A Tech Journalist Spends A Few Days With Mac OS 9

Andrew Cunningham, writing at Ars Technica:

So why accept the assignment? It goes back to a phenomenon we looked at a few months back as part of our extensive Android history article. Technology of all kinds—computers, game consoles, software—moves forward, but it rarely progresses with any regard for preservation. It’s not possible today to pick up a phone running Android 1.0 and understand what using Android 1.0 was actually like—all that’s left is a faint, fossilized impression of the experience.

As someone who writes almost exclusively about technology at an exclusively digital publication, that’s sort of sobering. You can’t appreciate a classic computer or a classic piece of software in the way you could appreciate, say, a classic car, or a classic book. People who work in tech: how long will it be before no one remembers that thing you made? Or before they can’t experience it, even if they want to?

So here I am on a battered PowerBook that will barely hold a charge, playing with classic Mac OS (version 9.2.2) and trying to appreciate the work of those who developed the software in the mid-to-late ’90s (and to amuse my co-workers). We’re now 12 years past Steve Jobs’ funeral for the OS at WWDC in 2002. While some people still find uses for DOS, I’m pretty sure that even the most ardent classic Mac OS users have given up the ghost by now—finding posts on the topic any later than 2011 or 2012 is rare. So if there are any of you still out there, I think you’re all crazy… but I’m going to live with your favorite OS for a bit.

It’s a fun piece whether you’ve ever used OS 9 or not. I bought my first Mac in 2000 (an iBook Special Edition) and it came with OS 9. I absolutely loved it. In college I worked for the campus IT department and got to work with Macs running Mac OS 8, 7, and even 6. When I started in Apple Retail in 2005 it was still possible to encounter Mac users who stubbornly refused to switch to OS X.

I still have an old iMac G5 at home and I’ve often toyed with installing OS 9 on it just for fun. I miss the whimsy of OS 9, some of which I think is coming back with Yosemite. I miss OS 9’s system sounds, and just the other day I even caught myself going up to the menu bar in OS X to access the app switcher. And I haven’t used OS 9 regularly in over a decade!

Apple Responds To Bend-Gate

In the last couple of days, some iPhone 6 Plus users have reported that their devices have become bent. Now, let me first say that if your iPhone has become bent, especially in some seemingly innocuous way, that’s a problem. That said, my suspicion from the start is that this was an issue that has been vastly overblown by both the traditional media and particularly by social media. Apple responded today to CNBC and claimed that only nine customers had thus far reported the issue to Apple. They also took it a step further and invited journalists to tour the facility they use to subject iPhone prototypes to both real-world and torture-test scenarios. Josh Lowensohn, writing at The Verge says:

In case you hadn’t guessed, Apple doesn’t often show this facility to outsiders. The only reason I’m here today is because Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 6, bends. At least for some people. The real question up until now is just how many people that’s happening to, and whether that would happen during normal use in a human pocket.

Apple’s answer today, both in a statement and now in these testing facilities, is that the iPhone 6 is tough. It’s made with steel / titanium inserts designed to reinforce potential stress points, a special blend of aluminum Apple formulated itself, and ion-strengthened glass. But more important, Apple says, is that the iPhone 6 has been put through hundreds of tests, as well as tested in the pockets of thousands of Apple employees before consumers ever get their hands on it.

What’s the exact number of devices Apple went through before it was done? About 15,000 for each the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, according to the company. “The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus are the most tested,” Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, told us today. “As we add more and more features, we have to find out a way to break them before customers do.”

First of all, it’s a rare and fascinating look into the processes that Apple uses to make sure their products are ready for market, but it’s also remarkably similar to Apple’s response to antenna-gate. Think back to 2010 when the iPhone 4 was accused of being particularly susceptible to attenuation of its antenna by “holding it wrong”. Part of Apple’s response to that PR disaster was to invite select journalists to tour and report on its facilities for testing its antenna designs. 

More interesting than the similarities though are the differences. First of all, I haven’t seen nearly the hew and cry over bend-gate as their was over antenna-gate. It’s possible it’s just because Apple got in front of the issue so quickly this time around, but it’s also possible that bend-gate is less of a widespread issue. I suspect a mix of both. Secondly, with antenna-gate, Apple hosted a press conference in which an irritated Steve Jobs addressed the world on the issue. I think it’s actually really wise of Apple to take a much more subtle approach in this case. Ultimately, if you do experience this issue, Phil Schiller’s advise in The Verge article is the best course of action:

"As we expected, it’s extremely rare to happen in real world use," Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller told us. "In this case, as in many things, we tell customers that if you think something’s occurred that shouldn’t have with your device, go to AppleCare, go to the Genius Bar, and let them take a look at it. And we’ll see if your product is having an experience it shouldn’t have, and is covered under warranty."

