One Month of AirPods Pro

The initial reviews of the AirPods Pro were incredible, if not a little hard to believe.

It’s true that the noise cancellation is very good though. I work in cafes regularly and still find it sort of incredible how good they are at cancelling out background noise. If someone is having a loud conversation right next to you, you can kind of hear it if the volume is low enough. The background buzz of people talking is completely gone though.

They also, predictably, stay in my ears much more reliably than the previous AirPods. If you get them, definitely try all the tips. I used the medium ones for two weeks and they were fine, but the smaller ones fit even better.

Transparency mode is the killer feature I feel like nobody is really talking about — it’s audio AR. Paired with a future pair of AR glasses and maybe a watch, you can start to see the path to making smartphones obsolete.

The only (small) problem I have so far is that transparency mode is unusable with any kind of hat that covers your ears, which means I won’t be using it very much for the next few months.

Overall, I find the AirPods Pro very exciting.

Spinlocks in Webkit

When I got my first Mac a little over four years ago, the first thing I did was install the nightly build of Webkit. Since then I’ve used a host of different browsers, but recently came back to Safari. This article reminded me why I was using the nightly builds of Webkit back then. It’s noticeably faster and I doubt TCSpinLock is the only reason.

Yes, we really did achieve a 3.7X speedup on a garbage collection benchmark by removing a call to sleep().

Why sleep()?

The original TCSpinLock was benchmarked against ten threads running on four CPU cores. In this environment, one thread could monopolize a CPU core, while the thread holding the lock didn’t run at all. Sleeping a little bit was a simple way to guarantee that the thread holding the lock got the CPU.

Why not just use the standard library locks?

Our spinlocks take advantage of a critical optimization: Knowing they’ll be held for a short time. Since spinlocks never sleep, they recover from contention as quickly as possible. As the profile showed, standard locks are much more conservative, and they may even idle a CPU core.

The Beer Game or Why Apple Can’t Build iPads in the US

The Beer Game explains why Apple can’t build iPads in the US. It’s not labor costs, it’s the supply chain. Apple could build a factory to assemble devices in the U.S., but all the components come from China anyway.

In the end, we had lost hundreds of dollars in backorders and excess inventory and were cursing out our upstream or downstream vendors for being idiots.

The lessons of the Beer Game are pretty evident. Delay in the supply chain causes amplified downstream problems. The problem wasn’t that we were kids running beer supply, the problem was the structure of the chain itself. Small changes at the front end lead to massive mistakes down the line.

From the transcript of This American Life’s “Retraction” episode:

But labor is such an enormously small part of any electronic device, right? Compared to the cost of buying chips or making sure that you have a plant that can turn out thousands of these things a day or being able to get strengthened glass cut exactly right within, you know, two days of this thing being due, that’s what’s important. Labor is almost insignificant. What is really important are supply chains and flexibility of factories.

Apple Keynote

Alright, I’ll admit it. This is a little later than I wanted to get this out, but I’ll just get into it.

Without Steve?

Yeah, I have to say, he definitely wasn’t Steve Jobs, but he wasn’t bad. I was really hoping the “One Last Thing” was going to be Steve, but I think they did just fine without him anyway. All of the announcements were interesting, although they had all been predicted beforehand. Let’s Get to the 3 announcements.

iLife 09

iLife 09 Looks great.

The application that I’m most looking forward to is iPhoto. It was the first application that they introduced, and some of the new features are just fabulous. The ones that really stuck out to me were the integration with Facebook and Flickr, faces, and places. Since I use both Facebook and Flickr, this will make uploading photos that much easier. To be honest, it will probably keep me on Flickr. Since I host my own photos on my website, I’ve always wanted to use Flickr as a way to host the ‘highlights’ of an album. Facebook integration will most likely mean that I won’t be putting any photos on MySpace anymore, since I don’t really use the service that much anymore, but that’s another story. The point is, that these are great features that will make many people’s lives easier and bring in much more traffic to these services.

My favorite new feature would have to be ‘faces’. If you didn’t see the keynote, it doesn’t sound like much, and I’m sure there are many people that aren’t as excited as I am about this feature, but I think it really changes the way everything works.

For the people who didn’t happen to see the demo of faces, it’s like that face recognition setting on your camera meets Facebook tagging. When you click on a photo, iPhoto automatically recognizes the faces that are present. If that particular person hasn’t been added to your faces collection in iPhoto, it will ask you who it is. After you name the person it will give you more people that could possibly be that person, confirming them makes iPhoto more ‘confident’ about its ability to identify that person. This also works with Facebook. Any people that have been ‘tagged’ in iPhoto will be tagged if you upload those pictures to Facebook and vice versa. So if one of your friends tags a person in a photo from Facebook, it will sync down to iPhoto and that person will be added as a face in your iPhoto faces.

