The 10 Reasons Why I Returned My Google Pixel 3 XL…and Five Things I’ll Miss About It

The short answer to why I decided to return my Pixel 3 XL? Insufficient value to me and too many compromises. If this was a $649 phone I’d have lower expectations for it, but in my opinion Google priced this too high for what they offered me as a buyer. They are at iPhone pricing without being an iPhone, and frankly that matters. If you’re going to charge me a thousand dollars for a phone (with tax), it had better be stellar! I’d saved and budgeted for this phone, so it’s not about putting it on a credit card and having buyer’s regret either – it’s about this phone not justifying its cost to me.

I can see why a lot of people will love this phone though, especially if they don’t own a dedicated digital camera. This phone has a great camera and for many people that will be the best reason to buy it. ?

For context it’s worth noting that for the past two years I’ve been using a OnePlus 3T, and my wife has had a OnePlus 6 since July (and a OnePlus 3 before that), so those three phones serve as comparison devices. If you’re wondering why we both haven’t been using HTC phones, well, that’s a whole different story that I’ll tell another day. ?  Continue reading The 10 Reasons Why I Returned My Google Pixel 3 XL…and Five Things I’ll Miss About It

Pixel 3 XL Halloween Photos

Last night I took my Pixel 3 XL out Halloween trick or treating with my kids and decided to see how well it handled real-world low-light conditions. This is without the forthcoming Night Sight, which by all accounts is extremely impressive. The images below are shot in regular camera mode, JPEG (I completely forgot about the raw mode option) with post-processing done in Lightroom. Lightroom noise reduction was not used on any photo. I could have posted the unretouched photos, but I always do some sort of post processing, either on my phone or on my computer, so this is real-world for me. I’ve also added some additional analysis on each photo for those that are curious, and linked to the full-sized JPEG (most are somewhat cropped, so none are original size).

The TLDR version? This Pixel 3 is the best camera I’ve ever used in a smartphone, and it has impressive optical image stabilization. It’s still a tiny sensor and subject to the same laws of physics as any other phone though, so it can’t work miracles. I’m generally impressed with how well it holds up at high ISOs that would make many phone images fall apart.

Above: this scene was quite dimly lit, despite what the adjusted image looks like, and is reasonably sharp given the camera was shooting at 1/15th of a second (which is below what I can properly hand-hold at without stabilization). It had to push to ISO 2728 though, which is why the cloth robe is noisy mush. It’s an OK picture if you don’t look too closely at the robe because other elements look decent. Continue reading Pixel 3 XL Halloween Photos

Being a Prisoner of Our Own Experience

A great quote applicable to every part of our daily life:

“We are prisoners of our own experience…it’s very, very difficult to dispel ignorance if you retain arrogance.”

– Sam Wilson, US Army (retired)

From “The Vietnam War” documentary series by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick.

Star Wars Creations @ Legoland California 2018

We went to Legoland in June and among the more impressive Lego creations we saw were the incredible Star Wars creations. The amount of work that went into these must have been intense. Amazing to see! Here are all of my photos from this part of Legoland.

[Full gallery]

If Apple Was Being Honest With Their Site Navigation

My transition to being mostly Apple hardware has taken a few years, starting with an iPod Touch years ago. I still use an Android phone, but my desktop is an iMac, my laptop is a Macbook Pro, and I have three iPads in my home. My wife has inherited my trusty Dell XPS 13 though, so I still have access to a great Windows laptop. ?

I’ve decided that at this moment in my life, the benefits of what Apple offers is worth what I have to pay for it…but that doesn’t mean I can’t get a little grumpy as I watch how Apple updates – or, more accurately rarely updates their Mac product line. The iPad is, in my opinion, the best tablet you can buy today. The iPhone is an excellent product. But Apple’s Mac products? They alternate between stale to compromised, outdated to ridiculously expensive. And yet because they are the only way to get macOS, people who want to use that platform have no choice.

Above is what Apple’s site navigation looks like today. They add the word “New” in orange when there’s a product update. What would it look like though if they were a little more honest? This. ?


(you’ll want to click on the image to appreciate all the sarcasm)

I’d created the graphic below months ago, so wouldn’t you know it today was the day that Apple finally put 8th gen Intel CPUs in their Touch Bar-based Macbooks and updated a few other key things (more max RAM and SSD options). The new Macbooks might have better battery life, and they might have fewer keyboard problems. We’ll see!

If you’re a Mac user, what do you wish Apple would update next?

