On October 5, 2011, the vultures returned to One Infinite Loop. Having once taken up what seemed like permanent residence in Cupertino during the Sculley years, their numbers dwindled a bit with the 1998 release of the iMac, dropped further in number with the 2001 introduction of the iPod, and went on complete sabbatical when the iPhone landed in 2007. In roughly a decade, Apple had gone from being the quaint little company with 5% market share to buying The Lonely Mountain so Smaug could guard its hoard of cash.
Then Steve Jobs—Apple's co-founder, prodigal son, savior and carnival barker—died. Surely, many assumed, the loss of Jobs would be the catalyst for Apple's journey from arbiter of technology and design to just another member of the gadget-proffering herd. Never mind that Jobs supposedly left behind an approved product roadmap that covered the next four years, or that he had filled the ranks of upper management with like-minded acolytes. No, the passing of Apple's leader was step one in the march to parity in a world where parity equaled failure.
Except, of course, it wasn't. The iPad 3 and iPhone 5 launches were typical Apple smashes. The Retina display migrated to the MacBook Pro. Another dot-release of OS X came and went. Apple's stock cracked the $700-a-share line. Life was good. The naysayers were wrong. Everything was coming up Milhouse.
Except, of course, it wasn't. The past few months have seen the cracks in Apple's armor expanding, with a tumbling stock price (relatively speaking) and a general sense of malaise in techland about the company. I've always believed that the only company that could ever, at this point, beat Apple was Apple. And it's starting to feel like they just might be up to the challenge. I believe two main causes are at work here: a lack of leadership and a lack of joy.
Regarding the former, it's hard to fault the leadership at Apple too much. They were in the unenviable position of attempting to fill in, collectively, for techland's Wizard of Oz (sorry, Woz). Good luck with that. Basically, they had two plays: continue boldly going where none (or only smaller companies they could buy out) had gone before, or simply try not to fumble the ball. Opt for the former, and they'd open themselves up to immense ridicule as second-class Steves if their efforts failed—never mind that Jobs didn't come close to batting 1.000 and never seemed overly bothered by it; he just kept pressing on. Opt for the latter, and they could hopefully ride out the Jobs product roadmap with nary a hiccup, bank even more cash, and be lauded as the keepers of the Apple flame. If only.
Obviously, Tim Cook and company chose the latter. Which, from a business school mentality, made perfect sense. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the public doesn't readily behave like a bunch of recent MBA grads. Apple was in a position very, very few companies ever are—its leader literally embodied the brand. Jobs was Apple and Apple was Jobs. This singularity undoubtedly swayed the Apple succession team not to try and "replace" Steve. After all, how could you, right? But therein lies the rub. Regardless of how qualified, adept, and in-sync "the team" may have been, in the end that's what they were: a team. A management collective. A, shudder, committee.
At any other company on the planet, that may have been enough. But Apple—the successful version—was a never a faceless tech company offering its version of the future to the marketplace. It was, to the public, the vision of one man who seemed to know what they wanted before they did. A man who got things done by hook or by crook and inspired equal parts awe and fear. He was always bold but seldom, in public at least, brash. You could think Jobs was completely snowing the folks inside Moscone West as he revealed just how magical the latest iThing was, but you couldn't say he was disingenuous. Maybe that's just a side effect of, instead of drinking the corporate Kool-Aid, being the one brewing it. But just as nature abhors a vacuum, consumers abhor the bland. (Pipe down, Camry owners.) Right now, the people on the stage during Apple keynotes appear smart and earnest, but not quite prepared to go once more into the abyss.
Could Apple have found a similar visionary to step into the void left by Jobs's passing? Probably not. Cults of personality are hard to replicate. But they could've put a greater emphasis on the idea that one person of vision was steering the ship, even if all the ideas weren't coming from his brain. People—the public, the pundits, the stockholders—didn't need the second coming of Steve; they needed the second coming of a powerful leader. The Joshua to Steve's Moses, if you please. Without one, it still seems as if Apple is reporting to a ghost and not doing a very good job at it, at that. No, they can't sit around navel-gazing and asking, "What would Steve do?" But they can be sure of what Steve wouldn't do—simply iterating instead innovating.
Tune in next week—same Hole time, same Hole channel—for reflections on why a certain, as the French say, I-don't-know-what has left Apple products.
FoxTrolling for C&D's with Mac System 1
If you're unfortunate enough to be like me, you'll find the impending release of iSteve to be frightening and confusing to your caveman brain. Produced by FunnyOrDie.com and starring Justin "Mac" Long as Jobs, iSteve is billed as the "First Steve Jobs Movie." It's difficult to tell from the trailer if it's supposed to be a comedy bit, satire, or drama. Sure, its source should be a clue, but at 60-75 minutes, one would think the jokes could grow a bit stale. We shall see on when the film is released online April 15. Yes, a review will be forthcoming. It's what I do for you people. I also sometimes take six months off for you people, but that's another matter.
Apple Announces iOS Game Controller That Looks Stunningly Similar to an iOS Device. Sure, in-the-know Mac dude Jim Dalrymple put the kibosh on the long-rumored yet marginally hoped-for dedicated game controller for iOS devices—a major disappointment for those of us hoping to experience the joy of a full iRacing rig hooked up to a 90x50 grid of iPhones. Apple, not wanting to let a marketing opportunity slip through its fingers yet again (neon case enhancements, anyone?), has instead released a semi-dedicated gaming controller that pairs to iOS devices via Bluetooth. The devices, which bear a striking resemblance to iPhone 3GSes's', come in a special, four-inch rubber frame to permit flinging across the room in disgust without damage. Except to the glass screen.
