My First iPhone

I’ve always had an interest in Apple products. Despite that, I’ve never owned an iPhone. My first Apple device was an original iPod nano, quickly followed by the iPod 5G. These were neat devices, but nothing that incredible, considering how expensive they were compared with a similarly-usable MP3 player.

Then Apple announce the iPhone.

For its time, the iPhone was incredible. It had a good portion of the functionality of a desktop PC in a device so small it fit better in your hand than most current phones. Everything on the iPhone was years ahead of competitors, from the display quality, to the touch responsiveness. Even the camera was far ahead of the rest of the market when it came out.

I was only a young teenager when the iPhone came out, and since that was before the times when 5-year-olds had smartphones, I never got one. I didn’t experience iPhone OS in person until I used an iPod touch in 2008. During all of high school, I was obsessed with modding iOS on my iPod touch, becoming the local expert on iOS jailbreaking and recovery, and general Apple device repair and maintenance. I loved how open the OS became once you had root access, and reached a point where I’d refuse to use a non-jailbroken device. I’d gotten my 2nd generation iPod touch to run fairly closely to more modern devices, with multitasking, wallpapers, and even some of the iOS 6 exclusive apps on iOS 4.

When it came time to get my first smartphone though, I ended up buying a Samsung Galaxy S4. By that point, innovation in iOS had basically disappeared. After iOS 5, there really wasn’t much draw to new iOS releases, and I particularly disliked the visual style changes of both iOS 6 and 7. I’ve not really heavily used any Apple mobile devices since then. Jailbreaking has gotten nearly impossible on modern devices, and Android gives you a ton of customization out of the box, and even the ability to switch operating systems completely. Everything I do on my phone these days is basically impossible to do on a modern iPhone.

And then I bought one.

My first iPhone, purchased in November 2017, is, in my opinion, the best iPhone out there.

iPhone 2G

The original iPhone predates Apple’s obsession with blocking any and all attempts to modify their devices, leaving it totally open to install any compatible iPhone OS version, and jailbreak and tweak to your heart’s content. Mine is running iPhone OS 3.1.3, unlocked and running a slightly tweaked Cydia setup. I’m planning on setting up my own Cydia repository with only older packages that support the OS so I can use it without causing issues, because modern jailbreak tweaks don’t exactly play well with such an old OS.

I actually really like my iPhone. The size is very different from current phones, but it feels more natural to hold than my Pixel 2 XL, and even the smaller iPhones like the SE and 5S. The extra thickness looks a bit weird in comparison, but adds a lot of grip, and the battery life is impressive for a 10-year-old phone.

I’ll probably never own a “new” iPhone, unless I get one just for testing apps I develop, since I rely on things on my Android phones that just aren’t possible on iOS without jailbreaking and a lot of extra work, but it’s fun to play around with an older device that reminds me of my early iOS days, back before there was really anything else good out there.

Spark

I gave in and bought a drone a couple months ago. I’ve been fairly interested in them for a few years now, but couldn’t justify a few hundred dollars to get a semi-decent one.

So when the DJI Spark was announced, I immediately spent $700 preordering the Fly More package. The Spark is tiny. Really, really tiny. For a full 1080p camera, high airspeeds, good maximum altitudes, and decent battery life, it’s stupidly small. Excluding rotors, it’s smaller than my phone.

The camera is on a nice 2-axis stabilized gimble, and records full 1080p60, but the image quality leaves a bit to be desired. It looks more like upscaled 720p than proper 1080p. Compared with the competition in the base $500 price range though, it’s still fantastic considering the full feature set you’re getting.

For some reason, the recorded video files render weirdly in some software. They play fine in QuickTime before editing, but if I use them in iMovie or Final Cut projects, they have a weird stuttering issue that seems to be a problem with how their frame rate is detected. The issue is less prevalent in DaVinci Resolve, but only Adobe Premiere Pro seems to render the footage properly, which is disappointing because Final Cut’s render times are fantastic.

