One nice side effect of disliking my laptop’s keyboard so much is that I’m not as easily tempted away from my paper journal. The way writing feels is important to me and for that, pen and paper kills the MBP.

If I ever have to travel with this MacBook Pro again I’m packing an external keyboard even if it means I have to check a bag.

Apple HomePod – The Audiophile Perspective + Measurements!

WinterCharm (reddit):

Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

I love how the HomePod sounds, but I have no way to quantify it. I’ll just link to this instead.

About the automatic room correction:

To have this sort of thing be a built in feature of the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) inside the speaker that is, for all intents and purposes omnidirectional, allowing it to adapt to any room, no matter how imperfect, is just beyond impressive. What Apple has managed to do here is so crazy, that If you told me they had chalk, candles, and a pentagram on the floor of their Anechoic chambers, I would believe you. This is witchcraft. I have no other word for it.

And for fun, from the comments (seanheis)

When I heard that Apple was releasing a smart speaker that had been in development for 6 years and could only set one timer at a time…I knew that it had been properly developed by an audiophile.

Chuckle.

 

Two Days With the HomePod

Remember that time I wrote that “I don’t think I need a smart speaker“? Well, I bought Apple’s new HomePod anyway. It arrived a couple days ago and I am thrilled with it.

Image result for homepod

A combination of great sound and just-smart-enough control was enough to make me consider shelling out $350 for a HomePod. Early reviews raved about the HomePod’s sound quality, and that clinched it for me.

It may seem self-evident, but the most important aspect of any music speaker is sound quality. It doesn’t matter how “smart” a speaker is if it doesn’t sound good. I’m not talking about the smart device with a speaker you have in your kitchen for setting timers and telling you the weather. I’m talking about a speaker for listening to music. The HomePod is a speaker made for listening to music that also happens to be able to tell you the weather.

I have a few Alexa devices around the house, and I only ever ask them the same handful of questions. “What’s the weather?”, “Set a timer for 15 minutes”, “Remind me to take the trash out at 7:00 PM”.  Siri on the HomePod doesn’t need to be terribly clever to keep up with Alexa in my house.

Even so, I was worried because Siri and I have never gotten along. I gave up using it (her?) on my iPhone long ago, and I’ve found Siri on the Watch to be pretty terrible.

Not so with the HomePod. I can be listening to loud music and casually say “Hey Siri turn it down” in a normal conversational voice from across the room and she always hears me. It’s wild how well it works. Not having to think about or second-guess Siri is new to me and quite a nice surprise.

As for the sound quality, I did a quick side-by-side comparison with a Sonos Play:5 and to my (admittedly non-audiophile) ears, the Play:5 sounds better but the HomePod holds its own. The Sonos packs more of a punch at louder volumes, but the HomePod sounds “bigger” somehow. The HomePod sounds great no matter where I am in the room. Its best sound isn’t limited to any particular sweet spot. I also think it sounds better at lower volumes than the Play:5.

So, even though I didn’t think I wanted a HomePod, I’m very happy to have one. I like it so much that I’m getting another one as soon as I sell the Sonos.

 

 

What I Learned from Watching My iPad’s Slow Death – NYT Magazine

John Herrman (NYT Mag):

I wouldn’t say my old electronics always aged gracefully, but their obsolescence wasn’t a death sentence. My old digital camera doesn’t do what some new cameras do — but it’s still a camera. My iPad, by contrast, feels as though it has been abandoned from on high, cut loose from the cloud on which it depends.

Above all, my old iPad has revealed itself as a cursed object of a modern sort. It wears out without wearing. It breaks down without breaking. And it will be left for dead before it dies.

Reading this made me sad.

I have an Apple IIc that was first used in 1984 and I can fire it up today and it still does what it did then. I may not have a use for what it can do, but that’s beside the point. 1984 was a long time ago and I’d like to not give up on the idea that things should remain functional for more than just a few years.

 

I ordered an extra power supply for the ThinkPad: $19.00. I recently ordered an extra power supply for my MBP: $79.00 + $19.00 for the USB-C cable that doesn’t come with it.

My Linux Experience – Day Two

So here I sit in front of a new-to-me Thinkpad X1 Carbon from 2015. It’s running Linux. I spent yesterday wiping it of Windows 10 and installing Ubuntu 16.04.

The installation process wasn’t too bad. It was much better than I remember. I opted for Ubuntu because it seems like the easiest path to actually using Linux. I’m sure there are other options that I’ll want to try later. First things first.

I like the hardware. It’s just sort of solid and businesslike. It feels like something I can use and toss around without too much worry. This is partly due to only paying $300 for it, but it’s mostly because the thing feels like it could take a beating. The screen is nice. Not Retina MBP nice, but nice.

I have to admit that I don’t mind not feeling like Jony Ive is whispering in my ear every time I open it.

The ThinkPad’s keyboard took a minute to adapt to, but only a minute. I’ll tell you right now it’s miles more enjoyable to type on than my 2016 MBP. The keys have a lot of travel, and they inspire confidence. Oh, and there’s an actual Escape key, which I’ve missed.

Let’s talk about the trackpad. Something is wrong with the trackpad. Something must be wrong with it. Using the trackpad is the most frustrating, inaccurate, unpredictable thing. I’ll leave final judgment for later, because I assume there’s a fix out there. There has to be a fix or the whole machine is going to go sailing out a window soon.

I haven’t explored software much. I’ve got Emacs (Spacemacs) all set up. That took some finagling, as the bundled package was 24.3 or something and I needed 25.x. The package system and software installs are going to take some getting used to. I expected that. My email is all local via mbsync and viewed in Mu4e. At first I thought managing email in Emacs was a gimmick but it turns out to be pretty great.

Other than Emacs, right now it’s mostly just Firefox and a terminal. This machine isn’t intended to replace my Macs. It’s more of an experiment to see how far I can get. I’ll keep you posted.