Tag Archives: apple

Which Apple Watch Series 4?

Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 4 – but with a fake or real Milanese loop?

I have one of those decision-making problems again. After pre-ordering the Apple Watch Series 4 in Stainless Steel as soon as it became available, getting it on release day, and marvelling at just how much better it was in literally every way (besides, maybe, telling the time) than my old Series 0, I returned it before my 14 days was up. All because I’m not sure if I want the regular Stainless Steel, or the Space Black Stainless Steel.

As I said on Twitter, it’s not that I dislike the regular Stainless Steel. I’ve worn a Stainless Steel Series 0 since day one of the Apple Watch, so I’d like to think I know what it does well. It has plenty of advantages that the Space Black doesn’t, including a classic/timeless look, the fact that it probably combines better with more bands, wears better over time, and looks marginally better in various situations or when paired with different outfits.

I mean, most classic watches you see come in silver. Putting aside the issue of watch/lug mismatch for a moment, there’s probably a reason why the Apple Watch Hermés only comes in the Stainless Steel, and even though you’ll eventually get scratches on your Stainless Steel, they’re not something a casual observer of your watch is likely to notice. If they do bother you up close and in the right light, you can either polish them out, or write them off to “character”, a sign that your watch is worn and loved.

As much I loved everything about the Series 4 hardware, I wasn’t sure about the finish. To me, it was as if I had simply swapped my old Apple Watch for a newer model, one that looked basically identical to the one I had before. Don’t get me wrong, the Stainless Steel Series 4 looked extremely nice on my wrist, exactly like a premium watch should — especially when paired with something like the Milanese loop — but for whatever reason, I wasn’t enamoured with it like I feel like I should have been. Some of that can probably be attributed to it looking near-identical to the one I had before, meaning it didn’t have as much of that “new and shiny” effect associated with any new technology purchase, even through it was, literally and undoubtedly, new and shiny.

I didn’t hate the regular Stainless Steel, but the problem is, I didn’t really love it, either.

Enter, Space Black Stainless Steel.

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Evolution

MacBook Pro Retina unboxing

At the start of the year, I picked up a MacBook Pro with Retina display. Half late-graduation present, half-birthday present to myself. It’s the best Mac I’ve ever used, but then again, why wouldn’t it be?

I mean, you would think that given the innumerable and considerable technology advancements since the last time I purchased a Mac (March 2011), that any new Mac would improve upon every aspect of my previous Mac and then some. I don’t know about you, but I would definitely be questioning what the tech industry was doing if there were regressions of any kind.

Thankfully, there aren’t. I’m excited to say that the MacBook Pro with Retina display gets pretty damn close to my perfect machine. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted from a portable Mac. It’s powerful without being too bulky or heavy. It has great battery life without sacrificing portability, and while it may not be as upgradeable as I’d like (more on this in a bit), that’s a compromise I’m willing to accept for a machine that is otherwise everything I’ve ever wanted out of a personal computer, especially seeing as Apple offer configure-to-order options that satisfy the vast majority of customers, including your truly.

Because specs matter, my MacBook Pro comes with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of flash storage. The amount Apple charge for the 1TB flash storage upgrade borders on the extortionate, but there’s a price for everything, and that was a price I was willing to pay for some of the highest-performing flash storage around. Yes, my new MacBook Pro cost me a pretty penny, but considering this is a computer I’ll be using for hours at a time, every day for the next three to four years, I think the price was pretty reasonable. And since my Retina MacBook Pro now supports 4K displays at 60Hz, I don’t think I’ll be upgrading from this machine any time soon.

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Welcome to AppleTalk →

Last week, I quit MacTalk. Yesterday, I, along with a number of other co-conspirators, launched AppleTalk Australia, a new site for Apple enthusiasts to chat about anything related to Apple.

Yours truly on the welcome post:

So, this is us. A new name, a new front page, a new discussion platform. A fresh start in many respects, and a clean slate in every other. We’ll still be covering all things Apple, Mac, and iOS, and we’ll do so from that unique Australian perspective you’ve come to know and enjoy. For starters, we’ll be taking it slow with a daily news summary from the world of Apple from yours truly. Over time, we’ll add reviews, how-tos, and editorials into the mix, and we’ll see where things go from there.

It’s our own foray into the big, bad world of online publishing. We’re funding the entire thing ourselves for the time being, and once we get something resembling a readership, we’ll look into sponsorships, running ads, or other alternatives for revenue. We’ve put a bunch of effort into it, and it’s turned out pretty well so far — I can only hope it lives up to our readers’, and our own, lofty expectations.

