Unclouding The Benefits Of Local Data Storage

It’s great when you find something that resonates, like this article I just read. It brings to boil core points about digital well-being that have been simmering in me lately. The Verge author, David Pierce, talks about journaling in Day One and note taking in Obsidian - just like I do. But more important are points about trust, convenience, and the trade-offs of cloud computing.

Pierce writes,

As more of life moves online, we’re being asked to give more and more of our time, attention, and information to digital services. In return, we get a wealth of convenience…

I wrote recently that the biggest benefit of cloud computing is really nothing more than convenience.

In this digital world, are there any spaces left that are just mine?


Local storage

I’ve thought more and more about storing things only locally (like we all did before cloud computing). It’s still a feasible option today. Just because a device is connected to the internet doesn’t mean you must store all your personal or private data in “the cloud” on someone else’s hard drive.

Can I have all of those modern conveniences without constantly being asked to share, to socialize, to upgrade to the enterprise plan?

One thing I’ve had to accept when moving data out of iCloud, going local, is that my digital life may be a little less convenient. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s worth the trade off. I gain more direct control over my own data and reduce dependence on a for-profit business. Bonus: it can also mean one less subscription fee.

This minimizes the excessive trust I’ve placed in a single corporation, which can change for the worse or cease to exist altogether. This is partly why I’ve been decoupling from Apple lately. And speaking of a company suddenly ending, look at DPReview, which after a quarter century is being deleted from the internet by its owner, Amazon.

Personal apps

We too often underestimate the true cost of convenience.

We take risks with our data, entrusting it to others who only have our best interest in mind in so far as it profits the company’s bottom line. So while your personal and private data is precious to you - like irreplaceable photos - that data will never be as precious to a capitalistic corporation that has zero personal connection to said photos. Your images and memories only matter to a company if they somehow align to its revenue stream.

The internet is useful for sharing public information, but it doesn’t need to store all your private data. It’s safest to assume that any data you upload is public - even when it’s meant to be private. The most sensitive data - passwords - can be hacked, like with LastPass.

Day One

Journaling with Day One, which has been known for being serious about security and privacy by way of data encryption, has finally broached using a web app in a browser to record your most private thoughts. That’s certainly convenient, especially if you use a PC. But Day One lists several caveats to consider, which clearly shows one must trade off or risk security and privacy for the sake of gaining some convenience.

Keep in mind that some browsers and browser extensions can compromise security in a number of ways.

- Day One

Day One then lists several things to consider - risk assessment. Are you willing to potentially compromise security and privacy for a little convenience?

I used to keep my journal entries in my notes app. Then I moved them to Day One. But now that I’ve switched to Obsidian for my notes, I’ve been considering also moving my journal entries into their own vault there. I would need to give up some nice features from Day One. But I would gain the benefit of all my journals being simple text files in a simple folder system - no export ever needed.

Like the author of the Verge article said, I need “to decide which compromises you can live with.


The note-taking app Obsidian, another Personal App I’ve come to like, tackles the problem a bit differently…when you first install it, it’s really just a simple text editor on top of a folder of files on your device.

-David Pierce

This is exactly why I switched from Apple Notes to Obsidian. I’ll never need to export my notes from Obsidian. By default, they’re just text files on my local hard drive; they’re not kept in a proprietary data silo or app container. Obsidian references the files and doesn’t copy them into its own library.

Optionally, I can sync notes to my phone via Obsidian’s own solution, or I can use one from “Big Tech” like OneDrive, iCloud, or Google Drive. There’s also DropBox, Syncthing, or whatever cloud service I choose. Or I can trade off that bit of convenience and only keep my notes on my local device. Plain and simple.

No app is forever, and my journal entries and notes need to outlast Day One and Obsidian.


Being wary of “the cloud” overshadowing your digital life can help you avoid unecessary risks. Trading away the convenience of cloud computing and relying on local storage brings a highly valuable virtue besides safety or privacy: simplicity. It’s simple to keep local files in a local folder system. They’re easily accesible, directly tangible, and always available - even offline!

While default cloud sync solutions have become easier to use these days, the general framework is still complex as it uses multiple energy-hungry servers in data centers with your files and info zooming across the web, always in need of a wi-fi signal.

In contrast, old-school local storage is simple: no internet required. The most cumbersome example I have is still easy enough: moving all my Nintendo Switch media to my Mac. The Finder on Mac won’t/can’t recognize the Switch. So first, I connect my Switch to my PC via cable and transfer the media files to a folder. Next, I move that media onto a flash drive that works on both PC and Mac. Then I move the files from the flash drive onto my Mac.

Getting my photos from either my iPhone or my Canon camera onto either my Mac or PC is likewise simple, using a cable or USB card adapter.

These old-school workflows are easy. I have the benefit of all my data staying local for full and private access. I don’t need to pay for cloud storage. And cloning or backing up is as simple as a copy/paste onto another local drive.

If I really want all my files on all my devices, I can do that. The only real trade-off is that doing so isn’t automatic, and the files are not always in sync. But that’s easy enough to manage.

We relied on local storage; it was fine. Then cloud computing took over. The convenience of it made the cloud seem indispensable. But its benefits clouded the fact that we must trade off a level of security and privacy. Yet we don’t have to.

A mixed approach, relying more on local storage and less on the cloud, is the best practice moving forward.

What do you think?

And for more on this topic, check out this related article.

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Decoupling From One Computing Platform

Being the tech geek that I am, one of my quirks is that I go all-in on a single computing platform. Until I don’t. As I wrote earlier this month, the pendulum swung from Apple to a smorgasbord of apps and services from various developers. And of course, ones from Big Tech are hard to avoid. The trick is to not end up all-in anywhere, be it Google, Apple, or Microsoft; it’s paramount to prevent platform lock-in.

Dull, meet shiny

Sometimes, I change my tech setup because I get bored. Though apps and services I’m using are tried and true, they feel stale. Then I’ll see a fresh tech tool and find testing it to be tempting. While this happens with software, it’s most obvious with hardware, like when I sell or trade a perfectly working smartphone for…a newer perfectly working smartphone.

Do I need a new laptop? Nope. Do I want a new laptop? Yep.

Problem, meet solution

Other times, I switch because of some nagging issue with a current solution and finally discover a better option. Example: this month I ditched Apple Notes for Obsidian to solve the long-standing discomfort of all my notes being kind of stuck inside Apple’s special app. Obsidian gave me what I wanted and also what I think is needed, notes that are discreet files in folders, simply referenced by the app.

I’m also aiming to apply this same basic principle to all my photos, like I did years ago. Instead of letting iCloud and Apple Photos (or Google Photos) keep my pictures within their special libraries, I want my photos to be free in the computer’s file system. They can be either on Mac or PC, and any image editing app can edit or reference them. That’s file freedom and flexibility.

Fantasy, meet reality

The biggest reason why I’ve been personally decoupling from Apple’s ecosystem lately is because it’s not so practical; it’s better to be flexible. There are just too many other people using other platforms. Sticking to only one platform kind of segregates me from others. Sometimes there’s compatibility issues.

One example of this is the fragmentation, and friction, people feel when communicating via text messaging services. I don’t think that mess will ever be cleaned up. Some folks are on iPhone, some are on Android. Yeah. Just the way it is.

A better example is in my own home; no walled-gardens at all. Our house is open to all the tech. My wife is not swayed by fancy new gear, and she’s never been all-in with any one computing ecosystem. Her mail, calendar, and office apps have been spread across Microsoft, Apple, and Google for years. Likewise, her phone is from one company while her laptop is from another. My kids are in the same disparate boat too. My family uses Chromebooks and Windows PCs while I’m the odd man out, using a MacBook.

Though I can be an Apple fanboy, I must still troublshoot Windows when Microsoft changes a setting or if my kids' homework isn’t being backed up. And though I’ve relied on Apple Photos to manage my pix, my family doesn’t use the same luxury. As I.T. man of the house, I get to ensure that the iCloud for Windows utility is working so they can access all their iPhone snaps without a hassle.

I think instead of saying “fragmented,” it’s better to say computing setups are varied. One must diversify, be flexible. It’s easier to do that by using cross-platform apps and services, accepting the fact that one will sometimes need to rely on multiple providers or solutions. This may feel less synergistic, but it’s simple in a way because it removes bells and whistles and focuses on the basics.

For me, it feels freeing to be released from the confines of only-Apple software. I’m afraid to admit that I had limited myself from some apps, even if they were superior, simply because they were not “Designed by Apple in California.” For example, I now enjoy Microsoft’s To Do app instead of Apple’s Reminders, preferring how it handles daily tasking.

