An Apple Car?

Have you missed me? Winter wasn’t harsh, just miserable enough to keep me inside and depressed.

It’s a well-known fact, at least within my family, that I’m an Apple fangirl. Doing stuff with an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and two Macs is what keeps me marginally sane during the miserable months. I read media reports; listen to podcasts; keep track of my meager shares of Apple stock; and watch company events in real time.

The most recent item to incite the Mac Nerd media (some of whom are friends) is Motor Trend’s Apple Car Exclusive: Experts Look At What Could Be A Game-Changer. I’ve only heard of Motor Trend; does the publication usually focus solely on design?

Apple Car front three quarter render

The missing image icon above represents one view of the Motor Trend’s speculative Apple car that was previously here, but is no longer available to this site. If you wish to view their images, click on the link above.

From my perspective, with the car being at least a few years from realization, appearance is irrelevant. More important factors are: 1) Will each wheel have a separate electrical motor, or will the entire vehicle will be powered by a single driveshaft? 2) Will engineers find a way to efficiently translate wheel rotation into electricity that charges the batteries sufficiently that range is extended to a number worth reporting? (I admit to being a perpetual motion junkie) 3) Could solar cells be molded into an attractive exterior of the auto that would contribute to battery charge when not providing environmental control for the interior?

To that last point, the Solar Impulse 2 is a completely solar-powered aircraft in the midst of circumnavigating the planet. It zips along at about 28 MPH with a wingspan exceeding that of a Boeing 747, hardly worth mentioning, but it proves the concept that solar cells on a vehicle have the potential to contribute to overall electrical power.

When Apple released the iPhone, the size and shape resembled other smartphones of the day; the genius of the device was what it could do. In the same fashion, a vehicle made by Apple will resemble other cars. It will have a pointy-ish nose to minimize drag and a cabin that will accommodate however many people, and their stuff, Apple decides the car should carry. It will be stylish, as befits any design influenced by Jony Ive, not the rounded box Motor Trend proposed.

An issue not addressed by Motor Trend is self-driving cars. I agree, it’s a topic for another decade. Despite the extensive research currently being conducted, there’s no reason to believe implementation won’t require at least ten years. On the otherhand, there are cars currently in production with “autopilot” capabilities that will track within a lane and adjust speed to match the vehicle in front.

On one podcast, (The Accidental Tech Podcast, I think) the guys surmised Apple could budget a BILLION dollars, an amount that wouldn’t make a noticable dent to the company balance sheet, to study the feasibility of producing automobiles without breaking a sweat. I think an Apple developed car would be awesome. Whether it comes to fruition or not, an Apple engineering team will advance the science of automotive electrical propulsion. I hope I live long enough to see what they bring forth.

We Ordered FitBits Today

We ordered FitBits today. I think I’ll enjoy using mine. I get a kick out the Pedometer++ App on my iPhone, which provides steps walked and flights climbed data, but in order for it to work I have to keep the phone in my pocket. That isn’t always convenient. For example, when I’m playing golf I keep items of golf equipment in my pockets.

FitBit also provides data I couldn’t get from an iPhone, or an Watch for that matter. I’m anxious to have access to sleep data. It’s been a very long time since I slept through the night. FitBit might get some useful diagnostic data that will help me resolve that issue. Or, it could just be old age, in which case I think I’ll take what I can then plan on a permanent sleep sometime in the, hopefully distant, future. In either case, I’ll have data.

The fitness band will pair with my iPhone, though it won’t use Apple’s Health App. I’ll still get real-time data based on my activity, or lack thereof.

So, should I expect that having an activity monitor on my body 24/7 will motivate me to get more exercise? I don’t have that answer yet. Stay tuned.


UPDATE April 18

Our FitBits arrived yesterday, but we didn’t know it until this morning when I looked at the FedEx Web site to see when I might expect delivery. Imagine my surprise when I saw they’d been delivered Friday. When we got it inside, we tore into the package then began setting up our new fitness trackers. After that, we went for a 1.7 mile walk around the neighborhood. I hope we keep our activity level up.

We like our new devices, but there’s one item we’ve identified that’s not up to expectations. The associated application provides for entering the food eaten during a day then compares it to calories burned. Unfortunately there is no discernible way to enter real food. All choices seem to be restaurant food. That is not realistic, unless the target audience for the device are upper-income 20-somethings who never learned to cook. Nice try, FitBit. Those are the people who will be buying Watches.


UPDATE April 19

Our initial reaction is that FitBits have become problematic due to wildly inaccurate readings. I was surprised this morning when I found that after I had gotten out of bed, then walked the 14 steps to get downstairs, and the 18 steps from the bottom of the stairs into the kitchen, that I had somehow accumulated in excess of 4,000 steps. Based on my activities today I should have had fewer than 5,000 steps counted. As of 11:26 PM FitBit has logged 12,856.

Equally unreasonable readings have caused Jen to decide the FitBit isn’t worth the cost. I’ve made some adjustments to the settings in the hope that it will all better when I get up in the morning. I’m holding out for anywhere from a day or two, to a week to decide whether they both go back or not. If return is the final decision I will be sad.

