Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for April 29th, 2021

Spring

Where I live, my balcony overlooks most of the financial hub of the city. Calgary has the greatest amount of office space per capita of any city in Canada — and, right now, it is lifeless. Has been for over a year. Every now and again, I spot someone walking around one of the floors of the building nearest me, perhaps a member of the maintenance staff or someone coming in to grab a file. Mostly, though, there are only artifacts of the people who used to work there. Some of them have settled into their home offices; some have perhaps been laid off.

I am one of the lucky ones who gets to work from home. I cannot complain. But my apartment gives me a high-level view of the still bizarre and difficult circumstances we are living through.

Calgary’s city centre is in a river valley; the majority of residential areas are on the high hills surrounding it. Off in the distance, behind rows of houses, I can see the airport. On a nice evening, I used to sit on the balcony while reading or writing, keeping one eye on the planes. Every couple of minutes there would be another arrival or departure. It was warm this evening; I stood on the balcony with a glass of wine and stared at the airport, and it stared quietly back. It was a long time before I saw an arrival.

Today was a nice summer-like day, particularly after last week’s wintry conditions. It was also the day we recorded the highest number of new cases and the highest total active cases in Alberta since this pandemic began.

The extremes of spring weather in Calgary sure feel like a metaphor for how things are going. The end of this pandemic seems to be in sight as people get vaccinated. The warm days are going to encourage people to spend less time indoors where viral particles suspended in airborne droplets spread and infect. Before we get to the end, we have to get through this new wave of infections — and it is kicking our ass.

There was this great metaphor that I am sure someone tweeted a little while ago, and I cannot find any record of it. It has been stuck in my head for weeks now, and I thought of it while looking out at the airport tonight. It goes something like this: pilots who are disoriented or lost will often be so distracted by trying to figure out where they are that, by the time they have their bearings again, they are at risk of fuel starvation.1

I hope this does not come across as aloof. I have a very comfortable life, all things considered. I get to work from home and I do not have to spend time around people very often, so it can be easy to forget the global emergency we are living through — only to be jolted back to reality. As I was heading back to my apartment after dropping some laundry off, the elevator stopped on another floor. The door opened to reveal someone in a hazmat suit. I found out there is a positive case on that floor.

The warmth of spring feels fake, like a lie nature is telling to distract from the turmoil and suffering and fatigue and loss. I know that something close to normalcy is perhaps months away, and I may be vaccinated within weeks. But the distance between here and there will be measured in deaths as much as it will be in doses. The statistics in this province have never been more alarming and the future has never felt so reassuring. I feel like I am living in a paradox.


  1. If you know who tweeted this, please get in touch. I would like to give them credit. ↩︎

L’Affaire du Magic Keyboard

Nicolas Furno, writing for iGeneration last week and translated by Google:

While the 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro is broadly similar to the 2018 and 2020 models, the new tablet stands out on one point: it’s thicker, at precisely 0.5mm. It might not sound like much, but it’s enough for Apple to adjust its Magic Keyboard, the iPad Pro’s dedicated trackpad keyboard. And according to the documentation provided to the Apple Stores that we have been able to consult, the old Magic Keyboard is not compatible with the large iPad Pros of 2021.

Documentation apparently supplied to Apple Stores and independently confirmed by the Verge indicated that the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro would be incompatible with the Magic Keyboard released last year. The new iPad Pro is just a hair thicker — or, if you want to be precise, somewhere between six and twenty-eight human hairs thicker.

Predictably, there was much frustration about this, and why not? The Magic Keyboard is a $350 accessory that makes a huge difference in the functionality of an iPad Pro, so you would expect it to last longer than a single generation of product. Plus, one of the advantages of making the keyboard separate from the computer — unlike, say, a laptop — ought to be that you can make major upgrades to one part while not making the keyboard redundant. On the other hand, if the difference in thickness has such a significant effect, why would Apple sell a poorly-fitting Magic Keyboard for a year? And how many people upgrade their iPad Pro every year anyway?

Well it turns out that many of those frustrated posts were in vain, as an Apple support document spotted by Chris Ball today made clear:

The first generation of the Magic Keyboard (A1998) is functionally compatible with the new iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation) with Liquid Retina XDR display. Due to the slightly thicker dimensions of this new iPad Pro, it’s possible that the Magic Keyboard may not precisely fit when closed, especially when screen protectors are applied.

Last week, Matt Birchler tried to understand how much of an impact the size and weight difference of the new model may have on his 2020 Magic Keyboard:

To test out the difference, I took a few sheets of printer paper, which happen to be almost exactly the size of the 12.9” iPad Pro, and stacked 7 of them on top of each other, closed the Magic Keyboard, and checked the fit.

The thing closed perfectly, and frankly didn’t feel any different from what it feels like without the additional thickness.

I guess we will see how true this is when reviewers get their hands on the new iPad Pro but, if you are one of the rare few upgrading your last-generation model immediately, I do not think there is cause for concern. The white one sure looks nice, though.