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High on Sierra

Posted on November 2nd, 2017

Dave!Another year, another macOS X release. And it's called "High Sierra."

This new operating system is one of those infamous "under the hood" releases where there's few actual changes you'll notice (nothing like the "hundreds of new features" Apple unleashed with "Sierra" back in September, 2016). And, while these are always disappointing releases on the surface, there is definite gold to be found in upgrading. Maybe. Rather than review the release (plenty of more capable sites than mine will be doing that), I thought I'd just write down my thoughts and comments.

Away we go...

INSTALL ME, YOU FOOLS... Installation, which used to be a major event back in the day, has been pretty much automated by modern operating systems. Apple, in particular, has made strides to have their OS upgrades be as painless as possible. The worst part about it is the waiting (well, unless your install goes wrong, in which case the worst part is having to recover your computer... please back up first!). Depending on your internet connection speed, the download and install can take around 25 minutes (at my office on fiber with a Fusion Drive) or 45 (at home on cable with an SSD). Both times it was a piece of cake. Bravo, Apple.

EXPRESS YOURSELF... Apple added a bunch of "emoji" to High Sierra. Most of them are charming, but useless to me. Others I'll probably actually use. Like these...

Apple New Emoji!

Emoji are actually a big help when trying to convey the sentiment behind your words. Not that they can always avoid a confusing message... absolutely they can just make things harder to understand depending on how you use them... but society is always evolving, and perhaps this will help move non-verbal non-visual communication to a better space. Because something has to.

   
A BOLD NEW FILE SYSTEM... Arguably the most critical and vital Big New Thing about High Sierra is the switch from HFS+ to APFS. For the non-geek set among you, that's changing the way your Mac handles data on it's storage devices. Apple created their own new thang (Apple File System) instead of hanging on to the antiquated old thang they had been using (Hierarchical File System Plus). It is a much-improved way of handling data, according to Apple. And this time, that is not marketing hype. First of all, cloning files (which used to be slow... and even risky... with large files or a lot of files) is now almost instantaneous. To test, I duplicated a folder filled with 3.6 GB of photos. I barely had time to blink and it was done. Amazing. Really amazing. That alone makes High Sierra worth the price of admission (which is FREE, by the way). But let's not stop there...

  • The reason that duplicating my massive folder of photos in the example I gave above was so quick is because the files weren't actually duplicated. Since they were on the same drive, APFS just duplicated pointers to the same files. Which means not only was it instantaneous, the duplicate didn't take up much additional space at all! The only way this changes is if you change a file. Then the file is actually duplicated with the original still safely in its original location. This kind of stuff is so clever... yet so obvious... that it kind of seems like magic and a long-time coming at the same time.
  • Getting the size of a folder used to be agonizing. The Finder would take forever to calculate all the internal file sizes, add them up, then give you an answer. With APFS, it's much faster. With the size of storage drives now-a-days, I don't pay attention to this like I used to, but it's nice to know I won't be screaming "HURRY UP!" at my screen when I need this information.
  • Like to divide your storage drive into multiple volumes, but hate having to decide how much space to allocate to each partition? APFS doesn't make you decide. You can add a bunch of different volumes and, since they all now share the same space, sizing is automatic.
  • I never bother with encrypting my drives because the way Apple does it isn't very effective. APFS changes that. Data now can be fully encrypted on a file-by-file basis, which means it's more secure, more capable, and less obtrusive to the user. I encrypted my MacBook drive (it took two days in the background) and don't notice any difference in speed or how I was accessing my data. So okay then.
  • APFS is kinda "self-correcting" now, in that it fights file corruption by keeping tabs on file checksums to make sure the files themselves haven't been inadvertently changed. To be honest, I don't quite understand how this works when it comes to actually solving a data correction problem (maybe it only works when you have the file backed up somewhere so APFS can pull the original if the one it has is found faulty?) but if it makes my data safer, I'll take it.
  • Something really intriguing is the idea of "snapshots" which is something I use when working in Photoshop. What happens is that, as you work, you take a "snapshot" when you reach some kind of milestone in your project so you can go back to that if future changes end up being something you don't like. APFS does this for your files, writing out all the little changes (and changes only, to be space-efficient), which I'm guessing will be integrated into Apple's "Time Machine" backup strategy. This allows you to go back in time on your files and retrieve old versions. I can't tell you how many times I've done this. Once while working on an issue of Thrice Fiction I accidentally deleted half the magazine and didn't notice until the next day. Ordinarily, I'd have to start all over. But, thanks to Time Machine, I just went back and retrieved the old file so I could copy the pages back into my document. Simple. If APFS is going to make this faster/easier, hooray.
  • My work Mac has an Apple "Fusion Drive" which is a SSD/Hard Drive hybrid. As of this writing, Apple Fusion Drives are not supported by APFS (WTF?). Apparently this is coming soon, but it's really silly that Apple couldn't get any problems solved by launch.

Obviously, my experience with APFS is limited right now, but I like what I read about it. Time will tell whether it's a blessing or a curse.

   
TIME WON'T GIVE ME TIME... I was surprised to find that the date and time were not in my menu bar. Installing High Sierra turned them off, so I had to go into prefs to turn them back on.

   
SPOTLIGHT NOT SO SHINY... I fucking hate "Spotlight," which is Apple's whole-system search tool. The menu bar "Spotlight Search" is so shitty and incapable that I don't even use it. Instead I use an ACTUAL TOOL TO GET THE JOB DONE, namely "Alfred," an app that makes search act exactly as one would expect search to act. What's weird is that when you use Apple's search box in a Finder window, it's actually not bad. For some reason, they save the shittiness for hot-key menu-bar-enabled Spotlight, where you inevitably always end up scrolling down to "Show All In Finder" because the results are so fucking worthless. Spotlight can also launch apps and do other shit... including the new shit of tracking a flight for you... but ultimately it's a system that's long overdue for a complete overhaul to become a serious tool instead of a toy add-on. Maybe now that there's a Core Framework in place in High Sierra, developers will make Spotlight something worth looking at but, for now, I couldn't care less and don't use it unless Siri uses it to answer one of my questions.

