Archive for Podcrastination

iOS 8.0.1 Is A Complete Disaster

In case you have been sitting under a rock and somehow missed all the gleeful finger-pointing, the first update for iOS is a total dud. If you live in Canada (and hey, this is a .ca blog) you will probably have no issues, but it’s best to avoid the whole thing for now. For those of you in the USA who have already applied the update, however, your anger is palpable. And entirely justified. This turd is inexcusable and rightfully embarrassing for Apple. If they can’t get a repaired update out within the week, heads need to roll in Craig Federighi’s department. Including, quite frankly, Craig’s.

If there is any cold consolation in this, it’s that users have control of when and how they take iOS updates, and unless it is a top-number update most people don’t see to get around to it the first day. For Android users, who get their updates pushed to them whether they want them or not (when their carriers actually allow them an update, that is) this could have been beyond horrible.

The Big “iPhone 6 / iOS 8 / Some Sort Of Wearable” Event

Finally! After much speculation, lots of rambling, and a fair amount of random dreck, we are going to find out just what the heck is in that Big White Box. But it’s nowhere near as much fun without semi-crazy, mostly unfounded, and half-baked predictions … so with not much else to do in the next sixty minutes, let’s take a shot!

The Thing: iPhone 6
Gonna See It Today: Yep
The Lowdown: It’s not much of a secret at all that the newest member of the iPhone family will come in two fresh sizes … specifically, Too Big and Way Too Big. Sigh. Honestly, I think this is a terrible idea. The existing 4″ screen is pretty much the perfect size for a pocket computer. Period. Large enough to easily see and read, small enough to fit in your pocket, and packing the perfect dimensions for one-handed use. The iPhone 6 will be available in a 4.7 inch size – which doesn’t really add anything, and makes it a bitch to try and use one-handed – and a 5.5 inch size which is just idiotic. The existing (and perfectly sized) iPhone 5s and 5c will hang around as the low-priced and free-with-contract models respectively, but that is cold comfort.

Beyond the unusable size, the new phones will offer Apple’s first foray into NFC connectivity – something they have avoided until now because the old antenna technology attached to NFC made for annoyingly thick handsets, and because there was nothing useful to actually do with NFC until, well, today. They will also have startlingly large batteries packed into their stupidly large cases, meaning that they will have gratifyingly long battery life if you can actually bear to carry one of these things around.

The Thing: iOS 8
Gonna See It Today: Yep
The Lowdown: I’ve been using iOS 8 for a few months now, and it is everything that you could hope for in an incremental OS release. It strengthens the connections between the various parts of the Apple ecosystem, makes your workflow from one device to the next essentially seamless, and simplifies the way you setup and deal with basic mobile computing functions. Look for it to hit the update queue of your device within 48 hours.

The Thing: OSX Yosemite
Gonna See It Today: Yep
The Lowdown: The next version of OSX brings some serious workflow love to your desktop or laptop Mac. It’s a strong build on the direction that was taken with Mavericks, and the ability to slide into a “one experience, one workflow, any device” mindset is nicely realized. It’s also fast – surprisingly so, considering how much new shit is going on under the hood. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience so far. However, there are a couple of catches here. Caveat one, this will not be released today. We will see it, but unless you are a developer, you probably won’t be getting your mitts on it for another month. Caveat two, if you are still using a machine that is 4 or 5 years old, you aren’t going to be able to enjoy a lot of the OSX/iOS integration … your box just doesn’t have the hardware to make it go.

The Thing: A Giant iPad Of Doom
Gonna See It Today: Nope
The Lowdown: This is just stupid. Next.

The Thing: Something To Do With Beats
Gonna See It Today: Probably
The Lowdown: The Beats acquisition is still a bit odd. Beats is not a brand that fits into Apple’s product gestalt … while Apple traditionally offers super-premium products for a premium price, Beats has slightly-above-average products at a super-premium price. Every item in the Beats catalog has a competitor that is noticeably better for the same price, and a another competitor that offers a seriously better product for a little bit more. Contrast this to traditional Apple gear where every item is indisputably the best you can get for that price, and equivalent stuff from other companies always costs more. That is a disconnect, and a big one.

But … Beats also came with Jimmy Iovine, and I think that is where the real value and future is. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Apple is getting into either music publishing or artist-direct distribution, helping to push the music labels farther into oblivion and giving more control and more revenue from music sales directly to the artists.

The Thing: New Macintosh Models
Gonna See It Today: Nope
The Lowdown: See you in October.

