Posted on April 24th, 2020
Continuing on from my new iPad 2020 post from yesterday...
I had no intention of buying a Magic Keyboard for my new iPad Pro. I bought the thing for drawing and painting. I don't need a keyboard for that, and adding one essentially turns an iPad into a laptop. I've already got a laptop. And then there's the $350(!) price tag for the thing. Add that to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($1,000) with an Apple Pencil ($130), and your total jumps to a whopping $1,480! A MacBook Pro 13-inch is $1300! So why?
In anticipation of my new iPad arriving, I started taking a look at all the new apps and app updates that have been released since I set up my existing iPad back in 2016. Because once I installed Procreate (the painting/drawing program I use) and the essential stuff I had on my iPhone, I never really looked at anything else. I made an exception for Photoshop for iPad when it was released because, well, it's Photoshop and I was really looking forward to what it might be like on iPad... but that ended in disappointment. Nope. With the exception of trying to blog on my iPad every once in a while, I've used it solely for Procreate and nothing else.
After looking at all the things I could be doing with my iPad, I decided to take another look at my keyboard options because there's entirely too many apps for which is would be a very handy thing to have. My current iPad has a "Smart Keyboard" which I actually like quite a lot. The keys aren't really keys... they're bubbles that click on the fabric surface, but it's perfectly useable. I could type better on this than I ever could Apple's horrific "butterfly keyboard." The problem is that you can't really type on your lap with it. There's no solid "base" on which to rest it on an uneven surface and it just flops over when you attempt it.
The new "floating" Magic Keyboard is different...
On the plus-side it is very sturdy, has a solid base, can be used on irregular surfaces (like your lap), and types like a dream. Plus... a trackpad! Something that is weirdly (but brilliantly) integrated into what is supposed to be a touch-based device.
On the down-side there's no way to fold the keyboard back and out of your way. In order to use the tablet like a tablet, you have to pop it off the keyboard completely. At which point your iPad is 100% unprotected. This scary and, quite frankly, dangerous prospect has me more than a little worried. It's way too easy to drop a $1000 device and end up with some serious damage if there's no protection on it whatsoever. I don't know if Apple will release some kind of hard case to protect the iPad which can still be used with the Magic Keyboard, but somehow I doubt it.
So let's get into this, shall we?
Given that I blew through all the Apple Cash I had been saving up for the past year to get this (and still had to come up with $60 on top of that!), the biggest question I have for myself is whether or not Magic Keyboard is worth the $350(!) price tag.
The answer is a resounding no.
As high-quality as it feels... as capable as it is... as well as it works... as beautiful as it looks... it's just not worth THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!). I mean, holy crap... that's THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!)... FOR A KEYBOARD!!! I can see it being worth $200 tops. Which is likely what the competitors will be selling for when they get around to it. They may not be as top-of-the-line as an Apple model, but give me a break.
The way it works is to magnetically attach to your iPad. And those magnets are strong. My initial worries about my pricey new tool falling off the keyboard and crashing to the floor were wiped away the minute I attached it. And the Magic Keyboard is heavy. I mean really heavy. It makes my 12.9-inch iPad feel three times as weighty. That's great for making sure that it stays on the table without falling over... but it's terrible for portability. A primary selling-point for iPad is how much lighter and smaller it is than a computer. Well... with this keyboard on it, Apple might as well have added a touchscreen to a MacBook Air and been done with it.
Opening the Magic Keyboard folio is terrible. Because the hinges are all so tight and the Apple Pencil gets in the way, I have ended up accidentally lifting the magnetic cover off the iPad instead of opening it a couple times now. It's easier to open if you take the Apple Pencil off, but should that really be required? And speaking of Apple Pencil, it's kinda stupid that there's no security strap to help keep it attached while charging. The magnets which attach it are strong, but brush the iPad up against something and Pencil still going to come off. This is an inexplicable move, and I wish that there was a model which had SOMETHING to help keep the Pencil in place so I don't lose my $130 stylus. I'm trying to get in the habit of lifting the iPad up and cracking it open like a book when opening it. This is far easier, but way less intuitive.
The "floating" aspect of the design is a mixed bag. Push the iPad to a flatter more normal viewing angle and the bottom of it floats right up next to the number keys, which is kinda a bummer (and also explains why Apple didn't bother to put function keys on this? Talk about a bummer!). And, as I mentioned, you can't flop the keyboard back behind the iPad so it's out of the way. You're either using it like a laptop with your iPad attached or you're not using it at all because your iPad is detached. There is no "best of both worlds" to be had. As mentioned above, the hinges which keep the Magic Keyboard closed and the hinges which allow angle adjustment for the iPad angle are very stiff. Almost too stiff to be comfortable. It makes me wonder if they loosen over time, and Apple made them too stiff so that their pricey keyboard attachment wouldn't be floppy within a year? Something I'm guessing is still a possibility. iPads are light, but they ain't that light. Eventually the hinges have to succumb to the weight, don't they?
Unlike the "Smart Keyboard" on my old iPad, the Magic Keyboard works just fine on my lap when sitting... or propped against my knees in bed. I don't know that it's worth the trade-off of not being able to flop the keyboard around to the back so it's out of the way though.
As for the keyboard itself, the keys are certainly nice enough to type on. Far better than the old fabric-bubble "Smart Keyboard" I was using, which I actually liked just fine, so I'm quite happy typing on it. The keys are backlit so you can more easily type in dark places (which holds true even if you are a good touch-typist because you have to find those keys first!). Sure I would like a bit more "travel" to be really comfortable, but it's not a big deal.
There may be no "Escape" key... no function keys... but there is a "Global" key which summons the on-screen emoji keyboard. This is so much more useful than the crappy little "TouchBar" on my Mac which takes forever to navigate emoji with. I wish they would give us this in
The trackpad confuses me. In the best possible way. What I find confusing is why I would ever need to use it since I have a massive touch display floating in front of me. Wouldn't it be better to just tap on the screen instead of the trackpad? Well, not always, as it turns out. First of all, your hand doesn't get in the way of viewing the display when you use the touchpad. Second of all, the way the "mouse pointer" works when you use the trackpad is really beautiful. It doesn't just stay an arrow (or, in this case a big dot)... it morphs, changes, and sticks like a magnet as you move it over elements like buttons and text and such (not everywhere and not always, alas, but when it does it's magic). So very elegant and useful. Which is to say it's so very Apple. I dearly love the way the trackpad works with iOS and can't help but wonder if this kind of thing would translate well to
On the functionality side... the entire trackpad surface is a button you can press but, unlike on my MacBook which fakes a "click" by providing force feedback when you press down, this trackpad actually physically clicks. I'm guessing this is due to the smaller size making physical clicks more feasible than on the massive trackpad on Apple's laptops. It feels good. Not just for clicking but for tracking and dragging. I wish it had a bit more "tooth" to provide physical sensation for your fingertip, however, because it's really slick. Of course the trackpad supports gestures (like multi-finger swiping) and click-dragging, which work much like my MacBook Pro... though they are a bit more difficult to use on the smaller surface.
The Magic Keyboard comes with a
When it comes to actually protecting your iPad, I'm going to say that the Magic Keyboard doesn't do much there at all. There's essentially no cushioning or protection for the sides and corners. Indeed, the only thing you get extending past the iPad structure is part of the weak seam where the Magic Keyboard parts are heat-sealed together! This is shockingly lame, and one of the main reasons I'm so mortified that I paid $350(!) for it. I'd have hoped for some protection, but got practically nothing. The screen is protected and that's it.
One final note that I find kinda silly... there's a cutout for the camera bump on the back. So if you want to take a photo with your iPad, you can lift up the entire iPad/Magic Keyboard assembly and snap a picture... even though the angle of the iPad on the Magic keyboard is really silly for this. Anybody wanting to snap a photo will most likely just pop the iPad off the Magic Keyboard to do it. But, hey, I guess they had to do something to accommodate the camera bump back there, so why not?
Am I keeping it? Am I willing to just eat the $350(!) cost despite my not thinking it's anywhere near worth that much?
As I understand it, Apple has extended their return window, and so I have some time to decide. But, odds are, I will probably hang onto it. Despite value-for-the-money not being there, it is a really nice keyboard. And given how iPads are so very quickly getting to the point where I will be able to do actual work on them (in addition to the drawing and painting work I do now) I'll be needing a nice keyboard for extended typing tasks.
But THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!) FOR A KEYBOARD? Damn, Apple, that seems absurd... even for you.
UPDATE: The soft-touch vinyl(?) cover is already showing scuff marks, which is rage-inducing. THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!) and you can damage it with your fingernail? Seriously? For that kind of money, couldn't Apple have made it with a tough fabric cover that will hold up to even the most minimal abuse? What a shitty, shitty design decision. Used to be with Apple you paid more because the quality was better. Not so much with this Magic Keyboard embarrassment.
