Posted on June 8th, 2022
Monday was the annual World Wide Developer Conference, and here's my thoughts on what came from that.
I'm putting this first because it's something that took me completely by surprise in the best possible way. Having to keep track of dipshit passwords in the year 2022 is absurdly stupid, and it's been more than a little shocking that nobody has thought to do anything about it. Sure Apple has made things better by having TouchID and FaceID auto-fill your passwords for you, but it's still stupid. For one thing, there's still a password floating around out there that can be compromised by a company with lax security. Apple wants to ditch passwords in favor of biometric handshaking. Finally. And because they want to get this up-and-running quickly, they're working with Google and Microsoft to make it happen. Can't happen soon enough.
Up until now, CarPlay has been a curious diversion to me. It doesn't really do anything beyond what my iPhone can do when slapped on my car vent holder. Certainly nothing that makes me want to run out and buy a CarPlay stereo or a CarPlay-enabled car. But now? Apple has gone and made CarPlay take over the entire dash, and it's just phenomenally cool...
My complete and total loathing of Apple's Smart Home standard, HomeKit, has not abated since it debuted in 2014 and was actually viable in 2016. It's the most absurdly stupid thing which works with nothing and what it does work with... works badly. I tried to get started with it twice and ended up hating it more after each go. Apple has now started over from scratch, which is about the best thing they could do. The new HomeKit will be built upon the new Matter standard, which is backed by everybody who's anybody in tech, which means that even if Apple shits the bed AGAIN, there will be other options so you're not trapped. I am 1000% looking forward to Matter, which means that I will be a part of HomeKit and not care.
MACBOOK AIR M2
This thing is sexy as hell with its four color options and beautiful design. But that's not even the best part... it's got Apple's shiny new M2 chip inside! If you don't need the power and ports of a MacBook Pro, this is a no-brainer ($1,000 for an M1 chip model, $1,200 for an M2 chip model).
MACBOOK PRO 13 M2
I am beyond confused by this machine. It's $100 more than the Air, has the same chip, a slightly smaller screen... and the only difference I can see is that the screen is OLED on the Pro. Not that it makes any difference to me... I need a 16" model, which this is not.
This update feels mostly cosmetic, allowing you to create custom lock-screens and switch between them like faces on an Apple Watch. The only part of this upgrade which excites me is that you can have "Live Activities" which update on your lock screen in real time, so you don't have to unlock your phone and navigate to the app to track progress on something. Also in this update is improvements to the Photos app (mostly to do with sharing) and the Messages app (you can edit and delete messages, which seems nice on the surface, but could be a nightmare for those being bullied or stalked via text who need evidence) and the Mail app (better search and the ability to undo a send, when supported by the recipient). There's also better dictation abilities (you can use the keyboard while dictating something by voice!) and some intriguing tech which allows hearing-impaired persons to have voices transcribed for them in real-time, which is all kinds of cool (the fact that iOS 16 is finally compatible with Nintendo Switch controllers after waiting for this for years is just icing on the cake).
A lot of what the desktop is getting is the same stuff as what's happening in iOS. But there are a few perks that are unique here. First of all, you can now use handoff with FaceTime calls. So if I've started a FaceTime on my iPhone I can sit down at my Mac and transfer the call there with a click. That's very slick and useful. Likewise, you can use the superior camera on your iPhone as the webcam for your Mac and be able to use it as a Center Stage camera if your monitor doesn't have that ability (see above). And there are MagSafe adapters on the way to affix your iPhone to your Mac, which is a nice touch. Even nicer? An attempt has been made to make managing large numbers of Finder windows easier and for task switching not suck. Something called "Desk View" which allows you to use your iPhone camera to look down at your desk while still having a separate view on your face. This will be incredibly useful to me... it looks like Zoom will adopt the ability, which I truly hope happens since that's where most of my video calls happen. In addition to this stuff... games are faster... there's a lot of minor improvements all over the place, and there's now a shareable online whiteboard for collaboration called Freeform which is cool... but I don't know if it is cross-platform with Windows users? I missed it if this is possible.
iPad OS 16
Ever since iPad broke away from iOS, I keep waiting for this quantum leap change that's going to make it all worthwhile. A pretty big change was multi-tasking for using multiple apps at the same time... but then things kinda just... stalled. Of course iPads are getting all the new stuff from iOS (and the nice app-switcher from macOS Ventura), but all the coolest new stuff is only available for iPads with an M1 chip, which leaves me out. Of course, the thing that I most want from an iPad is a model with a much larger screen for drawing, which hasn't materialized yet.
And that was it. Since none of the OS stuff will be officially released until September (unless you like the idea of playing with the public betas which drop next month).
Until then... I guess I'm good.
Posted on June 7th, 2022
When the order was placed for my new Studio Mac and Studio Display for work, the lead time was two weeks for the display, then two months for the computer. But the display never came. Instead it got extended out to the same date as the computer since Apple (wisely) wanted to ship displays for other customers whose computers were available. Which would have been great, except that my computer shipped early, leaving me with two weeks having to use a terrible old monitor that was kicking around the office.
But now the display is finally here, so I'm able to add my thoughts (my comments on the Mac Studio are here).
If I were to summarize it all, I'd probably say something like "A high quality display which comes at a (relatively) good price." And I should probably start off talking about the pricing, because that's the most controversial topic in front of me. The thing is $1,600. Which is darn pricey for a 27-inch display... but a frickin' bargain for the 5K 27-inch display that Apple is selling. Which is to say that if you need 5K resolution, this thing is cheap. If you can get by with 4K, this thing is expensive for your needs. I mostly use my machine for graphic design, so the 5K is a nice thing to have... but not critical. But there are other features you get for the money that makes it a (relatively) good price for my needs.
