Why do I have a free day today? Easter edition

In my ongoing effort to explain to people who are not used to continental-European and/or religious holidays, I’m going to explain the Easter holidays. I’m not a Christian so there may be some inaccuracies (unintentional or not) in the story. If you are easily offended, you may want to read something else.

The story starts 2000 or so years ago in Jeruzalem. The Romans had occupied Judea and their policy was clear: if you are with us, we treat you badly, and when you are against us, we kill you. This policy lives on at United Airlines. The prefect of the region at the time was Pontius Pilot who probably had a side-job at that airline.

The people of Judea were not entirely happy. One of the beliefs of Judaism is that at some point a Messiah will come and save peoples souls, or something. People longed for some relief and left and right people showed up saying they were the Messiah. In many cases they were harmless fouls, but some managed to get quite a following. One of the latter category was a carpenter who went by the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not so much of a problem while he was making tables and chairs in some stupid village away from the masses, but then he decided to go to Jeruzalem.

The problem of rabble-rousers with a following is that you can’t easily kill them. The Romans would need at least some “evidence” to convict him for something. Luckily (for the Romans), one of Jesus’ disciples, a guy named Judas, came forward and in exchange for 30 silver coins he betrayed Jezus. Jezus was arrested for claiming to be a king and therefore questioning the Roman occupation. Then the story becomes a bit unclear. The Bible sort of suggests that Pontius P. was reluctant to sentence Jezus because it would cause unrest. He decided to ask the people to choose who should be sentenced: Jesus Barabbas (a murderer) or Jesus Christ (a loud-mouth). The people (read: the Jews) chose Christ. (While checking references I found that, confusingly, the first name of Barabbas was also Jesus).

This part of the story is quite controversial. After Jesus’ death the movement continued to grow and spread to Rome. At first the Christians were persecuted and thrown before lions. Later the Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity. Until then Christianity was a religion without much of a structure. State support inevitably added bureaucracy and the need to agree on the stories. The result of this was the Bible. The Bible was not meant as an accurate telling of history, but as a political document that suited the rulers of the time. There were no women present (other than some prostitutes, probably) so they were conveniently reduced to a place were they couldn’t share in power (the kitchen). The Romans also had to decide who killed Jesus: the Romans or… somebody else? Spoiler alert: the Romans didn’t blame themselves. Blaming the death of Jesus on the Jews resulted in rampant anti-semitism in the last centuries and is still visible today.

In any case, Jesus was convicted and sentenced to death. Because European pharma companies were opposed to using their medicines for execution, it was done by crucifixion (which is actually a terrible way to die). They were also out of trucks or donkeys or whatever and Jesus had to carry his own cross through the streets to the place of execution. There he was nailed to it and died while singing always look on the bright side of life. After Jesus died he was buried in some cave. It is a bit weird to call this burying because that would imply he is underneath something (presumable some sand), but this is not the weirdest part of this story. A few days later some people went to the cave, opened it… and it turned out to be empty! First question: why would they go to the cave? Second question: why would they open it? Third question: where did Jesus go? Did they enter the right cave into their GPS? Did somebody pull a prank? No, Jesus must have resurrected. And with that Christianity was born.

The interesting thing is that everybody thinks Christmas is the most important Christian holiday, but it isn’t. Without the resurrection-bit Jesus would be just another Messiah who died prematurely. Christmas is a prequel added later on. Like the Star Wars prequels it has a lousy story and bad special effects. The importance of the crucifixion lives on in the cross that Christians wear. It makes you wonder, if Jesus had been poisoned, would everybody wear an Erlenmeyer?

How is this “celebrated” nowadays? The Table below gives some names for the various days (see also this blog post). In churches Easter is part of Holy Week. Palm Sunday (the week before Easter) is the day Jesus walked into Jeruzalem. People apparently waved with palm leaves, possibly for religious reasons, possibly just because it was hot. On Wednesday Jesus was betrayed by Judas. On Thursday he had his last supper (although he didn’t know that yet). Wikipedia doesn’t say when Jesus was arrested, but on Friday he is tried and executed. That is some quick justice. The day is called Good Friday, but the reason for that is not entirely clear to me. In some places this is commemorated by carrying crosses through the streets. In the Netherlands there are performances of the John/Matthew Passion by Bach. I thought Good Friday was a standard day off, but that turns out not to be the case, as I found out halfway the day. On Black Saturday all the shops have massive discounts (or am I confusing it with something else?). It is also the day Jesus was buried in a cave. On Easter Sunday Jesus resurrected. In the Netherlands (and in some other European countries) we have Second Easter day. This is to recover from eating too many Easter eggs and to do some furniture shopping. This is always a day off.