Posted on April 23rd, 2020
The last iPad I bought was the 1st generation 9.7-inch iPad Pro four years ago in 2016. It was my second iPad and, at the time I purchased it, the intent was to use it as a laptop replacement for travel. That didn't work out at all. It just wasn't capable enough for me to do real work on it. Any time I traveled with my iPad, I had to have my MacBook with me as well. Still, it was good for watching movies on the plane.
What the iPad did do for me was revolutionize the way I draw and paint digitally. Thanks to its blazing speed, virtually non-existent parallax, and low latency (with the right app)... plus the fantastic responsiveness of the Apple Pencil stylus... everything changed. I found it to be a better experience for creating art than an expensive Wacom Cintiq tablet paired with a high-end computer! If there was a flaw, it was that the 9.7-inch size was too small for me to work comfortably, and I regretted quite badly that I didn't spend the money to buy the 12.9-inch size.
In November 2018 Apple released their 3rd generation model iPad. It was compelling enough an upgrade from my older model that I started saving $50 a month until I could afford one.
A month ago Apple released their 4th generation model iPad Pro. It was definitely time to upgrade now, but I had only saved up $700 of the $1000 price tag. Then quarantine started dragging on so I figured I might as well blow through some of the vacation money I had been saving since I won't be using it any time soon... and went to order me a new 12.9-inch iPad!
Much to my horror, the specs stated that my 1st generation Apple Pencil wouldn't work with the new model and I would have to spend an additional $130 to buy an upgraded one of those as well. It would be another month until I could get the money together for that, so my plans were put on hold.
Eventually I managed to scrape the money together and order... then today it finally arrived!
And now for my thoughts...
Holy cow is this thing beautiful. And so impossibly thin! It's like a thick sheet of glass with metal on the back. I honestly don't know how they manage it, and thinking of how far technology has come in my lifetime makes my head hurt.
My old iPad was pretty darn fast, even when running modern apps. But this thing is ridiculously speedy. Everything happens instantaneously. There's no delay for anything. It's kinda how like you dream your computer would work... except it's reality. What I don't understand is why Apple put in an A12Z chip instead of the newer, faster, better A13 chip that's in my iPhone. The A12Z has an additional core compared to the A12X from the previous iPad (8 cores instead of 7) which aids in some areas, but it's a minor upgrade at best. If you're going to use a new chip, why not go with the best you already have instead of spending the money to retool an older one with minimal effect?
The "new and improved" $130 Apple Pencil drawing stylus is actually "new and improved." It has a matte surface instead of a glossy one so it also has a more natural texture when you grip it. I also like the thinner diameter (which I know some people do not). But the absolute best part? You don't have to plug it in to charge it! It magnetically attaches to the iPad and charges wirelessly in either direction (nice for lefties and righties)... but only on the right "long-side" of the iPad (when held vertically... it's the top when held horizontally). As a side benefit, the flat "charging" side of the Pencil means it won't roll off the table. Where the Apple Pencil is just frickin' brain dead is that it's not reversible. Most styluses can be flipped to erase something (mimicking a real-life pencil eraser). STILL NO ERASER ON A $130 STYLUS IS UNFORGIVABLE. They do have a tap sensor on the pencil, however. In Procreate a double tap switches to the eraser. Another double tap goes back to your pen. This is a really nice way of working, but I still don't understand why a stylus costing a fraction of what Apple's charging has an eraser end when Apple's doesn't. Even so, I like this stylus 1000% better than Apple's old one. If I have a complaint, it's that I don't understand how it costs $30 more than the previous model.
Back to the iPad itself... the larger size of the 12.9-inch model is far, far better for drawing and painting. Not as comfortable to hold, of course, but much easier than a tablet hooked up to a computer. EXCEPT... thanks to a feature called "Sidecar" you actually can hook your iPad up to your computer if you want to (assuming it's a new enough model to support it)...
But it gets better... MacOS X apps which support pressure sensitivity can inherit this data from the iPad! Below is not a screenshot of my computer screen, it's Photoshop on my iPad in Sidecar mode. I drew a mustache on Jake to show how the pressure sensitivity on brushes allows you to get thicker lines as you press harder...
Not as flawlessly responsive as when using an iPad-native app like Procreate, but still perfectly useable! This is next-level-amazing, because now I won't have to save up $1,200 to get that Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 display tablet I've been dreaming of. My new 12.9" iPad is able to sit in for a 15.6" tablet, and still be useable as an iPad on its own! Disconnect the Cintiq from your computer and it doesn't do anything. iPad truly is the best of both worlds.
Not that I wouldn't love to have an even bigger screen than 12.9-inches but, finances considered, it's absolutely big enough. Still, can you imagine if Apple were to unleash a 16-inch iPad? A 20-inch iPad? As display technology gets more amazing and cheaper, it's gonna happen. The pro creative market pretty much demands it. Apple could match Wacom Cintiq models size-for-size and price-to-price and corner the market with display tablets that are also fully iPad-functional.
The display on this thing is brilliant. I mean really brilliant... as in bright and beautiful. I don't even need to turn the display brightness to maximum like I usually do! Colors are lush and saturated. The refresh rate is a mind-boggling 120Hz and buttery smooth when dragging shapes I've drawn. Just like my older iPad, it's still too slick for me to draw comfortably. To help with this I've ordered a
I don't think I've ever used the camera on either of my past iPads. My iPhone is better and more capable for taking photos (not to mention handier since it's always in my pocket). Never-the-less, the new iPad Pro has gone dual-lens with a wide and ultra-wide lens if I ever need them. The big technology here is the brand new LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Scanner which can accurately map out your surroundings for things like Augmented Reality. I haven't had a chance to play with this much, and I don't know that it's something I will ever use regularly, but it does give us a hint as to how big Apple is betting on AR for the future.
Something else I haven't used in previous iPads was the front-facing "selfie" camera. But in the age of social distancing when video-conferencing has become the norm, I've found myself actually using it. And Apple's camera works fine... when the iPad is held vertically. But since I use my iPad horizontally the vast majority of the time, it's just bizarre. People can see me fine, but I'm looking off to the side and I got a comment that it's a bit disorienting. You may be thinking "All video conferencing cameras are like that!" and you're right. But it's very noticeable in horizontal mode because the camera is on the side of your screen instead of on top of it. And there's another problem there too... when held in portrait orientation, there's a good chance your thumb will cover the camera needed for FaceID unlock. Apple really, really needs to rethink this and put a camera for both vertical and horizontal orientations. Transmitted sound is really good, and I'm told it's not as "tinny" as my old one when I asked about it during video chat. Likely because Apple says they are using five "studio-quality" microphones.
There's no headphone jack, of course. I have AirPods so this isn't a problem, but I sure wish I could use my high-priced headphones from 1994 with the iPad and not have to use an adapter. Right now, my MacBook Pro is the only thing left which has a headphone jack. That being said, the sound quality coming from the built-in speakers floors me. Just as with my iPhone before this, I cannot comprehend how such good sound can come from speakers so thin! And, unlike the cameras, Apple has made darn sure that your stereo experience is good whether you hold it vertically or horizontally (though horizontal seems to give better dimension to the sound because the speakers are further apart). There are four speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom, and they seem to adjust automatically depending on the orientation of the iPad. So nice!
Given how stubborn Apple can be about cables and connectors, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 2020 iPad has USB-C instead of Apple's proprietary Lightning connector. Granted, before USB-C was invented Apple had to do something to get away from the "this-side-up" idiocy of older, larger, slower USB connectors... but given how USB-C is on everything else Apple makes and working great, it seems silly to hold out on the iPhone. Hopefully that will be remedied soon.
And then there's the iOS that's running everything...
Having the greatest tablet hardware in the world means very little when the software isn't up to the task. And iOS is mostly there. But not completely. The gesture-based multitasking is just plain bad. It's confusing, complicated, unintuitive, and sometimes I can't even get it to work correctly (and never understand why). Sadly, this makes an otherwise amazing product feel half-baked. Given Apple's long history of sublime user experiences and interfaces, this is baffling to me. There are a number of "proof of concept" videos out there showing better alternatives to how Apple is doing things, yet Apple themselves just sits on their hands? Why? I can only imagine it goes back to their preposterous stubbornness (which was responsible for their laptops having shitty keyboards for years). Well, get off it, Apple. You can do better than this. You need to do better than this. The power users you're courting to break free of the "home and hobby" mindset of a tablet not being a "real" computer isn't going to change until you do.
