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Breaking Technology News, Tutorials & Reviews:

December 4, 2022 Why You Shouldn’t Buy the 2018 Mac Mini
December 3, 2022 The End of Social Media
December 2, 2022 The Ten Most Useful iPhone Siri Commands
December 1, 2022 Use Your iPhone to Wake Up to Your Favorite Song
November 29, 2022 Why You Shouldn’t Buy a 2nd Gen Apple TV 4K

Why You Shouldn’t Buy the 2018 Mac Mini

published by Chad Evans
December 4, 2022 at 7:24 p.m.
  • Apple’s last Intel-based Mac Mini launched in 2018.
  • For the past few years, the 2018 Mac Mini sold for around $500.
  • Two years ago, Apple launched a new lineup of Mac Mini models with the M1 chip.
  • Apple no longer uses Intel processors in any of their new Macintosh models.
  • An Intel-based Mac Mini will likely be obsolete (no major macOS updates) within one year.

Few Bargains on Apple Products This Year

It’s been a tough holiday shopping season in 2022. Numerous factors have inflated prices and resulted in shortages; however, civil unrest over zero-COVID policies in China disrupted production of essential Apple products.

We monitor prices on Apple products at Costco and Amazon, tracking the highest, lowest, and current prices. This year, we’re seeing prices fluctuate wildly, even at Costco, which tends to be stable. Every day, the cost of at least half a dozen Apple products goes up or down. At Amazon, it’s much more volatile.

Unfortunately, prices often change in an unfavorable way for consumers. It appears as though every market force is working against buyers, resulting in high prices for many Apple products.

The best time to purchase an iPhone or Apple Watch was back in September. iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models are sold out almost everywhere. It’s challenging to find the Apple Watch Ultra, and there are no good bargains on Series 8 watches either.

Unfortunately, unless you have a time machine, you can’t go back and buy Apple products when they were a bargain. You have to deal with what’s available now.

With high demand and a shortage of products, we’re seeing pricing behavior almost equivalent to gouging. One of the worst deals is the 2018 Mac Mini.

About the 2018 Mac Mini

I own a 2018 Mac Mini, and it’s a decent machine. I bought it last year on Cyber Monday for $529. That’s an excellent price. This year, it was on sale for $499. While that may seem like a steal, remember this thing launched four years ago and has an Intel processor, which Apple has already phased out of production. It has a short useful lifespan.

It’s a decent machine if you have simple tasks to perform. The 2018 Mac Mini is a fine computer for office work, website creation, coding small-to-medium projects, and semi-professional audio-visual tasks. I connected it to a massive 32″ monitor and stereo, making it a decent home entertainment system.

I run macOS Ventura on it, and it’s smooth and fast enough. It may take 10 seconds to load an app on a fresh boot, but once your favorite apps are cached in memory, they pop up almost instantly.

The time to buy this Mac was last year. I wouldn’t even recommend it for its $499 Cyber Monday price. Unfortunately, we’re seeing it go for as much as $799. On Amazon, renewed models go for $749. That’s insane for a four-year-old Mac Mini. Remember, I bought a brand-new one last year for $529. Even though it’s not used or renewed, Apple launched this four years ago, and they’ve discontinued Intel-based Macs altogether.

Most websites are trying to get you to buy something. We’re trying to prevent you from getting ripped off. Unless you can find this (brand new) for $399 or less, we don’t recommend buying it.

2018 Mac Mini Will be Obsolete Soon

The main reason not to buy the 2018 Mac Mini is that it’s a ripoff. This machine will be obsolete much sooner than an M1-based Mac Mini, which often sells for less than $629 if you can find one.

The problem is that the M1 Mac Mini is out of stock at many retailers, which means the older model is more valuable now. As soon as supply improves, you’ll see M1 Mac Minis selling for $600+, depending on specifications.

We can look at past Mac Mini models to see how long Apple supports them with macOS updates. macOS Ventura debuted in late 2022. The oldest Mac Mini that can run this newest macOS version is the 2018 Mac Mini.

Its predecessor, the 2016 Mac Mini is capable of running macOS Monterey, which Apple launched in 2021. This means that Apple supported the 2016 Mac Mini with five years of macOS updates.

If this pattern holds, the next version of macOS will be the last one for the 2018 Mac Mini. But I think Apple may end up cutting off the 2018 Mac Mini model to encourage adoption of their own M-series chips.

You can still use a Mac with an older operating system. I’ve seen some ancient Macs in the wild, and people manage just fine with them. But if you want the latest features and apps, you’ll need the newest version of macOS. Also, third-party developers eventually stop supporting older versions of macOS, so your favorite apps will ultimately become obsolete too.

If you’re a casual user or an office worker, you can probably get 2-4 years out of a Mac that’s cut off from major operating system updates. Most of your apps will work fine, and you’ll even be able to update these apps for a few years.

Many people can’t get by with a Mac that’s a few years outdated. They need to run new apps or update software, but this can’t be done with older versions of macOS.

Also, performance is an issue. Apple sometimes sticks users with a major macOS update that makes their machines unbearably slow. They did this to a great extent with the iPad a decade ago, but they do this with the Mac too. I notice Ventura is slower than Monterey, but it’s usable. My hunch is that if they allow us to upgrade these to the next one, it will be so slow that I’ll need to buy a new Mac Mini.

