Posted on Sunday, February 26th, 2017
Don't panic just yet, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• A Simple Difference. I love advertising that really makes you think, and this ad from Australia is absolutely brilliant in getting its point across. Before watching, it may be helpful to know that Aussies use BBQ sauce the way Americans use ketchup. And Aussie tomato sauce is much like ketchup except not...
For an equivalent American context, the guy telling his dad he likes tomato sauce is the equivalent to going to Chicago and telling the hotdog vendor that you want ketchup on your dog.
• Dyer for Govorner! Now THIS is transparency on a candidate website! Not really anybody's business but his, but I get why he's written it. I think most people would hemorrhage if they were to have this kind of insight into the people they've elected. Well, except for President Trump. Apparently he can do whatever the fuck he wants... no matter how heinous... and it doesn't matter to his supporters. Even though those same supporters have condemned the same activities in others.
• Dimensions Now that Disney Infinity has died, I am really, really hopeful that LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes will end up in LEGO Dimensions. The epicness of such a fusion would almost be too much for me to handle. Darth Vader driving the Batmobile? Spider-Man slinging through Adventure Time world? Catwoman meeting Black Panther? The possibilities... the possibilities...
Big fun awaits... if Disney will play ball.
• HeLa Can. Not. Wait. The book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was excellent. And while I've never liked Oprah as a talk show host, I've always loved her as an actor...
If you haven't read the book, it's worth a look.
• Ross! Be yourself. Unapologetically. Be like Ross and let the haters hate on... it's all they have...
Ross has got to be one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. Milo Yiannopoulos has got to be one of the biggest assholes on the planet. There is no contest here. None.
• ALARM! Why is the iPhone alarm system so shitty? Can't skip an alarm without turning it off. The alarm plays... FOREVER... instead of turning off after a few minutes. The snooze feature is absolute garbage because it's so inflexible. The list goes on and on. If you use your iPhone as a clock like I do, this is a daily frustration that drives me bonkers, especially on the weekends. Apple... you have BILLIONS of dollars. Why not take a fraction of that money and fix your shit?
And... aren't we all glad that's over?
Posted on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017
After I got to Vegas this past Sunday, my MacBook Pro with Retina Display (mid-2012 model) had the keyboard crap out. But only for the Y, U, I, and O keys.
It seemed an odd problem, so I started Google Researching It (or "Gggle Researchng" if you're typing on my keyboard) only to find that this is not a unique problem. In fact, there's an article entitled MacBook Pro Keys Suddenly Stopped Working (Y, U, I and O) which would seem to indicate that this is a serious and highly specific problem. Unfortunately, the "fix" that was given didn't work for me. Nor did any of the other fixes (which included continuously mashing the non-functioning keys down together). The keys might come back for a few minutes but, overall, they were dead as dead.
Now, granted, the laptop is five years old and used every single day... but, still, this kind of hardware flaw is a shitty way to kill off an otherwise perfectly good machine.
Which, despite being five years old, is still on-spec with Apple's current offering.
I'm not joking. My five-year-old laptop has a 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 chip with a 512GB solid-state drive. Here's Apple's specs for their BRAND NEW high-end laptop, released just days ago...
What a fucking joke.
Half the professional designers I know have moved on to Windows machines... specifically, the Microsoft Surface Pro... and I have to wonder if I'll be next. It's not like Apple gives a shit about their pro users anymore. They haven't released actual pro-level equipment for several years. The stuff they label as "pro" is, in fact, not.
Funny how the pro design market was Apple's to lose.
And they didn't just lose it... they actively gave it away.
Posted on Monday, April 3rd, 2017
My Blogography posting has been erratic this past week because my laptop had to be sent in for repairs. After five years, my MacBook Pro's keyboard would randomly refuse to type R, T, Y, U, I, and O. Eventually it went from "randomly" to "constantly," so... game over.
Rather than do a backup and restore, I decided to wipe the drive and start over from scratch. This is an easy thing to do since all my data and files are stored online (mostly on DropBox and iCloud). All I have to do is reinstall the apps I'm actually going to use and my data will magically transfer back to my local drive from The Cloud. The end.
Ain't technology grand?
Posted on Saturday, May 20th, 2017
In celebration of The LEGO Batman Movie being released on iTunes (a film I absolutely recommend you should see)... Apple put a bunch of movies on sale and gave their visuals a LEGO treatment.
I liked them so much that I wanted to be sure and save them to my blog in case I ever wanted to see them again...
A couple of these films could have been vastly pproved if they were LEGO creations... just sayin'.
Posted on Monday, May 22nd, 2017
This has not been a very good day.
Last weekend I thought I had a kidney stone, but the pain subsided and I counted my lucky stars that it was gone. Turns out it was a temporary reprieve. Last night I started having pain again, and it only got worse as the evening went on. By the time I woke up this morning, the pain was stabbing through my back so badly that it was hard to walk.
But I had to go in to work, so I took some pills, put on my tough-guy pants, then headed out the door.
Only to find that most of my irises, pretty as they are, had all collapsed under their own weight...
What a stupid flower. I guess bees still pollenate them when they're on the ground, because otherwise I'm guessing they would be extinct. I suppose if they are still alive when I'm feeling better, I'll have to tie them up like last year. Still, those plants that manage to stay upright are as pretty as ever...
I anticipated that work would be agony, but it actually managed to take my mind off of things... for a while.
By the time noon rolled around I was D-O-N-E.
And so I went back home, took more pills, then had to spend some quality time with Jenny, who was upset with me for leaving her today in the first place. I'm guessing that shedding her winter coat is an itchy process, because she wants to be scratched all the time... and will start crying if you don't comply...
Eventually I managed to disengage so I could go upstairs where I planned to die in bed. It was a good plan... until Jake decided it was his turn for attention. Or maybe he was playing nurse, it's hard to tell...
I streamed a couple episodes of West Wing off Netflix, then decided to listen to some music in the hopes I would fall asleep. But Apple's streaming services were shit, as usual, and I couldn't never get my music to load on my AppleTV...
I don't understand why Apple doesn't spend some of their billions of dollars solving a problem that none of their competitors seem to have. I can stream to AppleTV without problem every time I try from Netflix, HBO, Showtime, Starz, Amazon, Hulu, Youtube, and the like... but Apple's streaming rarely manages to work without some kind of issue. If I can get it to work at all. Maybe Apple needs to hire other people to develop their shit since they seem incapable of doing it themselves. When I pay for stuff in the iTunes Store, I expect to be able to have access to it.
Today the heat got up to 86 degrees here, but I never had to turn on the air conditioner... even though I noticed many of my neighbors had. I'm chalking that up to my having installed a ceiling fan in my bedroom, which worked so fantastic for me last year. Such an energy-saver. I wish I had the fixtures in place so I could put them in every room of my house.
And now? Time for more pills and sleep. Fingers crossed. Really hoping that everything works itself out soon, because I can't keep missing work with all the stuff I have to do there.
Much as my cats would probably hope otherwise.
Posted on Monday, June 5th, 2017
And so it's time once again to tune into the Apple World Wide Developer Conference keynote to find out what everybody's favorite fruit-based tech company has up their sleeves for second quarter 2017.