AT&T to Offer HD Voice Support, but Only at 720p. In the wake of T-Mobile's announcement last week that they'll be supporting something called HD Voice on their version of the iPhone 5, AT&T has issued an "us, too!" press release to say that they'll be doing the exact same thing. Doing so will require the carrier to use Voice Over LTE (or VOLTron) technology that they claim to have been planning on using all along. Because what AT&T customers really want is better sounding calls, not fat data pipes.
Non-Existent Apple iTV to be Controlled by The One Ring. I'm not saying this couldn't happen, but, seriously? An analyst named Brian White from Topeka Capital Markets (which is not even in Topeka) claims that the much-ballyhooed, any-year-now Apple iTV could be controlled by something he calls the iRing. Because trying to find where the dog hid your Harmony One (full disclosure: I do not own a Harmony One) isn't hard enough; now you'll have to sort through his doggie discharge to watch Homeland. I just can't believe this one. But I suppose if it sends the price of my one Apple share soaring, then fire up the iBilbo and let's go.
Sonnet Disproves Steve Jobs by Releasing Blu-ray Drive That's Just a Brick of Hurt. Sonnet engineers pulled themselves away from the company's oddly hypnotic 1982-era logo long enough to develop the Echo™ 15 Thunderbolt™ Dock. Available for pre-order at this very moment, the dock sports space for one 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA drive, 15 ports, and 2 trademark symbols. Of note, the dock also includes a DVD burner at the $400 price, or a Blu-ray burner for $50 more. Sonnet even includes OS X software to play Blu-ray discs. Which seems pretty cool until you realize just how lonely you'll feel going through the extras on The Avengers sitting forlornly in front of your iMac instead plopped on the sofa in front of your 65-inch LCD accompanied by your simulated girlfriend.
Steve Jobs Unknowingly Pimps Original Mac OS. A new online memorial service called Rememberum.com has decided the best way to garner attention for its scrappy, startup self is to shoot directly for the cease-and-desist bull's-eye. To demonstrate that their service, which allows people to create online memorials to their departed loved ones, is decidedly way less creepy than constantly updating said departed's Facebook page, they have create a tribute to Apple's patron Zen master. Anyway, the tribute site itself is fairly nifty, all done up in the guise of the original Mac OS, complete with appropriate fonts, pop-up windows, drop-down menus and awesomely dithered graphics. But you know they didn't pay anything to Apple or the Jobs estate to use all those fine, copyrighted materials. Just because the info they post about Steve is public knowledge doesn't give them the right to use his image for commercial purposes. Nor does it matter that their service is currently free. But none of the above qualifies as their most egregious sin. No, that is to be found on their home page in the form of fem-mulleted Jimmy Fallon making that antiadorable hand-heart shape thing like we're all at a Taylor Swift concert. It might have helped if they had had a walk-through of how the service actually works instead of expecting you to relive the pain of losing Grandma Hildy just to see if it's worth the trouble.
Also, Facebook announced Facebook Home for Android. All I can say is, thank God it won't be available on the iPhone. There is one Android phone in the office, so perhaps I'll get the chance to be proven mildly wrong.
First, to those of you who wondered if I exhausted six months of pent-up wordplay in the last MacHole, I'm afraid you'll be rather disappointed in my answer. The thing is, I save all of my tortuous wordplay for the MacHole. I don't use it while speaking with my children (they think Daddy is odd enough as it is), creating ads (my day job) or in my other extracurricular writings. At least not nearly as much. So, yes, I twist the verbiage into grammatical versions of Bret "The Hitman" Hart's figure-four leg lock on purpose. Just to entertain you. Or to anger you. Or perhaps to confuse you into sending me money via the Nigerian office of Western Union. If you don't like it, that's fine. I don't read the comments section anymore as it is.
On with the news.
Steve Jobs Turns Japanese, But Not in the Way That Song "Turning Japanese" Meant. The Verge reports that a Japanese Manga version of Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography has been unleashed upon the world. The first part of the adaptation, by Mari Yamazaki, appears in the May edition of something called Kiss. The artwork isn't quite as full-on Manga as most Manga I've seen (which is not so much), but I was still sad to discover that at no time do Jobs, Ive, Schiller, Cue and Forstall form Voltron. And yes, Forstall would be Pidge.
Google+ for iOS Update Fails to Break Apple's App Servers. Google updated its Google+ for iOS app recently and added or updated a bunch of features that most folks don't care about because Facebook is already too much of a timesuck. Truth be told, I wish something would replace both FB and G+ on the social sharing front. Like a lovely dinner at Denny's.
T-Mobile Drops Phone Subsidies in Effort to Finance Island Cache of the World's Supply of Fuchsia. At least I think they're ending subsidies. Hard to see through the hot pink haze that is their website to read the fine print. It does appear that you now pay full freight for your phone, but have the option of paying it off over the length of a contract. Which is really what you do now on other carriers, but you have no idea what part of your monthly fee is going towards the phone. And they like it that way. T-Mobile is also promising an unlimited plan that suddenly features bandwidth limitations when you hit 500MB of data. Because mobile phone companies come from the Vizzini School of Wordification.
Chevy Promotes "Eyes Free" Version of Siri for People Who Can't Locate Their Home Button by Touch. Chevy (or Chevrolet, if you prefer being fancy) is now advertising Siri integration in its 2013 Sonic. The car, which resembles neither a hedgehog nor a limeade, has a presumably magic button on its steering wheel that activates Siri. This allows you to ask the same, simple question over and over as Siri fails to recognize your vocalizations. ("Call my wife." "I cannot scald your lice. Would you like me to search for lice medications? Also, don't touch me.") As this spot shows, adding Siri connectivity to the Sonic required a clean room and IKEA lamps. Because, hey, technology.
