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Bullet Sunday 745

Posted on Sunday, January 2nd, 2022

Dave!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!

Red Baron Fully Loaded Pan Pizza Box

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...

A bag of MacCains Crinkle Cut Fries

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...

Beautiful Maui Beach

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.

   

Apple Report Card 2021

Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

Dave!Everybody has been releasing their "Apple Report Card" for 2021, so I thought I'd do the same.

MAC: A+
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.

iPHONE: A
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.

iPAD: C
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.

WATCH: B-
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.

TV: D
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.

SERVICES: C
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.

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Bullet Sunday 752

Posted on Sunday, February 20th, 2022

Dave!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?!?

Perfect.

   
• 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...

Old vs. New

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 three different versions of A Caribbean Mystery

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...

Threat messages from BitDefender.

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...

   

Apple Event 03.08.22

Posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

Dave!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...

AppleTV+
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.

iPhone 13
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.

iPhones in green and greener.

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?

iPads in pretty colors.

Mac Studio
Studio Display
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)...

The Mac Studio computer and Studio Display display.

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.

But anyway...

Here's the Apple product matrix as it currently stands...

  ENTRY MID-RANGE PRO
iPhone
iPhone SE
iPhone
iPhone Pro
 iPad
iPad Air/Mini
iPad
iPad Pro
iMac
 
iMac 24"
 
Mac
Mac mini
Mac Studio
Mac Pro
MacBook
MacBook Air
 
MacBook Pro
Watch
Series 3
Watch SE
Series 7

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.

I dunno.

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.

   

WTF Tech Wednesday

Posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

Dave!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 Mail
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.

Amazon Alexa
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.

Apple Photos
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.

AppleTV
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.

Apple TouchID
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?

INSTEON
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.

   

M1 ULTRA Mac Studio First Look

Posted on Thursday, May 26th, 2022

Dave!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...

  • More powerful than a consumer Mac, but not overly-powerful (and overly-expensive) like a Mac Pro.
  • NO BUILT-IN MONITOR, which I was very happy about, because it's always a shame when you have to recycle a perfectly good monitor when you recycle the computer. iMacs are horrible this way.
  • USB-A PORTS, which means that I can plug in my scanner, DVD-R drive, and printer without having to buy dongles or new cords.
  • AN SD CARD SLOT, so I can transfer photos from my camera to my computer without yet another stupid dongle.
  • PORTS ON THE FRONT OF THE FUCKING COMPUTER, which has been a sore spot with me when it comes to Apple ever since they started moving shit to the back of the computer. It's just senseless and stupid, and every time I have to rotate my old iMac to plug shit in I wanted to scream.

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.

Design Grade: A-

The computer itself is quite nice-looking. A minimalist 1/2-height cube with pleasing rounded corners. Kinda like a tall Mac mini...

The Apple Mac Studio.

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 10 Gigabit Ethernet, which is nice because our offices just got rewired... and a headphone jack (surprise!). My DVD-ROM is unplugged because my two USB-A ports are taken, so I'll probably end up with a dongle for it, alas...

The ports on the back of my Mac Studio.

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 ports on the back of my Mac Studio.

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.

Price Grade: B-

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...

The black Apple sticker that came with my Mac Studio.

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.

Performance Grade: A

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.

Final Grade: A-

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.

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Bullet Sunday 764

Posted on Sunday, June 5th, 2022

Dave!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.

Spock and T'Pring on Star Trek.

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...

Blackbeard finds a friend.

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.

   

Apple Studio Display First Look

Posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

Dave!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).

Studio Display from Apple.

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.

DESIGN BUILD
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.

PICTURE QUALITY
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.

SOUND QUALITY
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.

CAMERA
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.

PORT ARRAY
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!).

IN CONCLUSION...
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.

   

Dub Dub Twenty-Two

Posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2022

Dave!

Monday was the annual World Wide Developer Conference, and here's my thoughts on what came from that.

PASSKEYS
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.

CARPLAY
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...

The CarPlay Dashboard Coolness.

HOMEKIT HOMESHIT
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.

iOS 16
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).

macOS VENTURE
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.

   

Billions in Failure

Posted on Friday, July 15th, 2022

Dave!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.

   

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