¶ The Aluminum Anniversary

July 11, 2008. 4:45 AM. My alarm goes off. In four days at almost this exact minute my son would draw in his first breath. But in this moment, now, I am groggy and slightly hesitant to leave home knowing he could arrive at any time. In retrospect, it was more than a little foolish to be doing what I was doing.

I quickly dressed, gave my wife a kiss on the forehead while she slept, grabbed my Motorola RAZR, and then got in the car and drove an hour to Omaha.

Why?

You know why. That’s where the Apple Store is.

I arrived at [Apple Store Village Pointe] around 6:00 AM. There was a line. I expected a line. Thankfully it wasn’t too long. I was 22nd in line.

After a little while some Apple employees began walking up and down the line, chatting up folks, offering donuts, coffee, and bottled water. I recognized one of them. A few days prior, Apple had posted some tutorial videos about the iPhone 3G, the App Store, and MobileMe ([remember that?]). The guy I recognized was the guy from the MobileMe videos. When he got to me, I pointed this out, and he confirmed it and told me his name was John. He still works in the Omaha store, and whenever I’m there we catch up. I still call him MobileMe John.

After standing in line for a few hours, the store finally opened. It didn’t take long before I was paired up with an employee. I bought a 16GB iPhone 3G, in black, naturally. Of course, AT&T’s activation servers had already turned into molten slag, so setup didn’t get very far. The employee offered that I could stay and finish setup there whenever the servers connected again, or if I was comfortable with it I could finish the process of activating and porting my number at home via iTunes.

I thanked him, he gave me a high five, and I left the store, got more coffee, and drove home. Once I got back to my apartment I plugged my new iPhone into my MacBook, and started the setup process on iTunes. Activation was still unsuccessful, but trying. I decided to sleep while it did its thing. A couple hours later I was awoken by the shimmering sound of an iPhone connecting. Bleary-eyed, I looked at the screen. Activation successful.

I set up my iPhone from my iPod touch’s backup, and it worked flawlessly. I started installing apps: Twitterrific, Facebook, AIM, and a lightsaber app.

Fast-forward to the early hours of July 15. My wife tells me it is time to go to the hospital. I begin using the Clock app’s stopwatch to time contractions, using the lap function. When our doctor arrived at the hospital, he remembered my iPhone from our last visit with him the day before, and he cracked a joke asking if I would use the lightsaber app to cut the cord in a little while. No one thought it was funny.

A few hours after Jonathan was born, I took a photo of him with my iPhone, shared it to Mail, filled out a little message with the time, his length, weight — all that stuff people ask about when a baby is born — and then sent it to a bunch of people.

And ever since then some iteration of the iPhone has always been in my pocket. As strange as it sounds, the iPhone has been a part of my family. As the hardware became better, it has become my primary camera. I’ve taken more photos with the iPhone over the past ten years than I had taken at any other time in my life. I’ve made friends through this screen, both near and far. I’ve chronicled joyful and painful times of my life into it. My son and I have pointed it at the sky and seen constellations light up.

This object of glass is the technology I dreamed of as a kid watching Star Trek. It is my tricorder, my communicator, and my captain’s log. In many ways, it’s more than that — because it can become anything I need it to be.

How to quickly fix sideways video clips on iPhone or iPad

Serenity Caldwell on iMore has a fantastic tip on how to rotate videos on an iOS device:

This one's easy to miss, but a must-have for filming fiends: iMovie for iOS is a free app for more complex video editing projects, but it also offers a quick-fix extenison in Photos for iOS. This extension lets you trim a clip, silence it, or add filters, text, or music — but it also lets you flip video with a gesture.

The rest of the article has a step-by-step guide worth checking out. This tip was news to me, but it’ll be invaluable for those times when my iPhone doesn’t orient itself before I hit record.

¶ iPhone Batteries and Performance

A little over a week ago Apple addressed the perception some users had about their iPhones running slower. Apple’s statement then:

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.

Put simply, Apple stated (admitted?) that they began limiting the power draw on the battery during peak performance in January 2017 on iPhones with aged batteries that couldn’t handle the load.

I believe Apple in that the goal of this software feature was to prevent unexpected shutdowns, thus extending the useful life of an older iPhone, even if that meant it wasn’t as performant as it was when brand new.

The rest of the Internet seemed to disagree, and took this as proof of the age-old conspiracy theory that Apple intentionally plans the obsolescence of iPhones to drive sales of newer models.

