Are You Sure That’s a Cat?

Yes, actually, I am.

I’ll admit that I’m not sure which cat it is–there are several black and white felines in the neighborhood–but I’m certain it’s a cat.

Here, have a closer look:

For the record, I’m posting this not so much to introduce you to a new neighbor–call them our foul weather friend, as they’ve taken up residence in the Rose Cottage only during our recent rain storms–but to demonstrate what the Pixel 6 Pro’s Dark Mode can do.

This picture was taken through the rain (and the rain-splattered window), at 4x zoom. The only light was from the room behind me (hence the reflection of the water bowl on the left side) and the only editing is cropping and–in the first shot–resizing.

I’d regard the fact that you can even see the Rose Cottage, much less the inhabitant, as a triumph of technological brilliance.

Next rainstorm, I think I’ll break out my tripod and see how the phone’s astrophotography mode does in similar conditions.

Quite Nice

Maybe you’ve been wondering how I’m liking living on the cutting edge. That’s the “Pixel 6 Pro” edge, not the “JetSki-assisted Parasailing” edge*.

* Yes, for any of you–especially my relatives–who might have been concerned about my mental health, that was a joke.

It’s been a pleasant experience so far. Android’s ability to transfer data, settings, and apps from one device to another has improved immensely since the last time I tried that trick, mumble-mumble years ago. I just launched the transfer process, connected the two phones with a USB-C cable when it prompted me to, and as best I can tell, everything came over, despite multiple warnings from the instructions that some things could get left behind.

There’s a joke there about the Rapture, but since Mike Pence is no longer in office, I’ll skip it.

Anyway, I did have to sign into all of the apps that require authentication, but that’s hardly a major imposition, since I didn’t have to do them all at once. Just when I first ran each one; a process that was spread across weeks–and is, in fact, still going on.

Tip: if you’re not using a password manager, give it serious consideration. Having all my passwords on all my computers and my phone is a major convenience, and made the re-authentication processes nearly painless.

Yes, I did have to re-record my fingerprint on the new phone. Took about five minutes. And, despite what you may have heard online about the “buggy, unreliable” fingerprint reader on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, I’ve found it to be quite solid. Many of the complaints seem to be from people who expect the phone to unlock instantly. Since I’m willing to wait for the scanner to recognize my finger–something that generally takes one to two seconds–I get very few failed logins.

I was concerned about the under-screen fingerprint reader being less convenient than the old back-of-the-phone style. It is. But not outrageously so. I can unlock the phone with my thumb as I’m lifting it into position, and it’s ready to go by the time my eyes focus on the screen. Maybe it would be more of a problem if I still had the reflexes I had twenty years ago.

The camera is, as I’d hoped, a major upgrade from the Pixel 2. Take a closer look at last Friday’s picture of Emeraldas. Right-click and open it in a new tab. That’s a trimmed, but otherwise unedited shot taken with the zoom at 4X. Nice and sharp, isn’t it? Good colors, too.

I was also concerned about the size of the phone. That turned out to be a non-issue. It is tall, but very well-balanced and much lighter than I expected, and the camera bump doesn’t really get in the way, even when the phone isn’t in a case.

So is there anything I don’t like?

Well, the tall/thin shape does make for an oddball resolution (1440×3120). That takes a bit of getting used to. I still wish Google would give the user more control over how close together home screen icons can be. We’ve got all that space, let us decide how we want to use it.

Honestly, though, the biggest problem isn’t with the phone itself. Rather, it’s been how slow case manufacturers have been to support the phone. (I’m looking at you, OtterBox!). Yes, supply-chain issues. But I’ve been limping along with a cheap silicone case to give the phone some grippiness and a belt pouch so I don’t have to risk shoving the phone in my pocket.

Cases are starting to appear, though–I ordered my usual OtterBox Defender Pro yesterday–and that annoyance should be resolved soon.

Looking forward to the new features we’re supposed to be getting any day now in the December update.

Who Else?

Black cats are notoriously hard to photograph*. So who else could I use as the subject of my first experiment with the Pixel 6 Pro’s camera?

* Beth, your royalty check is in the mail.

I guess I could have gone with Lefty, but he’s an easier target. Just for starters, he usually hangs out in well-lit spaces. And his sleek fur doesn’t tend to introduce artifacts.

So it had to be Yuki.

Just hanging out in his favorite cave late one night.

His floof all a-bristle as he waits for me to get out of his face so he can go to sleep.

I love his white, curvy wild whisker.

