All My Clouds are Raining on My Parade

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“You’ll notice that, unlike the 1TB cap for Office 365 subscribers, not all of these conditions are aimed at abusers. No one could reasonably conclude that using the 15GB of storage offered to free customers would count as abusive. Heck, most phones have more storage than that. For whatever reason, Microsoft is trying to conserve as much space as possible on their servers.”

Source: Microsoft Downgrading OneDrive Storage Plans For All Users

I’ve been pretty impressed with Microsoft’s Mac and iOS offerings lately.  In fact, I’ve started using OneNote a lot (more on this later).  I was just about the extend my Office 365 trial (even though I won’t install the apps on my Mac because I DON’T WANT OUTLOOK ON MY MAC, and they don’t let you selectively install just the apps you want).

And then this.  It’s not the end of the world.  But the explanation clearly wasn’t thought out well.  You were doing great Microsoft.  Why do this now?  If it’s really about excess use, then “hidden cap” the unlimited storage at an amount that almost no one will reach.  Using the outliers as a reason to hose everyone is either a bad idea or horrible PR.  Or both.

Sigh.  Now I’ve got to rethink my cloud.

I use iCloud a lot.  I use Dropbox and Google Drive a lot.  I use Amazon Cloud Drive for some things.  And I was about to start using OneDrive for some other stuff.  OneDrive is the easy out, except I really like OneNote.

I’ve got to come up with a new plan that doesn’t require a sky full of different clouds.  Way not to help, Microsoft.

Movie Review: Beasts of No Nation

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I watched Beasts of No Nation yesterday and today, on the treadmill. Here’s my quick review.

Title: Beasts of No Nation
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Genre: Drama

Why I Watched It:
Netflix, which released this as its first original feature-length film, recommended it to me.

Interesting Fact:
Cary Fukunaga was the director of the first season of True Detective.

Review:
This is an excellent movie, action-packed, with great characters, and an important political message that does not get in the way of a great experience. Highly recommended.

Best Thing About It:
Abraham Attah as Agu. Oh, and Stringer Bell.

Worst Thing About It:
This is a fictional story, but this sort of thing happens for too often to far too many children.

Rating: ★★★★

More:
IMDB
Rotten Tomatoes

One Giant Step for Apple, One Small Step for Cord Cutters

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I’ve been looking forward to the new Apple TV for a long time.  Partly because I love new Apple devices and partly because I am an acceptable device away from dumping DirecTV, and cutting the cord forever.  To date, the problem has been that there is not one comprehensive set-top box to rule them all.  There are numerous alternatives, with various strengths and common weaknesses.  I am a long time AppleTV user, all the way back to the first generation.  They have always been pretty good devices, much better at integrating with and serving up content within the Apple ecosystem than wrangling content from the multitude of other content providers.

And there’s always been that question about what, exactly, Apple wanted the AppleTV to be.

It took Apple a long time to decide whether the Apple TV is a hobby, a product, or something in between.  I’m still not sure we know.  My hunch is that Apple would like to make the Apple TV the one-stop device to rule all cord cutters, but the inability to work out deals with content providers who know the bundling gig is almost up has led Apple to settle for half-measures.  Accordingly, we end up with hardware sufficient for the task, likely unreleased software that would vastly improve the current experience, and insufficient content licenses to allow Apple to bring it all together.  In other words, when Eddy Cue says the Apple TV will be an add-on device for most users, he’s right.  Not because that was the design and intent, but because that’s the best they can do, for now.

So where does that leave us?

My third-generation Apple TV is a fine product, for limited purposes.  It’s great for Netflix, renting and buying movies from Apple, and watching Wake Forest get its ass kicked on ESPN3 (again, as long as I’m willing to dutifully subscribe to DirecTV and enter my credentials every so often).  It’s not sufficient for managing and watching network and cable television shows, because of the haphazard mishmash of separate apps that create a disjointed experience that would make even the most ardent Android user blush.  In fact, I’ve paid for iTunes subscriptions to TV shows I could theoretically access for free via a third-party app, simply because the third-party app process is so painful.  Sure, with enough effort and password entries, you can probably find fairly recent episodes of at least some of your favorite network television shows.  What you cannot do is create a unified playlist where your “subscribed” shows automatically appear for easy access and enjoyment.  Another big problem with prior Apple TVs (those of you in big cities with fat broadband pipes probably never experienced this) is underpowered components.  When I’m in town, with my 100 plus Mbps connection, everything plays almost instantly.  When I’m at the farm, where I’m lucky to get 5 Mbps speeds, it can take hours for a rented movie to start.  I always assumed this was solely due to internet download speeds, until I bought an Amazon Fire TV, and immediately noticed a significant reduction in waiting times.  Neither Apple nor Amazon has managed to produce a unified, elegant user experience on their set-top devices, but Amazon fire TVs are a lot faster than the prior generation Apple TVs.

