Category: Apple

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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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Say Hello to My iPad Pro M1

The month ends with a new tablet—11-inch iPad Pro M1, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage, WiFi + cellular—purchased yesterday online, picked up today at Apple Store. I chose the silver variant simply because it was in stock. My wife inherits the previous generation model—same screen size, storage, and wireless—that I acquired nearly 14 months ago. That one replaces her 9.7-inch iPad Pro (256GB WiFi) released in 2016 and bought in November of that year.

Given my concerns about the economy, inflation, and supply chain problems, the Wilcox household is upgrading computing hardware a little sooner than would be typical; Apple’s new M1 chip makes the timing marginally good for future-proofing.

For Annie’s birthday, last week I replaced her 2018 model MacBook Air with the 2021-release 13.3-inch MacBook Pro M1 (16GB RAM, 1TB SSD). The laptop is more powerful than she needs, but we could share in a pinch and I expect the loaded config to retain higher resale value should we want, or need, to sell before the next expected upgrade—when the AppleCare+ warranty expires in three years.

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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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Bee Better

This is an odd post: Disappointing photos. Today, while waiting for my wife to fetch me from the ophthalmologist, I stopped to gawk at bees busily bouncing about flowers for nectar. Hundreds of them gathered and proved no threat to me as I closed in and captured 20 shots, using iPhone XS.

Grumble. Can the Apple cameras do no better than these, which are the best of a bad lot? I experimented with standard and Portrait modes—and all the pics look artificial at best, and not sharp enough at worst.

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A Remembrance for Mac OS X’s Big Birthday

Where did the years go? Today marks the 20th anniversary for the release of Mac OS X. In March 2001, as a staff writer for CNET News, I lambasted Apple for shipping the operating system without support for existing hardware—CD-R and DVD drives, mainly. Unfortunately, with my byline stripped from stories and broken links caused by content-management system updates, I can’t find the original article. I came up empty on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, too. But I’ve got reader emails, and my responses, from the days before on-site commenting.

But before we go there: OS X’s big birthday is the second of four that are profoundly important to Apple this year. We start with iTunes, which the company released in January 2001. Third is opening of the first Apple Store in May, followed by the original “Classic” iPod in October. In Feb. 3, 2011 analysis “Apple’s Gang of Four“, I explain why all are together foundational for the company’s later success—particularly with launch of iPhone on June 29, 2007.

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Damn, Discontinued

Four days ago, Apple unceremoniously terminated the full-size HomePod. The life-support plug is pulled, the product is flat-lined, and the lower-cost mini model is the replacement. We bought our first HomePod, white, in February 2018. The Featured Image is from Google Pixel 2 XL, captured on June 23 of that year. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 246, 1/40 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 3:37 p.m. PDT.

During an argument, my daughter’s then-boyfriend plopped her HomePod into a pot of water soaking in the kitchen sink. I know, I know. She inherited ours, and this one is the AppleCare-warranty replacement. However, the other one mysteriously stopped working, and I gave her the parent’s unit (isn’t there some Woke prohibition against using Mom and Dad). We later bought two more HomePods, in grey, and regret the day. We don’t subscribe to Apple Music, and Siri seriously needs to spend more time in Artificial Intelligence school—although she’s not as remedial three years later.

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Everything You Need to Know About Facebook in One Popup

On Feb. 23, 2021, a news story from BBC Online about an explosion following the collision of a freight train and 18-wheeler riveted my attention. An early version of the report offered video footage embedded from Facebook (additional media is available in the linked version that you can click). I tapped the play icon on my tablet, which got the video going but also an overlaying message requesting permission for the social network “to use cookies and website data while browsing BBC.com”. Hell no, FB CEO Mark Zuckberg’s zombie-bots aren’t allowed to track my activity. Give blanket permission for all the Beeb? Eh, no.

Dirty bird! Pressing “Don’t Allow” stopped the video playing. Not once, but every time—and I confirmed the behavior on my laptop browser today. If you think the Internet is free, I got some swamp land in Florida to sell you right now. I don’t own it and you wouldn’t want it, but if you’re gullible enough to think social networks and other content-rich sites give you something free without taking something more, let’s you and I make a swamp deal. You are tracked, your browsing behavior is catalogued, and advertisements are targeted based on your online activities. That’s the Facebook Way.

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My 16-inch MacBook Pro Dilemma

Three years ago today, I purchased the first-generation 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with the much-maligned Butterfly keyboard and Touch Bar. The laptop has been a fine friend, whose time in the Wilcox household soon ends—maybe. I always planned to keep the beast at least through the end of its Apple Care warranty period. But about four months ago, several keys started misbehaving—letters “B”, “C”, and “X” and the spacebar among the offenders. I never imagined how widely used is “B” until it stopped rendering or started repeating. Autocorrect made matters worse, when compounding mistakes with new ones.

I keep my computer fairly clean and figured that the Butterfly’s particle problem wouldn’t affect me. That was true for more than 30 months use. Believing rumors that Apple readied a 16-incher with new keyboard, I hobbled along, waiting for its release rather than taking my MBP in for warranty repair. Backing up data, wiping the disk, and restoring macOS is a pain. Why interrupt my workflow twice? So when the fruit-logo company finally announced the newer model, 14 days ago, I ordered one hours later. The laptop delivered a week ago, but I didn’t complete the switchover until last evening.

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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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Subtract This from Apple News+

I thought so little of what Apple might announce during its March 25th splashy event that I scheduled my annual physical at the same. Not that you asked, and that’s okay: I am healthy for my age, which is not something that can be said of the publishers exposing their operations to the Apple News+ plague. For consumers, the deal is sweet: $9.99 monthly for access to about 300 news sources—the majority magazines.

The first free month tempted, and I had to try it out. As you can see from the screenshot, my tenure didn’t last long—not even a day. During 2019, my subs to Entertainment Weekly, National Geographic, New Yorker, and Rolling Stone will expire, and all of them are available via Apple News+ for pennies, by comparison, plus a heap of other mags I would love to read.