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Animated Features are Totally Fine

I’m a visual effects artist. I took out a bunch of student loans (got an art degree in computer animation) and I moved to California to work on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe in 2005. I’ve seen the film visual effects industry in LA wither and die (it’s not quite dead yet). Countries, states, provinces, counties, cities, etc. all have politicians that get suckered in by some guys from the MPAA that lobby them on how much money their area could get back if they subsidize the film industry. It impacts productions in more ways than just VFX; even the film scores. It’s not just film, but also TV.

I am not going to render a judgement about whether or not this should be happening. I will render a judgement that it upends the lives of the people making film, and TV projects if they are required to move themselves, and their families, to wherever the tax credits are the strongest. It is, however, the reality.

California politicians are starting to face this reality, but they can’t justify matching the tax credits that exist elsewhere. The new credits are tepid, and won’t lure any of the film VFX that was lost back to California. It did, however, give the MPAA an excuse to host a meeting about how other states can counter anything from the CA credits. It’s hard to blame them for not racing to the bottom and participating in a bidding scheme that drains financial resources for a profitable private industry.

Knowing all of these things, I can’t recommend that any one with Hollywood Dreams choose to learn to do anything involved with moviemaking if they expect some kind of stable life. If they’re onboard with moving, not just to Vancouver, London, or New Zealand, but to literally any place that might draft more lucrative incentives, then that’s fine. Travel light.

Unfortunately, to add insult to industry, the very sites that are supposed to cover the field I am in are ignoring it. It makes more financial sense to cater to the desire to learn this craft — dare I say this art? — but it often feels like the sites can see only as far as their own belief in their own, for-profit training programs.

Amid Amidi, writing for Carton Brew, a site that posts the best about the animation industry, posted this lazy critique of visual effects yesterday:

While computer graphics and visual effects may have once been a California specialty, the largely technical nature of the accomplishment made its replication by foreign studios a foregone conclusion. That’s different from the feature animation industry, which is a more balanced marriage of technical and creative artistry. In the nearly 80-year-history of feature animation, no foreign studio has been able to consistently package globally-successful animated films with the winning formula used by American studios. If the state of California wanted to bolster any part of its film industry, it would have done better to double down on feature animation where it remains the clear and undisputed global leader.

What a load.

“Largely technical nature of the accomplishment” is so utterly disrespectful I have a hard time looking past it to the other erroneous statement that California should just throw money at animated productions. Need I remind Amid that almost everything is shared between live-action visual effects and animated productions? Need I remind him that people go back and forth between these roles for live-action and pure animation? To suggest that animation itself is somehow independent of visual effects houses is laughable. Foreign houses have also been able to do this work because they’ve hired people from California. All of those job postings are not strictly filled by residents of the country doing the work.

Also laughable is the suggestion that the animation industry in California is going to keep leading the world. Let’s break it down: There are three animation houses making feature-length work. Sony moved all production to Vancouver, and retain only story positions in CA. Disney Feature Animation, Pixar, and Dreamworks still make movies. Two of those are owned by Disney, and the third was is in such poor financial shape that it was shopped around and bought by Softbank. To put animation on a pillar independent of visual effects is, frankly, ludicrous. Disney is not a whole, healthy industry.

It is no small coincidence that Cartoon Brew hosts job boards for animators. Notice how many of their current listings aren’t even in the US, nor are they for any feature film company. How Amid came to his conclusions completely escapes me.

2014-10-28 2:17:17

Category: text


Oh, K

One of the things that stands out to me about the “iMac with Retina display” (the RiMac as I heard Casey Liss say on ATP) is that people are talking about how applications, and text look on it. How smooth the scrolling is. Do you hear the fan? The questions I have are about the images displayed on the screen.

4K video (part of the UHD specification) is the next phase in display evolution. Walk in to an electronics store and you will see several models advertising that they are 4K. That’s a lot of K! (Every kiss begins with Kay. (Shut up, no one will get that joke. (Sorry.))) HD resolution is either 720, or 1080, vertical lines of pixels. Most films are in 2K (basically 2048 wide, but there are a variety of sizes). 4K video, according to UHD, is 3840 pixels wide, by 2160 tall, which is 4 times the size of HD, instead of being 4,000+ pixels high, as the name might imply. There are 4K videos that are in the 4,000s, but if you see “4K Video” they mean it in the UHD way, not the 4,000+ way. The formating of this is seperate from the aspect ratio which is another thing I’ll move past here.

That sounds complicated, huh! Why can’t it just be one thing? Well, because reasons. Some historical reasons involve movies, and television shows. Remember that TV was a teeny-tiny 4:3 rectangle for almost all of its life? Film oscillated between the panoramic, and the intimate. Modern stuff is mostly just trying to fill 16:9 home television sets.

There are a few problems with 4K: There’s almost no content mastered in the format. There’s no medium, DVD or Blu-Ray, for transporting it, it’s only available with digital, streaming services. Only a handful of TV shows are shooting new things in UHD. Only a handful of films are shot, and fully mastered in anything other than 2K.

When Jason Snell (of Six Colors fame) took receipt of his new, Retina iMac this week, he solicited questions. I asked how it handled streaming 4K content from Netflix. Unfortunately, that was kind of a dumb question because Netflix only streams to select UHD television sets, directly. There is no option to stream to a computer at all, the Retina iMac can only get the normal HD stream that your Apple TV, or internet-enabled refrigerator, can receive.

Let’s do some math (Do we have to? (Yes!)): The RiMac has a resolution of 5120 pixels wide by 2880 pixels high. UHD 4k is 3840 pixels wide by 2160 high. That’s an area of 14,745,600 pixels vs. 8,294,400 pixels. That’s a 6,451,200 pixel difference. If Netflix let you watch one of the House of Cards episodes, or Smurfs 2, 4k streams, then your computer is still interpolating over 6 million pixels per each frame. That’s scaling something up by an extra 56%. That’s a lot!

It gets even more depressing when you consider HD streams. That’s 1280x720, or 921,600 pixels in area, or 1920x1080 for 2,073,600. Remember that there isn’t any way to get 4K video from Tinsel Town to RiMac in 4k, so you’re going to be blowing up something 7x if you want to watch it full screen.

People will point out that the human eye isn’t necessarily going to care, as long as you’re sitting a normal distance away from the display. Many people can’t tell the difference between a 720p and 1080p display from a few feet away. People will be sitting really close to their iMacs though. They’ll also be browsing for videos on the web. YouTube offers the ability to upload 2160p content (UHD 4K). That doesn’t mean a lot of it exists.

No phones shoot 4k (UPDATE: Anze Tomic points out that the wildly popular Xperia™ Z3 from Sony shoots in 4k), no consumer DSLR’s shoot it as video, no consumer tier cameras shoot it. You’re looking at moving up to a very high level to be able to shoot things like that right now.