Consider Windows Instead

Although this is an Apple-centric website, most iPhone owners use Windows machines. I use both Windows and macOS. I’m typing this article on an LG laptop running Windows 10. After Satya Nadella took over Microsoft, Windows improved dramatically. It’s a fast, stable operating system. I get more freezes and crashes on my Mac than on my Windows machine. macOS looks cooler, but Windows does the job, albeit with total dorkiness.

Intel makes its own compact computer that scores high marks with Consumer Reports. The NUC series isn’t an attempt to rip off the Mac Mini. Instead, it offers a surprisingly innovative design with reliability and upgradability at its core. The best thing is that you can get one of these puppies for $229. Perhaps that’s a little underpowered, but there are dozens of configuration options, unlike the Mac Mini.

I’m a massive macOS fan, but I’m not a MacBook lover. I’ve had too many problems with MacBooks, which is why I bought the Mac Mini. I need one to write for an Apple-centric site.

Most computer users are on Windows, and it gets the job done. If you can’t find a Mac Mini this year, you may want to consider one of Intel’s NUC compact PCs with Windows 10 or 11. I don’t own one, but I plan on making one my next Windows PC. For now, my LG Gram is serving me better than any MacBook I’ve possessed.

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The End of Social Media

The End of Social Media - Featured Image

published by Rachel Gold
December 3, 2022 at 6:52 p.m.
  • Social media evolved from 1980s bulletin board systems like Wildcat BBS.
  • Like most technology, the rise and fall of social media platforms like MySpace, Friendster, Orkut, and Google+ demonstrate the industry’s volatility.
  • Globally, social media usage plateaued, with some platforms like Facebook experiencing steep declines.
  • Research shows Gen-Z cohorts don’t use Instagram because of too many ads and influencers.
  • After unprecedented social unrest and election misinformation, many blame social media for enabling despots to come to power.
  • Social media may have peaked during the pandemic, with individuals now favoring in-person interaction over social media.

A Brief History of Social Media

Long before the Internet, people dialed into servers to exchange messages and files. These primordial social networks, known as bulletin board systems, or BBSs, enabled people to meet online before a public Internet existed.

Running a BBS required a dedicated phone line. Most BBS servers were set up in professional offices. Doctors, lawyers, and other professionals hosted these computers as a hobby or to reach more clients.

I used BBSs when I was a child. It was an interesting experience. A lot of times, you’d try to dial in and get a busy signal. This was around the time of the first home computer revolution when movies like War Games popularized hacking. Back then, an IBM PC with a 2800 baud modem was considered the ultimate in home computing technology.

The first online chat room existed a decade before I dialed into bulletin board systems. Dubbed the PLATO system, the University of Illinois developed this nascent online chatroom known as Talkomatic. U of I’s early social media platform also featured instant messaging and a crowd-sourced newspaper. Of course, you’d have to walk to the computer lab to use any of this because home computers were non-existent in the 1970s.

The creation of a public information superhighway, known as the Internet, in the mid-1990s led to an explosion in social media. Websites popped up like mushrooms after rain, many of which featured comments or threaded discussion forums. It was the public’s first taste of interacting with strangers, and people seemed to enjoy it.

These were simpler times because most people obtained news from legitimate sources. CNN and FOX News were much less polemical, with many preferring major network sources like ABC, NBC, and CBS. Back in the 1990s, there were all sorts of Internet scams, but for the most part, educated people created web content. There was a bar. You had to know HTML, which wasn’t difficult; however, it prevented uneducated people from creating content.

Soon after the Internet solidified, we saw the rise of web apps. Developers learned to fuse the web and relational databases, crafting primordial web-based applications, many of which were as impressive as anything you’d see today. It wasn’t easy. You had to know SQL and design databases that could scale to high traffic demands. Eventually, Java brought easy-to-use queues that could help manage and scale high-volume websites. Clustering technology enabled multiple servers to combine, providing even more scalability and performance.

As web technology matured, social media evolved alongside peer-to-peer filesharing (or file stealing) apps like Napster. This new era of social media already had a dark side, as recording artists saw CD and iTunes sales obliterated by piracy. But the bigger problem was misinformation.

Posting something on the web no longer took technical skill. If you had enough intellectual ability to use a computer in the most basic way, you could voice your opinion online. The first iMac made it easy for anyone to get online, and just about anyone did. Cheaper Windows PC’s similarly streamlined the process of becoming a netizen.

Social media grew at a tremendous pace in the decade spanning 2003 to 2013. Dozens of platforms launched, matured, and either withered away or prospered. This era saw the rise of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, along with the morons they enabled.

For a long time, social media platforms were lax about moderation. These platforms became havens for ideas that one couldn’t express on TV. Without standards and practices departments to control content, users went hog wild with racism, conspiracy theories, and general misinformation. Alex Jones had a YouTube channel for years, and the company didn’t think anything was wrong with it. (If it weren’t for the public outcry, he’d still be YouTubing today.)

