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Songda turned out to be a bust, and I feel fine

So it turned out that the predicted storm on Saturday was way, way less intense than the forecasters were saying. Enough that KOMO’s weather guy and Cliff Mass both posted embarrassed commentary along the lines of “yep, we pooched this one big time, sorry about that!”

From news articles I saw go up on Sunday, a lot of people took to Twitter to complain about this, particularly in re: how they got emergency supplies for nothing. To some degree I sympathize with that. It is annoying to be told by local officials “OH SHIT BIG STORM COMING IN EVERYBODY GET READY”, only to have that not actually happen.

But on the other hand, I also feel that this is actually the far preferable scenario. If the forecasters are going to fuck up a forecast, I would much rather have it be “far better than expected” rather than the other way around. Mr. Mass and his compatriots are getting shit for screwing this up, sure, but they’d be getting a lot more shit if they’d been all “okay, garden-variety storm coming in” and it turns out to be “OH SHIT WORST STORM IN 54 YEARS”.

And honestly, it ain’t like we aren’t going to have more storms. Those emergency supplies everybody went out and got? We’ll be using them sooner or later. Probably sooner, for those of us in Kenmore. The 2016 storm season has only just started and I am positive Kenmore will lose power at least once more before the end of the year. My house did in fact go out for about 11 hours, from Friday afternoon to just before 1am Saturday morning, even if we held steady on Saturday night. Other locations in Kenmore did go out during Saturday’s bluster, too, as I saw on the PSE Outage Map.

Mr. Mass’s last post did include some chagrined acknowledgement that while he did try to communicate that there was uncertainty in how the storm would play out, and that any little deviation in its track could dramatically change the impact on Seattle, he clearly didn’t communicate that well enough. So here’s hoping that he and his local weather colleagues can come up with a good game plan to make that happen next time we have a potential severe weather situation.

Because it never hurts to be aware of the worst case scenario, even if that worst case scenario never materializes. Better data about how probable that scenario will be, though, will help us all make the proper judgment calls on how we plan our responses.

So hang in there, Puget Sound area weather people! Many sympathies for the difficulties of your job! And hopefully this is the worst that the 2016 storm season will throw us.

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Opening act is done, headliner is on the way

Those of you who follow me on social media, or who saw the posts that went up on angelahighland.wordpress.com, LJ, and Dreamwidth last night, know we lost power around 2:30 yesterday afternoon. We were down all evening, but at least as of right now, we’re back.

How Are You?

How Are You?

Yesterday evening, we amused ourselves with playing around with instruments and with listening to one of the Big Finish audio adventures off my phone, piped through a Bluetooth speaker. The Cloisters of Terror turned out to be a delightful thing to listen to during a power outage! In no small part because Mr. Baker was in fine form in that story.

Here are the sorts of conversations we have in our house when the power is out!

Dara (while trying to figure out the chord progression for a song): OMG this chart doesn’t HAVE an A flat! They just skipped it!

Me (nodding sagely): ‘What damn fool would want to play an A flat chord on a bouzouki?’

And also:

Me: Okay good chiro has power. So I will go out tomorrow and bring back any necessary things. Be thinking about necessary things I can bring back.

Dara: Electricity! 4 buckets of electricity!

Paul: I think the fridge is going to need more than 4 buckets.

Dara: Okay, 6 buckets! Go to Costco.

George, bless his little kitty heart, kept wandering around mewing in a sort of “EVERYTHING IS DARK AND WEIRD AND QUIET WHY IS IT LIKE THIS AND WHY ARE YOU ALL IN THIS OTHER ROOM OH HEY THE FIRE IS ON YAY WARM”. And once we settled in to listen to the audio, George curled up in front of the fireplace to go zzzzzzzz.

I went to bed around 10:30ish and woke up just before 1am when the noise of the neighbors’ generators shut up. I sleepily realized the clock was blinking, checked the time on the phone (which I was keeping by our bed), and noted 12:54. So our power must have come back just a few minutes before that, long enough for neighbors to go YAY and turn their generators off.