AudioEngine A2+ Speakers in High-Gloss Red Reviewed

I have a long history with AudioEngine speakers; I first reviewed their A5 speakers back in 2007, and their A2 speakers in 2008. I’ve owned their A5+ speakers since 2011, having only recently retired them from use last year, and not by choice; we put a bigger TV in a spot where a soundbar was needed in front of the TV because we needed all the width of the mantle for the TV. The point is, I have a deep fondness for AudioEngine products so I had high expectations as I excitedly unpacked the box with the A2+ powered speakers. I have a tremendous ❤ for products that are red, so one of the reasons why I asked to review the A2+ speakers was because they game in this glorious red colour:

The speakers are available in satin black, high-gloss white, and the above high-gloss red. The photo above is slightly deceiving: it looks brighter in my photos than in the normal lighting of my office. Because it’s so glossy, the colour pops depending on how much direct lighting they are in. Tucked beside and behind my iMac, they are a deep, dark, blood red.

In virtually every review of speakers or headphones, the writer will trot out obscure artists and tracks, trying to impress the reader with their musical pedigree. I shall do no such thing, and simply say that with the variety of music I listen to regularly from these speakers – pop, rock, a capella, country, orchestral scores – I am extremely impressed with how great the A2+ speakers sound. You’re not getting booming bass here without hooking up a sub-woofer – that’s a matter of physics, and these are small speakers – but when cranked up, these tiny powerhouses will move some serious air (you’ll actually feel wind blowing strongly on you at higher volumes) and they sound quite full for their size.

Volume wise, listening at four pips of volume on my iMac has the speakers at about 62dB (measured with a sound meter at 16 inches away). It’s what I consider a “comfortably loud” volume level – not quiet background, volume you can actually hear and appreciate the music. At 50% volume (8 pips) they’ll hit 84db. At 100% volume (16 pips) they’ll hit 105db – a volume level I find painful being so close and would never use, but if you’re trying to full a medium-sized room at a party, you may need this volume. At max volume they hold up without distortion on every song I tested them with, and while I won’t “song drop” I tested a live cover of “Superstition” with some heavy bass and at 100% volume it was smooth and (OK, OK, check the bass solo at 4:08 here).

Continue reading AudioEngine A2+ Speakers in High-Gloss Red Reviewed

Marvel Avenger’s S.T.A.T.I.O.N Iron Man War Machine Wallpaper

Last week I went to an exhibit in Las Vegas called the Marvel Avenger’s S.T.A.T.I.O.N. If you’re a Marvel movie geek like I am, it was a lot of fun (and I’ll post photos in a bit). While there though I took a photo of Iron Man’s War Machine armour used in the movies – the real prop – and it turned out so well I knocked out the remainder of the background and turned it into 5K (5120 x 2880 pixel) desktop wallpaper. I optimized it for macOS but it should work pretty well on any device (I have it as my lock screen wallpaper on my iPad). The photo was taken with my Sony RX-100 Mark IV, and I did a bit of Photoshop work to make the background fully black. The original doesn’t look much different than this though – the blue lighting was how the armour was shown. Enjoy!

[Click to download the left-aligned 5K War Machine armour]

[Click to download the right-aligned 5K War Machine armour] 

[Click to download the centre-aligned 5K War Machine armour] 

Aerosmith Live: Concert Photos & Video…and the story of me getting ejected from the show floor!

Here’s the story of what I was doing in Dallas last fall, and how I was able to see Aerosmith live. A couple of photos and a link to the full gallery and video are below. But did you I know I got ejected from the show floor? ?

Continue reading Aerosmith Live: Concert Photos & Video…and the story of me getting ejected from the show floor!

How to Combine Multiple Alaska Airlines Discount Codes Into One

If you fly with Alaska Airlines long enough, and you’re like me and contact customer service when things don’t go quite right, you’ll probably end up with a handful of small credits codes on your account. Alaska typically gives out $75 discounts for future travel as a customer service gesture, which I really appreciate. ?

These credits can stack up over time and if you get enough of them they can be worth quite a bit – especially if you travel as a family and things go sideways. During the Christmas 2016 season my family and I were stuck at an airport as Alaska bumped our flight over and over again – we ended up spending an extra five hours at the airport (three cheers for iPads with fully-charged batteries!). Alaska proactively gave each member of my family a $75 credit, and through other credits I ended up with a total of $475 worth of discounts. Great right? Not so fast.

lots-of-alaska-discounts

The problem, and this won’t surprise anyone, is that Alaska’s booking system works in direct opposition to the concept of the customer service credits. You can only use one discount at a time, and discounts can’t be combined with each other or with offers such as a companion fare. On the one hand, Alaska apologizes for poor experiences with credits – but they make it extremely difficult to use them unless you travel frequently. Credits last a year, which is OK, but most people don’t travel 7+ times a year so I suspect most people lose their credits (which Alaska knows). Continue reading How to Combine Multiple Alaska Airlines Discount Codes Into One