Old Man Yells At Cloud

Just how are you getting on with your Apple Bluetooth Mouse you didn't ask. So I'll tell you, I love it. Of the many mice I've used over the years it is by far and away the best one. I've had it for years and you can pry it from my cold dead hands.

But oh boy, Bluetooth, how does it work? My favorite part is when I get into my office in the morning, open my laptop and the mouse decides not to work. Even though it worked for days, even though it worked flawlessly the day before, today something lost its mind. Something in all the Bluetooth plumbing just went NOPE, NOT GONNA.

As fun as re-pairing my Mac to the mouse is, it's 5 mins of my life I'm never getting back. Especially as it won't even recognize the mouse is there unless I turn it off and then back on again. Isn't this 2017? Shouldn't this "just work"?

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Let's Talk About The Notch

You might be aware a little company called Apple held a keynote event this week. In a brand spanking new Theater, the rather impressive looking Steve Jobs Theater no less. I was slightly more interested in this year's presentation because of the phone rumors. That's what we all watched for, right? I don't think anyone really cared about the retail or Apple TV portions. Just get to the phone announcement!

And so the worst kept secret in tech (thanks leakers!) was revealed to the public and the iPhone X made official. My immediate reaction was, I don't really like it. So I sat on it for a few days and watched the presentation again last night. I don't really like it.

Before I go any further, in case there's any doubt, I consider myself an Apple fan. You pick a side, right, you're either all in with Google or all in with Apple. For me it really boils down to Apple being the company I chose for my first smartphone and I'm really not interested in retraining my muscle memory to learn something new. So Apple it is.

But I was underwhelmed with the iPhone X. I understand many will love it and it will probably sell like hotcakes. It's just not quite for me. Yet. Take all this with a pinch of salt, it all sounds rather negative, and obviously I haven't even used or seen one in real life.

That Notch

Phew boy. Alright, all those sensors have to go somewhere, I get that. But why not make the thinnest possible forehead on the phone and have the notch just be a bar that goes all the way across? Now we have that ugly bump with silly looking tiny rabbit ears that once seen cannot be unseen. Was the marketing draw of "hey we have an edge to edge screen now" important enough that it won over every possible argument against more aesthetically pleasing options? "That would never have happened if Steve Jobs were alive" is often said and most of the time it's bollocks. But I can't help feeling it hits close to home on this one.

Control Center

And while we're talking about those rabbit ears. I'm in control center constantly. It's one of my most used gestures on the phone. The iPhone X handles this differently because you swipe down from the top right rabbit ear instead of swiping up from the bottom. The iPhone X is taller than the non-plus phones, and I can't help but wonder if my thumb will reach the top corners? And if you're a left hander, you're really going to have to stretch to get at it. My wife has a 7 Plus and when I use her phone, I can't get to anything at the top of the screen using one hand. Maybe this is a time will tell situation and when I get the phone in my hand I realize there's nothing to worry about and I can reach it no problem?

Face ID

I'm not sold on this at all. Why is this better? I kinda like my home button. And I just love Touch ID. It's so blazingly fast at unlocking the phone as I take it out of my pocket that I can't imagine a better experience. From the demo onstage, they made it seem like you have to now bring the phone up to your face, wait for the little unlock animation to fire, and then you can swipe up to start using it. Which will be far slower than my current place my thumb on the fingerprint sensor in the same motion as I pickup the phone action. Perhaps they didn't do the best job at explaining the unlock mechanism in the demo. Maybe it will be faster in practice than it appeared onstage?

Inductive Charging

Nothing revolutionary and Apple are catching up with other phone manufacturers in this space. I'm just not really sold on this either regardless of the phone you own. I'll have to go buy a charging pad thinger at $40+ only to have to plug it into a socket in my kitchen and then walk over to it every time? I already do that kitchen walk today, and plugging the cord in is no big deal, and it's saved me $40. Never mind the fact that I'll need a charging pad for different areas of the house. That's a lot of money just because I can't be bothered to plug a cord in.

So You'll Get One Then?