My Hackintosh is Actually Working. Seriously. So Weird. It's been a while since I last inflicted the readership with my Hackintosh woes. Probably because, for a good long while, everything was actually working. Sadly, a few months ago, I started a new job (that's not the sad part), acquired a 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina, and (here's the sad part) used Migration Assistant to copy files from my Hack over to the MBP. Turns out, that wasn't such a good idea. No, the MBP was fine. It shrugged off the odd kexts and plist files with nary a burp. The Hack, however, took a hit to its boot files and refused to start without first booting from a Unibeast USB stick. Why Migration Assistant has to write files to the host computer is beyond me. Or anyone else on the web who had the same issue, apparently. Reinstalling Chameleon or Chimera failed to help. Suck.
Then came the Messages problem. Apple switched how Messages authenticates the computer it's on, requiring a specific file with a full system id number. The awesome guys at tonymacx86.com released a new version of Chimera to create the appropriate file and assorted whatnot. Unfortunately, thanks to my booting issue, I couldn't use it. And so Messages was dead on my Hack. Not a huge deal considering I have an iPhone, iPad and no longer work at home, but still.
Finally, my audio died. Just up and died one day last week. No idea why. Took forever to hunt down the errant kext that was clogging up the system. But, wait for it, fixing the audio caused a chain reaction that fixed everything else. Yep. In sussing out the audio glitch, I trashed all FakeSMC kexts. While doing so was not the answer to the audio problem, it was the answer to what was causing MultiBeast to fail. Huzzah. With MultiBeast working, the Chimera update took and fixed my boot problem. And with the boot problem resolved, the Messages systemID plist file was able to self-generate, fixing Messages login issues.
So the Hack is back to trundling along as it should, and I can return to not editing my kids' videos from 2012.
Just a Reminder: Jony Ive is Dead Sexy. From time to time I like to throw in something for groupies of the David Beckham of Industrial Design.
Fox18 days of hottish Pebble love
It's true. I have in my possession the mildly mythological Pebble watch. More useful than a unicorn and less Pantene-intensive than a centaur, this fabled timepiece can now be said to exist somewhere outside a Kickstarter video or a Chinese factory. Namely, it exists upon my dainty, girlish wrist. (The left wrist, if you must know, even though I'm left-handed. I'm counter-culture like that.)
And lo, it does not stink up the joint. But more on that in a moment.
Unless you've been living under a tech rock ("Is that 'Tech Rock,' man?" "Yeah, man!" "Well, turn it up, man!"), you're probably aware of both the Pebble and its gestational issues. If not, the short form is thusly this: a small group of guys (or possibly just Eric Migicovsky) who'd already developed one smartwatch, the inPulse, wanted to improve that model's limited functionality, develop a new version and, I'm assuming, get stupid rich by eventually selling to Microsoft because they'll buy anything. So the team behind the Pebble, as the inPulse 2.0 was rechristened, launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012, seeking $100,000 in backing. They ended up with over $10 million and 68,040 backers. Okay, it was really 68,928, but no processor by that number ever powered an Amiga.
Fast-forward to September 2012, when the first Pebbles were to ship to backers and, well, no Pebble did. Not surprising for a Kickstarter project. Even less surprising for one that was shooting for $100,000 and got $10 million. Naturally, trolls emerged almost immediately and demanded explanations as to why their "orders" weren't shipping. Forum slap-fights ensued. Angry Emojis exchanged.
Skip in a manly fashion (good luck) ahead to CES 2013. The Pebble team announced the first watches would begin shipping on January 23. A graph showing production numbers and shipping numbers was published. Explanations of how it would all work vis-à-vis color Pebbles and whatnot were disseminated. Naturally, again, slap fights ensued.
Then, a few weeks later, mine showed up:
And here are my impressions.
Watch case: it's plastic. It feels like plastic. In no way does it feel like the luxury item many watches are and most others (that I own) at least pretend to mimic. Obviously, the plastic case is a function of both cost and, um, function. I'd rather have a reliable Bluetooth connection in a plastic case than not. Fortunately, the case looks nicer than it feels. I doubt I'll rotate it out for my Brightling or Romex editions very often.
Band: simple. Black. Rubber. I switched it out for a clasp-style band almost immediately. And then switched it back within two days. It's thick, and the hardware is good. More importantly, my twig wrist doesn't catch it out mid-hole. Your results may vary, Sasquatch.
Lens: on dumb, stupid, ignorant watches, this bit is referred to as the crystal, because it's often made of scratch-resistant sapphire (on nicer pieces, at least). The Pebble's lens is—wait for it—plastic. And it's currently adorned with a screen protector that is actually air bubble-free. Who knew such technology existed in real life?
Screen: the Pebble screen is the anti-Retina. Sporting a 144x168-pixel black-and-white e-paper display, the Pebble screen gives me a serious jones for Pong. But the e-paper gives the watch a respectable battery life and, undoubtedly, a lower cost. Are you getting the feeling that the Pebble is for cheap early adopters?
