Silicon Valley tech companies gotta Silicon Valley. Amirite?
Apple has a new version of its HomePod device available. Much like most of its previous devices, itʼs built for people who live in the greater San Francisco area, where the weather is largely placid, boring and uneventful. In other words — entirely unlike most of the rest of the planet.
The web page about the new HomePod includes this footnote about its temperature and humidity sensors:
Well, 15°C is 59 degrees. How often do people let it get down to 59 degrees in their homes? All the time.
There is no shortage of basements in places like Green Bay, Minneapolis, and the entire nation of Canada where people have a basement that has been kitted out as a family room, or a den, or a home office and that remains unheated most of the year. One of Appleʼs scenarios for using the HomePod temperature sensor is that it can be paired with other HomeKit gear to automatically turn on a heater if it gets too cold. Great. Except that if your chosen temperature for activating the heat in your unused basement or attic rec room is below 59°, Apple admits itʼs not going to be reliable.
On the hot side, OK, itʼs unusual to have an indoor temperature above 86°. But Iʼve had it in my house many times when the humidity was low and I lived in the desert. Many days in the spring and fall when Iʼd have the windows wide open enjoying the warm breeze and low humidity, the indoor temperature would get to 86°. If the cat was sleeping, that was fine. Sheʼd eventually wake up and start complaining, and Iʼd have to close the windows and bring the temperature down to 80-ish for her. But thatʼs to be expected, since she wears a fur coat. If I didnʼt have the cat, Iʼd probably have the temperature higher. And Iʼm not alone. Thereʼs a reason millions of people retire to hot places.
The humidity range is oddly narrow, too. Iʼm sure that 30% humidity is bone-crackingly dry in Cupertino. In Nevada, itʼs a bit clammy. When I lived there, the outdoor humidity reported by the National Weather Service was regularly in the single digits. And both of my indoor humidity sensors almost always showed readings well below 30%. Both of them appeared to have the same sensor under the hood, since they both stopped reporting humidity at 10%. These werenʼt expensive high-tech scientific humidity sensors. One I bought at the Apple Store for about $100. The other came from the supermarket, and cost about ten bucks. But it was perfectly happy reporting humidity far lower than what Apple considers reliable for its equipment.
Living in the Bay Area, Apple employees canʼt possible envision indoor humidity above 70%, but guess what — thatʼs a perfectly ordinary occurrence in most of the southern United States, including Florida, New Orleans, and Houston — the fourth-largest city in the nation. According to my HomeKit-connected humidity sensor, the humidity inside my house has been over 80% five times in the last two months.
All of this continues a pattern at Apple of designing products that only work well in the very specific, very ordinary weather conditions of Silicon Valley. Things like iPod headphone cords that get brittle in a Chicago winter, and iPhones that shut themselves off in temperatures that are common for millions of people who live in desert environments.
Apple has the money, the resources, and the people to do better. Why it chooses not to remains unclear.
In the 1983 movie Trading Places, Don Ameche can be seen reading a Wall Street Journal. The back page has an ad for the Apple ][ and Apple /// with the line “The first problem they solve is what to give for Christmas.”
Thatʼs just as true today, 39 years later, as it was then.
Hereʼs an odd design choice. In macOS 13/Ventura, the Stocks program allows you to add a stock youʼre viewing to your watch list. To do that, you press the + button. To remove a stock from your watch list you press the ✓ checkmark button.
In my lifetime, a checkmark has always meant something along the lines of “yes” or “confirm” or something else affirmative. Using a check to remove something — an inherently negative action — is counterintuitive to me.
This is not a real weather forecast for the North Pole. Itʼs what CARROT³ does when it canʼt connect to the intarwebs to find out what the weather is. Cheeky, as expected from CARROT³.
The cause of the network issue was a firewall called Little Snitch from Objective Development in Austria. I use it to marvel at the dozens and dozens of data hoarding companies that try to extract information from my computer without my knowledge or consent. Unfortunately, it doesnʼt play nice with the latest version of macOS, so when I upgraded to 13.0, I was inexplicably unable to move data through any network connection, wired or otherwise, even with Little Snitch turned off.