The thing that you rarely have to worry about when it comes to Apple is how their stuff looks. There are exceptions, of course (the "sunflower" iMac looked stupid and the "trash can" Mac Pro had embarrassingly bad functionality), but most of the time anything you buy is guaranteed to be stunning, functional, and well-engineered. The Studio Display all all of that. It's tooled from aluminum which is both durable and beautiful. The stand design looks simple and elegant (this is where most manufacturers screw things up). The glass is not anti-glare (unless you want to pay $300 to get "nano-textured" glass) but isn't so thick that you're getting weird double-reflections. The base model allows you to tilt the panel towards you or away from you at a fairly large angle of motion (if you want a height-adjustable stand, that's an additional $400). There's no headphone jack to be found, which makes sense considering there's one on the Mac Studio computer (albeit IN THE BACK!). Overall, I'm quite pleased... though I am puzzled by how thick this thing is. It's about double the thickness of my iMac at home, and that has a whole computer inside of it! This is likely what was required for the awesome speaker setup, but it is odd. Though it's also kinda nice because it adds some heft to it so it's less likely to be bouncing around.
There is no denying it. This thing is gorgeous to look at. With its 5K resolution, there are no "jaggies" happening anywhere on anything ever. Then you add it's vivid, flawless color fidelity, and it's just like looking at a hi-res back-lit photograph. As with other Apple Devices, it has the ability to monitor the light in your surroundings an adapt to it using Apple's "TrueTone" color correction. And then there's the brightness, which can be turned up so high that it feels like you're getting a suntan. There's absolutely nothing about the picture quality for me to be critical of. It's perfect as I knew it would be.
AND REGARDING 5K...
Because the pixels are so frickin' dense, you can fit a lot more stuff on the screen and still have it be perfectly crisp and legible. I love this quite a lot... EXCEPT... it can really suck when you have apps which don't allow you to enlarge the GUI elements. All the Adobe apps make this easy. As do a lot of my apps. But Apple's very own Mail app, for example? I can only find a place to make composing emails with a larger font. There's no way to apply a "universal zoom" to all your inbound emails. So most every time I receive something, I have to manually bump up the type so I can read it. It's just a tap or two on the "Command" key plus the "+" key, so it's not a huge deal... but even Apple's Safari browser allows you to set a default zoom for every site you visit. It's cumbersome, but at least you only have to do it once! It would be great if there was an option to set a minimum font size on these apps so it would be handled for me with zero need to do anything.
For whatever reason, Apple decked this thing out with six high-quality speakers that sound frickin' amazing, considering how the small amount of space that they're occupying. Even more impressive is that Apple is up to their "spatial audio" tricks to make you feel as though the sound has enveloped you. It's a pretty nifty trick, though some sound sources work better for this than others. Blade Runner 2049 (my benchmark for checking surround sound quality) sounds glorious. Not that I'll get to hear it much. Obviously I can't blast the sound while at work, so the audio experience will be lost on me because I have to use headphones so as not to disturb my co-workers.
When the Studio Display was first released, it was savaged by people saying that the webcam was horrific. This turned out to be software-related instead of anything to do with the hardware, and it was fixed before my display ever arrived. I find the camera quality to be outstanding (assuming you have a good internet connection). One of the newer features from Apple is "Center Stage" which allows you to walk around the room and have the camera follow you and automatically zoom in on where you're at. This is darn cool, and accomplished by using the wide-angle lens of the camera to soak in a large area... then zoom in to where the focus point is. What's particularly nifty is how it can recognize if there are multiple faces so it can shift the lens to make sure everybody is in-frame. I'm just happy that it's 12 mega-pixel, because apple has historically had awful resolution web-cams that have been embarrassing for far too long.
There may be no headphone jack, but you do get three downstream USB-C ports in addition to the lone upstream thunderbolt port that plugs into your computer. A high-quality Thunderbolt cable is included. Interesting to note that this upstream port also acts like a 96W charger if you're plugging it into a MacBook or something (nice!).
Overall I'm thrilled with the Studio Display. I'm even more thrilled that my work coughed up the $1,600 instead of me. Because if I were buying this for myself I'd have been a little upset that wanted a non-glare screen and a height-adjustable stand weren't included (that monitor is a whopping $2,300!). Even so, $1,600 for a 5K display is still getting you a lot of bang for your buck assuming 5K resolution useful to you (if 4K is good enough, you'd likely be better served by a less-expensive option). I've read that inside this thing is essentially a full A13 Bionic Chip inside which runs a full version of iOS. This is likely so that it can do the Center Stage shenanigans. Which is fine, except it sure seems like dramatic overkill. I would have been just as happy if they would have dropped this and took $100 off the price.
Posted on February 20th, 2022
Do not go gentle into that good night... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• LEGEND! To say that Roy Kent is my favorite television character of all time is kinda underselling it. And to them get him to do something like THIS?!?
• Well, Fuck! Doesn't it just figure? After decades of finally trying to find the perfect frozen pizza, I actually DO, only to have Red Baron fucking change it...
The cheese, which used to be creamy and gooey has been cut bigger and now tastes chewy... like I have a mouth of pencil erasers. The crust looks the same, but it doesn't cook up light a airy like bread... it's more pasty and dense. This could be because the cheese and sauce has changed... but it really doesn't seem the same. And it's like... WHY?!? Why change something that's actually good? Oh well. I was eating way too much pizza anyway (I was buying six at a time)... so that problem is solved.
• Marple! Ever since not being able to go to the theater to see the remake of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, I've been obsessing over other Agatha Christie adaptations. And I think that I've found the book which has been adapted the most... A Caribbean Mystery. This evening I started with the 1983 Helen Hayes movie, which is my favorite. Then tomorrow I'll finish up with the BBC/ITV versions from 1989 and 2013...
The BBC version with Joan Hickson is likely the most faithful version... but I'm just such a huge Helen Hayes fan that it's difficult for me to see past it.
• MIWANDA! Dead. Legit dead. If you've seen Sex and the City: And Just Like That... this is one of the funniest things you'll see (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@zzzachariah Justice for silly Steve 🤪 #satc #sexandthecity #ajlt #andjustlikethat #mirandahobbes #stevebrady #carriebradshaw ♬ Sad Emotional Piano - DS Productions
Steve was thoroughly trashed by the sequel series, and this puts a cherry on it.
• Threat! For whatever reason, I have been getting a shocking number of viruses attempting to take over my computer these past few weeks. Four appeared just yesterday...
There was a day that Mac users didn't have to worry so much about viruses, but now? Yeah. If you're a Mac user, I would install some kind of virus protection sooner rather than later. I went with BitDefender because I got a deal on it, but anything you find is bound to be better than nothing.