Functionality: Here is where, for the moment (hopefully), the Pebble falls down a bit. As of this writing, the SDK still has not been released. So you're left with a few watch faces (luckily, I really like Textwatch) and notifications. Some folks have been having issues with notifications working as they should in iOS. I have not, possibly because I'm not attempting to be notified of every single thing possible. I get messages/texts, Words with Friends harassment, and a couple Twitter- and weather-based updates that I've set up using IFTTT and the iOS app Pushover. The music control works as it should. I can reject or accept calls easily, although the caller ID lists the number and not the contact name (firmware update, please). It all works quite nicely, and, frankly, for the $115 I paid as a backer, I'd be fairly happy if that's all it ever did.
Of course, it's supposed to do more. A bunch of people are waiting for integration with Runkeeper. Almost every backer is hoping some cool stuff will emerge once the SDK is let loose upon the nerd horde. Oh, and then there's the Bluetooth implementation. Even though the installed BT chip is capable of using low-energy BT 4.0, the Pebble currently uses standard BT 2.1+EDR. The battery on my iPhone 5 takes a noticeable hit throughout the day. Not so much as to be truly annoying, but I'll welcome the firmware update that switches on BT 4.0. And the accelerometer. And the lasers.
Battery: I manage six to seven days between charges if I turn the Pebble off at night (about seven hours). To keep the watch water-resistant, the Pebble uses a proprietary magnetic charging cable similar to Apple's MagSafe. And it'd be really nice if you could order an extra one.
So, should you buy a Pebble? I could paraphrase Squints Zellweger in "Jerry Maguire" about loving it for the watch it is and the watch it could be, but I prefer not having to self-immolate as penance. At the $150 post-Kickstarter price, I think it's still a pretty good deal—assuming you like watches, which I do. If you're one of those people who flung your Armitron into the abyss ten seconds after you bought your first smartphone, the Pebble is probably not for you. Yes, Apple is rumored to be working its own smartwatch. Samsung has actually confirmed it's developing one. But it's doubtful those devices will be as cheap as the Pebble. That doesn't mean I won't buy one if they're all that and a bag of Tostitos, but their potential existence won't prevent me from enjoying my Pebble in the here and now.
But best of all, it didn't crash my Hackintosh.
FoxThe obligatory Super Hole VII – Creative Director edition
Jason Fox, our resident Mac fan, spends his days working in advertising as a copywriter and all-around creative guy. He has an annual tradition of doing his own post-mortem on the Super Bowl ads. This year, we've asked him to post his write-up on the MacHole, just for fun.
This year, I've decided to do things a bit different. Instead of merely reviewing the ads, I'll act as a Monday-morning creative director and offer advice on how these spots could have been better. Which is easy for me to do when I don't have a client in the edit suite demanding to have "Like us on Twitterspace!" plastered along the bottom third of the screen and insisting all action take place in the 4:3 frame because that's what their grammy still watches. Anyway. As usual: I only review ads shown during the four quarters of the game, so no pre- or post-game bits. No movie trailers, TV show promos, NFL ads or local ads.
Spots are more-or-less arranged in alphabetical order according to brand (but not holding company). I don't guarantee that I got them all. You, too, have access to Google.
And if you helped make one of the ads that I didn't care for, well, you worked on a Super Bowl ad. I did not. You can point out my typos and laugh.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, "Black Crown - Coronation" – The best way to change this spot would be to kill the product. Barring that, this bit won't convince its apparent target market of leather-clad hipsters one whit. That's right, I said whit. If you're going to extend your line for the 453rd time, you better give me a better example of what the beer actually is. In this case, I can only speculate that it's leftover Bud Dry in new bottles.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, "Black Crown - Celebration" – I do not want to join this cult.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, "Bud Light - Journey" – This spot had me until Stevie Wonder showed up. No offense, but his cameo was rather pointless. And I swear I've seen that ending before.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, "Bud Light – Lucky Chair" – More Stevie Wonder, but a better payoff on this one. Also, still grateful for the lack of a flatulent horse (Google it, kids).
Anheuser-Busch InBev, "Budweiser – Brotherhood" – The spot itself is fantastic. The social media component tacked onto the end, less so. I'm sure they'll get a ton of hits and tweets and whatnot, but the ending does what a great ad (which this is for 98% of its running time) never should: take people out of the moment and remind them they're watching a commercial message.
Audi, "Prom (Worth It)" – I like this spot, although it feels a little subtle, black eye notwithstanding. While the open bit between the son, mom, and little sister rang true, it stole time from the son/dad interaction. Which makes for a weaker connection between the dad trusting his son with his A6 and how that inspires his courage at the prom. Granted, in this day and age the kid would probably be expelled for harassment, too.
Axe, "Lifeguard" – The idea that "nothing beats an astronaut" is pretty solid. Reminds me of when I was a kid and my classmates would start arguing over whose dad could beat up the others. I'd step in and say that my dad could arrest all their dads and stick them in jail since my dad was a cop. Win. However, this spot was all build-up (nice shark punch, BTW) without a big enough payoff. In this case, I think the astronaut should either make a splashier entrance, or be part of the spot earlier on. I do appreciate the lack of skank, however.
Beck's, "Sapphire" – Wherein we learn that Nemo grows up to like mid-grade German beer. Or did I miss something?
Best Buy, "Ask Amy" – Amy Poehler is awesome. She is funny. She makes this spot worth watching. Strangely, this spot is meant to prove that Best Buy has all the answers. But, if you watch, the Blue Shirt only answers about 2% of Amy's questions. Sure, you can blame the editing, but should you?
Cars.com, "Wolf" – Simple, communicated the main message well, decently entertaining. Best use of $3.4 million ever? No. But compared to what I've seen so far, well done. And better than last year's two-head spots.
Calvin Klein, "Concept" – Cannot unsee.
