Monthly Archives: August 2016

Juno Mission Infographic

When I'm not creating something for a client chances are pretty good that I'm reading about astronomy, physics, space exploration or some related area of science. I've often used those interests as the ingredients in a variety of a for-fun graphic design projects. If you follow NASA at all you probably know that this past July we put the Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter. On August 27 NASA announced that Juno completed it's first extended orbit around the planet and has begun the next orbit. There will be 35 more in total. In celebration of the mission I put together a Juno infographic:

Intentionally Obtuse?

Jeesh. Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz:

In the six years that it’s been on the market, Apple’s iPad has always been a bit of a confusing product.

Confusing for who? I purchased one in 2010 the first day it was available. Many in my family did as well. There are well over 10 iPads being used in my extended family at the moment by users from 12 to 83. No confusion there. Maybe Mike Murphy needs to talk to my 12 year old niece or my 83 year old grandmother about how to use an iPad?

The iPad was sold as an easy to use computer in a tablet form. As I recall the marketing focused on it being a fun, flexible device that could be used in a variety of ways and places and for a variety of tasks. From email to games, web browsing to book reading to document creation. Standing at a counter, riding a bus or train, laying on a bed or reclining in a lounger, the tablet form factor and larger screen was a kind of mobile computing that iPhones and laptops could not offer.

For those that wanted to do more work with the new device the iWork apps were there from day one. Various blogging tools and even html editing apps with built in ftp soon showed up in the App Store. Apple even offered a keyboard dock from day one. iOS was far more limited in the early days but plenty of people thought using the device was pretty straight forward. Even better, many elderly people who'd previously never ventured onto the Internet finally felt safe to do so.

When it debuted, some mocked it as essentially being the equivalent of four iPhones stuck together. Steve Jobs referred to it as the device that was ushering in the “post-PC era.” But in Apple’s most recent advertising campaign, it’s referred to multiple times as a computer, as an antidote to a Windows PC.

Yes. Mocked by tech journalists and a few tech enthusiasts. But normal people? Lots of them flocked to the iPad and were very happy with the device. Which is why the iPad sold so well. Sales have not maintained the initial pace but that's not likely something that can be based on dissatisfaction so much as the fact that iPads have a long lifespan. They don't need to be replaced every other year or even every couple of years.

As for the change in positioning and marketing by Apple, well, yes. It's 2016. The iPad is increasingly more powerful as is iOS. Apple refers to the iPad as a computer because it is one. The more precise debate is whether the iPad allows people to replace laptop or desktop computers. The answer is obvious. For some, yes, it does. For others, no. Depends on what one needs. This is not rocket science.

The iPad Pro is an excellent device if all you want to do is check the occasional email, watch a movie or two, and maybe check in on Facebook. Editing Excel spreadsheets without a mouse, typing up long emails (or trying to build a post like this), or editing photos is still far, far easier to do on a real laptop.

Ha. Hahahahahahahahahaha. That's funny. There's a certain someone with the initials M.M. that has been hiding in a cave for a few years. Again, I've got several people in my family who would be willing to tutor Mike if he wants to learn how to use an iPad. Apparently he's never figured it out. Certainly Mike understands that any old Bluetooth keyboard can be used with an iPad for the strenuous task of typing up a long email or blog post? Wherever would we be if Mike were unable to "build" his informational blog posts?

Via the Macalope.

Apple asks: What’s a Computer?

In a recent iPad Pro ad Apple simply asks “What’s a computer?” In response Microsoft has issued an ad mocking the iPad and Apple’s assertion. The suggestion being that if a device doesn’t run desktop class apps it’s not a computer. If it lacks a mouse, trackpad, and ports it’s not a computer. All irrelevant points. It’s been a question that’s been debated long before the iPad or Apple’s ad. But it seems a tired debate and a silly question. Isn’t the answer clear?

I suppose lines could get fuzzy with all of the embedding that is going on these days. But in terms of stand alone devices that people might use to compute, certainly it’s obvious that smart phones, whether they run Android or iOS are computers. As are tablets and laptops and desktops. All of them are computers that take on different form factors. My iPhone has more computing power than my Mac Color Classic or my G4 MacMini. In fact, it’s got more built in storage, ram and processor than any computer I owned prior to 2006. I can (and have) create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and movies with both the iPhone and iPad.

Really, why is this being debated at this point? Why does the form factor variation confuse so many people? Enough already!

Always another new gadget? Why not show a little restraint?

I recently came upon a post on Medium by Serenity Caldwell of iMore: Giving the baby 9.7 inch iPad Pro another chance. I wrote a lengthy response which I’ve edited into this post.

Something I’ve noticed as a general trend in the Apple tech press is a consistent pattern of hyper-consumption always in the context of, justified as, “my last purchase just didn’t quite get me the device I needed”. It goes something like this:

  1. Apple releases new iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
  2. Apple blogger/writer/podcaster purchases one of each in at least one size.
  3. Apple blogger/writer/podcaster writes about how they are writing current blog post/review on said new device.
  4. Various reviews of various keyboards/cases/covers (if new device was iPad). This case was too heavy, this keyboard wasn’t clicky enough, that case was too flimsy, this other keyboard had the wrong texture, that other case was too heavy, and so on.
  5. If said new device is an iPad it is a near guarantee that said blogger will give up Mac laptop for at least 6 months.
  6. Normally back to laptop after 6 months. 2015/16 was different because of the new iPad size/Pencil. Most everyone (in the Apple tech blogger community) seemed to go from an iPad Air to the big iPad Pro then to the small “Baby Pro” iPads. Some even decided to keep the big iPad Pro but concluded it wasn’t quite enough so added the smaller Pro as a second iPad. A few even then bought (or will buy) a new Mac laptop because the iPad (or iPads), while great, is not enough even if being used in combination with a Mac desktop. The conclusion is that a laptop is also needed.

