Gruber’s Apple Watch Series 3 Review


With the addition of cellular networking in Series 3, Apple Watch gains something essential: independence. It’s not just a cool feature. It’s aimed smack dab in the middle of the two things people like best about Apple Watch: notifications and fitness. When are you separated from your iPhone? When you’re exercising. What do you miss most when you’re away from your phone? Messages and phone calls.

Phone anxiety is a weird, and, for me at least, irrational thing. I know that mankind survived for millennia without the ability to communicate with each other out of earshot. But once you get used to having your phone with you at all times, you get used to feeling that if anyone needs you, they can get you.

Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular networking completely alleviates this anxiety.

I was waffling between getting the cellular or non-cellular version of Series 3. Now I’m convinced - it’s gotta be cellular.

[via Daring Fireball]


Typed on Git2Go

iPhone X Keynote Hot Take And Rundown


Apple presented its 10th annual iPhone keynote today. The keynote was the first ever presentation made from Apple’s new campus, in the Steve Jobs Theater. How appropriate - to hold the 10th iPhone keynote in a theater thusly named.

What follows are my hot takes and first thoughts about the keynote and what Apple announced today.

iPhone X

Pronounced ‘ten’

Oh man, this one is a doozy. It’s crazy to think how far we have come in a mere decade. Just ten years ago the world was astounded and amazed by a slab of metal and glass with a 3.5” screen. iPhone was amazing then, and its amazing now.

Display

The 5.8” full screen OLED display on iPhone X looks amazing. This will be a huge leap forward for iPhone – finally ditching the physical home button, and dropping the top and bottom bezels that have been around for a decade now. Of course, in typical fashion, Apple is not the first to come out with a full-screen phone, but they will likely do it best.

I’ve long thought that the top and bottom bezels on iPhones have held it back. Of course, the bezels have served as a spot for the home button and various sensors that are below the screen, so getting rid of them wasn’t really an option for early iPhones. I recall with the original iPhone feeling like the screen was just slightly too small, and imagined what it would be like if the entire front was a screen. iPhone X realizes this idea.

FaceID

FaceID is an interesting change for iPhone unlock - with no physical home button anymore, FaceID replaces TouchID on iPhone X. According to the rumor mill, Apple was initially planning on using TouchID on iPhone X, but was unable to make the under-display-fingerprint-recognition technology work, and thus went to FaceID instead. Several other phone makers have attempted facial recognition before, but all of them have failed at making something with any real security. Past facial recognition systems have been easily fooled by photos, hopefully FaceID will live up to what Apple has demoed.

Apple claims that the false positive rate with FaceID is actually better than TouchID. TouchID could produce a false positive 1 in 50,000 attempts - Apple claims that rate is 1 in 1,000,000 with FaceID. I am a security wonk, so the security of my mobile devices are paramount to me. If a malicious actor gained access to my phone, my entire digital life would be up for grabs. If FaceID lives up to the claims, this is a good step forward with security. I could retain all the security of TouchID, with an even simpler method for authenticating and unlocking my phone.

The sensors that they’ve crammed into the top of iPhone X are amazing. There are no fewer than 7 sensors here. The internet colloquially referred to the top sensor array as the ‘notch’, Apple calls it the ‘True Depth Camera’. It’s impressive that they’ve been able to cram all of this hardware into a tiny space. It looks like Apple will obscure the notch slightly in some applications, while embracing it in others.

Gestures

iPhone X will be a significant change in how iPhones will be used going day-to-day, largely because it discards iPhone’s primary physical input: the home button. iPhone X lacks even a semblance of a home button. It doesn’t even have a virtual home button. Apple is instead replacing the button with gestures. What they’ve shown off looks so natural, so easy. In a couple years we’ll look back in amazement that we had to press a button to perform some basic interactions with our phones.

These gestures are honestly one of the features I’m most excited about. They’re so simple, so fluid. I can’t wait to try it out.

To access home on iPhone X, one need only swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

Home Gesture

To access multitasking, make the same swipe, but pause. You can also swipe directly between apps by just swiping left-to-right across the bar at the bottom.