• EmmyEmm! I find it fucking hilarious when dipshit ass-clowns like Rudy Giuliani dare to talk shit about anybody. They just don't have the brains to do it without getting fucking roasted in the rebuttal...
Gotta hand it to the writers at The Late Show, this parody of Eminem is funny as hell. Not that it was very difficult for them to come up with something... Giuliani is basically a parody of himself.
• Peace, Mutherfucker! The season finale of Peacemaker was sublime. Absolutely perfect. Thanks to James Gunn for such a terrific show... but especially for Vigilante, who is easily one of my favorite characters now. Freddie Stroma was inspired casting! And then there's Adebayo. Holy crap did she get an amazing character arc in this series! "I was made for this shit!" is right! Cannot wait for Season 02.
Until next Sunday, true believers...
Posted on November 11th, 2020
Yesterday Apple resurrected Steve Jobs for a One More Thing event. And, try to check your shock, I'm going to talk about it!
Veteran's Day started early for me when the cats found a golf ball and decided to play with it in my bedroom... on my hardwood floors... AT 3:30 AM!! This is the golf ball that disappeared well over a year ago. As mentioned previously Jake can fit the ball in his mouth and carry it around. Before falling back asleep I heard them rolling it around downstairs but saw no sign of it when I went to feed them later this morning.
I honestly don't understand my cats. 99% of the time Jake and Jenny sleep when I sleep. I am almost never bothered or awakened by them at night. But every once in a while...
Ugh. Not. Enough. Coke Zero. To get me through this day.
I had planned on spending my Veteran's Day morning boxing up all the stuff I bought for my AnySoldier.com care packages so I can get them mailed for Christmas arrival. Instead I spent my morning taking a nap before work. THANKS, CATS!!!
And now back to Apple's third(!) "special event" of the season which, as expected, ended up being product announcements for their new Apple-based silicon Macs...
I'm not going to recap everything here. There are tech sites taking care of that. But I do have some thoughts. If you haven't seen the event and want to watch, here's where you can do that.
And that's that, I guess. There's no reason for me to buy any of the new M1 Macs. My MacBook Pro isn't even a year old and my work iMac is slower than I'd like at some things but still fully useable for everything I do. It's nice to think that by the time I'm ready to replace either of them, a far cheaper computer will likely be available that's more powerful than what I was using. If nothing else, that's my ultimate takeaway from Apple's "One More Thing."
Posted on April 23rd, 2020
The last iPad I bought was the 1st generation 9.7-inch iPad Pro four years ago in 2016. It was my second iPad and, at the time I purchased it, the intent was to use it as a laptop replacement for travel. That didn't work out at all. It just wasn't capable enough for me to do real work on it. Any time I traveled with my iPad, I had to have my MacBook with me as well. Still, it was good for watching movies on the plane.
What the iPad did do for me was revolutionize the way I draw and paint digitally. Thanks to its blazing speed, virtually non-existent parallax, and low latency (with the right app)... plus the fantastic responsiveness of the Apple Pencil stylus... everything changed. I found it to be a better experience for creating art than an expensive Wacom Cintiq tablet paired with a high-end computer! If there was a flaw, it was that the 9.7-inch size was too small for me to work comfortably, and I regretted quite badly that I didn't spend the money to buy the 12.9-inch size.
In November 2018 Apple released their 3rd generation model iPad. It was compelling enough an upgrade from my older model that I started saving $50 a month until I could afford one.
A month ago Apple released their 4th generation model iPad Pro. It was definitely time to upgrade now, but I had only saved up $700 of the $1000 price tag. Then quarantine started dragging on so I figured I might as well blow through some of the vacation money I had been saving since I won't be using it any time soon... and went to order me a new 12.9-inch iPad!
Much to my horror, the specs stated that my 1st generation Apple Pencil wouldn't work with the new model and I would have to spend an additional $130 to buy an upgraded one of those as well. It would be another month until I could get the money together for that, so my plans were put on hold.
Eventually I managed to scrape the money together and order... then today it finally arrived!
And now for my thoughts...
Holy cow is this thing beautiful. And so impossibly thin! It's like a thick sheet of glass with metal on the back. I honestly don't know how they manage it, and thinking of how far technology has come in my lifetime makes my head hurt.
My old iPad was pretty darn fast, even when running modern apps. But this thing is ridiculously speedy. Everything happens instantaneously. There's no delay for anything. It's kinda how like you dream your computer would work... except it's reality. What I don't understand is why Apple put in an A12Z chip instead of the newer, faster, better A13 chip that's in my iPhone. The A12Z has an additional core compared to the A12X from the previous iPad (8 cores instead of 7) which aids in some areas, but it's a minor upgrade at best. If you're going to use a new chip, why not go with the best you already have instead of spending the money to retool an older one with minimal effect?
The "new and improved" $130 Apple Pencil drawing stylus is actually "new and improved." It has a matte surface instead of a glossy one so it also has a more natural texture when you grip it. I also like the thinner diameter (which I know some people do not). But the absolute best part? You don't have to plug it in to charge it! It magnetically attaches to the iPad and charges wirelessly in either direction (nice for lefties and righties)... but only on the right "long-side" of the iPad (when held vertically... it's the top when held horizontally). As a side benefit, the flat "charging" side of the Pencil means it won't roll off the table. Where the Apple Pencil is just frickin' brain dead is that it's not reversible. Most styluses can be flipped to erase something (mimicking a real-life pencil eraser). STILL NO ERASER ON A $130 STYLUS IS UNFORGIVABLE. They do have a tap sensor on the pencil, however. In Procreate a double tap switches to the eraser. Another double tap goes back to your pen. This is a really nice way of working, but I still don't understand why a stylus costing a fraction of what Apple's charging has an eraser end when Apple's doesn't. Even so, I like this stylus 1000% better than Apple's old one. If I have a complaint, it's that I don't understand how it costs $30 more than the previous model.
Back to the iPad itself... the larger size of the 12.9-inch model is far, far better for drawing and painting. Not as comfortable to hold, of course, but much easier than a tablet hooked up to a computer. EXCEPT... thanks to a feature called "Sidecar" you actually can hook your iPad up to your computer if you want to (assuming it's a new enough model to support it)...
