Apple Products I’m Not Getting This Christmas

Apple's iMac Line

Except for the very low end model, all of the iMacs feature a “Retina Display”.

Once again my annual list of Apple products I am not getting this Christmas. This year we go from #1 to #10.

1. Apple iMac with 5K Retina display. Yes, this is the top of the line iMac and it comes with a 27 inch display that is second to none. More than likely my next Mac OS computer will be an iMac since they are the still have the built in gigabit networking, 4 USB 3 ports, 2 thunderbolt ports and an built in SD card reader. All of these features are backward compatible to the my MacBook Pros that I use on a daily basis. The iMacs can be custom built to accept up to 16 to 32 GB of RAM and can be configured to use a 1TB flash storage drive. The only downside for me is the fact that the iMacs no longer have built in DVD-R drives. However external options are available. Prices for the 27 inch 5K Retina iMac start at $1799 and can quickly soar depending on how you configure it.

2. Apple iMac with 4K Retina display. This is a good compromise Mac on the high end as they feature a 21 inch display screen and most of the ports and options that are also available to the higher end 27 inch model. The processor is not as fast as the 27 inch model and the RAM and storage options are somewhat less. Nevertheless you can still get a flash drive, 16 GB of ram and the same USB, thunderbolt and SD ports as the 27 inch model. Price for the 21 inch Retina display iMac starts at $1499. I would avoid the lower priced, non-Retina display iMacs that sell for a base price of either $1099 or $1299.

3. OSX “El Capitan”: The latest version of Apple’s OSX system software for Macintosh is a huge free download and is backward compatible to many Intel flavored Macs. It is a recommended upgrade that you should get, especially when early bugs are worked out an dot 2 and higher version upgrades become available over the next 12 months. Download one copy, learn how to make a boot installer on a USB stick. After that is done my recommendation is to always 1. back-up your Mac and 2. Erase your hard drive and 3. Install a “clean copy” of your OSX operating system onto your Mac. You will never regret it because the clean install is like getting a brand new Mac in your present hardware. Be sure to check the technical specifications to make sure your Intel Mac is eligible for this update.

MacBook Pro 2015 2 up

Apple’s MacBook Pro comes in 13″ and 15″ models.

4. Apple MacBook Pro series: I still recommend the MacBook Pro models for anyone who does high end work such as video and photo editing on the go. All of the MacBook Pro models now feature either a 13″ or 15″ retina display. The 13″ model comes with 8 GB of RAM which is upgradable at time of purchase to 16 GB. The larger model comes with 16GB straight out of the box. All have flash memory storage and include 2 thunderbolt, 2 USB 3 ports, HDMI output and an SD XC card slot. Unfortunately no wired ethernet port unless you attach an adaptor to one of the thunderbolt ports.

5. Apple MacBook Air series: It is kind of hard for me to recommend the MacBook Air. It is one of Apple’s most affordable laptops. It is a nice, sleek high quality laptop that is great for someone who can use it as a primary platform if their computing needs are not too demanding. Otherwise it is a great secondary computer for someone who already owns a higher end Mac. Like the MacBook Pro all of the MacBook air laptops come with standard flash memory storage, 2 thunderbolt slots, and 2 USB 3 ports. None have a retina display but that is not a deal breaker. The standard Mac display is nice enough. The downside is that there are no wired ethernet ports unless you dongle up an adapter to thunderbolt. Still that is also not a deal breaker as I think most MacBook Airs are used in a wireless environment.

The one thing that would force me to choose the 13 inch model over the more affordable 11 inch model is that the 13″ Air is the only one in the series that has an SD XC card slot. This slot is important for photographers who shoot a lot of pictures and need somewhere to offload them. Surely an SD card reader can be bought for the lower end Mac, but that defeats having a portable computer without having to carry around external stuff.

The funny thing is that for a lot less money, I can get a Google Chromebook of many different sizes including an 11 inch model that features a built in SD XC card slot for a lot less money. Both the MacBook Air and Chromebook are somewhat similar. I would consider the MacBook Air as a high end Chromebook. If I got a MacBook Air, I’d use it like a Chromebook where only my apps would on the local drive and all my documents including music, video and photos be stored in the cloud. When I talk about the cloud, I mean the Google Cloud… Google Docs, Gmail and Google Photos. All three have generous storage options at a free price vs. Apple iCloud offering which I cannot recommend since it is costly and has a somewhat clunky interface.

Other alternatives to the MacBook Air include Wintel laptops, Android tablets and Apple’s own iPad.