Multitasking Gesture

On current iPhones, a swipe up from the bottom invokes control center. On iPhone X you drag down from the status indicators in the top right.

Control Center Gesture

Charging

iPhone X and its glass back will support wireless charging. The only device I own (or have ever owned) that supports wireless charging is my Apple Watch. I’ve long thought that wireless charging is silly, but it’s been lovely to use with Apple Watch. Every night I take my watch off, put it on my charging dock, and I’m done.

There have been plenty of phones on the market that have had wireless charging for some time, so Apple isn’t really innovating here. But it’s nice to see this feature finally come to iPhone. In non-Apple fashion, they’ve chosen to go with Qi, the industry standard for wireless charging. Apple isn’t shipping a wireless charger at launch, but because iPhone X (and 8) use Qi, it’ll be possible to charge using any currently available Qi charger. Hell, you could even use a Samsung charger if you were so inclined.

Capcity and Pricing

Apple has doubled its capacities with this year’s iPhones, going from 32GB and 128GB to 64GB and 256GB. I personally think that 256GB might be a bit excessive for most users, but it’s good to see the base models now start with 64GB. These days, having a super large capacity iPhone isn’t too desperately important. With optimizations on photo sizes and music streaming, most people likely use less space than they’d think. I’ve currently got an iPhone 7 with 128GB capacity, I’m only using about 30GB - this includes about 4,000 photos stored at original size, and I let Apple music take care of what songs are and are not downloaded locally. Honestly, for iPhone X I’ll probably opt to get the 64GB model, I think it’ll be enough.

There was a lot of talk ahead of the Keynote on how iPhone X would be priced. Most outlets were predicting pricing to start north of $1000.

I took to twitter yesterday with my predictions. I wasn’t too far off.

As it turns out, iPhone X will start a $999. Compared with the current Plus phones, this pricing isn’t too egregious. It’s a $200 premium over the iPhone 8 Plus price, but worth it (to me at least) because of the full-screen 5.8” display.

Preorders for iPhone X go live 10/27, shipping on 11/3.

I’ll definitely be getting iPhone X, but I’m not certain that I’ll buy it at launch. Last year I waited a couple months until there was wide availability for iPhone 7. I’ll likely do the same with iPhone X.

Other iPhones

If it were any other year, this would be a worthwhile iPhone upgrade.

iPhone 8 (and 8 Plus) share the same CPU as iPhone X - A11 Bionic.

A11 Bionic boasts the typical specs for new Apple mobile CPUs. It’s faster, with better graphics, more CPU performance, enhancements for AR and machine learning - the works. It’s now a 6 core unit, up from a 4 core in iPhone 7. They’re also able to leverage all 6 CPUs simultaneously. Suffice to say, it’s fast.

iPhone 8 also shares the glass back and wireless charging in iPhone X, and it’s got better cameras too.

In fact, many of the features of iPhone X and iPhone 8 are shared - under the hood they’re nearly the same phone.

If it weren’t for iPhone X, I’m sure I’d buy this phone if it were the flagship.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus ship 9/22.

Apple TV 4K

This is a nice upgrade. Like it says on the tin, Apple TV will now support 4K, including HDR. 4K is quadruple the resolution of 1080P HD, and HDR doubles the color space of 4K.

Apple TV 4K also has an A10X CPU in it, so it’s got more processing and graphical power. The A10X is actually the same CPU used in iPad Pro - so it’s a screamer. Mind you, the Apple TV wasn’t exactly a slouch when it came to performance. In my experience using Apple TV, it blows away all competitors in simple ease of use and fluidity.

The 4K product starts at $179, the standard Apple TV stays on at $149. I don’t have a 4K TV in my living room, so I won’t be buying this, but if I did have one, I’d definitely get it.

