What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Objections. You know when the best time is to raise objections to something? Before it happens, that’s when. You know, during the weeks you’ve had to review it while it’s passing through the Byzantine approval process that involves you and 67 other people and organizations. There’s plenty of time to fix things while they’re trundling towards final approval. The time not to raise objections is a day after the thing is published for public consumption… when making a fix involves absolutely herculean efforts for everyone else involved. Whoever originated the phrase “better late than never,” was an absolute moron.

2. Facebook. Facebook keeps telling me that various people and organizations have scheduled events that “you may be interested in.” I have no idea what kind of impression I’ve given Facebook over the years, but I just can’t believe that it would include that I’m the sort of person who’s interested in events. I didn’t like crowds in the Before Time. I certainly didn’t do events in the Plague Year. Now that the world is waking up, I have no idea what would have given Facebook the notion that I’d suddenly be the kind of person who was chomping at the bit to go places and do things. I can take some comfort, I suppose, in knowing that despite all their efforts at data collection, big tech still doesn’t get me at all.

3. Executive Orders. Thanks to the Biden Administration, I’m out of pocket for membership in two more pro-Second Amendment organizations as of this afternoon. No, I can’t outspend the federal government as it attempts to further tighten the screws on those who legally own and use firearms, but I can damned well put my money where my mouth is and make sure I’m at least in the fight. 

Levels of review…

In my little corner of the Giant Bureaucratic Organization, very few pieces of paper ever move further than one’s own desk without passing through one or more layers of review. These reviews are almost the very definition of what it means to exist within the bureaucracy – the very reason the term “paper pusher” came into existence.

It’s hard enough to move a single piece of paper, say something as simple as a memo. The complexity and convolutions involved in getting something larger – say a document of several dozens of pages is mind boggling. It’s a herculean feat of bureaucratic mastery involving three layers of review at a bare minimum. I’ve personally seen the number of reviewers go as high as 14  on a single document. I’ve heard stories that the numbers can grow even larger as one progresses through echelons higher than reality towards the beating, five-sided heart of our bureaucratic empire. Each and every non-concur along the way carries the risk of sending you back to the starting block to try again.

I’m not saying that reviews are entirely pointless or without merit. In some cases I’d even argue that they are absolutely necessary. When it becomes the reviews themselves that drive the process rather what is being reviewed, I can’t help but believe that there is a flaw in the system. Then again, I’m a poor simple history major who learned to read original source documents that may have virtually no relationship to standard English usage so what the hell do I know. 

70% (or why I fell in love with my new phone)…

I’ve been struggling a bit to fall in love with my new phone. The “+” form factor just felt wrong in my hand. The balance was off and I found myself needing to use both hands for things that I could do for the last seven years with just a flick of my thumb. I liked the new model well enough, but I wasn’t in love with it.

After spending all day with it at work today, though, I’m getting turned around on all that. I left on schedule after what I would consider a regular day of use at more than 70% charged. With the last phone, I’d usually start hunting for a plug sometime after noon – and that was after giving it a boost during the morning commute.

I’m now officially of the opinion that if battery power alone were the only improvement from the last model to this new one, it would be well worth the upgrade. The new camera is impressive, with live photos being a bit gimmicky. 3D touch is fine and works as advertised – though I don’t find myself using it all that often. I’ve never particularly liked Siri and haven’t given her new incarnation much of a chance to change my mind.

Yeah, I’m a tech junky who probably doesn’t use a third of the capability of the gear in my arsenal. Sue me. I don’t need new and innovative ways to check email or ask for directions. I’m old school enough that typing on the screen is still ok by me. When Apple can beam information directly into my frontal lobe, then maybe I’ll be more interested in doing things the “new way.”

Is the 6S/6S+ a must have upgrade if you’re running the 6? No. Is it a respectable upgrade if you’re coming from one of the earlier models? Oh yeah. It’ll likely knock our socks off.

Even if that big beautiful new battery is the only thing I use to the fullest, it was well worth the price of admission. At some point maybe I’ll even get around to teaching myself how to use all the extra bells and whistles I paid for… or maybe not. It all depends on how and if I can see it improving my workflow in some way. Until then, I’m well satisfied.

First impressions of iPhone 6…

A few of your have been (more or less) patiently waiting for my first impressions of iPhone 6. I don’t know if this morning’s post is going to exactly reward that patience, but it will at least give you a snapshot of what I’ve found after living with the new phone for the first 36 hours. Do bear in mind that these observations are in no way scientific, have not been approved by Apple, and reflect only my own thoughts.