Places works with GPS enabled cameras and will show a map of photos will GPS tags within iPhoto using google maps. This feature also works with photos uploaded to Flickr, since Flickr supports GPS tags.

They also demoed some new iMovie features that look pretty cool and Garage Band. The biggest new Garage Band feature… well I guess you could call it a feature, is the music lessons. It comes with a few free lessons for Piano and Guitar. Then, after you learn how to play basic things, you can take lessons from the rock-stars by buying a $5 lesson to learn one of their popular songs.

iWork 09

iWork wasn’t quite as exciting as iLife, but there were a few things that have been updated or added. The iWork.com service is interesting, although I don’t think it will be quite as useful as they think it will be. Sure it makes the whole process of sharing iWork files with people, but how hard was it before iWork? There are a million ways to do this exact same thing, that are just as easy — including email.

17″ MacBook Pro

Ahh, the 17″ MBP. I think everyone and their grandma predicted this announcement. Weren’t we all surprised when they didn’t release this from the start? Maybe it was the new battery that they were perfecting.

I’m still not sure what to think about the battery technology. It’s obviously cool that they made the charging ‘smarter’ to increase the life of the battery, but having a battery that’s not removable? This introduces so many problems that nobody wants to deal with. Just think about the iPod first of all. Sure this battery is supposed to last for 5 years, but what happens when it doesn’t? Who is going to replace it for the price of a new battery? Nobody! So the guy that has his warranty run out the day before the battery dies is going to pay somebody $200+ to get a new battery put in. Not to mention that the iPods are only $200 – $300 usually anyway, so when the battery dies it’s just better to buy a new one. When your MBP’s battery dies you’re getting a new battery put in it, even if the best price you can get is $500. However, it is an interesting idea to take out the mechanism to make the battery removable in order to make more room for a battery, therefore increasing battery life without increasing size or weight. I’m just not sold on it yet. 8 hours of battery life is never bad though.

I’m sure Al liked environmental report card though.

One Last Thing…

Unfortunately the ‘One Last Thing’ was not Steve Jobs, but instead iTunes. The iTunes announcement was HUGE in my opinion. Let’s go over the facts:

  1. 10 Million songs currently on iTunes
  2. 8 Million songs now iTunes Plus (DRM-Free). That’s 80%.
  3. Rest (100%) of the 10 Million songs DRM-Free by the end of the year.

They also have a new price structure, which I’ve already heard people complaining about. I must say that I’m not a huge fan of the new price structure, but I’m also not stressing over it. I don’t really know what they’re thinking. They put up a chart of the top online music sellers, proudly showing that they are on the top (and Amazon is 4th). They must be thinking that they have enough users, or that they’re way is so much easier that people aren’t going to go to Amazon. Personally, I’d go to Amazon in a second. If I see a song on iTunes for $1.29 the first thing I’m doing is checking Amazon. $.99, not a big deal, since they’re both DRM Free. $.69, well now we’re talking Monopolizing the online music industry. If they can sell enough songs for $.69 or even $.99 they’ll put Amazon out of business, but I think Amazon will keep selling songs until they’re not profitable anymore.

To see the full Apple Keynote, check it out: http://events.apple.com.edgesuite.net/0901ouabdcaw/event/index.html

Let me know what you guys think about these new features.

Mobile Me Review

After just a week with mobile me, it looks like I’ll probably be subscribing for the full year. I haven’t done a whole lot with it yet, but so far it’s great.

Here’s one example.
I was sitting in class and remembered that I have an NHS meeting this Friday that I can’t miss. I pulled out the iPod Touch and hit October 4th, [+] (for new event), and typed in “NHS meeting” and set the alarms. A few minutes later the MacBook was asking me to add the change to my calendar, scheduling the alarms and everything. When I got home and turned on the PC it asked me to add the change to my Calendar. When I realized that I had made a mistake, the location was actually ‘WHS Rm. 180’ I changed it on the PC and within a few minutes it changed on the Mac and the iPod. I feel like I’m filming the commercial for Apple.

The only drawback that I found in this example is when MobileMe synced with Outlook, Outlook stripped the alarms, causing the Mac to update without the alarms set. I set it again on the Mac though and then they stayed.

I can see this being a very valuable service. I’ve tried to replicate it with other software for free, but it is just not as seamless as MobileMe. Setup is very easy and using after that is even easier, I don’t even have to think about it.