The Tweets
The Tweets

Entries in Tech (10)

Thursday
Nov052015

Apple (Music) is making me love it (music) again… a love letter from a lazy technophile that's really about something else

While this is incredibly late to be relevant anymore, I'm hoping this is far enough removed from relevance to avoid most of the "fanboy" tags from being thrown my way.

I love Apple Music, and it's really because I've become lazy in my old age. Oh, and because podcasts.

Let me explain. The main reason I realized that some kind of music service was for me happened on the day I realized that I was a) listening to podcasts exclusively and b) it was turning into a bit of a chore. The whole reason I love podcasts--yes,still in the present tense--was that it was an enjoyable way to get informed, be entertained or just spend an hour (or two, if you're listening to Never Not Funny or the Todd Glass Show). When it got to the point that I was slogging through things just to get through them, I knew that there was a problem. Part of it is my "completest" disease, but that's another story.

The other thing that came to mind is that I couldn't remember the last time I heard a song that wasn't playing in my own head. That really hit me hard because music was the podcasts of my youth. I wouldn't leave my house without a walkman, discman--later MP3 player, iPod and iPhone--in my bag or clipped to my belt. Yeah, I was that cool. So many of my memories, both good and bad are forever and inexorably linked to songs and albums.

Ironically, it was a podcast (TOAP) that really reminded me that I needed to find some way to fit music back into my life. I started to institute a rule for my weekday listening experience: Podcasts on the morning commute; whatever you want to listen to during the day; music on the afternoon/evening commute. Because there is a never ending rabbit hole of both podcasts and music, this has worked out well for me, and to my surprise, I've rarely broken the rule except when I feel the onset of podcast fatigue or alternatively if there's an amazing episode I can't wait to listen to coming up that only shows up in my feed at 2:00PM.

But I'm getting slightly off track; this was supposed to be a fanboy gushfest about Apple Music. So to undercut everything from here on out, if I wasn't all in on the Apple Ecosystem, this would probably be about Spotify or something. But I am, so it's not.

While incredibly easy, the biggest selling feature isn't the fact that I can search for any song that comes into my head, and there's a 95% chance that I can find it and add it to my library. Nor is it that everything is remembered/saved in the cloud so I don't have to physically (digitally) have the song to have access to it. What I love are the playlists: Playlists created by real people that actually make sense and take me back to 1997 or 2003. Playlists that I can trust will take me back to 1956 if I want.

Not that I'm incredibly important or anything, but I honestly don't have the time to recreate a skate punk mix that will remind me of the times I would sit on the asphalt of a skating rink turned basketball court in July listening to "The Bag," waiting for my friends to show up for a pick up game, but a quick scan of the plethora of playlists available to me, I can come pretty close to finding one in a few clicks and swipes. Curation is a wholly undervalued skill; something that I would love to do if I could make a living off of it, mostly because I wouldn't have time to do anything else.

In a (read: my) post radio world, I'm just very happy to have a place where I can still discover both old and new music, listen on my terms and not sacrifice some of my other audio based forms of entertainment after which I can easily share with friends and jumpstart a dialogue with another real human being in the real world?

And isn't that one of the best ways to use our innate selfishness for good?

Sunday
May312015

Hard resetting my dream cycle

So a couple nights ago, I got logic-ed out of a dream. I was outside of my condo and for some reason--because we all do things that are unbelievably out of character in our dreams--left my iPhone on the sidewalk just outside of the main entrance to the condo building and walked inside to say something to the security guard. When I looked outside again, predictably, my phone was gone. In a panic I raced outside and saw someone running away at full speed. I followed after, just in time to see the alleged thief jump into a car. I then snapped a picture of the license plate with my phone (you know, the one that was just stolen), paused for a second to think about what just happened... and woke up.

Still half in dreamland, I immediately looked to my beside table to glance at my phone in real time, only to see that it wasn't there. Now the adrenaline really starts to kick in as I get out of bed, thinking back over my actions of last night trying to figure out if my awake self could be as stupid as my sleeping persona. Then, for no reason that my conscious mind can conceive, I open the door to my walk in closet and sitting on the top of my dresser is that damn phone. Somehow, I had forgotten to put it on its charger after getting ready for bed.