I have to admit, I no longer get ramped up for these Apple things like I used to. In the past, I would take a frickin' vacation day when the WWDC keynote was unspooling just so I could unpack all the Apple goodness that had been unleashed. I'd pour over every minute and blog epic breakdowns of everything that was announced.
Well, I'm still excited over Apple's stuff... they're an exciting company. But the way they keep screwing up has me less enthused than I once was. I bought into their HomeKit home automation tech, only to find out that it is a total load of crap. They keep making "pro" equipment that isn't for "pros." The reliability of their products is in the toilet, and the way they address their lack in quality is bullshit. Meanwhile Microsoft is killing it with their Surface line, easily picking up the pro design market that Apple is abandoning.
But I digress.
Rather than have to watch hours of keynote like I did, here's a 19 minute recap that tells you everything you need to know (assuming you haven't seen it already)...
And here are my reactions...
All in all... some nice upgrades in the OS and software departments, but more of the same bullshit for pro design users. A market Apple used to own, but is throwing away with gleeful abandon. Leaving me to wonder if my next computer will be running Windows. My license for Adobe's Creative Cloud Suite works for Mac or Windows, and they function the same on both systems. Food for thought.
Posted on Saturday, June 24th, 2017
Hope you're enjoying those lazy, hazy days of Summer, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Munneh! But, yes. By all means. Let’s invest our money in coal. Soon-to-be-obsolete coal that nobody is going to want when there are going to be far cheaper, cleaner, and more efficient ways to get our energy...
I mean, we could bring this technology to former coal towns and train the workers there for jobs that will actually matter. But, no. Because coal. Uh huh...
The sheer idiocy involved in killing off the American worker by our politicians is just astounding. We're not going to be competitive in the global job market, and we did it to ourselves by electing assholes who are more interested in fleecing taxpayers for the benefit of coal executives than creating jobs for ex coal miners.
• Kens! And so This happened: Mattel released 15 new variations of Ken Dolls... aka Mr. Barbie...
And no, your eyes are not deceiving you... there are Ken dolls with a man-bun now. I can't fathom the parent that would buy their daughter (or son, for that matter) a doll with a fucking man-bun on it, but since society is hell-bound anyway, here you go. As if that weren't enough, the Kens are available in three body types: Original, Slim, and Broad. Because heaven only knows we don't want to cause body identity issues in our children. Their dolls have hipster man-buns now, and that's enough fucking trauma for childhood.
• MMMMMMEAT! Clearly God wants everybody to be vegetarian, and this is His solution... OH, LOVELY: THE TICK THAT GIVES PEOPLE MEAT ALLERGIES IS SPREADING. From the tick's perspective, I'm guessing that people taste like chicken.
• White! "Being white in this country, I should just shoot myself." — Somebody please hand her a gun. Because this racist fucking waste of space shouldn't be raising kids... let alone be allowed to join society...
No matter how many times I see bigoted shit like this, I remain amazed. Not that assholes such as her exist... but that they feel so confident in their racist bullshit to act this way in public.
• Hope That Helps! Ben Palmer released video from one of his shows and it is everything you'd hope it to be...
Watching him troll on Facebooks is one of the reasons I am happy that Facebook exists.
• HomeShit! You know, I understand that companies can't release a winner every time. There are going to be some duds, even for the most inovative of them. I get that. Honestly I do. But Apple's HomeKit is such a festering pile of shit that I cannot fathom why in the hell they don't scrap it and start over or fix their stupid crap so it will actually function reliably. Thank heavens the only thing I was stupid enough to trust to Apple's failed system is my door locks. I wanted them on a completely separate system from the rest of my home automation for security reasons and, hey, it's Apple... right? What could go wrong?
I never dreamed the answer to that question would be everything. Apple should just do everybody a favor and kill off HomeKit instead of continuing to pretend that they give a flying fuck about home automation.
Dis be da end, everybuddy.
Posted on Friday, July 7th, 2017
Temperatures finally breached 100° this week, so the air conditioner had to be turned on. Darnit. Odds are it's going to stay on because the forecast is up there for the next ten days. Probably longer.
So much for tiny electricity bills.
Even though I set the temperature between 74° and 76° and use ceiling fans, it's a goodly chunk of money to keep everything in the house from melting.
Including the cats.
Back in 2015 when Apple released the latest and greatest 4th generation Apple TV, I purchased one to replace my aging 2nd generation unit (which I moved to the guest room). Despite the remote being shit, I was happy with the upgrade. At first. Eventually I found out that the unit had horrible problems streaming video from Apple. Other sources... Netflix, HBO, Showtime, YouTube, Hulu, you-name-it, were all working fine on Apple TV, it was just my iTunes Store purchases that were stuttering and crapping out... or not loading at all.
So when I ended up winning a second Apple TV from an incentive give-away, I just tossed it in the closet. My bedroom TV has Netflix built-in, so I figured I'd just wait until somebody came up with a hack to turn the Apple TV into a web server or something. Since it had problems streaming my rather large collection of Apple media, it just wasn't worth messing with.
Until Game of Thrones Season 7 was announced to be arriving.
My bedroom TV doesn't have an HBO app, so I decided to dig out the extra Apple TV so I can watch Thrones in bed as God intended.
But first I had to find the thing, because I had no idea what happened to it during the move. I've been searching off and on for weeks to no avail. And then this morning I finally found it.
My cats have been acting crazy, so I decided to start putting my iPhone charging cable in the tiny empty cupboard above my range hood and microwave where they couldn't get to it... and... voilà...
My "empty" cupboard contained an old phone book, a Hershey chocolate candle, and... my missing Apple TV. In all honesty, I do not remember putting it in there. I don't remember putting any of it there. I can't even think of why I'd have done it.
Probably so I wouldn't lose it?
Jenny helped me set it up...
And... ready for new Game of Thrones on the 16th!
Posted on Monday, July 17th, 2017
I love good marketing.
The problem is that so few companies manage it.
Apple happens to be a company that excels at good marketing. Like when they converted the banners in the iTunes Store to LEGO in celebration of The LEGO Batman Movie being released.
And now... the banners across the top of the "Movies" section of the iTunes Store were all movie titles constructed out of emojis! (in celebration of The Emoji Movie perhaps?) I copied all of them because I just couldn't stand the idea of such brilliance being lost. How many can you guess?
Even the "featured titles" were spelled out in emoji...
Posted on Sunday, September 10th, 2017
Wildfires and hurricanes got you down? Sorry to add to your troubles but another natural disaster has arrived, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Charitable! IF YOU HAVE A KIND HEART AND ARE ABLE TO DONATE TO FIRE/HURRICANE RELIEF... PLEASE VERIFY THAT THE CHARITY TO WHICH YOU ARE SENDING YOUR HARD-EARNED DOLLARS IS GOING TO MAKE GOOD USE OF IT. There are all too many charities which do not. A good place to start is to head to Charity Navigator, which reports on what charities do with their donations.
