#261 What Apple’s Sept Event Means for Archaeology

On September 9, 2015, Apple held their annual Fall product announcement event. They have so many product lines now that they didn’t spend the first 30 minutes talking about how awesome they are and how much money they’re making. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, just went right into new stuff. 

I’m not going to cover everything in this post - just the stuff I think is beneficial to archaeologists and archaeology. Honestly, though, if you found this post through non-archaeological means and you’re a field scientist, this stuff will still benefit you.

Apple Watch

Since it’s arrival in April, the Apple Watch (not the iWatch for some reason) has taken the wearables space by storm. It’s not as big as some of the competition and it’s not even as powerful as some, but, what it does do, it does with classic Apple style and grace.

The first iteration of the software, WatchOS 1, is quite functional. I use my Apple Watch for many of the small tasks that I used to pull my iPhone 6+ out for. Let’s be honest, the 6+ is a massive phone and pulling it out of your pocket or bag every time someone sends a Candy Crush invite can get a little annoying. Instead, I see the notification come over my Apple Watch and I either dismiss it or quickly respond to it. Quite handy. A word of warning to manners-conscious people: when you look at a silent notification that announced itself by simply lighting up the screen, others around you think that you’re looking at the time and are getting impatient. I tell people that it was a notification, not the time. We have to recondition the general public regarding watches and what they mean. They’re not just time-pieces any more.

OS2 isn’t a major upgrade since the hardware isn’t being upgraded, but, it does bring a few notable improvements.

Time Travel. On the face of the watch, you can now rotate the digital crown to advance all of the displays on the watch forward in time. This will show you upcoming calendar appointments, sunset/sunrise, and whatever else you have on the custom face that is temporally based.

Facebook Messenger. For many, Facebook Messenger has replaced text messaging. Especially for people that constantly talk to people outside of their own country and can’t text them at a reasonable cost. With WatchOS 1 messages display on the watch face but you can only dismiss them. You have to go to the phone to reply. Now, it’ll be built in and you can reply on the watch with a canned response or you can dictate to Siri for voice translation or a simple voice recording.

iTranslate. I’ve used Microsoft Translator before and iTranslate seems to do much the same thing with some really nice features. On the watch, you’ll be able to speak a phrase into the watch and see the translation on the face AND hear the translation as well. It’ll be great for all you world travelers out there, or, those that work in Boston or the deep South!

GoPro Control. This new OS will allow you to use the watch as a secondary display for certain GoPro cameras. You can set the device at a location and watch it from your watch. You can also start and stop recording. GoPro control isn’t too useful for archaeology, however, I’m thinking of other things you can do. For example, can you see the display on, and control, a pole-mounted DSLR camera for taking overviews of sites and features? That would be nice.

So, while some of these might not be directly beneficial, the technology behind them is. Other developers will come on board and do interesting things with the new features available to them and we’ll all benefit in the long run.


The iPad line got a chipset upgrade, as usual, and the prices mostly remained the same. The biggest announcement was the arrival of the iPad Pro. First, let’s get the specs out of the way:

  • 12.9 inch screen (measured diagonally)
      • 5.6 million pixels (more than a 15” MacBook Pro with Retina Display)
      • Variable refresh rate display: when things aren’t moving on the screen it slows the graphics processor down to save power)
    • A9x Processor
      • 1.8x faster than the current iPad.
      • Desktop class performance
      • Faster than 80% of the portable PCs on the market
      • Edit three screens of 4k video in iMovie with ease
    • 8MP iSight camera on the back
    • Dimensions
      • 6.9 mm thick (just a hair more than the current iPad Air 2)
      • 1.57 lbs (only 0.03 lbs more than the iPad Air 2)
    • New smart keyboard case ($169)
    • New stylus available ($99) called the Apple Pencil
      • Charges by plugging into the lightening connector on the iPad
    • Starts at $799

While I feel this iPad, and the iPad Air, are too big to carry around for survey in the hot desert sun (I prefer my iPad Mini to my iPad Air 2), this iPad is ideal for excavations and testing. With the Apple Pencil, you can draw amazing detail on profiles and overviews. Really, anything you can do on paper with a pencil, you can now do with the iPad Pro. The new processor will give it more power and developers will soon be coming out with traditionally desktop-only apps for use. This might just be a true PC-killer. I’ll update on functionality when mine gets here!


3D touch graphic.

3D touch graphic.

The iPhone 6S and 6S+ were announced and are available for pre-order on Saturday. They’ll be shipped on Sept 18, I believe.

The new iPhones both have the new A9 chip which makes them 70% faster on the CPUand 90% faster on graphics than the current models. The new M9 motion co-processor gives more accurate health and fitness data that is always on and Siri is also always listening now. Previous models required the phone to be plugged in to use “Hey Siri”. Now, though, she’s always listening.

The touch ID has been redesigned and is now much faster to respond. I have touch ID turned on for all my devices. Passcodes are easy to forget.

12MP camera!

12MP camera!

The biggest news for me is the back camera. It’s now 12MP and shoots 4K video! Yay! I can use it for the NV BLM (10MP camera requirement)!

The new phones also have Force Touch, or, 3D touch, similar to the Apple Watch. It lets you gain a lot more functionality when tapping on your phone. You can "peek" in an app by pressing down a little bit harder than normal. If you hold long enough the app will "pop" into place. Pretty slick and I can see many applications for archaeology. For example, having a dynamic site map where you can force touch artifacts and features to get more info.