   
SIRI? WHEREFORE ART THOU, SIRI?... Apple's automated assistant, Siri, sounds like an all new gal (or guy, if that's how you've preferenced it) thanks to an improved speech synthesizer. To me the improvement is noticeable but not revolutionary (Siri takes a back seat to Alexa's speech quality, in my humble opinion). I also think that Siri is grossly minimalistic when it comes to being a smart and friendly part of the macOS. For example? She's not HomeKit integrated. You can't tell Siri on your Mac to unlock the front door when your hooker arrives, you have to grab your iPhone and tell that Siri to do it. Why? This is some amateur hour bullshit (though that's what I've been saying about HomeKit since day one... talk about an AppleFAIL). Still, the number of things you can ask Siri to look up for you and do for you are not insignificant, and she seems to be getting more capable all the time (especially with your music). I just wish Siri felt as much a part of macOS operations as she does to iOS operations (though even that isn't as stupendous as it should be)... and stop being treated as a happy afterthought on the desktop. Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa are eating Apple's lunch here. Sink some of those billions of dollars into giving us the next-generation AI we can all love. And fear.

   
HEAVY METAL DREAMS, PART TWO... Apple's graphics display technology is divvied up into several pieces, all of which handle different parts of drawing out the information you see on your computer display. One of those display technologies is "Metal" which is (simplistically speaking) an application programming interface (API) which you can use to pass off intensive graphics chores to macOS for hardware-accelerated rendering. It's actually a very impressive technology which has been greatly improved in High Sierra with "Metal 2." The tech is pretty great at doing a lot of things well... so much so that Apple has actually taken things like drawing windows in the Finder and started passing them to Metal 2 to take care of. In addition, Apple has developed new stuff for Metal 2, like a virtual reality API, which should(?) make for some interesting new apps (though iOS is waaayyyy ahead of macOS in this area). I'm not sure exactly how compatible Metal 2 is with third-party graphic cards (none of my Apple stuff can even add a graphics card) but, if your card or Mac's internal graphics is compatible, you should see some display improvements... particularly with things like intense games written to take advantage of what Metal 2 has to offer... even over other technologies like OpenGL.

   
OH HOW I LOVE YOUR HIGH-EFFICIENCY CODEC... Computers today are vastly superior in capabilities to those ten years ago. Hell, even five years ago. I've been around personal computers since the beginning, so I know full well how far we've come... I've seen it happen. The one area that continues to surprise me is video. Back in the day you had to buy a Mac costing thousands, add a graphics card that cost thousands, then add a video board that cost thousands... just to be able to edit video. And even then it wasn't that great in ease of use, quality, or capabilities. Contrast and compare that with being able to capture and edit full-HD video on your frickin' smartphone with absolute ease today and you can see where I'm coming from. The problem is that, as photo and video quality gets better and better, you have to have more and more space to store it. High Sierra makes a quantum leap in addressing that problem. High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) are built into the OS now, and will give you much smaller file sizes at the same quality (or even give you better quality photo and video at the same size). The samples I've seen of still photos with HEIF are jaw-dropping. Fantastic quality at half (yes, HALF) the file size? Yes! Video files that are half-the size but don't look it? Sign me up! Except... not really. My iMac is relatively new, but doesn't have the ability to encode HEVC. You have to have a special hardware processor onboard which my Mac does not. Nor does my MacBook. All I can do is decode the new video formats. And, bummer of bummers, the video is a bit choppy when I look at it. Oh well. While it may not be something I can currently take advantage of, the pieces are in place for a very bright future when it comes to photos and videos on the Mac.

   
MACHINE LEARNING FOR FUN AND PROFIT... While actually kind of a hard mix of exciting and scary all in one, "machine learning" is a technology that's going to revolutionize our lives. Or doom all humanity to extinction. One of those two things. Apple is buying into the former by introducing the CoreML API, which allows complex data analysis and categorization. From that, it can extrapolate the data to make "intelligent guesses" as to how the data should be interpreted and acted upon. Or something like that. The end-result is smarter software (some of which is going to happen in ways we can't even dream of) and more capable tools. At least that's the goal. The one thing that Apple got right in their version of "machine learning" is that it's not an internet-enabled technology. It all happens on your Mac or iPhone out of privacy concerns. Time will tell how much use Apple or third-party developers get out of CoreML, but it certainly makes for some exciting future prospects.

   
GOING ON A SAFARI... I have mixed feelings about Apple's web browser, Safari. On one hand, it's blazingly fast... and even faster now in High Sierra (seriously, you'll notice!). On the other hand, it fucks up way too much. Take for instance Facebook. Holy shit... everybody is on facebook, so you'd think that Apple could get it right for that one particularly critical site. Nope. You get everything from input errors to zoom display errors and everything in-between. Now, admittedly, this may be Facebook's fault for the way they code their site... but should that matter? Apple's job is to make their browser display sites the way they need to be displayed and they are not doing that. That's entirely on Apple. New to Safari with High Sierra are features like "enhanced pop-up blocker" which is supposed to do a better job of blocking annoying windows that sites love to generate with ads and shit. Which would be great... if it actually worked. Try to make a reservation at Hilton.com and they still manage to have a fucking "Room Key" pop-up window appear behind your fucking browser window so when you've made your fucking reservation you have to close another fucking window that you didn't fucking want. Yeah, it's fucking Hilton's fucking fault... but fuck Apple anyway for getting my hopes up that they could stop this fucking bullshit. Apparently Apple has also made privacy improvements in the way websites can track you, which is nice I suppose, but I wanted the pop-up window-blocking they fucking promised me. I mean, holy fucking shit... macOS has to be told to generate a window, and you're telling me that there's no way to stop this shit?!? Get the fuck out of here.

