Posted on September 3rd, 2021
A while back I introduced everybody to Lemon, my yellow iMac.
Except the yellow that was advertised on Apple's website was absolutely not the yellow I got. What I got was a gold iMac. It's colored shades of gold and urine-stained aluminum. At first I was just going to live with it... despite being more than a little upset that I spent $200 extra just to get yellow in the first place. But... it's not yellow...
Heck, even the sticker that comes with the thing is very clearly GOLD...
With each passing day that I sat down at my computer, all I could think about was another tacky gold and urine-stained architectural abomination...
And I wasn't the only one who noticed it. Many people reviewing the "yellow" iMac commented that it was actually gold...
Taken from Tyler Stalman's unboxing and review.
Now, some people may love the gold, and more power to them. But since I don't live in the Trump Tower penthouse, I called Apple to voice my dissatisfaction.
Their solution? "Oh. We'll just exchange it for a different color. What color do you want?"
Apparently when Apple says "Free Shipping & Free Returns," they actually mean it. So... good on them, I guess. But just think how all of this could have been avoided if Apple would use actual photos on their website instead of Photoshopped color-adjusted photos. Because, seriously, the only way I could replicate Apple's "yellow" image is via Photoshop.
This is really dishonest on Apple's part, in my humble opinion.
At least they made it right at no charge to me though.
I replaced Lemon with the same iMac, but in blue. The only difference was that this time I got a matching blue Magic Keyboard with TouchID in American English and ordered an add-on Magic Keyboard in Russian. This way I can have an easier time typing in English... which I do 98% of the time... and just grab the silver Russian keyboard when I need to type in Cyrillic. The upshot being that Apple ended up making an additional $100 of me in the exchange because of it.
The blue iMac is closer to what you see on Apple's website. The lighter blue on the iMac stand (along with the mouse and the keyboard) is a nice steel-blue metallic aluminum color... the back is a gorgeous deep blue color. And the "chin" on the front is not a bright baby blue as I was fearing. It's more of a flat sky blue that has a little grey in it so things don't look ridiculous. So, all in all, it's a far better fit for me than the heinous gold thing was...
They must have been out of blue mouse charging cables, because mine is for the silver iMac... but it looks fine.
My guess is that some crafty companies will make cling-skins for the "chin" which you can pop on in a variety of designs. I will likely be cashing in on one of those if I can find a design I like. I'd be happy with just plain dark blue to match the back, to be honest.
Setup was a piece of cake because I just used a Time Machine backup to copy everything over from the gold iMac. Once I rebooted it, everything was just as I left it. All that was left to do was wipe the old iMac's hard rive, put it back in the box, then call FedEx.
And there you have it. My all-new NEW iMac.
I am still calling him "Lemon" though, even though he is blue. I'm too attached to the name after using it for the past couple weeks to want to change it.
Posted on August 27th, 2021
Before I get to my latest frustrations with Apple...
One of my favorite movie franchises is Kingsman. It's James Bond films for a new age and the first one was sublimely good. Smart, funny, thrilling... it had it all. The second movie faltered quite a lot, but was still good entertainment. Now there's a prequel called The King's Man which, despite the shitty kerning on the title logo, looks very good indeed. And now a trailer has landed...
I talked about the logo here... but this is what's so horrific to design-minded people...
Apple has built a business around making computers easier and more seamless to use than other computer manufacturers. "It just works" is the mantra that they bash you over the head with over and over again. And that's a pretty compelling reason to get a Mac, and a very cool perk which comes from owning one.
Until it isn't.
That's when it makes you want to hop a flight to Cupertino and start throat-punching people.
My photo cataloging software is Adobe Lightroom. The full-resolution original photos themselves are stored on my NAS file server, but Lightroom keeps a catalog of thumbnails on your local drive to speed things up. It's a pretty great system which allows me to have terabytes of photos... but only have to keep around 100MB on my local hard drive.
Last night I decided to install Lightroom on Lemon (my new iMac). I was originally just going to AirDrop my catalog files from my MacBook Pro to Lemon. But since the MacBook Pro doesn't have WiFi 6, it was going to take nearly an hour to copy. No thanks. Instead I grabbed the USB-C power cable off my MacBook Pro charger and thought I'd just put the laptop into "Target Disk Mode" which turns it into a big hard drive.
Not really. I fired up the MacBook Pro in "Target Disk Mode" and it wouldn't mount. For whatever reason, Lemon couldn't see it.
What the hell?
A quick Google search reveals that Macs can, in fact, do "Target Disk Mode" over USB-C... but only if you use a special designated Firewire cable.
And the cable Apple includes with their pricey charging brick... isn't.
This meant I had to dig through a big box of cables until I found a USB-C that was Firewire compatible. Which is tough because manufacturers other than Apple don't seem to mark their cables with a little thunderbolt logo. Eventually I found one in an old hard drive box that had a Firewire logo on the tag that tied it together. I plugged it into my MacBook Pro in "Target Disk Mode" and the hard drive came up.
It took several moments. It started working just as I was going to unplug the thing.
So surely it should be easy now, right?
Using the MacOS Finder to copy the Lightroom catalog files took frickin' forever because it was stuck on "Preparing to Copy"...
Time to install ChronoSync to see if my backup software would go any faster.
The answer is yes and no.
Yes it was faster to initiate the copy... but the copy itself? It never went over 70MB/second. Even though the Firewire 3 port on my MacBook Pro and Thunderbolt 4 port on Lemon can (theoretically) transfer 40GB/second. Yes, you read that right... I'm getting less than 70 MEGAbytes a second when I should be getting 40 GIGAbytes a second.
I mean, yeah it was faster over cable... 20 minutes instead of an hour via WiFi... but still, this is really shitty. Factoring in the 30 minutes it took for me to get "Target Disk Mode" working, and I ended up saving a whopping 10 minutes over just AirDropping the stupid thing over WiFi.
So... uh huh... somebody at 1 Infinite Loop needs a throat punch. Bad.
I'm not ruling out that it was the cable that was the limiting factor, but a hardwire transfer of any kind that can only sustain 70MB/second transfer is pathetic and embarrassing.
But oh well. Despite the monumental waste of time, Adobe Lightroom is functioning flawlessly... and it positively flies on the M1 chip in my iMac thanks to Adobe investing the time to make it run natively on the hardware. It really is astounding to contrast and compare using the software on my MacBook Pro vs. my decidedly non-Pro, consumer-model iMac.
There's good news though. It only took Lemon 6 minutes to backup the new data to the attached Time Machine Thunderbolt 3 SSD backup drive. Much more inline with my expectations of how long it should have taken to get the data to be transferred to Lemon in the first place.
