2022 may be feeling even worse than 2021, but I'm still spitting out those bullets... because an all new 2021 RETROSPECTIVE Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Pizza! As anybody who's been reading Blogography for any amount of time knows, I've been searching for a decent frozen pizza for decades. And in 2021 I've finally found one. It's Red Baron Fully Loaded Five Cheese Pizza!
The sauce it great. The crust is amazing. The amount of cheese is a little excessive, but perfectly acceptable. Put it all together and it's the best frozen pizza I've ever had. With a caveat! As good as it tastes fresh out of the oven, it tastes horrible once it's gone cold. And reheating it in the microwave or oven does not bring it back. I've been sawing them in half and cooking only half and a time so I can eat the remainder at its best as well.
• Potato! As somebody who loves fries, I usually end up making them from scratch out of freshly-cut potatoes that I soak, pre-cook, freeze, then fry to get the best tasting ones I can get. But that's a horrible amount of work. So whenever I see a new frozen fries product, I give it a try. Usually I spray them with oil then put them in the rotisserie basket of my air fryer and they turn out okay. But in 2021 I discovered "McCains Quick Cook Fries." And they are a world different from anything else on the market...
The secret of the reason they cook "quick" with no flipping is that they are coated in oil. This is not a new trick. Ore-Ida did this years ago. But, for whatever reason, McCain's fries taste far better. Even though they do lie about the timing. Even when I preheat my oven, it takes closer to 20 minutes than the 13 minutes they advertise to get perfectly-cooked fries. Usually I don't bother to preheat. I just put them in and set the timer for 25 minutes. Bliss. Their crinkle-cut fries are so good that I'd rather have them that restaurant fries. Possibly even more than my own hand-cut fries! A half-bag is the perfect serving size for me and I anticipate eating a lot of these things in 2022.
• Sustained! I have been really trying to minimize waste more in 2021, recycling whatever I can and eliminating disposable plastics from my life. It's the least I can do, even though it's a ridiculously small dent in the amount of pollution produced (corporations are vastly more responsible than individuals, but convince people it's not their fault). One of the bigger steps I took was to stop buying Saran Wrap (plastic wrap). I used to go through a couple boxes every year, but the one I bought back in March will hopefully be my last. I've also greatly reduced the number of plastic bags I've been buying. My favorite replacement is "BioBag" products which decompose quite quickly in a landfill. They're expensive as hell though, so I've also brought "brown paper bag" sandwich bags for regular use...
They work great! But I also buy Reynolds wax paper bags for things that get sloppy (like the veggie burger with extra mayo I eat on my morning commute!). Or when I'm out of brown bags (like I am now). They have little stickers to keep them closed, which probably makes them bad for the environment, but they are fun to pack for lunch....
Wax paper doesn't biodegrade like raw paper (or BioBags), but it does biodegrade better than plastic. And uses more natural materials, so I'm chalking that up as a win (even though I'm trying to use them less and less since biodegradable bags are better). The best solution seems to be using glass containers with plastic lids which you can wash and reuse for years, so I've bought more Pyrex as well. Maybe one day they will come up with lids that aren't plastic but, in the meanwhile, they have lasted me over a decade so far, which is far less than if I were using plastic bags.
• Apples to Apples to Apples! This past year was a tough year for me financially because Apple ended up getting so much of my money. But boy was it money well-spent! My new iMac M1 is a (relatively) inexpensive Mac that flies through even my most demanding work. Despite it being on the low-end of the spectrum, it's the best desktop Mac I've ever owned. Then I traded in for the iPhone Pro Max 13, which is the best phone I've ever owned (and the heaviest). Then I traded in for the MacBook Pro M1 Max. Legit the best computer I've ever owned. And my favorite. Not even a contest...
It is ridiculously fast and powerful, has incredible battery life, and is an absolute joy to work with. THIS is the kind of "pro" computer Apple should have been making for the past decade instead of the form-over-function bullshit they were married to. The weird thing is that this MacBook is still really beautiful despite being constructed for function over form. Yet "curviness" was more important than power to Apple for a decade, so that was what we got. Blergh. Hopefully they won't slide back to old habits. The wild acclaim for this computer by pundits and customers alike should tell them they are finally on the right track.
• Travel-less! It has been genuinely strange going from dozens of trips each year to zero in 2020 and one in 2021. Unless some miracle cure arrives which eradicates COVID from the face of the earth, I'm expecting the same for 2022. Because right now I have no plans to go anywhere. But still, that one trip I did take during Delta but pre-Omicron reminded me of what "normal" is like. Even though I was masked most of the time...
So maybe after they announce a fourth booster I will make a trip just to remember what "normal" used to be like? If I do, it will probably be a trip to San Francisco because that's where my tattoo artist is, and I've been wanting new ink for years now. Fingers crossed.
• Kitty! Once again the thing that saved me in 2021 were my cats. Even at times when I was at my lowest and didn't care about myself, I always cared about them. In 2021 Jenny learned to manipulate me better than in previous years, coming up with an entire menu of meows and behaviors to get what she wants. Jake and I have conversations now. He meows (or tries to) and I meow back. Then we go back and forth for a while. I have no idea what I'm saying, but it must be interesting enough to him that he feels a need to respond!
• Betty! I'm still crushed. I've been avoiding social media and the news so I'm not seeing news about her death over and over. What a shitty end to a shitty year.
• Boosted! I've had people sneer at me for getting boosted, saying that the COVID vaccine obviously doesn't work if you need to get a booster... "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? GET BOOSTER SHOTS FOREVER??" And the answer is yes. Fuck yes. Because there are mountains of data showing that staying current with vaccinations vastly reduces incidents of serious illness, hospitalization, and death. MOUNTAINS OF DATA! So give me all the shots. This is no different than getting a flu shot every year. Except COVID mutates so fast and the vaccine is so new that we may end up getting two boosters a year instead of one. As the science gets better, the boosters will get better. Eventually we may even have the option for a combo flu/COVID booster, and I will take that shot. 1000% I will take it. I have faith in the science which has given us so much. There's a learning process which goes along with scientific research, and I am happy to be a part of it. I have cats to take care of, after all.
So... yeah. Not a lot else happened in 2021, so I guess that's it. Pizza, fries, sandwich bags, Apple stuff, one trip, cats, the passing of a legend, and COVID. Not a banner year, to be sure.
Everybody has been releasing their "Apple Report Card" for 2021, so I thought I'd do the same.
In the entire existence of the Macintosh personal computer, I've never had such a fantastic double-whammy as the iMac M1 and MacBook Pro M1 MAX. There's always been something keeping one or the other from greatness in the same timeframe. Then came 2021. First I got an iMac and was completely blown away by what a great low-end computer it was. Thanks to the M1 chip, it didn't feel low-end at all. Then came the MacBook Pro refresh. After far too long of getting shitty laptops that were overpriced, underpowered, and kept losing features which made them anything but "Pro," Apple finally... FINALLY... gave us a laptop that was actually designed for professionals. All we need now is a Pro desktop machine, and I'll be a happy camper.
The change from 12 Pro to 13 Pro was fairly subtle. The most noticeable thing about the latest model to me was the 3× telephoto lens and incredible battery life. But still... an excellent phone that deserves an A rating.
The current iPad offerings are very good. But we're still missing one that's of a large enough size to be truly useable by artists as a graphics tablet replacement. So Samsung has stepped up and created an Android tablet that actually is large enough to be a Wacom Tablet killer... and it's been so popular that Samsung literally had to shut down pre-orders. Apple completely missed the window by once again ignoring what users need, and will be playing catch-up in a market they could have so easily owned had they not been so absurdly myopic. It's fucking embarrassing. And has me seriously wanting to take a look at the Samsung tablet... assuming they can ever catch up with demand enough that I can take a look. Pathetic and sad.
Apple Watch is a wonderful product that I never thought would be as useful as it's turned out to be. But it's stagnating. Apple makes minor cosmetic changes and acts like they've revolutionized smart watches. And it's really kind of hilarious... in a bad way. Apple needs to take a serious step back and figure out ways of pushing the WatchOS platform forward in new and interesting ways. Otherwise they're just going to be overtaken by other more affordable alternatives which can do the same thing for less money. That ain't good.
The AppleTV interface is horrendously bad AND APPLE WON'T FUCKING FIX IT! It's just mind-boggling how Apple has BILLIONS OF DOLLARS and can't bother to improve their shitty, antiquated fucking TV OS when companies with a tiny fraction of their resources (like Plex) have a far more useable interface. At least Apple is finally addressing their shitty fucking hardware by getting rid of their phenomenally bad remote and replacing it with one that's... slightly better (but still bad). And don't get me started on the MacOS TV app, which somehow manages to be even worse that the TV OS version! This department needs an entire overhaul from top to bottom with a new team of fresh eyes who aren't interested in rehashing the same old crap we've been stuck with since Day One.
Apple actually has very good services... it's just that they're horribly overpriced. And they're bundled in ways that are fairly useless for my needs.