Century 21, "Wedding" – The only message I picked up from this is that Century 21 agents troll weddings for new clients. Was that in the brief?
Coca-Cola, "Chase" – Hmmm. Coke is trying a choose-your-own-adventure approach this year, starting with this spot. Viewers can go online and vote for an ending. I believe two versions will be aired during post-game festivities. But I don't really care. While the production values are uniformly excellent, I don't really care about any of the people involved in this desert-based search for sweet, sweet Coca-Cola refreshment. Which is a shame, because Coke ads usually rock. I think this spot needed more action and more dialog. Because trying to develop the characters without at least a couple pithy lines just didn't cut it.
Coca-Cola, "Security Cameras" – This is a recut version of a long-existing spot. Still nice, but I'm not sure why Coke is encouraging vandalism. Here's the long-form version:
Doritos, "Goat 4 Sale" – One of the winners of yet another "Crash the Super Bowl" contest in which Doritos lovers enter their own spots only to lose out to production companies willing to shoot stuff for free. This spot was better than many I've seen in the past. But maybe I'm just a sucker for a well-placed goat. Still, "guy in beard" is a bit too stock of a character these days. And I should know.
Doritos, "Fashionista Dad" – Reminded me of an episode of "According to Jim." That should never be construed as a compliment.
E-Trade, "Save It" – More talkin' babies. Which, for some strange reason, I tend to like because they always put good dialog in the baby day trader's mouth. Not so much this time. And I'm not just saying that because I've done work for TD Ameritrade recently.
Gildan Activewear, "Getaway" – I don't know what they could've done to salvage this spot, but I can tell you what they should have done in four words: Jerry Seinfeld, Golden Boy.
GoDaddy, "YourBigIdea.CO" – It's a post-Christmas miracle! A GoDaddy ad that I actually enjoy. One that isn't sexist, stupid, sexist, dumb, sexist, idiotic or sexist! And it even pulls off the overlapping montage (or "choddy") in a good way. I think the dialog could've been a bit more unique (like the "sky waitress" bit), but still. I don't feel dirty having seen this. I can only assume GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons was out of the country shooting animals when this was produced.
GoDaddy, "Perfect Match" – And back to stereotypes. And inappropriate camera angles. And I have no idea why my Internet hosting company needs a sexy side. I'm not paying for that. Start over.
Hyundai, "Excited" – This spot for the Genesis R-Spec (that's "super sporty" to you non-gearheads) sedan is Hyundai's only misstep of their multi-spot Super Bowl assault. The raw specs are quite good, but without being wrapped in a story, they just pale in comparison to Hyundai's other ads. I'd either have sold the R-Spec's bona fides the same way the other spots do for other models, or have run the "Don't Tell" spot instead, even it has already aired.
Hyundai, "Epic Playdate" – Nice use of the Flaming Lips (especially the Zorb reference). My only wish is that they'd done a subtle bit of minivan taunting. And that the person driving the minivan had been me. (Sad face.) Well played.
Hyundai, "Stuck" – While many automakers are turning to smaller, turbocharged engines to increase gas mileage, Hyundai is, in this spot at least, touting the power benefits of forced induction. It's not anything that hasn't been seen before, premise-wise, but the situations are creatively constructed and just believable enough to work. Slobbering hounds FTW!
Hyundai, "Team" – The extended version (a :45) is better than this :30 that aired during the game. However, this version is still quite strong, marred only by the final shot where the bully character is obviously being yanked from behind. Choose a different ending and this mother in gold. Mom's steely gaze is awesome.
Jeep, "Whole Again" – Only a brand born from military service could get away with this kind of spot. Jeep almost did it. But starting with an Oprah quote and then having her do the voiceover, just doesn't smack of armed forces pride. Still, I can't help but get weepy seeing parents return home to their kids.
Kia, "Space Babies" – This ad for Kia's Sorento crossover is loaded with stellar production values. It is seriously one of the best-looking spots I've seen in a while when it comes to animating animals and babies. Unfortunately, I don't really know what the point of the spot was. If, as the ending art card implies, it's about the Sorento having an answer for everything (and a trademarked answer, no less), then why is that squeezed into a two-second bit near the end? Kids ask a lot of questions (especially my son Gideon), so why not have the son in this spot fire off a barrage of q's at an increasing rate as the dad, well-versed in his son's querying ways, fires back with answers involving the car? It could still include fancy dream sequences while avoiding the "Wheels on the Bus" ending. Please, that boy is too old to be distracted by WOTB.
Kia, "Hotbots" – Another nicely produced spot that leaves me wondering what the message is. Obviously, I'm supposed to "respect the tech" lest I be assaulted by fembots with their seams showing. But what's the tech? You're showing me a Kia Forte. Which is not an unattractive vehicle by any means, but it's not exactly known as a harbinger of bleeding-edge auto technology. Less nerd, more nerdy goodness to, perhaps, respect, please.
Lincoln, "Steer the Script" – Lincoln's first-ever Bowl spot from their bespoke WPP agency, HudsonRouge, was theoretically written by the brand's Twitter followers. And if anyone can tell me what those followers were smoking, please do.
Lincoln, "Phoenix" – This spot was the polar opposite of Chrysler's intro for the 200 a couple of years ago. Whereas that was a great spot for a mediocre car, this is a mediocre spot for (what looks like) a great car. If you're going to go esoteric, you better write, write, and rewrite. And then probably do something else. Esoteric is hard, yo.
M&M's, "Love Ballad" – Best use of Meatloaf ever. And that includes "Fight Club." I wouldn't have bothered with the actress from "Glee," however. Didn't add anything to the spot.
