A week ago Monday, I unpacked my new 2016 MacBook Pro 13. It took 57 days from day I ordered it until the day it showed up at my door. Why so long? I’m glad you asked friend. ? I didn’t order it right away – I wanted to see a few reviews because I was so shocked and dismayed at some of the decisions Apple had made regarding the ports and the small battery size. As I waited, the build time went from 1-2 weeks to 4-6 weeks. Since I wanted to avoid Washington State sales tax (which would have added $260 to the final bill), I ordered it from ABT. It was considered a custom order since I got the Core i5 2.9 Ghz / 16 GB RAM / 1 TB SSD version. I didn’t want to make the mistake I made with my 5K iMac having only a 512 GB SSD, especially since I was planning on using Final Cut Pro on the MacBook and it needs tremendous storage to make it’s powerful mojo work.
The final price was an eye-watering $2600. I remember paying $2500 for several of my first laptops – I’m looking at you, little Fujitsu P5010D – but my 2015 Dell XPS 13 purchase was only $1151, so this was a big step back up to the pricing stratosphere. I am agog at the people who max out the 15″ version and pay over $4300! Cost is a relative thing though of course – back when I was a single guy with no real bills, a $5000 computer every two years was a regular occurrence. My how things change!
Presented to you stream-of-consciousness style, here are my first impressions of my 2016 MacBook Pro 13.
Continue reading First Thoughts on the 2016 MacBook Pro 13
I have a new Mac-related post coming up, but I wanted to finish off this series first (yes, it’s long overdue!). After month four, I started getting into a groove, and had fewer questions and issues – thus fewer things to write about. There were a few things though that came up, and so I give you the final entry in this series. In some cases I’ve added updates if things have changed since I first wrote these 6-10 months ago. It’s fair to say that things have smoothed out since the first six months.
- Although I didn’t buy the iMac for gaming, I saw the promo for Wasteland 2 and the comments about it being similar to Baldur’s Gate, a game I used to spend hours playing. I bought it, let it install, fired it up…and squinted in dismay at the incredibly blurry text. There’s just no way around it: when you have a display showing 5120 x 2280 pixels over 27 inches of screen, and a game that caps out at only half that (2560px) you’re getting a lot of stretched pixels. The cut scenes in particular were extremely blurry; it got better once I was in the game, but even then the in-game text was pixelated. I spent about 5 minutes playing it, but the controls were awkward with the Magic Trackpad. I’m grateful for Apple’s refund policy, though it’s entirely unintuitive because the process looks like you’re asking for tech support until the final step where a refund option is presented. That’s very likely the last time I pretend an iMac with a laptop GPU and a 5K display can do any gaming. 🙂
Continue reading A Mac User and His New iMac – The Rest of the Months
“A husband and wife must operate like two wings on the same bird; if they don’t work together in full partnership, the marriage will never get off the ground.”
– Dave Willis, “The Seven Laws of Love”
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog about the debacle that was Concrete Equities, but the wheels of justice move slowly – when they move at all – in the realm of white-collar crime. Finally though, some good news:
“While one of his victims sobbed in the back of a Calgary courtroom, a city man pleaded guilty Friday for his role in bilking $23 million from hundreds of investors. Varun (Vinny) Aurora pleaded guilty in provincial court to fraud over $5,000 in a scheme centring on Mexican real estate investments. His own father lost the largest amount — $901,000 — in the fraud run by Concrete Equities Inc. that roped in 1,200 investors, about 20 of whom showed up in court. The play, which began in 2007, sold investor units in a Mexican development known as the El Golfo project, whose purchase price Concrete Equities greatly inflated for investors.”
– Calgary Herald Article
What kind of a person would defraud his own father out of $901,000? I’ll leave that for you to decide. While I’m glad to see him charged and his guilty plea, I am stunned at the “justice” being served here: according to this CBC article, he will spend no time in jail. Incredible – just incredible. ? $23 million dollars was stolen from 1200 people – much of it retirement savings – and he doesn’t go to jail. His punishment?
Continue reading Concrete Equities’ Varun “Vinny” Aurora Pleads Guilty to Fraud
- Setup was fast and painless. Once I installed the Google Home app it was a smooth setup. I was especially impressed with how the app pulled the WiFi network + password from my Android phone and automatically created a peer to peer WiFi network connection with the Google Home. This is much less awkward than the Echo setup where you have to manually create a WiFi connection with the Echo, switch back to the app, and finish the setup. Google did a solid job with the setup process. The app also looks great – the Amazon Echo app is a bit rough looking on Android.
- The Google Home only has two microphones, but it’s very sensitive. My son was sitting about 20 feet away and talking in a normal voice and said “OK Google” and it heard him easily. With our Amazon Echo Dot, he would have to raise his voice. I was watching election coverage at a normal TV volume, and a Google Home commercial came on and the person saying “OK Google” triggered the Google Home in my home about 20 feet away from the TV sound bar.