But I must be careful. By opening myself up to things outside of Apple’s walled-garden, I’ve already felt temptation to go too far in the other direction. Once I start using one app, like Google Docs, I find myself gravitating towards Gmail because of how it integrates in some ways. And Google Calendar is made nicer with the omnipresent sidebar that puts Google Tasks and Keep at the ready.

Or with Microsoft’s To Do, the vortex of Outlook tugs on me. I now juggle both iCloud Drive and Google Drive, but it sure would make sense for me to start using a Windows PC and just OneDrive…and then Office…and then I’ll be all-in with Microsoft.

Going all-in with any single computing platform is not the best, or most practical, answer. The bubble it creates will inevitibly burst. Someone will always compute differently. Even with social media, despite “everyone” being on Facebook, not everyone is actually on Facebook, especially these days.

Come to think of it, the most ubiquitous, cross-platform communication platform today is…email. No matter the email provider, everyone can email anyone. Likewise, the internet itself is the social network (Hi, Fediverse). It’s also the most ubiquitous computing platform for developers; web-apps are truly cross-platform, albeit not natively. The sticky part about the web is that, though it’s “everywhere”, it’s not local. Your stuff is in the nebulous cloud, not actually on your device.

Then again, it’s easier to decouple from one computing platform when you’re coupled to the all-pervasive web. Maybe there is a future for the so-called “Metaverse” after all?

What do you think?

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Cloud Computing Is About Convenience

I’m thinking about cloud computing versus the quaint old way we all used to just keep files in folders on our local drive. Do we really need to sync gigs of data in the cloud between devices? Is there a necessary utility to cloud computing, or is it merely about convenience?

I think in most cases, it’s the latter. In the past, our music, files, or photos lived on a desktop computer hard drive; we’d sync certain files (over a cable) to our PDAs, iPods, or phones as needed for being on the go. Or we’d copy the files we wanted onto a disk or thumb drive to use on another computer. Nowadays, cloud sync services basically do the same thing without the cable or the portable medium.

Three inconvenient cloud storage things

I like the convenience of the cloud, but there are things about it I don’t like. I’ll mention three.

One is the misconception that if my data is in the cloud, then it’s backed up. But that’s often not the case. Typically, files are stored “in the cloud” on a data server somewhere — and that’s it. My data is not on my local storage. Instead, I just see a reference (placeholder icon) to it. So all my data has one copy — the original — and no backup copies anywhere. Not good. If anything happens to that one copy, too bad.

Another complaint about relying solely on cloud storage is not having direct access to my data. It’s on someone else’s hard drive somewhere else. Unless I toggle an option to also keep a copy of my data on my local drive too, it’s beyond my reach without a persistent internet connection. So I must ensure that toggle is on because I can’t always guarantee the internet will be on. And unfortunately, many people don’t realize this.

The last problem is the tendency of companies to offer paltry amounts of base storage inside devices, forcing people to rely on cloud storage services — with subscription fees — in order to keep all files and photos somewhere. Why do many laptops today ship with a meager 256GB of internal storage? By now, the minimum base storage configuration on any laptop should be 1TB.

Local storage is underrated

I’m not advocating for everyone to quit using cloud storage; I still use it a lot. But I’m trying to be more mindful of how much I rely on “the cloud.” For-profit companies love for people to totally depend on cloud storage for everything. It’s like renting a remote hard drive and entrusting your entire digital life to a corporation’s server farm in an undisclosed location. Putting all your data-eggs in one basket seems unwise. It also incurs a pesky monthly subscription fee. Bleh.

Back in the day, you paid up-front one time for a physical hard drive (or computer) and simply put all your digital files on it. And if you were ever bit by data loss — drive failure — like me, then you also bought a backup drive “just in case.” So no monthly fees, and all your data was in at least two baskets, not one.

While computing companies may want to prioritize cloud storage, I think the best overall use case today is to make sure you primarily rely on local storage. Keep your data on your own device/drive. That’s the surest way to “own your content.” Then, as needed, sync a copy of your stuff via cable or to a cloud solution for easy access on your mobile device. Local storage should be the default while cloud storage is one option among others.

Your data should not live in the nebulous cloud behind a subscription payment and an internet connection. It should live on your own computer. And living in both places at the same time might be a good option too.

What do you think?

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Taking Apps Out Of The Apple Basket

Somewhere in the universe, a cosmic pendulum must have swung. I’m tilting away from my Apple-centric app focus toward cross-platform apps. For all the benefits of living nigh exclusively within Apple software, I’m reawakening to the wisdom and flexibility of not putting all my apps in one basket.

Big Tech Baskets

Apple’s walled-garden is nice: it gets the job done well, but does it always offer the best tools for every job? Fair question. And while the wall is “a feature, not a bug,” acting like a hedge of protection, what exactly am I protected from? And what sort of adventure might I discover outside the walls? Maybe there’s risk, but what if there’s a pot o’gold at the end of a rainbow?

There are other castles surrounded by moats. I was once all-in with Google, toting just an Android phone and a Chromebook. It was nice, especially when you consider the entry price. I got my tech fix for a fraction of the cost of Apple’s wares, using all the Google things.

Similar can be said of Microsoft with its line of Surface devices, Office suite, and OneDrive, for example. That said, without Windows Phone, one must rely on others.

Whatever tech giant you choose, it’s nice being able to dive in deep with as many apps and services as they make because their offerings look and work better together by design. Your computing is streamlined since your one account grants access to a whole family of apps/services.

But when you look past each tech giants’ synergistic advantages, you’ll see that there are many great third-party apps that deserve a chance. Indie developers, though relatively small, are no less creative and productive. In fact, since such devs can focus on one or a few apps, they tend to be better options with more robust feature sets or expert implementation.

Cross-platform Options

So I started looking over Apple’s wall. This year, I quit using Apple Notes for my journals and reverted back to Day One. The third-party developer was exclusive to Apple for years but went cross-platform with an Android app and now – in beta – a web app. For recording daily life, a dedicated journaling app far surpasses the capability of a general purpose notes app.

Last week, I stopped using Apple Podcasts and switched to Pocket Casts, also third-party and cross-platform. I just find the app better overall. It reminds me that, though Apple is great at software and hardware, it’s not the best in all cases.

Default or built-in apps typically have a low bar to pass, meeting basic functionality. In contrast, dedicated third-party apps typically offer more, better, or both in terms of features.

These moves were a crack in the Apple dam. What other non-Apple programs might I enjoy more? I’m reminded of the benefits of being less entrenched in a single tech giant’s ecosystem. It’s like mitigating risk and maximizing profit by diversifying your financial portfolio.

The Best Tools

For more examples, I’ve tried to use only Apple Books and an iPad for all my eReading in the past. Apple’s tablet is great, its Books app is very nice, and its eBook service is good enough. But despite my sincere efforts, I always run back to my beloved Kindle eInk screen and Amazon’s eBook market; I love it.

When it comes to gaming, I used to play iOS games and have enjoyed Apple Arcade exclusives like JRPG Fantasian from acclaimed Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. But gaming on Apple devices simply doesn’t compare to console gaming. Nintendo with its Switch is much better. Sony’s PS5 must also be greater since it flies off store shelves like the way people used to line up around the block to buy the new iPhones.

A few other moves I’ve made or am making to be less siloed:

  • I stopped using Apple News and now only use a third-party RSS reader, NetNewsWire (and formerly used cross-platform app Feedly).
  • I’m testing Firefox over Safari
  • I may use BitWarden versus iCloud Keychain
  • For reading later, Pocket instead of Safari reading list
  • I might also consider – gasp – a cross-platform alternative to Apple Notes like Simple Note (Markdown!).

Caveat: if I use Simple Note in addition to Day One and Pocket Casts, one might say I’m entering the Automattic silo. But Automattic, parent of WordPress, is open-minded and cross platform.

Apple makes quality hardware, very good software, and has the distinct advantage of the most holistic and cohesive computing ecosystem. But the problem of being all-in with Apple (or others) is having a closed mindset that misses out on potentially better apps.

Why rob oneself of the best tool for the job just because it doesn’t have a Big Tech logo on it?

Part of why I tend to switch up my tech setup is due to boredom. But this cross-platform push is more than a mere thought experiment or a geek seeking new tech toys. For me, a key advantage is the ability to compute on my family’s Windows computers, not just my MacBook, when the need arises. Or maybe I’ll someday revert to a PC for Steam gaming (that said, RPGMaker MZ runs great on my M1 MacBook Air).

