Railhouse Brewery Outta The Blue

Vision Pro might be the ultimate test of the Apple cult. Could be a John Sculley / Apple Newton moment.

Apple mythology states they enter a market when they have a better take on it. In what way is Vision Pro a better take on prior AR / VR solutions? Definitely not with the hardware, looks like Apple is putting all their eggs in the software basket, which is interesting for a hardware company.

I was not expecting to be able to watch the Apple WWDC keynote, but Murphy has enabled me to do so and I am jotting notes during the session.

Is it me, or does some hotel cancellation policies feel like a scam? What I am seeing is to be able to cancel as late as 24 hours before some hotels are charging $50 or more a night. Some times it’s worse. I made a reservation at a hotel a few weeks back that only allows free cancellation up until a week before the check in date, no matter the price, and that just seems wrong. I wanted to pay less per night in comparison to other hotels, so I made the reservation with the sinking feeling Murphy would get me, and he did as I had to cancel today, which is check in day and that would have cost me the same cancellation fee if I cancelled two days ago.

I can’t help but feel that the “inflation news” has given all businesses liberty to find all sorts of ways to make more money

Stand off king of the hill

Deer and ducks on a grassy hill

The Chicago Cubs are nearly five behind the A.L. Central leading Milwaukee Brewers, which is where I said they were back in December, before the season started.

First Impressions Of The Google Pixel 7a

Google announced and began selling the Pixel 7a earlier last month, and I ordered a Sea colored version from Amazon about a week later. The Pixel 7a is replacing the Pixel 4a that has been my everyday carry phone for the last three years. I really like the size and feel of the Pixel 4a and so I was not eager to up-size to the newer phone, but it has come to the end of the road with Android and there are features the 7a has that make the upgrade a “no-brainer.”

My main concern about the Pixel 7a has been its size and glossy back. The Pixel 7a is taller than the Pixel 4a and because of that I find it harder to operate with one hand. The weight, however, is the most noticeable difference. I am finding that due to the weight it is more comfortable holding the phone in my left hand, but in a position where I can’t scroll apps with that same hand and as a result this phone requires more two hand operation than the Pixel 4a. The weight and size difference is also noticeable when I put the Pixel 7a in a front pant pocket. Fortunately, the size do not make these use cases impossible, just different and I suspect the difference will become less noticeable over time.

The back of the Pixel 7a is more “polished” than the Pixel 4a, but it doesn’t feel so slippery that I fear it is going to quickly slip out of my hand. I purchased a really nice Latercase that does not add much weight or bulk and gives a more matte like feel to the back of the phone.

Battery life appears to be better, but I don’t know whether that is simply because the battery is larger or the Google Tensor G2 is that much more efficient. Accubattery is showing that screen of battery consumption is at 2% or less, which is definitely better than the Pixel 4a that is closer to 3%. Battery life is an item that requires a longer duration to evaluate.

I don’t know if it is just me, but I think pictures using the wide angle lens have a bit of a fish eye affect. (See the last picture on this page for an example.) I don’t think the camera app clearly indicates how to switch between cameras.

I really like the under screen fingerprint scanner, although that may be more due to the fact that scanner is on the front of the phone rather than on the back. Now I know exactly where to put my finger and therefore the scanner works more accurately. The face unlock also works ok, but doesn’t seem to trigger fast enough. People complain about the speed of the finger print scanner, but I find it plenty fast.

As I expected, it was a real pain to move the Pixel Watch from the Pixel 4a to the 7a. Google really does not understand what is a technology ecosystem, it’s not just a suite of products that have the same appearance, it’s products that work together with little effort by the user. The fact that one has to factory reset a WearOS watch to move it from one Pixel phone to another is the clearest evidence of Google’s cluelessness when it comes to tech ecosystems. At least the Pixel Buds were automatically recognized and work.