But it gets better... MacOS X apps which support pressure sensitivity can inherit this data from the iPad! Below is not a screenshot of my computer screen, it's Photoshop on my iPad in Sidecar mode. I drew a mustache on Jake to show how the pressure sensitivity on brushes allows you to get thicker lines as you press harder...
Not as flawlessly responsive as when using an iPad-native app like Procreate, but still perfectly useable! This is next-level-amazing, because now I won't have to save up $1,200 to get that Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 display tablet I've been dreaming of. My new 12.9" iPad is able to sit in for a 15.6" tablet, and still be useable as an iPad on its own! Disconnect the Cintiq from your computer and it doesn't do anything. iPad truly is the best of both worlds.
Not that I wouldn't love to have an even bigger screen than 12.9-inches but, finances considered, it's absolutely big enough. Still, can you imagine if Apple were to unleash a 16-inch iPad? A 20-inch iPad? As display technology gets more amazing and cheaper, it's gonna happen. The pro creative market pretty much demands it. Apple could match Wacom Cintiq models size-for-size and price-to-price and corner the market with display tablets that are also fully iPad-functional.
The display on this thing is brilliant. I mean really brilliant... as in bright and beautiful. I don't even need to turn the display brightness to maximum like I usually do! Colors are lush and saturated. The refresh rate is a mind-boggling 120Hz and buttery smooth when dragging shapes I've drawn. Just like my older iPad, it's still too slick for me to draw comfortably. To help with this I've ordered a
I don't think I've ever used the camera on either of my past iPads. My iPhone is better and more capable for taking photos (not to mention handier since it's always in my pocket). Never-the-less, the new iPad Pro has gone dual-lens with a wide and ultra-wide lens if I ever need them. The big technology here is the brand new LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Scanner which can accurately map out your surroundings for things like Augmented Reality. I haven't had a chance to play with this much, and I don't know that it's something I will ever use regularly, but it does give us a hint as to how big Apple is betting on AR for the future.
Something else I haven't used in previous iPads was the front-facing "selfie" camera. But in the age of social distancing when video-conferencing has become the norm, I've found myself actually using it. And Apple's camera works fine... when the iPad is held vertically. But since I use my iPad horizontally the vast majority of the time, it's just bizarre. People can see me fine, but I'm looking off to the side and I got a comment that it's a bit disorienting. You may be thinking "All video conferencing cameras are like that!" and you're right. But it's very noticeable in horizontal mode because the camera is on the side of your screen instead of on top of it. And there's another problem there too... when held in portrait orientation, there's a good chance your thumb will cover the camera needed for FaceID unlock. Apple really, really needs to rethink this and put a camera for both vertical and horizontal orientations. Transmitted sound is really good, and I'm told it's not as "tinny" as my old one when I asked about it during video chat. Likely because Apple says they are using five "studio-quality" microphones.
There's no headphone jack, of course. I have AirPods so this isn't a problem, but I sure wish I could use my high-priced headphones from 1994 with the iPad and not have to use an adapter. Right now, my MacBook Pro is the only thing left which has a headphone jack. That being said, the sound quality coming from the built-in speakers floors me. Just as with my iPhone before this, I cannot comprehend how such good sound can come from speakers so thin! And, unlike the cameras, Apple has made darn sure that your stereo experience is good whether you hold it vertically or horizontally (though horizontal seems to give better dimension to the sound because the speakers are further apart). There are four speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom, and they seem to adjust automatically depending on the orientation of the iPad. So nice!
Given how stubborn Apple can be about cables and connectors, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 2020 iPad has USB-C instead of Apple's proprietary Lightning connector. Granted, before USB-C was invented Apple had to do something to get away from the "this-side-up" idiocy of older, larger, slower USB connectors... but given how USB-C is on everything else Apple makes and working great, it seems silly to hold out on the iPhone. Hopefully that will be remedied soon.
And then there's the iOS that's running everything...
Having the greatest tablet hardware in the world means very little when the software isn't up to the task. And iOS is mostly there. But not completely. The gesture-based multitasking is just plain bad. It's confusing, complicated, unintuitive, and sometimes I can't even get it to work correctly (and never understand why). Sadly, this makes an otherwise amazing product feel half-baked. Given Apple's long history of sublime user experiences and interfaces, this is baffling to me. There are a number of "proof of concept" videos out there showing better alternatives to how Apple is doing things, yet Apple themselves just sits on their hands? Why? I can only imagine it goes back to their preposterous stubbornness (which was responsible for their laptops having shitty keyboards for years). Well, get off it, Apple. You can do better than this. You need to do better than this. The power users you're courting to break free of the "home and hobby" mindset of a tablet not being a "real" computer isn't going to change until you do.
In all the ways that matter, the 2020 iPad Pro is not that different from 2018 iPad Pro. It has one more core in the CPU and a LiDAR sensor that's of limited use, and that's pretty much it. But when compared to my 2016 iPad? It's a pretty big upgrade. And not just because I went from a 9.7-inch screen to a 12.9-inch screen... it's faster, smarter, and more capable in every way. And when you couple that with the fact that I can use it as a display tablet when hooked up to my desktop Mac? It's a phenomenal value... even with the $1,000 price tag (or, if you include the $130 Apple Pencil stylus I had to buy, the $1,130 price tag).
We are rapidly getting to the point where computers and tablets are converging. This is more apparent when you look at Microsoft Surface and the slew of touch-screen PCs being released, but things seem more kludgy on the Windows side than with Apple's more purposeful iOS/MacOS convergence. Next year Apple is said to be switching from Intel chips to their custom ARM chips in their Macintosh computers. The next step will be to have an iOS layer on MacOS to run iPad apps natively. Then, once all the apps have gone to iOS for the Mac, the MacOS is no more. As technology gets smaller and faster, it's pretty much inevitable. I have to wonder if it will be less than 10 years before you can get an iOS desktop? I dunno. More likely, it will just be iPad. And if Apple gets off their asses and stops being so stubborn, this might not be a bad thing.
To be honest, I would have rather spent my vacation money on an actual vacation. But, I am quite happy with my new iPad and am grateful to have gotten it ahead of schedule. Hopefully it will unleash my creativity and be worth the price.
