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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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Spotify vs. Apple Music

Sean Wolfe, compares Spotify vs. Apple Music for Business Insider:

The subscription prices are generally the same, there isn’t much disparity in the music that’s available, and on the surface the services all appear pretty similar.

But there are some important differences that will decide which music app is right for you.

This is a fairly comprehensive comparison.

I’ve tested Apple Music a few times and I always come back to Spotify. It is simply better as a music recommendation service.

My experience buying a Windows laptop

After 16+ years working, writing, playing, making, listening, watching on a Macintosh, I’m switching back to Windows. Within a few days from today I will no longer be a Mac user. In fact, the only Apple product I will be using regularly will be my 2014 iPad Air 2 which I plan to replace soon.

(I’m not the only one.)

This is a big deal for me. But not as big of a deal as it would have been if I had made this switch back to Windows a few years ago. A lot has changed. Windows 10 has gotten good. Hardware is arguably nearly as good. And so much of the software is either written cross-platform or runs on the cloud.

This decision to move back to Windows has been years in the making. In fact, it may be about 1 year later than it should have been. While I hope to find the time to write about why I believe it is a great time to switch from macOS to Windows (though, I’ve mentioned it several times here) this post is going to be focused on the experience of researching and buying a Windows computer.

Buying a Windows computer can be a draining task compared to buying a Mac.

Since 2002, when I fully switched from Windows to the Mac, I’ve purchased 9 Macintoshes for personal use, and several others for team members at work. Each time I purchased a new Mac it took me 15-20 minutes to make a decision on what I wanted to buy. Sixteen years of buying Macs has made me a bit lazy.

Deciding which Mac to buy is a fairly simple exercise. First, I would wait until Apple released brand-new models. Then, I would ask myself these questions:

  • What size screen do I want/need?
  • What is my budget?
  • What is the very best Mac I can buy with the screen size I want for the budget I have?

With the answers to these questions I was usually able to pick out the model I wanted within a few minutes, grab the box in the Apple Store or at Best Buy, and walk out.

So a few months ago when I sort of kind of knew for sure that I wanted to switch to Windows I began to look around at what my options were. What is it like to buy a Windows computer?

Due to the abundance of choice, purchasing a Windows computer is not as simple as buying a Mac. This fact is actually something I’ve criticized for years but is now something I see as an advantage. I used to say “I don’t want so much choice, just give me what I need. I like that Apple just gives me what I need.”

However, time has taught me that this is only good if Apple makes all the right choices for me. And for the last few years they haven’t been. They’ve probably been making the right choices for someone else (likely students, casual consumers, etc.) but not for me. What Apple are selling I no longer need.

I digress! Remember, the “why you should consider switching from Mac to Windows post” may come in the future. Back to buying.

Unless you walk into a Microsoft Store and purchase a Surface of your liking (the way I used to purchased Macs) this is what the buying experience is like.

You go to the web site’s of Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft, HP (and others) and pore over all of the configurations they have available.

While you’re there you try to build up your vocabulary both for the manufacturer’s brand names (Lenovo has like three different YOGA type laptops and ten THINKPAD lines, etc.) and for the actual hardware that is inside these laptops. Each of them have their pluses and their minuses and differing options available.

For instance, and this is just one small example, as of this writing you cannot purchase an “ultrabook” sized laptop (13″) with a 4K screen, dedicated GPU, more than 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. You can purchase some combination of these things but you can’t get this exact thing (at least not via the manufacturer’s that I researched). The combinations can be overwhelming and all of the information about these computers is not in the same place.

One huge, huge resource for me was Lisa Gade and Mr. Mobile on YouTube. Both of these laptop reviewers have a style I enjoy. They get directly to the point, explain real world scenarios for their use, and also take the time to compare one laptop with another in head-to-head battles.

Tech reviewers on YouTube have some serious job security. Not only are they distilling a huge amount of information into a quick video – but they need to do it every single month as manufacturers make slight adjustments to their lineups. It has to be a full-time job just keeping all of this straight.

