The new MacBook is my next laptop

The new MacBook has received more than it’s fair share of irrational knocks in the week since it was announced. I could write a whole point/counterpoint post addressing each of the MacBook’s supposed shortcomings, but life is short and haters gonna hate and Apple hardly needs my help moving inventory.

Suffice to say, the new MacBook isn’t for everyone. But I will say this:

Yes, it has a relatively slow Core M processor, worse battery life than the MacBook Air and only a single USB-C port for power, video and I/O. And that doesn’t matter one bit to me.

I’ve been in the market for a new laptop and purposefully held off on buying anything before I saw what Apple had coming down the pike. The 13-inch MacBook Air had been my frontrunner, with the occasional thought given to the 13-inch MacBook Pro — but no more. Let’s focus on the MacBook’s positives:

  • The MacBook is more powerful than the Air in at least one measure: according to their respective tech specs pages, the new MacBook supports an external display resolution of up to 3840 x 2160 (4K) while the MacBook Air only supports 2560 x 1600.
  • The new MacBook weighs almost a full pound less (2.03 lbs vs. 2.96 lbs) than the 13-inch Air, not too mention more than 3.5 pounds less than the Mid-2012 15-inch MacBook Pro I currently tote around for work. Every ounce counts in a messenger bag.
  • The Core M processor and nine hours of battery life is more than enough for my needs. When I do open Photoshop, I can wait a few extra seconds. And the only time I ever need more than one thing plugged into my computer is when I’m sitting at a desk where a dongle isn’t an inconvenience.

Consider this: the MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Air configured with their respective base processors, 8 GB of memory and 512 GB of storage both run $1,599. That’s not cheap in a world of Chromebooks, but it is hardly unreasonable. If it’s not for you, don’t buy one. But I can’t wait to walk out of the Apple store with my shiny sliver of the future. My only choice now is gray, silver or gold.

Grocery store tablets

I spotted this ad in the app for my local grocery store shortly before Christmas. There on the right, between the colossal pie and the terra cotta snowman, shown, I assume, without irony, is the $50 Android tablet no one asked for.  An iPad, these are not.


Reaction to the Sony Hack Is ‘Beyond the Realm of Stupid’

It has already been widely linked, and I can’t help but point out that Vice put “beyond the realm of stupid” in quote marks while the actual quote in the article is “the realm of beyond stupid,” but this interview with Peter W. Singer is still a great read for its takedown of Sony’s actions:

This same group threatened yesterday 9/11-style incidents at any movie theatre that chose to show the movie. Here, we need to distinguish between threat and capability—the ability to steal gossipy emails from a not-so-great protected computer network is not the same thing as being able to carry out physical, 9/11-style attacks in 18,000 locations simultaneously. I can’t believe I’m saying this. I can’t believe I have to say this.

What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs

From the NY Times profile of Marissa Mayer’s non-turnaround of Yahoo:

Yahoo had a market value of $33 billion at the time, but that figure owed largely to its stake in Alibaba, the Chinese Internet conglomerate. According to Jackson’s valuation, Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba was worth roughly $37 billion. But if you subtracted that position, the entirety of Yahoo’s core business, all its web products and content sites, actually had a market valuation of negative $4 billion.

The article mostly paints a picture of Mayer as inept:

At F.Y.I.s, Mayer liked to tell employees that she believed in taking risks and that she was unafraid to admit failure. This philosophy worked well for web products but not for strategic hires. Despite the board’s urging, Mayer opted against vetting Henrique de Castro. As a result, she was unaware that de Castro had a poor reputation among his colleagues in Google’s advertising business. Many had derisively called him the Most Interesting Man in the World, in reference to the satirically fatuous spokesman for Dos Equis beer. De Castro had a tendency to make grand, awkwardly worded pronouncements. He was the inspiration for the Twitter handle @HdCYouKnowMe, which posted tweets that straddled the line between reality and parody: “To incentivize the sales force, you need to hit them with the carrot” and “Product is like snakes . . . slippery — we need someone with a big hammer.” De Castro’s new Yahoo colleagues got a full dose of his strange locution at the company’s annual sales meeting, in early 2013, when he berated his sales force with a rangy, pedantic speech. (De Castro did not respond to requests for comment.)

De Castro’s plan for growing Yahoo revenues focused on user-generated content, like the videos available on YouTube or Instagram. The only problem was that Yahoo did not have access to enough user-generated content to support this plan. (Its attempt to acquire Daily Motion, a YouTube clone, had fallen apart.) As Yahoo’s ad revenues continued to decline, de Castro began to alienate his staff and fellow executives. After one of his direct reports gave a presentation about Yahoo’s business in front of some 40 senior executives, de Castro humiliated the person, saying: “I think your strategy’s more of a fantasy. You make it up. You just make it up.” More important, advertising revenue declined in every quarter since he was hired. Within a year, Mayer had personally taken control of Yahoo’s ad team. De Castro would leave the company in January 2014. For about 15 months of work, he would be paid $109 million.

But she clearly inherited a company in shambles:

A couple of days into the job, Mayer was having lunch at URL’s when an employee walked up to her and introduced himself as Tony. “I’m a mobile engineer,” Tony said. “I’m on the mobile team.”