Of course, this all could be bullshit. In the same way that Christmas is really the old pagan festival to celebrate the shortest day of the year (off by a few days because the Christians were too busy persecuting astronomers), Easter is really the pagan celebration that winter is over.

There are no references to Easter eggs in the Bible. The eggs are the result of Lent. Lent is a fasting period that starts 40 days before Easter (which is preceded by Carnival (also not in the Bible)). People are not allowed to eat eggs during Lent, but chickens still lay eggs. At the end of Lent there is a massive amount of eggs that have to be eaten.

The Easter bunny, which may be a rabbit or a hare, was said to bring the eggs to children, but only if they behaved good. People also thought that rabbits/hares could reproduce without losing their virginity (which makes you wonder where the saying “they breed like rabbits” comes from), which makes an association to the Virgin Mary (the virgin part, not the breeding part).

There are two more holidays associated with Easter. The first is Ascension day, forty days after Easter. The disciples find zombie-Jezus who promptly decides to leave them again and go to heaven. Ascension day is always a Thursday and always a free day. Many people take the Friday off as well. Ten days later on Pentecost (or Whitsun) the Holy Spirit descends back to earth. This is always on a Sunday. To recover from this shocking event the Monday is a day off as well.

iPhone 6S review

When a colleague upgraded his iPhone a few years ago I was a bit of a killjoy. I told him that after 5 minutes of excitement it would dawn on him that it is just another phone. He reminded me of this when I showed him my new iPhone 6S, which replaced my iPhone 5. He was right now, and I was right then.

My first iPhone was the 3G, just after it arrived in Europe (and after I arrived in Switzerland). It was totally amazing — a computer in my pocket. After two years I upgraded to an iPhone 4. A big improvement, it was much faster and had a Retina screen. The iPhone 5 had a bigger screen while the phone didn’t get much larger — it was even much thinner and lighter.

For financial reasons (I didn’t have a job) I decided not the buy the 6 even before it was announced. I frowned on some of the decisions Apple made: keeping the same battery life while making it thinner, a larger screen, rearranged buttons and, worst of all, a camera lens that sticks out. Wasn’t that what we made fun of with Android phones?

Although it was easy not to buy the 6, it would be more difficult with the 6S. The 5 started to get old and too slow (for my taste). It sometimes wouldn’t recognize touches on the lower part of the screen — the part that you use to answer a phone call. It didn’t support the new content blockers in iOS 9. And I had a job so I could afford one. Despite my doubts I decided to buy the 64 GB Space Grey 6S. Here are some impressions after using it for a month or so.


The purchasing experience was both good and bad. I first ordered the via the online store so that it would be delivered. Unfortunately, this was with UPS. In the Netherlands most delivery companies offer the option to pick up a package at a pickup point (a store, supermarket or post office). For the three major ones there are pickup points within one kilometer of my home. UPS is not one of them. Do they seriously expect me to stay at home to accept the package? I have a job! That is why I could afford the phone in the first place! In the end I decided to cancel the online order and to pick one up in the store here in The Hague. I made an appointment, I walked in, paid and left. Done and done.

Setting up the phone

I had made an encrypted backup of the 5 in iTunes (locally, not in iCloud) so setting up the 6S was not too much of a hassle. It annoys me when Apple asks for the Apple ID password during setup. I store my passwords in 1Password and it is an annoyance to enter the long password by hand. Then you get the login for iCloud, the App Store etc. I mostly skipped them and used 1Password to enter them later.

Touch ID

Touch ID is the most brilliant addition to the iPhone since the introduction of the iPhone. Finger on the home button and voila, you’re in. My main complaint is that I still have to enter a passcode on my non-Touch ID iPad, like an animal.

