Apple, Don’t Fail Me Now

Beloved Apple (AAPL):

Your adoring fans buy your product because you offer a solution that just works. You make devices that are accessible by everyone, and we have rewarded you tremendously under the capable leadership of the late Steve Jobs (may God rest his soul), and now under the seniority of the noble Tim Cook.

When you announced the release of the newest iteration of the Jesusphone in not one, but two flavors (iPhone 6 / iPhone 6 Plus), we bought overwhelmingly into the larger form factor device. Your phablet would be the phablet to dominate the smartphone landscape, even if those nasty buggers from Camp Android (drat to them!) poked fun at us for buying old technology. September 9, 2014, will always go down in this man’s heart and mind as being one of the happiest days of his mid-20’s. (full video of Apple’s September 9th, 2014 event!)

(and please, if any of you from Camp Android comes across this, show me your best version of Touch ID. does it hold a light to our beautiful stainless steel detection ring, surrounding an awesome laser-cut sapphire crystal? concede that our technology is revolutionary, and that we’re lightyears ahead of you in taste)

When your flesh and blood presenters stunned us at WWDC on June 2nd, 2014 with news of OS X 10.10 Yosemite (10.10 is not equal to 10.1, okay. there’s more precision here), we cheered enthusiastically. Every word from their lips was beautiful. OS X 10.10 Yosemite was elegant, refined. The dual promises of Continuity and Handoff were orgastic. iCloud Drive was similarly amazing. At last, the ecosystem would be complete! This was the killer app that Google and its Android would have no hope of besting, what with the massive fragmentation of hardware in their user base. (full video of WWDC June 2nd, 2014 keynote for those who wish to relive it!)

Similarly, iOS 8 was a revolution in mobile. We hastily said good bye to our dear friends on WhatsApp and WeChat – no more of that antiquated mess!

Your most recent announcement of October 16, 2014 (full video once again! watch and tear up!) brought to us some of the greatest technological advancements that the world has seen. iMac 27″ with Retina 5K display, starting at $2499! The competition was reeling! Photographers, cinematographers, and digital artists everywhere sighed blissfully to the heavens. Life just keeps getting better, and we have you to thank for it.

Apple, I sing your praises most highly! But I am also perturbed. I bought the iPhone 6 Plus (in white and silver, of course) as soon as I could. It took me past launch day, but you must excuse me, for I was overcome by decision paralysis on account of your launch partner, AT&T. That Next program had yards of fine print associated with it. I had to create a Numbers spreadsheet to figure out what I was being sold on.

“You know, if the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software in them is their soul” – Steve Jobs, WWDC 2011

Now that I have this phone, I can’t help but notice some oddities. I hesitate to call them bugs, because … fuck it, they’re bugs. You’ve got a QA/QC problem, and it’s starting to make me question whether your software engineering managers are keeping an eye out for this sort of thing.

WiFi on iOS 8 has been spottier than a leprous leopard. You quickly rolled out 8.0.1, and just as quickly took it back off the air after it began wreaking mass havoc. Remember when users were stranded without cellular service, and their Touch ID quit working? 8.0.2 followed shortly thereafter. We waited a good month for 8.1, and guess what? The shit still doesn’t work. Surely some of the IT guys at your corporate clients are breathing down your engineers’ necks by now?

Here’s Gizmodo’s article on “Why Your iOS 8 Wi-Fi is Weird and How to Fix It” (disclaimer: it’s no guarantee that it’ll work)

These graphical glitches are also strange. Check them out.

1. Stopwatch in Clock app: Time gets truncated after switching between portrait and landscape views when stopwatch has been running for longer than one hour

iOS 8 Stopwatch Bug - Landscape

iOS 8 Stopwatch Bug - Portrait

2. Control Center: AirDrop settings squashed

iOS 8 Control Center Bug - Airdrop Settings

While we’re at it, there’s also this question of my Mac (aka Shove Me Anywhere, I’m Really Svelte). Here’s what I’m working with:

About This Mac
About This Mac

I upgraded to OS X 10.10 Yosemite the day of its final release. WiFi on it has been spotty. It’s been more stable with Bluetooth off, and I’m fortunate that I don’t rely on Bluetooth for anything vital. But come on… A MacBook Air with wireless issues is just a fancy typewriter, and you still have to buy a separate printer. PCWorld reported on OS X 10.10 wifi issues yesterday. They’re laughing at us, Tim. And I’m sure that your guys are burning the midnight oil trying to figure this one out, but what happened? You know we didn’t change our WiFi adapters. That’d void the warranty.