Boring story, right? Absolutely, except that it got me wondering that due to my obsession with my gadgets--and routine--that my unconscious self found a way to say "Hey dummy! You forgot to plug in your phone, so get on it," the only way it knows how.

And I'm not sure if that's terrifying or amazing.

Friday
May292015

My week without Apple Watch

I never wanted to turn this into a tech review blog, but here we are... hopefully I have more to say in the (near) future.

Last week, I fell victim to the ultimate plight of the early adopter – hardware failure. On an attempted software update, my Apple Watch’s logic board decided to implode. One Genius Bar appointment later and my poor watch was off for a depot repair.

 

For the last week, I wore—for the most part—my old Pebble. In its defense, my Pebble is the original version (not even the Steel) so I can’t speak to how the Time would compare, but it was almost more of a hassle to have this on my wrist after three weeks with Apple Watch.

 

Four things became incredibly apparent with Pebble and iOS (again, I can’t speak to Android):

  • Having notifications come through on the watch even if I have my phone open became increasingly annoying. I quickly got used to—and appreciated—the fact that my wrist wouldn’t buzz if I saw the notification come through as I was staring at my phone.
  • Speaking of buzzing, the subtlety of Apple Watch’s “tapping” is not only more silent, but so much less jarring than a vibration while still notifying you that something’s up… and I won’t even mention how great different tapping patterns for different types of notifications are or how you can customize which specific alerts get pushed to the watch.
  • Due to the more intrusive buzzing, I was more aware of the Pebble on my wrist which turns out is a bad thing. I actually took it off when I was home, and went out on Saturday errands without even thinking to put it back on… or caring when I realized I didn’t’ have it with me (as opposed to the heart racing panic—that wasn’t registered by sensors--the one time I forgot Apple Watch).
  • 5-7 day charging is definitely a benefit, but I kept going back to an article I read where every day charging can be seen as better because the habit is formed quickly enough. With the Pebble I have to have a cable with me at all times in case the 7 days turns into 5.5 days on a particular week.

 

I loved my Pebble for the time I had it. It was a great primer to teach me what I want—and don’t want—in a smartwatch. I’m sure the Pebble Time is another great jump for Pebblers, but I can’t tell you how quickly I got to the Apple Store when I got the notification that my replacement Apple Watch was ready for pickup (Thank you AppleCare+ and the Genius who overstated the repair/replacement time by a full week)!

 

P.S. I still haven’t tried the OS upgrade… PTSD is still there from last week’s misadventure.

Wednesday
May062015

My week with Apple Watch

After spending just over a week with the Apple Watch, I decided to put together a little overview of my first 7 (ok, 8... sort of) days with this new device just to see if I could come up with something real and un gush-y. Truth be told, for all of my gadgetry, this is the first completely new product category I've been the earliest of adopters for--the next closest being the first iPod after owning a Sony MiniDisk Player and picking up the iPhone 3GS the day it launched in Canada.

I'm not too ashamed to admit that after I got confirmation on the Apple Store app, I was a bit obsessive in checking the order status to watch it go from Processing to Preparing for Shipment. I'll even say that I was "losing hope" that I'd be one of the lucky ones to receive one on April 24th, although honestly, that's way to grandiose a term for what is really just a new toy, not anything to "lose hope" over. The fact that it got delivered on April 27, just three days after launch day was pretty cool.

With that said, here we go:

Day 1:

After confirming that the security guard at my building was actually at his desk to sign for the package, I impatiently commuted home on public transit, eager to pick up the box and take it upstairs. I hoped that I wouldn't be one of those to document the unboxing, but deep down inside I knew better. Of course, upon arriving home, there was no delivery tag on my mailbox; thankfully I have a good relationship with the afternoon guard and after explaining that I got an email confirmation of delivery, seconds later he emerged from the package room carrying a long rectangular box with--literally--my name on it.

