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Thankful

There’s so much to be thankful for this year. Every year, in fact. But especially this year.

It’s easy for me to go through each day without thinking of all of the good in my life. It’s easy to complain about minor details here and there and wish certain things would be better.

This year has been something. But I’m still aware of how blessed I am, and am thankful for it.

I’m thankful to have been spared (so far, knock on wood) from this virus that’s ravaging the world. I’m thankful for a healthy family that is taking this pandemic seriously and keeping themselves and those around them safe.

I’m thankful this year, more than ever before, to have a neighborhood full of good people. And especially for a neighborhood of kids for mine to play with outside.

I’m thankful for steady, challenging, and interesting work to do during this time. There has been abundance of good things to focus on and the blessing of that is not lost on me.

I’m thankful for so many little things. I hope you are too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

iPhone 12 Pro Max Photography

Sebastiaan de With, maker of Halide, with another excellent review of the latest iPhone camera system. This time it’s the iPhone 12 Pro Max. (This big one!)

Imagine a camera sensor as a collection of lots of smaller sensors. Each collect red, green, or blue light. These sensors are packed together to get an image that measures 3024 by 4032 pixels. (Technically each pixel on that sensor is called a ‘photosite,’ as they collect, yes, photons)

You’d think a bigger sensor means more pixels — and indeed, a bigger sensor could allow you to pack in more pixels. But we’re at a point of diminishing returns in megapixel wars.

Instead, Apple decided to make the the photo sites bigger, because one most important aspects of image quality images (and really, life in general) is signal to noise.

An important note on the difference between the Max and non-Max:

Here’s why we’re seeing stories that the camera is a minor difference at best: Most people who aren’t seeing the dramatic difference are shooting in daylight, with a fast ƒ/1.6 lens. On top of that, Apple’s intelligent image processing combines multiple shots together, which makes it harder to look into the hardware.

The visuals and diagrams here, especially of the sensors, are really cool. This is great work.

I still don’t want the huge phone, but it sure does look amazing.

Apple reduces commission for small developers

Yesterday Apple announced some great news for small businesses on the App Store: it is reducing its standard fee on App Store transactions from 30% to 15%.

Developers that make less than $1 million per year on the App Store will receive the new commission rate automatically starting next year. If a developer goes over the $1 million threshold within the year, they’ll be charged the standard 30% for the remainder of the year. There are details to come, but this seems very straight forward and fair.

This is an excellent strategy. It likely helps the vast majority of developers on the store, and encourages new apps to be developed that maybe couldn’t have been earlier. A 30% commission is a very high fee to pay for a small business selling software. 15% is significantly better. It’s still very high compared to normal payment processing vendors at around 3%, but this is still a big deal. (Especially since the other app stores will likely follow along soon.)

The incentives are well aligned here for Apple and developers. This encourages new apps and new developers which should have a positive impact on the number of great apps on the store for users. Apple likely is giving up very little in the long run here, because App Store revenue is very clearly tied to the big players.

This is a great first step in the direction of a better App Store economy for developers. Great move here, Apple.

MacOS App Security Histrionics

Nick Heer, with an excellent breakdown of last week’s drama regarding the MacOS signature verification process that caused my Thursday panic attack:

For a few hours on Big Sur’s launch day, Apple’s overwhelmed servers prevented a MacOS process called trustd from quickly verifying signatures using the Online Certificate Status Protocol, or OCSP. This affected many versions of MacOS and manifested as applications taking forever to launch, and some general slowness.

This problem sucked, but it was resolved quickly. I hope a future MacOS update has a patch for whatever bug created this misbehaviour. But, this being the internet, it somehow snowballed into a crisis — MacOS is apparently spying on users, it’s worse in Big Sur, and that means Apple’s new M1 products that run nothing but Big Sur are evil surveillance devices that should not be bought by anyone. Or, at least, that’s what you would think if you read Jeffrey Paul’s article that hit the top of Techmeme and Hacker News[.]

This is another case where the first article that spreads around the web is a bit overblown and sensational, but the truth is less interesting or flashy so it doesn’t get as much coverage. The main issue in the aftermath of the event was not that the service went down, but rather the concern that Apple is sending usage information back it its servers to “keep track” of your computer usage, what apps you run, and from where.

