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Happy birthday to my MacBook Pro

Let’s all wish my trusty retina MacBook Pro a happy birthday. I purchased it on 22 December 2012 in the Belfast Apple Store with cash from redundancy pay after I left Northgate Managed Services. It’s still the best computer I’ve ever owned or used. Very fast, even today five years later, and I see no need to replace it for the next few years. Assuming nothing breaks to force me to get a new one. The battery is still in good condition. I usually use it with power plugged in, but get four hours plus on the battery when required. The i7 Quad core processor is still more than enough for all the tasks I throw at it; the 8GB RAM has never been a problem. They didn’t sell 16GB models in the Apple Stores in 2012, and I didn’t want to be without a Mac over the holidays by ordering online to get the extra RAM.

It’s no wonder that Mac laptop sales slowed for a few years around 2012 and later. I used to replace my Mac every two years, or sometimes sooner. But the mid-2012 retina MacBook Pro got to a level where it was so good people didn't need to change them so often. They might be the best laptops ever made. When I do have to replace it I might go for a desktop iMac Pro beast and use an iPad Pro for my mobile computing needs. We’ll see.

One final note: the cost for the MacBook Pro in 2012 was £1799. Not cheap. But as the adage goes “You get what you pay for!” Spread over the five years that works out at 99p a day. Bargain. Or as was pointed out to me on Twitter, when the resale value of the MacBook Pro is factored in (about £500) then the daily cost drops to about 71p a day.

Bought the subscription model

I’ve always felt more comfortable buying digital goods outright if I wanted them. But lately, I’ve been subscribing to more and more services to get access to content. I think I’m now at the point where I’m close to being fully in the subscription model camp. It’s been a gradual transition. Much like the (fictitious) slowing boiling a frog metaphor I haven’t noticed until it was over.

The transition started with Apple Music. I subscribed to that when it was launched in June 2015. I first used it as a way to get access to new music in high quality from a safe and reputable source. But for a long time, I was still buying any songs or albums that I liked and wanted to have in my iTunes library.

Over the two years since the Apple Music launch, I’ve subscribed to several other services on an annual or monthly fee basis. My subscriptions list at the end of July 2017 now includes:

Software subscriptions: 1Password, Pocket, Setapp, Office 365, Evernote, Grammarly, Parallels Desktop, FreeAgent, SocialChess, Chess 24, DropBox, iCloud Storage, RescueTime

Film and TV Subscriptions: Virgin Media TV Large, NowTV, Netflix

Other: Audible UK, Apple Music

That’s a lot of software service subscriptions. When you list them out, it shows that this is rapidly becoming the new model for digital sales.

I joined NowTV to get access to Sky Atlantic for Twin Peaks The Return. As a bonus, I also got access to Silicon Valley and Veep. Plus Westworld Season 1 will be available from 14th August. So NowTV is a keeper. I subscribed to Netflix to watch The Circle film as it didn’t get a UK cinema release, and I wanted to see it after reading the book. Discovered lots of other good content on Netflix that is well worth the modest monthly fee.

I think that NowTV and Netflix were the services that tipped me over into the subscription model camp. In the last few months, I’ve noticed that I’ve stopped buying albums on the iTunes Store. Rather I just add them to my library from Apple Music. Not sure this is a good thing for the artists. I wonder if the same thing will happen with films over time. I’ve just bought The Ghost in the Shell on iTunes. Will I stop doing that in future and just wait for films to appear on Netflix? Time will tell.

The one product area in which there hasn’t been a viable subscription model for me to adopt is for ebooks to read. I do subscribe to the Audible UK subscription service that gives a single audiobook of my choice per month. For ebooks, the biggest subscription service is Amazon Kindle Unlimited. I’ve looked at it in the past, but it didn’t have many of the books I wanted to read. I must have another look to see how many of the books I’ve read or bought this year are available there.

We need to fight for the future

It’s been a weird year from a politics point of view. The Brexit vote was a disaster for the UK and the world in general in my opinion. That was followed up by Trump winning the USA Presidential election. Both results allegedly due to people feeling left out of the way the modern world is changing. So they voted for campaigns led by two groups of mostly rich white men who couldn’t be more removed from the people affected by globalisation. The blue collar jobs that have moved from the UK and USA to Asia are not coming back. They will be taken by machines. Irrespective of where they happen to be situated.

