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Bullet Sunday 633

Posted on October 13th, 2019

Dave!I've been catching up with preparing my home for winter this weekend, but I had to make time for blogging, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Compare. I am putting this video here because I just can't believe it exists. Arun Maini (who has a great YouTube Channel) compared all the iPhones ever made for quality and features, plus showed and unboxing of each as well...

One of the most shocking parts of this video is the end where he compares the cameras. I maintain that the camera in the new iPhone 11 Pro may be the best camera I've ever owned. No, it can't really compare my Sony DSLR... but, in some ways, it actually eclipses it. First of all, it fits in my pocket and is with me at all times. Second of all, it has capabilities you could only get from a device with a massively powerful computer in it... like Night Mode and the forthcoming Deep Fusion. Aside from all that, it's just capable of taking amazing, amazing photos.

Of course the biggest shock is the benchmark escalation...

All the iPhone models lined up with their benchmark scores overlayed... starting with the original with a score of 710 all the way up to the iPhone 11 Pro with a score of 699,988!

I mean... wow. As an aside here, I've owned the following: 2G (The Original), 3G, 4, 5, 6, 7, X, XS, and 11 Pro...

All my iPhone boxes lined up on a table... with the exception of iPhone 7.

I kept all the boxes (except I can't find the box for 7). I think the only actual phone I kept was the 5 (it's in the shadows up there in the corner) because I loved the look of it so much (the 4 is a close second). I also have a 2G Original around here somewhere. The other phones I donated because the trade-in value is always worth less to me than helping somebody out... or, as of the iPhone X, I returned it to Apple as part of their iPhone Upgrade Program.

   
• Vieux Carré. They are building a Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans at the Northeastern corner of The French Quarter. I was staying just around the corner from the construction site, and walked by while I was there to check things out. Unfortunately I couldn't see much... and, even more unfortunately, there was a horrific accident which has left two workers dead and one still missing...

As the push to get things done ever cheaper and faster escalates, worker safety seems to be pushed aside. I sincerely hope that's not the case here.

   
• GROUCH. I do not care how many accolades that the Joker movie gets... I have zero interest in seeing it. The "real" Joker was a career criminal who was driven insane when he dropped in a vat of chemicals. The key takeaway being that he was always a criminal. In this new movie, Joker becomes a criminal due to mental illness, and I'm not here for it. The film is a completely unnecessary revision that simply doesn't interest me. Maybe one day when it's free on HBO or whatever, I'll give it a try out of boredom... but I'm not rushing to the theater to see it. Last night on SNL, there was a parody for Oscar the Grouch which brilliantly captures how I view Joker...

Perfect. THIS IS PERFECT!

   
• Three. It came out a short while back that Kevin Smith had finally manages to get Jeff Anderson onboard for Clerks 3. He had written a script ages ago, but Jeff didn't want to do it. Apparently after some discussion, Smith decided to write an all new script inspired by his heart attack that Anderson could get onboard with. Needless to say, I'm ecstatic...

Kevin Smith has made some of the favorite films. He kinda lost me when he took a detour into Cop Out, Red State, Tusk, and Yoga Hosers... but the idea of getting another Jay & Silent Bob movie this month followed by another Clerks? Too good to be true.

   
• Vileness. You will be absolutely amazed what Portuguese street artist, Vile, can do with cans of spray paint...

Tom Holland in his Spider-Man costume.

Check out the story over at My Modern Met for more of his mind-blowing graffiti art.

   
• Apple and TV. I absolutely loathe the way Apple handles the video media they peddle. They charge more money than any other provider to sell you something you are forced to watch with their shitty, shitty apps. AppleTV is a grotesque mockery of interface design that barely works. The iPhone and iPad apps are missing so many critical features (LIKE SORTING YOUR HUNDREDS OF PURCHASES) that they're a heinous burden to use. And now there's the TV app for my Mac that came with their new Catalina MacOS. It is the very definition of crap. I never thought I'd be longing to go back to iTunes, but at least it was functional. The TV app is fucking garbage. They regularly send you to places that have no content... THEN DON'T GIVE YOU A FUCKING "BACK" BUTTON TO GO BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE!

And just try searching for stuff you want to buy. I dare you. I double dare you. I am so fucking embarrassed for Apple that I feel like vomiting. And if Steve Jobs were alive today he'd probably burn the company to the ground. After he strangles all the dumbasses who thought that "butterfly" keyboards in MacBooks was a good idea.

   
• Stellar. Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is a movie that I didn't like at first but, as time went on and I gave it another chance, I came to appreciate it as pretty good sci-fi. The high-concept science behind it is fascinating. Yes, the way that Nolan tried to inject "humanity" into it was a kludge, but it's still an entertaining story. And while I found everything pretty straightforward (despite some glaring plot holes), I found this cool (spoiler-filled) graphic which explains the time shifts in a great way...

The complex timeline of the movie Interstellar showing all the characters and their journey through the film.
Click image to embiggen.

Of course I ended up watching the movie again last night just to follow along. I like it even better the third time through.

   
See you next Sunday, buckaroos.

   

iPhone 11 Pro

Posted on October 1st, 2019

Dave!Look, I'm just going to say it... if you've got an iPhone X or XS, then the only reason to upgrade to the iPhone 11 Pro is for the camera update, which is significant. Everything else is hardly a revolutionary step up... and, in one case, Apple even takes a step backwards.

And so, I'll just run through everything quickly before getting to the camera, which is why we're all here isn't it?

PRICE
Still $1000 for the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro. It's too much. But that's the price you pay for tech like this. I can barely fill up 2/3 of the smallest memory configuration, so 64GB is plenty for me. If you use tons of apps and store a bunch of movies and stuff in local memory then you'll want more... and pay more. There's the bigger iPhone 11 Pro Max, which wouldn't fit in my pocket (or my budget) so I took a pass. The good news is that my monthly payment in Apple's iPhone upgrade program is unchanged.

