Category: Digital Lifestyle

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iPhone Turns 15

How many people engrossed in their handhelds remember, or even know, what cellular devices were like before release of the original iPhone on June 29, 2007? Coincidentally, my daughter changed service providers today. She expressed surprise, and glee, at how easy was the process going from one iPhone model to another, including the automatic porting of her number.

When there appeared to be a glitch with that process, I called her carrier to ask about the transfer. My daughter unexpectedly rang, and with one tap I merged her incoming call with the one in progress. How amazing is that? And calling is one of the least used functions, when a plethora of apps and social media demand interaction and get it.

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Can You Say ‘Wicked’?

Kensington is one of the tonier San Diego communities, and dare I guess that privilege comes with money. Six days ago, when waiting to give my daughter a ride, I nipped boredom by pulling out iPhone 13 Pro and launching the SpeedTest app. For security reasons, my cellular carrier is removed from the paired screenshots; download left and upload right.

Wow is 5G wicked fast for the wealthy. The last home sold there, today, went for $2.025 million, according to publicly available records. The runt of the lot for all of June closed for a mere $1.1 million. Both for over asking price: $30,000 and $150,100, respectively. Hey, rising interest rates have slowed down bidding wars a bit.

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The Last Days of Apple Watch

Today I put aside the Apple Watch Series 5 (cellular) purchased in September 2019. I long considered taking such action but hesitated, knowing that if (or when) wearing stopped there would be an unrecoverable break in the activity tracked and logged in the Fitness app. Criminally egotistical as it may be, I relished the consistent achievement of my exercise, calorie, and movement goals. That’s the problem: the smartwatch provided little other meaningful benefits, and I long ago adopted a daily routine that needed no tracking to maintain.

I realized that the wrist computer had come to give me a little dopamine kick—or something like it—that obsessed Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok users get from checking their posts for comments, likes, and other reactions. A glance would reveal my pulse, which typically is in the low fifties when I’m not active; that made me feel good. Then there was Pavlovian-like preoccupation with starting (and ending) activities like walking in the Fitness app. What’s the outside air temperature? Twist the wrist. Who sent that text message? Twist again. “What are my active calories?” Twist and tap.

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Where Will Apple Store Go Next?

I should write a long missive about Apple Store’s 20th anniversary. But my essay from five years ago today serves up the core information. Please read that one for my reflection on the grand opening and what then CEO Steve Jobs meant the retail operation to be and what it actually became.

More significant than being a singular event, Apple Store’s opening represented one of four risks taken in 2001 by the fruit-logo company during a devastating recession. While competitors massively pulled back, such as Gateway shuttering stores, Apple made investments that culminated in release of the first iPhone six years later. Besides retail: iTunes (January); Mac OS X (March); iPod (October). From them evolved the logistics and manufacturing infrastructure, research and development, sales, services, and software that culminated in the smartphone that transformed Apple from a struggling PC company into a tech titan.

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A Purely Personal Purge

Today ends tight-integration between Google Drive and Photos, which when working on Chromebooks I earnestly depended for the fluidity of my imaging workflow. As expressed about three weeks ago, the change contributed to my decision to abandon all things Google. I have lost trust in the company’s commitment to treating users as customers; they are instead beta testers for products and commodities to be profited from. That’s the price paid for free.

I have waffled about Alphabet for more than a decade—delighting in beneficial innovation and ignoring even my own analysis about Google’s profiting from—no, exploiting—content created by others. As I have written before: “Google is a leech that feeds off the intellectual property of legitimate content producers. The search giant profits from your good work, reducing its value in the process. Stated differently, ‘You create it, we sell it, and you must give it away for free’. How convenient that Google assigns such value, free, to someone else’s good work, while producing little content of its own”.

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Sorry, Google

The laptop that led me back to the Google digital lifestyle is gone. Two days ago, a preschool teacher—who happens to be the same age as my daughter—bought the Pixelbook that I purchased in June 2018 during a Father’s Day sale. Subsequently, my wife and I swapped iPhones for Pixel phones and each a MacBook Pro for Google Chromebook. I added the Pixel Slate five months later. Funny thing: While I sold her MBP, I kept mine and iPad 10.5 for software testing. That decision was wise, although sticking to the Apple Way would have been wiser.

I love the Google lifestyle, but it doesn’t love me. Too many workarounds impede my workflow, which makes me more likely to consume content rather than to create it. Google’s Material Design visually appeals, and the UX (user experience) is more consistent than Apple user interfaces, where too many motifs compete and distract. That said, Android and Chrome OS crumple where I need them to be solid. Half-baked is the Android-integration with Chrome OS—not ready for commercial release is Chrome OS tablet. The tools I need most either aren’t available, or they don’t work well. Or worse, Google takes them away.