In all the ways that matter, the 2020 iPad Pro is not that different from 2018 iPad Pro. It has one more core in the CPU and a LiDAR sensor that's of limited use, and that's pretty much it. But when compared to my 2016 iPad? It's a pretty big upgrade. And not just because I went from a 9.7-inch screen to a 12.9-inch screen... it's faster, smarter, and more capable in every way. And when you couple that with the fact that I can use it as a display tablet when hooked up to my desktop Mac? It's a phenomenal value... even with the $1,000 price tag (or, if you include the $130 Apple Pencil stylus I had to buy, the $1,130 price tag).
We are rapidly getting to the point where computers and tablets are converging. This is more apparent when you look at Microsoft Surface and the slew of touch-screen PCs being released, but things seem more kludgy on the Windows side than with Apple's more purposeful iOS/MacOS convergence. Next year Apple is said to be switching from Intel chips to their custom ARM chips in their Macintosh computers. The next step will be to have an iOS layer on MacOS to run iPad apps natively. Then, once all the apps have gone to iOS for the Mac, the MacOS is no more. As technology gets smaller and faster, it's pretty much inevitable. I have to wonder if it will be less than 10 years before you can get an iOS desktop? I dunno. More likely, it will just be iPad. And if Apple gets off their asses and stops being so stubborn, this might not be a bad thing.
To be honest, I would have rather spent my vacation money on an actual vacation. But, I am quite happy with my new iPad and am grateful to have gotten it ahead of schedule. Hopefully it will unleash my creativity and be worth the price.
Posted on February 7th, 2020
Every year the Six Colors blog on all things Apple issues a report card. For the past week I've taken time when I have a free minute to make up a report card of my own.
I should start out by saying that I remain disappointed that Six Colors doesn't have a "Customer Service" section on their report card. If they did, I would give Apple an F- or whatever the lowest possible score is. The two horrendous incidents I endured in 2019... both of which were 100% Apple's fault... were so trauma-inducing that I STILL haven't been able to sit down and write out a blog entry on what happened. Every time I start, I get so overwhelmed with seething hatred that I have to stop. Maybe one day. But, suffice to say, Apple "customer service" is so downright horrific that the very thought of it has me questioning if I ever want to buy anything from Apple ever again.
But on to the report card...
Over the past five years I would have given Apple a D. Their shitty, shitty "butterfly" keyboards on their MacBook Pro laptops were a fucking disaster, and everybody hated them. But Apple being Apple felt that everybody was wrong and kept using the stupid things. They finally came to their senses and released a MacBook Pro with a "scissor" keyboard in 2019 and it made all the difference. I'm still upset that they removed Firewire, USB-A, and MagSafe from a so-called "pro" laptop, but I guess Apple is going to remain being Apple and ain't going to stop any time soon. The giant trackpad I was anticipating liking actually ended up being a negative, because it takes up a huge amount of space and is easy to touch when you don't mean to. Also? I have a hard time selecting text with it or click-dragging, something I've never had a problem with before.
When it comes to the desktop Macs, I have to drop Apple down a grade. They are so focused on the high-end Mac and iMac that it feels like the "models for the rest of us" are getting shafted. And don't get me started on the Mac mini. The original idea for that was to give people on a budget a way to afford a Mac by bringing their own periphreals. But now? The cheapest model is $800. EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS! If this is meant to be an entry model which is priced to be budget-friendly, it fails spectacularly.
When it comes to MacOS X, which is apparently included in this category, I am indifferent. It feels like MacOS has been stagnating for years. Nothing overly-exciting or truly fresh and new has been released in what feels like forever. To me, MacOS X Catalina was actually a step backwards. My MacBook Pro comes with a fingerprint sensor for TouchID. You would think that this means you are done with entering your passwords. You would be wrong. I am constantly entering my fucking Apple ID password. CONSTANTLY! It is fucking embarrassing just how bad Apple is at security. They put on this huge show of how they are encouraging people to use stronger passwords, then completely sabotage it by making people have to enter these longer, more difficult passwords over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Who the fuck is going to use a complex, hard-to-crack password when you have to keep entering it over and over again? Nobody. Apple's claim to be making strong passwords more common is 100% bullshit. If anything, Apple's piss-poor handling of passwords encourages easier-to-remember, easier-to-crack passwords.
I love, love, love the latest iPhone. The phone part is all the same... just a bit faster is all... but the camera is sublime. The camera is everything. I wrote extensively about the iPhone 11 Pro and its miracle-camera here. If anything, my opinion has only gone up since I wrote it. Between Night Mode, Deep Fusion, three lenses, and the amazing quality of it all, I almost never use my DSLR any more. Why would I drag it around everywhere when I can take shots like these with my frickin' phone?
Amazing. If this keeps up, in another couple years most people won't even think about buying an actual camera.
iPad is an amazing, amazing tool. Drawing and painting on it is a sublime joy that still amazes me. And, as they release newer models of iPads and Pencils, it just keeps getting better and better. Where the problem lays is with iOS for iPad. It's just so darn bad. I have been trying and trying to figure out how the gesture-based multi-tasking works, and just when I think I understand it something happens which makes me realize that I absolutely don't. In all honesty, this aspect of iOS for iPad needs to be completely gutted so they can start over from scratch. Just burn it to the ground and start over. The user interface is a place where Apple usually excels. But this? THIS?!? Complete shit. It doesn't matter how good the hardware is when the OS driving it is this cumbersome. And so I averaged them together to get my grade.
I'm probably not qualified to comment here because I don't own an Apple Watch and have no plans to buy one. They are just so darn thick that I find them uncomfortable. Why they aren't investigating putting the battery in the band somehow or doing something to make them thinner is a mystery. Because if you've got a thin wrist like I do, it's just not a very good option. It's a real shame too, because I really like the health features. That being said... if a chunk of money lands in my lap, I might bite the bullet anyway because there's just so much good stuff to be had so conveniently.
Apple seems content to let AppleTV languish, and it's really too bad. The interface is abhorrent. So horribly difficult to use. Have a ton of movies? I hope not. Because you'll spend a lot of time scrolling and scrolling. But what's worse is that Apple content is just plain shitty to stream. Constant buffering errors, drop-outs, and pauses. And before you blame my fiber internet (which is what Apple does)... I don't have this problem with ANY OTHER SERVICE when streamed on my AppleTV. Not even with Disney+ or Amazon Prime streaming on Ultra HD!
Then there's Apple's idiotic attempt at doing away with logins by tying services you purchase through them to your Apple ID. I say "attempt" because the shit DOES NOT WORK. I can't tell you how many times I've subscribed to a streaming service through the AppleTV in my living room then can't use it on the AppleTV in my bedroom. And since you don't get a login, there's absolutely nothing you can do... EXCEPT NEVER, EVER, EVER SUBSCRIBE TO ANY STREAMING SERVICE THROUGH APPLETV! As if that weren't enough, if you subscribe to a service through AppleTV that doesn't have a desktop app, you can't watch it on your computer. You could probably watch it online through the provider's website if you got a login from AppleTV, but you don't so you can't. It makes no sense... NONE... as to why you'd ever go through Apple.
And don't even get me started on the shitty, SHITTY fucking remote they bundle with the thing. It is the single worst remote control I have used on any product ever. Constantly grabbing it by the wrong end. Constantly having trouble navigating content. Constantly losing the little fucker in my couch. I HATE it. And I mostly hate AppleTV, even though most third-party apps are pretty decent... and those gorgeous screen savers are sublime.
I don't subscribe to Apple News+ or Apple Arcade, and only have Apple TV+ because I get it free for a year. I subscribe to iCloud, but it's so horribly priced that I only buy the bare minimum for iPhone backup. The only plus is that iCloud Drive is content to just be a cloud drive, which is more than you can say for DropBox, who keeps adding the most ridiculously shitty and bloated services to their cloud drive that I just don't want. About the only thing I can truly comment on here is paying for Apple services. For weeks I've been getting a pop-up on my Apple Wallet asking me if I want to link my Apple Cash as a payment method at Apple. I absolutely do. Except it fails when I make the attempt. EVERY FUCKING TIME!
Why in the hell do they bother asking if it doesn't ever work?
I fucking hate HomeKit. It's a flakey, incomplete, crusty asshole of a technology. After waiting forever for compatible devices to come out, I started buying them... then immediately stopped because the experience was so bad. Rarely worked well. Sometimes didn't work at all. I'd recommend that Apple just give it up already, but they just joined a consortium with Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance, so maybe they're on the right track now. Hopefully this will at least result in a workable technology, because I am totally ready to have my home automation built into iOS.
My score is comparative. When compared to every other tech company, Apple reliability is pretty darn good. It's not perfect, however. I've had to replace hard drives in two Macs in two years because the internal drives started failing.
Where do I start? I hated iTunes. I railed against what a profoundly shitty app it was and how bad my digital life was with it. Then they released the AppleTV app for MacOS and the Music app for MacOS and they are so fucking horrendous that I find myself longing for iTunes again. The TV app is the worst of the bunch. Try finding anything. You can't. Can't find the content you own easily. Can't find new stuff to buy AT ALL. When I go to the "movies" tab, for example, there are a bunch of things that AREN'T EVEN FUCKING MOVIES...
