Apple’s California Streaming event will probably achieve the one thing that most benefits this overtaxed planet - slowing down the upgrade cycle.
Apple’s marketing guys tried their level best to feed the hype machine. They put together a slick online presentation that included musical performances, famous directors making movies with iPhones, and over-the-top, bombastic animations ill-suited to the iterative stature of each feature being illustrated.
A case in point: this animation of a massive avalanche pelting huge boulders down onto the new Apple Watch screen to illustrate… an IP6X certification (dust resistance).
With no new sensors, no new design (despite the erroneous rumours of a square chassis), and not even a new chipset, the only thing going for the Apple Watch Series 7 is a screen with 1mm shaved off the bezels and slightly faster charging. Oh, and improved dust resistance of course. Such feature paucity makes me feel good about getting the Series 6 last year: my analysis back then was spot on - the Apple Watch reached it’s peak in 2020.
Apple’s crack marketing team also decided to inflate the importance of this year’s iPhone upgrade by calling it the iPhone 13 instead of the iPhone 12S. I totally get it - “S” year upgrades (same external design with updated internals) don’t sound as exciting. But in cold hard reality, that is exactly what the iPhone 13 is - an “S” year upgrade.
That’s not to say that “S” year upgrades are bad - many tech enthusiasts actually prefer the refinements offered on a time-tested design rather than the riskier early adoption of a new design. I went with the 6S partly for this reason, and it has indisputably stood the test of time.
So there we were - violently donkey kicking the flat tire in turns like a gang of crazed soccer hooligans. Rust, dirt, and mother nature’s malice had fused the tire rim onto the wheel hub and it wasn’t coming off.
We were in Port Renfrew. If you don’t know Port Renfrew then let me explain: with two restaurants and about a hundred residents, there isn’t much else to it. True to its name, there is a port. But certainly no auto repair shops. And most tragically - no cell service or internet.
We had no other option than to bruise that tire.
Then, humanity shone through. One after another, people stopped to help. One guy bent his piece of rebar trying to pry it off. Another shirtless, barefoot guy borrowed my shoes and taught us the donkey-kicking technique. Another suggested we lower the tire back down with the jack to loosen it with the car’s weight. Another clean-cut young man used his satellite internet to look up the problem. He wasn’t much help but his heart was in the right place.
Incredibly, they kept on coming. And each one contributed to cracking that bad boy off, taking a turn to kick when we were too tired to kick anymore. Eventually a grizzled Hulk-Hogan lookalike picked out a piece of wood and a rock from the roadside and hammered that tire off like Thor swinging Mjölnir in the heat of battle.
It was a glorious, heart-warming, fitting end to the summer.
I went with an ambiguous title for this post on purpose. Summer is usually a relaxing, carefree time. Time spent outdoors barbequing, camping, swimming (or forest bathing, if you prefer), and hanging out in boardshorts and flip flops with a cold beer.
This summer is no exception, even at the tail-end of the pandemic. BC is in good shape overall - look at the numbers, especially the “COVID-19 deaths per million residents” chart. We have the second-fewest deaths (Norway has the fewest). There is, of course, talk about a “fourth wave”, and I’m sure there will be fifth, sixth, and seventh waves but that’s just how it is now, so why worry?
So, in a sense, I have been enjoying a “sick” summer. I got my second COVID-19 shot, along with a lot of other people, and with active cases at an all-time low, restrictions have eased up. I was able to take some vacation time for a few camping road trips and play in the incredible outdoor playground we have here in BC.
On the other hand, we are very much experiencing a sick summer, with a brutal heat wave in late June sending temperatures so high that even Death Valley started looking temperate. It got so bad that the town of Lytton recorded the highest temperature in Canada ever for two days before completely burning to the ground on the third day.
The heat wave kicked off an early wildfire season. Throughout July, hundreds of out-of-control fires have evacuated numerous small towns and are choking the air with smoke. We drove through some of the affected areas with the windows down (our car’s air conditioning broke at an inopportune time), so I can confirm - it was terrible.