   
TAKING NOTES... Notepad can now make tables. Wheeee. It can also pin notes to the top so that it doesn't get dropped in the newness list when you write/modify a different note. About damn time.

   
MAIL CALL! ARE YOU THERE MAIL?... If I had to pick one thing that makes me crazy about Apple, it's that they just don't seem to give a fuck about what the end user wants. THEY decide what you want... and how you'll use it. Nowhere is this more apparent than their email app, Apple Mail. It used to be that you were able to select the mail server to use for sending your email within the message itself. Now? You have to go into prefs and turn servers off and on. And even that doesn't always work, despite being a huge time-waster and a fucking horror show of an inconvenience. Sending attachments as "Windows Friendly Attachments" was an option for a while, but never fucking worked, so now it looks like Apple abandoned it (apparently you can command-line a way of not sending embedded attachments, but sometimes I want embedded attachments, so that's useless to me). The list goes on and on. Apple Mail is a steaming pile of shit that's almost impossible to use in a way that makes sense or is in any way capable. And yet... despite a dozen alternatives... it's the one that works best with the Mac, and so I am stuck with it. Needless to say, Apple doesn't give a flying fuck about professionals who need a capable email app, so Mail still gets fuck-all in High Sierra. I mean, yeah, it gets better compression of your email archives... and I think it's supposed to have better search or something... but things that matter? Nope. And don't hold your breath that it will ever fucking happen. That's Apple in a nutshell. For fuck's sake... I know you want to keep things simple, Apple, but at least give power-users a fucking option to have options in the prefs, otherwise you're never going to be taken seriously. Meanwhile over at Microsoft, Outlook is embarrassing the fuck out of pitiful Apple Mail in countless ways.

   
MESSING WITH MY PHOTOS... Apple used to produce a sweet piece of software called "Aperture." It was a wonderfully intuitive and capable photo editing tool that also maintained a photo library for you. No, it wasn't Photoshop but, for photographers, it was a powerful way to manage and improve your photos. But then Apple dumped it, leaving their thousands of dedicated users to switch to Adobe Lightroom or some other tool that wasn't Aperture. I was incensed at the time. I was so mad that I started seriously thinking about moving to Windows and giving up on Apple the way that Apple had given up on me. Cooler heads prevailed and I stuck around, but I'm still pretty pissed about it. Apple's replacement "Photos" was a meager cataloging tool that didn't impress me in the least. With High Sierra, Apple has finally added basic editing tools like the iOS version has... and even added some tools that iOS doesn't have yet. Like a "healing brush" which allows you to edit out unwanted bits of a photo and have it magically fill in. Like taking a beach shot and erasing those tiny people spoiling your beautiful image. Photos is much slower than Photoshop as you add more and more edits, but at least you can do it... and do it fairly well as long as you're not asking too much. Overall, it's nothing that's going to make me switch from Adobe LightRoom (and a pale, pathetic shadow of Aperture) but for the casual photographer that just wants to make their photos look pretty, these are some welcome additions.

   
THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY OTHER APPS THAN 64 BIT... Any of your apps still 32-bit? Well, unless they get upgraded to 64-bit apps, High Sierra is as far as you go, since 32-bit will be unsupported after this. If you're clutching some old app you love that's been discontinued, you may want to buy an extra Mac now that you can keep in perpetual High Sierra Land to run in.

   
And so... here we are. The end.

Well, at least we're at the end of all the things I want to comment on when it comes to High Sierra.

Ultimately, I don't know whether to recommend an immediate upgrade. Given that the showpiece of this macOS update is file system changes that are massive and incomplete, it may be worth it to wait a while. At least until Apple gets APFS working on Fusion drives. Your data... especially if you don't have a good backup strategy... is the most endangered thing about your Mac, and dicking around with the system which controls all that is dangerous territory. And it's an update you really don't have to take. At least not yet. Partly because there are no absolute must-have features that make the risk worth the reward... but mostly because the biggest benefits aren't even available to all Macs, only those with hardware new enough to take advantage of it. Heaven only knows I don't want to end my comments on High Sierra with a "meh," but that's pretty much where I am.

What's not so "meh" is what happens in future OS releases that build upon the under-the-hood technologies that Apple is banking on now. APFS? Metal 2? CoreML? HEVC and HEIF? All things that could have big, big payoffs in the years ahead.

Assuming Apple will still give a fuck about the Mac by then. The way things are going, they could just abandon it and go all iPhone/iPad all the time.

What a shame.

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Categories: Apple Stuff 2017Click To It: Permalink  5 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Pencil

Posted on September 9th, 2015

Dave!Another September, another Apple Event.

This time there were few surprises, as Apple rumor sites have had the skinny on what's coming for months. Actually, with the exception of the Apple Pencil, I don't think there were any surprises. But we'll get to that in a bit.