Posted on August 20th, 2021
First I talked about deciding what specs to order for my new iMac. Then I talked about the design of the thing yesterday. And now I suppose I should talk about actually using Lemon (which is what I named my shiny new yellow... er... gold computer).
When it comes to my iPhone, I am a part of Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program. I make a monthly payment for the iPhone, AppleCare, and Theft+Loss... and, in exchange, Apple lets me upgrade to the latest model iPhone every year. It's a pretty sweet deal, because I can't afford to pay $1000 for a new iPhone model every year. The down-side is that I don't own my phones. I have to return them to Apple when I upgrade. The only way I get to own my phone is if I skip an upgrade and make payments for two full years. I never do this. I'd rather have the latest iPhone than an old phone that loses value with each passing minute if I were to pay it off.
But there is no "Mac Upgrade Program."
So when it comes to my Macs, I use them until they fall apart, or can't run my software, or die (as in the case of my last iMac).
As you can imagine, it's always quite a shock getting a speedy new Mac after using nothing but old hardware for years and years (my iMac was 12 years old when it finally died, and my iMac at work is 7 years old). My MacBook Pro is my newest Mac (purchased 2019) and the fastest Mac I own, despite being the cheapest model available at the time (hey, I was on a budget!).
My new iMac 24" positively smokes all of them.
I am not kidding. This thing with it's new M1 chip is unbelievably zippy.
But before we get into it all, it's important to bring up the elephant in the room... to get the best performance out of your Mac, you need to be running native apps for the M1 processor. Anything that's not native (i.e. written for old Intel Macs) has to be run under an emulation layer that Apple calls Rosetta 2 (the first Rosetta was from 2006 when Apple made the relatively seamless switch from PowerPC chips to Intel chips).
You would expect that any Intel apps that have to use Rosetta 2 emulation would run much slower than on actual Intel-based Macs. And they probably do. But when comparing my 2-year-old MacBook Pro with emulated apps on my new iMac via Rosetta, the performance is very close. Meaning that I don't actually lose anything by running non-native apps on Lemon.
Native apps are called "Universal" (because it runs native on the M1 and will also run on Intel), which you can see in the Get Info box...
Whereas Intel apps are called "Intel" in the Get Info box...
Fortunately, a lot of the apps I use have been compiled to run M1 native. This includes Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Premier. There are a few things in these apps that aren't working yet (so if you need them you'll need to run them in Rosetta 2 mode) but those features are things I don't use anyway.
And let me tell you, the M1 native apps absolutely fly.
Working on large files in Photoshop and big documents in InDesign is positively dreamy. Everything is so snappy and so smooth. Something that would be impossible with just 16GB on an Intel Mac. InDesign is a particularly crappy app to use because just scrolling through pages with lots of images is a jerky mess that will have you screaming at your computer. But on my new iMac? Butter.
As I mentioned in part one, I put the $200 upgrade I had into 16GB of memory. I do not regret this choice, because the work I do benefits from having extra room to do the processor-intensive stuff I do. I didn't want to put that $200 into getting extra storage because all my files are stored on a NAS network file server. Why invest in storage that I won't use?
The answer is that on-chip storage makes loading my big documents much, much faster. Which means I can start work quicker and get more done. Loading files from my NAS over WiFi is pretty good speed-wise because the iMac has WiFi 6, yet far slower than from internal storage. Once my iMac has the file loaded everything is super-speedy though, so it's all good.
But when I transfer the files to Lemon's internal storage and load them from there? Good Lord. It's almost instantaneous! Not even enough time to take a sip of Coke Zero! The files are just... there! It's computer Nirvana.
Which makes me wish that I had the extra cash to have purchased more storage. The iMac tops out at 2TB of storage. But I didn't have $800 to make that happen, so I went with the base 256GB.
If I ever need to use Lemon for serious work, I'd probably end up moving my NAS from downstairs to upstairs so I can plug it in directly. That would speed up file-loads a bit (but not huge because the iMac is limited to a pokey 1GB ethernet port instead of the 10GB that my NAS can dish out).
So, yeah, I'm positively thrilled with the performance of the 2021 iMac 24".
And this is a consumer machine! Can you imagine what the Pro models will be like?
Well, my work iMac is going to die eventually, so I guess we'll see sometime in the future.
Because the future of the Mac is clearly on Apple silicone like the M1.
Posted on August 19th, 2021
I have a deep love of finding beauty in every day objects.
Many a time I have spent more for something because it looks nicer than the competition. My kitchen utensils, for example. The basic corn peeler you can buy is functional and cheap. But the OXO Good Grips corn peeler looks nicer. It's pretty black and yellow. Probably works the same, but I like the look of it. So I pay extra to get the OXO Good Grips version and am happy to do it.
It will come as no surprise that I'm a Certified Apple Whote.
Apple has built an entire industry over making their products look better than the competition... sometimes at the expense of features and functionality. Yet the trade-off doesn't matter to me. The specs for Apple devices are always enough for me to work within, so I am always all-in on their products. Always have been. Sure there are a few products they made that weren't the best (that stupid-as-shit "sunflower" iMac G4 was a grotesque insult to design, and I remain baffled that Steve Jobs ever let it go into production with it's ugly-ass bulb base and heinous neck joint... GOOD LORD!).
Some of Apple's products I purchased knowing that they were shit specs because I just loved how beautiful they were. Take for example the Power Mac G4 Cube. Oh how I loved that thing! It was grossly overpriced for the features you got, but just look! LOOK AT IT! BASK IN ITS GLORY!...
I have thought about buying an iMac mini and upgrading the guts of my G4 Cube many, many times. Then I could buy a better-looking monitor to match it and have one sick-looking showpiece of computing to display in my home!
But it's kinda senseless to go to the expense and effort when I can just buy an all-in-one iMac that looks beautiful in its own way. If I want the Mac Cube to be on display, I can just set it next to the iMac and leave it at that.
As I mentioned Tuesday, when my ancient iMac finally died for good, I took it as a Sign from Above that I should replace it with one of Apple's pretty new iMacs. More specifically? The pretty new yellow iMac, which you can see here on my built-in-computer desk (a necessity since my cats took over the room I was using as my office)...
When it comes to the design of the iMac itself, the thing is beautifully and impossibly thin. 11.5mm to be exact. And the computer itself (thanks to the all-in-one M1 processor chip that sits in the iMac's "chin") doesn't really exist that you can see it...
Pictures seriously don't do it justice. You need to see it in person to comprehend just how thin this thing is. And the fact that there's just a single cord coming off of it in so many cases (most everything is wireless now-a-days) the thing literally looks like it's made of magic.