For a few days I was dead set on buying the Huawei Matebook Pro X. It has everything I want in a Windows PC and – coincidentally, looks exactly like a MacBook Pro. However, it appears it will take a few months to be able to buy one in the United States (thanks Verge). By that time I fully expect the models that are available today to be outdated so I decided I didn’t want to wait that long. Perhaps that will be my next computer in 3 or 4 years if they are still highly rated then.

I happily chose the Dell XPS 13” (Model 9370). Yes, I reconfigured mine with exactly what I needed so it will be a fe days before Dell gets it to me. According to all of the reviews I’ve seen it will work just fine for my needs. And I also plan on buying an external GPU (something I was considering doing for my MacBook Pro set up anyway) to give me a bit more oomph working within the Adobe Creative Suite (something I do far more at my current job than I did over the last few years).

Side note: I would not purchase a Windows computer through many retail outlets that I’ve been to. Best Buy, Target, Sam’s Club, Staples — all have meager selections. These retailers likely have better choices through their web sites but I would recommend buying PCs directly from the source. In fact, if you call the manufacturer you will get a better deal for the exact same hardware. I won’t tell you the deal that I got simply by calling our company’s Dell representative, but I can say it was very worth the phone call.

It took me a few weeks to decide on the Windows PC that I wanted. Now that I have a base knowledge of what is available, of the vocabulary, and now that I know what I’m looking for – it will likely take less time to make a decision next time.

I’ll let you know what I think of the Dell XPS when I get it.

This post was written on a borrowed Surface Pro on Windows 10 that I’ve been using for over two weeks and I’m very, very happy with my Windows 10 experience so far.

Om Malik on Google Photos vs Apple Photos

I’ve finally found some time this morning to read Om Malik’s post on Google Photos vs Apple Photos – a post that has been sitting in my Unmark queue since the day he published it.

Om Malik:

The improvements in Google Photos and lack of magic in Apple Photos sometimes make me wonder if I made the right choice by buying to Apple’s ecosystem and its ideology around software, data, and privacy.

I urge you to read his post. He’s very good at writing (he’s also terribly thoughtful, which I’ve covered here several times). Oh, and the day I met Om in San Francisco in 2007 I took a grainy photo of him on stage using an original iPhone. I wish I wrote posts like he does. But I digress.

Many of you reading this know my history with both Apple Photos and Google Photos (and several other cloud-based photo library services). I have torn these services down to their bare metal and tried to make them work for me. I have uploaded hundreds of gigabytes to both of these services. Multiple times. I’ve paid for both for several years as I’ve attempted to mold them to my liking.

So I know how Om feels when he watches a Google I/O keynote and wishes he was a Google Photos user. And then, subsequently, watching an Apple keynote and ending up wishing I had used Photos instead. This is somewhat akin to technology FOMO – wherein I simply wish I had the best features of every available service.

Currently, my process for storing our family’s photos is about as messy as it has ever been in my adult life. And I hate it. But I’m living with it until I find the mental strength to take yet another swing at making it work. As of today, I’m storing all of our photos within a single Apple Photos Library that exists on Eliza’s iMac. It is also backed up to two external hard drives. One that sits on her desk and one that stays with me in my laptop back. Our library is no longer backed up to the cloud anywhere*.

I told you, I hate it.

I won’t take the time to go into what I would consider the perfect service – but I think I can describe it like this – if Google Photos had a Mac / Windows app that also allowed me to have local copies of the files, that were stored in a simple directory structure, and stored the photo library meta data (like tags, or people, etc) in an open format like a documented JSON file, that’d be the ideal set up. Apple Photos allows some of this but it is so locked into Apple devices that it is no longer usable by me. I’m on Android today and I believe I’ll be on Android at least a few more years. (I love it)

All of this is to say, I feel you Om. And I understand the battle of wanting Apple’s principles of privacy applied to my photos but that I too am a human and I want all of these amazing things that Google Photos affords.

* My Google Pixel 2 saves photos to Google Photos automatically and Eliza’s iPhone X saves photos to iCloud automatically. So at any one point, several thousand photos are in the cloud, but the entire library is no longer stored online.