• Orville! The geek reviews for Seth MacFarlane's new sci-fi show The Orville were pretty bad. I decided to tune in anyway, just to see how awful it really was. Except... I actually ended up liking it. No, it's not Galaxy Quest like everybody expected... it's actually a faithful clone of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but with some funny moments scattered amongst the drama...
Actually, I'd argue it's superior to Next Generation, which I never really got into. My favorite part of the show is the helmsman and navigator (Scott Grimes and J. Lee) who have amazing buddy chemistry. Other characters are a bit glossed over, but the previews of upcoming episodes looks like they'll get their day. Is it a perfect show? No. It's a bit uneven and the pacing drags a bit in spots. But those are things that will improve in time as the writers, actors, and directors get everything figured out. The one thing they've nailed though is the special effects, which are pretty great. I've gone from zero expectations to high hopes over the course of just this one episode. May the rest of the season be worth my valuable time.
• Intermission! Of course, this was back when a candy bar was 5¢ and you could actually afford to GO to the lobby and buy a treat...
It just gets crazier as the video goes on. I remember some of this from the movie Grease where John Travolta has been stranded at the drive-in... branded a fool. What will they say Monday at school?
• Danger! Just when you think you've seen it all, Delta Airlines has to come along and prove you wrong...
Delta claims that the flight was never in any danger. Weather radar implies otherwise, but okay.
• Polydactyl! Speaking of hurricane Irma close calls... I was very happy to learn that all 54 cats at Hemingway House in Key West were sheltered and made it through the storm. I haven't been there in over five years, but the place sure made an impression on me...
Kind of a cool place to visit if you're ever in Key West.
• Orlando! As I type this, Irma is headed to Walt Disney World. Here's hoping Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Buzz Lightyear, and company all stay safe!
And that's a gale-force Bullet Sunday... over and out.
Posted on Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
Apple started off their September Event video with sweeping views of the brand new Apple Campus, otherwise known as "The Donut" or "The Spaceship" or "The Mothership." It is, of course, a structure of sublime beauty. Then, as The Beatles' All You Need is Love plays, we fly over to the equally sublime Steve Jobs Theater as attendees file in.
Then, in a moment that tore at my heart, the voice of my personal hero fills the theater that bears his name. And, just far a moment, it feels like he never left us. Then Tim Cook walks out with tribute to Jobs and the moment is gone. The Keynote begins.
I could have watched an entire keynote devoted to Apple's new headquarters but, alas, all we get is a fleeting look. Happily, Tim announced that there will be a visitor's center! I will, of course, be paying a visit one of these days. An Apple Whore's life isn't complete until you've made a pilgrimage to The Mother Ship...
Aerial drone footage by Matthew Roberts
Oh gag me. Apple doesn't call their major stores "stores" any more... they are "town squares." I mean, yeah... they are beautiful spaces where people can gather but, come on. These are monuments to retail, not the cities they reside in.
There is no doubt that Apple "town squares" are beautiful inside and out... architectural marvels that capture my imagination like no other stores can. And the plans they announced for Paris and Milan are borderline destination-worthy, which is remarkable. These are STORES!
APPLE WATCH 3
Apple finally cracked the smart-watch after a stream of other companies tried and failed. And their efforts paid off... they now have the #1 watch in the world. What's interesting is how Apple has changed this space. Their smartwatch is more of a lifestyle piece than a tech toy, and they continue to push into fitness and health in a way that makes their wares a compelling purchase.
The big announcement from this segment is that the new Apple Watch 3 now has a cellular radio, so it doesn't require a phone to access the internet. Dick Tracy has just become real, y'all. You can make/answer calls... send texts... even stream Apple Music... all without a phone. On my AT&T plan, this functionality costs an additional $10 a month. I guess that's a fair price... though I don't picture using $10 worth of data every month, as my iPhone will still get the lion's share of my usage.
I would love an Apple Watch 3. It's a magnificent piece of tech and, given my elevated heart rate, would probably be a benefit to my health. And yet... I have small wrists. Even the small Apple Watch is a massive clunker on me. What I want... what I really really want... is an thinner Apple Watch. I'd sacrifice some features (like the cellular radio) just to have something I can actually wear comfortably.
The price of admission for Series 3 with cellular is $399. Given that the watch is "darn close to magic," this seems like a bargain. Available September 22.
APPLE TV 4K HDR
I have many frustrations with Apple. One of the biggest is Apple TV. The remote is shit. The user interface is shit. Streaming my Apple purchases (when I can even get it to work) has quality that is shit. And if my Apple TV struggles to stream HD content now, what hope is there that a massive 4K stream is going to get through? What's so frustrating is that the Apple TV apps FOR EVERY OTHER STREAMING SERVICE is fantastic. I never have a problem with Netflix, ABC, NBC, CBS, YouTube, Showtime, HBO, Starz... ANY of them. Just my Apple iTunes purchases. How messed up is that?
Assuming I could actually get the Apple TV 4K HDR to stream shit (I have a 4K HDR television), it seems like a great device. Mainly because Apple will automatically upgrade your HD purchases to 4K HDR at no charge. If only they would come up with a better remote.
My every day phone is an iPhone 6. It's a little slow to initiate with the newer OS and apps, but it works perfectly fine, and I didn't feel the need to upgrade to an iPhone 7. Yeah... 3D touch is cool and the nicer camera (especially on the 7+) would be great... but it wasn't worth the cost. Even once my battery started cutting out at 10%.
But it's time to upgrade, and the iPhone 8 looks like a great choice. FINALLY stereo speakers (in both orientations!). The A11 Bionic chip would be a quantum leap from the A8 chip in my current phone. The camera looks incredible, but I'm disappointed that the dual-lens model with "portrait mode" is only available in the giant iPhone again. I don't want to lug around a giant phone. And while I'm not a big "augmented reality" fan yet, I have to say, the AR star map app they showed off is right up my alley. Needless to say, wireless charging is a much-coveted feature. No more plugging/unplugging a power cord... just slap it on a charging mat. Kind of odd that Apple took so long to get here when other companies have had wireless charging for a while. Available September 22.
Let me just start by saying ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS?!?? Boy, that's a lot of money for a phone. But is it worth it?
The bullet points...
I am not going to buy a new phone until I get back from Antarctica. Heaven only knows how I'd end up destroying the thing while on that trip. No, my new iPhone won't be coming until tax refund time next year. Whether I will end up spending $300 more for the iPhone X over the iPhone 8 is anybody's guess. I mean... ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A PHONE?!? But, then again, I've paid $300 for a pocket camera that's not as good as the camera in iPhone X, so that's something to take under consideration. In the end, I compare my iPhone to a mattress. With a mattress, it makes sense to buy the best one you can afford since a huge portion of your life is going to be spent sleeping on it. The iPhone is no different. It's easily the most-used piece technology I own. It's also the most valuable considering what I can do with it while not in front of a computer. Especially when traveling. Ideally, I'd like to spend no more than $400 on a phone. That seems a good price point to me, and what I'm comfortable forking over. But, given how important the iPhone has become in my life, I think I can get comfortable being uncomfortable.
As to how uncomfortable? Probably iPhone X uncomfortable. I mean, that camera...
Posted on Thursday, September 28th, 2017
Investing in a new Apple TV when I have such blind hatred for the previous iteration is probably incredibly stupid... but I have a huge chunk of movies and music purchased from the Apple ecosystem, so it's kind of a necessity to keep up. Especially now that Apple is offering free upgrades to 4K HDR video for all your previous movie purchases (when available, of course).
And... I suppose I should just run through the fine points rather than re-hash the broad strokes, since those are mostly the same.
Apple TV Box
Looks identical to the previous one. I'm sure there's probably quite a few differences under the hood, but I ain't opening it up to check.
Shitty Fucking Apple Remote
Still unbelievably fucking shitty. The touch-input area is just as stuttery and unresponsive as ever, making simple tasks like navigation frustrating... and complex tasks like keyboard input unbearable. I fucking HATE this piece of shit. The only difference between the new one and the previous one is that the "menu" button has an elevated white circle drawn around it.
Shitty Fucking User Interface
Still unbelievably fucking shitty. If you've purchased anything more than a dozen movies or TV shows, you'll go absolutely bat-shit crazy trying to navigate through pages upon pages upon pages upon pages upon pages of crap. Especially when you're forced to use the unbelievably fucking shitty remote.
The 4K picture is totally great. Remarkably, I've not yet gotten any of the streaming errors or throughput problems which plagued the previous Apple TV. Considering that there's probably a lot more data coming through the pipe for a 4K picture, this is truly shocking. My guess is that there's new compression tech that makes this possible... but only time will tell as to whether or not Apple's unbelievably fucking shitty media delivery will rear its ugly head.
I have an HDR-capable TV. My stereo receiver is HDR-capable. When I plug Apple TV directly into my TV, the Apple test-program says that HDR will be used. When I plug into my stereo receiver, however, the Apple test-program says that my television isn't HDR capable, and it will downgrade to regular color fidelity. And, of course, since this is Apple we're talking about, there's no way to just force the fucking thing to deliver the HDR signal that my receiver and TV are capable of. This kind of shit drives me
I put in my copy of Kingsman on 4K HDR Blu-Ray then started up Kingsman 4K HDR from Apple TV. Then I switched between them. Not even close. The 4K Blu-Ray picture is superior in every possible way. The color is better. The clarity is better. The contrast is better. Black levels are better. There's literally nothing that's not better on 4K Blu-Ray. The Apple TV 4K image has crisp details in fine items like hair and text... but mooshy areas of softness any time the color values are similar, particularly in bright spots. This is undoubtedly a function of the high compression, but I have no idea what's responsible for the other issues. The bright, almost washed-out haze that permeates every scene is just bad compared to cable or Blu-Ray. I don't recall the older Apple TV having this problem?
Seems on-par with what I got from the Blu-Ray. Rich, full sound.
Apple's pathetic attempt at Home Automation... which they call "HomeKit"... is pretty awful. I'm guessing a big part of why it's awful has to do with it being run through Apple TV. Sure it beats having to purchase a dedicated hub, but maybe with a dedicated hub it would have been worth a crap. When I swapped out the old Apple TV for the new Apple TV, it took several attempts to get HomeKit commands working... but at least they ended up working without my having to do any crazy setup revision or anything.
If you're dying for the best possible picture on your 4K HDR television, you'll have to keep buying 4K HDR Blu-Ray discs. Apple isn't even in the same ballpark. That being said, the picture quality is a step up from non-4K non-HDR Apple TV. So... until HDR 4K Blu-Rays drop to the same price as Apple TV digital purchases, you may still gain benefit from the latest and greatest Apple TV. The fact that Apple doesn't charge a premium for the higher quality is a nice bonus for anybody investing in the 4K HDR... but don't be fooled into thinking it'll be the same quality as the equivalent Blu-Ray.
Posted on Thursday, October 19th, 2017
I am so sick of Apple's stupid shit I could just vomit.
NONE of my movie purchases will play through iTunes right now. NONE of them. I pay Apple a shit-ton of money to be able to watch movies I bought, and I can't stream them... can't even download them. And this is far from the first time. AppleTV is even worse than iTunes. And while I'm sure that Apple will blame me like they always do when something goes wrong now-a-days, I can say that I am having zero problems watching media from Amazon, CBS, Netflix, NBC, ABC, HGTV, HBO, Showtime, Starz, and even YouTube. Nope... as usual... it's just Apple.
The company has BILLIONS of dollars. Why in the hell can't they fix their media server shit so it works most of the time?
Spending it all on their new giant donut headquarters I guess.
I cannot decide if Apple's fall from grace is more sad or pathetic. And, to be honest, I don't give a shit. Just let me watch the movies I've paid for.
Posted on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
Another year, another macOS X release. And it's called "High Sierra."
This new operating system is one of those infamous "under the hood" releases where there's few actual changes you'll notice (nothing like the "hundreds of new features" Apple unleashed with "Sierra" back in September, 2016). And, while these are always disappointing releases on the surface, there is definite gold to be found in upgrading. Maybe. Rather than review the release (plenty of more capable sites than mine will be doing that), I thought I'd just write down my thoughts and comments.
Away we go...
INSTALL ME, YOU FOOLS... Installation, which used to be a major event back in the day, has been pretty much automated by modern operating systems. Apple, in particular, has made strides to have their OS upgrades be as painless as possible. The worst part about it is the waiting (well, unless your install goes wrong, in which case the worst part is having to recover your computer... please back up first!). Depending on your internet connection speed, the download and install can take around 25 minutes (at my office on fiber with a Fusion Drive) or 45 (at home on cable with an SSD). Both times it was a piece of cake. Bravo, Apple.
EXPRESS YOURSELF... Apple added a bunch of "emoji" to High Sierra. Most of them are charming, but useless to me. Others I'll probably actually use. Like these...
Emoji are actually a big help when trying to convey the sentiment behind your words. Not that they can always avoid a confusing message... absolutely they can just make things harder to understand depending on how you use them... but society is always evolving, and perhaps this will help move non-verbal non-visual communication to a better space. Because something has to.
A BOLD NEW FILE SYSTEM... Arguably the most critical and vital Big New Thing about High Sierra is the switch from HFS+ to APFS. For the non-geek set among you, that's changing the way your Mac handles data on it's storage devices. Apple created their own new thang (Apple File System) instead of hanging on to the antiquated old thang they had been using (Hierarchical File System Plus). It is a much-improved way of handling data, according to Apple. And this time, that is not marketing hype. First of all, cloning files (which used to be slow... and even risky... with large files or a lot of files) is now almost instantaneous. To test, I duplicated a folder filled with 3.6 GB of photos. I barely had time to blink and it was done. Amazing. Really amazing. That alone makes High Sierra worth the price of admission (which is FREE, by the way). But let's not stop there...
Obviously, my experience with APFS is limited right now, but I like what I read about it. Time will tell whether it's a blessing or a curse.
TIME WON'T GIVE ME TIME... I was surprised to find that the date and time were not in my menu bar. Installing High Sierra turned them off, so I had to go into prefs to turn them back on.
