Archive for March 2016 - Page 1


    Apple vs. FBI: The End (For Now)

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the case of Apple versus the FBI. To quickly recap, The FBI wanted Apple to create a custom operating system for a phone that was used by one of the San Bernadino shooters. Apple was ordered to do this by a judge because the FBI "exhausted all possible routes" for breaking into the iPhone and could not do it without the assistance of Apple.

    Last week, the FBI asked the court to put a stay on the order in order to investigate a way to break into the iPhone. Today, the FBI has requested to vacate the order compelling Apple to assist. Vacating an order does not mean that the FBI will not request the same assistance in the future. The request to vacate effectively means that the request never happened and nothing occurred.

    The reasons for the FBI requesting this is most likely for a couple of reasons. The first being the they were able to access the information on the phone; which they were able to do so. The second reason is likely due to the likelihood of the FBI losing the case.

    The third reason is released to the second. If they were to proceed and lose, it would set precedent and hamper any future, as well as existing, efforts.

    What happens in the future is unknown. The order being vacated does not impact any other possible case. Apple and the FBI have both indicated that Congress needs to determine what the proper balance between customer security and the needs of law enforcement.

    It is not the last that we have heard regarding government needing assistance with getting into an iPhone. This case, for now, is done.


    Apple March 21st, 2016 Event Roundup


    Apple breaks up the year into three different parts of the year; Early, Mid, and Late. Each part is four months. Apple generally has one event in each of these parts. Apple has held their early 2016 event; dubbed "Let us loop you in".

    Apple has unveiled a bunch of new products. Let us look at each of the announced products.

    Apple TV


    Last Fall Apple unveiled the 4th generation Apple TV. There is no new hardware, but there is the new release of tvOS 9.2. A few of the new features of tvOS 9.2 include: Folder Support, additional Siri dictation, including passwords, conference room display mode, bluetooth keyboard support, and now iCloud Photo Library with Live Photo support.

    This is a nice upgrade that adds in some features that users had requested.

    Apple Watch


    Last year at the March event Apple provided details for the availability of the Apple Watch. Some may have anticipated that the Apple Watch would be a product that is released yearly. If you were hoping for that, Apple has dashed those hopes.

    Apple has positioned the Watch as a fashion product. While they may not be able to release new hardware every season, they are able to provide new personalization options by releasing additional bands.

    The Apple Watch now has a new type of band, the Nylon Band. The Nylon Band is available in seven different color combinations; Black, Gold and Red, Gold and Royal Blue, Pearl, Pink, Royal Blue, and Scuba Blue. These bands come in both 38mm and 42mm varieties and are $49 each.

    Along with the new Nylon Bands, there are three additional Sport Band colors: Apricot, Royal Blue, and Yellow; Two Classic Buckle bands Red and Marine Blue. Two Modern Buckles, Blue Jay and Marigold.The last new bands are the leather loops, Storm Gray and White.

    The last change to the Apple Watch is one that will temp more to purchase the Apple Watch, a price drop. The new price for the Apple Watch is $299 for the 38mm and $349 for the 42MM Sport versions.


    While it may not have been the first tablet on the market, the iPad can be considered the one that put the idea of a tablet front and center in the mindshare of the public. Even though it is not at its peak and has fallen, it has not deterred Apple from continuing to innovate the iPad.

    iPad Air 2

    The iPad Air 2 received a single change, a $100 price drop. This means that the iPad Air 2 is now priced at $399 and $499 for the 16GB and 64GB models respectively. There is still the Wi-Fi + Cellular models available at $529 and $629 for the 16GB and 64GB model.

    iPad Pro


    Back in September Apple unveiled the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Apple has now released the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. This is the spiritual successor of the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2, but is also very closely related to the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is similar to the larger model. The 9.7-inch model supports the Apple Pencil and also has a Smart Connector. With a Smart Connector comes a new Smart Keyboard as well.