Apple posted a support article over the weekend to clarify the security procedure:

These security checks have never included the user’s Apple ID or the identity of their device. To further protect privacy, we have stopped logging IP addresses associated with Developer ID certificate checks, and we will ensure that any collected IP addresses are removed from logs.

In addition, over the the next year we will introduce several changes to our security checks:

  • A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks
  • Strong protections against server failure
  • A new preference for users to opt out of these security protections

Call me naive, but I believe Apple and take their word in this instance. As probably the biggest company advocate for user privacy, it makes no senses to their business to break user trust for this use case. This incident was clearly a mistake and exposed some areas of the infrastructure that need to be improved and I’m happy to see Apple taking the opportunity to make things better in the long run.

When none of your apps work

Yesterday, mere hours after I boldly proclaimed that I would not be upgrading to Big Sur in order to keep my Macs stable and working properly: my Macs just stopped working.

First my desktop just was extremely sluggish. This isn’t the newest Mac around, so I’m used to a few delays every so often. But this was different. I couldn’t open any new apps, and the ones that I had open seemed to be locking up.

I was running late for a video call, so I quickly switched over to my MacBook Pro to hop into the meeting. But then the laptop was having the same problem! Luckily I already had a browser open and was able to join my call.. in the midst of a full on my-computers-are-being-hacked panic.

It turns out it wasn’t just me. I should have consulted Twitter more quickly, but the issue was making its rounds around the developer community. There is a process by which Apple verifies a “Developer ID” when an app launches to verify it is valid and not malware, etc. This is a perfectly valid reason, but when the service that does the verification is having an outage it’s bad news.

This was a nightmare situation for the team at Apple I’m sure, especially on the launch day for the new operating system version. But come on, this is ridiculous. There is no reason that a locally installed and valid application shouldn’t immediately run when opened without having to check with Apple.

What it’s Like to Receive Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine

Interesting account in D Magazine here locally by Will Maddox, about the Pfizer Covid–19 vaccine that made news earlier this week.

The Pfizer vaccine involves two shots taken three weeks apart. Casanova says the first shot, which is merely an introduction that allows the body to get used to the messenger so the immune system can start developing antibodies, had nearly no impact. He said there was some soreness where the injection happened, but other than that, he thought he had received the placebo; he had no symptoms.

Three weeks later, when he received the second shot, he was sure that it was the vaccine. The second shot is a booster, which allows the immune system to kick into action, creating antibodies. The response was noticeable but didn’t last long. He experienced flu-like symptoms, with some chills as he went to bed. By 3 a.m., the symptoms were gone.

Big Sur Day

As announced during this week’s Apple event, macOS Big Sur will be released today. I haven’t been using the betas this year since I really don’t have a need to develop for the Mac at the moment, but everything I hear about it doesn’t sound like it’s ready.

I’m a very slow upgrader of Mac operating systems. I wait as long as I possibly can, and usually until Xcode doesn’t work any longer with the previous operating system. The past 5 or so years of Mac upgrades have been increasingly buggy and always have an interruption to my productivity. I understand that the Mac isn’t as big or important as iOS, and that the system is much older, but I really wish Apple would take the care to make things stable before releasing them.

Why do we need new operating systems each year for the Mac? I think most people would be just fine with slower, more stable releases. This is especially true for a computing system that many people rely on for their work. This is a mature platform and doesn’t need near the iterations that the phones or tablets do.

That being said, Big Sur does look very nice. I like the design refresh from the screenshots I’ve seen and I think it’ll be a nice improvement when I upgrade next year.

The M1

Yesterday Apple officially announced the M1 Chip and the initial lineup of new Macs using it. I’ve been looking forward to hearing about this since the transition was announced at WWDC this year.

The first Macs to use the new chip are, predictably, those Macs that do not require extreme performance characteristics. It seems like the MacBook Air, 13" Pro, and even the Mac mini are just scaled up form factors loosely based around the iPad Pro lineup of chips. This is a great place to start and I’ll be curious to hear about the performance of these machines over the months to come. The MacBook Air is really a perfect starting point. It’s a relatively cheap and baseline model laptop that is suitable for most ‘normal people’ that don’t have complex computing needs. These people are most likely to not even notice or care about the chipset inside the computer, but will certainly notice the longer battery life .

