Random.

I was messing around with my iPhone X the other night and took this shot around 9:00 PM. This was taken in portrait mode from the user facing camera using the timer. I should have used the better camera on the back of the iPhone. Balancing the phone on the floor of the balcony against the window ledge was a bit of a balancing act; I’m lucky the phone stayed where it was for the 10 second countdown.

Because everyone loves attention, I posted this photo on my Instagram account and it garnered quite a few likes, at least by the standards of my non-influential account.

My iPhone X is going on three years old but it’s still running along just fine. This is the longest I’ve had any type of mobile phone. I’ll probably upgrade sometime in 2021 if the battery starts to fail or something. Otherwise, as along as it does what I want it to do, I’m happy.

Mini.

So a few weeks ago, during one of their recent announcements, Apple unveiled their latest addition to the Apple complete home, the Apple HomePod Mini.

I was very excited about this.

We’ve been rocking the home automation vibe in our home for several years, both back east and here in our condo in Chicago. When we moved to the Windy City, I decided to go all in on Apple’s HomeKit automation, and for the most part it has worked very well for us. One of the issues with this approach, however, has been the price of Apple’s HomePod. We have two of them in the house and they were both purchased when on sale at Best Buy. The sale doesn’t come up often.

To provide full coverage throughout the house and to explore other options, we’ve also entertained both Alexa and Google Assistant in addition to our HomePods. Having dissimilar systems is rather maddening, you don’t know who to talk to when you enter a room. Is this an Alexa room or a Google Assistant Room? Should I be talking to Siri.

Earl asked me to get things under control and when Apple announced the smaller, and cheaper while still quite capable HomePod Mini, I was sold. I ordered one as soon as they were available and it arrived in the mail ahead of schedule.

I love it.

Like it’s bigger sibling, the sound quality of the HomePod Mini beats anything else in its class. Setup is a snap. You literally plug it in, hold your iPhone near it for a minute, and then let it do its thing. That’s it. Even though it’s a small device reminiscent of the Amazon Echo or the Google Nest whatever it’s called, the sound quality is amazing. It rivals the sound quality of the original HomePod. The only noticeable difference is less bass, and that’s to be expected due to the differences in size of the unit.

I have the HomePod Mini in my office and it has been working well since installed. While others have issues with interacting with Siri, I rarely have issues when working with the voice based assistant, perhaps I just “speak Siri” or something. She seems to know what I want when I want it and she is properly responsive 98% of the time.

At a $99 price point I’m not disappointed in the purchase at all, in fact I’m delighted. I’m looking forward to adding one more to the household when the funding department permits it.

It’ll be wonderful in the bathroom for music while I’m getting ready in the morning.

Big Sur.

Image from Ars Technica.

Earlier this week Apple had their third product announcement event in as many months. This week’s even focused on the Mac and provided more detail on the company’s move from standard Intel-based CPU chips to their own design, dubbed “Apple Silicon”. During the event Apple talked about impressive bumps in computing speed and, probably more noticeable to the average consumer, battery life. There was talk of some Mac models lasting nearly 20 hours on one charge.

That’s impressive.

Apple also announced the final release date of their latest version of macOS, dubbed “Big Sur”. Originally announced in June at WWDC, “Big Sur” is the first version of macOS to not be a “10-dot-something” since the year 2000. Big Sur incorporates new design elements that are somewhat more relatable to the iPhone and iPad users and is designed to run well on both traditional Macs with Intel CPUs and then new Macs running Apple Silicon.

As an iOS developer, I’ve been running macOS Big Sur for a couple of months. I jumped on the beta in mid August and it has been surprisingly rock solid for the entire experience, to the point that I forgot I was still running a beta. I jumped onto the “Gold Master” or release candidate earlier this week. It has maintained its rock solid status for both me and for my husband when I updated his MacBook Pro on official release day.

There’s plenty of reviews and guides and videos and the like around the details of the new operating system scattered all over the Internet, so I shan’t bore you with the intricacies of what’s changed, but I find the Big Sur experience to be very comfortable, pleasing to the eye, and a slightly faster version of the “same old, same old” I’ve been enjoying on my 2015 MacBook Pro since, well, 2015. Yes, it has a fresh look to it but it works and functions like it always has and that’s what we have, right? Advancements? Maybe a little. Revolutionary? Not at all. Evolutionary? Maybe a tad. Apple likes to play it safe with these things.

The thing is, I don’t find anything else out there to be as polished or as reliable as macOS, at least anything that offers some sort of flexibility for both the casual user and the technical diehard. On a recent Linux podcast they were celebrating the fact that one Linux desktop can now control Philips Hue lights from the computer, something we’ve been able to do for many years on a Mac. I like what Linux is trying to do, but it feels like it’s lagging behind. Google’s ChromeOS locks me into a web browser all the time, and Windows 10 is, well, pretty much the same Windows as Windows 2000. (Much like macOS is a lot like the Mac OS X released in 2001).

