Category Archives: Modern Technology

I’ll use this category to talk about my interests and observations of technology, the industry and what other people talk about when it comes to technology.

I am an iPhone owner, Macintosh, and Windows user, and I do have formal training and a college degree in computers, specifically Microsoft Windows computers and networking systems. So I can comment on both sides of the “cultural war”. I’ve been a Windows user all of my “computer life” and only got into Macintosh in 2006.

Linux users are a bit outside of the realm of normal computer users and I’ve messed around with several different distro’s of Linux over the years but Linux never stuck with me

Too Much Technology?

Short attention spans seem to prevail with me at times. The constant desire to see what’s new every few minutes becomes aggravating and I seem to be unable to break that cycle. What I am talking about is probably something many people experience each day with all of our technology and mobile devices connected to the Internet and social media.

When I’m at home sometimes I get bored and find myself going from the iPad to the iPhone to flipping channels on my DirecTV Now streaming service on the Apple TV to checking out Netflix, iTunes TV Shows and iTunes Movies as well as other TV network apps like HBO Go, or Start and AMC. There is so much content available at the tap of a screen or the click of a button that its overwhelming. It reminds me of a Jerry Seinfeld joke which I’ll try to paraphrase. “Men don’t want to see what’s on TV. Men want to see what else is on TV.” Which is why we constantly change channels all the time and never really stay on one for any length of time.

Add to that social media like Facebook, Twitter, various Internet discussion forums and blog sites, like this one, and there is even more to be digitally distracted by.

While I’m flipping channels on TV, I’m either playing a game on my iPad, checking Facebook and Twitter to see what is going on. It’s on an endless loop it seems and refreshing the feeds every few minutes doesn’t usually provide anything satisfying for the time given to seeing what may be interesting or not. But the desire to constantly be looking for something new, something interesting is always there.

Then there is the cell phone, at its most basic function; mobile communication. This is one of the things that bugs me the most. It’s the constant anticipation of the phone ringing and the social obligation to answer it. It’s common today that everyone has a mobile phone and because of the Internet and all the other things they can do, we all have them within arms reach for every waking moment – and even while sleeping. When someone calls you there is an unwritten rule, an obligation, to answer it because the calling party *knows* that you have your phone nearby. If you choose not to answer it because you don’t feel like talking, for any reason, the other person is going to be upset and wonder why you didn’t take their call. You knew it was them because of caller ID. That then adds a whole new social aspect to interacting with people. There is almost no way to disconnect, and if you find a way to do so, there can be negative consequences for doing so.

30 years ago as a young kid we didn’t have all this technological stuff to entertain us, keep us ultra connected and consume our time. When I grew up we had a telephone. It was this thing attached to a curly cord that was attached to a wall with another cord on it. Depending on how long that curly cord was, was only as far as you could take that phone. There were no cell phones to keep with us no matter where we’re at. We didn’t even have an answering machine. This was another device that hooked up to the phone with a cord that would answer a call for you and play a pre-recorded message to the caller to which would end with a beep. The beep indicated that the caller could now leave a message for you to listen to when you came home. But we didn’t have that. So if someone called and no one was there to answer it, the phone would ring for as long as they stayed on the line until they hung up. They’d just have to try again at a later time hoping we were home. Back then, if you were home and didn’t want to talk, you could just let it ring or unplug it. There was no reasonable expectation by anyone to assume you were dodging the phone when you didn’t answer it. It was very reasonable to believe you weren’t home, you were outside, you were mowing the lawn or doing any number of things.

We didn’t have computers and we certainly didn’t have the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, et al. If you wanted to communicate, you either used the phone, wrote a letter and mailed it, or you met up face to face somewhere.

Television for us consisted of over the air signals and only whatever your antenna could pick up from whichever direction you had it pointed toward. So only a handful of channels were available and if you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up and walk to the TV set and turn a knob.

Before my teenage years when the Nintendo came along and satellite TV was installed taking more of my time, my time was spent outdoors with friends or exploring on my own. Riding bicycles around and down to the corner store was a common thing. Swimming in ponds at friends houses was normal in the summer. Building snow forts in the winter, when it used to snow a lot before climate change started becoming noticeable.
Times were simpler then and I do miss it from time to time. As convenient as our technology has made our lives, it also has made my attention span very short. If I could make things to where I didn’t need a cell phone and could go back to a house phone, with no answering machine, I’d totally do it.

