Apple Sprung New Announcements

Earlier this week, Apple announced a bunch of stuff. The hour long “show” was exciting and well made. But once the pizzazz was over and the glitter settled to the floor, I looked at things more objectively, as matter of fact. Also, the one thing I was hoping to hear…it was not announced.


The new iPhone color, purple, looks delicious. It even caught my wife’s interest. She’s overdue for an upgrade from her original iPhone SE, so I expect that to happen this year. This purple iPhone 12 (or maybe the 11) could do nicely.

As for Podcasts, I like that the app will be updated. I just want to see it remove the card overlay interface and instead adopt the Apple Music UI. Simple. And consistent. Otherwise, it works fine as is. I think I heard there was another user interaction improvement: tapping the podcast will bring up the description instead of playing it immediately. That’s a welcome change. Now, about Podcast Subscriptions? That seems like it could be a big deal, but I don’t know how it will play out. Let’s wait and see.

The new iMacs look fabulous! I’ll take orange, please. Oh wait, those prices are…higher. Overall, I think it’s a good value, even at $1,500 for an Orange iMac. But that is more than twice the cost of a Mac mini at $700. Yes, the mini lacks all the peripherals, but those are easy to come by. I already own them, in fact. If I really want to get back into macOS on the desktop, a mini is far and above a better deal to me. Even if it only comes in bland shiny gray (silver).

Onto the iPad Pros. I think it’s very smart to use the new M1 chips in the iPads because the marketing is consistent to both consumers and developers — all your apps will work on either Mac, iPad, or both. It’s a clear message on a unified platform. The M1 in an iPad also strongly suggests that iPadOS software should become ever more powerful for “pro” apps and the like.

All that said about the iPad Pros, I still prefer the iPad plain because it basically does the same things but for much less cost. Especially if the entry-level iPad is used as a tablet rather than a full-on computer, then it’s a better deal over the pros. But there is just one thing wrong. The base iPad at $329 is still limited to a meager 32GB of storage. I know many people can stream almost everything, but that pittance of storage is still too small to load much more than the stock apps. You might get one big game and one big movie stored on the iPad before it’s running low on space. The one thing Apple should have done for the iPad is give it 64GB of storage to start with. I think that will happen in the Fall. I hope.

Apple TV 4K got some needed upgrades, but it still costs too much. The old HD version should not cost more than $99. My Roku plays Apple TV+ content and it AirPlays screen-mirroring from my iPhone, and it only cost me around $60. Come on, Apple. I’m pretty sure the company could sell more Apple TV devices at a lower cost and make up for revenue/profit in sales volume. Seriously.

The only real new thing Apple announced was AirTag. This seems cool, like it could be useful. I’m glad it’s affordable by itself, but it’s kind of a bad joke that the AirTag accessories made by Apple cost more than the AirTag itself. Even for Apple, this seems surprising. I’d like to buy an AirTag, but since my iPhone 8 Plus lacks the new U1 chip, it doesn’t support UWB. That means I would miss the cool ultra-fine locating capabilities with AirTag. And that, to me, isn’t worth it. So eventually, after I someday buy a U1 equipped iPhone, then I’ll likely get some AirTags. I can wait like I did for Apple Watch. Let the new technology mature over a few years, then buy into it. Then again, since one AirTag is only $29, I could easily just drop one into my EDC bag if nothing else. I think I will. Start simple. It’s mobile technology for your other stuff.

Overall, it’s nice to see Apple continue to innovate or iterate, always pushing some progress forward. It’s still my favorite platform to compute on, though I use Windows and ChromeOS too. I’m still loving my iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch. Apple sets a high standard, which affects the overall computer industry. The competition ups their game and advancement is made all around. I like it. More please.

Looking Back And Forward On The Backlog

When I was a kid in the 80s and Nintendo became a thing, I knew I wanted to be part of that. Video games were cool. I first had an Atari 2600 and a small set of games that my Dad bought at a yard sale. I think the Atari cartridges sold for $0.25 each. They were arcade-style games — mostly without any real stories — and relied on quick reflexes. I didn’t play them to beat the game or finish a story. I played just to play. And show off a high score in Pac-Man.

One day, I got a Nintendo Entertainment System. Now I was playing with power! The games were a bit more advanced than Atari’s, but I still played for the gameplay experience and not so much to beat a game or finish one. That said, thanks to the Konami code, I managed to totally beat Contra. I think that was my first game I ever beat.

Since video games cost a lot of money and, as a kid, I had the opposite of a lot of money, I didn’t have many games. Back then, I would get one or two a year for Christmas or my birthday. The other games I had were temporary, rented from the local video store. Sometimes I’d play my friends’ games. True story: I pretended to be sick one day in middle school so I could stay home and play my friend’s GameBoy that I had borrowed. I played Tetris for hours.

In those days, there was no backlog. I had few games and a lot of time to play them several times over. I don’t know that backlogs were a thing for anyone back then, but I could be wrong.

Over the years, consoles and games grew in complexity. I got into RPGs with Final Fantasy III (SNES), finding for the first time a game that would last me months to play through. Having a huge story be front and center made finishing the game not just a cool way to brag to my buddies, but it was essential. You can’t NOT finish a sprawling narrative arc and leave the entire game’s world and characters hanging onto life by a thread. I had to save the world. So I did. Besides, those Espers were so dang cool. And Kefka was so bad.

Now that I’m an adult with full-time income (so grateful now after recently being furloughed), I can afford to buy my own video games for myself (and my kids). So these days, yes, I do have a backlog. It’s not huge, but it has hefty sized RPGs on it. In terms of gameplay hours, it’s…epic. I’ll likely be building up the backlog with new unplayed games indefinitely.

