When do you stop wondering if you did the right thing? →

April 16, 2015 |

I only recently discovered the work of Zaron Burnett III and I have to say, the man can write:

Now, she was single. And I had just moved in with my best friend — her former roommate. Within days of settling in my new home, the three of us got together for drinks at her place up in the Berkeley hills. It was a tiny place. But that was okay because so was she. After our night of drinking and laughing, all three of us crashed out on her bed. My friend was the first asleep and began to snore. She was in the middle. I lay there staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. Because her.

I don’t want to spoil any more of it for you, just go read the whole thing. So good.

If you want to read more of his work, check out his other articles on Medium, and his books on Amazon. At under $13 for all three, they’re a steal. I just bought them.

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John Siracusa won’t be reviewing future versions of OS X →

April 16, 2015 |

John Siracusa:

There is no single, dramatic reason behind this. It’s an accumulation of small things—the time investment, the (admittedly, self-imposed) mental anguish, the pressure to meet my own expectations and those of my readers year after year—but it all boils down to a simple, pervasive feeling that this is the time to stop. I’ve done this. It is done.

Now I’m sad. I’ve read every single one of John’s OS X reviews, and I’ve deeply enjoyed them all. I have only the utmost respect for John and his work. I’m sure the decision was incredibly difficult for him, but I also believe he made the right call.

One thing is certain, though: whoever steps up to the plate to continue his work will have some pretty huge shoes to fill.

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Keeping your car safe from electronic thieves →

April 16, 2015 |

Interesting stuff by Nick Bilton for The New York Times. Apparently, some thieves have found a way to get into his Toyota Prius by hacking its remote keyless system:

He explained it like this: In a normal scenario, when you walk up to a car with a keyless entry and try the door handle, the car wirelessly calls out for your key so you don’t have to press any buttons to get inside. If the key calls back, the door unlocks. But the keyless system is capable of searching for a key only within a couple of feet.

Mr. Danev said that when the teenage girl turned on her device, it amplified the distance that the car can search, which then allowed my car to talk to my key, which happened to be sitting about 50 feet away, on the kitchen counter. And just like that, open sesame.

If it does indeed work that way, it’s a pretty ingenious system, I’ll give them that. Luckily, there’s a way you can protect yourself:

While I can’t be 100 percent certain this is the device they used to get into my car, until car companies solve the problem, he said, the best way to protect my car is to “put your keys in the freezer, which acts as a Faraday Cage, and won’t allow a signal to get in or out.”

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Josh Ginter reviews the Retina iMac →

April 15, 2015 |

Josh is back in the reviewer’s seat, and boy did he do it in style. This great, in-depth review not only covers the Retina iMac’s features, but also why you should consider owning one, especially if you have an interest in photography:

Generally speaking, I’m willing to bet the majority of people in the market for a Retina iMac will be in the market as a hobbyist or professional. Sure, every element looks better than ever on this display, but the true potential of the 5K Retina iMac is in maximizing the precision and control over visual content. Any photographer looking to improve their images should take a long, hard look at any Retina iMac model. The resolution of the display alone is worth the money, and that doesn’t take into consideration the pixel perfect colouration across the screen.

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I would probably sell a few of my less-vital organs for a Retina iMac. There, I said it.

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The Great Age of Pirates →

April 15, 2015 |

I really, really enjoyed this essay by Joseph Rooks on One Piece, the best-selling Manga series by Eiichiro Oda:

The beauty of One Piece isn’t in checking-off a shopping list of story elements, but in pushing the limits of just how much imagination and detail a human being can pour into twenty pages of art and storytelling week after week, for fifteen years and counting.

Oda has a talent for weaving disparate details together, collected from every cultural and historical source he can absorb, to create something new and exciting. This skill is most apparent in the colorful designs of his characters and the settings in which they are introduced.

One Piece is creativity in its purest form, definitely a must-read.

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Ben Brooks reviews the GORUCK 15L Shoulder Bag →

April 15, 2015 |

I had been curious about the GORUCK shoulder bags for some time, but I could never seem to find any reviews about them out there. Ben’s review is a great one, written after four months of regular use, and includes a nice size comparison with the GR1:

What should be clear is that even though the GR1 is bigger, it truly isn’t that much bigger in height and width — mostly depth. And yet the GR1 can hold a lot more things, and hold them a lot more comfortably as well.

And I think that’s where my issue is: the size of the 15L is not a compelling enough reason to use it over the GR1, and I was banking on the fact that it would be compellingly smaller.

I couldn’t agree more. I love shoulder bags for their mix of convenience and style, just as long as they’re not too big — and therefore, too heavy.

It looks like the 15L Shoulder Bag may be just a tad too big and heavy for my taste, but it definitely appears to be an excellent bag otherwise, and well worth your consideration.

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Why you need to go to Myanmar in 15 photos →

April 15, 2015 |

Nic McCormack:

Myanmar is a global traveler’s dream. Many years under a military dictatorship kept this southeast Asian country—known previously as Burma—a virtual time capsule that’s just emerging. Emerald landscapes, spellbinding Buddhist temples, powdery beaches, and a youth-driven city scene drew three million visitors in 2014, a number that’s expected to swell to five million this year. Will you be one of them?