These days, in the past year or so, I’ve been fairly successful in limiting my screen time at home from the computers. I have a desktop PC and a laptop and they tucked away in my hobby room and I only turn them on during the weekends and sometimes I don’t at all or only for a short while in the morning. But having the iPad and iPhone at hand still keeps me connected and a digital screen in front of my face and I’m trying find a way to limit that too but the desire to see what’s new is strong still.
The times where I don’t have a screen jammed in my face are few. When I’m sleeping for sure. That’s my favorite time of all! Then when I’m at the gym is another time, although the iPhone is right there. But I’m not checking social media then, I’m exercising and I stay focus on that. The rest of the time there is a screen of some sort in front of me. At work, it’s a PC all day in front of me the whole time. That comes with the job being a tech guy in a technical job. When I’m home, if I happen to not be using my iDevices, there is still the good ol’ TV that’s possibly turned on. Surprisingly though, I don’t usually turn on the TV not the weekends until later in the day which make me feel good when I think of that.

Lastly, when I’m driving the only thing in front of my face is the roadway. I refuse to drive distracted; it’s far too dangerous and I see people every single day doing this. One nice thing about my car and having an iPhone is Apple’s CarPlay. When my phone is connected to the car, the iPhone takes over the infotainment center and shows very limited options including Messages, Maps, Music and Phone. Messages can be managed by voice control and text to speech so that you don’t have to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. The same goes for the phone and the other apps. Other notifications from the phone such as email are muted and you don’t know they’re popping in at all until you stop and look at the phone. The forthcoming iOS 11 from Apple this year will have a new feature called “Do not disturb while driving” and I’m looking forward to that very much. It will suppress calls and messages while you’re driving and will send messages back on your behalf letting the person who texted you know that you’re driving and will see their message and get back to you when you’re done driving. The feature will turn on when it connects to a car, or if the car has no connection to an iPhone, it will enable itself when it senses you’re moving like in a car. If you’re a passenger, you can override the setting to use the phone normally.

With all of that said, I do miss the old days of less technology and interconnected communication with social media. I’m not saying that this stuff is not without its benefits because its not. I just wonder if its another one of those things that due to our obsessive human nature that we sometimes overuse it. What do you think?

Apple Watch Series 2 Review

About two and a half weeks ago I went to the Apple Store and bought an Apple Watch. I bought it with the full intention of using it on a trial basis during the two week return window allowed. If I didn’t like it I was going to return it.

After trying it out for the two weeks I decided that I like it enough to keep it. In the past I always considered the AW but declined to pursue it for two reasons. Most of what it can do I can do on the iPhone and aesthetically, I didn’t like it nearly as much as I do the round face watches, like my Skagens. Point number two still stands however. I still do like the round faces on watches over the square ones, but it’s a minor thing overall.

I went with a series 2, aluminum in space gray. I also bought an extra band, the Nike green and black one. I didn’t buy the Nike edition watch however as I’m not a runner and didn’t need the subscription that came with it; I just liked the band design.

After a while of figuring out the settings and how I wanted them to work between notifications and other functions, I think I have it all settled.

Some of the things I do enjoy, and enjoy more than I had previously thought I would, are the text and email notifications. With the AW I can easily see what is coming in and decide to or decide not to pick up the phone to look at it, or can get a preview of it on the AW. It is rather convenient.

I find that I use Siri a little more than I used to, and it’s mostly to set timers when I’m cooking or doing laundry and for use with my Philips Hue lighting system and HomeKit. I often feel like David Hasslehoff as Michael Knight in Knight Rider from the 1980’s when I hold my arm up with the AW to “hey Siri..” with it.

I’ve used the native workout app for outdoor walking and outdoor cycling and it’s pretty easy to use and works well. My gym also recently came out with a new app that has a lot of workouts and pre-built programs to choose from and it’s very well done and elegantly designed. It also has an AW app and I’ve been using that at the gym to track things and see what’s up next. I can do my whole session without having to pickup and unlock my phone like I used to do after each exercise and set.

Regarding the Activity app, Apple takes a very different approach to goals than Fitbit does. Fitbit makes steps per day the main focus of activity and for achieving personal goals. Apple’s approach is totally different with the idea of closing the rings of stand, move and exercise. Your steps are still tracked and shown at the very bottom of the app, but they’re not a focus of anything in particular. It seems as if they’re philosophy is more about just being active regardless of what you’re doing. With the Move ring its dynamic and adjusts each weeks active calorie goals based on the previous week’s numbers and will try to keep it attainable and challenging at the same time. My gym app integrates with Activity so all of that gets logged automatically. I like how the AW will remind me to stand at 50 minutes past the hour if I haven’t been up yet; this is something neither of my Fitbit’s had, although I think some of their newer models now have it.

