Category Archives: Ranting

HomePod & Apple Audio

I’m not fully in Apple’s echosystem, owning just a MBPr for personal use, a work MBPr, a work Mac Mini, an iPad mini 2, and the latest addition which is an Apple TV. I guess I’m pretty deep in it! But my daily drivers are my Pixel and my home-build desktop running Win10, so it goes that I only tangentially use Apple’s hardware because I think they are pretty good. I kind of use MacOS begrudgingly but realize that a *nix environment with my work is very nice, a gap that Win10 is slowly bridging.

Digression aside, with WWDC wrapped up the only real interesting item to me is the HomePod. I am very lightly dabbing in the home IoT stuff with just a WeMo switch and my Google Home Assistant (and it comes with the Pixel too). HomePod just seemed timely because I recently upgraded my receiver to a Yamaha RX-V581 (attached to a Polk-powered 5.1 system) in my living room, and it allows for 96khz FLAC streaming. It sounded really good if you have properly high-dynamic-range music playing off it. Like, REALLY FREAKING GOOD.

I’m thinking about the HomePod in this context, in that it adds a voice assistant in the form of Siri in which can help you easily set the music you want, assuming you want to use its services. Well, that’s nice, because the immediate bottleneck in order to get the FLAC streaming going on my new receiver is getting the music set up for streaming. On the phone, I was able to use Yamaha’s MusicCast and that was fairly painless, but on the PC I had to use some homebrewed media server (MinimServer) to get high res FLAC to work. It’s not hard, just something you need to research. Wouldn’t it be easy to just Aux out from something like a HomePod?

Well it turns out if I hook up a Chromecast (which I did) to the receiver the same could happen. And the internet comments are right, Google already allows for this use case. It’s not first-party in that you have to get the devices or apps that allows for Chromecast streaming, or a Home Assistant which does it for you. But this is the thing Apple is good at–simplifying these kind of “a little nerdy” ways to get things to work.

I guess since my Apple TV is hooked up to it, I should be able to do it with that too, right? I guess Apple hasn’t opened up that use case yet. I imagine it’ll happen soon. And if I want to use AirPlay I can directly do it into the receiver, so it’s even easier there, it’s just Apple hasn’t enabled Siri enough in the way Google has for its Assistant.

All this is saying, is that I won’t be getting a HomePod because once again I am not really the kind of users they’re targetting. Not that I’m not in the high end market, but I’m not “sheeple” enough to appreciate their enhancements, and I want more flexibility and openness than what Apple is willing to give. And I prioritize differently in terms of my voice or smarthome assistant. So I guess it’s a variety of things.

Say what you want about Apple being an audio company; the EarPods are the #1 thing I want from Apple today, and what is stopping me from buying one is precisely because they have pretty bad sound compared to a similar pair of full wireless buds.  Why can’t they double down on some truly good IEM? Ear buds suck! Sigh.

Good Writing, Poor Thoughts

I’m just picking on the Verge because I can’t log in. I think it collects a nice reader base so I “troll” in the comments. With MTF being inaccessible I need somewhere to have a prose-y way of expressing myself? Something between a chat and a blog, and a federated public space (eg., not my Facebook page).

But reading the articles, I think they at least try to point fingers at large topical areas that are relevant given the landscape of personal tech, but there is poor thought put in.

Take this one about USB-C and universal charging. As the landscape move from Micro-USB (and Lightning) to USB-C based methods, yeah, issues will happen, consumers will be bothered, so there’s space to write something. But at the same time the complaints in the articles are exactly the things why we did not have a unified standard to begin with. Once you unify the plugs, the more types of plugs, the more different use cases you have to distinguish, that used to be sorted by plug types. Yes, isn’t it cool you can charge your laptop with your Switch? Oh it’s a problem? Because people don’t know how new stuff works? Isn’t this exactly the “dumbening” at work? It’s not even growing pain as I call it, it’s about maturity of one area in which personal tech needed more support from.

