Night Sky.

I love the desert sky at night, especially when it’s moonless night. And the iPhone 13 Pro continues to amaze me with its night shot capabilities. These two photos were taken with me holding the camera as still as possible and a 10 second delay on the shutter. The first one was taken around 9:00 PM Mountain Standard Time, the second at 10:50 PM Mountain Standard Time. Check out the detail of the Pleiades.

I need to get the tripod out.

Steve.

Steve Jobs passed on ten years ago today. I really enjoyed the guy and found him to be an incredible visionary for this era of technology. While Steve drove Apple’s success, other companies desperately wanted to keep up with his vision. He helped move us to where we are today and it doesn’t feel like anyone has stepped up to the plate with his sense of vision and purpose.

I always loved his presentational style, I loved his charisma, and I was in awe of his tenacity. As much as I complain and dabble in other operating systems, I’ve been enamored with Apple products since the Apple ][+ days back in the early 1980s when I was in high school.

Steve changed all of our lives with his vision. His presence is missed.

Zoom.

I’m lying in bed as I type this. It’s Saturday so I allow myself to do this. I’m fiddling with the camera again, this time playing with the zoom.

All of these photos were taken from the same position on my side of the bed. I’m particularly impressed by the zoom in on the clock, and that wasn’t using the full zoom capabilities

Upgrade.

My new iPhone 13 Pro arrived this morning. This in itself is amazing to me, because Wednesday evening it was still sitting in Korea, so the fact that it’s here in Tucson, Arizona less than 48 hours later, by way of Kentucky, no less, is incredible. I also used a lot of commas in that last sentence.

I decided to step away from the gray for the first time in multi-decade Apple purchasing frenzy and I went with the Sierra Blue, 256GB model of the iPhone 13 Pro. It is noticeably but not terribly heavier than my iPhone X, even without the new clear case. The display is gorgeous and I like the way the phone feels in my hand. Even though I’m only 100 minutes into ownership of this phone, it’s already setup, everything has transferred over, I’ve done all the updates, and the entire process went flawlessly. For the first time in a few months around all things Apple, I am without complaint.

A comparison of the color on the box and the color of the actual phone. Photos taken with my old iPhone X.

The accessories in the box. Note, no power brick. I have plenty of those.

Size comparison, both in cases. iPhone X on the left, iPhone 13 Pro on the right. Photo taken with my 2018 iPad Pro 12.9″.

Comparison of camera quality. Both photos taken out my office window by holding the phones up to the glass. First photo, iPhone X. Second photo, iPhone 13 Pro. I had to reduce the size of the second photo by 6% to meet the upload requirements of my hosting provider.

The second photo shows much more detail and color depth at full size.

And of course, Truman is thrilled that I have a new camera. I’m sure we’ll be seeing slow motion video of play time. He’d now like to get back to his nap.

Upgrade.

Photo courtesy of apple.com

This morning I was up for work at 5:30 a.m., as per my usual schedule, and before leaping into the frivolity of a Friday at work I stopped by the Apple website and ordered myself a new iPhone.

I ordered the iPhone 13 Pro in Sierra Blue with 256GB storage. This is an upgrade from my iPhone X with 256GB storage. I will be trading in my iPhone X when the new phone arrives next Friday.

Going with the “non-gray” color is new for me. Looking back, all of my iPhones have been of the Space Gray variety, when any color option was available. My iPhones over the years have been: the original iPhone, 3G, 4, 6, 6s Plus, and the X. I almost went with the Graphite, but I decided to give the Sierra Blue a whirl. I also considered Gold, but I felt like it would be a little too flashy and I was concerned it would be a more urine color than actual gold. Let’s hope the Sierra Blue does not disappoint.

There are two things driving my upgrade to the 13 Pro: battery life (my iPhone X is starting to wane in that area) and the camera capabilities. I’ve wanted the Night Shot feature ever since it was available on models after the iPhone X, and the camera on the iPhone 13 Pro looks like it will be amazing. I’m hoping to try my hand at some astronomy photography once the new iPhone arrives.