So... no complaints about the industrial... but the actual look? Yikes.
THE CHASSIS COLOR
Something I wanted to separate out here is the actual color of your computer. The color on the front is printed on plastic, so it's literally light yellow (as shown in the Apple photos). But since the rest of the computer color is printed on metal, it's not a flat, brilliant yellow like what's shown on Apple's website...
Not even close!
On the metal parts, my computer looks far more "gold" than "yellow." It's actually quite pretty on the back... which I'll never see because my computer is against a wall...
But the metal part I do see on the stand... well... looks like it's... ummm... urine-stained aluminum? It's nice enough when well-lit (as you can see above), but in the shadow that the iMac display casts over it? Looks like urine-stained aluminum to me...
Overall, I think Apple's design aesthetic for the new iMacs is gross and shitty. Three different shades of yellow that don't match, don't harmonize, and look bad together. Maybe it's better on the other colors? I wouldn't know. There's not an Apple Store around her for me to see them. In the end, this is amateur hour bullshit. I definitely regret spending $200 extra to get the yellow color. If it were the same color as on Apple's website, I would have been thrilled. But this is a botched look that is just plain bad and Apple obviously had to Photoshop it so that people would order something that doesn't exist. Oh well. It's not distractingly bad, so it's easy enough to ignore... I just wish that I hadn't trusted Apple and spent the extra $200 for a pretty computer that I didn't get. If you're in the market for one of these things, I highly recommend seeing them in person before you purchase.
The display is a 24" Retina Display that looks as incredible as you'd expect. Since it's bigger than my MacBook Pro and smaller than my 27" iMac at work, I'd describe the size as "cozy." The work I do demands a large screen for efficiency, but this is plenty big to get actual work done (especially since my old iMac was only 20"). Colors are vibrant. Brightness is better than good (actually too bright at maximum brightness!). Contrast is amazing. And since it's Retina, that means the pixels just disappear to make the screen look like a photograph. The glass is, oddly enough, somehow not as reflective as my other iMacs. It feels smooth, so the anti-glare coating must be under the glass. Whatever is happening, the display looks a touch soft. Not as crisp as my other Macs. This is not terrible, but it has taken some time for me to get used to.
The issue that many people have with the display is that it's surrounded by a white border instead of a black one. But, honestly? It doesn't look white when I'm working on it... it looks grey. And kinda blends into the wall that's behind it. It will only look white when you are shining a light directly on it, which you would never do because then you'd be fighting glare off the display. So settle down, yo. The color on the thing is superb. Just look at this...
And that photo doesn't even really do it justice.
I have zero problem with the "white" border and don't understand what the fuss is about. The display for my Mac G4 Cube that I showed above didn't have a black border and I was fine with it... just like I am with the "white" border around the new iMac display. It's a complete non-issue, and helps to complete the aesthetic that Apple was going for (which, as I said above, is pretty fucking bad, alas).
Despite Apple's hyperbolic claim that my new computer would have "The best sound ever put into a Mac," I was dubious. How could it possibly have better sound than my old iMac and my work iMac which have considerably more thickness to them for speakers? Well... I dispute Apple's claim. The sound is good... very good even... but I don't think it's quite as good as my
For whatever reason, Apple has consistently put shitty self-facing cameras on their hardware. No clue as to why. But if there's one thing that these COVID times made very clear, Mac users have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to remote meetings. I Zoom with a colleague and they look great... while my image looks like shit because I'm on a Mac. Thankfully, Apple has finally gotten off of their ass and done something about this. Well, two things, actually. First, the new iMac's camera is 1080p, as it should have been for years now. Second of all, the M1 chip is so speedy that the camera image can be optimized in real time to give a better picture. Something I verified this morning on a Zoom call. Even if the person you're speaking to doesn't have internet speeds that can handle 1080p, the image still looks better thanks to the post-processing that the M1 does. Score. And score. I just find it pathetic that it took a frickin' pandemic to get Apple to do something.
Regardless of the color you choose, I hope you really love that color... because Apple uses it everywhere! My keyboard is yellow (gold). The sides of my mouse are yellow (gold). The cable to charge my keyboard and mouse is yellow. The MagSafe power cable is yellow. The desktop background defaults to yellow. It's yellow-palooza up in here! The keyboard/mouse is the same metal as the stand. But since they aren't in shadow like the stand, they look like pretty gold instead of urine-stained. The cables are closer to the color on the front of my computer, but don't match exactly... adding a fourth yellow to the mix that doesn't harmonize with any of the other yellows. What in the hell was Apple thinking here? It would have been better to not match stuff color-wise if it's not actually going to match!
I am studying Russian at the moment, so I got a Russian keyboard. Interestingly enough, the iMac knows what language your keyboard is in when you connect to it over Bluetooth. So when I selected "English" as my preferred language, Russian was added as a keyboard input method automatically. Very cool. Very Apple. The keyboard itself is okay, for the most part. Keys have very little "travel" which is not great, but typing is not overly-difficult. I do wish that it was angled a bit more like my keyboard at work... it's like typing on a laptop instead of a desktop... but I think I can get used to it. INTERESTING TO NOTE: When not typing in Cyrillic (Russian), I would prefer to use an American English keyboard. I thought I might pick one up, but Apple doesn't let you order one in yellow... only silver. Had I known this, I would have ordered my keyboard in English and bought the add-on keyboard in Russian since I type in English much, much more often. But oh well. Eventually I'll get used to the shorter left-hand shift key and the super-skinny return key. I hope.
The mouse is Apple's Magic Mouse and just as crap a design as it's always been. Run out of battery? Sorry... you lose! The plug to recharge your mouse is on the bottom for some absurd reason, so you're without a mouse until you've charged it up. Is it really that damn difficult to design a mouse with the charging port coming out of the top like a corded mouse so you can plug it in and use it when the battery dies? Apparently.
I ordered the next-level-up from the base model so I could get my iMac in yellow (gold), which means Lemon included a gigabyte ethernet jack. But since an ethernet plug is deeper than the iMac, they couldn't put the port on the iMac itself. Instead they put it on the power brick. This is actually fine by me. If I ever get ambitious enough to run ethernet up to my desk, it will work just fine...
As an aside here, why is Apple using a 1GB port when everybody else in the known universe puts in 10GB ports? Not that it matters to me. My heinously expensive Amplifi Alien router doesn't have a 10GB port anyway. SO SICK OF THESE COMPANIES CHARGING A PREMIUM PRICE FOR NON-PREMIUM SPECS! Though that's par for the course for Apple, so why am I not surprised?