Apple Watch

  • Until they make it thinner, I just don't give a crap. All the cool new features in the world don't mean a thing unless I actually want to wear it. Holy crap. You're Apple. Figure out a way of moving the battery to the strap or something.

iPhone 6S

  • I covet the new 12MP camera. That also shoots 4K video. Which is amazing (assuming you've got the memory for it).
  • DEEP. TRENCH. ISOLATION.
  • At first I thought that Live Photos was gimmicky... until I looked at the gallery. Photos that come to life like this are pretty cool. Kinda like Vines, I guess. Facebook support is great... hopefully Vine will be supported too.
  • 3D Touch (formerly Force Touch?) with Taptic Engine response and "Peek & Pop" looks wonderfully intuitive and useful. If developers start integrating it in their apps like the video showed, this alone might be worth the cost of an upgrade.
  • Faster-Better-Stronger Touch ID is a welcome upgrade.
  • The new "iPhone Upgrade Program" from Apple is interesting. A new iPhone every year so you've always got the latest. Unlocked for any carrier. AppleCare+ included. $36.58 a month for a 64GB 6S. That's $438.96 a year, which saves you around $200 from the cost of buying a new iPhone outright each year... $300 if you include a new AppleCare+ contract. Still, I don't know if this is something I'm willing to get into unless my mobile carrier will give me a discount on service since I won't be subsidizing a phone with them. I'm guessing that's not going to happen, and so... my 2-year contract with AT&T will undoubtedly be renewed. When is Apple going to create their own mobile network?
  • UPDATE: Shit. No optical image stabilization on the 6S. You still have to go with the "plus" model to get it, which sucks, because I still find the "non-plus" models to be too big.

Apple TV

  • Still no HomeKit. Holy shit is Apple fucking up on this.
  • The new model is not the breakthrough Apple seems to think it is. Others (including Google) had a lot of these new features ages ago.
  • Given how pathetic Apple's menu system is and how hard it is to do anything with the crappy Apple TV interface, slapping Siri on top of everything is appreciated... but doesn't do jack to solve the real problem.
  • The new swipe remote is great. If there is one area Apple excels, it's boiling down complicated remotes to something elegant and simple. Nice.
  • Siri's "What did they say?" feature which automatically jumps back 15 seconds AND temporarily turns on closed captioning is genius. The ability to access Siri info while watching AppleTV without interrupting what your watching is also very nice.
  • The Apps feature, assuming they get some good games, could really put a dent in Wii, Playstation, and Xbox sales. Apple TV certainly has the power to play good games.
  • Where my disappointment comes in is that I honestly thought Apple would be coming out with their own network content offerings, thus allowing everybody to build a cable package of only the channels they want to pay for. I am so sick and fucking tired of paying for an outrageously expensive cable package filled with tons of shit I don't want, but have to pay for. Oh well. It's coming one of these days. It pretty much has to, even if Apple isn't the one to do it.
  • Given how much money I've got invested in iTunes Store media AND the fact that my Apple TV is really old... I'll probably go ahead and spend the $149 come late October (since I won't be playing games (I have consoles for that), the $199 version would be overkill). Blergh.

iPad Pro

Okay. I'm just going to come right out and say it... I want one of these things so very, very bad.

Surprise!

I've been jonesing for a graphics tablet with display for the longest time. Problem is they are incredibly expensive, and the stylus lag coupled with the thick glass above the display on more affordable models is a total boner-killer for me. But here comes Apple with a new "Apple Pencil" that apparently eliminates lag and is coupled with Apple's laminated display which minimizes the amount of glass between you and what you're drawing...

And, oh yeah... it's still an iPad, so it can do everything an iPad can already do on top of being a kick-ass graphics tablet display. Giving you a much bigger bang for your buck than purchasing a graphics tablet display alone.

And about that price...

$799 for a 32GB model (pretty useless if you're doing serious work)
$949 for a 128GB model (more realistic, but I was hoping for at least 256GB)

Add a $99 Apple Pencil and you're over $1000 for the model you want. Which hurts. But that's roughly what a Wacom Cintiq 13" HD Touch runs, and it can only do one thing (though, admittedly, it does it very well). So, assuming iPad Pro and Apple Pencil end up being as good as they look, APPLE! TAKE MY MONEY!

Guess we'll find out come November.

   

All things considered, a worthy Apple Event.

My favorite part of the show was closing it out with a great live performance by OneRepublic. My second-favorite was the news that Apple now has an Android app for transitioning from an Android phone to an iPhone. Classic!

Android to iPhone Transfer App

   
As a Certified Apple Whore, I never feel more alive than when Apple releases something new that I want.

   

WWDC15

Posted on June 9th, 2015

Dave!And so yesterday was Apple's Word Wide Developers Conference 2015 Keynote.

I was underwhelmed. Mostly because the One Thing I wanted to hear more about was barely touched upon, and what was covered lacked any kind of "wow factor" for me.

I guess what follows here could be consider "spoilers" if you haven't seen it yet, so click here to watch Apple's Keynote if that's important to you.

On with the show...

The Intro.
A video featuring former SNL funnyman Bill Hader playing WWDC's "director" David LeGary opened the event. It was surprisingly funny. Even if you don't care about anything Apple, it's worth watching the start of the keynote just to see the intro.

Tim Cook Welcome.
Mr. Cook was his usual enthusiastic, entertaining self as he welcomed everybody to The Most Important Developer Conference on Earth. His most entertaining bit was when he brought up the Great Baseball Ransom Note. Last week Cleveland Indians' Brandon Moss hit the 100th home run of his career. The ball ended up landing in the Indian's dugout, which meant it was time for Brandon's teammates to write up a ransom note listing their demands in exchange for the ball. Interestingly enough, everybody's demands ended up being Apple products... iPads, iPhones, MacBooks, Apple watches, and the like...

Mac OS X El Capitan Logo

Tim Cook was amused enough by this to have Apple pick up the tab for the demands, meaning Brandon gets his ball at no charge. Pretty sweet!

Mac OS X El Capitan
Craig Federighi, who has the best hair in tech, started things off by introducing us to the next version of Mac OS X, El Capitan...