SPOTLIGHT NOT SO SHINY... I fucking hate "Spotlight," which is Apple's whole-system search tool. The menu bar "Spotlight Search" is so shitty and incapable that I don't even use it. Instead I use an ACTUAL TOOL TO GET THE JOB DONE, namely "Alfred," an app that makes search act exactly as one would expect search to act. What's weird is that when you use Apple's search box in a Finder window, it's actually not bad. For some reason, they save the shittiness for hot-key menu-bar-enabled Spotlight, where you inevitably always end up scrolling down to "Show All In Finder" because the results are so fucking worthless. Spotlight can also launch apps and do other shit... including the new shit of tracking a flight for you... but ultimately it's a system that's long overdue for a complete overhaul to become a serious tool instead of a toy add-on. Maybe now that there's a Core Framework in place in High Sierra, developers will make Spotlight something worth looking at but, for now, I couldn't care less and don't use it unless Siri uses it to answer one of my questions.
SIRI? WHEREFORE ART THOU, SIRI?... Apple's automated assistant, Siri, sounds like an all new gal (or guy, if that's how you've preferenced it) thanks to an improved speech synthesizer. To me the improvement is noticeable but not revolutionary (Siri takes a back seat to Alexa's speech quality, in my humble opinion). I also think that Siri is grossly minimalistic when it comes to being a smart and friendly part of the macOS. For example? She's not HomeKit integrated. You can't tell Siri on your Mac to unlock the front door when your hooker arrives, you have to grab your iPhone and tell that Siri to do it. Why? This is some amateur hour bullshit (though that's what I've been saying about HomeKit since day one... talk about an AppleFAIL). Still, the number of things you can ask Siri to look up for you and do for you are not insignificant, and she seems to be getting more capable all the time (especially with your music). I just wish Siri felt as much a part of macOS operations as she does to iOS operations (though even that isn't as stupendous as it should be)... and stop being treated as a happy afterthought on the desktop. Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa are eating Apple's lunch here. Sink some of those billions of dollars into giving us the next-generation AI we can all love. And fear.
HEAVY METAL DREAMS, PART TWO... Apple's graphics display technology is divvied up into several pieces, all of which handle different parts of drawing out the information you see on your computer display. One of those display technologies is "Metal" which is (simplistically speaking) an application programming interface (API) which you can use to pass off intensive graphics chores to macOS for hardware-accelerated rendering. It's actually a very impressive technology which has been greatly improved in High Sierra with "Metal 2." The tech is pretty great at doing a lot of things well... so much so that Apple has actually taken things like drawing windows in the Finder and started passing them to Metal 2 to take care of. In addition, Apple has developed new stuff for Metal 2, like a virtual reality API, which should(?) make for some interesting new apps (though iOS is waaayyyy ahead of macOS in this area). I'm not sure exactly how compatible Metal 2 is with third-party graphic cards (none of my Apple stuff can even add a graphics card) but, if your card or Mac's internal graphics is compatible, you should see some display improvements... particularly with things like intense games written to take advantage of what Metal 2 has to offer... even over other technologies like OpenGL.
OH HOW I LOVE YOUR HIGH-EFFICIENCY CODEC... Computers today are vastly superior in capabilities to those ten years ago. Hell, even five years ago. I've been around personal computers since the beginning, so I know full well how far we've come... I've seen it happen. The one area that continues to surprise me is video. Back in the day you had to buy a Mac costing thousands, add a graphics card that cost thousands, then add a video board that cost thousands... just to be able to edit video. And even then it wasn't that great in ease of use, quality, or capabilities. Contrast and compare that with being able to capture and edit full-HD video on your frickin' smartphone with absolute ease today and you can see where I'm coming from. The problem is that, as photo and video quality gets better and better, you have to have more and more space to store it. High Sierra makes a quantum leap in addressing that problem. High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) are built into the OS now, and will give you much smaller file sizes at the same quality (or even give you better quality photo and video at the same size). The samples I've seen of still photos with HEIF are jaw-dropping. Fantastic quality at half (yes, HALF) the file size? Yes! Video files that are half-the size but don't look it? Sign me up! Except... not really. My iMac is relatively new, but doesn't have the ability to encode HEVC. You have to have a special hardware processor onboard which my Mac does not. Nor does my MacBook. All I can do is decode the new video formats. And, bummer of bummers, the video is a bit choppy when I look at it. Oh well. While it may not be something I can currently take advantage of, the pieces are in place for a very bright future when it comes to photos and videos on the Mac.
MACHINE LEARNING FOR FUN AND PROFIT... While actually kind of a hard mix of exciting and scary all in one, "machine learning" is a technology that's going to revolutionize our lives. Or doom all humanity to extinction. One of those two things. Apple is buying into the former by introducing the CoreML API, which allows complex data analysis and categorization. From that, it can extrapolate the data to make "intelligent guesses" as to how the data should be interpreted and acted upon. Or something like that. The end-result is smarter software (some of which is going to happen in ways we can't even dream of) and more capable tools. At least that's the goal. The one thing that Apple got right in their version of "machine learning" is that it's not an internet-enabled technology. It all happens on your Mac or iPhone out of privacy concerns. Time will tell how much use Apple or third-party developers get out of CoreML, but it certainly makes for some exciting future prospects.
GOING ON A SAFARI... I have mixed feelings about Apple's web browser, Safari. On one hand, it's blazingly fast... and even faster now in High Sierra (seriously, you'll notice!). On the other hand, it fucks up way too much. Take for instance Facebook. Holy shit... everybody is on facebook, so you'd think that Apple could get it right for that one particularly critical site. Nope. You get everything from input errors to zoom display errors and everything in-between. Now, admittedly, this may be Facebook's fault for the way they code their site... but should that matter? Apple's job is to make their browser display sites the way they need to be displayed and they are not doing that. That's entirely on Apple. New to Safari with High Sierra are features like "enhanced pop-up blocker" which is supposed to do a better job of blocking annoying windows that sites love to generate with ads and shit. Which would be great... if it actually worked. Try to make a reservation at Hilton.com and they still manage to have a fucking "Room Key" pop-up window appear behind your fucking browser window so when you've made your fucking reservation you have to close another fucking window that you didn't fucking want. Yeah, it's fucking Hilton's fucking fault... but fuck Apple anyway for getting my hopes up that they could stop this fucking bullshit. Apparently Apple has also made privacy improvements in the way websites can track you, which is nice I suppose, but I wanted the pop-up window-blocking they fucking promised me. I mean, holy fucking shit... macOS has to be told to generate a window, and you're telling me that there's no way to stop this shit?!? Get the fuck out of here.
TAKING NOTES... Notepad can now make tables. Wheeee. It can also pin notes to the top so that it doesn't get dropped in the newness list when you write/modify a different note. About damn time.
