Visiting Japan has always been a dream of mine. The “About Me” page that I used to host here listed Japan as my dream vacation for around a decade, and before that, I can probably trace the roots of that desire to at least age 14 or 15. It started with anime (and video games, to a lesser degree), and evolved over time into a deep appreciation for the country and its culture. Getting to finally go this past month was an incredible experience that I hope to be able to have again without waiting another 18 years.

I’ve flown internationally only once before, but flying to Central America (and Canada, I would assume) is quite different from a transpacific flight. Our flight to Belize was a regular six-across Southwest 737 (or something similar). Flying to Japan was a wildly different experience. We flew ANA (All Nippon Airways), which is a Japanese airline, and while we were economy class, it was the nicest economy seat I’ve ever flown in (10 seats across also makes it the biggest). If you ever get a chance to go to Japan, I’d highly recommend this airline based on my one experience with them.

We flew into Haneda airport, got through customs, swiped ourselves through the monorail station (more on that later), converted a small amount of cash to yen, and that’s about how long it took me to make my first mistake. Everyone in Japan stands on the left side of the escalator, and there’s either another standing line or people walking on the right. I stood on the right, like a dumb American, and blocked people from walking. Whoops. Didn’t make that mistake again.

Japan is very orderly, something I really love about it and missed immediately when we landed back at our home airport and had to contend with American escalator “etiquette,” by which I mean one person taking up the whole moving walkway at RDU. It’s not just escalators, either. Most people always kept to the left side of the sidewalk, just as it’s sort of standard to keep the right side here in America, but people aren’t always great about.

We found our way to the hotel, which I knew would be small, but wowzers, was that jarring to actually see in person. If you are claustrophobic, you may not want to stay in a standard Japanese hotel room. I am not joking when I say that the open space in our hotel bathroom was as small as one of the bathrooms on the airplane. The room was just a place to sleep, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was one of those things I was kind of done with toward the end of the trip (and there are very few things on that list).

The Japanese train system was very interesting. It’s one of those things I think I would hate if I lived there (due to rush hour), but as a visitor, it was incredibly convenient. You basically just put the English Suica app on your iPhone (or get a physical card if you’re an Android user or a Luddite), add some money to it, and swipe your phone on the terminal when you enter and exit a station. We probably spent about $10/day on travel, which is super reasonable, and there was a station a two minute walk from our hotel. Rush hour (and I would assume the last train of the day) was not a super pleasant experience though. Trains are so packed that people push in like sardines (still somehow in a very polite way) and brace themselves against the door frame until the doors close and their place on the train is secured.

Dining in Japan was really interesting for a couple reasons. Many Japanese restaurants have ticket systems when you walk in. You select what you want on the machine, pay, and you get a ticket that you hand to a person behind the seating area. The meals we had were generally inexpensive (some of my favorite stuff, like chicken katsu curry, was only around $7) and there is no tipping in Japan. We didn’t go to any fine dining places, but I generally felt like America could learn a thing or two from how the Japanese handle casual dining.

I couldn’t possibly give a daily play by play, but we got to visit a lot of incredible places, went to a bunch of neat shops, and ate some delicious Japanese food (some of which is not available here and I miss terribly). I’ll let the pictures do the talking here. WordPress’ gallery system is a little weird, so I’d recommend just scrolling down rather than clicking a picture and looking at the slideshow view (the portrait orientation pictures are stretched in that mode).

This trip was such a wonderful experience, I really can’t wait to go back. If you have the means to go to Japan, I’d highly recommend it.

After scouring Windows laptop reviews, deals, and new releases for more than half a year, and after buying and returning a 2018 Razer Blade 15 last summer, I finally broke down and bought a 2018 MacBook Pro (with Touchbar) late last year. I think at this point, you’ve all read reviews about these divisive Mac laptops, so let’s cover the basics in bullets and then address the meat of the divisiveness in full.


  • Best-in-class trackpad. Period.
  • Aesthetically pleasing design paired with Apple’s usual craftsmanship and build materials/quality*.
  • Great battery life.
  • Runs MacOS. Look, I like Windows. I like Windows 10 a lot, actually. But I like MacOS better. Sorry, Microsoft.