No. Shocker! I only just got an iPhone 7 a couple of months back when my 6 died. So this upgrade was never on the cards for me personally. But I'm not excited to get an iPhone X, and that's perhaps my biggest take away here. It just looks like a bigger 3GS, and a bit like an existing Android phone if I'm honest. I dunno, maybe in a few years they'll have changed the notch design. Maybe any kinks in Face ID will be worked out and it'll be just as fast as Touch ID ever was. Time will tell.

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It's Like Thunder, Lightning

Just around sunset the clouds started to roll in. Nothing especially unusual about that in monsoon season, but what followed was…interesting.

The thunder got louder, the time between lightning flashes and the boom got less and less and less.

And then the loudest bang you ever heard just outside our bedroom window. The lightning deciding our road a perfect place to strike. It was one of those ok, now I'm awake moments. Everything seemed ok in the 30 seconds I spent in the torrential downpour having a look. Our house looked fine, neighbors house looked fine.

This morning Nextdoor was abuzz with holy shit, did anyone's house get hit last night?. Because that's how neighbors communicate with each other in 2017 yo. Absolutely no trace of anything when I had a look around in daylight so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ it remains but a mystery.

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On Google

Last month I ranked Google fourth in my dropping tech giants list. My love/hate relationship boils down to: for all the cool tech they make, they're an advertising company first and foremost.

As a long time reader of Google News I've grown more frustrated with their AMP lock in of late. You click a link, but you're not taken to the actual website, you're still in the Google ecosystem. An open web that is not. So now I'm a Bing News user. The first time I've consciously chosen a Microsoft product in more years than I can remember.

Former Google employee Tim Bray wrote a blog post this morning that sums it all up rather well.

I’m still broad­ly in sym­pa­thy with Google’s ef­forts on the In­ter­net, which have most­ly made it bet­ter. And they’re so easy to un­der­stand: They want ev­ery­one to be on­line all the time to see ad­s, ide­al­ly on a Google prop­er­ty where they don’t have to divvy the take.

Au­tonomous ve­hi­cles? On­line while driv­ing. Google Glass? On­line while walk­ing. Blogspot? Gmail? Map­s? YouTube? What­ev­er you’re do­ing, do it here please.

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On Bands Not Seen

We were chatting about concerts today. I realized that while I've been fortunate in who I've been able to see live over the years, there are still many from my youth that remain a mystery. Some of these are likely to come into town, others not. But here's the list, no doubt I've overlooked a couple of obvious choices.

(1) Still active:

Duran Duran
Echo & The Bunnymen
Fields Of The Nephilim
Gary Numan
Howard Jones
Human League
Iron Maiden
Killing Joke
Marilyn Manson
Midnight Oil
The Mission
New Order
Simple Minds

(2) Still active. Missing key members so I don't really care if I see them in their current form:

Adam & The Ants (Stuart still tours as Adam)
Alice In Chains
Pop Will Eat Itself

(3) Not active or split. Chances of seeing ever again slim:

Pink Floyd
Rage Against The Machine
The Smiths
Siouxsie And The Banshees
Soft Cell

(4) Will never get to see now:

Beastie Boys
The Clash
Fad Gadget
Joy Division
Tangerine Dream

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On Dropping Tech Giants

John Gruber links to an interesting thought experiment from the New York Times, which tech giant would you drop?

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are not just the largest technology companies in the world. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my column, they are also becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world. But which of the Frightful Five is most unavoidable? I ponder the question in my column this week.

But what about you? If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

Here's my list, from first dropped to last.

1. Facebook. Easy one. I don't, and won't, use Facebook. Nor do I use Instagram. So no tears to be shed if they suddenly disappeared off the planet tomorrow.

2. Microsoft. Almost the same as above. I don't use any Microsoft products these days, so this one is also easy. Well to be fair once a week we have a work conference Skype call. But calls in Slack are great (and actually better quality) so if Skype went away everything would still be ok.

3. Amazon. Unlike almost 100% of the planet, I don't really use Amazon for anything on a regular basis. I'm really an instant gratification person. If I want something, I'll drive an hour to get it so I don't have to wait. Even paying for next day delivery is too much for my got to have it now mind. Although I'd have to say that it is super handy for buying presents for my family in the UK, so I do use it about 3 times a year at most. Work wise, we do have some things on AWS that would be a pain to migrate. But not impossible.