PRETTY
Make no mistake, this phone is gorgeous. The new frosted glass back has a nice matte feel (assuming you don't put it in a case) and the overall design is elegant, polished, and feels solid. I went for the new "Forest Green" color, because it's just so pretty. In most light, it looks more grey than green to me, but it picks up the light enough to give a hint of green that looks great. Alas, when paired with my Project (Red) case, the back is covered up, but you can still see a hint of the color in the camera cut-out. Maybe a clear case is a better way to go? But then you lose the matte glass, so I'm good.

STRONG
There's all kinds of videos showing the durability of the iPhone 11 Pro. They are impressively tough. But since I'm on the iPhone Upgrade Program (the only way I can afford these things) and I have to return the phone in pristine condition, I can't risk it. I've got a screen protector and case on at all times.

BATTERY
Apparently I should get (on average) 4 hours more battery life over my old XS. I guess that's awesome, but I barely used much battery on my old phone. Maybe when I travel or use maps for driving, but I'm not going to complain about having more time with my iPhone before charging. And speaking of charging... you get a nice 18 watt charger to fill the battery faster, which is a big improvement over the tiny 5 watt charger we used to get. Alas, Apple is still married to its Lightning connector for charging, but the end of the cable which plugs into the power adapter is USB-C. Go figure. Most of the time I'm using wireless charging so it's not a big issue for me.

DISPLAY
Still has the annoying notch at the top. That being said, the fidelity of the display is stunning. I mean, the old display was beautiful and all, but this is next level stuff. If you download a high quality movie at full resolution, you are in for a treat. The image simply does not fall apart and the color and brightness is phenomenal. Photos look as amazing as you'd think they would. Everything about the display is as good as it gets and worthy of Apple's flagship iPhone.

SOUND
Apparently the iPhone is now rocking Dolby Atmos sound, which is cute when you consider it's still pumping it through two tiny little speakers. To be honest I can't tell much improvement, but I thought the old sound was pretty great for a phone already.

3D TOUCH
Here's the thing about 3D Touch. It's gone. Apple removed it. This is surprising from the standpoint that newer phones should have more features, not less. It's not surprising from the standpoint that Apple rarely promoted or took advantage of the feature. I've read on a few sites that removing 3D Touch helps contribute to better battery life. That (along with the newer, larger battery and more efficient A13 chip) is probably true. But I really, really miss it. I am slowly getting used to Apple's replacement... "Haptic Touch"... which is essentially just a long-pause as opposed to a harder pause... which isn't terrible. But it's not the same. At all.

FASTER
And speaking of that new A13 chip... Apple claims it's up to 20% faster than the previous generation A12. I have no reason to doubt this, but I really don't notice it. My previous phone was plenty fast and day-to-day speed improvements (if they exist) don't really register for me. That being said, the speed boost is undoubtedly crucial to improvements behind the scenes, like the new camera's jaw-dropping abilities. And so... thanks, I guess.

PHOTOGRAPHY
It's not hyperbole to say that the camera in the iPhone 11 Pro is a quantum-leap improvement over the iPhone XS. It's a bit less of an improvement over the camera in the Google Pixel 3 (which I have limited experience with, but really liked) and the camera in the Samsung Galaxy S10 (which I got to use for three months and was underwhelmed with). Regardless, Apple's latest camera in the iPhone 11 Pro is (currently) unmatched. It's an artful symphony of hardware advancements and incredibly smart and clever software which pushes it ahead in (most) all areas. Which is where I'm at now.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA
While other cameras are pushing 16 megapixels (and higher!), Apple seems content to stick with 12 megapixels. This is understandable on many levels... primary of which is that they take less storage space. But it's also questionable if we really need more than 12 megapixels on a phone. It's plenty of resolution to print a fairly large hardcopy photo, and way more than enough resolution to look at on a phone screen. Where higher resolution comes in handy is when you want to crop into a photo. THEN it's kinda a big deal. And yet... ideally you'd just want a longer (telephoto) lens so I dunno. Would I like more? Sure. Do I need more? Probably not.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA LENSES
The iPhone 11 Pro has cameras lenses (not including selfie cam), as follows...

A photo of the camera array on the back of the new iPhone 11 Pro.

They're all good and have great optical quality. And, thanks to Apple's fantastic Camera App, you zoom between them without even realizing it. You just compose your shot and iPhone picks the correct camera/lens as you zoom in or out. The big news here is the Ultra Wide Angle Camera, which adds a lot of image area. So much area that I have to hold my camera in a new way because my fingers are in the frame if I hold it like I used to. Just look at this comparison... starting with the telephoto...

Seattle skyline as seen from Alki Point across the water.

And here's the wide angle...

Seattle skyline as seen from Alki Point across the water.

And here's the ultra-wide angle...

Seattle skyline as seen from Alki Point across the water.

Granted, where you'll most likely be using the ultra-wide is not shooting things that are far away, it's shooting things closer to you...

Inside the Seattle Public Library.

In which case it's a very big deal...

Inside the Seattle Public Library.

Alas, the Ultra-Wide Angle doesn't have image stabilization and can't use Night Mode (see below), so there are some limitations there, but boy is it a handy thing to have. I find myself using it far more than I thought I would, and quickly realized how critical it is not just for travel, but for everyday use.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA NIGHT MODE
The iPhone 11 has decent apertures for its three cameras, which allow you to get pretty spectacular shots without any long exposure trickery...

A shot of kayakers paddling in Elliot Bay at sundown while a bird watched from the top of a pole.

The Ultra-Wide Camera is f/2.4 which is darn good and allows for gorgeous shots as well...

A wide shot of two posts out in the waters of Elliot Bay at sundown.

Color fidelity is epic...

A beautiful shot of the Ray's Boathouse neon sign glowing while intense colors of sundown light up the sky behind it.

There are limits of course. Once things get too dark, everything can be lost in the shadows. This is nice for artistic purposes, but not what we want most of the time...

A photo of my catio encloser at night. The sky is glowing with a deep blue hue, illuminated by the moon, and a yellow light serenely glows inside the catio.

