Music and Me

It feels really strange to admit this, but for years now, music has not played a very significant role in my life.  These posts are now all hidden, but if you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you may remember the many times that I’ve written about all of the ways that music induces emotions from me – elation at the news of new album releases, being in awe of amazing lyrics, grief when bands broke up or went on a hiatus, being bummed out that I couldn’t make it to concerts or that artists just didn’t go to Louisiana – this is just a small part how music has affected me in the past.

I still listen to music on occasions, but not in the same way.  Sometimes I get a song stuck in my head, so I listen to it a few times, and that’s that. Most reliably, I’ll listen to music while I’m writing, but it’s a very specific album that I’ve probably listened to hundreds of times that helps me concentrate (R/D’s “Liquid Heart Keeper“).

Really, the biggest impact music still has on my life is that every once in a while when I’m feeling nostalgic about something, I dig up an old song and relive that moment that ties me to the song.  That was really the inspiration for me writing this post out – “Eden” by The Mayfield Four randomly popped into my head, and I instantly had flashbacks of hanging out in that weird little atrium in the geology building at LSU.  This, in turn, made me remember trying to read “Neuromancer” for the first time in that same room, and also, perhaps more importantly, brought back fond memories of writing garbage romantic flash fiction in the hall outside of one of my geology classrooms while waiting for the current class to leave so I could go in.

Another really strange feeling I’ve experienced before from music is a bizarre sense of nostalgia while listening to songs about things I’ve literally never lived out.  I suppose you could say those songs were powerful enough to transport me somewhere else and give me that brief sensation of living vicariously.

But nowadays, I just can’t seem to get into any new music.  It just feels like that part of me is gone, replaced by podcast after podcast after podcast.  And maybe that’s a good thing too; I certainly enjoy my podcasts, but sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to feel the same way about music again.

Fortnite is great

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that I’ve been playing Fortnite a lot, which if you know me, you may find a little weird considering I normally don’t play competitive shooters.  One player shooters, yes.  Multiplayer online games, yes.  A combination of the two…not so much.  In that same vein, I wanted to explain why Fortnite is so great and why you may want to consider playing it if you’re not already.

3 Fortnite characters standing in a group

Image courtesy of Epic Games

First, what is Fortnite?  Well, to explain that, here’s a quick history lesson.

Just over a year ago, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) was released and received extremely positively.  PUBG certainly wasn’t the first game of its kind, but it undeniably popularized the battle royale style of game.  That is, 100 players on a map, one team wins (or if you’re playing solo mode, then one person wins).  What’s more, PUBG popularized how these types of games work, which was essentially you start off in a vehicle in the sky and parachute down to the map (which is an island in basically all of the battle royale games I’ve seen).  Once you land, you have to quickly pick up a weapon and other loot to survive and take down other players.  There are more mechanics depending on the game, but that’s the gist of it.

When PUBG came out, Epic was busy developing what is currently known as Fortnite: Save the World, which is a player-versus-enemy co-op game where you fight monsters with weapons and the aid of materials you can use to build forts (you can craft individual walls, stairs, ceilings, floors, etc).  Epic saw the attention PUBG was getting and realized they had all of the assets available to essentially clone PUBG, and they did exactly that.  Two months later they released Fortnite Battle Royale, which from this point on, I’ll just refer to as Fortnite since, funny enough, even though Save the World was the original incarnation of the game, Battle Royale is what anyone who mentions Fortnite is actually talking about.

PUBG logo

Image courtesy of Venture Beat

That said, Fortnite is currently one of the most popular games in the world.  Last week on Twitch, I saw 700,000 people streaming Fortnite.  Next most popular was League of Legends at 100,000, then PUBG was in third at somewhere over 70,000.  So if Fortnite is essentially a clone of PUBG, how did it essentially stomp the game it copied into the ground?

First and foremost, Fortnite is free.  Save the World isn’t currently free, but when it exits its early access period, it will be free.  PUBG is not free, and I feel like that alone bears significant weight, especially among younger audiences with less disposable income.  So yeah, that’s reason number one, and it’s a big one.