Even in Apple’s keynote, they demonstrated it as a tool for a photographer to use. He editing photos with the unreleased Photos app and, he also edited video of his daughter (in 4k?) in Final Cut Pro X. Well, that’s a good, aspirational product. I always wanted to be a photographer from the future — It makes learning a lot easier.

Where 4K art Thou?

Naturally, as time marches on, more things will be shot, and mastered, in 4k. It is inevitable. It is its destiny.

However, there is a lot of legacy HD content that will be available for streaming for years. Even though many films are mastered in a higher resolution than HD, those masters are not available for purchase or streaming. Even if they were, those masters still aren’t the size of UHD, unless they’re from 4K cinema projection systems, in which case they’d be scaled down to UHD. Let us just say that you are a person paying for visual effects in a film, and let’s say you’re the kind of person that forces the work out of the country to get subsidies to pay for it, might you also be the kind of person that only pays for 2KDCI/2KFA work? Maybe? Just a hypothetical. Wouldn’t all those visual effects need to be scaled up to fit UHD? What if it was a modern superhero movie with 2,500-3,000 VFX shots? What might be more likely: Paying to scale up all the shots to UHD and then sending those interpolated pixels on to the customer.

While making UHD and “UHD” content available will start to pick up steam, we’ll continue our lovely battle over net neutrality. You see, a bajillion more pixels requires an itty-bitty-bit more internet bandwidth. Netflix recommends that you have a connection capable of 25 Mbps. Participants in Ookla’s internet speed testing service provide aggregate data about download speeds. While I am blessed with fast internet download speeds, not everyone is. Many regions have an average below the recommendation Neflix provides. That’s not super great because there’s no way to download, or buffer film content from Netflix.

Sony offers a 4K Ultra HD Media Player. It recommends 10 Mbps for HD streams, or UHD downloads. (Storage of personal, you-shot-it, 4K video is not available until winter of 2014. Guess that requires special licensing or bandwidth… cough.) 24-hour 4K rentals start at $7.99, and purchases start at THIRTY DOLLARS.

Apple, creators of the world’s first 5K, integrated computer, have no storefront, or service, capable of delivering a UHD movie. None. iTunes can’t do it, Netflix doesn’t support it, and Sony requires a box made of ridiculous middle-management ideas. It goes without saying that Apple should be showing off UHD content in iTunes, and a streaming deal penned with Netflix. Currently, you can download UHD pirated content, UHD YouTube videos of experimental art, or make your own 4K movies in Final Cut Pro X.

A veritable cornucopia of unsatisfying options!

iMovie 4K

Well since you can’t let me buy the ridiculous stuff, why not let me make it? I don’t mean with Final Cut Pro X, which is $299.99. Aren’t we doing Apple a favor by making 4K internet content so there’s more demand for RiMacs? Aren’t we? Aren’t we saints? Give us the tools to make YouTube videos, at the bare minimum. (Psst. Tim Cook, hey, don’t tell anyone, but this is a really good time to take back some ownership of the video streaming market from Google. Just a thought.)

Continuing that parenthetical: What’s the best way to own something? To make it. They ceded making things to the very internet services they battle and cajole with.

iWeb with Retina

LOL! iWeb!

I know, stop laughing. I mean serious business here. Another complaint that is common with the MacBook Pro with Retina Display (RiMBP?) is that the internet looks very blurry. Why shouldn’t it? Not a lot of the internet is being designed for desktop-class Retina devices. The reason? It’s kind of a pain. Images need to be properly sized for displays with high pixels-per-inch (ppi). However, delivering high ppi images to antediluvian devices is a waste of bandwidth. The page needs to be properly coded so that the correct elements are requested from the server, or the server needs to know the device and send the appropriate materials. It’s no fun. Go sit there and roll your own web page that will be perfect on mobile, high-ppi mobile, desktop, high-ppi desktop, etc. I’ll just sit over here with some chilled beaujolais. Go on.

Apple is uniquely positioned to at least offer a way for customers to take these ridiculous photos, and videos, and set up proper galleries for them. They are even more uniquely positioned if they create a product that utilizes iCloud to serve gallery sites. There’s really a whole lot that Apple could do in this space to encourage customers to make media that validates, and promotes, purchasing expensive computers. Apple is no stranger to doing this, they’ve just grown apart from Creativity over the years.

(Yes, I realize this seems to contradict my earlier posts about Apple making new, half-baked things. Obviously, my suggestion here is for these things to exist and to also not be half-baked.)

iBooks Retinator

There are no 4K eBooks. Sure, it’s easy to show razor-sharp text, but that was never Apple’s goal with iBooks Author. There was a huge focus on embedded video, and graphics. A really hamstrung HyperCard. If they make the tools for video, and the tools for delivering the appropriate graphics, then there’s no reason to believe they shouldn’t roll those in to the books they are trying to sell in ePub format.

Eye Conclude

My real issue here has been the lack of pixels in the media we consume, and make; to raise awareness that almost everything you will see on a RiMac will be scaled up. To also encourage customers to demand better from studios providing films they’ve scaled up to UHD as UHD so it just consumes additional bandwidth, instead of actually being UHD. Apple doesn’t seem concerned about this with their movements in the UHD space. Like many television manufacturers, they are more excited to tell you about hardware numbers than what you can do with those hardware numbers.

2014-10-23 01:11:14

Category: text


Let's Make it Worse!

I didn’t read the fine print on the Mavericks update and now I’ve got iTunes 12.

Oh joy.

I’ve hated iTunes for a long time. Lots of people hate iTunes. It’s a craptastrophe that serves as Apple’s Swiss Army knife (if Swiss Army knives were made out of cow excrement.) Apple made big promises about iTunes 11, but it was the kind of application that should only be opened to demo a new version of iTunes on a stage. You know, when you don’t have to actually use it. The kind of demo where you don’t show the sidebar and crunch, clip, and crop everything in the UI. Or show those modal dialogs. Or show those modal dialogs when different parts of the UI disagree about what you do and do not own from the iTunes Store.

Ah, the iTunes Store! The best part. Clearly. The part Apple pours their heart and soul in to because it is a crucial component to their media dominance! Well that could best be described as “rough” looking in the last iteration.

What the shit is this?

Scrolling down the page with the two-fingered scrolling gesture triggers the carousel to move sideways. SIDEWAYS. Scrolling up also makes it go SIDEWAYS. That’s not how scrolling should work! There is some sanity here when you scroll sideways that it does, indeed, scroll sideways. 2 out of 4 directions isn’t bad, right? 50 percent of the time, it works every time.

