Whenever a significant new Apple update appears for the computers or devices that my family members own, I send out a quick note giving advice on whether they should upgrade or not, and when. With the release of iOS 8 today, I thought I’d share my letter; feel free to copy it and send it to your friends and family.

    Hello family!

    Apple released iOS 8 today for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. I’m sure you’ll receive an email or a notice on your device within the next day or so about it.

    My advice about upgrading is twofold:

    1. I’ve been running iOS 8 for a few weeks on my main devices (and a couple months on test devices), and it’s in pretty good shape. If you prefer to be cautious, I’d say wait a short while until Apple releases an expected 8.0.1 fix to tackle things that couldn’t be fixed before release. (There are always things like that; Apple needed to finalize the software a couple of weeks ago to put it onto the iPhone 6 units that are currently being shipped.)

    If you do upgrade, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A BACKUP FIRST. If you sync to iTunes on your computer, connect the device and look for the Back Up Now button on the Summary screen. If you back up to iCloud, go to Settings, tap iCloud, tap Storage & Backup, and then tap Back Up Now.

    Also make sure you have enough free space on your device; at least 6 GB. You may need to offload photos to iPhoto or your computer’s hard disk.

    And keep in mind that upgrading could take some time, possibly a couple of hours depending on how many apps you have and how much storage is already occupied.

    2. My second piece of advice is important right now. If you’re asked to turn on iCLOUD DRIVE, do NOT. Apple is still working out bugs and, more important, you need to be running OS X Yosemite on a Mac to take advantage of many of its features. Yosemite hasn’t been released yet. So, for example, if you use Pages to write documents on an iPad and on the Mac, enabling iCloud Drive breaks the connection on the Mac, preventing documents from syncing. This will all get sorted out eventually, but that’s the situation as of today. Here’s an article at TidBITS that goes into more detail: http://tidbits.com/article/15076.

    One more piece of advice, especially if you own an iPhone 5s with a Touch ID sensor (or if you’re planning on buying an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus): go get 1Password 5.0, which is now free. It’s essential for storing and generating secure passwords, and thanks to the Extensions feature of iOS 8, makes it possible to sign into Web sites and do other things by resting your finger on the Touch ID sensor (so you don’t have to look up or remember the password!).


    I hope this helps. I love you all,



In my latest article for The Seattle Times, I write about how Apple is now taking full advantage of the ecosystem it has developed over the years. In doing so, it’s taking an awfully big gamble with the Apple Watch and Apple Pay—a gamble that I think it could only undertake now.

Read it here: Apple broadens its ecosystem with its watch, payment system

Rich Mogull on Apple Pay

September 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

Writing for Macworld, my friend Rich Mogull explains Apple’s new Apple Pay system for making secure digital-wallet transactions. Some choice quotes, but you really need to read the whole thing:

Using per-device tokens means that only the bank that issued the card (or its payment network) ever has your card: You don’t have to trust Apple with it. This is different from the Google Wallet system, in which Google holds your cards on their servers. (For the record, Google is exceptionally good at maintaining that kind of security).

Apple Watch will have its own secure element and Device Account Number. We don’t yet know the process for registering your card on the watch, but it is expected you’ll be able to use the watch without an iPhone to make payments. Go for a run wearing your Apple Watch, and you’ll be able to buy water at a gas station without pulling out a wad of sweaty cash from the tiny pocket in your running shorts.

But aside from the technical differences, Apple is in a unique position due to its business model. It doesn’t want or need to track transactions. It doesn’t want or need to be the payment processor. It isn’t restricted by carrier agreements, since it fully controls the hardware. Google, although first to the market by a matter of years, is still hamstrung by device manufacturers and carriers. Softcard is hamstrung by the usual greed and idiocy of mobile phone providers. PayPal has no footprint on devices.

Iphone6 hands on area

I attended Apple’s launch event yesterday for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch. Although all the technical details of the devices can be found online, it was great to feel these new devices in hand.

Over at the Lynda.com Articles page, I’ve written up details of what’s new in the cameras of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple is still aggressively pushing the camera capabilities of its phones, since more people are taking photos with iPhones than with compact cameras. Read the article here: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: the Cameras.

Over the weekend, John Gruber linked to an article at The Verge titled, “The Galaxy Alpha is Samsung’s most beautiful phone ever.” The point was to note how Samsung has once again copied Apple’s industrial design. True, the Galaxy Alpha isn’t an exact copy of the iPhone 5s, but telltale design elements—like the chamfered edges around the body—are obviously Apple-inspired.

I don’t get too worked up about copycat design, partially because Samsung has been such an easy target for this sort of thing in recent years. But I wanted to check it out, and it is a nice-looking phone. Regardless of whether a company makes millions of them, it’s hard work to design and manufacture today’s mobile devices.

But then I scrolled through the photos and saw this, which I annotated as a screenshot and shared on Twitter:

What the Freak is that bulge? Clearly, the headphone port didn’t fit well enough to maintain a clean line, so Samsung had to make a bulge to accommodate it. I don’t know the backstory. Perhaps the company switched to a lower-priced component late in the design process, or they ran out of time to rework the internal boards before it had to be sent to manufacture.

What is obvious, and what blatantly contrasts with Apple, is that someone at Samsung failed to say, “No. That’s ugly. Make it better.” As we know from its past products and interviews with Jony Ive and others, Apple wouldn’t let something like that hit the market. It’s a visual distraction. It looks like an error, like someone at Samsung said, “Ehh, it’s good enough. Customers won’t care. Ship it.”

(My favorite replies following the post were by Greg Koenig (@gak_pdx), an expert on manufacturing, who could tell from the photos how the Alpha was machined:)

Which of course is the problem with Samsung and the advantage of Apple. Apple genuinely cares about design and about how people interact with its products. Apple wants people to love their phones, not put up with them until the cellular contract runs out. By respecting design and respecting the customer, Apple gets respect in turn.

Apple is on the record, many times, saying that being able to say No to something is a vital part of their design process. Someone at Samsung needed to say no and didn’t.

Oh, and if you think Apple is immune to this type of thing, don’t forget the original iPhone. It was a marvel of manufacturing and design at the time, but its headphone port was recessed, which meant you could only use the provided earbuds or else buy an adapter to use standard headphones. The difference between it and the Galaxy Alpha’s bulge is that the iPhone’s recessed jack was a deliberate design decision, made to maintain the curve of the case. Ultimately it wasn’t a good decision, as the jack was flush in the iPhone 3G.

When I’m working on books, especially photography-related ones, I frequently need to dig through my archives to find images as examples. Doing so has its own reward, reminding me (and my inner editor) that my photos can often be decent—even good. But it has a drawback, too, which is when I get stuck on images like the one below. (My goodness, that look!) Suddenly, an hour is gone because I’ve been reminiscing.

A good hour, though. And a reminder of why I’m a photographer, being able to capture moments like this.

Photo distraction

Upper Newhalem Creek

(Click here to view the image larger)

To reach this area of Newhalem Creek, you first follow the Rock Shelter trail, which ends in a section of mountain adorned with petroglyphs where Native Americans would take shelter from the elements. But don’t turn toward the shelter and its accessible trail. Instead, turn left at the guidepost that points to Newhalem Creek and follow a smaller, less-maintained path through the forest.

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Raw jpeg top

While I was traveling last week, Lynda.com published an article of mine that looks at the (digital) age-old question of whether to shoot in Raw or JPEG format. Often this topic is pitched as a fight, and because photographers on the Internet are photographers on the Internet, people draw battle lines and argue.

The reality, though, is that both formats are good, depending on your needs. That’s not as dramatic, but who has time to bicker? I’d rather be out shooting photos. In this article, I look at practical considerations, specifically related to working with photos in Photoshop (otherwise the scope is just too massive for an article).

It was also an opportunity to photograph a shot of bourbon, which then became its own post-shoot reward!

Here’s the article: Raw vs. JPEG in Photoshop: A Practical View. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below (Lynda.com articles don’t have comments).

Whiskey shot cropped

Middle Falls, McCloud River

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Bourbon Shot

I needed an example photo for an upcoming article, so I tried my hand at photographing a shot of bourbon (Bulleit). I never realized until now that the shot glass is uneven. Best part: It was the reward at the end of the work day!