If for no other reason, being locked into one computing platform seems unwise and feels restrictive. Though I plan to keep enjoying my MacBook and iPhone with much of Apple’s software, at least now I won’t have all my apps in one basket.

What do you think?

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Let's Not Quarrel With A.I.

There’s always a doomsday scenario of A.I. taking over the world, wiping out humanity, like in The Terminator where Skynet becomes self-aware. Such fear can surface with ChatGPT and the like. This Vox article on the topic has a quote that struck me:

“You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice,” the physicist Stephen Hawking wrote in a posthumously published 2018 book, “but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green-energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let’s not place humanity in the position of those ants.”Kelsey Piper

Not to be alarming, but it’s a good idea to be careful with A.I.

Also, from The Avengers (2012) movie:

Nick Fury: “We have no quarrel with your people.”

Loki: “An ant has no quarrel with a boot.”

Nick Fury: “You planning to step on us?”

A.I. probably won’t be mischievous. Hopefully it won’t be careless.

Journaling On Day One

The best time to start journaling is a day far in the past; the second best time is today. Whether you have a paper diary or a digital journal, writing your thoughts in it regularly is vital. Over the years, I’ve used different tools to journal, tending to switch them up for various reasons. So, surprising nobody, I’ve moved from Apple Notes back to Day One.

Apple Notes is a general purpose note-taking app and Day One is a dedicated app for journaling. That difference alone should suggest how or why Day One is worth using for a daily habit as important as journaling. Being focused and equipped to the task, Day One shines with many journaling-friendly features, like a built-in calendar view for entries and the ability to efficiently import photos or events into those entries.

There’s much more to like about Day One (owned by WordPress parent Automattic), such as the Streaks widget on Mac and iPhone: it shows a daily checkbox of your recent consecutive entries. This one feature, in fact, was key in helping me finally make a habit of journaling daily, a goal I’d had for long time. And my current streak is now well over a year!

The thing is, I started this on October 2021…then switched from Day One to Apple Notes…and am now switching back. So what happened?

As you might imagine, using Apple Notes for all my notes plus all my journals added up to a lot of stuff, and journal entries didn’t fit well among my notes. I use Notes like a dumping ground for all sorts of things: links, checklists, random thoughts, receipt scans… Journal entries are simple but feel out of place in my mind-space inside Notes. And since I kept them locked, I couldn’t tag them, yet I’m not sure I would because the tags would be mixed with general notes tags. Things felt messy and limiting.

What really drove me to uproot my journals from within Notes was my ongoing process of re-organizing my thousands of notes since Apple introduced tagging capabilities in the last few updates. Upending my folder system to augment it with tags has been quite the productivity exercise; removing my journals would help simplify and declutter things.

So I felt the need to move my journals out of Apple Notes, but why go back to Day One? Sure, it’s great, but I already used it before and left it, so what was the deal?

At the time, I had journaled in Day One exclusively in the Mac app and thought that it would be enough, but I very much needed and wanted to also journal via the iPhone app. To do so required an upgrade from the free version to premium, which cost $35 per year. I wasn’t willing to pay for it.

I think that’s kind of sad. Day One is a great app. Developing and maintaining it requires much work; it shouldn’t be free. It costs people their time and energy to make Day One and make it excellent. The Day One team deserves income to compensate, and their app earns revenue. Storing, syncing, and encrypting everyone’s journaling data is no small feat, for example. And the app simply needs good coding and designing. It’s certainly worth more than $0.99.

So I decided to not be a cheapskate and just subscribe. After my 30-day free trial ends, I’ll be auto-billed for a whole year. Now I’m using Day One with all features unlocked, and it’s syncing across my Mac and iPhone apps beautifully.

Your take-away here is simply to start reaping the benefits of journaling yourself if you haven’t yet made it a daily habit. There are many other journaling apps besides Day One on both iOS and Android. I can recommend Journey, for example, as I’ve enjoyed it before too. Or if you prefer a traditional paper notebook like a Moleskine, go for it.

Do you journal daily? How do you like to journal?

Sold iPad And Dropped AirPods

As one who is all-in with Apple, it may be surprising that I quit using a few of its gadgets. My iPad is gone. And my AirPods are now just backup. Let me explain.


A year ago, I bought a refurbished MacBook Air M1 and still enjoy it today. Prior, I used an 8th-gen iPad with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard (non-Apple gear) as my “computer.” Needing and wanting more drove me to a proper laptop.

So in the past year, I basically never used my iPad. I tried some of its features that let me use it as a connected display for my Mac, but otherwise it stayed out-of-sight/out-of-mind.

My oldest son then told me how much he wanted his own iPad and that he’d use it for not only some games and movies but as a tool to practice digital drawing via Apple Pencil. He had saved up money for all of it and was ready to buy. So I made him a deal, selling my iPad to him.

I’ve blogged before about the tight space between an iPhone and a MacBook. Steve Jobs knew that to have room for a tablet, between a smartphone and a laptop, it had to be exceptional at key things. The iPad is great, but I just didn’t have enough real use for it along with my other Apple devices.

So far, I don’t miss it at all. I doubt I will. That said, it’s a little weird to me that I let such a cool Apple device go from my grasp. Yet I think it’s for the best.


I have used my AirPods (gen. 2) for two years now. By far, their convenience is the best thing about them. But the trade-off in audio quality is wanting, and their expense just doesn’t seem worth it anymore. I realized there are many other good quality yet affordable wireless audio solutions on the market. 

Then for Christmas, I got a new pair of JBL (760NC) noise canceling over-ear headphones. So far they’re very nice. I really like their overall sound, having deep bass in my music, and that they block background noise, creating an inner-quiet soundscape. Plus, they can be wireless or wired!

They’re not perfect: the earcups are a tad small for my ear flaps, and their overall bulk makes them less convenient than AirPods — trade-offs. That’s ok with me; they’re also more affordable.

Now my AirPods are backup. I still use them sometimes while driving long-distance and for occasional phone calls. But once they die, I do not plan to replace them.

What’s left?

As mentioned, my iPhone and MacBook remain. I also still enjoy my Apple Watch — now with a non-Apple (inexpensive!) watchband. So, it’s kind of like small (watch), medium (phone), and large (laptop).

I do love my other Apple-less tech: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and Nintendo Switch OLED. Sure, I’ve played games and read eBooks on my Apple gear, but the Kindle and Switch are devices dedicated to the task of reading and gaming, so they do it far better.

What device(s) would you drop in order to simplify your tech life?

Metaverse Spectacles Skeptical

A recent piece from Vox by Shirin Ghaffary on the challenge Meta endures as it races towards the so-called metaverse:

“Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks the metaverse will be the next iteration of the internet, a technological shift akin to the mobile phone.”

Nope. I really don’t think so. I remain skeptical. And wary of Zuckerberg productions. Sure AR/VR has cool applications, for example gaming. But even in that genre it’s niche.

I don’t think the metaverse, as described or defined by a virtual space you interact with via sensory-enveloping headgear, will ever become mainstream. Why? Because people won’t wear goggles to text others when a smartphone is enough. And Microsoft Office on your laptop won’t be more fun in virtual reality. Maybe AR/VR will open up new experiences, but that remains to be seen, and if it does, I doubt they’ll be as revolutionary as the smartphone.

The Vox piece also raises a topic I’ve previously encountered and still disagree with as well, the notion that society now needs another tech breakthrough, a revolutionary device:

“Bosworth’s comments come at a time when Silicon Valley is long overdue for a major breakthrough invention. It’s been years since any of the reigning tech giants — Apple, Google, or Meta — have put out a technology as transformative as their earlier products like the mobile phone, the online search engine, the personal computer, or a social media platform like Facebook. For the past year and half, Meta has been positioning itself as a could-be leader on this front.”

In general, I reject the idea that tech revolutions are somehow on a schedule as though due at certain points on the timeline. Otherwise, we’d be long overdue for a Nikola Tesla advancement of wireless electricity. Or we’d be past due for hydrogen fuel cell cars or even just electrical generation via commonplace nuclear reactors; fossil fuels remain king in the age of the atom.

I really don’t think AR/VR, even if marketed via an Apple device, is going to be a new revolution. In ten years maybe? No, I still don’t think so. Why? Two reasons.

