Things I Like: Beats Solo3 Headphones

Product Page at the Apple Store for these things.

beats

My oh my…

Everybody heaped a ton of shit on Apple when they announced their wireless AirPod earbuds and I was right with the chorus: they look eminently lose-able, way too expensive, and just goofy-looking. I still think that’s accurate… for the AirPods.

However, Apple announced two other headphones that are also powered by their new W1 chip (this is the magic part that allegedly strips the suck out of Bluetooth, a notoriously shitty, finicky protocol that has historically been so bad that I’ve refused to use it for anything audio-related): the Beats Solo3 (traditional over-the-ear cup headphones) and some PowerBeats designed for the gym use (and, therefore, instantly out of my consideration).

There’s a lot of reasons I’ve avoided wireless headphones up to this point:

  • The aforementioned audio issues. It’s only been the recent release of BT4.2 on some devices that I find the quality of audio over Bluetooth (a protocol that requires compression of audio data to work) at all acceptable. It still ain’t great, but I’d listen to already-compressed music, a podcast or a phone call over it now, at least.
  • Battery Life: it’s been shit to this point. Just total garbage. Even the new AirPods are unacceptable; due to their tiny size, you get 5 hours of playtime on a max charge. I can barely accept the idea of charging headphones at all in the first place so it’s gotta be better than that.

Due to these factors, I paid little attention to the announcement. Until somebody pointed out the 40 (!) hour battery life on the Solo3 model.

That’s… that’s a number I can live with.

I still waited for a lot of reviews to come out on all W1-powered headphones before biting on buying these things. The Solo3’s are not exactly cheap. But, so far, they live up to the promise and have been worth it. Some pros and cons:

PROS:

  • Apple is absolutely not joking about the battery life. I charged them up when I got them last week Tuesday. I’ve used them probably 1-2 hours a day every weekday since (they don’t get much love on the weekends when I’m home; I use wired cans at home). They’re still in the upper nineties %-wise on charge. That’s RIDICULOUS.
  • The W1 pairing stuff, which a lot of people couldn’t roll their eyes hard enough at, is no joke. I turned them on, held them kinda near my iPhone, iPhone said “you wanna use these?” right away, I said “yes” and boom, every Apple device I own now knows about these things and will pair with them no problem. I have yet to lose pairing on any device, either, which is downright miraculous for something running over Bluetooth.
  • The sound is pretty decent. I remember laughing at the first-generation BeatsByDre headphones because they were so overwhelmingly bassy, I couldn’t understand why anybody would want to listen to them. They’ve come a long way since then; the sound still leans towards a heavier bass response than I would prefer, but it also has pretty nice mids and highs. Good cut-through on hi-hats and quieter parts… I still prefer my wired V-Moda set for recording music through, but for general listening, these are just fine.
  • The range; go ahead and wander away from your phone to hit the fridge or something, they’ll be fine. Unlike every regular Bluetooth device I’ve ever used, the W1 chip seems to be able to retain its grip on both ends of the tether over quite the distance. I can’t get them to drop no matter where in our condo I go, including the balcony.

CONS:

  • For the price, you’d like to see a lot less plastic in the construction. My V-Moda’s, I’m pretty sure I could fastball into an intruder’s face, then pick up and keep using without issue. I’m not sure these Solo3’s would survive an aggressive taking-off-of-head movement.
  • For fuck’s sake, a Micro-USB connection for charging? Goddammit, Apple, YOU HAVE THE LIGHTNING PORT. YOU’RE PUSHING USB-C AS WELL. Why were NEITHER of these better choices used here???? This and the fucking Kindle are the last goddamned things I own that use this connector, and I cannot wait for the day when I can happily pitch all of these shitty cheap Micro-USB cables into the fuckin’ garbage where they belong.