Other Macintosh Models: The new MacBook, Mac Mini and the Mac Pro are models that are not on my wish list for a number of reasons. The new MacBook is too new and is the only Mac that has a USB C port and no other ports. The Mac Mini is nice but for some reason I have not been a Mac Mini type of person. Lastly while I liked the old tower versions of the Mac Pro, the new cylindrical design of that expensive, high end computer is a turn off since all the other components have to be plugged into the thing to get any kind of expanded use from it.  Surely it is a high end computer, but frankly I don’t need it. Plus it is expensive.

Apple's iPod Touch

Apple’s iPod Touch

6. Apple iPod Touch: One of the most under-appreciated devices coming out of Apple is the iPod Touch. To me the 6th generation iPod Touch is my most wanted mobile device from Apple. The new version introduced in July is a huge update for the device. It now comes with Apple’s own A8 processor chip, 4 inch Retina display screen, storage capacities of 16, 32, 64 and 128GB, 8 megapixel iSight camera with 1080p HD video capability, 1.2MB Facetime camera for video calls and selfies, 802.11 a/b/c/n/ac wifi, bluetooth 4.1 and Apple’s iOS9 which includes Siri, Airplay, AirDrop and a number of other technologies that make the iPod Touch practical and fun to use. Granted you are anchored to wifi to get the most use out of it, but on the other hand, you pay for the device once and never have to pay monthly telecom access fees because this is not an iPhone.

I love it.

I have been an iPod Touch owner (4th generation) since 2010 and the device is extremely useful in helping me keep notes, manage my contact lists, calendar, and is great for streaming music, news, podcasts and video whenever I am on the go. I use it to also send and receive emails and SMS text files. With the Google Voice app the iPod Touch can be used to send SMS text messages to your cell phone toting friends as well as a dialer for unlimited long distance phone calls throughout the U.S. The upgraded iPod Touch has a better still and video camera which makes it a great take anywhere photographic and video recording tool. It also does audio recording and plays most if not all of the current iOS games that can be run on the iPhone.

Again the iPod Touch is like an iPhone without the annoying phone part and the expensive monthly bill. What is not to like about the Touch?


Is the Apple iPad the ultimate tablet?

7. Apple iPad: If your computing needs are not very demanding or if you need a secondary device that is not another MacBook or PC laptop, then perhaps the iPad is for you. I have never owned an iPad because instead of that I opted to buy a Chromebook. The iPad can do everything the iPhone (except phone calls) and iPod Touch can do because they all run on Apple’s iOS9. That said, for me to get an iPad is kind of like duplicating the capabilities of the iPod Touch, except that the iPads are bigger and more expensive depending on configuration. The most compelling reason for me to get an iPad is to use it as an eBook reader since it is bigger than the iPod Touch  and more convenient as a reader over my Chromebook or any of my Macs. However if a reader is all that I really want, it may make more sense to buy a cheaper device like a Kindle from Amazon.

8. Apple TV: This one a device among a sea of plenty aimed squarely at “cord cutters”. It turns your TV to a media center and allows you to stream content from various services such as NetFlix, YouTube and Apple’s own iTunes which includes both video (movies, TV) and audio content (music, podcasts). The new version costs more than the old version. There are other alternatives out there that are cheaper: Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and more. Be careful when deciding on what streaming TV device to get.

9. Apple iPhone: The single most popular phone on the planet is the Apple iPhone. The device has certainly made its mark on the industry. Since its introduction as one of the first all touch smartphones, the iPhone has spawned a huge worldwide industry that range from service providers to app developers to wanna-be smartphone manufacturers. Thanks to Google’s Android OS which is a competitor to Apple’s iOS that powers all iPhones, the smartphone market is saturated with these devices that people can hardly find a basic cell phone that does only phone calls and text. The phone carriers prefer to push the more expensive smart phones and their related calling/data plans from which they make more money.

I am not a fan of cell phones and until recently never owned one. I opted for another type of phone based mainly on the plan that was offered. The best way to buy a phone is to look at how expensive the monthly bill will be and then make your purchase accordingly. In my case the iPhone was not an option, and is still not.

From what I hear about those with iPhones is that the calling / data plans cost at least $99 a month. Too expensive. The cost can be considerably lower if you stick to the basics – calling and text.


Is the Apple Watch really needed?

10. Apple Watch – Why anyone would want to buy an expensive watch tied into an iPhone or any other smart phone is beyond me. For the most part the watch is a redundant device that runs many of the same apps as those on the iPhone and iPad. Plus your watch has to be tied into the iPhone. Not a good idea to me. There have been reports that the time does not even show on the watch face as a default. Duh? Prices for the Apple Watch start at $349 and soar into unreasonable heights of $10,000 or more.