On a happier note, I’m pleased to report that the upgrade installation to OS X 10.10 Yosemite was the smoothest that I have experienced yet. I switched to Mac in Q3 2007, so I started at what – OS X 10.4? I can’t recall another upgrade installation progressing this smoothly. I guess I lucked out in this respect, because a lot of people had issues where the upgrade froze indefinitely. I’ve been there before, with each of the past major revisions.

The worst one was probably the jump from OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to OS X 10.7 Lion. That one trashed the MBR on my HDD. Maybe your guys could have been more careful. Maybe I’m partly responsible, because I didn’t make a carbon copy of my drive before attempting an upgrade installation. What can I say? I like to live dangerously.

Oh yeah, this has been bugging the hell out of me, too. It is not a new bug: I don’t recall it being an issue back when this machine shipped, but we weren’t all posting massive images back then. While writing this post, I wanted to take a look at your page on the new iMac. The one with the Retina 5K display. Here’s what I get on my machine as soon as I landed:

Mac Graphical Glitching on Large Image

I scrolled down the page until it looked right:

Mac Graphical Glitching on Large Image

And then I scrolled up a hair, just for kicks:

Mac Graphical Glitching on Large Image

There’s more. The fiasco with iCloud Drive’s rollout resulting in people’s precious photos disappearing into the ether. The fact that Handoff isn’t working consistently (Gizmodo). This is why we have public betas, isn’t it? How’s that working for you?

I like my Mac a lot. I really do. You guys still have the best trackpad in the industry. Your machines are beautiful. Apple products are in the hands of wealthy consumers all around the world, and you should be proud. But I fear that you’re losing grip of a very key part of the user experience. We buy into your hardware and software because they are unified. You guys designed this shit so we’d keep coming back for the blissful Apple experience.

Back when Steve (again, bless him) was at the helm, his personal promise was that “it just works”. Please, make it work again.

Aside: I’m available for user testing. Just send me some toys and a stipend, so that I can keep on writing lovely things about you.

I’d love to talk more, but I’ve got a football game to go watch!

With love,

Alex Zheng

What Readers Bought in August

Let’s try something fun. I’ve pulled together a list of interesting things that readers of my blog bought in August. Perhaps you will find something that you like here..

Apparel & Accessories

Official Licensed Portal 2 Aperture Test Subject Premium Men’s Track Jacket (Amazon.com)
– I played the first Portal (Valve) and loved it. At the time, I was fully immersed in the FPS genre, and Portal offered a unique gameplay experience. That ending…! I hope to see more Aperture Labs swag in the real world.

Zelda Triforce Items Women’s Hoodie Black (Amazon.com)
– Pretty legendary franchise which I haven’t gotten very deep into. I’ve played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Looking forward to trying out the more recent titles in this series on my new-to-me Nintendo Wii.

Automotive

BG44K (~$23, Amazon.com)
– Apparently this stuff works wonders. One reviewer on Amazon said that he ran it after Seafoam stopped being effective. I’ve personally stuck by Chevron Techron Fuel System Cleaner (Amazon.com), but I will definitely have to give BG44K a run for its money.

Computers

Intel Pentium Processor G3258 4 BX80646G3258 (Amazon.com)
– Hey, the processor that I tried running in my first DIY NAS build, only to find that it didn’t play nicely with my Supermicro X10SLL-F.. The 20th Anniversary Edition Pentium processor pushes insane clockspeeds on the stock cooler.

Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 with Built-In Multi-Touch Touchpad (Amazon.com)
– I strongly support Logitech and its computer peripherals, having used exclusively Logitech mice since 2003. This keyboard looks terrific for use in a HTPC environment.