Posted on March 1st, 2020
We may be at the beginning of a pandemic, but the bullets are still flying... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Hertz! Michael Hertz has passed away. He is largely responsible for one of the most beautiful and elegant map designs you'll find. It's the New York City subway map, which sought to simplify and clarify the depiction of the various lines by making them easier to understand...
There were other versions of this map over the decades, but this modern version from 1978 is the one most people today are familiar with. It was proceeded by an equally beautiful (yet slightly more confusing) version by Massimo Vignelli...
My first dozen times visiting New York City I ended up buying a new fold-out pocket subway map each time because I always forgot to bring an old one with me. Now, of course, I've just got the map on my iPhone. But I'll always have a place in my heart for the map I used for decades to get me around the city.
• Nygaard! Another designer who passed away that's definitely worth noting? Jens Nygaard, the guy who created the LEGO minifigs...
As somebody who started with LEGO before the minifig was introduced, this was absolutely a game changer. Prior to the minifies, which I believe I first got in the LEGO Space sets, we just drew a face on a stack of bricks. The "official" people of the LEGO Universe were a fantastic addition to the toy which took it in a fantastic direction that continues to this day.
• Dyson! Completing the trifecta of those who passed away this past week... Freeman Dyson. This brilliant mathematician, physicist, and astronomer (among other things) was such a huge influence on me that my pen-name, Maach Allon Dyson, was in honor of him. Because, seriously, just look at some of his accomplishments from his Wikipedia page. Though the thing that he's likely best known for... especially by me... is the Dyson sphere...
The idea is that a technologically advanced civilization would have the ability to maximize use of energy from their sun... by surrounding it with a sphere or a sphere of rings or a sphere of panels or something like that. It's a mind-blowing idea that would require mining materials from a huge number of celestial bodies (such as comets and asteroids) in order to construct. Pretty fantastic stuff.
• Apps on Parade! I ran across this video and had to laugh at just how frickin' brilliant it is at showing the sheer absurdity of Adobe's "Creative Cloud." I pay $57.34 per month to use exactly four of them... Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat. I also use Lightroom Classic to catalog my photos, but it's not something I need to have. Which means I essentially use less than 1/10th of the apps I have to pay for...
I would be willing to bet that this is the case for at least half of the people paying for Creative Cloud. Hardly getting our money's worth here, but that's what happens when you've got a lock on the industry. My only hope is that eventually another developer... most likely Affinity... will get to the point where Adobe will not be the only option for me. But until then? Blergh.
• Manga Mac! Apple released a clever new commercial which shows various times that Macs have appeared in Japanese manga animation. It's pretty great...
Just makes me want to rewatch the hundreds of manga that I've loved over the years.
• New Horizons! And speaking of ads in Japan... Nintendo really knows how to hit all the feels in their advertising...
The new version of Animal Crossing called Animal Crossing: New Horizons drops on March 20. It's one of those games that always starts out interesting, but I grow bored with fairly quickly. There's only so many fish and bugs you can catch before it gets old. Though maybe the online collaboration will keep it interesting for longer? I don't know that I want to spend $60 to find out.
And with that, bullets have come to a close this fine Sunday. Wash your hands!
Posted on February 21st, 2020
As I mentioned just over a year ago AND way back in 2011(!), I have a massive number of files archived on old media. As I said at the time, "At some point Real Soon Now, I need to transfer all my older files to Amazon's online storage. Then it doesn't matter if I can't read CDs or magneto-optical, or ZIP, or JAZ, or SyQuest... all I have to worry about is whether or not I can read the format that the files are in."
Turns out that today was the day.
I had an image file from 1994 that I absolutely could not do without, and so I ended up having to drag my old PowerMac G3 (from 1997) out of the basement at work so I could figure out how to get the files off the darn thing. It was the latest Mac I had with SCSI on it... and the only Mac I had with both SCSI and ethernet!
Say what you will about Apple, but their computers are reliable as all get-out. The thing turned on immediately...
Though I'm kinda glossing over what it took for me to get to this point.
First I had to find a display that would work. I have a fairly big one with the correct connector, but I wasn't sure that a Mac this old had enough video memory to use it. And so here I am with this teeny-tiny CRT monitor that crackles from time to time, which means it will likely explode (implode?) any minute now. But hey, all I'm doing is looking at files, so it's all good.
This was pre-USB, so I had to look through a mass of boxes full of cables and keyboards and mice to find ADB-compatible peripherals. Easier said than done. The first mouse I tried had a ball that had shrunk and no functioning button. The first keyboard had characters that refused to type.
The first several times I booted it up, it would stall for some reason. But each time it would get a little further. This was weird, but eventually it was booting up all the way.
And then it told me that my computer's date was at 1956 or something like that, so it took another few attempts at booting up before I could manage to change it. After that I had no problems booting... but a real headache trying to get everything running.
Attempting to figure out how to make SCSI devices mount without conflict is all voodoo to me. You just have to keep trying until something works. Then, what works for the Jaz drive doesn't work for the Magneto-Optical drive, so you have to start all over again.
While the computer had an ethernet port, I could not speak to any server on the network. It was still using AppleTalk over Ethernet, and that had been turned off ages ago. So how was I going to get my files off of JAZ and Magneto-Optical SCSI disks? Turns out the answer was FTP, baby. This ancient Mac had Fetch 3 installed!
Also installed? WARLORDS II (!) One of my favorite games of all time. It's been ported in various ways to various platforms, but it never seems to work the same. I guess now I've got a way to actually play it again if I really want to...
One thing I had forgotten about from the good ol' pre-OS-X days was having to allot memory for your apps...
Guess that what happens when you're running with a whopping 160MB of memory! Happy those days are over.
Interesting to note that the "secure internet" is not browsable in the three browsers I had loaded on this machine (including Netscape and Internet Explorer). But if I go in an turn off the security certificate redirect on Blogography, there it is...
My sites which are not secure load surprisingly well...
But the display was a bit wonky, with stuff floating way down the page. Which, let's be honest, is not surprising given that I was running Internet Explorer.
Eventually my files were found, I got them transferred to an FTP server, and all was good in the world (after I found out that Stuffit makes a .SIT archive extractor for modern Macs).
And that was the excitement for my Friday.
Posted on June 3rd, 2019
I typed some notes during Apple's streaming presentation of the World Wide Developer's Conference keynote this morning. Since I know absolutely everybody is dying to know my thoughts on things*, this post is for you!