Those are not insignificant cons, but I think the pros outweigh them considerably. That I’ve got comfy, reasonably good-sounding cans with no fuckin’ wires tripping me up nonstop that’ll also last, at my usage patterns, weeks between charges is something I didn’t think would ever be possible even a year ago. Apple’s figured some shit out here, and for unfucking bluetooth audio alone we should be building a statue of Tim that’s at least 60% of the size of the one we should make of Jobs.

 

 

Peter Thiel Was Fed A Diet of Lead-Laced Chinese Wall Candy As A Child

NYT decides to give many column inches to guy who shouldn’t be allowed to cross a street unaccompanied, for some reason.

Read that. Note the number of WOW lines such as:

ashleyfeinberg_2017-jan-11

This is just ONE pull quote from an article chock-fuckin’ full of ’em. I don’t know how anybody with a functioning mind can read this profile of Peter Thiel and NOT come away with the impression that he’s anything but a weapons-grade moron.

Can we PLEASE, as a society, stop assuming that, just because already-advantaged and connected and privileged dudes guessed lucky ONCE in their lives and made it super-rich that they have any expertise in anything else whatsoever, or even in their chosen field?

This guy’s a fucking idiot. It takes idiocy to think that Trump not disrupting things enough is the biggest risk we’re facing from his presidency. Only a completely super-loaded sociopathic jagoff can ignore the fact that tens of millions of Americans don’t have the resources to survive “disruption” like he can. This prick bankrupted a whole company and put a lot of already fairly-brokedick journalists out of work out of sheer spite because they dared to report, accurately, that he likes kissing boys. Fuck him.

If there’s a weakness to the American psyche, it’s the assumption that, if one is wealthy, one is inherently smarter and better than those who are not. It’s often nothing more than compounded generational privilege multiplied by luck that leads to the creation of hyper-wealthy creatures like Thiel and Trump, and they always seem to think that their position in life is the result of nothing more than their own personal hard work and grit. It never is; they are just narcissistically incapable of acknowledging the many factors outside of their control that tilted the playing field in their favor.

They’re no better than you or I. Let’s stop treating them like they are.

Kingdom of Piss

Welp. Here we are. Explaining to children and loved ones that the guy who’s going to be President very soon may have paid pretty ladies to pee on each other and/or him so that he can have fun times with his puberty parts.

I don’t even care if it’s accurate or 100% true or whatever; the fact that almost every single person thinks it COULD be says everything we need to know about the guy that we’re tossing the keys to in a few weeks.

I’d like to think that the President’s office is overblown in its importance, that there’s a limit to the damage any occupant of it can do… but our last two presidents have spent the last 16 years expanding that office’s role to where it is now, at least while the occupant is still in power, a Presidency so Imperial that Nixon’s corpse would get a boner that would blot out the sun, could he just imagine it.

And now picture that power in the hands of this… this gross incompetent. This walking temper tantrum. This schoolyard bully from the right side of the tracks who only crosses them to pick on people weaker and poorer than he.

This is who we’re about to give ourselves over to, and I’m struggling to accept it. I don’t want to live in the Kingdom of Piss, ruled by the bad man in the gold-plated tower.

Some Days You Just Don’t Have It

I got nothing today.

I blame part of this on the outside: this might be my least-favorite kind of weather; cold, but not cold enough to be snowing (I enjoy me a good snowfall). Full wind warning, trees blowing over, shit flying off of the balconies, friends losing roofs out in the ‘burbs… dark and grey and wet and cold-ish all day. Just… bleaugh. Everything about this weather says “get under a blanket on a couch as soon as you can and read a book until it’s not a weird time to just surrender and go to bed”. Which, of course, isn’t possible, because one is an adult with responsibilities….

So. Get through work, which was a seemingly-endless parade of dumb customer requests and co-workers who seem to have hit their heads on something sharp and dense on the way in. Nothing inspiring in today’s workload, just something you want to survive and get past.