So what happens when there's not enough light for a shot? Glad you asked!

Google's Pixel 3 had a revolutionary "Night Sight" feature which I was extremely jealous of. I was so jealous that I borrowed one from a friend so I could try it out for a day. My iPhone had decent low-light ability, but it was nothing like what I got from the Pixel 3. Night becomes day and it was an incredible thing. Apple being Apple, they've taken the ball and ran with it. iPhone 11 Pro has automatic "Night Mode" which kicks in without you having to do a thing. It's essentially a long exposure which is assisted by image stabilization and some nifty software processing. The results are pretty amazing.

Here's my back yard with Night Mode turned off...

A photo of my back yard, though you can't see it because it's dark out.

And here it is with Night Mode on automatic which, of course, is activated given that it's pitch black out...

A photo of my back yard with far more detail visible, thanks to Night Mode.

Now, before you think "hey, that's still pretty dark," keep in mind that this is what I got straight out of the camera. I can still go in and make adjustments...

A photo of my back yard... which now looks like it was shot in the early evening instead of in near total darkness.

This level of color fidelity and detail would be impossible with any iPhone prior to this one. It looks like early evening instead of the middle of the night! What's surprising is how often Night Mode gets applied. I thought shooting through a bright window in darkness would fail to trigger Night Mode because the subject in the center is illuminated, but it was triggered anyway...

A photo of my cat Jenny who is staring at me intently through a window.

Curious to know why I needed Night Mode for such a shot, I turned it off and shot again...

A photo of my cat Jenny who is staring at me intently through a window, but this time everything is much darker.

Welp, I guess that's why. I'm getting a much, much better shot with a longer exposure. This is Apple's remarkable "machine learning" at work. Diagnosing shots so you don't have to. I dare say that even the most amateur photographer is going to be able to get pretty amazing shots with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro thanks to Apple helping them out behind the scenes.

"Night Mode" is not magic, however. It's a long exposure. And while image stabilization and camera processing will help keep static scenes in focus, you're fresh out of luck if the subject is in motion. A long exposure of motion is just going to make a blur out of it all. And be careful... the telephoto lens does not support night mode. If you zoom in further than 1× the resulting photo will be shot with the standard wide angle camera and be digitally zoomed.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA APP
Apple's new camera app is pretty great. It's still got an "automatic" mode which will even out the lighting and correct the color tone... usually in a way that's better than what you have without it... but it's the new manual controls they've added to the list which makes the new app so compelling...

  • Exposure
  • Brilliance
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Contrast
  • Brightness
  • Black Point
  • Saturation
  • Vibrance
  • Warmth
  • Tint
  • Sharpness
  • Definition
  • Noise Reduction
  • Vignette

And of course all those tools are "live," so even if you don't know what they mean, you can still play around and see what they do. Sharpness and Noise Reduction have been a long time coming, and I'm particularly impressed with how well Sharpness works. It feels like it's more of an "Unsharp Mask," which provides superior results. The Noise Reduction, however, is pretty basic. It's more of a "LET'S BLUR OUT THE NOISE!" tool than anything else. Here's a shot with no noise reduction applied. It may be tough to see here, but there's quite a bit of noise in this image because I turned Night Mode off. You'll just have to trust me, as you will still see the blurry mess that Noise Reduction makes...

My cat Jenny sitting in front of a television with noise all over her.

Here's 50% noise reduction...

My cat Jenny sitting in front of a television with noise a little blurred.

Not bad, but you can see that edge definition is being lost. To see what's really happening you have to turn up Noise Reduction to 100% like this...

My cat Jenny sitting in front of a television, but she's blurred.

Is the noise gone? Sure! But your image is so blurry that even sharpening can't save it. Professional noise reduction tools you can purchase for Photoshop try to eliminate noise while leaving detail. They do a much better job than this, and they do it by not aggressively removing every speck of noise... but finding a way to figure out where noise can be reduced without rendering the image a blur. Since this is Apple's first attempt at the tool, I'm going to give them a pass here... because that they even tried is a good thing... but I sure hope they work on improving it for next time.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA VIDEO
I don't shoot a lot of video (which is probably why I can get away with the 64GB model phone), but what little I've shot with iPhone 11 Pro is pretty great. Especially using the Ultra-Wide camera. As if the new lens wasn't enough to make videographers start drooling, you can now edit video in ways you couldn't before... like actually being able to crop it. No idea why this took so long, but editing 4K video in realtime is no small feat, so I guess it was worth the wait. Especially since I can now make adjustments and apply filters in the editor... without having to wait for the results to render. That's pretty crazy.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA SELFIES
I don't do selfies much. But the new front-facing camera got an upgrade to 12 megapixels and does a better job of getting great-looking shots. The "big new feature" for the selfie-cam is the "slofie" which is a slow-motion video capture. Whee.

PHOTOGRAPHY: DEEP FUSION
Later this year, Apple will push out a camera update which includes "Deep Fusion," a technology which uses machine learning to assemble the best parts of multiple photos shot in rapid succession to pull out detail and color like never before, as demonstrated at Apple's keynote last month...

It's kinda a "smart HDR" technique which uses pixel shifting to enhance detail (I talk about HDR here). Naturally I can't wait to give it a shot. Or a hundred shots.

CONCLUSION
The iPhone 11 Pro is pretty much the iPhone I've been waiting for... and not for the phone part... it's for the camera part. No, it's not going to take the place of my DSLR camera, but it is so vastly improved for photography that I will likely be using my DSLR much less than I already do. This new model is just so incredibly capable of getting fantastic shots that I don't need to be lugging around a big heavy camera everywhere. And it has me wondering what iPhone 12 will bring to the table. Probably more incredible camera features that I can't live without. =sigh= I really would like to be able to skip a year of upgrading... but this was definitely not that year. I will likely be posting more photos as I explore the iPhone 11 Pro's capabilities more, so you've been warned.