And that... plus a keyboard and mouse charging cable... is all you get in the box. As this is Apple, you don't even get an instruction booklet! Not that you need one. You plug it in and the iMac says "Hello" and tells you what you need to do to get started.
As I mentioned on Tuesday, the base model comes with two USB 4 ports (that accept USB-C plugs). The next-step-up model that I got also includes an additional two USB 3 ports (that accept USB-C plugs). What I forgot to mention on Tuesday is that there's also a headphone jack! It's easy to miss because it's on the side of the iMac chassis (the plug is deeper than the computer, so they couldn't put it on the back!). This is kinda weird considering that Apple is obliterating the headphone jack everywhere else... but yay? I dunno. I've switched over to wireless for everything and don't even think I own a pair of wired headphones any more.
How Apple managed to craft something this amazing only to make it look this shitty boggles my mind. I ordered a yellow iMac. Instead I got a gold/urine/yellow/pale yellow iMac where none of the "yellows" match... at all. A part of me wants to return this and get a blue one or something that might not look as shitty, but I don't think I care enough to go through the trouble. Which is something Apple is undoubtedly counting on. What's infuriating is that they very clearly Photoshopped the images on their website. I mean it's blatantly obvious that they Photoshopped the images, and that's some bait-and-switch-bullshit. What you see is not what you get. Because when you go to Apple.com, the yellow computer is very clearly yellow in every shot they show you. But as you can see from my actual and unretouched photos, it's clearly gold.
Tomorrow I'll do a dive into actually using the thing. Does the M1 live up to the hype? Or is it just another pack of lies from Apple?
Posted on August 18th, 2021
It used to be that companies would have to guess how many units they would sell, then instruct manufacturing (usually in Asia) what to build. This is almost always a disaster. If your product is less popular than you projected, you end up with a heinous amount of money tied up in inventory that you can't get rid of. If your product is more popular than you projected, then you can't fulfill customer orders and lose money that way too.
Either way, you're likely playing a losing game.
Thanks to our global economy and the way shipping works now-a-days, companies have another option... Just In Time Manufacturing.
This is how Apple does almost everything now-a-days. The flexibility of making something only when it's needed to fulfill an order is pretty mesermizing. First of all... no inventory problems. Second of all... you can offer multiple configurations with very little risk. Which explains why the new iMacs can be offered in multiple colors and multiple configuration options.
My iMac, for example, is yellow and has an M1 chip with an extra 8GB of memory.
So when I made my order at Apple.com, it was sent to China for manufacturing. There somebody grabbed a yellow chassis... an M1 16GB chip motherboard... slapped it together with some yellow accessories... then packed it all up in a yellow box.
Then handed it to FedEx for shipping.
And this is where it gets interesting.
I was anticipating quite a wait. Because even if Apple is paying for air freight, surely it's going to take time to work their way to my order, asemble it, box it up, accumulate enough freight for a shipment, then get it to the US and make its way to me here in Washington State. Right?
Actually... not so much!
I ordered on August 10th and received an email confirmation that said 2 to 3 weeks production time. Then I got an email Sunday telling me it was prepared for shipment... after just three days?
And I got it today! The computer shipped from China to Japan on Monday. From Japan to Memphis on Tuesday. From Memphis to me on Wednesday. I essentially got my computer in a week.
I have quite a lot to say about it, but we can begin all that tomorrow.
Posted on August 2nd, 2021
Today I picked up my iPhone and went to slide it into my shirt pocket. What I didn't know is that an X-ACTO blade I had put on the same shelf where I set my iPhone had attached to the back. I got a nice slice on my finger to let me know though.
OR MAYBE MY iPHONE GOT THE COVID VACCINE AND THAT'S THE REASON THE X-ACTO BLADE ATTACHED TO IT?!?
I know that sounds insane, but it's no less crazy than people claiming they got "magnetized" after getting vaccinated.
Posted on July 20th, 2021
It's not that Steve Jobs is spinning in his grave... it's that he can't even maintain a proper etherial state AT ALL because Apple's current UI direction is 100% crap.
ALL OF IT.
Icons are overly-complicated and shitty-looking.
Nothing is elegant, clean, and simple.
Nothing is adequately configurable.
Controls are scattered, unintuitive, and seemingly disappear at random.
Take for instance searching your iTunes library. The DEFAULT for search is not to search your library of songs you own... the DEFAULT is to search Apple Music and the iTunes Store (to encourage you to re-purchase the shit you own, I guess?). In order to search your library, you have to travel ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE SCREEN to controls that are easy to miss so you can specify that...
And I inevitably miss it EVERY FUCKING TIME so I waste time searching Apple Music because I forgot to click off of something I DON'T WANT.
JUST LET ME FUCKING SEARCH WHAT I WANT WITHOUT THIS BULLSHIT!!
Why in the name of Steve Jobs can't the search DEFAULT to your library?
And why is Apple Music even an option IF YOU DON'T FUCKING SUBSCRIBE TO APPLE MUSIC? If you must return results from Apple Music, why not just show results from ALL THREE SOURCES on the SAME SCREEN (with your fucking library at the top since, you know, YOU OWN THAT SHIT)? Is Apple hoping that you'll eventually give up and just subscribe to Apple Music so you can find shit without having to go through this hassle? This is senseless.
Who the fuck is running UI at Apple? They used to have the best of the best talents... now they have people who don't know even basic fucking UI design to make the apps not suck shit at a level that even Microsoft hasn't reached. I am so fucking embarrassed for Apple not being able to do even the simplest shit without completely screwing it up now-a-days that I feel like I want to vomit every time I turn on my Mac.
Get your fucking shit together, Apple. The "Music" app has been garbage SINCE DAY ONE!
Posted on July 11th, 2021
The temperatures may still be high, but the odds of me missing a post full of bullet problems is low... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Monster Problem! My favorite Disney cartoon movie is Lilo & Stitch. My favorite Pixar cartoon movie is Monsters Inc.. When they came out with a television series following Lilo & Stitch, (and a couple of Stitch movie sequels) I was cautiously hopeful. It ended up being really good. They came up with a terrific premise and it worked great. So when it was announced that a cartoon series based on Monsters, Inc. was coming to Disney+ called Monsters at Work. I was optimistic...
It's not terrible. But it doesn't really work either. When it came time for a sequel to Monsters Inc., Pixar went backwards to Mike & Sully's college days. It seemed a wise choice to me because the entire premise of the original movie was resolved. There was no place to go. And it turns out I was right. I thought perhaps they would expand on the world-building of a city filled with monsters because it was so cool... but they aren't really doing that, instead focusing on the operations of Monsters Inc. now that they are making kids laugh instead of scaring them. It's boring. Oh well. Sully is one of my favorite cartoon characters of all time, so at least I get to see more of him.