My Everyday Carry, May 2018

I’ve been meaning to make this list for some time now. Finally, I emptied my backpack and took a photo so that I can make a list of my every day carry. The above items are with me, in my backpack, every single day.

Speaking of my backpack. It is a graphite Collins by Brenthaven. A little over a year ago Brenthaven reached out to me and asked if I’d like to try one of their bags. I picked this one because it looked like it would fit my needs perfectly. And guess what? I’ve been using it every single day since. I love this bag. Be sure to visit their site and look through all of the great product photos for this bag. It is perfect for me with what I have in it.

Not pictured: Google Pixel 2 XL.

Collins by Brenthaven

The following items are with me every single day.

  1. A folder to keep loose papers that I need to have with me.
  2. 13″ MacBook Pro with Touchbar. No keyboard issues (yet).
  3. A soft felt case for the MacBook Pro (like this one). I mostly use this as a precaution in case I were to drop the laptop.
  4. A Western Digital 3TB external drive. I back up my photos to this so I always have a copy of the library with me.
  5. USB-C MacBook Pro power adapter.
  6. HDMI cable.
  7. Recently used notebook for Bullet Journaling. I still carry it only because there are a few pages of things that I haven’t pulled forward into the new notebook.
  8. New notebook for Bullet Journaling. I switched to this notebook in March.
  9. A Pilot G2 Pen
  10. Wireless Apple Keyboard
  11. Beats Solo Wireless headphones for slow jams.
  12. Halls for throat emergencies
  13. Lip balm and moisturizer. Evidence that I’m sliding into my 40s soon.
  14. A stencil I created for making quick mobile mockups.
  15. Simple car charger, USB-drive, batteries, USB-C to headphone adapter, and USB-C to USB-B adapter.
  16. Logitech MX Master 2S wireless mouse. I love this thing.
  17. A dongle for USB-C to many USB-ports. Not shown in this photo is the dongle I keep on my desk at work to go from USB-C to HDMI.
  18. iPhone 4S that I’ve had in my bag for a long time. I thought I would use it for video or photo projects but I haven’t. Now using it for testing.
  19. Wired headphones as backups and for flights, etc.
  20. Micro-USB cables to charge the Beats and mouse.
  21. Backup Pilot-G2 pen.

This current list has remained fairly steady for a few years. Now I also have an Oculus Go but I don’t carry it with me every single day. I most use this for watching YouTube, looking at 360 photos I’ve taken, and doing VR research for work.

If anything major changes in the future I’ll try to keep this up-to-date.

John Carmack’s stories of Steve Jobs

John Carmack:

I wound up doing several keynotes with Steve, and it was always a crazy fire drill with not enough time to do things right, and generally requiring heroic effort from many people to make it happen at all. I tend to think this was also a calculated part of his method.

Rob Shecter on switching from iPhone to Pixel 2

Robb Shecter:

Notifications are far better than what I’m used to. They’re are so good, it’s maybe the killer feature for me

This may be more of an observation of Android than of the Pixel 2. But I can say that my experience has been similar to Robb’s. I really, really like my Pixel 2 XL and I can’t wait to see what Google does with Pixel 3.

iPhone X sales

John Gruber:

Starting to sound like iPhone X sales really are falling short of expectations.

He is referring to this report by Bloomberg. There have been other reports and rumors too but this one seems legit.

I have no idea if the iPhone X is selling well or not. I have only seen a few of them in the wild (probably 3?) so anecdotal evidence says that people with iPhones 6 or 7 or 8 are loving their phones so much they don’t see the need to update yet.

I can also say that Eliza has an iPhone X and hates it. And I do mean hates it. She complains about some detail of it at least once a week. She loved all of her other iPhones. If she had her choice right now she’d prefer an iPhone 8. I’m going to try to see if she’ll jump to the Pixel 3 with me when it comes out but I won’t hold my breath.

We’re in phase one of Augmented Reality

Apple just published a page dedicated to Augmented Reality in the latest versions of iOS. It is a good page overviewing some of the use cases we’re already seeing with AR.

This is just the beginning.