This brings us to the present, where misinformation and conspiracy theories have worsened. Social media companies demonstrate a token will to moderate content by de-platforming “small fish” — users who don’t even create content but only espouse a few unpopular comments. YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram regularly sacrifice these users to spare their lucrative sacred cows, defecating cow patties of misinformation for hungry idiots to gobble up.

For example, a regular YouTube user can be de-platformed for commenting that Irish people were refugees in the United States. Such statements uttered by a commoner are considered hate speech on YouTube. A celebrity like Joe Rogan can use the “n-word” or refer to black people as “apes” hundreds of times on the same platform and not only escape de-platforming but become one of the most celebrated and wealthy talents in social media.

Social media providers ban regular users en masse to create statistics for lawmakers. They can report that they deleted thousands of accounts while Joe Rogan spouts racial epithets with impunity. It’s not working. Most people can see through it, but division in government, mainly created by social media, prevents action. Action will come, however, as our political leaders perceive social media an existential threat. Established representatives and senators are unseated by conspiracy theorists all too often, placing the target squarely on “Silly Con” valley.

(I don’t consider social media companies part of the Silicon Valley. They’re media companies, like TV networks or magazines. There’s more advanced technology at Frito-Lay than at Twitter. There are much better things happening in the city by the Bay than Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.)

Social Media Threatens Democracy

Social media companies like Meta, Twitter, and YouTube only care about profit. They allow lucrative creators to spout racial epithets while placating lawmakers with symbolic bans on casual users who don’t even create content. They realize most people will create new accounts and continue consuming content. Social media companies claim they handle the issue and have statistics to prove it. Anyone with eyes and a brain can see this is false. I’ve witnessed racist YouTubers brag about being “de-platformed” multiple times, yet they’re back making videos again.

Joe Rogan, PewdiePie, Ye, Donald Trump, and countless others are free to spout racist rhetoric without fear of de-platforming. If they are, they have to do something extremely horrible, like an insurrection. Later, social media companies reinstate their accounts because the revenues are too good to pass up.

Even Ye will be reinstated on Twitter again. Musk is just giving him a time-out. He even supported Ye’s bid for the presidency. If you’re profitable, you get unlimited mulligans, just like Donald on the golf course.

Social media’s drive to place profit over peace directly threatens democracy. Allowing celebrities to troll the world, these companies give carte-blanche to high-earning misinformation peddlers as they turn the public against people of color, Jewish, LGTBQ+, and other marginalized communities. Social media enables a minority of mostly white, male, far-right influencers to brainwash the less educated into adopting extreme political views.

The January 6, 2021 insurrection is one of many examples of how social media threatens democracy. Planned and directed on social media, the revolting affair wouldn’t have happened without constant messaging to enable the assault. Twitter provided the platform for Trump, who would otherwise resort to FOX News or a poorly-run website for messaging. These platforms couldn’t muster an insurrection. Even FOX News is too intellectual for the insurrectionist crowd.

Indeed, without social media, we wouldn’t see the rise of Trump, Duterte, Bolsonaro, and other despots who threaten democracy. All of these political figures use a simple strategy of social media misinformation to obtain and hold power. All you have to do is read their social media posts, and it’s obvious. Even FOX News won’t give people a platform for blatant and extreme misinformation, like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Tucker Carlson can only go so far, but he can pass the ball to one of many social media stars who will take it to the racist end-zone.

As lawmakers are utterly inept at handling the situation, the problem worsens. Many are turned off by social media and are leaving platforms entirely. We deleted our Twitter account last month, but we rarely used it. Unfortunately, this still leaves a die-hard core of followers who have nothing better to do than revel in racist, misogynistic, and homophobic content.

Nobel Peace Price Winner Condemns Facebook for Duterte’s Rise to Power

Journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa knows the true impact of social media misinformation. The founder experienced, first hand, the rise of Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, due to a vast and pervasive social media misinformation campaign. She became a dissident, currently under prosecution by the Philippine government.

In a recent PBS NewsHour interview with Judy Woodruff, Ressa blames the January 6 insurrection on social media, claiming that platforms profit more from hateful lies than truth.

The fact that there is no legislation to prevent this insidious manipulation — I mean, think about it like this, right? If you have kids, would you tell them to keep lying? You reward the lies.

That is what gets the greatest distribution online. It’s lies laced with anger and hate, fear, us against them. If you do this all the time, what kinds of societies do we create?

Ressa also blames Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook for election interference leading to Rodrigo Duterte’s election. Under his rule, the Philippines is now under a reign of terror brought about by misinformation about drug users. Death squads have killed thousands, all because social media instated a monster.

The interview shows us the chilling reality that social media misinformation isn’t just about political correctness and hurt feelings. It’s killing people. A few people died here on January 6, but it’s even worse in other parts of the world. Social media is an industry soaked in blood that pretends to be cute and helpful. It takes more than a few cute cats to counteract the damage.

It’s all done for the sake of profit. Hate speech and lies are unique to social media. Even FOX News can’t get away with this level of dishonesty. Social media nurtures the seed of anti-social behavior for profit. You won’t see Joe Rogan saying the n-word on FOX News, but it’s almost encouraged on YouTube.

Good People Will Abandon Social Media, Bad Actors Will Stay

The future of social media is complicated. The industry can evolve in many ways, but it will likely become more extreme, specialized, and home to the alt-right. It’s already happening under social media providers’ promise of greater control and moderation. It’s a lie. They only care about profit.