One, the tablet, once thought to be the “post-PC” device and next revolution after the iPhone turned out to be something adjacent to, not a replacement of, the smartphone. Likewise, wearables like Apple Watch are smartphone adjacent. Everybody isn’t doing “ambient computing” via voice assistants either. Even smart-home tech remains a mess after several years of trying to become the next big tech thing. All that’s to say just because a company or segment of people fancy a breakthrough device paradigm doesn’t mean it will inevitably materialize.

Two, the industrial revolution and things like interchangeable parts, though eventually followed by new revolutions, were paradigm shifts that spanned decades, not years. Even with Ford’s assembly line, over a century later and after the advent of computers, cars are still made basically the same way and people still travel via automobile. Flying cars, once thought to be the future of personal transportation, remain on the elusive horizon, the first version of vaporware.

In any case, I don’t think Zuckerberg is right on this one. And if the metaverse does become the next big thing, I doubt Meta will be at the forefront due to negative Facebook inertia. And even if Zuckerberg’s determination is matched by prescience, will it matter if investors remain skeptical and refuse to fund metaverse ambitions? Maybe via a non-Meta company.

But Microsoft seems to have given up on Hololens, its AR/VR headset. And Google killed Google Glass long ago. And Apple would likely price a headset beyond the reach of most consumers, such that Apple Glasses would be as unpopular as Homepod or AirPods Max.

The odds are stacked against AR/VR. Besides, progress in AI might distract or hinder metaverse progress. And what about the true “next big thing,” Quantum Computing? Maybe Nintendo’s Virtual Boy flop in the 90s soured me. Either way, I remain skeptical of the metaverse and am averse to Zuckerberg productions.

What do you think the potential of AR/VR is?

2023 Foresight

With a focus on computing and gaming, here are two things to look forward to this year. One is a super computer. The other: a fantastic game…that cannot be played on that super computer but rather on the equivalent of a six year old Android tablet!

Mac Pro

Though rumors suggest Apple might release mixed reality glasses this year, I doubt it. What can be expected, of course, are the usual iterations to its existing hardware lineup: new versions of iPhone etc.

The one new device to come should be the Mac Pro, as Apple had intended to update all its Macs with new Apple silicon chips in a 2-year time frame that’s now behind us. The Mac Pro is the last, and biggest, computer that’s yet to leave Intel chips behind. That said, there’s a notion that last year’s Mac Studio is already “Mac Pro” enough.

In any case, those high-end things are far more machine than I’d ever need; my M1 MacBook Air is still — after one year of usage so far — plenty fast and powerful!

Now, if Apple’s expensive and impressive computers ran the latest PC games at full specs, then maybe…and speaking of gaming…

Tears of the Kingdom

A mainline Zelda title only comes once every handful of years. The last one, Breath of the Wild, won Game of the Year 2017. It’s arguably the best Zelda title in the highly acclaimed franchise. And its sequel, Tears of the Kingdom, is scheduled to release May 12, 2023. It also won The Game Awards 2022, Most Anticipated Game. So, yes, there are high expectations for it. 

With its pedigree, TotK stands a chance to run for GotY 2023. Most remarkable about this is the fact that it will run on gaming hardware that will be over six years old. It’s also likely one of the last major Nintendo titles for the aging Switch platform.

Having played through Tears of the Kingdom’s predecessor BotW on the Wii U, I’m eager to see how much better this late hardware cycle game looks and feels on the Switch. I’m also curious to know how Nintendo will meet or exceed the level of greatness that is BotW. Will Tears of the Kingdom be emotionally gripping? Who might cry? What if Link, Zelda, or Epona dies?

More to come

There are many things one can look forward to this year. New devices, books, movies, or games. Maybe your favorite artist will release their newest album.

I’m not looking forward to all that much. Tears of the Kingdom, after a long delay, should prove to be worth the wait. With each passing day, that wait only gets shorter. Yet I still can’t wait.

What’s got you excited for this year?

USB-C All The Things

You may have heard news that the EU is mandating that digital devices use USB-C ports for charging. Basically, all tablets, phones, laptops, cameras, etc must have a USB-C port to charge, as opposed to something like Apple’s Lightning port found on iPhones. And you know what? I’m ready for it!

Yes, seriously. I have so many devices now that use USB-C to charge; it’s great! So common, so ubiquitous, so simple. Everywhere I go in my house or at work. Every room. Every charge plug. It’s all USB-C all the time. 

Well, almost. There’s still Lightning for iPhone. And AirPods. Also my 8th-gen iPad.

But I don’t use my iPad much anymore. And I always charge my iPhone via Qi “wireless” inductive pads. So I’m almost 100% USB-C. In fact, for Christmas I received a gift of new over-the-ear headphones. And guess what? They charge via USB-C. Because of course.

Other than my Apple gear with Lightning, I have one micro-USB device hanging around…for now. It’s a JBL Go 2 bluetooth speaker. And it’s on the chopping block, soon to be replaced by a newer version that uses USB-C.

There’s an argument that mandating USB-C may stifle innovation. I think there might be some merit to that point, but overall I think the convenience and simplicity of having a single universal port overrides potential limits to innovation.

There’s also some push back against the precedent of a public government entity dictating what a private company can or can’t do. But I’ll leave such politics to better minds. As an end-user, I’m ready for USB-C in all the things.

Are you ready for USB-C in all devices? Why or why not?

Big Finally For iPhone?

Can I FINALLY just buy a Kindle book (or see its price) in the Kindle app or Amazon app!? That’s all I want to really know after learning that Apple may soon fundamentally change its App Store rules and the like on iPhone. The change could mean more convenience for the average end user. Sounds good to me.

Two recommended reads:

I first learned of these potential sweeping changes via M.G. Siegler at 500ish.

Then I gathered more from Jason Snell at Six Colors

“I can imagine Apple telling Amazon that if it wants to write an iOS app that lets users buy Kindle books directly from Amazon via in-app purchase, it’s welcome to—but that version of the app can’t be in the App Store.” — Jason Snell

That quote is what I’m wondering about. Why can’t I simply see the price of a Kindle book in the current Amazon app or Kindle app? And why can’t I just buy said book via those apps on my iPhone? What’s the big deal?

I understand the desire to protect users from malicious third-party apps, but Amazon as a book seller is kind of an established and trusted entity and has been since the last millennium when it first started out selling books.

I also know there are many other factors to consider; it’s complicated. But we’re also talking about Apple, the company kind of known for its simplicity, its straight forward software design, etc. I like Apple, a lot, so don’t get me wrong. But Apple isn’t perfect (e.g. headphone jack removal).

What’s your take? Do you think Apple should open up its App Store more, or allow third-party app stores on iPhone?

iPhone 11 Thoughts

After turning my iPhone up to 11, I have some thoughts. Yes, it was the upgrade I wanted, substantial enough. All around, it’s a quality smartphone one would expect from Apple. Below are some things that stand out to me most.

Tap to wake

This is one of those quality of life features that seems small on paper, but in practice it’s huge. The ease with which I can now, finally, just tap the screen to see it display relevant or urgent info is so nice. I use it mostly to control audio in the playback widget. It’s more convenient than before.


Technically a superficial thing, yet it has deep impact. I LOVE the color of this iPhone 11 in yellow. I enjoy it every time I see it, often pausing to just look at it. My favorite color is orange; this is close. Even though the shade is a light pastel, it’s still great and feels more like an expression of my own personality. I do tend to be enthusiastic about tech.

Face ID

While I very much liked Touch ID, I find unlocking my phone by just looking at it to be kind of amazingly easy. It’s almost like the thing isn’t even locked when I pick it up. Also, it works in the dark. Not that I ever pick up my phone at night from the bedside table. Right.


Oh yeah, it’s way longer than was my 5 year old iPhone 8 Plus. I can go all day with moderate use and not worry one bit about charging up. It’s so good. Power to actually use your phone is fundamental to functioning. More battery is usually better. I love how long iPhone 11 lasts.


Oh snap! The camera is better, and the Night Mode and low-light shooting is much more improved than I expected. I’m truly surprised how iPhone 11 can get shots in little to no light and they actually turn out good looking. It’s super nice and enabling. Overall picture quality across the board is noticeably better too.

I’m also a fan of the ultra wide lens. Though its quality is a bit lacking in anything other than daylight landscape shots, it’s super useful for indoors when you can’t back up, like a small room or dining table. Also, I can now shoot portrait selfies, and I’m vain enough to enjoy it, thanks. Speaking of, the front camera has higher resolution and can shoot wider, both of which make me extra glad.

Ultra Wideband

I have not tried this out yet, but I plan to get an AirTag in the near future and “accidentally” misplace something important to see if I can find it.