Dara brought the servers back up this morning, and I scampered out to go to chiro and Safeway and the booze store (so that I could replenish the cake vodka and Baileys supply, and OH BY THE WAY YOU GUYS, I did find another bottle of Pumpkin Spice Baileys, which is an actual thing that exists and you should try it if those are words that sound like fun to you). Dara is heading out now that I’m home again, as the Norwescon concom has a meeting today, and they kinda can’t cancel it, because it’s at the hotel and they’re contractually obligated to use the rooms when they’re booked for. But she’s going to scamper back here ASAP when the meeting is done.

As of this writing Seattle City Light has a mere 11 customers out. Puget Sound Energy has 5,125 down still. And I gotta say, cranky as I am that PSE has been so random in our power service this year, their crews were out last night working their asses off. And that we got power back in the dead of night means their crews were out there in the wet dark, working for us. So kudos to them for that.

The current High Wind Warning is supposed to kick in at 3pm this afternoon and run until 2am, with the peak winds now expected between 5pm and 10pm. Cliff Mass has his current forecast up here, and from what he’s saying, the storm is still aiming for north of us, but we’ll be on the very edge of it. Seattle proper may dodge a bullet, but chances are high that Kenmore will get hit harder. And even if damaging winds don’t smack us, chances are VERY high we will lose power again, possibly for days. Expect that angelahighland.com will go down again, in which case I will continue to post updates on angelahighland.wordpress.com as well.

And given that the wind conditions yesterday still caused quite a lot of damage (note the gallery of pics on the Seattle Times’ updates here, PARTICULARLY the snapped power pole), I’m still expecting things to be very, very messy tonight and into tomorrow.

Brace for impact, Cascadians. Charge all your devices. Do your laundry while you still have power. Songda is COMING.

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Heads up, Puget Sound: MAJOR storm action rolling in

For those of you who didn’t see me post this on my social media accounts last night and this morning, particularly those of you who like me are on Puget Sound Energy for your electricity, especially if you actually live west of Seattle: we have major storm action rolling in starting tomorrow night.

High Wind Watch for tomorrow night as reported by Wunderground

Cliff Mass reporting on the storm systems (MULTIPLE) coming in

Money quotes from Mr. Mass’s post:

“Starting Thursday, we will enter a period of extraordinarily active weather with the potential for heavy rain, flooding, and a highly dangerous windstorm with the potential to be an historic event.”

“A true monster storm, potentially as strong as the most powerful storm in NW history (the Columbus Day Storm of 1962) will be approaching our area on Saturday.”

“If the models are wrong and the storm’s track heads further east, Puget Sound could get a very major hit with massive power outages and damage. This is a very dangerous storm.”

KOMO News article that says we actually also have a THIRD storm rolling in next week

All this basically means, everybody start prepping for power outages, because it sure sounds like we’re going to have ’em. Spread the word and batten down the hatches.

Chances are very, very high that the Murkworks will lose power some time during this action. If that happens, remember that angelahighland.com will be DOWN, but my WordPress.com backup site, angelahighland.wordpress.com, will remain available!

Editing to Add:

New Special Statement posted on Wunderground. Says we have a 1 in 3 chance of getting a direct hit in the Seattle area. 2 in 3 chance that the main brunt of Saturday’s action will hit Vancouver Island instead. Any Canadian friends reading me who live on Vancouver Island, or who have friends or family who live there, you all should be keeping an eye on this storm too.

And OH HEY LOOK the Seattle Times is pulling stuff out of its archives about the 1962 storm that Cliff Mass is invoking in his forecast. A storm which, it might be added, killed 46 people and closed the World’s Fair.

Editing to add #2:

KOMO says Seattle city utilities are urging residents to clear storm drains before the storms get here.

KOMO is also reporting that the National Weather Service is warning that this sequence of storms could be very destructive.

Seattle-area friends, even if Saturday’s storm doesn’t hit us directly, Saturday is likely to be a mess. Be ready regardless.

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Tech review: iOS 10, by Apple

As y’all know, I’m an Apple user of many years at this point. I’m on my second Macbook computer since 2007, and my third iPhone since 2009. And since fairly tech-savvy, I tend to jump on OS upgrades as they happen. This week, with the release of iOS 10, was no exception.