Touch ID much on the 6S is much faster than on the 6. Some people mentioned they were used to glancing at the notifications while pressing the home button, but that this was not possible anymore. I definitely understand this. I turn almost all notification off (except for things where people try to reach me) and when there are notifications, I’m too late to see which app needs its settings changed.


First the positives: the phone feels like a quality product that is nice to hold. The weight is nicely balanced. After the 3G, 4 and 5 this is what I expect and Apple delivers. I’m not entirely happy though.

I don’t really care about the larger screen. The 5 had a taller screen (without making the phone much bigger) making space for the menu bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The screen of the 6 is just… bigger. I haven’t seen any apps that make good use of the space. There isn’t a 5th app in the dock. Tweetbot doesn’t have six tabs instead of five. When I want to read a book I still prefer my iPad. I’m writing this on my iPad, because the iPhone is still too cramped. It may be better on the 6S Plus, but I’m not going to walk with an aircraft carrier in my pocket. The downsides of the larger screen are obvious. Even with my large hands I can’t reach the top of the phone anymore. More than before I need to use the phone two-handed, or run the risk of it falling out of my hands. I hope Apple at some point releases a smaller phone again.

It is difficult for me to compare the battery life of the new iPhone. The old one was 3 years old. I also work in a lab with very bad cell phone and no wifi reception. Because phones try to connect to the network by increasing the power, this really drains the battery of any phone. I still recharge my phone at work, but with the 6S it is not as essential as with the 3-year-old 5.

The place of the on/off button on the new phone is still confusing me, especially after using my iPad. The on/off button is not on the top anymore, but is now on the place were the volume buttons of the iPad are. I now try to turn my iPad on by clicking the volume button… This might be something I can get used to. Worse is the problem that whenever I press a button on one side, I usually also inadvertently press a button on the other side. It looks nice and symmetric, but damn it is irritating.

The worst thing about the new iPhone is the camera lens that sticks out like a sore thumb. A friend wrote on Twitter:

Someone should be shot over this iPhone camera lens protrusion. Obvious + useful fix: taper the phone. Would also allow for extra battery.
— Philip

I wouldn’t go as far as saying “shot”, I would use a more general “killed”, but the point stands. I usually put my phone on the table, but the 6S doesn’t lie flat and it scratches the table. Before the iPhone I used to put my phone on top of my wallet to prevent wobbling and I notice I get back to that habit. Back to the flip phone days… yay?


I guess the camera is better — except for that awful lens. Even though the phone is larger, they couldn’t make some space for the type-of-photo-selector-thing. Until now I mostly used the camera to document which cables go to which connectors in the lab. The point of Live Photos escapes me because I don’t have kids/pets/other-things-that-move-a-bit-in-a-potentially-funny-way. It was remarkably unclear how to watch them on the phone (it turns out to be a 3D Touch). On my computer I now have .MOV files in my Pictures folder.

Force 3D Touch

Talking about 3D Touch, it may be an interesting addition to the way we interact with the phone but it is hard to discover, both if it is possible and what is possible. It is a pity that Force Touch sounds like sexual harassment because it is a much better description than 3D Touch. You really have to press it a bit. The phone gives a very satisfying vibration when you do this.

I hope it doesn’t end up like all the other obscure-but-useful shortcuts on iOS. There is a whole Morse code of useful things you can do with the home button, but I never remember them.


The iPhone 6S is a fine phone but, as expected, I’m not enthusiastic. The phone feels good in your hand… until you reach the camera lens at the top of the phone. Touch ID is brilliant but turning the volume up usually turns the screen off, or the other way around. I don’t care about the larger screen. Some of the features (Live Photos and 3D Touch) need some getting used to.

I seriously considered buying an 5S instead of a 6S, but it is a bit too expensive for such an old phone (509 vs 749 euro for the 16GB 5S and 6S models, respectively). Like the 5, the 6S should last me for the next three years. With the 5S I expect to replace it next year already. On the other hand, if the iPhone 7 next year has a smaller screen and no lens sticking out, then there is a big chance that one of my family members is going to be very happy with a hand-me-down iPhone 6S.

Don’t mistake my lack of enthusiasm for disappointment. The bar is very high for me to get excited. I was excited about the iPhone 3G and for the 5K iMac that Apple released last year. With the 6S I wanted a faster phone and I got a faster phone. If only they could get rid of this bloody camera lens.