I don’t think the Watch will hold its value in the long term because the technology will continue to change. If you want an expensive high end watch you’d be better off buying a traditional Rolex. If you need to just tell the time that is already on your cell phone. If you need a cheap wrist watch and not worry about it, you can get one for under $25 at your local WalMart.

So, there you have it. My top 10 list of Apple devices I won’t get this Christmas.

Posted in Apple, Commentary, iMac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, MacPro, Music, Technology, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When a Sunrise is a Sunset

Flickr’s New Auto Tags Are Wrong and Unwanted

By Melvin Ah Ching

Sunrise From Hawaii

This is one of many sunrise pictures I have posted on Flickr.

I have a love-hate relationship with Flickr.

I’ve been using the Flickr photo sharing service since 2004. I think this was some years before Flickr was sold to Yahoo. Back in those days Flickr users were a happy bunch of photographers. The interface was simple, uncluttered, nice and a pleasure to work with.

By 2010 things changed. Yahoo bought Flickr and big changes to their user interface and presentation were implemented. Many Flickr photographers, who I believe include a large group of crusty older people who love familiarity in how things are done, got upset.

Implemented changes to Flickr’s presentation, user interface and features have often been met with stiff opposition from long time users. Complaints were made in numerous public posts to the Flickr Help Forum.  Users asked Flickr to return the user interface to how it was. Most if not all requests to have Flickr rescind new features or allow the old timers to use the old interface as an option fell on deaf ears.

On May 7 Flickr implemented a new “Auto Tag” feature that retroactively applied automatic tag links to not only newly uploaded photos but to all photographs in every user’s library. For many users we are talking about hundreds if not thousands of photos.

Here is how Flickr explains Auto Tags:

“Tags play a key role in how you organize and search for photos on Flickr and today, we’re happy to share some changes that make tags more powerful.

What’s changing?
Starting this morning, in addition to any tags that you add to your photos, you’ll notice that Flickr may also add tags to help make them more discoverable in search. This is thanks to Flickr’s image recognition technology, which recognizes patterns in photos. For instance, when our technology recognizes patterns commonly found in car photos, it will label the image “car” and when it finds patterns commonly found in cat photos, it will label the image “cat.”

You’ll notice that tags added by Flickr will appear in an outlined box to make them visually distinct from the ones you add (which appear in a gray box). As the photo’s owner, you can delete any tags you don’t want or tags that are inaccurate.

Inaccurate tags
While we are very proud of this advanced image recognition technology, we’re the first to admit there will be mistakes and we will constantly be working to improve the experience. Usually, you can tell why a mistake was made (sometimes a bike looks like a motorcycle), but occasionally, it may be baffling (no, your grandma doesn’t look like a cat!). But the good news is that if you delete an incorrect tag, our algorithm learns from that mistake and will perform better in the future.

The tagging process is completely automated — no human will ever view your photos to tag them. And, as always, Flickr treats privacy very seriously by respecting your settings. You maintain complete control over which photos are visible to others and which are available for search.

Why change?
As we’ve redesigned Flickr, we’ve tried to make it the one place where you upload every photo and video you take, and then easily find, organize, edit, and share them. This requires powerful image search, and to deliver that, we need to be able to identify the content in each photo, whether you add tags and descriptive titles or not. Before, our search could only rely on text, date, and location (when available), but now visual patterns in the images can help us identify and surface the best results in your searches. Many of the improvements to search results you’ve seen over the past several months are the result of these tags.

These tags also provide the opportunity to bring you lots of innovative features that we’re incredibly excited about. The new “Magic View” on Camera Roll is the first of these powerful new innovations — we hope you love it.

What’s next for tags?
We will continue working to constantly improve this feature. Flickr’s tags may evolve as the image recognition technology becomes more accurate and as the algorithm learns to recognize additional concepts. We also want to bring more control to you, so we plan to add tools soon to allow you to batch edit these new tags.”

Getting Past The Hype

First of all in the quoted statement above, Flickr tells users that it “treats privacy very seriously by respecting your settings.” Wrong. They forced a default setting upon the users by implementing Auto Tag as a standard feature and not an option. Users should be able to OPT IN on the tagging and many other features that Flickr has implemented.

Flickr updated their post to state that batch removal of Auto Tags are coming. Hopefully that will be implemented soon and that there will be a permanent opt out from the Auto Tagging process.