  • Dongle-city if you don’t like or USB-C. This doesn’t bother me, as I rarely ever plug anything in my laptop that isn’t the charging cable.
  • Bezels aren’t big, but aren’t small. Looks a little dated next to its premium Windows laptop competition.


  • Price. Any way you slice it, the MacBook Pro is more expensive than the most premium Windows laptops.
  • The Touchbar is indeed a gimmick that makes the whole machine cost more for no reason.
  • SSD and RAM soldered to logic board.
  • No touchscreen. There is no excuse for this in 2016, much less 2018. I will argue with you until I’m blue in the face that MacBooks need touchscreens.
  • Thermal design sacrificed for thinness.

Most of the cons are tolerable because the pros are so huge. The price I can swallow because I realize options are limited, and if I’m spending $1500 on a Windows laptop, I might as well spend $1900 and get the laptop I actually want. The Touchbar has other cons if you actually miss your function keys (I don’t) but I’d rather not pay $300 extra for something I don’t care about. Components not being upgradeable also adds to the price both upfront and down the road if those components need out of warranty repairs or force your hand in buying a new computer because you simply can’t deal with RAM or disk space limitations from when you bought your computer four years earlier. But again, I am fortunate in being able to absorb that blow, because I buy a new laptop around every three years anyway (with a warranty).

Sometimes I go to touch my MacBook screen and then I get sad, but I deal. I don’t run into thermal constraints too often considering my workload. While tradeoffs, clearly they’re not significant enough to affect my purchase, because the pros for me are pretty big. As much as there is a host of quality, non-Apple hardware out there, Apple has the market cornered on trackpad quality. There is simply no Windows laptop with a trackpad that comes anywhere close to Apple’s. Even if the feel and tracking quality gets really close, any trackpad that doesn’t allow me to get that physical-click feel anywhere on the surface feels broken by design.

But look, you’ve read the title of this article, and you know where this is going. This isn’t about trackpads or thermal design or Apple pretending like touchscreens can’t exist on their laptops. This is about keyboards.

There are two problems with the current MacBook keyboards (and all MacBook keyboards with butterfly switches), the first of which is that they’re objectively failure prone to the point where even the Wall Street Journal is chiming in on it with a remarkably well-done article. iMore claims that overall reliability has gone up, but keyboard reliability specifically has gone down. However, you’d be wise to note that David Hansson claims (and supports with “anecdata”) in the first article linked above that he doesn’t believe Apple is capturing the full extent of the keyboard problems in their metrics.

That’s the objective problem, and while my 2015 MacBook never experienced keyboard issues after I literally wrote several novels on it, the endurance of my new MacBook Pro is yet to be determined.

The subjective problem – and the thing I think is actually keeping more “regular” consumers away from newer MacBooks – is the feel of the keys themselves. Typing on a MacBook is not an ideal experience. Some people like the butterfly switches, so people hate them, and some people are pretty much indifferent, but the problem is exactly how divisive the keyboard is when it is the only keyboard offered in Mac laptops. If I like the Dell Inspiron but hate the keyboard on it, I can upgrade to the XPS or even the XPS 2-in-1, which both have different keyboards, or I can just go buy a Razer Blade or a Surface Book or whatever. In the Apple world, if you don’t like the butterfly switches, your alternative is a Windows laptop; there just isn’t a Mac option.

I am somewhat indifferent to the typing experience on the MacBook. I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it. Keep in mind, I say this having written multiple novel-length works with this keyboard. With that much typing experience, I believe I am particularly well-qualified to say just how mediocre this keyboard is to type on.

That said, I want to make it very clear that the keyboard isn’t all form and no function. Yes, Apple made the travel ridiculously short to shave millimeters from the thickness of the overall device when there was really no reason to do so, but the stability of the keys is much improved. In fact, in that aspect, the MacBook keyboards are similar to mechanical keyboards, but they are severely lacking in every other comparable measure to a mechanical keyboard.

