iPhone Unplugged

It’s widely expected that the next iPhone will be announced tomorrow during the scheduled Apple Event. For months now, the rumour mill has been telling us that the most controversial change Apply is making to its flagship product is the removal of the headphone jack.

At this point, it seems like a certainty. The headphone jack in its current form has existed for decades, but Apple is notorious for advancing physical I/O past its status quo: witness the current MacBook with its single USB-C port, and recall the Lightning and 30-pin connectors on iOS devices, the adoption of Thunderbolt on current Macs, the even introduction of USB on the original iMac.

Every time Apple introduces a new port standard, or drops an old one, the ecosystem adapts. Because iPhones didn’t use micro-USB connections, pundits complained that it’d be nigh-impossible to charge and sync your phone if the included cable got lost or damaged. Fast forward only a few years after the introduction of the iPhone, and 30-pin cables can be found nearly anywhere that has even the most modest of electronics departments.

But the headphone port has always been around. There’s some expectation of Lightning-connected earbuds, which poses a charge-while-listening dilemma, and there will almost certainly be Lightning-to-3.5mm adapters—if not from Apple, then definitely from third parties. But adapters add bulk and are easily lost. Which leads to the next option: Bluetooth.

Wireless options have been available for a long time, but they’ve never really been particularly well-received: they’re expensive, the sound quality isn’t great, &cet. The real problem, as I see it, is that a wireless device is an active device by necessity. It has to power its own wireless radios, and in this case also power the audio drivers. That means batteries. That means battery life (hours of use per charge), and battery lifespan (number of charges per battery).

What all this means for iPhone 7 users is not forgetting to charge things, but also not charging things too often. It means not losing adapters. It means having to plan ahead to ensure you don’t need to charge your phone while listening to music. It means that there’s now an additional bit of cognitive load on you, which is never good.

This is my main problem with some of these changes. I want new technologies to relieve me of stuff to think about, not add more busywork and more administrative B.S. to keep on top of.

I know this is a barely a blip in the grand scheme of things—heck, it’s only a headphone port—but it nicely captures The Problem With Technology As I See It. Moving the state of the art forward should always be in the service of freeing us to do more important things. And I don’t think changes like this necessarily do so.


Split iPhone

I noticed this earlier in the year, but my iPhone is coming apart at the seams near the volume buttons.

At first, I figured I’d managed to bend the phone, but upon closer inspection, both the back of the case and the screen are bulging outward—which is not the failure mode you’d expect for a bent phone.

The gap at the seam is nearly 2mm, such that light from the screen leaks, but it’s nowhere near as bad as I’ve seen doing an image search. The screen doesn’t seem to be cracking, though I can see weird artifacts in the backlighting.

Most signs point to a bloated battery being the culprit. This doesn’t sound like a safe state for a plastic baggie full of acid and electrons, so off to the Genius Bar we go.

More tk. Update:

One look at the phone and the Genius confirmed the diagnosis. Normally, in the case of a bloated battery, they won’t bother with replacing the battery, in case it’s started leaking and caused damage to other internal components—they give you a new phone and your old device gets sent off to Liam for disassembly and recycling. If you’re still covered by AppleCare, the exchange is free, but if not, you only pay for a replacement battery, not a replacement phone.


Light writing

Literally writing with light, or photography, as it’s more commonly known.

I used to think that I loved photography. I think I still do, I just… never really do it anymore. At one point I had a whole mess of expensive camera gear, with the fancy full-frame digital SLR and red-ring’d lenses. And the fast primes—oh, I loved those. Studio strobes? Yup. Speedlights? Several. Fifty pounds of camera gear that stayed home because, I convinced myself, I couldn’t be arsed to carry fifty pounds of camera gear around with me.

Unless there was some kind of cool reason to. I helped shoot a wedding and did a men’s fashion shoot. Several portraits, too. But mostly, the gear stayed at home, collecting dust.

I mean, fifty pounds. I’m a relatively fit person, but come on.

So I sold it all and downsized to a small micro-four-thirds setup. A kit zoom, a couple of fast primes, and a speedlight. Fifty pounds traded for five and a bucketful of cash. Now I’d start taking more photos. Obviously.