MSI Computer Corp. Motherboard ATX DDR3 1333 LGA 1150 Motherboards B85-G41 PC MATE (Amazon.com)
– Looks like a decent entry-level LGA1150 motherboard… Hope it paired well with that Intel G3258

Connectors

AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable 2-Pack – 6.5 Feet (2 Meters) (~$8, Amazon.com)
– I bought a 2-pack in October 2012, and they’re working great. AmazonBasics should be on your shortlist of cable suppliers if they’re not already.

Belkin SongStream Bluetooth HD Music Receiver (Amazon.com)
– I’ve been promoting this product in my writeup on how to add Bluetooth to home A/V receivers. I also wrote a review of the Belkin SongStream HD receiver. It looks like Belkin has made a newer, smaller version of the same product since then. Check out the 2014 version (Amazon.com) if you’re in the market.

Belkin Y Audio Cable (12 foot) (~$2.50, Amazon.com)
– Back when I was working with Jonathan Fischl, we’d regularly leave these Y audio cables with customers. You never know when one of these will come in handy. I normally don’t promote acquiring cables (seems we get enough already), but this is one that you should keep around. That is, if you like sound.

HomeSpot NFC-Enabled Bluetooth Audio Receiver for Sound System (~$28, Amazon.com)
– This one was also mentioned in my guide on how to add Bluetooth to home A/V receivers. At press time, it’s selling for $28. If you want an NFC-enabled Bluetooth receiver for your setup, this is a no-brainer. Doesn’t have an optical out, which might be a deal-killer. Your call.

Logitech Bluetooth Audio Adapter (~$40, Amazon.com)
– Detecting a trend here? 🙂 I like that Logitech makes it. Good customer service is always important, and Logitech delivers.

Mediabridge USB 2.0 – Micro-USB to USB Cable (6 Feet) – High-Speed A Male to Micro B with Gold-Plated Connectors (~$6, Amazon.com)
– My gut reaction was, “Who needs these? I’ve got a drawer full of them..” — and then I realized that this was a micro-USB cable. Apparently micro-USB has been a thing since 2007, but I didn’t have any use for this connector until I got my first Amazon Kindle. These days, it’s become the de-facto choice for mobile devices (outside of the Apple ecosystem)

Ortek Windows 7 Vista XP Media Center MCE PC Remote Control and Infrared Receiver for Home, Premium and Ultimate Edition (~$15, Amazon.com)
– Good complement to a HTPC setup. Looks like it’ll do anything you want, and it costs a lot less than fully-featured models made for traditional A/V systems

Sony STRDH130 2 Channel Stereo Receiver (~$150, Amazon.com)
– Reviewers make it out to be one of the best 2 channel stereo receivers available at this price point. Sometimes more channels isn’t everything..

Yamaha NS-AW150BL 2-Way Outdoor Speakers (Pair, Black) (~$70, Amazon.com)
– Rave reviews for this relatively inexpensive pair of speakers. I haven’t heard them, but I trust Yamaha. They do not kid around with sound

Yamaha YBA-11 Bluetooth Wireless Audio Receiver for Yamaha AV Products (~$51, Amazon.com)
– I’m going to have to add this one to my article on how to add Bluetooth to home A/V receivers.. Looks to be a robust unit with a very small footprint. aptX and a single digital coaxial output for pairing up to your A/V receiver

Health & Personal Care

BSN SYNTHA-6 Protein Powder – Chocolate Milkshake, 5.0 lb (48 Servings) (~$50, Amazon.com)
– I’ve used BSN’s N.O.-XPLODE pre workout in the past. Good flavor, and it mixes well. I imagine their protein powder is similarly good.
– Fun observation: BSN’s product placement is good. See this frame from Don Jon, which I recently watched on recommendation of Alice.
BSN's SYNTHA-6 in Don Jon

Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder, Unflavored, 300g (~$8, Amazon.com)
– Funny, I just put in an order for some creatine monohydrate, too. Optimum Nutrition has a good reputation in the supplement market. Alice has used them.

