Thoughts on today’s WWDC keynote

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WWDC Keynote thoughts

Phil Schiller had the day’s best line – “Apple can’t innovate any more, my ass.” You have to love that. The big reveal for iOS 7; a glimpse at MacOS 10.9; new MacBook Airs with obscene battery life; a new Mac Pro that looks to be beyond worth the 10-year wait for the new enclosure.

iOS 7

This is a beautiful operating system. Beautiful. This is what Apple does – consistent iterations on a successful formula to change it slowly over time. Just about every new feature that was announced today is something I can see myself using regularly – particularly Control Center.

  • One thing I don’t make good enough use of on my phone now is the Notification Center; the changes to that coming in iOS 7 might be enough to get me to take better advantage of this feature. – I’m going to listen to Radio. A lot.
  • AirDrop could end up being pretty useful, but it’s going to have to be extremely compelling to consider moving away from DropBox for that sort of sync.
  • I’m definitely curious to check out the new Camera app. My photos are scattered all over the place; I haven’t made efficient use of the various tools I have to share photos (or to take them really). Some photos are taken directly in Instagram. Some are taken in Camera first and then Instagrammed. A couple of them I initially took in Vesper. I need to start taking every photo on my phone in Camera, and then moving them out to other services for distribution.
  • watch the animation in the video for Messages. See the translucency and the layering of the elements? How the keyboard feels like it’s floating over the message thread? That’s beautiful.

The people who are already throwing fits online that iOS 7 isn’t a radical-enough change from iOS 6 don’t understand Apple anyway. The same can be said for the Android bloggers who are playing the least-surprising game of [“Simpsons Did It” and doing feature comparisons. iOS7 is a great-looking OS, and I suspect that almost immediately after upgrading any app that doesn’t update its icon so it will look good beside the stock Apple apps will lose its place on my Home screen. The new features are welcome, compelling and useful. I’m looking forward to it.

MacOS 10.9

“Mavericks” is kind of a ridiculous name for a software update, and it’s interesting that Apple has finally decided it has run out of cat names for its core OS. There wasn’t much revealed about MacOS 10.9 today, but there were four features that I suspect I’ll be making good use of – tagging files in the OS, the tabbed Finder (which has been a long time coming), better support for multiple monitors (I have a 30″ LCD as my primary display and use my MacBook Pro’s screen as a sidebar at work), and the iCloud Keychain.

I’m not going to lie, there was a fist pump and a “YES” when I saw screenshots of the new iCal. I hate the paper desktop calendar motif of the current iCal, and the MacOS 10.9 version is gorgeous.

No announcement of the price or a window for availability other than “fall,” but it seems like a relatively safe bet that Apple will continue the $29 update price it used for 10.8.

MacBook Air

I have not purchased a new computer for myself at home since Nov. 2003, when I bought my Dual G5 Mac Pro. I’ve been interested in the Air since it debuted; I love the form factor and the portability, and technology has finally caught up to the point where Apple can put what by all accounts is a pretty excellent computer inside the case. Apple’s touting 12 hours of battery life – 12 – for the new Air announced today (the 13-inch version anyway; the 11-inch gets a paltry 9), and has doubled the amount of on-board flash memory while keeping the price the same. The 13-inch model with 256GB of storage and a RAM boost to 8 gigs for about $1,350 is incredibly tempting…

Mac Pro

Tim Cook said last year that Apple would have news on a revamped Mac Pro sometime in 2013. “Sometime” was today; take a look at what they unveiled. Apple has taken the G4 Cube from 2000 – which was a really cool enclosure for a computer, even though it wasn’t a very successful product and Apple killed it after one year – and gone completely nuts with it to design the new Mac Pro. This machine is insane; the amount of power Apple has crammed into a 9-inch-by-6-inch cylinder is ridiculous.

Conspicuous in its absence – much discussion about iCloud, at all, at least in any of the recaps from today that I have read so far. No discussion on improvements to the service or new features beyond the Keychain in Mavericks, and nothing said about improvements to the Core Data sync features that have just been torn to shreds on dev blogs for the better part of this year. The iCloud and core Data labs at WWDC start on Wednesday, and there’s a Core Data session Wednesday afternoon, so perhaps Apple have some new things to share then.

One final note – not at all lost on me was Apple’s heavy use of Gilt in the screenshots and other demo materials for MacOS and iOS today. That is a pretty clear indicator of the demographic they’re targeting (quite successfully).

(Everything I read about WWDC today came through in Steve Jobs’ voice in my head. It was weird. But sort of cool. It was fun to imagine him on stage saying “Mavericks” many times.)

Conversations with a 15-year-old, Draft and a new computer

Conversations with a 15-year-old

While watching a coffee commercial with Penelope Cruz:

Me: “Hey, it’s my girlfriend Penelope Cruz.”
Megan: “You sure do think you have a lot of girlfriends.”
Me: “Well, Penelope Cruz is one of my few top girlfriends.”
Megan: “Few top girlfriends? Whatever, dad. Her eyes are weird; it’s like she’s looking at two different things at the same time.”
Me: “She’s just bedazzled by my cuteness and doesn’t know where to focus.”
Megan: “Right. She can’t even see you.”
Me: “But she knows.”

NSA wiretaps

The Guardian broke a story last night about the National Security Agency’s program to mine information on millions of phone calls on Verizon’s cellular network; essentially, the government is farming information on phone calls made for every person in the country.

There was an interview with Glen Greenwald, who wrote the Guardian story, on MPR today over lunch; the interviewer asked him if he was worried whether the NSA’s phone-tapping program would be able to play a role in identifying the source who leaked him the information; he simply responded “I don’t want to talk about that,” and the interview ended.