The New MacBook

This past Monday, March 9, Apple held a press event in San Francisco where, as expected, they introduced the Apple Watch. What wasn’t on everyone’s radar was a new MacBook.

Despite pundit claims to the contrary, the new MacBook is clearly not an upgrade of the MacBook Air. Even though it has brilliant new features such as the “tactic” trackpad and “butterfly” keys, the “M” processor is significantly less powerful than i5 in the least capable MBA. Existing MacBook users would be sorely disappointed if they replaced their current notebooks with the new device.

Although Apple hasn’t said so, I think the new MacBook is intended as an entry level computer for those who have never used a Mac but have a fondness the iPhone and iPad. People in this category won’t miss peripherals because they’ve never had them. The retina screen will be completely familiar to those whose only prior Apple hardware has been iOS devices.

The trackpad and keyboard advances will make their way into the existing MacBook line. I’ll be happy to have them when it’s time to replace my 11-inch Air.

Yosemite

Note: Non-Apple people are encouraged to skip this one as it will make little difference to your life.

I spent a few days this week upgrading the operating systems on the MacBook Air to OSX Yosemite (OSX 10.10) and my iPad and iPhone to iOS 8.1. The entire process has been easier than anticipated. I did essentially a clean install on the phone, which almost tripled my free space. I did nothing fancy on the iPad, but the upgrade went smoothly. When I got to the MacBook I was contemplating a clean install (“Nuke and Pave” per Katie Floyd of the Mac Power Users podcast) but decided to just load Yosemite over the top of Mavericks. However I’m considering a re-install with a wiped drive. I think I have the guts to do it. I’ll need several hours to get it done but I expect the result to be more drive space and a sense of satisfaction for having successfully accomplished something that’s a little outside my comfort zone.

OSX Yosemite

Generally I’m OK with the new Operating System. I haven’t found anything to squawk about so far. The concerns I had about iCloud Drive have been resolved, most by waiting for App upgrades from developers. I’m reading John Siracusa’s analysis of Yosemite and it’s guiding me through attributes I might not have noticed or been confused by.

Some things have been moved from their traditional locations. Example: Accessing Disk Utility was formerly done by clicking the so-named button on the Storage tab in About this Mac. It doesn’t exist in Yosemite. But after a few minutes of, “Oh, man… What am I going to do now?” I figured out I could look for Disk Utility in Alfred. No problem, and using Alfred is faster than drilling down through the  menu.

My old eyes have to strain a bit to see many of the interface items, so I’ve taken advantage of system settings that increase contrast and decrease transparency. Much of the hyperbole has centered on how wonderful Yosemite looks on a retina display — which I don’t own. It looks fine on my old 20" monitor.

Ever since its Worldwide Developer’s Conference in June, Apple has indicated that the new toys in Yosemite/iOS 8 would play well on a mid–2011 MacBook Air (MBA). Now that I’ve installed the new OSs their tune has changed. My MBA will not run the Continuity stuff, which was mostly the reason I’ve spent the last several days updating Operating Systems.

Underpowered Air

When I bought my MacBook Air I was really impressed. It’s extremely portable and it had enough processor and RAM to do what I wanted; then I took up photography. It wasn’t long before I ran out of drive space. If that wasn’t bad enough, the image software I use taxes both the dual-core processor and the 4GB of RAM.

Shopping

In order to have enough computing power to work the way I want I’ll need a new computer, which I’m perfectly happy doing — a non-retina 27" iMac with 16GB of memory, and a 1 Terabyte fusion drive, if you please. An iMac would resolve my capacity and performance issues.

Unfortunately Jen would throw large objects at me if I came home with the machine of my dreams.

Social Purchasing Power

I frequently read a Web site that discusses Apple products, like Mac computers and iPhones. This morning there was an article about Apple entering the payment processing business. One of the commenters to the story pointed out a company already doing a great job in payment processing but refused to do business with them because of their anti-2nd Amendment agenda. A couple of other commenters thought it was silly to base business decisions on the social “agendas” of companies. It only took a moment for me to realize I do exactly the same thing.

I don’t like the deep-fried chicken parts of unknown origin at Chick-fil-A; but even if I did I wouldn’t eat their food because the corporate ownership are very public homophobes. When Exxon bought Mobil Oil they tore up Mobil’s very inclusive Equal Employment document and wrote one that’s much more limited. I don’t buy at ExxonMobil. Staying with the petrolium theme, I won’t buy BP because of the Gulf oil spill they haven’t done enough to clean. There are probably a dozen more companies that I go out of my way to avoid because of their public social stances on a variety of subjects even though it’s occasionally inconvenient.

This can go the other way too. I make a point of shopping at Whole Foods whenever I’m passing near the store.  Even though it’s significantly out of the way for normal grocery shopping, I approve of their stance on environmental issues. Chipotlé’s chicken parts are grilled and locally sourced whenever possible; I enjoy their food and like doing business with them.

What about you? What companies do you avoid and which will you go out of your way to support?