The Mac mini is a curious inclusion in this first round of updates. I’ve been eyeing a mini for a while now to solve some uninteresting needs in my office, and was about to pick one up this week before the announcement. I’m glad I waited! I don’t have anything performance intensive for my use case (basically just a network file server) so I’m going to pick up one of the M1 minis to try it out. I think it’s a bit strange that the mini has the exact same chip (from what I can tell) as the laptops, but doesn’t need to fit within the same power envelope at all. The mini is plugged into power all of the time, and has no battery, so I’m wondering why it couldn’t have a more powerful chip. Maybe the M1 is so good it doesn’t matter.

This is the first step of several over the next few years for Apple to transition its chips entirely to its own silicon. There are plenty of Intel Macs still for sale, and it seems like that will be the case for at least a year or two. This week’s announcements are a very solid first step.

Austin Mann’s iPhone 12 Pro Max Review

Austin Mann has another beautiful review of the new iPhone 12. This time it is for the iPhone 12 Max Pro. This year’s Max variant has much better camera specs than the non-Max-Pro, so I’ve been curious to see the results.

I knew the Max would be a great camera and I loved shooting the photos above, but I was really curious to learn if the Max hardware upgrades would be worth carrying the larger device even though I definitely prefer the smaller size of the already powerful iPhone 12 Pro.

I shot in tons of different lighting scenarios, and frankly in many of the scenes both cameras rendered a beautiful image and I could barely see a difference between iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Glad to hear this, to be honest, after getting the non-Max myself. I just don’t like having the massive phone in my pocket.

Back to Reality: Covid-19

With the majority of the election coverage and news now behind us, it’s time to get back on with life in 2020. Over the past week, while we all watched the election coverage on the edge of our collective seats, over 720,000 Americans tested positive for Covid–19. 49,953 in Texas alone. Yikes. This is going in the wrong direction.

A few potentially good notes to be optimistic about:

Pfizer announced this morning its vaccine has been 90% effective in preventing the disease:

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID–19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID–19,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO. “We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen. With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

From the New York Times feature by Katie Thomas, David Gelles, and Carl Zimmer:

The company said that the analysis found that the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in preventing the disease among trial volunteers who had no evidence of prior coronavirus infection. If the results hold up, that level of protection would put it on par with highly effective childhood vaccines for diseases such as measles. No serious safety concerns have been observed, the company said.

Pfizer plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization of the two-dose vaccine later this month, after it has collected the recommended two months of safety data. By the end of the year it will have manufactured enough doses to immunize 15 to 20 million people, company executives have said.

This is extremely encouraging news. (Pfizer stock is up 11% as of this writing, wow.)

Also this morning, the Biden-Harris transition team announced its Covid–19 task force members. They also have a seven-point plan to beat the virus, including:

  • Ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing.
  • Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic – and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through.
  • Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines — because development isn’t enough if they aren’t effectively distributed.
  • Rebuild and expand defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.

Sounds like a great start to me. Looking forward to seeing the follow-through on all of these items. I’m optimistic, but this is going to be tough.

Election Week

It’s been a wild and tiresome week in the United States. As of right now, on Saturday, there still is no official winner to the presidential election. We could hear an update this weekend, or not.

This week I was unable to focus very hard on anything else. How can I be productive when the balance of our country is in limbo? Sure, it’s just one election but it seems so much bigger than anything in our lifetimes and the moment is weighing heavily.

Sadly, this was not the repudiation and pushback of the Trumpian ways that some, including yours truly, had hoped for. By most accounts, Biden is expected to win big in the electoral college. Perhaps by winning 300 electoral votes. That’s big in terms of a traditional presidential election. But there are still over 69 million people in this country that lived through the past four years of this mess, and still said “yes, more of that please.” I have trouble wrapping my head around that.

