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 They alternate between stale to compromised, outdated to ridiculously expensive.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?
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
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]
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!
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.
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
In October 2017 I was invited to provide social media support for The Summit, an event put on by AT&T Business. Part of that event was world-class entertainment: the smaller entertainment event was a live show by Darius Rucker (yep, the “Hootie and the Blowfish Guy”) at the Glass Cactus in Texas. The larger event was none other than Aerosmith. Honestly, I was more excited to see Darius Rucker than Aerosmith because I never saw Darius perform live during his “Hootie” days! I’d seen Aerosmith in their prime during the 1990 “Pump” tour and…wait, that was 28 years ago? ? Thank you Wikipedia for reminding me I am getting old. ?
Below are my photos from the Rucker show – along with 20 minutes of live concert footage.
A few words about the video: on one hand I’m stunned at how amazing my Nikon D750 is at capturing videos when paired with a tasty f/2.8 lens (the original video looks better than what YouTube does to it). On the other hand without a tripod it was extremely hard to get a video with smooth pans and zooms – so pardon the sections where it looks like I was getting shoved – that’s just me trying to zoom in/out while freeholding a huge lens and camera. ? During the stable bits I am proud of how this turned out (along with my Final Cut Pro edits and colour tweaks). Can’t say much for the audio as that’s just the on-camera mic, but it’s passable (when it’s not clipping).
Back to Rucker: his voice is every bit as powerful as you remember, and since I actually enjoy country music now (something my 20 year-old self would be shocked at) I rocked out with his new music. It was also a great photography workout: I’d brought THE BEAST (my 70-200mm Nikkor f/2.8 lens) specifically to shoot the music concerts. I didn’t drag that heavy thing all the way across the country to not use it!
Being a former musician (I am, sadly, merely a bass owner now), I love seeing a tight band backing up a stellar vocalist. In addition to a mix of old and new music, Rucker added in some great cover songs, including She Talks to Angels and No Diggity. Genres be damned; good music is good music, right? ? Continue reading Darius Rucker Live: Concert Photos & Video
I call this photo “David vs. Goliath”: that’s the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird (5 foot 9) going up against the Mercury Phoenix’s Brittney Griner (6 foot 9). ?
I had the pleasure of attending my first WNBA basketball game in August of last year, and it was a fun experience for my whole family. And while I was pretty far from the action, having my Nikkor 70-200mm lens and Nikon D750 24 megapixels to crop from let me capture some pretty cool photos. And for being my first WNBA basketball game, I’m happy with how most of them turned out.
(photo above by DockCase)
Back in September I saw a Kickstarter project that looked like it would help with one of the main complaints many buyers had with the new design of the 2016 MacBook Pros: nothing but USB-C ports. DockCase is a clever mash-up of two things most MacBook owners want: a way to protect it and a way to add more ports. Previously I’d solved the port problem by putting my MacBook in a sleeve and carrying a variety of dongles, USB-C to USB-A adaptors, SD card readers, and a USB hub (which has an SD card slot, USB ports, and HDMI port) scattered across the two bags I’d use for transporting my laptop. I’d guess I’ve spent around $200 or so on these accessories, partially out of the paranoia that I’d need a slot/port and not have it.
The DockCase offers a variety of ports: SD card + microSD card slots, three USB-A ports (supporting USB 3.0 speeds of 5 Gbps), one USB-C port (supporting USB 3.1 speeds of 5 Gbps), one USB-C PDC (power delivery charge) port, HDMI video (1080p @ 60Hz or 4K @ 30 Hz), and a gigabit Ethernet port. That’s a comprehensive list of ports and replace every port a modern non-MacBook product would have (and then some). I paid $89 when I backed the project on Kickstarter, and it shipped pretty much on time (a rarity in the crowdfunding space).
Continue reading DockCase: A Clever Solution for the Port-Anemic MacBook Pro 13…Except for Power
“A king who is not a servant is merely a tyrant.
A warrior who is not tender is only a brute.
A mentor who is not wise is just a know-it-all.
A friend who is not faithful is at best an acquaintance,
or worse, a betrayer.”
– Stu Webber
I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom since 1.0, and I’ve evolved a workflow that adapts to some of the limitations in both Lightroom and local storage. I use Lightroom for active photo shoots only, meaning that being able to archive my albums is critical. My workflow looks like this (what does yours look like? post in the comments):
- Import photos + videos off memory card into new album
- Edit photos in Lightroom (first pass culling + develop remaining photos + second pass culling + final development tweaks)
- Export photos as 80% quality JPEGS, export videos as original quality
- Bulk rename JPEGs + bulk timestamp change in ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac
- Export album as catalog + delete album from Lightroom
- Put catalog onto Synology NAS (which is then backed up in multiple places)
Adobe recently shook up the photography world by releasing a brand new cloud-centric version of Lightroom called Lightroom CC, and re-naming what we knew as Lightroom to Lightroom Classic CC. They added some performance enhancements to Lightroom Classic, which are greatly appreciated, but otherwise didn’t add any new features. That’s a bit frustrating given we pay a monthly fee to Adobe that we presume goes into improving the product.
The big development effort clearly went into Lightroom CC, and though it’s obviously a 1.0 product lacking in many features we’re used to in Lightroom Classic, I see a lot of potential in it. The biggest limitation in real-world use is going to be upstream bandwidth: you need to have at least 20mbps up – if not 40+ mbps – yet the average nationwide upstream bandwidth is only 8.51 mbps. That will be a massive bottleneck for most people to push all their raw files into the cloud to then use on Lightroom mobile apps. Continue reading How to use Lightroom CC + Still Export Albums in Lightroom Classic CC