't put it in a case) and the overall design is elegant, polished, and feels solid. I went for the new "Forest Green" color, because it's just so pretty. In most light, it looks more grey than green to me, but it picks up the light enough to give a hint of green that looks great. Alas, when paired with my Project (Red) case, the back is covered up, but you can still see a hint of the color in the camera cut-out. Maybe a clear case is a better way to go? But then you lose the matte glass, so I'm good.
There's all kinds of videos showing the durability of the iPhone 11 Pro. They are impressively tough. But since I'm on the iPhone Upgrade Program (the only way I can afford these things) and I have to return the phone in pristine condition, I can't risk it. I've got a screen protector and case on at all times.
Apparently I should get (on average) 4 hours more battery life over my old XS. I guess that's awesome, but I barely used much battery on my old phone. Maybe when I travel or use maps for driving, but I'm not going to complain about having more time with my iPhone before charging. And speaking of charging... you get a nice 18 watt charger to fill the battery faster, which is a big improvement over the tiny 5 watt charger we used to get. Alas, Apple is still married to its Lightning connector for charging, but the end of the cable which plugs into the power adapter is USB-C. Go figure. Most of the time I'm using wireless charging so it's not a big issue for me.
Still has the annoying notch at the top. That being said, the fidelity of the display is stunning. I mean, the old display was beautiful and all, but this is next level stuff. If you download a high quality movie at full resolution, you are in for a treat. The image simply does not fall apart and the color and brightness is phenomenal. Photos look as amazing as you'd think they would. Everything about the display is as good as it gets and worthy of Apple's flagship iPhone.
Apparently the iPhone is now rocking Dolby Atmos sound, which is cute when you consider it's still pumping it through two tiny little speakers. To be honest I can't tell much improvement, but I thought the old sound was pretty great for a phone already.
Here's the thing about 3D Touch. It's gone. Apple removed it. This is surprising from the standpoint that newer phones should have more features, not less. It's not surprising from the standpoint that Apple rarely promoted or took advantage of the feature. I've read on a few sites that removing 3D Touch helps contribute to better battery life. That (along with the newer, larger battery and more efficient A13 chip) is probably true. But I really, really miss it. I am slowly getting used to Apple's replacement... "Haptic Touch"... which is essentially just a long-pause as opposed to a harder pause... which isn't terrible. But it's not the same. At all.
And speaking of that new A13 chip... Apple claims it's up to 20% faster than the previous generation A12. I have no reason to doubt this, but I really don't notice it. My previous phone was plenty fast and day-to-day speed improvements (if they exist) don't really register for me. That being said, the speed boost is undoubtedly crucial to improvements behind the scenes, like the new camera's jaw-dropping abilities. And so... thanks, I guess.
It's not hyperbole to say that the camera in the iPhone 11 Pro is a quantum-leap improvement over the iPhone XS. It's a bit less of an improvement over the camera in the Google Pixel 3 (which I have limited experience with, but really liked) and the camera in the Samsung Galaxy S10 (which I got to use for three months and was underwhelmed with). Regardless, Apple's latest camera in the iPhone 11 Pro is (currently) unmatched. It's an artful symphony of hardware advancements and incredibly smart and clever software which pushes it ahead in (most) all areas. Which is where I'm at now.
While other cameras are pushing 16 megapixels (and higher!), Apple seems content to stick with 12 megapixels. This is understandable on many levels... primary of which is that they take less storage space. But it's also questionable if we really need more than 12 megapixels on a phone. It's plenty of resolution to print a fairly large hardcopy photo, and way more than enough resolution to look at on a phone screen. Where higher resolution comes in handy is when you want to crop into a photo. THEN it's kinda a big deal. And yet... ideally you'd just want a longer (telephoto) lens so I dunno. Would I like more? Sure. Do I need more? Probably not.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA LENSES
The iPhone 11 Pro has cameras lenses (not including selfie cam), as follows...
They're all good and have great optical quality. And, thanks to Apple's fantastic Camera App, you zoom between them without even realizing it. You just compose your shot and iPhone picks the correct camera/lens as you zoom in or out. The big news here is the Ultra Wide Angle Camera, which adds a lot of image area. So much area that I have to hold my camera in a new way because my fingers are in the frame if I hold it like I used to. Just look at this comparison... starting with the telephoto...
And here's the wide angle...
And here's the ultra-wide angle...
Granted, where you'll most likely be using the ultra-wide is not shooting things that are far away, it's shooting things closer to you...
In which case it's a very big deal...
Alas, the Ultra-Wide Angle doesn't have image stabilization and can't use Night Mode (see below), so there are some limitations there, but boy is it a handy thing to have. I find myself using it far more than I thought I would, and quickly realized how critical it is not just for travel, but for everyday use.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA NIGHT MODE
The iPhone 11 has decent apertures for its three cameras, which allow you to get pretty spectacular shots without any long exposure trickery...
The Ultra-Wide Camera is f/2.4 which is darn good and allows for gorgeous shots as well...
Color fidelity is epic...
There are limits of course. Once things get too dark, everything can be lost in the shadows. This is nice for artistic purposes, but not what we want most of the time...