And, as I’ve posted both here and on my social media accounts, by and large I’m happy with it. With the one big glaring exception that the redesigned Music app is an unholy mess and I would now like to shoot it into the sun. Go see that post for details on that, as well as a few initial observations on a couple of alternative apps I am exploring.

This post is about everything else, assorted observations I made through the process of installing the update on my phone and my iPad, and while using it today on the phone on my commute.

Dara’s best reaction to my live updates:

I do indeed figure that any OS update that does not result in my device exploding is probably a win.

During Setup

iOS apparently has two-factor authentication now for logging into your iCloud account. This is a good thing. I approve.

I also noticed that it offered to add the credit card I already had on file with Apple for buying music and such to Apple Pay. I have no fucks to give about Apple Pay but went ahead and let it do this anyway. I may want to test this at some point.

No More Sliding to Unlock

I may be one of the few iOS users on the planet that doesn’t really care about the widgets on the lockscreen. I’m a little sad that “slide to unlock” has become extinct now, because iOS 10 wants you to swipe left to get to widgets, and swipe right to get to the camera. Both of which seem fine to me from a usability standpoint, but I’m tellin’ ya, it’s going to take me a while to get over the muscle memory of needing to swipe left to unlock the phone.

I have an iPhone 6, not a 6s or later, so I don’t get to have the shiny new Raise to Wake functionality. But it is pretty nifty to be able to unlock the phone via Touch ID. Which, come to think of it, I was able to do in iOS 9, I think. I just never ever actually realized that before.

Still, though, this is what it looks like if I swipe left now from my lockscreen.

Widgets! Yay?

Widgets! Yay?

Overall Design

A bunch of font changes all over the place, but aside from the ones in the Music app, so far I’m not seeing anything to annoy me. All of my various apps still look pretty much the same, and none of them appear to have broken. So at least from a design perspective, iOS 10 doesn’t look particularly different from iOS 9 except in the Music app. Nothing here for me to hate, but nothing to get excited over either.

And I’m a little surprised to have found only one new system wallpaper I didn’t recognize. Apparently wallpapers are not something about which iOS 10 concerns itself. I’m a little sad about that, too, because sometimes I do use the system wallpapers. They tend to be a bit better at not making it too hard to read the labels on my apps.

Performance

There does appear to have been a noticeable boost in performance on my devices. Uploading a photo to Facebook and Twitter over the house wifi was smokin’ fast, and even pretty speedy over phone connectivity as well.

Bluetooth

My Jabra Move headphones seem like they’re connecting faster to the phone now, and during the course of today as I played music and podcasts, they held up pretty well. But they started flaking out on me partway through the afternoon, and I’m not sure yet whether that’s the fault of the new OS, or the fault of the headphones maybe running low on battery. I didn’t hear them fire off a low battery warning, so I’ll have to keep an eye on that over the next few days and see if the problem recurs.

Mail

There’s a new filter icon in the Mail app, down in the lower left hand corner, that lets you zoom in on just the unread messages in the mailbox you’re looking at. I don’t know if I’ll find this useful yet, but it seems like something that might be useful to me at some point.

App Deletion

I’m a little vexed that the touted ability to delete the stock apps you don’t find useful is deletion in name only–you can just blow away the icons off the home screen, vs. actually deleting them off the device and therefore freeing up space. But still, I’ll take it. Fewer icons to have to keep track of is nice.

All in All

This doesn’t feel like a particularly revolutionary upgrade to me, and the only thing that’s blatantly different amongst the stuff I actually use and care about, i.e., the Music app, is a significant step downward.

I do not care at all about the new emojis, or the added functionality in the messages app. I certainly don’t care about app functionality within messages. And as I mentioned up at the top of this post, I don’t particularly care about the widgets on the lockscreen either. Since I have a 6, I don’t have the 3D Touch capability that’s supposed to be what makes these widgets so awesome. Y’all will have to look to reviews written by people with newer devices than mine, I think, to get more deets on that. (Try Ars Technica’s comprehensive review, maybe?)

On the other hand, my phone’s general performance does feel faster. I’m seriously disgruntled about the Music app being a dumpster fire now, enough that I’m looking for alternative music apps. But that’s not enough to make me sad that I did the update in general. As Ars Technica says in the headline of their review, if you’ve got a reasonably new device, there’s no particular reason not to update.