Underneath the main carousel is a section of “Albums and EPs” that has a two-button toggle to switch the content of the frame from “New Releases” to “Recent Releases”. The distinction being made between “New” and “Recent” is lost on me (New-ish? New minus one?) More troubling are the conflicting visual metaphors. There’s a borderless frame of sideways scrolling content without any indication it scrolls, other than the clipped off album art on one side of the frame. The frame is two rows high, and offers no vertical scrolling. When the toggle is triggered, everything in the frame is changed. Toggling back and forth does not remember your scrolling position inside of the frame, it resets every time. On the right, is a vertical list of hair-thin text containing common links. Nothing about the links stands out, and they aren’t even underlined to indicate they are links until you hover over them. There is nothing visually distinctive about it other than elements flow vertically. Good, I didn’t want to quickly use any of that at a glance anyway! I like a challenge! Bring it on you crazy lunatics!!!!

Instead of repeating another double-row, toggling, sideways scrolling frame, we get a 4 row, tiny-album art frame. And then rectangle album stuff that’s one row. On the right side, we get a whole section devoted to “RADIO QUICK LINKS” (I have no idea what is going on with the capitalization in the right side list.) The radio contains only two links. If I had the money, I would conduct a survey to find out if anyone even noticed there were “RADIO QUICK LINKS” on the page, and also to find out if anyone even bothered to click them.

What follows is a series of alternating frames of album art, toggling frames, multi-rows, single-rows, text under the albums, text on the side of the albums, quick links to buy only some things, more round rects, and then we get the teeniest-tiniest text in the whole world at the bottom of the store. PHEW!

Remember! This is a store! A store where you are supposed to shop for, and buy (digitally license) things! This too-whitespacey, too-thin, borderless, toggling mess shouldn’t be here. This is the glossy index of a monthly magazine. To attempt to arrange it as such does everyone a disservice.

Well at Least My Music is Safe

Hahahahahaha! No!

Let’s just have completely different ways to display my music in every single mode! Some have a sidebar, some don’t. Some have big icons, some have little icons. Some are in a list, some are in a grid.

The worst part is that when you pick anything, it selects a different album, artist, or track. It selects something for you, based on … some internal logic I have not divined.

Enjoy some Taylor Swift, or some Star Trek film scores, or some classic Star Trek, or WHATEVER, DON’T JUDGE ME!

Come on!

2014-10-21 22:42:02

Category: text


Four More Eyebrows

In a continuation of my incoherent ranting and raving about Doctor Who from earlier (do not read it, you’ll waste too much of your life) I’m reviewing the last four episodes that have aired.

The Caretaker

I loved this episode. I didn’t care about the Skrillex Blister, or whatever, it didn’t matter. How it worked, it’s rules, didn’t matter. What mattered was Danny Pink, Clara, and The Doctor. This is the kind of Doctor Who episode I want to see. It’s about these people, these kids, not about some elaborate villain.

Kill the Moon

What the hell. What the fucking hell. I give Doctor Who a pass on almost all science, but WHAT IS GOING ON. They don’t follow their own rules, and they know things that they have no reason to know. For instance, the Doctor basically guesses that the spider can sense movement. Why? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be scary if there was a monster that could sense movement here in this part of the script? SURE! That is what all subsequence decisions in this episode felt like. WTF.

I’m willing to look past a lot of silly things, but you can’t just remake the moon — twice — because it suits the story you want to tell. At that point, it doesn’t need to be our moon. Then I spend the whole time thinking about what a total crock it is.

The Doctor deserts everyone to leave the human race to their own decisions. I am opposed to this. I don’t think it’s inline with his behavior at all. Also, what if events hadn’t turned out how he had wanted? He would have blamed Clara? This was a mess. Instead of empowering Clara, it felt like it undermined her. Instead of “you’re smart” it felt like “well if you’re so smart.”

What the hell is going on? At the end of the episode I was totally lost. What a mess. What a fucking mess. I can look past things, but you expect me to look past that?! I was angry with The Doctor, but not for the reasons that Clara was.

Mummy on the Orient Express

I was totally confused for the first few minutes. I was thinking, intently, about Clara’s feelings at the end of ‘Kill the Moon’ so it didn’t make immediate sense. I caught on, real quick, that they had sorted out some stuff between these episodes. That was probably for the best, because I didn’t really need to know all the details, but it did throw me off when I watched.

Also, here’s the thing: I don’t care if Doctor Who battles a mummy on a future-space version of the Orient Express where every passenger is in period dress. However, I do care about episodes like ‘Kill the Moon’ where he goes to a place that we, as humans, know about. That we know it’s not a fucking egg. One is totally fine, and the other distracts me.

Crazy is fine! Sanity is hard.

Flatline

I really, really loved this episode. It might be my favorite of the series of episodes. I appreciate it for the role reversal, more than anything. Clara gets to be the Doctor (and by proxy, “we” get to be The Doctor).

The small TARDIS is silly, and fun, but that’s fine. It doesn’t throw off the seriousness of the rest of the episode. The mechanism works perfectly. It also allows Clara to shine in a really interesting way. Even my Doctor Who companion loved this episode, and he hasn’t liked anything since Rory and Amy left the show. Anything.

As a VFX guy, I do have to say that I wish they didn’t do those shots of the CG train. It’s almost like they already had the train model from the previous episode and felt like redressing it. It was too shiny, and overly lit. It really shouldn’t have been seen like that, and certainly not twice.

Oh, and then Missy. Ugh. I still hate these. They don’t work like the segments where Joss Whedon would build up a season’s villain, they read like “OOOOOOHHHHH, WATCH OUT! THIS IS GOING TO BE A THING!” Which is the exact opposite of how I like things to present themselves.

Looking Forward

The last two episodes of this season really piqued my interest. First the silly, conflicted relationship, and then Doctor Oswald? This is what I want. What I am in utter disbelief over is that ‘Kill the Moon’ and ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ were written directed by the same guy (UPDATE: Flatline and Mummy were written by the same guy though, Jamie Mathieson.) They’re totally different episodes, and my response to them couldn’t be any different. What’s going on? I like two of those way more than the other two. I want to see more of that kind of work. I really hope we do get it.

No more of this stupid moon stuff. Steal dimensions, more Doctor Oswald. And that’s just one small fraction of the main attraction. Thrill me, chill me, fulfill me, creature of time.

2014-10-20 00:52:38

Category: text


Yosemite Wait-and-See

I’m on Mavericks still. Why? Because I don’t have any deep, urgent need to upend everything in the world for something that’s shipped with a bunch of weird, crappy, buggy nonsense in it. I get that Yosemite is working fine for the vast majority of people, but what’s my rush? When Apple was doing releases like Leopard, I’d wait to install updates. Even for the point releases, I’d check on the Mac blogs to find out if WiFi did, or did not, work for that release. I’d rather read the reviews about Yosemite than install it. Particularly when I see that iCloud Drive deleted Nate Boateng’s entire photo library, and broke everything. Yosemite? More like YOLOsemite, amirite?!