Getting back into the apartment, the world continued to delay my geek out session as my poor cat decided to pick that very day for a puke session. A quick cleanup of the carpet and the animal and it was time to pay attention to a box within a box...within a box.

After fully documenting the unboxing with photos--I wasn't going to go as far as to capture this moment in video--I was pleased to see that there was enough of a charge to start wearing the watch immediately. This being a first gen edition of a relatively new product category--sorry Pebble, I loved you but this is another league--I was a little taken aback by the learning curve to get comfortable playing around in the OS, but once a few brain cells clicked into place things started to make sense. Minor issues like a long boot time, the need to restart the device after 30 seconds and a definite lag for third party apps to load bring me down to Earth a bit. I can admit that I don't NEED this device, although I still very much want it.

Once my wife gets home and laughs sufficiently at how lame I am, she texts her sister to continue the fun making, but the tables get turned. Once my sister in law hears that I can receive calls on the phone, she decides to call me to see what it's all about. Sound quality is quite good, impressing everyone in the room. Very Inspector Gadget she calls it; a nice departure from all the Dick Tracy references (although that's probably just the age gap talking).

Day 2:

Well the one and only choice of an alarm chime annoys the wife, so I need to figure out something. Maybe a twice daily charging schedule on weekdays so I can wear it to bed and use the silent Taptic Engine to wake me silently like the old Pebble used to do? One simple alarm test confirms that this is possible.

Tried to access the Transit app on the way to the bus stop, but another necessary reboot takes longer than expected, another first gen reminder. Works flawlessly the rest of the day, however.

While Siri understands me shockingly well, I'm still a bit paranoid about asking her to play music in public due to fear of judgement by others (thanks Overheards segment from Stop Podcasting Yourself).

One person at work noticed and decided to actually say something to me today; I've been tasked with giving an update as to how well I enjoy the watch after a couple weeks.

At the end of the day, I head to the Apple Store to see about purchasing a second charging cable--in keeping with the possible twice daily charging solution. No dice, but I was able to commiserate with an employee who saw my Bluetooth earbuds (Outdoor Technology Orcas) and we bonded over small ear canals, got over jealousy that I had received the Apple Watch before her and bonded over being public transit/bike people and how much the watch will help us in our day to day lives... thus bringing people together over positivity (kind of the opposite of the Internet). After all that, I forgot to ask about AppleCare+. I guess a trip back is in my future.

All day battery life is true to form: at 50% after twelve hours (5:15AM to 5:15PM); iPhone was in my pocket for most of the day except for major texting sessions and browsing. Oh, and the phone call handoff from watch to iPhone is seamless.

Time to set it on a charger a couple hours before bed so I can wear it to sleep

Day 3:

Woke up silently with an 89% charge. Normally I'm very obsessive about battery percentage on my devices and if Apple Watch makes me less so, it's worth the price alone.

85% charge at 7:00AM (packed my lone charging cable just in case); transit app still slow to load in the morning; was fine yesterday afternoon for whatever reason.

57% at 4:00PM even after playing around with it on the bus. Got a couple of looks from people, but strangely only when my arm was at my side and not when I was swiping around the watch face. I feel like kind of a jerk using it to pay at Starbucks, but I have to push through because I didn't pay this much money to not use the features I paid this much money for.

My iPhone is getting really comfortable in my pocket--and I must say the watch is incredibly comfortable on my wrist. When I get distracted from KNOWING I have an Apple Watch on, I barely even feel it.

I love the lack of double notifications when you're actually using the unlocked iPhone... I just need to figure out if I need to adjust anything when it comes to my Macbook Pro and iPad as those notifications still come through no matter what.

55% at 5:00PM; looking good for a pre-sleep charge.

Day 4:

88% charge as I wake up silently once again. Bravely left my charging cable at home today. Baby steps.

82% at 7:55AM - at some point, maybe I should remove the battery complication from the watch face. Again, baby steps.

57% at 3:55PM which seems to be right on track again. I won't be home until later today, and I might have some more communicating/playing on the watch so we'll see. The coward in me can't wait for the portable battery coming in June--thanks Nomad!

