First Impressions – Apple AirPods

After purchasing Christmas presents for everyone on my list this year I decided to get myself a gift.  After 3-weeks of waiting the package finally arrived…  Apple AirPods!

I love listening to music (mostly Spotify) whenever I can and after seeing the AirPods announcement last fall I was curious about how they performed.  Thanks to a lot of media outlets getting advanced units the reviews were out there before the AirPods were even available for order. For the most part they were very positive.

I’ve tried the inexpensive Bluetooth earbuds connected with a cord that is supposed to go behind your head and I’m not a fan.  The cord gets caught up in your clothing and makes the entire process rather uncomfortable and annoying.  Now, with the AirPods, you can actually go completely wireless and it addresses all the issues I was frustrated with.

The AirPods sound better than the EarPods that come with the iPhones.  They are just slightly larger and, in my case, fit very comfortably in my ears.  The bass is noticeably improved and the overall sound is very nice.  Battery life and bluetooth range is very impressive too.

These are not going to replace my Bose noise canceling over-the-ear headphones that I use when I want to tune the world out but they will be part of my daily carry for those times where I need a little music to make the day go a little better.

It’s to early to say if they were worth the $159 asking price but so far I haven’t regretted the purchase!

Goodbye Pocket, Hello Instapaper!

apps-pocket-iconAlways looking for interesting online content (and a place to capture it) I’ve been using the Pocket application since 2012.  I even upgraded to the Premium version for around $5 a month which gives you some nice auto-tagging, searching, and archive functions.

I was actually preparing to return to the free version of Pocket because I wasn’t using the advanced features as much as I thought I would.  I save the articles I want to keep long-term in Evernote so the archiving features were not a benefit.  I’m still trying to adopt the whole tagging concept too so that was another feature that was wasted on me (I’m a Folder organizer, always have been)…

instapaper-logoThen Instapaper decided to eliminate the cost of their Premium services… (Whoah, game changer right?)…

Well I had to at least try it out.  I’ve seen the Instapaper icon as a “save for later” option all over the Internet for a while now.

I’ll have to admit I’m pretty impressed with how Instapaper works.  It does a MUCH better job saving articles in their original format than Pocket did and it beats Evernote hands down with inline videos and graphics.

Other features include “Speed Reading” where each word flashes on the screen at a speed you select.  It’s a little awkward at first and causes me to read out loud, for some reason, but it does what it’s supposed to.

Another option I just discovered allows you to tilt your phone to auto-scroll the article you’re reading.  The more you tilt the faster the scrolling rate.  It takes a little bit to get used to but works great when you’re sitting in your favorite chair relaxing.

If you’re a fan of offline archiving/reading of online content you should really check out Instapaper.  You can even import your Pocket library into Instapaper and not miss a beat.  It’s a really solid product and you can’t beat the price!

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below…

TVShow Time!

I officially “Cut the Cord” on Cable TV last November and haven’t looked back.  With subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go, I get to watch pretty much anything I want when I want (and save a lot of money in the process).  I’m finding a lot of shows that have been around for several seasons and it can be hard to keep track of what you’ve watched and when new episodes are made available.

Tvshow-TimeThis is where TVShow Time (TVST) comes in.  This is a free service on the web that also has apps for Apple and Android.  TVST helps you mark what you’ve watched and has a worldwide fanbase who have running commentaries about the shows you’re watching.  It’s a big community of people who are doing exactly what you’re doing!

Community members make and upload GIF’s of important scenes in each episode to post in the comments and they’re usually very entertaining.  Be warned though there are spoilers in the comments so it’s best not to view until after you’ve watched a particular episode.

TV-Show-TimeOne of my favorite features is a calendar of upcoming shows that goes out about a year in advance.  Wondering when the new season of Walking Dead is going to return?  As of today it’s 48 days away!

To get started you just search for your favorite show and click the “+” sign to add it to your list.  After that you can view show details, season info, episodes, and community comments.

In the settings you can setup push alerts to let you know when new shows are available.  If you’re a Hulu user you can even delay the notifications by 24 hours so they’ll actually be available for you when you get notified.