Of the new features I get with the Pixel 7a, I like the wireless charging the best, although I am still working on how often to do the charging. I bought the Pixel Stand and have it on my desk where I could put my phone during the work day, but what is the impact on battery health from keeping the phone on the charger for extended periods of time? Articles on lithium batteries say it’s best to keep the phones between 20% to 80% charged given that each full cycle has an impact on the life time of the battery. Seems to me though that Google intends users to keep the phone on the stand, so you would think they would incorporate programming to help with the battery health.

Over all I am happy with the Pixel 7a. It’s larger than the Pixel 4a but it is the smallest Pixel, and I definitely think it is better to buy it than the cheaper and older Pixel 6a. Rumor is that the 7a may be the last of the “A Series” pixel phones, but it’s not clear exactly what that means. It could mean that Google will stop staggering the release of phones in the spring/summer and fall/winter like they have over the last several years but keep the “small, medium, and large” sizes, or it could be they drop the phone all together. Given that the Pixel 7a has nearly all the same specs as the Pixel 7, it seems the only reason one would buy the “flagship” phone is to get a larger screen. I really hope that Google keeps a phone that is no larger than 6-inches tall.

Detroit Grand Prix

I am watching the IndyCar practice of the Detroit Grand Prix, which is racing around the Renaissance Center where I worked for nearly nine years. At one time or another I’ve driven parts the entire circuit, and I made turns 4, 5, 6, and 7 nearly every week day. I am seeing them going 70 mph on stretches I wouldn’t dare drive more than 30. The pits are in a parking lot where I used to park when we first started working at that location.

As much as I disliked the 40 minute commute (on good days), I really enjoyed working at the Renaissance Center, particularly when there were events like the Super Bowl and this Grand Prix because at those times it is the center of activity.

The IndyCar car race is on Sunday at 3:45 PM, but if you have Peacock you can watch the practice and qualifying right now and Saturday.

I agree with Bernie. After Biden signs the debt ceiling bill he should file suite against Congress asking the Supreme Court to declare the debt ceiling as an unconstitutional violation of the 14th amendment. The budget process is the time at which Congress set what spending it will or will not do, and Government cannot stop paying its bill it already decided in the budget to take on the cost.

I don’t agree with Bernie that Biden should rather than signing this bill declared the 14th amendment gives him the authority to pay the bills. The 11th hour is not the time to introduce such uncertainty, but raising the case to SCOTUS immediately after word so that there is enough time for process is the right thing to do.

Roses are blooming

Red rose

I’ve created a public repo on Github that contains an archive of my blog archive files. The files contain blog posts starting in March, 2014 to present. Perhaps some time in the future I will find a way to search against these files. One remaining group of blog posts are on my WordPress site going back to May, 2008. I need to find a way to export those old posts, but that is a bit of a mess because I’ve been cross-posting to that WordPress site from my current blog.

Everyone wants the government to spend less. Politicians threaten to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States with claims they desire to cut spending. Logically, if you seriously want to cut spending you do so by cutting where you most spend money, and the U.S. government spends the vast majority of the money we give in taxes on the military. The government makes incremental cuts on non-military programs that actually help citizens that are never intended to be consequential, while at the same time spending more in the area in which they spend the most, the military.

With AI, Focus On The People

When I read something about the dangers of AI I can’t help but fear the writers are missing an important point. Saying that AI is bad is like saying the Internet is bad or guns are bad. In truth none of these items are bad. What is bad, and what we need to focus on, is that there are bad people who can and will use these items to amplify what they can do and thus inflict harm on others.

Back before the Internet was known by most of the world those who supported it advocated for all of the good it can do, but we failed to take in to account how it can be used for harm. What is common among AI, the Internet, and guns, particularly automatic guns, is the scale and speed at which harm can be done.

So, my advice is, focus a bit less on the technology and more on the ways in which people want and might use that technology for harm and then craft policies aimed at constraining the the people who may do that harm. It might be making a nuanced argument, but I think it is an important one when encountering those who see themselves as needing to defend/protect the items.