   

iPhone Xs and Defects

Posted on November 21st, 2018

Dave!When the iPhone X was released last year, I wanted one. Badly. For one reason and one reason only... the camera. The dual-lens dream had abilities far better than the camera on my old iPhone 6 from 2014. And since I use my phone far more for photography than actual phone calls, it's nice to have a great camera on it. Problem was I couldn't afford it. I had a trip to Antarctica coming up that took every spare dollar in my possession (and then some). Except... along with the X, Apple also released something which put their latest and greatest within my reach: The iPhone Upgrade Program.

This interesting financing option is essentially a loan from Citizens One which amortizes the cost of the phone, plus AppleCare, plus interest over a 24 month period. That, in itself, is not all that "interesting," but I'll tell you what is interesting... after 12 payments you can trade your iPhone in for the latest model. You also have the option of paying off all 24 payments and owning the phone, but what fun is that? *

I didn't want to get the new phone before my trip to the bottom of the world (I probably would have dropped it into the ocean or smashed it on an iceberg or something) so I waited until I got back and ordered my iPhone X on December 20th. It's a great phone. I love the camera. And all was good in the world.

And then...

This past Monday night I received an email from Apple with the good news... my twelfth payment had processed and I was now eligible for an upgrade to the iPhone Xs! Guess my Monday wasn't as crappy as I had thought!

iPhone Xs

My first instinct was to wait three weeks and get a little life from the $56.16 payment I had just made. If I ordered the Xs right away, I'd have to pay that payment again (first month is in advance), which seems financially reckless. But then I remembered that I had a credit of $42 from a return I made, so I decided "What the heck?" And ordered anyway.

It arrived today.

I'm returning it on Monday (UPDATE: No I'm not... see below).

But before we get to that...

The new camera is even better than the X with a wider lens, 30% larger sensor, higher dynamic range, and machine learning image processing which does all kinds of magic so casual users get much better shots...

1 trillion operations per photo!

For professional photographers (and professional wannabes like myself) you'll need to get a camera app that shoots RAW and can put the power of the new camera within reach. Like the $6 Halide app (the developers of which wrote a great article on what the new Xs camera is capable of). I haven't done much shooting yet, but I'm pretty impressed with what I'm getting so far.

In the day I've had to play with the iPhone Xs, there's a lot to love about it beyond the new camera...

  • So Much Faster. The new "A12 Bionic" chip is frighteningly smart and fast. Everything seems snappier and scrolling, in particular, is noticeably smoother. Lag is minimal in places that I definitely noticed before. If you never hear from me again, it's probably because my new phone has murdered me and is joining with other iPhones to enslave all mankind.
  • Tougher Construction. My iPhone X is pristine after a year because I keep it in a case and have a glass cover on the screen to protect it. And yet I worry, because dropping your phone can have bad consequences if it breaks. Especially if you're far from home. Early tests are showing that the Xs is really tough, and that's a good thing.
  • Dual SIM cards. Right now I have to carry two phones with me on days that I have to be accessible for my charity work. But hopefully not for much longer. The Xs has a "regular" SIM card slot... plus an eSim which will (eventually) allow you to have two separate cellular plans in a single handset. But there's more! Once eSIM becomes widely available, I look forward to using cheap data plans when traveling internationally instead of being price-gouged by AT&T's international roaming rates. Both of these things are a big deal to me.
  • Faster Face ID This is one of those features that I didn't think much of... until I started using it. This unlock feature (which uses your face as the key) was so fast that I barely noticed it on my X... now it's practically instantaneous.
  • Superior Display. The display on the X was very nice. This one is stunning. The color fidelity is unreal... or more real... depending on how you choose to look at it. I definitely notice a difference side-by-side with the X.
  • Better Battery Life. I have yet to run out the battery on my X... but there have been times I've come close. Having a little extra battery is a handy thing to have.
  • Gigabit LTE. Needless to say, rural America isn't getting the faster new data standard any time soon, but it will be nice to have faster internet when visiting a Big City that has it. Still not sure why Apple is calling it "Gigabit-Class LTE" instead of just "Gigabit LTE" but any time internet is faster is good. At least until 5G gets here, which will be insanely fast.

And now for the bad news...

As you can tell, I'm fairly pleased with the iPhone XS. It really is better in every way from the X that I got just one year ago. Except... even though it's essentially the exact same form as my old iPhone, the camera bump on the back is slightly larger at the bottom, so my old iPhone X case is a bit "off" on the new model. The pig-fuckers at Apple are expecting me to shell out $40 for a new silicone case, which is the cheapest case they make! I've never trusted third-party cases, so that was really my only option here.

Or so Apple wants you to believe!

Instead I took an X-ACTO blade and carved a bigger hole. Works just fine and saved me $40.

I positively loathe stupid, money-grabbing bullshit like this. Since the Xs was likely waaaayyyy down the road in development when Apple released the X, they probably knew they should have made the phone hole on the cases larger, but didn't. Because... well... $40 per case times millions of users equals serious money, yo.

And now for the WORST news...

The speakers on my X were fantastic. The Xs is supposed to have even better speakers. NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW THIS, BECAUSE MY UPPER SPEAKER IS DEFECTIVE AND I'M GOING TO HAVE TO RETURN MY BRAND NEW PHONE AND GET A NEW ONE. There's an annoying crackling plus audible distortion which plagues all sound coming from it. Whether it's a phone call or playing music, it's there. And it doesn't matter what volume it's at. Louder, softer, whatever.

UPDATE: Today when I answered a call, it was garbled as usual. I set my phone down to look for a paper, picked it back up, and suddenly it was sounding better? So I looked closely at the phone speaker and saw a tiny piece of film was pushed down into it, but had come out half-way. I pulled it out all the way and, just like that, PERFECT SOUND! No idea if the film came off the protective plastic you pull off or what, but I am so so so so happy that I don't have to exchange my new iPhone!

Anyway...

I was supposed to get a kit to return my old phone. It wasn't with my initial shipment, but Apple sent me an email telling me it will arrive soon. I hope so, because if I don't get the phone returned within 14 days, I'm billed for it.

In conclusion...