Despite loving the form factor, the image quality leaves me wanting to buy a Mavic Pro. I may end up owning both at some point, since there are still plenty of use cases for an ultra-portable quality drone. If you want to see what I’ve recorded and edited so far, I have a playlist on my YouTube channel dedicated to Spark videos.

Windows 10 is Terrible

I frequently whine about not liking Windows 10, but often don’t explain why. Usually that’s because I’m ranting on Twitter and don’t feel like breaking my rant into several tweets.

I think I need to just write a solid list of reasons Windows 10 sucks. Here we go…

  • Pre-installs terrible mobile games even on paid installs and domain-joined computers
  • Shows advertisements on lock screen and Start menu by default even though I paid $200 for a license and $3000 for a Surface Book. Apple doesn’t do this and they’ve given OS updates for free for ages.
  • The Start menu doesn’t always open. This is much better now than when Windows 10 first launched, but it’s still far more common than it should be.
  • Cortana is no longer optional, I can’t just have a classic Start menu search without all the tracking
  • Explorer crashes nearly every time I do a file operation on more than 10,000 files.
  • Connecting to a VPN takes far more steps than it should
  • PC Settings is still missing most of the functionality from Control Panel
  • Typing to search directly from Start doesn’t work if you’ve interacted with the menu at all, even just scrolling. As a keyboard-heavy user, this behavior is quite frustrating.
  • Estimated remaining time on battery is only visible in the tooltip, not the power menu that displays when you click the icon. This is impossible to access in Tablet Mode, where it is most useful.
  • Windows 10 creates empty folders for Documents, Downloads, Pictures, and Videos in my user folder every time a major update is installed. I configured those special folders to use custom locations on different disks.
  • Windows randomly does invisible background installations that often take nearly an hour, while claiming that all updates are installed.
  • Defender is very slow when working with large numbers of small files, often taking 70% or more of my CPU when installing or updating software, or working with Git repositories.

Many of my issues with Windows 10 are from longstanding issues with Windows overall.

  • Windows breaks really easily on deeply nested paths or files with long names. Almost all applications fail to use the files correctly, and even PowerShell can’t access or delete files with long paths without using hacky syntax tricks. This is the case even if “Long path support” is enabled. NTFS doesn’t care, only Windows filesystem libraries do.
  • The Disk Management application refuses to work with some disks and partitions that are supported just fine in DISKPART
  • Command Prompt and Powershell have very weird text selection, scrolling, and resizing behavior. You’re better off using WSL with a third-party terminal emulator purely because of how bad cmd.exe is.

Microsoft’s own Surface products have even more issues than my other PCs. I’ve heavily used both the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book with Performance Base and experienced similar issues on both.

  • The trackpad frequently stops accepting scroll gestures and tap-to-click
  • The Surface Pen sometimes disconnects completely
  • The Surface Pen buttons frequently stop working, leaving only the pen tip usable.
  • Touch input stops working intermittently
  • Waking from sleep on the Surface Book by pressing a keyboard key only works about 10% of the time. The rest of the time, the keyboard base wakes, but the tablet stays off.
  • The wireless network adapter sometimes disappears until a reboot
  • The Type Cover on the Surface Pro 4 often stops working and needs to be physically reconnected. That’s quite ridiculous for a $130 keyboard.

This is just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head. I’ll probably add more as I think of it. Windows 10 has come a long way from the absolute pile of garbage it was the first year or so after RTM, but it still has a long way to go.

Splatoon 2

Nintendo is running an open beta for Splatoon 2 today on the Nintendo Switch. It’s pretty fun!

Sadly they have this really weird setup where you can only play for an hour at random times they’ve selected throughout the weekend, so you can’t get super into it and you have to work the play times out through your schedule. Luckily I usually have no plans on the weekends, so yay Splatoon 2!