Mac OS X El Capitan Logo

Definitely evolutionary instead of revolutionary, El Cap's new features are kind of middle of the road. The new "Split View" feature which allows you to automatically size and position windows in the Finder has been something I've been doing with Moom for ages. OS X Search with "Spotlight" is already a loser to me because it's cluttered with too much shit that gets in the way of me actually finding stuff on my Mac. Well, guess what El Cap does for Spotlight? ADD EVEN MORE SHIT TO GET IN THE WAY! Yay! Craig touted more full-screen app features, but didn't mention THE ONE FUCKING THING THAT FULL-SCREEN APPS NEED... a way of permanently turning on the menu bar so you have access to critical information such as BATTERY LIFE REMAINING and THE TIME OF DAY without having to unhide the menu bar first. Lame! There are some nice new features in mail... but all I care about is if Mail has been made more reliable. Because right now Mail is utter shit, and adding more features doesn't fix shit. Note has been improved, but all I care about is whether or not Notes will sync properly now, which it hasn't done in ages. Safari is getting pinned tabs now, which is nice... but I'd sacrifice this nifty feature for better compatibility in a heartbeat. Maps is getting tansit directions at long last. And, lastly, Apple announced that Metal, their iOS graphics technology which is hugely powerful and efficient is coming to OS X. Oh happy day.

iOS 9
Siri is getting more better smarter, which is nice. Apple's getting more serious about publishing with their News app, which has me interested in seeing if it can be applied to THRICE Fiction. The Notes app is getting more powerful, which seems a little pointless considering that third-party apps have this space fairly well filled. Maps is getting improvements (including public transportation planning in some cities), which should be a no-brainer, but Apple has been dragging their heels for some reason. Wallet is replacing Passbook to better reflect where Apple is going with the app... the centerpiece being Apple Pay, which is the greatest thing since sliced bread, so that makes me happy.And, lastly, the iPad is getting multitasking, which is pretty smart considering Windows Surface has been eating Apple's lunch on this since they launched. The best news of all, however, is that iOS9 will run on every iPhone and iPad that iOS8 did, so nobody is getting left behind this time around.

Apple Music
The biggest news of the day did not end up being what I thought it would be... Apple hung that on their new streaming music service... Apple Music. It really isn't much different than Spotify or any other service, except that it looks better and appears to navigate easier. Apple is trying to up the ante by rolling in some features from their now-deceased Ping service in Connect, which allows artists to keep their fans up to date with what's going on. And then there's the new worldwide net-radio "experience" Beats 1, which seems insane to me... too many people have too many different musical tastes, so how can you plan a WORLDWIDE station that appeals to everyone? MTV (back when they actually played music) had to break up into pieces and have localized channels in different parts of the world... even that didn't work. Personally, none of this stuff appeals to me. I like to own the music I love. If I buy a digital track, it's mine to play forever. With streaming services, the music stops when the money runs out. Stop paying, stop playing. But, hey, Apple Music is going to have a free three-month trial, so who knows.

HomeKit
The main thing I was looking forward to at this conference was big news about Apple's HomeKit home automation technology which is (apparently) going to revolve around AppleTV. It was announced a year ago and has basically gone nowhere, so now was the time, right? All the WWDC propaganda had the AppleTV shape and the words "The Epicenter of Change" plastered on it, so what other conclusion could be drawn except finally HomeKit was getting its due?

WWDC 2015 Logo

And yet it didn't happen.

Maybe they were never planning on it. Maybe something changed. Maybe it wasn't ready. Who knows.

All I know is that nobody is better at shitting on Apple technologies than Apple themselves. Yes, new devices are being released for HomeKit. Yes, Apple took a whole minute of the WWDC keynote to tell us that HomeKit will be adding support for more than just lights and locks. But that's it. All that teasing for nothing.

And I just don't get it.

The longer Apple waits to stake their claim in the exploding home automation market, the less impact they're going to have. They need to be out there now!

I never thought I'd be saying this, but Apple needs to break apart as a company. Sure it's great to have everything under one roof, but when you can't focus enough to get shit done, maybe it's not the best fit. The slow death of HomeKit before its even released is a big wakeup call.

But oh well.

Maybe Apple will get their shit together and do a HomeKit "Special Event" by the end of the year and prove me wrong.

Otherwise, why did they even bother coming up with it?

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Categories: Apple Stuff 2015Click To It: Permalink  3 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

iRetrospective

Posted on November 13th, 2014

Dave!After a month (plus) with my iPhone 6 (not plus) I don't have much to say.

Do I like it? Oh yes. In fact, there are many things I love about it. Starting with Apple Pay, which is pretty much the bomb (when and where you can use it, that is).

There are, of course, things I'm not thrilled about as well. Mostly minor stuff that's not worth mentioning.

And one big thing that is. Which would be that it's too dang big!

The size of the 5s was perfect. It fit really well in my hand. It was super easy to operate one-handed. Typing on it was a joy.

The size of the 6 is oafish, clutzy, and difficult to mange... even with two hands... even with Apple's "Reachability" feature (double-touching the home button will drop the screen down in reach of your thumb). I can't even fathom how much worse the 6+ would be.

Apparently nobody else can either. The 6 is outselling the 6+ three-to-one. Or perhaps six-to-one, depending on who you want to believe.

I just hope this means Apple will give us an option to go down a size with the iPhone 7.

   

8.1

Posted on October 21st, 2014

Dave!As a Certified Apple Whore I'm probably more critical of Apple than their harshest detractors. I don't know why that is, except I'm so used to things being awesome when it comes to Apple products that I'm pretty upset when things go wrong.

And it seems as though things go wrong more often than not lately.

As an example... I'm positively outraged that I still can't stream my iTunes movie and television purchases to my laptop or iPad/iPhone. Unlike every other media content provider on the planet, Apple doesn't allow streaming (except to their Apple TV device) and forces you to download video content in order to watch it. This is stupid as hell, makes no damn sense, and means iTunes is grossly inferior to alternatives like Amazon, Google, and Ultraviolet by a huge margin... but Apple simply doesn't give a shit. You do it their way or not at all.