HOMEKIT HOMESHIT: D-
Jesus. I simply don't understand how Apple keeps fumbling their smart home offering this badly. "HomeKit" is abhorrently bad and it's not improving nearly fast enough. Amazon and Google have not only eaten Apple's lunch, they've gone on to eat Apple's breakfast, dinner, snack, and dessert. It's not that I dislike HomeKit... it's that I detest it because it's total garbage. I am hopeful that Apple's alliance with Amazon, Google, and others on a new "universal standard" will be the shot in the ass that Apple needs to actually make something worth a shit.
HARDWARE QUALITY: A
My iMac, MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad are all built really well and perform beautifully. Well worth the money I've paid for them, which hasn't always been true of Apple products.
SOFTWARE QUALITY: D
Where do I even start? From MacOS stagnating to positively embarrassing depths to their basic apps lacking fundamental features that regularly have them being eclipsed by small third-party developers... software quality is just atrocious at Apple. They either need to get off their asses, invest some serious time and money, stop coasting on mediocrity, and listen to their users... or start buying out developers who have their shit together. Because I am sick and fucking tired of Apple being complete cock-ups when it come to their software. Even worse? Things that Apple did well at one time get diminished or outright cut (even simple things like being able to choose which SMTP server to use in Mail are just... gone). What a way to sabotage their stellar hardware.
Do not go gentle into that good night... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• LEGEND! To say that Roy Kent is my favorite television character of all time is kinda underselling it. And to them get him to do something like THIS?!?
• Well, Fuck! Doesn't it just figure? After decades of finally trying to find the perfect frozen pizza, I actually DO, only to have Red Baron fucking change it...
The cheese, which used to be creamy and gooey has been cut bigger and now tastes chewy... like I have a mouth of pencil erasers. The crust looks the same, but it doesn't cook up light a airy like bread... it's more pasty and dense. This could be because the cheese and sauce has changed... but it really doesn't seem the same. And it's like... WHY?!? Why change something that's actually good? Oh well. I was eating way too much pizza anyway (I was buying six at a time)... so that problem is solved.
• Marple! Ever since not being able to go to the theater to see the remake of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, I've been obsessing over other Agatha Christie adaptations. And I think that I've found the book which has been adapted the most... A Caribbean Mystery. This evening I started with the 1983 Helen Hayes movie, which is my favorite. Then tomorrow I'll finish up with the BBC/ITV versions from 1989 and 2013...
The BBC version with Joan Hickson is likely the most faithful version... but I'm just such a huge Helen Hayes fan that it's difficult for me to see past it.
• MIWANDA! Dead. Legit dead. If you've seen Sex and the City: And Just Like That... this is one of the funniest things you'll see (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@zzzachariah Justice for silly Steve 🤪 #satc #sexandthecity #ajlt #andjustlikethat #mirandahobbes #stevebrady #carriebradshaw ♬ Sad Emotional Piano - DS Productions
Steve was thoroughly trashed by the sequel series, and this puts a cherry on it.
• Threat! For whatever reason, I have been getting a shocking number of viruses attempting to take over my computer these past few weeks. Four appeared just yesterday...
There was a day that Mac users didn't have to worry so much about viruses, but now? Yeah. If you're a Mac user, I would install some kind of virus protection sooner rather than later. I went with BitDefender because I got a deal on it, but anything you find is bound to be better than nothing.
• EmmyEmm! I find it fucking hilarious when dipshit ass-clowns like Rudy Giuliani dare to talk shit about anybody. They just don't have the brains to do it without getting fucking roasted in the rebuttal...
Gotta hand it to the writers at The Late Show, this parody of Eminem is funny as hell. Not that it was very difficult for them to come up with something... Giuliani is basically a parody of himself.
• Peace, Mutherfucker! The season finale of Peacemaker was sublime. Absolutely perfect. Thanks to James Gunn for such a terrific show... but especially for Vigilante, who is easily one of my favorite characters now. Freddie Stroma was inspired casting! And then there's Adebayo. Holy crap did she get an amazing character arc in this series! "I was made for this shit!" is right! Cannot wait for Season 02.
Until next Sunday, true believers...
AND LO DID TIM COOK DESCEND FROM THE HEAVENS TO BESTOW UPON THE WORLD NEW APPLE PRODUCTS, AND IT WAS GOOD!
Or not. I haven't quite decided. But there was indeed an Apple Event™ today, and Tim Cook did indeed drop a bunch of stuff on an undeserving world. As usual, I just can't seem to shut my mouth about it, so here we go. If you want to watch the actual Apple Event™ before reading my commentary (or watch as you read) then here you go...
Some of the forthcoming movies and shows look interesting to me. The addition of Friday Night Baseball is an intriguing idea, but the only way I would want to watch it would be if they're showing a Red Sox game, so who knows how useful this will be to me. I'm not quite understanding where Apple is going with all this. Television series (like my beloved Ted Lasso) and movies (like the wonderful CODA) make sense. But baseball? I don't get it. This is not a big missing piece that is filling a hole in Apple's lineup to attract subscribers.
Whoop-dee-doo. A new green shade for iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. It kinda makes me upset that A) Apple adds colors after you've already bought the latest model... and B) the Pro models always get "sophisticated" (i.e. boring) colors. Let me know what I can have when a product is released. And, for the love of God, give the Pro users cool bright colors like the non-Pro models get. I want my (PRODUCT)RED iPhone Pro, dammit.
iPhone 13 SE
This is the "budget" model iPhone that's not exactly "budget." But it is a more affordable option for people wanting a newer, faster iPhone with a better camera and 5G. What's surprising is that the SE is actually more bang for your buck than what you get with a standard model iPhone 13. Because with the exception of FaceID (which I love) this is a pretty sweet feature-packed mobile phone for $430.
iPad Air 2022
Yada yada yada... better, faster, stronger than the last model. This means nothing to me, because what I want is a 17-inch iPad Pro. That's all I want. Until they offer one that's sized for graphic artists, there's no need for me to upgrade from my iPad Pro 12.9-inch model. But for somebody wanting an iPad that slays? This is for you. This is the model I would have bought for my mom. In purple. At $600 it ain't cheap, but there's a lot of bang for your buck in that price tag. Inexplicably, by adding the M1 chip, Apple pushes this into "Pro" territory, which makes me wonder why they have "Pro" models at all. Unless there's new "Pro" models around the corner which will leapfrog this new Air? M2 perhaps?
And here we go. Pro users want to upgrade their machines faster than the average iMac user. But it's always a waste because the 27-inch display on the iMac Pro is integrated with computer, so getting rid of one means you're getting rid of both. And the trade-in value ain't that great. So separating the computer from the display makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, doing so means that you have to pay more to get what you need (even though upgrading will be cheaper because you can hang on to the monitor (and this monitor is really sweet, featuring 5K, great sound, and a very good camera)...
My MacBook Pro with M1 Max is the ideal laptop because it redefines power computing on the go... all while getting sublime battery life. I couldn't be happier with it. Finally an actual Pro laptop! The new Mac Studio allows you to choose between this very capable chip... or the shiny new M1 Ultra. This beast of a processor is essentially "ultra-fusing" two M1 Max chips together into a single processing unit that's more powerful and efficient than using two separate chips that are soldered to the motherboard. Plus the system sees it as a single chip, so developers don't have to do anything special to take advantage of its power. Naturally, I covet a computer using one of these chips... but, even with the intensive work I do, it's likely overkill. Hopefully my office will spring for one of the cheaper models for me, because my 8 year old iMac is dying and takes forever to do simple tasks.
The $2,000 and $4,000 price tag is a lot of cash. But when compared to equivalent high-end PCs it's actually a pretty fair price. And compared to the iMac Pro it's replacing (at $5000) it's a hot bargain. Then there's the Mac Pro, which is still for sale on Apple's website and still using Intel chips. They start at $6000. I'd rather max out a Mac Studio for that kind of money. At least until Apple upgrades the Mac Studio to whatever ungodly powerful chips they're developing.
And that was all she wrote.
And speaking of "she"... interesting to note that all the developers interviewed when talking about the M1 Ultra were women. Appropriate as we celebrate "International Women's Day," I guess. Hopefully all these women are getting equal pay for their work... because that would be something to really celebrate.
Here's the Apple product matrix as it currently stands...
So... inconsistent and all over the map then. Steve Jobs must be turning over in his grave.
Though Steve was innovating in a different, simpler age. Tim Cook seems to be more interested in filling needs than filling boxes, which is probably how it should be. No, it's not simpler than having a neat matrix with clearly-defined labels... but it does make sure that people will get devices that are a good fit for what they are wanting to do with it and how much money they have to spend. And that's probably a better approach.
All I do know is that I wish money was not an option, because I would just buy the biggest, baddest, most expensive model of everything Apple makes every time they release it.
Fantasyland is so much nicer than Reality.
Oh look! I've got some tech crap to beef about, and you get to come along for the ride! If you're in a good mood and don't want it spoiled by my ranting, I'd just skip this entry.
But if you're already raging on your Wednesday, this one's for you!
