Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

When Apple announced the new Macbook Air at their October event, I was thrilled. I’ve had mine since 2011 and have been waiting for upgrades/updates that were good enough to justify replacing it.  I thought this was finally it, I was waiting for the “buy now” to show up on the apple store. But then, right after announcing it, they announced the laptop killer: the new iPad Pro 12.9″.

I’m sure by now most have seen the specs, and seen the commercials, and heard the hype. I’m not going to get into how amazing this thing is (yes, spoiler alert, I am typing this post on one) there are already so many posts covering that. I’m coming at this from a less technical stance. The average user. The Everyman. The guy toting the thing around day-to-day.

The physical size is one thing I wasn’t sure of when they announced it.  I wanted to see and feel the old and the new laid out next to each other and see how much smaller this new reduced bezel version was.  As you can see from my photo, it is noticeably smaller (newer on top).  Even the new pencil is shorter. (old pencil has the pocket clip on it which was my low tech solution to a carrying problem). As they said, its smaller, lighter and faster. I can attest they were right on all counts.

After a week of using this new iPad Pro 12.9″ I’d have to say I’ve come across a couple of what I believe are mis-steps on Apple’s behalf.

The origami keyboard/front cover, or “smart keyboard”.  I liked this.  I wish they would have incorporated this into the two position screen feature they did for the latest iPad Pro instead of just having the one piece stand.  Now if i want to use the iPad without a keyboard I either fold the keyboard under, which means exposed keys on the back of the iPad which in my opinion is kinda ugly and not great for the keyboard if you lay it down on a dirty surface, or fold it half under itself like shown in the photo below, or you can remove the keyboard entirely but are then left with no protection since the new smart keyboard has no back cover option like the previous model did.  They need to make a back cover that stays on the iPad to protect it like the old one had.  Or maybe a bumper of some kind like they had for the phones. The new one doesn’t do this due to the use of a new connector on the back where the new one piece smart keyboard/cover connects magnetically.


Also part and parcel along with the missing rear cover mentioned above is the fact that now the corners of the new iPad Pro are exposed to bumps and damage, unlike the previous version. (You can see the silver edges in the photos. Sure the smart keyboard folio provides a little protection because of the way it sticks out beyond the iPad, but not much and not enough in my opinion.)

Another mis-step is the lack of a pocket clip or some kind of connection other than a magnet for holding the new pencil.  Sure, yes, it is now magnetically held in place and charges on the top of the iPad which is great when in use, but slip that iPad into your bag with the pencil on the side and you’ll be fishing around the inside of your bag for it when it falls off.  A simple magnetic flap that folded over the pencil could have solved this.

Something that some may think is a mis-step, but I think is a good change, is the lack of a home button.  I have to admit, I came at this having already gotten used to the disappearance of the home button because of my iPhone X, so my adapting may have occurred easier for me than some. Face ID works well for me so far on both devices. I’ve enjoyed it on my iPhone X for a while, and it seems to work when wearing glasses or not, wearing a hat even, just not while wearing my motorcycle helmet, but I can live with that.

Getting back to the home button, it took me no time at all to adjust to it and honestly find it much better since I used to flip my iPad over depending upon what I was doing and how I was using it, which meant the home button was on the left sometimes, on the right others. Now, the access bar is always at the bottom of the screen regardless of orientation, it is just a simple swipe up from the bottom to access the dock, or close an app.

You can see from the side by side photo the physical size of the new (on left) vs old 2015 version (on right).

The below image is one of an old 9.7″ iPad on top of the new iPad Pro 12.9″ (I had to borrow my daughters iPad for this photo, hence the horse on the cover). Over 3″ more screen space without making the iPad seem huge, gotta love it. I found the original iPad 12.9″ a little bulky at times (airplane seat back trays for one) and hard to fit in my little messenger bag I carry around with me, the new one fits much better and doesn’t seem as huge when I’m working on it but still gives me all the screen real estate I need to do everything I want to do on a tablet.  As for how much better it is than my previous one, for me it was the right choice.  I got more storage – I sprang for the 512 gig version – and a faster device in a smaller package.

