My Week With The Apple Watch

Thought it might be a good idea to take some time out on this Friday night*** and post a much-needed update to the Blog.  Amazing how life gets in the way and posts end up being weeks apart…  You should see the number of drafts I have queued up so it’s not like I’m not thinking about blogging!

I stopped in the Apple store a few weeks ago just to look around and all the new toys and get a hands on demo of the Apple Watch.  The employee assisting us was very helpful and he did such a good job I ended up making an impulse buy of an Apple Watch Sport (and a night stand dock).

I’ll admit it, I fell for the hype and it was totally an impulse buy (happens more than I like to admit).  I justified the purchase to myself as an updated FitBit that did a lot more than just track my steps.  Yeah, that’s the ticket!

If youu_10138874 haven’t checked out the Apple Watch it’s worth it just to see the design, fit, finish, and how it looks on your wrist.  It’s a beautifully designed piece of electronics (as most Apple products are).  The watch/band combinations are numerous and I’m a little surprised they didn’t package the watch by itself with the bands being an add-on accessory.
There are 3 watch models (in several colors) and 2 watch sizes all with the SAME internal components.  The prices are all over the map when you pair the watch with the various bands.  I opted for the $399 “Sport” model in brushed gold with a dark blue band (my shopping companion quickly identified it as the Notre Dame model).

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After arriving home I had to charge the watch for about an hour before I could fire it up.  Initial setup takes about 20 minutes while the companion apps are loaded from your phone.  It took another 24-36 hours before things are totally synced and you are able to get all the alerts you would normally get on your phone (way longer than I expected).

The idea of having a mini phone display on your wrist, instantly accessible, is a good one in theory.  My biggest problem was holding my arm at the viewing angle for an extended period along with the issue of being able to focus on the small screen.

I’ll admit I’m getting older and my arms are sometimes not long enough to properly focus on things like books and menus without a little help from Foster Grant.

Tl_10138874_002his was an immediate problem that I didn’t really notice during the in-store demo.  I’m not going to whip out my reading glasses every time I want to look at my wrist candy (Strike 1).

Another issue I ran into is the information actually presented on the watch screen.  I get hundreds of emails a day and more times than not the message was unable able to be displayed on the screen because of the format.  Not to mention viewing attachments is out of the question (Strike 2).

Battery life during the first day, like with any new toy, was not impressive because I was fidgeting with my new toy all day long.  It improved in the days following as I used the watch less and less.  Apple advertises a full day of usage between charges and I was getting that (Ball 1).

The final issue was the fact you have to make a specific flip of your wrist to get the display to wake up.  Raising your arm works 50% of the time.  Other times you have to rotate your wrist in a weird way to get the watch to activate.  Hard to describe but anyone who has one of these devices knows exactly what I’m talking about (Strike 3).

seiko-divers-pepsi-bezel-blue-dial-automatic-stainless-steel-men_s-watch-skx009Apple offers a 10-day return policy on the watch and I ended up taking advantage of it 7 days into the experiment.  Returning it was totally painless and when I mentioned the viewing issues to the employee processing the return she indicated it’s not an uncommon complaint (and reason for return).

So my Apple Watch experiment is over (for now) and I can honestly say I don’t miss it.  I continue to enjoy my Seiko Automatic Dive Watch for its simplicity (no batteries) and I look forward to the next version of the Apple Watch that’s rumored to be announced sometime this year.

Do you have an Apple Watch?  What’s your experience been like?  Hit me up in the comment section below.

***While listening to The Very Best Of The Violent Femmes on Spotify

Submarine Cable Map

I love maps, especially old paper maps.  But when I came across this on the Internet I wanted to give it a good look.  The Submarine Cable Map website is a comprehensive and regularly updated interactive map of the world’s major submarine cable systems and landing stations.

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Why do I find this interesting?  This is how the majority of the worlds communications systems are connected and the Internet would not be what it is today without this kind of infrastructure.  What amazes me is the sheer number of undersea cables throughout the world.  There used to be copper cables under the Atlantic from North America to Europe but those have all been replaced by fiber optic cables which can carry more information over greater distances.

Here is a short video from the “How It’s Made” series that shows how fiber optic cables are made.  It’s a pretty interesting process and you can imagine how much effort it takes to make a cable with hundreds of fiber strands that stretches thousands of miles in a hostile underwater environment.

At one time there were issues with Sharks and other marine creatures damaging the cables.  Changes in manufacturing and installation has helped resolve much of this.  Outages still occur as a result of commercial fishing and the occasional anchor.

So next time you’re watching an NFL game in London or playing an online game with someone in Spain remember how that signal is probably getting to you and the effort it took to make it happen.

Local Starbucks Fights the Ghetto Latte

Now that it’s getting cold outside hot coffee is starting to sound good to me again.  I usually only drink hot drinks in the winter while preferring cold any other time.  I’ve enjoyed iced coffee all summer since its easy to make using a concentrate I get at the local store.

meh_coffeeRemembering I had some money on my Starbucks account I stopped at the location near my office.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in here because the service is well below average.  They seem to dedicate all of their staff activity to the drive-thru and, even today, they were serving 3-4 people in the drive-thru to every one person in the store.

After I ordered my plain coffee & walked over to the condiment bar for a splash of half-and-half.  Wait a minute, the stainless steel thermos is missing!  The guy standing next to me saw what I was looking for and said “you have to ask them for it”.