When I type on other laptop keyboards, I always notice how loose the keys feel, which is similar to when I type on regular desktop keyboards instead of one of my mechanical keyboards and it feels like there is a layer of mashed potatoes underneath the keys. But that key travel, ugh. If only the travel was farther, it would be the perfect laptop keyboard.

I am lucky in that I can type on almost anything. I think it started when I got a Surface Pro 3 with a type cover before Microsoft vastly improved the type cover with the Surface Pro 4. It took a bit of adjustment, but I was able to type on it pretty quickly, and I wrote something like half a novel or so on it before getting the SP4 type cover. As I mentioned, I also have several mechanical keyboards, and I’ve typed on plenty of regular old membrane keyboards in my life, including one of those split, ergonomic keyboards.

For those that are not so lucky, their typing suffers greatly on the MacBook keyboard. The lack of travel doesn’t give their brains the feedback they need to properly register when keys have been successfully pressed, and with that lack of feedback, the rate of typos is greatly increased. If I’m being totally honest, in the first 5-10 seconds it takes my brain to adjust, I probably make a few extra errors when going from my mechanical desktop keyboard to my MacBook keyboard. If your brain doesn’t adjust, then those typos are just a fixture of the device.

Apple created this super low-profile keyboard originally for its 12″ MacBook – the thinnest and lightest laptop they make. Along with the low-travel keyboard, it has one USB-C port, it has a Y-series processor, and that’s fine, because it is filling a niche where those trade offs are acceptable.

But on the Pro series MacBooks? It’s just totally unacceptable.

In a world where the keyboards on these machines weren’t failing as often as they are, we would still have a totally objective problem. Apple is the only manufacturer for MacBooks, and making design decisions that alienate as many people as these keyboards have is utterly absurd.

I can appreciate elegant form-over-function decisions. Apple makes a lot of these, and while extremely utilitarian people may not be fans, subjective things are subjective. Whatever, it’s fine. But these keyboards are anything but elegant. The MacBook Pro is functionally too thin – totally ignoring thermal design – because the keyboard is crippling this machine.

I don’t hate this keyboard. I really like my MacBook Pro. But Apple has to redesign these things.

The post The MacBook Keyboard Conundrum appeared first on Philtered Tech.

Source: Philtered Tech

I’ve been trying to keep up with blogging, and it’s been a little difficult, but I’m still doing better with updates lately than I have last year or probably the year before.

So, what has been going on?

  • I have a new favorite king cake (Cannata’s gooey butter amaretto cream cheese (*insert chef’s kiss here*).
  • I finished my anime rewatch spree (True Tears was about how I remembered it – fun ride, disappointing end).
  • Apex Legends has been a ton of fun, but I’m really looking forward to them adding more game modes
  • My goal to read more often feel through in a spectacular fashion, so I guess I am replacing it with “play Beat Saber for 30 minutes five times a week.”
  • We are going to Japan soon (I fly a lot, but I’ll admit having quite a bit of anxiety over this long as heck, trans-Pacific flight).

I still want to write a sort-of-review about the 2018 MacBook Pro, because I definitely have some things to say about specific aspects of the machine, but I don’t feel like writing a full review. Also, I’m sure the Japan trip will warrant its own post at some point.

Editing on Reiterate is going kind of slow. I’m at the point where I’m getting burned out on it (it happens when you’re reading and re-reading and re-re-reading), but I did I take a small break in between to write something new, which can be found in my last post. I was shooting for April or May to be done, but I can pretty much guarantee now that April won’t happen, and May probably won’t either. I’d rather be sure it’s the best it can be, though, so I’ve gotta finish my due diligence on it.

That’s all for now.

I don’t normally post stories I’m working on anymore, but in between editing sessions of Reiterate, I wrote a 7,000 word story intended as the first chapter of a new novel, and I’m not sure if I’m on to something. I personally like it, but it’s young adult cyberpunk, which I guess is sort of a weird combination.

Anyway, here it is.

Ghost (working title)

I have been on a pretty serious anime rewatch kick for the past several months. I used to watch Outlaw Star and Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien every couple years because they were my favorites, but I realized recently that I hadn’t seen Outlaw Star in around 5 years and KGNE in around 6. It’s honestly been very interesting to see how well these shows have held up against both modern shows and my memory of how good they were.