    The 9.7-inch iPad Pro also has the same A9X Processor and M9 Co-processor as the larger iPad Pro. There are also the same four speakers within the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. This means that as you rotate the iPad Pro, the speakers are able to automatically adjust the sound.

    This is about where the similarities between the iPad Pros end. There are some other improvements that have been made to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro has a brand new display that Apple is calling True Tone. The display utilizes the same color gamut as the Late 2015 iMac, the DCI-P3. This means that the colors will be truer to life. This is not the only difference between the two iPads.

    One of the features that many have question about the iPad is the camera. The camera on the 9.7-inch iPad is a vast improvement over the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's camera. The camera

    The last difference is the colors. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is available in four colors; Silver, Gold, Rose-Gold and Space Gray.

    The 9.7-inch iPad Pro still comes in the 32GB and 128GB models. Along with this, it is also available in a 256GB model. This comes in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The price of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is $599, $749, and $899 for the Wi-Fi models only. The Wi-Fi + Cellular models are $729, $879, and $1029 respectively.

    12.9-inch iPad Pro

    While the 9.7-inch iPad Pro was the primary iPad shown off, it was not the only one that got some additional options. While there are no change to the form-factor of the larger iPad, there are a couple of additions options.

    The 12.9-inch iPad is now also available in 256GB models of both Wifi-only and Wifi + Cellular. Along with this, a clarification has been made that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro can now utilize the lightning to USB-C cable and the 29-watt USB C power adapter. This combination will allow for super-fast charging of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

    This method is not possible with the 9.7-inch iPad. This is due to that product only having USB 2.0 controller.


    Apple's best selling product the iPhone continues to sell really well. Apple is known to not divulge the breakdown of models that are sold. Even so, Apple did mention that they sold 30 Million iPhone 5s phones last year. This is a lot of phones that were sold based on 2013 technology. There are many reasons why some might prefer a smaller form-factor phone. They could range from pocket size, better fit in one's hands, or even just as Apple stated, cost. While using an iPhone 5s would be able to use some of the latest software features, you cannot easily upgrade the hardware inside of the phone. Apple has provided a significant update to the 4-inch form factor. That update is named the iPhone SE.

    iPhone SE


    The iPhone SE the successor of the iPhone 5s, Apple's 4-inch iPhone. The iPhone SE has the same case as the iPhone 5s, except instead of glossy chamfers, they are matte. The outside of the phone looks the same as the iPhone 5s, except for the colors. The iPhone SE comes in the standard four colors, Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.

    The innards of the iPhone SE are the same of the iPhone 6s with an A9 processor and the M9 co-processor. Along with the processors, there is a secure enclave and first-generation Touch ID sensor. This is the same Touch-ID Sensor that has been in the iPhones, prior to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

    The rear camera is the same ƒ/2.2 aperture, Five‑element lens that is in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, minus the optical stabilization. Just like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus you are able to record 4k video at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 30 or 60fps.

    The only item not improved is the FaceTime camera. On the iPhone SE, it is still the same 1.2 Megapixel camera that was in the iPhone 5s. The likely reason for this is due to the lack of physical space within the physical case. There is one slight improvement, the addition of Retina Flash.

    In case you are not aware, Retina Flash is the ability for the screen to light up to produce enough light that makes it easier to light up your face and surrounding area when taking a selfie.

    The wireless connection on the iPhone SE has been upgraded to include 802.11AC. This means that the iPhone now supports 802.11A/B/G/N/AC. Unlike the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, the iPhone SE does to include the MIMO technology.

    The iPhone SE comes in two sizes, the 16GB version and a 64GB version. It comes in the same standard four colors, Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.

    You can order an iPhone SE today for $399 for the 16GB model and $499 for the 64GB model. The iPhone SE begins shipping on March 31st.

    Final Thoughts

    The events that Apple has held early in the year are not normally ones where brand new, completely unknown products from Apple are released, and this is the case with this year's event. Even so, Apple has released a solid set of updates.