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Everything from Photos to the App Store to Books to Messages have serious problems and Apple doesn't seem to give a shit just how bad an experience it is.
As I'm not a developer, I can't really comment here. Except to say that I still question Apple's App Store policy of taking 30% of in-app purchases. That seems high considering all they do is process payment. Credit card charges aren't nearly that high, and it seems an absurd percentage in exchange for the convenience. In-app purchases should just be another reason why developers love developing for iOS. As it is, many developers just don't use it because the cut is too high. Want to buy a comic book in Comixology? Sorry. Have to go to the website and buy it that way because Amazon apparently doesn't have margin enough on books to give away 30%.
Apple seems increasingly willing to suck up to the Trump Administration... wanting to play nice to get tariff exemptions, I'm guessing. From not speaking out against outright lies about President Trump convincing Apple "to open a new plant in Texas"... to Tim Cook (WHO IS GAY) sucking up to Cheeto Jesus even though he has been rolling back LGBTQ rights at every opportunity, I am disgusted to my very core on this. The only reason Apple gets a D instead of an F is that they seem to continue to improve working conditions and environmental aspects of the company abroad. Still a lot of room for improvement (and it's happening way too slowly), however.
And that's the end of that. Nobody wishes I could have given Apple better scores than I, but things are sliding so badly in so many areas that I really didn't have much choice. The lone exemption being the iPhone, which is better than it's ever been.
And one of these days... I promise... I will finally unload on the heinous state of Apple Customer Service that I had to endure. It is one of the most mind-boggling, mind-blowing things I have ever experienced in "service" and that is saying a lot considering the crap I've had to put up with over the years.
Posted on February 2nd, 2020
It's National Football Day, but it doesn't matter much to me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• NED... NED RYERSON! I honestly don't care about the Super Bowl. I am not invested in football even a little bit. But I do like that companies are willing to spend all kinds of money creating commercials that I actually want to watch...
And, holy cow, would you look at this awesomeness...
After the Big Game is over, all the remaining commercials will be released. It's like Christmas for advertising nerds like me.
• Pringles! And then there's this, which I love for obvious reasons...
The second half of the new Rick and Morty season cannot get here fast enough.
• Happy Endings. One of the best shows to come along in quite a while for me is The Good Place. At least for the first two seasons. I watched the first couple episodes because I love Kristen Bell, didn't care for them, then said goodbye. Then one evening a number of weeks later I needed some background noise while I worked, landed on the show, and quickly became obsessed. Then they dropped one of the most mind-blowing season finales I've ever seen, left you wondering where the show could possibly go next, then topped themselves in the second season. I maintain that The Trolley Problem is one of my favorite episodes of all time of any show ever. And it's because it's filled with hilarious and brilliant moments like this...
Sadly, things started to fall apart in the third season. Then it all went to shit in the fourth and final season. I couldn't even watch it any more. But I tuned in to the final episode to see how it all wraps up... and was reminded of how good the show could be. That final moment which shows what becomes of you after The After was poetic and beautiful. Not enough to make me run back and watch all the fourth season episodes I missed... but pretty darn special. Really happy for shows that get a proper ending.
• iPad × 10. This past week the iPad turned 10 years old. It doesn't seem as though it's been that long since Steve Jobs introduced it to an unsuspecting world...
I remember the criticism vividly. A lot of people hated the name, equating it to a maxi-pad. A lot of people thought it would never sell because it was just a big iPhone that lacked any serious computing power. I was on the fence, but bought one anyway. Mostly because I liked the idea of it for travel. If there was even a chance that I could leave my laptop behind and carry the much smaller and lighter iPad with me, why wouldn't I? Sadly, the iPad didn't end up being the laptop killer I was hoping for. Not for my work anyway. It's getting closer and closer every day though. The first release of Photoshop for iPad was a grave disappointment, but I'm sure that's temporary. They'll get there eventually. I guess we shall see. Right now the only thing I use my iPad for is digital drawing and painting. And it's pretty great for that. My trial run at blogging worked okay, so perhaps in a year or two when the apps are right it will be exactly what I need it to be.
• BAYHEM! Some may question the wisdom of Netflix backing a dump truck full of money up to Michael Bay's house and asking him to make them a Michael Bay movie. I am not one of those people. Sometimes you just want to watch stuff exploding and things getting blown up in the most unrealistic and insane way possible and that's what Michael Bay delivers...
Doesn't hurt that they got Ryan Reynolds to star, and then let him totally be Ryan Reynolds. Or that they totally put the time, effort, and money into the epic location shoots or making the special effects look so good. For all the obvious reasons, the general consensus between critics is that they hated it. For even more obvious reasons, I loved it. Sequel please!
• Frozenless. Last night's Saturday Night Live had some moments. But this was the one that I had to rewind and watch over again...
But the best sketch of the night was the cold open...
No rational person thought that the Republicans would get behind an actual trial with witnesses and evidence and anything that makes a trial a trial... so color me unshocked that this is exactly what happened.
See ya next Sunday... when we won't have to worry about football again for 8 months.
Posted on November 10th, 2019
Hallmark Channel Christmas is in full swing this Sunday, but I'm making time for blogging anyway, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• OctoCup. I don’t know whether to be happy... or bust out crying because of how we’re destroying this planet with our filth...
Probably both. Poor creatures of earth. Fuck the climate change debate... clean up the planet because we have a moral reponsibility to do so. Humans are not the only thing living here.
• Madalorian. By and large, I've been disappointed with the post-Star Wars offerings. The prequel trilogy was utter crap. The sequel trilogy is lacking. Solo was okay, but not a homerun. And while I did love Rogue One for being the most Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back, it had serious story issues. The final movie in the trilogy of trilogies, Rise of Skywalker arrives in December and looks like it will be a delicious special-effects spectacle. But what I'm really forward to? Jon Favre and Pedro Pascal's The Mandalorian coming to Disney+ on Tuesday...
Boy does that look good. Firmly set in the Star Wars Universe, but giving us something new outside of what the past films are mired in. I sure hope it lives up to the hype.
• AT&T Nickel Diming. Upgrading my iPhone through the Apple Upgrade Program was a mess. Worthy of an entire blog post when I have time to document the horror I went through with Apple. Turns out that the fun was just beginning because when I got my AT&T bill, there was a $30 upgrade fee on it. Even though AT&T didn't do a damn thing. The process of activating and transferring my phone was entirely automated and done by me! This is just another case of AT&T squeezing money out of their customers by nickel-and-diming them to death. When I called AT&T to ask them what in the hell they did to merit a $30 charge, their answer was... all the carriers do it. Which may be true. But AT&T costs considerably more than other carriers. And so... time to investigate a possible change. Free HBO that's a massive pain-in-the-ass to activate via AT&T's pitiful AT&T TV Now service (formerly DirecTV Now) is not worth it. Not by a damn sight. And they're dishonest assholes who still charge you full price, even when they are blacking out channels and not paying for them.
• Rank. Step One of getting rid of our fatally-flawed and totally shitty two-party system stranglehold is adopting ranked-choice voting. And... oh my.. here is something interesting.
• Padded. I have been attempting to use the new Adobe Photoshop on iPad. Except, despite it's name, it is NOT Adobe Photoshop. Not even remotely close to Photoshop. Of course I knew that there were going to be sacrifices (especially in the beginning), but this pathetic effort is so feature anemic as to be laughable. For one thing... no resizing or crop tools. I mean, sure there's a "crop tool" but you can't set a dimension. Your only choice is to "lock current ratio." THAT'S IT! Need a certain size? Fuck you. Need a certain resolution? Fuck you. Need a certain ratio? Fuck you. And... oh yeah... the crop tool doesn't snap to edges! What a fucking joke. It's not like I'm upset because I can't use all my filters and am demanding that every possible obscure feature from the desktop Photoshop be added... but holy fucking shit! CROPPING IS A BASIC FEATURE! IT'S NOT EVEN A BASIC FEATURE... IT'S LIKE THE MOST RUDIMENTARY FUNCTION OF AN IMAGE EDITING PROGRAM THERE IS! Pathetic. Can't believe we waited a whole YEAR for this?
• Wavy. Boy does this bring back memories of crossing The Drake Passage! I always wondered how they managed to cook on rough seas!
There were two times in crossing that dishes were thrown from our tables. Thrown. Which is why the expedition company I went with have to replace half the dishes every season.
• Punch Away. WE LITERALLY FOUGHT A WAR AGAINST THEM!
And now... back to our regularly-scheduled Christmastime programming...
