Bad Apples

The not-so-smart speaker setup in the kitchen at El Rancho Pendejo.

Apple has gotten a bit of the old spankity-spank from The New York Times over the longevity of its iPads and the functionality of its HomePods.

John Herrman grouses that his 5-year-old iPad Mini “hasn’t been used up; it’s just too old.” And the HomePod — Ms. Siri in particular — is expensive, unfinished and “tough to recommend,” according to consumer-tech reporter Brian X. Chen.

Ooo, snap, as the kool kidz don’t say anymore.

I have the exact same iPad Mini and it was demoted some time back to serving up music in the kitchen while I butcher NYT Cooking’s recipes. Like Herrman, I was disappointed in the Mini’s early decline from full functionality, mostly because I liked its portability and small size for nighttime, one-handed reading (the right hand is reserved for scratching the Turk’s ears).

But I can’t say I was surprised, because the iPad always struck me as Apple’s pricey idea of a consumer content-consumption gadget intended to be replaced, not revived.

I was late to the iPad, just as I was to the iPhone. It struck me as unnecessary, and still does in a lot of ways. Using one to write, edit, blog, or work any sort of audio/visual project involves workarounds and compromises. And to do any of these things at all, even badly, you pretty much have to add a couple adapters and an external keyboard-slash-case, which adds to the cost and complexity and basically makes the iPad a sort of half-assed laptop.

That said, I’m on my third iPad, because as you know, I will never be smart.

The first, an iPad 2, retired to the Walter household up Weirdcliffe way, where thanks to a rambunctious youngster they were light on portable computing technology. The Mini, as we have observed, plays my iTunes library in the kitchen. And No. 3, a 9.7-inch iPad Pro from 2016, mostly sits (with its keyboard case, because of course the fucking thing needs a keyboard case) on the nightstand, next to the bed, in which it has proven a cumbersome one-handed e-book reader.

A $100 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite would probably suit me just fine for that. But remember, I create as well as consume, and in a pinch I can actually do paying work with the iPad while traveling (I once updated the blog from a tent in Arizona, using an iPhone).

I didn’t have a HomePod in that tent, and I don’t expect to have one in the house anytime soon either. The whole Smart Home/Internet of Things deal gives me the creeps. I already wonder whether the Apple TV is watching us as much as we watch it, and I sure as hell don’t need the stereo, toaster and ’fridge to be finking for the State.

Anyway, I already have a nifty little JBL Clip 2 speaker Bluetoothed to the Mini. Forty-two smacks it cost me.

Hey, Siri, do I look any smarter to you now?

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16 Responses to “Bad Apples”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    My iPad mini is handier than hell, but it has a weird problem. If you don’t clear the Safari cache/cookie/database storage almost every day, the rotation feature quits working. Weird. But the iPad, and Air and Mini, get more use around here that the desktop or iPod Touch. The Touch, like your Mini, is relegated to music backup and source in the Corrola iM. Shit, what is it with the “i” stuff anyway. But I stick with Apple because, so far, it is easy to maintain the software and firmware, and they are more secure from worms, viruses, bots, and other internet nasties.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The machine I use most is the 15-inch MacBook Pro (mid-2014), which has been reliable through Sierra. Haven’t pulled the trigger on High Sierra yet.

      No. 2 box is the 13-inch Pro, which is my road machine. Sierra there too, and also reliable, but with a small SSD, which I may replace. But damn, those drives are not cheap.

      Herself and I both have the 9.7-inch iPad Pros, and she works the living daylights out of hers, along with her iPhone 7. The Logitech Create keyboard case she uses with the iPad is starting to act up, though, so I’m waiting for mine to go sideways too.

      I booted up my old iPod Touch (2008) the other day, just for laughs, and it still works. But boy, is it slow. iOS 3.1.3. It’s my new kitchen timer, because I’m always forgetting where I left my watch and/or iPhone 5.

  2. BruceM Says:

    You don’t want the HomePod? Why wouldn’t someone want a device in their home that has a live microphone transmitting every word it hears somewhere? Can’t hamper progress can we?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Shhh. The walls have ears. Also, the kitchen counter, the desk, the coffee table, the nightstand. …

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        And the cars.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Oy, the cars. Don’t remind me. I think the old Furster is deef and dumb, but the new ones are real chatterboxes.

        • Dale Says:

          The wife and I bought a Toyota Tacoma last year. It was a base model that had no chrome, no key fob, no internet radio, and no link to the outside world other than that little computer that runs everything. An OBD reader can reveal much however, but it requires physical access to the vehicle.

          A friend of mine opted for a USB stick for the family cars courtesy of his insurance company. Now they know how fast he & wife drive, how quickly he & wife accelerate, and how quickly they brake. Their insurance rates vary according to the data sent to company. He thinks it a good deal.

  3. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    I’ve avoided the Apple Kool-Aid so far. The wife’s college made her take a Macbook of some sort which she is constantly frustrated with so feel kinda good about that. But then I’m a guy not smart enough to use the smart-phone I got for much more than what I used to do with a flip-phone and digital camera.
    Yep, it’s one LESS gadget and maybe I’ll eventually learn how to take advantage of what it can do.
    I wonder about the smart-TV in our Sicily apartment, but so far it’s been handy to watch TV from the USA like PBS and Bill Maher. As far as I know it’s not reporting anything to the Chinese, Italian or (gawd) the US authorities…but who can be sure?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with (spending on and operating).

