Welcome to After Hours.

This is a personal and professional blog by me, Brad Bice. I've combined all of my opinions, reviews, technical learnings and other writings and ramblings into one stream of consciousness. Thanks for stopping by!

Apple Event, September 2018

Today’s Apple Event is dubbed “an ‘S’ year”, so the big reveals weren’t groundbreaking, but there’s some real substance there.

Here’s my take:

iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR

I will likely stick to my iPhone X this year. No really compelling reason to upgrade to a XS. Speed, slight camera spec bump, gold, larger size… none are needs or even big wants.

Though that would mean fixing my malfunctioning screen on my current model, so maybe I just talked myself into it.

Apple Watch Series 4

Now this I want. This I need. I’m still wearing an Apple Watch (often referred to as “Series 0”) which is the first iteration of the product. It’s over 3 years old now, but is now 4 generations behind. This means it will not support watchOS 5, is extremely slow compared to newer models, does not have GPS, a lower-brightness display, low tolerance to water, older bluetooth, and no cellular connectivity (though I doubt I would spring for cellular versions, anyway.)

One of the best features of Series 4 for me is the new suite of health and heart-related functions. Heart-rate monitoring has taken a huge step up with both high and low heart rate monitoring, ECG report generation, and generally better Health app integration. As I get older this becomes more of a big deal for me.

I wear my Apple Watch almost every day now, so an upgrade here makes sense.


Overall, this was an important event that unfortunately was spoiled by some Apple leaks that might have lessened the impact of some of the announcements for everyone. Apple is moving forward on some of their products here, with another event rumored for October for some iPad and Mac-related announcements. That’s the one I’m really excited about, though my bank account is not.

And Now... The Movies

A lot can happen when you’re sick and the wife and child are away. Movie ratings are here.

I’ve had a bit of an upper-respiratory infection (undiagnosed) this weekend, and the wife and child are away for a couple of days, so I’ve had a lot of time to sit around the house. This also has meant watching a few movies I normally wouldn’t have.

I’ve long wanted to add movie ratings to my site and so now I’ve done it. Now Natalie and I can both rate movies as we watch them and tally our scores. Check it out at the Movies page.

It’s sparse for now, but we’ll be adding more as we have the time. I’ll also want to redesign the Movies home page a bit to better show our top rated movies, as well as being able to sort by criteria such as rating, genre and date. All in due time.

Enjoy!

Goodbye Facebook

After thinking it over for the past few weeks, I’ve finally pulled the plug and deactivated my Facebook account.

Good-bye! I haven’t fully deleted my account just yet, in case there’s some reason I’m forgetting that I should maintain it. Deactivating it just means people can’t see my timeline or search for me. I’m also assuming it means advertisers can’t access my data, though this link at Facebook’s Help site doesn’t explicitly state that.

It’s not that I don’t want to connect with everyone anymore — it’s that I just don’t use Facebook to do it. I wasn’t posting anymore, I don’t really derive much happiness from browsing it anymore (I am using Instagram a little more often lately for keeping up with friends,) and the recent privacy scandals have really sealed the deal about me putting too much of my life information on there.

So, bye-bye Facebook. It’s been real.

Windows XP As Art


The local Walgreens uses the default Windows XP wallpaper as art pieces near their pharmacy areas.

¯\(ツ)/¯ 

Groundhog Day

Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ‘cause it’s cooooold out there today!

On a frigid February 2nd, we celebrate one of my favorite non-holidays — Groundhog Day! This year’s results, appropriately posted by AP_oddities:

Climate change has most certainly had an effect on Punxsutawney Phil’s sleep cycle over the years, as he’s only not seen his shadow for 13% of the 131 years he’s been coming out of his hole. Sad!

As always, I’ll be watching Harold Ramis’ and Bill Murray’s excellent Groundhog Day movie tonight. Bing!

State of the Union

The only part of the State of the Union Address that I watched or heard was the part where he was booed (via CNN.com), and I’m a happier person for it.

Paying any more attention to him than is absolutely necessary — especially when he’s reading prepared statements — is a waste of my time and temperament. I don’t need that angst in my life.

Newspapers to video

I’m seeing what seems to be an exponential increase in people watching TV shows/Movies/YouTube videos while riding the train or bus lately.

Are most people downloading this content to their device before watching it? Or obliterating their data plans?

For those that are downloading at home before heading out: it harkens back to Netflix of old, where you had to receive TV seasons on DVD, one or two discs at a time. Finish those, and you have a lonely (and at times agonizing) wait until the next disc arrives. Or in current times, until you reach a suitable WiFi network to download more content.

It also makes me wonder how people have allocated their device space for this content, when it seemed that the popular complain was devices filling up.

Twitter Alternative: Micro.blog

I’m a daily user of Twitter, but it has some problems. Luckily, there’s hope in an alternative: Micro.blog.

