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MacSparky on Apple AirPods by Simon Abrams

A reasoned first take on Apple's AirPods from David Sparks, aka MacSparky. His take confirms my expectation that they won't work for me, as the current EarPods that Apple ships with every iPhone fall out of my ear with the slightest movement of my head, so I never use 'em. Plus, I like something that has a little noise reduction, if not noise cancellation, so I can block out the annoying chatter on the subway.

I'm still bullish on the tech, though, specifically Apple's W1 chip, which improves pairing and wireless sound quality. I have personally tried the new BeatsX wireless headphones, which also feature the W1 chip, and will probably get a pair of those when they're available.

Thoughts on 1Password and MacID by Simon Abrams

 MacID unlock's your Mac using your fingerprint via a connected iOS device

MacID unlock's your Mac using your fingerprint via a connected iOS device

Now that I have two TouchID-enabled devices, entering passwords by typing them feels like what I imagine it would be like having to write prose with a chisel and tablet after getting used to using a pen - especially now that iOS 8 allows for 1Password integration throughout your i-device. Quick recap: 1Password is a password manager that securely stores all your passwords to everything, obviating the need for you to remember - or even come up with - any passwords except for the one that protects its database. It's cross-platform and works with all your favorite browsers. Amazing.

Anyway, before extensions allowed for 1Password's iOS integration, if you're like me, and don't know any of your passwords to anything, logging in to a website or app on an iPhone or iPad went something like this:

  1. Open site/app that asks for a password
  2. Grit teeth and sigh resignedly
  3. Go back to Home screen and tap 1Password
  4. Enter your long and secure 1Password Master Password
  5. Find password to app in question (or create a new entry in 1Password for said app, and let it generate a suitably secure password for you)
  6. Copy password
  7. Hop back over to the app in question (yay, multitasking!)
  8. Type in your username, paste the password, and try to remember that despite your current state of annoyance, we're still living in an age of technological miracles and wonders. Everything is amazing.

Now that iOS 8 Extensions are a thing, the process goes something like this:

  1. Open site/app that asks for a password
  2. Tap Share button and swipe right to 1Password extension
  3. Tap the icon, then use your finger to unlock 1Password
  4. Oh look - 1Password knows your credentials for the site/app you're trying to access. Tap to fill in your credentials, and be on your merry way.
 Treehouse's app has 1Password support built-in. Amazing. More like this, please.

Treehouse's app has 1Password support built-in. Amazing. More like this, please.

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It is a downright joyous experience compared to the old way, and it's no exaggeration to say that simplifies my life a lot, especially since I am doing more and more with my iPhone and iPad. I tweeted the good folks at AgileBits a few months ago, wondering if something like this was possible on the Mac - ie. could I use my iPhone/iPad's TouchID to unlock an app on the desktop. It turns out, it is at least partially possible: MacID lets you designate an iOS device as a touch-enabled "key" for your desktop machine, and unlock a password-protected lock screen when you return to your computer. Sweet!

I've only just tried it a couple of times, but from my first impressions it seems really promising. I'm not quite paranoid enough to be able to thoroughly think through any negative security implications of this. MacID never connects to the internet, so the chances of your login password getting hijacked that way are zilch. I can't wait for this to grow into a fully-supported technology that becomes something baked into iOS 9/OS X Big Sur (or whatever the next OS X ends up being called).

The current state of computing and devices still forces us to choose between security and convenience, but apps like 1Password and MacID, and technologies like TouchID are at least getting us part of the way towards the convergence of those two ideals.

Your First Mac by Simon Abrams

As part of their 30th Anniversary of the Mac celebration, Apple has a cool year-by-year visualization of peoples' first Macs and what they used them for. Scrubbing through the timeline, it's interesting watching Internet & Email surge into popularity in the mid-90s - followed by the decline of Desktop Publishing shortly thereafter.

I've used Macs since college - in my freshman year, one of my friends had a Mac SE II, which was an amazing machine for playing Tetris (and writing papers, of course). Later, when I transferred to SCAD, the labs also had a bunch of Quadras and various other assorted Macs in the Desktop Publishing and Computer Art departments.

I've worked on nothing but Macs at the various advertising gigs I've had since I graduated, but the first Mac that I bought for myself was a 15" G4 PowerBook in 2001. The thing had 8MB of VRAM and a 500Mhz processor, and it cost me close to $4000, but it lasted a good 6 years before it started to feel old and sluggish. It shipped with OS 9, but I remember running at least up through OS 10.4 (maybe even 10.5) on it, which is kind of impressive, looking back on it. It's still one of my favorite Macs, in terms of its design, although it had its issues (the stress cracks near the hinges, the heat, etc.).