I'm not sure what this means exactly, but after a few days, the novelty of using the watch is still there, even more so than with a new iPhone. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that it's the closest thing to a new tech category I've experienced in years. Whatever the reason, I like it.

Random thought at some point during the day: I wonder if this will be an answer to the alleged "everybody just stares at their phone" problem? The best and most comfortable way to interact with Apple Watch is with "microtransactons." You only need--and quite honestly want--to interact with it in terms of seconds as opposed to falling into an iPhone rabbit hole. Not to mention that with daily charging, although it's enough to get you through the day--so far--you still have to be careful about draining too much of the battery before you have access to a plug or USB port.

50% at 5:30PM. I can definitely deal with a half charge to start the evening, especially if it was on my wrist all night.

Day 5:

91% on waking, but due to texting on the bus--presumably--it's at 84% at 7:00AM, again staying fairly consistent. We'll see what happens when the Spy Watch experiment begins later today.

The novelty continues, but at the same time Apple Watch has integrated into my life so seamlessly--and quickly. That says a lot about the things it can do, and how it does them. I was never concerned about an overload of notifications because as a Pebble user, I was used to ignoring what I could, and now that I can tailor exactly what goes to the watch, I'm in control of how much--or how little--I get distracted by all the taps throughout the day. Despite what I've read elsewhere, it's not so challenging to be the boss and ignore taps if you're in the middle of a meeting or engaging conversation.

I do, however, keep thinking about "Halo" from Continuum when I look at Apple Watch

I had to force a restart; no third party apps would open. No battery drain, but boot time is still longer than is comfortable.

The third "in the wild" conversation about the watch today, this time at Starbucks. I still feel weird about paying with it, but I'm getting less self conscious. It's interesting that I'm not going out of my way to hide OR display it in public. I'll admit that I get a little charge knowing I'm one of the few in my city that has one on (as horribly self involved as that is). That seems to be enough for me though. I don't NEED to have people see it (I could write a whole other thing about that--internal feelings of being cool vs. external attempts at being cool).

I live in a world--of my own design--that relies on charging: Macbook Pro, iPad Mini 2, iPhone 6, Bluetooth Keyboard, portable batteries (2) TWO Bluetooth headphones (in ear and over ear) and now Apple Watch. Cables are practially always on hand and I've learned to live with this and schedule my life so that charging is almost always a possibility if need be.

54% at 4:45PM; still on track to be as consistent as the rest of the week has been even with some Spy Watch gaming.

41% at 10:05PM after getting multiple updates over dinner and various time checks. Looks like weekend overnight charging is the ideal setup so far. I'm curious and excited to try it out on my first run with it tomorrow and to see how that fits into the battery life situation.

Day 6:

90% after an overnight charge and a 15 minute, 2.5K run WITH music playing from the watch. That's not bad, but man oh man do I need to get back in shape.

Apple Watch is making it more easy to both disappoint and be proud of myself when it comes to working out. Everything is logged in one place and almost automatically so it's painfully obvious if/when I miss a workout or decide to be lazy on the couch for three hours and not move--the taps to stand up are phenominal by the way, especially when you have an office job.

66% at 6:00 (oooh, 666) after running errands, a quick voice call in the car and a Siri assisted text message along with the usual notification checks. Apple Watch being the "Answer to a problem not everyone has (or is aware of)" is probably the best definition of the device so far.

I never wanted to game on the Pebble, and I was only mildly curious about Apple Watch. After a few days, Spy Watch is still intriguing, but I might eventually tire of it as well. It might actually get me back into Trivia Crack though... less than 30 second bursts of activity isn't just ideal for a casual gamer when it comes to Apple Watch, it's a necessity.

Day 7:

Woke up early at 6:30AM due to some more cat related cleanup but I didn't put the watch on until 9:30 because I was lounging on the couch doing practically nothing. Still at 100% at 10:20AM

After a Sunday afternoon consisting of walking, errands, a bit of Spy Watching and hanging out near the water, we're at 82%. It's definitely a device that has plenty of battery power for the average user once you get over having to play with it every five minutes.