The truly disturbing thing about what happened to Nate was that he didn’t trust Apple, and had a backup of everything. I don’t trust Apple, and I have a backup of everything. At what point is distrust a sign of a problem, and not just paranoia? Even Dan Moren, doing some Color Commentary™ on Thurday’s Apple Event seemed a little scared of the “Public Beta” moniker on iCloud Photo Library. I am not clamoring for the Photos app. (Yes, I reused the precious memories joke, deal with it.)

Apple’s seeing a decline in their iOS 7 to iOS 8 upgrade rate that surely has more to do with the size of the update, than for the reticence of the customers — but isn’t there a little reticence? What will the upgrade numbers look like for Yosemite over Mavericks? They’re both free, and everyone should have the required space for it.

I’m not talking about End Times, or we should all go back to Snow Leopard, we should all boycott until iCloud is perfect, or some other nonsense, but on balance, there is no compelling reason to upgrade to the first release of Yosemite. There was no compelling reason to test the beta. My Casey-ancient late-2011 MacBook Pro is too old for many headline features. That leaves the new visual stylings. Meh. I can wait. I’ll upgrade, but maybe in a month or two. It’ll be more an issue of social pressure (like using an iPhone 4) than an actual issue. Surely the problems people face are not universal, but that’s kind of the disturbing part. It’s a “maybe this will blow up in your face” lottery. (That is not my favorite kind of lottery.)

Things working > New things that might not work.

The really annoying part is that I don’t even like Mavericks. I was even pretty angry at one point. My observation then, and now, is that Apple needs to stop pushing forward to release, no matter the cost. If it doesn’t work, or it deletes the precious memories of a few people, then maybe take five? Do not ship it.

I’ll just read John Siracusa’s review a few times to hold me over.

2014-10-19 19:54:26

Category: text


Live Every Day Like it's National Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day was October 11th. I didn’t have it iCal, so I did not GTD it or anything. I have been slightly circumspect about explicitly stating that I was gay on this blog. I talked about the whole Mozilla thing while not stating it, I danced around it. Not because it’s a secret (go listen to Defocused, or ask me on Twitter), or because I think it’s scandalous, but because I want to treat it as something that is not important.

Maybe if I barely say it then only the decent people will hear it? Maybe if I’m not “in their face about it” then people won’t care?

I also don’t want to be known as a “gay blogger”. I don’t need the prefix. I mean, I’m not really known for anything, so it’s not super important, but what if I want to be the Prime Minister of England some day? Huh? What then? Will I have some qualifier in front of my name that states I was a good “gay” prime minister? That’s not what I am aiming for.

It does make certain social interactions awkward though. We’d all like to think that they aren’t awkward, we’re all great with social stuff here! We’re open-minded! Lay it on me! But if you say that then you probably haven’t had a conversation with someone where they break eye contact with you, where they change the subject, where they hesitate before picking their pronouns. It’s really, really, awkward sometimes. Especially if you’re talking to someone you barely know.

“He was strange, but I think that’s because he was — you know.”
“No, I don’t know.”
“You know, gay.”

That’s literally a conversation I had with someone that did not think I was gay. It happens? I guess? We resolved that, and he’s really not a bad person, but it’s just an example of something that happens. Jokes in poor taste, winks and nods, it’s all very surreal to be a party to those conversations. On the one hand, if the first thing I ever said to anyone was that I was gay, then this would never happen, but why does that need to be the first thing I say to anybody?

People also tell you how their weekend was, with their wife, and their kids, and they ask you what you did. Do you know them well enough to use appropriate nouns, and pronouns? For a long time, I would just clam up. Not because I was ashamed, but because I didn’t know if it was worth talking about myself, and someone I loved, to this stranger. “Oh, I didn’t do anything.” I sounded like the weirdest shut-in ever.

It’s always easiest with strangers though, because fuck ‘em. If they’re weird about it, then so what? You move on. The hard part was people that were close to me. People I’ve known since I was a kid, a teen, in college. People from before I had any certainty about my life. People from back in Tampa, where being gay was not a good thing. I had a bad experience with being honest about things in college, but it’s not the end of the world. It has stuck with me though.

My coworker was asking me about my commute, and I mentally did the math on whether or not I should tell him about the different commute times from my place, or my boyfriend’s place. Not that he seemed like he would care, but because I have a certain fear of making things awkward.

Sure, on some level, people know, or they have (have had) suspicions. There aren’t many bachelors that go on vacation to Napa, Paris, Italy, and South Beach with “a friend”. But there’s a mutual agreement that takes place. They don’t want to make me feel uncomfortable by asking, and I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable by telling. We arrive at a draw.

The first family member I outright told was my sister. She was very supportive, because she always kind of knew. She pushed me to talk to my mom. I put off telling my mom until last year. That’s a really long time to keep someone out of your life. It was not worth it. It was not worth it at all. If you’re reading this, and you’re on the fence, just fucking do it. Don’t sit on it for years, there won’t ever be the perfect time to tell her.

Knowing that, knowing how it wasn’t a big deal in the end, how I should have just done it, should have propelled me on to immediately tell my other family members, right? No. I was scared because they were very traditional, and from the Northeast. There were protocols, and people weren’t open about any of their feelings. Only problem is that my sister is getting married, and my boyfriend is going. Whoops! Maybe we could do one of those comedic things where he’s introduced as a friend, and we pretend we don’t know each other, and people are running in to and out of rooms! Wouldn’t that be hilarious? No, it really wouldn’t. I had to tell that other side of the family, I had to tell my dad.

I called him up last week, and in the middle of talking about suits for the wedding, I told him. Then he said he suspected it was the case and changed subjects back to a guy he met that was a VP of a large men’s suit company. That he had some tips about suits. It was almost surreal that it was such a non-issue. So, once again, don’t sit on something for years of your life, it’s not worth it.

Basically? Not fucking worth it. There’s never the right time. Don’t wait for National Coming Out Day. It should only ever serve as a yearly reminder. Don’t wait for the zodiac to be properly aligned or some shit. Just fucking do it. Be clear about it, like I’m being right now. What benefit would I have extracted from putting this off any longer? None.