Then you have tone deaf ones like this. He’s saying the small phone feels smaller, but not that much smaller. You still have to stretch to hit the top, but the S8/S8 Plus makes it easy. But the reality is anyone who opts for the smaller phone in this space are doing it 1) for the money, or 2) they want a phone that is easier to handle, or just smaller phone. The S8 Plus is not easier to handle than the S8, and he doesn’t even claim it handles the same. So what is this? It’s kind of mansplaining if you think about it. It’s the kind of dumb articles that just tells the reader “hey I have no real idea why people buy smaller phones!”

The point about the S8’s new shape and handling is well worth pointing out. They are gaming the spec sheet by changing both the aspect ratio and having no bezels. People shop by screen sizes (for some reason, thanks comparison charts and the like) and not by how phones handle (dimensions don’t tell the full story either, weight distro, surface grip, curvyness/shape all play big roles). The S8 was able to make good handling for a phone of that size screen (hope you like black bars), so the usual comparison charts fail. It’s worth pointing out. But not like this.

Sigh.

#Donglelife Remixed

If we think of removing the 3.5mm jack on iPhones and rumored next Sammy’s Galaxy phone as how Apple removed less-used IO devices like optical drives and Ethernet ports, then it makes sense.

Is it anti-consumer? I don’t know, they do include a dongle in the device so not really to me. Could it have been done better? Yeah sure.

The problem I have isn’t the whining–the whining is the solution to the problem that I have–the problem is that Bluetooth is this wild child growing up on the sidewalks and street corners of today’s gadgets metropolis. Someone needs to take him/her in and give Bluetooth the grooming and upbringing it deserves. If the wireless future is to continue, and based on what I understand about Bluetooth there’s nothing technically inferior about it, companies need to drive this technology.

The problem with audio technology in general is that consumers are far from discerning. As much as I look down on Beats phones, the commercial success of those fashionable cans does drive people to new habits–namely buying better quality headsets. That in turn should drive more people to better Bluetooth devices. Historically BT was used for crappy conference speakers and headsets that sound like a 3200baud modem. And that has been the way China and all them product chains are working. (Side note: same thing is happening with cables for USB-C). This means the marketplace is flooded with terrible BT implementations. And nobody knows any better.

So in order to take dongle life to the next stage, we need better BT implementation. Which is why Apple did just that. This is why Android OEMs need to take note and play along. I think by ditching the 3.5mm that will mobilize public attention on this issue. If we want real progress we can’t just let fools keep fooling around with their cables, as suitable as it might be. Life is better when wirelessly portable is literally wireless.

Religion & Politics

I’ve been reading the Fivethirtyeight a lot this election cycle. It’s a handy site that aggregates at least all the poll results. As we just move past the first Presidential debate it is definitely a daily stop if to just see how the numbers move every day.

So they wrote this article. And I feel it’s time to rant a bit. As divisive as Trump was during the Republican primary, a lot of Christians (Evangelicals or not) have rallied back under the party banner. This just boggles the mind though. How can one possibly continue to support the same monster they despised merely 4 months ago?

They may cite the Supreme Court thing, but I guess my take on it is different than the typical full-ticket Republican. I think it’s hubris and a continuation of the failure of the Republican party to not take the Obama nominee, who is by all means going to be way more centrist than a HRC nominee. What kind of sane person would put it off, knowing Trump is likely going to win the Republican ticket? I mean, underneath the Supreme Court debate is that dereliction of Congressional Republican’s constitutional duty to keep the Court full is karmic retribution when the likely Democrat winner takes office next year? If I was God, this seems like the perfect conclusion to an election season where the Republican party, the party which the mainstream American Christians vote for, got stuck with its best representative.

It’s party politics and perhaps the year-in, year-out, public display of dysfunction is what’s driving the Democratic party forward this year, possibly electing one of the least popular Presidential candidate ever. I guess when they go low, the Republicans go even lower. We can only elect Baby Boomers for so much longer, guys. When Millennials get into their 30s there will be a reckoning, and I feel Evangelicals are at least labeled as people who can take a stand against the continuing crumbling of the Republican Party, as that does nobody, even Democrats, any good.

And while I don’t ask this from my Christian friends, but how can anyone who actually believes in this stuff, and not your casual Easter/Christmas Churchgoer, support your Republican Congress? The GOP has huge problems, and maybe some time as a minority party is the opportunity for it to recover.