MAIL CALL! ARE YOU THERE MAIL?... If I had to pick one thing that makes me crazy about Apple, it's that they just don't seem to give a fuck about what the end user wants. THEY decide what you want... and how you'll use it. Nowhere is this more apparent than their email app, Apple Mail. It used to be that you were able to select the mail server to use for sending your email within the message itself. Now? You have to go into prefs and turn servers off and on. And even that doesn't always work, despite being a huge time-waster and a fucking horror show of an inconvenience. Sending attachments as "Windows Friendly Attachments" was an option for a while, but never fucking worked, so now it looks like Apple abandoned it (apparently you can command-line a way of not sending embedded attachments, but sometimes I want embedded attachments, so that's useless to me). The list goes on and on. Apple Mail is a steaming pile of shit that's almost impossible to use in a way that makes sense or is in any way capable. And yet... despite a dozen alternatives... it's the one that works best with the Mac, and so I am stuck with it. Needless to say, Apple doesn't give a flying fuck about professionals who need a capable email app, so Mail still gets fuck-all in High Sierra. I mean, yeah, it gets better compression of your email archives... and I think it's supposed to have better search or something... but things that matter? Nope. And don't hold your breath that it will ever fucking happen. That's Apple in a nutshell. For fuck's sake... I know you want to keep things simple, Apple, but at least give power-users a fucking option to have options in the prefs, otherwise you're never going to be taken seriously. Meanwhile over at Microsoft, Outlook is embarrassing the fuck out of pitiful Apple Mail in countless ways.
MESSING WITH MY PHOTOS... Apple used to produce a sweet piece of software called "Aperture." It was a wonderfully intuitive and capable photo editing tool that also maintained a photo library for you. No, it wasn't Photoshop but, for photographers, it was a powerful way to manage and improve your photos. But then Apple dumped it, leaving their thousands of dedicated users to switch to Adobe Lightroom or some other tool that wasn't Aperture. I was incensed at the time. I was so mad that I started seriously thinking about moving to Windows and giving up on Apple the way that Apple had given up on me. Cooler heads prevailed and I stuck around, but I'm still pretty pissed about it. Apple's replacement "Photos" was a meager cataloging tool that didn't impress me in the least. With High Sierra, Apple has finally added basic editing tools like the iOS version has... and even added some tools that iOS doesn't have yet. Like a "healing brush" which allows you to edit out unwanted bits of a photo and have it magically fill in. Like taking a beach shot and erasing those tiny people spoiling your beautiful image. Photos is much slower than Photoshop as you add more and more edits, but at least you can do it... and do it fairly well as long as you're not asking too much. Overall, it's nothing that's going to make me switch from Adobe LightRoom (and a pale, pathetic shadow of Aperture) but for the casual photographer that just wants to make their photos look pretty, these are some welcome additions.
THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY OTHER APPS THAN 64 BIT... Any of your apps still 32-bit? Well, unless they get upgraded to 64-bit apps, High Sierra is as far as you go, since 32-bit will be unsupported after this. If you're clutching some old app you love that's been discontinued, you may want to buy an extra Mac now that you can keep in perpetual High Sierra Land to run in.
And so... here we are. The end.
Well, at least we're at the end of all the things I want to comment on when it comes to High Sierra.
Ultimately, I don't know whether to recommend an immediate upgrade. Given that the showpiece of this macOS update is file system changes that are massive and incomplete, it may be worth it to wait a while. At least until Apple gets APFS working on Fusion drives. Your data... especially if you don't have a good backup strategy... is the most endangered thing about your Mac, and dicking around with the system which controls all that is dangerous territory. And it's an update you really don't have to take. At least not yet. Partly because there are no absolute must-have features that make the risk worth the reward... but mostly because the biggest benefits aren't even available to all Macs, only those with hardware new enough to take advantage of it. Heaven only knows I don't want to end my comments on High Sierra with a "meh," but that's pretty much where I am.
What's not so "meh" is what happens in future OS releases that build upon the under-the-hood technologies that Apple is banking on now. APFS? Metal 2? CoreML? HEVC and HEIF? All things that could have big, big payoffs in the years ahead.
Assuming Apple will still give a fuck about the Mac by then. The way things are going, they could just abandon it and go all iPhone/iPad all the time.
What a shame.
Posted on Thursday, December 21st, 2017
There was no way I was going to buy a new iPhone before heading to Antarctica... with my luck, I would have broke it, lost it, got it stolen, or dropped it down a glacier or something. I was going to wait until my tax refund came so I had the money to get an iPhone X but, thanks to Apple's new iPhone Upgrade Program which makes it a monthly cost instead of a one-time cost, I ordered one the day after I returned.
The short version? I love it. With some reservations.
The long version? Better strap yourself in...
I have three phones.
iPhone 6 (purchased October, 2014). My personal phone. It's usually sitting in my jacket pocket, as I mostly use it just for rare phone calls I get. Back in December of last year, I had a problem with my phone "blacking out" and took it to the Apple Store in Portland's Maine Mall. A guy there ran a diagnostic, said that processor-intensive apps can crash the phone or slow down if the battery is old or faulty like mine, and suggested that I set up an appointment to have it replaced. I declined and instead sent it in to iFixit for replacement in February (less cost, same quality repair). So everybody buying into the latest round of anti-Apple hysteria because they "slow down old phones" can just calm their tits. They do it to prevent exactly the problems I was having... and it's obviously not a secret if I was told about it from an Apple Store employee a year ago. With my new battery, the phone runs at full speed and I didn't have to buy a new phone because my iPhone 6 was too slow. I bought the X because I wanted the better cameras and other hardware features. That's it. The iPhone 6 still works perfectly fine.
iPhone 6S (received a little over a year ago). Provided by the company I consult for. This is the phone I use most of the time because it has a better camera than my iPhone 6... and it also has Apple's "3D Touch" technology, which I like. Never had the battery replaced and it runs as fast as it ever did. This phone is never left on a charger. I plug it in during the day at work and rarely is it charged to capacity. I heard this prolongs the battery. It seems to work. It is not being replaced because it is still a great phone and works perfectly well.
Galaxy S8 (received in June). A phone I receive for development which replaced my Galaxy S7. Despite the fact that I loathe the Android operating system, I was genuinely excited to get this model because of the "magical" Samsung Bixby virtual assistant. Touted to be a generation above Apple Siri and Google Assistant, I was enthusiastic about what that might mean. Except the phone didn't come with Bixby... I didn't get it until August... and it wasn't worth the wait because Bixby pretty much sucks. It sucks so bad that Samsung released an update which allows you to disable the stupid Bixby Button on their phones. The actual Galaxy S8 phone is pretty nice. It looks futuristic and cool and the beveled screen is beautiful. The camera is also quite good. Some critical design flaws (like the fingerprint sensor, which is right next to the camera lens on the back... WTF?) don't take away from the fact that this is a great phone. Or would be if not for it being tied to the Android OS. I don't care what people say... it is not just as good as iOS, there is a difference, and I am having none of it. Third party apps that are the same on both platforms feel like a lesser experience on Android, and it's a big enough difference that I would pick my three-year-old iPhone over this new Samsung any day. In fact, I actually do this... every day. The S8 phone usually sits in a drawer. I rarely use it unless I have to.
And so... enter the iPhone X.
Which will have to wait until tomorrow, because I still have some unpacking to do. I worry that if I don't act now my smelly suitcase might become sentient and destroys us all!
