2023 WWDC Thoughts

Thoughts as they came during the WWDC keynote…

  • 15″ M2 MacBook Air: Nice! But since I got a 13″ M2 Air not long ago, I’m not due to upgrade for, oh, a decade or so.

  • M2/Max/Ultra Mac Studio: I have no need for a Mac Studio. My M1 Mini does me just fine, and I don’t think I’ve ever really stressed it. But if I had absolutely ridiculous amounts of expendable cash, I’d love to get one of these.

  • Apple Silicon Mac Pro: Again, I have no need. But if I had more ridiculous amounts of expendable cash than necessary for the Mac Studio, sure, let’s toss a Mac Pro on my desk! (But starting at $7k…this seems unlikely.)

  • iOS

    • iPhone
      • Customized contact posters: Looks slick. But since it’s pushed to other people’s phones, hopefully they can disable it either globally or by contact. I could easily see “pranksters” sending some…interesting images that way.

      • Live voicemail transcription: Okay, that’s nifty.

    • Facetime

      • Facetime voicemail: Also nifty. But I don’t Facetime very much, so maybe not for me.
    • Messages
      • Looks like some nice incremental upgrades. Check-in is an interesting balance between convenience and creepy.

      • Custom animated stickers will probably land somewhere between fun and annoying.

    • Autocorrect is due for updates, but a Transformer language model? Hopefully I get the Autobot release and not the Decepticon release.

    • I’ve never been able to reliably get into any sort of journaling routine (I can’t even keep this blog going without months-long gaps…), so I doubt the Journal app will change that, but for people who are into this sort of thing, yay?

    • Standby will make a nice bedside clock while traveling (I don’t keep my phone by my bed at home)…but I’ll need to upgrade to a phone with an always-on display to really take advantage of it (I’m still on an iPhone 11, though, so it’s getting close to time to upgrade…maybe this fall?).

    • I get Siri triggering when I don’t need her often enough with “Hey Siri”, won’t shortening that to just “Siri” make that problem worse?

  • iPadOS

    • Widgets and Lock Screen customizations are things that look like they should be really useful, and I’ve never taken the time to try to set them up and figure out how to make them work for me.

    • PDF improvements? Actually, these are looking pretty nice, particularly being able to fill out forms that have been “scanned” with the camera. And the live collaboration on PDFs in Notes.

  • macOS

    • Next version name: Sonoma.

    • Widgets on the desktop, for those who aren’t driven up the wall by a cluttered desktop! (My desktop might occasionally get one or two files dropped on it temporarily as I’m actively working on them, then they get put back away. I hate a cluttered desktop.)

      • Heh. You can tell they recorded this more than a couple days ago, with the Apollo for Reddit call-out.
    • Though I’m not much of a gamer and likely won’t do much that benefits from this, it is nice to see gaming-focused improvements.

    • Oh, the presenter overlays and gesture effects are going to be giving Camo Studio and mmhmm a challenge, at least at the basic feature level. As with any Sherlocking, it’ll depend on what they can do above and beyond the basics.

    • Safari Password family sharing is good, but I agree with those who think that Apple should pull their password/keychain stuff out into a standalone app instead of having it buried in the preferences.

    • Profiles is long overdue, but will be nice to have outside of Chrome.

    • Webapps is just the macOS version of iOS’s feature that I never use, right?

  • That guitar is great. Obviously.

  • I like the AirPods Pro audio features and improvements, I just wish I could get used to how they fit.

  • Oh, AirPlay in hotels needs to get widespread fast. I’d love to have that instead of trying to figure out if the hotel’s TV will let me plug in an HDMI cable.

  • If I used FaceTime more, I’d be more interested in the AppleTV integration. Nice to tie that into continuity camera.

  • watchOS

    • First question: Will my Apple Watch 4 support Watch OS 10? Or will I need to add that to the “upgrade soon” list? Other than that, looks to be the expected incremental updates.

    • The updates to the hiking part of the workouts app are neat, but are they available on the iPhone too? Some of those (like marking the last known cell signal point) look really useful outside of when using the app for a hike.