• Papa John Problem! This is likely the funniest thing I've seen all week...
• Night Nurse Problem! But this comes close...
• Train Problem! Why it's probably a good thing I don't have kids... because I would actually encourage this behavior...
• macOS Problem! I finally got around to installing the latest beta of Apple's upcoming version of macOS... MONTEREY. It's more of the same more than it's not more of the same, but there's some things going on that are going to make it a worthwhile upgrade (eventually) I think.
That being said, there's some things that are inexplicably shitty as well. Many of them can hopefully be fixed up in subsequent releases (local servers cannot connect and internet access is horrific, even though my internet on other computers and on my iPhone and iPad are great), or fine-tuned (Apple's privacy setting for Safari is just glitchy as hell, with Google oftentimes just outright refusing to even load). But others? The other shitty things? Seem to be by design (the new way tabs are handled in Safari are fantastic at first blush... but then the horrors start settling in as you really start to use them). But it gets worse... some of the compelling new features (LiveText, for one) won't work on Intel-based Macs at all, which is monumentally shitty. And the icing on the cake? Monterey breaks existing apps (like Nord VPN).
My advice? Do not install this shit. It should have never gotten wide-release beta in this pathetic shape.
• Big Mac Problem! Yeah... how DID she know this?!?
A true story for the over-30 crowd.♬ BETTER.EVERY.DAY - Shaun Ward
• Fan Problem! And lastly I'd like to leave you with this heartworking story...
Isn't that enough problems for your Sunday?
Posted on June 7th, 2021
And so the Apple World Wide Developer Conference happened today. Once my migraine was in check, I watched the video replay. And it was jaw-dropping (after you got over the truly heinous opening video, which was groan-inducing awful). There's some very cool technologies being dropped into the upcoming iOS 15 and macOS Monterey builds that I am having a tough time wrapping my head around it. But let's try, shall we?
• Spatial Audio FaceTime! Now when you are in a multi-person FaceTime session, the audio will take advantage of the Spatial Audio feature of some headphone devices (like AirPods Pro) and give you the illusion that different people are in different areas of the room. I think this will be one of those "you have to experience it to get it" things, because right now I don't see how this is all that useful. It's a gimmick that feels like it wouldn't make a FaceTime call any better.
• Voice Isolation! On the other hand, the new "voice isolation" feature feels like it would be highly beneficial. It effectively cancels out ambient noise so you can be heard easier in a noisy environment. No clue how well this will work in the Real World, but it certainly seems like a technology that's worth a shot, given the example they show in the keynote of a woman on a FaceTime call while somebody is using a leaf blower in the background.
• Wide Spectrum Audio! The opposite of Voice Isolation, this mode will pick up as much audio information as it can sense and relay that... like when you are at a piano recital, which is the example they used. I can see this being a welcome technology for people who do stuff like that, but it will likely have very little use for me.
• Grid View! This seems pretty superficial. You're talking to people in a grid? Yeah, that's the way online conversations work. Did Apple suddenly discover Zoom or something?
My guess is that Apple is just trying to compete with the juggernaut which is Zoom.
• Portrait Mode! Turn your iPhone sideways and you'll be FaceTiming in "Portrait Mode" which seems to softens your face and blurs out the background so the people you chat with can focus on you...
This actually looks highly useful, because face-to-face you don't tend to wander like you do when you're online. Nice.
• FaceTime Links! And Facetime is now multi-platform! Android and Windows users (or any device with a compliant web browser) can join into a FaceTime conversation via a link. About damn time. Did Apple really think that iPhone users ONLY talks to other iPhone users? Typical Apple arrogance here. At least they're finally over it. This time.
• SharePlay Music! Maybe I'm misreading this... but I think it only applies if both people in FaceTime will be able to listen to music in sync with each other while on a chat?
I have Amazon Music Unlimited... I wonder if that will be permitted? If different people subscribe to different services, can they all coordinate the same song across services? Music is music, so does it really matter? My guess is that they can't. At least not right now. Maybe eventually everybody will play nice together, but this IS Apple we're talking about.
• SharePlay Video! If there's one thing 2020 taught us, it's that being together while apart is essential. Not just in a pandemic. But here comes SharePlay to make things better! Well, as "better" as it can be given that nothing will ever replace face-to-face contact. But SharePlay is a very cool technology which actually does look like it will help bring people together while apart. Basically, it allows shared video experiences to happen over the internet effortlessly...
Well, depending on the service, that is. Disney+ will reportedly allow a shared experience only if both of you are subscribed to it... which makes sense. Other services may or may not have this requirement. What I want to know is whether or not I can share HOME movies with somebody via SharePlay? I dunno.
• SharePlay API! SharePlay isn't an Apple exclusive feature, it's an API which all developers can integrate into their apps. Apple has demonstrated how you can share your screen while in other apps... and even how you can chat via text instead of voice if you're trying to watch a show together (via Picture-In-Picture)...
Now THIS interests me, because I already do this with friends. If more companies make shared experiences easier, then it's going to be more beneficial to everybody who wants to stay in contact while apart.
• SharePlay AppleTV! Okay... here's where things are getting exciting. Being able to cast the shared video to your television while chatting or texting on your iOS device or macOS device is exactly what I want...
You'll even be able to watch TikTok together!
Please, please, PLEASE let Plex integrate this into their apps! And please, please, PLEASE let Windows and Android integrate it into their products too!
• SharePlay Screen Sharing! I have questions. "ScreenPlay Sharing" allows you to share your video screen, which is not new technology... but Apple sure is making it easier. The issue is refresh rate. Will it stream your screen fast enough to watch videos? I dunno. But one thing's for sure,
It will be interesting to see if Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others work SharePlay into their products so everybody can participate. I guess that's on them.
• Messages! New features being added to Messages is cool, but hardly revolutionary. Oh look... picture sharing is prettier and easier to swipe through!
Wheeeee. The new "Shared With You" feature in Messages, which curates links and such for viewing at a later time, isn't so superficial. And when you pick up on them later (in their respective apps like News, Photos, Music, and such), there's a link back to the message thread so you can continue the conversation. Now that's helpful. As is pinning a text. Thanks, Apple!