I’m not crazy about the decision to go to USB-c for charging and connection to other devices, but that could be mostly due to the fact it is different from my iPhone so now I’m forced to carry around more cables. A quick search on amazon and I found a good deal on a 5-pack of USB-c to USB-a cables so at least I can eliminate the need to carry more than one wall charger. Btw, the old charger from the old iPad Pro works quite well with the new USb-c to USB-a cable.  A USB-c to USB-a cable or adapter is something you’ll want to get as soon as you get a new iPad, since to sync it with anything but the latest Mac laptops you’ll need one. I found that out the hard way when I got home and wanted to transfer my info from my old iPad to the new one using my old MacBook Air.  (in case you really aren’t too sure what connectors are what, in the photo below is the USB-c on the left, Lightning in the middle, and USB-a on the right.) Also, if you are like most, there are tons of USB-a connections around your house and in your car, and as of yet, the USB-c connector hasn’t made it into the mainstream with respect to vehicle ports or household switch plates, or surge protectors. Those are all USB-a and probably will be for some time.

Speaking of cables, you’ll also need some kind of adapter to let you use your headphones since the latest pair I have that came with my iPhone have a lightning connector, and the new iPad has no headphone jack, and no lightning connector, and as great as Bluetooth has become for wireless headphones, you can’t always use Bluetooth. Flying for instance is a good example. Most airlines are still saying you have to disable Bluetooth.

To sum it all up, I guess my trusty old MBA will continue to sit rarely used until Apple really comes out with an impressive update to it that I can justify.  A faster processor that was at least 4-core would be nice Apple.  Until then, this new iPad Pro 3rd Gen. will be my main device for things not quite suited to a smart phone and for those times when my old eyes need to see things larger… which seems to be happening more and more often lately.

-barkerp

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Let me start off by saying, no, I didn’t drink the Apple kool-aid. (seems like whenever i make any comment about a good thing that apple does, i get accused of drinking the kool-aid or being a fan-boy.)
I recently had an issue with my iPad 12.9″ not recognizing the smart keyboard. it all started around beginning of april this year, so, well out of the warranty since I was one of the first to be on the bleeding edge an order the iPad Pro as soon as it was released. At first the problem was just once in a while, but quickly progressed into a nearly daily thing, and of course at the most inopportune times… not there is ever an opportune time for something to fail.The issue appears to be a somewhat common one for the first generation of the iPad Smart Keyboards. I would open up my iPad and flip over the cover to let it stand up ready for typing, only to be met with the annoying onscreen message saying an accessory is not compatible. I know, I know,… how could it not be compatible when it is an Apple accessory specifically made for the iPad? I went thru the typical fixes. Remove the keyboard, reattach. If that didn’t work, try again. If that didn’t work then restart the iPad. Sometimes turning off Bluetooth and all networking with the keyboard detached would do the trick, but not always. It seemed there was no common fix that would work.

As I mentioned, it got worse. Worse to the point I was seeing the message a few times a day, nearly every time I closed up the iPad actually. I gave in and contacted Apple after googling the issue in Apple Support (see this link) and also finding links to a couple of pages that mentioned that Apple had extended the warranty on the Smart Keyboard to 3 years due to connection issues.

Long story a little shorter, I talked to phone support, they determined it needed to be looked at in person and set up an appointment for me at the local Apple Genius Bar. About 2 days later I was there with iPad and keyboard in hand, and a few saved screenshots of the error message with date and time stamps (as included above) just for good measure in case the intermittent problem decided to not play nice with me. (As it turned out, it was replicated in the store while there, but better safe than sorry)

There was no trouble explaining the issue, I wasn’t the first they had seen about this, and after a quick diagnostic to ensure the iPad was not the issue, the Apple Genius Bar support guru put in the request for a new Smart Keyboard which was accepted under the extended warranty and thankfully they had one in the back just for this reason, replacing it then and there on the spot.

Say what you want about Apple and how expensive their devices are, but they do stand behind them when they fail, stepping up and accept their mistakes or flaws, going out of their way to ensure they make the fix as painless as possible. We should all take their actions on this issue as a good example on how to treat customers and how to admit our faux pas, gaffes, blunders, – whatever name you want to try and pretty it up with – and take ownership of them. After all, two air is human, write? to err is human, right?

Now, did someone mention Kool-aid? I’m parched.

barkerp

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves” – Albert Einstein.

Paying attention.  It is the most important thing to practice while driving, and often times hard to do, especially on a long drive, or an overly familiar one where your mind tends to wander.  The laws are trying to encourage it, and enforce it, but we all need to ignore the distractions around us, even the pretty girls.  Sorry Albert.

Technology can help with this, if used properly.

