I'm done with iCloud Photo Library

During the Photos beta, I gave both Photos.app and iCloud Photo Library a run for their money. I imported my photos — which had been living in Dropbox — and uploaded them.

It was a mess, so I decided that Dropbox + Finder was the way forward for me. I removed my files from iCloud after reading this support document:

Photos and videos will be stored in your account for 30 days. To download your photos and videos on your iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and select Download and Keep Originals. On your Mac, open Photos, choose Photos > Preferences, then select Download Originals to this Mac. You can also select the photos and videos that you want to download from iCloud.com.

After 30 days, I checked, and iCloud seemed to have removed my photos. I went back to Dropbox a little annoyed, but happy that I had given Apple's solution a shot.

Over the week of Thanksgiving, I decided to give it another try. I hadn't really spent any time with Photos.app since OS X El Capitan, and I had heard a lot of good things from people I know about it.

I imported my photos and uploaded my 70GB photo library to iCloud. Everything went very smoothly, so I turned on iCloud Photo Library on my iPad.

Aaaaaand it all exploded.

After two days, my iPad still just showed a spinner when I tapped the Photos app.

Today, I opened Photos.app on my Mac to look at some photos I'd taken with my iPhone over the holiday and noticed something that made my heart stop.

Most of my albums had duplicate entries that were empty. I assume these were brought in from data that I told iCloud to delete, but it hadn't.

A bunch of empty duplicate albums would be annoying to clean up, but upon digging, I discovered that not all my albums had been duplicated. Some — including one with 1800 family photos from a vacation — had been overwritten with an empty album of the same name.

Turning iCloud Photo Library back on from my iPad introduced some sort of leftover data not deleted from my iCloud account, overwriting (and removing) newer data on my Mac.

Because I am a nerd, I have backups. I have all of my photos safe and sound, but I've got iCloud Photo Library off forever now. I can't trust it after this failure. I know that there's a lot of talk that CloudKit is better than the shit Apple first shipped with iCloud, but this is unacceptable.

I understand Apple not wanting to expose a lot about what's stored in iCloud, but I trusted that when I told the system to remove all traces of my previous iCloud Photo Library — per their directions — that it would work.

Clearly, it didn't. I don't know if the leftover data was left on iCloud itself or maybe my iPad, but it shouldn't matter. I told Apple to remove my data and it failed in doing so.

I will probably keep my photos in Photos.app, but I won't be uploading them to Apple's service again. Photo management needs to be bulletproof, and iCloud has proved, yet again, to be far from it.

On the future of the 3.5mm headphone jack

There's a fun rumor making the rounds this weekend, as Jeremy Horwitz reports at 9to5Mac:

Citing a reliable source, a report from Japanese blog Macotakara claims that Apple plans to remove the 3.5mm headphone port from the upcoming iPhone 7, helping to achieve a “more than 1mm” reduction in thickness compared to the iPhone 6s. While the screen shape and radius will remain similar, the device will once again become Apple’s thinnest iPhone ever, albeit with a new restriction: headphones will only be able to connect over Lightning or Bluetooth.

Horwitz goes on:

The report claims that Apple will bundle Lightning connector-equipped EarPods with the next iPhone, incorporating a tiny DA (Digital to Analog) converter into the connector. To insure iPhone 7 compatibility, third-party wired headphone makers will need to include either Lightning cables or 3.5mm to Lightning adapters with their headphones. Bluetooth headphone makers will have no such issues.

There's no doubt that this would be, as John Gruber wrote, "a totally Apple-y thing to do." The 3.5mm jack is somewhat fragile, fairly large (including in depth), and decidedly old.

I'm sure Apple will offer a $19 adaptor — which won't be included in the box — for people who want or need something better than the built-in EarPods. For consumers who just use what comes with their phones and Bluetooth in their cars, this change won't be a huge deal.

I don't see this killing off the 3.5mm interface, though.

The headphone jack is more universal than anything else I can think of in the electronics world. It's on every device that can output sound on the planet, and is found in cars, AV systems and everything in between. While Apple may gain thinness and simplicity by removing it, it's a mighty big standard to move away from. I have a feeling this report is accurate, so I'm just going to set aside $19 now.

The 512 Holiday Gift Guide for People Like Me

It's that time of year, so I'm happy to present the 512 Pixels Holiday Gift Guide for People Like Me:

On Backup.app

Backups always come up this time of year. If you're at home visiting family, it's your Nerd Duty to make sure your family members have something in place to keep their data safe.