Apple is worth billions of dollars, and yet their Mail app is one of the shittiest fucking user experience for any app ever made. And they keep making it worse! This is not hyperbole, it's absolute fact. Setting aside from the fact that Apple took away your ability to select the outgoing SMTP server for those times you need to do that... and setting aside the fact that the notification app icon badges rarely have accurate information (especially in iOS)... and setting aside that sometimes after reading an email and scrolling all the way through it to get it marked as "read" it doesn't actually mark as "read" until you force it... and setting aside that Mail will not SHUT THE FUCK DOWN when you tell your computer to shut down... and setting aside the fact that account management in the desktop app is a horrific shitshow which is split between two separate locations on two separate apps... the absolute worst part of Apple Mail is that YOU CAN'T FUCKING DELETE AN ACCOUNT... EVER! Choosing "Remove Everywhere" so that the account will fucking die does absolutely jack-shit, because the account is automatically added back seconds later. And it doesn't matter if you make the account inactive on all your iCloud devices. It still comes back, and there's NOTHING you can do about it (except make it inactive). I've read that some people have finally managed to delete and account by turning off Cloud Keychain on all their devices, then deleting the account on all devices, then starting the keychain sync again... but it doesn't work for everybody. So WTF Apple? Why the fuck doesn't "Remove Everywhere" actually remove the shit? Obviously I don't give a fuck if other devices are using it (that I don't know about) because if I want it fucking removed EVERYWHERE that includes ALL MY FUCKING DEVICES! This kind of stupid shit is what drives me fucking insane with Apple and their bullshit. Users have zero power over their own settings.
In the beginning, Alexa was a quirky voice assistant that managed to do very little not very well. But then it started adding capabilities, having better voice recognition, and becoming more reliable in its tasks. At that point it became an essential home automation tool that made "life in the future" so very cool. But over the last couple years, Alexa has turned into unreliable bloatware that pisses me off more than anything. Ask an Alexa device to play a song, the device you spoke to acknowledges the command, THEN PLAYS THE FUCKING SONG ON AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DEVICE IN ANOTHER ROOM! How the fuck is this even remotely sensible. I get it if a device in another room hears the command and starts playing there... but that's not what's happening. Then there's the fact that lights will randomly "not be able" to turn off and on by voice command. Then there's the fact that Alexa is constantly telling me about new abilities and features that I couldn't care less about... all while not being able to do the shit that I asked it to do. I have no idea if these many problems are because Amazon no longer gives a shit about Alexa... or if they're concentrating on adding new shit while letting the old shit deteriorate... or the system is so bloated with crap that it's just not able to function. Regardless, I am seriously considering a switch to Google Hub, which has none of these irritating and debilitating issues. At least not yet.
The only way to force a sync so that any new photos in the cloud are downloaded is to QUIT THE APP AND THEN OPEN IT AGAIN! Why the fuck can't Apple just add a little "sync" button to the toolbar so you aren't doing this stupid, backwards bullshit? And what about the fact that dragging photos out of the app sometimes gets you a JPEG file and sometimes gets you a HEIC file? And what about the fact that sometimes you drag images out of the app and they don't bother to export at all... or export only after Photos sits there like a stupid shit for a minute first? Photos is categorically awful for photo management, and Apple does not give a fuck. Another case of a company with billions of dollars sitting on their stacks of cash instead of using it to update their fucking apps.
Worst user interface ever. Okay, that's probably hyperbole, but it certainly feels like it. If you have anything more than 25 movies or TV shows, navigating is an absolute slog. Unlike Plex (or any other decent media app) which allows you to scroll over to an alphabet directory to skip to a section, AppleTV makes you scroll through every last fucking piece of media you own. I've purchased hundreds of movies and shows... which means if I want to watch Zoolander, I am 100% fucked. Not only do I have to scroll through every other piece of media I own, I have to wait for all the catalog images to load because AppleTV doesn't cash them. Couple all this bullshit with the fact that AppleTV isn't even reliable at playing shit, and one has to wonder why the fuck Apple even bothers.
Having TouchID is cool. Not as cool as having FaceID, but still pretty cool. Want to buy something or access private information or enter a password... just touch the fingerprint sensor and your Mac will take care of it for you! Except when it doesn't. Which is often. Despite having TouchID and allowing it to control everything, I still end up having to type fucking passwords every fucking day. When I went to sync my FTP sites just 15 minutes ago, Keychain Access asked me to type my password. Why? What the fuck good is TouchID if it just randomly doesn't work for some random reason? Doesn't anybody at Apple even use a fucking Mac so they can see this? Or do they know about it and just not give a shit?
I am still fucking raw about the home automation company I used, INSTEON, shut down without notice. Luckily I have an independent hub that doesn't rely on their servers, but recently I've found out that all my monitoring devices are randomly failing (this morning I thought that my garage door was open because INSTEON reported it as open, even though it was closed). I understand that you roll the dice and take your chances every time you purchase a cloud-enabled device (may the people behind Feed-and-Go burn in hell for all eternity), but the very least these assholes could do is offer a workaround or give you options so that your devices no longer work.
Boy. My blood pressure is at critical levels and I'm not even half-way through the crap I'm mad about! I'd better stop before I bust a blood vessel or something. As a bonus, I'll have fodder for another WTF Wednesday, if I deem myself healthy enough to write it up.
My nine-year-old iMac computer at work has been dying for years and finally just refused to work properly at all this past January. You could never search for anything. Apps would hang the computer for no reason. The display would black out at random. It was horribly frustrating, but I held on... working partly on my laptop and partly on my home iMac when my work machine was acting up... because I knew that Apple was going to release new Macs at their Spring Event. Which they did back in March.
My guess was that they would release an M1 27" iMac, which is exactly the machine I needed.
My guess was wrong.
Instead we got the "Mac Studio" which was in every way perfect for my needs...
And now for the bad news... the Apple Studio Display that was to go with my shiny new computer hasn't arrived yet. It was actually supposed to arrive before my computer ages ago, but rather than ship it to me, Apple decided to hold off since my computer wasn't available yet. Then the COVID lockdowns hit China and so now the Mac finally arrived but I'm having to use a crappy old HDMI monitor that's so pixelated and low-res that I can barely work on it. Better than nothing, I suppose, but this is more than a little bit frustrating.
The computer itself is quite nice-looking. A minimalist 1/2-height cube with pleasing rounded corners. Kinda like a tall Mac mini...
On the front of the computer is the afore-mentioned SD card slot and two USB-C ports. There was no little "lightning bolt" symbol above the USB-C ports so I assumed that they were not Thunderbolt-4 compatible (as it is on the less-expensive model). I was wrong. They are full-on Thunderbolt, which is nice, and I'm guessing Apple left off the symbol for aesthetic reasons (as they are wont to do). The SD card slot is inexplicably still the older SD-XC UHS-II standard. The much faster SD-UC standard has been out for years now, so this is kinda inexcusable given the massive size of photo and video files now-a-days. My camera is not SD-UC so it doesn't affect me... but if I ever do get a camera with a SD-UC slot, I'm going to be understandably pissed. And... oh yeah... do you want to know what's not on the front of the computer? The power button. Which means if you need it, you are groping blindly around the back. I have no idea why this is the case. Apple could have at least put it on the side near the front if they thought it was too ugly to go on the front.
On the back of the computer is that pesky power button plus all the remaining ports. On my model this means four USB-C Thunderbolt-4 ports, two USB-A ports (helleluja!), and an HDMI 2.0 port (never mind that the 2.1 standard has been out since 2017, Apple is once again using older ports for some reason). Plus
One disadvantage about the computer is that the soft aluminum casing paired with sharp edges is just asking for dings and nicks to appear. Mine arrived with a small ding on the front-top edge, so I can only imagine that it's going to end up a lot worse once I start actually using it...
The fragility aside, I have no complaints. For something that's meant to occupy the space between consumer and pro in Apple's lineup, this is about what you'd hope for.
The computer comes with no keyboard and no mouse included in the price. You get the computer, a power cord, and a black Apple sticker (I thought that the black stickers were for "Pro" purchases, but I guess the "Studio" was deemed worthy...
For pre-configured machines you have a choice of a $2,000 model which has 32GB of unified memory and 512GB storage, plus the M1 MAX Apple Silicon chip with 8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores for the CPU, 24 GPU cores, and 16 neural engine cores... and a $4,000 model which has 64GB of unified memory and 1TB storage, plus the M1 ULTRA Apple Silicon chip with 16 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores for the CPU, 48 GPU cores, and 32 neural engine cores. My work was nice enough to get me the ULTRA version because I needed the memory. It would have been cheaper to upgrade the entry model, but I was happy to get the more powerful machine.
As to whether the price is worth it? Well... yes and no. I think that the $2,000 model is actually a darn good bargain for what you're getting. That would be enough to satisfy mid-range power-users at a decent cost. The $4,000 model, however, seems overpriced. For that kind of money, you really should be getting the chip with 64 GPU cores (but that's a $1,000 add-on, $5,000 total). I might feel differently if there was a clear speed benefit to the ULTRA chip, but benchmarks show that it's mostly equivalent to the lesser version except in extreme circumstances, so I would have likely been just fine spending $2,000 for the base model and adding $400 for more memory and $200 for more GPU cores. But, hey, as Apple optimizes their "Metal" rendering engine to better take advantage of ULTRA, and app developers hop on board, I might end up being very glad that my employer spent the extra cash.