Posted on September 24th, 2019
This is the first post I’ve written entirely on my iPad. Thanks to iPadOS 13 (which was released today) and other apps stepping up their game, it’s actually a realistic option for me now.
Not that it’s easy, mind you.
It’s time consuming and clunky.
Take getting an image to appear in this post, for example. First I have to open the image in Adobe Lightroom for iPad so I can adjust it a bit. THEN I have to save it to my iPad so I can open it in Image Resize, because Lightroom DOESN’T ALLOW YOU TO FUCKING SPECIFY PIXEL DIMENSIONS WHEN YOU CROP A PHOTO. Once I crop it To 1200 × 800, I then have to save it to FTPManager Pro so I can upload it to my blog. It sounds simpler than it actually is. And it doesn’t end there. I then have to open up my WordPress admin panel to write the actual post. But since I want to use images where I put them instead of where WordPress wants them, I have to copy and paste code from old entries into new entries.
Like these photos of Jenny going after a fly in the window this morning...
She’s adorable, I know.
Eventually (hopefully) one of these days it will be a more streamlined process to edit and upload images and write posts. I’m guessing it took me three times longer to post this on my iPad than it would have on my MacBook Pro. With practice, perhaps I could get it down to twice the time? I dunno. Right now I’m just happy I can do it. An iPad is a lot easier to lug around than a laptop.
Posted on September 10th, 2019
AND LO DID TIM COOK DESCEND FROM ON HIGH TO DELIVER A NEW iPHONE TO THE APPLE FAITHFUL FROM THE SANCTITY OF THE APPLE SPACESHIP HEADQUARTERS!
He dropped some other Apple stuff too, but the only thing I really cared about was the iPhone. And the only reason I cared about a new iPhone was the possibility of an improved camera inside of it.
And here's all the crap Apple talked about, along with my notes...
I love video games. I've loved video games since video games were invented. Alas, I never have time to actually play them, which means my Nintendo Switch sits mostly unused and any game I buy for my iPhone is never finished. So when Apple announced "Apple Arcade" I was ready to take a big 'ol pass... but then you find out it's just $4.99 a month (a third less than I was expecting) and a part of me is like Hmmmmmm?!? $5 is (on average) what I pay for a single game. Now I can get hundreds of games for that same price? That's a pretty sweet deal. And every one of the games are exclusive to Apple. So who knows? Maybe a couple times a year I'll pay my $5 and play when I can for a month just to see what's up. Sure beats paying $5 for one game that will never be completed. There's a one-month free trial to check it out on September 19th...
I already pay far more for television every month than I am comfortable with (or can afford). But looking at the cool shows that Apple has lined up for their streaming service is certainly compelling. And, again, I'm more than a little blown away that Apple is only going to charge $4.99 a month given the money and quality of shows they are producing. This will be yet another case of paying for a month of service a couple times a year so I can binge all their content. And then Apple drops the other shoe... any purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV comes with a FREE year of Apple TV+, which is pretty mind-blowing. Apple developed a streaming service not as a monthly revenue model... BUT TO SELL MORE OF THEIR PRODUCTS! No idea if people like me who are a part of the iPhone Upgrade Program will get a free year every time they trade in their old phone for a new phone, but that would be pretty sweet...
I have a new-ish model of iPad which I purchased to paint with. And I love it for painting. The Apple Pencil is fast, intuitive, and there's all kinds of apps available to unleash your creativity. But what I need an iPad for is drawing, not painting. I want to be able to draw on the thing, and I have a really hard time with that. I just can't seem to get the precision needed for drawing down, and every time I try I end up reaching for a pencil and paper. What I need to do is just sit down for a week and force myself to learn. But I can never find the time so my iPad sits in a drawer. For that reason, iPad news is kind uninteresting to me... but I do tune in, because nothing would make me happier than to use an iPad for travel instead of lugging my laptop everywhere. And if things keep advancing like they have been, we are closer to that becoming a reality than ever before. Would I buy a new 7th Generation iPad if I could afford one in the first place? Probably not. But I still want one, and that's how Apple gets you. The latest model is sublimely fast, capable, and beautiful to look at and draw on. What's not to want?
The only way that I would ever buy one of these would be if they made it considerably thinner. Because while I would absolutely love to own one... I would likely never wear it. But, again, I want one anyway because Apple makes such a compelling case as to why I can't live without one. The health features alone are pretty spectacular. But now the display is ALWAYS ON which addresses my other major pet peeve about Apple Watch. The fact that they innovated a way to make this happen without sacrificing battery life is insanely great. All the other new stuff in Series 5... like a compass... is cute, but not compelling enough for me to shell out $500.
iPhone 11. This is the new entry model iPhone, which I'll just skip right over, since it doesn't have the cameras I am looking for. Faster, better Face ID, better cameras, blah blah blah... it's dope, we get it. The base model starts at $699.
iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Here we go...
Durability. They claim that the new iPhone Pro models are constructed with the toughest glass ever created for a mobile phone. Will this preclude giving up a protective case? That would be nice, but I'll have to wait until somebody tests that. Since I am on the iPhone Upgrade Program and have to return my iPhone in pristine condition if I don't want to pay a fine to get a new one, I'll probably end up with a case unless the glass is so tough that it's impossible to scratch. Not likely.
Display. Apparently "Super Retina" displays just aren't good enough now. Apple has leapt forward with Super Retina XDR. It's got better contrast, better color gamut, better brightness... all while being 15% more energy efficient.
A13 Bionic Chip. Apple's line of chips has been fine-tuned specifically for doing exactly what Apple wants their phones to do and nothing more or less. There's no wasted energy going anywhere because Apple designs them that way. This makes them crazy-powerful all while drawing less power from the battery. Nowhere is this more evident than with Apple's dedication to "machine learning" via their "Neural Engine." This is a special set of routines that can analyze massive amounts of data and provide tools to use that data in intelligent ways. Feed it a bunch of images of an object to define an object, for example, and you can ask it to look for the object in new images with very little coding. That's pretty basic scenario, and creative programmers are able to do much, much more. This is a case of Apple providing killer tools so developers can come up with killer apps.
Battery. I don't use my phone a lot, so the battery has barely drained when I charge it each night. Even when I travel and am using my phone constantly, it still lasts me all day. I rarely ever run out of battery (which used to happen all the time with earlier iPhone models). Even so... the new Pro has up to 4 hours more battery life... the new Pro Max has up to 5 hours more battery life. And they are including a more powerful charger, so you can charge your phone quicker as well (assuming you still want to use a cord... ugh!). It was expected that Apple would introduce "reverse wireless charging" so you can use your iPhone battery to charge another phone... or your Apple Watch... or your AirPods... or whatever. This was introduced in the previous version of the Samsung Galaxy phones, but didn't happen this time for the iPhone. Maybe next year.
Haptic Touch. As rumored, Apple has eliminated 3D Touch from its displays, which allowed a "deep touch" to perform different functions from a "touch." This is a real shame, because 3D Touch is a frickin' amazing feature (no wonder it wasn't even mentioned at the event!). So now instead of a display that's pressure-sensitive, we instead get "Haptic Touch" which relies on the length of a touch instead of the hardness of a touch to deliver different functions. This is most decidedly not the same thing, even though Apple is essentially selling it that way. I'm sure it will just be a learning adjustment. But it's weird that Apple would be removing features like this. I guess it makes for cheaper displays... but how is that a consolation in a phone that starts at $1000?!?
Lightning Again. The dream was that Apple finally move to USB C for the cable hookup. They didn't. It's still a Lightning connector, which means you have to continue to pack stupid Lightning cables with you everywhere. I rarely use a cable at home thanks to wireless charging, but I use it all the time when I travel, which is why this sucks.
Sound. Dolby Atmos on a phone is an absurd claim... probably more "Dolby-Atmos-like," but I don't doubt that the spatial sound abilities are much improved.
Camera. I use my iPhone as a camera more than anything else. By a ridiculous margin. To me, it's not a phone at all... it's a camera which happens to be able to use the internet and make phone calls. When I travel now-a-days, I rarely take my actual camera with me. My iPhone is enough. And with each new version that Apple unleashes, my "professional camera" is less necessary. I haven't needed to buy a new mobile phone in years. But I do so anyway because I want a better camera.
Night Mode. Apple has always had pretty good low light capabilities. But with the advent of mobile phones like the Google Pixel with its amazing "night sight," Apple's efforts are downright pitiful. But now they've addressed this shortcoming in a big way to add far better low light photography to the iPhone. This is a pretty big deal...
Lens Trio. Saying that the iPhone Pro has "three lenses" is actually wrong. It has three cameras, each with a different lens. A 12MP 26mm f/1.8 Wide Camera, a 12MP 52mm f/2.0 Telephoto Camera, and a 12MP 13mm f/2.4 Ultra-Wide Camera...
