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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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Montblanc Summit 2

The complications of aging suck. On Nov. 2, 2018, my new Google Pixel 3 XL slipped from my fingers as I pulled it from my shorts pocket and fell face down on the sidewalk. The screen shattered in a splay of ugly cracks, and for the first time in 21 years as a cellular device user, I dropped and damaged a phone. That day, because of unexpected, but necessary, number of family texts and busy work-related emails, I pulled out the Pixel 3 XL untypically often. While the unusual activity played its role, I also am more dropsy than in the past. Realization and concern, woven with fear about ruining another phone, brought me to make a difficult lifestyle concession: Wear a smartwatch.

In mid July 2018, related to my switch from Apple to Google platform products, I returned to using an analog watch—the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 7 Twin-Time, inspired by the one serving as important metaphor during Syfy series 12 Monkeys. I happily wore the handsome mechanical and couldn’t imagine swapping for digital wristwear. Refusing return to Apple Watch, even with recent release of Series 4 models, I looked to a Wear OS timepiece. Only one appealed: Montblanc Summit 2, for traditional styling; more typical watch size; overall quality of construction and materials; and early adoption of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip. 
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Grado GW100 Review

When I first opened the box containing the Grado Labs GW100 headphones, one word came to mind: “Cheap”. The cans didn’t look or feel like the classy Grado RS1i and RS1e, which I once owned, or the GS1000e that are still beloved and possessed. But after connecting to Google Pixel 2 XL (and later the 3 XL), via Bluetooth, I exclaimed: “Priceless”. The first offering in the company’s “Wireless Series” rises to an audiophile class unmatched by most competing cans; I prefer the GW100 to the GS1000e, which cost four times more to buy. Four words best describe the experience listening to music of any genre: Natural. ImmersiveBalanced. Authentic.

The GW100 are unique among wireless headphones by design: They are open-back like Grado’s wired models, but they are unlike all other major manufacturers’ wireless cans, which typically cover the ears and/or impose oppressively confining noise cancellation. I understand that commuters on noisy trains or travelers on rumbling airplanes might want NC, but the feature creates a cone of silence that is very unnatural. By comparison, the GW100’s open-air design allows music to expand, while—I must concede—letting in background noise going on about you. 
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Google Pixel Slate Fast, First Impression

Pixel Slate arrived at the Wilcox household on Nov. 28, 2018, from Google Store, with the order correctly fulfilled. Initial out-of-the-box reaction: “Oh”. Underwhelmed. Five days later: “Wow”. The Chrome OS tablet is understated in all the ways that matter. My brain just needed a wee bit of time to appreciate the many nuances, rather than one obvious thing flipping the “ah-ha” switch.

The Slate will largely complete my transition away from Apple products, started in late July. The Chrome OS slab is set to replace iPad 10.5 and possibly could displace my beloved Pixelbook, as well. We shall see about the latter. The delayed “Wow” response means something. That said, Google’s tablet, like first-generation Chromebook Pixel, feels too much proof of concept: The hardware’s potential awaits future software, and supporting services, refinements. As such, based solely on a few days use, I don’t see the device as being right for everyone, or even most anyone. However, Google geeks will find something truly exotic to get excited about. Android and Chrome OS enthusiasts, rejoice! Linux lovers, too!
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Thank-you, Google Store!

My six-week saga, where Google Store sent the wrong Pixel phones, is nearly over. I would like to thank the Advanced Support Technician team member who worked with me to end the drama and restore my (previous) confidence purchasing gadgets from the retailer. The generous solution minimizes any further complications and leaves me with a usable phone—with “Preferred Care” that I paid for correctly attached. Sometimes satisfaction is a process, rather than immediacy.