You would think that past idiocy like this would prepare me for any new failures that Apple racks up, but I assure you it does not.

This was only confirmed today when I flew into an apoplectic rage when the two new features I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for in the just-released iOS 8.1 update don't actually work as advertised...

   
APPLE PAY

The idea is an intriguing one. Instead of using a credit card to pay for purchases, you use the credit card information stored on your iPhone 6. Why bother? Well, there's three very good reasons, actually...

  1. You don't have to turn over your credit card number or personal information to anyone. Which means a cashier can't steal your card number, or even know your name, when you make payment.
  2. Your transactions are private. Apple doesn't track what you buy or store any information about your purchases. You get a receipt on your iPhone, but it goes no further than that.
  3. There is an online component for making payments which will hopefully bury the thieving assholes at PayPal WHO STOLE MY MONEY!

Great, huh?

Well... kinda...

Adding a credit card to Apple Pay is pretty easy. You type in the card info (or take a photo of the card to enter it automatically), then confirm the added card via email, text, or phone call. When it works, it's pretty painless. My Chase Bank Disney Visa even brings up a photo of my physical card design so I recognize which card I'm using...

Apple Pay

Once added, credit cards appear on PassBook along with everything else...

Apple Pay

Except... it's not a flawless process by any means. For reasons unknown, my Citi card added just fine, but all subsequent attempts to verify it have failed. I've been trying for two days now...

Apple Pay

Needless to say, unverified cards are unusable, even though they show up in PassBook just the same. I don't know if this is an Apple problem or a CitiBank problem, but it doesn't matter... in the end it's an Apple problem because they obviously didn't test this crap as thoroughly as they should have.

UPDATE: Eventually I just deleted the card and started over. This time, the only option I had for verification was to call a toll-free number and tell a computer the name of my favorite teacher. Alrighty then...

Apple Pay

And then, of course, there's those credit cards that aren't supported, like my US Bank FlexPerks account...

Apple Pay

Now, I'm assuming this is not Apple's fault. I'm assuming that they presented Apple Pay to USBank along with all the other major credit card issuing banks, and USBank decided not to make it a priority.

Which is insane.

A major, major player like Apple comes up with a new method of making payment that DOESN'T cut credit card companies out of the picture... and US Bank is not onboard for launch? Like I said, insane. But hardly surprising. Do you know how long it took USBank to add chips to their cards? Years. Years of waiting for them to get off their asses and add a chip so I could use my card in Europe. Here's hoping that Apple completely removes credit card companies from Apple Pay within five years. Like record labels, they will NOT be missed, and technology will proceed much better without them.

Moving on...

According to Apple's FAQ, if a merchant requires you to give them your credit card number, you are to instead give them your "Device Account Number." Problem is, if you have "Display Zoom" turned on, you can't see the number and can't swipe to get at it. Most times when this happens, I am able to copy the information and paste it somewhere to look at it. Not with Apple Pay. I guess the only way to get my "Device Account Number" is to turn off Display Zoom first...

Apple Pay

Now, I gotta ask... who the hell is beta-testing this shit? ANYBODY?!? Because every damn time Apple releases something, I find a half-dozen bugs within a day or two. Every. Damn. Time. Surely Apple can't be this inept, so the only conclusion I can draw is that they know about most of the bugs they ship, and just figure they'll get to them when they damn well feel like it. In the meanwhile, their customers have to put up with this bullshit. But anyway...

Once set up, how is it to actually use Apple Pay? Easy. Just hold your phone next to the NFC (Near Field Communication) terminal and your iPhone 6 will automatically come alive and ask you to approve the transaction with TouchID (and allow you to change to a different card than your default, if you wish). You then get a confirmation that the payment was made and a confirmation of the transaction on your card's "info" panel...

Apple Pay

All of this is, of course, is entirely dependent on whether the merchant in question A) Has Apple Pay. B) Know what it is and how to process it. and C) Has it up and running. I tried four locations that were listed as Apple's "partners" and the result was a mixed bag...

  • McDonalds. Had it and knew what it was. Processed quickly ("I thought that's what you were doing!"). PassBook receipt said "East Wenatchee, WA" for the transaction, even though I was in plain old Wenatchee. Didn't provide the amount of sale.
  • Subway. Didn't have it and had no clue what it was. Which means I bought one of their shitty, overpriced sandwiches for nothing.
  • Walgreens. Had it and knew what it was. Processed instantaneously ("Isn't it nice to be able to pay for stuff with your phone?"). Not only provided the proper store name, but had the proper location listed and the amount of sale. The promise of everything Apple Pay is meant to be was on display right here, and it was glorious.
  • Staples. Had it... I think... didn't seem to know what it was or how to make it work. Never activated on my iPhone, so I'm guessing perhaps the equipment was nonfunctional or turned off?

So... 50/50 with only one of the two successful transactions working exactly as intended. Not bad for second day after launch, I guess. The one thing I didn't do was attempt to return something to the store, which is supposed to be a real mess. I can imagine that may take a while for stores to train their employees how to handle.

UPDATE: One interesting thing... as I mentioned above, my Device Account Number doesn't show up because I have Display Zoom enabled. But on both my Walgreen's and McDonald's receipt, it says "VISA ACCT" followed by four digits that are not from my credit card. I'm guessing this must be my DAN, so I've made note of it.

Ultimately, Apple Pay has amazing potential. If every transaction could be as utterly painless, seamless, and blazingly fast as my experience at Walgreen's was, I would never pay with any other method ever again. Which, of course, can't happen until all the bugs are worked out and every merchant gets off their ass and implements a NFC processing system... so we're a ways away on that. But still, the future of payment is here, it's really great, and it's Apple Pay.