- There’s just no escaping the fact that “Alexa” is less awkward to say than “OK Google”. I’d like to see Google let users change the command word to whatever we want. I’d use “Jarvis” for mine. 😉
- I was expecting to see my other Chromecast devices show up in the Google Home app. None of them are, including my new Samsung TV. They show up in the YouTube app, so it looks like Google Home is only going to see official Google Chromecast devices. 🙁 This is puzzling to me because Google is essentially creating a two-tier Chromecast ecosystem. It could be their attempt to ensure predictable quality, but it’s a let-down for me not to be able to speak to my Google Home and request it play a video on my TV. I’ve ordered a Chromecast Ultra which I’ll connect to my Samsung TV, but I wasn’t expecting to have to use it on this cast-enabled TV?
- The Google Home’s overall sound quality is excellent – significantly better than the full-sized Echo. It sounds fuller with deeper bass. Previously I had an Echo Dot connected via Bluetooth to an amazing-sounding Vizio sound bar, so even though the Google Home sounds good, this is a big downgrade in sound. The Google Home can’t connect to a Bluetooth speaker, which is an unfortunate omission in my view. It should just be table-stakes at this point for a home assistant to work through whatever speaker the user wants. Once I have the ability to cast to the Chromecast Ultra, which will be connected to my Samsung TV (which outputs audio to the Vizio sound bar) I’ll get some of that back…but it may mean the TV will have to be turned on, which is no good. This is clearly an area where Amazon has an advantage with the Echo Dot. Google needs a “Home Mini” ASAP.
Any questions about the Google Home? Post ’em and I’ll answer.
I don’t often delve into politics or healthcare economics on this blog, but I’d spent some time writing up a reply on a Facebook thread that I felt was worth re-posting here. The single biggest struggle I’ve had since moving to the USA has been the healthcare system. It’s…insane. The people who have lived in it their whole lives don’t all grasp how insane it is. This response was written to one such person who brought up the Canadian tax system and said the taxes were too high.
Yes, you pay more taxes in Canada. But you know what you don’t need? Basic healthcare insurance. Guess how much I had to pay out of pocket in 2015 for health insurance? Just under $10,000. My employer also paid $5300 above that cost, so figure $15K all-in to insure two non-smoking adults and two kids. Oh, and another $6500 off my paycheque for the HSA because I’m on a high-deductible plan and I have to pay for ALL my healthcare until I hit the deductible for the year (which is about $2000 per person or $6500 for the family I believe). The HSA is a great invention, but since it’s only for healthcare, it’s another healthcare cost – so figure I’m paying $21K per year so my family has healthcare coverage…yikes! The only good thing is the HSA rolls over each year and helps people save for the more expensive years of healthcare. And that I can pay for dental stuff with it – which of course I have ANOTHER plan for the costs me $1300 a year for. Oh, and vision…
Continue reading Canada: Paying More Taxes, Getting More Services
My friend Todd Ogasawara invited me to join his MobileViews podcast, so along with Jon Westfall and Sven Johanssen, I joined in the conversation. It’s always great to get together and talk tech with like-minded folks.
Todd kicked off the podcast with what didn’t get announced:
- A Surface “amateur” 4 to follow-up the popular low-priced Surface 3
- A Windows Hello mouse with fingerprint reader
- An affordable (sub $900) Macbook anything
- A refreshed Mac mini – has not been refreshed since Oct. 2014
There’s some ranting me from about the new Macbook Pro, and some thoughts about Microsoft’s Studio Pro.
I’ve been consistently impressed by Amazon’s customer service over the years – one of the reasons I buy so often from Amazon is how easy it is to return things, and how great their agents are when I’ve had a more complicated issue. Today though, they reached an all new high.
I’d purchased an Echo Dot in May, and right from the start we noticed the microphone array was inferior to the full-sized Echo we used to have in the same spot. It’s not uncommon for me to hear my wife or kids yelling at the Echo Dot because it doesn’t respond the first time. It’s especially bad at recognizing commands if there’s any other noise in the room. So it was always in the back of my head that the Dot wasn’t quite as great as the original Echo. I didn’t come to this realization within the first 30 days though, or else I’d have returned it.
Imagine my surprise then when Amazon announced a second-generation Echo Dot only four months after I bought mine, and at almost half the price to boot. The big feature was an improved microphone array. Tech marches ever onward, and I’m not normally one to complain about obsolescence, but four months is completely crazy! It made me think they knew they released a flawed first-gen product and they were rushing to get the new one out. You can’t even post a review of the first-gen Echo Dot now.
Today I called Amazon and basically said I was disappointed in the performance of my first-gen Echo Dot and upset at how quickly Amazon made it obsolete. Most companies would simply feed me a line about how they were serving their customers better by quickly improving their products, blah blah. I didn’t ask for anything specific, I just laid out why I was unhappy.
Instead of feeding me a generic response, the Amazon rep talked to his manager and came back with an offer of letting me return the Echo Dot – five months after I bought it – for an 80% refund in the form of an Amazon gift card. How amazing is that? So I can order the new Dot if I want, and have money left over for something else.
Can’t beat that! Amazon continues to earn my repeat business…which is one reason we’ve ordered from them 236 times so far this year. 😉