Overall performance is more fluid than my 8 Plus, as it should be. It feels a bit more responsive. The display notch is not a problem at all. The LCD display looks as great as ever. Fit and finish are Apple caliber. The two speakers are much louder and fuller than the ones on my iPhone 8 Plus, which surprised me.

So there a some things that I value in iPhone 11. It’s reliable, it has all the iCloud ecosystem features, iMessage, and it’s the best version of Apple’s smartphone I’ve ever had the privilege to own. Best of all, I snagged this from Apple’s refurbished store for a great discount on a practically new phone. Highly recommended.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns of course; there are a few imperfections with iPhone 11:

  • It lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • It uses Lightning instead of USB-C to charge
  • It is too big to easily use in one hand
  • It lacks a microSD card slot for expanding storage
  • It doesn’t come in orange

Did you upgrade your phone in 2022? Will you upgrade in 2023?

macOS Stage Manager Impression

Stage Manager is a marquee new feature in macOS Ventura, which released to the general public this October. I updated my MacBook Air right away, eager to try it out. After several weeks of using it off and on, I’ve been reminded of the already impressive multi-tasking capabilities with good ol’ fashioned windows on the Mac. Exiting the stage, I’m happy to manage apps and their windows myself.

I think one reason Stage Manager is a prominent addition to the Mac is simply because its so visual. App windows quickly and easily swap out with each other automatically. I’ve tried to nail down the best understanding of what Stage Manager is actually managing: windows, apps, or tasks. I think the answer is, “Yes” to all three.

Essentially, apps and their windows are tools for users to complete tasks. So juggling multiple windows and apps — multi-tasking — is what Stage Manager is supposed to help you do. Most people, though, do one thing at a time and, at most, reference some other thing alongside. So it’s not uncommon to have two apps side-by-side and sometimes three. 

Stage Manager lets users set up multiple apps or windows in groups and then switches between either groups of apps or single app windows. In practice, though, I found the set up portion to be cumbersome and the auto-switching part to be a bit too jarring sometimes. Once set up, it’s simply hard to mentally track what apps and windows are where, especially if you also use Spaces (multiple desktops).

For the sake of brevity, avoiding the technical bits, suffice to say that Stage Manager helped me re-evaluate the Mac’s previously established multi-tasking features: Mission Control, Spaces, and Exposé. And to a small degree, also command-tab app switcher.

I realized how good these features already are and how much I appreciate them. So after several weeks of leaving Stage Manager on, I turned it off. Tellingly, I don’t miss it.

In fact, I now much prefer my new simpler approach: fully zoomed (not full-screen) windows on one desktop Space. I love the Dock for its ability to both launch and switch between apps in a visual way. Its always present, at the ready, and serves as an anchor for the desktop. And I like to keep multiple Pages and Numbers files open. For those, I simply use tabs in their respective apps.

I wanted to like Stage Manager, but one of my initial reactions to it turned out true: it’s redundant. The Mac’s other multi-tasking options were already enough. I think Stage Manager has potential if Apple improves it.

One simple way to make it better would be to allow an option to always show more than four (the current max.) piles or groups at once on a 13” MacBook Air. The app or window I wanted to switch to was often pushed out of view simply because it wasn’t in the four onscreen. Another weak spot that needs work is streamlining the set up process. Somehow, apps and windows should be able to be grouped without also switching back and forth and dragging them back out of their piles.

That said, I find it easier to go full-manual, relying on the complete flexibility and total freedom of windows and apps being in one place, right on the desktop where I left them. To switch between them, I just click the app icon in the Dock. Since my apps are full-zoom most of the time, the app window I want pops into view, totally covering the previous window, which effectively switches it out and keeps my desktop clutter free.

In the end, though Stage Manager managed apps and windows to some degree, I still had to manage Stage Manager itself by setting up groups and mentally tracking where things were. 

Thanks, Stage Manager, for showing me how effective the other long-standing methods of Mac multi-tasking are. I’ll take it from here.

Have you tried it; do you like, dislike, or can’t make up your mind about Stage Manager?

Turned My iPhone Up To 11

A few weeks ago, I had decided to stick with my iPhone 8 Plus and not upgrade until likely next year. Confession: I didn’t hold out that long. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my five year old iPhone and my son’s now unsupported iPhone 7. So when a nice deal appeared, I jumped on it, netting one new-ish smartphone for two phone upgrades.

I can be fickle, leaning hard into minimalism when I feel the need to counter my (and my culture’s) natural bent towards maximalism (hyper-consumerism). I’m also frugal and moderate. So instead of buying the latest and greatest iPhone 14 super-duper-mega-ultra or whatever, I opted for a refurbished iPhone 11. It’s still a great phone today, three years after its first release, and it’s a substantial upgrade from my iPhone 8 Plus. 

The best part might be that for the single price of upgrading my phone, my 16-year old son is also getting a good upgrade — at no extra cost. He will once again have a supported phone, going from the 7 to the 8 Plus, which still has over 80% battery!

As always, I tried to weigh the balance between wants and needs, and I think I’ve struck it close to the center. Sure, I had to spend a bit more money than what might be ideal, but again, my family nets two iPhone upgrades from it. Plus I saved money by choosing a refurbished phone from Apple’s store. This also has the benefit of recycling a phone, getting more life from it, and conserving resources, though Apple’s refurbished iPhones include a new 100% battery — a big plus to me.

My most blogged about topic is Mobile Computing — be it smartphones, tablets, or laptops. The iPhone is one of my most important tools and, admittedly, one of my favorite tech toys too. Upgrading eventually becomes a necessity. And when I can afford them, I don’t mind a few niceties as well.

So I’m eager to switch from TouchID to FaceID, for example, gain Night Mode on the camera, and trade my telephoto lens for an ultra wide one. Speaking of ultra wide, how about the ultra wideband chip for precision AirTag tracking? Yes, please. And while it may be superficial, I’m keen to swap dull black for delightful yellow on the iPhone 11.

If only Apple made an Orange iPhone!

How often do you upgrade your smartphone? Would you rather use a feature-phone or “dumb” phone?

What Is Up With 5G?

Remember a few years back when there was hype that the next cell service upgrade would be mind-blowingly fast? 5G service promised download and upload speeds equal to or exceeding a fiber optic data line wired directly to your phone. The benefits of such a feature were things like…remote real-time tele-surgery? Streaming gameplay in high-res? The question: so how’s that working out for ya?

9to5mac recently asked, “Is 5G worth it?

The piece cites a report showing the answer to be a firm, “Nope.” It also gives other evidence to the same.

Does 5G even exist?

Here’s my take. After the iPhone 12 — with 5G! — debuted two years ago, do you know how many people in my circles I’ve heard say they enjoy the new cellular speeds? Zero. Not a single person has said they’ve even experienced 5G. The only people I’ve ever heard say they’ve seen 5G speeds have been reviewers from tech sites. That’s it. And again, it’s been two years or more since the next-gen cell connection began to launch.

So despite 5G service and multiple 5G phones being in the market for the past few years now, my personal experience so far shows that it has not lived up to any of the hype at all. I have to trust tech reviewers’ reports that 5G service actually exists in a few spots amidst big cities. And I assume it’s eyelid-peeling fast…but to what end?

Do we even need 5G?

There was a push for 4G/LTE cell coverage years ago because people wanted to stream video on their smartphone without buffering or loading and they wanted good quality playback. We consumers finally got that and have been watching YouTube and Netflix on our phones with no problems; it’s great! 

Video streaming on-demand to phones is a solved problem. Any other consumer (normal person) usage of cellular data is less demanding. So 4G/LTE certainly seems to be more than adequate. Thus there seems to be no real need for 5G in the first place. (This is similar to saying we don’t need 4K quality video because HD looks good enough already.)

I actually have been paying for an expensive AT&T cell plan for a couple of years now that includes 5G service though I’ve never seen such speeds. One reason is likely because the area where I live lacks 5G coverage. The other reason is my aging iPhone 8 Plus remains solidly in the past with only a 4G/LTE modem inside.

And you know what? Data speeds are very good and are available everywhere. Besides being plenty fast, the more important point is the ubiquity of my cell data coverage. I can totally rely on the fact that when I need fast-enough service, I’ll have it.

What good is blazing fast 5G speed if it’s not even available?