• Eco-Unfriendly! And here's Tim Cook to start things off. Right off the bat he's touting how Apple is a sweet ecosystem that marries hardware, software, and services to create an experience unlike any other...
Say what you like about Apple, but it's totally true. The problem is that when one part of their ecosystem sucks, you get a bad experience. This applies to hardware (I fucking hate the MacBook Pro keyboard, and will avoid buying one of their shitty laptops for as long as I can), software (when they aren't abandoning critical in-house software like Aperture, they create fucking garbage like HomeKit), and services (their media streaming is unbelievably shitty and I'm furious that they always blame my internet, when my fiber connection streams flawlessly from everybody else). I used to put up with everything because, hey, at least it was better than Windows, but is that really true anymore?
• Apple Arcade! Now Tim is talking about "Apple Arcade"... a new membership service where you get access to a lot of cool and exclusive games. Out of everything announced, I only give a crap about LEGO Brawls, so this is probably not going to be for me...
• Apple TV PLUS! Ugh. I mean, really? Yet another streaming service? I admit that the clip shown from the alternate-history space-race drama For All Mankind looks interesting, but enough for me to pay up a monthly fee? Doubtful. Disney+ is absolutely on my radar because of all the Marvel Studios and Star Wars shows in development, but it would take a heck of a lot for me to buy into Apple's random non-catalog of shows.
• Apple TV! Apple TV has one of the shittiest interfaces in tech history. It takes forever to find the stuff you want to watch. Even if you know where to get to it, you still have to scroll and scroll and scroll. Apple added Siri to AppleTV so you can just tell it what you want, but I find it to be flakey and not always accurate. Why would I buy something from iTunes when it's available streaming from Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or whatever? I thought that "TV" was supposed to prioritize stuff you already have over stuff you have to pay for, but that hasn't been my experience. But I digress. They've apparently redesigned everything to be less shitty. EXCEPT THEY ARE USING CLIP PREVIEWS LIKE NETFLIX WHICH I FUCKING HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE!!! Fuck this. I hope to God they allow you to turn that shit off.
Ooh! And now Apple is saying that you will be able to use controllers from Xbox One and Playstation to control games on AppleTV! Yay! Except... where is support for my Nintendo Switch Pro controller? Oh well. I don't have time to play many games anyway.
Okay... I love the new underwater 4K screen saver! Reminds me of the serene scene aquarium screen saver I had on my Mac ages ago...
• Apple Watch! Ya know? I'd sure like to have an Apple Watch, but I just know I would never wear it because it's so damn thick. Until they fix that, they can throw all the new "watch faces" at me they want... I'm not biting. Except... ZOMG! A CALCULATOR APP! Just like my old calc digital watch had back in the 80's!
The new WatchOS will be able to run apps independently of the companion iPhone app. That seems like a pretty critical feature, but I don't know how they have the memory available for such a thing? This allows you to install apps from the App Store directly on your Apple Watch which, again, seems like a critical feature to have.
I like the idea of how the Apple Watch can help you out by monitoring your health... but I know darn well I would stop using it when I see just how unhealthy my lifestyle is, so that's not a big draw for me. For the ladies there's a menstrual cycle tracker now that will help you to know when your period is coming and when you are most fertile for the baby-making.
• iOS 13! Apparently the next version of iOS will focus a lot on speed. Face ID will unlock 30% faster... apps will install faster... apps will launch faster... that kinda thing. Naturally, it's hard not to be happy about that. And I most certainly hope that it launches the camera faster so I don't miss as many time-critical shots like I do now. A more reliable camera that isn't locking up all the time would also be nice.
I'm torn on the new "Dark Mode"... I stopped using it on my Mac because it was wildly inconsistent between apps, sometimes making it impossible to use apps that weren't patched to accommodate it. Perhaps if they did a better job of it for my iPhone I will have better luck? I dunno. It costs nothing to try. And, may I just say, that Apple using Depeche Mode's Black Celebration for their demo is about the best thing I've seen from this keynote so far?
I've been using Google's keyboard for a long time now because it supported swipe typing. Problem is, my iPhone is forever reverting back to Apple's keyboard even though I've not asked it to. Now that Apple supports swipe typing, maybe it will be a better experience? I sure hope so. All the new predictive input stuff is nice, but I often find that my iPhone gets it wrong far more often than it guesses correctly. Maybe their new "machine learning engine" will improve this? One can only hope.
• Maps! And so... shots fired at Google Maps! But here's the deal. Unless Apple gets into the traffic monitoring game like Google and Google-owned Waze, I'm probably sticking with Waze. Pretty is pretty, but I'll take the better functionality every time...
Meg Frost is up in her cool future-wheelchair to demo Maps. Holy crap is it a beautiful app! I may use it a lot more, but the navigation of Waze will be hard to leave behind...
Apple is doing their OWN version of "street view" and it looks spectacular...
I'll definitely be using Apple Maps for armchair traveling, but for actual driving? The jury is out.
• Security! And here's where Apple takes an even bigger swing at Google... privacy and security. Companies like Google and Facebook track everything you do and monitor all the activity on your phone because they are selling ads. To be effective at selling ads, they need to know who you are and what you do. I don't give much of a crap about this (hey, I'm a blogger, all that stuff is online for anybody to see anyway), but I do like Apple's philosophy of erring on the side of caution. It started with ApplePay, which securely pays for stuff without tying the purchases to a credit card (which is nice), and I absolutely love the convenience of it. And now Apple is moving their privacy mandate into other areas at a system level. I approve.
Location monitoring by your phone could be a very big problem if you don't know it's happening and you're a thief or having an affair or whatever. Apple is putting the kibosh on that by being more proactive about how your location is used and how long an app gets to use it. That's totally swell.
And, as if the shots fired weren't obvious enough, here's Craig Federighi telling the whole world that they are seriously going after Facebook and Google by creating their very own "Sign in with Apple" login service! Sweet!
No personal information whatsoever handed over. I think it's pretty obviously that absolutely everybody will switch to Apple's login service the minute it becomes available on sites. I know I sure as hell will be.