    The product with the least number of changes is the Apple TV, since it received only an upgrade to the software. The software is a minor upgrade, but provides a couple of key features that some users have been hoping would be added.

    While the Apple Watch Hardware has remained unchanged, the addition of the new Nylon bands, as well as the new Sport bands and Modern Buckles will provide even more customization options for users. The reduction of the price for the Apple Watch may entice even more people to give the Apple Watch a try.

    The release of the 4-inch iPhone SE continues to provide the smaller form-factor that many want and yet only minimally compromises on features, with the lack of 3D Touch and 2nd generation Touch ID sensor, being the only trade offs.

    The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a great successor to the iPad Air 2. The 9.7-inch size is what most would consider the "standard" iPad size. The new True Tone screen will make an even better experience for iPad users. The addition of the Smart Connector and ability to use the Apple Pencil will allow the iPad to be even more of a PC replacement.


    Firewatch: A Spoiler-Free Review


    I have been gaming for quite a long time now. Since my teens I have primarily been focusing on playing First Person Shooters. The series that I tend to play include Call of Duty, Battlefield, Duke Nukem, and Wolfenstein, among others.

    Along with the first person shooter genre, I have also played other genres of games. As I have written on this site and others, I have reviewed a few of the Lego-based video games, and will likely review another one in the future, once it is released. Beside these, I also enjoy puzzlers like Portal and Portal 2.

    But I am not here to review a game within those categories, but instead, FireWatch. FireWatch is developed by Campo Santo and Panic Software.

    Cost and Requirements

    Firewatch is $19.99 and is available from Steam for PC and Macs, as well as for the Playstation 4. The requirements for the game include a Geforce 450 with 1GB of memory, 6GB of RAM and 4GB of storage space. On the Mac side it requires a 2011 Mac, running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or later, with a discrete graphics card with 1GB of RAM. The discrete graphics card is a requirement.

    I bought the game for the Playstation 4, because I knew that my 2011 iMac would not be able to handle the game due to the video card requirement. My 2015 MacBook Pro might have been able to handle it, but I do not normally play games on my MacBook Pro, so the Playstation 4 it was.

    The Story

    The game is a first person mystery game. You are Henry, and you have come out to Wyoming to get away from life. You are equipped with a very limited number of items, the primary one being a radio. On the other end of the radio is a woman named Delilah, who is your boss. Throughout the game, additional items are provided, but the best of all, none of them are weapons. I will not give away anything that happens.

    It is not a long game, it took me approximately four hours to complete the game. I finished the story, but did not inspect every single area possible. You can explore many different areas of the game. Since there are no weapons, it makes the game a bit simpler and appealing to a broader range of users.


    The game is very visually appealing. The graphics are stunning and I love the scenery and the views. The game takes place at different times throughout the day, so you can see different scenes. Ones that include sunrise, daylight, sunset and even at night. The variety of times that you play, works very well with the story and only enhances and heightens the emotionality of the game.

    Screenshot of the Visuals from Friewatch


    While playing the game there were several times that I experienced stuttering audio. It was not that there was stuttering, but the stuttering made the audio completely un-listenable. I had subtitles on, so I was able to follow along. Given that the game is only about three weeks old, I'm sure the issue will be fixed, but it still made it difficult to hear the game. That was it in terms of issues. Only the audio was an issue.

    Final Thoughts

    Even though Firewatch is a short game, it is a fantastic game. From the moment that you start the game until the end, the game plays on your emotions. If you do not feel something while playing the game, it may be best to re-evaluate your life. The game goes very deep. I do not think a game has really made me think this much since I played The Last of Us. I finished the game about two hours ago and I am already thinking that I need to replay the game.

    The one thing I would like to see is the game become available for the Xbox One. It is my preferred platform, but even playing on the Playstation 4, it was a great game. If it ever does become available for the Xbox One, I will likely end up buying it there too.

    If you enjoy games that make you think, I would absolutely recommend getting Firewatch. It will be well worth the price. If I had to sum it up in six words: "Buy it and play it today."