So back to the pickup counter I go and I waited to get someone’s attention.  The employees were too busy tripping over each other to get the orders out the little window to notice me standing there.  After a few moments I got one of the worker bees attention.  “Cream?” I asked.  She was already reading my mind and grabbed a little paper cup and proceeded to pour out a couple of ounces of the heavy moo juice.   I asked, “do you have one you’d like me to put out on the station”, thinking I would be a nice guy and do them a favor.  “No” she said.  “We keep it back here now so it doesn’t run out as fast”.

Then it hit me.  The Ghetto Latte has gotten so bad they have to ration out the dairy to keep people from cheating the system.  I assure you this is a real thing.  I’ve seen it time and time again where people turn a couple of shots of espresso over ice into one (or in some cases when they ask for an extra cup) two Lattes saving themselves a few dollars in the process.

cheap_coffeeWay to stick it to the man cheap skate.  I’d be willing to bet that’s your idling car parked crooked in the handicapped spot too.  Bonus points if you’re talking on your speaker phone while oblivious to everyones personal space the entire time you’re in the store.

So once again, those who take advantage of things make it inconvenient for others who go with the flow.  Say what you want about Starbucks.  I know it’s over priced and there are better options out there.  In this case it was a choice between office coffee (usually empty), a small Keurig we have in our area (meh, I don’t get the pod thing), or something slightly better.

I’m curious if this practice of keeping the half-and-half behind the counter is a isolated thing at this particular Starbucks or if this is a common practice at other coffee shops too.  Anyone else witness a Ghetto Latte in the making?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 2)

 

Part 1 can be found here

So we’re ending week 2 of the Cord Cutting Experiment and I’ll have to say it’s been mostly OK so far.  I’m still missing the DVR a little because all my favorite shows were available in one place and ready to watch when I was.

Having said that by using a DVR I was not taking advantage of all the online programming that’s available out there.  You can still “Time Shift” but you have to find the content in various applications and services vs. it being grouped together.  You also have some limitations with shows only being available for a limited time (kind of like the storage space limitation on a DVR).

107-2313_BK_BI tried a few iOS apps that help track shows and remind you when the are on.  That’s nice to be able to do but you have to remember the shows are available the day after online in most cases.

I’ve also had some reception related issues with one of the local stations (ABC).  The signal bounces all over the place from 35-90%.  I repositioned the OTA Antenna this weekend and that made a big difference.

I’ve found some good online resources and talked to friends and co-workers about this experiment and have found a lot of people are cheating a little by using someone else’s (usually parents or relatives) cable tv account login to access online content.  This gets you over some of the content limitations of going strictly non-cable.  In fact, a lot of the AppleTV apps require a cable TV subscription login before they will even work!

I upgraded my Hulu Subscription the other night to the higher tier that all but eliminates commercials. I tried living with them for a week and it was driving me crazy.  It’s worth another $4 in my opinion.

So in the end I went from $120 a month to less than $20.  The $100 savings is worth it so far and I’m going to give this some more time before making a final decision on the overall experience.  So far it’s still very positive!

I’ve gotten some great feedback on this subject and I look forward to more!  Feel free to leave your questions and comments in the space below.

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 1)

I came home the other day and my DVR was acting odd.  Only a few shows remained & they were all marked for deletion.  A quick check of available space confirmed my suspicions…  The hard drive was dying and taking all of my saved content with it.

I work with a bunch of “Millennials” and none of them subscribe to cable TV.  The number one reason seems to be cost.  I’ve toyed around with the idea of becoming a “cord cutter” but hadn’t made the move yet.  This was a perfect time to give it a shot.  A quick call to the cable company saved me $120 a month in cable subscription fees and started me on this journey.

51bQI0nhcpL._SY450_I purchased the new Apple TV released last week (future review topic for sure), and a new Over The Air (OTA) antenna for local channels.  After some initial setup I was ready to roll.

The Apple TV allows me to access Netflix ($7.99 a month) and Hulu (also $7.99 a month) so for $16 I’m getting more content than I could ever consume.  My Internet cost is reimbursed by my employer so this is working out to be a good deal.

The $60 OTA antenna I purchased from Amazon works amazingly well and pulls in all the local channels along with a bunch of sub-channels that I’ll never turn on.  This setup will cover the major sporting events I want to watch as well as some Prime Time shows I watch on occasion.

The only thing I’m missing so far are the DVR capabilities and NFL RedZone.  I’m learning that most network shows are available for streaming on Hulu the day after they air so if I miss it live I can usually find it online.

I’m still in the first week but so far so good.  I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know how it’s going and if I’m still happy with the decision to ditch Cable TV.

Have you cut the cord?  Are you thinking about?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

“Among the Hidden” Book Series

How does this book sound to you?

In a futuristic society the world is controlled by a new government and “The Population Police” who have decreed that no family shall have more than two children. These laws having been brought on supposedly by overpopulation, severe famine and death. Any child being born third or after in a family is a “shadow child” not to be seen by anyone or they will be taken away and killed along with their family and anyone who harbors them. – Book synopsis from Wikipedia

Sounds like a scary scenario right?  Here’s the kicker.  My son was assigned this book to read in 6th grade!  Doesn’t that seem a little dark for pre-teen kids?  I’m not alone according to some of the reviews on Amazon.

When I asked him about the Diary of Anne Frank he’d never heard of it.  This “Among the Hidden” book has a similar premise of hiding form the outside but at least Frank’s tale is true & discusses an important part of world history.

Not sure what to think of this…