Beyond the alt-right, social media is full of gold diggers. From scammers to influencers, many are seeking fame on these platforms. Few attain it. Eventually, they’ll give up. But the experience of influencer posts interwoven with ads is commercial overload for many people. The lies, racism, and greed repelled me from social media for good, but I don’t miss the rampant marketing and ads. I mean, the content is an ad in and of itself.

Sane, rational, educated citizens already have their spaces — network news, public discourse, friends, and relatives. After two years of sequestration, the last thing any real person wants is to argue online. Thus, we see social media hitting a plateau, with some long-standing entities like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter taking significant hits.

The true losers of society still seek solace and community in social media. It gives them what no other institution will — the right to be openly racist, homophobic, and anti-social. This makes it even more potent in its ability to organize the worst elements of society to defy common decency.

The End of Social Media

When I first moved to the SF Bay Area, I lived in Mountain View. A company known as Silicon Graphics seemed to own the entire town. Everywhere you went, you saw enormous Silicon Graphics buildings. Today, a small office suite in a shared building houses what’s left of a colossal technology empire. A mere shadow of its past grandeur, Silicon Graphics is a perfect example of how most tech companies seem to fail eventually. AOL, Compaq, HP — the list goes on. Most tech companies fail eventually. Even the big ones.

IBM is one of the few long-standing tech companies. I can see a day when Apple, Google, and Microsoft are no longer. When I say this, people think I’m overreacting. Look at what’s happening to Meta. Eventually, it will go from a large organization with a sprawling campus to less than 500 people in a shared office building.

Like all technologies, social media will have an ending, but it won’t be happy. As sane, rational people abandon these platforms, they become cesspools for uneducated cretins. Despots who need an army of brownshirts to do their dirty work can easily recruit them with a few racist dog whistles.

These people have always existed, but social media gave them a voice and connected them. To this extent, social media threatens democracy, but the government will eventually shut it down by transforming it into something unappealing to society’s lowest common denominator.

Both sides of the aisle are unhappy with social media for different reasons. On the right, social media censorship is at issue. Progressives feel that platforms shouldn’t allow racism and misinformation to thrive.

Gen-Z is falling out of love with social media stalwarts like Instagram. The problem isn’t racism or misinformation. It’s too much influencing. Anyone who’s been on Instagram recently can see that it’s all about pushing some junk onto viewers. Most YouTube videos spend several minutes covering unrelated subjects to extend video length and increase ad revenues. Since YouTube profits from ads, they do nothing about the syndrome that’s driving away users. Many corporate leaders, at their core, have the same short-term outlook as a junkie.

TikTok’s rise to fame is due mainly to YouTube’s failures. Most YouTube videos are crap. If they’re providing instruction, a how-to guide, or a review, it’s bloated with nonsense to generate ad revenue. TikTok’s short form requirement ended up being a genius idea, copied by everyone.

Even TikTok will likely fade away. When it comes down to it, real social networks are the ones we create ourselves. Apple’s iMessage is the largest social media network because, when all is said and done, people prefer positive interaction over arguing with anonymous creeps.

The problem is one of damage control. Between now and the demise of social media, the problem will get worse. Corporations tend to squeeze as much out of a business model as possible, especially if it’s declining. We’ll see social media companies placate lawmakers with token changes while they allow top creators to spew more misinformation, vitriol, and hatred.

It’s a race to see who wins — decency or corporate profit. Social media is inherently anti-social. If we’re to personify social media, it’s like a sociopath — always telling us what we want to hear, then doing whatever they want. Will decency win out, or will despots use social media to overthrow democracy?

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The Ten Most Useful iPhone Siri Commands

published by Chand Bellur
December 2, 2022 at 7:33 p.m.
  • Debuting in 2011, Siri was the first digital personal assistant on a smartphone.
  • Users can interact with Siri using natural language, with some ability for conversation.
  • Siri provides an easy, hands-free way to control your iPhone.
  • Apple incorporated Siri into many devices beyond the iPhone, including the iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

Why Use Siri?

When I first used Siri over a decade ago, I thought it was a joke. Back then, Siri was more of a parlor trick. It could only accomplish simple tasks and was often confused. The robotic voice reminded me that Siri had a long way to go.

For a long time, the iPhone didn’t even have voice dialing. I remember these days vividly. The iPhone’s lack of voice dialing was a glaring flaw; however, the company didn’t fix this until Siri. It was also an accessibility issue, which hampered the visually impaired from using an iPhone.

Today, I feel much different about Siri. Apple’s personal digital assistant has come a long way, offering the ability to control your iPhone, set appointments, text, email, and call contacts, and much more. It’s hard to imagine life without Siri on my iPhone. I issue at least a dozen Siri commands every day.

If you’re wondering why you should use Siri instead of your fingers, it’s easier to use. For example, if I want to set a timer on my iPhone, I have to unlock it, swipe down to show Control Center, tap the Clock icon, tap the Timer tab, set the timer, and activate it. It takes about 20 seconds. Instead, I can say “Hey Siri, set a timer for 30 minutes,” and I accomplish the same thing in half the time.