Apple Sets New Record With 10 Million iPhone 6 Sales During First Weekend

From Apple’s press release:

Apple® today announced it has sold over 10 million new iPhone® 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models, a new record, just three days after the launch on September 19. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the UK and will be available in more than 20 additional countries on September 26. The new iPhones will be available in 115 countries by the end of the year.

“Sales for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus exceeded our expectations for the launch weekend, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We would like to thank all of our customers for making this our best launch ever, shattering all previous sell-through records by a large margin. While our team managed the manufacturing ramp better than ever before, we could have sold many more iPhones with greater supply and we are working hard to fill orders as quickly as possible.”

This compares with over nine million for the 5c and 5s last year and five million for the iPhone 5 two years ago.

iPhone 6 And iPhone 6 Plus Hands On Thoughts

Now that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are on sale I’ve had a little time to spend with them. I’m not eligible for an upgrade this cycle, so I’ll probably never own either of these phones, but I enjoyed playing with them. Let’s start with the 6 Plus.

I already suspected that the iPhone 6 Plus was not the iPhone for me. Seeing it definitely confirmed that suspicion. If there’s one word that comes to mind for this device it’s definitely, “awkward.” It’s awkward in the sense that it feels way too large for a phone. I realize it’s kind of silly in a way to call any of these devices phones given what they’re capable of doing, but it’s a device that you’re expected to carry in a pocket and occasionally hold up to the side of your face. Doing the latter just looks ridiculous, and while it will fit in many pants pockets I doubt it would be comfortable. (I didn’t have the opportunity to try unfortunately.) And there are a lot of pants styles with which this would simply not be compatible. But it’s not just awkward as a phone, it’s awkward as a tablet as well. It just feels like a device that’s not really the perfect size for any use.

I tried out Reachability, Apple’s method for using the iPhone 6 Plus (and iPhone 6) one-handed. I found the home button didn’t always recognize my double-taps, but I suspect it’s something that you’d develop the appropriate skill for. Reachability is a workable solution to the issue, but having to slide the screen down halfway to access some controls one-handed just underscores the ridiculousness of a phone with this screen size. I also tested out some of the landscape apps. This is a good idea in theory, but it just looked a little off in real life. Safari looked really awkward with half of the screen being devoted to content and the other half devoted to a sidebar featuring Reading List, bookmarks, etc.

Who knows, maybe in five years we’ll all be toting gigantic phones in our pockets, and Android makers have shown that there’s definitely a market for phones this large. It’s just not the device for me.

I got to spend much more time with the 4.7” iPhone 6. I really like this phone. I’ve already written about how much I love the design as it calls back so much to that of the original iPhone, which up until now had been my favorite design. It’s noticeably thinner and lighter than the iPhone 5. The bulging camera is a bit awkward, but I think it was the right design compromise. Speaking of compromises, I feel like 4.7 is the right intersection of a larger screen and pocketability. Surprisingly it still seemed almost as one-hand friendly as the 4” screens on previous iPhones. It felt like more of a difficult leap to use a 4” screen one-handed for the first time than this new 4.7” screen.

The iPhone now has two viewing modes: Standard and Zoomed. You’re presented with the choice as part of the initial setup process, though it can be changed later in Settings. I don’t have a problem with there being two modes, but I kind of wish they would just stick with standard as the default and not give you the choice during setup. I’ll readily concede that this is great for those with vision problems or older users, but I almost wish they would just present a uniform first impression and make it a setting you have to change later. But it’s a minor criticism.

Over all iPhone 6 is a fantastic update. I really like this phone. iPhone 6 Plus is not for me, and just feels awkwardly big as a phone and still too small as a tablet. But a lot of people are going to buy them and love them, so if that’s you the wait is over.

There’s A New Apple TV Update. Yay!

Ok, so it’s still not the update I’m really waiting/hoping for, but a thirsty man will take any drop of water he can get. Here’s a rundown of the biggest new features:

Updated Interface - Again, not the totally new design many of us are hoping for, just a general refinement that brings the overall look more inline with iOS 7/8. “Flatter” if you will. I particularly like the timeline design when playing a video and the clean white outline around whatever is selected on-screen.

Beats Music App - It still feels weird that Beats is part of Apple, but if you’re a paid Beats Music subscriber you can now access your account and music via Apple TV.