2014-10-13 00:54:48

Category: text


I Heart Brianna Wu

I follow Brianna Wu on Twitter. She came to my attention through her guest spot on Debug, and through her session at Alt Conf 2014. She went on to make the podcast Isometric, with Georgia Dow, Maddy Meyers, and Steve Lubitz. I really do love all of them, (even though I don’t play games), Johnathan Mann loves them too. She’s also appeared as one of the rotating panelists on The Incomparable podcast, for several episodes about games, women, and Star Trek. She’s there for a reason, of course, and that is because of her role as a game developer. If you have not played Revolution 60, go take a look.

Women in tech, and women in games, have been two issues (two very intertwined issues) all year long. (Not to say that there wasn’t issues before, but just that the conversation around these issues has really picked up this year.)

Adam Baldwin, the actor you probably remember from Firefly, has very strong views (views that I do not agree with). He started this whole thing called Gamer Gate. It’s been a total shitshow. Some horrible boys, and men, have gathered together in the darkest corners of the internet to engineer social campaigns against women in games under the flag of Gamer Gate. The women that have been targeted are all outspoken about the treatment of women in games as a medium, in game commentary, in games, period. I was always going to write about Gamer Gate, but I wanted to write when all the facts were on the table. It’s been a morphing, multi-headed thing, that is very difficult to talk about authoritatively because it’s not staying still. (I also don’t feel like I have a full view of the issues because while I’m totally a white guy, I am gay, and I am not a “gamer”. Nor do I have any desire to participate in any game communities because playing World of Warcraft and Halo gave me a really shitty view on that segment of humanity. It even feels a little weird to write about Brianna, but if I sit here in silence, aren’t I being a total jackass?)

Brianna Wu, along with Maddy, Georgia, and Steve, have talked about the ongoing events associated with this war on women on Isometric. There is a particularly strong, heartfelt episode that made me tear up while I listened in which Brianna detailed ways in which she was afraid.

To my absolute horror, Brianna’s address was exposed this weekend and death threats were made. She left her home and has not gone back since. She even had a panel lined up at New York Comic Con that she attended despite the threats.

I want her to be safe, above all else, and I want her to be able to express herself without fear of personal injury, or torrents of online abuse. Even before this became a threat associated with her physical address, it was one where people actively organized alternate, disposable Twitter accounts (sock puppets) to wage verbal abuse campaigns on her. Even at the heights of those online campaigns against her, she was still wading through the filth to reply to the decent people that wanted to communicate with her. She is, after all, a game developer and she does have fans.

The horrifying thing is that it is so easy to blame her for speaking up, and talking about these issues, when these threats to safety were are being made. Even today, she tweeted that she hoped she wouldn’t be known for this bullshit, instead of game development. Sure you can say “well then stop talking about these issues” but how the hell does that make anything better? If that is your initial reaction to this news, then I encourage you to reexamine that opinion. I do not want to live in a world that prescribes silence for abuse, and threats to any other human being.

2014-10-12 23:06:26

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Allons-y!

Jason Snell is on the scene, reporting from Çingleton in Montréal. (I like to imagine him with a fedora that has one of those “PRESS” things tucked under the band.) He writes about a presentation in which Bare Bones Software’s Rich Siegel says that the next version of their top-tier text editor will not be in the Mac App Store. Zut alors!

Holding the Mac App Store in contempt is a hobby of mine (you know, like stamp-collecting, or needlepoint). I don’t hate the idea of having a Mac App Store, it is the reality of the Mac App Store that I don’t like. The iOS App Store is far more effective than the Mac counterpart. It’s the only way to really get software for your iOS device, and there was no prior software for the platform that needs to be crammed in to it.

I highly recommend reading Jason’s coverage (and hopefully Rich’s talk will be available), and also Federico Viticci’s thoughts.

Once you’ve read real news, written by professionals, please stick around and enjoy the ramblings of an insane person:

Avantages et Inconvénients

Pros

Purchasing software in the Mac App Store is easy as tarte. You open the MAS app, you click to purchase, you enter your Apple Store password, and you’re done. You don’t have to worry about serial numbers, or upgrade price structures, you either have it, or you don’t. You can download it again, and you’re all set.

File storage offered through iCloud promises to make your files available everywhere. This is a boon for companies that offer Mac and iOS apps. (Except in the case that there’s a new storage service released on one platform and not the other, but nobody would release something like that!)

Software updates are all handled without user intervention. Software not in the MAS uses a variety of updating methods. Some run in the background and check for updates, prompting the user to download something. Others run only when an application is launched (which is the worst time to ask someone if they want to update their software, they just opened it to do work, not housekeeping.) Some pieces of software won’t even update at all, unless you manually trigger a “Check for Updates” menu item or push a button. My personal favorite is the combination, when a menubar item pops up to tell you there are updates, and asks you to open the updater app to update the apps. (I want to print out the codebase for Adobe’s software-updating apps and burn them in effigy.)

With MAS, it’s all handled one way, and the worst thing the user has to deal with is dismissing the annoying MAS notification that sticks in the corner. C’est magique!

Cons

In order to have applications you need to have funding to make the applications. There’s a wide spectrum:

  • Buy the app, at full price, always.
  • Buy the app and receive discount off the full-price of the next version.
  • Buy the app, get updates forever, for free, because it either cost so much this is possible, or the userbase continues to grow at a rate that can subsidize old customers.
  • Buy the app, pay for features in discrete, additional purchases.
  • Free app, pay for the features in discrete, additional purchases.
  • Free app with ads.
  • Free app with a subscription service.

Why should users care about the revenue stream for the developers? Do you like the software? (Nod.) Do you want more, better software? (Nod.) Well then they need money to do that. You know that free PDF app you downloaded, and it’s terrible, and you don’t know why? Well, pay for a good PDF app. It’s like night and day.

The nasty side of paid upgrades is that it can result in dispassionate development that is more concerned with keeping upgrade sales up. See: Adobe, Microsoft, Autodesk, etc. Apple does not want that (even though they also participated in paid software updates for many, many years.) Apple wanted this to be the ancien régime.

It’s a nice, but impractical sentiment. Some software needs decent funding for years of development work, and offering no real solution to that need, other than perpetual growth, is more than a little silly.

This has also resulted in In-App-Purchases rising. I’m typing this in Byword on my Mac. I bought Byword way back in 2012. I bought it on my iPhone too. It’s a great app. They’ve updated it many times, for free, but they’ve already done one release where they’ve put new features in to an in-app-purchase. That means that existing customers pony-up more dough. It makes sense, since they never promised to do those new things. However, any new customer is immediately petitioned to pay for more stuff after their initial purchase. This also means that there are apps that are “free” that rely on a series of IAPs to become a functional app. (Customers have a variety of opinions on this, and you can enjoy those opinions by reading one-star app reviews.)