If it weren't for my being on the iPhone Upgrade Program, I would not have upgraded to the Xs from the X. Yes, it's a better phone... but not that much better. Because I am on the program I decided to go for it even though I have to return my old phone and lose the money I've put towards it. Since I donate my old phones, this isn't an issue for me, but if you sell your old phones you might was to go the full 24 months and pay it off so you own it.

With my iPhoneX I bought the 256GB model. I barely used any of that memory. So this time I just went with the cheaper 64GB model. Even with everything I had installed, I still have 18GB free. Such is the beauty of having a phone that can upload my hi-res original images to iCloud so the thousands of photos I've taken aren't filling up my phone. Even so? I wish Apple had a 128GB model so I could split the difference in cost and have a bit more memory to play with. Might save me from swapping apps in and out of memory.

Unlike last time, this time Apple offered me two options for my AppleCare. The original AppleCare+... and a new "AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss Protection" for about $5 extra per month. I leapt at it. Sure this essentially eradicates the money I saved by getting a phone with less memory, but the peace of mind over not being on the hook for 100% of my $1000 phone if something happens? Worth it. Here's the deets: "Your coverage includes up to two incidents of accidental damage, theft, or loss. Each incident is subject to a deductible of $29 for screen damage, $99 for all other accidental damage, or $269 for a theft or loss claim." I'm not sure how this works. If I have my screen repaired twice at $29, then my iPhone gets stolen, am I completely screwed? Hopefully it's two incidents each, but who knows? Something I need to check into, I guess.

Ultimately I'd be happy with my iPhone Xs if Apple's quality control had ensured I got one with a working speaker. Here's hoping my next one doesn't have to be returned as well.


*I used to always keep my old phone in case I lose or break the new one, then donate my old-old-phone from before that to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Sure I won't be able to donate any more if I choose to upgrade, but Apple gives millions upon millions to charities with their money, so at least I know some of the money Apple makes off the program is going to good causes.

   

“Siri, please stop telling the toaster to kill me!”

Posted on September 13th, 2017

Dave!Apple started off their September Event video with sweeping views of the brand new Apple Campus, otherwise known as "The Donut" or "The Spaceship" or "The Mothership." It is, of course, a structure of sublime beauty. Then, as The Beatles' All You Need is Love plays, we fly over to the equally sublime Steve Jobs Theater as attendees file in.

Then, in a moment that tore at my heart, the voice of my personal hero fills the theater that bears his name. And, just far a moment, it feels like he never left us. Then Tim Cook walks out with tribute to Jobs and the moment is gone. The Keynote begins.

Let's watch it together, shall we?

APPLE PARK
I could have watched an entire keynote devoted to Apple's new headquarters but, alas, all we get is a fleeting look. Happily, Tim announced that there will be a visitor's center! I will, of course, be paying a visit one of these days. An Apple Whore's life isn't complete until you've made a pilgrimage to The Mother Ship...

Apple Park by Air
Aerial drone footage by Matthew Roberts

   
APPLE RETAIL
Oh gag me. Apple doesn't call their major stores "stores" any more... they are "town squares." I mean, yeah... they are beautiful spaces where people can gather but, come on. These are monuments to retail, not the cities they reside in.

There is no doubt that Apple "town squares" are beautiful inside and out... architectural marvels that capture my imagination like no other stores can. And the plans they announced for Paris and Milan are borderline destination-worthy, which is remarkable. These are STORES!

   
APPLE WATCH 3
Apple finally cracked the smart-watch after a stream of other companies tried and failed. And their efforts paid off... they now have the #1 watch in the world. What's interesting is how Apple has changed this space. Their smartwatch is more of a lifestyle piece than a tech toy, and they continue to push into fitness and health in a way that makes their wares a compelling purchase.

The big announcement from this segment is that the new Apple Watch 3 now has a cellular radio, so it doesn't require a phone to access the internet. Dick Tracy has just become real, y'all. You can make/answer calls... send texts... even stream Apple Music... all without a phone. On my AT&T plan, this functionality costs an additional $10 a month. I guess that's a fair price... though I don't picture using $10 worth of data every month, as my iPhone will still get the lion's share of my usage.

I would love an Apple Watch 3. It's a magnificent piece of tech and, given my elevated heart rate, would probably be a benefit to my health. And yet... I have small wrists. Even the small Apple Watch is a massive clunker on me. What I want... what I really really want... is an thinner Apple Watch. I'd sacrifice some features (like the cellular radio) just to have something I can actually wear comfortably.

The price of admission for Series 3 with cellular is $399. Given that the watch is "darn close to magic," this seems like a bargain. Available September 22.

   
APPLE TV 4K HDR
I have many frustrations with Apple. One of the biggest is Apple TV. The remote is shit. The user interface is shit. Streaming my Apple purchases (when I can even get it to work) has quality that is shit. And if my Apple TV struggles to stream HD content now, what hope is there that a massive 4K stream is going to get through? What's so frustrating is that the Apple TV apps FOR EVERY OTHER STREAMING SERVICE is fantastic. I never have a problem with Netflix, ABC, NBC, CBS, YouTube, Showtime, HBO, Starz... ANY of them. Just my Apple iTunes purchases. How messed up is that?

Assuming I could actually get the Apple TV 4K HDR to stream shit (I have a 4K HDR television), it seems like a great device. Mainly because Apple will automatically upgrade your HD purchases to 4K HDR at no charge. If only they would come up with a better remote.

   
iPHONE 8
My every day phone is an iPhone 6. It's a little slow to initiate with the newer OS and apps, but it works perfectly fine, and I didn't feel the need to upgrade to an iPhone 7. Yeah... 3D touch is cool and the nicer camera (especially on the 7+) would be great... but it wasn't worth the cost. Even once my battery started cutting out at 10%.