• Focus! I get it... your iPhone is a constant distraction... but do we really need to have Apple monitor all of it for us? I just go into Do Not Disturb. Granted, having Apple trying to figure out what's important or not based on your preferences is kinda a game-changer, but allowing people to break through when something is horribly urgent is a definite game-changer. At least it is if I am understanding it correctly. If I can tell iPhone that I always want somebody to break through my Do Not Disturb because they are Just That Important? Yes please!
I never stop working. If I just ignored people while I am working, I'd never hear from anybody. But perhaps Apple trying to prioritized can change that? Worth a shot... just CHOOSE YOUR FOCUS...
No idea if this will work for me. But maybe? It looks highly customizable, so I'd like to think it can!
• Intelligence! I am all for my phone and computer being smarter and helping me more. Apple is doubling down with Artificial Intelligence by giving us... Intelligence? Alrighty then. I was hooked on the idea with Craig's first demo of "LiveText"... YOU CAN SELECT TEXT IN PHOTOS NOW?!? SERIOUSLY?!? ZOMG!!!
And "Intelligence" will allow a lookup of the highlighted text so you can get results on searches for that term. Highlight the name of a restaurant? BOOM! There it is. Holy crap!
Phone numbers are an obvious use... just click on it and choose "dial"...
AND IT RECOGNIZES EIGHT LANGUAGES?!? DOES THIS MEAN TRANSLATION WITHOUT HAVING TO GO THROUGH GOOGLE TRANSLATE?!?!?
And it's not just text... "Intelligence" can also recognize objects, like pets, books, flowers, art, and landmarks...
Now THAT'S awesome.
• Spotlight! Apple's answer to search, "Spotlight," always seemed to be a distraction... and now Apple is adding more distractions. Maybe I'm not using it right?
• Photos Memories! Being able to create smart "Memory Albums" seems like a great idea but, once again, requires Apple Music in order to use it to its full potential. I'm with Amazon Music Unlimited, so...
• Wallet! Now, I absolutely love, love, love Apple Wallet. Especially its integration with my Apple Watch. I don't even take my phone out of my pocket when paying for stuff at the store any more. I just double-click my watch and it's done. The fact that Apple is adding even more capabilities to Wallet is perfectly fine by me! Credit cards, transit cards, and park passes... that's great!
Adding keys to wallet would be great... if I had a car that supported it. But now they're adding the ability for other keys... like a house key... to be added as well. My electronic locks are by Schlage, which are utter shit, so I'm guessing they won't support this. They can't even bother to update their damn app so that it's bug-free!
Room keys uploading to your phone before you even arrive so you can just walk to your room is very cool, so long as you're staying in one which supports it...
BUT HERE'S THE INTERESTING ONE... YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE ON YOUR PHONE?!?!
Alas, I live in Washington State which is always slow on the uptake. We still don't have Real ID compliant licenses. And our DOT website still uses phrases like "Disabled Parking" instead of "Accessible Parking" so who knows if I'll ever be able to take advantage of it.
• Weather! Oh look. They made the Apple Weather app prettier.
• Maps! I use Google Maps because I find them more complete and Waze because their traffic routing can't be beat... but Apple Maps is SO pretty that I may try and switch. Again. Just look at the gorgeous new renderings they are adding...
IT EVEN SWITCHES FROM DAY TO NIGHT MODE! GAAAAH!!! So pretty...
Of course, it's only as useful as it's completeness... which I'm guessing is only for the major cities. I hope they really push forward on including ALL cities, because the renderings of lanes, intersection complexities, and overpasses is just too smart...
I dunno. It will be tough to give up Waze, but Apple seems to be really innovating. Like when you're in a city that has its building mapped. You just scan the area and Apple Maps will tell you exactly where you are in Augmented Reality...
Phenomenal. IF you're in London, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, or Washington DC.
• Audio! Apple is REALLY making AirPods a compelling purchase. First with spatial audio, and now with focused listening for people with hearing difficulties... and even a way to modify what is being heard to make AirPods better than a hearing aid!
But the news that grabbed my attention? AirPods will now be on Apple's Find My Network service! You can even have them chirp to help you find them...
And the separation alerts, which let you know if you are leaving your AirPods behind is something that should be including on Apple's AirTag products. In other news... currently Apple's killer "Spatial Audio" feature is only available on iOS, but Apple is bringing it to AppleTV, which will be nice since those are the places I mostly watch TV and movies. It's also available to M1 Macs, which leaves me out. Oh well.
• iPadOS! Ever since Apple spun off iPad from iOS, the experience just keeps getting better and better. Now they're adding old iOS features... and adding even more cool iPad exclusive features... very few of which I'll likely remember! I need to use my iPad more often so I can remember this stuff! Craig says that multitasking has been made easier, and the demo by the iPad guy looks like maybe it's more intuitive than it is now? So maybe there's hope for me yet!
• Oh Siri! Apple is kinda an industry leader when it comes to privacy. Though I think they fall short in so any areas, I like that they're at least trying. And their latest iOS 15 innovation is addressing a major concern I have with Alexa... having everything I say go out onto the internet. In the next iOS, Siri will start processing more and more of what you say locally... not on the internet... which makes it more secure and also faster.
• iCloud! Apple's iCloud is somthing I love to hate. Yes, I love how it can sync all my bookmarks and passwords and all that... but the fact that it's not consistent in how it works... or wheter it works is frustrating as hell. Apple is now adding features to their iCloud Service (I pay $2.99 a month, I think?) which may or may not work as advertised. I am dubious. One is a "trusted contact" who won't have access to your account, but can receive a passcode if you're locked out of your phone so you can call them to get it. Nice. Apple is also adding Digital Legacy for when you die. Once dead, you can have a trusted contact access your stuff. I'm not sure how nice this is, but I like the idea of it, so I guess I'll look into it.
• iCloud+! Since Apple now makes more on the services they offer than the computers they sell, it's only smart of them to offer more services to sell. An upgraded iCloud offering is an obvious way to go. Fortunately for me, the new features are added at no additional cost. And they are compelling...
• Health! Yeah... it's all cool being able to more easily and automatically share your health data with your doctor and receive health information from your doctor electronically... but, again, it's only useful if your health provider will use it! Mine doesn't. So this is all useless to me. Pity.
• Watch! Thanks to the third-party AutoSleep app, my Apple Watch is a favorite piece of tech I own. Once I managed to get used to wearing a watch, I don't know how I managed without it. Paying via ApplePay on my watch is awesome. I don't know about this new "Mindfulness" hippy-dippy crap... because I fond it annoying rather than helpful... but some people might like it.