Subscription fees, however, are far more insidious. Let’s talk about a top app, Autodesk’s Pixlr. It lets people apply certain looks, and effects to images. It’s more of a novelty than a serious app. It offers Membership Levels (copied from the text on the web version of the Mac App Store, because the Mac App Store app doesn’t let you fucking copy text.)

Membership levels:
• Starter - Download for free to get started with basic photo editing tools and over 600 effects.
• Essentials - Gain access to enhanced features such as advanced Double Exposure and additional effects, overlays, and borders simply by creating a free Pixlr account and signing in.
• Pro - Pixlr Pro members unlock powerful photo editing tools such as Influence Masks, control over specific color channels, and more for just $14.99/year or $1.99/month.

Memberships can be purchased through the app with your iTunes account and managed through the Account Settings page on www.pixlr.com

Additional Information:
• If you choose to upgrade to a Pro membership, you will be charged through your iTunes Account.
• Membership automatically renews for the membership period you select, unless auto-renew is turned off at least 24-hours before the end of the current period. You will receive a reminder email prior to the end of your current membership period.
• Manage membership preferences in the Account Settings page on www.pixlr.com
• You may cancel your Pixlr membership at any time but it will not take effect until the end of your current membership period.
• Autodesk Privacy Policy is found here: http://www.autodesk.com/privacy and the Autodesk Software License Agreements here: http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/index?siteID=123112&id=10235425

What, exactly, about a perpetual membership fee paid to Autodesk is better than discounted upgrades? Note that Autodesk is making a ton of these little apps. Their professional software, like Autodesk Maya, is still not available for sale through the MAS, and I doubt it ever will be. But hey, you can screw with some photos for a low, recurring fee they hope you’ll forget to cancel.

Some applications have discontinued a particular app and introduced a new app. This is tricky, because you have to get the word out to your customers that they should go buy this other thing (sometimes leading to updates for the old app which prompt users to go to the store and buy something else.) For a long time, people waited to see what Apple would do for it’s professional apps. Surely they would not justify endless free updates to major software subsidized through hardware sales. Turns out, they charged for those new pro apps.

This is really unfortunate because some customers expect a discount based on an existing relationship, and they won’t get it. Some customers might also feel cheated if they “just” paid for one version, and a new one is out. They have to seek a refund through Apple, but from a customer perspective, this is the developers that they have a grievance with.

When I want to download software for my Mac I no longer go to the MAS to buy it. I go to the developer’s web site and I look to see if they have multiple versions available. There are usually features annotated as missing, or supported by the MAS and non-MAS versions. If iCloud is important, then the MAS one is your only option. However, if you are like me, relying on Dropbox has always been more important. There’s also the concern that I reflect on before a MAS or non-MAS purchase, “Will they leave the Mac App Store?” Sometimes, that is a relevant concern (Bon voyage, BBEdit). I bought Transmit from Panic, even though it is in the MAS, for precisely this reason.

Sure, I’ll have to deal with the crappy serial number systems, and the crappy software update schemes, but if it’s a worthwhile piece of software than it’s worth an extra time investment.

The decay of the Mac App Store over the last few years is pretty subtle. Developers are not leaving en masse, all at once. One by one, as new updates are being developed, they weigh the pros and cons for them, and their customers, and they pull out.

Just look at the main page of the store’s app and you’ll see bric-á-brac. of apps. They’re showcasing the Twitter Mac app right now. Yes, hey everyone, drop everything and check out this crazy thing called Twitter! The best part is the little bit of text. “New Features Added” — A.K.A. We totally don’t care about marketing at this point.

2014-10-12 13:12:05

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90s Sci-Fi Fan

A month ago, I was a guest on Anže Tomić’s podcast, Storming Mortal. (The episode just went up this past week, so you’ll notice a bit of a time difference.) He had a lot of questions about visual effects, and I tried to break everything down in, hopefully, an easy to understand way. The industry is so strange that it often sounds like I’m speaking in another language (I already am, technically). I didn’t mention subsidies at all because bidding seemed like enough of a downer.

One topic we did talk about is what inspired me to get in to visual effects at all, and I cited a few things. The Star Trek franchise, mostly Star Trek: The Next Generation influenced me a great deal since it was effects — however limited — once a week. What really sticks out in my mind is an episode of Levar Burton’s Reading Rainbow (Always check our shownotes.) He went behind the scenes on TNG and showed off the sets, as well as some of the effects process with Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Legato. Models, swirling glitter, cutting out mattes, it’s not the kind of thing you would see on TV — indeed, it’s not the kind of thing you can expect to find on TV at all. Sadly, the only version of it I can find is a garbled version someone recorded on VHS and put on YouTube in two parts.

A technical appreciation was only one component. I was also a HUGE NERD about Star Trek. Sadly, at the end of the 90s, Star Trek was waning. The last movie installment of the 90s was Star Trek: Insurrection which… well, it’s not the best. Fortunately, something came along, and that something was Galaxy Quest.

Galaxy Quest is not only a visually satisfying film, but one with absolutely magnificent acting, writing, and editing. So much is going on, and it all just works. I’d say it works better than a lot of the Star Trek franchise movies that have come out.

This past week, Dan and I were trying to think of something to watch, and I wanted to pick something that I really loved. We pick a lot of things that I like, but we haven’t picked one that I have unabashed love for. Of all of the movies we’ve discussed on Defocused, I like Dune, Super Troopers, Office Space, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Fifth Element, Empire Records, Hackers, Pirates of Silicon Valley[^1], and Grosse Pointe Blank. Some people think I hate these movies because Dan and I pick them apart, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Thinking critically about something is totally fine. There are many episodes, and films, of Star Trek that I am very critical of. You haven’t lived life until you’ve argued with someone about how you rank the best, and the worst, Star Trek movies.

However, I have almost nothing but love for Galaxy Quest. While I edited the show this week[^2], I felt bad that I was mostly just reciting the movie at Dan for most of this episode. Where’s the criticism? Well, there are a couple little things I mention, but it turns out that I want to marry a movie, I guess. I’m not sure we’ll ever happen upon a film, or TV show, to discuss that works out quite that way again.

[^1]: I liked Pirates of Silicon Valley more in the 90s then I like it today… but I still like it.

[^2]: Dan edits all of our episodes, Blue Yetis pick up a lot of noise, but this week he was busy with a real-world project. I cracked open Adobe Audition and I was all, “How hard could this be?” LOL at me! Stupid me! I still tried to do the opening and closing cuts in the style of Dan.

2014-09-27 13:30:42

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4 2 6

My torrid love affair with the iPhone started with technolust. I was locked in on a plan with Verizon, and a KRZR, and unable to get the amazing device Steve Jobs teased me with on stage (just me, me alone). A year later, I gave Verizon the finger (not literally, but when they asked why I was leaving I flatly said it was because they didn’t have the iPhone). I had my iPhone 3G, in all it’s bulbous, plastic glory. I did not know it at the time, but I was on the “tick” side of the tick-tock cycle. I really did like my 3G, but I when the iPhone 4 was announced, my eyes were drawn to it. The Retina screen literally demanded my eyes — it was in the name!