So, here’s the stuff I’ve rewatched (in the proper order) and my current thoughts on them (no spoilers/super duper light spoilers).

Outlaw Star – I couldn’t say how many times I’ve seen this show, but my guess is 6 or 7. This show has held up every time I’ve watched it, and I always notice weird new things about it. It’s not perfect by any means, but the 90’s animation is wonderfully charming, and I particularly enjoy the darker colors, music, and space western vibe. My enjoyment of this show almost definitely has a lot to do with nostalgia, but I also believe that anyone that didn’t grow up watching Toonami can still appreciate what this show has to offer.

.hack//SIGN – I rewatched the first episode of this show back in the late 00’s, but that was it. I started this rewatch parallel to Outlaw Star several months ago, and I still have a few episodes left. The original .hack was truly something special when it came out, as it was the show that popularized the “trapped in a video game” trope. It honestly did so in a much more interesting way than modern shows like Sword Art Online, but unfortunately, most of the rest of the show is pretty mediocre besides the music. .hack//SIGN has arguably the best anime soundtrack of all time, in my opinion, but the pacing, characters, and world building just aren’t that great. The animation was probably mediocre for the time as well, but I have a soft spot in my heart for early 00’s animation.

Toradora – I haven’t seen this show at all since my original watch a couple years after it came out (so around 2010). Pretty much everything about this show held up extremely well. Honestly, the only thing that truly dates the show is the usage of flip phones. If not for that, you wouldn’t be able to tell the show didn’t come out last year. That aside, Toradora does a great job developing characters and (light spoiler) is one of the most believable shows about not understanding your own feelings. Character interactions in this show are fun and sincere, and I say all of this despite one of the main characters being a tsundere – a trope I generally don’t like, but adore in this show. The only thing I didn’t like was the ending, which, upon rewatch, I still agree with. The end is simply not believable or up to the standard the rest of the show sets, but it doesn’t take away from the show being an overall great watch.

Clannad – This is another show I watched a couple years after it came out and haven’t seen since then (also around 2010). It’s the longest show on my rewatch list since it has two two-cour seasons (around 48 episodes). I remember loving Clannad, but honestly, after rewatching, my opinion of it has only improved. Clannad is brilliant. It’s heartwarming, it’s funny, it’s inspiring, it’s incredibly sad (you will probably tear up a few times during the second season). The animation is gorgeous even a decade later (Kyoto Animation did a truly phenomenal job), but you do have to get past the girls having giant eyes even by anime standards. The openings, the endings, the music in both of those and throughout the show, the story, the characters, I just cannot say enough good things about how amazing this show is. It’s such an experience that, just like the first time, I found myself constantly thinking about it when it was over. A week later, I was still wishing it wasn’t over.

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien – I’ve seen KGNE (which was called Rumbling Hearts in English, for some bizarre reason, despite not at all being the translation of the Japanese title) around 5 times, and I admit, the last time I watched it, I felt a little let down for some reason. This time, however, it brought me right back to how I used to feel. This is one of those rare anime that (extremely light spoiler) goes past high school and shows adults doing adult things. It’s quite dramatic and might make you tear up. The adult nature and the specific type of drama really set this show apart from other shows in the drama/romance category. That said, the animation in this show really does not hold up well. In fact, it may not have been particularly great when it originally came out in 2003/2004. There are some scenes set in a facility that should have tons of background characters and it’s just…empty. It’s kind of off-putting, but otherwise, definitely still worth the watch and remains high on my list of favorite shows.

School Days – I watched this one probably around 2009 and haven’t really touched it since then. The animation actually held up somewhat decently, and it has at least one pretty memorable song, but that’s not really what this one is about. (Fair warning, this blurb is kind of spoilery on basic plot points, but nothing major) It’s a really divisive anime, and I think a lot of people hate it because the main character is completely unlikable, and much of the story is based around a bunch of people actually liking him. I don’t blame people for watching this one and hating it because they were expecting something else, but I honestly liked it a lot the first time I watched it, and even more so the second time around. I would feel weird saying that it’s a breath of fresh air in its genre, so let’s just say that it’s very different in an unexpected way. The main character’s development is very much unlike most “self insert” boring main characters that this genre tends to churn out, which leads to frustration and pity for other characters, and that understandably turns some people off. There are ways this show could’ve been a lot worse, but the culmination of everything at the end really sealed it. Truly one of the most memorable anime endings I’ve experienced.

