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High on Sierra

Posted on November 2nd, 2017

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

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

Away we go...

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

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

Apple New Emoji!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
And so... here we are. The end.

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

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

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

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

What a shame.

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

   

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.

   

WWDC15

Posted on June 9th, 2015

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

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

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

On with the show...

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

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

Mac OS X El Capitan Logo

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

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

Mac OS X El Capitan Logo

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

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

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

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

WWDC 2015 Logo

And yet it didn't happen.

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

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

And I just don't get it.

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

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

But oh well.

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

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

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

   

March 2015 Apple Keynote

Posted on March 10th, 2015

Dave!Few things can sum up Apple better than going to their website so you can watch the March 2015 Special Event Keynote and having to click on a link which says "Experience the keynote." You may watch a keynote with "lesser" companies... but with Apple, you experience a keynote.

The reason this sums up Apple so perfectly is that, in the end, it IS just a keynote... but Apple brands it as some kind of life-changing "experience" so they can inflate the hype around it. Which is exactly the direction they seem to be going with their products, so at least they're consistent.

So, yeah... on with this keynote thingy...

   
RETAIL

The show opened with a look at the absolutely stunning flagship Apple Store in West Lake, China...

I mean, holy crap... like so many Apple Stores I've visited, you don't need any hype... this jaw-dropping, magnificent, astounding architectural achievement IS something to be experienced. I hate shopping, but I'll go out of my way to visit an Apple Store... especially one that looks like this. ZOMG! THAT SECOND FLOOR IS DEFYING GRAVITY!

I had to laugh when Tim Cook said "This is the way we like to see our stores" while a photo of it completely packed with people pops up behind him. Apple stores are always packed. At least when you compare them to the shop that Microsoft has undoubtedly plopped down across the aisle at the mall, which is undoubtedly mostly empty.

No doubt, Apple's retail presence is impressive. And so very, very smart. People wander in to see what all the buzz is about... have a killer retail experience... get sucked into the Apple Reality Distortion Field... and end up leaving with an armload of Apple products. I still marvel at all the doomsayers that predicted Apple would fall flat on their face. "If Dell can't do it with their numbers, what chance does Apple have?"

A pretty good one, as it turns out. Apple used retail to build their brand and their customer base (120 million visitors last quarter!). And where is Dell? I rarely hear anything about them any more.

   
APPLE TV

AppleTV is a product I actually like quite well. That being said, it is feeling a bit antiquated compared to the competition. I'm sure Apple is working on that but, in the meanwhile, Apple is lowering the price of the product to $69. Which may sound like a bargain... but you just know it's a precursor to releasing a better/faster/stronger product come the holidays.

The HBO Now announcement was long overdue. Having access to all of their award-winning content whenever you want it pretty special... I just don't know that it's $14.99 special compared to what you get from Netflix. I'll probably subscribe off and on as shows I want to watch arrive... but I can't see paying for it every month.

   
iPHONE

Never one to pass up an opportunity to plug the money-shot, Tim ran through some impressive numbers, confirming the massive success of iPhone 6 that everybody already suspected. Other than the larger size, which I still struggle with, I'm pretty happy with mine. Apple Pay is frickin' amazing, when you can use it. The camera is mind-boggling for a phone, and I prefer it over the "superior" cameras in their competitor's offering because they just look so much better... but there's still a lot of room for improvement.

   
CARPLAY/HOMEKIT/HEALTHKIT

All of this is pretty much "meh" until real-world applications I give a crap about start appearing. I love the idea of HomeKit... it's the next step in home automation... but where is it? Where are all the home-kit compatible doohickeys that fulfill the promise of the technology? On it's way, I'm sure. But until I can actually buy it, it means nothing to me.

   
RESEARCHKIT

Using a device you carry with you every day to contribute to medical research seems like a no-brainer. And heeeeeeeere's Apple with HealthKit. If this truly helps with research, then more power to them. Otherwise, more meh. EXCEPT... if anybody needed proof that Apple is working overtime to find new ways to get integrated into your life, TA DAAAAA! Add this to the rumor of Apple developing a car, and you can see how there's nowhere they won't go to inject themselves into every aspect of everything you do.

   
THE NEW MACBOOK

It's remarkably small and light. It's stunningly beautiful. It's everything you could want in a travel laptop...

And here's Jony Ive gushing over its every feature as only Jony Ive can...

Now... before I get to the part where I say "ZOMFG! I WANT ONE SO BAD!"... a rant...

FUCK ME SIDEWAYS... YET ANOTHER CONNECTOR I HAVE TO INVEST IN?!?

First it was Firewire, which Apple abandoned after pushing the entire industry to adopt it.

Then it was Thunderbolt, which Apple was all excited about for about two minutes... before, apparently, abandoning it for USB-C... which is the only port on the new MacBook, combining power, display, and peripheral connectors in one tiny connector.

Which means I now have to buy an adapter for my Thunderbolt periphreals, even though I just got them? Dick move, Apple. Dick move.

But, yeah... I want one pretty bad. It takes everything I love about my 11-inch MacBook Air and ups the game exponentially.

   
APPLE WATCH

A nice idea, really. And Apple did it better than anyone who's tried before But, in the end, TOO THICK! TOO THICK! TOO THICK!

Seriously, it's too damn thick. If it were half as thick, I'd be placing my preorder right now. But having a giant dongle stacked on my arm? I just don't know. Some of the features are there... it's Dick Tracy come to life... but until I try one on, I'm just not convinced. Especially when the price of admission starts at $350.00

And yet... if somebody wants to buy me an Apple Watch Edition in gold, by all means, please drop the $10,000 to $17,000... and do so. I'd absolutely wear it from time to time!

When it comes to the Apple Watch features, I'm impressed/not impressed. Some of the interactivity with the iPhone looks truly helpful and worthwhile... the Apple Pay component is fantastic... but all the tactic crap? The "I'm sending you my heartbeat" and such? Who gives a shit? Being able to send a crappy, crude drawing? Might be fun the first two times you do it... but after that? Why?

Tim Cook made a good presentation for how Apple Watch will integrate into your life in meaningful ways... but is it enough? I'll let you know when I've tried one. Until then I remain skeptical yet optimistic to the possibilities.

And leaning towards the "Sport" edition in Space Gray with a Black Sport Band.

Or waiting for Apple Watch 2.0 which is a damn-sight thinner.

Heh.

   

8.1

Posted on October 21st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

   
APPLE PAY

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

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

Great, huh?

Well... kinda...

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

Apple Pay

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

Apple Pay

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

Apple Pay

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

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

Apple Pay

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

Apple Pay

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

Which is insane.

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

Moving on...

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

Apple Pay

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

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

Apple Pay

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

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

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

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

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

   

AIRDROP & HANDOFF/CONTINUITY

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

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

NO AIRDROP FOR YOU!!!

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

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

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

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

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

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

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

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

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

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

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

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

Handoff iPhone Working?

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

   

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

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

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

I want the future now.

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Watch!

Posted on September 10th, 2014

Dave!Three big announcements from Apple yesterday. All of which would have been surprising if it all hadn't been leaked to the internet weeks ago. If you haven't seen the keynote video, it's over at Apple's site for your viewing pleasure.

   
• iPhone 6... And so the inevitable happened... iPhone got bigger. But the user interface didn't get bigger with it. Meaning it's not any easier for people to navigate if they have poor eyesight (me), or older eyes (me), or vision problems (me). Nope... the tiny icons and text have just been moved further apart on the bigger screens of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus...

New iPhone Lineup

   

Except... Apple mentioned something called "Display Zoom" which sounds interesting. The iPhone 6 can apparently render the text and icons larger than previous models on command...

   

New iPhone Lineup

   

Huzzah! But... I can't find much detail as to how this works. Can you leave "Display Zoom" on all the time, or is it a temporary thing? Does it work everywhere, or only with apps that support it? However it works, it looks to be a step in the right direction for people like me who need an easier time of it when trying to use their phone. My fear is that this only works on the home screen, but I guess that's better than nothing.

Anyway...

The new seamless, ergonomic design of the iPhone 6 is just beautiful. Apple's mobile aesthetic has been looking dated for a while now compared to what the competition is doing, so this is a welcome sight...

   

New iPhone Design

   

A pity that you have to slap a case on that sexy design in order to keep it from smashing to bits if you happen to drop it. With this in mind, Apple is introducing both a leather and a silicone case to protect your investment. Hopefully this time they'll be available at launch so your iPhone is made safer from day one.

Screen resolutions are getting to be ridiculous... with some newer phones having pixels that are smaller than the eye can detect. Which means wasting precious battery life to power something that you probably won't even notice. Apple increased the density on their "Retina Display" screens, but didn't go too crazy (326 ppi on the 6 and 401 ppi on the 6 Plus). This should strike a good balance between getting a beautiful display while still being battery efficient.

Not surprisingly, Apple is using a new 64-bit A8 chip for the brains of their latest and greatest. If you watched the game demo during the keynote, you've seen what this kind of power is bringing to the table. But power, of course, comes at a price. Lucky for us Apple has made advances with the iPhone power cell as well, so you can still get decent battery life with the faster processor.

   

New iPhone Design

   

But what about the feature I use most on my iPhone? What about the camera? And I'm not talking about all the bells and whistles like "face detection" and "burst mode" and "HDR"... I'm talking about the actual camera element. The specs say that iPhone 6 is still stuck at 8 megapixels, which is a bit surprising. I mean sure, megapixels aren't the sole determining factor in getting great photos... but higher pixel counts do allow for more detail. So if not the megapixels, what has been improved?

Well, the lens has been bumped up to an f/2.2 aperture, which is a bit brighter than before. That's a good thing. Exposure control should make getting shots with wildly disparate lighting conditions a bit easier. Also a good thing. And Apple has come up with "auto stabilization" to reduce motion blur and shake. That's a very good thing. BUT, if you've been waiting for actual OPTICAL stabilization, you can get it at long last... but ONLY on the iPhone 6 Plus. That's a not-so-good thing for me, because I don't want to have to start carrying a purse so I have a place to put my iPhone.

The only bad thing I've noticed is that the camera lens now protrudes from the shell. Seems like that's an invitation for damage if you're not using a case on your iPhone... but superior camera features are going to have a trade-off, and this is what you have to pay...

   

New iPhone Design

   

If you shoot video, there's a slew of improvements on that front. Automated time-lapse. 240 frames per second slo-mo at 720p. And while there's no 4K option, you do get beautiful 1080p HD video running at 60 frames per second... all with cinematic video stabilization. Sold!

Of course Apple included Touch ID on the iPhone 6 models... which nicely addresses my bitching from yesterday about the shitty password security Apple is using on pre-Touch ID models. AND it dovetails nicely into another big announcement today...

   
• Apple Pay... And heeeeeere's Apple's new "digital wallet" functionality! Many others have tried to bring us this golden carrot of the modern age... but they've all failed. This October, we'll see if Apple has the muscle to get their version accepted by merchants around the globe. Something tells me they can. But... what about security? Well, it would seem that Apple has put some real thought into Apple Pay, because its security features are pretty well-rounded. First of all, you no longer have to disclose your credit card number, name, and security code like you do when you hand over your credit card. Instead, Apple Pay creates a Device Account Number that is stored on a new Security Element chip on your phone... not on Apple's servers... to conduct the transaction. Furthermore, Apple is actually adding privacy to the transaction by keeping them private. No details will be stored or transmitted, so your purchases can't be tracked back to you. Well, through the payment anyway. And since Apple Pay also has an online component, this should make it easy for Conservative lawmakers to get their gay porn fix anonymously.

I'm in love with the idea of not having credit cards bulk up my wallet. But that day isn't coming any time soon. So long as one retailer you deal with doesn't accept Apple Pay, you're going to have to hold on to your plastic. And while it's nice that you won't have to dig them out as often as this technology get adopted, it's not like using a physical credit card is such a huge burden that it's going to matter all that much in the end.

Verdict? Cautiously optimistic.

   
• Apple Watch... Praise be to Jobs that we seem to have escaped from the "i" branding that's dominated Apple for the past several years. By naming their wearable "Apple Watch" instead of "iWatch" I will be able to purchase one without screaming.

And, yes, you read that right... I am buying one.

The minute I saw this image hit the screen, the decision was made...

   

Apple Watch Mickey Mouse Face

   

Everything else is gravy, because I'd buy the watch if all it did was display the time using an animated Mickey Mouse (he taps his foot with the time!).

And about that gravy...

The health crap is nice, but probably not something I'm going to make use of. The whole "send your heartbeat" "tap a friend" and "send a sketch" stuff isn't very compelling to me. Heck, a lot of the features being touted aren't compelling to me. Yes, it will be nice to not have to go fishing for my iPhone every time I've got an alert or a message or whatever, but the defining feature to me? We're one step closer to Dick Tracy, baby...

Come in, Dick Tracy!

   
The day I can hold a FaceTime conversation on my Apple Watch will be one of the greatest days of my life.

In the meanwhile, I'll just have to settle for the dozens of things that Apple Watch can do right now.

All of which wouldn't mean shit if Apple Watch wasn't something I wanted to wear. Fortunately, that was never really a concern. I knew Apple would come up with something good-looking and wearable... and they did...

   

The Apple Watch Sport

   

...IN TWO FRICKIN' SIZES!!!

Which means that if the larger one is like a brick on my bony arm, I have another option available. Sadly, it doesn't look like it gets any thinner, which has always been the problem with so-called "smart watches." I mean, just look at this boat anchor...

   

The Apple Watch Thickness

   

To be honest, I really thought Apple's watch would be thinner than this. I thought they'd find a way to put the battery in the band... or make it run on nuclear fusion... or something to make it not be so obvious...