Splatoon 2 Beta Weapons

The beta is quite limited, but still very fun. After a quick tutorial, you’re giving the choice between four weapons, the Splattershot, Splat Roller, Splat Charger, and the new Splat Dualies (which I love!). Pick a weapon, and you’re taken straight to a game lobby with a randomly chosen map. The Reef and Musselforge Fitness are the current maps.

Splatoon 2 Beta Controls

The controls are a bit different from the original Splatoon. I played with a Switch Pro Controller, but I’d guess they’re the same on the normal Joycons since the layout is the same between them. The biggest thing I love about the Switch Pro Controller is that, unlike the Wii U version, it includes motion controls! Splatoon 2 uses motion controls by default, but it handles them a bit differently from Splatoon. The right analog stick doesn’t control looking up and down when motion controls are enabled now, so it’s only used for turning. I found it a bit weird at first, but I think I like it now that I’ve played like that bit.

Victory Screen with Splat Roller

I’m certainly not the best Splatoon player out there, and I think I lost the majority of my games, but overall Splatoon 2 is super fun. The new weapons and specials are very flexible (and I still suck with Chargers), the maps are detailed and well-laid out, and the sountrack is quite different from Splatoon, but still very familiar. Obviously there’s a lot of content missing at this stage, but I’d guess most of the game is actually finished, but just wasn’t included in this testing release. The game ran incredibly well on the Switch, with fast loading times, good framerates, and responsive controls.

Starting a Match

Another Victory Screen

Seriously though, those Splat Dualies are awesome.

Another Victory Screen

I tried to record some gameplay on my Spectacles, but the exposure was all kinds of wrong since I played in a dark room so you can’t even tell what’s going on in the videos, so I won’t bother to share those. I do have more Splatoon 2 Screenshots from my gameplay if you want ‘em for some reason. They’re only 720p even though I played on a TV, but I guess that’s just how the Switch stores screenshots, because for some reason Nintendo still doesn’t get that copyright works against them sometimes 😛.

Spectacles

I despise most social media. Facebook is nothing but sponsored ads and obscure reminders, Snapchat is just weird filters over poorly-lit selfies, and Twitter is full of (brief :P) political rants.

For some reason, everyone seems to love it all. Everyone has their preferred social network. I’m often posting random tech thoughts on Twitter or reposting Steven Universe fan art on Tumblr. I was interested in Facebook in the earlier days, back when you never saw a sponsored post, and I briefly tried Instagram when everyone was obsessed with taking pictures of their food, but I’ve really never understood the appeal of Snapchat. It’s incredibly popular, but every time I try to get into it I just get annoyed with the bad UI and complete lack of interesting content. So when Snap, Inc. announced their new name and their first product, you’d think I had no interest.

Snap, Inc.’s Spectacles are amazing. They’re some of the best-designed reasonably-affordable new tech I’ve seen in a long time. The build quality of every part is fantastic, from the custom magnetic USB cable to the charging case. Every little bit of the hardware is designed to serve a purpose without getting in the way of the user.

Using them feels very natural. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach a point where I’m regularly wearing them, but when they are on, starting a recording is a simple button press away. There’s a light on the inside of the frames that indicates when the recording is active and when it’s getting close to ending, allowing you to press again to add another 10 seconds.

My goal with this is to get myself to use Snapchat more. So far I still hate the UI and don’t get the point of the network, but I love using Spectacles! They’re very convenient and flexible since you can just record whatever you’re looking at with no setup and without having to hold anything.

I’ve realized since getting them that my life is fairly boring to watch. I think they’ll help me do interesting things more often so I have a good reason to actually have them. I’ll likely go hiking or something quite a bit more just to have an excuse to use them, kind of like when I first got my DSLR.

Overall, Spectacles are awesome. If you’ve got a bit of cash and either live in NYC, get really lucky and find a Snapbot, or want to spend a bit extra to get one on eBay, I highly recommend getting a pair.