Mayer responded to Tony, “Great, how big is our mobile team?” After some back and forth, Tony replied that there were “maybe 60” engineers. Mayer was dumbfounded. Facebook, for instance, had a couple of thousand people working on mobile. When she queried the engineering management department, it responded that Yahoo had roughly 100. “Like an actual hundred,” Mayer responded, “or like 60 rounded up to 100 to make me feel better?” The department responded that it was more like 60.

Fitness trackers

David Pierce reviewing the new Microsoft Band for The Verge:

I don’t even want it to be a smartwatch. Smartwatches and trackers just have fundamentally different, even competing needs. A smartwatch must have a big, useful screen. It must also be fashionable and easy to interact with. I’ll put it on in the morning, matching it my outfit. I’ll take it off at night and when I shower. A tracker, on the other hand, must be invisible. It should just be there, all the time, collecting data without me ever thinking about it. I don’t know how any company will resolve those two things, and it seems to me that the smart bet is making the best of one or the other. Right now the Band straddles the middle, and it doesn’t quite work.

He’s right about smartwatches and fitness trackers being fundamentally different. I think that explains part of my disappointment with Apple Watch: I’m not convinced yet on the value of smartwatches, so I mostly wanted to see a no compromises fitness tracker (however unlikely a fitness-focused device from Apple was).

I’ve resisted buying a fitness tracker for more than a year for the fact that most didn’t seem to do any more than an iPhone app could do.

The Basis was supposed to be the ultimate fitness tracker, but it’s big, ugly and I’ve heard of it dying on multiple people.

The Microsoft Band clearly doesn’t fit that bill, according to The Verge’s review.

The Fitbit Charge HR looks like it checks most of the boxes on my list (long battery life, elevation tracking, heart rate monitoring, wireless syncing) though it seems to still rely on just an accelerometer for sleep tracking, which, I’ve read, isn’t exactly accurate.

Then there’s the Jawbone Up3, announced a few days after the Fitbit Charge, which, while it inexplicably lacks elevation tracking (which I like for hiking in the mountains), “uses bioimpedance sensors that measure heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature, galvanic skin response as well as an accelerometer” for sleep tracking. Curiously, the Up3 FAQ originally contained some questions about contactless payment that clearly weren’t ready for primetime and were quickly removed. Is that a sleeper feature that is going to be added with a future firmware update? Either way, this might be the device that finally wins a spot on my wrist.

Neither the Fitbit nor Jawbone has a sale date, but the Jawbone is available for preorder.

16 things I want to see from Apple on the 16th

It happens every October. Apple sends out an invitation, sometimes with a wink and sometimes more cryptic, implicitly promising Some Great New Product the Likes of Which the World has Never Seen. The Apple rumor industrial complex spins into a click-bait frenzy, making predictions of the obvious (oh, you mean they’re actually going to release a new iPad version?), the crazy and the stupid. And they’re oh so boring.

So instead of making any kind of prediction, here I merely offer 16 things I’d like to see from Apple this Thursday. We might not get any of them, but I’d like to be surprised.

  • Fix all the little regressions in iOS 8. My shiny new iPhone 6 has been soft restarting itself when it freaks out, just like iOS 7 did for a long time before being fixed.
  • The ability to merge Apple accounts. It’s been way too long.
  • Discount for upgrading from SD to HD movies. I wanted to buy “The Life Aquatic” in 1080p but that wasn’t an option. Now it is an option, but I already have this standard definition copy and no path to upgrade.
  • Discount for buying a previously rented movie. Oh, that film was really great. I’d like to be able to watch it all the time now.
  • Extend “iTunes in the Cloud” to include audiobooks. I realize Apple gets these audiobooks from archnemesis-Amazon-owned Audible and licensing is probably sticky, but not being able to download audiobooks more than once feels punitive.
  • Ability to hide/forget previous purchases you have no intention of ever downloading again. No one needs to know I bought Season 5 of “Scrubs,” and I don’t even know what half the apps I have tested do.
  • Fix iTunes Match.
  • App Store for Apple TV.
  • Roku-style search across streaming services on Apple TV. (I know this is very unlikely to ever happen.)
  • Siri control of Apple TV from iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.
  • Remember when Steve Jobs stood on stage an introduced an Apple speaker with integrated iPod dock? I’d like something like that for the modern age. Not dissimilar from a Sonos speaker or the Aether Cone, but something that can stream iTunes Radio.
  • But why stop there? These network connected speakers should have their own app store to extend functionality.
  • Would it kill Apple to give us all a free album that’s actually good?
  • A revolutionary network a la carte alternative to cable and satellite companies
  • Double the memory of all existing 8 and 16 GB iPhones. I hear Hogwarts is available to help with this.
  • Maybe consider changing the name of iTunes? It’s not really managing just our tunes anymore.

Seattle left

Seattle left (noun): a left turn in which the driver starts from a right lane and cuts across at least one other lane of traffic, known among a large subset of Seattle drivers as a “left.”

Example: That stupid fucking asshole nearly hit that Vespa, Tesla and row of pedestrians with his Seattle left turn.