(If you’ve got an older device, note also that Ars Technica has an entirely separate post about iOS 10 on the iPhone 5 and 5c, so that might be worth a read to you.)

So if you’re a technophile like me and willing to dive in headfirst to a new OS upgrade, go for it; just be aware of the issues with the Music app. If you’re more conservative though and prefer that a new OS release go through a few cycles of bugfixes, there’s nothing hugely groundbreaking here that I see to argue you out of that.

Final rough grade in general: B+
Final rough grade for the Music app in particular: D-

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The default Apple Music app is now even more of an unholy mess!

I installed iOS 10 on my iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 last night, and I threw off a lot of tweets and posts to Facebook to document various reactions and observations as I went. By and large I’m pretty happy with the upgrade, and I’ll be doing a separate general post about that.

This post, however, is about the unholy mess that the default Music app on iOS has become.

I’ve been cranky about it for some time. I didn’t like that they threw podcasts out into a separate app, but I put up with it. I liked even less that they threw audiobooks out into iBooks, which killed my ability to organize audiobooks in playlists. Why this is relevant: because I buy a bunch of Doctor Who audios from Big Finish, and i like to organize them by season and listen to them in order of release. Dara and I listen to these a lot on road trips. Lack of ability to properly use those playlists on the iPhone is very annoying. I have to keep a separate note active in the Notes app to track the order of the audios in question, on the phone.

But I was even grudgingly willing to put up with that.

As of iOS 9, though, the Music app’s design got deeply annoying. Some of this is because of Apple’s being bound and determined to hook people into the Apple Music service, about which I have zero fucks to give. But at least I can mostly turn the service-specific features off.

What’s more annoying to me, though, is how the app is making it more difficult to just play my music that’s right there on the phone. In iOS 9, they had a toggle button that you had to turn on if you wanted to just see the music on the device.

In iOS 10, however, they’ve now made a Downloaded Music section of your Library tab, entirely separate from the Playlists, Albums, Artists, and Songs items. The Downloaded Music section itself also has Playlists, Albums, Artists, and Songs. Which means that I have to completely ignore the top-level versions of those, because they are entirely useless to me, and instead have to tap down into Downloaded Music to get to the lists that are actually reflective of what’s on my device.

This is what that looks like on the phone by default. I had to actually turn on the Downloaded Music section, which does NOT appear by default, and scoot that up to the top so that I could actually get to it.

My Library tab in iOS 10 Music

My Library tab in iOS 10 Music

This is a UI decision that makes no goddamn sense to me. I was confused as to why the iOS 9 toggle button wasn’t over in Settings where it belongs, and I’m still confused about that. Since Apple seems bound and determined to make you try to use iTunes Match and Apple Music to play stuff, why they aren’t solving this problem by just putting the “Show Downloaded Music” toggle over in Settings, and keeping from cluttering up the Music app’s UI with redundant sections, is beyond me.

I am also highly disgruntled that they’ve made it a lot more difficult to see how many songs are on any given playlist. I use that data. It’s gone now from the top of a playlist, where it was in iOS 9. Which means that now there’s a bunch of whitespace they’re not using, underneath the playlist title. It looks like this.

Not Recently Played playlist

Not Recently Played playlist

My Not Recently Played playlist is the one I use most often, and it’s often got a lot of songs in it. I like to keep track of how many there are, and now, I have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of it if I want to see the song count. My best guess here is that they kicked up the font size on that data and decided it wouldn’t fit in the whitespace in question. But I don’t even know.

All in all, I’m grumpy enough about the state of the Music app that I’ve decided to start researching what alternative music apps are available. This MacWorld article from 2015 has a few recommendations, and Ecoute and Cesium both look promising. I’ll be checking them out.

Meanwhile, though, if any of you have recommendations for alternative music-playing apps on iOS, I really want to hear from you. I don’t need much in the way of bells and whistles. I just want an app that’ll be able to see my music collection as synced down from iTunes on my computer, and let me get at my playlists properly, including the Smart Playlists like Not Recently Played. I don’t want to stream any music; I don’t care about Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, or anything else where the point is to stream music online. I just want to play the music I have.