Of course I’ll be watching my order progress through various status stops before it arrives on Friday. Let’s hope Apple’s retail management system doesn’t bomb out on my order. It seems to be struggling a little bit today. This makes me curious around the back-end systems used by Apple, because I don’t really think of MacOS as a platform for crunching numbers. It’s an unfair assessment, but when it comes to that sort of thing I’m more of a Linux guy.

Overall I’m excited about upgrading but I’m not swooning as I’ve done in the past with other iPhone upgrades. Either I’m getting old or there’s not too much to swoon about.

It’s all about the evolution, not the revolution when it comes to tech in general these days.

Updates.

I blocked my work calendar to partake in the latest Apple streaming event. The event took place this morning at 10:00 a.m. Pacific, which is also 10:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time! Yay for no Daylight Saving Time in Arizona.

The announcements were predictable, but I found the presentation enjoyable. Since my iPhone X is getting long in the tooth, I’ve decided to go ahead and purchase an iPhone 13 Pro when it becomes available; pre-orders start this coming Friday. I’m upgrading primarily because of the camera improvements. The iPhone X was the last of the iPhones to not feature “Night Mode” and I’m anxious to give that a whirl. I also really want to see how it fares with shots of the night sky.

I was happy to see the improvements to iPad, specifically the iPad Mini. The new iPads are compatible with the Apple Pencil 2nd generation, the same Apple Pencil I have on my 2018 iPad Pro. And like my iPad Pro, the new iPads have also been transitioned to a USB-C connection instead of the Lightning Port found on the iPhones.

Sadly, no models of the iPhone 13 were moved from Lightning Ports to USB-C ports. Apparently Apple can’t get waterproofing where they want it to be with USB-C ports on the iPhone. I can deal.

The new Apple Watch Series 7 looks intriguing. I’ve had this Apple Series 3 watch for quite a while and I’m looking forward to maybe asking Santa for a new Apple watch. I’m really pleased with the cycling improvements they talked about, with auto-pause happening when the cyclist stops for a break and the fall-detection alerts. I’m really enjoying the fitness capabilities of my Series 3 Watch, I’m sure I’ll really enjoy the upgrades and the bigger screen on the Series 7.

I recently traded in my 2015 MacBook Pro for an Apple gift certificate with the intent of using it to purchase the new iPhone or perhaps another MacBook of some sort. I’m not with a lack of computers; as of the trade-in I’ve been using my iPad Pro as my main unit with my Mac Mini as my Mac of choice when there’s something I can’t do on the iPad Pro.

Overall I’m pleased with everything Apple has to offer, but still wary of their privacy practices. Even with these concerns, I still believe Apple offers the best experience of all that’s out there.

1 Comment

Privacy, Part 2.

With the Apple privacy discussions taking place on the Internet, undoubtedly led by those referred to as the “screeching minority”, I’ve had a couple of people tell me I’m crazy because of my stance of digital rights and privacy. I’m used to being called crazy; one of my greatest fears of all my life is folks discovering how crazy I really am and throwing me into some sort of group home or mental ward because of this discovery. But that’s for another blog entry.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Apple is going to start scanning photos destined for their iCloud Photo service. This scanning will take place directly on the device that you, the consumer, purchased from Apple. They’re not looking at the contents of these photos, they’re looking at the “digital fingerprint” of these photos and comparing it to a third-party list of “digital fingerprints” to identify illegal photos of children. It’s a noble cause, but with the scanning taking place on your personal property, it feels like guilty before innocent to me. In these discussions of “I have nothing to hide” being propagated by those that want to remain in Apple’s good graces for PR purposes, they claim what difference does it make if Apple does these scans on your device or after they arrive at their destination. When I liken the practice to old-style books of photos and Apple coming into your house to flip through the pages of your photo albums in person, I get downvoted on Reddit, told I’m hysterical, and that I might have something to hide.

I have nothing to hide. I live my life pretty out loud, and while there are many aspects of my life I haven’t outright shared, there’s plenty I have shared. However, no one was rifled through my closet looking for things to share. It’s been my choice.