Mercedes-Benz, "Soul" – Nice ending, but needed less fluff, more Dafoe. I suspect those fingernails were natural.
Milk Processors, "The Rock" – I really wanted to like this spot, but something didn't quite click for me. In this case, I think the scenarios that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson bypasses in his quest for milk should have ratcheted up the absurd factor faster. You've got an iconic campaign (although no longer in the hands its creators at Goodby), a likeable action star and sweet, sweet, lactose-fueled moolah. But you still need a story. And a lion on top of grandma's car just ain't it. Maybe if it had been the guy from the old "Aaron Burr" spot. Maybe.
Mio, "Anthem" – I'll bet the outtakes for this spot, starring comedian Tracy "Tracy Jordan" Morgan are downright high-lare-ee-us. The spot itself is an argument for keeping the outtakes in.
Oreo, "Whisper Fight" – This reminded me of the old Cliff Freeman spots for Little Caesar's Pizza. And that's a very good thing. And then, when the power in the stadium went out, Oreo tweeted this pic. Win.
Pepsi, "Beyoncé" – I have a relationship with Pepsi's AOR, TBWA\Chiat\Day, so I'll be keeping my mouth shut lest I be perceived as either a sycophant or an idiot. Or has that ship already sailed?
Pepsi Next, "Party" – See above.
Pizza Hut, "Hut Hut Hut" – If only yesterday had been the day user-created content had died.
Ram Trucks, "Farmer" – The elegant words of Paul Harvey combined with stunning still photos of the American farmer. The Midwestern boy couldn't help but get goose bumps. But I suspect the same could be said of Manhattanites, too. Would've left the "Here's to the farmer in all of us" super at the end off, but still, very, very well done.
Samsung, "The Next Big Thing" – I enjoyed the two minutes (yes, two minutes) I got to spend with Seth and Paul and Bob. Nice guys. Funny guys. Clever bit of meta-ness with Lebron. Still have no idea why I should want a Samsung mobile device. Am I supposed to learning on Pinterest or something?
Skechers "GOrun 2 - Man vs. Cheetah" – I have owned perhaps a dozen pairs of Skechers through the years. This spot makes me regret almost every one of those purchases. Tired premise. Poor visual effects.
SodaStream, "The SodaStream Effect" – The spot SodaStream originally planned on airing was nixed by CBS. Probably because it directly attacked Coke and Pepsi—two major sponsors of the game. I don't blame them for doing so as business is business (hey, these are "commercial" messages, remember?), but the ensuing uproar guaranteed SodaStream way more exposure than they may have otherwise received. I think this spot is actually better than the Coke vs. Pepsi vs. SodaStream spot, although I still don't quite understand the message. I should buy it to save the planet? I'm guessing I'd buy it to save money. But I'm not surprised by the green angle given its creator is Alex Bogusky. I think you could have kept the same general premise with the exploding bottles while trumpeting a more consumer-centric message. But then, I'm no hippie.
Speed Stick, "Unattended Laundry" – For a second I thought this was a student version of the old Southwest Airlines "Wanna Get Away?" campaign. If you're going to go cheap on production for a Super Bowl spot, go cheap with purpose. Or at least lose the inner monologue.
Subway, "15 Years" – I've always admire Jared for turning his weight loss into a lucrative ad career. Good for him. Not sure it was worth the coin to tout his 15 years of slimness with this spot, though. Okay, I am sure. It wasn't.
Taco Bell, "Viva Young" – If you're going to have old people acting young, you should twist it in some way other than having a few elders act like hipster doofii. A cameo by "Cocoon" star Wilfred Brimley wouldn't hurt, either. Although TB probably isn't great for his diabeetus.
Tide, "Miracle Stain" – The key to this well-produced spot was creating a twist ending that no one would see coming. Wait? That didn't happen? Bummer. 'Twas entertaining while it lasted.
Time Warner Cable, "The Walking Dead" – Well produced? Yes. Enjoyable? Pretty much. Seen this concept before? You betcha. Netflix. 2006. And that probably wasn't so new then, either.
Toyota, "Wish Granted" – Another spot with great production values and little to say. The message I received: the hatch-mounted spare tire is gone. Again, give me a reason to like the vehicle, not just the ad. Grant the wishes via the RAV-4 in (semi-)grounded ways. At least they didn't use Sheldon. So overexposed.
Volkswagen, "Get in. Get happy." – People have been accusing this spot of being racist because the white protagonist speaks like a Rastafarian. That is dumb. If you want racist, watch the animated SalesGenie.com spots from a few years ago. At worst, this spot is innocuous. Which is nice way of saying boring. Bring back Tiny Darth.
Wonderful Pistachios, "Get Crackin'" – Psy. Sorry, sigh. I quit.
---A preview of the reviews for the iPhone 5
This Wednesday (September 12, 2012), Apple will announce the new iPhone. Probably called the iPhone 5, but possibly the iPhone Rambo: 4S Part II. Note how they can only announce the new iPhone as it has already been unveiled, part by obscure part, over the last few months. So many parts have leaked that the folks at iFixit.com have managed to assemble a non-working mockup from actual parts, assuming those parts are genuine. Since the cobbled-together phone—code name: Voltron—doesn't make Jeremy Lin's hand look normal-sized, I'm guessing it's not a Samsung Nexus Galaxy T IV prototype.