Yesterday I was walking around our neighborhood trying to stay calm and I tried to tune in to a conservative media radio show. I wanted to hear the perspective and get a balance of opinions on what was going on. It was shocking. The host was livid, talking about votes that are being manufactured out of thin air to steal the presidency away. I lasted about a minute before I had to switch it off. I understand these shows are entertainment-based and they need to cater to their audience for ratings and continued relevance. But this is a dangerous precedent. Votes are not being manufactured. They are being counted. There is no evidence of any widespread fraud. There is no conspiracy here. This is a system, however broken and biased as it is, that’s working.

I’m not sure where this country goes from here. I’m still optimistic that good people will prevail and that we’re going to be able to come together again despite our differences. I still have hope.

Some Election Week Quick Hits

A few other observations and notes from this week:

  • John King from CNN is a national treasure. He’s been so calm, clear, and informative this week. This election has been incredibly complicated and he walks through it with ease. Bravo.
  • Polling: Is polling dead? For the past two presidential elections (2016, and now in 2020) the mainstream polling efforts have been completely wrong. I know these folks are working hard and doing their best, but is this the time to rethink everything?
  • Georgia: Wow. I did not see that one coming. And it seems much of the credit in some areas is due to Stacey Abrams who helped motive and register almost 800,000 new voters. Incredible work.
  • Arizona: A traditionally republican state, and the home of the late John McCain, is on the brink of turning blue for Biden. I love the fact that traditional strongholds for one party are suddenly in play. It’s a good thing for our democracy that more places are up for grabs.
  • Pennsylvania: I’ve never been more proud of Pennsylvania, a state that I called home for four years. It looks like, perhaps as early as today, PA could be the deciding factor. Cheers to my old friends in Philadelphia and around the state.
  • The Daily: The podcast from the NY Times has been very informative and helpful to have a daily recap of everything going on with the election. The Times’ coverage of everything has been very good this year, and The Daily is at the top of my list.
  • Lastly, Texas. We almost did it. Strangely it seems that one of the major reasons Texas stayed red was a surge of Hispanic voters in southern counties voting for Trump. I wouldn’t have predicted that one.

Here’s hoping we get some resolution and can move on from the election this weekend.

Election Day

It’s here. It’s finally election day. It’s finally time once again to let the American people weigh in on the direction of this country and who is going to lead it. This should normally be an encouraging and exciting day, but this year is anything but normal. I’m anxious and worried about not only who will win the big races, but how it will all go down.

My hope and wish is that when the dust settles, we will be through this national disgrace that has been the Trump presidency. It’s time to move forward as a nation and heal the wounds together.

Joe Biden is not our savior. He’s not perfect. He wasn’t many of our first, second, or even third choice for this position. But here we are in our two party system. To me, Joe Biden represents a giant step forward to return the presidency and our country to a position of respect and leadership. I think he’s a good man who generally cares about people and this country. That used to be a given about most politicians, but not anymore.

We need a president that is rooted in basic morals, decency, and respect for the office, and for the American people as a whole. The longer we continue to normalize deception, lies, divisiveness, and selfish gains over the public good, the further our country fails into disrepair. It will take multiple presidents and perhaps an entire generation to repair the damage that has been done to our political system but we have to start somewhere. I think Joe can be the start.

If Trump is defeated, my hope is that the Republicans who claim to be men-of-character and decency will realize that hitching their wagon to him is no longer a positive political choice. I hope they embrace a new reality where working together with Democrats to compromise and find a working model of government is a priority. I hope we can go back to peacefully and respectfully disagreeing on policy decisions. It’s perfectly acceptable for us to have disagreements but it should be on the basis of facts and perspectives instead of fears, hate, and lies. I remain, perhaps foolishly, optimistic that politics can return to being boring and uninteresting in pursuit of the greater public good again.

I want to return to the days where if someone in public office lies, cheats, or does something illegal, then they are removed from office in a sweeping and bipartisan fashion. No one is above the law. We’ve lost our way here and it’s a dangerous trend that left unchecked will cause more damage than we’ll ever know.

