Category Archives: Reality Distortion Field

Apple and Mac related stuff.

Apple Vision Pro

Anyone still reading this blog (👋) knows Apple entered the AR/VR market with a very expensive headset called Apple Vision Pro. The don’t call it that nor “Mixed Reality”. They call it “Spatial Computing”, maybe it catches on.

Being the absolute sucker for gadgets that I am, and more specifically slick and shiny Apple gadgets, I drove yesterday to the Apple Store to sign up for a ~25 minute demo. Here’s my experience, I’m sure you’re dying to read about it.

The line outside of Apple Domain Northside wasn’t long like in the old iPhone days before preorders became a thing, but possibly the longest since. There were two lines: one for those picking up their preorders and one for those signing up for demos. Thankfully all you had to do is sign up, get a slot, and come back later for it. Later Apple allowed people to sign up online BUT I HAD TO BE FIRST.
Employees getting the finishing touches in their training before opening time.

So I went home, finished my coffee, got work done, had lunch with my kids at school, got more work done… and finally: demo time.

Apple Vision Pro in its glorious pristine display glory. They had a guy guarding the display who would politely ask me to stop touching it and then proceed to wipe it clean.

The fact that Apple will let you spend half an hour on a demo is notable. I don’t know how long this will be the case, but they put an enormous effort into this. Surely they know they’ll have people buying it on the spot because it’s so darn cool, but I suspect they are also banking on schmucks posting about it on Social Media (or a few old-timers writing a blog post… in 2024!). Good investment, I think.

Apple even had special couches made for the demos and little trays to bring out the headset. They have a machine to measure your prescription glasses (if applicable) so they can bring out the corresponding Zeiss lenses. Lots of work.

On to the device itself.

Apple Vision Pro is impressive hardware. It has all sorts of cameras and sensors facing out to the world around you, facing down to your mouth and hands, facing in to record your eyes. LIDAR, speakers, tons of processing, a 4K display for each eye… it’s crazy.

Once you put it on and tighten it, the device adjusts the screens to match the distance between your eyes. This is motorized and really surprised me! Then you see the world around you as if you were seeing it through glasses. But it’s actually the screens. I’ve tried several other AR and VR devices (1, 2, 3, 4) in the past and let me tell you – they are nice tries but do not compare.

This headset works just like you would imagine it. You can barely make out the pixels. The outside world looks convincingly real, as opposed as if it was coming through a screen door and everything is ever-so-slightly laggy, making you ever-so-slightly sick.

You start out by calibrating eye tracking. This is done by looking at dots presented around you and making a pinching motion with your index and thumb whenever you put your eyes on the dot. And this is how you use it for the most part: Look at something instead of “moving the mouse”. Move your fingers instead of “clicking”. It works.

Well, there’s a “digital crown” (like the Apple Watch) and you use this to bring up the Home screen with all the icons for the app. After that, it’s basically like using an iPad but you can have multiple windows for multiple apps and you can move them around. And wherever you place them, they stay there, solidly put even if you move around. Very well done.

Now some quick impressions:

  • I could see a bit of the real world under the headset. In order to make that go away, I made it tighter which helped but didn’t cover it completely. Maybe I got the wrong light seal, maybe my nose is too big. Or both.
  • It gets warm after a while.
  • Audio quality of the built-in speakers is excellent. Things sound like they are where you see them.
  • There is an outwards facing screen that doesn’t seem very useful and even feels a bit creepy. I don’t think it’s worth the cost and weight and will probably be gone in the next generation. But then again, Apple tends to double down on things for a while so who knows (Touch Bar?).
  • The UI is easy to use. You look at something and you pinch. You can flick to scroll, you can move things around. I realized in the demo that I use peripheral vision on my Mac/iPad for a lot of things and that won’t work here.
  • You can twist the digital crown to go in and out of “immersion mode” which replaces the real world you are in with a scene from a place you probably would rather be in. The visual quality is crazy and the immersion is 360 degrees. Wow.
  • They keyboard is better than I expected, but I wouldn’t type much on it. Get a bluetooth keyboard for work or use dictation for longer things.
  • 3D movies look really, really good. Better than a 3D TV (RIP) or in a movie theater. And you can make them to look as big as in a movie theater! They showed a clip from The Super Mario Bros. Movie which was a bit of a surprise. I would have expected something from Pixar!
  • I was not allowed to watch the few spatial movies I’ve recorded with my iPhone. Bummer. But the ones they demoed look cool as heck.
  • Panoramas look even better. The photo surrounds you completely. I have a lot of panoramas taken in stadiums that I’d love to see.
  • They have something called Apple Immersive Video. It’s like a super-sharp 3D Omnimax. They showed 3 seconds of a soccer match and I laughed out loud it is so cool. Broadcasts like these would be a game changer.
  • People complain about the field of vision. I didn’t even notice it nor think about it until after the demo, so there’s that.
  • I went off-script and asked to try the famous Encounter Dinosaurs app which was present but not part of the demo. The 3D rendering is all live, the dinosaur follows your gaze and moves if you try to touch it, and it looks super realistic. I flinched like an idiot when it turned and almost hit me with its tail.

