iPad Pro 11: Not For Portrait-Mode Thumb Typers

The new iPad Pro has been out for a little over two months right now.

I’ve bought three of them 😦

And they’ve all been returned at this point, and I’m using my trusty old iPad Mini 4 instead. Why? Well, I can tell you at least it’s NOT due to “bendgate” or anything; all three were straight as arrows on all sides.

But I still think there’s a manufacturing defect or design bug that affects iPads reliably, but only in a pretty rare use case that I unfortunately happen to be very prone to.

You see, I use my iPads in portrait mode 95% of the time. Yes, even the 10.5 and now 11 inch bigger ones (I have pretty gigantic gorilla hands). I’m often holding it up in bed or while sitting somewhere, and I thumb-type the shit out of that screen in portrait. This has worked just fine with every iPad I’ve had up to the new Pros. My primary uses with the iPad are reading books and articles, and reading/responding to social media shit, all of which I do mostly in portrait while thumb-typing. I don’t like having the screen far away from me on a desk or surface when I’m using a tablet; they’re personal devices to me, and I hold them up pretty close. My eyes are old to the point where I need a bigger screen than any iPad gives to be comfortable using it at laptop distance for any length of time.

The problem is noticeable right out of the box; when holding it in portrait mode and typing on the onscreen keyboard with my thumbs, the t, g, b, h and y keys (and sometimes the ones around those, but less so) will often make the keyboard click sound and depress on the keyboard (the two signs iOS gives the user to say “I acknowledge that you are pressing this key and want me to actuate it), but they will NOT enter into whichever text field I’m actually trying to enter into. Since I type fast with my thumbs, this quickly becomes a big problem. Every third “the” renders as “he”, “that” is usually “hat”… just an infuriating mess of easy to miss typos.

Since I’m one of those dinosaurs who hates to make typos, and likes correct spelling and grammar, this is obviously crazy-making to me. I write a ton on these things, and having to spend twice as much time laboriously using iOS’s editing features to correct typos than I did typing it out in the first place quickly became untenable.

I’ve since been to two different Apple Stores with three different iPad Pro 11’s that all exhibit the issue. One of the techs insisted on testing it with the iPad lying down on the table and couldn’t get it to replicate; they eventually gave me a senior tech who followed my instructions and held it the way I do when the problem actually occurs and it reliably triggered.

I suspect, but obviously can’t prove, that the little bit of extra thinness and the little bit of extra width on the 11 over, say, the 10.5, leads to just enough torque being applied when trying to portrait-grip this thing and stretch thumbs over to the middle of the keyboard to cause the digitizer to flex out of true just enough to break the finger-glass-digitizer-OS chain of events that leads to a character input actually being fully acknowledged.

The fruit stand techs probably get horse-whipped by the ghost of Steve Jobs if they give even a passing nod to a possible physical defect in a new product that hasn’t been acknowledged by corporate yet (see: the fucking MBP keyboards for first two years of this generation until, voila, Apple acknowledged that they just might have a shitload of issues), so he doubled-down on “it’s probably a software bug, keep an eye out for iOS updates that might address that and buy another one if you’d like at that time”, which is fine advice, but this really feels like a physical issue to me. There’s a slight chance I guess that the gyroscope is being knocked out of true in that orientation and pressure and that could be fixed by a software change to calibration, but I won’t be holding my breath.

I posted to Reddit and some other forums about this issue in early January after more Googling still didn’t bring up anyone else having this issue; my posts however, did bring at least a few people out of the woodwork to state that they were having similar issues. The gist seems to be, though, that portrait-typers are an increasingly dying breed and that, even if this issue is as widespread as me getting three iPads in a row with the problem seems to indicate, so few people actually use iPads in this precise way to trigger it. I blame my humongous neanderthal paws for even making it possible.

So, I’m bummed. I can either continue to use my ancient Mini 4 (which, to be fair and to Apple’s credit, works ridiculously well still, even if the battery life is pretty degraded; iOS 12 really rejuvenated older iOS devices to a crazy degree), or buy a previous gen 10.5 again, which, to a die-hard Apple PayPig such as myself, is humiliating*. I’m leaning towards the latter, as I really loved that device, it doesn’t have this issue, and even a refurb bought today will probably be good for 3-4 more years.

My main question now is wondering if this will slowly creep up enough across the userbase to actually become an issue Apple has to acknowledge and work towards correcting, or if this entire generation of iPad Pros is just going to be dead to me (which would crazy suck).

At the end of the day, it’s a super First World Problem, and Apple’s support and store staff were uniformly excellent throughout, giving me no hassle at all, even as I wanted to immediately open, try and return thousands of dollars worth of shit in their store. So that’s good at least. I’m imagining going through this with like a Samsung Tab S4 or something bought from Best Buy and just lol.

Anyways, please don’t Old Tech Shame Me if you see me out and about with my Mini or 10.5, I’d crumple up and cry if you did.

*might as well just drive a 1989 Chevy Citation while I’m at it

City Tells Poor Neighborhoods: Fund Your Social Services By Selling Every Asset of Value You Have

City Proposes Selling Art to Fund Library Expansion

I feel like the takeaway here is “poor communities can enjoy basic services like the library or they can enjoy public art, but we’re not paying for both”.

Given that the money we’re talking about here is small stakes in the grand scheme of the city budget, I’d love to see some language that at least holds ALL proceeds of this sale to funding the ongoing operating costs of this library expansion. It could pay for eight years of operation. But that won’t happen.

Rahm, to his credit, put their expansion’s operating costs into his next budget, but that only covers the first year of that. And the painting sale is supposed to pay for the one-time capital costs of the expansion itself. But… why? One-time asset sales is SUCH a shit way to run a city, as Rahm knows. He basically ran against Daley’s habitual addiction to doing just that, a good policy call because Daley fucked the city in a lot of ways (and, not coincidentally, enriched himself and his pals) via that model of financing.

I can even kind of see the logic behind “look, this painting has appreciated far beyond anyone’s expectations, this library isn’t designed to secure something so valuable, best of both worlds to sell it now before it declines in value or gets damaged/stolen, and we can use that money to make this library better”.

But also: fuck that. A chance for these disadvantaged kids to see a near-priceless piece of art in their own neighborhood, to be inspired by it and enjoy the same access to high art that every Lincoln Park and Hyde Park professional class heirling does… why shouldn’t these kids have that as well?

This just feels like more of Rahm’s endless Fuck You to the South and West Sides… even when he gives them a little, it’s with enough conditions to remind people that he really doesn’t think they deserve it.

I hope our next mayor is a little more committed to funding essential services out of taxes and revenues instead of selling off one-time assets in a punishing way to the communities the asset comes from.

Apple’s Smartphone Dominance Explained In One Feature

I’m not partisan about mobile ecosystems; I’ve spent thousands of dollars on iOS shit over the years, and thousands on Android stuff, too. I like features from both and think that choosing between a goodAndroid phone (Google’s Pixel line, essentially) and an iPhone is something that comes down entirely to personal preference.

That said, I spend MOST of my time in iOS land. Why? There’s a million little quality of life things I think iOS does slightlybetter than Android, but I’ll talk about just one in particular that stands out as it’s a very good example of what Apple gets right that Android still misses the mark on:

Adjusting the brightness of the screen.

You know often I have to do this manually on my iOS devices?

Never. I literally cannot remember the last time I had to manually dim or brighten the screen on a device. They’re just ALWAYS at the right brightness level for whatever lighting conditions I’m in.

Out on my balcony on a sunny day? It goes full max brightness without me even noticing.

Lights out in bed at night when wife is already asleep? It dims itself to almost the lowest setting.

It just figures out what is the best setting for the moment.

In contrast, the last two Android devices I used (Pixel 2 XL by Google, and Samsung’s Note 9) ranged from “needed slight, but regular manual adjustment to the auto-settings” (the Note) to “this is just broken entirely” (the Pixel).

I had a couple of Pixel 2 XLs due to Google’s iffy QA and screen manufacturing woes this generation (another thing Apple gets better; the next bum-out-of-the-box iOS device I buy will be the first). Every one of them, I quickly ended up turning off Android’s Adaptive Brightness almost immediately because I can’t stand watching a screen change its own brightness constantly while I’m looking at it while stationary in an evenly-lit room.

I never notice my iOS screens adjusting themselves; they’re just always at the right brightness.

Again, this is the whitest of whines, the First World-iest of problems, but it’s something Apple a) realized was a low-intensity but widespread quality of life issue and b) iterated until it was fixed.

Like, I vaguely remember, many iPhones ago, manually setting a brightness slider because I read somewhere that iDevices like you to do that once or twice so it can set a baseline of what brightness level each person likes in a given ambient light scenario, and then it adjusts brightness against that from there. I feel like this is data it passes along with your iCloud profiles so it carries over from device to device, because I’ve never had to fuck with it again.

These kinds of things exist throughout the Apple ecosystem, and is the thing that keeps me coming back to them even when I’m seduced away momentarily every year by the latest Pixel phone.

Real Estate Bubble 2.0 Is Going To Be Awesome

I can’t even begin to understand the real estate market in this town…
$1,750 for a 471-square-foot studio?
$2,800 for a 928-square-foot two-bedroom apartment?!?!?!?
EITHER of those is more than I pay in mortgage for a 2-bedroom modern condo with all the fixings in a beautiful, safe neighborhood where I can see my local El stop from my front door, and it’s a Brown Line stop, not the overcrowded hellhole of a Blue Line stop this development is nearby and touts as a central benefit (because you do not get parking with that price, the development HAS no parking because lol “TOD”, and good fucking luck parking on the street within a half-mile of that place once it’s occupied. Or, hell, even NOW. Logan Square’s a bitch to park in already).
And, of course, these projections are all WAY over what the developer promised the rents would be… can today’s renters afford this shit? Like, if somebody legit had two grand to drop to housing, why wouldn’t you… buy a bigger condo than this, and spend what would certainly be leftovers from a cheaper mortgage payment on something else?
I get that buying a place is a colossal pain in the ass; maybe you’ve got high income now but no down payment saved up. Maybe you’re not planning to necessarily live in Chicago or Logan for more than a few years and just don’t want to put down hard roots yet. But, damn… spending THIS kind of money on a rental, tiny ones at that, even in a cool (well, formerly cool, currently fucking insufferable) neighborhood… it just seems like such a colossally bad idea.
Also… why is there no penalty for these insanely evil developer ghouls when they straight-up lie to the city and the community about what they’re going to build and how it will be priced for market? Like, the promise was “we’ll be able to add youth and vitality to the neighborhood by offering a ton of micro units at these rates” and instead we’re getting regular-assed apartments at rates 30-60% higher than promised before the fucking place even opens.
I look forward to the post-2019 real estate crash, when this monument to hubris, this gigantic white elephant, will emptily hulk over its corner in Logan Square, a grim reminder of the era when shithead real estate monsters honestly thought that our economy would produce enough millennials with real jobs and incomes to support their demanded amount of gold to live in this jumped-up dorm.

My Doppelgänger is an Unemployed Racist Canadian Construction Worker

I’ve been having this issue for years where I’ve been getting somebody else’s email. I know why it’s happening; I’ve just been at a loss to solve it.

One of my email addys is “shawnritchie@gmail.com”. I’ve had this since the day Gmail launched back in 2004.

Somebody keeps shopping and using “shawn.ritchie@gmail.com” as THEIR addy. This is a feature Gmail allows that lets you track which shithead corporation sold out your email to spammers. You sign up for their shit using your email address, but you insert a period somewhere in the first part of the address so that, when you start getting spam addressed to that address, you know which asshole company done sold you out.

Some dipshit either thinks this is their actual address (it’s not) or is just giving it out as a fake address whenever a store asks them for one. But they’re not smart enough to actually gin up a REAL fake address, or to not use it for shit that will actually result in their personal info going to a total stranger.

So, for years, I’ve been getting the occasional receipt for various purchases this dumbass has made, sign-up info emails for accounts he’s setup at various forums and websites (including some weird preacher shit, and some weird cheerleader shit, neither of which I looked into too deeply).

One time a few years ago, I got an email from some web forum that seemed like a small community so I emailed their admin to say “hey, can you hit up username whatever and ask him to stop using my email address ‘cuz I’m getting all of his shit from your forum and do not want it?”.