Family Sharing - You can access up to six iTunes accounts via Apple TV, albeit only one at a time. I was in my last semester of college when the iTunes Music Store debuted in 2003, and used my college email address for the first year or so. I still have access to that iTunes account and was able to add it to my Apple TV last night so I can access that music. This is definitely nice, but it would be really nice to have it pool all of the media from those accounts together.

On Privacy, Tim Cook Is Positioning Apple As The Opposite Of Google

In a letter linked to from the Apple homepage, Tim Cook writes, “At Apple, your trust means everything to us.” He continues:

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

He doesn’t mention Google by name, but it’s clear he’s thinking of Google as at least one of those other companies. Let me be clear: I’m not arguing that Google is doing anything nefarious with your data, but I’m one of many who are just creeped out by Google’s seemingly cavalier attitude toward privacy. I’m also not encouraging you to trust Apple, but I do find Cook’s stated views on privacy refreshing and comforting. I mentioned in regards to Cook’s privacy comments in the Charlie Rose interview that by coming out so strongly in favor of privacy, Cook is giving us all something to point back to if Apple ever does anything that contradicts those statements. Tonight it’s in black and white on apple.com.

Here’s my favorite bit:

Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

I think like many of us, Cook is concerned about the overreach of organizations like the NSA. Again, I hope he’s being sincere in his comments here, and it’s encouraging to hear the leader of one of the biggest tech companies come out and say what Cook has.

Jim Dalrymple Pumps The Brakes On The October 21 Apple Event Rumor

With his customary curtness, Dalrymple responds to a Reuters write up about the rumored Apple Event on October 21 simply by saying, “Nope." Dalrymple is well-sourced, but at times he’s frustratingly vague. For instance, is he merely suggesting that there won’t be an Apple Event on October 21, or that there won’t be an October Apple event at all? It would be very surprising if we didn’t see new iPads from Apple next month. Or is it possible that iPads, like Macs, no longer warrant a special event to be introduced?

Apple’s Next Event Allegedly Planned For October 21

Micah Singleton, writing at The Daily Dot:

On the heels of announcing two new iPhones and teasing the Apple Watch, Apple has a bit more to say. The company is planning to hold its next event on Oct. 21, where it will unveil two new iPads and announce the release of OS X Yosemite, the next version of its Mac operating system, according to sources familiar with the matter.

My guess is Yosemite does indeed ship that day via the Mac App Store. Apple will also announce its customary revisions to the full-size iPad and iPad mini. I’d expect Touch ID to finally make its way to both iPad lines, but I’d guess they don’t get Apple Pay, at least for now. I don’t know that too many people would expect such a feature from iPad honestly. Of course we can also expect the usual increases in speed and camera quality.

John Gruber Predicts That High-End Apple Watch Models Could Cost $5000

John Gruber, writing at Daring Fireball:

The most fun I’ve had over the past week is speculating with friends about how much the different tiers of Apple Watch are going to cost. One thing that is absolutely clear, to me at least: when Tim Cook said the starting price is $349, that’s for the aluminum and glass Sport edition. My guesses for starting prices:

Apple Watch Sport (aluminum/glass): $349 (not a guess)
Apple Watch (stainless steel/sapphire): $999
Apple Watch Edition (18-karat gold/sapphire): $4999
In short: hundreds for Sport, a thousand for stainless steel, thousands for gold.

Most people think I’m joking when I say the gold ones are going to start at $5,000. I couldn’t be more serious. I made a friendly bet last week with friends on the starting price for the Edition models, and I bet on $9,999.

The lowest conceivable price I could see for the Edition models is $1,999 — but the gold alone, just as scrap metal, might in fact be worth more than that. Here’s a link to a forum discussion pegging the value of the gold alone, as scrap metal, of a Rolex GMT (including bracelet) at $5–6000. Just the gold alone.

Of course I’d love it if you’d go read my piece on Apple Watch (which you can do here), but John Gruber has just written the best piece you can read so far on Apple’s major new product. Seriously, his piece is must-read, and covers far more than just the price. He also addresses my concerns about where the watch sits at the intersection of fashion and technology. He also mentions that he think there’s more to the Apple Watch’s functionality than what Apple has demonstrated thus far. Gruber has just completely shaken up everyone’s expectations of Apple Watch.

This Might Be The Greatest Headline I’ve Ever Seen

No, not the one I wrote above. This one, from bizjournals.com: “Elon Musk says he won’t take SpaceX public because he wants to build a Martian city.” Basically he doesn’t want to turn his company over to investors who might not share the same lofty goals for the company as himself. Now that Steve Jobs is no longer with us, Elon Musk has got to be the most interesting man in technology and business. He’s eccentric, to be sure, but he’s clearly a gifted visionary.