    • Again, the Mindfullness app and mood tracking look nice…but are they limited to the watch? Okay, looks like that’s also on the phone.

    • How many children have Apple Watches? More than I’m aware of, obviously.

  • Wow…”one more thing”! Haven’t heard that in a while.

    • The Apple headset (Vision Pro) looks a lot like the goggles the away team wore in TOS’s The Cage.

    • I’m still not sold on my need for or interest in AR, but the demos are pretty fascinating to watch.

      • Movies and TV are so often used as demos, because you can get a virtual “big screen”, but it still seems kludgy to have to strap this thing to your head instead of just looking at a TV.
    • I do like that it doesn’t need controllers, but just tracks your hands and gestures. Must be sensors on the underside of the goggles.

    • The screen showing your eyes to other people was an accurate rumor. I’m surprised. That’s…again, somewhere between neat and creepy, but at least last first blush, looked very uncanny valley.

    • How difficult must typing be with a virtual keyboard? At least with the iPhone/iPad screen you have that to type on, even if you can’t feel the individual keys. But without any physical contact? (This is also one of the issues I have with nifty sci-fi holographic user interfaces.)

    • Seeing people on FaceTime calls with the headset, sure. What do they see?

    • Wait, a 3D camera? Interesting.

    • Disney’s on board, huh?

    • Okay, time to get some of the tech details. This’ll be interesting.

      • I still can’t imagine wearing something like this on my head for hours at a time, let alone a full workday.
    • They’re actually addressing the “how do people see you on FaceTime?” question.
      • Okay…your own personal uncanny valley avatar! Yikes.
    • Snark aside, there’s a lot of neat stuff here. Definitely not for me, at least not at this stage, but it’ll be very interesting to see where it goes over the coming years.

And now, cue all the hot takes on how bad all of this is and now doomed Apple is once again!

The Enstickering

A couple months ago, I replaced my old hand-me-down laptop (a 10-year old MacBook Pro) with a shiny new M2 MacBook Air — my first brand-new laptop. And while it is very pretty, and it was tempting to leave it as-is…after a couple months of dithering, I decided to go ahead and personalize it with some of the stickers I’ve had sitting in a drawer for ages.

After all, what’s the point of keeping stickers in a drawer? There’s always the “I’ll put these on something…someday…” thought, and finally, “someday” is here.

A black Apple MacBook Air with seven stickers applied.

  • In pride of place, dead center, covering the embedded shiny Apple logo, is a vintage rainbow Apple sticker. I’m not entirely sure how long I’ve been hanging on to this, but it has got to be close to a couple decades since Apple went all monochrome. I have one of these left, too.

  • Top left: “I was a Mac user when Apple was doomed.” From R. Stevens of Diesel Sweeties. I have the t-shirt, too. And it’s true!

  • Center left: Gothic Pride Seattle, repping the local SeaGoth community.

  • Bottom left: “Computer, end program.” How do you turn this damn holodeck off, anyway? Don’t remember the source.

  • Top center: “Creepy but Careful” by AmberStone, received as a bonus goodie when I got some of their vaccine-supporting enamel pins early in the pandemic.

  • Center right: “Highly illogical.” Yes, Spock, we know. Don’t remember the source.

  • Bottom right: Doom! Didn’t initially remember the source, but it has a URL for Chance of Doom, a webcomic by Robert Tritthardt, also part of the local SeaGoth community, so I probably got it from him at one point or another, possibly along with a Mercury shirt or hoodie or with one of the Writhe and Shine books I have.

Updating My Computing History

Back in 2003, Adam Kalsey started a project he called Newly Digital — a collection of stories about when people first discovered computers, got online, and so on.

At that time, I updated and reposted my “Back in the Day” post from roughly a year before, to contribute to the project.

And now, after looking back at my “Newly Digital” post while once again updating the tail end of it with my current computers, I noticed more and more links succumbing to link rot, so I figured I’d give it another refresh. So here we go!

I was born in 1973 — certainly before home computers were a thing, but at a point where computers were starting to make their way into the school system.