A friend of mine, similarly enraptured by the announced device, ventured to Manhattan Beach’s mall with me at — what we thought was — the crack of dawn. We got there just in time to see a line stretching out of the parking lot. Our whole plan hinged on us getting the phone at this “remote” mall. Defeated, we went our separate ways. On my way home I couldn’t resist the impulse to go to The Beverly Center’s Apple Store. I knew that it would be a pointless endeavor, but my impatience was rewarded by a relatively short line with reservation numbers.

To other people in my life (Jason) this seemed to be an absurd amount of effort to go through. Indeed, it is. In the grand scheme it doesn’t matter if you have something on launch day, or if you have something a month later. I was not traveling in elite circles where my old phone would be judged, and I would be found wanting. He was on the tock cycle though, so he didn’t get it. He got the 4S, casually, a year later. No big deal at all.

I kept that iPhone 4 because it was fine, and then it was still fine, and then it was slow, and then it was unbearably slow, the home button didn’t work, and the battery was dying. I was saving money at the expense of my life. Oh man, that is so dramatic to say. Double first-world-problems to the MAXX, bro! Well, the only thing is that in our culture it is actually kind of important to have a working smartphone. Not just for status symbol reasons, but for practical ones.

Your Preoder is in Another Castle

Apple had a very bad week for technological infrastructure. It started with a streaming keynote kerfuffle, and it ended with preorder pandemonium. I can’t give Apple a pass on this. They have a gajillion dollars, they are not healthcare.gov. What is going on with them?

I couldn’t sleep. I kept refreshing. Jason slept, bless him. I finally got through and ordered my iPhone 6, 64 GB, Space Gray, an extra lightning cable, and a black silicone case. I panicked on shipping it to my apartment (I’ve had issues where people go to the wrong door, or just drop a slip without knocking.) I selected in-store pick-up.

Jason casually selected his phone the next morning without any issue and there was literally no reason for me to fret over my preorder. Thanks.

You Don’t Know Jack

Friday, I went to the Apple Store. They opened at 10. I was reading horror stories on Twitter from other stores. I was reading about successful package deliveries. What had I done? I walked up to the storefront. There was a line, with a sign for “Reservations” and another line behind stanchions. There were plenty of Apple employees around. I went in to the Reservations line.

An employee asked me if I had a reservation, and like a sweaty teenager being carded at a gas station, I shoved my greasy iPhone 4 with QR code toward him. He waved me off, he trusted me. He trusted me more than I trusted myself.

The reservation line was short. They would let in 5 people at a time. There were two guys behind me talking about the other line. “Why wouldn’t they just preoder?” I don’t know, you judgy-judges, maybe they had problems with the crappy site and app? Apple snobs! The worst!

(Cough.)

I was summoned inside and there was a very elaborate system for pairing people off with employees. I got a guy named Jack. He, like everyone else from Apple, was all-smiles. He was happy. I was at the dentist. He asked for information, and said that an employee was bringing my iPhone and cable over. I told him about my case marked for October mail delivery, and he said that they had cases in stock. If I wanted, I could get the case, buy it, and canceled my Forever-in-the-Future case. I selected the black silicone case and met back up with him. He apologized for things going so slowly. He asked if I was excited. I don’t know why he would ask that when I was obviously pale with terror. I told him I was excited to go start the setup process. He told me that he totally understood, that he had to wait until the end of the day for his 128 GB iPhone 6. Poor guy. I was ready to bolt for the door, but poor guy. Jack finished my order, I can confidently say he was impeccable, and I wish him well.

iTunes Restore

I wanted coffee but I was too anxious. I drove straight home. With shaking hands I gingerly extracted my new baby from it’s cardboard. I turned off my iPhone 4 and I started restoring my iPhone 6 with the old backup in iTunes. With the way my luck has gone on these restores, the chances were very high it would crap out.

I paced and went to get coffee. There was nothing in my pocket though. I kept feeling, and there was nothing there.

I don’t have a problem, I can not-check twitter any time I want!

When I returned, trembling with caffeine and adrenaline, I watched the progress bar like a hawk.

OMG OMG OMG OMG

The restore finished and I clawed at it. It was all mine now, all mine![^1] It was so light in my hands, but so large. I have large hands (you know what they say about… blah blah blah), but not large enough that my thumb reaches from the bottom right corner to the top left corner. I’m not a mutant. In truth, I’m still adjusting to this change, and I do think that I might have selected a smaller phone if one were available. For me, screen space was never as important as one-handed operation.

Literally everything about this phone is better than the iPhone 4. There’s no contest. The screen isn’t as smudgy, it has Touch ID, the camera doesn’t take 10 years to start, I can switch between apps without them restarting every time, everything is fast, etc. I couldn’t name a single metric where the 4 even competes with the 6.

Jason feels similarly, though he’s less enthusiastic. He was quite offended by the bundled software “junking up” the interface. He didn’t like that some settings were different. It all takes a little getting used to, you know?

This is the best phone I ever owned, even if it makes my pollicis muscles cramp in unison. You can pry this from my cramped hands, you bastards!

Uncle Bob Photography

In college, I took a course that studied film, and we went over a lot of principles for composing a shot. There were technical terms for things, like The Rule of Thirds, and there were his own terms for things, like Uncle Bob shots. Basically, any shot that looks like family photography in your backyard. It does what it needs to do, but no one would accuse Uncle Bob of being an artist.

A lot has changed since 2005! I no longer think that cute term means the same thing anymore. The iPhone blazed the way for a whole series of photos shared over the internet, with apps designed not just to share the photo, but also to edit it. The aesthetics of photography became very important to people. Impressing friends, and family, with your sunset, or your food, was important in a way that instant photography, or disposable cameras, never were.

I use a DSLR for most of my hobbyist photography, but it’s hardly something I have on my person when I want to take a photo. The iPhone 3G took absolutely dreadful photos — It was total Uncle Bob, to the max. The iPhone 4 took decent photos in certain lighting conditions, but it was still just a convenient thing to save noisy images.

The iPhone 6 is legitimately a nice camera. There’s no apology to be made for its photos. Even on total autopilot, the phone is way better than Uncle Bob. Even the time-lapse features have a reasonable, automated behavior. Here are my iPhone 6 Uncle Bob shots from Greystone Mansion:

Still, no one wants to just take automatic, unaltered photos. Hashtag no filter. Hashtag boring. The point isn’t that technology does it all for you, without you having to worry about it, but that you have new ways to work. Software tools, as well as fancy new sensors and lenses.