The Mac was not the first computer with a mouse and windows, but it was the first to get it right and now all computers work like the Mac. The iPhone was not the first phone with a touchscreen, but it was the first to get it right and now all phones work like the iPhone. The Apple Watch was not the first smart watch, but it is still the only good one? I think a similar thing may happen with the Apple Vison Pro. Companies have been trying to do consumer VR since the 90s and they’ve gotten close. But this really feels like they got it right.

At $3,500, it’s hard to think this will reach mass market. This is clearly a first generation product. Painfully, I am not going to be buying one for now. Remember, it’s $3500 but you have to factor in the price for the case, the extra memory capacity, Apple Care Plus, and the divorce. But as they refine it and bring down cost, weight, and size… it will be hard to resist.

Regardless of whether you think this is the future of computing or not, or the social implications of sticking a computer up your face… this thing is a super impressive technological achievement from just about every angle. And I hope it’s just the beginning since I’m a sucker of slick gadgets. If you can, go check it out.


I was not allowed to use FaceTime during the demo. You may wonder how you can FaceTime if you have a computer directly on your face rather than a camera looking at you.

Well, this thing has mutliple cameras looking at you. The way they made this work is by creating a 3D representation of yourself and using the cameras looking at your eyes, hands, and mouth to animate this 3D representation to match your movement. Reviewers are panning it so my expectations were low.

What do you know, one of my better looking friends got his Apple Vision Pro on day one and called me. While it looked obviously fake and well within the Uncanny Valley, I thought it was fairly acceptable. The motion well synchronized and the model is fairly expressive. You just get used to it. I can see this getting better with time and I am unsure (like with the whole device) if it will catch on. We shall see.

It looks better in motion, but I won’t post a clip because our conversation was deep and private.

Apple Music Sing

This new Apple Music feature just came out with iOS 16.2. I played with it for a second.

It works suprisingly well. I tried it on old songs in both Spanish and Hebrew. Impressive!

It looks like you can use Apple Music Sing on millions of songs. Which means voice removal is not a manual re-mixing effort but rather a clever automated process. Back in the day, karaoke software removed voices by filtering frequency ranges where most of the voice content usually falls. The result sucked, naturally.

This is another area in which Machine Learning allows computers to do things that were impossible for computers to do. I played with a Open Source TensorFlow based Python Library called Spleeter a while ago. It worked great.

I bet Apple is using something similar. I would also bet Apple is using ML for Speech Recognition in order to get the timing of the lyrics just right on songs that support this feature.

Cool stuff.

iPhone 14 Pro impressions

As in every year, I upgraded my phone. Here are some of the things that stand out to me so far and may not be covered by all the reviews done by pros.


It’s brighter. This is in the specs and it was mentioned in the announcement. But I haven’t heard anyone talk much about it and few factor this in when making purchasing decisions

It makes a big difference. Specifically when I’m outdoors – either when recording video at one of my kids’ soccer games or reading news during their practice. This is a pretty good quality of life improvement.

The always-on display is neat and still something I’m getting used to.


The camera is the main excuse I tell myself for upgrading every year. The phone is the only camera I use nowadays and I want my photos to be as good as they can reasonably be. I’m quite happy with what I’ve seen so far.

Low light performance

Low-light performance is a lot better. When taking the same photo with an iPhone 14 Pro and an iPhone 12 Pro at a bar, the iPhone 14 Pro took it in about 0.5 seconds (dark mode) vs the ~3 seconds it took on the older iPhone. And the photo came out better.