So what happens when there's not enough light for a shot? Glad you asked!
Google's Pixel 3 had a revolutionary "Night Sight" feature which I was extremely jealous of. I was so jealous that I borrowed one from a friend so I could try it out for a day. My iPhone had decent low-light ability, but it was nothing like what I got from the Pixel 3. Night becomes day and it was an incredible thing. Apple being Apple, they've taken the ball and ran with it. iPhone 11 Pro has automatic "Night Mode" which kicks in without you having to do a thing. It's essentially a long exposure which is assisted by image stabilization and some nifty software processing. The results are pretty amazing.
Here's my back yard with Night Mode turned off...
And here it is with Night Mode on automatic which, of course, is activated given that it's pitch black out...
Now, before you think "hey, that's still pretty dark," keep in mind that this is what I got straight out of the camera. I can still go in and make adjustments...
This level of color fidelity and detail would be impossible with any iPhone prior to this one. It looks like early evening instead of the middle of the night! What's surprising is how often Night Mode gets applied. I thought shooting through a bright window in darkness would fail to trigger Night Mode because the subject in the center is illuminated, but it was triggered anyway...
Curious to know why I needed Night Mode for such a shot, I turned it off and shot again...
Welp, I guess that's why. I'm getting a much, much better shot with a longer exposure. This is Apple's remarkable "machine learning" at work. Diagnosing shots so you don't have to. I dare say that even the most amateur photographer is going to be able to get pretty amazing shots with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro thanks to Apple helping them out behind the scenes.
"Night Mode" is not magic, however. It's a long exposure. And while image stabilization and camera processing will help keep static scenes in focus, you're fresh out of luck if the subject is in motion. A long exposure of motion is just going to make a blur out of it all. And be careful... the telephoto lens does not support night mode. If you zoom in further than 1× the resulting photo will be shot with the standard wide angle camera and be digitally zoomed.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA APP
Apple's new camera app is pretty great. It's still got an "automatic" mode which will even out the lighting and correct the color tone... usually in a way that's better than what you have without it... but it's the new manual controls they've added to the list which makes the new app so compelling...
And of course all those tools are "live," so even if you don't know what they mean, you can still play around and see what they do. Sharpness and Noise Reduction have been a long time coming, and I'm particularly impressed with how well Sharpness works. It feels like it's more of an "Unsharp Mask," which provides superior results. The Noise Reduction, however, is pretty basic. It's more of a "LET'S BLUR OUT THE NOISE!" tool than anything else. Here's a shot with no noise reduction applied. It may be tough to see here, but there's quite a bit of noise in this image because I turned Night Mode off. You'll just have to trust me, as you will still see the blurry mess that Noise Reduction makes...
Here's 50% noise reduction...
Not bad, but you can see that edge definition is being lost. To see what's really happening you have to turn up Noise Reduction to 100% like this...
Is the noise gone? Sure! But your image is so blurry that even sharpening can't save it. Professional noise reduction tools you can purchase for Photoshop try to eliminate noise while leaving detail. They do a much better job than this, and they do it by not aggressively removing every speck of noise... but finding a way to figure out where noise can be reduced without rendering the image a blur. Since this is Apple's first attempt at the tool, I'm going to give them a pass here... because that they even tried is a good thing... but I sure hope they work on improving it for next time.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA VIDEO
I don't shoot a lot of video (which is probably why I can get away with the 64GB model phone), but what little I've shot with iPhone 11 Pro is pretty great. Especially using the Ultra-Wide camera. As if the new lens wasn't enough to make videographers start drooling, you can now edit video in ways you couldn't before... like actually being able to crop it. No idea why this took so long, but editing 4K video in realtime is no small feat, so I guess it was worth the wait. Especially since I can now make adjustments and apply filters in the editor... without having to wait for the results to render. That's pretty crazy.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA SELFIES
I don't do selfies much. But the new front-facing camera got an upgrade to 12 megapixels and does a better job of getting great-looking shots. The "big new feature" for the selfie-cam is the "slofie" which is a slow-motion video capture. Whee.
PHOTOGRAPHY: DEEP FUSION
Later this year, Apple will push out a camera update which includes "Deep Fusion," a technology which uses machine learning to assemble the best parts of multiple photos shot in rapid succession to pull out detail and color like never before, as demonstrated at Apple's keynote last month...
It's kinda a "smart HDR" technique which uses pixel shifting to enhance detail (I talk about HDR here). Naturally I can't wait to give it a shot. Or a hundred shots.
The iPhone 11 Pro is pretty much the iPhone I've been waiting for... and not for the phone part... it's for the camera part. No, it's not going to take the place of my DSLR camera, but it is so vastly improved for photography that I will likely be using my DSLR much less than I already do. This new model is just so incredibly capable of getting fantastic shots that I don't need to be lugging around a big heavy camera everywhere. And it has me wondering what iPhone 12 will bring to the table. Probably more incredible camera features that I can't live without. =sigh= I really would like to be able to skip a year of upgrading... but this was definitely not that year. I will likely be posting more photos as I explore the iPhone 11 Pro's capabilities more, so you've been warned.