The Thing: Some Sort Of Digital Payment System
Gonna See It Today: Yep
The Lowdown: No idea, really. This gets into the realm of the banks and the credit card providers and who knows what else and I’m over my head here. Suffice to say that Apple will browbeat the financial institutions into providing the service to end users at cost, that there will be some sort of security component tied to both TouchID and two-factor authentication (last week’s celebrity selfie fiasco proved that you can’t trust users to use basic common sense or pay attention to warning messages when it comes to data security), and that it will provide and actual reason to put NFC technology into the new generation of Apple’s mobile devices. Beyond that, I’m in the dark. I think everyone is.

The Thing: The “Wearable”
Gonna See It Today: Yep
The Lowdown: What to call this? The iWatch? A smartwatch? A wearable? Until we know more, I’m going to stick with wearable. As to what it will be, and what it will do, the shrouds of secrecy are heavy on this one. I wrote earlier today about the existing players in this game, and how they stack up to what Apple might do, and I don’t think that there is much more to go on right now.

However, there are three points worth thinking about. One, in addition to the usual cadre from the tech press, Apple send out invitations for today’s event to a gaggle of style and fashion writers. You would assume that wouldn’t be the case if the new wearable/whatever is dog-barf ugly like the Galaxy Gear and its ilk. Two, Tim Cook has talked in the past about the need for a wearable to be something you have on all the time. But something you wear when you are working out is usually something that you would give a pass to when dressing for the office, or a night on the town. Can one device bridge this divide? Or will there be a family of devices, some for Extreme Sportball Action, some for day-to-day dress, and all of them sharing info in one virtual device? And three, Marc Newsome has joined the Apple design team … you may remember the props given to him in These Very Pages for the awesome Heineken “Sub”. Newsome made his name with timepiece design, and his calling card is understated elegance combined with no-nonsense industrial edge. Are his hands all over whatever the hell this wearable thing is going to be?

The Thing: Induction Power For Mobile Devices From Your Skin
Gonna See It Today: Maybe?
The Lowdown: I have no idea how this could even work. I’d call the chances of seeing this Extremely Low. But the buzz is out there, so it’s worth at least mentioning.

The Thing: U2
Gonna See It Today: Yep
The Lowdown: Just because.

iWhat?

So. Apple is going to add a wearable device to their iOS family today. But Tim Cook’s vow to “double down on secrecy” was more that just boastful talk, and no one seems to have even the faintest idea of what the thing is going to be, do, or look like. So the absence of any real data, let’s take a look at what the competition (and in 66% of these examples, the word “competition” is being used incredibly loosely) is doing and how that might relate to what we see in a couple of hours.

Samsung Galaxy GearExhibit 1: Galaxy Gear

Look. If you were to make a laundry list of all the things a wearable/smartwatch shouldn’t be, the Gear would probably rack up a perfect score. To wit:

  • It probably shouldn’t be useless without being connected to a second device at all times.
  • If it is connected to a second device, it should do more than just parrot that device’s functionality.
  • If it does parrot the functions of a second device, it shouldn’t make those functions more difficult to perform.
  • It shouldn’t be Fucking Ugly. That’s right, capital “F”, capital “U”.

And, running down the scorecard we see … wow. Four for four.  Great in baseball; not so much in consumer devices.  It’s probably not a coincidence that Samsung has released 6 different models in the last 3 months and all of them have already gone from retailing for over 240 bucks being given away for free with the purchase of another device or service.

Oops.

And did I mention that it’s Fucking Ugly?

Motorola 270, er, 360Exhibit 2: Moto 360

This is a much better effort. If nothing else, it’s a nicely understated design – something you wouldn’t actually feel like a glasshole for wearing in public. Sadly, it fails on a couple of key points. One, its fairly huge. It looks like a nice watch until you actually put it on your wrist … and then, unless you are the local neighbourhood barbarian, it looks like a Giant Tech Bangle. Um, yeah.

Worse, the batteries need to be charged up at least twice a day, something that is an unpardonable sin for a wearable. Wearables have to be constant and unobtrusive. If you have to actively interact with the thing for either basic functionality or (worse) to manage it’s systems, you are looking at a device that ends up in the bottom of a drawer fairly quickly.

As an aside, someone should also tell Motorola what “360” really means. For some odd reason the designers couldn’t deal with placement of the display drivers and optical sensors without cutting into the face of the device, leaving that odd chord of dead space at the bottom of the display. Worse, their marketing people then photoshopped a complete face into the device in the marketing materials, so pictures on the web site and in the packages they hand out to the media show something significantly different than what the device really is. I guess the more accurate name of “Motorola 270” was already taken.

Oops.

Withings ActivitéExhibit 3: Withings Activé

Now we are getting somewhere. Run back up to the “checklist of fail” – where the Galaxy Gear batted 1.000, the Withings dances through with aplomb. It adds new and useful functions to your existing device, it provides instant information in an unobtrusive and pervasive way, the battery lasts for a year, and its absolutely gorgeous.