48 Megapixels Raw

Every match I go to at Q2 Stadium, I take a photo with the field behind me. This is a textbook challenging photo: Lots of bright light behind the main subjects.

As an experiment, last game I set the camera to take 48 Megapixels ProRAW, then I played with the colors on Pixelmator Pro for all of 5 minutes – something I have little experience with.

Compared with a similar photo taken using regular settings on an iPhone 13 Pro, the difference is striking. I assume the difference would be less had I taken ProRAW photo with the iPhone 13 Pro and I get it that this is a one-off cherry-picked result. But still…

Taken with iPhone 13 Pro.
Taken as 48 Megapixel ProRAW on iPhone 14 Pro, then tweaked using Pixelmator Pro.
iPhone 13 Pro detail
iPhone 14 Pro (ProRAW) detail

Action Mode

The video camera setting that removes shaking… it’s wild. I used it while recording my kid’s soccer game and it looks like I’m on a tripod. Really cool.

I made the video smaller than the original recording, which already trades off some resolution in order to do the stabilization. But see how smooth it is…


It’s a bit faster and smoother overall. Enough that you can feel it but not enough that it makes a huge difference. You really notice if you go back to an older phone though.


Dynamic Island

It’s a nice feature and I’d rather have it than not. But it’s not earth-shattering. Maybe as it gains uses once third parties update their apps to take better advantage of it.

Apple Watch band stains

This happened to my watch. My niece Joelle called it years ago: she told me to buy the black one because the white one would get stained.

I bought my second Apple Watch with a white sports band. Recently I noticed strange staining / discoloration on the strap:

It didn’t occur to me until today, exactly a day before the warranty expires, that Apple had a similar problem a long time ago: White MacBooks suffered from palm rest discoloration, and Apple fixed that free of charge! (my dad’s had the issue, but mine didn’t).

So I took it to the store… not covered.

Then I remembered the tip floating around back then for the MacBook issue: use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser! I’m happy to report that it truly is magical and it worked like a charm. Hopefully this tip helps someone around the internet one day.

White sport band back to its white self.

Basic HTTP access authentication in Workflow app

I’m a newbie to Workflow, the super powerful automation app for iOS that was recently acquired by Apple. I’ve known for a while that there’s some useful things I could do with it, but I haven’t had the time to sit down and play around with it.

Today I did, and my workflow required getting the contents of a URL that uses Basic HTTP Access Authentication. Since it took me a little while to figure out how to do it and didn’t find much help online, I decided to write a post and help the next poor soul to run into this.


Basic HTTP Authentication as seen on Safari.

The way Basic Access Authentication works is that the client (usually a web browser but in my case the Workflow app) sends the user name and password as part of the HTTP headers.

The nice little explanation on HttpWatch also has a handy little demo. You go this URL and use “httpwatch” as user name and anything you want as password. It displays an image containing the info you entered.

I created a workflow that hard codes the user name, asks you to enter a password, and then gets the image and shows it. It should be easy enough to use a starting point for your own workflow. You can download it here:


AirPods review


AirPods,  Apple’s latest foray into Bluetooth audio.

I’ve had a life long addiction to gadgets. And I’ve had several Bluetooth headsets.

For exercise: a few from the same line as the Motorola S10-HD (pros: they stay put while I run and they don’t break from my sweat; cons: extremely uncomfortable and mediocre sound).

For other things: several different LG neckbuds (pros: decent sound, comfortable; cons: uncomfortable in bed and make you look like an a**hole).

More recently for exercise: cheap TaoTronics (pros: cheap and light; cons: awkward because heavier on one side, need to constantly adjust while running).

So when I saw the AirPods announcement I knew I wanted them, but I didn’t know that I wanted them $160 bad. Regardless, when the preordering system went live, I set up an alarm to place the order… I can always cancel before they ship, right?

A few weeks later, I got an email saying they are about to ship and they’d arrive on… the same day I’m leaving to Mexico for two weeks. I knew I didn’t want them to sitting outside my door for two weeks. I had to cancel even though at this point I did want them. At this point the thing is backordered 3 months.

In Monterrey I went to the local mall. As I’m walking by the MacStore I casually ask if they had them in stock. What do you know? Score! They had 10 units (should have bought more for Craigslisting) at the same price as in the U.S.

