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By Jared White

Pygmy Nuthatch
  • Why a Cheap, Full-Size iPad Really Matters

    Apple recently released a new iPad—no, not the iPad we geeks were holding our collective breath for. That iPad, a worthy successor to the iPad Pro (see my review of the 9.7” model here), has yet to materialize. What Apple instead came out with was a cheap iPad, simply called iPad.

    Apple…cheap? Historically those two words haven’t gone together well. But that was the Apple of the Steve Jobs era. We now live in the era of Tim Cook’s Apple, which seems far more willing to offer a variety of configurations and screen sizes for various device classes in order to hit a broad spectrum of price points.

    The new suffix-less iPad is essentially an iPad Air 1 with slightly better upgraded internal components (such as the A9 CPU) as compared with the iPad Air 2 (A8X CPU). That means the iPad is slightly heavier and thicker than the Air 2, and the build quality of the display isn’t quite as nice—although pixel-for-pixel the Retina display should look as lovely as ever under most conditions.

    The main feature of this new iPad, however, is not its specs but its price. US $329 for a 32GB model, $429 for a 128GB model. The LTE cellular models add $130 on top of the base price.

    Just as a reminder, when the iPad originally came out in 2010, it came with a starting cost of $499. Many people were surprised Apple even priced it that low at the time. However, the iPad hovered around $499 as its starting price ever since then—iPad mini not withstanding. (Personally I don’t consider the mini-size of iPad to be a fully-fledged tablet computer.)

    Fast-forward to the release of the 9.7” iPad Pro last year—the starting price for iPads seemed to be creeping upward, and the conventional wisdom was that Apple had resigned itself to the falling sales of the iPad lineup in recent years and decided to focus on boosting higher-end sales. The future of the iPad Air 2 line was thus unclear. Would Apple simply bump the specs up a bit and release an iPad Air 3? What would justify keeping the Air line around when the Pro line, only slightly more expensive, is clearly a better product?

    Now the answer is obvious: the iPad has become a cleanly bifurcated category: iPad and iPad Pro. The iPad is still a great tablet, but it’s mainly for casual & educational users, as well as other niche use cases such as POS machines, “smart clipboards” in various business settings, healthcare, and so forth. The iPad Pro is the flagship tablet that offers superior screen technology, better performance, and modular upgrades such as snap-on keyboards and of course Apple Pencil. I have no doubt Apple will drive the iPad Pro even further into “power computing” territory in future updates.

    I can see Apple selling lots of these new, cheaper iPads as secondary devices, upgrades from much older devices, and in other contexts where low price is of great concern. I wouldn’t recommend most people buy an iPad as their primary tablet, if they’re serious about tablet computing. The iPad Pro is superior in every conceivable way. But as an entry-level device, Apple’s new iPad is a welcome step forward.

    Sunday, April 9, 2017
  • My Top 5 Sci-Fi Films of 2016

    This year has been a banner year for Sci-Fi and Superhero blockbusters. Some of my favorite movies of all time in this genre have come out, one after another, and it’s challenging to pick and rank the winners. But I’m not one to give up a fight, so here is my ranked Top 5 list of the best Sci-Fi movies of the year, with a couple of surprises which I’ll explain as I go.

    Thursday, December 22, 2016

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  • AirPods Up in the Air

    I recently attended a conference for music professionals and, in particular, a class on careers in the music technology industry. We were tasked with putting on our product manager hats and coming up with basic specs and a marketing message for new headphones.

    The main takeaway from the class is everyone loves wireless. The idea of wireless headphones sans tangled-up cords are unreservedly a big hit, and it seems clear that (at least in the consumer space) wireless audio is the future. However, in the course of discussion, I talked with a few people about Apple’s forthcoming AirPods. I was surprised at the skepticism around their form factor. It seems there is a lot of consternation that they going to work out well in daily use. Typical comments are they look rather funny (like you took the regular EarPods and just chopped off the cords), and they seem like they’ll get lost really easily. That’s my main concern as well.

    Thus, while it’s highly likely we will all be using wireless headphones in short order, it might not come in the form of AirPods per se. But as we all know, Apple’s ability to convince customers of the merits of strange new form factors or interaction methods is unparalleled, so perhaps we will get used to the lopped-off-look of the AirPods and figure out ways to avoid dropping one into a storm drain.

    (As an aside, I’m very curious why it’s taken so long for the AirPods to roll out. Perhaps the internal tech has proven more difficult to manufacture en masse than Apple expected. A bump in the road towards our glorious wireless future?)

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016
  • The Pundits are Wrong about Apple. Again.

    I really should expect this by now. As an ardent enthusiast for all things Apple over the past fifteen years, I have been constantly taken aback by the level of hostility and vitriol directed towards Apple every time they come out with a major new product or significant upgrade.

    The pundits and forum-dwelling nerds hurl accusations of all sorts: Product XYZ is underpowered. It’s pretty but can’t get any real work done. It’s incompatible with (fill in the blank). It’s overpriced. Apple’s gouging. You can buy a (PC/Android/whatever) for $500/$1500 less! Apple doesn’t care about professionals. Nobody’s going to buy this thing. Jony Ive has lost his mind. Apple’s CEO should be fired. And on and on and on it goes.

    Then something curious happens: Apple sells a ton of Product XYZs and the actual people who buy the product love it. A year or two goes by, and the conventional nerd wisdom on the product subtly changes from It Sucks! to It’s Cool. Until the next big product rolls around, and we are treated to this bizarre ritual all over again.

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

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  • So Why Pygmy Nuthatch?

    It all goes back to a story from my youth. One day long ago, at the tender age of young whippersnapper, I opened up my bedroom window and heard the strangest sounds coming from a nearby tree. There was a high staccato tweet, then a pause, then another tweet, then another, in increasingly rapid succession, followed immediately by a raspy response from a nearby bird in a much lower tone. This strange trilling and chirping went on, and on, for many days throughout the springtime of my youth.

    Years later, when I became a man, I continued to notice that strange bird call, and thus I conducted my online research and discovered that the bird in question was none other than…the California Towhee. (to hear its distinctive sound, listen to “Songs #2” here) Aha! I said to myself. I have discovered the mysterious bird that haunted my youth! I shall name my blog after it!

    And then, like a dummy, I completely forgot which bird I had found, somehow ended up with the wrong page open in my web browser, and named my blog Pygmy Nuthatch instead. I have no idea what that bird is.

    A metaphor for life perhaps? Or just a funny name for a blog about the latest iOS & Mac devices, living the free agent lifestyle, and talking about our feelings (like a good Millennial should)? You decide!

    Tuesday, November 8, 2016
  • My Top 3 Favorite Writing & Productivity Apps for iPad

    Everyone is always asking about the apps I use to write, collaborate, and stay productive as a blogger and a freelancer. And by everyone, I mean no one…but that’s certainly not going to stop me from telling you anyway!

    I’ve tried out many different apps for authoring, mind-mapping, and task management. The good news is, if you’re an iOS user, there are a variety of options to choose from. The bad news is…there are options to choose from! Allow me to save you time and effort by recommending what I believe are the best apps in their respective categories. They are:

    Sunday, July 17, 2016

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