Army Talk Orientation Fact Sheet, Fascism! March 24, 1945.

I’ve been walking…since last July

Thinking about Large Language Models like chatGPT has me considering the idea that the keyboard could disappear as the primary input device to a computer, which is hard to imagine because keyboards have always been the primary input device to computers. Even when punch cards were the computer input device the cards were made using a keyboard. LLMs might make voice input a real thing although editing the results of speech to text needs to be easier.

Was the “Show More” button always on the Discover feed? I don’t think it was and not sure how I feel about it, I like the idea of limits on scrolling.

Some time today I will walk the 1,000th mile virtually along the Appalachian Trail since July 24, 2022.

“Do you really want freedom? If you do, it starts by tolerating those with whom you disagree and not treating them with contempt.” This Memorial Day practice tolerance as a sign of gratitude to those who paid the ultimate price for your freedom!

Finished reading: Jesus Unbound by Keith Giles 📚 “Remember: Our relationship is not with a book, but with a person. Yes, we may learn more details about this person from the book, but our actual relationship with the Author continues, even after we close that book.”

“We waste a lot of energy on the past and future when the present is all that’s guaranteed. We push for more—but really, we need to find our enough.” – Sahil Bloom, The Time Billionaires

Don’t leaf me behind

Does screen refresh really matter on smartphones?

One of the unwritten rules of tech is the idea that more is better, the purpose of which is to have us continually buy the latest generation of a product. The rule began with the model year releases of automobiles and became adopted by the tech industry. Unfortunately, we consumers don’t often enough question whether the latest features really do matter. We aren’t helped by tech reviewers who often seem to advocate more for the tech industry than consumers. An example that I am thinking about is the push for faster refresh rates on smartphones.

If you have read smartphone reviews over the last year or so you have probably been convinced that phones with 60Hz refresh screens are bad and really should be avoided. We all should be clamoring for 120Hz or at least 90Hz screens so that we get the fastest, smoothest screen scrolling. Do we, really, need smartphone screens faster than 60Hz?

Up until last week I have been using the Pixel 4a, and it’s “limited,” 60Hz screen as my daily driver. When I got the new Pixel 7a I dutifully changed the setting, as prescribed by nearly all tech reviewers, to turn on Smooth Display so that it displays at 90Hz. Every reviewer who directs one to make this change intones something to the affect, “why is Smooth Display not enabled by default?”

While I can say, yes, after turning on Smooth Display scrolling text up/down on the Pixel 7a is faster, what nobody seems to ask is, on a 6-inch display, does one really need that scrolling to be faster? I am skeptical. I am thinking we are being convinced that faster smartphone refresh rates are needed, but they really are not. Increase the size of the screen to perhaps the 11-inch standard tablet, or larger, and I can see how faster refresh can really matter, but on a 6-inch screen?

Another example, at least to me, is the “insistence” that we all need 5G wireless data on our phones. Of course, I ran a speed test using the Pixel 7a as soon as I could and observed the fact that the 86 Mbps download feature is faster than the “plain” LTE transfer speed of my Pixel 4a. Ok, but in what way am I really going to notice or even need that faster transfer speed on a smartphone with a 6-inch screen? For example, I streamed video on the Pixel 7a and it looked no better to me than on the Pixel 4a. Again, if I were on a tablet or certainly a PC then I would likely benefit by the faster transfer rate, but I doubt that 5G is really going to make difference on the Pixel 7a.

To be fair, I do gain some benefits in the upgrade from the Pixel 4a to the 7a. I am finding the front, under-screen finger print scanner is much better than the back scanner of the 4a. The camera is much better and thus I am getting better pictures. Battery life seems to be better, probably thanks to a larger battery and the Tensor G2 chip, and I am happy to finally have the convenience of wireless charging.

