Apple Delivers at WWDC 2017

Finally, a new iMac to purchase. I’ve been waiting for about a year to purchase a new one, so once the keynote was over I rushed to the Apple Store and ordered one. The iMac 27-inch with Retina 5K display, 4.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 2400MHz DDR4, and Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB RAM.

Then, I ordered a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, 256GB, in Space Gray, with a Charcoal Cover and an Apple Pencil. It will replace my 2+ year old iPad that doesn’t support the Pencil for graphics work directly on the screen. Am looking forward to seeing if the old muscle memory is there for creating graphic images. Would be nice to create my own custom covers for stories that reflected them more closely then the images I’m forced to ‘shop’ into something suitable.

Besides the hardware released (new MacBooks, MacBook Pros) or announced (beefy iMac Pro and HomePod) there was a slew of software updates and improvements as well.

Looks like macOS is going on an alternating releases. Last year Sierra was introduced with new features while this year we get High Sierra, a refinement pass on those base technologies. Previous refinement passes (Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion)  allowed for core technologies to be revised, improved, and stabilized for future new releases. One example of a refinement this year is moving the windowing API over to Metal, Apple’s low level graphics engine that enables faster graphic and video operations. Their favorite term used was “smooth as butter”.

One new feature in macOS I’m looking forward to is the new Apple File System (APFS) which replaces the 30+ year old Hierarchical File System (HFS+). Designed for today’s computers, its more nimble when supporting today’s memory and storage requirements, fully encrypts your files and data for security, and supports hardware like SSDs which didn’t even exist when HFS+ was designed. APFS became the default file system for the iPhone and iPad with the 10.3 iOS release and unless you were a developer you probably didn’t realize the huge file system improvements that were added to your iPhone or iPad.

Lots of other software announcements for iOS, tvOS, and watchOS, but those weren’t that interesting to me. Nice, but not what I was waiting for.

Both are being delivered next week, so I’ve got some prep to do in backing up my current machines and getting ready to enjoy my new tools.

IMHO, a great WWDC.

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Wonder Woman Rocks

Wonder Woman

Just returned from watching the new DC superhero film Wonder Woman (2017) featuring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. In my opinion it may be the best DC film since Superman (1978) with Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder.

I’m going to ignore all the Batman films over the years as none have really been acceptable to me as a true representation of the character. Too many lead actors with different impressions, too many silly villains to count, and just plain too many of them offering weak stories buoyed by too many unnecessary explosive set pieces at the end.

But Gal Gadot knocked it out of the park as Wonder Woman, a woman experiencing the truths of the real world for the first time. She lived one life in the benign sanctuary of her island home but that is shattered when the outside world interrupts with WW1, The War to End All Wars. Once that occurs, she takes charge of herself and seeks to aid those on the outside who need help. Her naivety is used well early on as she learns more about this warring world and by the end of the film she comes full circle and finds her purpose.

Chris Pine also impressed me, foregoing the Captain Kirk vibe for something more realistic and natural, showing just enough confusion and compassion to make Steve Trevor feel realistic. I had a lot of concerns when I watched the trailers but in the film’s context he came off much better than I expected.

Also, for the first time in a long time, this DC super-heroine had a great color palette on screen, not the dreary and dark, undersaturated colors found in most of the DC films over the last 10 years. A nice change of pace and one that made this a standout film. The screenplay by Allan Heinberg achieved its goal in giving us a strong story that made us really believe in and cheer for the character. Director Patty Jenkins did a great job overall as well. Maybe a little less special effects at the end but lets face it, you can’t have a summer blockbuster without a lot of explosions and gratuitous violence.

This is a film to watch for now. If the upcoming Justice League film has some of the same flavor, it too might show that DC finally understands both its characters and what the audience wants to see.

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Garbage In, Garbage Out

Built for Murder

I am finally feeling motivated to write some more. As always I’ve got more ideas than time to write them all and I’d really like to get some of the longer pieces finished and released, specifically Built for Murder mystery novel and the follow-up Festival of Murder, as well as the Alexiandrolarn fantasy novella.

But both need serious rewriting and lots of polishing to kick them into decent shape. So this week I started a spreadsheet on each to get some idea of where I was at and what needed fixing. Basically what I did was plot every scene in each story onto a separate row of the spreadsheet. Doing so allows me to see at a glance the story flow, highlight the good scenes versus the bad, note the weak or useless ones that are pure indulgence or filler, and see how all the plots and subplots line up. Finally, I made a note of what the purpose was of each scene or comments on how to improve it.

Built for Murder came across as absolute garbage plot-wise in my spreadsheet.

It was written using a stream of consciousness model. I wanted an easy flowing narrative that allowed for some personal observations, a slow build, and a generally relaxed story that didn’t involve a lot of fisticuffs or shootouts as is all too common in American based stories. I wanted to avoid mindless action for a more nuanced approach. I guess I did but that lackadaisical style tends to make the story wander, which really shows when you break it down into individual scenes.

And so, like rebuilding an engine I’ve got to restructure the whole story, make the subplots stronger or throw them away totally in order to strengthen the main narrative.

I have to say it was a worthwhile learning experience. Also a bit humbling. Some of the scenes work really well, they flow, they engage, they make the story as real as I can possibly make at my current level of fiction writing experience. But I can see how to make the novel better and that’s what I plan to do, make it better.

Did the same spreadsheet exercise for Festival of Murder even though its not anywhere near completion. Even with the 8 chapters I have the weak ones leapt off the page at me.

Now I just need to do the work and make it happen. Wish me luck.

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I Broke Down and Bought One

I couldn’t wait anymore and succumbed to the pressure to buy a 15-in MacBook Pro as a replacement for the MacBook Air I’ve used for mobile writing these last few years. Came with a 256Gb SSD, 16GB RAM, and an I7 Intel CPU with speeds that make the MacBook Air look anemic. It’s a gorgeous machine with an amazing retina screen (my first on a Mac).

I have to say my writing never looked better. LOL

The best feature so far is the Touch Bar fingerprint sensor. No more password typing to log into my account. Instead I simply press a fingertip against the sensor and boop, I’m logged in. Nice. Very nice.

The Touch Bar also provides dynamic function keys based on the current frontmost application or the standard FN keys of the macOS. Still not using it to find app options there yet but I’m sure the habit will settle in as more developers update their applications to take advantage of the hardware. Looks slick and modern but not sure how truly useful it will be. I guess only time will tell.

Got the important stuff installed but will need some more time to get it right. Always seems to be one more app or utility to install but I’m getting there.

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