Meanwhile many photos are tagged wrong. All of my Sunrise photos are auto tagged as “sunset” while my manual tags are correctly stated as “sunrise”.

Auto Tag Graphic

Manually tagged as “sunrise”; Flickr bot tags it as “sunset”. Not good!

As an end user, I want complete control of my Flickr photo experience. This includes how my photos are tagged. The gray tags are user generated while the white tags are auto inserted by Flickr.

Here is what other users are saying about the Auto Tag:

The guidelines specifically state “We don’t tolerate spam, deceptive tagging or other abusive means to generate revenue and traffic.” Since tagging is only for the purposes of generating traffic, then blind auto-tagging definitely generates deceptive tags. For example the Flickr tag category of “bird” has been put on many of my photos that do NOT contain a single bird, but rather lions, whales, dogs, kangaroos and people. Since I have over 4,600 photos, I don’t think it is right that I should go through them all and eliminate all the deceptive tags. The person(s) or system(s) that added them should have to remove them, all of them.

Another user writes:

The Tag-Bot is supposed to respect our privacy settings. Mine is set so only I can add tags, but that dumb Tag-Bot adds tags anyway. Thanks Flickr for not respecting my privacy settings and adding a bunch of idiotic meaningless tags to my images.

Numerous complaints have come in about incorrectly tagged photos. Bird tags where there are no birds in the photo. Ships tagged as cars. Sunrises tagged as sunsets.

Bottom line is that many Flickr users don’t like the Auto Tag as well as other interface enhancements (Camera Roll, Wall Art, Layout, etc.) made recently and over the last 5 years. 

Time to go back to how Flickr was, before Yahoo, when it looked like this and functioned in a more simplistic way:

The Old Flickr display

The old way that Flickr displayed photos and albums was better.

 A sunrise is a sunrise. It will never be a sunset.



Posted in Commentary, Photography, World Wide Web, Yahoo | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Surveillance Video Interview with Edward Snowden

HBO’s John Oliver’s topic on this video is “Surveillance” and online privacy. It is quite an entertaining interview deeply mired in some troubling facts that have been revealed by Edward Snowden,  a former system administrator who leaked classified NSA documents to the media over the last 2 years. This video clip is a bit rough around the edges, but is quite entertaining and informative. Oliver went to Russia to interview Snowden and in the end, they make the issue of government surveillance and privacy immediately relevant by using a “junk” example. Watch the clip. It’s about 33 minutes long.

Posted in Internet, Legal, Privacy | Tagged , , ,

Top 10 Apple Products I Am Not Getting for Christmas


It’s December 24. Like every Apple fan out there, we’d all like to get a great, cool and new Apple product. Tell you what… it’s not happening this year, unless the Christmas Fairy is extra generous and surprises me. More than likely not.

So without anymore fanfare, here is a list of the top 10 Apple products I am not getting for Christmas:

#10: Apple iPod Classic – Well no one is going to get a brand new Apple iPod Classic this year from Apple or most retailers. Reason? Apple discontinued the venerable little MP3 music player this past fall. Luckily for me I could see this coming and I actually did buy a 160GB model, brand new this past June. So yes, Christmas came early.

#9 Apple MacPro computer – Yes, everyone would love to get an overpriced and overpowered Mac. If I were like making the next Star Wars movie or something, I’d probably have at least one or many like these. Frankly, it’s nice to have but I don’t really need one. The MacPro is the same circular tower that was introduced late last year. It screams.

#8 Apple iPhone 6, 6-Plus, whatever. Actually I don’t need one and its high monthly bill and locked in two-year contract. Never owned an iPhone and don’t intend to get one anytime soon. Surely it is a nice device running Apple’s latest iOS 8x. It does ApplePay and all of that fancy stuff including being a telephone.

#7 Apple Pay – I don’t have any device that supports that. So for now I will continue using old fashioned credit cards and untraceable cash.

#6 Apple iOS8 – Well you can get this free with the purchase of any new iOS device – Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch all come with this. You can also get this free if you own an iOS device that supports it. Sadly, my 4-year old, 4th generation iPod Touch doesn’t support any Apple iOS system higher than 6x. I’m out of the loop.

#5 Apple OSX 10.10.x – Yosemite – Yes, my two MacBook Pros can both support this latest update to Apple’s OSX operating system. It’s free. But guess what? I haven’t bothered downloading it yet. In fact my 15 inch MacBook Pro is still staying with Snow Leopard which was what – OSX 10.6.8. A few years ago I actually bought Mountain Lion which is OSX 10.8.5. It runs on on my smaller MacBook Pro real nice. I’m happy with it. Haven’t found any reason to update. Surely I can update to OSX 10.9.x – Mavericks. I have that. It was free. Just haven’t installed it.

On another note the main reason why I haven’t upgraded to Yosemite is because of all the bad things I heard about iTunes 12x. It does not support the vertical sidebar on the left, which I have used for many years since iTunes 2 or whatever to build many custom playlists. I love playlists. I love easy access to them. iTunes got screwed up after I upgraded to version 11. I think 10.7 was the best but I could not easily downgrade to that after I installed 11x. Sad. Apple has ruined their OSX music player software.

So for now I will not upgrade to Yosemite until perhaps I buy a new Mac, like maybe next year or 2016.

#4 Apple iPod Touch – If Apple comes out with version 6 of this thing I may think of buying one. But that won’t happen this year. Or even next. No one knows. However if Apple does release an iPod Touch 6 I hope it supports ApplePay as well as be backwards compatible to OSX 10.6.x. What I love about the iPod Touch is that it is just like the iPhone except it does’t have a phone nor the high monthly bill for cellular service.

#3 Apple iPads of all Types – A tablet computer is one of those “nice to have” things in life, but frankly I don’t feel a compelling need to own one, much less any iPad that is currently out. All of Apple’s iPads are nice computers. If you have one, I share in your happiness.

#2 Apple MacBook Pro Laptop Computer – I probably don’t need one yet,  since both my 2009 MacBook Pro and 2011 MacBook Pro continue to work and function like champs. However if I had my choice of getting a new MacBook Pro,

I’d definitely get the latest and greatest, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It is a beautiful computer with a beautiful screen and packed with most of  the latest features. What’s not to like? Oh, that. It doesn’t have built in ethernet or a DVD optical drive. I feel more secure connected to a wired ethernet. There is a workaround if you go through the Thunderbolt port. Not very practical if you want to also connect a Thunderbolt monitor. The DVD thing, I can live without but would be nice to have an internal one like most of my previous Mac laptops. However this Mac is plenty fast, up tp 3.7 ghz depending on which model option you select. Plus all models come with onboard flash memory storage options. Nice.

#1 Apple iMac with 5K Retina Display – Never have been a big fan of the all in one iMac computers. This one however is a stunner. Comes standard with a 27 inch 5K Retina display monitor (built in), standard hybrid fusion drive up to 1TB in size or the option to get an SSD flash drive up to 1TB (I’d go with the SSD). Prices start at $2499 and can easily climb to the low end tiers of owning a MacPro desktop computer. This iMac also comes with built in ethernet which has been a standard for  iMacs for many years now. I hope they continue with this option. You can read more about the 5K iMac at the link provided above.

This all said, here’s wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

* Links to Apple’s website may go out of date without notice.

My New iPod Classic

I now consider myself lucky to have bought an iPod Classic this past summer. With the discontinuation of the iPod Classic, prices for new, unopened iPod Classics in the used market have skyrocketed. I regularly use mine and it is not for sale. Onwards to 40,000 songs!


Posted in Apple, Commentary, Computers, iMac, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iTunes, Mac OSX, MacBook Pro, MacPro | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Holding on to Your Telephone Landline

In this day of smart iPhone and Androids, is it any wonder that some people don’t find the old fashioned telephone landline relevant anymore? I am a die hard landline user. I don’t own an iPhone or any other wireless phone device. I do have an iPod Touch but it’s not a phone.

I am holding on to my landline because I can be free of phone calls most everywhere else I go. People can call me on the landline and if I am at home, I will answer it. If I am not, well tough luck. I don’t have an answering machine directly wired into the landline. However a few people know my Google phone internet number and they can leave a voice or text message there.

The telephone I use is a General Electric touchtone desk model with speakerphone, auto dial, and at least a dozen memory phone number pre-sets. It doesn’t do the internet, but Google Voice calls can be routed to this phone which means I can still get free long distance to anywhere in the U.S.A. One thing about landlines… the phone service works even when the power goes out. That doesn’t apply to cell phones or the newer Voice Over IP phones.

The bottom line? Are you a landline phone user? I am and will be for the foreseeable future.

Larry Ignacio's Honokaa Plantation Museum

Landline telephones have been around for more than 100 years.


My GE landline telephone with auto dial, memory presets and speaker. Smartphone not required.

Posted in iPhone, Technology, Telephones | Tagged , ,