The picture emerges of Apple tech bloggers/podcasters surrounded by small warehouses of devices and accessories. For the Apple nerddom fall has become that time of the year when new gadgets are announced. The time approaches and with it a fever pitch of expectations. I get that Apple tech media folk make a living writing about this stuff. But I think what gets under my skin a bit is that, in the context of a world with very real environmental challenges (climate being just the most urgent), so many words are written to justify personal purchases of so many devices and accessories. The impression I get is that no one is ever truly happy with this or that device or gadget because they are so quickly ready to replace them.

My humble iPad Air 2

My humble iPad Air 2

The same tech press will also sound the alarm a few times a year about serious problems at Apple because iPad/iPhone sales are not going up and up and up. And they continue with the bad news that Apple is failing its customers because Macs are not being updated on a more regular schedule. Meanwhile, back on planet earth, most of the normal people I know are quite happy to be using a three or four or five year old iPad. Some of these same people are also happy to be using iPhones from last year or the year before. Gasp, they might be using Macs that are 4 or 5 or even 6 years old. My dad is still happy using his 2010 MacBook Air. A friend of mine is using a 2011 MacBook Air. My brother uses a 2012 MacBook Pro. I’m happily getting some of my work done on a 2012 MacMini, the only Mac I have. What work I do not do on the Mini is handled quite well by a two year old iPad Air 2. The horror!

It seems to me that many of the Apple-focused media are living in a sort of disconnected echo chamber. They repeat the same “news” stories, same reviews, the same rumors and the same “First World Problems”. Year by year my RSS feed gets smaller and smaller. Helpful, original content about real world usage seems to dwindle. I know that there is a push now at iMore to address this very issue of regurgitated news with a new emphasis on helpful tutorials, how-to type material. Great! I’d say that is a step in the right direction (as far as content goes).

Of the various Apple tech writers I think Serenity is one the few to post helpful details about workflows. I greatly enjoyed her series on putting the iPad Pro to work and learned a great deal from those articles. Federico of MacStories also does a pretty fantastic job of sharing the many ways he is using his iPad. I suppose I’m just yearning for content that is more illustrative of how Apple tech is being used in the real world by real people (who are not full time tech bloggers/podcasters). For example, though I’m not working for an educational institution I often find Fraser Spears’ content interesting and inspiring. Fraser does a podcast, Canvas, with Federico all about mobile productivity. Teddy Svoronos has written (and guest podcasted) a bit about his use of technology as a PhD grad student. Oh, and David Sparks of MacSparky fame is a lawyer (among many other things) and often brings that context into his discussion of technology. He’s got a whole series of field guides for getting things done with Apple tech. David’s podcasting partner, Katie Floyd, is also a lawyer. She also does an excellent job of discussing how she uses Apple tech. Their podcast, Mac Power Users, is focused on that very thing.

I suppose I’m also looking for a bit of environmental sanity and responsibility within the community. It’s not reasonable to expect that people will replace devices such as iPads every year or even every other year. The same might be said of iPhones. These are computers manufactured with limited resources, why squander them? Why treat them as disposable? I would argue that the tech media, Apple-focused and otherwise, have helped create unreasonable expectations in regards to the purchase rate of computing devices.

Would I enjoy a new iPad Pro? Of course! Even more, I can predict that I will buy one at some point. But why not continue getting the most out of the iPad I have? It’s a powerful computer quite capable of the work I need to do with it. The same can be said for my Mac and iPhone. Indeed, it has often been said that Apple devices are of the highest quality, that they are designed well, made to be beautiful and durable. If this is true shouldn’t we expect to use them for awhile? Why not be a bit more restrained, discerning in our consumption? Why not respect our Macs, iPads and iPhones as the high quality, resource intensive products that they are?

Playing The Long Game Inside Tim Cook’s Apple

What Apple has accomplished with Maps is an example of the kind of grind-it-out innovation that’s happening all the time at the company. You don’t hear a lot about it, perhaps because it doesn’t support the enthralling myth that innovation comes in blinding flashes that lead to hitherto unimaginable products. When critics ding Apple for its failure to introduce "breakthrough" devices and services, they are missing three key facts about technology: First, that breakthrough moments are unpredictable outcomes of ongoing, incremental innovation; second, that ongoing, behind-the-scenes innovation brings significant benefits, even if it fails to create singular disruptions; and, third, that new technologies only connect broadly when a mainstream audience is ready and has a compelling need. "The world thinks we delivered [a breakthrough] every year while Steve was here," says Cue. "Those products were developed over a long period of time."


There are other ways to get content

Peter Kafka at Recode has a bit on

Apple’s new TV plan is a TV guide:

But TV industry executives I’ve talked to view Apple’s plans as a mixed bag. They like the idea of making their individual shows easier to find, but they worry that moving consumers’ focus from their individual apps to a universal guide will reduce their power to promote their other shows.

Some of them also suggest that Apple’s plan would irk pay TV distributors like Comcast* and Charter, which are used to controlling TV navigation through their own guides.

They really don't care about the user experience which is why I get my content elsewhere. No thanks fellas.