History will not look back fondly upon this time in our country. This has been a time when we squandered our position of integrity and respect in the world. We’ve lost our way when it comes to fairness, reason, and a guiding moral compass. But how we act on this day and the next few weeks will chart our course for the decades to come.

This isn’t a normal election. This is us, planting a flag in the ground, and standing up for what is good, right, and the best for all of us.

I hope.

A Guy Walks Into an Apple Store

Matt Birchler’s plausible conversation taking place in Apple stores about the iPhone 12:

“Hello, I’d like to buy one of the new iPhones, please!”

“Sure thing, here’s the new iPhone 12. It’s fast, beautiful, and is generally awesome.”

“Sweet, I’ll take it. This box is really small.”

“Yup, that’s because Apple is making the environmental move to reduce waste and not give you yet another charging brick when you, a loyal Apple customer likely have tons of these already.”

“I have bought a new iPhone every 2 years for as long as iPhones have existed, I’m extremely loyal! So I can use one of the half dozen bricks I have in my house already?”

“Well, no, see the included Lightning cable doesn’t work with any brick we’ve shipped with an iPhone except last year’s iPhone 11 Pro.”

Apple’s reasons for not including the charger in the box this year are the environment and because everyone already has a charger. But the new MagSafe charging is only available with the new adapter this year that no one has.

Halide Mark II

Speaking of Halide, yesterday they announced a completely new version 2.0, aka “Mark II”. (Nice name.) This update sounds absolutely incredible for camera nerds including yours truly.

Ben Sandofsky, developer of Halide, explains some of the new features:

Mark II is the first camera to capture both classic RAWs and computational photos in one burst with a feature we call Coverage. Now you can take amazing photos that leverage all the advanced photography of the latest iPhones, while having a RAW in your back pocket in case you think you can do better.

Coverage takes a photo with all of Apple’s smartest processing: that is, Smart HDR 3, Deep Fusion, the works — and then also snaps a RAW DNG and saves it all in one file. So you can shoot first, and ask questions (like “Do I want to edit this as a RAW file?”) later.

And later:

We found that there’s two ways to help people take better photos.

The first is creating a button or a filter to magically make images look better. This is great: it makes for instant results, feels empowering and requires little effort from aspiring photographers. In a way, Apple’s Smart HDR and our Instant RAW do this. Unfortunately, this does limit creativity, as you have to make decisions on the photographer’s behalf in how images are taken and rendered.

The second is helping people learn the fundamentals of photography. Our simple interface has already helped many of people learn more about RAW, manual focus, and more. But we can do better. We can be an app that makes people better photographers.

iPhone 12 Reviews

The reviews for the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are out this week. The most interesting new models (the Mini and 12 Pro Max) aren’t out yet, so we’ll wait until next month to hear about those.


Austin Mann’s reviews are always beautiful and this year’s is no different, from Glacier National Park in Montana.

The iPhone 12 Pro is a solid camera, and thanks to a bunch of new digital tech I found it to be slightly stronger than the already great iPhone 11 Pro — but if you are serious about photography with your iPhone, wait for the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It looks to be the most significant jump in iPhone camera hardware we’ve experienced in years, and it’s only three weeks away.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows I prefer to carry a smaller iPhone because it fits better in my pocket, it’s easier to hold, and it’s overall more discreet. That said, I definitely want the new camera capabilities of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, so I’m planning to adapt to the slightly larger device to get significantly more hardware horsepower.

On the forthcoming ProRAW:

Traditionally, RAW files themselves can’t be edited. When adjustments are made, they’re stored in a reference file instead of destructively changing the original image file.

With this in mind, many publications require the submission of RAW files for the images sent in by photographers. This allows them to examine the original, untouched data and helps protect their legitimacy as a news source.

If the ProRAW format really does work this way, it marks an important step forward in the validation of the iPhone camera as a tool photographers can rely on to deliver client work, particularly in the editorial space.

Interesting, I didn’t know this.