I’m in town this weekend, so I haven’t had a chance to test my new Apple TV on a slow internet connection.  I’m assuming it will match or exceed the capabilities of my year old Amazon Fire TV.  If not, my shiny new Apple TV will be returned immediately.

I hoped the new Apple TV would solve most of these nagging problems, or at least give us hope that Apple is making progress in the cord cutting war.  The fact is, however, that the new Apple TV, both in appearance and experience, is a whole lot more like the last generation Apple TV than it is a new, improved and unified experience.  For example, while the initial setup of the new Apple TV seems easy and high techy, because you use a Bluetooth connection with your iPhone to do something,  you still have to initially enter your iTunes name and password over and over again, even for different Apple-provided features. It’s maddening, and surely unnecessary.

There is also no universal playlist or the equivalent.  Sure, we can search a few services (with hopefully more to come) with Siri (I’m a Siri liker, but not a Siri lover), but we don’t want to have to ask Siri to find us shows to watch every time we sit down.  We want to subscribe to shows at the lowest available cost and have them show up in a unified playlist.  How hard can that be?  DirecTV and TiVo have been doing it since the last century.

All the new colors are fine.  I’m glad there’s now an App Store.  Maybe one day there’ll be some decent apps.  Others may like the new ability to play games (though I wonder just how robust the Apple TV gaming platform will be; I have concerns).  But all of this seems like a paint job, when we need a complete remodel.

Now, back to passwords.  Not only is reentering your iTunes credentials over and over during setup a drag (it’s hard to explain how painful it is entering text with the new remote; you have to experience it to truly hate it), there is apparently no universal authentication for your cable or satellite subscriptions.  Which means when you download the various content provider apps, which so far are mostly identical to the old ones, you have to authenticate, every time.

In sum, when the QVC app is the best example of the improvements in your groundbreaking new device, there’s a lot of work to be done.  Much like the Apple Watch, the beauty of the new Apple TV is in what it may become more than what it is now.  Seems like a trend.

So Eddy Cue’s right that the Apple TV is still an add-on for most people.  But that’s almost certainly not what Apple was shooting for, and it’s not what prospective cord cutters were hoping for.

Apple Watch: A Nice Accessory

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“After six months of trying to log my runs with my Apple Watch, I finally gave up and bought a dedicated GPS running watch.”

Source: Why I’m cheating on my Apple Watch | Cult of Mac

For people like me, who just want to gamify their workouts, and roughly track steps and miles, the Apple Watch is just fine.  For serious runners, like my wife (who has been holding a “gift card” for an Apple Watch for months), it just doesn’t cut it.

I like my Apple Watch, but only for workout-tracking lite, as described above, and for quick notifications.  I never- and I mean never- use any apps.  They just aren’t fun.  Sure, updated apps are doing the best they can, but even native apps are limited by the lack of a GPS on the watch.

I keep waiting for it to get better, but I’m starting to think it will be a couple of hardware updates and several years before the Apple Watch becomes an indispensable tool instead of an optional accessory.

The Coolest Dude; the Only Question

The coolest dude on earth answers the only question that matters.

When I am forced to listen to someone tell me self-serving things I either already or don’t want to know (think political candidates and sales people), and he or she asks if I have any questions I always ask this one.

Runkeeper’s Apple Watch App Tracks Runs Without Your iPhone

“The team behind popular fitness app Runkeeper on Thursday launched a hotly anticipated native Apple Watch companion app that lets users track runs without lugging around a paired iPhone.”

Source: Runkeeper’s new native Apple Watch app tracks runs without iPhone.

This and Fitbit (maybe) being hackable may lead to the end of my dual fitness tracker days.  I’ve got years of data invested in my Fitbit, but it’s only a matter of time.  Fitbit can integrate with my Apple watch and maybe keep its spot in my pocket.  Or it can compete with my Apple watch, in a drawer somewhere.

The Saint of Dry Creek

I’ve mentioned the StoryCorps podcast a time or two before.  I listen to podcasts all the time when working out, and occasionally in the car.

I continue to think the StoryCorps podcast, whose mission “is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives,” is a national treasure.  I’ve gotten to the point that I only listen to it when getting my workout on lightly traveled country roads, so people won’t wonder why the old, bearded man is running down the road with tears in his eyes.

Occasionally, the StoryCorps crew will create an animation for one of the interviews.  They use the actual interview and create very clever animations to help tell the story.  Here is an example of one, in which a farmer in the 1950s demonstrates that back then, as now, there are progressive people beyond the city limits.