My next iPhone might have a 5G chip in it. And it still might not matter because I doubt 5G service will be available and reliable in my region, at least for several more years. So I’m not champing at the bit to get a 5G phone. In fact, I’ve considered avoiding a 5G iPhone until I’m certain my area has good 5G coverage. I don’t want a 5G phone battery dying in short time due to hunting for a 5G signal but never finding one. I’d rather turn 5G off or not have it at all. My 4G iPhone works great; its cell data is wonderfully dependable.

As a matter of fact, I’ve written this entire blog post on my MacBook Air tethered to my iPhone 8 Plus hotspot during a rainstorm and have had zero glitches, no dropped connections, all via 4G/LTE.

I don’t know what’s up with 5G, but 4G is great.

Do you experience 5G service on a 5G phone; what’s that like, is it game changing for you?

Wired Audio Sounds Winning

In my recent post where I asked are AirPods worth their cost, I was only comparing them to cheaper “true wireless” alternatives. But there still exists an even more affordable option: wired earphones. Yes, physically connecting your ears to a device with dangling cords. And apparently, it’s a trend amidst Gen Z.

Are wires really that bad? Fair question.

Is being tethered to your phone or laptop a problem that needs to be solved? Okay, sure, unraveling a tangled mess of cords or accidentally yanking earbuds out by their tails is inconvenient and can be frustrating. But is that bad enough to warrant the high cost of wireless headphones?

Wired ear pieces are practical and affordable and simple. In fact, though AirPods can seamlessly switch between Apple devices, wired headphones can basically do the same thing. Just unplug from one gadget and plug into the other device — it’s not hard.

Well, except iPhones lack a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Of course, Apple makes a dongle for that. Also, you can’t connect wired buds to the Apple Watch, so Bluetooth buds are required. You could just use the Lightning EarPods for iPhone then switch them to the Mac…wait, Macs don’t have Lightning ports, just old-school round headphone jacks. Oops. Maybe there’s another dongle for that too. So much for the simple Apple ecosystem, eh?

Overall though, wired earbuds are simple:

  • Just plug’em in
  • No pairing required
  • No charging needed
  • No special case needed
  • You can’t lose one bud
  • They just work

Like this quote says, wired headphones reflect simplicity:

“Wired earphones make a different kind of statement. A person wearing wired headphones is disassociating themselves from modern trends altogether. They want to be plugged into simpler times.” — Elena Cavender

Besides simplicity, reliability, and affordability, wired headphones also have another distinct advantage over their rich wireless relatives: quality, as in Lossless Audio. Well, this was the case until recently, but it’s still mostly true today. Bluetooth couldn’t stream uncompressed audio; now it can but with caveats. And Apple’s own just-released expensive AirPods Pro 2 still can’t stream Lossless Audio.

Apple does include a good 3.5mm headphone jack. Though the iPhone ditched it and the new 10th-gen iPad dropped it, my M1 MacBook Air has one. I had to use it recently with my JBL speaker for audio playback; I couldn’t get the speaker to connect via Bluetooth after fussing with settings — grrrr, ugh. So I plugged in my speaker with a standard 3.5mm cord and it just worked. Wired audio for the win!

Have you gone wireless, or do you still enjoy classic wired earphones?

YouTube Handles More Social

A few weeks ago, I noticed that YouTube would be adding Handles to existing accounts and wondered how that might change the platform, for better or worse, into a more social media-like experience. Well, looks like we’re about to find out; I’ve already got my @username!


YouTube says that handles will be “shown in more places over time” as the feature gets more traction and as YouTube expands the ways in which it can be used. Two of the most prominent areas you’ll see handles in are video descriptions, where they can be used to mention collaborators, and in video comments, where you can give a shout-out to another user on the platform.” — David Nield

So I eagerly dashed over to my laptop while in the middle of making coffee so I could maybe snag a good @username. My personal favorite: @jason is already taken. No surprise there. But to my real surprise, I already had a good name assigned to me: @JasonMcFadden. I wasn’t sure about the camelcase — I have the option to go all lowercase — but I stuck with it. Not half bad.

For details around the use of an @username, check out this Google support link.

The big question remains: will YouTube become social? In the wake of what looks to be the implosion of Twitter, could YouTube find a place within the journalism and tech spheres to share breaking news and snark in lieu of blue bird tweets?

I discovered on the site there’s a place for posting text and images like what’s found on Facebook. Interesting. But is it good to use? I don’t know. I still only use YouTube to watch videos, not share stuff. The only Google property I use to share stuff is…Blogger! But on YouTube, maybe mentioned people will become common and useful now.

I’m cautiously optimistic. I would “+1” the addition of YouTube handles, but we all know how Google+ turned out. (Bummer; I liked Google+ more than Twitter.)

What do you think, will YouTube become more social since you can @mention viewers and Tubers?

Are AirPods Really Worth It?

Apple’s popular white plastic buds spurred the ubiquity of true wireless earphones. Competitive companies now make more ear-candy devices at wallet-friendly prices, offering other colors, styles, and feature-sets. So are AirPods really worth their price tag now?

Wireless Options

AirPods provide the single greatest benefit of “true wireless” audio: total mobility. But their small size sacrifices audio quality for convenience, and they cost an awful lot. So at first, I plunged into the unchained audio space with a chonky pair of bluetooth headphones.

Those wireless aural ear muffs were super affordable; I loved them. But the AirPods feature-set of bells and whistles kept ringing in my ears. Resisting their temptation proved futile. Eventually, I overcame sticker-shock, bought AirPods Gen 2 on sale, and now love using them daily.

Yet with almost 2 years of enjoyment, I’m now asking if AirPods are still worth it.

Thanks to my lovely wife, my eyes have been re-opened to other options for my ears. She was in the bluetooth earbuds market — outside Apple’s walled garden; AirPods don’t fit her ears — for a pair without a triple-digit price tag. Helping her shop, I noted that solutions from established companies like Sony, JBL, Razer, Jabra, and more look great, with several under $100.

If my AirPods died today, would I be willing to pay Apple’s cringe-worthy price tag again for a newer pair?

Apple Advantages

To help answer, Consumer Reports says that, for iPhone owners, AirPods Gen 3 are recommended. The main reason they exceed the competition is the synergy of Apple’s tech:

“Used with an iPhone and other Apple products, the AirPods will give you a more seamless experience.”

The only distinct, maybe dubious, advantages I’m aware of with AirPods are how they’re treated as a first-class citizen with Apple’s gear. For example:

  1. Easy pairing with Apple devices
  2. Seamless switching between MacBook, iPhone, iPad…
  3. Precision finding of misplaced AirPods (iPhone 11 and up)
  4. Siri summoning

Easy pairing to Apple gadgets is fast, nicely done, and works well. Pairing other bluetooth devices can be too much of a hassle — a win for Apple magic.

Seamless switching between devices works most of the time and is quite awesome, but sometimes it doesn’t work, which can be frustrating.

Precision finding seems handy, but my iPhone 8 Plus lacks the specialized chip for it; I can’t use that unique advantage.

Siri Summoning is fast and reliable…but Siri isn’t always helpful.

AirPods are great overall, but I have a little gripe: sometimes just working…doesn’t work. Too often, my right AirPod won’t turn on when I put it in my ear. It’s a minor issue that shouldn’t exist at the quality and price-tier I bought into. Paying twice as much for an Apple solution should net about double the benefit over the competition. Yet with AirPods, paying much more may only net little more versus others.

Best Value

Per several websites’ Best Buds of 2022 articles, AirPods are typically not the number one pick, though they’re often in the top 10 and sometimes in the top 5. Here are a few sites’ best true wireless buds in the AirPods 3/AirPods Pro price range overall:

And for the best buds on a budget:

Note why some sites omitted AirPods from among its picks:

“…while Apple’s standard AirPods (first, second, or third-gen) do some things well, we just don’t like them all that much. (Read our review.) They get OK battery life, come in a compact case, and work well for calls, but they don’t fit all ears well, and since they don’t have ear tips or wings, you’re out of luck if they’re loose.” - Wired

“As an avid Apple user…I like that the AirPod Pros work with other Apple devices. At their suggested retail price of $249, however, these earbuds are more expensive than much of the competition without the audio quality to match.” - Forbes

Finally, there’s AirPods Gen 3 review by MKBHD that basically says they’re a no-brainer if you’re in the Apple ecosystem.

Tough Decision

Deciding if AirPods are worth the expense isn’t easy. Their hardware quality is Apple-renown and their feature-set is great — not just for audio playback, but also for hands-free phone calls. Yet affordability is highly valuable. Can I be content with only the necessities of AirPods — or any Apple hardware — or must I have some niceties too?

Do you think AirPods are worth it?