Bonus if the app ALSO lets me play audiobooks in playlists.

Shoot me your recs if you got ’em! And stand by for the full iOS 10 review post.

Editing to add: I found another thing this afternoon that I strenuously dislike about the new Music app. To wit, they’ve removed the ability to see lyrics that you’ve manually attached to a song file. This is hugely irritating to me because a lot of what I listen to being Quebecois trad, I need the lyrics so I can learn them and practice my French.

Also, I have been poking at both Cesium and Ecoute today, the two most promising alternative music apps that I could find browsing around for suggestions.

I want to like Ecoute, in no small part because its name is in fact French. I like its simple, elegant UI. It even seems to let me actually get to the playlists for Big Finish audios like I want to.

But I don’t like that it doesn’t seem to actually honor the toggle setting for only showing me music local to the phone. That being broken means my Not Recently Played playlist is completely freggin’ useless in that app, too. And while it seems like it’ll see my podcasts as well, it’s having trouble organizing them; I see the same podcast splitting out into multiple icons.

Cesium, meanwhile, has a UI that looks like a nice retro throwback to what the iOS default Music app USED to look like. But it doesn’t seem to pick up on my audiobook playlists like Ecoute does. And my Not Recently Played playlist is less useful here, too. I can at least show music local to the phone properly, but Not Recently Played is a smart playlist. My intent with it is to have songs roll off of it when I play them, making the playlist automatically shorter. Cesium doesn’t seem to pick up on this, which makes it less useful in that regard.

And both apps have delivered the vexing surprise that apparently, third party apps can’t get at playlist folders if you’ve made those for organizational purposes, because apparently Apple doesn’t make those visible in the API. BOO.

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Side effects of setting up a wordpress.com site

As I announced yesterday, I have now have a minimal backup version of my author site up on angelahighland.wordpress.com. I’m disgruntled that I have had to do this, and only somewhat reassured by having seen our city council put up this statement pertaining to our ongoing chronic outage problem.

But this does at least mean that now I’ve had a bit of direct experience setting up a site on WordPress.com. Which is useful experience to have, since it tells me things I can share with fellow authors who need to set up a site for their books.

Setting up the site is really easy

All you really need is an account on WordPress.com, to start with. Once you have one of those, when you’re logged in, there’s a “My Site” button up in the upper left part of their site. Clicking on that leads you to the setup wizard you can step through to get a site going. They ask you some basic questions about what your site will be about, so that they can give you a bit of guidance as to what default themes they will suggest for you.

This process includes choosing a theme, and choosing what level of site plan you want. Your options for the latter do include ‘free’, with varying tiers above that that cost different amounts of money depending on what level of service you want from them.

Assuming you quickly choose one of the offered default themes and you choose the ‘free’ plan, setting up your site is only a matter of a couple of minutes. This is even easier than setting up your own site with the code from WordPress.org.

Your site will however be limited in available functionality

If you’ve got any experience setting up your own self-hosted WordPress site at all, you will probably find the limitations on a WordPress.com site annoying. Specifically, you will not be able to install your own plugins. I get why this is the case–they are a commercial site, and accordingly, they need to lock down what they’ll let users install and what they won’t, for security purposes. But if you’re accustomed to the fine-grained level of control hosting your own site will provide you, this will likely be a step down for you.

You do get a small range of plugins available to you, though. You can find those on the My Site sidebar, under Plugins. What’s of immediate interest to me is that they do have a “Publicize” plugin that lets you crosspost out to various social media sites. And there’s a Stats plugin that can show you some basic site stats, along with an extended Google Analytics plugin that you can purchase if you want more data than what the basic plugin will provide you.

A similar level of lockdown is in place on selecting themes. But unless you’re a techie like me, with enough HTML and CSS experience that you can fine-tune a theme to get it the way you want it, this probably won’t be an issue. There do appear to be a wide variety of themes available, both free ones and ones you can purchase. What I don’t see upon initial investigation is whether you can install your own theme–which is why I haven’t ported over the one I’m using here on angelahighland.com. I suspect they won’t let you do that unless you pony up for one of the paid tiers of service.