I’ve only played PUBG once, and it was on mobile, but I still feel weirdly qualified to talk about it because I’ve watched Polygon’s video team stream that game every week for 1-2 hours for just over a year.  The one time I did play it, there was no learning curve since I already knew practically everything about the game.  Since Fortnite is nearly identical to PUBG, I already knew how to play Fortnite except for the crafting stuff, which was easy enough to learn the basics of.  Also, I pay a decent amount of attention to video game news in general, so the world of PUBG news isn’t exactly foreign.

First off, Epic makes a lot of interesting and thoughtful changes to Fortnite.  When they add something to the game that players don’t like (for example, an overpowered gun), they actually monitor this feedback and make adjustments accordingly.  Epic employees regularly post in /r/FortniteBR confirming bugs, providing comments on community feedback, and a host of other things.  I’m not sure how Bluehole (PUBG’s developers) handle that kind of stuff, but based on feedback I’ve heard, I’m guessing not super well.

Fortnite also runs really well on the platforms I’ve played it on (PC and iOS), and it’s available on almost every major platform and console, with Android support coming soon and also being the final missing piece.  Now, I can’t play on my 12″ MacBook or my Surface Pro 3, but it doesn’t take a beefy machine to run Fortnite with playable graphics.  The mobile client is also surprisingly good considering how hard it is to play that type of game on a touchscreen.  PUBG’s iOS client is actually pretty good too, but the details that Epic put into the Fortnite mobile client to make it playable versus being on a computer or a console are really thoughtful.  There’s an auto-shoot option and a visual alert that notifies you when there is shooting, a chest, or footprints nearby – all aids to things that are made more difficult on a phone or tablet.

Another thing Fortnite does really well is monetization.  Yes, you can play it 100% free and experience absolutely no disadvantage in gameplay compared to someone that’s spent $1,000 on cosmetic items.  Fortnite allows you to purchase V Bucks, and V Bucks are used to buy cosmetic items, emotes (usually various dances), and of course, the Battle Pass.

Image of Fornite's season 5 battle pass showing tiers and items gained

Season 5 battle pass, image courtesy of Forbes

Epic really knocked it out of the park with the Battle Pass, because unlike PUBG’s monetization system (loot boxes, which are essentially gambling), you always know exactly what you get with the Battle Pass, and you get it by playing the game and completing quests.  Nothing is random, period.  If you’re a better player, you get more experience, which means you level up faster, which means you reach higher tiers of the Battle Pass and receive the items associated with it.

Purchasing a Battle Pass costs 950 V Bucks per season, which is equivalent to $10 with 50 V Bucks leftover, as you can buy 1,000 V Bucks for $10.  Each Battle Pass lasts for one season, and one season lasts for 10 weeks.  But wait, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pay $10 every 10 weeks.  If you just play the game, some tiers in the Battle Pass reward 100 V Bucks, so essentially, if you earn and save 950 V Bucks worth of your rewards every season, you only need to spend $10 one time, then play the game, and you’ve got a perpetual Battle Pass for as long as you keep earning enough rewards.  And yes, it is totally doable to do just that, but you might be enticed to buy emotes or costumes.

Oh, and the most important thing about the Battle Pass?  It actually makes the game, which is already fun to play for free, more fun by providing additional Battle Pass-only quests and secrets (I only just learned about secret Battle Stars yesterday!).

Unlike PUBG, Fortnite only has one map, but it gets updated and changed every season.  My last blog post was called “RIP Moisty Mire” because Epic removed the swamp that took up the entire southeast portion of the map and replaced it with a desert for season 5.  In season 5, a meteorite struck the location in the center of the map (Dusty Depot) and turned it into Dusty Divot.  And it’s not just simple stuff like that; the seasons are themed and bring along interesting changes.  At the end of season 3, players knew something on the map was going to get wiped out because you could see the meteorite in the sky, so there was a lot of speculation on what would happen.  When the meteorite did hit in season 4, there was a new consumable item called “hop rocks” (essentially meteorite fragments) that allowed players to jump higher.  At the end of season 4, a rocket that had been on the map for a while took off and smashed into the sky, cracking it like glass and introducing “drifts.”  Random stuff started appearing and disappearing on the map, and like I said, an entire section of the map disappeared and got replaced.  It’s just a really cool method of storytelling for a game mode that really doesn’t even need a story (but I’m absolutely glad that it sort of has one).