That idea is folly, and ridiculous. Full stop.

This evidence is in the history. Apple offers software and hardware support for older models of phones far longer than anyone else in the industry. They also sell older models brand new at more affordable prices to make sure there is an iPhone model for almost anyone.

It simply does not make any sense that Apple would plan to slow down a brand new older model to push someone to buy a newer, more expensive model. That works directly against Apple’s best interests for itself and its customers.

That said, the perception that Apple intentionally hobbles devices out of greed is one that is rampant, and has been for years. I have family who outright believe it. And Apple’s lack of communication and clarity at the outset of rolling out this feature only helped to sow more distrust.

This afternoon, Apple blinked. They issued an open letter apologizing for their lack of clarity.

We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.

First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.

I very much believe Apple in that second paragraph. It fits in line with the history of their actions. To drive the point home further, Apple concludes with action.

We’ve always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We’re proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors’ devices.

To address our customers’ concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions, we’ve decided to take the following steps:

  • Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
  • Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
  • As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.

At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted.

Apple is making the right moves here. They are carving themselves off a giant piece of humble pie. The forthcoming update to iOS with greater transparency for battery health is how this feature should have been introduced. The $29 battery replacement fee should probably be permanent instead of just for 2018. We’ll see what happens there.

I can’t sum up my thoughts about Apple’s misstep with communication better than John Gruber did earlier today:

The funny thing about Apple is that their communication problems tend to happen only when they don’t communicate at all. This whole iPhone battery controversy erupted only because Apple had never explained what was going on, which opened them up to accusations of nefarious intent. When they do communicate, they do so with clarity, plain language, and honesty. And, when called for — as in this case — humility.

Apple Heart Study launches to identify irregular heart rhythms

The old saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

But how much better would it be if an Apple device alerted you that you need to see a doctor, and it ended up saving your life? That’s now a reality, thanks to Apple Watch and Apple Heart Study, a joint study with Stanford Medicine.

Apple today launched the Apple Heart Study app, a first-of-its-kind research study using Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation (AFib).

AFib, the leading cause of stroke, is responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the US every year. Many people don’t experience symptoms, so AFib often goes undiagnosed.

Apple is partnering with Stanford Medicine to perform the research. As part of the study, if an irregular heart rhythm is identified, participants will receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, a free consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring. The Apple Heart Study app is available in the US App Store to customers who are 22 years or older and have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later.

I think this is a fantastic initiative. My mom has experienced AFib, as well as a dear mentor of mine. The idea that wearing an Apple Watch could detect this condition and alert you of it goes to show how advanced the heart rate sensor is in the device.

Features like this are why I think wearable technology like the Apple Watch can have a positive life altering — and even life saving — effect.

If you have an Apple Watch, meet the eligibility requirements, and are interested in participating, go download the Apple Heart Study app.

Quick Tip: the Apple Watch Flashlight

One of my favorite new features of watchOS 4 is using the Flashlight feature. It’s surprisingly bright for short distances, and sometimes a bit more handy than fumbling with my iPhone.

From the watch face, swipe up from the bottom and tap the flashlight icon. The screen will become all white, but somewhat dim. You can swipe from right to left to get a blinking white light to use as a signal, and swipe once more to get a red light that won’t disrupt your night vision as much.

As you turn your wrist away from your face, the screen brightens all the way to maximize the flashlight effect. Rotate back to your face, and after a moment of blinding yourself, it will dim again.

Apple’s support article says:

To turn off the flashlight, press the Digital Crown or side button, or swipe down from the top of the watch face.

I’ve found an even more satisfying way. You can also simply cover the screen with your palm, and the flashlight is extinguished. The best part is it feels natural enough to do without needing to rotate your wrist back toward your face, saving your eyes from that momentary bright light.

Looping a Song Through Facebook Live

I saw this video by The Academic performing their song Bear Claws the other day and have been fascinated by it. I can't imagine coming up with the timing to put together a song through a loop caused by a delay in Facebook's livestream.

I'd never heard of this band before, but the catchiness of this song has my attention.

Twitterrific for macOS: A Phoenix from the Ashes

For me, Twitterrific has always been synonymous with using Twitter. I used it first on the Mac in March 2008. I even downloaded the app first, then signed up for Twitter to use it! And Twitterrific was the first app I installed from the App Store on iOS when it launched in July 2008. I tried a couple other clients when they came around, namely Tweetie and Tweetbot, but Twitterrific’s unified timeline always brought me back to the nest.