The My Site sidebar is actually kind of annoying

Again, this is a matter of my being a techie and also used to what I have available via the standard wp-admin sidebar in my self-hosted WordPress site. The My Site sidebar WordPress.com provides you is simplified from that–which I think would probably be a plus for less technically inclined users.

For me, though, it’s an annoying step down. And matters are not improved by how that sidebar seems to perform very badly in Safari, my browser of choice when I’m working on my Macbook at home. I can still get to the standard wp-admin sidebar, but it’s extra clicks to get to, and I don’t get to it by default if I try to edit any of the pages on the site. I have yet to find any way to make this my default sidebar via the UI that WordPress.com provides.

All in all

Despite my being vexed by the difference in available functionality between the WordPress.com UI and what I’m used to with my own self-hosted site, I did appreciate the quickness with which I was able to fire up a site there. And I do know that a lot of authors have their presences there and have found it very useful. John Scalzi, for example, has repeatedly posted on his blog at Whatever that he’s very satisfied with the service they provide him; he’s paying for the upper tier of service and he’s finding it very worth his money.

Anybody got any questions about how the WordPress.com site works, that would help you decide if you want to make a site there yourself? Got any experience of your own with WordPress.com sites that you’d like to share? Drop a comment and let me know!

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So about that headphone jack getting yoinked off the iPhone 7

There’s a lot of buzz going around about the iPhone 7 losing the headphone jack, as we’ve finally learned will indeed be happening. And, since I’m a long-running user of Apple devices and computers and software, this is naturally of interest to me. As I’ve described on Facebook and elsewhere, I’m finding myself of two minds about the whole thing. So here are some thoughts bouncing around through my head about this.

One: I made the jump to a set of Bluetooth-based headphones some time ago. I did this partly due to recurring irritation problems in my ear (which, I have since learned, may well be influenced by my deviated septum; more on this in another post), but it’s also had the benefit of improved audio quality when I listen to things on my commutes. I’ve also become a fan of not having to worry about cords, even though the headphones I’m using aren’t entirely properly fitted to my ginormous head, even when I’ve got them extended out as far as the headband will let them go. It’s still overall a win for me, and future headphones I purchase are indeed likely to be wireless in some way or another.

That said, I’m eying the price on the new airbuds askance. They’re significantly more expensive than what I paid for the Jabra headphones I’m using now, so I would have to be convinced that the audio quality would be worth the step up in price. And I’m also not convinced that I wouldn’t lose the buds on a regular basis, or that they’d stay securely in my ears. I’ve had a history of the wired earbuds regularly falling out of my ears, and at least with the wired kind, they’re still attached to my phone. One of those wireless airbuds falls out somewhere on my commute, that’s got “likelihood of my stepping on the damn thing as I’m trying to look for where it fell” written all over it. Or, if I’ve got ’em tucked in my backpack’s side pocket along with the phone, the fact that they’re wireless means that if one or both of them fell out while I wasn’t listening to music–as is possible given that on a bus commute, I often wind up turning my backpack sideways in my lap–means the chances of me losing one or both is non-zero. I’m not willing to risk that for something that’d ding me over $150 per purchase.

And while I do have some level of appreciation for audio quality, I’m not quite enough of an audiophile to really care about it, certainly not to the extent of having “risk of losing airbuds” outweighing price.

Two: Other than my commutes, the times I’m most likely to listen to things on my phone are when Dara and I take road trips. We’re very, very fond of listening to Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventures when we go to Canada, or down to Portland for Orycon. Before we upgraded to our current car (the 2015 Honda Fit), we had to plug my phone into the car’s dashboard via an adapter that talked to the cigarette lighter.

Now that we’re driving the Raptor, though, we have several USB jacks at our disposal. So the usual Apple lightning-to-USB cord works just dandy for having the phone talking to the car’s sound system. And I don’t even really need the cord, either, since the car’s systems also talk Bluetooth.

So lack of a headphone jack won’t hurt me there, either.

Three: Since I do use my phone on a regular basis to process Square sales at conventions, the ability for my older swipe-based reader to talk to the headphone jack is kinda not optional. I do have one of the shiny newer readers that read chip-based cards and which talk to the phone via Bluetooth–but those do not actually deal with older, non-chip-based cards. And not everybody has chip-based cards yet, so it’s not like I can get rid of the magstripe reader.