If I had to point out a weak point of Fortnite, it’s that there are a lot of people that play, and the game is immensely popular among audiences ranging from teens to adults.  That means you’ll probably have teenagers on your team, and if you have voice chat on, you will hate your life.  I keep it turned off, and I’m thankful Epic gives me the option to do so.  It also sucks when you’re playing squad mode (teams of 4), and some random jackass refuses to land with the rest of the team.  It puts everyone, including the solo person, at a disadvantage compared to a team that sticks together and lands in the same area.  You can play solo or duo mode (or only play with friends you trust to not be jerks) to avoid this, but it’s a part of squad mode life if you’re playing with randos.

Finally, I just want to say that Fortnite gameplay is really fun, even if it’s fundamentally frustrating.  You’ll probably die most of the time wherever you land, you’ll probably win very infrequently (only one person/team can win out of 100 people, after all), and you’ll probably get sniped out of nowhere right after you pick up the best close-range gun in the game.  That’s a part of competitive shooters, and yet, that challenge is what makes it fun.  I personally consider it a win if I at least take someone else out before dying.  Of course, if you don’t like shooters, you probably won’t like Fortnite, but I’d also point out that I typically don’t like competitive shooters or third person shooters, yet here I am, telling you that the competitive, third person shooter called Fortnite is a blast.

RIP Moisty Mire

My attention has been divided between this blog and a couple others (the bottom two on the side bar over there –>), but if you’ve been paying attention to those, you’ll probably notice that my activity on those has waned as well.  Most of my writing focus lately has been going toward the sequel to Iterate, which is actually coming along pretty well, but I’ve been sorely lacking in posting personal/life updates here, so I guess it’s time to do that.

I’ve been wanting a new laptop since the beginning of this year, and for the first time, it’s not because there’s a laptop out that I want.  Quite the opposite, it’s because I feel ready for a more powerful laptop than my 2015 12″ MacBook, but the problem is, there is literally not a single laptop on the market that I want.

I usually default to buying a MacBook when it comes to laptops because Windows laptops are kinda terrible, but I’m just not the biggest fan of Apple’s current laptops.  Now that they’ve updated the Pro models with a Touchbar and didn’t bother with the non-Touchbar version, which is literally the only laptop I’m interested in from them, they’ve just totally lost me.  But even before that update, I had given up and gone over to the Windows world for a laptop, and let me tell you, that market is a total and complete mess.

This is probably the wrong place for me to get into the details since I have a tech blog, but I’m gonna do it anyway.  The issues boil down to a combination of some (or perhaps all) of the following:

  • Poor trackpads, aka, “Does this laptop have a glass surface with Windows Precision drivers?”  This is a dealbreaker – don’t buy a Windows laptop that doesn’t have this if you plan on using the trackpad.
  • Poor customer support/lack of local support options/quick turnaround for issues
  • Screen bleed
  • Build quality, including case flex (does the chassis give when you press down on it) and screen flex, which I was horrified to learn was an actual problem in the Windows laptop world (can you tell I haven’t purchased one in a while?)
  • Noise tests (how loud do the fans get?)
  • Poor quality speakers (no one comes close to Apple here)

I pity anyone shopping for a Windows laptop.  I bought a Razer Blade 15 and returned it because it simply wasn’t worth the price tag for the heat/noise it generates.  And heck, now I feel bad for the pros that went out and bought the new i9 MacBook Pro, because I guess those are throttling hard (7-25-18 update: Apple has apparently fixed this with a software update yesterday).  But, at least if you want a Touchbar (or don’t mind paying the premium for one), you can buy a pretty decent 13″ or 15″ Core i7 model…so I guess that’s something.

Anyway, I gave up on that and instead just focused on my desktop.  I mounted a monitor arm on the wall next to the sofa, so now I can easily use my desktop while relaxing.  I also bought a GTX 1080, which I installed yesterday, so hopefully I’ll be set for another 3 years or so with that (my GTX 970 was just over 3 years old, and honestly would’ve still been fine had I not gotten into VR or wanted a 144Hz 1440p gaming monitor…).