Due to Apple's naming scheme (which is really no wackier than those of other electronics manufacturers, let alone car companies like BMW), this is actually the sixth iPhone model to emerge from the bowels of Jony Ive. Eww. So we've been through five previous iPhone hoedowns in the vicinity of Fourth and Howard Streets in lovely San Francisco. Which means we've been treated to five rounds of reviewers, revilers, and some other pundit type that starts with "r" praising or bemoaning the latest from Cupertino. (Full disclosure: I actually live on Cupertino Trail. I have yet to mistakenly receive Tim Cook's stock options in the mail.) With that in mind, here's what you can expect to read on Wednesday. Or not if you consider this preview good enough. Because "good enough" is always worth striving for.
Every article about new Apple hardware includes at least one quote from the presentation. In the past, this was nearly always a quote from Steve Jobs. Now said quote(s) can come from any number of presenters, all of whom I easily confuse because they appear to be dressed two levels hipper than they are the rest of their lives. Except Ive, who somehow manages to kill his own ostriches for their hides, but makes the ensuing boots, jackets and, yes, chaps eco-friendly. It's magical. Of course, "magical" may be this presentation's most over-used word, much like it was when the iPad was introduced. I hope they've chosen a new buzzword or phrase, though. Something akin to "it's like holding the Tesseract without the possibility of Scarlett Johansson killing you even though that'd be pretty awesome, too." But shorter. Anyway, here are a few blurbs you can reasonably expect to hear from Tim, Phil, Jony, et al. about how holding the new iPhone almost makes them feel a bit naughty:
Phil Schiller: "It's a radical redesign of the iPhone that's set to revolutionize the market yet again in ways only someone who's experienced a revolution can truly understand. Like George Washington."
Jony Ive: "It's a beautiful, revolutionary-yet-evolutionary redesign that brings cutting-edge design to the masses who don't really understand design except when they hold something this well-designed in their hobbit paws."
Scott Forstall: "While the new iPhone hardware is transformative in its user experience, the real miracle of magicness lies in iOS 6. This groundbreaking new version of an already groundbreaking operating system will break new ground in the field of groundbreaking technology."
Tim Cook: "Holy Moses, I'm rich."
From those folks generally inclined to like Apple products, you'll be treated to much genuflecting about the new iPhone's slimmer profile, increased screen real estate, probably enhanced battery life, possibly better camera, sorta worldwide 4G compatibility, and its ability to know what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Here are some samples of possible quotes. If someone out there just wants to use these instead of trying to find another synonym for "ZOMG!!!1!!1" on UrbanDictionary.com, feel free. Thief.
Slimmer profile: "The new iPhone seductively slimmer girth reminds one of a post-baby Jessica Simpson, assuming the leaked pictures in "OK! Magazine" are accurate. Though growing a few millimeters taller to accommodate the new 16:9 or :10 screen, the iPhone feels natural in the hand, as if God himself created our four fingers and thumb to hold, protect, and caress this outstanding device.
Larger screen: "Let the Android crowd have their pocket-puncturing 4.8-inch screens. The new iPhone delivers the visual panache of a mini-IMAX screen without feeling like you're hoisting a DynaTAC to your ear every time the missus calls."
Battery: "I'm happy to report that was able to tether my iPad to my freshly jailbroken iPhone 5 (I got a pre-beta JB app from p0wnster99) for 12 hours before AT&T realized what was going on and shut down my entire U-verse setup. Still had 68% battery life showing."
Camera: "After taking a few sample shots of my 'discreet' tattoo in the mirror, I immediately sold my entire Canon 1D X setup on eBay."
4G: "Putting the latest Qualcomm chip in the new iPhone ensures I'll be able to hate almost every carrier on the planet for years to come without have to switch phones. That's value."
Not everyone belongs to the Cult of iPhone. Some people just don't care what kind of phone they have as long as they can bedazzle it. Others are long-term fans of the command prompt. And some, well, they think Mac and iOS users have been duped by the shininess of Steve's still-strong Reality Distortion Field. This is what you may hear from them:
Slimmer profile: "2004 called and wants it RAZR back."
Larger screen: "It's so cute. Like the maltipoo my WOC girlfriend has. Too bad my GalacticTab George Foreman Grill S 20 blows it away."
Battery: "Whatever. My pre-release Windows Phone can stream Ogg Vorbis files from my Amazon S3 setup for 29 days before it quits in protest of my one Britney song."
Camera: "Call me when it includes a self-portrait auto-tan function like the Arduino cam I just added to my Ascend."
4G: "Already upgraded my Droid to WiFiber."
Personally, I'm excited about the new iPhone. I'm still clutching an increasingly bogged-down 3GS, so any update will feel amazingly magical in my hobbit paw. I'm also glad the new screen size isn't Galaxy-class, as I'd have a hard time keeping such a device in even my most relaxed-fit jeans. But what I'm really hoping is that the pre-paid carriers like Virgin Mobile and Cricket will get the new iPhone at the same time, so I can ditch my current plan. I seriously doubt that will happen. Which means I'll either end up waiting or possibly going with Sprint if I have any hopes of being taken down by ScarJo in the near future. Although I'd probably end up getting double-tapped by a slightly gamy Mark Ruffalo.
Okay, you probably won't see that last bit in a review. But don't you wish you would?
About six weeks ago, I managed to sell my MacBook Air three days after the new MacBook Air models were released and one day before Best Buy dropped the price on my generation of MBA to less than what I sold mine for. That is, I got lucky. I was also lucky enough to find two iPad 3s on eBay that weren't selling at or above Apple's own price. So, I promptly acquired a 32 GB for my lovely wife and a 64 GB version for myself. Huzzah.
