Category Archives: Apple

What’s a computer

In one of Apple’s latest iPad ads we see a student exploring the city and making great use of an iPad in various locations. It’s a fantastic example of the many ways an iPad can be used. I think this is my favorite iPad ad to date. It’s a tool for exploring and creating. Good stuff.

Apple Watch Series 3

I never write reviews. There are plenty of folks doing that sort of thing. But I often post a few brief thoughts on new purchases.

I’ve not been a watch wearer in many years. And with the iPhone felt even less of a need to have one. I don’t need a watch given that I always have the phone with me. Since it’s release the Apple Watch has been only a slight interest for me, primarily in terms of it’s health application. But with Apple Music and AirPods the interest grew. The prospect of being able to get out for walks and still enjoy music and track steps without the phone was appealing.

I finally decided to give it a go with the Apple Watch Series 3 and I’ve not been disappointed.

I bought it with LTE but haven’t used the LTE much. I’m on Sprint and the signal here is a bit weak and so often times the watch doesn’t have an LTE signal. Not a big problem. I usually have the phone with me anyway. I do a lot of walking and outside work around the cabin and the watch continues to work as fitness tracker and for the Apple Music with our without a cell signal or nearby phone.

As a fitness tracker the watch is great. I’d expected that having the rings would be an additional motivator and that’s true. I didn’t have a problem getting in 10,000 steps on a regular basis but I knew that that was not the complete picture. The rings also provide a nice tracker of intensity, particularly the green ring. Turns out I can get all the steps and fill the red ring but not fill the green because 30 minutes of exercise requires a certain intensity, a higher level of exertion. So, now I don’t just get my steps I also make sure to quicken my pace for some of my walks. I’ve also learned that cutting grass with my electric push mower burns a lot more calories than I realized due to increased intensity.

Nice.

Music on the watch with the AirPods is excellent and honestly, LTE is not required. The watch easily syncs music when plugged in and attached to Wifi. By default it syncs Apple playlists such as New Music, Favorites, and Chill as well as any recent/often listened to music. I can also add any playlist I want. The result is that I have yet to need streaming when playing from the watch. The watch also works as a great remote if I happen to be playing music from the iPhone.

I’m not using many apps aside from Music and the fitness related apps. I’ve got Carrot Weather which is nice and I’ve found Messages pretty useful.

Last is Siri which probably could have come first. I use Siri a lot. Many times a day and Siri on the Watch is fantastic! Very fast and accurate. Possibly better than any other Apple device. A very pleasant surprise. I’ve now got Siri on my wrist, my phone and two always on iPads. Whether I’m scheduling an event, fast forwarding a podcast, creating a reminder or turning off the lights it is rare that I do not get the response I want.

As I wrote above, I’ve not been a watch wearer in a long time. But I am a Star Trek nerd and honestly, when I saw this LTE equipped watch in the keynote a couple months ago my brain just sort of tweaked. From the iPhone to iPad, we’ve had several years of amazing technology that seems like it belongs to the future. This watch is another part of that ecosystem, even smaller and less obtrusive than it’s larger siblings.

I think  wearing a tiny computer on my wrist is a habit I’ll be getting used to.

Catching Up

Wow. It’s been on my mind that I’d not posted to either of my blogs recently. September 29th since my last here. Jeesh.

A few things I’d like to address in upcoming posts. A few thoughts on recent Apple tech purchases, namely the Series 3 watch and the iPhone X. Oh, and I finally took a chance on the Brydge keyboard for the 12.9” iPad. Thus all three have proven to be excellent choices though it’s still early. More soon.

September 20, 2017

A quick test, & I’m really digging the drag & drop from apps to Pages! Also, Pages’ use of the Files app is very well done 🤓 iOS 11 👍🏽

Machine Learning’s contribution to Siri’s voice

The Siri team has a great post about the evolution of Siri’s speech synthesis on the Apple Machine Learning Journal:

Siri is a personal assistant that communicates using speech synthesis. Starting in iOS 10 and continuing with new features in iOS 11, we base Siri voices on deep learning. The resulting voices are more natural, smoother, and allow Siri’s personality to shine through. This article presents more details about the deep learning based technology behind Siri’s voice.

Just scroll down to the bottom and listen to the progression between iOS 9, 10, and 11. It’s really impressive.

I’m surprised more beta users have not said more about this over the duration of the public betas. Until this post by Apple I’ve not seen it mentioned even once. Personally I will say that I consider it a fantastic improvement and thought it was one of the highlights of the WWDC Keynote. When I installed the public beta on my iPad the second first thing I did was invoke Siri so I could hear her new voice. So much better!

So long Ulysses

Well. Darn it. Count me among those that enjoy Ulysses but will not subscribe. I’ve used it for a year and it’s a great app. The best feature, in my scenario, is posting to WordPress. I’m happy to pay well for apps like Ulysses and pay for updates as needed. But I’m not willing to pay for a subscription. I can’t afford to subscribe to every app I use. If it is essential for what I do, maybe. But even then I’m not happy about it. But for a text editor? No. There are too many other options. The one feature of easier blog posting is not enough to keep me around.