No answer, nothing worked, so I’d just occasionally unsubscribe him from these things, grit my teeth, and carry on with my day.

Mind you, this isn’t an incessant daily flood. It’s a few emails every couple of months. But the incessant… STUPIDITY of it all really bugs the shit out of me. It looks perfectly legit to Gmail (because it basically is) so it doesn’t get caught by their spam filters; it gets delivered as legit, to me.

A few weekends ago, though, I got a couple in a row from some hotel rewards program and it just got under my skin, so I went digging.

Stupid easy password reset for that site? Yep.

Log in, hey, got a home addy, credit card info and… thank fuck, a phone number. Let’s see if it’s legit…

ring ring

“Hallo?”

“Hi, is this Shawn?”

“Ay-yuh. Who is this?”

“This is also Shawn. This will be a bit weird, so hear me out…”

I explain the situation.

It’s quickly made clear that I’m talking to a blue-collar Canadian guy (squares with the Ontario address I got from logging into one of his accounts) who knows fuck-all about the Internet. He does, however, like to chat with strangers.

I do not.

I explain the situation. He’s obviously not getting it. So I explain it again. Soon after, I explain it a third time (my wife overheard the whole thing and can validate what she refers to as my “amazing patience” with this guy, “amazing patience” NOT being something I’m ever accused of having).

He clearly has no idea what’s going on, he “only uses email to apply for construction jobs” from some province-run website up there, but his wife does the shopping and his kids use his card so maybe they did it, he’s not sure…

… and I don’t care. I explain that I just want to stop getting this guy’s personal info. I’m a generally moral person; many people who would get this access to a stranger’s accounts, would not be. I explain that I need these emails to go away, so whether he’s skating the truth with me, or if he needs to talk to his wife and kids about it, whatever, I’ve told you what to do, just do it already.

After the third walkthrough, hoping against hope that what’s going on here and, more importantly, what the fix is, will sink in, he comes back at me with:

“Y’know what it could be? We got these fucking Pakis up here who do computer scams…”

hard stop

“Dude, we’re done here. I’ve explained what you or your family members are doing wrong. I’ve explained the fix. I’ve spent WAY more time on explaining this to you than I should have to, and my reward is apparently two barrels of Canadian racism right to the face. Fix your shit, or I’ll just start cancelling accounts for you or maybe buying me some treats on your dime. Your call. Good day”.

Sigh.

Obviously, my faith in humanity has been at a low ebb for some time now, but this one sucked the wind outta me. I can’t imagine having a conversation with a helpful, friendly stranger who went out of their way to try and help ME with a problem of my own devising, and deciding that dropping some cask-strength racism would be the appropriate return volley.

And, in that way of entitled white shitheads the world over, he obviously had no inkling that dropping the Canadian equivalent of an n-bomb on a total stranger might not be appreciated. Like, he expected me to just take it in stride because I’m sure he only deals with white people in general and has that weird suburban expectation that everybody else is Exactly Like Me.

I haven’t gotten any more emails on his behalf, but I also haven’t gotten any warnings about the donations to various bail bond funds I’ve been making on his card, either, so c’est la vie.

Amazon Is Stupid

I found out from a guy I follow on Twitter (the excellent Chicago Sun-Times general columnist Neil Steinberg, for the record) that Mark Kurlansky, one of my favorite non-fiction writers, has a new book out.

This post isn’t about that book, although I’m gonna burn a graf or two here on a recommendation; the new book is called Milk!: A 10,000 Year Food Fracas, and I’m recommending it even though I haven’t read it yet and it doesn’t even come out for a few more weeks. Why? Well, because I read his prior books, Cod, Paper, and Salt, and greatly enjoyed each of them.

In case you can’t tell by the titles, he picks a single thing that is immensely important to human history and development, and then writes about the how and why of that importance. He’s a great writer, finding ways to work in all sorts of fascinating and interesting little human vignettes into these long-arc stories of the history of physical things. The books are highly entertaining, and I’ve learned a shitload I didn’t know about the topics from them. Go buy them.

That said, I want to bitch about, well… how I found out about this book.