I watch “Star Trek” and see holograms and people waving their hands at projected desktops and the like and I wonder if we’re ever going to get there. Probably after I’m dead. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy what I have.

Watch.

I’m still proudly rockin’ an Apple Series 3 Watch. This is my second Apple Watch, my husband still wears my first, and I purchased this right after the Series 3 was introduced to mix. For the most part it has been a flawless experience.

Earlier this month (or was it at the end of last month?) Apple release Watch OS 7. Ever since upgrading to Watch OS 7 my watch has been sporadically rebooting. This experience hasn’t been limited to my Series 3 watch, plenty of other users have voiced their concerns with the same behavior. I found the glitch to be very frustrating, as it seems my watch especially enjoyed rebooting when I went to pay for something with Apple Pay. I don’t like holding up checkout lines.

Apple released Watch OS 7.0.1 but it didn’t address the rebooting issue. I was a bit surprised by this, especially since Apple is still selling this exact model watch as their low end offering. Plenty of other users were experiencing the same thing. After the update to 7.0.1 I futzed around with the watch a bit and figured out that the rebooting seemed to be related to displaying the city of the weather app on the watch face. If I used a watch face that didn’t show “Chicago” (or wherever I was) next to the forecast, it didn’t reboot as much.

Until the release last week.

Over the weekend my watch was rebooting like crazy again. This pushed me to the point of frustration, so I wiped the watch out and set it up as a brand new watch.

This fixed the rebooting issue. It also significantly extended the battery life. My watch is snappy and happy again.

Of course, Apple released Watch OS 7.0.2 to address the rebooting issue. I updated to it and it’s still purring along like a contented kitty.

I feel like I still have plenty of life in this watch. It does everything I want it to do and now that the rebooting issue has been resolved I’m feeling confident with its functionality again.

I’ll upgrade when this one completely gives up the ghost.

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Mini.

I have to admit I’m rather excited about the HomePod Mini. At an affordable price point, we’re going to be able to put one or two of these around our home to supplement our existing HomePods.

I know folks like to gripe about Siri but we rarely have an issue using Siri to play music, set alarms, or control our smart devices. We have Alexa in da house as well, and she seems to get more confused than Siri on a regular basis. Maybe I’m just wired to be more Apple friendly or something.

I’m also excited about the new iPhone 12 lineup. My iPhone X is going on three years old and I’m in the mood for an upgrade. I believe the iPhone 12 will fit the bill. I’ll probably sell my Canon camera to help offset the cost. I haven’t used it in quite a while.

Gamification.

When Apple release Watch OS 7 a week or two ago, all eligible Apple Watches were introduced to many new features. One of the highlights of this release is improved sleep tracking. Apple now encourages you to wear your watch to bed so you know how well you slept.

I’ve been using this since the day of release. Tonight will be the first night that I will not be participating in this latest gamification of life.

I don’t sleep well. I know this. I haven’t slept well in the past several years. Much of it is from feeling the weight of the country on my shoulders, but I also hear things in the big city or once in a while a neighbor, who we usually never hear, will make some startling noise in the middle of the night and then I’ll be in bed all wide-eyed thinking about random thoughts. Occasionally my brain will not shift out of overdrive and I’ll get into this light sleep. The way it really works is I instantly fall asleep but it doesn’t last long enough. As I’m falling asleep I jerk and bob in bed. My husband should probably have a seat belt for his side of the bed. I’ll save the sleep walking tales for another blog entry.

The last thing I need is watch on my arm and my mind grinding on the thoughts of what my “sleep score” will be in the morning.

There’s also another thing to think about with this sleep tracking. Apple doesn’t have a great track record with reliably sounding alarms for waking in the morning. The slightest disruption in the atmospheric continuum, like a time change or a tidal assault from the moon or something, and Apple can’t remember to sound the alarm. So I start waking up about 30 minutes before I should to see if I’ve missed the alarm.

The last thing that was bothering me about this sleep tracking is there’s really one schedule unless you get into full tinkering mode with the clunky app and Apple tries really hard to lock you into that schedule. But! It doesn’t turn the alarm on for the next day unless you manually turn it on before bed.

This is not a good UI design.

I don’t need to track my sleep to make rings close and harps whine when I wake up in the morning. If I want to track my sleep I can check the security cams to see if I’ve walked around or if I’m being over restless I’ll know because my husband rolled me over or something.