The hallmark of Apple Silicon is that you get considerable power out of less energy. This is a godsend for portable Macs (my MacBook Pro with the M1 MAX chip can go all day on a single battery charge) but not as critical for desktop machines like the Mac Studio. Conceptually desktop machines will be able to put additional power to good use. But in practice it doesn't feel like more bang for your buck. I ran races between my MacBook and Mac Studio expecting the M1 ULTRA to run circles around the M1 MAX, but that's just not the case. Yes, the Mac Studio is faster, but it's not by a revolutionary amount. This may sound like a complaint... but it really isn't. The fact that Apple has managed to make chips this powerful means that the entire line gets an "A grade" from me.
Everything on my new machine feels zippy. Basic tasks happen near-instantaneously. Complex Blender 3D scenes render very fast when using version 3.1 that's optimized for MacOS X's "Metal" graphics package. Rendering video in Final Cut Pro is ridiculously fast. Needless to day, the Apple Silicon optimized versions of Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator perform amazingly well. And as more work goes into Metal drivers (by Apple) and apps (by developers) the sky's the limit. I was happy to have a working computer. But having one as powerful as the Mac Studio feels too good to be true. Work is so much easier when you have a screaming-fast machine.
Ultimately this is a very nice, very capable machine. And having an option for power-users which doesn't force you into a "Pro" machine that's overkill for your needs is refreshing. I won't get the full benefit from the machine until the Studio Display that goes with it arrives... and developers further optimize their apps to utilize it... but in the meanwhile I am a very happy camper.
Don't let the pouring rain, thunder, and lightning stop you from today's bullets, since it's not stopping me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Best Trek! I cannot process the fact that there's a Star Trek show that I like better than the original series. It's inconceivable. But holy shit! Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Paramount+ is blowing my mind episode after episode. And Episode 05 is just next-level good. Funny as hell, and incredibly satisfying to watch. How in the heck did they come up with this? And Spock... it's just... Ethan Peck is killing it. He's wonderful.
Now I worry that they're going to take a great show in its first season and flush it down the fucking toilet like they did with whiny, boring Star Trek: Discovery. Hopefully the show-runners think better than that, because I would sure miss Strange New Worlds.
• Marmalade! Okay... this is really great...
Wishing a happy Platinum Jubilee to Her Majesty.
• More Death! HBO has (finally) renewed Our Flag Means Death for a second season...
Probably the best show you haven't watched. Yet.
• TAPS! Pretty much this, yeah (Here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@maxtheverygoodboy Is it working yet?? No?!? #satire #nyc #news #rip #texas #trending ♬ original sound - maxtheverygoodboy
So many of our politicians are useless pieces of crap. It's amazing that people have been conned into accepting it... even defending it.
• Helpless! Used to be that you just held down the sleep/wake button until your iPhone force-restarts. Now if you do that, you end up calling 911. I can never remember the new combo (you up, vol down, THEN hold sleep/wake) so I asked my iPhone. BUT OF COURSE THE FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT IS ZERO HELP...
Jesus Christ, Apple... just fucking give up on Siri already. She can't do shit.
• False Prophets! All these people reaching to find Biblical meaning in shit that is easily Googleable just to fit their idiotic narrative is mind boggling...
@maklelan Responding to @FedUpGear #maklelan836 ♬ original sound - Dan McClellan
Just fuck off with your stupid bullshit already.
And now back to our regularly-scheduled thunderstorm.
When the order was placed for my new Studio Mac and Studio Display for work, the lead time was two weeks for the display, then two months for the computer. But the display never came. Instead it got extended out to the same date as the computer since Apple (wisely) wanted to ship displays for other customers whose computers were available. Which would have been great, except that my computer shipped early, leaving me with two weeks having to use a terrible old monitor that was kicking around the office.
But now the display is finally here, so I'm able to add my thoughts (my comments on the Mac Studio are here).
If I were to summarize it all, I'd probably say something like "A high quality display which comes at a (relatively) good price." And I should probably start off talking about the pricing, because that's the most controversial topic in front of me. The thing is $1,600. Which is darn pricey for a 27-inch display... but a frickin' bargain for the 5K 27-inch display that Apple is selling. Which is to say that if you need 5K resolution, this thing is cheap. If you can get by with 4K, this thing is expensive for your needs. I mostly use my machine for graphic design, so the 5K is a nice thing to have... but not critical. But there are other features you get for the money that makes it a (relatively) good price for my needs.
The thing that you rarely have to worry about when it comes to Apple is how their stuff looks. There are exceptions, of course (the "sunflower" iMac looked stupid and the "trash can" Mac Pro had embarrassingly bad functionality), but most of the time anything you buy is guaranteed to be stunning, functional, and well-engineered. The Studio Display all all of that. It's tooled from aluminum which is both durable and beautiful. The stand design looks simple and elegant (this is where most manufacturers screw things up). The glass is not anti-glare (unless you want to pay $300 to get "nano-textured" glass) but isn't so thick that you're getting weird double-reflections. The base model allows you to tilt the panel towards you or away from you at a fairly large angle of motion (if you want a height-adjustable stand, that's an additional $400). There's no headphone jack to be found, which makes sense considering there's one on the Mac Studio computer (albeit IN THE BACK!). Overall, I'm quite pleased... though I am puzzled by how thick this thing is. It's about double the thickness of my iMac at home, and that has a whole computer inside of it! This is likely what was required for the awesome speaker setup, but it is odd. Though it's also kinda nice because it adds some heft to it so it's less likely to be bouncing around.
There is no denying it. This thing is gorgeous to look at. With its 5K resolution, there are no "jaggies" happening anywhere on anything ever. Then you add it's vivid, flawless color fidelity, and it's just like looking at a hi-res back-lit photograph. As with other Apple Devices, it has the ability to monitor the light in your surroundings an adapt to it using Apple's "TrueTone" color correction. And then there's the brightness, which can be turned up so high that it feels like you're getting a suntan. There's absolutely nothing about the picture quality for me to be critical of. It's perfect as I knew it would be.
AND REGARDING 5K...
Because the pixels are so frickin' dense, you can fit a lot more stuff on the screen and still have it be perfectly crisp and legible. I love this quite a lot... EXCEPT... it can really suck when you have apps which don't allow you to enlarge the GUI elements. All the Adobe apps make this easy. As do a lot of my apps. But Apple's very own Mail app, for example? I can only find a place to make composing emails with a larger font. There's no way to apply a "universal zoom" to all your inbound emails. So most every time I receive something, I have to manually bump up the type so I can read it. It's just a tap or two on the "Command" key plus the "+" key, so it's not a huge deal... but even Apple's Safari browser allows you to set a default zoom for every site you visit. It's cumbersome, but at least you only have to do it once! It would be great if there was an option to set a minimum font size on these apps so it would be handled for me with zero need to do anything.
For whatever reason, Apple decked this thing out with six high-quality speakers that sound frickin' amazing, considering how the small amount of space that they're occupying. Even more impressive is that Apple is up to their "spatial audio" tricks to make you feel as though the sound has enveloped you. It's a pretty nifty trick, though some sound sources work better for this than others. Blade Runner 2049 (my benchmark for checking surround sound quality) sounds glorious. Not that I'll get to hear it much. Obviously I can't blast the sound while at work, so the audio experience will be lost on me because I have to use headphones so as not to disturb my co-workers.
When the Studio Display was first released, it was savaged by people saying that the webcam was horrific. This turned out to be software-related instead of anything to do with the hardware, and it was fixed before my display ever arrived. I find the camera quality to be outstanding (assuming you have a good internet connection). One of the newer features from Apple is "Center Stage" which allows you to walk around the room and have the camera follow you and automatically zoom in on where you're at. This is darn cool, and accomplished by using the wide-angle lens of the camera to soak in a large area... then zoom in to where the focus point is. What's particularly nifty is how it can recognize if there are multiple faces so it can shift the lens to make sure everybody is in-frame. I'm just happy that it's 12 mega-pixel, because apple has historically had awful resolution web-cams that have been embarrassing for far too long.
There may be no headphone jack, but you do get three downstream USB-C ports in addition to the lone upstream thunderbolt port that plugs into your computer. A high-quality Thunderbolt cable is included. Interesting to note that this upstream port also acts like a 96W charger if you're plugging it into a MacBook or something (nice!).
Overall I'm thrilled with the Studio Display. I'm even more thrilled that my work coughed up the $1,600 instead of me. Because if I were buying this for myself I'd have been a little upset that wanted a non-glare screen and a height-adjustable stand weren't included (that monitor is a whopping $2,300!). Even so, $1,600 for a 5K display is still getting you a lot of bang for your buck assuming 5K resolution useful to you (if 4K is good enough, you'd likely be better served by a less-expensive option). I've read that inside this thing is essentially a full A13 Bionic Chip inside which runs a full version of iOS. This is likely so that it can do the Center Stage shenanigans. Which is fine, except it sure seems like dramatic overkill. I would have been just as happy if they would have dropped this and took $100 off the price.