The best thing about Siri is that you no longer need to unlock your iPhone. Just say (or yell) “Hey, Siri” from across the room, and it’ll hear you.

Another reason to use Siri is to gain familiarity with the future of computing. We’ll likely always have some hand/eye concept of computing, where we look at a screen (or hologram) and use our hands for control. But, more and more, computing is becoming screenless and touchess, relying on one’s voice for control.

I love to push Siri’s boundaries. A lot of the time, I’m disappointed and just get a bunch of web pages. But as Siri improves, I’m impressed with some things the system can accomplish.

The more you use Siri, the better the experience becomes. Siri also seems to learn from you individually. Siri is not just about voice control. Its presence is pervasive throughout iOS, predicting what you will do and offering you things you probably want.

Now that I’ve explained why you should use Siri, let’s look at how. The following are the ten most useful Siri commands. I hope you find them as helpful as I do.

For all of these commands, I’ve prepended “Hey Siri”. Feel free to omit the phrase if you prefer to invoke Siri through the side button or another method. Also, these commands are in no particular order.

Hey Siri, Call For Help

If you need emergency services quickly, simply say “Hey Siri, call for help”. Siri will display a countdown and you have three seconds to cancel the call.

There are numerous variations of this command. You can say “Hey Siri, call 9-1-1”. You can also specify a service, such as police, fire, or ambulance. Of course, it all goes to 911.

I prefer “call for help” because it’s easy to remember and universal. Not every country has 911. It’s a different number in many places. Your iPhone has a better idea of how to call for help in a foreign country. It’s also intelligent. Telling Siri to dial 911 is too instructive. Siri is smarter than that. You can just say, “Hey Siri, call for help,” and Siri will handle the rest.

Hey Siri, Turn on Flashlight

I have recessed lighting in my home, so there’s no light on the nightstand. The light switches are on the other side of the bedroom, away from the bed. Before I mastered this command, I used to trip over things on the way to find the light switch. Turning on the overhead lights was a bit too bright in the wee hours of the morning.

Next to timers, this is my most-used Siri command. I use it before I go to bed and whenever I wake up in the middle of the night.

You can turn off the flashlight with Siri too. Just say, “Hey Siri, turn off flashlight,” and your iPhone’s light will turn off. If you prefer, you can say “Hey Siri, turn off the flashlight.” In the Apple universe, the flashlight app is just called “flashlight,” without the article “the.” Siri will remind you of this every time but also allow you to say it in proper English.

Hey Siri, What’s the Weather Like?

If you’re wondering whether you need a jacket, parka, umbrella, or shorts, Siri has the answer. Apple really improved this feature over the years. It provides current conditions and a forecast for the immediate future. I ask Siri about the weather before getting ready to go out.

There are a few variations for this Siri request. You can ask for the temperature, if it’s going to rain, if it’s windy, or a variety of questions. Siri has evolved to answer just about any conceivable weather query.

Hey Siri, Set a Timer for N Minutes

Cooking is one of the most common uses for a household timer. With Siri, setting a timer for however long you need is easy. If you’re cooking a seven-minute egg, simply say “Hey Siri, set a timer for seven minutes.”

Unlike the Apple Watch, the iPhone only lets you set one timer at a time. If you try to set another, Siri will ask you if you want to replace the current one. Saying “no” will keep the previous timer. If you say “yes” Siri will replace the old timer with the new setting.

You can use Hey Siri with your Apple Watch. If you use a lot of timers, I highly recommend using an Apple Watch with Siri. You can set up to 25 different timers with watchOS.

It makes sense for the Apple Watch to have the best timers, but I wish Apple would add multiple timers to iOS. One workaround is to use alarms. Since users set most timers to the minute and iOS allows numerous alarms, you can substitute alarms for timers on your iPhone if you don’t have an Apple Watch.

Hey Siri, Set My Alarm For [Time]

We just addressed using Siri to set timers, but you can also create and modify alarms using your voice. I don’t typically set the alarm on weekends, but I don’t want to sleep until noon and waste the day. So I play it by ear. If I wake up at 6 a.m. and want more sleep, I’ll assign an alarm for 9 a.m. If I decide on a little more, I’ll set another alarm for 9:30. If I had to fiddle with my iPhone, all of the effort and light stimulation (even with Night Shift) would make it difficult to get back to sleep.

Setting your alarm by voice means you can do this in bed without reaching for your iPhone. If you’re lying in bed, realizing you forgot to set the alarm, you can do it right there. I do this all the time.

Hey Siri, Turn Off My [Time] Alarm

You can also turn off alarms using your voice. I often do this to get a little more sleep. If I have a 6 a.m. alarm set, and I wake up at 5 a.m. realizing that I need more time to recuperate from that 5-mile run, I will often cancel the alarm and set a later one.

The great thing about this feature is that you don’t need to know the time of the alarm. You can just say “Hey Siri, turn off my alarm” and Siri will reply with the time of the alarm. Sometimes I utter this command on the weekend, just in case I set a recurring alarm that I forgot. It prevents me from waking up from some scheduled weekday alarm that I no longer remember.

Hey Siri, What Time is It?