Okay, THIS is huge. Apple is coming up with their own privacy email forwarding service! You can immediately establish a temporary email ID... then use or dispose of it for as long as you want! NICE.
I've used random forwarding addresses for a very long time, but having to set them up is always such a pain. Now that it's an OS-level feature, it will be so much easier. Kudos, Apple!
Interesting. Apple is adding their own security camera streaming service to their heinously shitty HomeKit home automation bullshit. The privacy features are admittedly compelling, even though I just don't care that much. So people can hack my account and watch me talking to my cats... whoop-dee-do. However... On one hand, I would love to get rid of all my Google NestCam shit and their fucking "NestAware" idiocy for something better. So maybe. Except I hate hate hate shitty HomeKit so much that I just don't think it's a viable option. Maybe one day? I just don't know.
• Memoji! While I think the idea of Apple's Animoji and Memoji are cute, they just aren't something I'm interested in using. I tried it a few times just for fun, but the idea of using it day-in and day-out makes zero sense. The novelty wears off far too quickly. Except... NOW THEY'VE ADDED MAKEUP?!? And piercings? AND HATS?!? Ooh! Maybe I will have to use Memoji now that I can add eyeshadow and lipstick!
Memoji stickers are actually pretty cool. I don't use stickers very often, but I might use something like this.
• Photos! I take far, far, far more photos on my iPhone than any camera I have ever owned. It's just too convenient and the quality is just too good (and getting better!). The fact that Apple keeps adding cool editing features just gives me even more reason to keep shooting with iPhone. I've always got it with me anyway.
And now you can apply effects to video as well as... gasp!... ROTATE VIDEO AS WELL!
The new machine-learning photo management tools are pretty great too. I really should go delete all the duplicates and junk photos I've taken. Could probably cut the number of photos I've got stored in half. Probably more.
• AirPods! I like everything about the concept of AirPods... but hate the AirPods themselves. They absolutely 100% do NOT stay in my ears. And given the number of people complaining about losing them, I'm guessing it's a serious problem for everybody. I pretty much only use them when traveling because then it's worth the time to put the silicone tips on them so they actually stay in my ears. My thinking is that this will be the first and last pair of AirPods I buy until Apple starts making them so they fit... and are more sustainable. As it is now, there's nothing you can do except throw them away when the battery fails. Wasteful. Shamefully wasteful for a company that professes to be on the cutting edge of "green sustainability."
Having messages announced through your AirPods would drive me insane and I would most definitely not have that feature turned on. One feature I do like, however, is the AirPod Audio Sharing feature. How cool is that? So long as you both have AirPods, very cool!
• HomePod! Whatever, dude. Drop the price by half and I might consider purchasing one. Until then? My SONOS system is doing just fine.
• CarPlay! I would be thrilled to have a CarPlay enabled stereo in my auto, because the integration features with my iPhone are just too good. But I am just not in my car often enough to justify the cost. Happy that Apple keeps improving the CarPlay experience though, because maybe one day...
• Speech! The new "Neural TTS" (Text To Speech) quality is insane. Once more update and they will probably have something indistinguishable from an actual human! Hell, my iPhone already speaks in a way that's more intelligible and human than our President!
• iPad! I may die of un-shock... iPads will no longer be using a forked version of iOS but instead run a custom iPadOS. Given how Apple keeps pushing iPad to encroach on what desktop computers do (and compete with Microsoft's Surface tablet), it was something that pretty much had to happen. And it just makes sense. iPad is more than just a big iPhone. Better split-view... gestures designed for a larger screen... drag and drop... this is all stuff that, frankly, Apple should have had years ago.
One thing that had to happen to make iPad more of a desktop equivalent is to have far better file handling. It looks like Apple realizes this and is working to add more and more functionality. All the features are nice... but nowhere is this new direction more easily understood than by the fact that you can plug a thumb-drive into your iPad now...
• Pencil! I love my first-generation iPad pencil and would dearly love the features of the second-gen... if only my older iPad supported it. Perhaps eventually I will use my iPad a lot more often for my artistic endeavors, so it'll be worth it to invest the money. But that's just not in the cards right now.
• Mac! "WE LOVE THE MAC!" Tim Cook exclaims! Which is hard to take seriously when they are putting shitty keyboards on their laptops that render them useless... or just make them impossible to type on. As if you couldn't tell from my numerous posts on the topic, I am fucking livid that Apple has essentially flushed their MacBook line down the toilet thanks to their "butterfly keyboards" that nobody wants.
• Cheese! Is it just me... or does Apple's new $6000 MacPro look like a cheese grater? A pretty cheese grater, yes... but a fucking cheese grater...
Would I love to own one? Of course I would. But I just can't justify the absurd cost. Yes, Apple put a lot of work into making the thing worth the price tag, but it's all stuff that's not essential to what I do. Maybe if I start composing music with thousands of instruments or editing 6K video, I'll have a need, but this is just silly. At least it's a vastly more configurable and expandable "Pro" computer than the laughably shitty "trash can" machine they released last time.
• Display! The new Apple Pro Display XDR is an absolute steal at $5,000. I sincerely doubt that there is anything out there that can touch it at any price. But, then again, FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A COMPUTER DISPLAY!
• Catalina! Keeping up with their "Places of California" motif for naming their MacOS releases, we now get Catalina. That should make for some very pretty desktop backdrop photos!
• iTunes! At least Apple is self-aware enough to realize what a bloated pile of shit iTunes has become... and can even joke about it. Except... forgive me for not finding it funny that they are only just now addressing the problem when it's been a major hassle for years. And so now iTunes is dead and being replaced with Music... Podcasts... and TV...
That's all great and stuff... but until the server farm delivering my Apple-purchased media content is made much more stable, reliable, and actually worth a shit, it all means pretty much nothing to me.
• Sidecar! Use your iPad as a second screen? Yes please! That could come in SO handy sometimes when I just need a readout that's not covering up what I'm working on!
• Voice Control! At home, I am talking to my house (through Alexa) all the time. She controls absolutely everything, and I'm so accustomed to it that I don't even think about it any more. "Turn on the television!" and "Turn off the porch light!" and "Lock the door!" and "Show my the Catio Camera!" are just... natural(?)... to me now. But, for whatever reason, I just don't think of talking to my Mac. Maybe as it becomes more and more voice aware, that will change. From what they showed at the keynote, however, this could be a huge help to disabled persons who can't use keyboards or mice.
