Finally, an obvious upgrade from Apple

No computer I own has aged better than the iPad mini 4 I bought at the end of 2015. But that device’s days as my work tablet are now unquestionably dwindling.

That’s Apple’s fault and to Apple’s credit. The updated iPad mini the company announced last week may look almost identical (I’ll know for sure when I can inspect it in a store), but it includes a much faster processor and a better screen and camera. Reviewers I trust have essentially been saying “yes, buy this.”

The new iPad mini also doesn’t exhibit two of Apple’s least-attractive habits, in that the company resisted the temptations to remove the headphone jack and sell it with inadequate entry-level storage. So instead of paying extra for a 64-gigabyte model as I did before, that’s now the base configuration.

I wish the new tablet retired the proprietary Lightning cable for a USB-C connector that would let me recharge it with my laptop or phone chargers. But if I must choose, I’d rather be inconvenienced by having to fish out a different cable once every other day than have to remember to bring a headphone-jack dongle everywhere I take the tablet.

If only the the Mac part of Apple would learn from the mobile-device part of it and not gouge buyers who want a reasonable amount of storage! I’m typing these words on a 2009-vintage iMac that I have yet to replace because of this problem. The finally-revived Mac mini would be a logical successor to this iMac–I can’t see buying another all-in-one when its 4K screen should far outlast its computer components–but it starts with a 128 GB solid-state drive. And upgrading that joke of an SSD to a 512 GB model costs an insulting $400.

So I continue to trudge along with a desktop that will turn 10 years old this November–although the 512 GB SSD now inside it is only a year old–instead of paying that Apple Tax. With the new iPad mini, meanwhile, the only real question will be which retailer gets my money.

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Side effect of an aging iMac: Bluetooth mouse rage

Overall, the 2009-vintage iMac that I’m typing this on has aged not just well, but better than any other computer I’ve owned. But every few months, I can expect it to send me into a few hours of powerless rage, all because its Bluetooth mouse keeps making a change of batteries a drama-filled exercise.

imac-mouseIt happens something like this: After a few days of the menu bar flashing a low-battery icon for this “Magic Mouse,” that peripheral will finally go offline–most likely when I’m trying to wrap up an e-mail or a story. I’ll pop open the hatch on its bottom, remove the spent batteries, and pop in a fresh pair of AAs.

And that’s when the green LED on this rodent will either fail to illuminate or blink on and then off. I’ll go through the same troubleshooting steps each time: try different batteries, try cleaning the terminals in the mouse with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol, then try cleaning the ends of each battery with the same.

Eventually, this rodent will decide to accept its new power source, and that’s when the Bluetooth battle begins. I don’t know if it’s the age of my iMac or of the mouse, but it seems to take anywhere from a few hours to day of having the Bluetooth link repeatedly drop for no apparent reason before the device pairing sets in–as if it were glue that needed time to cure.

I thought I’d knocked the worst of this wonkiness out of the system this spring when I trashed a batch of preferences files and booting the iMac into “Safe Mode.” But then I had to go through another round of iffy Bluetooth pairing after a battery change a few days ago.

A less stubborn person would buy a new mouse already, but I can’t get too excited about paying $49 for a Magic Mouse 2 that can only be recharged with a Lightning cable that blocks any use of the mouse as a pointing device. And would become instantly redundant when I buy a new desktop computer… should Apple ever get tired of selling models that saw their last update a year or two ago. But that’s a separate gripe.

Whenever Apple does deign to ship a revived iMac or Mac mini, one thing’s for sure: I will order it with a wired keyboard.

 

Weekly output: tech PR, cybersecurity and wiretapping, 1776, Tech Night Owl, unlimited data, charging cables

According to this list, I spent more time talking about my job than actually doing it (and it’s not even counting the roughly three hours I spent talking to local startups at Day of Fosterly Saturday). That’s not actually true, but it’s not far from the truth either.

4/30/2013: Meet the Tech Media, BusinessWire

I talked about the intersections of technology, the media and public relations with Washington Technology editor Nick Wakeman, freelance writer Andrew Feinberg, Washington Business Journal reporter Bill Flook and Potomac Tech Wire editor Paul Sherman at the Tysons Corner Marriott.

DisCo cybersecurity wiretapping post5/1/2013: Government To Industry: Secure Your Systems, But Also Make Them Easy To Wiretap, Disruptive Competition Project

This post started when I read my old Post colleague Ellen Nakashima’s front-page story about a campaign to compel Internet services to provide real-time decryption of their encrypted communications services for law-enforcement inquiries. Then I thought about how that effort might square with the last two years of debate over what the Feds can do to get private industry to strengthen its cybersecurity defenses–and realized how that paralleled mid-1990s arguments over the government’s “Clipper chip” scheme.

5/3/2013: Media outreach breakfast, 1776

Déjà vu set in as I once again found myself onstage with Paul Sherman to talk about how the media covers tech startups–this time at the 1776 incubator on 15th Street downtown, almost directly across from the Post.

5/4/2013: May 4, 2013 —Tim Angel, Rob Pegoraro and Daniel Eran Dilger, Tech Night Owl Live

I returned to Gene Steinberg’s podcast to talk about Apple’s cliff-diving stock price (and what that says about Wall Street’s short-term judgment), Samsung’s Galaxy S 4 and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s latest report on how well some major tech companies protect your data from government inquiries.

5/5/2013: Why hang on to your unlimited data plan?, USA Today

The post I wrote here about how much data people actually use on their phones led to this column questioning the value of unlimited-data wireless plans. It has not won universal applause so far. Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin astutely pointed out that if you signed up for Verizon’s old unlimited plan long enough  ago, you could well save money by sticking with that, even if you have to pay an unsubsidized price for a phone; I was less persuaded by people saying they plow through 15 or 20 gigabytes a month without citing what apps chew up that much data.

On Sulia, I assessed the iOS version of Google Now, shared some quick reactions to my Fosterly Media Match experience, related how much my Nexus 4’s battery seems to like being on WiFi and 3G at the same time, and asked Web admins to make sure that site addresses don’t require users to type in a “www” prefix.