No Charge

There’s a rumor making the rounds that Apple will not include chargers with their phones in the future. Depending on who you listen to, it’ll either be all iPhones or only this year’s models.

Assuming, of course, that Apple manages to release new models this year. With 2020 being the year it’s been so far, let’s not take anything for granted.

It’s an interesting idea, but I have to question the logic.

Most sources of the rumor I’ve seen suggest that it’s a cost-saving measure for Apple. Does anyone really think Apple needs to save the cost of a charger when they’re selling their phones for more than a grand? Okay, yes, the SE starts at $400, but the point stands. They sell 18 watt chargers for $29 and 5 watt for $19. Given normal electronic industry markups, Apple’s cost is likely about $5.

Increasing their per-phone profit by $5 isn’t going to be that much of a win. Even if you assume another $5–which probably overstates the case–for a no-longer-included, formerly obligatory cable, you’re still not looking at a significant boost to Apple’s bottom line.

The other common argument is that Apple is reducing electronic waste. Everyone already has a pile of chargers lying around the house, so they don’t need another one.

That’s a very optimistic assumption.

Apple wants to sell phones to people who don’t already have a phone–or at least don’t already have an iPhone*. They don’t want to take a PR hit from people who get their new phone and can’t use it because they don’t have a way to charge it.

* Yes, they want to get iPhone users to upgrade, but that doesn’t build market share.

Because a large percentage–probably a great majority–of those old chargers sitting in desk drawers are going to be low power devices. Anyone who’s ever tried to charge a modern phone with a charger that struggles to deliver five watts knows just how slow and painful the process is.

Can you imagine Apple dealing with hundreds or thousands of phones being returned because “it doesn’t charge worth shit”? Me neither.

The only way I can see this working at all acceptably for Apple would be if they stop including the charger and cable in the box with the phone, but very prominently offer a bundle: “Buy the new iPhone 12 Super Pro Max and get an accessory package for $44.99!” Said package would include a charger, a cable, and perhaps a lightning to headphone adapter (Apple’s estimated cost: $2.) Now we’re talking a serious bump to revenue!

Actually, I can think of one other way the “no charger in the box” model might work for Apple.

What if Apple goes completely wireless and gets rid of the charging port entirely?

Nobody’s going to expect them to throw in a $40 wireless charger with every phone. No PR hit.

And–bonus!–eliminating the port improves the water resistance of the phone and allows Apple to make the phone skinnier.

Of course, that port does have other uses than charging. Audio out for those who don’t want or can’t use wireless headphones. Connection to a computer for loading data and doing backups.

But it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Apple has done away with a popular connection option–anybody else old enough to remember floppy drives?

And Apple has certainly been discouraging the use of iTunes for doing backups–they’d far rather everyone paid for iCloud storage. And if you aren’t ripping your own CDs, why would you use iTunes on the computer to load music on your phone? Just stream via the Music app and pay Apple a monthly fee for that as well.

Eliminate charging and syncing, and the only remaining uses of the port are a few repair scenarios. I can think of a few ways Apple could work around that with an appropriate phone design–or ignore it altogether and require a phone replacement in those situations.

I’m not convinced Apple is ready to go port-free. But it is, IMNSHO, a more likely possibility than that they’re just going to stop including chargers with their phones.

Lower Education

It’s well known that cats are liquid. The Internet is full of pictures demonstrating how they conform to the shape of whatever vessel they’re poured into.

What gets much less attention, however, is the corollary: any insufficiently restrained fluid will flow downhill.

For your edification, Sachiko demonstrates.

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Here we see her hindquarters just beginning to overflow the retaining lip of the condo.

Regrettably, I am unable to show the rest of the photo series. Yes, the educational value of Her Batshit Majesty’s sacrifice of dignity suffers. However, she informed me in no uncertain terms that if I wished to retain possession of the hand holding my phone, I would suppress the remaining images.

Freedom of the press only goes so far in an autocracy.