      Based on my admittedly limited experience with Windows devices I’d say the higher price you pay for MacStuff at retail reaps dividends in terms of less downtime and longer lifespan.

      I still make money with a 1999 G4 AGP Graphics Power Mac that can boot into OS 9. My 2000 G4 PowerBook still runs, and if the Power Mac ever goes, the ‘Book will take over its role (coloring my cartoons).

      The brand-new, high-end Dell Latitude that Herself got with a job back in Colorado, meanwhile, has been a nightmare since jump. More cooties than a flophouse mattress and basic tech issues out the wazoo. When she left they said she could have it for nothing, and that’s about what it’s worth.

      My biggest gripe with Apple is their obsession with thinness, design over functionality. If they’d ever release a new Mac Pro in the old modular form factor I’d snap it up in a nanosecond.

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        I just got wound up when I found the Apple thing doesn’t have a simple HDMI plug to connect to the TV!
        An extra box/connector thing has to be plugged in to accept the cable? Whose idea was that? F-you Jobs and Co!

    • Mile High Devs Says:

      Saw an interesting chart the other day. Mac OS is still hovering under 10% of market share, but over 60% of all Github repos come from a Mac. Lots of ways to spin that, but it all boils down to: Mac devs are wicked more productive than Linux or PC.

      That ain’t kool-aid. That’s JP-8.

  4. Dale Says:

    Each to his or her on on tech devices, but Siri and Alexa worry me. If I were totally incapable of motion they would be of great help, but I would probably have a caretaker as well.

  5. canamsteve Says:

    I’m a “heavy user” of Alexa (NYT says more than three uses a day is a “heavy user”. Let that sink in as to how useless these devices are.) The only reason I’m a heavy user is because in order to have Alexa play my internet radio stations and podcasts, it is required to speak to it. I do have an internet radio with presets – actually works much better.

    I’ve never gotten Siri/Alexa?/Home/whatever. They aren’t that useful except I suppose as handsfree devices in cars. But I don’t work as a sales rep, so I just concentrate on driving. Imagine trying to “use” Siri on a NYC subway car – Tower of Babel indeed. And of course, these things demand connectivity/cloud – so they simply exacerbate the expanding digital divide.

    Ideally, in a “fax machine” way – they could all agree on a protocol (fax machines existed for decades but each system – think UPI Photo – was proprietary, so they were expensive, clunky and unknown to the public. Then the Japanese manufacturers agreed a standard and -Bam! Everybody had fax machines).

    Of course, Apple/Google/Amazon want to “own” you – not help you. So as I speak Amazon won’t sell Google Home products and Google won’t allow Amazon’s Fire TV to access YouTube. The examples of usefulness (your Samsung fridge tells you you need milk, you can message home and turn up the thermostat) are ludicrous – even without the detail that the provider wants you to “subscribe” and pay them every month.

    I still have my first iPhone and my first iPad (V1.0). Both in use – iPhone is a bedside clock radio that makes a great internet radio (in a speaker stand – as soon as the connectors change, the old hardware is dirt cheap). The iPad is on a stand in the kitchen for radio and recipes. My iPad mini (pre Touch sensor) is still OK – running the latest iOS.

    My wife gets the newest iPad/MacBook while I get a decent desktop and the newer phone (she gets the previous phone). My 2011 MacAir (upon which I type this) has had its SSD and battery upgraded, but I know Apple is itching to strand it. Not sure what will replace it. I said I would replace my PC laptop when I needed to and that day hasn’t come yet. I suspect something like a ChromeBook (with an actual keyboard) will do me well enough. Considering the value of a +$1000 Apple laptop, it’s hard to say the money is well spent.

    The Paperwhite is great on planes – esp night flights. Great battery life

  6. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Checked the age of my Apple gizmos this morning. The Mini iPad is 2 years old, the iPad Air is 4, the iMac desktop is 5, the iPod Touch is 3, Airport Express router is 5, and Airport Extreme router is 8. Probably bumping up against the age limit on all except the Mini iPad. I want to replace the Airport Extreme with the newer version, but the thing has worked so well for so long I’m afraid to touch it. On the other hand rumor has it that Apple is getting out of the router business and I’m not to keen on switching brands at this time. The Airport utility app really makes setting up and checking for firmware updates so easy.

  7. Herb Clevenger Says:

    So far it’s been Windows for laptops (all Acer) and Apple for toys. Local techs seem to be able to keep the Acer’s they’ve sold us firing and operating. And they are cheap. Bought a Nokia Windows phone 5!! years ago and it just won’t die. Bought it cause my dudes told me Microsoft would totally own the cellular world (never even made a dent) and I could open my biz docs easy and sync with laptops. (True). But the Zeiss camera lens still takes stunning pictures so I will haul this heavy bastard around til it croaks. Our internet is pretty sluggish but somehow Apple TV just flat out works and we rarely have video streaming issues. Old ITouch of eight years still doing fine. Typing this out on ancient IPad which still functions but won’t hold a charge very long. Stil have one ot the original IPods that operates even though it too won’t hold a battery charge long. Next phone will be Apple so I can use the Apple Play in new Honda. Have used portable XM radio in various vehicles for years but SAT radio is getting both greedy and repetitive.
    NO way in hell will I willingly or knowingly put voice activated stuff in my house. I’m scared of the new vacume cleaner as it is.

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