Screen: I didn’t really think having an additional .7 inches of usable space on the screen would make much difference. I was wrong. The 4.7 screen feels like you’re dealing with acreage compare to the old 4-inch standard. Resolution is crystal clear and the depth of colors displayed exceeded my expectations.

Speed: As expected, speed is improved to have less lag between clicking an app and it opening. Switching between open apps is also largely improved. Performance overall feels snappier – as it should on a brand new device.

iOS 8: No surprises. The new operating system is essentially an incremental improvement from last year. Lots of goodness here that I still need to play with.

Battery: Solid performance under heavy use the last day and a half. It’s probably still going to need a pick-me-up charge towards late afternoon, but it’s miles ahead of needing to plug in at lunch time as I did with the old model under regular daily use. It’s very respectable performance considering it lasts longer while driving a more powerful processor and larger screen.

Camera: Appreciable improvement, especially in low light settings. There is considerably less lag between pushing the button and taking the picture. This is good when you have two dogs who aren’t particularly adept at sitting still for photos.

Form and Fit: Thinner is good. Though it is very slightly heavier than the 5S, it feels lighter in hand because that weight is spread out across a larger area. Build quality is solid, with nothing feeling loose or in danger of falling apart any time soon. The rounded edges are much more comfortable in hand than the hard edges of past models – and echoes back to the original rounded iPhone designs. It’s a very, very pretty phone, but it’s a slick little thing that has tried to jump out of my hand twice already. Dropping a “naked” phone is a concern, even though I’m not particularly accident prone with electronics. Some of that concern will probably be resolved by adding a case to give it a little more “grip-ability,” although sadly that will also hide a really well designed phone.

Overall: If you’re an Apple fan, it’s obviously a winner. Android fans? Eh, I won’t even speculate on what you may think. For me, it’s slightly too large to use in one handed operation for many tasks. I think iPhone has really hit a sweet spot somewhere between too small and phablet – and I know some 6+ fans out there are going to disagree with that assessment. The iPhone 6 does everything I’ve asked of it and is loaded with capabilities I haven’t begun to use. I fear we have reached a point where the phones are finally outstripping my ability to keep up and use them to their maximum ability.

Not surprisingly, my assessment is that this is the best phone Apple has ever offered. If you’re looking to upgrade, I don’t think you’ll find any disappointment here.

Review me…

Retribution: Chasing Hearts and Minds has been out there in the wild for a little over a week now. I know from a few private messages and from the retailer’s weekly reports that a few copies are floating around. The individual feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – and trust me I never get tired of hearing good things about myself so I thank all of you who have taken the time to drop me a note. I do, however, have one small favor to ask of those of you who have already purchased your own copy (and those of you who plan to purchase your copy in the future).

It would be incredibly helpful for me if you’d go back to your retailer’s page and leave a review. I’d never presume to tell you what kind of feedback to give – either positive or negative – but as I’ve learned the hard way, when it comes to selling ebooks, nothing gets a no-name work noticed like good reviews and ratings. In addition to total sales numbers, reviews are a big part of the secret algorithms the big retailers use to decide what moves up the rankings, what gets featured, and what doesn’t.

Retribution will probably never make it to Amazon’s top ten in ebooks > sci-fi > dystopian, but if someone were to happen across it using a key word search, a few reviews could really help make the difference between picking up their own copy and moving on to the next alternative.

To pick up your own copy or leave a review, all you need to do is follow one of these helpful links:

Once you’re there, I’m sure you can figure out what to do without any more prodding from me. Now go forth and say great things!

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Millions and millions sold…

Everyone expects “revolutionary” from Apple. The truth is they only really do revolutionary once or twice in a decade. Once they set the market it’s all about making evolutionary changes. Evolutionary is precisely how I’d describe the iPhone 5s. It feels exactly the same in hand as the 5. Aside from the new color options, you’d probably never know it was a new device until you fired it up and saw what was “under the hood.”

The 5s, not surprisingly runs iOS7 like a champion. It’s a very snappy performer at every task I’ve thrown at it in four days. The new camera is the real game changer for me. I think they’ve finally improved it to the point where I won’t even be tempted to drag along a stand alone point and shoot camera when I go somewhere. For you photogs, it’s obviously not SLR quality, but hey, it’s a phone and not a $1000 camera, so there’s that. The OS itself is starting to grow on me. It still feels a little too colorful for me, but I have to admit the interface is very slick once you get use to it. There are plenty of toggles and options to control how iPhone behaves, but at the end of the day you’re still in Apple’s walled garden so some options are limited. Fortunately, most of us don’t by iOS or Apple products because we want to tinker with the innards.