John Gruber focused quite a bit of his review on the size and the feel of the new models:

If I had my druthers, I would prefer the matte aluminum band and glossy back of the regular iPhone 12 and the three-lens-plus-lidar camera system of the 12 Pro. Of this, I am dead certain about preferring the glossy glass back over matte. I’m less certain about preferring the look and feel of the matte aluminum band and buttons. Saving a bit of weight, though, is a sure-fire advantage for aluminum over steel. So if I had the opportunity right now, as I type this sentence, to configure my ideal iPhone 12, that’s what I’d specify: the glossy back and aluminum sides of the regular 12 and the camera system from the 12 Pro.


Matthew Panzarino on the size and weight too:

One thing worth mentioning here too is that the iPhone 12 Pro is 189 grams where the iPhone 12 is 164 grams. While it may seem silly to note a 25 gram difference, I can say that in practice it does feel quite a bit lighter

Overall, the iPhone 12 feels like the Timex to the iPhone 12 Pro’s Rolex. It’s a great daily driver that feels light and fun. The iPhone 12 Pro leverages refinement as a category differentiator projecting a solidity that plays into the “Pro” posturing.

I have seen a few fine scratches crop up on my iPhone 12’s screen. I am not particularly careful with my review units, as I think it is my duty to treat these things as utility items that will get intense daily usage. Which is what they are. Nothing insanely noticeable, mind you, but whatever the improvements to overall hardness the new Corning Ceramic Shield process brings to the table it is not and will not be invincible to wear and tear.


Joanna Stern’s review has a great video from MetLife Stadium too which focuses on the 5G radios:

Despite being marketed as our technological savior, 5G—the next generation of cellular connectivity—is not a killer feature for the new iPhone 12 models. At least not in the U.S., not yet.

Cuttin’ Grass

Sturgill Simpson announcing his new bluegrass album last week:

So on one of many boring days in quarantine, I made some goofy post in character as a backwoods badass named “Dick Daddy” running a fictitious survival school looking for new recruits, and somebody commented, “If you put that on a t-shirt, I’d buy it.” So I thought, what if I put it on 30,000 t-shirts and give that money to charity? Having been personally affected by this virus, I was trying to think of some way to help and to use the platform for something other than narcissism or toxicity. The response was amazing and hilarious. I received some pretty far-out recruit application videos in those weeks from people stuck at home trying to “live above Hell.”

In an effort to raise more money, I told my fans that if they hit a certain number by a deadline, I would put on a livestream concert, and if we reached a second goal, I’d put a record out this year. Well, they blew those goals completely out of the water, so really it was the fans made this album happen. Otherwise I may have just as easily spent all summer fishing and changing diapers. I called up my engineer/co-producer/partner in crime, David Ferguson and said, “Get all the best players in town,” and we went in and banged this record out in about three days, with no planning or preparation.

Great album. The live stream earlier this year is really great as well. Given everything going on this month, I needed this. Listen on Apple Music or Spotify.

The iPhone 12 Camera

Sebastiaan de With, designer of my favorite iOS camera app Halide, with a few excellent notes about the iPhone 12’s camera changes:

But if you like large phones, this is your year. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the real goods.

In addition to a better lens, the 12 Pro Max has the room to pack a new, 47% larger sensor. That means bigger pixels, and bigger pixels that capture more light simply means better photos. More detail in the day, more light at night. That combines with the lens to result in almost twice as much light captured: Apple claims an 87% improvement in light capture from the 11 Pro. That’s huge.

But that’s not its only trick: the 12 Pro Max’s Wide system also gets a new sensor-shift OIS system. OIS, or Optical Image Stabilization, lets your iPhone move the camera around a bit to compensate for your decidedly unsteady human trembly hands. That results in smoother video captures and sharp shots at night, when the iPhone has to take in light over a longer amount of time.

I really don’t want a giant phone, but these improvements are noteworthy.

The MacStories Review of iOS 14

Federico Viticci has done an incredible job reviewing iOS 14 for MacStories. There is so much detail in here that it’s going to take a few days to read the whole thing. The animations and design of the review are delightful too. Bravo.

iOS and iPadOS 14 aren’t just reactionary updates to criticisms and feature requests though: upon further examination, both OSes reveal underlying threads that will shape the evolution of Apple’s platforms. With compact UI, the company is revisiting a principle introduced in iOS 7 – clarity and content first – with fresh eyes: the UI is receding and becoming more glanceable, but the elements that are left are as inviting to the touch as ever – quite the departure from Jony Ive’s overly minimalistic, typography-based approach. We see this trend everywhere in iOS 14, from phone calls and Siri to widgets, new toolbar menus, and Picture in Picture.