The gold alloy of the Apple Watch

Update: this is a nice story, but somebody pointed out that the glass of the Sport Watch is of a different material. This is not taken into account in the calculation, which must be wrong.

Last week Apple revealed more details of the new Apple Watch. There has been an ongoing discussion about the materials used, especially regarding the gold model. Is it the new light weight gold that Apple patented? How much gold is used in the case? And what is the cost of the gold?

Apple has released information about the weight of the watches (without bands) (nicely summarized by Rob Griffiths). Using the available data a reasonable estimation of the density of the gold alloy can be made, making a comparison with traditional gold alloys possible.

With this Numbers spreadsheet you can play around with the numbers yourself.


The density of the rose gold alloy is calculated to be between 12.5 and 13.0 g/cc. This is lower than the typical density of rose gold alloy, 15.1 g/cc. The calculation assumes the volume of the metal parts of the different models to be the same. If the actual volume of the gold case is smaller, the density would be higher. To explain the difference between the calculated and typical density the volume has to be smaller by 15 %. It is unlikely that Apple wouldn’t take advantage of this reduction for the aluminium and steel watches as well. It is more likely that Apple reduced the volume by a smaller percentage, in combination with a less dense alloy, using the technique described in the Apple patent.

Gold alloys

An alloy is a mix of a metal with other metals/materials. Alloys are designed to have better properties than the constituent materials: stronger, more resistant (against rust), more beautiful, cheaper, lighter (less dense) etc. In this post we are interested in the last property: density.

Most gold we encounter is in an alloy because pure gold is rather soft. By adding silver and copper it is made stronger. The karat is used to indicate the purity of gold. 24 karat is 99.9 mass-% pure gold. 18 karat gold (used in the Apple Watch) contains between 75 and 79 m% gold (I’ll use 75 m% in this post). The remaining 25 m% is other material.

The density of alloys can be approximated using the densities and mass fractions of the original materials, as explained by Dr. Drang.

[A]ssume a conventional 18k gold alloy with 75% gold (19.3 g/cc), 15% silver (10.5 g/cc), and 10% copper (8.96 g/cc) by weight. The alloy will have a density of […] 15.6 g/cc

Different gold alloys have different densities. According to Wikipedia 18K rose gold (one of the two golds used by Apple) contains 75% gold, 22.25% copper and 2.75% silver. This has a density of 15.1 g/cc, 0.5 g/cc lower than the earlier example.

The patent application of Apple goes a step takes this to the extreme:

Now assume an 18k gold with 75 % gold and 25 % boron carbide by weight (that’s one of the ceramics mentioned in Apple’s patent). Boron carbide has a density of 2.52 g/cc, so a gold/boron carbide metal matrix composite would have a density of about […] 7.24 g/cc.

The idea is that the gold content (karat) is measured in mass-percentage, but that you have to fill a volume. Most of the volume is filled with boron carbide, which doesn’t weight very much. 25 m% boron carbide is an extreme example: 7.24 g/cc is less than stainless steel (8.0 g/cc) or copper (9.0 g/cc).

An interesting but inconclusive bit of information is the Jony Ive video from Apple. Ive says that “precise adjustments in the amount of silver, copper and palladium in the alloy result in very specific hues of yellow and rose gold”. Are these the only materials in the alloy, or are these the four materials responsible for the hues?

How do we know if Apple used a fancy alloy? Table 1 shows the densities for different gold alloys. The data for pink, rose and red gold are from Wikipedia. For the traditional gold, copper and maybe-something-else alloy the density is at least 15.0 g/cc (red gold). If the density of the gold alloy used by Apple is below that, they must have done something special.

Another thing we can learn from Table 1 is that to obtain rose gold a fairly high amount of copper is needed. The rose gold color is also very sensitive to the amount of copper, a 2 m% difference changes the color significantly. Therefore, it is not possible to add significant amounts of boron carbide, certainly not 25 m%. The lower part of the table shows possible alloys with 2 to 5 m% boron carbide. The choice for the silver and palladium content is arbitrary, I chose a low value because both silver and palladium are denser than copper.