4. Google. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the Goog. They make some good tech, but are still an advertising company first. It's complicated. You'll hear me say I'm not overly keen on tracking and having my data mined. And yet in the next breath I'll say I still use a couple of their tools. The hypocrisy is strong with this one. I don't use Chrome – Firefox on desktop and Safari on mobile. I don't use Search – I switched to duckduckgo a few years ago and haven't looked back. I don't use Android – I can't really see me migrating away from an iPhone any time soon. (And here comes the but) But we do use Google Docs at work quite heavily and it's actually not terrible. And I'm a huge Gmail user. I pay Google to host my kevinspencer.org mail as I haven't got the time nor patience these days to maintain my own mail server. There's something to be said about having something "just work". Gmail has always ticked all the boxes for me – I've used it since it was invite only (remember that?) and can't imagine using anything else now. And YouTube. Who doesn't love a little watch that concert from that band from the 80s nostalgia?

Which leaves…

5. Apple. No real surprise. We're a Mac shop at work, and since 2008 Mac at home too. There's something to be said for Unix with a pretty face. My wife and I have owned iPhones for as long as I can remember. The cameras are so good these days that I don't use my DSLR anymore. My brain is just wired for iOS and I really don't fancy learning anything new. Oddly I find that I don't use any of Apple's other software or services. I don't use iCloud for anything, don't use their Doc suite, don't use their photos app, and the Kevin Spencer of 2010 will be shocked to hear that I rarely use iTunes much these days. But Apple's hardware and operating systems are just second to none and it would be super painful to switch to anything else now.

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This week marks a small personal milestone. Somehow I've now lived in America for 20 years. What?

In fact, because Italy was home for 2 years prior to that, I've now lived more of my life outside of England than inside.

I'm forever British, European, and yet American all at once. It's complicated, but somehow it all just works.

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I've been a Flickr user since 2004. It's still one of my favorite internet hangouts after all these years. Sure some of the old guard have stopped uploading or moved elsewhere, but the Flickr community is still going strong. I actually have more engagement with my photos now than at any other point since I created my account.

My photography habits have changed dramatically over the years. I've learned a lot, both about what I like, and how I want to shoot it. I almost entirely shoot on my iPhone theses days.

"The best camera is the one you have with you"

And it's so true. The quality of the iPhone camera has increased so dramatically, and the convenience of it means that I really don't miss my DSLR all that much.

I've also learned that I have so much to learn. There are some amazing photographers on Flickr and I find myself bowing and saying "wow, that's clever" on a daily basis. I spend a fair amount of time finding photographers I like and going through their library of shots. I tend to favorite many photos from other people. And this week marked a little milestone as I just passed 100k photos from other people that I've given the favorite click to over the years.

So here's to many more Flickr years, another 100k shots from others I love, and the inevitable change in photography habits all over again.

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80s Music Flashbacks

You ever stumble across something and wonder "how did I not know this was a thing?".

I was listening to my 'Discover Weekly' playlist in Spotify the other week and a song came on that made me sit up and immediately take notice. It sounded just like all those American synth based 80s TV show themes that you used to love when you were a kid. But on steroids.

Convinced it was just a song I had overlooked from from my youth, I was surprised to find it was actually new music. Made by youngsters. Wut? As I went down the rabbit hole a bit further I discovered a few other bands all doing similar. Retro Electro I've seen it labeled as. And I love it.

If this sounds like the kind of thing that would be your cup of tea, run don't walk and have a listen to Carpenter Brut, Dance With The Dead, Timecop1983, The Midnight, Le Cassette and my current favorite Perturbator

"The legend says he's half human, half synthesizer…"

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New Depeche

The new Depeche Mode single is released this week with an album to follow in March. For old time's sake I'll still give it a fair try. The me of 25 years ago would be surprised I'm not more enthusiastic. Depeche albums back then were a glorious thing to behold.

The band are a far cry from the Alan Wilder golden years these days, but I still remain optimistic that this album is 'the one'. I mean, New Order surprised us all last year with a pleasant return to form. So why can't Spirit be that surprise of 2017.


Update: Where Is The Revolution is the name of the single and I've listened to it a few times now. I don't hate it. One of their more overtly political songs in a while.

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