Note that we haven't gotten an increase from 12MP in a while now. This is probably smart given the massive storage space needed, but they really need to get to at least 16MP real soon for those who want it... maybe even giving just one of the lenses 24MP or something. Anyway... it's the ultra-wide that's important here...
Most any time I've taken scenic photos I end up having to take panoramas, which are great but problematic. Far better if I can take a wide photo in one shot, which is going to be much more likely now.
Deep Fusion. And here's where things get interesting! Deep Fusion is a technology which uses the iPhone's machine learning to to build fantastic detail out of multiple shots... automatically. Every time you initiate the shutter, iPhone takes nine photos (four of them happen before you even touch the shutter). It then analyzes every pixel of all the images and builds a finished image which combines the best pixels from each... in less than a second. The demo image is phenomenal, and has me totally sold...
Video. All three cameras can shoot in 4K. New editing tools allow for adjusting attributes like brightness. That's impressive. But it's Mickey Mouse stuff when you consider what it can actually do with these cameras. To demonstrate that, Apple had the CTO from FiLMiC show off the next version of their app which takes full advantage of the fact that the iPhone Pro can record from MULTIPLE CAMERAS AT THE SAME TIME!
So you can have coverage at the wide and telephoto levels in the same shot. And you can use the selfie cam as one of those cameras.... Which means you can record both sides of a talking heads conversations in one go...
Insanity. But in the best possible way.
5G. Ain't got it. Which is a bit of a dangerous game to play. As the 5G rollout gains momentum, having a phone with the option of connecting to it seems like something you want to have in a $1000 phone for future-proofing. But Apple, of course, doesn't want to future-proof. They want you to keep buying new phones to get those sweet new features.
Price. No increased retail on the Pro. Still $1000 for the "regular" sized one... which seems absurd, even when considering all it can do. I don't have $1000 to throw around, so I will be upgrading from my current iPhone with the iPhone Upgrade Program I bought into last year...
Artistry. Apple gave some of the new iPhone Pro phones to professional photographers and let them loose. Using the new tech, they created some amazing images...
And that's all she wrote.
My iPhone Upgrade Program renewal date isn't until the 20th, and I'm too cheap for an early buy-out, so I'm fine waiting until then (which, coincidentally, is the actual release date). Of course by that time the waiting list queue for backorders will likely have me getting my new iPhone 11 Pro in October, so I won't get to try out the awesome new camera(s) until then.
Think of all the cat photos I'll be missing out on.
Posted on June 3rd, 2019
I typed some notes during Apple's streaming presentation of the World Wide Developer's Conference keynote this morning. Since I know absolutely everybody is dying to know my thoughts on things*, this post is for you!
• Eco-Unfriendly! And here's Tim Cook to start things off. Right off the bat he's touting how Apple is a sweet ecosystem that marries hardware, software, and services to create an experience unlike any other...
Say what you like about Apple, but it's totally true. The problem is that when one part of their ecosystem sucks, you get a bad experience. This applies to hardware (I fucking hate the MacBook Pro keyboard, and will avoid buying one of their shitty laptops for as long as I can), software (when they aren't abandoning critical in-house software like Aperture, they create fucking garbage like HomeKit), and services (their media streaming is unbelievably shitty and I'm furious that they always blame my internet, when my fiber connection streams flawlessly from everybody else). I used to put up with everything because, hey, at least it was better than Windows, but is that really true anymore?
• Apple Arcade! Now Tim is talking about "Apple Arcade"... a new membership service where you get access to a lot of cool and exclusive games. Out of everything announced, I only give a crap about LEGO Brawls, so this is probably not going to be for me...
• Apple TV PLUS! Ugh. I mean, really? Yet another streaming service? I admit that the clip shown from the alternate-history space-race drama For All Mankind looks interesting, but enough for me to pay up a monthly fee? Doubtful. Disney+ is absolutely on my radar because of all the Marvel Studios and Star Wars shows in development, but it would take a heck of a lot for me to buy into Apple's random non-catalog of shows.
• Apple TV! Apple TV has one of the shittiest interfaces in tech history. It takes forever to find the stuff you want to watch. Even if you know where to get to it, you still have to scroll and scroll and scroll. Apple added Siri to AppleTV so you can just tell it what you want, but I find it to be flakey and not always accurate. Why would I buy something from iTunes when it's available streaming from Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or whatever? I thought that "TV" was supposed to prioritize stuff you already have over stuff you have to pay for, but that hasn't been my experience. But I digress. They've apparently redesigned everything to be less shitty. EXCEPT THEY ARE USING CLIP PREVIEWS LIKE NETFLIX WHICH I FUCKING HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE!!! Fuck this. I hope to God they allow you to turn that shit off.
Ooh! And now Apple is saying that you will be able to use controllers from Xbox One and Playstation to control games on AppleTV! Yay! Except... where is support for my Nintendo Switch Pro controller? Oh well. I don't have time to play many games anyway.
Okay... I love the new underwater 4K screen saver! Reminds me of the serene scene aquarium screen saver I had on my Mac ages ago...
• Apple Watch! Ya know? I'd sure like to have an Apple Watch, but I just know I would never wear it because it's so damn thick. Until they fix that, they can throw all the new "watch faces" at me they want... I'm not biting. Except... ZOMG! A CALCULATOR APP! Just like my old calc digital watch had back in the 80's!
The new WatchOS will be able to run apps independently of the companion iPhone app. That seems like a pretty critical feature, but I don't know how they have the memory available for such a thing? This allows you to install apps from the App Store directly on your Apple Watch which, again, seems like a critical feature to have.
I like the idea of how the Apple Watch can help you out by monitoring your health... but I know darn well I would stop using it when I see just how unhealthy my lifestyle is, so that's not a big draw for me. For the ladies there's a menstrual cycle tracker now that will help you to know when your period is coming and when you are most fertile for the baby-making.
• iOS 13! Apparently the next version of iOS will focus a lot on speed. Face ID will unlock 30% faster... apps will install faster... apps will launch faster... that kinda thing. Naturally, it's hard not to be happy about that. And I most certainly hope that it launches the camera faster so I don't miss as many time-critical shots like I do now. A more reliable camera that isn't locking up all the time would also be nice.
I'm torn on the new "Dark Mode"... I stopped using it on my Mac because it was wildly inconsistent between apps, sometimes making it impossible to use apps that weren't patched to accommodate it. Perhaps if they did a better job of it for my iPhone I will have better luck? I dunno. It costs nothing to try. And, may I just say, that Apple using Depeche Mode's Black Celebration for their demo is about the best thing I've seen from this keynote so far?
I've been using Google's keyboard for a long time now because it supported swipe typing. Problem is, my iPhone is forever reverting back to Apple's keyboard even though I've not asked it to. Now that Apple supports swipe typing, maybe it will be a better experience? I sure hope so. All the new predictive input stuff is nice, but I often find that my iPhone gets it wrong far more often than it guesses correctly. Maybe their new "machine learning engine" will improve this? One can only hope.
• Maps! And so... shots fired at Google Maps! But here's the deal. Unless Apple gets into the traffic monitoring game like Google and Google-owned Waze, I'm probably sticking with Waze. Pretty is pretty, but I'll take the better functionality every time...
Meg Frost is up in her cool future-wheelchair to demo Maps. Holy crap is it a beautiful app! I may use it a lot more, but the navigation of Waze will be hard to leave behind...
Apple is doing their OWN version of "street view" and it looks spectacular...
I'll definitely be using Apple Maps for armchair traveling, but for actual driving? The jury is out.
• Security! And here's where Apple takes an even bigger swing at Google... privacy and security. Companies like Google and Facebook track everything you do and monitor all the activity on your phone because they are selling ads. To be effective at selling ads, they need to know who you are and what you do. I don't give much of a crap about this (hey, I'm a blogger, all that stuff is online for anybody to see anyway), but I do like Apple's philosophy of erring on the side of caution. It started with ApplePay, which securely pays for stuff without tying the purchases to a credit card (which is nice), and I absolutely love the convenience of it. And now Apple is moving their privacy mandate into other areas at a system level. I approve.
Location monitoring by your phone could be a very big problem if you don't know it's happening and you're a thief or having an affair or whatever. Apple is putting the kibosh on that by being more proactive about how your location is used and how long an app gets to use it. That's totally swell.
And, as if the shots fired weren't obvious enough, here's Craig Federighi telling the whole world that they are seriously going after Facebook and Google by creating their very own "Sign in with Apple" login service! Sweet!
No personal information whatsoever handed over. I think it's pretty obviously that absolutely everybody will switch to Apple's login service the minute it becomes available on sites. I know I sure as hell will be.
Okay, THIS is huge. Apple is coming up with their own privacy email forwarding service! You can immediately establish a temporary email ID... then use or dispose of it for as long as you want! NICE.