Let us just note that cats do, in fact, flow downhill, and if sufficiently taken aback by the process, they don’t always land on their feet.

SAST 16

Apparently someone at MLB.TV is reading this blog. Less than a week after I noted that nobody’s been talking about MLB.TV subscriptions, they decided to prove me wrong.

I said that I doubted we’d get a prorated refund. Surprise!

According to the email I received, we do get prorated refunds. We can have them credited to back to the cards we used to pay, or we can credit them against next year’s subscription.

That’s a no-brainer. I see no reason to give MLB half a year of interest on my money. More to the point, though, after the example of this year’s negotiations between the owners and players, I’m not the only person wondering if there will be a season next year.

Refunds will be issued around the end of July. I presume this is so they won’t have to go through the refund process twice if the 60 game season gets scrapped entirely–something that seems increasingly likely in the light of the ongoing problems with testing.

On a semi-related note, team schedules are now available online. You can subscribe to them with your Google, Apple, or Windows calendar.

If, that is, you’re willing to give an unidentified third party access to all of your calendars. At least, that’s the case in Google-land.

Maybe it’s different for those of you using Outlook or iCal; I suggest you check the permissions that come along with any calendar requests very carefully.

Moving on.

Douglas Adams was wrong. It’s not time that’s the illusion. Dates are illusions.

These days, I’m far from the only person who can’t tell whether it’s a Wednesday in July or a Tuesday in November without looking at a phone (or calendar for those of us who still use paper). I think we all know it’s still 2020, but I’m certain enough to bet money on it.

It’s not just the lack of stimulation, with our limited ability to spend time with friends, or the sameness of our personal schedules–especially for those working at home. It’s the sense of futility that comes from not having an endgame in sight. Nobody knows when life will return to normal–whatever that is or will be–and, worse yet, nobody knows when we’ll know when.

We’re just marking time. Seconds, minutes, hours. But not days. They’re just too big to grasp.

Moving on–in a limited way.

Along with the retreat from “reopening,” we’re getting a return of one of the most noxious notions from the days of “Shelter in Place.” You know the one I mean: “Look at all the free time you have. You can finally do those things you’ve been putting off!”

Poisonous.

Maybe it works for you. I’ll admit it worked for me early on. I wrapped up the third draft of Demirep and put it in the hands of my beta readers (and thanks to all of you!). But after that?

My usual practice is to start the next novel while the beta readers are reading. This time, nope. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I do. But actually doing anything with them? Not happening.

And the last thing I need is somebody guilting me about it.

Same goes for you. If you’re not capable of working on one of your projects–whether it’s something artistic or practical–you’ve got my permission to not do it and to not feel guilty or defeated. We’re all different, and we all react to events differently.

If someone tells you that you have to work on something, feel free to politely tell them to get stuffed. And if they gloat about how much they’ve accomplished under lock-down, feel free to deliver them to your local taxidermist for stuffing.

On a related note, I will assault the next person I hear saying “Man, being a professional athlete is the worst job these days.” (Yes, people really are saying that. If you haven’t heard it–presumably because you’re being a responsible adult and socially isolating and being a smart adult and staying off social media–I envy you.)

You know what really sucks? Working in a field where you don’t have a choice about going to work every day, where your employer doesn’t pay for tests and won’t pay you if you get sick. Or not working because your former employer is out of business.

We’re all having to learn new ways to do our jobs–it’s not just ballplayers who have to figure out how to get the work done safely. And very few of us have the same safety nets they do. Well-funded unions that actually look out for their members, affordable health insurance, and well-off senior members of our professions who look out for their juniors* are increasingly scarce.

* Major kudos for the various MLB stars who’ve been chipping in money to help out the minor league players who aren’t getting paid at all now that the MiLB seasons have been cancelled.

Moving on.

Well, maybe. One of these days.Sometime.