I guess on that note, I’ve been playing a ton of Fortnite, so if you want to play together, hit me up on my mobile (that’s a little old person humor for you, the joke is that I’m old; social media is fine).  Oh, if you don’t read my tech blog, I guess I should mention that VR is awesome, and I’ve been playing Beat Saber almost every day since I got my VR headset.  It’s really cool, and the most fun I think is truly to be had with the games that are designed for VR rather than shoehorned to fit VR.  Fair warning about it, though:  I don’t have issues with nausea (the headsets are super fast and responsive these days) but some people still get motion sickness.

Anyway, here’s to hoping Apple releases a good laptop without a Touchbar that has at least a current generation Core i5 sometime in the next year so I can buy one.  Sigh.

Writing

Something a lot of people probably don’t know about me (unless you read my blog) is that I’ve been writing novels for over a decade.  I remember the exact moment that I decided I wanted to be an author: I was walking across LSU’s campus (with my long, neatly straightened hair #throwback) to Grace King Hall, and I suddenly just knew.  It’s one of those weird memories that will stick with me forever, and I can still picture the lush, green oaks, the old residence hall in view, and I believe it was even cloudy that day.

Yes, writing is a hard game to break into, and I never expect to make more out of it than a hobby, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make the attempt.  I know it takes a lot of talent – talent that it is questionable whether or not I have, but I at least have had the perseverance to try.

I started my first novel in 2006 and finished it in 2011, but don’t let that fool you – most of that period was procrastination, and was probably more like 5 or 6 actual months of time spent writing.  Also that novel was bad.

I wrote my second novel starting right at the end of 2011 (literally a day before the new year) and finished the rough draft 5-6 weeks later.  I actually self-published that one under the name K.J. Holdeman and shared it out via social media like one time.  It was the first one I published, and I was – and still am – pretty proud of it.  I’m currently re-editing it and will publish it under my real name within the coming months.

My third novel was written in 2015 (might have spilled over into 2016 a little, I can’t remember).  It ended up being a convoluted mess, despite being fun to write.  I didn’t publish it, and won’t ever.

My fourth novel is Iterate, which I’ve clearly published and am really excited about.  This one was a blast to write, and I have a sequel for it in very early planning stages, but I’ve got some other ideas I want to get to before starting that in earnest.

That might sound like the end of that story, but it’s not.  I’ve got folders on my computer and posts on my writing blog with dozens and dozens of abandoned first chapters, a handful of outlines, and hundreds of thousands of words of partially written stories that never got finished for one reason or another.  And just in case you think that’s an exaggeration…

 

 

 

 

 

 

None of those are the completed novels I didn’t publish (which together are about 110k words).  The longest one pictured above was actually a rewrite of something (not pictured) that was already around 20k words (I kept the first ~4-5k words and rewrote the rest).  I have so many stories left off around 5k words that I didn’t bother screenshotting below 7k.

My current goal is to continue improving, write more, and become better at marketing myself.  Qualified, this means:

  • Challenge myself.  I don’t like doing atmospheric writing, but maybe it’s because I’m not great at it.  I need to fix this by creating more atmospheric settings.
  • I write for about 5 hours a week when I’m working on a novel.  I know this because it’s how I spend my lunch breaks.  I should dedicate more time on the weekends.
  • I don’t know how or where to advertise my work except social media.  Being a successful self-published author requires marketing, and that means I have to figure this out.

Anyway, I guess that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about me and my writing journey.

If you want to write your own novel, but don’t know how to start, I wrote a beginner’s guide that might interest you.

Iterate

I released my latest novel last week.  You can find it on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

If you’d like more info, you can check out this link, or just read below.


The cover of my novel, Iterate

How many times would you have to relive the same day before your life became only about that day? How long would it take for your memories before that day to become too fuzzy to recall details? How long would it take for you to break down under the monotony of not being able to escape?

Brendon and Hayley don’t have to imagine this situation – they live it. For longer than their natural lives, they’ve been stuck in a repeat of August 28, 2018, and they have no idea how to stop it. Every morning they wake up to a reset world where no one remembers what is happening, and everything happens the exact same way.