   

AIRDROP & HANDOFF/CONTINUITY

For quite a while now, Apple has had a technology called "AirDrop" on their Mac OS and iOS devices. This wonderful feature allows you to transfer files between machines with very little effort. Except... not really. Despite being named the same, AirDrop on Mac OS was an entirely different system than AirDrop on iOS, and they were completely incompatible. This was stupid with a capital D, and Apple should have waited until they got Mac OS/iOS interoperability before unleashing unfinished shit. Well, that day has finally come with Mac OS Yosemite and iOS 8.1. Except not really.

I'm just going to set aside that since my iMac doesn't have Bluetooth LE, it is incapable of connecting in any way with my iOS devices...

NO AIRDROP FOR YOU!!!

I can, however connect with other, newer Macs, but this involves entering an "Old Mac Compatibility Mode" on a more recent Mac to work. And once you are in that mode, you have to dump out in order to use the current AirDrop with "iOS devices and newer Macs" again...

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

About as elegant as buttering a slice of toast with a hammer, but I'm assuming there's some kind of technical reason for it. But, hey, at least there's an option here. When it comes to getting files from an iOS device, I'm back to emails and DropBox.

But what about those Macs which have Bluetooth LE and are compatible with AirDrop 2.0? Well... I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that it works. Except... not really.

Connecting my MacBook Pro (mid-2012) with my MacBook Air (Early 2014) and iPhone 6 works nicely. Though there was some confusion at first as to what I was AirDropping with because all it shows is the device's owner. In order to know which device you've got a connection to, you have to connect to two or more devices at the same time, then the information pops up...

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

No. I have not one damn clue as to why Apple doesn't help you out with that info when there's only one device connected. Maybe it's aesthetically displeasing to the spirit of Steve Jobs or some crazy shit like that. With Apple, you can never tell. But anyway...

Going Mac OS to Mac OS works perfectly. Going Mac OS to iOS works as expected. But going from iOS to Mac OS? No joy...

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

AirDrop is clearly connected... I can verify that on the Mac side in two places. But iOS simply will not acknowledge that it's part of an AirDrop network no matter what I do. I've rebooted my phone. I've disconnected and reconnected various devices in every order I can think of. I can send files TO my iPhone... but can't send a damn thing FROM my iPhone. At least to a Mac. To another iPhone 6 it works fine. I have verified in Apple's support forums that I am not the only one having problems. A lot of people are having problems. To which I have to say (again) who the hell is beta-testing this shit? ANYBODY?!?

Oddly enough, "Handoff" or "Continuity" (or whatever the hell Apple is calling their iPhone to Mac to iPhone to Mac app transfer service) only works in the opposite direction... I can hand off composing an email or looking at a web page from my Mac to my iPhone with no problem at all. A little icon of my current Mac activity shows up on the lock screen of my iPhone 6 (opposite the camera icon), I swipe up on it, login with Touch ID, and I'm picking up exactly where my Mac left off, as advertised...

Handoff iPhone Working?

But the opposite direction? No joy. No matter what I do, nothing will ever handoff from my iPhone to my Mac. To which I have to say (again) who the hell is... well, you get the picture.

   

So Handoff, like Apple Pay, has some problems that need to be ironed out. Why Apple doesn't test thoroughly enough to iron them out before release is a complete mystery to me, but here we are. You'd have thought that Apple would have learned their lesson after the utter disaster that was iSync, but... well... apparently not.

The frustrating thing here is that Apple is developing these awesome technologies that are actually useful. Apple Pay, Air Drop, Handoff... all terrific, terrific stuff. On paper. In order for me to be impressed, Apple needs to make this shit work in reality. Apple Pay is close. AirDrop/Handoff isn't even in the ballpark.

I'm confident that one day things will get hammered into place. Apple has too much to lose if it doesn't. The only question is... how soon?

I want the future now.

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Categories: Apple Stuff 2014Click To It: Permalink  5 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Upgrades

Posted on October 20th, 2014

Dave!I'M UPGRADING MY iPHONE! NO TIME TO BLOG, MR. JONES!

CHECK BACK TOMORROW, NEVERMIND!

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Categories: Apple Stuff 2014Click To It: Permalink  0 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

iOS 8

Posted on June 4th, 2014

Dave!"Android fragmentation is turning devices into a toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities."
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, ZDNet

This is the second half of my notes on Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, this time focusing on what's coming down the pipe in iOS 8. And something else entirely, which was an unexpected surprise.

To start things off, Apple CEO Tim Cook was back on stage to drop some rather startling statistics on iOS update adoption vs. Android update adoption...

Tim Cook

89% of iPhone users are on the latest version of iOS. A mere 9% of Android users are using the latest version of that mobile OS. For developers, this is a pretty big deal. If you are counting on new OS features for the functionality of your app, you have to be assured that your users have a version of the OS which has those features. From the looks of things, Android developers are going to be very slow to implement new stuff in their apps, because the vast majority of their users are on some older version where they are unsupported. Add to that the heinous fragmentation of the Android OEM variants, and Apple has made a very good case for developers to choose iOS as their platform of choice.

After Tim Cook's intro, Craig Federighi comes back to show everybody what end-user features and improvements we can expect with the next update.

One area where iOS has always been pretty horrible is dealing with interruptions. Get an alert, and you have to dump out of whatever you're doing to deal with it. iOS 8 takes a big leap forward by allowing you to handle common interruptions (like text messages and calendar alerts) without leaving the app you're in...