For the past several years, the Mac version has fallen by the wayside, and I got used to only using Twitterrific on iOS. Then, earlier this year, the Iconfactory set up a Kickstarter to resurrect Twitterrific for Mac as a fresh, modern client. I couldn’t sign up fast enough. The campaign was successful, and all summer I have been enjoying the weekly beta releases as the new Twitterrific took shape.

Twitterrific_macOS_logo.png

Today, Twitterrific 5.0 for macOS is available for everyone on the Mac App Store. It packs a ton of features into the new app, stays in sync with the iOS versions using iCloud, has fantastic keyboard and accessibility support, delightful sounds, and a few nostalgic Easter eggs from past incarnations.

Beyond any feature, though, is the care that the folks at the Iconfactory put into Twitterrific. It is clearly a labor of love, and the people behind it are genuinely fantastic. I suggest you follow a few of them on Twitter, and say hi. The best part about the Apple community isn’t just the apps we use to change our life and work, it’s the people and friendships made along the way.

In a sea of one-off money-grab apps, there are a precious few with a human story behind them. Twitterrific is one of them. And that’s why it is well worth supporting the team by purchasing Twitterrific for macOS.

¶ On Privacy and Servicing Apple Devices

Yesterday my friend Adam asked me for advice on what he should do when taking his Mac in for service at the Apple Store.

The question is simple: Should the drive be wiped for privacy reasons?

The answer is equally simple: Yes.

That said, Apple shouldn't even be making a person consider this question. The problem in this entire situation is Apple requiring the admin password in order to service a device.

And it is indeed a requirement. I've been asked for my admin password on a Mac or the device unlock code on an iPhone by Apple Store employees before. And I have tried to refuse in the past, at which point the Apple employee will promptly cease helping you.

This is wrong. Apple should not require me to write down my password on a piece of paper and then take my device into another room for hours on end. Also, they do not inform you what happens to that piece of paper containing the password when service is finished. For all I know my encrypted drive could have been cloned and the admin password is now known in order to decrypt it.

Now, I'm the type that knows this dance with servicing devices, and I make a backup and wipe the device prior to service, using a simple generic password for the device during the service period. After I receive the device back, I need to spend a great deal of time restoring the device from backup.

It's inconvenient and unnecessary.

I have a proposed solution for this and Apple could build into every device they make. Create a service partition. A service partition of the device's storage would allow Apple to boot up and test the functions of the device without having access to user data. This partition would not have admin rights to the system, but would provide only the access necessary to run tests to ensure service was successful.

I imagine this being similar to booting up a Mac into Apple Diagnostics or macOS Recovery. With a Service Partition, core functions for testing would exist, without providing access to user data. No password is needed. Privacy is maintained.

Apple should build this into macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS to protect their users and make servicing devices more efficient.

¶ The Grand Old Parting

Today is Independence Day in the United States. Many of my fellow citizens and I are enjoying a day off work thanks to the national holiday. Later this evening my family will be attending a cookout at our friends' house, eating too much while laughing at the stories shared, and creating memories with our children as we ignite smoke balls and firecrackers.

For a day I will pretend the land I call home is healthy. For a single day I will rest from the growing division between ideologies, the mocking of those with differing views, and the hatred of those with a different shade of skin, whether or not this land is their land. I need a day to pretend everything isn't flat-out crazy. I need Independence.


I grew up in South Dakota. Home of Mt. Rushmore and one heckuvalot of farm land. It's a red state, as Republican as it gets. My parents are conservative and instilled those values in me — many of which I still hold very dear. I became a politically active Republican early on, around middle school. The state GOP headquarters was a couple blocks from my house, and my neighbor at the time ran it.

I would spend a number of hours helping out at that office. Mostly I would stuff and stamp mailers. I don't remember if I actually desired to do it in the early years of it, or if it was something my folks had me do to keep me from all-out boredom. Whether or not the intent was to "build character", it did. I enjoyed it, mainly because of the other people around the table.

Retirees.

It was certainly awkward at first being a young person in a room of elderly. They looked at me fondly and spoke of their grandchildren. Truthfully, I adored the attention. I'm a people person. Always have been. And I grew to adore these people.