To recap: The 128GB Clearly White Pixel 3 ordered on launch day arrived on Oct. 17, 2018 as a 128GB Just Black Pixel 3 XL. Uh-oh. I agreed to keep the larger phone, following the online operation’s difficulty generating a return authorization. Then, on November 2, I dropped the device and shattered the screen. But Assurant couldn’t honor the insurance claim because of the shipping error; the phone covered wasn’t the one possessed. Frustrated, days later, I bought an iPhone Max XS from Apple Store but returned it two-and-a-half hours later. My Pixel preference was so great that on Black Friday I purchased another XL with expectation of taking a loss on the first. But when the new one arrived, November 26, the IMEI on the order didn’t match the phone. Meaning: In the event of defect, or need for repair, once again there would be trouble. Are you confused yet? 
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Resolution of my Google Store Pixel 3 XL Order Problems moves at Snail’s Pace

After Google Store sent me the wrong Pixel phone, I foolishly placed another order, and a similar distribution mishap occurred. Bad is now worse; I confess my stupidity and also write to caution other potential Google Store shoppers: This could happen to you.

To briefly recap the first instance: In October, I ordered Pixel 3 Clearly White 128GB. On the 17th, the Pixel 3 XL Just Black 128GB arrived instead. Google Store couldn’t process a return without conducting an “investigation” because the make, model, and IMEIs didn’t match. I agreed to keep the phone. Then, on November 2, I dropped the XL and shattered the screen. But the insurance provider, Assurant, couldn’t process repair or replacement because the device covered doesn’t match the one I have. The situation is unresolved, weeks later. Current crisis, briefly: I foolishly took advantage of Black Friday discounts and purchased from Google Store another Pixel 3 XL, which arrived on November 26. But the IMEI on the order doesn’t match the phone received. That makes the purchased Preferred Care warranty useless, and a device return can’t be properly processed for the same reason.

Problems resolved! Please see:Thank-you, Google Store” 
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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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Apple’s Top-Tier iPhone Price is a Rainy Day

Trendsetter Apple has done it again! Just when you thought there was no innovation left in the smartphone market, CEO Tim Cook delivers the wildly price-disruptive iPhone XS Max 512GB for heart-stopping $1,449. Smartphones simply don’t cost this much. What other company would stoop so low by reaching so high? This thing is a monster with its 6.5-inch (nearly) edge-to-edge display; 2688 x 1242 resolution at 458 pixels per inch (less than Google Pixel 2 XL at 2880 x 1440 and 538 ppi); and dual-SIM support (so telemarketers can ring more often on two numbers).

For anyone whose hands aren’t too small to hold the new thang, iPhone XS Max is sure to draw maximum attention, letting all the little people know just how big deal you are. Praise be Mr. Cook. Only the privileged can afford this beautiful, beastly slab, short of taking out a second mortgage or cashing in their 401K. 
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You’re So Vane

Late afternoon today, I took a purposeful walk around the neighborhood carrying Leica M10 with Macro-Elmar-M 1:4/90 attached. I had hoped to shoot the first portraits from the lens for my “Cats of University Heights” series. I met no felines, sadly, but some of their prey tickled my fancy around the property at Cleveland and Madison.

I captured the Featured Image  and its companion at 5:03 p.m. PDT. Vitals for the first: f/11, ISO 200, 1/180 sec, 90mm. The other is same except for 1/250 sec shutter speed. I cropped both, but only really edited the second—seeking to make the birds more lit than silhouette, so to speak. 
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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
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Quick Update: My Apple to Google Switch

Doubt disturbed my commitment to give up the Apple Way for the Google lifestyle two months ago (yesterday). Preparing to pack up my wife’s 64GB white iPhone X, I was taken aback by how pretty it was. She kept the thing in a case, which protected from damage but also obscured beauty. For fleeting seconds, I wondered why switch. Product design that generates joy is another benefit—and one transcending any, and every, feature.

But the moment passed, and I boxed up Anne’s smartphone along with my 256GB black iPhone X. Google gave great trade-in values, which dispatched the hassle of reselling the devices on Craigslist. Eight weeks later, writing this post on Pixelbook i7, I don’t regret the decision. Confession: The transition isn’t quite complete, but we’re getting there. 
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