Look, if I ever cross an international border again and a border agent asks me for my phone, two things are going to happen. I’m going to refuse to unlock my phone for the official and either I’m going to erase the thing with the panic switch or I’m going to hurl the phone at the ground so hard it’ll smash and be useless for all involved. Or both. There is no reason for anyone to go through my phone. Ever. With the constant push from big tech to move our wallet and our photos and our passports and our IDs and our correspondence and our family history and our health information and god knows what else into these maddening little devices, it’ll be a cold day in hell when someone scans my phone potentially carrying all this information. I don’t know why anyone would do that. Would a woman hand over her purse? Would a man hand over his wallet? Would you unload all the cartons of photos in the moving van so the border agents can take a look? I certainly hope not. Your smartphone is no different.

I don’t care what you do with your data. I don’t care who you share your data with. But your cavalier, irresponsible attitude should not set the precedent for those of us that still care about privacy and believe that as a human being we are entitled to privacy. I don’t care if it’s convenient for you to run around with your credit cards attached to your phone and you’re glued to your little screen 23 hours a day. You do you, I’ll do me, and those of us in the “screeching minority” will continue to screech about the importance of privacy, all the while you give it away to corporations that’s couldn’t care less about you.

Privacy.

This is a long entry because I’m passionate about digital rights. Please take a moment to read. Thank you.

Imagine this: you run errands and come across a “magic” nightstand at your local department store. We’ll call said department store “Bigmart”. The magic part of the nightstand is that it transports a copy of whatever you put in that nightstand to a warehouse owned by Bigmart. The popular store chain is up front about how it works in that they own the warehouse, you don’t. The warehouse is secure and they claim they can’t see the contents of the warehouse, but they can unlock something if you lose your original copy and want to retrieve the latest copy of whatever was manually transported to the warehouse. They also let you know that because this warehouse can be used by thousands or millions of people, some of whom may not be the most morally grounded folks around, they’ll scan the contents from time to time to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal or shady with the contents you’re storing in their warehouse. They’re up front about all of this and you decide whether you want to put contents in the magic nightstand, knowing that whatever is transported to the warehouse plays by these rules.

Now, imagine Bigmart decides to change the rules. They have decided that in addition to scanning the copies that are magically transported to the warehouse, they’re also going to stop by your house every few hours and go looking through your nightstand. Now, they promise they’ll only look straight ahead when they enter your private dwelling and they will not look at anything other than the contents of the nightstand. They want to see what you have put in your nightstand for magic transport before it’s been actually transported to the warehouse.

Would you let the big company into your home and allow them to look at the contents of the nightstand? I can’t answer for you, but I will say that I would not allow this. I have no guarantee that Bigmart is looking at only the contents of the nightstand because I can’t see what they’re doing. I have to trust them, even after they’ve changed the rules of the transaction, because they use magic to transport and to get in and outside my house. I’m not allowed to see what they’re doing while they’re doing it.

Now, I know Bigmart is doing this for a good reason. They’re looking for nefarious material that could be harmful to other people, particularly children. They want to make sure I’m not using the magic nightstand to do illegal things. Instead of checking when these things arrive at the warehouse, they want to check before they get to the warehouse. And they don’t even have a list of what’s illegal, they’re just comparing the “fingerprint” of these things to a list of fingerprints. There’s one in a trillion chance the item’s fingerprint could wrongly match something on the list. They don’t even own the list. They’re just one of several companies that uses this third party list to check fingerprints.

I would still not allow Bigmart to come into my home and rifle through my nightstand, regardless of their intent. As an American, that feels a little too much like guilty before proven innocent to me, and while of course I don’t want anything illegal transported through my magic nightstand, they always said they would scan my stuff when it arrived at the warehouse, not come into my home and go through the nightstand first.

Apple announced they would start scanning photos destined for iCloud Photos (their cloud-based storage service) on each user’s iDevice (iPhone, iPad, etc) before it is uploaded to iCloud. This practice will begin in a future update. They’re doing this in the name of privacy and they’re doing this to save the children.