• HomeShit! I absolutely HATE HomeKit. Apple fucked it up SO bad. It's unreliable. It's made complicated from being overly-simplified. And it doesn't work with most smart home devices, so what they fuck good is it? And since the new features are tied to HomePod... a product I fucking hate with every fiber of my being... I honestly don't give a crap. Maybe one day Apple will understand that OTHER TECH COMPANIES FUCKING EXIST and try harder to work with more of them. Apple says that they are a part of a new tech alliance called "Matter" but forgive me if I'm dubious about that working out. I'll sit here and hold my breath.
• Continuity! Being able to hand-off from your iPhone to your MacBook to your iMac seamlessly is incredible. That Apple knows this and is working to make it even more functional makes me very happy. I mean, check this out... set your iPad next to your Mac... AND THE TOUCHPAD WILL CONNECT AUTOMATICALLY AND ALLOW YOU TO DRAG AND DROP BETWEEN THEM! ZOMFG!
Craig says "How cool is that?" then proceeds to show drag-and-drop between the two and I literally shouted back at my computer "SO FUCKING COOL, CRAIG!!" Because it is. And then because Craig isn't satisfied with me talking back to him like that... HE ADDS AN IMAC TO THE MIX AND IS USING THE MACBOOK TRACKPAD TO CONTROL ALL THREE LIKE A BOSS!!!
Continuity is a technology that Apple undersells... I absolutely love the Mac ecosystem because of exactly stuff like this.
• AirPlay to Mac! I send video from my iPhone to my AppleTV from time to time. Apple's now allowing you to send iPhone and iPad video to your Mac. Nice.
• Shortcuts! Apple's "Automator" scripting language is something profoundly useful if you have the patience to learn how to use it. Apple is making that easier by bringing iPhone "Shortcuts" to the Mac. And it integrates with "Automator" so you lose nothing. SMART AND MUCH APPRECIATED!
• Safari! Oh God. Apple is "simplifying" again... which usually shits all over the user experience. I am still fucking LIVID that Apple "simplified" Mail by taking away your ability to select from different mail servers AS YOU COMPOSE an email. This is a feature I used DAILY and... poof... just like that, Apple complicates something that used to be easy by "simplifying." Well here's an idea Apple, LET THE USER FUCKING CHOOSE IF THEY WANT SOMTHING "CLUTTERING" UP THE INTERFACE! Because what you consider "clutter" may just be the thing that somebody needs, relies on, and will miss badly if you take it the fuck away. God. These are the things I positively loathe about Apple. "Simplification" is just coded Apple-speak for "not pretty" and they need to get the fuck over themselves. New Safari "streamlining" looks prettier... but, again, in looking at it I have to wonder if it's going to force me to switch to Google Chrome because I don't want simple I want useful.
• Programming! I haven't written an app in years. But boy do these new Apple Developer Tools look awesome (Xcode Cloud is about as cool as it gets). I also love that Apple is trying to level the playing field by making programming concepts and practice more accessible to everybody with Swift... and will now allow apps to be developed on iPad! Sweet.
• The End! And that was the end of that. Another WWDC Kenote in the bag. All-in-all, this is some really amazing steps forward that I am looking forward to. Also some maybe great things... but I'll reserve judgement until I have a chance to work with the stuff they announced this Fall.
Posted on May 13th, 2021
And so my set of Apple AirTags arrived today. These small devices can be attached to stuff in your life that you're always losing, then tracked down with your Apple Device (like an iPhone). They use near-field Bluetooth technology, which uses far less power for better battery life than regular Bluetooth, but with a far shorter range.
So let's get to it, shall we?
BUT BEFORE WE BEGIN: No need to comment about privacy concerns, security concerns, tracking concerns, and all the other issues that always get brought up when I talk about "smart" technology... especially smart technology that is designed to track stuff. I am aware. Apple addresses "unwanted tracking" on their site and (hopefully) any initial security problems will be quickly resolved given Apple's "privacy is important to us" mantra. We'll see. In the meanwhile, I want to be able to track my crap. But is Apple AirTag the way to do it?
AirTags cost $29 each, which is middle-to-average for the tracking devices I've seen. Tile "Mate" trackers are $24.99... Tile "Pro" trackers are $34.99. I ordered an AirTag 4-Pack for $99, which makes the cost a more reasonable $24.75 each. Like many Apple items, they offer free engraving for each AirTag. You can choose from an assortment of emojis, numbers, monogram initials, and such. Each AirTag has room for four characters, but I liked the idea of just one big emoji in the middle of each one...
The package is typical Apple minimalist style...
I (foolishly?) ripped it open from the top, which made a mess of the box...
It was then that I saw Apple means for you to open the thing from the bottom of the box where they conveniently have a strip to unseal it so you can easily pull it open. Oops. But, in my defense, how often does somebody want you to open the packaging from the bottom?
Inside were my four AirTags along with safety sheets and instructions on how to activate them...
The AirTags themselves are pure Apple quality. The backs (where you open them to change the battery) are metal. The engraving on the fronts is so nice that it looks like they are screen-printed buttons or something...
If your iPhone is on, you can just bring the tags close to it one-by-one to get them assigned to you and your Apple iCloud account. Or you can open up the Find My app and add them manually...
After you unwrap the AirTag and pull the plastic separating the battery, it immediately becomes active so you can pair it with your account...
There is a list of custom names you can choose from (backpack, keys, wallet, etc.) or you can enter a custom name and choose an emoji to represent it...
When it comes to items I lose most, it's 1) My keys. 2) My wallet. 3) the TV remote. I put the fourth AirTag in my backpack... not because I lose it, but because if it's stolen I'd like to be able to find it.
I ordered a keychain holder for one of my AirTags, but it hasn't arrived yet. I ordered a sticker patch to plaster an AirTag on my TV remote, but it hasn't arrived yet either. So about the only AirTag I can use right out of the gate is the one for my wallet. I had been using a "Slim" Tile Tracker in my wallet, which was 1/3 the height of an AirTag, but Apple hasn't released a thin version yet, so I guess I'll have a bump in my wallet until they do...
I started carrying my wallet in my front pocket years ago for both comfort and safety while traveling, so this isn't a terribly big deal. But still... I hope Apple is coming out with a thin version real soon now (or that Tile makes their slim version compatible with the Apple Find My Network).
And then there's the actual "tracking" part.
Once you've paired your AirTags with your Apple ID, they show up in the Find My app under "Items"...
Clicking on any of them brings up a screen which allows you to tell the AirTag to play a sound so you can hear where it is if it's near... but also track down the item with your Apple device. Since there are no iPhone users in my area, I had to use only the Bluetooth Near Field local scanning...