This is a device that you would want to wear all day, every day, even if you didn’t know what it did. From top to bottom, this is a winner.

Exhibit 4: Apple Something-or-other

No idea. At all. But you take a look at the three notable entries above, the chances are a extremely high that it will be a lot closer to the Withings Activé that either of the unusable mutts that Samsung and Motorola have coughed up.

Stay tuned.

Christmas Radio Countdown – Christmas Eve Edition

So yeah, there was this ice storm and a fairly massive blackout and a few days sort of got missed. The best laid plans of mice and men, right?

Anyway. One more entry into the list to round out the countdown … and I definitely saved the best for last. “Snow FM Ireland” is the single best mix of Christmas music you are going to find online, period. Lots of classics – heavy on the Rosemary Clooney and Judy Galrand, which is awesome – a good dose of newish stuff, and at least fifty percent of it is stuff you just don’t hear anywhere else. If you need just one audio feed to leave on for all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, this is the one.

There is no actual web page for these guys, but you can find a stream on your browser here. It’s probably a lot easier just to hit them up on TuneIn Radio by searching for “Snow FM Ireland”.

Ho ho ho.

Christmas Radio Countdown – Day 22

Straight outta Finland! Yo! It’s Radio Santa Claus, keepin’ it legit! We’re talkin’ Arctic Circle, yo!

Live from the Finnish frontier on the web and running mobile on TuneIn radio under “Radio Santa Claus”.

Yo.

Christmas Radio Countdown – Day 21

“Bob” radio is one of the “stuff laying around on your iPod” FM programming formats that you can buy and just plug-in to any existing-but-needs-a-refresh station … one of the generic handful like “Edge” and “Jack” and “Kiss” that 90 percent of the North American FM spectrum seems to be using now. But, in a small saving grace, the Bob team has also slapped up a Christmas stream and it’s pretty good.

Take that, Jack.

Check it out on the web or hit up “Bob Christmas Radio” on TuneIn. It’s only here until the end of the month, so grab your piece now.

Christmas Radio Countdown – Day 18

Back to the 181 well once more … this time for some holiday hot licks and snowman slow jams (see what I did there?) from the “Christmas R#38;B” feed. This is the perfect way to reset before the weekend is upon us once again … and an optimal choice for any office gathering you might be having over the next week or so. Heavy on the classics – The Miracles, Jackson 5, Four Tops, Ella and Sammy – this one will please the whole gang. Hit the 181.FM web page on your computer or check out “Christmas R&B” on TuneIn.

Groovy, baby.

Christmas Radio Countdown – Day 17

“Christmas Kids Radio” is a bit of a misnomer. With a name like that you would think that it was all Muppets and Rugrats and The Wiggles and the like, but what you get instead is a lot of stuff from American Idol alumni and assorted boy bands. So it’s more “teen girl bland pop Christmas radio” but it’s not particularly horrible and you can probably put it on and not offend a single person, which is a handy thing to be able to do. It’s also got a few cuts from your Spongebobs and Grinches and the like, so I guess that is where the “kid” part comes from.

Hit the 181.FM web page to check it out, or look up “Christmas kids” on your TuneIn app.

If nothing else, you will be amazed at how many Christmas songs Kelly Clarkson has recorded.

Christmas Radio Countdown – Day 16

Hey! Christmas is the time for giving, right? So today spend your ho ho ho radio time with a station that is all about giving. Radio Christmas out of the U.K. is an annual effort to help kids in need around the globe. It started as a project to raise money to help street kids in Britain and now supports charities for young’uns around the globe. Homeless kids, hungry kids, kids who work in a dump for a dollar a day … there are a lot of kids who have generally sucky Christmases. Maybe it wouldn’t kill you to toss a couple of bucks their way.

Radio Christmas also has a very cool “Brit-centric” vibe that makes them stand out from the usual holiday fare. If you are a bona fide Scrooge you might get cheesed off by the reminders that it’s all about charity and desperate kids, but everyone else should enjoy the mix. On the web at radiochristmas.co.uk or search for “radio christmas” on TuneIn.

Ho ho ho indeed.

Christmas Radio Countdown – Day 15

Boomer Radio sounds more or less like pretty much every other “Christmas mix” radio station – classics, some poppy stuff, and the requisite sprinkling of a few comedy songs. But it gets a Monday morning shout-out for one reason: It’s the only on-line station that ever seems to play Chrissy The Christmas Mouse, which is entirely awesome.

Note that there are a few scattered ads, but they are few and far between. Check it out on the web at Boomer Radio or search for “Boomer Christmas” in your handy TuneIn app.