And that’s it for now. Next on my list is True Tears, which I’m only one episode into.

I feel like I started off 2018 with some lofty goals and at least two of those crashed and burned, but I did release my fourth novel, Iterate, this year, and I also wrote the rough draft of its sequel, Reiterate.  I also managed to blog quite a bit this year, even if that wasn’t terribly apparent until a few weeks ago if you only followed this blog.  This year was also the first time I traveled internationally, which was a super cool experience.

As for what’s in store for 2019, I’m not sure yet, but I have some ideas.  2018 made it pretty apparent (if it wasn’t already) that Facebook is a scummy company, so I’ve been trying to make sure it’s less a part of my life than it has been in the past.  I deleted the Facebook app weeks ago and the messenger app more recently from my phone and my iPad, but I admittedly did not delete (Facebook-owned) Instagram.  I do still visit Facebook in a web browser on my computers, but it’s far less often, and I don’t particularly miss it.  Through 2018, before I ever deleted the apps, I slowly began to scrub my data from the platform, removing likes, interests, personal information, demographics, etc, even though it feels like a waste of time since I have very little doubt that Facebook retained that data internally.  Even if you’re not on Facebook, they’ve got a shadow profile on you.  This is completely aside from the fact that for the past two years, I’ve had to unfollow dozens of people to remove crappy opinions from my timeline (note for the uninitiated that unfollowing someone means you’re still Facebook friends, you just don’t get that person’s updates anymore.  If that sounds crappy to you, that’s because it is).  Anyway, less Facebook in 2019.

On a similar note, I am also trying to cut back on Google services right now and in 2019.  I definitely trust Google more than Facebook, but the fact of the matter is that when you are the product instead of the customer, the data that these companies collect on you is not insignificant, and that type of data is a target for misuse, theft, and exploitation.  I’m not saying that a company having data on you is bad, but rather, this is a judgement call on two particular companies who haven’t proven super reliable lately.  People have been really upset about Apple’s price hikes this year, and while I do think some of that negativity is justified, I also believe that their privacy-first approach not only warrants a certain price premium, but is exactly part of the reason why some of their competition is cheaper (the data Google collects has monetary worth, thus it makes sense for them to provide their products at a lower cost to get them in more hands).

Tech stuff aside, I probably followed more podcasts in 2018 than I ever have, which has been great, but I feel like I have been missing out on music for a while now, so I may try to make music a little more important in 2019.

As for goals that actually take effort, I want to try to read more in 2019.  This may come as a shock to hear from a writer, but I just don’t find a whole lot of time to read novels (most of my reading is random stuff on the Internet).  My biggest issue with reading is finding time that I’m not mentally exhausted to pick up a book.  During the week, my brain is on constantly from the time I wake up until around 5:30 PM, so when I get home, I just need to shut down and watch TV or play a game or something.  If I read when I am mentally exhausted, I end up reading the same paragraph three times because I just can’t absorb anything.  I used to read every day during my lunch break, but now I use that time to write, which consequently means that even during my break, my brain is still very much turned on and not resting.  I realize that a lot of people find reading to be relaxing, which I won’t disagree with, but it does require a certain level of engagement.  For that same reason, I can’t do audio books because reading is something I need to give 100% of my attention to.  I have no idea why my brain is fine with listening to podcasts, but is unable to focus on an audio book.  So, I’d like to find some time to maybe read a book per month in 2019.  That’s not incredibly lofty, and there are two books I’ve got on my list right now anyway.

Finally, I do have more international travel coming in 2019.  This is less of a goal and more just a cool thing that I’m looking forward to.

I hope 2018 has been to great to everyone and that 2019 can be even better!