Since both iPads were intended to replace laptops (my MBA and my wife's late-2006 C2D MacBook Pro), I also bought a couple Bluetooth keyboards (exceedingly used Zagg models for $10 a pop) and cases that allowed rotating between portrait and landscape. And a pack of 3-for-a-buck styli off Amazon. And a pony.
Let's start with my experience.
In theory, setting up a new iPad should involve restoring a previous iDevice backup to it, setting up your account info, and going on your merry and/or disgruntled way. Sometimes, so I've read, this actually happens. But, if the Avogadro's number of posts on Apple's support forums is to be believed, most folks have issues. Like folders disappearing and spewing their contents all over the Springboard. Apps that had been deleted from a device being reinstalled on the new one. The oleophobic screen coating suddenly causing leprosy. The list goes on. The only true solution is to suck it up and put everything back the way you like it. Not exactly a Shakespearean tragedy, but something you'd think Apple could fix. Although they may claim it's just a naturally occurring molding line.
Once setup was complete, I promptly jailbroke my iPad. I did so in order to use BTstack Mouse, which allows me to pair my Magic Mouse with the iPad. Why would I want to do this? Well, aside from avoiding the aforementioned leprosy, I also wanted the ability to use LogMeIn to access my Hackintosh without having to use touch gestures. And it's often handier to have a pointing device when writing on the iPad with the Bluetooth keyboard than trying to touch menus and whatnot. The subtle joy of sticking it to the Anti-Mouse Man is included at no extra charge. Mouse pairing and usage went splendidly, so no complaints there. Sorry to disappoint.
To really replace my MacBook Air, I needed to be able to edit Word docs and Final Draft files. The latter proved a remarkably easy problem to solve with Scripts Pro. This $7.99 app gives me all the functionality I need to edit files from Final Draft 8. Some of its UI bits aren't as fluid as FD, but for eight bucks, I won't complain. Especially when Final Draft charges $19.99 for an app just to read their files. Silly English-speaking kniggits.
Finding an adequate Word substitute proved to be a bit more trying. I read as many reviews as I could find and finally opted to plunk down $7.99 for Office2 HD. It turned out to be an imperfect option. While it does import and edit docs with tables (I use tables to format... oh, never mind), it also does odd things like make random numbered paragraphs. Also, most of my documents use Times as their main font. iOS does not support Times; it has Times New Roman. Which should be six of one, half a dozen of the other. But instead of simply converting my font to Times New Roman, Office2 HD changes it to, I assume, Arial (it leaves the font name blank in the font menu). Which jacks with formatting even more. And since I don't use Times for the entire document, simply selecting all and changing the font isn't an option. It's not a complete dealbreaker, but it was annoying enough to rekindle my search.
I decided to try CloudOn's crazy-whack solution of using a touch-enabled and tweaked version of Office that's literally running on a Windows box somewhere out in the boonies. (And wouldn't The Boonies be a better name than The Cloud? Yes, it would.) Like Office2 HD, it has Dropbox integration (along with Box) for easy document management. But since it's a bona fide copy of Office running on a desktop machine somewhere, I have no font or formatting issues. I do wish it didn't auto save, but that's a small complaint. My only excuse for buying Office2 HD instead of trying the (for now, at least) free CloudOn is that, at the time, I was suffering from an acute case of cranial flatulence.
And so, for my specific needs, the iPad has proven to be adequate in replacing my MacBook Air. That's before giving it points for its tablet functionality, which is not exactly a steaming pile.
And now, my wife's experience.
For the last three years, my wife has used a first-generation Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. She's not a technophile of any stripe, and she generally used the machine for email and web browsing. Both of which you can do quite well on the iPad. Setting up her email proved to be a bit of a Sisyphean task, however. Since the dawn of my true, non-BBS-messages email usage (circa 1991), I have used POP3 instead of IMAP. Neither protocol is perfect, or close to perfect, or even barely above aggravating, but switching to IMAP at this point would be, for my own accounts, more trouble than it's worth. I know this because I've tried and given up three times.
My wife, however, is not as heavy an email user as I am. Since I wanted her iPhone and iPad to be in sync with emails, I decided to switch her to IMAP. And since I didn't want her emails to be simply floating about on the server, prime for accidental deletion into a nether region even the TARDIS couldn't reach, I set up an account for her on my Hackintosh. The Hack would file everything into appropriate IMAP folders, which would sync to her iDevices along with getting backed up on my Time Machine and CrashPlan accounts. Yes, you may cue the Anal Retentive Chef now.
Needless to say, this was an overly complex solution to a problem only I thought existed. It took a week of tweaking rules and adjusting spam filters on both the Hack and server side to get everything kosher. Please do not replicate my setup. I have taken the road less traveled, and more stupid, for you. Embrace it.
My wife then went about using her iPad for roughly six weeks, including nearly four weeks on the road visiting her family. It was nice. It was nifty. But it turned out that little bit of functionality inherent in her MacBook Pro—like the Finder, a more robust Mail app and physical media—made a huge difference in her user experience. It was, in her estimation, not worth the hassle or, more importantly, the cost of using the iPad over her perfectly capable laptop—or instead of her iPhone. And so, in a reversal of what I thought might occur, I've decided to keep my iPad while my wife has gone back to her nearly six-year-old heat-brick of a laptop.
I can't blame her. While I am using my iPad to replace a MacBook Air, it's not replacing my primary computer. And if I had to do much more than edit docs in my line of work, I think I'd be back looking for another Air. The iPad is dang handy and can be contorted and pushed to be more productive than you might think. But, in the end, Mr. Dickens was right: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Or, as Herr Damage warned me, "Dude, that ain't no laptop." I'm paraphrasing.
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