Before, there was no backlog. Now, there is always a backlog.

I don’t mind. There’s much gaming to eagerly anticipate. That’s fine as long as I don’t let it distract me from staying immersed in whatever game(s) I’m currently playing. On that note, I finally finished Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on Sunday. Final clock time was 71:11. I’m now also closer to completing Fantasian. I want to finish some other ongoing games too, like Link’s Awakening and Octopath Traveler. But I’ve got a new epic RPG to dive into soon, Tales of Vesperia.

I would feel better about my backlog since I’m moving the Tales game out of it, but yesterday I added yet another massive JRPG to it, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. The title alone is hours-long! Well, one game out, one game in. Fun times.

Big Things Are Still Happening

A few weeks back, I wrote about some stormy changes that were really rocking my boat. The storm front passed, but the waters are still choppy. Departing from my normal topics again, allow me to journal the latest.


My Day Job

One month ago, my whole company was furloughed. But at the time of my last post on this topic, I had just been hired by the new company that is buying my former employer. Due to extenuating circumstances, things just weren’t going smoothly. Long story short, when my previous company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it ended up as Chapter 7 instead. In the past week alone, I brought a couple things back into the office to work but then had to retreat once more. Now we’re told we can’t enter the building for an undetermined time frame. Meanwhile, we can work from home, assuming we don’t lost access to the servers. So, yeah, things are still in flux. The good news is two-fold: at least I’m gainfully employed, and I already received my first paycheck after several weeks of zero income. Hoo-ray!

School

Meanwhile, I continue to press forward with my new Real Estate licensing online courses. This is a substantial task that I committed to the day before I was furloughed. If nothing else, it’s so I have some kind of back-up plan in case my job goes south again. Besides requiring time and self-discipline, these courses drain my mental energies since I must focus diligently to absorb loads of detailed Real Estate information. I actually must comprehend and retain it all, go figure. Here’s the bright side: I’m 94% through the first course. The exam is around the corner. Wish me luck!

My Night Job

Now we come to one of the cool things happening. I previously mentioned that I was hired to write for an online publication. So without further ado, let me announce: I’m an Editorialist for RPGamer.com. So far, I’ve written only two pieces for the site. You can check them out here. In case you don’t know, the site is about role-playing video games (e.g. Final Fantasy). If you follow my blog, then you’ve probably noticed that I like video games, especially JRPGs. Put that together with my fondness for writing and — voila— you’ve magically alchemized my passions. Although I’ve started as an Editorialist, I may branch out to adjacent forms of wordsmithing. My time with RPGamer is not just to write; I also proof edit other writers’ articles. It takes self-motivation and discipline, and I’m still trying to gauge how to balance my time amongst all my tasks. But I think things will settle out soon enough.


Given that I now type words for a large publication, in addition to my other exploits, it’s no wonder that my personal blog time has suffered somewhat. But don’t fear. I plan to keep this thing going on some level. So that’s what has been going on with me lately. It’s been a bumpy roller-coaster of work, stopping and starting; I think I almost vomited once. But at least I can say I survived it. Well, so far.

Apple Watch Is Wrist iPod

Not long ago, I dismissed Apple Watch as superfluous. Sure, it’s a cool tech gadget, I thought, but not cool enough to warrant owning one myself. My iPhone was enough. Well, the focused fitness features and sensors were very tempting. Eventually, I decided the Apple Watch was advanced enough and would be worth buying as a great fitness tracker if nothing else. Now that I’ve used my Watch for over 3 months, I want to talk about one of its non-fitness aspects.


Apple Watch is like an iPod for your wrist. This makes sense for a few reasons. One is the squarish size of Apple Watch almost matches the iPod Shuffle, which had no display but rather had a round set of buttons with a circular one in the center. On the back, it had a clip to attach itself to your backpack strap or shirt lapel. Worn wherever, iPod Shuffle was convenient; likewise the Apple Watch worn on your wrist. A wearable device is inherently more accessible and thus more convenient.

Another way the Watch is like an iPod, of course, is how well it excels at audio playback and media control. This is one of my favorite conveniences. The small screen is the ideal size for all the typical media controls you need most often: play/pause, skip forward or back, etc. And the fact that all those tappable buttons are so close by — just raise your wrist and tap — makes all the difference. Above all, the digital crown on the side — that physical little wheel — is a real volume knob, and it’s at your constant beck and call. I love it!

Yes, it really is much better than reaching into your pocket or EDC bag, pulling out your phone, accessing media controls, then putting the phone back where it was. With Apple Watch, you don’t need to reach for it or pull it out. It’s just right there on your wrist at the ready. You also can omit the last step of putting it back where it was because it’s still just there at the ready.

There are three apps built into Apple Watch for audio listening: Apple Music, Podcasts, and Now Playing, which may be my favorite of all. The first two are what you’d expect, small versions of the apps on iPhone. They each have their own similar yet distinct playback control display. Their main on-screen buttons match those of their phone variants. Simple. The Now Playing app is awesome and more distinct because it gives you quick access to media playback options for anything playing on your phone or other connected device. For example, when streaming a video on my iPhone in the YouTube app, I can remotely control playback with my Apple Watch. It’s all about that convenience. And it’s reliable as can be.


So yeah, Apple Watch’s main attraction is fitness tracking. But it also has other tricks up its sleeve, such as iPod-like audio control. It’s super convenient, simple, elegant, and reliable. It can seem superfluous, but when you use it daily on the go, you realize how nice and helpful it is to have. I once dismissed the Watch, but now I’m glad to embrace it. On my wrist.