Monday was the annual World Wide Developer Conference, and here's my thoughts on what came from that.
I'm putting this first because it's something that took me completely by surprise in the best possible way. Having to keep track of dipshit passwords in the year 2022 is absurdly stupid, and it's been more than a little shocking that nobody has thought to do anything about it. Sure Apple has made things better by having TouchID and FaceID auto-fill your passwords for you, but it's still stupid. For one thing, there's still a password floating around out there that can be compromised by a company with lax security. Apple wants to ditch passwords in favor of biometric handshaking. Finally. And because they want to get this up-and-running quickly, they're working with Google and Microsoft to make it happen. Can't happen soon enough.
Up until now, CarPlay has been a curious diversion to me. It doesn't really do anything beyond what my iPhone can do when slapped on my car vent holder. Certainly nothing that makes me want to run out and buy a CarPlay stereo or a CarPlay-enabled car. But now? Apple has gone and made CarPlay take over the entire dash, and it's just phenomenally cool...
My complete and total loathing of Apple's Smart Home standard, HomeKit, has not abated since it debuted in 2014 and was actually viable in 2016. It's the most absurdly stupid thing which works with nothing and what it does work with... works badly. I tried to get started with it twice and ended up hating it more after each go. Apple has now started over from scratch, which is about the best thing they could do. The new HomeKit will be built upon the new Matter standard, which is backed by everybody who's anybody in tech, which means that even if Apple shits the bed AGAIN, there will be other options so you're not trapped. I am 1000% looking forward to Matter, which means that I will be a part of HomeKit and not care.
MACBOOK AIR M2
This thing is sexy as hell with its four color options and beautiful design. But that's not even the best part... it's got Apple's shiny new M2 chip inside! If you don't need the power and ports of a MacBook Pro, this is a no-brainer ($1,000 for an M1 chip model, $1,200 for an M2 chip model).
MACBOOK PRO 13 M2
I am beyond confused by this machine. It's $100 more than the Air, has the same chip, a slightly smaller screen... and the only difference I can see is that the screen is OLED on the Pro. Not that it makes any difference to me... I need a 16" model, which this is not.
This update feels mostly cosmetic, allowing you to create custom lock-screens and switch between them like faces on an Apple Watch. The only part of this upgrade which excites me is that you can have "Live Activities" which update on your lock screen in real time, so you don't have to unlock your phone and navigate to the app to track progress on something. Also in this update is improvements to the Photos app (mostly to do with sharing) and the Messages app (you can edit and delete messages, which seems nice on the surface, but could be a nightmare for those being bullied or stalked via text who need evidence) and the Mail app (better search and the ability to undo a send, when supported by the recipient). There's also better dictation abilities (you can use the keyboard while dictating something by voice!) and some intriguing tech which allows hearing-impaired persons to have voices transcribed for them in real-time, which is all kinds of cool (the fact that iOS 16 is finally compatible with Nintendo Switch controllers after waiting for this for years is just icing on the cake).
A lot of what the desktop is getting is the same stuff as what's happening in iOS. But there are a few perks that are unique here. First of all, you can now use handoff with FaceTime calls. So if I've started a FaceTime on my iPhone I can sit down at my Mac and transfer the call there with a click. That's very slick and useful. Likewise, you can use the superior camera on your iPhone as the webcam for your Mac and be able to use it as a Center Stage camera if your monitor doesn't have that ability (see above). And there are MagSafe adapters on the way to affix your iPhone to your Mac, which is a nice touch. Even nicer? An attempt has been made to make managing large numbers of Finder windows easier and for task switching not suck. Something called "Desk View" which allows you to use your iPhone camera to look down at your desk while still having a separate view on your face. This will be incredibly useful to me... it looks like Zoom will adopt the ability, which I truly hope happens since that's where most of my video calls happen. In addition to this stuff... games are faster... there's a lot of minor improvements all over the place, and there's now a shareable online whiteboard for collaboration called Freeform which is cool... but I don't know if it is cross-platform with Windows users? I missed it if this is possible.
iPad OS 16
Ever since iPad broke away from iOS, I keep waiting for this quantum leap change that's going to make it all worthwhile. A pretty big change was multi-tasking for using multiple apps at the same time... but then things kinda just... stalled. Of course iPads are getting all the new stuff from iOS (and the nice app-switcher from macOS Ventura), but all the coolest new stuff is only available for iPads with an M1 chip, which leaves me out. Of course, the thing that I most want from an iPad is a model with a much larger screen for drawing, which hasn't materialized yet.
And that was it. Since none of the OS stuff will be officially released until September (unless you like the idea of playing with the public betas which drop next month).
Until then... I guess I'm good.
Sad video flashback time.
Back in the day, I preferred Windows Phone over iPhone (shocking, I know). I personally never bought one, but received them for development and spent a lot of time with them. Interestingly enough, all the GUI work I did... for four separate Windows Phones apps... never went anywhere because the apps were never released.
There are still things about Windows Phone that I wish Apple & Android would adopt. Windows Phone is weird in that Microsoft was both behind and ahead of their time...
Interesting to think about what it would take for a new mobile OS to break the strangelhold that Apple iOS and Google Android OS has on the market. I honestly think it can't be done. It's going to take some huge technological leap to get there.
Assuming we're still using phones instead of some kind of chip implanted in our head.
World War III is back on the table thanks to politician idiocy, but don't let that harsh your mellow... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Wedding! To my fellow Hallmark movie nerds... Wedding Season on Netflix. The concept has been done to death, but this one is way too cute to miss...
I love how Netflix gives a good budget to their movies like this. It makes all the difference in diferentiating them from Hallmark.
• Star Wars Summer! The LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation Special has a gem of a Weird Al song attached to it, and the video is right here...
Whether you're a Star Wars fan or a LEGO Star Wars fan or both... the special is worth a look! Find it on Disney+.
• Eternally Again! Patton Oswalt leaked that they are working on another Eternals movie. Good. Now leave powerless, annoying Sprite the fuck out of it (or kill her to start off the film). Leave Ajak dead. Leave Ikarus dead. And as much as I loved Gilgamesh, leave him dead. Then kill off Druig (or turn him into the full-on villain he is). Focus on Sersi, Thena, Kingo, Phastos, and Starfox. FIVE characters instead of however the fuck too many were in the first film. Marvel needs to get over themselves that Eternals was an epic masterpiece and come to terms with the fact that they created a bloated, scattered, mess of a film. Avengers Endgame had DOZENS of characters and felt more focused. Don't get me wrong... I enjoyed Eternals and didn't think it was as awful as many people did... but it could have been SO much better. I do hope that Chloé Zhao comes back to direct because her work is so beautiful... but don't force her to cram so much shit in her film that it gets so very sloppy.
• Vacation! This is so accurate as to sting a bit (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
Just make sure you reply to your emails 👍♬ original sound - Shane Duffy 😮💨
I haven't had a vacation in three years. Sure I have the hours... but I'm always too busy to actually use them.
• Trash! I will keep saying it... Nancy Pelosi is garbage. Everything wrong with government is right here (And here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@progressivetradesman #greenscreen #insidertrading #corrupt #parforthecourse #dividendsaretheft ♬ original sound - user4501857206945
Like most of our politicians, she doesn't give a FUCK how many people she hurts so long as she keeps grabbing that money and power! And she doesn't care if she starts World War III or tanks our stock market to get it.
• PAID! I'd like to leave this Bullet Sunday on a good note... I paid off my blue iMac, Lemon, this week!
And in two months my MacBook Pro will also be paid off. Which will be very nice. The money not used for making payment can go towards groceries, gas, and everything else that's insanely expensive now-a-days.
TTFN, Bullet fans...
Yesterday I had a disaster of a morning attempting to sign a frickin' PDF. Adobe continues to treat PAYING CUSTOMERS like criminals, which made activating Acrobat on my home iMac incredibly time-consuming and difficult. First it wouldn't authenticate. Then it wouldn't download. Then after restarting twice I managed to get it installed, but the installer wouldn't acknowledge that it was installed. Except I still managed to run it. But then the current version of Acrobat didn't work right with the current version of MS Word. So I had to create the PDFs manually, then load them. But then Adobe wouldn't allow me to sign the documents because I couldn't load my signature. So I had to go to the online version of Acrobat to load my signatures. Then I finally got to where I could sign the damn documents... only to find that Acrobat wouldn't allow me to save anything. Turns out I had to turn off online services for some reason in order to be able to save locally. A process that should have taken at most five minutes clocked in at just over an hour.
Remember the good ol' days when you could just buy a program and then use the program you paid for?
And, as bad as that was, today was even more frustrating.
But this time it was Apple instead of Adobe that I was battling.
My Apple Studio Display hasn't been able to play sound for more than 10 seconds since I got the thing. It starts to play and then almost immediately cuts out. Then you have to switch to a different audio, then switch back, at which time it plays again for another ten seconds and then cuts out. Yet again.
Well, today I finally got the software update which fixes the bizarre audio issues that have been plaguing Studio Display users for months... only to then have my computer get stuck in an endless update loop.
There's two hours of my life that I'm never getting back.