This is another excellent query to ask Siri when you wake up early, wondering if you can sleep more. During the day, I can look at my iPhone, a clock, or my Apple Watch. I no longer own an alarm clock, thanks to two of these devices. When I need to know the time late at night, I always ask Siri.

If you sleep with a partner, turn Siri’s volume down before making all of these early morning requests. First, say “Hey Siri” to invoke the digital assistant. When the Siri animation is on the screen, use the side volume buttons to turn down the sound. You can get it low enough to hear, but it shouldn’t disturb your partner.

You can also ask Siri for the time in other parts of the world. If you’re curious about what time it is in Hong Kong, just ask Siri.

Hey Siri, Turn [Up/Down] the Volume

You’ll notice that there are no tips on playing music with Siri. That’s because I don’t think it’s a good experience. Unless you’re into obvious pop artists, it’s better to let your fingers do the walking. I once asked Siri to play a song by the legendary progressive rock band Gong, and it played something from the “Gone Girl” soundtrack.

But you can use Siri to turn the volume up or down. It comes in handy if you have your hands full or you’re taking a shower. Don’t try it while you’re brushing your teeth. You’ll make a mess.

Hey Siri, Launch [App Name]

This is one of the most essential and valuable Siri commands. It saves you from scanning rows of icons on countless Home screens. You won’t have to pull down the Search screen either.

It’s surprising how little I, and most people, don’t use this feature. I use it on Apple TV a lot because the Siri Remote is a pain to use. They seem to have known that, which is why there’s a Siri button right on the remote.

I should use it on my iPhone more often. You should too. It’s just an easier way to launch an app. I intend to do it more often and in public too. It’s not embarrassing to embrace the future and show others the way.

Hey Siri, How Do I Get to [Destination]

Apple Maps has a confusing and ever-changing interface, but it integrates with the Apple Watch so well I use it. It also converges with Siri in a profound and helpful way. Even a dad would ask Siri for directions on a family road trip without feeling emasculated.

Siri does have its limitations, mainly due to Apple Maps. I find Maps to be remarkably ignorant of routes between the Bay Area and Southern California. This is probably because most of their employees haven’t lived in California for more than three years. Nonetheless, there are other, much better ways of going down south than taking the Pacheco Pass. Nevertheless, Siri always recommends that route and usually won’t offer an alternative.

But I love using my Apple Watch for driving navigation, so I don’t need to hear Siri’s voice. I can enjoy music, an Audible audiobook, or conversation without interruption. I mute Apple Maps, and my Apple Watch gives me haptic feedback when I need to do something. It’s the best driving experience ever. Sometimes it’s good not to hear Siri, but you know “she’s” always there to help.

Thousands of Siri Commands

There are thousands of Siri Commands but a lot of dead ends. Siri has its limitations, but is overcoming them every day. Just now, I tried to shut down my iPhone with Siri, and it works. A few years ago, that wasn’t possible. Siri is getting much better with voice control over the iPhone as a device.

Siri is deficient with informational queries. All too often, Apple’s digital assistant sends users to the web. Having used Google Assistant on my Android phone, I have to admit, its better with answering questions, but not so good at operating the device. This is with a OnePlus phone, so perhaps a Pixel offers a better experience in this regard.

Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on digital assistants, predictive computing, and artificial intelligence. Google is also excellent with these capabilities. In many areas, Google’s assistant outshines Siri.

Siri is now as essential to the iPhone as a charger. I couldn’t imagine life without Siri. From early morning until I hit the rack, Siri is a useful addition to my life. I look forward to new capabilities coming with future iOS and iPhone releases.

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Use Your iPhone to Wake Up to Your Favorite Song

published by Rachel Gold
December 1, 2022 at 1:35 p.m.
  • The first iPhone featured an alarm clock back in 2007.
  • By default, your iPhone will play the “radar” sound for an alarm, which some may consider a harsh start to the day.
  • You can easily set up the Alarm app to play a song instead of an alarm tone.
  • You must subscribe to Apple Music to enjoy a musical alarm tone.

Get a Better Start to Your Day by Waking up to Music

For many people, waking up is a difficult task. Most of us have to do it with the assistance of an alarm clock. We must go to work, school, or take care of other responsibilities. We usually have to wake up before we want to. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a better start to your day?

Many iPhone owners don’t realize that they can wake up to music instead of that harsh “radar” alarm tone. You can also change the alarm tone, but in this article, we’ll show you how to set up your iPhone’s alarm to play music.

Before we begin, there are some prerequisites. You need a somewhat recent iPhone capable of running iOS 8.4 or later. I tested this on an iPhone 14 Pro Max with iOS 16.1.1. To download music used by the stock Clock app, you’ll need a subscription to Apple Music.

Got all of that? Good! Let’s get started.

How to Set Up Your iPhone Alarm to Play Music

Before we begin, let’s briefly examine how this all works. Since your alarm clock needs a reliable music source, you’ll need to download a song onto your iPhone.

The audio file needs to be of the lowest quality. This seems to be a defect in Apple Music, the Clock app, or both. There’s no error message or notification that a high-res, lossless song won’t play, but that’s the reality.

If you listen to music in high-resolution lossless format, you’ll need to set Apple Music to download at the lowest audio quality, at least for this song.