Apple issued a press release today that cited over 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c variants sold over this past weekend. I have no doubt that’s how many were ordered since early Friday morning, but there’s no way that’s how many phones they put in hands over the last three days. The buying experience has really been the only blemish on what I otherwise consider a pretty remarkable phone. Whether you blame rolling out in too many countries, over estimating demand of the 5c models, or manufacturing challenges with the fingerprint reader, Apple had far fewer “flagship” models available in their retail stores than they have in past years. My best estimate is that they had no more than 400-500 on hand at Christiana Mall on Friday at launch. Of course that only matters if you’re committed to getting your hands on a phone on day one. Fortunately for me, Best Buy stepped in and filled the gap left in Apple’s own retail supply chain.

The bottom line? It’s a great phone, a solid performer, and absolutely the best phone I have ever owned. I have no regrets upgrading from the 5 to the 5s. If you’re sitting on a 4s, it’s probably a “must have” upgrade.

Sunday morning coming down…

I’ve been falling down on by blogging responsibilities this weekend. Between catching up on sleep from my aborted line-standing at the Apple Store and finally getting to spend a good chunk of time playing with this hard to procure new toy, there hasn’t been as much free time as you’d think during this three day weekend. Even so, the fourth thing I did this morning was make sure the Myspace Blog Archive Project was up to date on this Sunday morning – I came after letting the dogs out, feeding them, and making coffee. Even a dedicated blogger has to have priorities, no?

This morning’s archive selections close out the posts from May 2008 and are distinctly “slice of life” posts. No rants, no raves, just the minutia of what’s happening day to day. Hopefully it will be useful a hundred years from now to someone researching what life was like at the dawn of the 21st century. A boy can dream, anyway.

Now that I’ve had a full day with it, I’ve got a review of the iPhone 5s coming up. That will most likely make its debut tomorrow. The short version is this: If you’ve been considering picking up Apple’s latest flagship, go ahead and put your order in now. You’ll be waiting until October, but it’s going to be worth the wait.

Launch 5.0

7:12AM – Good morning and welcome to the iPhone 5 launch day live blog. This is the second year that there was no option to reserve a phone for pickup at the local Apple Store, so rather than lining up and hoping that there was stock on hand by the time I got to the front, I opted for home delivery (translation: I’ll be casting alot of longing glances out the window looking for signs of UPS). I miss the festival atmosphere at the yearly Apple Store line up, but I have to admit that sitting here in the kitchen with a fresh steaming mug of coffee is generally better than waking up at midnight and heading over to Delaware to stand in the cold until the sun comes up.

For anyone curious about the new phone, I’d recommend checking out the venerable Walt Mossberg‘s early review. If you’re interested in some hands on discussion, take a look at the forums tab at MacRumors.com. As always, I’ll keep this space updated with anything quirky or interesting that I come across over the course of the day. In the interest of not flooding the page with separate posts, all updates will be made here on Launch 5.0. Stay tuned as Steve’s faithful enjoy Christmas in September.

8:06AM – One thing I didn’t mention in the bulldog-induced angst yesterday was that FedEx dropped off three Lightning cables. That still won’t replace all of the cables I currently use, but it will at least let me make keep two at home, one in the car, and one at work without needing to remember to take a cable everywhere every day. I’m glad I got that order in before people realized the adapters weren’t going to be available until sometime in October. What I didn’t take into account with the replacement of the 30-pin dock connector was just how small the Lightning connector was going to be. It’s about a quarter the size of a standard USB connector… For reference, here’s Lightning compared to a standard issue paperclip. Pretty slick, right?

8:20AM – If you upgraded to iOS 6 or if you’re considering it, here’s a good piece on some of the more beneficial changes Apple made by Jacqui Chang over at Ars Technica.

11:24AM – UPS makes an unexpected morning stop at Rental Casa de Jeff… Box in hand, I’ll give you the rundown once things are up and running.

11:45AM – First impression: This phone is surprisingly light, but still manages to feel like a very solid build in your hand. I’m setting up the phone now and will put together a more complete first impressions piece later today.

4S

Some of you are probably expecting a detailed iPhone 4S review. There are plenty of them out there already. Adding one more to the mix doesn’t seem like a great use of time. All I’ll say is that after a weekend of heavy use it’s an absolute winner. I thought I was going to be disappointed that it wasn’t a newly redesigned phone, but what I didn’t expect is that it’s just the shell that’s the same. All the electronic innards are new, improved and seamless. If you’re due for an upgrade or even if you’re not and just want to step up to a best in class piece of work, do yourself a favor and give this thing a test drive. It’s a game changer. Again.