I may continue to use the current version till it no longer works but I’ll likely look into other options and probably begin the transition to something else. I suspect it will feel strange to invest further documents into an app that no longer has a long-term future on my devices. In fact, it only took me the time to write those two sentences to decide that I would begin phasing out my use of Ulysses this very moment. The problem is that every document in Ulysses is held in a monolithic database. Compare that to an app like Byword or Editorial, both of which store documents as individual text documents in their app folder on iCloud or Dropbox, respectively. 

So, as of this moment, I’m giving up the benefits I found in using Ulysses and switching. I’ll revisit both Byword and Editorial for now. Also, there have been quite a few updates to the official WordPress app. I’ll give that another look for the actual mechanics of blog posting. 

A final brief but blunt note about app subscriptions: NO. Your app is not a magazine or a music or video service. It’s an app.  It is a thing that I want to own, not a service I want to rent. There’s a time and a place for subscriptions but apps is not one of them. At least, not for me. Let me pay a fair price for an app. Offer paid updates as needed. But I want to own it. I don’t want to be locked into paying for it again and again. Not for a dollar or $2 or $5. 

Sigh.

July 13, 2017

Noticing that iCloud Drive does not update as quickly as DropBox. Problem on both Mac & iOS.

July 6, 2017

9to5Mac has an excellent post about benefits of using Apple’s Smart Keyboard with iPad Pro.

In short, when you want a laptop experience it takes only a second to dock the iPad. When you want a tablet just undock it. When on the move you have a very thin, lightweight Smart Cover!

Finding Trust and Delight in the Apple Ecosystem

I am increasingly happy to be in Apple’s always improving ecosystem. No, more than happy, I’m delighted. Really. It’s fantastic. The devices and services tie together so smoothly. I cannot imagine a better experience. iCloud has evolved into something that just works all of the time. I can’t think of the last time I encountered something that didn’t work. From Music to Photos to the syncing of documents, notes, Safari data, etc.

Example. A few minutes ago I was listening to some music via my Apple TV and browsing Twitter. I came across this tweet:

David Chartier @chartier

This stuff is so much fun. Upbeat, instrumental, little quirky, foot tappin work music. https://itun.es/us/kHQC6?i=980592724

I’ve clicked on his Music suggestions before and enjoyed them so I tapped. I paused playback on the AppleTV and began listening to the this new album on Apple Music on the iPad. Perfect. With a tap I added it to my library and marked it as loved. I know that when I go for my walk in 10 minutes that album will be waiting under the recently played category on my iPhone. It’s also showing up now on my AppleTV. Because it’s something my sister and brother might enjoy I shared it with them via Messages with a couple taps.

Another example. I finally enabled iCloud Photo Library on my phone and two iPads. I’ve not turned it on my Mac yet as that library is long overdue for a clean-up. Within a day the photos on the three iOS devices were synced. This could be better if the people/face recognition synced between them. But as is it worked flawlessly.

Syncing between devices seems flawless for everything. Whether I’m adding a reminder or calendar event, a note or link for Safari’s Reading list, I know that it will be there. Same for editing documents. Same thing for podcasts. I happily choose to use the Apple Podcasts app. It gets the job done. And it’s super nice to know that when I pause a podcast on my iPad and grab the iPhone for a walk I can pick-up playback right where I left off.

Siri and HomeKit

These are getting progressively better. I’ve been using Siri fairly consistently for the past three years and the improvements have been easily noticeable. It’s not 100% but it is so much better. I still get misses but they are, by far, the exception. And I’m not just talking about asking for the weather or setting timers or alarms. I can ask how late a business is open or request Siri to call a business. Or ask her to do math. Or ask her when my niece’s birthday is.

And when used with HomeKit devices it truly seems like magic. Walking up in the driveway in the evening after a walk and asking Siri to turn on the porch light or the window AC and then seeing (or hearing) the result seconds later makes me smile every time. My last action each evening before going to bed is to ask Siri to turn off my light across the room. So much better than trying to convince my cat and dog that they need to move so I can get up and do it. That’s right, it’s all for the comfort of my animal companions. I do it all for them. Also worth noting, devices with Hey Siri do a great job of negotiating which device will answer.

AirPods

What can I say that hasn’t been said by many others? AirPods are fantastic. I wear mine many hours everyday, usually with the iPhone while walking but sometimes while at the iPad. Regardless, I know that they will work with any device with no hassle with what seems like magic switching between devices. It’s not likely that I will ever buy another non-Apple speaker or headphone set. What’s the point? And I’ll add that a part of what makes these seem like magic are two details: Siri and the extended range. If I happen to leave my phone and go into a different room or outside while listening to music or having a conversation my connection is solid for at least 25 feet. It’s nice to have the freedom to forget the phone or to deliberately leave it sitting on a desk or table knowing that my connection is fine as I roam about. Also, Siri’s accuracy is even better with the AirPods. Using Siri with AirPods is, currently, the best possible Siri experience. We’re a long way from the AI found in the movie Her but until then I’ll happily use Siri and the AirPods.

Trust and Delight

Those two words sum it up for me. At this point I trust this ecosystem. As a whole it performs at something like 99% and thanks to that dependability I am constantly delighted. It’s been a long road getting here but I really feel like we’re there and it’s very nice to have arrived.

June 13, 2017

There’s nothing quite as nice as setting up a new iPad and watching Star Trek The Next Generation.