That said, word has it that the magstripe readers will work with the new adapter for the iPhone 7. Which is nice, I suppose. But given that I’ve had experience having swipes not take with the reader plugged directly into the headphone jack, I’m a bit dubious about how reliable trying to do it via an adapter and the lightning port will be. I’ll be interested in further reports on this.

Four: Dara shared with me some things she saw covered in Buzzfeed’s article about this, and I have to admit I’m of two minds about this. From my tech-inclined geek perspective, “freeing up the jack space allows for improvements in battery life, camera functionality, and water resistance” makes sense.

On the other hand, I’m also a fan of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. And I always have to be a little suspicious of “we’re changing this thing you’ve been using for years because PROGRESS!” In no small part because I can’t help but feel like a lot of tech “innovations” ultimately don’t improve things much for my day to day experience. Like, say, all the browsers deciding we don’t actually need a menu. Or, all the major tech companies deciding we don’t need RSS. (Why yes, I AM still cranky about the axing of Google Reader, why do you ask?)

Now, apparently, traditional headphone jacks are the latest thing that the Tech Powers That Be have decided are outdated. But so far, the arguments provided as to why the future of audio is wireless just aren’t quite cutting it yet with me. And there are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. While I’m certainly not immune to the lure of shiny new technology (as of this writing, I AM currently on my third iPhone in my history of smartphone owning), I also am not a fan of how often I’ve had to replace my headphones. I have gone through a whole hell of a lot of earbuds, because the damn things inevitably wear out. One side or the other dies, and oh hey look I gotta go buy a new pair of earbuds now! And I have no real choice but to throw away the old, now useless pair.

    That was another contributing factor to my switching to the Bluetooth headphones–at least with those, I can hopefully get a lot longer lifespan out of them. And therefore hopefully contribute less to the ongoing electronic waste we’re all building up. I’m going to use this pair of headphones for as long as they’ll last. Because…

  2. …while I am very grateful to have a well-paying day job that lets me afford buying shiny new technology when I want it, I do come out of a background where that wasn’t the case. In my family history, plunking down several hundred dollars for a phone in general would have been absolutely out of the question, without months and possibly years of saving. And when you throw in another $150+ just to buy headphones to listen to music on the phone in question, that’s just a whole extra pile of “yeah no I gotta spend this money on food and rent and gas, thanks”.

I get that Apple’s target demographic is people like me who can afford to buy shiny new toys every so often. But we aren’t everybody. And I’m not convinced that the future of audio is truly wireless, not when there are still a lot of people for whom buying a smartphone at all is a significant hit to the budget. If you’re in that income bracket, you will be way more likely to buy a pair of wired earbuds than you will a fancy wireless pair of pods that you’ll be at risk of losing. The Buzzfeed article mentions cost-benefit analysis; that’s exactly what happens when you’ve only got so much income to spare, and you have to decide what you can afford.

So Apple, if you really want to convince me that wireless is the future of audio, how about making some wireless headphones that aren’t so freggin’ expensive? Because otherwise, your wireless audio future will be shutting out a whole helluva lot of people.

Five: As Dara has pointed out over on her post today, the iPad apparently has no immediate future of losing its headphone jack. Which means we’ll have an potentially interesting split of functionality. Particularly for users like me who have both an iPhone and an iPad, for whom it’ll make little sense to have one pair of headphones to talk to one thing, and a different pair to talk to another.

In short, yeah, I’m of two minds about all of this. For me, it’s all pretty theoretical regardless; my iPhone 6 is still pretty new and perfectly functional, so I will not be justifying a phone upgrade for at least a few more years. (This being my balance between ‘how much I like shiny new tech’ and ‘general practicality and frugality thanks to my history’.) By the time I am ready to upgrade to a newer phone, we’ll probably be on the iPhone 8 or even 9.

But I’ll be keeping an eye on how all this shakes out. It will influence my decision, ultimately, as to what kind of phone I’ll want by the time I’m ready to upgrade phones again. I’ve seen reports that some Android phones are losing their headphone jacks too, so by then, I may not even be able to have that be a dealbreaker. We’ll just have to see whether Apple’s gamble will pay off.