The first computers I can remember playing with were the Apple IIs that my elementary school had. Before long our friends the Burns had one of their own that I got to play with, while my babysitter picked up a Commodore 64 that gave me my first look at the BASIC programming language.

Eventually, my family got our first computer — an Osborne 1. This was a beast of a machine. 64k of RAM, a Z-80 CPU, two 5.25″ floppy drives, and a 5″ monochrome 80×40 greenscreen, all packed into a case the size of a suitcase that weighed about 30 pounds. The keyboard could be snapped up against the face of the computer, allowing it to be carried around — one of the first, if not the very first, “portable” computers! It ran CP/M (a precursor to MS-DOS) — aside from fiddling with the machines at school or at my friends’ houses, my first real command-line experience! There was a 300 baud modem available for the Osborne 1 computer, however my family didn’t get one until years later (when those of our friends who had also had Osborne 1 computers were giving them to us as they upgraded, allowing me to cannibalize parts from two machines to keep one running).

I first got online sometime in 1990, with the first computer I bought myself — an Apple Macintosh Classic with no hard drive (the computer booted System 6.0.7 off one 3.5″ floppy, and I kept MS Word 4 on a second floppy, along with all the papers I typed that year), 1 Mb of RAM — and a 2400 baud modem. Suddenly an entire new world opened up to me. After a brief but nearly disasterous flirtation with America Online at a time when the only way to dial in to AOL from Anchorage, Alaska was to call long distance, I discovered the more affordable world of local BBS’s (Bulletin Board Systems).

I spent many hours over the next few years exploring the BBS’s around Anchorage, from Ak Mac (where most of my time was devoted) to Forest Through the Trees, Roaring Lion, and many others that I can’t remember the names of at the moment. I found some of my first online friends, many of whom I conversed with for months without ever meeting — and many that I never did meet. Most of the Mac-based boards used the Hermes BBS software, which shared its look and feel with whatever the most popular PC-based software was, so virtually all the boards acted the same, allowing me to quickly move from one to the other. After springing the $300 for an external 100Mb hard drive (how would I ever fill up all that space?!?) I downloaded my first ‘warez’ (bootlegged software), at least one of which had a trojan horse that wiped out about half my hard drive. I discovered the joys — and occasional horrors — of free pornography. I found amazing amounts of shareware and freeware, some useful, some useless. It was all amazing, fun, and so much more than I’d found before. In short — I was hooked.

After I graduated from high school in 1991, I had a short-lived stint attending the University of Alaska, Anchorage. One of the perks of being a student was an e-mail account on the university’s VAX computer system. In order to access your e-mail, you could either use one of the computers in the university’s computer lab, or you could dial into their system via modem. Logging in either way gave you access to your shell account, at which point you could use the pine e-mail program. However, I soon learned that the university’s computer was linked to other computers via the still-growing Internet!

And here I’d thought BBS’s were a new world — this Internet thing was even better! Suddenly I was diving into ftp prompts and pulling files to my computer from computers across the globe. Usenet readers introduced me to BBS-style discussions with people chiming in from all over the world, instead of just all over town. I could jump into Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and have real-time conversations with people in other countries. The gopher protocol was essentially a precursor to the World Wide Web: text pages linked to each other by subject. I was fascinated — more information than I had dreamed of was at my fingertips.

By the time I left UAA and lost my student account, the ‘net had started to show up on the radar of public consciousness, but still at a very low level — it was still fairly limited to the ‘geek set.’ That was enough, however, to have convinced some of the local BBS systems to set up primitive (but state of the art at the time) internet links: once a day, generally at some early hour, they would dial into a special node on the ‘net and download a certain set of information, which the BBS users could then access locally. It was slow, time-delayed, and somewhat kludgy, but it worked, and it allowed us to have working e-mail addresses. It wasn’t what I’d had while at the university, but it was certainly better than nothing.