Stunning images.

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Federico Viticci reviews the iPhone 6 Plus →

April 14, 2015 |

Speaking of how you can’t always trust early impressions of a device, today Federico Viticci published his amazing review of the iPhone 6 Plus and among many other things, he had this to say about it:

More than anything, using an iPhone 6 Plus for two months has proven — once again – that experience trumps guessing. The iPhone 6 Plus is big. It’s huge, depending on the size of your hands. It can be uncomfortable and it’s far from the compact interactions granted by the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. But what I’ve observed over the past two months is that, for me, size isn’t the defining characteristic of the 6 Plus. Rather, it’s what size enables in the overall iPhone experience. The iPhone 6 Plus’ form factor is a means to an end.

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A huge grain of salt, or why we can’t trust any Apple Watch reviews — yet

April 14, 2015

It hasn’t even been a week since the Apple Watch embargo was lifted, and in that time we’ve had about a kazillion words written and published about the device. I’ve read a few of them, most notably John Gruber’s excellent take on the philosophy behind the product, Nilay Patel’s flashy review with lots of pictures and videos over at The Verge, and David Pogue’s classic column.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these and many other reviews are all over the place. While some journalists seem genuinely excited about the device, others are more skeptical and point to several things that could prove to be important shortcomings, like its apparently lackluster performance or the bands, some of which could be slightly awkward and uncomfortable for certain people.

Some reviewers, like the ones I mentioned above, have been around long enough to know that it’s better to be responsible when writing about unreleased products, and have measured their words accordingly. Others, unfortunately, have not been as sensible.

These early reviews have been interesting to read because they gave us the first glimpses of what it’s like to actually use an Apple Watch, as opposed to just playing with a demo unit. However at this point, I don’t think any of them really matter, or have any long-term significance. Whether a review has been positively glowing or downright scorching, there’s simply not enough real context and data for it to offer a reliable and accurate representation of the future of the Apple Watch.

For the moment, the only honest, responsible thing to say about the future of the Apple Watch is this: time will tell.

Photo credit: Ryan Ozawa.

The way gadget reviews work in the tech community is simple: when a new product is announced, several media outlets get review units in advance, so that they can work on their reviews. These reviews can’t be published before a certain, previously stipulated date — hence the embargo, which is usually lifted just hours or days before the product officially becomes available for purchase or preorder.

After that and on day one, all the other tech writers who didn’t get a review unit rush out to buy one so that they can work on their own reviews, which are usually published a few days later.

This well-established process creates two categories of reviews: the early ones, and all the rest. Usually, the biggest knock against early reviews is that they tend to be overly gracious, and sometimes avoid criticizing the product too much, perhaps to ensure their authors will stay in the company’s good graces and will keep receiving review units in the future. This is not necessarily true, but it’s what many people think, and so these authors are routinely accused of being biased. Though I don’t personally believe this to be the case, it never hurts to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism when reading a gadget review.

However, in the case of the Apple Watch, it’s not so much a question of bias — although that’s still present — as it is a question of implausibility. I simply don’t think it’s possible to present a coherent, informed opinion about the Apple Watch based on mere days of use, no matter how intensive that use may have been.1 And that has everything to do with the very nature of the Apple Watch.

With a new version of an existing product category, the criteria by which the product is rated are usually clear and understood by all. If it’s a laptop, you take a look at the combination of hardware design, display, performance, portability and battery life. That’s it. A laptop is a laptop, and we’re familiar enough with them that it’s entirely feasible to review one after a week of regular use.

The Apple Watch, on the other hand, lacks any such criteria by which to be judged. Practically all of its functionality is so radically new that we simply lack a framework for understanding how — and if — it will fit into our lives. Not even Apple knows that yet, no matter how confident they may seem today.

With the Apple Watch, we’re all in uncharted waters, Apple itself included. Not to mention the inherently social aspect of the device: features like digital touch and sending your heartbeat to another person are entirely predicated on said person owning an Apple Watch, too. So how can these reviewers test and review those features? Social habits take time to develop, and intimacy much more so. There’s just no way you can guess today if a year from now people are going to love being remotely touched of if it’s going to be the most annoying feature ever invented.

Apple hopes these features will prove to be compelling enough to be accepted into our lives and become established. They’re betting big on the Apple Watch to become their most personal device yet but the truth is, there are still too many unanswered questions, many of which are not Apple’s to answer.

And then there’s the question of 3rd-party apps, which we still know almost nothing about, and which could extend the functionality of the device in previously unimagined ways, much like the App Store did for the iPhone and iPad. Would the iPhone today be as compelling without the phenomenal iOS app ecosystem backing it? Not even close.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if your favorite reviewer loved or hated the Apple Watch. If you want to find out if it’s the next big thing, you’ll have to wait a little more — or just buy one and find out for yourself. It’s still early days, and the ultimate fate of the product is yet to be decided. Apple has certainly done everything they could to give the Apple Watch the best possible chance at succeeding, but the final word is ours to say.

  1. It’s actually worse, because they only had a few days to use the device and write the reviews.

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