I've used random forwarding addresses for a very long time, but having to set them up is always such a pain. Now that it's an OS-level feature, it will be so much easier. Kudos, Apple!
Interesting. Apple is adding their own security camera streaming service to their heinously shitty HomeKit home automation bullshit. The privacy features are admittedly compelling, even though I just don't care that much. So people can hack my account and watch me talking to my cats... whoop-dee-do. However... On one hand, I would love to get rid of all my Google NestCam shit and their fucking "NestAware" idiocy for something better. So maybe. Except I hate hate hate shitty HomeKit so much that I just don't think it's a viable option. Maybe one day? I just don't know.
• Memoji! While I think the idea of Apple's Animoji and Memoji are cute, they just aren't something I'm interested in using. I tried it a few times just for fun, but the idea of using it day-in and day-out makes zero sense. The novelty wears off far too quickly. Except... NOW THEY'VE ADDED MAKEUP?!? And piercings? AND HATS?!? Ooh! Maybe I will have to use Memoji now that I can add eyeshadow and lipstick!
Memoji stickers are actually pretty cool. I don't use stickers very often, but I might use something like this.
• Photos! I take far, far, far more photos on my iPhone than any camera I have ever owned. It's just too convenient and the quality is just too good (and getting better!). The fact that Apple keeps adding cool editing features just gives me even more reason to keep shooting with iPhone. I've always got it with me anyway.
And now you can apply effects to video as well as... gasp!... ROTATE VIDEO AS WELL!
The new machine-learning photo management tools are pretty great too. I really should go delete all the duplicates and junk photos I've taken. Could probably cut the number of photos I've got stored in half. Probably more.
• AirPods! I like everything about the concept of AirPods... but hate the AirPods themselves. They absolutely 100% do NOT stay in my ears. And given the number of people complaining about losing them, I'm guessing it's a serious problem for everybody. I pretty much only use them when traveling because then it's worth the time to put the silicone tips on them so they actually stay in my ears. My thinking is that this will be the first and last pair of AirPods I buy until Apple starts making them so they fit... and are more sustainable. As it is now, there's nothing you can do except throw them away when the battery fails. Wasteful. Shamefully wasteful for a company that professes to be on the cutting edge of "green sustainability."
Having messages announced through your AirPods would drive me insane and I would most definitely not have that feature turned on. One feature I do like, however, is the AirPod Audio Sharing feature. How cool is that? So long as you both have AirPods, very cool!
• HomePod! Whatever, dude. Drop the price by half and I might consider purchasing one. Until then? My SONOS system is doing just fine.
• CarPlay! I would be thrilled to have a CarPlay enabled stereo in my auto, because the integration features with my iPhone are just too good. But I am just not in my car often enough to justify the cost. Happy that Apple keeps improving the CarPlay experience though, because maybe one day...
• Speech! The new "Neural TTS" (Text To Speech) quality is insane. Once more update and they will probably have something indistinguishable from an actual human! Hell, my iPhone already speaks in a way that's more intelligible and human than our President!
• iPad! I may die of un-shock... iPads will no longer be using a forked version of iOS but instead run a custom iPadOS. Given how Apple keeps pushing iPad to encroach on what desktop computers do (and compete with Microsoft's Surface tablet), it was something that pretty much had to happen. And it just makes sense. iPad is more than just a big iPhone. Better split-view... gestures designed for a larger screen... drag and drop... this is all stuff that, frankly, Apple should have had years ago.
One thing that had to happen to make iPad more of a desktop equivalent is to have far better file handling. It looks like Apple realizes this and is working to add more and more functionality. All the features are nice... but nowhere is this new direction more easily understood than by the fact that you can plug a thumb-drive into your iPad now...
• Pencil! I love my first-generation iPad pencil and would dearly love the features of the second-gen... if only my older iPad supported it. Perhaps eventually I will use my iPad a lot more often for my artistic endeavors, so it'll be worth it to invest the money. But that's just not in the cards right now.
• Mac! "WE LOVE THE MAC!" Tim Cook exclaims! Which is hard to take seriously when they are putting shitty keyboards on their laptops that render them useless... or just make them impossible to type on. As if you couldn't tell from my numerous posts on the topic, I am fucking livid that Apple has essentially flushed their MacBook line down the toilet thanks to their "butterfly keyboards" that nobody wants.
• Cheese! Is it just me... or does Apple's new $6000 MacPro look like a cheese grater? A pretty cheese grater, yes... but a fucking cheese grater...
Would I love to own one? Of course I would. But I just can't justify the absurd cost. Yes, Apple put a lot of work into making the thing worth the price tag, but it's all stuff that's not essential to what I do. Maybe if I start composing music with thousands of instruments or editing 6K video, I'll have a need, but this is just silly. At least it's a vastly more configurable and expandable "Pro" computer than the laughably shitty "trash can" machine they released last time.
• Display! The new Apple Pro Display XDR is an absolute steal at $5,000. I sincerely doubt that there is anything out there that can touch it at any price. But, then again, FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A COMPUTER DISPLAY!
• Catalina! Keeping up with their "Places of California" motif for naming their MacOS releases, we now get Catalina. That should make for some very pretty desktop backdrop photos!
• iTunes! At least Apple is self-aware enough to realize what a bloated pile of shit iTunes has become... and can even joke about it. Except... forgive me for not finding it funny that they are only just now addressing the problem when it's been a major hassle for years. And so now iTunes is dead and being replaced with Music... Podcasts... and TV...
That's all great and stuff... but until the server farm delivering my Apple-purchased media content is made much more stable, reliable, and actually worth a shit, it all means pretty much nothing to me.
• Sidecar! Use your iPad as a second screen? Yes please! That could come in SO handy sometimes when I just need a readout that's not covering up what I'm working on!
• Voice Control! At home, I am talking to my house (through Alexa) all the time. She controls absolutely everything, and I'm so accustomed to it that I don't even think about it any more. "Turn on the television!" and "Turn off the porch light!" and "Lock the door!" and "Show my the Catio Camera!" are just... natural(?)... to me now. But, for whatever reason, I just don't think of talking to my Mac. Maybe as it becomes more and more voice aware, that will change. From what they showed at the keynote, however, this could be a huge help to disabled persons who can't use keyboards or mice.
• Find My! Being able to find your devices, even when they are offline? Fantastic. This is the same concept of my "Tile" trackers that I have on my keys, in my backpack and in my wallet. It talks to nearby devices with extremely low power consumption so that you have a much better chance of finding your iPhone, MacBook, iPad, or whatever, that's gone missing.
• Locked! You can remotely lock/wipe your iPhone so that it becomes useless if stolen. There's no doubt in my mind that this is curbing theft of these devices. Why risk jail-time if you can't do anything with it? And now that technology is coming to the Mac, which is nice.
• Developers! Developers! Developers! The new Catalyst project that allows you to compile iPhone apps for the Mac... plus new advancements with their Swift programming language... plus continuing advancements in allowing easy integration of new technologies like AR (augmented reality)... Apple has (mostly) always made sure that developing for their products is as painless as possible, and it looks like they are serious about making sure that tradition continues. Good on you, Apple!
• Reality! And speaking of AR... the new "Reality Composer" sure looks interesting! It can automatically extract people so that rendered objects and move around them! Cool! And the Minecraft demo of how that works is pretty spectacular. This is the future of technology, and it's only a matter of time before we see it around our home... in our car windshields... and on our glasses...
Right now it's pretty much a technology demo... but you can see where it's all going. Eventually.
And that's the end of that, I guess. This keynote seemed a lot more "evolution" over "revolution," but there's some real winners in there that have me more optimistic than I was yesterday as to how much I want to be in bed with Apple any more. Given how pissed off I've been with them lately, that was no easy task. Having to wait until Fall to get at any of it is a bit of a bummer, but that's the way the Apple falls.
*Okay, I know practically nobody actually cares what I think, but that's probably the case for most subjects I blog about... why should this be any different?
Posted on June 5th, 2018
And lo, Apple did unleash another World Wide Developer's Conference this week.
Given my rapidly diminishing enthusiasm for Apple, I wasn't the least bit compelled to drop everything and watch it live. Instead I made it my after-dinner entertainment tonight.
Here are my thoughts on the parts that stood out to me...
If there's a promise for the future of computing that most people can see coming, it's augmented reality. Apple has teamed up with Pixar to create the USDZ file format for AR Kit 2. This is a fascinating advancement, and the fact that Adobe has grabbed it by the throat and promised support for USDZ in Creative Cloud bodes well for the format. Craig Federighi demonstrated customizing a USDZ guitar and dropping it into reality at actual size so you can visualize exactly what it will look like in your space...
Federighi then demoed AR "Shared Experiences" where two people were playing the same game from their own perspective, and it looks pretty amazing...