I love using Twitter on a daily basis for my topic-specific news and to follow interesting people on the web. I make the most of the mess that is Twitter by sticking to a few specific methods:

  • Follow people, not companies — I’ve had much more “success” on Twitter following specific individuals (not celebrities) of whom I respect their opinion, mostly without too much of an agenda.

  • Use lists — My main Twitter timeline is an ever-updating mess waterfall that upsets my compulsiveness. Lists are focused, topic-based groupings that allow me to catch up on specific categories one at a time.

  • Stay away from Twitter.com — I can’t stand promoted tweets or non-linear timelines. I use Tweetbot on iOS and macOS to prevent this and also for the vital synced timeline position between devices.

Sticking to those points helps me actually enjoy reading the content on Twitter. However, the company itself has proven to be pretty horrible in how they organize and conduct their business. They don’t really seem to respect their users, they don’t utilize a logical business model, and they won’t ban hate groups or other offensive content.

Unfortunately there aren’t many or any alternatives. Definitely none as popular. App.net was a promising venture that acted as an ad-free Twitter alternative. It ultimately failed due to low engagement and a failed business model.

Micro.blog is the latest player in the space, and the simplicity and model of it has me excited. It’s a free micro-blogging service, that encourages users to feed content from their own blogs to their timelines. Users can also pay nominal fees to host a micro-blog or to cross-post content to Twitter and Facebook (I’m paying the $2/month for this).

I’m hoping that this will take off and that the owner has some higher standards for rules around content, and that he maintains the simple business model.

Newwwyear Grand Re-Opening

I’ve redesigned and re-launched my website multiple times. Let’s go again!

Inspired by years of frustration of having my content fragmented across multiple websites and social networks, and the timely tweet above, I’ve spent the last few months pulling together this new project.

I’ve finally come to a place where I’m happy enough (but still embarrassed) to deploy my work-in-progress redesign and reorganization of my website. However, I can’t release my baby into the wild without some caveats:

Perfection is the enemy of done

This is a work-in-progress, and it’s meant to be. There is a lot going on in this simple personal website that I’m not happy with, and a lot I want to improve and add on to. However, if I wait until I’m absolutely happy with what I have, I won’t ever publish it. This includes:

  • The color scheme - After experimenting with a bunch of color palettes, stripping it all and going with black & white was the quickest and allowed me to focus more on the content and layout.
  • The typography - I generally like my selections here, but am not completely sold on them. Plus I’m using 3 separate font-families – Roboto Slab, Montserrat and system fonts – so I’ll need to reconcile those for performance and aesthetics at some point.
  • Work portfolio - I’ve added most of my examples of work, but no actual visuals like screen grabs or images just yet. I’m still looking for the best way to present those in a gallery-type fashion.
  • Resume - The information is there, but it’s not too aesthetically pleasing. I need to spice that up, and add in some print styles as well.

Other stuff

  • Contact form (currently using Wufoo)
  • Tag/category page list styles
  • The logo - It’s version 0.5, for sure.

With that said, I’m happy enough to push this live and start publishing content to it. Any Twitter posts will hopefully be mirrored here, except Retweets. If you don’t know what that is or don’t read Twitter, then you’re missing a lot and nothing all at once.

One point of all of this is to combine my personal and professional-facing websites into one. I don’t need two, no need to put on a business face or anything like that. Might as well push everything together and make it simpler on myself.

Thank you for reading, please stop by again (or add my feed to your device or feed service), and follow me on Twitter for update notifications and other stuff. Yay!

(Also, if you’re wondering about the “After Hours” title of my blog, it’s a name I’ve wanted to do something with for a long time. I’ve always been a night owl, and have historically stayed up late and worked late and actually do most of my best thinking and work at night. I’d like to parlay it into a brand of sorts maybe, given the right ventures and opportunities. If not, it’s a fun blog title that gives a little spice to my thoughts and ramblings.)

Apple Event Day One Thoughts

Today was one of the most highly anticipated of the now legendary (and infamous, in some circles) Apple Events in recent years.

I have taken the time to watch these events every year since 2007 and the introduction of the original iPhone (which at times involves some strategic lunch planning or side-by-side windows on my computer at work.) I was pretty excited to see all of the new offerings, though I had been spoiled by the leaks over the weekend of all of the specs for the new iPhone.

Leaks aside, it’s always enjoyable to witness Apple make their spectacle of a presentation and take in all of the products, personalities and atmosphere. This time was no exception, as the Event emanated from the newly-built Steve Jobs Theater on the grounds of Apple’s brand new campus, Apple Park.

