Tag: Apple

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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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Flowers, Anyone?

The Featured Image is an attempt to soothe the soul, following an insane few days that promise to be absolutely crazier. I captured the flowers on April 2, 2018, using Leica M (Typ 262) and Summarit-M 1:2.4/50 lens. Vitals: f/4.8, ISO 200, 1/250 sec, 50mm; 10:24 a.m. PDT. Photo is composed as shot; no edits.

As for the bizarre goings on, to start: During a massive rally of up to 1 million people (my guess, 250,000-plus) in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol during certification of the electoral vote that confirms the 2020 Presidential Election winner. Violence ensued, and lawmakers were evacuated, including Vice President Michael Pence. A woman (Ashli Babbit) from here in San Diego was shot and killed by police. Later, an officer (Brian Sicknick) died of injuries sustained during the melee. Politicians quickly called the assault an “insurrection” and failed “coup”, blaming President Donald Trump for instigating the incident.

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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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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.

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Thanks, Tidal

Concurrent with the Consumer Electronics Show 2019 kick-off and other Day 0 announcements, music streaming service Tidal updated its Android app (hehe, sorry iOS users) to support Masters. Oh, yeah, baby. Gimme, gimme. Tidal unveiled Masters, in licensing partnership with MQA, two years ago during the same tech gala.

Abandoning Apple for Google products during summer 2018 meant my giving up Tidal Masters, which until today were only available on the macOS and Windows desktop apps. Because Chrome OS supports Android apps, I can now listen to Masters on my laptop, not just smartphone. You can, too (if not an Apple device user).

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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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Microsoft Investors Punch Back at Apple

In May 2010, I wrote about Apple’s market cap passing top-valued Microsoft; it’s only fitting to follow up with an analysis about the unbelievable turnabout that, like the first, marks a changing of technological vanguards. Briefly today, the software and services giant nudged past the stock market’s fruit-logo darling. A few minutes after 1 p.m. EST, the pair’s respective market caps hovered in the $812 billion range, with Microsoft cresting Apple by about $300 million. By the stock market close, a rally for Apple put distance from its rival: $828.64 billion to $817.29 billion, respectively (Bloomberg says $822.9 billion, BTW). Consider this: As recently as October, Apple’s valuation touched $1.1 trillion. But since the company announced arguably record fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on November 1st, investors have punished shares, which currently are down about 21 percent.

Apple has long been a perception stock, even when under the tutelage of CEO Tim Cook company fundamentals deserved recognition. But perhaps Wall Street finally realizes the problem of iPhone accounting for too much of total revenues at a time when smartphone saturation saps sales and Apple pushes up selling prices to retain margins. More significantly: Apple has adopted a policy of fiscal corporate secrecy by stepping away from a longstanding accounting metric. I started writing news stories about the fruit-logo company in late 1999. Every earnings report, Apple disclosed number of units shipped for products contributing significantly to the bottom line. No more. Given current market dynamics, everyone should ask: What is Cook and his leadership team trying to hide? 

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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.