You see… I’ve been an Amazon customer (don’t get me started on their evilness and how much Bezos sucks; they are, he does, but there’s no such thing as ethical consumption under Capitalism so it is what it is) since they were still just an amazing online bookstore. My first purchase there was in 1998 and, natch, it was a book.

I’ve since bought, let’s see… checks Amazon account

Jesus Christ.

I’ve bought, um, five hundred and fucking seventy books on Amazon since then.

Sure, some were gifts, but most of them were for me, me, me. There’s also been at least a few hundred books I didn’t buy on Amazon as well, given that I blew a few paychecks a year at Borders until they closed, and also was a steady user of the Chicago Public Library throughout this period, too. But, point being: Amazon has 570 points of fucking data on me regarding what kinds of books I buy, who my favorite authors are, etc… they have thousands of points of data on me if they’re tracking which books I’ve added to wishlists but not bought, which books I’ve spent time looking at the store pages of but then neither bought nor wish-listed, etc… and I’m sure they ARE tracking that data, too.

I bought each of the three Kurlansky books I’ve read previously through Amazon as well, just to be clear.

And yet… in no way, shape, or form, did Amazon figure out a way to say “hey smr, that guy you’ve bought all of his previous books from from us, usually immediately when they come out? He’s got a new one coming soon; interested?”.

This has happened recently with other authors, too. Authors I love, whom I’ve bought tons of books from Amazon by, and they have huge, important new works come out and I find out about them via sheer happenstance because Amazon’s algorithms are apparently as smart as a three-year old on a sugar high who just got kicked in the soft spot of the skull.

This seems kind of insane to me. Everybody touts these algorithms, that Amazon and Google and whoever can predict what we want before we even fuckin’ want it, yet the most reliable ads I get from them are, like, for toilet seats but only after I JUST FUCKIN’ BOUGHT ONE and in complete ignorance of the fact that modal number of toilet seats an individual purchaser on Amazon probably buys per decade is without a doubt: one.

You have way north of 50% of the data on my book purchases for the last two decades. You also own Goodreads, which I’ve been fairly well-integrated with for years, too. You know exactly how much and how quickly I’ve read each of these fucking books, because I read them in your apps or on your e-reader. So you know if I’ve punted on a given book after 20 pages, or if I’ve devoured a given author’s huge door-stopping brick of a book in a frankly embarrassingly short period of time right after it comes out.

In short: YOU KNOW WHAT BOOKS I LIKE, AMAZON.

So why in the fuck don’t I get an email or something from you, or a prominent ad or placement on your website during my basically weekly visit to the book part of your website telling me that this guy has a new book dropping very soon?

You’ll happily show me books by authors I’ve never read before but who’ve written books even vaguely related to subjects I have read books about before.

You’re MOST likely to show six books on exactly the same exceedingly narrow topic I just finished a book about, even though you have my ENTIRE ADULT READING HISTORY and therefore could easily determine that one thing I don’t do, ever, is read two books about basically the same topic back to back, ever, ever, EVER. That’s NOT HOW I READ. AND YOU KNOW THIS ABOUT ME.  As much as I may love the topic of Roman governorship during the Principate era, nobody who ain’t paid professionally to study that shit is gonna read TWO books on that topic in the same year. Yet the most prominent placement I get when I go to the History Books section of your website while I’m reading a book on that exact topic will be six more books on the exact same goddamned thing.

But a brand-new book from a guy whose every other book I’ve bought the instant it came out and read basically immediately in a very short period of time? All of which are facts you have in your data about me?

THAT book, you never tell me about.

Apple Music figured this out, and I haven’t been using that service even a year yet. Every week I get an email that basically says “you have albums by these artists in your library, and they all have new shit out this week. Click here to get it, enjoy”, and it’s sorted with the artists I have the most of and listen to the most upfront.

But this is somehow beyond Amazon. The closest they can get is “hey man, you bought a mattress last week, want six more right now? Are you sure? Are you SURE SURE?!?!?!? Okay, that’s cool, don’t buy one now, but we’re going to show you nothing but mattress ads across the entire internet for the next, say, oh, six weeks. That cool? Cool”.

I don’t get it.