I drive a lot for work, going to new places all the time is one of the perks of the business, (if you like driving and exploring this vast country we live in) and quite often I forget to put the address into my car’s Nav system before leaving the office.  It is still a new-ish toy to me and I forget you can’t add an address once the vehicle is moving, so sometimes I rely on my phone to let me know where to go.  Other times I pull over and key in the address and use the Navigation system.
Today was one of those times I figured I’d just use my iPhone, and as it turns out also my Apple Watch, which I didn’t even know was a feature.  Driving along, I stopped long enough to click on the notification on my phone telling me of the meeting and the address and it launched “Maps” showing me where to go and how long, etc. and headed on my merry way.  Not too far along I felt the now familiar tapping on my wrist from my watch.  Assuming it was just a text message or my watch telling me it was time to stand up I didn’t think much of it.  Then again, as I neared my next turn, same thing.

I glanced over at my watch to see a very simple notification telling me of my upcoming turn, and ETA.  Cool.  The interface is simple enough a glance is all you need.  That is not to say the latest update to the Maps App for iOS is not well laid out itself,  but having the info on your wrist is pretty sweet, and less distracting.

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Watch screen capture

iPhone screen capture

As I said, the watch lets you know when a change in direction is coming up, or as may be, a choice in direction is coming up and the app tells you to keep going the direction you are going.  Sometimes those notifications can be extremely annoying when traveling along a highway and constantly being told to keep going where you were heading like some sort of robotic backseat driver “continue on highway for 3 kms”, but I digress.
When I first thought of getting a smartwatch, honestly I did wonder how much I would use it, and how much I was getting one just because it was cool tech and I didn’t have it.  (seeing the keynote about the Apple Watch Series 2 pretty much hooked me)

I had stopped wearing a regular watch around the same time I started carrying a cell phone in my pocket.  Seemed silly to me to wear something that really only provided one purpose.  Well, two if you include the date function, which by the way, if I ever forget what day it is and I’m not retired already or on vacation, put me out to pasture.  But anyway, having a smartwatch actually makes sense for me, since there are many times my phone is either not in my pocket (at the office for one, around the house for another) or it is in my pocket but not convenient to access, for instance when driving, working outside, or on a job site.  Often the notifications are all that is needed, and no or minimal interaction is required.  Driving is a perfect example of this, and anything that can be done to keep attention on the road is a good thing.  The watch OS does a good job of this, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves, along with how many other ways the minimalistic approach of working with a smaller screen changes how we interact with technology.

Not to mention it is just cool tech, and in my opinion, smartwatches will become as standard as the iPhone has become.  Integrated into our lives so completely that in a couple of years we will wonder how we ever got along without them.

Getting back to good old Albert Einstein, who knew he was such a player.

barkerp

social-media-icon-setI was in the Toronto airport recently and had some time to reflect on how much power, whether good or bad, society has been given by social media. Be it Instagram, FaceBook, Yelp or Twitter, anything you do, anyone you meet, and anywhere you want to go, people have messaged about it and those messages and posts can make or break an event/place/person.

President Obama has been in the news a lot lately discussing truth in news and how FB and Google need to ensure facts are being reported … If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have serious problems.

To a lesser extent the same is true about the average Joe/Josephine and their use of social media.  How do we filter out the facts from the fiction?  The first thing many people do upon experiencing something new (I am guilty of this myself) is post about it.  More often than not, it is the negatives that get posted.  When you have a problem, you want to complain and think someone, anyone, is listening.  Social media to the rescue.  A platform with no real checks and balances, and more often than not the first place we go to find out what others think of something we are thinking of doing, or to “research” a place we are thinking of going to. (I am guilty of this too, especially when it comes to hotels and restaurants)

So often I have heard the same comments about a place, only to find out, it was because one person experienced it and then everyone else just regurgitated what they read, retweeted, reposted, etc without actually experiencing it themselves.

Take for instance a prime example that just happened this morning in my office.  Restaurant ABC gets a bad review on yelp and is taken as gospel because it had more than one bad rating, and as such the person I was talking to said they would not be trying it out.  Who knows, it could have been a bad day, it could have been an isolated problem, it may have been just not quite what was expected, or the person giving the bad review was just being petty.  Disgruntled worker maybe?  You can learn from others mistakes or experiences, but that doesn’t mean that they will have the same experience as you.  With restaurants especially, the particular cook can make or break a meal, your palate is different from someone else’s, maybe you like salt more than sweet for instance, etc., there are a myriad of possible reasons.  And hey, who knows maybe it does legitimately suck.