Every Word Is True

Lefty has appointed himself Yuki’s guardian. He follows his ward almost everywhere, using full-body headbumps to keep Yuki from going anywhere dangerous: up the stairs, down the stairs, onto the bed, off the bed, anywhere there might be food…

Maggie recently put a snuggly blanket on the bed–you see where this is going, right–and Yuki was determined to try it out. It took a good five minutes of maneuvering, but Yuki won out in the end.

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Of course, Lefty couldn’t leave Yuki alone anywhere so risky as a bed with a cuddly blanket.

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So he took up guard duty, and it was a horrible experience. Lefty bore up well under the strain of sitting on a soft surface. Note the martyred expression: “I’ll put up with this for his sake.”

Lefty’s caution was entirely warranted. Just as Yuki settled down for a long nap, the neighbors began shooting fireworks.

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Poor Yuki. Poor Lefty.

It is a nice blanket, though.

Here We Go Again

Of course I’m excited for the return of baseball.

If it happens, naturally.

Despite the downsides.

I mean, I hate rewarding the owners for turning a global pandemic into a preview of the negotiations over the next collective bargaining agreement. But.

Come to that, during the entire stretch from March through June, I never saw anything about those of us who ponied up for MLB.TV subscriptions. I’m guessing that if there isn’t a season at all, we’d be entitled to refunds–but I’m also betting that we won’t get a pro-rated refund (sixty-three percent!) for a shortened season. Even if it’s only one game, and then MLB shuts down again, I’m quite sure the owners will keep our money.

That’s not really a major consideration, though. The MLB.TV subscription this year was less than we’re paying for a week of groceries, what with the supermarket price hikes we’ve seen over the past few months. And it’s a sunk cost, anyway.

As for the rule changes, well, they’re a mixed bag.

I’m not thrilled about the universal DH, but I’m not horrified, either. I’d rather see pitchers hit, if only because of the joy they generate on the rare occasions when they make solid contact. But I can live without all those weak grounders and wimpy pop-ups.

Three batter rule? Pros and cons again. Fewer commercials on TV and fewer inane distractions in the ballpark is unquestionably a win. And I disagree with those who say it removes an element of managerial strategy–it just requires a different strategy. On the downside, it means we’re in for months of complaints about the change.

Ejecting anyone who comes within six feet of an umpire while arguing a call sucks. It’s necessary, but it does rather kill the drama of a spirited argument. On the other hand, I’m firmly behind the new “no spitting” rule.

Really, there’s only one rule change I consider a negative. I bitched about putting runners on base to start extra innings three years ago. I’ve matured since then, and my feelings have changed. I’m no longer dubious; I’m not even revolted. I unreservedly loathe the notion. Unlike the three batter rule, it does reduce managerial choice. It makes a mockery of the grand traditions of the game. And–most importantly–it won’t do a thing to solve the problem it’s supposedly designed to address. It’s supposed to shorten games by making it easier to score in extra innings. But it’ll give that same run-scoring advantage to both teams. The only thing I look forward to with this rule is seeing Commissioner Manfred’s (ptui!) face as he tries to excuse the first game to go thirteen innings with both teams scoring in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth innings before the home team wins in the thirteenth with a bases loaded walk.

Still, if the new rules and restrictions are bringing us sorrow–and I realize that others feel more strongly negative than I do about the universal DH and the three batter rule–they also bring us great joy.

Consider the Oakland As recently announced “Foul Ball Zone”. Fans can’t go to games in person, but they can attend by proxy. For a mere $129–with the proceeds going to local food banks, youth development centers, and other worthy causes–a fan’s photo can attend all thirty home games this season. Even better, if a foul ball hits the fan’s proxy photo, Coliseum staff will send them the ball.* I’m looking forward to the legal scramble for the first ball that bounces off of three or four photo cutouts before coming to rest. Does it go to the first one it hit? The last one?

* I presume they’ll sanitize it first–or ship it UPS, which should guarantee that any viruses on the ball will die of old age long before the package arrives at the fan’s home.