I’m all for saving children. This is a fact that is absolute, without question, and without hesitation. But I’m also really big on privacy. And scanning my files, even if they’re in a special bucket headed for iCloud, before they’ve actually arrived on the iCloud servers feels very creepy to this paranoid geek. Because Apple uses “closed source” software, meaning we can’t see how it works or when it’s doing these things, we the users have no idea as to what’s really happening. How do we know a cranky regime somewhere in the world isn’t going to add to the third party list of bad photos? Imagine if a dictator decided he or she (or they) wanted to know who has photos of adult, consenting, homosexual content on their phones? What if the FBI or CIA decided they didn’t want to limit the scanning of this nature to only photographs destined to be stored in iCloud? What if they wanted to see the contents of text messages or any other files on the user’s phone? What if someone hacks into your phone and puts something bad on it? The list can go on and on and on.

On the surface, Apple’s plans ding a person’s privacy quite a bit but when shrouded with the “but the children!” argument, users may not have a problem with the practice. I get that. But it’s a slippery slope. It’s a very slippery slope. And for years Apple has been selling their devices on the promise of them being the most privacy conscious company in tech.

It’s like they did a 180 overnight.

When we give up a little bit of privacy, we have the potential of giving up all of our privacy. We need to keep our children safe, no question.

But we need to keep our privacy safe as well.

Lunch.

I’m sitting in the gazebo today for lunch. It’s 93ºF at the moment and while it’s hot, it’s not entirely unpleasant. I’m happy to be out of the sun. My Irish skin is just not built for a lot of sun exposure.

I just finished watching the Apple Keynote event at WWDC21 (their annual Developer’s conference) and I have to admit that while it was interesting, my eyes glazed over a couple of times. I don’t know what any technology company could do for “revolutionary” impact in the space these days, but like previous years, today’s announcements seem more evolutionary than revolutionary. I really like Apple’s leaning on privacy and the importance of not sharing your data with every tech company that comes along. That is really important to me and the primary driver for my using Apple products. It used to be I enjoyed the “fit and finish” of Apple devices, and while I believe they’re still the best the space has to offer, I don’t believe they’re the premium experience they once were. The privacy angle is still quite premium though, and that’s good enough for me.

I was hoping for more in the way of the iPadOS 15 developments; Apple is now selling their iPad Pro with the same processor as their latest Macs, the Apple M1 chip. With the iPad Pro running with a lot of horsepower under the hood I was hoping we would see some of the Mac-only “Pro” apps like Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro (video editing, audio creation, respectively) come to the iPad Pro. But apparently not yet.

All in all I was interested in the offerings but not blown away. I don’t know what “the next big thing” could be, outside of an Apple Car or some Apple Glasses or something, but I feel like as a world in the midst of the 21st century we’re do for “the next big thing”.

We didn’t hear about that today.

I’ll just enjoy the dry heat and catch up on some reading.

Continuance.

The saga with my newest HomePod Mini continues. After spending over an hour on the phone with Apple Support, and resetting every device within nearly a half mile of my home office, my HomePod Mini still will not complete its setup.

The Apple support technician promised someone from the next tier up would give me a call, but they missed their appointment time and I am having a hard time regaining interest in the endeavor.

There are many things that Apple does well. I maintain that Apple devices are still the safest and most reliable computing devices available to the average consumer. Unfortunately their prices are above average but what’s even more disappointing is there’s too many things that Apple has let slide to the wayside. Home Automation, or “HomeKit” is one of them.

When my HomePod Mini is stuck on “Configuring…” for hours, after taking nearly a dozen attempts to get the thing connected at all, and the HomePod team can’t figure out the problem, the world’s largest technology company needs to step back and take a look at what the heck their doing.

Luckily, we mostly rely on Alexa for home automation. I’m not super comfortable with this scenario, but at this point I want something that works. And while Alexa may be snooping on us, at least she’s doing it with much more reliability.

Anyone want to buy a HomePod Mini?