Early Voting Sets Records in Texas

Encouraging news on early voting here in Texas. Shawn Mulcahy, reporting for The Texas Tribune:

The first day of early voting in Texas saw long lines, a record number of voters in the state’s most populous county and relatively few hitches as voters surged to polling places despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Voters in Harris County shattered the record for in-person ballots cast on the first day of early voting, with more than 128,000 people voting, according to the county elections office. The previous record was set in 2016, when about 68,000 people cast votes there.

Dallas County, also has had record numbers on the first day according to The Dallas Morning News. A link you should not click on because of the dumpster fire that is the DMN site, but alas:

As of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dallas County, Texas’ second-largest county, reported more than 59,734 votes, eclipsing its previous record of 59,389 votes in 2018. However, a county official said that number could change as data is reconciled.

Great news all around. Let’s keep this up!

The October Apple Event

Another year, another iPhone announcement from Apple. Time marches on and the product continuously and incrementally improves. Yesterday Apple announced this year’s new iPhone lineup in a nicely choreographed video presentation, much like the one last month, and WWDC this June.

A few quick thoughts on the iPhone announcement for this year:

  • I really like the introduction of the iPhone 12 Mini. I wish there was a “Pro” mini that could contain the latest and greatest camera and technology but maintain the smaller form factor. There’s probably not enough room in that small case to fit everything in the Pro line, but a boy can dream.
  • 5G seems like a nice upgrade in ideal conditions. Who knows whether reality will match up to this pitch. I’m lucky enough to be in a large city with good coverage so I’m optimistic. But I bet many new phone buyers won’t even notice a difference — which makes it a strange point to focus on so much during the presentation.
  • Speaking of focusing on 5G: why was Verizon involved in this presentation at all? Apple gave major stage time to a single US carrier and made it seem like these features are only available on Verizon (they’re not) and that Verizon is the only Apple-approved vendor that matters (they’re not). The whole thing was weird. How much money did Apple receive from Verizon to co-opt its event? I’m not sure it was worth it. (Nothing against Verizon here, but it just seemed out of place.)
  • I welcome the return of flat sides on the phones. The past few years’ phones have been so slippery and smooth I’m hoping this is a return to some sort of grip-ability without needing to install a case from day one. We shall see.
  • The MagSafe charging and accessories look pretty cool. I like the effort put into this, and it seems like a clear improvement over the basic charging pads that work today. It’s no fun when you wake up in the morning to find your phone uncharged because it was a centimeter off center on the charging pad.
  • Like the Apple Watch of last month, Apple is not including the charger or headphones in the box with new iPhones. They claim this is for environmental purposes, which is valid. But if it’s for environmental purposes, then why not knock $30 off the price? It seems very disingenuous to claim an environmental benefit when it appears to be a profit margin incentive.
  • The Pro Max bigger phone has a nicer camera sensor and a few other camera features not present in the normal-human-hand-sized Pro. This is disappointing. I really dislike the giant phone, but one of the primary reasons to upgrade is to get the latest camera tech. I’m torn here, but probably will need to stick with something reasonably-sized.

Preorders are spread out throughout the next month starting this Friday. At this point I’m leaning towards the 12 Pro in the new blue colored finish. Looks pretty sharp to me.


Presentation-wise, I think that Apple is doing a fantastic job here. The video production teams at Apple are so great and sometimes it seems like they are just flexing while the rest of industry is playing catch-up. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s great CG work by the production teams. And I say that in a good way.

Also announced yesterday was a new HomePod: The HomePod mini. This is a smaller version of the HomePod from a few years ago with some nice new features like an in-home intercom system, proximity sensors devices, and Siri enhancements. It’s $99 for the HomePod mini, which is much more competitive than the original model. This is the device Apple should have launched years ago to compete with the Alexa and Google Home products.

Overall I thought this event was a solid move in forward direction. Nothing terribly different or astounding, but great incremental progress around the board.