Within a few years, though, the ‘net suddenly exploded across public consciousness with the advent and popularization of the World Wide Web. Suddenly, you didn’t have to do everything on the ‘net through a command line — first using NCSA Mosaic, and later that upstart Netscape Navigator, you could point and click your way through all that information — and some of the pages even had graphics on them! It was simplistic by today’s standards, but at the time it was revolutionary, and I joined in that revolution sometime in 1995 with my first homepage.

Since then, there’s been no turning back. Over the years, my computers have been upgraded from that little Mac Classic to:

And, of course, this blog has been running for more than 20 years. It started as simple hand-coded update posts on my early personal pages in 1996. In late 2000 I found a script called NewsPro that was essentially a very early content management system (CMS), and then just over a year later I moved to MovableType, which was only about three months old at the time. MovableType started strong but eventually pivoted to focus on the enterprise space rather than home users, and in 2006 I moved over to WordPress.

WordPress has lasted by far the longest, though I’ve been getting less enamored with it for a while. But realistically, after this long, I’m unlikely to put the effort into finding something else — and as far as I know, the blogging CMS I really want hasn’t yet been written.

Some years my blog gets more posts than others — the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter certainly pulled me away for a while — but I’ve never let it fade away completely, and I certainly don’t intend to let it die. I may not always be rambling away here a lot (though the demise of Twitter has certainly spurred me to be more active here once more), but I’m unlikely to ever entirely disappear.

Repairing my Music library after Apple Music Library Sync destroyed the metadata

Today I finally finished repairing my Music (iTunes) library after it got mangled when I signed up for Apple Music (the service) a few months ago.

Apple Music has its benefits, but apparently signing up automatically activated the library sync feature, which started overwriting my local metadata with data from the cloud. I caught it before it got all the way through and figured out how to turn it off, but a large chunk of my music library lost a lot of the edits I’d made over the years. From song titles to artist names to custom artwork, covering tracks that I’d purchased from the iTunes Music Store, purchased from Bandcamp, ripped from my own CDs, or even imported from my vinyl collection. Titles and names were changes, artwork was either replaced or removed…probably somewhere between a third and a half of my 37,416 item, 285 GB music library was affected.

The only reason I was even able to repair it all was that, well, Music (and iTunes before it) has been historically tweaky for long enough that I’ve gotten into the habit of making a manual backup of my music library every so often, separate from the Time Machine backup that’s done automatically, just because I don’t trust Music not to screw something up at some point.

I also discovered that Music reads metadata from two places: the metadata embedded in the individual files, and in the “Music Library” file stored within the /user/Music/ folder. Much of the bad data that was being displayed in Music was actually being read from the “Music Library” file; apparently that was where the data from the cloud had been written. When I opened the info window on a track to fix it, Music would then read the embedded metadata from the actual track file, and the data (some of it, at least) would switch back to the correct information.

Of course, manually going through and loading every one of my 37,416 tracks wasn’t at all realistic — but the Refresh a track from its file’s metadata script from Doug’s Applescrpts allowed me to select a chunk (I was able to do as many as 600 tracks at at time without it timing out) and let the script repair the metadata in the background. There were still some final corrections that needed to be made (this trick didn’t fix the artwork that got lost or replaced, and many of the “Album Artist” fields still needed to be corrected manually), but those were easier to do once the script handled the bulk of the work.

So, a few months after signing up for Apple Music, I finally have my local library back to a useable state.

Hey, Apple? Local data should NEVER be replaced by cloud data without warning, without explanation, and without active affirmative confirmation by the user. That was years of work I could have lost, and months of work repairing it. Get this bit of your system fixed, please. This sucked.

Also, trying to write a post about my music, the application Music, the service Apple Music, and Apple the company, and make it all coherent, is not an easy thing to do. I get that iTunes was a bloated beast and needed to be split up — though, really, Music isn’t that much better, is still missing a lot of features (like a usable in-app search feature) — but did it have to be renamed so generically?

This Means Nothing

Pet peeve: The little fake level meter animation that Music shows when a track is playing drives me up the wall. It’s just a looped animation that bears no relation to what’s actually playing. Give me real data or a static icon, but this is useless.

Five-second clip of Apple's Music app UI.