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Where Did My Leica M10 Go?

I never expected to part with Leica M10 six months after acquiring it. But such was the circumstance on Oct. 5, 2018. So shocking the suddenness, I waited three months to explain. The camera was my dream shooter—a magnificent manual rangefinder that fit my personality. Problem: Too often I couldn’t focus fast enough, or with appropriate precision. Perhaps another six months of use and practice would have made perfect.

But my wife and I were looking at possibly moving from San Diego to Julian, Calif. So serious our intention that we had put down an offer on a house, where we went for formal inspection that fine Fall Friday. Thinking about living in the mountains in nature, I couldn’t imagine using the M10. For the wild woods, autofocus and telephoto lens would be better. So I had posted the camera for sale, with intention of replacing it with a Fujifilm mirrorless. 

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My Personal Tech Kit 2019

I start the new year in a very different space, and with turnabout attitude, than 2018. About six months ago, I surrendered my digital lifestyle to Google, abandoning Apple as primary platform provider. Trust brought me to the Apple way. Distrust drove me away. Choosing between priorities privacy and security, in an increasingly dangerous Internet, the latter matters more. The Alphabet subsidiary truly has its ABCs ordered in ways that the bitten-fruit company doesn’t. I can trust that Google, being native to cloud computing and depending on it (mainly by way of search-related advertising), will secure my content and devices better than Apple, which is at best a cloud computing resident alien and more typically behaves like an immigrant who doesn’t speak the language well nor understands local culture.

Sure, I surrender some privacy but that would happen anyway, because privacy is a fiction. If you use the Internet or connected mobile device, you have none. Google is motivated to protect me (and you) because we are the product that generates ad revenue. Between marketers and hackers, it’s easy choice which I’d prefer to have my personal information. Granted anyone can debate which is, hehe, more criminal. But marketers aren’t likely to clean out my bank account or steal my identity. Or yours.

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There’s Philo Coal in My Christmas Stocking

I didn’t last long with streaming startup Philo. At 3:37 p.m. PST today, I purchased a gift subscription for six-months of discounted service. By 4:43 p.m., Philo acknowledged my cancellation (without refund, incidentally). I deserve some blame for not choosing the 7-day trial first. But the features are so modern and channel selection so perfect, I didn’t want to miss out the Holiday sale available since at least Black Friday. Besides, I had pondered Philo for nearly two weeks, all while brain-vacuuming professional reviews that offered little less than praise. Nowhere did I read, and perhaps carelessly missed, the dealbreaker: Cough. Cough. Streaming caps at 720p. Say what?

We live in the early era of 4K, which video quality I didn’t expect from Philo. But I fully anticipated watching 1080p on my Pixelbook or days-old Roku Ultra. As expressed, with flaming antagonism, in a requested cancellation reason emailed back to Philo: “I never imagined that streaming quality would be limited to 720p, which is jarring on my 43-inch TV…I hugely regret spending $99 for six months. Ho. Ho. Ho. Bah Humbug. There’s Philo coal in my Christmas stocking”. 

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My Google Store Travail

Google Store’s bureaucratic ineptitude is beyond belief. My recent, unresolved customer crisis is an experience in artificial unintelligence. For a parent company whose core competency is supposed to be indexing, crunching, and disseminating information, it’s inconceivable that something so simple as fixing a single order error could escalate into a tragically comic Catch-22. I should have abandoned all efforts long before reaching the point of penning this post and looking back to the Apple Way.

To summarize: I received the wrong Pixel phone nearly a month ago. Google Store struggled to process a return authorization, because the device in hand didn’t match the one in the order. I eventually agreed to keep the thang, so long as the retailer could transfer the extended warranty—so-called “Preferred Care”—that I had paid for. But the process proved to be complicated, then necessity, after I unexpectedly needed to file a damage claim. You’ll have to read on for the sordid punchline, but suffice to say it all ends in a comedy of compounding errors.

Problems resolved! Please see:Thank-you, Google Store

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My Last Trip to the Apple Store Genius Bar

Yesterday, the local Apple Store emailed that my wife’s former 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar was ready. We picked up the laptop hours later. If you haven’t heard about specks of debris causing MBP keyboard failure, I can confirm from our experience that such problem occurs. In mid-June 2018, Apple initiated a free repair program, which we used last week with surprisingly positive results.

I purchased the custom-configured MBP in mid-November 2016, and right out of the box the spacebar occasionally skipped. The malfunctioning worsened over time, and, coincidentally (or not), reached crisis a few days after Apple admitted to problems with the Butterfly keyboard. The spacebar became stiff to touch, requiring considerable pressure to push, sometimes working but more often not