Posted on Friday, December 22nd, 2017
Yesterday I took a look at my current collection of phones. Today I'll take a look at Apple's latest and greatest... the iPhone X.
As I said yesterday, I love it. For the most part.
But there are times I have to ask myself if the $1000 price tag (or whatever the monthly charge is with my Apple Upgrade Plan, which is how I can afford to buy the thing) is worth it. My previous phone, an iPhone 6, did everything I needed and still works perfectly fine. The iPhone X is, naturally, faster at stuff... but so much of what I used it for is exactly the same. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp may load faster, but the game experience is exactly the same. Safari doesn't load pages much faster over what I had. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I just went into debt $1000+ so what am I getting for my money?
Funny you should ask, as I now examine the iPhone X piece by piece...
The iPhone X is a whopping ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. MINIMUM. This is absurdly expensive and, given the cost estimates I’ve seen for the actual parts and labor, a total cash grab by Apple because they know everybody will want one no matter what it cost. In all honesty, the $750 price tag of the Galaxy S8 seems much more reasonable for this phone, but that’s Apple for you. Many times while looking at my bank account I'll wish I had just gone for the iPhone 8, but the deed is done so I'm just embracing the horror.
Getting my new phone running was relatively painless. My iPhone 6 had iOS 11 on it, so I just had to hold it next to the new phone and (eventually) it gave up most of the info needed. Since FaceID is brand new, this adds another step, of course. You have to stare into the selfie (front) camera and rotate your head around so the X can map it out. Eventually your phone wants to download and install the latest iOS update (11.2 for me) at which time you have to enter your four-digit PIN code. Why they don’t use FaceID here is a mystery, but whatevs. After that your settings (right down to your home and lock screen background images) are grabbed from iCloud and your phone downloads all the apps you had on your previous phone. For some weird reason I had to set up my credit cards for Apple Pay twice, but this just involved entering my security codes and waiting for the bank to approve them, so not a big deal. After saying some sample phrases so Siri can understand me, I was ready to roll. Like I said... painless setup assuming you have an older phone running
I would have preferred to stick with the non-plus size phone that I already had... but the iPhone X isn’t that much bigger. Under a quarter inch top and bottom, which I can live with. The problem (if you can call it that) is that the screen real estate is larger so you can't really navigate one-handed with your thumb any more. I'm thinking of re-ordering how my apps are laid out to see if I can at least do my most common tasks one-handed, but adjusting to a new home screen layout is not something I'm looking forward to.
I am going to be brutally honest here... my Samsung Galaxy S8 kinda edges out the iPhone X when it comes to sheer looks. The S8 looks more what you’d think a mobile phone of the future would look like. The X looks like more of the same. That being said, the minimalism of the X probably pushes my aesthetics buttons a touch more than the S8. But barely. I love them both. If I have a gripe with Apple's design choices, having the camera lenses protrude out the back of the camera would be a big one. With a case on, no big deal... but still pretty tacky in the way it jacks up the clean lines and form factor of the phone. Why Apple hasn't made this a priority in their aesthetic is a mystery to me.
Make no mistake... the iPhone X is a fragile piece of tech. On my 6, I didn’t use a case, I applied corner bumpers and a screen protector. With my X I got a full-on Apple-branded silicone case and a screen protector because it’s got a lot of glass and feels far more fragile than my old phone. As an aside, I looked at a lot of cases and ultimately settled on the Apple Silicone Case, which is very nice. Beautifully constructed and branded... great to the touch... not slippery... an all around perfect choice if not for the absurd $40 price tag. Seriously, other similar cases are $15, which I would have gladly purchased if not for the ugly branding.
Considering that Apple is using the OLED panel that Samsung makes, it’s no surprise that the X looks as remarkable as the S8. Actually better, somehow. What *is* surprising is that Apple decided to notch out the screen at the top in order to maximize frontal screen real estate while still allowing for the camera and sensors the X needs. Honestly, I stopped noticing it after a couple days. Mostly. It is what it is and my brain has made peace with it.
Except... I still hate it...
Stylistically it looks crazy stupid and the way the status bar has to display around it is downright silly. And then there’s the fact that THERE’S A GIANT NOTCH THAT IS CUT OUT OF EVERYTHING YOU LOOK AT THAT'S FULL-SCREEN, FROM PHOTOS TO MOVIES TO GAMES. The thing is so bizarre that even Apple seems unsure what to do with it half the time. Older apps ignore it and center their screen from top and bottom, which is actually preferable to having to look at the notch, in my humble opinion. Seriously, I would have rather had a black bar at the top and a phone that was an eighth-inch taller than this absurdly bastardized compromise. The end.
The iPhone X has darn good sound... bordering on amazing sound... and is loud. As in room-filling loud at only 2/3 full volume. Which is good, because the quality of sound diminishes pretty fast when you go past 2/3 full volume. Still... I have to admire just how much care Apple put into the acoustics to have iPhone X be this good. I have tested it out by having a wide variety of music playing next to me while I work and am always impressed. Crisp notes in the highs and thumping bass in the lows. As an improvement over my iPhone 6, the X has stereo speakers in landscape orientation (one in the bottom and one in the earpiece). This isn't a heck of a lot of separation, but you actually do get surprisingly good stereo out of the thing. There are times that the sound transcends what should be possible in such a small device... especially when watching movies with good spatial sound. All isn't perfect, however. While listening to the achingly beautiful Some Kind of Love by The Killers, for example, there are parts where the sound becomes so distorted (even at half-volume) that it's hard to listen to. Not sure why certain sounds are so difficult for iPhone X to render when it's so great so often, but it's an issue that pops up often enough to be a problem.
I pull out my phone and swipe up to activate it. FaceID is so quick that I forget it’s even happening while I’m doing it. This is a far cry from TouchID where you can’t help but notice that you’re jockeying your thumb on the home button to get a read on it (or, if you’re using a Galaxy S8, you’re sliding your finger all over the camera lens on the back trying to get a read on its inexplicably-placed back fingerprint scanner that’s right next door). I didn’t know how I’d feel about FaceID, but I absolutely love it and don’t think I could go back to anything else. It even works in the dark somehow. Yes, there are a few times I've had to move the phone a bit (usually while laying in bed) and if my glasses are off it can have some trouble, but the fact that the tech works as remarkably well as it does the majority of the time is a true testament to Apple's innovation here. The fact that you get Animojis out of the deal is just a bonus...
Yeah. Something tells me that Animoji will get really old really quickly.
The wireless charging is great. Except... the chargers I found that work with the iPhone’s quick-charge are pretty crappy so far (including the Belkin I bought, which is $50!). And Apple really shit the bed here by using only 7.5W instead of the 15W that Qi standard allows, which means it takes forever to charge your phone completely. WHY?!?? And apparently Apple decided not to use two-way communication, so your phone can’t tell the charger when its full. WHY?!?? If you’re really in a hurry to charge your phone, plugging it into a powerful 30W charger (not included) is obviously the way to go. Assuming you want to spend the money for it. My iPhone 6S still has a good battery because I was careful to never leave it plugged in all the time. Wireless charging seems to invite this since you have to leave it on the thing overnight, so I dunno if it's actually a benefit. Depends on how much it costs to replace the battery at iFixit, I suppose.