One thing I have always enjoyed about hanging out with my elders are the stories they tell. They've had the years to accumulate them, for sure. Stories are the fabric of our society. The sharing of them weaves us together and bonds us. I cherish the time spent listening to those stories.

As I became older and my mother's employment became tied to the political success of others, I moved from mailings to the campaign trail. Painting and placing massive signs at the edge of wheat fields. Attending county fairs and even the GOP state convention. I was good at convincing delegates to vote. Like I said, I'm a people person.

I held onto my Republican beliefs throughout high school and into college, being a part of groups such as Teen-Age Republicans and College Republicans.


After college, a move to a new state and the birth of a baby set my interests in politics aside. It took me quite a while to understand the political climate in Nebraska. It is surprisingly different from South Dakota, given their relative proximity.

In lieu of political involvement I settled into maturing my faith as a Christ follower. I attended the school of hard knocks in order to do this, as a number of challenging life hurdles needed to be overcome. I knew it was impossible for me to do alone. I know to many it sounds cliché, but I needed to let go and let God work.

As my faith matured I found one of my true passions is serving others. Sometimes that looks as simple as staying late after an event to help pick up. Often it is taking a meal to someone who needs it. Other times it is inviting someone from another country who you don't know stay in your home as if they were family. Because in the grand scheme of things, they are family.

That last one was difficult for me to surrender to. Bringing a complete stranger into my home to stay there goes against the grain for me. It doesn't for my wife.

My in-laws are the most hospitable people I've ever met. They instilled that hospitality into their daughter, and she made it clear to me when we bought our house that it was important to her. So when the opportunity came knocking, our door opened. And I'm glad it did. Being hospitable is rewarding for the soul.


So this is where we circle back to Independence. I've been a lifelong Republican. But the Grand Old Party has become a delusion of grandeur. The past year I have looked with shame upon the party as I saw people I (still) love and care about become more and more aggressive toward those with differing views. The name calling on social media. The outright racism. The exact opposite of hospitality.

And most of it done by Republicans who also claim to love Jesus. And even sadder, much of it done with the oath of "for His glory" and "in His name".

This kind of behavior is not what I see Jesus doing in the Bible. Jesus didn't shame the adulterous woman and condemn her to death by stoning. He challenged her accusers to examine their own sin, then forgave her and told her to go, and sin no more.

The Jesus I know cared about the sick, the poor, the homeless. You know, the undesirable people of our society. He told parables of the generosity of the foreigner. He commanded that we reach out to those less fortunate, and to seek out those who are different from us.

And yet the rhetoric used by those leading the Republican Party today is the exact opposite, yet said in His name.

It burdens my heart.


October 16, 2016. I'm sitting in my adult Sunday School class at church. We're discussing a book titled Lord, Save Us From Your Followers. How true.

There are comments made in the class that fit the title well. Not said in anger. On the contrary, calmly resolute. Yet politically charged in the tumultuous climate as the election nears.

I can tell some feel justified in their views, while others feel ostracized.

And I've had enough. Enough of the hyperbole. Enough of the hypocrisy. Enough of the Grand Old Party and the assumption that its membership is synonymous with righteousness.

I discreetly turn on my iPad, and pull up the Nebraska voter registration site. I fill out the form. I've been thinking about this for months but fearful to change something that I had identified with for so much of my life.

Party affiliation…

Independent.

¶ WWDC 2017 Wish List

With Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference kicking off tomorrow, it seems to be about the right time to put out the good old last-minute wish list. There have been a number of rumors swirling about, including rumors of some hardware announcements, but surprising few (if any?) actual leaks.

It’s natural to expect previews of Apple’s next iteration software platforms: macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. I also expect to hear about updates to Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and iCloud.

This year my wish list rests chiefly on one topic: the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro

I’ve been rocking an iPad mini for quite a few years now. I’m using it more as my main personal computer, and the Mac as the occasional truck for increasingly rare heavy tasks. As the iPad has taken a larger role in my day-to-day, I find I am wanting a bit more room to spread out. I’m ready to move to an iPad Pro.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro

While I’m not all that interested in going from an iPad mini to the gargantuan 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I am very interested in the rumors of a 10.5-inch iPad Pro taking the place of the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro. And the rumors make a great deal of sense.

Dan Provost made a great observation when the 10.5-inch iPad Pro rumors began.