Sticking With iPhone 8 In 2022

Recently, the dynamic iPhone 14 Pro debuted. With it, iOS 16 released, rendering my teens’ iPhone SE and iPhone 7 officially unsupported. My iPhone 8 Plus — now five generations old — still works well. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” I’m not immune to upgrade-itis and am trying to stick with what I have. After all, it’s an iPhone. What more is needed, right? That said, my wants are tough to moderate.

Wanting to keep things simple, I minimized my iPhone, so it’s mostly a phone and an iPod — calls, texts, music, podcasts. I use it for a few other utilitarian things too, like the Camera and Notes apps. And I started methodically adding back a few features I had taken away, for example Apple News and Pages.

Minimal usage mitigates power drain. Critically, battery health is at 81%, just above the recommended 80% minimum. Battery life is decent except on workdays when I stream audio via AirPods for several hours; I’m usually near a power source anyways.

My iPhone 8 Plus performs with aplomb. Its A11 chip doesn’t seem sluggish even on the latest iOS 16. Basically, any currently supported and working iPhone should work for me. If I upgraded, I’d want a lot more, but The Verge thinks the low cost iPhone SE is all one needs.

“Apple’s iPhone SE is the small, low-cost phone that’s so good it makes us question the entire concept of $1,000 phones…" — Allison Johnson

Though having a dated design, the iPhone SE is an iPhone with reliability and quality. Apple’s other handsets offer more useful and nicer features, like MagSafe or Night Mode, and are certainly desirable. But I also don’t want to spend a small fortune for them when all my basic needs are met in the 8 Plus or could be met in the SE. Thrift for the win!

“The iPhone SE shines a bright, clarifying light on the entire smartphone industry, putting even Apple’s own top-end phones in sharp relief. What are you paying for when you spend $800 or $1,000 or even more for a phone? The list turns out to be more about niceties than necessities.” — Dieter Bohn

It’s like saying, “This iPhone SE lets you do all the Apple things for $400; this iPhone 14 Pro lets you do all the Apple things for $1,000.” Are the extra niceties really worth the extra $600?

Frugal, sure, but I wrestle with needs versus wants. On principle and in practicing contentment, I focus on my smartphone needs. But I’m human and sometimes cave to my wants — niceties are nice after all. Thrift cedes ground to Apple Marketing.

My iPhone 8 Plus has at least one more year of official support. As long as it holds up, I could hold off buying a newer model. But the longer I wait, the more I feel a need to upgrade; the battery will wear down eventually. 

I won’t rush to either the fancy iPhone 14 Pro or the no-frills iPhone SE. If anything, I’ll likely pick a refurbished yet new-to-me model. Again, it’d be an iPhone; nothing more is needed…but maybe I’ll cave to some of Apple’s more flashy features. Either way, I’m sticking with my trusty 8 Plus for now — it just works.

Are you tempted by iPhone 14 Pro? Do you cling to Android? Or could you get by with a “dumb” phone?

Not So Simple Apple Product Strategy

I generally agree with the sentiment that Apple’s line up of tablets and phones has become more complex over time and could benefit from the minimalism Apple was better known for years ago. From The Verge:

“There were four iPhone 14 models. I hemmed and hawed. When I eventually bought one, I felt nostalgia for the days when there was one iPhone.” — Victoria Song

Long gone are the days when Steve Jobs axed Apple’s devices — to just four (4)! Not four phones. Four devices total, all computers: pro desktop, pro laptop, consumer desktop, consumer laptop. A simple product matrix was all Apple needed to get on a profitable track. Yet per the latest quarterly financials, Apple’s business is plenty lucrative with its myriad gadgets. So who’s to say the company is wrong?

But from a consumer view, it’d be nice if buying decisions were simpler with products having clearly defined boundaries. I’m no business guru, but when it comes to choices, I like the straightforward approach of “small, medium, or large.” So three options seems enough. But is it really?

If we look only at the newest iPhone 14 line up, there are four options. That may seem like a lot, but really there are two new iPhones, the 14 and 14 Pro. That’s it. The other two are versions of those that differ only in size (I’m pretty sure). There’s a bigger version of the 14 — the “Plus.” And there’s a bigger version of the 14 Pro — the “Max.”

That said, I’m kind of a tech nerd, so to me this seems clear enough. But to the uninitiated, I can imagine head scratching between the four names: 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max. Things might be more clear if the size moniker was superscript, like two to the third power: 14 Pro…to the Max.

Then again, Apple currently sells more than the four iPhone 14s. It also sells two iPhone 13s, a 12, and an SE for a total of eight, which is…thinking…seven more than the single original iPhone. Okay, that’s a lot of modern iPhones to choose from. Surely Apple could simplify the present line up down from eight to just five. Yet it’s great to have plenty of options, right?

Well, not so fast. Let’s say you have $600 to buy an iPhone. Do you get the 12 or the 13 mini since both cost the same? One is newer and has twice the storage but the other one is bigger. Why are two iPhones offered at the same price? Would Steve Jobs say they’re both needed? I don’t know. But Tim Cook has brought Apple to be valued in the trillions, so there’s that.

Do you think Apple’s product line up is a bit over complicated?

Maybe No Room For Tablets

As if the previous robust lineup of iPads wasn’t enough, Apple just released more new tablets. The consensus among tech journalists is things are more cluttered and confusing. Not only that, but it seems the tablet space in general — not just iPads — is more messy than ever. From a piece at CNET:

“…It’s getting increasingly difficult to define the tablet’s place in our lives because it’s always shifting.

…tech giants seemingly have different answers for what a tablet should be in 2022 and beyond.” — Lisa Eadicicco

Tablets are flexible. Their functionality is fluid. One moment, iPad is an eReader, and the next it’s a mobile game. Yet in 2022 and beyond, a tablet should be exactly what Steve Jobs said a tablet should be when he first announced the iPad and defined the space between a smartphone and a laptop. He said if there’s room for a tablet in that space, then it must be better at some key tasks. I still think he was right.

A tablet should be — are you sitting down? — a tablet.

That means a tablet shouldn’t try to be a laptop. And it shouldn’t be dismissed as just a big smartphone. While tablet software is limited to simple tasks like a smartphone, its much larger screen lends itself to more. Yet the simple software and other hardware omissions prevent a tablet from replacing a laptop.

Of course, being in the middle— squeezed tighter than ever — between a smartphone and laptop requires tricky compromise. That’s why companies continue to shift and search for what tablets are 12 years after Steve Jobs defined the category with iPad.

Again, the CNET piece:

“[tablets] seem to constantly fluctuate between serving as oversize phones, laptop replacements or something else entirely.”

“Smartphones and laptops have always felt essential in some way, and their respective roles are more straightforward. Laptops are for work and school, while phones are for essentially everything else. Where does that leave tablets? They’re meant to fill the gap between smartphone and laptop, but it seems like that gap is always evolving.” — Lisa Eadicicco

The author concludes that messy experimentation is good for tablets as it could lead to better devices overall and a more clearly defined tablet space.

But such experimentation could continue indefinitely as companies strive to figure out what tablets are really for. The focus for tablet capabilities may fluctuate with fads. Tablet makers may sell more for a time and then change the formula — throwing ideas at the wall until something sticks — when sales slump again. Yet it’s unnecessary to re-define what a tablet is after Steve Jobs already defined it.

Meanwhile, the tried and true devices — laptop and smartphone — remain stalwart and reliable. Their clearly defined use cases bring a calm comfort to each one’s respective computing category — no confusion there.

After making the iPad my computer more than once, I’ve come to think the best approach is to trust the tablet definer, Steve Jobs. Allowing a tablet to do and be what it’s best at — lightweight tasks like email, web surfing, and entertainment — really simplifies things and avoids the tablet mess the tech sphere is now in.

While the iPad remains a compelling device with its large multi-touchable glass interface, I’ve experimented in my own way over the past couple months. I turned off my iPad and buried it in my dresser drawer to see if I’d miss it and how long I’d enjoy my MacBook and iPhone without it. So far, my iPad isn’t missed.

Maybe there really isn’t enough space between a laptop and smartphone after all.

How useful is a tablet to you today?

Update 10–29–22

I stumbled upon salient quotes from a Macworld piece today:

“The iPad is not the Mac–as much as Apple would like it to be–and a fluid, complex range simply doesn’t work. We have acknowledged that iPads are mainly aimed at light-usage consumers, and light-usage consumers need and seek out clear signposts that tell them which product to buy—which is exactly what the iPad range is unable to offer.”