There are lots of good options out there today, but back in the early 2000s, that wasn't true. If you were a .Mac subscriber, though, Apple's Backup.app made data duplication easier than it had been previously. You didn't even have to download the app; you could install it right from your iDisk folder.

There were three major versions of Backup.app; that screenshot is from version 3, which was by far the most useful.

(Version 2's headline feature? Support for FireWire drives.)

The app came with several preset backup solutions:

  • Back up your Home Folder to either a local disk (daily) or optical disk (monthly)
  • Back up personal data to iDisk daily
  • Back up iLife data to optical disk weekly
  • Back up iTunes library to optical disk monthly

Each of these four options could be tweaked further, and Backup.app could be used to help restore data from the various destinations if needed.

The final option allowed for custom backups, mixing and matching files, destinations and frequency of the backup:

Backup.app could be used to copy data to a non-iDisk location without a .Mac subscription, but was limited to 100 MB per backup. It was really designed to be a park for users paying the $99/year fee.

Backup.app — while it runs under OS X El Capitan — is past its useful life. Time Machine shipped with OS X Leopard in 2007, making Backup.app less useful. By the time MobileMe was announced a year later, the writing was on the wall for this little utility.

Kbase Article of the Week: Mac OS: Rebuilding Desktop File and icon recovery

This is a classic tip for those who ran Mac OS 9 and earlier:

The Desktop file is an invisible file found in the main level of your hard disk in Mac OS 9 or earlier. It is the file that keeps track of all the documents and applications that are on your disk. System 7.0 and later versions use the invisible files named Desktop DB and Desktop DF.

Occasionally, your Desktop file may become too large or may become unusable. It is generally a good idea to rebuild your Desktop file once a month or so in Mac OS 9 or earlier.

iPad Pro in the classroom

Karan Varindani, on using an iPad Pro in college:

I can’t stress just how much the Apple Pencil increases the utility of the iPad Pro. Its precision turns the device into a true digital textbook and makes it incredibly easy to eliminate a lot of paper workflows in college. I’m typing all my comments in PDF Expert for now but as soon as the app gets updated for the Pencil I’ll start writing those out, simply for the increased memory retention of writing vs typing.

Connected #67: Being in Charge of a Space Rocket

I missed this week's Connected, but am listening to it now. It's a fun one:

This week, Federico talks about how he is changing his automation workflows with 1Writer and Workflow, and Myke talks about his Apple Pencil review.

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Blue Origin lands fired rocket safely

Jeff Bezos:

Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.

This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design. Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.

The video really is something. New Shepard launches, flies to the edge of the atmosphere, and after jettisoning its crew capsule, enter a free fall back to Earth to be slowed before landing by the same motor used at liftoff.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has been attempting to land its Falcon 9 rocket, but has yet to do it successfully. While SpaceX is ahead of Blue Origin in several key areas, yesterday's landing a big win for Bezos' company.

Both companies are working with NASA on its Commercial Crew program, which will have private companies flying astronauts to and from the International Space Station while the agency focuses on its Journey to Mars program.

Fan-built LEGO Saturn V enters production review

I've been keeping my eye on this LEGO Ideas project page for a while:

This year is the 45 years Apollo 11 Moon-landing anniversary.

What a perfect time to present you the Saturn-V rocket which took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon out of Lego!

The whole Lego rocket is about 1 meter/130 studs high (aprox. 1:110 scale), has 1179 bricks and lots of features:

  • removable 1st rocket-stage with the main rocket engine
  • removable 2nd rocket-stage with rocket engine
  • removable 3rd rocket-stage with the Apollo spacecraft
  • Apollo spacecraft with the "Eagle" Lunar Lander and the Lunar Orbiter
  • the rescue rocket on top of the whole spacecraft
  • two minifigure astronauts on the Moon for displaying

The project has reached 10,000 votes, meaning it will be considered by the toymaker for possible production.

Sign me up. I'd love to have this sitting next to my shuttle.

Liftoff #8: Halo of Junk

This week on Relay FM's only space-themed podcast, Jason and I talk about the not-so-impending doom facing Phobos and a bunch of other news before being joined by Emily Lakdawalla from The Planetary Society to discuss the future of solar system exploration.

My thanks to these sponsors: