Category: Gear

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Beats Me Why the Price Increased

Around the same day that I ordered iPhone 13 Proone for my wife and another for me—my sister called and the audio quality was crystal clear. For months she struggled to find a satisfactory Bluetooth headset, with little luck. She tried a different approach: Look on Apple Store, from which she bought Beats Flex for $49.99. Sis spends lots of time on the phone, computer, and video chats; she does software support for a non-profit. Outgoing audio quality matters. People need to hear her clearly.

I had already planned to buy something. While I carry my smartphones bareback, calling no longer would be device to ear starting with the 13 Pro. I can’t imagine that holding a 5G radio to my head is healthy behavior. My sister and I typically walk and talk during her hour lunch break; that’s too long 5G proximity to my brain. If the Beats Flex worked so well for her, surely they could for me. So on Sept. 22, 2021, I ordered a set from Apple Store and picked them up the next day from the Fashion Valley location.

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His and Hers

Not so long ago, I swapped smartphones every few months. Various models and underlying platforms from different manufacturers demanded testing and review. But the pace of innovation has slowed, the overall market reached the “good enough” threshold, and I don’t write about tech on a daily basis. Hence, my wife and I have each carried iPhone XS since June 2019. That is until today, when we migrated to the 13 Pro.

The Featured Image is, appropriately, the last photo I will ever shoot with the XS. The 1TB Silver on the left is mine; the 512GB Sierra Blue on the right is Annie’s. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/122 sec, 26mm; 1:02 p.m. PDT.

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I Don’t Miss Apple Watch

This evening, I turned on Apple Watch Series 5 for the purpose of making the Featured Image—captured using Leica Q2 Monochrom. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 800, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 6:22 p.m. PDT. I hadn’t touched the gadget since putting it in a drawer after taking it off for the last time, on May 31, 2021. The next day, I returned to wearing a mechanical watch—mainly the Luminox Automatic Sport Timer 0921.

I thought that perhaps I might miss the thing, but three months later not the least. Putting aside Apple Watch is a liberating experience. The device constantly distracts, which disrupts short-term memory. Still relevant enough, 11 years later, my missive “Internet Attention Deficit Disorder” is worth a look, on the topic of distraction. Even better, consider book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Just my luck: I bought a digital edition in June 2010; the book was revised last year; and a free update isn’t available.

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It’s Analog Time

Four days ago, the Automatic Sport Timer 0921 arrived from Luminox. This isn’t my first watch from the company. I previously owned the A.1847 Field Chronograph (2011), the A.1848 Field Chronograph (2012), and the 3187 Navy Seal (2013-15). I loved them all, but let each go during periods of financial uncertainty and to test various smartwatches. The new timepiece replaces the Apple Watch Series 5 retired on May 31, 2021.

The 0921 is my second automatic mechanical watch, joining the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 7 Twin-Time acquired three years ago next month. Both represent simplification, as I seek to minimize distractions and maximize attention—change precipitated in part by an aging brain. My short-term memory isn’t as reliable as younger me, although I am still plenty mentally sharp just not as quick.

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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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The Other N95

As the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 pandemic winds down (hopefully), most people hearing “N95” will think respirator mask. But I remember a time, before Apple had a meaningful App Store or iPhone with capable camera, when N95 referred to Nokia’s smartphone, which competently captured photos as well as, or better than, some digital compact point-and-shooters. I owned two, or was it three, different variants—as well as successors N96 and N97.

My wife, Anne Wilcox, used the Nokia N95 to capture the Featured Image on Oct. 10, 2008, at Oma’s Pumpkin Patch. Vitals: f/2.8, ISO 125, 1/125 sec, 5.6mm; 1:17 p.m. PDT. Wow. These kids, whoever they were, are teenagers now. How many already finished high school, I wonder.

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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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Some Sigma fp Continuing First Impressions

I am not exactly loving Sigma fp with 45mm F2.8 DG DN | C kit lens. Steve Huff’s glowing hands-on review compelled me to buy the diminutive full-frame shooter and sell overly-large Fujifilm GFX 50R. The compact camera checked off many of the benefits I sought in replacing the Fuji medium-format beast—or so seemed the case based on his reactions, and a few other early adopters.

Steve’s January 2010 Leica X1 review inspired me to purchase that camera, too. Much as the image quality and manual controls appealed, the X1 didn’t work well for me, and I sold it six months later. In retrospect, I should have remembered mainly why: Backside LCD as primary means for framing and focusing subjects. I much prefer, really require, an integrated optical or digital viewfinder. In the bright San Diego sunlight, handling Sigma fp, I struggle to compose photos, like Leica X1. Manual dials are gone, as well, and they are greatly longed for.

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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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Fly Away, Fujifilm GFX 50R

Yesterday, I sold my medium-format camera to a fascinating Millennial living in Oceanside, Calif., where we met at his family’s small business to complete the transaction, which included my receiving a 2020 wall calendar with illustrative photos that he had taken (oh, they’re impressive). Yep. My Fujifilm GFX 50R is gone.

I had considered letting go the digicam for some time, reluctantly. While the 50R’s image quality is magnificent, the massive camera and attached Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens often scares off animals or intimidates people (e.g., I get suspicious reactions). Time had long-ago come to go discreet, for the street.