May 21, 2023

Snippet: Apple Tysons Corner: A New Chapter ☇

Michael Steeber:

This is the first time a physical Genius Bar has been installed in a new Apple Store since 2015, when Apple last redesigned the store experience. Even the atomic Genius Bar logo is back with an updated design. […]

The back left corner is home to Today at Apple, where Creative Pros will gather customers around a new lowered table and a small Forum Display. Apple says lower tables are better suited for longer interactions.

Unlike recent stores that include a dedicated Apple Pickup area in the back center, pickup at Tysons Corner is located on the right side next to the Genius Bar. The low counter is built into the alcove, and a credenza at the back is filled with customer orders ready to pick up.

While I really liked a lot of aspects of the prior-generation of Apple Stores (such as the new one in Indianapolis when I was living there), there were some things that felt very disorganized even for someone who understands the process. Pickup and the Genius Bar need dedicated locations instead of “here, stand by this random table over there.” It’s also really nice to see Apple’s continued push to keep everything accessible and comfortable.

May 17, 2023

Snippet: Verizon’s New Plans Make Sense to Nobody Except Verizon ☇

Allison Johnson for The Verge:

Hey, did you hear? Verizon has incredibly, out of the goodness of its heart, revealed new phone plans that don’t include “bloated” service bundles. How thoughtful! There’s just one catch: they’re kinda less expensive, except not really, because things that used to be included are now an extra $10 per month each. Wait, that… kind of sucks? Who exactly comes out ahead with these new plans?

You guessed it! It’s Verizon.

On the surface, the new plans sound simpler than the current Get More, Play More, etc. There are two options — an expensive one and a bit less expensive one — and you add the extra services you want, like the Disney / Hulu bundle or Apple Music Family a la carte. That’s nice in theory, but if you’re switching from one of the current unlimited plans, it’s very likely you’ll need to pay more if you want the same things you used to get included in your monthly rate.

It seems that with the advent of the smartphone, the average single-line postpaid plan went from about $40/month to $80/month. While I understand adding data changed the whole dynamic, it feels like the last decade has had a lot of “innovation” with plans, but mostly that they just keep getting consistently worse. Verizon was especially bad with multiple unlimited plans with dumb names. T-Mobile’s “un-carrier” run countered that a bit, but they’ve been inching back to being like everyone else. I was never a fan of bundled add-ons or that advertised pricing is for each line on four-line accounts (“only $30/month”), but it’s the nature of the industry. Single and even two-line accounts are better off with prepaid, as long as you don’t need to finance devices.

Unfortunately, these new plans for Verizon just aren’t very good and I’m not sure they will help turn around the losses.

May 16, 2023

Snippet: Drobo, Having Stopped Sales and Support, Reportedly Files Chapter 7 Bankruptcy ☇

Kevin Purdy for Ars Technica (via Stephen Hackett):

You don’t hear nearly as much about Drobo boxes as you used to, especially on sites like Ars Technica. We now have some news, but it isn’t good.

StorCentric, the holding company for the Drobo and Retrospect brands, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late June 2022. Now, AppleInsider reports that, based on an email sent by StorCentric, the bankruptcy shifted from reorganization-minded Chapter 11 to liquidation-focused Chapter 7 in late April.

The writing for Drobo was on the wall, or at least on its website. Text at the top of the homepage notes that, as of January 27, 2023, Drobo products and support for them are no longer available. “Drobo support has transitioned to a self-service model,” the site reads. “We thank you for being a Drobo customer and entrusting us with your data.”

While I never owned a Drobo, I used some in past jobs and owned the related File Transporter for a few years before ultimately moving to a Synology DS216+II. Unlike most NASes out there, some Drobo models were USB, Firewire, eSATA, or Thunderbolt-based allowing you to have a lot of direct storage. It’s a bit of a sad thing that everyone kind of forgot about their products.

Snippet: Researchers Find Security Flaw in Wemo Smart Plug, Belkin Says It Won’t Release a Patch ☇

Michael Potuck for 9to5Mac:

IoT security company Sternum has discovered a vulnerability in one of Belkin’s smart home devices. Read on for the details about how the Wemo Mini Smart Plug V2 flaw can be exploited for remote command execution and why Belkin has decided not to patch it.

Sternum found the flaw specifically with the Belkin Wemo Mini Smart Plug V2 which works with HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa.

After reaching out to Belkin about the security issue, Sternum was told that “the device is at the end of its life and will not be patched.”

This is a frustrating situation in that the Wemo Mini Smart Plug V2s were sold in 2019. Conceivably, someone could’ve bought them new more recently, but sure, saying that a device is at the end of its life because you’ve moved on is a great look and instills confidence in future Wemo products.

I’ve got a few of these around and pulled them in favor of the Philips Hue Smart Plug, which connects to the Hue Bridge via Zigbee. This cuts down on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi devices and everything is funneled through the Bridge’s ethernet port—it’s been more stable and still works with HomeKit.

May 10, 2023

Snippet: The iPhone Mini is a Fun Phone That’s Not for Me ☇

Matt Birchler:

I’ve been using the iPhone 13 mini and it’s the first time I’ve ever used a mini in my life. In fact, I’m more of a Max phone guy, but people love the mini lineup and I had to know what was up. So I’ve set my iPhone 14 Pro Max side for a week and have gone all in on the mini lifestyle. Here’s how it went.

As someone whose daily driver has been a 12 mini since launch, I agree with most of Birchler’s assessments. Although still tolerable, battery life has been my biggest gripe (along with battery wear, leading me to get my battery replaced in December), but the other “downgrade” items from the Pro phones have been a non-issue for me, too. It’s a shame that Apple hasn’t found ways to develop and improve the minis or even repurpose the 12/13 mini design as a future SE (rumors sound like it might be XR/11-based).