Eddie Van Halen on Hacking the Guitar

Eddie Van Halen himself, writing about his guitars, patents, and tinkering mindset for Popular Mechanics back in 2015:

My playing style really grew from the fact that I couldn’t afford a distortion pedal. I had to try to squeeze those sounds out of my guitar. The first real work I did was in my bedroom. I added pickups, because I didn’t like the sound of the originals.

I couldn’t afford a router—I didn’t even know what a router was—so I started hammering away with a screwdriver. That didn’t work at all. Chunks of wood flew off and there was sawdust flying all over the place. But I was on a mission. I knew what I wanted and I just kept at it until I finally got there.

I also had no idea until this week that he owns several patents for his innovations. Including this one with, quite possibly, the best patent image ever.

Eddie Van Halen Set an Unprecedented Standard for the Art of Guitar Music

Craig Jenkins, with a wonderfully written obituary and remembrance of Eddie Van Halen:

Eddie Van Halen’s impact on the guitar is more than a matter of perfect solos, influential techniques, and enterprising mixing of genres. His experimentation with synths was an endeavor he’d have to drag the band and their producer into; he’d record enticing song fragments in his home studio before fighting tooth and nail to get the rest of the band to bite. (The keyboard part that ended up on “Jump” was created during sessions for an earlier album and rejected. Resurrected for 1984, the song became the band’s first and only No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.) Frankenstrat — his signature red, white, and black guitar — took its name from the shifting rotation of Fender Stratocaster and Gibson parts he’d assembled it out of. In the ’80s, he created a patent for a contraption that propped up a guitar, freeing a musician from holding the instrument upright, an idea no doubt inspired by the tapping technique he popularized earlier in his career that allowed him to zip between notes by hitting the frets without having to strum. He continued tinkering in his later years as he did in his youth, drafting innovative solutions to the limitations of his instrument he’d encounter as he played it.

Easter Eggs and Product Placements

Happy Friday. It’s been another wild week of debate, drama, and life in a pandemic. Here’s a few less important things for this week.

Instagram brings back classic icons to celebrate its tenth birthday – The classic Instagram icon and branding is just so much better than the new modern style. I’ve switched back to the 2011-era icon. I also miss the era of ‘Easter eggs’ like this within software.

New Microsoft Surface Laptops – These look very nice. I wish Apple would up its game a bit and think outside of its current model we’ve been stuck in for what feels like forever. The tiny, light ARM-based Surface Pro X looks super cool and has LTE connectivity and a long battery life. If it ran macOS it would be the perfect travel computer!

Toonie Newsletter – A new newsletter from Josh Ginter about personal finance for people who are looking to build wealth over the long term and make smart financial decisions. I would have liked this sort of thing to exist 20 years ago for myself, hopefully others find it helpful. Why don’t they teach this sort of thing in public schools?

All Consuming – New podcast by Noah Kalina and Adam Lisagor reviewing all of those direct-to-consumer products that appear on your Instagram timeline.

25 days to go

Moleskinning a Blog

The Dent, on blogging and what to blog:

Despite barely posting to my blog for months, I’m still weirdly precious about what I post there. I always feel like I should only post longer form posts or something that I’ve over thought.

My little blog isn’t going to get popular, and frankly I wouldn’t want the pressure of it being so. Because of this, it’s completely unnecessary for me to be so protective of the kind of content I share here. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this in the past, but I’m once again going to make a concerted effort to just post.

Nitin Khanna introduced me to the term of “moleskinning” your blog here, which makes perfect sense:

[…] stop moleskinning your blog. It’s not a perfect, pristine place which must always reflect the best work you’ve ever done. It’s alive. It’s a creative space where your ideas should stare you in the face so you can always work on them, and when they’re presentable, you can show them to the world. If you don’t ever want to, that’s fine too.

I’m still not quite sure how to approach what I post here on this blog. Looking back over time, I’d like to to be a loose record of the things that I was into and what was important in the world at that time. So far that’s the case. I’m guilty of over-thinking that a lot, though, and I’d like to get better. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Just publishing something is the goal.

via Matt Birchler