When the original iPad Pro 12.9" was introduced in September 2015, Phil Schiller demonstrated the reasoning for that sizing by illustrating that the width of the new iPad is the exact same dimension as the height of the 9.7" iPad.

This has the advantage of essentially having two full height iPad apps, side by side.

Now, imagine Apple doing the exact same thing, but with the iPad mini.

The math works out perfectly. This new 10.5" iPad would have the exact same resolution as the 12.9" iPad Pro (2732 x 2048), but the same pixel density of the iPad mini (326 ppi instead of 264 ppi). Crunch the numbers, do a little Pythagorean Theorem, and you end up with a screen 10.5" diagonal (10.47" to be precise, but none of Apple’s stated screen sizes are exact). In terms of physcial dimensions, the width of this 10.5" screen would be exactly the same as the height of the iPad mini screen.

The ability to run two full portrait iPad apps in Split View would be a great distinguishing feature between the iPad Pro line and the regular iPad line, in addition to the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories. I foresee the 9.7-inch iPad Pro we know today going away, and the latest refresh to the regular iPad being the sole occupant of the 9.7-inch form factor.

3D Touch

I love 3D Touch on my iPhone 7, and greatly miss it when using my iPad. 3D Touch feels like right-click on a traditional computer — a quick shortcut to common tasks. Having this available on a larger screen would really open up some options for iOS to shine on iPad hardware.

Physical refinements

I feel like it is time for Apple to move on from the chamfered edges on the iPad. They feel like an overused and outdated design detail in 2017, considering the look debuted on the iPhone 5 in 2012. I’d rather see the glass curve slightly to meet the aluminum like the iPhone 7. Bonus points if the iPad Pro comes in black aluminum like the iPhone 7.

iOS 11

Putting the Pro in iPad Pro

The mass consensus I have seen on other sites and heard on podcasts is that it is time for iOS to embrace the iPad in a significant way. As much as I love my iPad, iOS has always taken the iPhone form factor as a priority. With iOS 9 in 2015 Apple bolted on some iPad-only features with Split View and Slide Over, but those features remain today as they were when the launched. They still feel like they were bolted on instead of custom designed.

I’d like to see iOS bring a lot of polish to a refined iPad experience. No one outside of Apple has envisioned this better than Federico Viticci in his iOS 11 Wish List. I encourage you to read the entire post for his deeper explanations around his ideas, but you absolutely must watch the Concept Video he and Sam Beckett created, which I have also embedded below.

Federico has many terrific ideas in this video. It's safe to say that the most prominent is drag & drop between apps in Split View. This has felt like a missing piece to the puzzle ever since Split View was introduced.

Amazingly, not long after Federico's concept was released, app developer Readdle updated its suite of productivity apps with their own implementation of Drag & Drop between their apps when running in Split View.

It is freaking magic. It works exactly as you would naturally think, and it is done some seamlessly you would it was a built-in feature of iOS.

Beyond Drag & Drop, I'd like to see iOS add a better app picker in Split View on iPad. Federico's concept of that is terrific.

Finally, John Gruber had pondered the idea of putting a trackpad on the iPad Smart Keyboard. At first, I scrunched my nose at the idea, thinking he was insinuating adding a traditional mouse cursor to the screen, but he cleared that up right away. He first talks about using it to move the text insertion point around. That would be welcome, as using the current two-finger gesture on the screen when using an external keyboard is cumbersome.

I was far more intrigued by John's second thought:

tvOS’s UIFocusEngine. That’s the interface framework that allows Apple TV to be controlled by a trackpad or game controller without an on-screen mouse cursor. On Apple TV, you don’t move a cursor around, you move the selection around. Two years ago Steven Troughton-Smith discovered that an incomplete version of UIFocusEngine was built into iOS 9.

This makes so much sense. tvOS uses a lovely 3D animation to icons and buttons to give them depth and tell the user that item is selected. It would feel right at home on iOS if using a trackpad on a Smart Keyboard.

In Summary

I'm practically drooling for a 10.5-inch iPad Pro. I really hope 3D Touch is added to its gorgeous screen. I hope the enclosure gets with the time and receives a nice update to where the glass meets the metal.

I want iOS to leap ahead on the iPad and help the platform take off. It needs to bring a few more paradigms over from traditional computing but reimagine them for the world of touch. Drag & Drop,easier access to apps and data, and embracing the Smart Keyboard even further would all be welcome additions.

Here's to seeing what apple brings us tomorrow.