Notable: if you buy your movies from iTunes, you automatically get the 4K versions for free

Apple Watch Series 3

I’ve had Apple Watch since launch day nearly three years ago. I was very excited to receive it three years ago, and it has been a loyal companion on my wrist since launch day. I can’t think of a single day since I received it that I haven’t worn it. I did skip the Apple Watch Series 2 last year, as the speed bump wasn’t enough for me to justify another large smartwatch purchase. Don’t get me wrong - the original Apple Watch is quite slow - it crawls at anything other than notifications and timers, but Series 2 wasn’t enough for me. Given my Apple Watch’s age, I’m definitely eager to replace it - the Series 3 may indeed be a worthwhile upgrade for me.

Apple brought some great improvements with Watch Series 3. It has a faster CPU - 70% faster than Series 2 (imagine how much faster than my original), with built-in cellular. I don’t necessarily have a burning need to get this on launch day. I’ll likely pick it up some time after I’ve picked up iPhone X.

Series 3 at $329, the cellular product is $399.

Shipping 9/22

iOS 11

This year’s iOS is great. Lots of little changes, lots of big changes. I’ve been running the Public Beta for a while now, and it’s great.

iOS 11 ships 9/19.

Final thoughts

Apple announced killer products this year. They made good strides with upgrades to existing hardware (iPhone 8, Apple Watch, Apple TV). A huge leap with iPhone X, and the software that they are shipping only continues to innovate and push the industry forward. Apple is rarely first, but they are almost always best. Since Steve Jobs’ passing 6 years ago, I was worried that after a short period of time Apple would begin to falter and lose its way, much like the 1990s. There is no doubt that Apple has changed greatly in the past half-decade. The product line has expanded, it has become more ambitious, but in typical Apple fashion, it all ties together and works together seamlessly.

From the outside looking in, Tim Cook’s Apple has pushed forward and continued to be Apple. The direction may be different, but the spirit is there. Apple is indebted to the work Steve Jobs did. He was (as Tim said on screen) a genius. In many ways, Apple’s greatest product is Apple itself. Their new campus, Apple Park, is a physical realization of Apple’s new direction. As I said at the top, it’s only fitting that the tenth anniversary iPhone be announced in a theater named after Steve.


Typed on RedScarf II Ver.D

AZIO Retro Keyboard


The mechanical keyboard hobby is one that is expensive and time consuming. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a girlfriend that is understanding and enthusiastic about my hobby. We started dating shortly after I became serious about keyboards. She has been through my entire journey into this hobby, and has patiently listened to be ramble about keyboards time and time again. After a few of my rambles, she started voicing enthusiasm and interest about getting a mechanical keyboard of her own.

The tipping point that piqued her interest in mechanicals was being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. She was experiencing a large amount of pain while typing, due to the force required to actuate the rubber domes on her company-supplied keyboard. The pain was especially bad when typing with pinky keys, like shift. We knew that with a mechanical we could get her something lighter, and tune the individual switches to her needs.

We discussed several times about what her ideal keyboard might look like, and even did a few testing sessions with various switch types and keycap profiles to determine what she would want in a keyboard. She made it clear that she would prefer a full-sized 104 key board, as opposed to any of the weirdo layouts I tend to gravitate towards. The conversation was shelved for a while as I searched high and low for a full sized board that the would like.

Several months ago we were in a Microcenter and came across this keyboard - her exact words were “If you ever buy me a keyboard, this is the one I want.” This solidified things - that would be the board I would get her. For her birthday this year, that’s exactly what I did.

Of course, I can’t simply go buy a keyboard and give it to her, modifications would be needed. In previous testing, we’d determined that the best switch for Jenny would be an MX Brown. It was important to have a fairly quiet, but tactile switch, as she works from home and is on the phone a lot.

Naturally, the board that she wanted most only comes with blues. Specifically, the Azio board comes with knock-off MX blues from a manufacturer that I’ve never heard of - OARMY. Now I know that these specific switch stems aren’t blue, but they are made to be clones of blues.

I ordered the board about a month before her birthday and had it shipped directly to me in the office. I knew that I would need to make serious modifications to the board, so doing that work at home simply wasn’t an option, for risk of being caught.

The Azio is a cool board, it has a nice thick bottom plastic, a vanity cover over the metal plate, and really unique typewriter-style keycaps. The stems for these keycaps is really interesting as well, very different from any other keycaps I’ve ever used.