I didn’t, of course.

Thing is, I do enjoy photography. Crafting an image is immensely satisfying. Capturing a great moment is fun. But I’ve gotten lazy about it, because the best camera is the one that’s with you, and by gum the camera on my iPhone is pretty fantastic, all things considered.

But it’s not the same. And while I don’t want to become fifty-pound camera-guy again, I do think I’ll take a cue from Ash Furrow and start walking around with my little PEN day-to-day.

I mean, look how pretty it is.

And of course, in true keeping-myself-honest fashion, I’m going to try to do a photo post every so often. Maybe once a month. Maybe some old photos, maybe some new photos, maybe a couple of words too.

More —as always— tk. 📸


Swift, UnitTemperature, And Humidex

Last week, I wrote about weather apps that use the Dark Sky forecast API for weather data lacking the Canadian humidex.

Those that do tend to be riddled with ads and all kinds of content that, well, I don’t care about. And naturally, I started thinking about how I use weather apps. All I really want from my is a couple of things:

  • Current conditions, including humidex/ windchill values;
  • Forecast conditions with highs and lows for today and tomorrow, again including humidex and windchill;
  • Probability of precipitation for the next hour, with alerts of impending rain.

Getting the actual forecast along with alerts is a solved problem, thanks to Forecast.io. Doing conversion and such between different units is also a solved problem, thanks to the new Measurement class in Cocoa.

(Here’s a great starter post on Meaurement)

So what would, say, a basic CurrentConditions object look like in my ideal app? Probably something like this:

import Foundation

struct CurrentConditions {
    var conditions: String
    var airTemperature: Measurement<UnitTemperature>
    var dewpoint: Measurement<UnitTemperature>
    
    var humidex: Measurement<UnitTemperature> {
        return Measurement(value: airTemperature.converted(to: UnitTemperature.celsius).value + 0.5555 * ((6.11 * exp(5417.7530 * ((1/273.16) - (1/dewpoint.converted(to: UnitTemperature.kelvin).value)))) - 10), unit: UnitTemperature.celsius)
    }
}

We initialize this strict with some descriptive weather conditions (e.g., “cloudy”), and values for the air (i.e., actual) temperature and dewpoint. It doesn’t really matter what units we use when we pass the values in, because the calculated property humidex will convert them to Celsius and Kelvin respectively, before returning a value in Celsius.

Then you can simply add a switch in your weather app’s settings asking the user if they prefer apparent temperature be calculated according to heat index or humidex.


How about that heat?

I don’t deal well with heat brought on by humidity. Which makes a Montreal summer pretty tough to deal with. Temperatures will routinely go over 30°C, but when combined with high humidity, it’ll feel even hotter.

Like, three-showers-a-day-ain’t-enough hot. Grimy, unpleasant, swampy hot.

And most weather apps out there don’t get it. Sure, they have a “feels like” temperature that compensates for some of it, but it never feels quite right.

To really understand how it works, you need a weather app made by Canadians, for Canadians. Because Canadians use a humidex.

Feels like

Humidex distinguishes itself from the US heat index in that it’s proportional to the dew point, not relative humidity. And generally, it’s significantly higher.

I’ve seen days where the “actual” temperature (i.e., air temperature) is in the high twenties, but the “feels like” humidex is mid-thirties. That’s a huge difference—what’s comfortable to wear at one temperature may not be at the other. Or worse: if you’re living with some medical conditions, the decision to leave the comfort of air conditioning may even be fatal.

A cursory look at weather apps (I’ve used many) shows that most use Forecast.io’s API. It’s a great data source, especially for its hyper-local precipitation forecasts. But—and this of course makes sense, given market sizes—it doesn’t use Canadian humidex calculations to derive the apparent temperature, so I never feel like I can trust these apps for forecast highs.

All I really want from a weather app is accurate alerts for incoming precipitation, and (humidex-corrected) forecast highs for the day. I’ve keep telling myself that I don’t want to take on new projects, but having to switch between a couple of apps every day is kind of a pain.

🤔