The data in Table 1 gives us an idea of what we are looking for. If the density is around 15 g/cc it is unlikely that a fancy alloy was used. However, if a fancy alloy was used we shouldn’t expect to obtain a ridiculous density of 7.24 g/cc, but something in the range of 11-14 g/cc or so. In this post I will calculate the density and discuss how accurate the calculation is.

Gold (m%) Silver (m%) Copper (m%) Palladium (m%) Boron carbide (m%) Density (g/cc)
Pink gold 75 5 20 0 0 15.16
Rose gold 75 2.75 22.25 0 0 15.08
Red gold 75 0 25 0 0 14.98
Possible alloys 75 0.5 22 0.5 2 13.84
75 0.5 21 0.5 3 13.32
75 0.5 20 0.5 4 12.83
75 0.5 19 0.5 5 12.38
Density (g/cc) 19.3 10.5 8.96 12.02 2.52

Table 1: Densities for different alloys. The data for pink, rose and red gold is from Wikipedia, the “possible alloys” are speculation.


The calculation is based on the assumption that the weight different between the different models (aluminium, steel, gold) is only due to the different density of the metal. The weight of everything that is not metal (internals like electronics etc) is the same for the models. The volume of the metal (the case, crown etc) is also the same for all models. Of course, the weight of the non-metal internals and the volume of the metal case are different for the two watch sizes.

Using the weight difference between the aluminium and steel models we can, using the density of the materials, calculate the weight of the internals and the volume of the case. Using the weight of the gold watches we can then calculate the density of the gold.

Material properties

To do the calculation we need to know the densities of the materials. The Apple website writes that 316L stainless steel is used for the steel watches, this has a density of 8.0 g/cc.

For the aluminium case it is more difficult. Greg Koenig writes how the Apple Watch is made. Regarding the aluminium alloy he writes:

‘With the Watch, Apple has upgraded from 6000 series alloy compositions (using magnesium and silicon) to a custom 7000 series alloy that relies on zinc. The closest commercial equivalents would be the 6061 aluminum alloy (the world’s most common manufacturing material) and 7075 aluminum – the comparison between the two tracks very precisely with Jony Ive’s language about having “custom designed a new alloy that it 60% stronger, but just as light.”’

The densities of these materials are 2.81 g/cc for 7075A and 2.7 g/cc for 6061 aluminium. I think 2.7 g/cc is a reasonable choice.


To calculate the volume of the case, the weight m is divided by the density p:
V(case) = m(case) / p
We don’t know the weight of the case, but we know:
m(total) = m(case) + m(internals)
Apple has given m(total) and we assumed m(internals) was the same for cases of the same size. We get:
(m(total aluminium) – m(internals)) / p(aluminium) = (m(total steel) – m(internals)) / p(steel)
We can solve this for m(internals): 17.4 and 19.8 g for the 38 and 42 mm watches respectively. Presumably the larger watch has a larger battery.

This means the weight of the gold cases is 36.6 g and 47.2 g for the 38 and 42 mm sizes respectively. Using a gold price according Wolfram Alpha of 37.23 USD/g, this means the 18 karat gold cases cost about 1050 and 1350 USD.

The volume of the cases are 2.8 and 3.8 cc respectively. Given the weight of the gold cases and these volumes, the density of rose gold is between 12.5-13.0 g/cc, for yellow gold it is between 13.0-13.3 g/cc.


In this section I will discuss how accurate the result is. Since I only have a reference density for rose gold, I will only use that in the discussion below, unless otherwise noted.

Different gold alloy densities for the two watch sizes

Because Apple rounded the watch weights to grams the gold alloy density differs slightly between the two watch sizes. We can get a feeling of the error by looking at the extremes: the cases where the weight difference between the aluminium and steel watch are the largest and where it is the lowest. This is shown in Table 2. A similar problem exists for the weight of the gold watches, although the effect of this is smaller, as shown in Table 3. A density between 12.5 and 13.0 g/cc seems realistic.

Model m(total aluminium) (g) m(total steel) (g) Gold density (g/cc)
38 mm 25 40 13.0
24.5 40.5 12.5
25.5 39.5 13.5
42 mm 30 50 12.5
29.5 50.5 12.2
30.5 49.5 12.9

Table 2: Variation in gold density because of rounding errors in watch weight.