Checking in with the news, also nothing but a gigantic depressive. The circus of Trump’s administration heaving its corrupt bulk towards office is gaining steam, with rushed confirmation hearings on a rogue’s gallery displaying a lack of morality or self-awareness that would make a Motörhead tour manager wince… the Russians either subverting the very core of American government or being blown into a bogeyman out of all proportion to their efforts or ability, depending on who you ask…

Yeah. The sort of day that you just get through. Which I’ve mostly done. Back into the batter’s box tomorrow, hopefully to be the recipient there of fresh inspiration or at least a greater willingness to participate in society at all.

Things That Suck: ADP, Again

I had zero intentions of beating this dead horse into a finer consistency until ADP’s support team actually reached out to me after I published the first post in this series, basically intimating that it was my own company’s fault that the emails their system sends do not contain useful info:

adp_03

Upon reading this, I realized that, yes, systems like this often allow the end-user to customize what info goes into emails automatically generated by said system. And, given my years of experience with my company’s HR team, I can completely accept that the lack of any actionable info in those emails would be their fault, not ADP’s.

So, I replied back to “ADP helps” that a) I’m certainly not going to offer up my company name because that isn’t tied to my blog here and I get into enough trouble with HR b) but yes, if they’d like to confirm that those email details are entirely up to the end-user, I’d publish a retraction. I suspect that an email footer with a link to the main ADP page is or should be a default, like it is with every other platform I’ve ever dealt with, but maybe I’m high.

Since they care more, presumably, about looking helpful than being helpful, they have not replied to my response so fuck ’em; here’s more stupid, unhelpful shit their garbage system does that I am bloody sure aren’t the fault of the end company’s choices.

So: I get useless email basically stating “hey, you’ve got something to do in ADP”. I go to the site and login:

adp_01

This is the popover you get when you click on the Messaging Icon in the main ADP view. Let’s click on Tasks:

adp_02

This is where Shit Gets Dumb. The system is telling me I have two tasks to deal with. Neither are “Urgent”, apparently, though I have no idea what criteria the system uses to decide that something is Urgent vs. not.

Can I click on either of the two visible, available tasks to be taken directly to it so I can act on it?

No.

Does this dumbshit system offer the option to APPROVE/DENY/REVIEW right in this screen, on the task itself, which would be efficient and sensible?

Also no.

So. Clicking on the Green Tasks button, which is what the first picture implies one should do, does not get the user any fucking closer to being able to ACT on the task than NOT clicking on anything.

THE ONLY USEFUL THING ONE CAN DO IN THIS SCREEN AT ALL IS CLICK THE “VIEW ALL MESSAGES” LINK.

So why even fucking bother with all of this other clickable shit that takes the user fucking nowhere? It actively SLOWS YOU DOWN from achieving the goal of processing the waiting task.

It’s a prime rule of UI/UX that, if clicking something only takes you to a new screen where you can also only usefully click one thing, SKIP THE INTERVENING SCREEN AND JUST TAKE THE USER TO WHERE THEY CAN PERFORM ACTIONS. This isn’t rocket science. Even Microsoft goddamned Outlook, NO ONE’s idea of a well-executed user experience, gets this right.

ADP does not.

This infuriates me just because it’s so easily fixable. Just ditch that stupid popover entirely and, when I click on the Message Icon, just take me to the full Message Center page. With, preferably, a list of of messages that I can act on either in the list itself or by clicking any entry to go to a full, single-item view of it.

Now, I will sit over by here and wait for ADP’s support drones to uselessly imply that it’s our fault that their system is designed this way.

 

Things That Suck: TV’s in the Lunch Room

My main work office recently moved from Lombard to the Tower in Oakbrook. It’s been mostly an upgrade; the commute, so far, seems to be nominally less shitty by a few minutes. The cafeteria here is actually decent and, to date, hasn’t caused any Code Brown incidents. Unlike Lombard’s. Ahem.

So, while the food’s decent, the sitting area for the cafeteria has one glaring flaw:

Mother. Fucking. Televisions.

I like to use my lunch hour to eat, relax, and read. Having the cafeteria here is nice because it means I don’t have to burn 20-30 minutes of my lunch driving somewhere. I’d LOVE to be able to just eat in quiet, read, with the hum of other tables’ conversation around me…

…but no.

Every single goddamned chair in the seating area is in eyesight of a fucking TV screen, which is either blaring fucking ESPN or motherfucking Maury Povich or, depending on how America America is being on a given day (like today), live news updates of the latest mass shooting.

Do you know how NOT relaxing this all is? I can’t even open Twitter on my lunchbreak anymore because something within the first five Tweets I see will spiral me off into a deep depression for the rest of the day, so I’ve given up on that during lunch. Now my choices are:

  1. the screaming inanities of whatever C-Grade morons staff ESPN’s mid-afternoon coverage
  2. the downright-demoralising wails and screechings of someone either:
    • super-pissed at being cheated on
    • super-excited to not be the father
  3. the sad woe of some jackoff in a suit on FOX or CNN gravely stretching about 7 seconds worth of actual information into a stultifyingly repetitive hour of Non-Stop Tragedy Whoring

I honestly don’t see ANYBODY even watching this shit. Everybody’s head down on a phone, book or tablet, or HOLY SHIT actually engaging in conversation with their tablemates. So what the point of the max-volume Windows Into Awfulness even is, I couldn’t tell you.

I’m going to drop the building management out here a note; leave the screens on if you must, but can we nuke the sound? Lunch is supposed to be a relaxing, rejuvenating hour, one that girds me for the back half of Intense Productivity that is my work day.

Instead, I leave in worse shape than the guy who just found out that one-night stand he had seven years ago means he’s the daddy of triplets and owes a metric fuckton of back child support.

Things That Suck: ADP

If you’ve ever spent any time in corporate America, you’re familiar with ADP. Your paycheck comes out of their system, your time off is managed by them… they’re ubiquitous, the McDonald’s of corporate HR.

Unlike McDonald’s, which, however you feel about their food, are goddamned Olympian when it comes to efficiency throughout their entire operation, ADP is terrible, hateful garbage. Outside of open-source garage projects, I’m hard-pressed to think of software that’s less interested in helping you accomplish anything with it than ADP.

Let’s take just one example here, focusing on one of the most common things a manager will do in ADP: review time-off requests. When one of my guys requests time off, they do it via ADP’s website. I get an email from ADP alerting me to this fact. This is the entirety of the email I receive:

adp-01

Notice what’s missing? Say, ANY way to act on this request whatsoever? Every other goddamned service out there would typically include:

  • To Approve this request: CLICK HERE
  • To Deny this request: CLICK HERE
  • To Review/Edit this request: CLICK HERE

ADP gives you NONE of this. Not even a goddamned link to the website so you can dig through it yourself to find the request.

Now, I can hear you thinking to yourself “uh, this is pretty small beer, Ritchie. First World Problem much?” and you’re absolutely right, but one of my personal pet peeves is very expensive software that actively hates the user.

Like; how difficult would it be to just include a link at least to the fucking site here? It’s not like the URL is even custom for each company; every one of the millions of people who have ADP accounts logs in through the exact same goddamned URL as everyone else. There’s zero reason, save active hatred of their users, that ADP could not at least include that link in these fucking emails.

I’m not sure why this bothers me so much beyond the simple waste and disdain for their fellow man that has to be involved with the thousands of ADP employees over the years collectively either never thinking about this issue or having thought of it and just not bothered to address it. It’s an infuriating mindset to deal with, and there are many more examples of this combination of incompetence and outright loathing of their paying customers that permeate the entire goddamned platform.

So, yeah, I’m super-glad I get to be in this system dozens of times a week. I’m even managing to feel a twinge of sympathy for our HR people (not a group I normally view with anything other than suspicion if not actual anger) given that they LIVE in this thing.