The back is adjustable with a clever twisting mechanism. Most boards that can be raised and lowered use flip-out feet, but I really like this solution.

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After removing the keycaps, the first step for modifying this board was disassembling it. The board has 15 screws on the bottom that first need to be removed. Note: there are also screws under the feet that must be unscrewed. The feet do obstruct the screws, so removing these is difficult, but with some ingenuity with a screwdriver it is not impossible.

With the screws removed from the bottom, one might think that the the bottom would come off, but oh contraire! Surprisingly, the top vanity plate must be removed.

Azio with all keycaps removed.

The edges come up first, clipped on to the bottom plastic with small clips. There are also larger clips that go down and clip on to the steel plate. I wasn’t able to find a simple way to remove the plate while releasing these clips, so if you disassemble this board, remove the vanity plate with caution.

Vanity plate removed from top of the Azio.

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Note the large clips shown here.


With the vanity plate removed, we can see the metal plate and PCB. There are 10 screws that secure the plate to the bottom plastic. Those are removed, and the board is free.

Under the PCB is a connector that runs to the USB cable. With the cable removed, the board is totally free.

For these mods, I removed every switch on this board. To be honest these OARMY switches are pretty awful. I’ve tried several knock-off blues in my time, and these are pretty bad. Even if she weren’t going to be using this keyboard at work, these OARMYs needed to go! Desoldering the switches was a simple operation, although time consuming given that all modern-day keyboards use lead-free solder.

For this build, I installed Gateron Brown switches on the alphas, with Gateron Reds on the shift keys. With Jenny’s carpal tunnel it was important to give her lighter switches on specific keys like shift. Gateron browns are light switches overall (good for carpal tunnel), with an actuation weight of 45g, they are also really smooth, far smoother than Cherry browns. The Gateron Reds are linear with a weight of 40g.

I had intended to install Browns on nearly all the switches on the board, but it turns out I did not order enough of them, so I had to make do, installing Reds on a few of the rarely-used switches.

Having installed the new switches, it was time to reassemble the board, box it back up and give to Jenny.

On the day before her birthday, Jenny mentioned that she would soon need a new keyboard for work, as her Logitech (the same as we deploy for all users at my office) was starting to fail. On her birthday, she was overjoyed to receive the keyboard. She (as I’d hoped) loves the keyboard, and loves the feel of the switches. She says it has made a big improvement to the normal carpal tunnel pain she experiences, so I would say: goal achieved.

Side note, all her coworkers are enthusiastic about the board as well - several of them have expressed interest in getting something similar (probably more because of the aesthetic than the mechanical switches), but it gives me hope for converting a few more people to the wondrous world of mechanical keyboards.


Typed on White Alps64

Personal Computers

In the age of mobile, what is a personal computer?

I’ve been thinking about the term ‘personal computer’ lately, and I think I’ve come to a realization about what a personal computer can be, and (more specifically) what it means to me. 

As a child, I remember when we got our first PC. The year was 1995. My mother was in college, I was a mere 6 years old. The PC: a Packard Bell with a 65mhz Celeron processor, a 500MB Hard Disk Drive, a 9” CRT Monitor with built-in speakers, CD-ROM and 3.5” diskette, all running on glorious easy-to-use Windows 95. I took to the PC like a moth to flame. It was magical. I learned to type on this machine. I recall spending hours playing Troggle Trouble and Invention Studio. Even just basic usage and navigation of the PC was fascinating to me. I even got my first glimpses of the Internet on this PC (care of a dial-up internet connection supplied by the university). The Packard Bell never was my ‘personal’ computer though - it was my Mom’s computer. Ostensibly it was for her to do research and write papers on, truth be told, I probably used it more than she did, but that still didn’t make it ‘mine’. 

As an adult, a personal computer is still a wonderful and magical device to me. Like many of my generation, I consider myself digitally native - by the time I was born, computing technology was ubiquitous, and we were fast approaching a time where literally every household had a computer. To quote Steve Jobs, computers are ‘bicycles for our minds’. With a computer you can play, create, destroy, observe, learn, socialize, and find comfort in being alone in yourself. Computers facilitate the greatest opportunities for learning and development that the world has ever seen. 

The only thing more magical than a computer is a personal computer - a machine that is truly personal, the property and domain of one person. With your personal computer you have power over and knowledge of everything that machine is. It has the applications you choose, it is configured the way you like it, it has all of your data, organized the way that your mind works. A personal computer is (for me at least) the digital manifestation of everything I am interested in, everything I know, and the way that my particular mind works. A family computer can never be that, but a personal computer can

My first real personal computer came in 2003. I was 13, and had saved up over the summer working odd jobs for my Grandfather. I was able to buy a second-hand Gateway with a Pentium III, running Windows 98. It was on this machine that I realized what a personal computer could be. It was on this PC that I learned to tinker and explore all that a computer is - both in software and hardware. During the time that I owned that computer I completely took it apart and reassembled it, upgraded it multiple times. I first learned how to reinstall an operating system with this computer. First learned what all the individual components inside a tower were. It was the first time that I had unfettered access to just sit and browse the web. It was on this machine that I first learned to cobble bits of technology together (I recall installing two weirdo graphics cards into the machine so I could run dual monitors).

Following in the Gateway’s footsteps was a custom PC. I was 14 or 15, I’d learned everything the Gateway could teach me, and I had $1000 of saved-up money burning a hole in my pocket. This time I wasn’t using someone else’s second-hand anything - I chose every part of that machine and assembled it myself. It was magic. I felt like I had superpowers. 

After the custom PC was an HP laptop, wherein I learned that a computer could be MOBILE! Now I had a computer that was all mine, and I could take it ANYWHERE! Of course, it had a gigantic 15” display, was 3” thick, and weighed nearly 12lbs, but that didn’t stop be from finding an excuse to bring that laptop with me anywhere I could. 

By then it was 2006 or 2007, Apple was really starting to make a comeback. In my elementary years I’d hated Macs. I always despised the days that we went to the iMac labs instead of the Gateway labs. Around that time I received an iPod for Christmas, and it opened my eyes up to what Apple had become. I remember watching Steve Jobs’ keynote when the MacBook Pro was announced - I was OBSESSED. I HAD to have a Mac. 

Switching from a Windows PC to a Mac changed things for me. All the PCs that I’d used or owned prior to getting a Mac, had been merely objects. Not generic machines or something I despised, but they were mostly a means to an end - a computer was merely the doorway that led me to what I wanted - whether that was a game, or a video, or just a webpage. A computer was invaluable to me, but I never loved my computers. Without any doubt, I LOVED my first Mac. My Mac taught me how to love a computer. It may sound bizarre, but I feel like I developed my first personal and emotional relationship to a computer with my first Mac (a 13” MacBook Pro). My first Mac was a leap forward technologically, and for me, macOS clicked for me in a way that no other software or operating system did. Perhaps I loved my Mac because it was the first computer I used that worked the way my brain works. 

Not long after I got my first Mac, I got my first iPhone. Finally! A phone that just worked! A phone that had compromises (lol MMS, copy & paste), but finally a phone that was designed for people like me! At that point, I didn’t think of myself as a ‘technology guy’ or a ‘computer guy’ as much as I thought of myself as a ‘Mac/Apple’ guy. 

As I grew, matured, and became an adult, I got into working at Best Buy (selling the magic of technology to others) and my love for Macs, and especially for my Mac grew and grew. After Best Buy I pursued a career in working on computers. First at a small mom-and-pop shop that specialized in Macs, and later doing internal Desktop Support at an Enterprise business. 

My time doing repair and working in enterprise really changed how I viewed computers. At this time I can say that I’m at the apex of my computer knowledge. Working in enterprise IT has more or less forced me to become far more advanced and knowledgeable than I ever have been, but it changed my perspective on computers. Working in this job, I’m exposed to working on hundreds of workstations a month, and I use 4 different computers at work for my own tasks every day. I’ve come to see computers more as a TOOL by which I may wield power than as a device that I have an intimate relationship with. I have my main Mac workstation, a portable Mac (that gets used rarely), a Windows 7 box that mirrors most of our users’s workstations, and a portable Windows 10 machine. All of these devices have specific roles, specific tasks. I will actively move between them during the workday depending on the task at hand. They’re tools, and little more. I’m not hesitant to wipe and reimage any of these machines at any time. I could replace one of them at any time with newer, different equipment. 