“Most of us want something bigger than a tablet for working on, and something more portable for carrying around in our pockets. Caught in between, the tablet is…” — David Price

Sounds like wise Yoda-speak to me, “Caught in between, the tablet is.”

The whole article hits the same nail on the head that I’ve hammered on. Maybe there is some room for tablets as Apple still profits wildly from them. But it’s a tight squeeze in between smartphones and laptops for sure.

Algorithm Antipathy

There’s a good Art of Manliness piece about escaping algorithms and using the social-internet — RSS feed aggregators and email newsletters — instead of relying on social-media to read articles and surf websites. I’ve written likewise — Zero Feeds Experiment and Finding Feedly Again — so the AoM bit resonates.

For example:

“Now that I just consume my content via RSS or email, I’ve found myself spending less time online. I check my RSS feeds in the morning and in the evening. That’s it. Since there’s no social commentary on RSS feeds, there’s no reason to keep checking back to see what other people had to say. You just read the article and you’re done. There’s some finitude to it.”

Since quitting social media, I’m less online too…to an extent. If you remove something — like Twitter — then you’d better intentionally replace it with a better thing. Else, another bad habit gets vacuumed into the empty space left behind. So I admit that overall, my online time is about the same thanks to…YouTube. It’s the one algorithm that captures my attention.

That said, I spend far less time “checking things” habitually, either on my smartphone or my laptop. I had removed the email and browser apps from my phone for over a month — a game changer for me.

The few times I check things, it’s in algorithm-free Feedly. Cautiously reluctant to reintroduce it to my web-flow, I now use it very intentionally and sparingly. I no longer compulsively check for new and novel headlines and I don’t mindlessly surf sites, crashing on waves of terribly pushed ads.

While such aggregators have distinct advantages over algorithmic feeds, they’re not perfect. Yes, there’s finitude, which is apparent by the displayed number of unread articles. But that number can grow very high, especially if you follow prolific publishing sites.

To combat this, I selectively eliminated several website feeds that exceeded a certain threshold — like 100 articles per week — or were otherwise redundant. This cut the overall article count significantly. Having glutted on RSS feeds before, I recognize when my brain needs to back off. So I’ve settled on a comfortable amount of news content to consume.

The benefits of direct control over my content consumption are indeed worth the “old-school” efforts required. It’s all about being intentional. The Art of Manliness post has much more good to say about this topic, so be sure to check it out when you have time. And for more overall, Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism weighs in here too.

Do you enjoy RSS or newsletters over social media?

Concerning YouTube User Handles

Here’s some new brain-tickling info. Google will soon make user handles on YouTube a thing. I don’t know if or how this will affect my video surfing habits, but we’ll see. From the Verge:

“All YouTube users will soon get a new way of identifying themselves. The company announced today that @name handles will be used across the platform, a convention that’s common elsewhere on the internet but a departure for YouTube.”

I use YouTube almost daily. I watch videos there for entertainment, but mostly I enjoy informative ones, like those about wood construction techniques or how to use the Mac better. And if you’re into Tiny Living, well, YouTube has you covered.

The site is my go-to place for content consumption. So for me, YouTube has always been a passive interaction. I don’t post my own content there. My engagement consists of “smashing that Like button” and “hitting that bell” and subscribing to channels.

The most original stuff I post there are short comments on videos. I do it for the sake of the video creator, to give meaningful feedback, and it’s weird to me when other YouTube users reply to my comment in some way.

With my limited use, I don’t see how having my own @username handle will make a meaningful difference in my participation on the platform. That said, the idea of adding such a feature strikes me as a potential game changer, yet not in a good way. I associate this kind of thing with…social media

YouTube is not social media.

At least it hasn’t been to me, but what if it becomes more like it? What if your identity and profile get promoted more readily with a handle like on Twitter?

How all this plays out is something I’ll be keeping an eye on for sure. I’ve never cared about my identity on YouTube before, but now it might become important, for better or worse. At the least, I hope I get to pick my @name to have the one I want, though that’s unlikely, and I don’t know what I’d pick other than my former Twitter handle.

Well, actually, I know I won’t get what I want, the ever simple @jason.

Do you think username handles on YouTube will be significant?

On The Advent Of Ventura

I’ve somehow managed to avoid tech and Apple news since early September. It takes mindful intentionality to thwart my old habits. So being careful, I allowed a few related info sources to inform me of particular interests. In this case, Apple’s impending new macOS Ventura.

A new operating system that will affect my favorite computer of all time — M1 MacBook Air — is something to take note of. With its debut imminent, I’m eager to try macOS Ventura out for the first time. I like to ask how the new OS will, if at all, improve or impair my daily workflows, whether I’m casually surfing the web (yeah, I’ll count that as a legit workflow) or journaling my heart out.

This year, most feature additions or upgrades look modest at best, save for one. Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

  1. Stage Manager
  2. Weather app
  3. Notes app: enhanced tagging
  4. Memoji: customization and poses
  5. Maps: multi-stop routing

There are other small things I anticipate along with the above list. And granted, the list is mostly minor. But let’s face it, macOS is a very mature operating system. It’s not broken, and it doesn’t really need to be fixed. In fact, I’d welcome the idea of a “No new features” year like when Snow Leopard released. That said, little improvements can add up to an overall nicer experience day in and day out, which is when and where it matters most.


Multi-stop routing in Maps gets a “finally.” It’s a simple concept and absolute necessity. Oftentimes, people need or want to plan a few minor stops in between major ones. Outside a morning commute, how often do you go from point A to B without anything in between? I have two out-of-town trips planned in the next few weeks, and I’d certainly like a multi-stop route for one of them in the traffic congested metroplex. I’m eager to map it on my Mac and then use it for GPS on my iPhone. It’s a no-brainer.


More customizable Memoji and poses gets surprising interest from me. Memoji are fine, but they pale in comparison to Bitmoji. It so happens that I recently rediscovered the fun of Bitmoji for texting with my wife. They look better than Memoji to my eyes and have far more expression(s). In short, Memoji are fine; Bitmoji are fantastic. So any improvement here is most welcome. After all, self-expression is often more valuable than people realize.


I won’t bore you to death with “new and improved tags” in my note taking app of choice. Suffice to say, the added robust yet complex features for smart tags is needed. Last year’s tag system introduction was exactly that, an intro sample. The real deal is now almost here.


A weather app. On a modern computing system. I mean, why talk up the coming AR/VR revolution if you don’t even have a weather app? Bring it on. Check off yet one more huge, “Finally!” Also, good-bye weather.com with its bad ads.

Stage Manager

Without further ado, on to the big kahuna: Stage Manager, which might turn out to be a dud. Will it reinvent multi-tasking? I guess that’s possible, but yeah…no, not likely. I mean, macOS already has:

  1. the Dock
  2. a dedicated area for minimized apps/windows
  3. Spaces
  4. Exposé
  5. Mission Control

That’s five ways to open and switch between apps, and Stage Manager is sort of a combo of some or all of those. Does that make it a compromised solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist? Or does that mean it’s the best answer to replace all the soon-to-be obsolete app juggling methods? Well, that’s why I’m eager to try it out!

What are you looking forward to in macOS, if anything? Would you rather leave well enough alone?

The Simplicity Of Craigslist

I stumbled upon a recent article and enjoyed the intrinsic simplicity behind it as well as some nostalgia. I’ve been around on the web long enough to remember using Craigslist long before Facebook Marketplace was a thing. It’s kind of remarkable that the online classifieds site still exists, works, and looks like it did since the beginning.

From an interview in PCMag:

“For me as an engineer, simple is beautiful. Functional is beautiful.”

-Craig Newmark

Don’t you just love that? “Simple is beautiful.”

Sometimes, a minimal aesthetic is too spartan, boring, or lacking an oft needed distinguishing touch. Other times, such a style looks and works great. By the way, how something both looks and works is the definition of design as Steve Jobs was known to have understood.

If you check out Craigslist today, you’ll find it’s a beautifully simple list or table of links. Sure, it makes sense from an engineering standpoint to be so minimal. But aesthetically, what more is needed? Links look like underlined text; no need to get fancy.

I’m no web designer, but I enjoy tailoring my blog theme over time and giving it a fresh coat of paint. I try to keep it simple, functional, and prefer minimal flourishes — special touches, widgets — that distinguish my site. Having a distinct look to my own website is one of the great advantages over using a social media profile page that looks the same as everybody else’s.

In any case, read the PCMag interview and let me know what you think.

Do you like the simple design of Craigslist? Do you still use the site after all these years?