But the coolest demo? LEGO!!! They've shown how their physical models can be recognized by AR Kit, then expanded upon with virtual "sets" which are interactive in AR space. Then they showed how two people could explore the space with their own characters at the same time as your real-life model comes alive...
You can even look inside the physical model to see what's happening inside of it. Kids are going to love this. Especially LEGO-loving BIG kids like me!
The future of AR is mind-boggling. You just know that Apple is developing a headset for full VR/AR envelopment. It will be cool to visit the world... real and imagined... from your sofa.
I'm still sore from Apple discontinuing Aperture, but they're adding interesting features to Photos, including search, which I'm assuming is making use of their machine-learning algorithm. This will make it easy to dig through the bajillion images on my iPhone. Other features, like automatic image collaboration between iPhone users are also a step in the right direction.
I use Alexa on my Amazon Echo dozens of times a day because she can do so much stuff. I rarely use Siri because she can't really do much of anything. Apple seems to be aware of this, and is attempting to make Siri more relevant and useful. A big step up is "Siri Shortcuts," which allows Siri to be customized for your life, and even monitor your habits and schedule to suggest ways she can help out. It's all nice, and will probably encourage me to use Siri more, but my primary use of a digital assistant is home automation. Unfortunately Apple is married to their shitty, shitty "HomeKit," which I gave up on. Maybe if they start allowing other automation interfaces... like my ISY... I'd be able to use Siri for many of the things I use Alexa for.
It's kind of bizarre that Apple is advocating not using your iPhone so much, but once they sell you the phone, they probably don't care how often you use it. To that end, they've expanded what "Do Not Disturb" can do, added new features to slow or group Notifications, and even added "Screen Time" which can monitor and limit how much you use certain apps. Parents can use "Screen Time" to monitor, adjust, and allow/disallow apps on their kid's phones remotely... and restrict access to certain apps and sites. It's a great idea... but I wonder how many people will use it. They use their phone when they want to use their phone and it seems bizarre to set limits on that. Our lives are our phones now, for better or worse.
I rarely use Animoji. Apple adding the ability to stick your tongue out or customize Animoji to look like you with "Memoji" is probably not going to change that. It's fun, and very cool... but I don't see it getting much use from me...
Being able to put an Animoji over your head and add stickers live for photos is an interesting spin, however...
Maybe I'll be more apt to video chat if I can use an avatar like this and not have to worry whether or not I'm having a good hair day.
Group Facetime for up to 32 people at the same time is a pretty incredible technical achievement. The fact that Apple made the feature so smart is what makes Apple be Apple. When somebody starts speaking, they enlarge so you know who's doing the talking. You can also use Live Animoji or Live Memoji during Facetime calls. This would be a complete zoo, but an interesting one.
I always like to see how Apple Watch is maturing but, until they find a way to make it thinner on my skinny arm, I'm just not interested... no matter how many cool and useful features get added. Kinda sad how Apple has resurrected the dreaded "push-to-talk" and is calling it "Walkie Talkie." I frickin' hate push-to-talk because I don't want to hear people shouting to each other over a phone (or watch) in public. Aren't phone calls irritating enough?
I really like my Apple TV, but it's got a lot of problems that no amount of new features are going to fix. I can't tell you how many times I've had it lock up. Or be unable to stream a purchase. Or have the interface go all screwy for no reason. I reboot the dang thing so many times that I finally bought an electrical plug that I can control on my iPhone so I don't have to get up, unplug it, then plug it back in. When I contact Apple support, they tell me the problem is always, always, always my internet. So I switched from cable to fiber, which is ten times faster download speed. Still having problems. If bandwidth issues are such an AppleTV-killer, they need to have their apps be a lot smarter on handling it. None of the other apps on my AppleTV have any problems. Netflix, HBO, CBS, ABC, YouTube, Hulu... all of them just fine. So it's not the AppleTV hardware... it's Apple's software that's the problem. You'd think with billions of dollars Apple could get somebody to fix their shit, but no.
"We love the Mac! — Tim Cook says this every time he presents the Mac at WWDC. He pretty much has to say it because Mac users aren't seeing it. I am almost to my breaking point with frustration at just how bad MacOS has gotten. Printing is so screwed up that it's almost impossible to get work done. Way too many times I end up having to put my work into a PDF and send it to a colleague so they can print it on their Windows machine. Apple can blame printer companies all they want, but it's their OS updates which cause things to break. And lately Apple introduced a huge bug which makes your mouse pointer unable to access menus if you go to the very top of the screen. You have to move the pointer down on the menu bar in order to get a menu to work. WHAT THE FUCK?!?? does ANYBODY bother to beta test this shit anymore? Who the fuck releases such obvious bugs into an OS update? Apple. That's who. They may "love the Mac" but they are constantly shitting all over it, so you'll have to excuse me for not believing them.
Apple has been promising automated file stacking and organization for years... but the only place it was ever implemented was in the Dock. Now it's come to the desktop. This is a nice feature for people like me who make a huge mess out of their desktop on a daily basis. But this is the biggest new feature of the next
Adding handy tools to QuickLook is nice, but they aren't very smart about where they are putting their efforts. What about the third party tool you have to buy in order to modify file dates and manipulate other file data? THAT'S WHAT THE FINDER SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO! But instead we get the ability to trim a video clip in the Mac file manager? WTF? Handy, yes, but is editing video something you really need to do on the desktop? Is opening up iMovie really so difficult? How about adding new file tools to the file manager? Revolutionary, I know.
I actually use News on my iPhone, so I'm happy that Apple is bringing the app to my desktop.
I will say this again for those in the cheap seats... HomeKit is utter shit. Partly because AppleTV is totally inadequate as a hub for it. Mostly because it's so restrictive that anybody serious about home automation just doesn't give a shit about it. I tried HomeKit with my locks and couldn't wait to get rid of it. Unreliable, slow, and not nearly pervasive enough with manufacturers, Apple should just buy a company that actually knows how to do this and give up on their massive failure.
Apple's continuing efforts to protect its users' privacy is admirable. No matter how far they go, it will never be far enough, but I'm grateful for what we do get.
Machine Learning is one of those things that's incredibly useful, and the fact that Apple has been advancing in this area so rapidly is encouraging. And now they've created tools for analyzing datasets which make it easier than ever to get information into a machine learning environment. The possibilities here are mind-boggling, and one of the few exciting things to be happening in MacOS X. Whether it will get put to good use is anybody's guess.
Here we go with "We love the Mac" again. This time in the context of the question "Is Apple merging iOS and MacOS?" The answer is "no," but Apple is bringing more of the tools from iOS to MacOS so that iOS apps can be ported to the Mac. Which is great for developers. If your app can run on a phone, pad, and desktop, then this is a big step forward to making it easier to get there.
And that was the end of that. No new hardware released announced for the MacOS X side of things, which is hugely disappointing. Apple used to absolutely rule this arena. Even people who had to run Windows were buying Mac laptops to do it because they were just that good. But Apple doesn't seem to give a shit now... releasing "pro" equipment that's not what "pros" even want. Instead of true innovation we get a "touch bar" or some silly shit slapped on, which is just a weak effort to hide the fact that the base specs aren't much better than they were five years ago. Oh well. Apple had a good run, but I guess it couldn't last forever. Hopefully Adobe will port their software to Linux so I can switch away from Apple before they hit rock bottom.
Where's the ghost of Steve Jobs when you need him?
Posted on June 5th, 2017
And so it's time once again to tune into the Apple World Wide Developer Conference keynote to find out what everybody's favorite fruit-based tech company has up their sleeves for second quarter 2017.
I have to admit, I no longer get ramped up for these Apple things like I used to. In the past, I would take a frickin' vacation day when the WWDC keynote was unspooling just so I could unpack all the Apple goodness that had been unleashed. I'd pour over every minute and blog epic breakdowns of everything that was announced.
Well, I'm still excited over Apple's stuff... they're an exciting company. But the way they keep screwing up has me less enthused than I once was. I bought into their HomeKit home automation tech, only to find out that it is a total load of crap. They keep making "pro" equipment that isn't for "pros." The reliability of their products is in the toilet, and the way they address their lack in quality is bullshit. Meanwhile Microsoft is killing it with their Surface line, easily picking up the pro design market that Apple is abandoning.
But I digress.
Rather than have to watch hours of keynote like I did, here's a 19 minute recap that tells you everything you need to know (assuming you haven't seen it already)...
And here are my reactions...
All in all... some nice upgrades in the OS and software departments, but more of the same bullshit for pro design users. A market Apple used to own, but is throwing away with gleeful abandon. Leaving me to wonder if my next computer will be running Windows. My license for Adobe's Creative Cloud Suite works for Mac or Windows, and they function the same on both systems. Food for thought.