   

The Apple Watch Thickness

   

Maybe they're saving that for Apple Watch 2.0.

The one thing that did turn out as expected was the interface. Apple being Apple, they weren't content to force a Phone interface on their watch. That's what other companies do. No no... they started from scratch and came up with something more appropriate to the smaller size of the device. Using the "crown" for interactivity so it doesn't obscure the screen is genius. Using "deep presses" for touch selection is genius. Having the watch tap you for attention instead of jolting you with a buzz is genius. The MagSafe contact charger is genius. The customization options are genius. Everything about the Apple Watch is genius...

   

The Apple Watch Thickness
Battery life? Memory size? Durability? Water resistance? Who knows? Who cares?

   

Well, except the wait. "Early 2015" is pretty non-specific, and could mean as late as May.

Another sticking point could be the price. "Starting at $349" leaves a lot of latitude. The style/band you want could run much, much higher.

Not that it matters. If I have to sell a kidney to get my digital Mickey Mouse... that's definitely on the table.

   

So... a banner day for Apple and Apple Whores alike!

I guess.

It's hard to know for sure until I find out if I'm going to be down a kidney or not.

   

Security!

Posted on September 9th, 2014

Dave!And so Apple released their long-rumored watch and long-leaked iPhone 6 today.

We'll get to that next entry. I've got bigger fish to fry first.

As you may have already heard, several celebrities... including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Kirsten Dunst... had their personal (and often revealing) photos stolen and posted publicly without their consent or knowledge. Despite what the assholes at FOX "News" say, victim blaming is not the way to respond to this. You should be able to take whatever the hell photos you want and not have to worry about some criminal violating your privacy by stealing and posting them. And while it's nice to think that these criminals can be tracked down and made to pay for their crimes, the global reach of the internet makes this unlikely or impractical. The criminal would have to be located here in the US for US law to really be of any use. Even then, cyber crimes are persecuted so wildly that there's no guarantee a criminal will get a suitable punishment.

So what to do? Let's see...

In a press release Apple says "Hey, don't blame us" because the theft wasn't caused by a breach of their network. Instead, it was a targeted attack on specific accounts where the criminal broke in by guessing passwords (probably with the help of brute-force hacking software). At the end of the release, apple closes with this...

To protect against this type of attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification. Both of these are addressed on our website at http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4232.

To which I say... bullshit.

Not because it's bad advice, but because Apple itself makes taking their advice far too difficult.

My Macintosh and my iPhone and my iPad are password protected. In order to get to any information on them, you have to get past the login screen first. I use a rather strong password that's a pain in the ass to type, but protecting my information makes it worthwhile. But here's the thing... once you've unlocked your device, Apple continues to pester you for passwords all the goddamn time. And, yes, I've checked "remember my password." It doesn't do any good. I am FOREVER having to enter my password. Just this morning I opened iTunes so I could listen to some tracks by The 1975. For reasons unknown, all my iTunes Match songs stored in the cloud were inaccessible. In order to play them, Apple wants my password...

iTunes Match NOT AVAILABLE!

ENTER YOUR FUCKING PASSWORD!

Now, I've already typed a password to unlock my machine, so having to type the password AGAIN makes no damn sense. But at least with my Mac I have a physical keyboard available. What about my iPhone? That damn thing asks for my password several times a day. Want to buy an app? Even a FREE app? Type your damn password. Then type it again. And again. And again. And again. And here's where having that strong password that Apple recommends falls apart. Who wants to type "&7pbik9jbkQos$HB" on the shitty, incomplete, tiny keyboard that's on your iPhone over and over? Anybody? No? That's what I thought.

Which is why people tend to create simple, easily-hackable passwords.

So when Apple says "It's your fault, Jennifer Lawrence, you should have had a stronger password!" I want to say "Bullshit, Apple, it's all YOUR fault for making stronger passwords too difficult to use by making people type them too many damn times!"

Apple's answer to that would probably be "You should buy a new iPhone that has Touch ID... then you don't have to type a password, you can just use your fingerprint!" Well, okay. But that's no help for the millions of people who can't afford to upgrade their phones every damn time Apple comes up with a new technology.

So, Apple, please... seriously please... stop being so clueless when it comes to security. It's one thing to offer the advice of using strong passwords... it's another thing entirely to make strong passwords practical to use. Which you absolutely do not. You need to allow the user an option to NOT require passwords once a device has been unlocked. Then, instead of forcing users to create easy-to-type/easy-to-hack passwords they have to enter constantly, you can instead get a strong, worthwhile password they only have to type once...

ENTER YOUR FUCKING PASSWORD!

Today Tim Cook said that Apple excels at solving problems like this.

Time to prove it, because your current "solution" isn't working.

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