Also high on my list of re-pre-season amusements: MLB soundly rejected “Spring Training 2.0” in favor of the more easily licensed “Summer Camp”. In case you missed the announcement, Summer Camp is sponsored by Camping World. Mind you, I don’t believe they paid anything for the rights–they were already the official sponsors of Spring Training, and this probably just represents MLB’s legal requirement to give them full value for their money.

As players–those who aren’t opting out, anyway–report to camp today, I look forward to the video tours of the tents (set up in the outfield, no doubt) for the rookies and minimum salary players and the cabins–repurposed luxury boxes–reserved for the veterans with multi-million dollar contracts.

Play ball, y’all!

Noble Thrones

Don’t be fooled by her noble pose. She’s just waiting for dinner.

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(Amusingly, when I first spotted her, there was a small bird–probably something I’d call a “zippy bird” if I saw it at our feeder–perched on the light fixture. By the time I grabbed the camera, it had flown the coop. [Sorry])

And don’t be fooled by her noble expression. She’s just waiting for dinner.

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(And warming her butt on Maggie’s laptop. You might think in the recent hot weather she’d prefer to hang out in front of the air conditioner, but no.)

WWDC 2020

Well, I sure got that one wrong.

In last year’s WWDC summary, I said, “Odds are good that 2020 will be a year of minor tweaks and enhancements.” Oops.

Even if you don’t normally follow tech news, you’ve probably heard the biggest change coming this year: Apple is beginning to transition away from Intel’s chips to their own designs.

As you could probably guess, the reaction is fairly evenly split between “It’s about time” and “OMG, WTF?!” The latter crowd further subdivides into “Apple is doomed!” and “Man, this is going to be a tough few years for Apple.”

Let’s get real: this isn’t the first time Apple has made a major shift like this. The switch from 68000 chips to PowerPC caused massive confusion. The change from PowerPC to Intel, by comparison, was barely a blip, because Apple learned from experience. Since then, they’ve also dealt with the transition to OS X and splitting iOS into iPhone and iPad tracks (and last year, separating out iPad OS as a semi-independent OS).

There are going to be hiccups. Probably a missed deadline or two, as well. But Apple will get through the transition in one piece. That’s a prediction I have no qualms about.

Parenthetically, if you’re worried about how long Apple will continue to support that shiny new MacBook you bought for working from home, relax. Historically, Apple has supported all of their computers for at least five years–by which time, the technology has advanced far enough that moving to a new machine if the old one breaks is a reasonable choice. It’s highly unlikely Apple will cut off Intel support in less than five years.

Moving on.

IOS 14 and iPad OS 14 will finally support widgets on the home screen. It won’t be necessary to swipe off to another screen to check a stock ticker, control your music, check weather or traffic, or any of the other things Android users have been doing on their home screens for more than half a decade.

Can you tell I’m in the “It’s about damned time!” camp on this? I want to be able to glance at my phone and get the scores without having to launch the MLB app. It’ll finally happen next season*–whether that’s 2021 or sometime later.

* No, I haven’t given up on baseball in 2020. But if it happens, it’ll be this season.

Mac OS will be called “Big Sur”. More excitingly (for the geeks among us), it will NOT be OS X. After what, fifteen years or so, Apple is finally giving us OS 11.

The big changes are (1) a new, very iPad-like look. More specifically, a very iPad OS 14 appearance. (2) the ability to run iPhone apps. One presumes it’ll also support iPad apps. One also presumes there will be a performance penalty running iOS/iPad OS apps on Intel Macs.

We all pretty much saw this coming when iPads picked up support for mice and trackpads, right? Apple is working hard to erase the distinction between tablets and computers, and the OS 11 changes are simply the next step in the process.

Here’s an interesting note: iPad OS will get a system-wide handwriting recognition function if you have an Apple Pencil. That’s one feature that probably won’t work on Apple computers for quite a while. No touchscreens, so no Apple Pencil, after all. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple rolls out Pencil support in select non-Intel machines next year or the year after.