But it's time to upgrade, and the iPhone 8 looks like a great choice. FINALLY stereo speakers (in both orientations!). The A11 Bionic chip would be a quantum leap from the A8 chip in my current phone. The camera looks incredible, but I'm disappointed that the dual-lens model with "portrait mode" is only available in the giant iPhone again. I don't want to lug around a giant phone. And while I'm not a big "augmented reality" fan yet, I have to say, the AR star map app they showed off is right up my alley. Needless to say, wireless charging is a much-coveted feature. No more plugging/unplugging a power cord... just slap it on a charging mat. Kind of odd that Apple took so long to get here when other companies have had wireless charging for a while. Available September 22.

   
iPHONE X
Let me just start by saying ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS?!?? Boy, that's a lot of money for a phone. But is it worth it?

Maybe.

Apple iPhone X

The bullet points...

  • Super Retina Display. Should be fantastic. The black levels and huge contrast ratio make for an amazing visual treat. Photos will look amazing.
  • No Home Button. A long time coming. Opens up the entire phone face for display and eliminates a physical fault-point.
  • Face ID. If it's reliable (the demo puts this in doubt), this is a much nicer experience than having to futz with your fingerprint and Touch ID. The technology behind this is insane, and will open up a whole new world of interface design.
  • Neural Engine. Welp. Skynet Step One is now in your pocket. An iPhone that has machine learning... what could possibly go wrong? "Siri, please stop telling the toaster to kill me!"
  • Animoji! Animated poop emoji? Okay... I'm sold. Give me an iPhone X.
  • Swipe. Am I the only one who thinks that the new swipe gestures are going to cause some thumb cramping? No? Okay.
  • Face ID Mask Tracking. This is a totally useless idea that will add an entirely new level to drunk FaceTime chatting.
  • Face ID Animoji. Craig Federighi as a poop emoji will never go away. The whole idea of communicating via animated emjoi is a cute selling feature... but, other than kids who can afford iPhone X, who is going to use this on a daily basis?
  • Camera X. Given the importance of camera quality on smartphones (I use my camera far more than any feature... like 100× more), it's a given that the camera on Apple's flagship phone is going to be incredible. Here is the dual-lens camera that I wish was in the regular-sized iPhone 8. But probably won't get there until... iPhone 9?
  • Selfie Sticht. If you just loooooove taking photos of yourself, then the selfie-camera (formerly the "front-facing camera") with portrait mode on the iPhone X is for you.
  • AirPower. The future is here. Slap down your iPhone, Apple Watch 3, and AirBuds (in wireless case) on the mat and charging is instant and automatic. Sadly, there doesn't look to be a charging option for Apple Pencil. I guess I'll still have to plug that one in.

   
I am not going to buy a new phone until I get back from Antarctica. Heaven only knows how I'd end up destroying the thing while on that trip. No, my new iPhone won't be coming until tax refund time next year. Whether I will end up spending $300 more for the iPhone X over the iPhone 8 is anybody's guess. I mean... ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A PHONE?!? But, then again, I've paid $300 for a pocket camera that's not as good as the camera in iPhone X, so that's something to take under consideration. In the end, I compare my iPhone to a mattress. With a mattress, it makes sense to buy the best one you can afford since a huge portion of your life is going to be spent sleeping on it. The iPhone is no different. It's easily the most-used piece technology I own. It's also the most valuable considering what I can do with it while not in front of a computer. Especially when traveling. Ideally, I'd like to spend no more than $400 on a phone. That seems a good price point to me, and what I'm comfortable forking over. But, given how important the iPhone has become in my life, I think I can get comfortable being uncomfortable.

As to how uncomfortable? Probably iPhone X uncomfortable. I mean, that camera...

   

Apple WWDC 2017

Posted on June 5th, 2017

Dave!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.

Now?

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...

  • Amazon on Apple TV. It's about frickin' time. I mean, I know this was probably more an Amazon issue than an Apple issue, but the wait has just been silly. A pity that the Apple content delivery is so shitty. I still can't get reliable streaming of my Apple video purchases despite every other streaming service in existence working perfectly fine... even on my AppleTV.
  • watchOS 4 Some nifty features. It's interesting how Apple has cracked the nut here that so many companies have failed with. Problem is that the watches are still too thick and clunky to be comfortable on me.
  • MacOS High Sierra. As the self-proclaimed "Heart and Soul of Apple," the company sure doesn't seem to be putting the Mac on the same level as their phone/watch/tablet products. This update to the MacOS offers some interesting features... in particular the new file system that's been a long time coming... but most of it is fluff. Where is the groundbreaking innovation that's going to keep the Mac platform moving forward? Certainly not at this keynote.
  • VRkit. Mass adoption of Virtual Reality isn't going to happen until it's much cheaper... and a hell of a lot less cumbersome and uncomfortable. When Apple releases VR that's accessed with a pair of glasses instead of some janky headset, maybe I will get excited. But now? Interesting and entertaining for early adopters, but it's got a long, long way to go before it's an essential technology.
  • iMac Pro. Why the fuck can't Apple get it through their heads that all this "pro" equipment they are releasing is not what pros are wanting? Your "pro" Mac option is now a fucking iMac? An iMac? A $5000 computer you can't expand or self-service? Oh... but it comes in fucking "Space Gray," so that makes up for everything! Give me a fucking break. Yes, it's an awesome computer... a powerfully awesome computer that looks great... but it is NOT WHAT PROS ARE LOOKING FOR!
  • iOS 11. Messages syncing is great, Personal Apple Pay is wonderful. Upgraded Siri is awesome... especially the translation feature! Siri learning and persistence is cool. Photo upgrades are welcome. New Control Center is overdue. Do Not Disturb while driving is critical to help keep dumbasses from being dangerous on the road. ARkit augmented reality is sweet, but kind of gimmicky.
  • iPad Pro. Wishing this was my iPad. The upgraded display is phenomenal, and looks like it will make using Apple Pencil even more remarkable. But the best part is the new size. The move from 9.7" to 10.5" feels like the perfect move... just a little bit more room to be more productive, but not to the cumbersome degree of the 12.9" model. I don't know that these new iPads are the ideal answer to Microsoft's Surface, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. But at a price.
  • iOS for iPad. If Apple keeps bringing desktop features to iPad, pretty soon they won't need to sell desktops. Which is probably the ultimate goal here. File management is finally here and, while not as feature-rich as I had hoped, it's still very much a step in the right direction.
  • HomePod. I'll buy one. Absolutely. This is the perfect device for playing music in my bedroom... perhaps even in my living room. But when it comes to home automation, it's too little too late. WAY too little because it relies on Apple's shitty HomeKit technology that I've abandoned. WAY too late because Amazon's Alexa does so much more in every arena, and already controls my home automation perfectly. To me, this is competition to SONOS, not Alexa. Maybe one day that will change, but Apple is going to have to integrate with other systems like Amazon has done in order to make any headway.