I can understand the need for downloaded music. There’s too much uncertainty with streaming for it to serve as an alarm. What if there’s no Wi-Fi or cellular connection at 7 a.m.? For this reason, Apple requires downloaded music for its Clock app. The restriction against using downloaded Lossless tunes as alarm sounds seems to be a bug.

After downloading a song from Apple Music, we’ll open the Alarm app to set up an alarm with your favorite morning melody. When you wake up, you’ll enjoy one of your favorite songs instead of hearing a harsh tone.

Make sure the song will actually wake you up. I made the mistake of choosing ambient electronic music and ended up sleeping in. For this tutorial, we’ll use the song “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang. It’s a lively and cheerful way to start the day. Feel free to substitute any musical piece.

Here are step-by-step instructions for waking up to your favorite Apple Music song:

  1. Open Settings. The Settings app appears.
  2. Scroll down and tap on Music. The Apple Music settings screen appears.
  3. Tap on Audio Quality. The Audio Quality screen appears.
  4. Tap on Downloads. The Downloads screen appears.
  5. Select High Quality (AAC 256 kbps). A checkmark appears next to the High Quality setting.
  6. Close Settings and open Apple Music. The Apple Music home screen appears.
  7. Tap the top search field. The on-screen keyboard appears.
  8. Enter the name of a song you wish to set as your alarm. For this tutorial, we’ll use “Celebration”. Simply typing in the first four letters shows the song.
  9. Tap the three dots on the right side of the song. A menu appears.
  10. Tap on “Add to Library”. A message pops up showing Apple Music added it to your library.
  11. Tap the three dots on the right side of the song again. The same menu appears, with Download in place of Add to Library.
  12. Tap on Download. A circle will gradually fill in with red as your download completes. Wait until your download finishes before proceeding to the next step.
  13. Swipe down from the top right of your iPhone screen to reveal Control Center.
  14. Tap the Clock icon in Control Center to launch the Clock app. (You can also say “Hey Siri, launch the Clock app.”) The Clock app appears.
  15. Tap on the Alarm tab at the bottom. The Alarm screen appears.
  16. Tap on the “+” symbol on the top right. The Add Alarm screen appears.
  17. Slide the controls to set your preferred alarm time.
  18. Tap on Sound. The Sound screen appears.
  19. Tap on Pick a song. Your Music library appears.
  20. The song you downloaded should be at the top, displayed as an album cover. Tap on it. The album view appears with the song you just downloaded.
  21. Tap on the song. The Sound screen appears, and your track starts playing.
  22. Tap the Back button to exit the Sound screen. The Add Alarm screen appears.
  23. Tap Save. The Alarm screen appears with your alarm configured.
  24. Close the Clock app and open Settings. The Settings app appears.
  25. Scroll down and tap on Music. The Apple Music settings screen appears.
  26. Tap on Audio Quality. The Audio Quality screen appears.
  27. Select your desired audio quality setting.

That’s it. Now you can start your day the right way, with your favorite tune.

Test It Out

The first time I tried to set a music alarm, it didn’t work. In this case, your alarm will default to the radar sound effect. You’ll wake up, but it’s a double jarring start to the day. Not only did you hear the radar sound, but your iPhone didn’t do what it was supposed to do. I hate that.

Apple’s Clock app can’t play Lossless music. It is a long-standing defect because iOS doesn’t validate the file type. At some point, iOS should inform you that a Lossless download is inappropriate for an alarm. With no error messages, it took me a while to figure out the problem.

When I got into troubleshooting Apple Music and changing download quality, I experienced the app’s shabbiness. I had to try downloading other songs because when I deleted one track to re-download it at lower quality, Apple Music showed that it was still being downloaded. Deleting and downloading a song from one’s library needs to be reviewed by quality assurance. If we can’t use a high-res lossless track for an alarm, show an error message. That’s a bug.

I can’t use “Celebration” as my alarm song. Apple Music put this track in limbo. I think it’s still downloaded in high-res lossless, even though I deleted it and “replaced” it with a 256 kbps AAC version.

Apple Music is as buggy as can be, especially regarding downloading. So I had to choose another song. That sucks! I can never use that song for an alarm unless I reset my iPhone and reinstall apps. Who knows? Maybe that won’t fix it.

I’ll have to live with never using that song for an alarm. It seems like something you’d have to put up with from some no-name Android phone, but those work better than the iPhone. Oh well, look at that glorious Dynamic Island! (I would have preferred a round of extensive bug fixes, but Dynamic Island it is!)

I’ve used Apple Music since 2015, and its quality has always been suspect. It’s like Apple Music’s QA engineers all went out for a hike, completely derelict of duty. I can easily find at least three severe defects in Apple Music any time I use it. It used to be worse, but I have to wonder, why is it so difficult to make a music streaming app? Or is it just that Apple assigns mediocre engineers to the product because “it’s just a music app.”

I still use Apple Music because it’s inexpensive and offers high-quality audio. All of the music apps suck. I wish Apple would improve its quality. Sure, it’s more complicated than Twitter, but it’s a music app. For some reason, we don’t experience these issues with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or even Apple TV. It’s likely that high-level leadership views Apple Music as a simple app and assigns appropriate engineering talent. Reminders is an even worse case of this — so simple, yet so defective. Apple can do better. Let’s hope that they fix these bugs.