I know Apple wants us to be as healthy as possible and I feel like they’re mostly genuine in their intent, but I’m not as big a fan of the gamification of health as I thought I would be. It’s bad enough that the Fitness app never gives you a rest day without scolding you for not closing your rings in successive days. I don’t need reminders on how to sleep.

For those that enjoy the gamification of life, have at it. Love it. Take it to the next level.

I’ll sit here and nap as I tell you kids to get off my front lawn.

Settling Down.

When Apple releases a new version of iPadOS, it usually takes a couple of versions for things to settle down. This is my iPad Pro running the latest production version of iPadOS 14.

Confusion.

I have an Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular connectivity. It’s my second Apple Watch and quite frankly, I’m ready for an upgrade to the new Series 6.

However, during today’s trip to Michigan, I was a little disappointed by the latest version of Watch OS (Watch OS 7) on my Apple Watch Series 3.

When we crossed the imaginary line from Central to Eastern Time (otherwise known as the Indiana-Michigan border), my Apple Watch could no longer give me the local weather. The watch would just display “Retrieving Weather…” and nothing else would happen.

My watch also became unresponsive to touch. I would hit a side button to open an application, usually Activity so I could see how I was doing with my rings for the day, and it wouldn’t do anything. The watch would freeze for two or three minutes and then prompt me for my passcode. In fact, I must have entered my passcode into the watch a dozen times today, even though my watch never left my wrist.

I’m taking this as a sign that although my Series 3 watch supports Watch OS 7 just fine, I’m in that dead zone where it’s going to be a slightly janky experience and I should probably update my watch.

The issue here is Apple is still selling the Series 3 watch. I hope theirs behave better than mine.

I really like my Apple Watch but the platform is always slightly dicey when you get away from your home turf. But today the watch just went a little cuckoo when we got away from Chicago.

I’m hoping the upcoming .1 release to Watch OS fixes many of these bugs. I want to get back to “It Just Works”.

Offerings.

So Apple had their September event, “Time Flies”. Like the WWDC Keynote earlier this year, this was a pre-taped event with very slick presentation values. I’m always genuinely impressed with the way Apple presents their new offerings, whether it’s live or Memorex.

Ironically, I’m typing this blog entry on my MacBook Pro that’s running a portable installation of Linux.

The Apple event included the latest in their Apple Watch line and the newest iPad Air, which ends up being more like an iPad Pro instead of the lighter version of a base-line iPad.

Speaking of the iPad, I fully believe that tablet computing is the wave of the future. Ideally, our smartphones would be our main computer and we would connect them to monitors and keyboards to do our work. A intermediary option could be snapping our smartphone into the back of a “tablet shell”, where the smartphone powers the tablet or the computer. But we’d always have our main computer in our pocket.

But that idea wasn’t part of Apple’s offerings this week. I don’t think it would sell enough hardware to be viable. However, I do think that the majority of average users in the world today could get by with an iPad or, if they’re uncomfortable living in Apple’s ecosystem, a Chromebook or other non-Apple tablet like device.

The biggest takeaway from the presentation for our family’s computing needs was the announcement of “Apple One”, a tiered membership plan that allows users to pay just one price for a group of Apple’s service offerings. The most expensive plan, at $29.95 US per month, includes iCloud Drive, Apple Music, Apple News+, the new Apple Fitness+ service, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade.

This would save us about $10 a month. Not a bad deal.

The only caveat to this is that it’s obviously geared to work best when you’re using Apple hardware and software across all of your computing needs. So, while it could be done with this current MacBook Pro-Linux setup I’m using at this very moment, it wouldn’t be very practical.

Money.

Apple reached two trillion dollars in valuation this week. The company is the first U.S. company to achieve this feat; and it achieved this, doubling its one trillion dollars in valuation in just two years.

Honestly, I don’t know a lot about what this means other than the fact that Apple has a metric ton of money.

Yet, the company continues to strong-arm developers and the like into following their “30% cut” of generated revenue from developer apps in their App Store. As a developer that has never developed an iOS app, I’m really not sure how I feel about this, as I’ve never developed anything where Apple had to take a 30% cut of the revenue simply for having the app available for iPhones and iPads.

As consumers we are stuck in a tricky place; Apple charges an exorbitant prices for their hardware and dings developers 30% of their revenue from the apps that are distributed through the Apple app store. Kinda sucky. At the same time, Google offers the Android ecosystem with their Android phones, but vacuum every scrap of data they can from the consumer and use the data to sell ads and share the information with god know who on the other end, disrupting any shred of privacy a user may expect.

Honestly, as consumers we have no great choice. Spend an unreasonable amount of money or whore out our privacy to god knows who.

This is not how technology was suppose to evolve. Devices were suppose to get cheaper and we weren’t suppose to give up our privacy. Why does a company need a two trillion dollar valuation? What purpose does that serve?