Pricing is the same as it’s been for years with the 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB pricing at 199-299-399 for the 6S and 299-399-499 for the 6S+.

So, do you NEED to upgrade? Well, that depends on use. If you’re devices are doing what they need to do, then no. If you have an older device then you might want to just because apps will stop working at some point on older devices.

If you do replace your old iPad or iPhone, do the responsible thing and sell it to Gazelle. They’ll either refurbish it and resell it or they’ll responsibly destroy and recycle it. And, you’ll get a few dollars in your pocket. They even pay for shipping.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!

#182 Catastrophic Failure, or, Have Some Coffee


(Note: I've received a weird and bewildering amount of criticism for this post regarding the mention of  "Apple" and other corporate logos. If you've ever read a tech blog then you know you have to mention the hardware and software used or it's meaningless. This post was simply intended to mention that backups and cloud servers can save your ass in the short term. I'm not endorsing any particular system or method. Do what works for you. On to the post.) 

Thursday morning I opened up my computer, like I do most days, and sat down to see who the NSA was listening too, what craziness the Texas School Board was trying to promote, and how many faith-based laws conservatives were trying to force on everyone. So, pretty much a normal day in America.

I’d stepped away from my computer to get some coffee and when I came back it was on the login screen. Must have restarted. So, I logged in and the desktop came back normally. I decided to run Disk Utility and “repair permissions” just to make sure everything was still running smoothly. The program said it couldn’t complete the task because there was an error and that I’d have to reboot into a special disk utility program to continue.

Before I go on, I have a 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 750GB hard drive, and 16GB of 1333 MHz DDR3 memory.

So, I used the boot screen disk utility and it gave me the same error. Said there was a problem and that I’d have to boot from a backup or a disk. Shit. I tried to just restart the computer so I could do some online research. Wouldn’t get past the spinning wheel of death prior to the login screen without shutting itself down. Damn.

I took the computer to the Apple store since they will usually help you with your Apple products even if you didn’t buy them there or if they are out of the warranty period. They ran a diagnostic on it and the hard drive failed it. That was pretty much it. Hard drive failure. It cost me $200 to have it replaced.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience. Why am I not more pissed?

First, hard drives, or anything, really, don’t usually fail on Apple computers. I have a 2007 13 inch MacBook that runs 24 hours a day in my library. It is there solely to wirelessly connect to our 2TB external hard drive and give us access to the movies, TV shows, and other media we have stored on there. It allows those things to be displayed on our Apple TV. So, I’m not mad at Apple. Things fail.

Second, I had everything backed up and/or stored in the cloud.

Time Machine Backup

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My primary line of defense goes back to that 2TB external hard drive. I use an Apple App called Time Machine (comes with every computer) to wirelessly back up my data every hour or so. It doesn’t do a full backup every hour, just the changes from the last one. That allows me to go back in time on a single folder and restore files I deleted months ago. I have just under 500GB of data on my Mac and the backup takes up about 350 GB thanks to compression.

182 Dropbox.jpeg

The Cloud and All It’s Silver Linings

Also, ALL of my business data, templates, reports, references, accounting, logos, whatever, is stored on an upgraded, 100GB, DropBox account. When I get a little more money I’ll probably switch to Carbonite. Haven’t done that yet, though.

I also have a massive amount of data and notes stored in Evernote. I use Evrnote for keeping track of business contacts, business development, and a variety of other things. I also have a few things stored in Google Drive but I don’t use it much since it’s only 5GB.

182 Evernote.jpeg

Well, I picked up the laptop yesterday morning at 10am when the store opened. I was home by 1015 and I started the restore process. Since I restored it from the time machine backup over my wifi network it took about nine hours. If I’d done it while plugged in to the drive it would have taken half that time. However, I needed the day to catch up on blog reading and to do a little research so I let it run.

When the restore finished I looked through my computer. Everything was exactly how I’d left it. Even the desktop wallpaper was restored. I had almost 7,000 songs in my iTunes App and they all came back too. Although, the songs came back because I subscribe to iTunes Match from Apple. All of my songs, including ones they don’t sell, are stored on Apple servers for me to access from any device anywhere in the world.

I also had over 12,000 pictures from the past 10+ years in my Aperture App. They all came back too.

182 Carbonite.jpeg

For years I’ve been telling people to back up their stuff because you never know. Well, since I use Apple products this is the first time I’ve ever had to use a backup. I’ll admit that I was somewhat skeptical and didn’t really know how much was going to come back. I thought that maybe just the user data and some app data would come back but that I’d have to do all the software upgrades from the past two years again or that I’d have to re-download software that I’ve installed. Nope. It’s all just there.

So, store as much as you can in the cloud and have a backup. The only thing I’d change about my set up is that my primary backup is in my house. Ideally it should be somewhere else just in case the house burns down. Of course I’d still have my cloud data so I’d be fine, but, it would be nice to have the backup. That’s what Carbonite does for you. It’s an online service that you backup  your computer to. It’s not cheap, but, it’s better than losing everything.

182 Baileys.jpeg

OK. Time to prepare for the CRM Archaeology Podcast Episode 10 recording and get some more coffee with Bailey’s! I can do that because my computer is just fine…

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!