Model m(total rose gold) (g) Gold density (g/cc)
38 mm 54 13.0
53.5 12.8
54.5 13.1
42 mm 67 12.5
66.5 12.4
67.5 12.6

Table 3: Variation in gold density because of rounding errors in watch weight of the rose gold models.

The volume for the case is the same for all models

The central assumption in my calculation is that the volume of the cases is exactly the same. This is however incorrect for the gold case. At the end of Greg Koenigs article you can clearly see that the inside of the aluminium and gold cases are not the same. The video for the steel watch shows that the case is very similar to the aluminium one. Table 4 shows that differences in case volume have a significant effect on the gold alloy density. This makes the question whether the volume of the gold is larger or smaller relevant.

Gold density for case volumes
Model 85% 90% 95% 100% 105% 110%
38 mm 15.2 14.4 13.6 13.0 12.3 11.8
42 mm 14.7 13.9 13.2 12.5 11.9 11.4

Table 4: Variation in gold density because of differences in case volume. For example: if the case volume is reduced to 85 % of the aluminium/steel case, the rose gold density would be 15.2 g/cc instead of 13.0 g/cc for the 38 mm watch.

Apple may have added more material to make the watch stiffer. This would increase the volume of the case and decrease the calculated density of the gold alloy. Most of the material seems to be in the sides of the case, not the underside. This would mean that the volume increase is relatively small.

On the other hand, it makes sense to reduce the volume of the gold case. Gold is a dense (and expensive) material and removing some of it makes the watch lighter (and cheaper). The question is why Apple wouldn’t try to achieve the same volume reduction for the other watches. It may have to do with the complexity/cost of the production, but it is also less relevant for less dense materials. Table 5 shows how a change in case volume would affect the weight of the total watch. For the 38 mm aluminium watch a 15 % reduction in case volume would result in a 1.1 g lighter watch (4.4 %), the 42 mm steel watch would be 4.5 g lighter (9.0 %).

Watch weight for case volumes
M(internals) (g) M(case) (g) 85% 90% 95% 100% 105% 110%
Aluminium 38 mm 17.4 7.6 23.9 24.2 24.6 25.0 25.4 25.8
42 mm 19.8 10.2 28.5 29.0 29.5 30.0 30.5 31.0
Steel 38 mm 17.4 22.6 36.6 37.7 38.9 40.0 41.1 42.3
42 mm 19.8 30.2 45.5 47.0 48.5 50.0 51.5 53.0

Table 5: The weight of the aluminium and steel watches for a variation of case volumes. For example: if the case can be reduced by 15 %, the total weight of the watch (m(internals) + 0.85 x m(case)) would be 23.9 g instead of 25 grams.

One unknown is the crown. The aluminium crown seems to be from solid aluminium. The crowns of the steel and gold watches have a colored… thingy on the side. It is unclear what is on the inside. I don’t know how this affects the weight.

Density of aluminium

A third unknown is the actual density of the aluminium. I used 2.7 g/cc. Table 6 shows how the gold alloy density varies aluminium density. Given the other errors I think it is negligible.

Model Aluminium density (g/cc) Gold density (g/cc)
38 mm 2.7 12.95
2.6 13.04
2.8 12.85
42 mm 2.7 12.51
2.6 12.59
2.8 12.42

Table 6: Variation in gold density because of differences in aluminium density.


The calculations show that there is a difference between the weight of the internals of the 38 and 42 mm watches: 17.4 and 19.8 g respectively. The gold cases weigh 36.6 and 47.2 g, at the current gold price this means about 1050 and 1350 USD of pure gold is used. The density of the rose gold alloy is calculated to be between 12.5 and 13.0 g/cc. The calculated density is significantly lower than the 15.1 g/cc of typical rose gold.

The main uncertainty in the density calculation is the volume of the gold case. You can equally argue that Apple made the volume smaller (to reduce the weight) or larger (for extra stiffening). To explain the obtained values using the volume alone, Apple would have to make the gold case volume 15 % smaller than for the steel and aluminium models. Because aluminium and steel are less dense than gold a small decrease in volume is not as important, but if they could have shaved of 15 % of the case of the 38 mm aluminium model, it would be 1.1 g lighter (4.4 %). The 42 mm steel case would be 4.5 g lighter (9.0 %). It is unlikely that Apple would not take advantage of such a possibility to reduce the weight.