That being said... the battery seems good on my iPhone X. After the initial charge, I didn't charge it again for two days. Granted I am not on it all day long... but there were some pretty intense periods of use for games and such, so it's still pretty impressive. At least it is for how I use my phone. But how long will it last? That's a good question. Battery longevity is a problem that manufacturers like Apple seem to like (since most people will just buy a new phone instead of replace the battery like I do) so it's probably not a priority.
Okay... here’s ultimately the real reason I paid the premium price for the iPhone X instead of going with the iPhone 8. I wanted the spectacular dual-lens camera that comes in the 8+ but didn’t want to buy a purse to carry that massive phone in. With the X, you get the 8+ camera at the 8 size phone, and that was worth the $300 to me. Heck, $300 is what it would take to buy a decent pocket camera, so going X is just one less thing to carry around. And the camera is indeed great. A nice improvement over my Samsung Galaxy S8, which is already a pretty amazing camera. The colors are richer and less washed out. The sharpness is mind-bogglingly good. The low-light abilities are equally great. It’s the total camera package and I love love love it. If, for no other reason, that I get great cat photos from it...
I'm torn on "Portrait Mode." This feature simulates an aperture for depth of field control without actually having a variable aperture. From what I can understand, it uses both cameras at the same time to try and figure out what parts of the image are closest to the camera so it can blur out the background artificially. Sometimes it works pretty great. Other times my main subject has weird blurry edges. Other times background blur is really bad quality with heavy, artificial halos, like my feet in this shot...
I prefer to turn off "Portrait Mode" and just let the camera's built-in aperture play the cards you're dealt. Still, overall a superb camera... and the video capabilities are world-class... you could film a movie with this thing! I'm guessing you'll get more than a few shots that will surprise people when you tell them they were taken with a frickin' phone. I mean, come on... look how sharp Jake's fur is in that shot! And that's reduced-resolution to fit my blog! I plan to write more about iPhone X photography in a future entry, so stay tuned.
Interesting to note that the iPhone X has an extra row of app icons compared to what my old iPhone 6 allowed. Very nice to have four more apps handy on the first home screen. As I mentioned previously, however, you can't reach all of them with your thumb one-handed... even if you've got long fingers like I do.
In lieu of the missing home button, Apple has replaced physical function with swipe gestures. Some of them work. Swiping up to get to the home screen... fine. Swiping up and pausing to get to the app switcher... fine. Swiping right across the bottom for previously-used apps... great. But swiping down from the top-right corner to get to the Control Panels? Awful. No way to do that one-handed. In order to reach it one-handed, you have to use Apple's "reachability" feature which used to be a simple double tap on the home button... but now is almost impossible with a swipe down on a tiny portion at the bottom of the screen (assuming you've enabled it in preferences). For heaven's sake, provide a sane alternative to get to the Control Panels screen... like swiping left past the "Widgets" screen... or even providing an icon... SOMETHING! The Control Panels screen is something I use constantly. To make it so absurdly difficult to access after it was so easy before-hand is a big detriment to iPhone X.
Compared to my iPhone 6 and 6S, the X is monumentally faster (as you would expect). Compared to my Galaxy S8, the X is (surprisingly) quite a bit faster as well. Using the same apps side-by-side on both phones it’s noticeably faster on the X, which surprises me. I guess all the hype Apple made over their "A11 Bionic Chip" is justified. The iOS interface is so flawlessly buttery smooth and glitch-free as to be remarkable in itself. Action games are beyond good, and well-developed newer games on iPhone X rival dedicated consoles for speed and quality (seriously, install an app like Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade and prepare to be blown away)...
I'm sure there will be a slew of new games optimized for the A11 Bionic, which means it's a great time to be an iPhone gamer.
Here’s where Apple bites it... and bites it hard. Samsung has implemented Gigabit LTE tech in their phones whereas Apple has been sitting on their hands. You don’t notice it much where I live here in Redneckistan... but in larger cities with optimized LTE networks, you do. I noticed it when traveling with both of my phones and always chalked it up to my newer Samsung phones having a faster chip-set than my much older iPhone 6S. Turns out that was only part of the game, and Apple has a lot of catching up to do. I hope they are adequately embarrassed for falling so far behind the competition. Rather than rehash this puzzling failure by Apple, here's a link to read if you're interested in this kind of stuff.
When Apple debuted the iPhone X, a big chunk of the keynote presentation was devoted to Augmented Reality, and it's clear Apple has big plans for the iPhone to be a major player in the field. Not that you'd know it from some of the shitty apps that are available right now. I downloaded two games, both of which were crap. They force you to watch ads for other games to play and weren't the least bit entertaining, so I deleted them immediately...
I also bought The Machines which was the AR gaming app that Apple demoed during the keynote. It's a far superior game to most of the dreck out there, but not quite "there" yet. Not that it's bad or unplayable... it just feels very first-generation where everything but the kitchen sink was crammed in to be used as a demo showcase. Or maybe I'm just old. Either way, it's very promising and I am definitely excited to see where AR gaming ends up in the future.
Assumably, Apple's AR-Kit development tools will eventually lead to some amazing things outside of gaming (I know IKEA has an AR app in development that allows you to place their furniture in your home, for example), but right now it's just games and gimicky crap.
Oh yeah... this thing is a phone too! Signal strength seems on-par with my iPhone 6. Call quality is mostly dependent on your carrier, but I'm not hearing any radical improvement over what I had (except when used as a speaker phone, in which case the X trounces my older iPhone).
So far as phones go, my opinion is that there isn't anything to touch the iPhone X. It's powerful, functional, has Apple's refined iOS behind it, and is filled with mind-bogglingly great features highlighting its display, sound, and cameras. My Samsung Galaxy S8 (running Android OS, which I loathe) may seem a bit more futuristic when it comes to design, but is otherwise lacking in comparison... though probably not in any way that's going to convince Android-loving mobile users to switch. I am not 100% convinced that the X is the right upgrade for everybody... the iPhone 8's more rational price point and equatable power/features are more compelling when you consider it's $300 cheaper... but the X is most definitely not a bad choice if you are willing to invest the cash (or simply must have the latest and greatest iPhone available).
My wishlist for future iPhones doesn't have so much to do with the hardware, but the OS choices that run it. If forced to come up with something, however, I'd have to chime in and say that a headphone jack was a stupid thing to axe. I know it takes up space, but it seems ridiculous that a company as tech-savvy and innovative as Apple can't come up with a way to keep it. Odds are that they could... they just didn't want to. That, more than any other example I could come up with, summarizes the joy and hurt of Apple's "We Know Best" philosophy. And yet... in many ways its served them well (as the billions upon billions they make from iPhone profits will testify) even though that makes them a bad fit for some consumers. I've come to embrace it even though I don't always like it.
In the end I'm very happy with my iPhone X even if I'm not happy about what I had to pay for it. At least until the iPhone XI is released, I'm sure.