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.

   

Bullet Sunday 422

Posted on March 1st, 2015

Dave!Don't let the drone surveillance get you down... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...

   
• Vaccinate! Classic...

And yet... the measles epidemic rages on. Thanks, Jenny McCarthy!

Jenny Stupid Fucking McCarthy

You're a horrible, horrible person.

   
• MURICA! Because nothing says "freedom" better than being able to scream "YOU'RE FIRED, FAGGOT!" when you find out that one of your employees is gay, and being 100% within the law... Arkansas has passed an anti-non-discrimination bill SB 202...

Odd Couple Promo

I've heard of legislating morality... but legislating immorality? Way to go, Arkansas. There's some terrific things about your state, but this is a fucking embarrassment. Shame on everyone who had a hand in dragging "The Natural State" back to less enlightened times.

   
• Widow! The hype machine for Avengers: Age of Ultron is really amping up, with individual character posters being released this week. Could not possibly be more excited to see this film come May...

BLACK WIDOW, BABY

Looks like Black Widow may finally... finally be getting some tech that ups her game. They showed her using a built-in taser in the last Avengers film, but that's a far cry from the "Widow's Bite" blasters she sports in the comics. I certainly hope it comes to pass, because it seems completely illogical that Tony Stark wouldn't give her some advanced weaponry to make her a stronger part of the team.

   
• Laugh? The Matthew Perry version of The Odd Couple finally debuted and it's far, far worse than I imagined. Mostly because they're using a frickin' laugh track. This idiotic and antiquated method of attempting to make unfunny crap seem hilarious is just pathetic, and only serves to underline how funny something is not to modern audiences...

Odd Couple Promo

What kills me is how Matthew Perry can't seem to find a lead role in a vehicle that's worth his talent lately. He was essential viewing in Friends, he was a revelation as Joe Quincy on The West Wing, he was bordering on genius on Studio 60, and he was terrific on The Good Wife... I even liked his movies okay. But when it comes to finding a new show, he's been rolling in shit. Mr. Sunshine was abysmal. Go On was horrific. And now there's this hot mess? Sad. Just sad.

   
• MARCIA MARCIA MARCIA! Hot on the heels of Snicker's awesome Brady Bunch/Danny Trejo mashup comes this epic art installation...

I love it when companies create ad campaigns you actually want to see. In case you missed the original commercial, here you go...

The teaser ad was equally filled with awesome...

Yep. That's advertising done right, right there.

   
• Photographic! I used to carry a pocket camera with me everywhere I went to capture those unexpected moments that are begging for a picture to be taken. Then the iPhone 4 came along with its terrific built-in camera, and I started leaving my pocket camera at home more often than not. Why bother when I can get shots like this...

Wenatchee River Fall Colors

Then the iPhone 5 was released with an even better camera, and suddenly I found myself ditching the pocket camera completely. Now that I've got an iPhone 6 with its amazing camera, I've been doing something I never thought I'd do... go on some of my travels without taking my DSLR with me. It's a mind-boggling prospect, but the shots I can get out of a frickin' camera phone are so good that it's not a much of a sacrifice at all.

This week Apple finally realized what most of us already know... the iPhone is a really good camera. And they've started a nifty ad campaign to let everybody else know it too. They've also added an amazing "World Gallery" to their website...

Shot with iPhone
Shot by Silke W. in Bali, Indonesia

A lot of people are carrying smart phone with them everywhere they go now-a-days. Which means a lot of people have a camera on them all the times. Which means a lot of photo opportunities that were once missed are being captured. It's an amazing time we live in.

   
And... I'm wrecked. See you next Sunday.

   

Light

Posted on July 31st, 2014

Dave!And... time to head home.

But not before I see one last lighthouse... and perhaps the most famous in Maine due to its proximity to Portland... Portland Head Light State Park.

All things considered, it's a nice lighthouse. Albeit a little more crowded than the others I visited this trip...

Portland Head Light State Park

Portland Head Light State Park

Portland Head Light State Park

I was once again astounded at the photo quality I was getting from my iPhone... and it's a 5, not even the 5S. The detail it manages to pull out of a scene is nothing short of amazing considering it's coming out of a frickin' phone...

Portland Head Light State Park

Portland Head Light State Park

Inside there's a small museum ($2 entry) that has an interesting look at the history of the lighthouse. And how it works...

Portland Head Light State Park

Portland Head Light State Park

Time for a mad dash to the airport jetport so I can make my flight. While waiting for my plane to board, I noticed there were displays of Maine's famous products on display... some of which I never associated with the state. Well, except "Tom's of Maine" which I kinda had figured out...

Tom's of Maine Product Display

And away I go...

   

Popham

Posted on July 29th, 2014

Dave!I had a scary amount of work piled up today, so exploring Maine wasn't really in the cards.

I did take a quick run out to Popham Beach State Park after lunch to clear my head, however. I had wanted to visit yesterday, but the unrelenting rain made that a dreary proposition.

Luckily today was a different story...

Popham Beach State Park Maine

The southern section of the beach is a beachcomber's delight...

Popham Beach State Park Maine

Popham Beach State Park Maine
Click image to embiggen.

One of the cool things about Popham Beach is that there are islands off the coast which you can walk to during low tide...

Popham Beach State Park Maine

Popham Beach State Park Maine

Popham Beach State Park Maine

And now it's time to gear up for a 30-hour work day.