Alternatively, Apple could have used something like boron carbide in the alloy. To reach a density between 12.5 and 13.0 g/cc about 4 m% boron carbide is needed (Table 1). This would mean the copper content has to be low, making the gold more pink than rose.

The most likely explanation is that Apple used a combination of volume reduction for the gold case and a fancy gold alloy.

Mail to the ambassador of Saudi Arabia

While waiting for news from France I wrote an email to the ambassador of Saudi Arabia about the punishment of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

Dear Mr. Al-Shagroud,

Today I learned about the cruel flogging of Raif Badawi for creating an online forum for public debate and on accusations that he insulted the Islam. I find it incredible that this punishment takes place only two days after the massacre in France. The assailants there were angry at the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo for the same “offences”.

Saudi Arabia could be the shining light of how an Islamic country can be a forward thinking country. The establishment of the King Abdul University, with its mixed-gender campus, indicated to me that Saudi Arabia is slowly but surely changing for the better. I heard positive stories about the university and even looked for jobs there. I’m glad I didn’t find any.

Instead of being a shining light Saudi Arabia is, like the gunmen in Paris, cowardly punishing people who disagree with it. By doing this your country is doing all peaceful and well-meaning Muslims a disservice. While the actions of three gunmen can be seen as an exception and un-Islamic, this can not be said about the actions of a large and influential Islamic country. With its actions your country is fuelling the prejudice that Islam equals barbarism and intolerance.

No matter how much effort is put into making King Abdul University a success and a poster child for a more progressive Saudi Arabia, as long as it keeps punishing critics it will be seen as a backward country.

Stop flogging critics. Stop flogging Raif Badawi.

Dr Robbert Bloem

CC: president of KAUST

I have no illusions that my mail will change the mind of the Saudi government, but writing it feels better than tweeting #JeSuisCharlie all the time. #FreeRaif

Workflow to import photos from iPhone and iPad to a Mac

In this post I describe an automated way to import images from your iPhone and iPad to your Mac without using iPhoto or Photo Stream. Instead I use the system utility AutoImporter and Hazel, a $30 app.


As nice as the iPhone and iPad are to make photos, it is rather difficult to archive them properly. Photo Stream is nice to quickly transport a picture from your iPhone to your iPad or vice versa, but I wouldn’t rely on it as an archive. It may or may not function as an archive, I don’t know. And that is exactly the point: if I don’t understand how it works then I don’t trust it. The same is more or less the case for iPhoto. It is also a black box for pictures. Some are imported. Some are not. Others seem lost. The end of the Christmas holidays and the purchase of a new computer seemed the right moment to finally delve into the problem: how do I safely store my photos?

The workflow

The goal is to move the photos from my mobile devices to a subfolder of ~/Pictures/JPG/. The subfolder contains the year and “iDevice” (i.e. 2015_iDevice). This is to fit with the way I store the photos from my DSLR.

The best way would be if I could do it over the air using Photo Stream. However, it seems that you first need to start iPhoto before Photo Stream updates. Not really an option for me. Instead I ended up using ImageCapture and AutoImporter (two system utilities) and Hazel (“Automated Organization for your Mac”, a $30 app).

ImageCapture automatically starts when you connect a camera/iPhone/iPad to your Mac (or use Spotlight or something). By default it wants to open iPhoto but you can also select AutoImporter. This starts an obscure utility that does what you think it does: it imports photos automatically to a specified directory — nothing more, nothing less. Finally I use Hazel to copy the photos to a subfolder in my JPG-directory.

Important note for people who restore their devices regularly.


  • Open ImageCapture (/Applications/Image Capture.app).
  • Connect your device.
  • At “Connecting this iPhone opens”, select AutoImporter.app.
  • I leave “Delete after import” deselected. The workflow will not duplicate photos.

You have to repeat those steps for every device you have.