I’m going to lump most of the other announced changes together as the “minor tweaks” I was expecting: user customization of Apple Watch faces, surround sound audio on AirPods Pro, enhanced privacy labels, Apple TV picture-in-picture. You get the idea.

“Clips” sounds interesting. Apple is billing it as a way to download and use only part of an app. The example I’m seeing is for things like renting a scooter without having to install the company’s app permanently.

I’m intrigued, but dubious about the feature’s long-term prospects. Why should app makers be enthusiastic about letting you install the part of their app that does something useful without also installing the part that nags you to use the less-useful-but-revenue-generating functions? You know: “While you’re waiting for your Lyft, sign up for a subscription that’ll give you discounts on your future rides.”

“Nice idea, limited adoption” is my bet.

And, finally, there’s “CarKey”. My immediate reaction was “Why would I want an app that scratches the paint on my car?” But that might actually be preferable to what this feature does: Not only will you be able to use your iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start your car, but you’ll also be able to share the digital key with family and friends.

The potential for abuse is staggering. Remember, this is the same auto industry that can’t figure out how to remove app access on used cars. Would you buy a used car with this feature without some kind of proof that none of the former owners and their friends still have access?

Heck, it’s not just used cars. “Hey, Joe, I’m too trashed to drive. Here’s the key to the BWM” sounds good in principle. But are you going to remember to revoke the key the next day? Even if you do, can you revoke it if Joe isn’t right there?

The first cars that support CarKey will supposedly be out next month; the functionality will arrive with iOS 14, but will also be available in iOS 13. Brace yourselves for the onslaught of ads touting this as the greatest advance in automotive technology since the steering wheel.

I hate to end on a negative note, and the truth is, Apple has quite a bit of good stuff heading our way. So, one final bit of good news: Apple is bringing back the “bonnnnnnnnnnnnng” startup sound. It’s been gone for a couple of years. And, while it is possible to turn it on if your computer is running Catalina, it requires a visit to the command line–hardly in Apple’s point-and-click spirit. Word is that Big Sur will have a simple on/off switch for the iconic chord somewhere in the system configuration.

I’m hoping the move will prove popular enough that Apple rolls the same option into iOS and iPad OS. Just not WatchOS–that would be excessive.

Three Views of Lefty

Lefty is a cat of many moods.

Granted, most of them are of the quiet, reflective sort, but we’re fine with that. In a household full of egocentric extroverts*, it’s rather nice to find an introvert.

* Obviously, I’m speaking only of the cats here. Maggie and I tend toward the “disgruntled hermit” end of the spectrum.

He spend a large chunk of his time on “Imperial Majesty”
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Then, naturally, there’s “Are You Kidding Me?”
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Recently, however, most of Lefty’s headspace has been this:
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It’s called “Going Down There Would Be Beneath My Dignity, But If It Comes Any Closer, I’ll Squash It Like A Bug”.

Sitting Handsome

Lefty has a new hangout.

He’s discovered…

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The Condo at the End of the Hall (bum-bum-bummmmmm)

Joking aside, it’s interesting that he’s hanging out there.

That level of the condo has an outside view, but I’ve never seen him facing that way.

The view the house isn’t significantly different than what can be seen from The Cat Carrier at the End of the Hall (which is just barely visible at the lower right of the picture), and the condo offers far less shelter.

The Condo isn’t particularly padded. The Carrier has a cushion, which should make it considerably comfier.

And yet Lefty’s been sitting in the condo lately.

I’d think it’s because he knows how well the white fake fur sets off his coloration, but Lefty is still rather camera shy–I’m amazed he held still long enough for me to get this picture.

The mystery may never be solved–but I’m okay with that. We all need a few unsolved mysteries of no significance whatsoever in our lives to keep us from getting too complacent.