• Find My! Being able to find your devices, even when they are offline? Fantastic. This is the same concept of my "Tile" trackers that I have on my keys, in my backpack and in my wallet. It talks to nearby devices with extremely low power consumption so that you have a much better chance of finding your iPhone, MacBook, iPad, or whatever, that's gone missing.
• Locked! You can remotely lock/wipe your iPhone so that it becomes useless if stolen. There's no doubt in my mind that this is curbing theft of these devices. Why risk jail-time if you can't do anything with it? And now that technology is coming to the Mac, which is nice.
• Developers! Developers! Developers! The new Catalyst project that allows you to compile iPhone apps for the Mac... plus new advancements with their Swift programming language... plus continuing advancements in allowing easy integration of new technologies like AR (augmented reality)... Apple has (mostly) always made sure that developing for their products is as painless as possible, and it looks like they are serious about making sure that tradition continues. Good on you, Apple!
• Reality! And speaking of AR... the new "Reality Composer" sure looks interesting! It can automatically extract people so that rendered objects and move around them! Cool! And the Minecraft demo of how that works is pretty spectacular. This is the future of technology, and it's only a matter of time before we see it around our home... in our car windshields... and on our glasses...
Right now it's pretty much a technology demo... but you can see where it's all going. Eventually.
And that's the end of that, I guess. This keynote seemed a lot more "evolution" over "revolution," but there's some real winners in there that have me more optimistic than I was yesterday as to how much I want to be in bed with Apple any more. Given how pissed off I've been with them lately, that was no easy task. Having to wait until Fall to get at any of it is a bit of a bummer, but that's the way the Apple falls.
*Okay, I know practically nobody actually cares what I think, but that's probably the case for most subjects I blog about... why should this be any different?
Posted on October 28th, 2016
And so, after months of waiting to upgrade my MacBook, Apple unleashed their latest and greatest pro laptops at a special media event yesterday.
Except they're not. Not really.
They're not the latest or greatest. They're woefully underpowered. Embarrassingly underpowered compared to the cutting edge releases in Windows World laptops. The CPU is a marginal improvement in power and speed over previous models... but who gives a shit about "marginal" in a "pro" machine? The Radeon GPU is borderline ridiculous compared to Nvidia's more powerful mobile chips, so why is Apple using them in a "pro" anything? And memory is still maxing out at 16 gigs, not 32? Seriously? In 2016? I regularly work on files larger than 16 gigs! The idea that these are "pro" laptops is laughable to a humiliating degree for Apple. Remember when a MacBook was the absolute king of laptops? So badass that even Windows developers were buying them? Well, those days are over.
But, ooh... you get a "TouchBar" at the top of the keyboard! And, ooh... it's really thin!
Two things I could give a flying fuck about. I need... NEED... a beast of a portable machine that will allow me to work at peak performance with spec-crushing apps like Photoshop.
And while it would be nice to have an array of ports to handle all my peripherals without another fucking dongle... or, hell... even being able plug in my fucking iPhone without another fucking dongle... that's not a deal-breaker for me. And while it would be nice to have Apple's MagSafe power port that has saved my laptop from taking a header more than once when I tripped over the power cord... that's not a deal-breaker either.
I NEED A FUCKING MACBOOK PRO LAPTOP!
And giving me this "pro" machine that hasn't got cutting-edge performance IS a deal-breaker.
There is no reason whatsoever for me to trade in my 2012 MacBook Pro Retina for the new machine. Certainly not at the premium price tag Apple has slapped on the high-end 15-inch model (my preferred configuration runs $3099). And certainly not with a bezel on the display that is not even all the way around the screen... what an OCD nightmare.
Which leads to a question for Tim Cook, Jonathan Ive, and everybody else in charge at Apple... What in the fuck am I supposed to do now?
Switch to Windows so I can actually buy the tool I need to get my work done?
The MacBook Pro IS Macintosh. It has been for a while. So does Apple even give a shit that they are essentially killing off the Mac with what has to be the stupidest fucking move they could have made for the pro users who actually buy their OS X shit? I just don't understand. Did nobody working at Apple stop for two fucking seconds to think about what they were doing, then turn to Tim Cook and say "This is not what our pro users are needing"... nobody?
Apparently that's the case, and it speaks volumes as to just how badly Apple has lost their way. From all appearances, they haven't the slightest fucking clue what they're doing with OS X anymore. While this was somewhat apparent when they released their bizarre Mac Pro "tubes" that aren't really built for pro needs... it's deathly apparent with the release of their latest "pro" laptops.
When Steve Jobs died, I was never one of those people saying "Apple is doomed! They will never survive without Steve!" But more and more I'm thinking that I was wrong. Everybody at Apple seems to be obsessed with making things thinner and lighter with no regard whatsoever as to what that actually means to the end-user. Pro power requires a bigger, heavier form-factor to accommodate the chips, ports, and battery required. What good is a super-thin, super-light "pro" laptop if it's not powerful enough to do the job? Does Apple even give a fuck? Or is thin and light truly all they care about, even though it's not the top priority for their customers?
I am one of the biggest Apple Whores you will ever meet. I live and die by their products. A good chunk of my life is defined by their products... the Mac, in particular. Nobody wants to see Apple knock one out of the park more than I do. Nobody wants to spend money to buy the latest Apple laptop more than I do. Nobody loves the Mac more than I do.
And that's the problem.
I love the Mac more than Apple does.
Look where that's gotten us.
Posted on September 10th, 2015
And so... I've been using Mac OS X "El Capitan" Public Beta for a full day now.
Not terribly impressed. Some things I've observed in the past 16 hours...
A lot of things I'd liked fixed/changed, to be sure. But the biggest is my laptop fan going off and on all day long. It just sucks to have to listen to it all the time when I rarely had to with previous OS X versions. If this is the cost for speed bumps I barely notice, then no thanks. Hopefully Apple is on the case.
UPDATE: After futzing around with the CPU monitor, I think that it's Mail that's the culprit. Even when running in the background, it's pegged at 138%+ CPU usage. Quitting Mail lets my laptop run much, much cooler. Guess I might be needing to find a new app for email.