I read somewhere that the range on AirTags is 100ft. That wasn't even remotely the case for me... after multiple tests I found it to be 20 feet at best. When looking for my wallet, which I left on a chair in another room, the range in connecting to it was about 17 feet...
Because Near Field Bluetooth is directional, your phone can literally point you in the right direction to retrieve your stuff...
Then it's a wandering game until you land right near the device...
And now that brings us to the talking points about Apple AirTags...
• SIZE & DESIGN — Diameter-wise, it's considerably smaller than a Tile Tracker... but a hair taller. The little pucks are very pretty to look at, but less practical than a Tile Tracker because there's no hole to use for attaching it to stuff, which means extra money because you have to buy AirTag accessories (like my keychain holder that's not here yet)...
• GETTING LOST — If you cannot connect to the AirTag locally... you can try to find it on the Apple Find My Network... assuming there are any of the hundreds of millions of Apple Devices nearby to see it. You can also put it in "Lost Mode," where you enter your phone number so you can be contacted if it's found. Or, if it's spotted by the Apple Find My Network, you'll be notified with its location when it shows up. If somebody physically finds it, they can bring it close to their iPhone or Android phone and a webpage with your contact information shows up so they can let you know they found it. It's all pretty slick. But, again, anything outside of 20 feet or so is entirely dependent on other people with Apple iPhones wandering around in order for the Apple Find My Network to grab a location.
• SPY TRACKER — Naturally there is a concern that somebody could drop an AirTag in your pocket so they can track your location. Or maybe they put it in your car or whatever. Regardless, if an AirTag is traveling with you, then you're supposed to get an "AIRTAG FOUND MOVING WITH YOU" alert. Then you can find the AirTag and take out it's battery to disable it so peoaple can't use it to spy on you. There has been reports of people hacking the tracking URL or something, which has been deemed problematic, so I'm guessing Apple will get on a fix for that. Hopefully.
• NOTIFICATIONS — Assumably because of the low power mode of the AirTags themselves, you do not receive notification when they are back in range or spotted by the Apple Find My Network right away. It takes a while. Minutes. This is definitely an issue when speed is of the essence, but I guess it's a trade-off Apple had to make. But it gets worse... when you turn on the "Notify When Found" option, I assumed that a text message would pop up telling me when my phone came back into range. But NOPE! I didn't get any notification at all after walking down the street and activating it then coming back to where my item was. Then, when I went to make sure that I had actually activated it, I saw that the option to turn off the notifications (which never came) was greyed out?!? So I have no clue what in the hell is going on.
UPDATE: Welp, a whole 8 minutes later I did get a notification, but only after I started up the Find My App?!?...
I just... don't get it. And of course Apple is playing coy by not including a manual to actually explain this shit. Typical. Also note that even though you're searching for an ITEM, the alert on my Apple Watch says that I'm searching for a PERSON. How Apple consistently misses the little details like this now-a-days just blows my damn mind. Does Apple even bother to fucking beta test their shit any more?!? "WALLETS ARE PEOPLE, MY FRIEND!"
• ITEM SEPARATION — If you subscribe to Tile Tracker's "premium" program, they activate additional features like "Smart Alerts" which will notify you if you accidentally leave something behind. For example... you could tell your Tile Tracker to let you know if you (or, to be more accurate, your phone) becomes separated from your keys. So if you leave them at the restaurant, your phone would get an alert once you reached the parking lot. From what I can tell, AirTags offer no such feature, which is absolutely bizarre. Why would you enter a market where you're not actually competing feature-wise with what's in the market?
• PHONE SEPARATION — You want to know another thing that my Tile Tracker can do that AirTags cannot? Locate my actual iPhone. Squeeze a Tile and it will make an alarm go off on your iPhone. There is no equivalent with an AirTag which seems just brain-dead. Yes, I can find my phone by grabbing my MacBook and logging onto my iCloud account, but do you know how convenient it is to just squeeze the Tile on my keychain to find it? Another feature that Apple has inexplicably left out.
• FIND MY NETWORK PARTICIPATION — I wanted to make sure that my iPhone was a part of Apple's Find My Network so that if my iPhone stumbles across something that somebody has lost, I'll be assisting them in finding it. So when I saw a link which says "HELP A FRIEND: Open iCloud.com so others can sign in and find their devices from this iPhone" in the Find My app, I assumed that would be the place...
Except when I click the link and sign into iCloud... THERE'S NOTHING FUCKING THERE WHICH ALLOWS ME TO TURN THIS ON! So I'm like "What the hell, Apple?" I have no clue whatsoever whether my iPhone is a part of helping people out in the Find My Network or not. And that's just next-level stupid. I sure hope that this is something that happens automatically, because if Apple is relying on people to turn the feature on... but then doesn't actually give you a way to turn it on... I don't know why the fuck they are even bothering.
UPDATE: I'm guessing the above cryptic message must not be meaning "friend" as "fellow iPhone owners" but instead mean "your literal friends," because I did find a random setting in the "Find My iPhone" section of my iPhone's Settings which says "Find My Network"...
But is that what opts me INTO the Find My Network to help other people? It doesn't say. It's talking all about finding MY shit. And if this is the place where you opt into the network... then why the fuck does Apple send you to iCloud? Jesus Christ what a mess. I found this heinously confusing bullshit WITHIN A HALF HOUR OF RECEIVING MY AIRTAGS... while Apple has been working on this crap for YEARS and didn't notice this might be confusing?!? This is happening with increasing frequency, and I cannot fathom why Tim Cook isn't kicking some asses over it. Steve Jobs sure as fuck would have! God how I miss Steve Jobs!
• CONCLUSION — In my humble opinion? Stick with Tile for now. Sure, the Tile Tracker Network is far, far smaller than Apple's Find My Network (or is it?) and Tiles aren't directionally locatable like AirTags, but since Apple seems to HAVE THEIR HEAD UP THEIR ASSES with the confusing implementation of their tracking offering... and the feature set doesn't compare to what Tile has with their premium service... why run out and replace all your Tiles with AirTags? I mean, come on. This is hilariously absurd and inept. Apple has reportedly had AirTags ready to go since late 2019, but didn't want to release them during a pandemic. Which means they've had OVER A YEAR WHERE THEY DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DOCUMENT USEAGE, SQUASH BUGS, CLARIFY CONFUSING BULLSHIT, AND ADD HANDY FEATURES?!? What kind of stupid shit is that? I'm sure all of this will be worked out in time... but how much more time does Apple fucking need?
Oh well. I own AirTags now, so I guess I'll scour the internet to see if I can find answers while watching television tonight. It's not like I'll be holding my breath waiting for Apple to clarify things and release much-needed information.