Latest Comic : Wednesday, February 14. 2018

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Total lunar eclipse of 2018 (Super Blue Blood Moon)

25-photo composite of the 31 January 2018 total lunar eclipse (16% size)

The first total lunar eclipse of this year was an interesting one in that it was a so-called "Super Blue Blood Moon". The visible size is the largest, so it's a Supermoon. It's the second full Moon of the month, so it's a Blue Moon. The Moon hidden behind the Earth's shadow during the eclipse looks reddish, so it's a Blood Moon. This was the first such occurrence seen in Korea since December 1982, so it's not common.

The sky was pretty cloudy all the way to the late evening yesterday, so I had nearly given up on seeing it. But I was in luck and the clouds had started clearing up soon after the eclipse had started. So I hurriedly got my Sony camera and a tripod out to catch the event. It had only half a charge left, but I managed to photograph the progress for two hours, including the deepest point occurring around 22:29. I think it turned out fine - here's the composite photo showing the progress of the eclipse in 5-minute interval.

Device: Sony A5000 + SELP1650 (E PZ 16–50 mm F3.5–5.6 OSS)
Settings: 50mm - ISO 100 - 2s - f/5.6
Filters: None
Time: 2018-01-31 21:40-23:40 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
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Apple Garosugil - Apple's first Korean store

Apple Garosugil, 08:52AM, January 27, 2018

Apple's very first retail store in Korea, "Apple Garosugil" was slated to officially open on 10:00AM, January 27, 2018, after nearly two years of leaked rumours and construction. Being an Apple fan, I had to take a peek, and so I took a high-speed train to Seoul from Naju early in the morning.

I arrived about 70 minutes before the opening, but the lines were already long - I was about 170m away from the store entrance when I lined up. With the temperature below 10 degrees celsius, me and everyone else were bracing freezing winds. As 10AM approached, length of the line had more than doubled, reflecting the great interest.

Waiting to enter the store, 10:11AM

About ten minutes after the opening, I was able to come up to the front of the store. Little did I know I had to wait 40 minutes more to actually enter. Still, everything was orderly, if a bit crowded. It was certainly worth the wait if you're into Apple stuff. Enjoy the photos of the store that follows.
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Server now on iMac and macOS High Sierra

New iMac 21.5" 2017, freshly booted and ready to replace Mac mini 2012

The venerable Mac mini 2012, which took over the job of the server from the iMac 2008 in February 2013, showed signs of its age two months ago, refusing to boot due to corrupted Fusion Drive. I was able to remedy the problem, but I thought it may be a good time to move over to a new system. Seeing that Apple has not updated Mac mini in three years (and frankly, the 2014 edition was not an upgrade many had hoped for) I decided to return to using an iMac.

The iMac 21.5" 2017 was able to smoothly take over the Mac mini last month, but for some reason the system came equipped with macOS Sierra (10.12) instead of High Sierra (10.13) which was already a month old at the time. So I applied an extra caution and checked carefully that the apps I ran were compatible before manually upgrading. Finally, I made the switch to High Sierra today. It seems everything is functioning as expected.
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On Apple Maps update of South Korea region

Apple Maps showing Naju Bitgaram City area - 2014, 2015, and 2017 edition (left to right, click to enlarge)

One of the sore spots in using an Apple device (iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch in particular) in Korea was the Apple Maps. Sure, you could use the natively developed map apps from the likes of Kakao or Naver, but regular apps using map function generally resort to the default Apple Maps data, leading to sub-par experience.

This had largely to do with the lack of map updates. When Apple Maps initially launched in September 2012, map data for Korea was sparse at best. It then received a major update in March 2014 that looked more complete at a first glance. However, delving into details revealed that the actual map data was from around latter half of 2012. This was clearly evident for Bitgaram City as you can see above. Roads weren't completed until 2013, and Apple Maps had much of the major roads missing.

Apple Maps showing Gwangju's Juwol-dong area - 2014, 2015, and 2017 edition (left to right, click to enlarge)

Interestingly, there was another map update for Korea in April 2015. It showed all the major roads in Bitgaram City, as well the street of Juwol-ro in Gwangju that was completed in early 2015. This meant that the map was quite up to date at the time, but you could see it only if you were outside South Korea. The Korean server for the iOS Apple Maps that sends the data to users within the borders never received the update, leaving the Korean users with severely outdated map for several years. The screen caps shown here were made while I was on a trip to Mongolia a few months ago.

I actually asked Apple's technical support about this issue back in June. Sadly, no resolutions came out of this even though the staff did acknowledge the problem. Then, out of the blue, Apple Maps received yet another major update for South Korea yesterday afternoon. The new map data was fairly recent - judging from the building data, it seemed to be from early to mid 2017.

3D Map-enabled view of the eastern Bitgaram City

Speaking of which, yes, there were now outlines of most of the buildings. This didn't exist for South Korea before this update. The building data also contain height information, which enabled this nice flyover-style view of the map in 3D. With the updated road and building information, I felt that it finally became good enough for in-app uses, such as location-based arrangement of photos in the Photos app. With a few more feature additions and beefing up of POI data, it should be good enough for stand-alone uses as well.
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The state of HomeKit in iOS 10

Apple HomeKit platform goes back to iOS 8. It was not very fleshed out at the time, needing more polishing over the years. Last notable change to HomeKit was made in 10.2, which enabled device notifications. This, along with other improvements in iOS 10, led me to think that HomeKit was finally in a "usable" state. Thus I have invested in the HomeKit ecosystem since early April of this year, around when iOS 10.3.1 came out.

As I gathered enough tangible material to share, I did a 5-part write-up of my HomeKit experience, spanning sensors, lighting, and energy control. I felt that my 5-month experience in a non-American environment may be of use to many people who are considering the platform.

1. Moving to Apple HomeKit with Elgato Eve
2. Philips Hue adds light to the HomeKit setup
3. Controlling 220V Power & Light with HomeKit
4. How much power does HomeKit use?
5. On installing and configuring HomeKit lighting


But now, big changes are coming in the coming weeks. Most notably, the GM(Golden Master, finished version) of iOS 11 will come out in two weeks, as Apple's new iPhone announcement will be made on September 12, 2017. It will contain significant improvements for HomeKit. As noted in the 5th post, Philips will expand the range of Hue products that will be recognized in HomeKit. Elgato has announced five new HomeKit products including lock and smoke detector.

All this means that my iOS 10-based HomeKit write-up should be wrapped up at this point. I'll come back to this topic as the dust settles and I had my hands on the new features and products.

Copyright (C) 1996-2016 Wesley Woo-Duk Hwang-Chung. All rights reserved.