And now it’s out that the NSA also are similarly mining Internet data; no surprise there. Story on CNN.

This is what happens when you allow the government to expand its powers because “I have nothing to hide.” Because eventually you can’t possibly have anything to hide. “Privacy” doesn’t mean protecting secrets that you don’t want anyone to find out; privacy means you have a right to lead a life that is none of the government’s business. It’s hard to imagine “we have the right to secretly collect information on every single one of your communications and store that information indefinitely for whatever reason we see fit” should be legal.

New computer update

Last week, I upgraded my laptop at work; I traded up from a 2009 MacBook Pro to a screaming fast new Retina-display MacBook Pro with 16 gigs of RAM and a 500-gig SSD. Seriously. Screaming fast.

For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I have a machine that performs near the speed that I think. I haven’t had to wait on anything; I want to do something, the computer responds. There’s no hesitation. I don’t wait for anything to load. I just decide I want to do something, ask the computer to complete a task and it’s done.

Honestly, I’m probably overestimating just how fast this new machine given what I have traded up from. My 2009 model was being overworked to the point that I was estimating spending somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-45 minutes every day waiting on spinning beach balls. In the few days I’ve had this new computer, I haven’t even seen a beach ball — let alone wait for a task to complete to necessitate having to watch one for a countable segment of time. Because that was starting to drive me absolutely insane.

New tool: Draft

The Internet is awesome, and there are always fun new toys to discover. Today’s fun new toy is Draft. Draft is a Markdown-enabled web-based writing platform; it also has added a media player with some very clever keyboard shortcuts for navigating playback for helping with transcriptions.

I used Draft for the first time this afternoon to transcribe audio from an interview I did this morning. It worked like a dream. The controls for controlling the audio were incredibly intuitive and easy to use, and it made for probably the smoothest transcription I’ve ever done.

Draft is like a lot of web services in that it has a fully functional free account, with some added features that require a subscription. I am already using two Markdown environments — Day One and iA Writer — and I’m not sure how Draft would replace either of them so I doubt I’d be in the market for the paid version. But I’ll dive right for it when

The only hiccup I encountered when using Draft was that it didn’t natively play the .WAV audio files that are generated by Evernote’s audio-recording function. I had to export the audio from Evernote, convert it to an m4a in QuickTime so I could put it into Draft.

LEGO Shellraiser

I picked up a LEGO Shellraiser on eBay for Helen; it was a no-minifigs auction that didn’t include the turtles or Dogpound’s van, so it was pretty cheap.

We finally got it built this morning, and it’s a pretty disappointing model. Visually it looks very cool, but functionally it’s quite poorly designed. The mechanism that is supposed to allow the wheels to raise for sewer mode or whatever mostly just collapses under the weight of the vehicle, and it creates a serious structural problem with the windows; the support beams for the wheels don’t allow enough space to build adequate support for the windows, which are attached only by a 2×1 brick. So the slightest pressure will collapse them. The frame for the roof also isn’t sturdy, so pushing the wheels up to use the whee-raising mechanism as intended usually just shoots the entire support pillar through the top of the model. It’s a cool-looking vehicle, but it’s screaming for a redesign.

Saturday update from the road

Saturday update from the road

note: I wrote this last night, but forgot to post it here before I went to bed. So, “today” = “yesterday.”

It’s the end of my first full day in Kansas, and I must say today was a good day. I miss this town.

Tom took me on a tour of the entire new west-side football press box at K-State today, and it’s so amazing, even in its dramatically unfinished state, that it brought tears to my eyes. It was only the second time I had been back in the stadium since I left here in 2001, and being able to stand in the press box and point to the field – Kevin Lockett’s catch against Colorado was there; Darnell McDonald’s touchdown catch against Nebraska was over there; Michael Bishop’s dive into the end zone against Missouri was over there; over and over again through all of my amazing memories of that place – was overwhelming. It still tears my heart out that I had to leave here. I can’t wait to be back here for the North Dakota State game in August; that’s going to be one incredible experience.

The best part of today was seeing eight of the nine kids in my family together; it would have been nice to have had Megan here, but getting her over here last night would have been very difficult on me just from a stamina perspective (and also that much rougher on the kids), and getting her here this morning would’ve destroyed the day via four hours in the car. That’s just how it goes I guess. Still, it was pretty great to finally meet my nephew, and Helen and Millie had an absolute blast with their cousins.

Millie spent a lot of time rolling a scooter around on my parents’ back patio repeating “YOLO, YOLO, YOLO.”

I watched Tomorrow When the War Began tonight with dad after the kids were in bed; it’s Australia’s version of Red Dawn, about a group of kids rising up to fight back against an invasion of their country (plot: China invaded Australia for its natural resources). It was actually a surprisingly OK movie, although the ending was atrocious. The movie basically ends with them deciding to become full-on revolutionaries and to officially organize to fight back against the invasion; it would be like Red Dawn ending as soon as they decided to become the Wolverines. There’s a sequel coming in 2014, according to Phoebe Tonkin’s IMDB page, so hopefully that means they’ll actually get to the full-on fighting. This movie came out in 2010, so there will be a four-year age difference in the cast by then, which will be noticeable; that’ll be strange, unless they just time-shift the movie and not have it start immediately after the events of this one.

Other minutia from today:

  • I got new tires for my car;
  • I found some fun things at Hastings for super-cheap, including this huge coffee table book of black and white portraits of characters from the Watchmen movie for five bucks and a four-dollar trade of a New Teen Titans storyline about Donna Troy. Awesomely, they also had Star Wars #4 and Hawkeye #10, rescuing me from their absence in my stacks of barely-read illustrated paper at home; and
  • I picked up the Lego Minotaur board game on clearance at Walmart for $10 when I bought my tires.