For instance: There’s no image stabilization, and the slow-mo video has a certain low-quality feel around fine detailed elements, like water droplets. The blockiness of it makes me think it’s compression settings rather than the sensor, or noise reduction. Also, if you upload the video with Vimeo’s app, or site, it will play the slow-mo video back at a regular frame rate. If you upload it with the share sheet from the Photos app, then it will preserve the frame rate you see in the Photos app. Example of compression artifacts:

Slow-mo test on iPhone 6 from Joseph Rosensteel on Vimeo.

The photos taken in broad daylight still seem to have a fair amount of some kind of denoising filter with almost painterly smudges when zoomed in higher than 1:1. That’s not to say it is bad, not at all, but it’s just a reminder that when people say the phone takes DSLR-like photos, it’s in no way similar to actual DSLR photos from a modern DSLR. Still a reason for many people to tote those fashionable camera bags.

Feedback

There is one peculiar quirk of the iPhone 6 that I did not expect, and that’s feedback with LTE and 4G bands when it’s near my car’s console. Moving it away, like to the passenger seat, mitigates the hissing, but it’s something my iPhone 4 would only do when it was on Edge.

Lost in the iCloud

Apple’s services continue to be the piss in my Wheaties. There were things that I couldn’t even do before on my iPhone 4 that I finally got to do with my iPhone 6, and they were just as disappointing as I imagined they would be.

My home address has been wrong in Maps since Apple ditched Google. At one point, my address was inside of the Four Seasons of Los Angeles. This is flattering, but inaccurate. Apple finally accepted one of my many requests for them to fix this and moved it slightly closer to where I actually live. I say closer, because they didn’t actually fix it. Yes, I report it about every three months. For all I know, the complaints are printed and fed to The Almighty Sarlac. With Siri, and voice navigation, at least I ought to be able to get to that close-but-not-quite address. Should be, but can’t. I’m back to living in the Four Seasons of Los Angeles. If I say, “home” it maps to a place that isn’t even the same city that is listed as my home address. My rage over this is incandescent, because I can’t think of any reason why this should be the case, and I have no legitimate recourse for reporting a Siri picking the wrong place when my address book picks the close-to-correct one. This is my home!

Even things that should be simple, like “The Grove” route me to “Grove City, PA”. Even an intersection tripped it up: “Intersection of Beverly and Fairfax” brought up the result “Beverly, MA”. If I say, “The Apple Store at The Grove” then I get a list of Apple Stores, with “The Apple Store at The Grove” at the top of the list. Maybe Apple will open enough Apple Stores that I’ll be able to navigate places using those? Google has no problem at all with any of those requests. I have not run a scientific battery of tests on it, but the only thing Siri got right were the directions to Greystone Mansion.

A fun thing anyone can do is ask Siri for directions to “City Hall”. Omit the name of your city. Instead of figuring out that you might want to go to the city hall of the city you’re in, or at the very least, the nearest building named city hall, it decides that you want to go to Philadelphia City Hall. Google doesn’t always nail the city, especially in a complex metropolitan area with multiple cities nearby. This is just silly, common sense stuff, that Apple utterly fails at. How is this a reliable service?

That is hardly the cardinal sin of this launch, because it’s been that bad forever, I just didn’t have Siri, and voice navigation, so I didn’t get to experience the utter futility of trying to use the things that rely on Maps’ data.

The thing that really sticks out is iCloud Drive, which doesn’t really work if your computer isn’t on Yosemite. You’re still prompted to upgrade to it when you set up your iOS 8 device (like a new iPhone 6). Maybe don’t do that, Apple? Maybe just kick that out with a point release? I had to tell Jason not to upgrade to iCloud Drive, and even after explaining it he didn’t understand why he shouldn’t. This is simply a dumb move. Get your product managers to work together on this stuff, guys.

Online backups is another situation entirely. I only trust iCloud with my old iPad (3). It is faster, and cheaper, to back up my iPhone to iTunes on my computer. It is unfortunate that that’s the case, but I see no logic in paying for a slower service. Sure, iTunes is a flaming hemorrhoid, but it’s my flaming hemorrhoid. My podcast cohost has run afoul of a situation where iCloud backup takes so long, that iCloud can’t backup, and warns you.

This iPhone has not been backed up recently because it has not finished being restored. Would you like to finish downloading any remaining purchases and media before backing up, or delete them along with any app data?

Hell of a way to phrase that.

Sto-Rage

Indeed the biggest problem with the iPhone is storage. I joke, frequently, with Bradley Chambers about how bad the storage situation is. This is also one of those things that sounds ridiculous, but actually has a large impact on how people use devices, not just how people buy devices.

People don’t think they have that much stuff, because people don’t want to spend that much money. Indeed, there might be people that can get by with 16 GB phones but I couldn’t tell you who they would be. Even for people that still have free space at 16 GB, they probably don’t have 5+ GB free for iOS upgrades. Then the bundled apps are another 2-3 GB. How is it even conscionable to sell a 16 GB device to someone that they will need to use for two years? Jason doesn’t listen to podcasts (I know, right?) and yet he’s stuck with that dinky app. Bundled apps are bloat if no one wants them, even if they are official Apple products. Jason might have moved from a 16 GB to a 32 GB, but that tier no longer exists.

The entry-level seems like a great way to get an extra $100 out of people that know 16 GB isn’t enough (like me, and everyone I talk to that’s owned an iPhone), but it’s a good way to burn people getting their first iPhone. It’s not great if it backfires and people hate their experience with their phone because they don’t understand why they constantly have to delete things. Especially when Apple provides such poor tools for managing storage. Seriously, go look at that usage chart on your iPhone and then figure out how you’ll selective remove things. Spend an afternoon on it, it’s fun. I hope those photos were backed up!

My Six Cents

The iPhone 6 is a fantastic upgrade for people that are already Apple customers — especially customers that have very outdated phones, like myself. I don’t know how it will win people over that don’t want to be bothered thinking about storage. How can I convince someone to move from Android’s Google services to Apple’s services? I can’t. I’ll literally tell them that same old story about my home address always being wrong and rendering Apple’s app useless. That’s not very encouraging, really.

When Tim Cook was on Charlie Rose, he said Apple’s biggest competitor was Google (32 minutes in). This is very true. Apple has not been able to match Google for services any more than Google has been able to match Apple products. This fundamental tension is going to continue until one of them figures out how to not suck.

Please Siri, there’s no place like home — a home with lots of storage.

^1: I didn’t read the fine print, but I’m pretty sure there’s a complex system of licensing arrangements that keep it from being “all mine”.

2014-09-23 15:35:23

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