Truth is, we likely reached peak smartphone many years ago, therefore there are really fewer needed new features that really matter, and consequently there is a need for more marketing to get people to buy phones. If you are wondering why Google will be selling the Pixel Fold, the reason why is because the smartphone “industry” is convinced such foldables are needed in order to keep selling phones over the next ten years. (The main case for foldables is people want to carry smaller devices, but ironically that could be served by selling phones with smaller screens!) In my opinion, the only change in smartphones that we really need is in battery life, and the technical problem of gaining more battery life from the same size batteries appears to be impossible to overcome. Ironically, one way to improve battery life is to set the screen refresh to 60Hz and use slower file transfer speeds, but then we could get by with last year’s phone.

Google's Tech Ecosystem Failure

I have now replaced two Pixel phones with a newer model and each time I do I am astounded by how little Google understands technology ecosystems. Not only does Google require physically connecting the two phones together with a cable to transfer data, but to transfer a WearOS watch, like the Pixel Watch, from one phone to another you have to factory reset the watch. Seriously! Does anyone at Google ever even try moving from one generation phone to another?

Google seems to think that when one buys a new Pixel phone they are going to buy a new watch too. The factory reset of the watch would not be so bad if one could restore the watch like one can with a Pixel phone, but Google does not provide a backup of WearOS watches to their cloud.

Here is the process for one who owns a Pixel Watch paired with a Pixel 4a to replace the phone with a Pixel 7a. You transfer the SIM from the old phone to the new, then connect a USB-C cable between the 4a and the 7a to transfer your phone settings (ring tones, etc..) and SMS messages. During the transfer the icons for your apps are added to the new phone, but then all of the apps have to be installed. In many cases app settings, particularly logins, do not transfer, so after the apps install you spend a considerable amount of time going through each app to be sure it works as on the “old” phone.

Over the years I have replaced several iPads with newer models and never once have I ever had to physically connect a cable to move settings and apps between the tablets. Apple has been doing this for many years, and honestly, I do not understand why Google, with all of its technical brilliance cannot figure out how to make this process of transfering from one model Pixel phone to another as pain free as possible.

So, once you have the phone set it comes time to pair the Pixel Watch to the new phone. The process requires doing a factory reset of the watch as if you just took it out of the box, and worse, after you pair it with the new phone there is no transfer of app icons, settings, or anything. Oh, and neither the Google Play store nor the Google Watch app keep track of what apps or watch faces you install on the watch, so you have figure out what to install! Anyone at Google who does such a transfer finds this acceptable ought to be embarrased, it might be the most brain dead process of all of technology!

It’s not like nobody at Google has figured it out. Transferring the Pixel Buds Pro from the Pixel 4a to the 7a works exactly how one expects, and how transferring a watch should work. No reset, no pairing, no manual configuration, just take the buds out of the case, put them in my ear, and they just work on the new phone!

Like the Pixel Buds, the Pixel Watch is an accessory to Pixel Phones, but the WearOS, Android, and Pixel teams seem to think the Pixel Watch is a standalone device. Sure, one can buy a watch with an LTE radio and with it and the built-in GPS the watch can function apart from the phone, but honestly, most users are not buying watches with LTE radios. Even if they do, the process of using the Play Store app on the watch to find and install apps is best described as tedious.

The worst part of the WearOS apps process is that Google actually had it right the first time it released their smartwatch operating system. When Google first released a smartwatch there was no way to install apps directly on the watch, you had to use the phone, and the companion app on the phone made it easy to manage the apps to install. Back then while recovering from a factory reset did not automatically restore the watch, it at least put all the apps you had installed in one spot so that you could manually trigger the installation.

For all the progress Google has made over the years to improve Android, Pixel phones, and develop the Pixel Watch, the lack of emphasis on making the products work together seamlessly is a huge let down. Given there have been now been several iterations of Android, WearOS, and Pixel phones, there is no excuse for why the transfer process so brain dead. What I see is a lack of diligence and a willingness to accept things that are not good enough, and I have to question whether such a company unwilling to do things right ought to be trusted playing with technology such as Artificial Intelligence that could be dangerous.