Here’s some annotations from the event, with my opinions:

  • Seeing the completed Steve Jobs Theater was incredible. You could tell from our limited view on the stream that is was an immaculate structure. Everyone walking through had their phones out like they were tourists at a national monument. I can’t wait to be able to visit that campus someday.
  • The theater itself struck me as smaller than I thought it would be, and I’ll miss the giant stage and hundreds of attendees at each announcement. However, the seating looked brilliant and the intimacy of the venue worked well. Even the stage lighting helped to focus on exactly what Apple wanted us to see, hear and feel.
  • The tribute to Steve Jobs at the beginning hit me hard. Hearing his voice brought an emotional wave over me that I’m almost embarrassed to admit to. He was such an influential figure to me, and his story is so phenomenal. Perfect? Hell no. A genius? Arguable. An influence over millions? No doubt. I do agree that he would have loved this theater and much of what Apple is doing today, though he would definitely have a little bit more of a stranglehold over some of the product design.
  • Since I’ve been watching the progression since it started, it was really fun to get an update on and see the excitement and focus on the new Chicago “flagship” retail store. This new store looks incredible and I can’t wait to check it out on October 20th.
  • I’m actually quite excited about the advancements in health with the Apple Watch. Having live, real-time insights into heart rate and other biometrics is invaluable, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
  • LTE/cellular on the Apple Watch seems like a ho-hum feature, but I’ve actually wished for it many times when out for a run or just far enough away from my phone. I don’t think I’m in for $10/month just yet, though. I’ll be waiting for a smaller form factor (if possible) to upgrade my Watch, most likely.
  • Apple TV 4K was, quite frankly, a disappointment. The 4K/HDR support is very welcome of course, and the iTunes Store pricing on 4K movies was much better than I was expecting. But the bump in system specs doesn’t address the biggest concerns with Apple TV, which mostly revolve around content. No Netflix support in the TV app still. No announced Amazon Prime app release date (or confirmation that it will be compatible with the TV app.) No Apple-sponsored or packaged TV bundle for cord-cutters. And apart from content, no improvement on the less-than-ideal (but not as horrible as everyone makes it out to be) Siri remote. Apple keeps making minute incremental updates to Apple TV but doesn’t seem to want to go all-in. It’s frustrating for those of us who want to stay with the ecosystem of devices, but are limited by Apple’s decisions. I’m pretty sure I’ll be skipping this version, but to be fair, I don’t own a 4K TV so I don’t really need it.
  • iPhone 8 and 8 Plus looked really good, for the older, 5 year-old form factor. I really wish they would have squared off the sides of these phones ala the iPhone 4 or SE, but this is what we get. The glass sandwich design is a welcome one and adds a bit more class to the device.
  • Not too much more happening to the 8 other than some spec bumps and the welcome additions of a TrueTone display and wireless charging. I was also hoping for OLED in these 8 models, but that was reserved for the X. The cameras get incremental bumps with awesome frame rate options. And the processor apparently is fast enough for an iMac, blowing every other smart phone out of the water. This will be an awesome phone for someone coming from a 6 or 6S.
  • I however will be ordering an iPhone X. This thing looks beautiful.
  • The huge screen is where I’ve wanted the phone to be at for a while and it’s going to be great to view big, colorful iOS apps on this thing.
  • Face ID is a point of contention from a lot of people who either don’t trust its accuracy or the logistics of using it day-to-day in a variety of situations. After Apple’s demos, I’m mostly sold. It looks very fast, and I’m betting the angle at which you have to hold the phone up to your face is fairly forgiving (TBD, though.) Touch ID was never perfect, and while I did get used to it and will miss it slightly, I’m certain that Apple would not put out Face ID (and remove Touch ID as an option) if it wasn’t a good enough replacement.
  • I’m really excited to get a larger screen in a reasonably sized phone. It’s only .2” taller and .15” wider than the iPhone 7 I have now. I can definitely live with that. And iOS 11 relocates much of the navigation to the bottom of the screen, so reaching won’t be as much of a problem.
  • The OLED display will be exciting to experience in real life.
  • I haven’t had a phone with dual cameras yet so that will also be fun. And it’s great that this phone has OIS (optical image stabilization) on both cameras, as opposed to only the primary like the 7 Plus.
  • I don’t like how the phone still sticks to the rounded edges. It makes the device more slippery.
  • I don’t like the notch, though reviewers have said it grows on you over time. To me it’s very un-Apple.
  • I don’t like the name. I keep saying “iPhone eks”. I always said “oh ess eks” for OS X, too. It’s something I’ll have to get over, and accept other people doing as well.
  • I love the potential for wireless charging, and the AirPower pad for charging the phone, watch and AirPods looks awesome. Wonder how much that AirPods wireless charging case will be, and how available.
  • I’ll be ordering a silver, 256GB iPhone X.
  • Overall a good event, and I can’t help but wonder what my thoughts would be if I hadn’t been spoiled by almost everything days before the event. Not knowing about iPhone X would probably have blown my mind, as I would have thought that iPhone 8 was it. Apple skipping from 7 straight to 8 (and not implementing a 7S model this year) is surprising but a great move. Skipping 9 is strange, but not many people seem to care (and why should we?)

I’m glad this event is over and that we can now dig into these products as well as software offerings like iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. And we’ll see how hard it will be to actually get my hands on an iPhone X. I’m assuming I’ll be lucky to get one by the end of the year.