If you’re wondering whether I knew about it before I left MacTalk, the answer is: yes, of course I did. After a number of years writing the daily news, I just wanted something of my own — a property (besides this blog) I could be proud of, one that I could look back on and pat myself on the back about.

The front-end is powered by WordPress, and the forums are powered by Discourse. I’ve been using WordPress for years, but Discourse is an entirely new thing.

Ever since it was introduced, I’ve wanted to work with Discourse. Something about it just seemed like the future of online discussion platforms — and from everything that I’ve seen of it so far, I’m wondering why people are even bothering with the alternatives, the established players in the forum space (phpBB, vBulletin, etc). There’s just so much to love about it that everything else seems outdated by comparison. It’s modern. It’s open-source. I have no experience with Ruby, the language that it’s built with, but thankfully I haven’t had to dive into any code thus far — the admin panel is well-organised and fully featured enough so that hasn’t had to happen.

There are those that think Discourse looks “samey”, and like any default theme, I agree wholeheartedly. We’ve customised the AppleTalk install a little, and it’s amazing what you can do with a splash of colour and a few custom avatars.

As Mr Wells said on the Reckoner podcast (where I spilled the beans about AppleTalk before it was actually live), it’s been a long time since there was a good Apple forum for Australians, by Australians. It’s my fervent hope that AppleTalk becomes that new forum, and I, along with my partners in crime Toby and Bart, am prepared to commit as much as it takes to make that happen.

As they used to say, “this is my next”.

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The iPad mini

iPad mini white

I have this weird thing where I’ll keep a tab open for days, weeks, even months, if there’s something even potentially interesting that I can’t deal with right now, but want to do something with eventually. Before you ask, yes, I have heard of bookmarks, but ask any nerd and they’ll tell you they do a similar thing with their browser tabs. It’s not uncommon to have umpteen tabs open at any one time — and of all the stuff I have backed up, I’d be pretty devastated if I lost all my tabs. I could potentially get them back, but that involves trawling through days, maybe even weeks of internet history.  When you visit as many websites as I do, it’s hard to tell what you had open as a tab and what you were merely browsing out of curiosity.

But I digress. I’ve had two tabs open for close to a year now, and as much as I’ve wanted to write something substantial about the iPad mini, there just isn’t anything worth writing about. Not because the iPad mini is boring or anything, but because I just haven’t been inspired to write anything worth publishing. Because when it comes down to it, the iPad just isn’t as interesting as the HP TouchPad was, back in the day. WebOS was just so bad and so good at the same time, you know?

I’ve owned an iPad mini since it was first released around this time last year. It wasn’t my first tablet, but it is my first iPad. I honestly don’t have anything else to say about it that hasn’t been said elsewhere, but with the new iPad Air coming out riding on the coat tails of the iPad mini, I thought I’d take a moment to write about how I’ve been using it.

I think the most telling thing about the iPad is that it hasn’t replaced my computer. That’s telling because I see a lot of older, mature folk replace their clunky Dells with futuristic, touch-enabled iPads, even if they don’t run the same programs as their old computer used to. Why? I’m not sure, exactly, but at a guess, it has something to do with how intuitive Apple has made iOS (and then turned everything upside down with iOS 7, but that’s for another time).

But as much as I enjoy using the iPad, it hasn’t replaced my computer. If all I’m doing is light web browsing and catching up on my Instapaper backlog, then sure, I’ll pick up the iPad over the MacBook Pro any day; the iPad is lighter, has a much longer battery life, and lets me concentrate on one thing at a time, for the most part. It’s kind of like the Kindle, in that regard. For everything else, there’s the Mac: for switching between any of my umpteen open tabs, writing content into browser text boxes, and doing any other kind of serious work.

I tried writing one of the MacTalk daily news posts on my iPad mini one time, and while it was OK, the software keyboard really hindered the process by needing to switch between the various keyboards to access special characters. I could have worked around the issue by using a hardware keyboard or using an app that offered an extra row of characters, but that would have required a little extra preparation on my part, something I wasn’t able to do at the time.

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My iPhone Home Screen

iphone 5 ios 7 home screen

Updated 1/11/13 for a few more iOS 7 app updates

It’s been a year since the last time I wrote one of these, so I figured it was about time I updated the previous post with everything that’s changed during that time.

IOS 7 brought a massive list of changes, first and foremost of which was a massive overhaul of how everything looks and feels. Some people absolutely hate it, but I like it, for the most part — it makes everything fun.

Anyway, let’s talk about some apps.

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Made in Australia for iOS 7 →

Instead of writing some epic thing about stuff you probably don’t care all that much about anyway, I thought I’d substitute one of my monthly pieces on here for something I wrote over on MacTalk.