Day 8:

This watch is the picture of consistency after one week: 92% on waking. I may actually remove the battery complication for a week just to see how that goes (update: I lasted half a day).

Just to see, and because I haven't had to yet, I enabled Power Reserve. All it shows is a green digital display of the time at the top right of the screen. One annoyance is that you need to reboot to turn it off and get back to full use mode.

Another Starbucks interaction with the watch (called iWatch by the barista). Those who know what it is seem impressed with how it looks in real life compared to pictures and video online, even if they don't feel they need to own one just yet.

It seems I was destined for one last test today: As I was walking home from a bus stop far enough removed from my condo--so that I could successfully complete both my Stand and Exercise goals for the day--it started raining. It was a fairly light one so I chose to forego the umbrella and test the water resistance at the same time. Once again, as advertised, it continued to work while wet and I was also able to swipe across the screen and respond to notifications even with huge droplets of water on the screen.

As I start to wind down in the final hours of week 1, my opinion remains largely unchanged. I don't need Apple Watch, but it is actually finding a way into my life with relative ease and I'm already seeing improvements in both productivity and pushing/shaming me into being healthier. With full integration with the Health app, all my activities are gathered which makes it so much easier to stay on track with a change in my eating and workout lifestyle.

Is Apple Watch for everyone? No. Is it for me? Definitely.

 

******One small update RE: Battery Life: After an afternoon run early in week 2 of my life with Apple Watch, I did get down to 21% by the time I was going to do my pre-bedtime charge so I did end up leaving it on to charge through the night. The alarm was slightly less annoying to my wife, so I guess it's still TBC on exactly what the charging schedule will be although the 18 hour estimate by Apple is still very conservative with how I use the watch (oh, and I did pick up an extra charging cable when I purchased AppleCare+ on day 10... just in case)******

Sunday
Jul212013

When (virtual) space is (virtually) infinite, how do you decide when to stop?

Trying to reconcile the person I am inside my brain with the flesh and blood manifestation the rest of the world sees has been an ongoing, seemingly never ending process in my adult life. I say adult life because I was blissfully unaware of any of this when I was a kid.

I've had this ongoing debate with my friends though the years about what exactly constitutes being cool. I maintain that it's easy to be cool in a group, because it's harder for outside individuals to pierce the bubble of perceived coolness. Safety in numbers would is probably the more succinct way to say it. Any individual is simultaneously the epitome of cool to someone and the worst example of humanity to another. I may have broached this subject on this very site before, so I'll stop here before my fingers get away with themselves again.

Now what does the second paragraph have to do with the first? Well, I'm in another one of my purge cycles; this one being of the digital variety. Over the past few days, one thing has become painfully clear: the main block in being able to get rid of unwanted/unneeded virtual stuff is the part it plays in my--debatably--carefully crafted image, not necessarily what is practical.

For example, both my phone and tablet have ubiquitous apps on them that I have not opened in at least six months but they are there because they are a visual reminder to anyone who sees them as to what kind of person I want to be known as. Without going into too much detail, I identify as a geek (sometimes I use the shorthand "nerd" because I don't have time to debate the difference), and having GTA: Vice City on my phone is a very easy way to get people to understand that. The problem? Barely anyone outside of my fiancée ever sees my phone's screen.

Will I ever play that, or any other number of retro video games on my phone? Probably. But logically speaking, I can put the game on my phone when that becomes a reality. I don't need it there as some kind of "geek cred." I also don't need my entire photo library on my phone, but that's another argument for another time.

It's easy to get caught up in the metality of "I need access to everything at any time" because that's basically possible with the right amount of money and tech. I just need to remember that I grew up in a time when that wasn't the case, and I did ok.

If anything, this is a perfect example of the mission statement of this blog: Struggling to remain relevant without getting lost in the process...sometimes you're Google Maps and sometimes you're Apple Maps.

I'll leave it up to you to decide what that means, exactly.