I totally appreciate that computers are getting faster and more capable all the time. The stuff they can do now is close to magic. But what good is all that when they go to shit so often that you actually lose hours of your life?
I tell you what... graphic design in the 80's is being remembered with increasing fondness with each passing day.
Oh look! Today was yet another Apple Event!
Tim Cook started things off with Dear Apple... which is dramatic readings of people who have written to him saying how much Apple has improved their lives... and saved their lives! It's like, okay, we get it, and it's probably smart to focus on this (thanks for at least trying to be clever about it), but this is kinda a weird way to kick off excitement for new products, isn't it?
Let's get to it, shall we?
Here's the thing. I love my Apple Watch. It helps me monitor my sleep and can do some handy things so I don't have to grab my iPhone as much.
Here's the promo...
One of my biggest complaints from Series 6 is still here! I just checked... Apple still doesn't allow me to "customize it your way" the way I want to customize it. This is so damn stupid. Maybe if I go to an actually Apple Store they could help me? I want a Project RED case with a Black Solo Loop. The only way to do this online? Buy a Project RED watch with a band I don't want and won't use... then pay another $50 to get the Black Solo Loop...
Pretty crappy, Apple.
I don't know if saving $150 for a lighter feature set would be the best choice for me... but it's nice that Apple is at least trying to be a little sensitive to the fact that people don't have shitloads of money laying around. From what I can tell you lose always-on display, edge-to-edge display, Blood Oxygen and ECG reading, and "fast charge." So... not a lot, actually. A smart choice if you want a more basic watch that still have a lot to offer.
Apple's long-rumored "super watch" is actually pretty compelling. If it weren't so darn HUGE it might be something I'd consider (if I had $799 to spare).
Ultimately, I really like this watch. I just could not deal with how astoundingly big it is (SERIOUSLY! JUST LOOK AT IT IN THE AD WHERE IT'S SHOWN ON PEOPLE'S WRISTS! HOLY CRAP!). Even for the features you get. I have to say... the advertisement that they came up with for the watch is unintentionally hilarious with its overly-dramatic overtones...
I mean, come on... adventure can be fun too! It's not always so dire!
I used my Airpods to death when I was traveling constantly. And the "Pro" pods were my favorite travel pods I've ever used. Not only did they not fall out constantly like the old model version, but they had that spatial sound mode that was brilliant. But now that I'm not traveling? Rarely use them. I prefer my Beats. The new "Pro" AirPods that got released today are said to improve sound quality, but I sincerely doubt it's going to be groundbreaking compared to the ones I have now. The enhanced noise cancelation, better battery life, and adaptive transparency mode would be pretty sweet though. And how awesome is the swipe volume control?
Since I've bought the "Pro" version all the way back to the iPhone X, I'm not sure about what features are improved compared to the iPhone 13. But it sure can't be much.
All-in-all... this is a pretty good bargain when it comes to iPhones.
And here we go (boy is Tim Cook excited! Must be great!)...
The promo video is pretty good at hitting all the sweet spots...
Like I said... the camera makes it all worthwhile to me, so I'll be using my option in the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program to upgrade. Probably in Purple. Maybe in Black. BUT DEFINITELY NOT IN PRODUCT RED, HUH APPLE?!???
So... no real surprises, I guess. Just incremental improvements with no revolutionary innovations. Again. One day there is going to be some paradigm-altering new feature at one of these things. The question being... will it have come from Apple first?
Every company has missteps and things that don't go right. Because companies are filled with humans that make mistakes and bad judgement calls and that's just the way it is. But for the longest time, the company that had the best track record at minimizing this... to me at least... has been Apple Computer. Especially during the period that Steve Jobs came back. It was a golden era of him making tough choices that shaped the company into what it was when it was at its best.
Now though? Not so much.
I mean, don't get me wrong, they still make great products and (usually) have the best user experience going... but the meticulous attention to detail the company once had has been abandoned. There's no asshole at the top obsessing over even the tiniest of things and driving people to push past their limits and design the best products and experiences possible.
Take, for example, AppleTV.
AppleTV has one of the shittiest user interfaces I have ever been subjected to. If you've purchased a lot of movies and television shows, navigating through them all is an absolute nightmare of laggy loading and endless scrolling. Plex allows you to swipe all the way right to click on the letter at the start of the title you want. Apple forces you to scroll and scroll and scroll. And they just don't give a shit about it because people have been complaining for years to no avail. Apple's solution? "Use Siri to find it." And it's like... that doesn't work for every person in every situation, but okay. There's a simple solution that everybody else uses, but Apple would rather their users not have access to it.
And there's a lot of things like that.
Take for example installing MacOS updates. I have my computer automatically install them. This happens in the middle of the night and the next morning you're good to go. Simple. But what if there's an update you need to install immediately manually? Well, that's not so simple. You have to type in passwords and confirm the user agreement and click a bunch of buttons. It's all so fucking stupid. Why are automatic updates exempt from all this bullshit but manual updates are not? It makes zero sense, but that's Apple for you.
And then there's "AirDrop." It works great (mostly) on my laptop. Doesn't work at all on my work Mac Studio. The Studio says its receiving a file. The progress bar runs. The "downloads" folder bounces to notify you something was added. BUT THE FILE ISN'T THERE! And there is nothing I haven't tried to get this working. It just doesn't for some reason.
And don't even get me started on Apple Mail, which is the fucking sludge under the trash heap it's been built on.
Now-a-days there's shit like that happening at Apple everywhere you look. And it's so very, very frustrating. THEY HAVE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS... BUT WON'T SPEND THE TINIEST FRACTION TO FIX THIS SHIT?!? If I wasn't hopelessly trapped in the Apple ecosystem, I'd likely be looking into options. Not that Windows is better or anything... it's just as shitty as ever... but at least Microsoft isn't above seeing what works with their competitors products and integrating it into their own.
And speaking of being trapped in Apple Hell, my new iPhone 14 Pro Max arrived yesterday...
I knew before I even opened the box that I would be cursing out loud at least once. Probably more.
Spoiler Alert: It was indeed more.
I'm waiting a few days before writing about my pretty new phone because I need to live with it a while. But suffice to say that I've already had problems that should have been solved before the phone was ever released.
Apple needs an asshole at the top to make that happen, and one of the best assholes to ever run a company died eleven years ago tomorrow.
And lo did Apple release another Mac OS X update.
Right off the bat, Stage Manager (the feature I was most looking forward to) is a pile of shit. It's supposed to make it easy to focus on the task at hand by shoving the apps you're not using to the left-hand side of the screen. But nothing acts in an intuitive manner and trying to figure out what will actually happen when you interact with something is an impossibility because there's no sense to it. I spent five minutes trying to access my Finder windows so I could drag files to an app only to give up in frustration and turn off the entire shit-show. Maybe I'm using it wrong, but if something acts this badly and you have to get training to understand how to interact with it, then it's a big ol' fail, isn't it? So back to "Spaces," once again, I suppose. One can only hope that Apple gets this figured out, because it's an intriguing idea.
Safari is a web browser that's both great and incredibly frustrating. Great because it's fast and capable... frustrating because there are sites which break on it. Facebook, for example, is horribly frustrating because stuff randomly won't work on Safari. Take, for example, not being able to click on story links and have them open (currently you have to control-click and tell Safari to open the link in a new tab or window). It would be nice if you could use Safari without having to worry about crap like this, but it is what it is. You'd just think that Apple would put the effort in to make sure that popular sites are compatible... because you know that Facebook doesn't give a fuck. Their solution is going to be "use Chrome."
Apple Mail is a shit program that keeps getting more and more shitty because Apple takes features away and never fixes the things that needs fixing. Take, for example, being able to select the outgoing server. You used to be able to change it right from message composer. But then Apple took it away for unknown reasons. The didn't even give the user the ability to hide it or show it depending on if they need it... they just took it away. This time around Apple is improving things (like actually having search work worth a shit) and adding things (like "schedule an email" so it will send at a later date... and "undo send" to retract an email you sent), but Mail is still trash. The only reason I keep suffering through it is because there are things that are much easier due to the Apple ecosystem integration. I'd probably be a lot more forgiving if the program would quit in a timely manner... I am sick to death of "Shutdown was canceled by Apple Mail" popping up all the damn time.
In happier news... ZOMG! MacOS X has a Clock app! Works about the same as the iPhone version. What the hell took them so long? Can a calculator for iPad be coming next?
Back in the olden days, you had to purchase a separate font manager to deal with activating and deactivating the tons of fonts that designers need to use (I was a fan of Suitcase then FontBaseFont). But eventually I just went with MacOS Font Book because it's built in and worked okay. The Ventura version isn't better or worse... it's just different. All the typefaces are displayed in tiles which now gives you a hint as to what the font looks like (it's just an "Aa" shown in the typeface). This is nice, but it sure would be helpful if you could view more characters in a secondary pane or something. As it is, you have to waste time double clicking every time you want to see the full character set... or you can switch to a "Quick brown fox..." Sample view which requires a lot of scrolling if you have a lot of fonts loaded. Overall I think this is an improvement, but it would be nice if they would keep working on it, because it sure could be better.