I’ve written about AR many times, so I won’t reiterate everything today. But look at these use cases and imagine them being accomplished, not within a small hand-held rectangle, but in full view using small glasses or — dare I even say it — contacts. It will be a while yet. But this first phase will set a lot of the UI, gestures, etc. that will be implemented in whatever the next generation of hardware is.

I still stand by this post. And the timeline in this post.

Technology Dogmatism

Are you dogmatic about the companies you will buy technology from? Are you an Apple fanboi? Or, perhaps you’ll only run Windows and Apple sucks at everything because reasons.

I try not to be that guy. I try to look at the entire field of offerings in every category; hardware, software, cloud services, home entertainment and make purchases that reflect my needs and wants rather than be dogmatic.

Kellen Barranger, writing for droidlife:

iPhone owners, particularly the lifers, have always fascinated me. Not so much in a way that I’m confused at why they chose Apple’s latest phone, but that no matter what, they won’t even consider the other side or another phone that might be better in some ways. You know people like this.

I was starting to feel like one of these people. Whatever the next iPhone was I wanted it. Whatever the next Apple laptop was I wanted that. For many years I didn’t even give strong consideration to switching. But why?

Admittedly, part of it was brand loyalty. I do like Apple. Their attention to detail, their apparent focus on user privacy (though I’m sure this could be argued), their uncompromising focus on making premium products rather than bargain products. In other words, I like that they make high-priced well-made products. Because I don’t want to buy things simply based on price.

However, over the last decade Apple has gotten so big and so successful that they are starting to show some of the characteristics of being an insanely large organization trying to keep a juggernaut both afloat and moving forward. We saw it with Microsoft in the 80s and 90s and early 2000s. Their inability to let go of the past, and having bloated software that had no taste, led me away from them as a brand entirely. I feel Apple is now beginning to show these same signs. Bugs seem more rampant than I remember and I’ve been an Apple user (iOS and macOS X) for over 16 years. The quality of the design in software seems lower than before. But, the complexity and scale of their software and services is higher than ever before. Should I just let them off the hook because of that?

This is what led me to try Windows 10 in 2016 and to switch to Android here in 2018. Windows 10 is getting better, much better, with every single release. It is an excellent platform for web developers that now directly competes with macOS*. Android is a more mature platform than iOS at this point. Please read my review of Android 8.1 to see why I say that.

Switching platforms is not easy. But it is much easier than it has ever been. Data portability, which is better on Windows and Android than on Mac or iOS by far, makes it much more simple to switch. It took me only a few minutes to move all the data from my iPhone to my Google Pixel 2 XL. And within a few days I had every piece of software and service restored that I needed. Switching between macOS and Windows 10 is similar experience. You definitely need to relearn a few things (like keyboard shortcuts) but moving the data is no longer a real problem.

Going forward I’m going to continue to make a concerted effort to purchase products based on what they do, how they’re made, and what I need rather than the logo on the box.

* For me, Windows was never a contender to macOS for what I do without the Unix underpinnings. I simply need this stack. And I don’t want to use a VM or RDC. Now, with WSL Windows 10 is on the same footing with macOS.

The Siri pause

John Gruber, under “miscellaneous” in his review of HomePod:

People seem to naturally think they need to pause between saying “Hey Siri” and issuing the command or query, but in my experience you don’t need to. In this review, I’ve been punctuating directives with a comma after “Hey Siri”, but verbally you can speak without any pause: “Hey Siri what’s the temperature”. This is true not just for HomePod but any other device you own with “Hey Siri” enabled.

I’m one of those people. Me, in my review of the Google Pixel 2 XL and Android 8.1:

I can say “OK Google” at any time and, again instantly make my request. And I do mean instant, unlike Siri, there is no pause needed between “OK Google” and my request. With Siri I need to wait for the “ding” sound.

Somehow John’s experience and my experience differ. On all of the iPhones I’ve owned that were Siri-enabled I have needed to pause. And the pause was doubly long when connected to something, like my car or a speaker, using Bluetooth or AirPlay. Perhaps a very recent software update has removed this pause or I simply wasn’t doing something correctly.