  • Open AutoImporter (/System/Library/Image Capture/Support/Application/AutoImporter.app). Spotlight will not find it.
  • Go to Preferences. If the app is not used for some time OS X will kill it, so do this quickly-ish.
  • Specify a folder for intermediate storage. By default it creates a folder “AutoImport” in ~/Pictures, but I don’t like that. You can delete the folder afterwards, but it means more work when the device is connected the next time. I used ~/Temp.
  • I import the files to a subfolder that specifies the camera name (it uses the name you gave the device, in my case that is RBiPh5). You should do this when you have more than one device, as the iPhone and iPad use the same format for the filename and there may be confusion.

From now on, every time you connect an iPhone the photos will be imported to ~/Temp/RBiPh5/. For the iPad this is ~/Temp/RBiPa5/.


The files are put in the JPG folder by Hazel. First, in the left pane, select the intermediate folder (i.e. ~/Temp/RBiPh5/). If it doesn’t exist yet, create it manually in order to make the rule.

Then set up a new rule as shown below.

  • We only want to look at the files that have been modified after the last time we ran this rule.
  • We first copy them to the folder JPG. This is an intermediate step. At the “i” I selected that duplicates will not be copied.
  • Then the photo is renamed.
    • The image numbering on iPhones and iPads is not synchronised. To make sure IMG_0002.JPG shot in January is shown before IMG_0001.JPG which was shot in February, I prefix the date.
    • Both an iPhone and iPad may make the photo IMG_0001.JPG on the same day. To prevent conflicts I also add the device name (iPh5/iPa5) to the filename.
  • Finally, I sort the file into a subfolder, with the year as prefix. At the “i” I selected that duplicates will be thrown away.

You’ll need to make separate rules for different devices, since they have different source folders. Better: set it up for one device, then copy it and modify it.

The order of operations in Hazel is important. If you rename the photos while they are in the intermediate folder AutoImporter will re-import the files. If you rename them after they are sorted into the subfolder duplicates are not recognised.

What happens…

…when I connect the device it for the first time?

AutoImporter will copy all files to the intermediate directory (and make it if it doesn’t exist). Hazel will copy the files to the folder JPG and then sort them into folders for the year. If the year-folder doesn’t exist yet Hazel will make it for you.

…when I connect the device subsequently?

AutoImporter will copy new photos to the intermediate folder with the photos on the device. If photos have been deleted from the intermediate folder they are copied as well. If photos are deleted on the device they will not be deleted from the intermediate directory.

…when I restore my device and the photos start numbering at 0001 again? (important!)

I didn’t test it, but the new photos will probably be thrown away. You can prevent this by changing the device name in Hazel (from iPh5 to iPh5b or so).

…when I delete the intermediate folder and then connect the device again?

AutoImporter will create the missing intermediate folder and then import all photos again. Hazel will either recognise that it already ran the rule for the photos that have been deleted (it has a memory). If it doesn’t, the duplicates will be thrown away at the “sort into subfolder” step.

It is not a problem when you delete the intermediate folder, but Hazel will copy and rename all files again, only to throw them away later. If there is no reason to delete it, keep it.

…when I manually move or rename photos in the final directory?

You can manually move and rename the photos. Hazel shouldn’t try to copy, rename and sort the photos again (they have already been matched). However:

  • When you delete the intermediate folder and Hazel doesn’t recognise that the photos have already been matched you will end up with differently named duplicates.
  • When you rename files use a name that won’t conflict with future photos. Otherwise Hazel will throw away the new photos.

…when I rename my device?

AutoImporter will make a new intermediate folder and import the photos to that. Since Hazel won’t look there they will not be copied to the JPG folder.


I’m really happy with the workflow. In most cases I have the feeling that making the workflow costs more time than you’ll ever save by using it. With this workflow I know my photos are safe. This peace of mind is worth the effort. (I probably spent more time writing this blog post than making the workflow).

It is a pity that it doesn’t work over-the-air. The weak link is that I’ll need to connect my iPhone/iPad every now and then. I don’t do this very often, but often enough to be okay with it. I don’t know how this works with iPhoto. Could it be that you needed to connect your iPhone AND start iPhoto? In that case this workflow is clearly a step forward.

Finally, I’m wondering if you could use Automator instead of Hazel. Hazel is more flexible, especially regarding sorting into subfolders with a year in front of them. Maybe AppleScript can help… If you care more about $30 than subfolders then Automator will probably work fine.