One of the bigger shocks in Ventura is the new "Print" dialogue box. The old one has been busted for years, and now it's how it should have been from the very start. No longer is the "two-sided" option on the "simple" page and all the other options on the "more..." page, there's just one page...
Photos has always been a kinda half-baked app. It really needs a way to switch to an "expert" mode where it acts more like Aperture than something so basic. That being said, there's some new toys that make the latest version an improvement. For one thing, your photos are now text searchable in Spotlight...
You can even search for a text string in your images if you've photographed a sign or something. Also available is automatic detection of duplicate photos which can be easily merged, and you can share custom photo libraries more easily.
Continuity Camera allows you to use the far-superior camera on you iPhone as a webcam instead of relying on the customarily mediocre-to-bad camera in Apple's displays. When I tested it, people couldn't really tell the difference. Where this feature shines is when it uses the wide-angle lens to look down at your desktop, changed the distortion, and pipe that to your video stream. It's very cool. But also kind of wonky, because the distortion correction gets weird when something comes up off the desktop. Even so, this is an awesome idea.
You can choose to edit or unsend text messages in Messages now. I haven't taken the time to find out if this is apparent on the other end... but I sure hope that it is. The idea that abusers and harassers could change the narrative of events when you have to seek help is a dangerous game to be playing. If somebody is in that position, switching to SMS is essential, so worth checking out if you need it.
When it comes to System Settings... they are just... gone. Replaced, but not really. I have no fucking clue where anything is and have to search for what I'm wanting to adjust in the hopes I'll know what to do when I get there. This is a bizarre change, but I suppose that they are trying to unify how to change system settings across all platforms.
And lastly there's "Passkeys." This is Apple's admirable effort to abolish passwords. You have a public key that's on the website which gets matched to your private key on your Mac (via TouchID) or iPhone (via FaceID). You don't have to type out anything... you just get logged in after verifying on your device. It's a nice idea. So nice that other companies like Google are signing onboard. The problem is getting apps and websites to adapt it. Until they do, Passkey isn't going to help. I had read that PayPal, eBay, and Google were using Passkey, but couldn't find anywhere to turn it on, so that's not good. If there's one technology that I want to really take off, it's Matter SmartHome (a universal protocol for smart devices). If there's two technologies that I want to really take off, the second would be Passkey. So fingers crossed.
All-in-all Ventura is okay. I wouldn't consider it a game-changer or an essential upgrade though. But since it doesn't cost anything, maybe that's okay. Since all three of my Macs are running Apple Silicon now, I have a feeling that there are a bunch of little optimizations going on behind the scenes that I can't really notice to appreciate, but am grateful are there just the same.
If there's a takeaway to be had from the more recent OS X versions, it's that the big feature-busting releases are a thing of the past. From here on out it's all optimization with an occasional cool new thing thrown in so Apple's marketing department has something to sell.
You'll have to forgive me that I still keep hoping for something revolutionary to come along.
The Webb Telescope is a massive achievement, and I consider it a total miracle that it's actually working. So much could have gone completely wrong... and yet it actually manages to function as designed. It's a huge testament to science (as well as a government expenditure that I have zero problems with).
It will, however, not last.
Webb is being impacted by micrometeorites at a rate of about one per month, and they already had to recalibrate after a micrometeorite caused "significant damage" back in July. This is not a surprise, as NASA knew that this would happen. The hope is that it can last for 20 years. Anything over that would be cream. There is, of course, also the possibility that it could be ruined far earlier than 20 years.
In the meanwhile though?
Just look at one of the more recent images... The Pillars of Creation...
Now compare that to the previous-best image we had from Hubble...
Seriously awe-inspiring stuff.
As I often do whenever NASA releases some amazing shot like this, I pull up the StarWalk 2 app on my phone to see where the stellar object actually is.
This is almost always a mistake because I always, always, always end up falling down an interstellar rabbit hole. There's just so much cool stuff in the universe to see.
The latest Downloadable Content for StarWalk 2 is 3D constellations...
Which aren't immediately apparent as 3D until you actually rotate the view...
Interesting to note that while the constellations are static and flat from our viewpoint, they are actually at many different distances, and the more you rotate the more extreme it gets...
Some of them, like Hydra, are just bonkers...
I should probably go to bed since it's now almost midnight and I've been looking at the night sky for two hours.
After the long, slow death of INSTEON (which is ongoing), I knew that I would have to make an investment in new smart home tech. This would involve replacing all my smart light switches, water leak sensors, door and window sensors, and the garage door opener. But which way to go? There's still a lot of possibilities to choose from, and you never know which one of them will die next. It's enough to drive you crazy because serious money is involved. So much so that I actually considered going back to a "un-smart home" and just manually doing everything.
Fortunately, the "Matter" smart home standard was announced, and this time it had the backing of all the major tech companies. Finally. I was all-in on the idea of open interoperability between all smart devices, so I decided to wait and see what came of it. Then, back in early October, the standard was released. As were some devices which supported it.
Matter is based on the "Thread" communication protocol, which has been around for a while. It's low-power, has excellent range, and is very fast. There are other benefits as well (such as being self-healing and not requiring a hub) so that was the direction I decided to go.
Unfortunately, to get started, I was dragged back into the world of Apple's HomeKit (which I have been calling "HomeShit" because it's just been so awful for so long). Surprisingly, Apple's smart home offerings have vastly improved. Many of the things that were missing (and there was a lot) have been added. It's still far from perfect (there is basic functionality which is still missing... like being able to construct automations for simply things like making switched turn back on if they are accidentally turned off). So, yeah, I don't have the ability to code complex cool things like I could with my ISY994i hub (which is still amazing to this day!) but at least I can do stuff like ADD A GARAGE DOOR OPENER.
Also unfortunate? Having to buy a HomePod mini. I wrote a while back about the horrendous experience I had with the original HomePod (long story short: it was shit, support was heinous, and I returned it). But Matter/Thread requires a "border router" to act as a gateway to the internet, so I spent the $95 to make it happen. The first thing I did was switch the voice for Siri to "Australian Male" because it's still the voice that gets be the closest to having HAL run my life (like he did in 2001: A Space Odyssey). The guy sounds like he must be the best-looking man on the planet, which gives me a bit of a complex, but he is still a pleasant way to interact with my home (sometimes I ask him about the weather just to hear him talk).
The first devices I ordered were the biggest hit... light switches... because I want every last switch in my home to be "smart."
At first that was going to be Lutron, because they are the "gold standard" but Lutron isn't built on Thread so I went with Eve Smart Home for most of them. The switches are ungodly expensive. And difficult to find. Fortunately I got a good discount and was able to find 26 of them, so it wasn't as horrendous a hit as I thought it would be (but still, $1000 out of my savings).
The lights in my living room and dining room are smart lights by Philips Hue. They require always-on power, so a simple on/off switch won't do. You need an always-on switch which can be programmed to control Hue lights. For these I went with Brilliant. They aren't built on Thread, but they can be upgraded to support Matter. Eventually. Maybe.
Now, I am letting an electrician install all the switches (they are deep and I want somebody who knows how to pack wires into an outlet box), but I did have to replace a couple of my INSTEON switches, so I temporarily installed the Eve switches until my electrician can get here. They are fantastic. Thread is blazingly fast. You tell Siri to turn the lights on and the task is completed before he's done telling you that he did it! This is a huge leap from INSTEON, which would have noticeable lag from when you asked Alexa to do something and it actually happening.
When it comes to the Eve door/window sensors, they are okay. Fast because they're on Thread. But, from what I can tell, they don't have breakage detection, which is a step down for me. Fortunately, I can rely on sound alerts from other devices to alert me about this, but it's still a bit of an oversight.
The Eve motion detectors are not as good as my old ones. They seem to have very narrow range and are slow to relay motion despite being Thread devices. I'm not sure if this will improve when I have more Thread devices installed so it can relay faster... or if this is a limitation of the device itself. I hope the former rather than the latter. Otherwise I'm going to have to shop for another solution.
One more thing I did that I've always wanted to do is install under-cabinet lighting. I went with Nanoleaf because it was built on Thread... and it was cheap. From what I can tell, the current crop of Nanoleaf products will not be upgradable to Matter, so I may have to replace them eventually. Unfortunate, but it only cost $30, they are blazingly fast, and they work very well with HomeKit. And they look great (even though you can't really tell in this photo)...
The tile installer hasn't put in my backsplash yet, so please ignore the mess!
So... so far, so good.
I am still a bit dubious about HomeKit, as it's lacking professional-level scripting and still won't link to things it needs to, but the good thing about Matter is that I will be able to eventually swap out the HomeKit app for whatever comes along. But I really hope that I don't have to. From what I understand, Matter will force Apple into fixing HomeKit and adding the functionality people need (a scripting language would be nice!). But, we'll see. If nothing else, I love Thread and am excited for the possibilities with Matter.