The equipment I have at home isn’t so different. There is a standard desktop PC that I use as an enterprise-grade firewall/router, a Mac Pro that is my media server, and a 12” Macbook. Of all the computers I interact with on a daily basis, the 12” MacBook is probably the only one I’d call ‘mine’. But truth-be-told, most of the time I use the 12” MacBook for simple web browsing and using remote desktop to connect to my Mac Pro media server. The way this MacBook is set up more-or-less mirrors the way I set up my Mac workstation at work. It’s mine, but it doesn’t feel intimate, it doesn’t feel personal. The computer that is most mine is still just a tool.

I think I really realized that computers have become tools when I got the MacBook. Opening new Macs has always felt pretty magical to me. Peeling back the cellophane wrapping, slowly opening the box, pulling out the heavy milled aluminum machine within. When I opened my MacBook box, it was rote, no different from the hundreds of other computers I take out of boxes in a year.

The idea of a computer being a tool and not an intimate device isn’t so awful though. At times I feel that I am the grand director, the general, tasking these machines to do my will and bend the universe to what I want. 

This entire line of reasoning got me to a point. Through all my history with technology, computers, and with all I’ve done with computers in my life. Today, at this moment, the computer in my life that is TRULY personal. TRULY mine, is not a computer at all, really. It’s a phone. 

My phone hasn’t always been this way though. Since 2007 I’ve had nearly every single iPhone. Ten years ago an iPhone wasn’t much more than a glorified iPod. A decade later, it has matured in ways that 18 year-old me could have never imagined.

My iPhone is the sole device in my life that is completely and totally tailored for me. For personal tasks, I use my phone more than any other device in my life. It’s the single computing device that goes with me every place I go. Whether I am at work, or at home, or traveling, my iPhone is in my pocket, along for the ride. My iPhone has all my most pertinent data on it, it has my music, my contacts, my notes, reminders, it’s got access to my cloud storage and even my media library. Of that devices I own and use, it alone is the most - me. 

Is it the most powerful or capable device I own? Of course not. Throughout a day I may find myself fluidly moving among several devices, and whenever I have a large or complex task (such as writing this long blog post) I will inevitably use one of my more traditional computers - but the device I always reach to first, and more importantly most often, is my phone. For photos, I naturally reach for my phone, I’ll even do the vast majority of my photo editing on my phone, as a touch interface is more intuitive for editing (to me) than a desktop interface. If I’m going to catch up on twitter or Reddit, I’m far more likely to use my phone than my Mac(s). When I need to type out a note - I grab my phone. Even the majority of the web browsing I do at home is done on my phone.

My phone could not be nearly as useful to me as a personal computer if it weren’t for the other devices and cloud technology in my life. I make heavy usage of cloud storage, and have local copies of all my data on my home server - this technology allows all that data and everything I work on (no matter which device I use) to be accessible at my fingertips at all times everywhere I go. My phone is special, it is my digital life available in my hands - always.

This is my phone. It is my personal computer. There are many like it, but this one is mine.


Typed on White Alps64

Macrumors Goes Hands On With iPhone 8


We can’t be 100 percent sure the dummy models we’ve seen are accurate representations of what we can expect when the iPhone 8 launches, but they match up with leaked factory specifications, part leaks, CAD drawings, and information culled from the HomePod firmware Apple released in late July.

For that reason, we believe the dummy model in the video offers up a clear look at what Apple’s iPhone 8 looks like.

I’m happy to see one of these hands on videos compare the dummy model’s size to both iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. When I went from iPhone 6 Plus to iPhone 7, I was happy to have a much smaller phone, but it was bittersweet to lose the Plus’ massive screen. iPhone 8/Pro looks to be only marginally bigger than a standard iPhone 7, with a 5.8” display - the best of both worlds.


Typed on iPhone