The iPhone 6S refuses to die.
With confirmation at WWDC that it will be receiving iOS 15, the 6S has officially become the longest-supported smartphone of all time. With an incredible seven years of guaranteed software support, this gracefully-aging phone has just been conferred the title of Living Legend.
I was fully expecting my 6S to be killed off this year. I was even making succession plans. But instead, Apple granted my phone another year of reprieve. I’m pretty happy about it, and so is the Internet - here are some Twitter reactions:
If you follow the latest tech media, podcasts, and YouTube videos, you probably think that everybody has an iPhone 12 and only technophobes, or the cash-poor, or kids on hand-me-downs, use an iPhone 6S as a daily driver. Allow me to disabuse you of that notion.
According to statistics on the most popular iOS devices currently used in North America, there are far more people using an iPhone 6S than an iPhone 12. Surprised? You shouldn’t be - most normal people are somewhat financially responsible, it turns out.
Okay, so the 6S is the new longevity champ, and I ain’t complaining. But how exactly did the 6S seize the crown?
To answer that question, we’ll have to dig a bit deeper into this year’s WWDC.
I don’t know what those Googlers have been smoking these days, but Google I/O this year was just trippy.
It started out with a bunch of colourful, psychedelic slug-like blobs singing opera. Whether a machine-learning experiment or an acid trip, the effect was the same. We were also treated to a bizarre AI-generated conversation with an anthropomorphized Pluto and… a talking paper airplane?
And just when you thought your head would explode after picturing error-corrected logical qubits wrapped up in a “colder than Canada” Bob Ross painting, Google brought back all the gross greens and oranges back from the 70s in a demo for Android’s “new” UI design.
It was a wild, heady, exhausting ride. But now that the I/O-induced haze has dissipated, there are a few interesting nuggets and tidbits I’d like to talk about.
In Apple’s recent Spring Loaded event, the landscaping at Apple Park was on point. The path sightlines, the balance of trees and shrubbery, the striking wooden decks - even the mulch - was all so pleasant to look at in its verdant splendour.
As Tim Cook strolled through the starkly empty courtyard grounds, around the shallow pool with its form-fitting crescent-shaped bench, in front of the rainbow arches, it became abundantly clear that working at the richest company on Planet Earth has its perks.
Criticize Apple all you want for creating a suburban oasis instead of a practical urban headquarters with better public transit options. But if you had the choice of spending your working days inside a grungy city office building or outdoors on a sunny California patio with views straight out of a manicured Airbnb listing, which would you pick?
I’m enjoying these polished online presentations - hopefully they don’t go away completely when traditional in-person events come back. I will miss strolling through Apple Park with Tim.
True to the event name, a plethora of product announcements were crammed into the hour. These were a mixed bag, from credit card improvements, to podcast subscriptions, to purple iPhones, to a Ted Lasso trailer. Fairly minor stuff. If I were forced to come up with a theme, however, I’d say the common thread - with one exception - was a focus on the average (non-nerdy) consumer.
Spring has arrived in full force. The temperature magically jumped up ten degrees in the past week. One day you’re huddling inside sipping Coffee in the gloom in Gotland-wool slippers, and the next you’re paddling on the lake in boardshorts and bare feet. Incredible.
It’s enough to make you forget that the variants are also out in full force. And yet, as the blazing Spring sun has burned away the darkness, there is also hope that the vaccination rollout will continue to curb the rising covid tide. Today I registered my interest in receiving the vaccine on the government website, so that’s a small win I guess.
I don’t mind the Winter too much because I like cozy blankets, hot chocolate, and Netflix. I don’t particularly like sunscreen, allergies, and mowing the lawn. But I’d forgotten how good warm sun feels on bare skin. The colourization of the landscape as it transforms from brown to vivid green is a real mood booster too.