I dug up a few apps designed for iOS 7 by Australian app developers, emailed a few guys, and asked some questions.

It took a little longer to write than I would normally spend on the news, but I think it was worth it.

Simplicity

AirPort Extreme

It just so happens there’s a reason people own Apple products.

That reason?

Simplicity.

If there’s a universal truth, it’s that people just want their stuff to work. No mess, no fuss. No one wants to know how their stuff works, they just want it to work every time, like it did the last time. No one really cares how it works — I mean, there’s only so many hours in the day. You could probably point to a dozen or more household appliances that few people could explain the inner workings of. Do you know how your fridge works? Do you know how an oven gets hot? Or how an induction cooktop generates energy? Most people have no idea.

And why? I’m not entirely sure myself, but there’s no reason to care how your microwave heats up your food, just so long as it does it every time you want it to. Magnets are probably involved somewhere in the process, but how many times will I have to take apart my microwave to fix it? Unless I suddenly get  a job as a microwave repair technician, none. Zero. Nada.

But look, I hear you. We’re nerds, and we like to know how stuff works. We like to know the ins and outs of every appliance, every kind of technology we come into contact with. I can understand wanting to know, merely out of pure curiosity, what kind of unfathomable magic makes water boil when no energy is directly transferred as heat that we can feel. (Again, magnets.)

Which is why projects like dd-wrt exist. DD-WRT, for those playing at home, is a totally custom router firmware that includes everything but the kitchen sink. The interface isn’t spectacular, but it’s packed to the gills with functionality, and provided you have the right kind of router to run dd-wrt on, you’re all set. Only a router-specific installation procedure to follow, a few harrowing moments when you might think you’ve bricked your new router, and boom — you’re running the arguably the most powerful third-party firmware out there.

I’ve always been curious about dd-wrt. I learned about it back in high school, I think, and I’ve wanted to play around with a dd-wrt compatible router ever since. I’ve never really had any real need for one, mind you, but it would have been cool to tinker. Just ‘cos, you know?

As it happened, I bought a Nintendo DS lite a little while ago for some old-timey DS games. (OK, Pokémon. But I’ve played other games, too!) The best thing about the DS lite is that it’s the best one available if you want the best combination of backwards-compatibility and, uh, homebrew media; it has an old-school GBA slot for Game Boy Advance cartridges, and with an Acekard or similar, you’re all set for just about any GBA or DS game you could care to name. It’s even better with a flashable GBA card for, uh, homebrew GBA games, but we’ll leave that for another time.

But the worst thing about the DS lite is that it only supports Wi-Fi networks with no encryption, or WEP. Now, I don’t know if you know, but WEP is about as secure as locking up your house with sticky tape. A miniscule deterrent at the most, and a mere inconvenience for anyone actually wanting to see what’s happening on your network.

Which brings us back to dd-wrt. You see, dd-wrt has a cool feature where it can broadcast multiple SSIDs if you have the right hardware. Each of these multiple SSIDs can have their own security settings, and if you really want, you can also choose to route traffic from each of the WLANs separately. Pretty cool if you have your CCNA cert, but otherwise just a hindrance to get some real stuff done.

Anyway, one thing lead to another, and just for fun, I picked up an E4200 wireless router to play with. I saw an Engadget article on the E4200 years ago, and I’ve always wanted one. Not really sure why. After a moderately complex installation process (are all those 30-30-30 resets really necessary?), I had dd-wrt up and running on my E4200.

That was when the real fun began.

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WWDC 2013 Thoughts and Musings

I had an exam so I couldn’t really get up to watch the keynote, but I did watch it earlier today. Since I didn’t get to live-tweet it with a few of my best buddies, I put together a few random thoughts — there’s a great summary of the event over at MacTalk, written by Rémy Numa, but this just what I came up with while watched the keynote earlier today. In somewhat chronological order, but still mostly just Things I Would Have Tweeted If I Was Watching It Live…

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Apple: iPhone, iPad, Mac are better products for most users

The reason I love my iPhone isn’t because it’s made by Apple, it’s simply because I think it’s the best mobile device ever made. And that’s where I’m going with all this — just hang in there, I know there’s probably some cute kitten with overlaid capitalized text on Facebook you’re thinking about checking out. The reason I compare every device to an iPhone is not because it’s an Apple product, it’s because Apple has done something that no other manufacturer in the world has done. Apple has created a product that isn’t a product. It’s a seamless, effortless, enjoyable extension of your computer and your life. In fact, you could now argue that a computer is just an extension of your phone, and you’d be right.

via Apple: iPhone, iPad, Mac are better products for most users.