Craig Federighi

This is very cool, but it would be pretty useless if it were restricted to Apple-only interrupts. Fortunately, interactive notifications are available to 3rd-party apps, which is fantastic for people like me who communicate primarily through Facebook Messenger or other non-Apple services. What remains to be seen is how far the interactivity goes. Can developers customize the controls available to best fit their apps? Or does Apple limit interactivity to internal iOS buttons and text fields? Time will tell.

Taking a page from Windows Phone 8, iOS 8 now has some people-centric additions... like being able to access frequent and recent contacts on the app-switcher page. A terrific use of some wasted space...

Craig Federighi

Unfortunately, the usefulness of this feature is hampered by Apple deciding how you can interact with these people. Right now you can text, call, or Facetime with them... but there's no option for Facebook messaging or a slew of other 3rd-party apps that people use to keep in touch with the people in their lives. So, ultimately, a step in the right direction... but not a very big one.

Next up was a beautiful new grouped tabs interface for Safari on the iPad...

Craig Federighi

I do three things on my iPad... 1) Watch movies when I travel... 2) Read comic books... and 3) Surf the internet. The area in most need of improvement is Safari for web browsing, and it's nice to know that Apple is at least trying to make it a better experience.

One of the most exciting pieces of news at the keynote was Apple's announcement of an improved keyboard... now with predictive text. As you type, words appear above the keyboard where iOS is trying to guess what you're typing. Kind of like what happens now as words appear above your input cursor while you type... except now you get more than just one word, which should be a lot more productive. iOS doesn't stop there though... it also tries to predict words you'll use in response to emails based on the content and whom the email is from! The keyboard learns context, and tries to be smart about how it assists you...

Craig Federighi

As if all that weren't enough... Apple is now going to allow you to install alternative keyboards! This means terrific technology like Swype, which allows you to slide your finger from letter to letter in a word... and Fleksy which has an amazing word-guessing algorithm and cool gesture controls... can be installed and used system-wide. This is fantastic news, because now users can test keyboards and find the one that will allow them to type the fastest.

And then, AT LONG LAST, Apple has finally given some love to their texting app, "Messages." I don't know what the heck took so long, but now we can finally manage users on group messages... and even dump out of a conversation if you want. If that's too extreme, you can put a thread on "do not disturb" so it won't keep buzzing your phone. Even better, iOS 8 has even more ways to communicate... allowing you to share your location, and even add voice memos and quick videos...

Craig Federighi

Now if Apple would only get off their ass and give the same attention to VOICE CALLS. I mean, come on... PC call center software has been around for decades which allows you to do simple things like record custom voicemail messages and selectively route callers... why in the hell is iPhone so far behind in this? It IS, after all, primarily a PHONE, isn't it? Oh well, I suppose I should be thrilled that we at least get to block a caller from calling again... how long did we have to wait for that?

And then we have HealthKit... Apple's portal to managing all your health apps...

Craig Federighi

The ultimate promise of the idea is that one day you will be able to monitor various aspects of your health (like blood pressure and the like) which can automatically be transmitted and monitored by your automated analysis software and you doctor. If there's a problem detected, your doctor's office can then contact you to get it sorted out. It's a fantastic idea. In theory. In reality, I wonder how many doctor's offices are going to implement this stuff any time soon. I also wonder when we're going to get Apple's "iWatch" which will have health monitoring and syncing that makes HealthKit actually useful. Who knows.

From there we moved on to photo storage (in iCloud, of course) and the idea of Apple's "Smart Adjustment" technology which gives you the ability to perform comprehensive edits that are smart enough to do a lot of "behind the scenes" work to give you much better photos with little effort...

Craig Federighi

It will be bundled with iOS 8 and be added to Yosemite in 2015. Which is great and all... but I have to wonder where this leaves Aperture, Apple's high-end photo editing and storage software. How will it be able to handle edits made in iPhoto on iPhones, iPads, and Macs? Will they integrate, or be a separate set? Will flattened edits in Aperture be saved out so that devices reading from your iCloud Photos can actually view them? All of this is up in the air. And since Apple won't comment on future software (natch) it's tough to tell if Aperture is even going to be around in 2015. This is very, very frustrating... but so typically Apple. I honestly don't expect them to tip their hand and tell people what's happening with Aperture... but it would at least be nice to know that it's still going to be around.

A surprise to no one, Siri is being updated...

Craig Federighi

I use Siri all the time, so naturally I am thrilled to have improvements to his/her functionality. What bums me out is how far behind the Mac version is to the iOS version, and no mention has been made as to whether or not any love is going to be spent improving the Macintosh side of things. I would hope so, because the crappy dictation functionality on the Mac is pathetic. Why Apple can't keep up with the iOS side of things is a complete mystery. Why can't you ask Siri questions on a Mac like you can on an iPhone? It makes -zero- sense. And yet here we are.

And here's where things start to get interesting.

Very interesting, if you're a developer.

First of all, Apple is going to finally allow permission-based data sharing between apps. Something that is long overdue and will makes for some incredible extended functionality possibilities. Sure, the functionality will be limited so as to keep data safe... but this is such a massive leap in the right direction that I find it hard to not get excited at the prospect.

Game developers will get up to a massive 10x speed bump in their apps thanks to a new technology called "Metal" which allows them to get closer to the raw power of the iPhone/iPad processor than ever before.

And, lastly, something that took everybody by surprise... a new development language called Swift that takes the best parts of past programming languages and marries them to modern programming concepts while leaving all the antiquated baggage behind...

Craig Federighi

Without being able to see it and play with it, there's no way I can really comment on how useful Swift might end up being. But it certainly sounds promising. And powerful. And easier to use. And smart. I can't wait to take a look.

And that was that.

No new hardware. No new AppleTV. No new iWatch.

Just some interesting new features and a promising new future for Mac developers. Which is what I guess we should expect from a Developer's conference.

So I guess I'll try not to be disappointed with the lack of new toys.

   

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