With the warm weather breathing new life into the land, my mind has turned to Spring-cleaning projects - this blog being no exception. It’s time to get meta.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of going into lockdown, restricted gatherings, working from home, and so on. We’re at almost three million deaths so far from COVID-19, a number that undoubtedly would be a lot higher without the drastic global action taken this past year.
This one-year period has fomented a significant societal shift, and I can’t even guess what the long-term consequences may be. But if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that, in general, people have become more suspicious, less open, and psychologically overburdened with either a well of anger or of loneliness seething beneath the surface.
Also like Batman, more prone to hiding in dark caves and staring at a glowing bank of screens. However, we’ve also become smarter about the way we work, travel, and communicate. Some humanity lost, but some efficiency gained.
Perhaps we will start hugging each other again someday, and perhaps we’ll rip the Bane masks off and see each other’s smiles again, and regain some of that humanity. Vaccines are aggressively rolling out as I write this, with politicians promising a much brighter summer.
If you’re relying on the promises of politicians for your future happiness, however, you may just be disappointed.
Now is a great time to reflect and re-evaluate your priorities. You could sit with remorse and regret every day (about how you failed to invest in Bitcoin or NFTs earlier, for example), or you could take a look at your life (not a hard look, mind you, more like a gentle gaze). Congratulate yourself on your achievements. Or decide to make some small, incremental, positive changes.
But wherever you’re at, cut yourself some slack - it’s been a bruiser of a year.
Being in indefinite lockdown is turning me into a wild-eyed, bearded, slipper-enthusiast hermit. Or, couched in more positive terms - a rugged mountain man with a laptop and Gotland wool on his feet.
I’m sure all of us are digging deep in the final stretch - even introverts need some semblance of society after all. Yet, although there’s plenty to worry about, I’d like to keep the vibe upbeat around here.
I’m driving all over the road on this one. So buckle up and prepare for some whiplash - it’s a grab-bag post. The real writing trick here is in smooth transitions to make the randomness seamless - so watch out for those.
With lockdown still in effect, cabin fever is the real deal for everybody right now. We are all yearning for some travel, exploration, and adventure (hence the recent sea-shanty craze). So, it makes perfect sense that one of the highlights of this month was the successful landing of NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover (we’re expanding from sea-faring ships to spaceships in our collective imagination).
If you haven’t done so, watch the landing video to see the sort of awe-inspiring high-res footage of the red planet you’d expect from an interplanetary mission in the 21st century. There’s even a secret message coded into the rover’s parachute.
Elon Musk approves. With a Mars colony as his end-game, everything Musk does is in service of his ultimate goal. His satellite-based internet service, Starlink, will one day encircle Mars in a high-speed communication bubble. But, for those of us on Earth, Starlink offers some intriguing possibilities for the future.
My prediction is that the increase in remote work positions, coupled with Starlink bringing fast internet to rural areas, will allow white-collar workers to buy up cheap acreage in pristine wilderness while continuing to work online.
In rural Canada, internet speeds are atrocious, but Starlink is changing that. The second-largest country in the world just became the new frontier for high-tech workers looking to escape the urban dystopia. You don’t even have to drive a tractor - but it would be cooler if you did.
When I was studying Anthropology a few decades ago, I would often come across the concept of liminality. It is a fascinating concept that runs parallel to ideas of limbo or purgatory, but with perhaps a more academic context.
As liminality has both spatial and temporal dimensions, it is not surprising that moody millennials have adopted the idea of liminal spaces as an aesthetic style. But it is the temporal dimension - a rite of passage - that is particularly resonant when applied to our current shared liminal experience as a society.
It is this unsettling transition that has overshadowed the birth of 2021 with a sense of foreboding as we cradle this fragile newborn year and wonder if it will grow into a beautiful little being, or a grotesque and misshapen infant.
But it is the jarring juxtaposition that troubles me, like golden sunshine on a killing field, of a current state of affairs that seems… really good.