That is, until one iteration, something changes…

New year, new projects

For those unaware, I did a podcast for a while with a few friends until they got too busy and the project died.  We talked tech, which was a good outlet for me at the time.  Lately, I’ve been blogging more about tech, and while it’s something I enjoy, I hesitate to turn this site into a tech blog.  This year, I also have some very specific new goals, namely to up my side hustle game.

This is something I’ve been working on for a while in multiple ways, and I’m headed into 2018 with three projects under my belt.  The first project is a novel I wrote in the latter half of 2017, which is still under review and editing.  I’ll be posting that here whenever it’s on Amazon.  The second project is that I’ve launched a tech analysis site, and the last project is something I won’t be talking about here (yet?).

The thing all of these projects have in common is that they’re monetized, including the tech site.  I do have a disclaimer on the side, but the site has simple Google Adwords ads (please whitelist the site if you go 😉), as well as Amazon affiliate links.  None of that affects what I’ll be writing about, but it’s there, and you should know about it.  The site is a collection of tech analysis articles that I’ve written and some product reviews, similar to what I’ve always written about here (the first few articles on the site are actually things I’ve posted here, just to get the content ball rolling).  I may do gadget comparisons in the future, and maybe some other stuff.  We’ll see.

Anyway, please check it out if you’re interested.  It’s called philteredtech.

The Apple Watch, 2.5 years later

The original reveal of the Apple Watch is a pretty disappointing memory for me.  At the time, I don’t think anyone really knew what they wanted out of wearables, so I was okay with much of the functionality (barring some of the stupid things Apple expected people to do with their tiny wrist computer, but more on that later).  What really bothered me was the design and the price.

Apple is undeniably great at designing technology, but a watch is a fashion accessory.  They created and pushed a narrative that portrayed the watch as being stylish and hip by inviting not just tech journalists, but fashion journalists to the reveal, and this has been consistent ever since.

Honestly, the most fashionable thing about the Apple Watch is that it’s not as bulky as other smart watches.  Bigger watches go in and out of style, but some of the Android Wear watches out there are comically big.  However, there are round ones, whereas the Apple Watch is designed to look like a small iPhone.  Generally, watches (as a fashion item) should be round, according to fashion communities and publications like GQ.  While there are exceptions, I don’t feel like the Apple Watch, stylistically, is one of them.  It’s a pretty piece of technology, but it’s an ugly watch.  And yes, I know the utilitarians out there will go on and on about how round displays are inefficient for displaying content, but all of those arguments are predicated on the ideas of familiar design.  Personally, I think it’s very absurd to suggest that Apple couldn’t engineer content for a round display.  Heck, most of the content that’s already there works if you just cut off the corners.  You’d lose practically nothing of value in most cases.

But anyway, that’s a blog post for April 2015.  This is a post for December 2017, where we’re on Apple Watch iteration number four, I guess (do we count Series 1 as a separate watch?  I guess so).  We’ve now had two and a half years with these wrist computers, and Apple has had that same amount of time to refine the experience.

The original premise of the Apple Watch was that it was a small iPhone.  Apple demoed writing notes, watching Instagram videos, making calls, and sending texts.  Only the latter two have held up.  Legitimately, I don’t know if you can even still send heartbeats or digital taps/drawing.  My guess is that you can, but I don’t know how, as that menu has been completely taken over by the dock.

Clearly, the Watch isn’t a small iPhone, despite it looking like one.  It holds certain use cases – mostly revolving around convenience and fitness – but it doesn’t replace your phone except in extremely specific situations.  It took Apple over a year, but they finally started honing in on those use cases and have been perfecting the Watch for those uses ever since.

I guess I should mention here that the Apple Watch has been a pretty successful product, despite some of the doom and gloom we sometimes hear from tech journalists.  I know at least one person that abandoned the product somewhat quickly, but I know more that have kept and still use theirs.  I bought the original version in 2015 a couple months after launch, and only recently (finally) upgraded to a newer version, the Series 3 aluminum model.