   

Maine

Posted on July 28th, 2014

Dave!I've been to Maine before. But not really. I crossed the border back in 2005 just so I could say that I've been here, but a quick hop to Kittery doesn't really qualify me to say that "I've seen Maine." So when my travel plans went as scheduled and I ended up with a free day, I figured I might as well jot out to the coast to see a few lighthouses and stuff.

Except I awoke to find that all of Maine was pouring rain and fog. I scoured the internet for lighthouse webcams, but all of them pretty much looked like this...

Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

The radar weather map looked a bit cleaner up north, so I started combing every webcam I could find up the Maine coast to see if there was anywhere with decent weather. After a long time of having no luck, I happened across a camera for "Pemaquid Point Light" (they don't call them "lighthouses" here). It was rainy, but not overly foggy. It was an hour-and-a-half drive through a torrential downpour, but oh well. Off I went.

The entire trip was pouring rain... right up until I got to the road that led down to the lighthouse...

But then... a miracle. As I was turning into the park, the rain just stopped. Still a bit overcast, but kinda clear. No need to wear a garbage bag after all!

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Behind the lighthouse is a cool rock formation that funnels out to the ocean...

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

What's cool about this particular lighthouse is that you can climb up in it...

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Inside the lightkeeper's house is a small museum...

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

By the time I was ready to leave, blue skies were starting to appear...

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

After asking for some advice as to another lighthouse I might try, I was told that a lot of people seem to head off to Marshall Point Light from here, so off I went. Surprise surprise, it started to rain again...

Rainy Maine Road Drive

It took a lot longer than I thought (Pemaquid Point and Marshall Point look so close on the map!), but it was a nice drive. Lucky me... the rain started to let up just as I pulled into the parking lot. Again...

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

Wanting to buy a post card, I stepped into the gift shop for a minute. When I went back outside, the blue skies had followed me!

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

The rocks here are really cool to look at...

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

Overall, a very nice lighthouse with some beautiful scenery surrounding...

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine
Click the panorama to enbiggen.

While in the gift shop, I saw a map that showed another lighthouse that's publicly accessible not too far away. So off I went to Owl's Head Lighthouse... this drive in much nicer weather...

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

Poor Spot!

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

And thus ended my exploration of Maine's coastal roads and lighthouses.

Interesting to note that the geography here makes everything much farther away than you'd think. Pemaquid Point and Marshall Point are not very far away from each other as the crow flies (about 13 miles). But to navigate there in a car is just over 50 miles and a 1 hour, 15 minute drive...

Google Map
Map courtesy of... who else... Google Maps!

Dinner was back in Portland at Flatbread Company, because I just couldn't help myself. The blueberry desserts are just too incredible. This time? Blueberry-Topped Poundcake...

Blueberry Poundcake

Hopefully tomorrow I'll get the chance to explore a bit more... but it's a work day, so fingers crossed.

   

Affair

Posted on June 24th, 2009

Dave!As the train wreck that is Governor Sanford unfolded in the media today, I made a few smart-assed remarks on Twitter because I just love it when hypocritical assholes get burned. Especially hypocritical assholes who pushed for impeaching Clinton when it was his dick that ended up where it shouldn't have been. And when you consider that Sanford not only used taxpayer money to get himself a mistress, but he is also an opponent of same-sex marriage because he apparently feels it defiles traditional marriage... well, it's a trifecta of schadenfreude bliss when he goes on television and admits to having an extramarital affair.

The Twitter stuff was nothing too outrageous, just snippy comments like...

  • "Because when you want to bring morality to America, it applies to EVERYBODY ELSE. Anxiously awaiting news that Sanford's affair was with a dude."
  • "Color me three shades of shocked... Not... One more nail in the "sanctity of traditional marriage" argument..."
  • "I should certainly hope that Jenny Sanford stands by her man! According to "Doctor" Laura, it was all her fault anyway."
  • "How do you solve a problem like Maria? A hike along the Appalachian Trail, apparently..."

Not a big deal, but it was enough to compel somebody on Twitter to send me a Direct Message telling me that my "attacks" were far worse than anything Sanford has done.

Whatever.

The big difference being that I don't go around condemning people for how they live their lives, then turn around and do that same shit. So, while I certainly sympathize with Sanford's family, that doesn't make the Governor any less a hypocritical asshole.

In similar news... suck it Perez Hilton. It's not that I am advocating violence, but when you make a living writing hateful things about people all day long... well, you reap what you sow.

In completely different news... I finally found time to unbox my new iPhone 3GS. To be honest, I don't consider it to be a critical hardware upgrade from the iPhone 3G. But I decided to go for it anyway because I find myself using the camera feature far more often than I ever thought I would, and the 2G/3G camera sucks major ass. Fortunately, the 3GS camera is far, far better. For one thing, it can do macro (close-up) photography very well...

iPhone Macro Flowers

iPhone Macro World Map

Compare that to the total shit that you get from the 2G/3G camera...

Shitty iPhone Macro Menu

But the thing I love most about the new 3GS camera is that you not only get selective one-tap focus... you can also choose where the camera meters the exposure. This is a massively huge improvement because it makes the camera is actually useful now.

In this scene, I tapped the bright white sign as the focus/exposure point to force a darker shot...

iPhone Scene Exposure

This time, I tapped the train in the background as the focus/exposure point to force a brighter shot...

iPhone Scene Exposure

By tapping around the scene for a medium value, I could get exactly the exposure I want. This is a far cry from the shitty 2G/3G camera which consistently shoots everything as murky and dark unless the lighting is perfect.

Finally, FINALLY, I have a viable camera with me at all times that I can rely on for decent photos! In addition, you can shoot and edit video with the 3GS... a nice bonus that I probably won't use much. There are also a few other new features, but unless you are wanting a better camera like I did, I don't know that it's worth the cost to upgrade.

Unless you're a government official and can pay for the upgrade using taxpayer money. An upgrade is always worth it when somebody else is paying.

   

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