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

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.

Installing macOS Sierra on an External USB SSD

install-macos-sierraIf you’re looking to install the Public Beta of macOS Sierra on an external SSD, this is how you do it.

It’s what I like to do because since it is a beta, there will be bugs and sometimes things can go wrong. Installing a beta, whether public or developer on a stable production system isn’t a wise thing to do especially when you have critical services or files on the system.

Even though I keep up to date Time Machine backups, I still take this extra step of installing betas on a separate drive. If something goes wrong with it I don’t have to worry about losing anything or more importantly I don’t worry about taking time to restore from a backup to my stable system. All I have to do is reboot the Mac from one OS to another and I’m ready to go.

What I recommend is that you use a decent SSD, I prefer the Samsung 850 EVO, and quality USB 3 enclosure like the  Inateck 2.5 drive enclosure. I like this enclosure because it uses a full and standard USB interface on both ends of the cable. I’ve had other enclosures that use a micro USB connector on the enclosure side and they’re usually flimsy and always feel like they’re going to come out.

Also I recommend that you use a good USB flash drive for this process too. I like the Kingston Data Traveler in 32GB and USB3. This one ensures you have plenty of space available and you get the higher speed data transfer too. Although as a minimum, a USB 2 flash drive with at least 8GB of space will do; it will just be slower.

Once you get the gear you need go into your Apple account for the beta software, https://beta.apple.com/sp/betaprogram/ and follow the directions to enroll and download.

Once the download finishes, do not install it. Rather cancel it and make sure your USB flash drive is connected, open Terminal and enter the following command:

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra\ Public\ Beta.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra\ Public\ Beta.app –nointeraction

From there enter your password and follow the prompts.

Once that is done you can reboot your Mac, with the external SSD connected and turned on if it has a switch, while holding the Option button on the keyboard. You should see the USB installer in the list and then click on that to run it.

Follow the prompts and when you get to the part where you choose which disk to install it on, be sure you select the external USB SSD. If you choose your internal drive you will overwrite your good installation. Always be sure you have a good backup prior to starting this process just to be safe.

Happy beta testing!