The solution is to reboot into Safe Mode, then drop the Little Snitch program in the trash, and reboot. To my delight, just moving the program into the trash is enough to uninstall system extension these days, which is nice.
I checked Objective Developmentʼs web site, and in true Austrian fashion, it blames Apple for the problem. If I have to choose between not using Little Snitch and not using my computer at all, itʼs an easy choice to make.
It's nice that iOS 16 lets people know the phone is too hot when it does things. It used to do things, but not tell you.
When I lived in the desert, just having an iPhone in your pocket or on a table could sometimes cause the phone to turn itself off. If you were lucky, you'd see something very quickly appear on the screen about “Entering thermal shutdown” or some such. A minute later, you were out in the desert without a working phone.
Apple, and most tech companies, build their products for the environment where Apple, and most tech companies, are located — San Francisco. When I talk to tech people who work at these companies, sometimes they simply cannot wrap their brains around weather conditions that are commonplace elsewhere.
Another example is iPhone wired headphones. Theyʼre made with plastic that gets brittle in the cold. Of course, when youʼre bundled up against the cold is when you need your headphones the most. That was how I learned about Bluetooth headphones, and got a set of Sony headphones for use with my SonyEricsson M600c when commuting on the CTA in the middle of the night during Chicago winters. Apple wouldnʼt make its own wireless headphones until over a decade later.
I guess someone on the iOS 16 team at Apple didnʼt check for NULL before shoving the date data into the string formatter. The lesson is, of course, that while you never trust external data, sometimes you can't trust internal data, either.
Still, Apple is the single largest company on the planet right now. If it canʼt do software, what chance do I have?
Crowdsourcing used to be all the rage in the tech industry. It was a way to get content for your project for free. Use your automation system to ask enough people for content, and some small percentage will happy oblige. The problem with crowdsourcing is quality control.
If you let anyone contribute anything, anyone will contribute anything. I once built a crowdsourced system for people to share photographs of landmarks. A significant percentage of the photos contributed were people standing in front of a camera holding up their resumes, presumably hoping that someone searching for a photo of the Berlin Wall might magically hire them to write code in India.
In the example above, we see the result of two levels of folly. Getty Images allows anyone to upload photographs to its system in order to sell those pictures to other people. That's the crowdsourcing. Then Apple outsourced photography for Apple Maps to a bunch of entities, including Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, and also Getty Images.
The result is a photo of a city in China among the photographs that are supposed to depict the West Texas city of Midland.
I swiped up to unlock, and instead the screen sort-of half swiped left. The lock icon, the unlock instructions, the wallpaper, and a dark overlay moved left, revealing another copy of the wallpaper underneath. Meanwhile, the time, the music panel, and the quick keys stayed put.
Fortunately, all was solved ten seconds later when the phone shit itself and rebooted.
I went for a walk today. And like a basset hound with a thyroid condition, I can use all the walkies I can get.
On the way home, my watch pinged me with “It looks like you went outside for a walk. Congratulations!” I pushed the wrong buttons trying to take a screenshot, and the message went away. If a smart watch is a jerk to you in a crosswalk and nobody sees it, can you still rant about it?
For some reason I broke out Darcieʼs original 2007 iPhone. Works fine, except web browsing is a mess. So much smaller, thicker, and heavier than a current phone, but it just feels good to hold. Nice and solid. And it has places to grip it that arenʼt the screen.
Today I learned that the IT guy who wouldnʼt allow Macs or iPhones on the corporate network at a former employer because “Macs are stupid” is now free to peddle his “Windows rulz!” bullshit full time in the unemployment line because he refused to take Macintosh/Unix networking classes.
A hundred people in the stand-by line to maybe, possibly, potentially buy an iPhone if there are any left at the end of the day. Two hundred people in this line for people who pre-paid and have an appointment to pick one up. We get snacks.
Apple Maps has Interstate 11 on it just weeks after the freeway that Obama tried to kill opened.
Apple even has satellite photographs. Those brown perpendicular things are tunnels so that big horn sheep and desert tortoises donʼt cross the freeway. Each is monitored by cameras and computers tally the number of critters using them.
Apparently the sheep learn quickly because the newspaper says thereʼs already several dozen using it per day.