When Apple announced the HomePod, I wasn’t particularly excited.  Honestly, I don’t think too many people were except for the hardcore fanboys and the handful of people that are concerned with privacy and security but still want a smart assistant device in their home.

After a slightly delayed launch, initial reviews raved over the sound quality and criticized Siri’s capabilities.  The consensus seemed to be “if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, you’ll probably like the HomePod.”

This is not a review of the HomePod’s technology because that can be summed up in a paragraph.

The HomePod sounds incredible and is super easy to use.  It shines as an AirPlay target for AppleTV, and the far-field mics can hear you whisper from across the room.  Bizarrely, Siri does not answer general knowledge questions on HomePod like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

There’s really not a whole lot else to say.  I could go on about how Siri is even more useless on HomePod than she is on iOS, or I could complain about lack of connectivity besides AirPlay – heck, I could whine about Apple Music being the only supported streaming service, but that’s not what this article is.  

The simple and honest truth is that every review was right – if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, the HomePod is incredible.  You already know Siri sucks, you don’t need Bluetooth since all your devices have AirPlay, and you probably have either Apple Music or music stored on your iPhone that HomePod can stream.

So why don’t we ever hear anything about HomePod anymore?  Why does it seem like the device isn’t selling well?

A common complaint about Apple products that I have seen for literally my entire tech-adjacent life is how overpriced they are.  10 years ago, I would argue that aside from the Mac Pro, Apple products weren’t overpriced – they were expensive.  That’s an important distinction, and back then, it was true.

These days, that’s not so much the case.  Apple hardware has slowly risen to absurd pricing levels, and while I’m not here to argue the value of the products or say that their pricing spells doom and gloom for the company, I am here to say how disappointing that fact is. 

The Sonos One supports AirPlay 2, has Alexa built in, and is currently on sale for $179.

I bought a HomePod on sale for $249 on Black Friday.  That’s a discount of $100 from Apple’s MSRP, which was a price that I simply could not justify.  At $249, it was still hard to justify, but at the very least, that sale did not price me out of the product like Apple’s MSRP did.  I simply was not interested at $349.

In the past, I always felt like I was paying a premium for a good product when I bought from Apple.  $249 for a HomePod feels like a premium, so what, exactly, is $349 supposed to feel like?

It’s no secret that Apple has been trying to increase their ASP (average selling price) across their line of products.  iPhones, iPads, and Macs cost more than ever, which means that Apple products are exclusionary.  That isn’t necessary as “evil” as it sounds, considering that with cheaper products, you’re paying less in money but more in data.  Privacy does have a cost, and cheap, privacy-focused products simply don’t seem to exist.

In all honesty, I could’ve written this article about any of the aforementioned products, but I chose HomePod specifically because it’s a new category that isn’t completely defined.  Apple can charge a premium for most of its products because people either see Apple as a market leader, a brand they trust, or just the trendy thing, and they will pay the price.  But for a category like this, it just doesn’t seem to be the best move. 

iPhone ASP courtesy of MacWorld

What’s wrong with the HomePod isn’t technical no matter how much anyone complains about Siri or what it lacks in connectivity – it’s the price.  At $349, I wouldn’t even consider buying one.  At $249, I’m considering how I could use a second one.

I suspect I’ll have a lot more to say about Apple’s higher-trending ASP in the near future.

The post What’s wrong with HomePod? appeared first on Philtered Tech.

Source: Philtered Tech

I setup a feed import so that all posts to my tech blog and my author profile blog automatically get imported here.  I know that, for a while, I tried to separate everything, but it basically resulted in less activity across the board and made it harder to follow what I’m doing/working on. is still tech. is still my author profile site. is now an amalgamation of everything except my writing blog (inphiltrate fiction).

I know I said a few updates ago that Reiterate might be done in Q4 2018.  Well, Q4 2018 is almost over, and I just finished the rough draft.  Part of the holdup was that Reiterate ended up being longer than I was expecting.  The other delay wasn’t really a delay as much as it was a poor estimate of when I’d be done.  I’ve still got tons of editing to do, so if I had to take another (very likely wildly inaccurate) guess of when Reiterate will be available, I’d say May 2019.