One thing the AW doesn’t do is track floors climbed and relies on the iPhone to track that. I find this to be a bit odd that Apple didn’t incorporate this feature into it. With all the things it can do, up to and including swimming, why can’t it sense air pressure so it can measure floors climbed like a Fitbit? But at the same time, steps taken and floors climbed aren’t considered a focus of the Activity app and it’s goals.

The Breath app is nice too and I use that as well. It’s helpful to calm down at times and reset the mind when needed.

I like the integration with the Health app as well and my gym’s app also integrates with it so I can track a lot of health data in one spot. I still have and use the Fitbit Aria smart scale which measures weight and body fat percentage. That integrates with the Fitbit app obviously, but not with Apple’s Health or Activity apps. So I downloaded the third-party Workflow app and set up a workflow on the iPhone and AW app so I can punch in those two metrics on the AW and log them into the Health app quickly as I’m standing on the scale looking at the day’s measurements.

The comfort of the AW and band is superb, especially compared to the FitBit Surge. I get up at 4am each day and put the AW on and wear it all day until about 9pm, save for a few minutes in the shower when I take it off. (I know, it’s water resistant and could wear it in the shower, but I don’t). With the Fitbit Surge by the time I’d get home from work, maybe wearing it for 10 to 12 hours, I couldn’t wait to take it off as it was irritating me something awful. The LED sensors for measuring the heart rate protrude from the Surge in a more abrupt and narrow fashion which digs into my arm throughout the day. The LED’s on the AW are more spread out and tapered which do not dig into me at all and I have no problem wearing it for up to 17 or 18 hours.

So far at the end of each day I’ve been averaging 30% battery usage which is better than I was expecting. Of course it all depends on personal habits and usage too. I could probably get two days out of a charge but I’ve not tried to yet. The Fitbit Surge would give me 5 to 7 days on a charge, but it doesn’t do a quarter of what the AW does, nor does it have a nice display. That’s just some of the tradeoffs you have to consider between the devices.

So I suppose I like the AW better than I thought I would, but I still do love my traditional Skagen watches design a lot better.

Wemo Switch Review

Last week I purchased the Belkin Wemo Switch which is a smart electrical switch that plugs into a normal outlet and connects to an app on your iOS or Android smartphone through your wifi connection.

I wanted one of these types of devices for a while now to use in conjunction with my Expobar Office Lever espresso machine. The espresso machine takes a while to warm up properly to get a good and consistent temperature  throughout the machine and grouphead. I would usually allow it to warm up for a minimum of 30 minutes and most times up to an hour before I wanted to pull a shot. Since I typically have an espresso first thing in the morning, and before heading out to the gym, that means getting out of bed, walking to the kitchen and turning the machine on, then returning to bed for a while longer.

Of course that is a major inconvenience and one that no one should have to endure! hahaha.

With the Wemo Switch I have set up two sets of rules, 1 for weekdays and 1 for weekends. Programming the Wemo Switch to turn on the espresso machine about an hour before I plan on waking up has been great and allows me to stay in bed with uninterrupted sleep – for the most part, bathroom breaks notwithstanding.

After a week of using it and some initial difficulty getting it set up I give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars if I were to rate it that way. I would have given it a 5 star rating if it weren’t for the headache it gave me on day one.

The instructions for setup are extremely simple and straightforward as you would expect, but it didn’t go quite as planned.

First connecting it to the wifi worked just fine. Then getting it to connect to the iOS app through the wifi didn’t work so well. I had to start over twice before it connected fully. Then once that occurred an in-app notification popped up and advised there was a firmware update available and so I initiated it.

The firmware update took over two hours to complete! That to me is a crazy long time for such a simple device, but that’s what happened.

Once that finished the device and app did not work right and eventually lost connection altogether. Unplugging it and plugging it back it did nothing to reset it and the light on the device just blinked orange at me after that.

I ended up having to do a device restore to get it to work again.

  1. Unplug the Wemo.
  2. Hold down the restore button for about 45 seconds
  3. Plug the Wemo in while still holding the restore button
  4. Release the restore button a few seconds after it starts flashing amber.
  5. Once the Wemo is flashing amber and green the reset is complete.

After that then the device was ready to be setup as new again and I had to connect it to the wifi and the app again. But once that was finished I was able to setup the rules that I wanted and its been working fine ever since.

It also has an on/off button on the device itself for those times when you want to use it outside of your normal automatic rule set.

That’s why I don’t rate it as a 5 and only a 3.5 since it took several hours of messing around with it before I was able to get it working properly.