It’s striking that many of the hangers-on and fellow travellers of the Brexit and Trump camps are anti science, anti women’s rights, evidence deniers, who promise the Earth then deliver little. They must be resisted.

I’m an internationalist. The Brexit supporters may get the UK out of the EU, but they’ll never get the European ideals out of me. The values of the European project and the Enlightenment are worth fighting for and will triumph in the end. But we must do it by educating people for the 22nd century and the change that ubiquitous smart manufacturing and machine learning will bring in. People will need to do other jobs that the machines will not do better. We should start by giving everyone a good basic income that they can live comfortably on. Then they can work on things that make them happy. Including looking after the planet and other people.

It’s worth getting an AppleTV just to run Magic Fireplace

Magic Fireplace icon

You can’t beat a good fire as the nights draw in. Unfortunately I don’t have a good fire. I do however have an AppleTV, an HD television, and a good sound system. So I can have a digital fire. Using the fabulous Magic Fireplace App from Jetson Creative. It displays one of 20 different HD videos of fireplaces. With a pleasing wood burning sounds. Perfect for dark evenings on the sofa with a book and a big mug of tea. Video below.

Time for a stupidly big iPhone

Apple hold their annual iPhone event this week. I get a free upgrade on my mobile account on 26th September. I was at the opticians last week. Turns out these three things are actually related.

My optician recommended that I get new varifocal glasses that have a +1 decrease in the prescription strength for viewing things close up. Like an iPhone. I was going to do this. At the very high cost of £595 for the pair of lenses. Advice on Twitter was that varifocals are a pain so I started to have doubts.

iOS on iPhone has a zoomed mode that basically makes everything on the screen bigger. For use in situations exactly like the one I was having to get varifocals for. I have an iPhone 6s now. Apple will release iPhone 7 Plus and probably ship it on 23rd September. I can upgrade just after that. I’m thinking of getting the bigger model and using it in Zoomed mode. It’ll basically show the same amount of stuff on screen as my iPhone 6s in standard mode. But everything will be bigger. And won’t have to hold it at arms length to focus on it!

iPhone 6S in Zoomed mode

iPhone 6S in Zoomed mode

I’m running my current iPhone in Zoomed mode for the next few weeks as a test. If the rumours about the iPhone 7 Plus are true it’ll also be a bit of a speed demon with a great camera.

My Twitter Account has been deleted – Resolved

Update: seems I wasn’t the only one to have this happen. Account reappeared after about 6 hours. Seems okay now.

Someone deleted my Twitter account about 18:00 UK time today. It wasn’t me. I’ve contacted support. Hopefully they can get it back. If not I’ll start a new one. I have a backup of all the Tweets up until a few months ago.

Keyboard for use with iPad Pro

I love my Matias keyboards. But they are too heavy for portable use with iPad Pro. I’m not sold on the Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro. Instead I will get an Apple Magic Keyboard to use with it. It will be cheaper, lighter, won’t drain the iPad Pro battery, and allows the iPad and keyboard to be further apart. Which will be better for getting a good typing position.

And I might get one of these in the future.

Update: Got it. It was the right choice.

Apple Magic Keyboard

Apple Magic Keyboard

Blogo for iOS beta

If you are reading this then the Blogo for iOS beta works. I’ve been so looking forward to this.

This post from iPhone. 😄

Culture Consumed 16

Hot on the heels of the stupidly long Culture Consumed 15 post, here is what I’ve read and watched so far in 2016.

Joy – The latest film from the ensemble that gave us Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. David O. Russell directs with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro all back. De Niro was in American hustle but was uncredited. The previous too films from this team were brilliant. Joy is good but I don’t think it’s as good as those other two. It does have some good dramatic, comedic, and surreal moments. I’ll certainly be buying it to keep for future watching. Time will tell how it stands up beside Playbook and Hustle. Looking forward to more films from the same team. I rated it 7/10.

The Danish Girl – The story of Danish artists Lili Elbe (née Einar Wegener) and Gerda Wegener. With Lili Elbe being the first woman to have sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). I thought the story of Gerda Wegener was the more interesting one. About how appreciation of her art changed after she started painting portraits of Lili. Alicia Vikander was spectacular in the part. Eddie Redmayne portrayed Lili. I thought his performance in the last quarter, when Lili was undergoing surgery, was a bit too much like his Stephen Hawking performance. Still good. But Alicia Vikander was the stand out for me. I rated it 7/10.