I've always ignored the whole MagSafe scenario because I didn't think it would be very practical. Room for three cards? THREE?!? What am I supposed to do with that? Especially considering that Washington State legislators are more concerned with raising taxes and running for re-election than actually getting shit done so we can have digital licenses. Other states are hopping on board. But not Washington! Patty Murray is too busy sucking Big Pharma dick to have ten fucking minutes to tell her staff to instruct the Department of Licensing to do jack shit. So one of those three precious card slots will be devoted to my physical license, leaving me with two left (thank you shitty USA health care system!).
Now, given that one of those has to be for my health insurance card means I'm left with one slot left.
And even though ApplePay is finally rolling out to most stores now-a-days, that should probably go to my primary credit card for places it doesn't work.
And that's all she wrote.
But would it be enough? I tested it out by rubber-banding the three cards together and sticking them in my front pocket while my wallet with the rest of my junk goes in my back pocket. I would keep track of how many times I had to reach for my wallet in a month and see if MagSafe Wallet was even possible.
Surprisingly? Turns out it was. So I orderd the orange one to go on my Project RED case on my Deep Purple iPhone...
Now... I originally wasn't going to go with the Apple wallet because I didn't want to buy leather anything. Faux leather was fine. But Apple MagSafe Wallets are the only ones that have "Find My" technology which will let you know when your wallet was last attached to your iPhone. Since I was genuinely concerned with the wallet falling off, this seemed a handy feature to have, so I went with Apple's cruelty-enabled option.
Turns out that the magnets on this wallet are actually pretty good, I've been using it for over a month and it's never fallen off once, even when sliding it in my pocket.
The only problem I have with the magnetic attachment is that it doesn't snap to alignment, and oftentimes I have to twist it a bit so that it pops into place. Kind of a huge flaw in Apple's design, but not a dealbreaker.
The only other difficulty is getting the cards in and out. There's a thumb-hole on the back which allows you to push the cards out one-by-one. But sometimes they come out easier than others. I've taken to having my credit card be in the back since that's by far the card I use most (Home Depot and other stores don't allow ApplePay).
Other than that? Kinda great, actually. I love not having to lug around a huge wallet, and the three slots are all I really need (though hopefully one day Patty Murray will be forced out of office and be replaced by somebody who will give Washingtonians digital driver's licenses, because I'd rather add my Health Savings card in its place).
If you rarely use cash like me... and don't need a ton of cards on you, then this is actually a pretty good investment.
It's time to be human... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Again. The shooting at the Colorado Springs nightclub "Club Q" last night is yet another in a string of violent attacks on marginalized communities. And it's like... I just don't get it. LGBTQ persons are not made to feel welcome in general society, so they carve out a space where they can enjoy life for even a short time away from general society... and that's not good enough? Senseless violence has been out of control for as long as humans have existed. That's just fact. But the hatred behind the violence is quickly reaching unsustainable levels as the weapons to act out violence keep getting more powerful. Dozens of people can be cut down in an instant by a single individual, and pretty soon that's going to be the only thing we have.
• Let's Go Brendan! This GQ "Iconic Characters" series is always great. But this one? Oh wow...
I want... quite badly... for Elizabeth Hurley to get one of these.
• Todd! If you are not watching So Help Me Todd on Paramount+, then you are missing out on one of my favorite shows on television. It almost makes me forgive Paramount Network for canceling Magnum P.I. (which, thank God for Peacock TV and NBC, is actually returning despite it all)...
Skylar Astin is a gift, and this show uses him to maximum effect. So COLOR ME SHOCKED that CBS actually renewed the show for a second season! Yay!
• Big Animation! Floor 796 may very well be the coolest thing I've seen in my browser in a minute...
Worth a visit if you like looking at cool stuff!
• I'm Batman! And here's what I wish I would have had to post when Kevin Conroy passed...
A lot of people... like a lot a lot... have Kevin Conroy as "their" Batman. This will go on for a while.
• SHIT! And here we are again. Apple's HomeKit... which has always been HomeShit... is still a pile of shit. And Apple doesn't fucking care. It is absolutely outrageous how there are known issues plaguing the system and Apple doesn't even acknowledge that there are problems. A company worth billions of dollars, but they won't fix it or offer any solutions. For me the biggest problem is that Automations tied to timed events (like sunset or a time of day) don't fucking work! The event arrives and nothing happens. Which is shitty, because I have all kinds of things set up. Like turning my outside lights off and on. There are hundreds of threads on various forums with people trying to find a way to get their timed Automations working. Some things work... for a while... but the overreaching problem of HomeShit being garbage can only be addressed by Apple. And, once more for the people in the back, Apple doesn't fucking care.
And now back to your regularly scheduled Sunday antics.
Having to type passwords is a nasty business that we're forced to deal with because the world is filled with assholes who want to steal from you. Sure there are password managers that help to make things easier (especially if they can be synced over the internet to all your devices), but it's still a ridiculous thing to have to mange. Apple wants to change all this with the idea of "Passkeys"... a password system that uses biometric data, like your face or fingerprint, to handle your login security for you. It's a nice idea, in theory, but it has to actually work. And so far I'm having mixed results. I set it up on this blog, for example, but now I can't actually get into my blog because my Passkey doesn't work and my authenticator app is not syncing properly. Which means that I will have to reinstall... again... so I can access Blogography... again.
Maybe one of these days this will all be worked out.
But, in the meanwhile, here we are.
After I climbed out of credit card debt, I swore to never get sucked in again unless an absolute emergency happened and I was forced to. The interest charges are just too obscene to deal with, so I only use my cards when I have money to pay off the balance.
Sometimes it's easier said than done... especially now-a-days... but the cost to get out of debt is so high that I'll do just about anything to avoid it. Better to survive on peanut butter and ramen for a month now so I don't have to survive on peanut butter and ramen for six months later. And it all adds up.
For this reason, I was mortified when Apple wrote to me with the "good news" that my credit limit on Apple Card has been increased. TO FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!
Just how much Apple crap do they think I will be buying? Am I now supposed to call them up and say Please ship me 7,000 iMacs! or what?
The unreality of it all boggles my mind.
With each passing day I grow more enraged at Apple.
It used to be that they did no wrong. But now-a-days? It's just one shit sandwich after another.
Take for example HomeShit (AKA HomeKit). This technology has been fucking stupid from the very beginning. But everything I read lead me to believe that over the past six years most of the problems have been resolved and it's a very good home automation solution in 2022. And so when INSTEON bit the dust and I had to replace all the smart tech in my home, I went ahead and took a bite of the HomeKit Sandwich. With a caveat. I made sure that the HomeKit stuff I bought was "Matter Smart Home Enabled" so if I wanted to switch to Google Home Assistant or (heaven forbid) back to Amazon Alexa, I would be able to do so because Matter is going to be compatible with everything.
Yeah... HomeKit is still HomeShit.
Nothing is a more glowing indication of this than the fact that Apple just rolled out a new "HomeKit Architecture Upgrade"... then had to immediately delete it because people were having all kinds of crazy troubles with losing their smart home. Some great beta-testing Apple has there. Though I should note that my upgrade proceeded without issue. That I know of. Yet.
And... the upgrade actually seems to have solved a problem where if you edited an automation it would stop working. Mine seem to be working now.
But it's not all a bed of roses.
As I was driving over the mountains for the holidays, I realized that I forgot to turn off the alarms that I have set up on my HomePod minis to let Jake and Jenny know when it's time for breakfast and dinner (I found that by training them to listen for an alarm, they don't bother me when I'm home as it gets close to feeding time). I was not worried though, because I could just turn them off remotely using the Apple "Home" app on my iPhone.
Except, no. Not so much.
For some stupid fucking reason, Apple requires you to be on the same WiFi network before it will allow you to change the alarms. Never mind that I could easily change them remotely when my alarms were on Amazon Alexa... Apple refuses to allow me to turn off the alarms remotely. And I've never been so disgusted with any "smart home" technology I've ever used. Not being able to turn off alarms means that every morning at 6:55am and every evening at 5:55pm, my HomePod minis would have their alarms going off... and they don't fucking stop going off for fifteen fucking minutes! That's fifteen minutes of my poor cats having to listen to an alarm blaring. That's just fucking cruel, and I am so enraged with Apple that I very nearly threw all my HomePod minis in the fucking garbage when I got home. So damn stupid. WHAT'S THE FUCKING POINT OF HAVING MY SMART HOME ON MY PHONE IF I CAN'T CONTROL ALL ASPECTS OF MY SMART HOME WHEN I'M AWAY FROM MY HOME?!?
This goes beyond AirDrop file transfers not working.
This goes beyond print jobs failing all the time.
This goes beyond the Mail app being a hot pile of fucking trash.
This goes beyond daily frustrations with bugs in Apple apps that never get fixed.
This even goes beyond the fact that HomeShit automations still failing ALL THE FUCKING TIME...
It's a simple thing that has huge impact on my poor cats having to listen to alarms blaring at them.
But Apple doesn't give a single fuck about crap like this because they're too big to give a fuck about customers. As what has always been the case, you get the shit sandwich that Apple serves you or you eat a shit sandwich from somewhere else. And they're all terrible. Though it would seem that Google Assistant is the least worst, according to tests by Marques Brownlee...
Personally, I'm about ready to go back to having a stupid home. Sure it's not as helpful, but at least you can count on it to work as expected.