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Why You Shouldn’t Buy a 2nd Gen Apple TV 4K

published by Chad Evans
November 29, 2022 at 8:54 p.m.
  • Apple TV 4K is a device that connects to your TV via HDMI.
  • With Apple TV 4K, you can watch movies and TV shows, play games, and run thousands of apps from the tvOS App Store.
  • Although Apple launched a second-generation model last April, the company just released a new, updated version on October 18, 2022.
  • The newest Apple TV 4k (3rd generation), with its A15 Bionic processor, is considerably improved for a slight additional cost.

What is Apple TV 4K?

Apple launched its very first Apple TV device back in 2007. It was more of a Mac Mini with a specialized user interface than a modern-day Apple TV. It had a hard drive with spinning platters and connected to your cable box to record your favorite shows and movies when they aired.

Realizing that the cable industry was tough to crack, Apple dramatically scaled down its aspirations. The second-generation Apple TV was a tiny hockey puck, even smaller than today’s model.

It didn’t have an App Store. Instead, it came with iTunes apps, Internet radio, Netflix, and a few other streaming apps. Every couple of months, new Apple TV channels would appear. Options were limited, but you could beam just about anything onto your TV with AirPlay.

Fourth-generation models were a giant leap forward, with A8 processors, 32/64 GB storage options, and a tvOS App Store. You could finally play games on your Apple TV, and some were pretty cool. I still enjoy playing Asphalt 8, steering by tilting the remote.

Finally, Apple unleashed its 4K models, refreshing them often and replacing the original Siri Remote with something more user-friendly. Today’s Apple TV 4k, launched in October 2022, features an A15 Bionic processor at an affordable price. Let’s take a closer look at why you should buy the latest one instead of last year’s model.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy the 2nd Gen Apple TV 4K

The tvOS App Store is central to the Apple TV experience. Apple TV isn’t just about streaming TV shows and movies. You can do that with a $15 streaming stick.

Apple TV is about apps. It’s a decent gaming console. Sure, if you’re into your Xbox or PlayStation, it can’t compete. But Apple TV has some genuinely original games you won’t find on any other game console. Even some hardcore gamers with a broader taste may be surprised by the Apple TV experience.

Since apps are central to the Apple TV experience, it’s essential to have decent specs for gaming. Especially with 4K resolutions, you need a powerful chipset to power high-quality gaming experiences.

The newest Apple TV 4K is a three-generation leap in processor technology. Last year’s model came equipped with an A12 Bionic chip. The newest one features the same processor as the base iPhone 14 – an A15 Bionic. That’s a beefy chip for an Apple TV.

The best thing is that there’s only a slight price difference. We’re talking $4, at least on Amazon. The latest 64GB Apple TV 4K costs a little more than last year’s model with the same storage capacity.

They may look the same, but buying last year’s model is a huge mistake. You get a massive leap in processing power for just a few more bucks. It’s an excellent value.

Should I Get the 64GB or 128GB Apple TV 4K?

Apple expects that your Apple TV 4K will always connect to the Internet with some affordable, unlimited service. Unlike an iPhone, there are few download options from streaming services on Apple TV.

Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, and others don’t let you download TV shows and movies onto Apple TV because it doesn’t make sense. Even if you buy or rent videos from Apple, you can’t download them onto Apple TV. There’s some room for buffering video, but tvOS controls that, not you. Video is almost always streamed on Apple TV, not downloaded.

It makes sense to be able to download Netflix videos onto your iPhone or iPad. We use these portable devices everywhere, sometimes without access to cheap, fast Internet connections. 

You can take your iPad on a plane and watch downloaded movies. You won’t do that with an Apple TV. Thus, you can only really use the extra storage for apps. Some games take up a lot of space, but how many will you play at once?

I own a 64GB Apple TV. I’ve installed about 50 apps, yet I still haven’t filled up half of the available storage. Most apps are tiny. The maximum size of an Apple TV app is 4GB, but most are much smaller than that. Of course, that 4GB app can also download extra assets after installation.

If you live in a household with avid gamers, they’ll probably spend more time on PlayStation or Xbox than Apple TV 4K. They’ll probably play a few games on Apple’s device. If you’re more of an occasional gamer, you may only get into a few games at a time. In both cases, 64 GB will serve you well.

64GB seems paltry, but the vast majority of your TV apps will be tiny. Streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu take up megabytes, not gigabytes. You need tons of massive games with complicated graphics to take up 64GB.

Of course, if you start hitting your storage limit, just delete some apps. You can always reinstall them.

Right now, the difference between 64GB and 128GB is so low you should get the 128GB model. We’re talking $25 for twice as much storage. That’s unheard of for Apple. They’re “generous” only because Apple TV is a content consumption device, and they want to profit from services. My advice — take their “generosity.”

You can fare well with 64GB, but since 128GB is just a little more, why not? Apple supports its TV devices with software updates longer than anything else they make. We have a seven-year-old Apple TV 4 HD that’s still supported and works great, although it’s a little slow. All the more reason to get the 2022 3rd generation Apple TV 4K. It’s a massive upgrade for a meager price difference.

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