And the camera did quite well, I’d say. These shots were taken without flash and I didn’t compose the shots or allow time for the autofocus to do its job. Just point, select the zoom level (1x, 2x, and 4x), and shoot.

Obviously, more testing is necessary, but I’m encouraged.


It’s technology week!

Okay, not really. But both Apple and Google decided the time was right to show off their upcoming toys.

Apple went first, announcing their goodies on Monday. Probably just as well, as they had much more to talk about.

They started by talking up improvements to Apple Music. Question: does anyone actually let Siri provide the music for their life? Apple claims they do, and so they’re improving Siri’s selection abilities. How? By turning the job over to human beings. You read that right. Humans will create mood-based playlists, and Siri will pick a playlist based on what you ask for.

Do we really need a voice control for that?

New colors coming for the HomePod mini. Great if you insist on color-coordinating your décor. The rest of us? Ho-hum.

New AirPods with support for spatial audio. Inevitable, but not exactly exciting for anyone who doesn’t use their iPhone as a movie theater. And you’ll still be able to buy the previous generation. I foresee great confusion down the road.

Of course, what everyone was really interested in was the new Macs. Because everyone wants an improved M1 chip. Well, everyone who wants a Mac, anyway. Let’s not make assumptions about just how good Apple’s brainwashingadvertising has gotten.

Up first, the new MacBook Pro. Built around the M1 Pro, which can have as much as 32GB of RAM–a big jump from the M1’s 8GB limit–and able to move data in and out of memory twice as fast. The result is a system 70% faster; twice as fast at graphics-related tasks. Impressive.

But if you really need power, you’re going to want the M1 Max. That basically doubles what the M1 Pro can do: twice as fast at memory operations, up to 64GB of RAM, and twice the graphics processors. Curiously, it’s only got the same number of CPU cores; wonder why they didn’t double those as well.

So the new MacBook Pro will, to paraphrase Apple’s hype, wipe the floor with the old MacBook Pro, to say nothing of all those awful Windows machines. Not that they’re gloating or anything.

Anyway, the new machines bring back all the ports the M1 MacBooks left out: HDMI, headphone, SD card reader. They are losing the Touch Bar, which disappoints me not a bit, but will no doubt annoy many loyal Apple fans. Nice touch: a new and improved MagSafe port for power, but you can still charge ’em with the Thunderbolt ports.

There’s a notch at the top of the display for the camera. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about that, but I kind of like the idea. Gives more physical space for the screen, and if you’ve got so much stuff in your Menu Bar that it runs into the notch, you probably ought to slim things down a bit anyway.

Preorders started Monday, first deliveries next week. Depending on the model and specs, you’ll be paying anywhere from $1999 to $6099.

From a technical perspective, I’ll admit to being impressed. Fiscally, too, but the numbers really aren’t that far out of line for a similarly specced Windows laptop.

But people are easily bored. Camera notch aside, I expect the complaints to start before Halloween. “It’s not fast enough for my workload.” “I need more Thunderbolt ports.” “When do we get a desktop with the M1 Max?” “Where’s the M2?”

Moving on to Google’s Tuesday announcements.

A much briefer announcement. Only two products (plus accessories): the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Of course, most of the information leaked out earlier: new, Google-designed CPU, hugely improved cameras, etc., etc. The only really new information is the price point ($599 to $999 depending on model and storage) which is several hundred dollars below similarly specced iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones.

Oh, and one other new bit of information: Google is shifting to go head-to-head with Apple on services. They’ve got a bundle called “Pixel Pass” that gives you time payments on the phone, YouTube Premium, YouTube Music Premium, Google One storage, and Google Play Pass. A discount on Fi service. Accidental damage coverage is included as well.

The phones sound impressive, and Pixel Pass could be an excellent deal, especially if you were planning on buying the phone on time or were already paying for any of the premium services.

To nobody’s particular surprise, the Google Store is struggling. Preorders are (nominally) open with delivery around the end of the month, but as I write this on Tuesday afternoon, the store is up, but not able to process checkouts–assuming it doesn’t list all phones as out of stock. At that, it’s doing better than earlier in the day, when it was bouncing up and down like very erratic clockwork.

I’m very interested in the new phones. My current Pixel 2 XL is still working well enough, but the Lure of the New is getting to me–and I really want to see what kind of cat pictures I can take with the new cameras. I’ve been trying to preorder a Pro for the past hour, but I’m starting to suspect it’ll be at least a couple of months before I can actually get my hands on one.