The basic app is free & they just added in-app purchases that will allow calendar access and some additional customizations (I haven’t tried these yet).  TVST has been a really great resource to help me keep track of my TV viewing and it’s worth checking out!

Project Apollo – 8,400 Images from the Apollo Program

21750223320_00ee9c1335_kI’ve always been fascinated with the Space Race and the more I read about it the more I want to learn.  The fact we were able to send so many men into space (and bring them BACK) with what would now be considered primitive technology is amazing.

I ran across this link a while back & thought I’d share.  These are previously unreleased images (8,400 in all) of the Apollo Project uploaded to Flickr.

After reviewing the pictures if you get really ambitious you can try piloting a Online Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) Simulator yourself.  Good luck!

 

 

What We’re Reading/Watching/Buying in December

It’s been a busy month and Christmas is less than a week away (so is a much-needed week off work for yours truly).  As I get older the years just keep speeding up & I don’t know of any way to slow them down!  It’s just the opposite feeling from when I was a kid where the years dripped slower than that bear bottle full of honey.

The Great Cord Cutting Project of 2015 is going better than I could have ever expected & there’s no going back.  I’m spending some of that old evening TV time trying to keep up on the articles I’m always collecting via Pocket.  Some items recently clipped include:

pcq8qzR9iThe Kindle is getting a workout too with several books being read in parallel.  Just depends on what I’m in the mood for.  Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Andy Weir’s The Martian are both fighting for my attention.
I’ve also taken the opportunity to really dig into what’s available on the streaming services I subscribe to, particularly Netflix and Amazon:

  • The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) is an alternate history story that has the Germans and Japanese wining WWII and taking control of the USA.  It’s a pretty dramatic series that’s full of twists and turns.
  • Narcos (Netflix) depicts the story of Pablo Escobar and the DEA agents assigned with bringing him to justice.  I’m not going to lie, you have to pay attention to this show.  Mainly because it’s 90% Spanish with subtitles.  And a Gringo like me needs them.  No Sprecken la Espanola

belkin-be-F5L171tt-1I’ve been helping keep USPS, FedEx and UPS in business with lots of holiday purchases for friends and family.  Along with those items I picked up a new Keyboard/Case for myself and my iPad Air 2.  The Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro is a great replacement to the Logitech keyboard cover I was using with the last iPad.  It’s a little pricy $150 but It’s currently on sale now for $130.  I’m working on a review but let’s just say that after a few days using it I’m a fan.

25475-inset13After a glowing review from a co-worker I also ordered the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Electric Sandwich Maker.  Seriously, I did!  I’ve see this gadget before but didn’t think it would be any good, especially costing under $30.  Well I’m told this thing really works so I had to see for myself.  When I happen to eat breakfast the egg and cheese (with various meats) is my regular go to.  Delivery is scheduled for Monday so we’ll see how it goes Tuesday morning when I fire that baby up and make my first sausage, egg and cheese muffin.

No matter your religious preference (or not) I hope everyone is gearing up for a fun holiday season with friends and family.  If you get any good tech gadgets or kitchen toys let me know!  I’m always looking for ways to give Amazon more money.

What We’re Reading This Week (Nov. 22, 2015)

reading20It’s about an hour before kickoff of the Colts vs. Atlanta game and time for another installment of what we’re reading this week.

  • Yesterday TV Chef Mario Batali came to town for a book signing at the recently opened Market District in Carmel. Liz Biro at the Indy Star had the chance to speak with him and ask a series of great questions from her readers.
  • A NY Times journalist made the trip to Cuba to try and snag a box of hand-rolled smokes from the source and wrote an interesting piece on what it’s like to visit.  Cuba is on my bucket list & I want to make it there before it gets commercialized.
  • The anti-encryption debate heats up in the days after the Paris attacks.  It doesn’t help that ISIS claims to be using Apple’s iMessage for communication.  Wired has a piece on the state of Operational Security (OPSEC) and what the recently released guide being used by ISIS could mean for all of our privacy going forward.
  • And finally this week Medium has a Long Form article about a depressed photographer and his 40,000km trip around the world that took an amazing 4 years to complete…  On a bicycle!  Great images in this one.

That’s it for now.  Fingers crossed that Matt Hasselbeck can pull off a win this week!