 My setup, circa 2007. MacBook Pro and G5 Tower.

My setup, circa 2007. MacBook Pro and G5 Tower.

Around 2003, I had a brief part-time gig at the Soho Apple Store. That was a fun gig, and the employee discount helped me get a G5 tower and one of those giant plastic-bezeled 23" Cinema Displays.

Eventually, I upgraded from my old PowerBook to one of the Intel-based (and now aluminum rather than titanium) 15" MacBook Pros.

 2009 - iMac 27" and MacBook Pro

2009 - iMac 27" and MacBook Pro

When the G5 got long in the tooth, I replaced that with a 27" iMac. This was about the time I was finally sold on the iMac as a high-end machine - by now there was no point in spending $2500 on a MacPro (tower only!) just because I considered myself a power user.

A couple of years later, I got my first (and only, so far) iPad (the 2nd-gen version), and ended up selling my MacBook Pro.

 Current setup: unibody MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt Cinema Display

Current setup: unibody MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt Cinema Display

For a while there, I was rocking the iMac/iPad combination, and it was cool, but I missed the ability to go completely mobile and get work done. Don't misconstrue that as me validating the "iPads-are-for-content-consumption" trope - the fact is, my 9-to-5 requires me to work on desktop-only apps like Flash Professional and Photoshop. Plus, I use Aperture to manage my giant photo libraries (though I'm dabbling with Lightroom more and more lately, given the neglect Aperture has been suffering).

I've always held on to the philosophy that I should get the best computer I could afford, and that way I could extend its useful life for as long as possible, and then sell it for a pretty decent price. That's worked for me for the last 13 years and 5 Macs.

So that's my Mac history - what's yours?

iPad Art - Morgan Freeman Finger Painting by Simon Abrams

I'm genuinely surprised that there are still people who bring out the "iPads are for consuming content" trope.

On another note, this got me remembering something from my old art school days. The abstract expressionists, if I remember right, were all about boiling down a medium to the essence of that medium. The things unique to painting that make it essentially painting are paint and a canvas (and maybe a brush). They weren't keen on one medium emulating another, and as such, weren't into photorealistic painting. But here's Kyle Lambert taking it a step further, using a virtual canvas on a digital thing to emulate photography. Interesting stuff.

Pencil | FiftyThree by Simon Abrams

I've been quite pleased with my iPad 2 over the last two-and-a-half years, not feeling the familiar twinge of gadget envy when newer devices like the iPad 3, 4, or Mini came out.

That's started changing lately, particularly as the Apple cogniscenti have been pushing out their reviews of the iPad Air (and Mini), but I've been coping - even though I'm noticing more and more lagging here and there during day-to-day use of my aging precioussssss.

But just today I was reading about Wacom's Intuos Creative Stylus, and I was shocked to see that it was incompatible with the iPad 2. It's expensive, but I won't lie - I was bummed.

And now this: the Pencil, by FiftyThree, makers of one of my very favorite apps, Paper. Again, it's incompatible with my iPad, and the culprit is low-energy Bluetooth, which only made its appearance on Apple's tablets post-iPad 2.

If I'm being realistic about it, I don't think I can exactly afford to upgrade my iPad at the moment. But it's official: I'm definitely lusting after a new one.

A Serious Imaging Company by Simon Abrams

From Dave Caolo on TUAW:

Finally, the message delivered by the iPhone 5s camera is clear: Apple is becoming a serious imaging company. They spent a lot of time on that camera. You don't need a point-and-shoot camera anymore. There's no need to find a cable or a memory card reader. This is your camera.

This is why it's so frustrating to serious photographers that on the other side of the serious imaging equation -- ie. serious image processing -- all we're getting from Apple is crickets.

I remember being all excited and diving in to the Aperture 3.0 update just as my wife and I were leaving for a vacation in Paris. We took that vacation in February 2010. The current version of Aperture is 3.4.5. In contrast, Adobe Lightroom version 3.0 was released in June of 2010. Lightroom 5.2 release candidate is available now on Adobe Labs.

On the other hand, during the keynote, Phil Schiller did say that the new camera system is "for the rest of us", though - for the folks that just want to get take a picture, and let their cameraphone do the work.

Broken by Simon Abrams

First time in four years of owning an iPhone that this has happened to me. I guess I was due? I still don't really plan on getting a case. I might, at most, get one of the anti-glare screen protectors that I had on my iPhone 4, but I think that's it. I'll just have to not drop the replacement phone they (eventually) give me.

8 days later...