Everything you post should be understood and interpreted as “in my limited opinion and experience at this particular time and location” but rarely it is.  A few negative comments can quickly become a tidal wave simply due to our inherent nature of listening and trusting others opinions – It was on yelp/Facebook/Google/Twitter/ etc, so it must be true.  We can’t prevent the rants and negativity but we can learn to take it with a grain of salt and realize it for what it is, free advice.  And as with any advice, you usually get what you paid for.

One final note, getting back to the airport again.  Chef Roger Mooking has a new (or at least new to me) restaurant in Pearson.  Having eaten at another chef’s restaurant there, Massimo Capra’s Boccone, and thoroughly enjoying it we thought we’d try “Twist“.  Lets just say I hope chef Mooking pops in again soon to make sure they are preparing his menu properly since his “not so philly cheesesteak” to use some of his own words when judging on Chopped, is a one note, dry offering, in need of some sauce.  But that is just my opinion, well that and my traveling companion.  So two free opinions.  Take it with a grain of salt, … which wouldn’t have helped this sandwich.

barkerp

 

img_7298I like to peruse the blogs, ads, links, and Kickstarter for new products, and have come across a few over the years where I got in early and got a good deal.  My Thermodo for instance.  (if you are not sure what a Thermodo is check it out here.) I was hoping this little charge cable would be one of those things…. sadly, it fell short.  No pun intended.

The HandyCharger is basically a really short lightning cable for charging my iPhone/iPad.  It is meant to be kept on a keyring so you always have one handy in a jam, as long as you have your keys with you.  Sound great in theory.  But in practice, not quite ready for primetime as the saying goes.

I should have known something was off when I ordered back in april and got an email saying it could be 3 to 4 weeks to arrive due to “massive global demand” which turned into 6 weeks, with no explanation, or even a response from the manufacturer until after I had sent a few emails, and got told I would be informed when it shipped.  Gee, thanks, not even an ETA.

Fast forward to beginning of august, now almost 4 months after ordering, and I get notified it had shipped.  Apparently via rowboat from china it would seem since it took over  2 weeks after that notification for it to finally show up, and when it did, it was not as expected.

As in the email above, It should be noted, it didn’t come with a keyring, and the packaging as I noted was terrible, basically non-existent.  I showed it on a keyring to give scale to the photo and to show its intended use.  Another issue is the size of the connector that plugs into the iPhone/iPad.  Its too wide for most cases, so you either have to charge your device caseless or cut the opening in the case to allow the oversized connecto.  Yuck.

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This photo shows the packaging for it, a bubble wrap bag, not even a plastic bag inside it, or a piece of cardboard for rigidity and a little protection.  I emailed the manufacturer as you can see above, and did get a reply saying they were sorry, and to send photos of the damaged charge cable to them, but unfortunately I had already thrown out the faulty cable since it had to be held in place to actually work, and as luck would have it, the magnet on the ends of the cable that are supposed to keep it together are too weak and the darn thing fell off my keychain within a couple of days of receiving it.

Strangely, in searching around for info on the HandyCharger, I found a very similar looking product – like exactly the same looking product, by another manufacturer, InCharge.  (http://incharge.rocks/) Not sure which came first, but it makes me think the one I got is the poor rip-off version. Or maybe it did come first, but if so, the other company took the idea and did it better it seems.   At least it had packaging.  They even made a thin connector option.

handycharger-youtube incharge cable

Another thing to note is the look of the advertised product versus the actual received item.  The multi-colour cable, the actual name silkscreened onto it, etc.  Bait and switch anyone? Or just another example of a US company allowing their product to be manufactured in China and shipped direct to customer, and hoping it is done right without taking the time to inspect.

As I said, great in theory, terrible in practice.  That is my feeling on this one.  Waiting 4 months for a charge cable is ridiculous to begin with, but getting a faulty one after all that, as well as one that in my opinion is poorly constructed with respect to how it is supposed to stay together via the all-too-weak magnet, is enough for me to say stay away from this product until at least version 2.  If there is one.

PS:  I haven’t ordered an inCharge one yet, but probably will.  For one, it is cheaper, and says 2 day shipping with 6 to 10 days delivery.  So at least I won’t be waiting months to be disappointed.

barkerp