First impressions

These things are slick. The case has a nice feel to it with a solid magnetic latch. As expected, the packaging is nice. You first take them out of the box, open the case, and boom! a little popup on my iPhone comes up asking me to pair. I did not have to wait several seconds, press any buttons, go into Bluetooth Settings, look at spinning wheels. Nothing. It just worked.

This is light years ahead compared to any other Bluetooth pairing experience. Someone finally got it right.

Other products

Even cooler, once I paired with my phone, the things just started showing up on my list of Airplay speakers on my iPad, Mac, and even watch.  If I want to switch which device I’m listening to, I just have to select it from the device itself. This compares with my other Bluetooth headsets for which I need to put them in pairing mode and go to Bluetooth Settings and select them every single time. Death by a thousand paper cuts.


Without doing comprehensive side-by-side testing, they appear to be comparable if not a little better than Apple’s EarPods which I think are perfectly adequate for most uses. They sound better than any of my previous Bluetooth headphones.

The microphone also seems to be very high quality in my limited testing, and it works well in noisy environments.

So, not audiophile quality but perfect for casual listening.


One of the worries I had is that they’d keep falling off. They don’t. These things are very light, and since there’s no cable adding weight or tugging, they stay put.

They are very comfortable, but maybe my ears just happened to be perfectly shaped for them. If you like the headphones that came with your recent iPhone, then you’ll like these. Added plus: listening in bed is great. With neckbuds you have the pillow pushing the thing to your neck and the blinking light distracting you in the dark. None of that here.

Another thing I really like is that the case is smaller than expected, so you can keep them in your pocket. This was not really possible with any of the Bluetooth headphones I had before. Yet another little but really useful perk.


The controls are very limited. You can double tap to bring up Siri (configurable to Play/Pause in the iPhone settings). You take one out while listening and it pauses, put it back on and it continues (cool!).

But that’s it. If you want volume control, next/previous, or anything else you need to go to the phone. Or, if you have an Apple Watch you can go to the Now Playing Dock Item. This is actually very convenient and it shows that the more money you sink into the Apple ecosystem, the better things work together… but then you’re bankrupt.

I wish there were better controls, even if they are better voice commands. This is the biggest drawback with AirPods so far.


I’ll stick with my cheap TaoTronics. I don’t like the prospects of a $70 tiny AirPod flying off my ear or my pig-like sweat drenching them dead. Maybe one day they can use the little speaker to push water out.


These are the best wireless headphones I’ve owned. That’s good, because they are also the most expensive. I’m taking them to work every day and I don’t look horrendously goofier than usual.

iPhone extreme sports

True story from this morning:

I got in the car in order to leave for work. I had my laptop in its bag and my giant coffee mug. I opened the driver side door to throw them in, then went around, got in the car and drove to the office.

As I was driving, I noticed my phone wasn’t in my pocket and I couldn’t see it. However, thanks to the magic of Apple Watch I could see that it was in range. So I dropped it and it’s under the seat or something.

On the first stoplight I used the nifty “make iPhone ping” feature from the watch. I could hear it, but faintly. So maybe it’s under the rug or something? I couldn’t find it. Second and third stoplights were the same. So I decided to wait until I park at work.

When I parked, I opened the door so I can better crawl under the seats. Ping – and now I could hear it loud and clear. What the hell?

And there it was:IMG_0003


I bought the case with the following criteria in mind:

  • good looking
  • thin
  • inexpensive
  • transparent
  • rubbery (not hard)
  • protects the front of the phone

I never added “good car paint grip” to the list. Got lucky.

In case you care or plan on letting your phone air out while you drive down the highway, this is the case (Amazon) that saved me from re-purchasing a $750+tax brand new phone.

ITESM in today’s Apple Event

ITESM @ Apple Event

Many of you may have heard about an Apple Event earlier today in which OS X Yosemite launched, new iPads were released, and an impressive iMac with a 5k Retina Display came out.

What you may have heard is the brief screen time my Alma Mater, ITESM (a.k.a. Tecnológico de Monterrey) got while Craig Federighi was talking about Apple’s new programming language Swift (they are also mentioned in this page if you follow the link).

I wonder who’s teaching the course.

Spotted by Nathan B.