The Series 3, compared the Series 0/original Apple Watch has three main advantages: 1) it’s more water-resistant (you can swim with it), 2) it’s so much faster that it makes the Series 0 feel absolutely ancient and 3) the battery life is like 300% better.  They still market it as having “all day battery” but the reality is if you don’t keep the GPS on all the time or use/have LTE on it, you could go two days without charging, maybe almost a full three.  I used to end the day with around 25-30% battery.  I now end the day with around 70-75%.

Personally, I think the LTE model is a joke.  After carrier costs and fees/taxes, the watch will run you anywhere between $10 and $15 a month to add to your data plan, most likely, and I could count on one hand the amount of times my phone wasn’t within Bluetooth range of my watch and that I also needed to use it for some data-related purpose.  Again, there are very specific cases where the LTE model is probably not only useful, but a God-send; however, I’d imagine that for 97% of people, just the regular watch is fine.

I think within the 3% that will find use with the LTE model, some sort of outdoors or sports-related activity will be a key in defining that usefulness.  Apple has really been honing in on that market, and more recently, other health-related things that aren’t necessarily fitness, like their heart study program (to detect AFib/arrhythmia).  These things combined with the convenience of notifications on your wrist are the real selling points to most people, I’d say.

Personally, while I do enjoy the convenience of notifications, I’ve found that having the weather on my wrist at all times has been a game changer for me.  My expectation of basic data that a watch face provides has shifted from “time and date” to “time and date and weather.”  Yes, it’s nifty to know how many steps I’ve taken, how active I’ve been, but paradigm shifts like the former are more interesting to me.

That said, I can’t overlook that having Siri on my wrist has been important as well, but that’s almost 90% for setting reminders in my case.  There are times when my phone is across the room, so the ability to pause/play/skip ahead in music/podcasts, take calls, send messages, use Authy, or pause my Apple TV has been very useful.  While I rarely do use other apps, the occasions do still exist when I start my car from my watch, or even more rarely, check an email.

When I use Apple Pay, it’s almost exclusively with my watch, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I have found the ability to remotely control the camera on my phone extremely useful, even if only on a handful of occasions.

All in all, I’d say the Apple Watch, while still catering to certain niches with more specific functionality, has broken out of being a niche product as a whole.  I see them all the time now, and of course, wear mine daily.  I don’t think it’s worth upgrading yearly, and I don’t think it’s worth paying more than the base model costs, but it’s a product that I truly like – not because of how it looks, as Apple may market – but rather, in spite of how it looks.

What’s up you cool babies?

For the past year or so, I’ve been pretty heavily enjoying the McElroy family of products – that is, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy’s various Internet entertainment properties.  They’re mainly podcasters, but Justin and Griffin work for Polygon and produce a pretty significant amount of video content for Polygon’s YouTube channel.  The three also have a 6 episode TV series that was a Seeso original, before Seeso folded and VRV got the show.

The focus of the current version of my blog is sharing not only my opinions on not-very-controversial stuff (like tech reviews), but also sharing things I like, and this post is about the latter.

If I had to give a broad overview of the McElroys, I’d say that their content has brought more joy and laughter into my life in the past year than any TV show or movie, or hands down.  Their main podcast is My Brother, My Brother, and Me, which is a comedy advice podcast (and also the name of the TV show on VRV), and probably the best place to start if you’re interested in checking them out.  MBMBaM is wonderful and everyone should give it a try.

My Brother, My Brother, and Me – podcast

My Brother, My Brother, and Me – TV show

If you are into Dungeons and Dragons, they have a D&D podcast that I’m pretty far behind on.  This one is more specifically nerdy than most of the others, but as a person that’s only played D&D once in his life, it’s still quite enjoyable.

The Adventure Zone

For fans of comedy and learning about medicine, Justin does a show with his wife, Sydnee (who is an actual doctor), about medical history and how badly human beings have goofed up in the past.  I really enjoy this one.

Sawbones

Griffin does a show with his wife where they just talk about things they like, which I think is a poor sell for the show, because it’s very upbeat and pure.  While not really a comedy show, it’s got Griffin in it, so…there are comedic moments.

Wonderful!

Griffin and Justin are the creators of Monster Factory (part of their day jobs at Polygon), so if you’ve heard of The Final Pam or the Boy Mayor of Second Life, those were the brainchildren of my good, good McElroy boys.

Monster Factory

I’ve yet to delve into too much of Travis’ stuff, purely because my podcast app is overflowing with content right now, but he does a few shows, including one with his wife and a couple with friends.  There is also a ton of other McElroy content that you can find on McElroyShows.com, but I do think I’ve listed out some of the best stuff here.

Wireless Earbuds vs. “Wireless” Earbuds

A little while back, Google released their new earbuds, the Pixel Buds, no doubt in answer to Apple’s AirPods that were released late last year.  The marketing for this product is clear, as Google states on their storefront:

Loud, proud, ‘wireless.’  Well, the Pixel doesn’t have a headphone jack (no surprise there, it’s 2017 after all), so Google needed to release a product for Pixel buyers to use that would provide a quality experience after the port deletion, just like Apple did.  However, there’s one weird thing about the Pixel Buds, and that’s, well…

…the wire.  Yes, the Pixel Buds are wireless in that they don’t require a wire to go from the phone to your ear, but they do require a wire between each earbud.  This is very much in contrast to the way that Apple solved the “quality experience without a headphone jack” problem, which was to release a truly wireless pair of earbuds.

I found this rather odd, but Google isn’t alone, of course.  Apple’s own Beats X earbuds are “wireless” earbuds that have a wire, as are any headphones that claim to be wireless.  In fact, there are only a handful of truly wireless earbuds on the market, and I think it’s a shame that Google chose to go “wireless” rather than truly wireless.  I’m sure if you get the PixelBuds, they’ll be fine (or maybe not, TWiT owner Leo Laporte seems to think they’re disappointing), but I think that experience really could’ve been better.

I want to see more really wireless earbuds.

For the record, prior to the iPhone X, I would’ve said the the Apple AirPods are the best product Apple launched since the iPhone 4 or perhaps 5.  They are incredibly good, and the first product Apple has released in quite a while that captured some of that undeniably cool Apple magic that people used to rave about so much before it became cool to hate Apple

Apps with “Pure Black” Mode for iPhone X

As I mentioned in my iPhone X review, iOS apps with “pure black” themes look gorgeous on the iPhone X OLED display.  After a quick search, I realized that there isn’t really a good list of these types of apps anywhere, so I decided to start one.

  • Apollo – This is a reddit client that not only has a pure black theme, but the app in general is the absolute best reddit client I’ve ever used.  The developer taking advantage of the iPhone X’s design to the fullest, even including the volume in the left ear rather than having it pop up over the content like by default in iOS.  You’ll have to enable the regular dark theme and flip a toggle in the settings for pure black mode.  App Store link / Developer site link
  • Today Weather – Weather apps aren’t terribly exciting, but this one is certainly beautiful and provides all of the information I’d expect a weather app to provide.  You can even choose the weather source you want, in case you’re not fond the default weather.com.  The pure black theme is enabled by default.  App Store link
  • Pokemon Go – This is a slight stretch, but Battery Saver mode in Pokemon Go now actually makes sense on the iPhone.  You just have to turn it on in your settings, then flip the phone upside down while you’re not actively playing.  App Store link
  • Unread – Unread is an RSS feed reader with a pure black theme.  It can use your accounts from Feed Wrangler, Feedbin, Feedly, Fever, and Newsblur.  It’s quite well-designed and looks great on the iPhone X.  Full disclosure: It’s not free to unlock the full version with dark theme, and I was provided a promo code to be able to check out the app.  App Store link / Developer site link
  • Overcast – Overcast is a popular podcast app that just added a black theme.  I feel like if you listen to podcasts and you’re reading this, you have probably already heard of Overcast, but if not, check it out.  App Store link
  • Feedly – Feedly is a feed reader, now optimized for iPhone X with a pure black theme.  The new design looks pretty slick and should be quite welcome to current Feedly users with the iPhone X.  App Store link / Developer site link

This list will be updated as necessary.  If you created (or know of) an app with a pure black theme that I can test without having to buy anything, leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list (I am not against buying apps at all, I just don’t want to list something I can’t test, and I can’t guarantee that I’ll want to buy your app).