Europe in AutumnDave Hutchinson. The first in the Europe series of books. I’d seen people I trust sing the praises of this book a lot last year. So I bought a copy and finally got round to reading it just before Christmas. It’s very good. Literary writing without being too heavy. I was wondering why it was classed as science fiction for 90% of the book. But at the end it becomes clear. This would be a great intro for anyone who thinks Star Wars when science fiction is mentioned. I have the sequel here to read. Looking forward to it. Recommended.

The Hateful Eight – The latest Tarantino film. It’s too long. It’s violent. It’s what you would expect. A tendency to monologuing in dialogue. The music is good. I rated it 5/10 at the time. On reflection it’s probably a 6/10.

Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen’s 2013 release. With an Oscar winning performance by Cate Blanchett. Justifiably so as well. It’s a great performance in a good film. The rest of the cast are great too. Plus the cinematography and music are top notch. Gave it 8/10.

Serena – I’d been wanting to see this for a while. Mainly on the back of the Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper partnership. No David O. Russell or Robert De Niro involvement in this film though. It’s not the stinker some of the reviews would have you believe. The ending was a bit shocking to me. I rated it 8/10.

Legend – Marie Lu. The first book from the Legend YA trilogy. It’s more YA than The Hunger Games, and a bit shallow. Okay but not something that gripped me. I have the two others in the trilogy to read sometime later this year.

The Good Dinosaur – I only saw this in the cinema due to a power cut and I needed something to do. It was the only film starting just after the time I got to the cinema. A Pixar animation film that had many issues during production it seems. The world building and rendering in it are stunning. I’m still not sure if it was all rendered and not a mix of live action and animation. The story was just okay. The power cut was more exciting. Sparks erupting from an arcing overhead electric pole 100 metres up my street. Fire engines arriving and everything. Worth seeing the film for the visuals though. Rated it 5/10.

Room – This is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not the film you would think it is from the description. It is not a horror film. It is not a explicitly sexual or violent film, although there is some of both of those. It is a film about a 5 year old boy, and his mother, discovering the world after she was held captive for 7 years. So the boy has always been a captive. He only knows about Room where they live. Until he turns 5 and his mother starts to tell him about the outside world. I cried, laughed, and at one point my heart rate must have been up at 140 bpm. The performances by Brie Larson as the mother and Jacob Tremblay as the boy are remarkable. I was fully invested in the characters. Hence the heart rate thing. The supporting cast are also great. See this when you can, either in the cinema or when it comes out for home viewing. It was easy to rate this 9/10. Came very close to being a 10. Again; it’s not the film you think it is.

The 5th Wave – A new YA focused sci-fi, alien invasion franchise. It’s all done competently enough. But it is very formulaic with character types lifted straight out of the YA fiction construction kit. It has generated $84M from a production budget of $38M, so I expect the sequels will be made. I will go see them as the film is not a disaster. I rated it an average 5/10.

Speak – Louisa Hall. I saw this mentioned on Twitter by Adam Roberts. Had a look at the blurb and it looked interesting so got the sample. I liked that so I decided to get the audiobook. It’s amazing. Both the book itself, and the audio presentation. The story is about AI but it is told via six very different narrative arcs ranging from a pilgrim diarist on her way to America in the 17th Century, Alan Turing penning letters to the mother of a friend, two developers of AI systems, the wife of one of them, and the thoughts of an AI doll with fading batteries. All the arcs are relevant and they come together nicely. Destined to be a classic I think. The audiobook edition has 6 different actors narrating the different story arcs. A fabulous example of how an audiobook can enhance the written version.

The Big Short Can a film make you root for financial traders and market analysts who foresaw the 2008 housing crash in the USA, and who bet that it will happen in order to short the market and make money? Yes. Bankers are just above slime moulds on the likability scale. But at the end of the day they are just people. And if they are interesting people then their story will be interesting. The characters in this film are. I really liked it. It breaks the fourth wall quite a lot and this usually makes me twitchy. But it works in this. I thought Steve Carell’s character and performance was great, although the whole cast is good. Vinnie Daniel politely asking the auditors to leave Mark Baum’s office is brilliant. And easy 8/10 rating.

Dad’s Army – A reboot of the 1970’s British TV series. Many people are questioning why. It was okay. As good as the original. One good thing is a more prominent role for the women of the village. Felicity Montagu is fantastic as Captain Mainwaring’s wife and head of the local ATS platoon. And Cathering Zeta Jones is great in it. It was good fun. Gave it 6/10.

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