Home & Garden

Flag: The Kingdom of Prussia

Kitchen & Housewares

BlenderBottle® Classic 28-ounce Black (~$7, Amazon.com)
– I own one of these. That BlenderBall really works.

Other

(12×18) If a Future You Tries To Warn You Video Game Indoor/Outdoor Plastic Sign

Avatar: The Legend of Korra Cartoon Old Friends Fabric Wall Scroll Poster (32″ x 20″) Inches

RAVPower Bolt 30W/6A 4-Port Rapid Charging Station / USB Travel Wall Charger / USB Desktop Charger (~$14, Amazon.com)
– With the ubiquity of USB, you can’t go wrong with one of these devices.

Sleep Innovations 10-Inch SureTemp Memory Foam Mattress With 20-Year Warranty, with 2-Bonus Memory Foam Pillows, Queen Size (~$390, Amazon.com)
– I’m a little baffled by the MSRP, but I’m sure that someone is going to be sleeping very well, very soon.

Sleep Master Platform Metal Bed Frame/Mattress Foundation, Queen (~$95, Amazon.com)
– #1 best seller in beds, fantastic reviews. Someone is sleeping very, very well right now.

The 4X Philosophy

I recently came across this article written by Vivek Bhargava – The 4X Philosophy

My father was on the ventilator, and I was in the visitor’s lounge of the hospital unable to sleep … it was the perfect time to set my life goals. […] And then it hit me: I want to lead a joyous life … every minute of every day!

It talks about defining success, but most importantly communicates across what Bhargava dubs “The 4X Philosophy”.

Bhargava’s 4X Philosophy is focused on purely material objects, and provides rationale behind delaying gratification in the form of incremental upgrades. The results, Bhargava reasons, can have an “eternally joyous quality”.

Seventeen years ago, a chance meeting with a multi-billionaire changed my life forever. He shared his interesting “4X” philosophy that I have followed ever since. In his words, the key to satisfaction with material success is to “only upgrade your lifestyle in MULTIPLES, never in INCREMENTS.”

This multi-billionaire must have known something that the rest of us don’t. If he said it, I’m listening.

Instead of upgrading my entire lifestyle by 4X, I applied it to each and every object or experience. From the clothes I wear, the house I live in and all the way up to the brand of rice that I relish, this approach has allowed me to upgrade something by 4X almost every other month, and I continue to do so till this day.

Bhargava takes the 4X philosophy system by system. He is thus able to perform lifestyle upgrades piecemeal.

He describes the particular benefits of embracing the 4X philosophy:

  • Attracting Wealth
  • Bhargava talks about the watches that he’s owned, and the watches in his future. I’d like to think about cars.. BMW E46 330i (~$40K) -> Maserati GranTurismo Convertible (~$135K) / BMW M6 (~$112K) -> Rolls Royce Phantom (~$447K)

  • Improving Self-Confidence
  • Bhargava writes about material possessions and their role in establishing status: “I know countless people who may be as financially successful as me, but even my extended family has a perception about me that is superior to reality”

  • No Downgrades … Ever
  • He provides a sound rationale for delaying gratification here by making the point that “you only make the upgrade when you know that you can comfortably afford it”

  • Builds Character
  • “The best part of the 4X approach is the way it has built my character beyond more materialistic gains”. This is important because it allows one to step away from the hedonic treadmill for long periods of time. In our consumption-obsessed culture, we devote a tremendous amount of mental space to the acquisition of things.

Overall, an excellent article, and a philosophy that I vow to live by. I will always remember that one piece of wisdom from Fight Club: “The things you own end up owning you”.

what-are-we-then

i-dunno-consumers

we-are-byproducts-of-lifestyle-obsession

The things you own end up owning you
The things you own end up owning you

To that end, we may as well own better things instead of a wealth of things.

Caveat emptor: for most people, it is not reasonable to expect a 4X increase in earnings at any point. You can expect to earn 3% raise every so often. Assuming a 3% increase year over year, you would expect to double your earnings after twenty-four years.