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Apple Watch 4 Is The Best

You’ve probably read all sorts of reviews about the new Apple Watch Series 4 at this point, so maybe mine will prove interesting and useful…or maybe not. In any event I am SO enthused, pleased, and excited about this new model that I felt compelled to jot down a few thoughts.

First off I purchased the Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Black Sport Band with GPS + Cellular. As many other reviewers have written, the larger speakers in the watch make calls usable, but for me the volume is still a bit low. Everyone tells me I sound as good, if not better, than my iPhone X itself.

Secondly it is FAST! While my Apple Watch 2 was “OK” as far as speed was concerned, this new one SCREAMS in comparison. Apps load quickly, using the watch feels snappy, and sometimes I find myself just goofin’ around with it since it is fun to interact with. I rarely did that with my Apple Watch 2 since it was too slow and something as simple as checking the weather app took forever. It was always faster to take out my iPhone and use it vs. the watch.

In addition, I love the larger watch face and this specific face with its multiple complications. I chose the one you see above as it provides me with everything I want, need and use all the time every day. In this case you see (clockwise from upper left):

  • The temperature this morning here in Irvine, CA
  • “Reminders” showing I intend to return my Apple Watch 2 back to Apple’s trade-in partner
  • My Activity this morning (my wife and I walk an hour each morning)
  • Timers…I seem to use them frequently
  • In the center top is our 1pm appointment to order furniture for our new house being built in Rancho Mission Viejo CA
  • Lastly the four center complications (again, clockwise) are the date; my wife in my contacts; the trigger for a workout (our morning power walk); and my battery level.

Since getting this watch I’ve done something I didn’t expect: I’m leaving my iPhone X where we’re staying and going out for our morning walks with only my watch.

Unfortunately I’ve been appalled by the horrifically poor AT&T mobile service in southern California — and especially in much of Irvine where we’re staying temporarily until our house is completed end of November — so I don’t get to enjoy phone-free watch use as much as I’d like to, but it is awesome whenever I do and have good cell coverage!

[Read more…]

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My Apple Watch 4 Ordering Adventure

For our 32nd wedding anniversary on Thursday, September 20th, my wife and I decided to get Apple Watch 4’s for our anniversary gifts to one another. No…it won’t be a surprise, but it will be great to have these new, much more powerful, watches.

I was all set to order and I stayed up to do so at 12:01am Pacific time. Unfortunately I had to refresh my browser and didn’t get in until 12:08am.

You can see from the shipment timing above that my watch won’t arrive until 2-3 weeks after my wife receives her watch! You might say, “Well Steve, did you order them a long time apart?

  • 12:08am: Ordered my watch and then added to the cart BUT DAMN! I forgot to do my trade-in Apple Watch 2.
  • 12:09am: Immediately ordered my wife’s watch and entered her trade-in and added to cart.
  • 12:10am: Ordered my watch again, entered my trade-in, and added to cart.
  • 12:12am: Viewed cart and saw Apple’s warning that a single order can only contained two watches, so I removed my first watch order.
  • 12:13am: You can see from above what happened during the less than five minutes it took to perform this entire transaction!

I’ve told a few buddies about this and they just laughed at me and said stuff like:

“Apple only had 20 of each.”

“Man…talk about a first-world problem.”

“At least you’re not homeless and can afford them, you pathetic geek.”

So I’ll just shut up now and, um, wait for my watch while enjoying helping my bride set up her watch this Friday. Oh yeah, and as a stockholder I’m very happy people are buying this watch in droves.

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Colorspike is a Portable & Programmable LED Lightbar for Filmmakers and Still Photographers

There is a recently launched Kickstarter for a portable and programmable LED lightbar called colorspike that is pretty amazing. Whether you’re a filmmaker (or wannabee like me goofing around shooting 4K video with my Nikon D500) or a still photographer, this new gadget is sure to open up huge creative possibilities.

The few professional filmmakers I’ve been able to meet over the years have one saying they all agree on:

The crew doesn’t matter, everything off frame doesn’t matter, all that counts is what’s on screen…it’s the shot that counts.

Though there are a lot of variables in getting to that on-screen shot outcome, there is no question that achieving the perfect shot is heavily dependent upon lighting. Trying to get lighting effects like a flickering campfire, police/fire/ambulance lights, or various kinds of mood lighting is typically achieved with colored gels smeared on lights. Besides being a pain-in-the-butt to use, using gels is slow, tedious, and very creatively limiting.

If it’s the shot that counts, getting that shot might take multiple (and sometimes dozens!) of attempts to get lighting effects set just right to achieve the shot. Colorspike looks like it will definitely give us a virtually unlimited lighting effect and color palette to work with as we shoot video or stills.

If you pledge $299 you can get one and they expect to deliver in March 2018. Check out the colorspike Kickstarter page to learn a lot more and see screenshots of the app too.

Before you go, however, take a few minutes to watch the video below and you’ll likely begin to imagine what you might do with this clever tool:

via BoingBoing

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The Mystery of the Lexar SSD

It was a dark and stormy evening as I walked the aisles at our local Eden Prairie, MN Costco store. Imagine my delight at discovering a display selling a Lexar 512GB solid state drive (SSD) for only $124.99! Not only was this an unheard-of price for such a tiny little drive with a big capacity, the next-closest competitor last week was Samsung’s T3 500GB for close to $200 (available here at Amazon for $197.99).

When I got home I immediately tried it out and experienced the amazing write-speeds from my SSD iMac to this external SSD (44GBs transferred in just over 4 minutes). My wife took one look at it and said, “I want one!” so I went back the next day to buy one and they were all gone (and there were at least 50 available when I bought mine the night before).

No worries,” I thought. Figuring I’d find them online I searched and searched and searched. The only place I could find them were on eBay from some miscellaneous seller with lukewarm reviews (at a higher price too) and I’m not about to do that.

This is the smallest, high capacity external SSD drive I’ve seen yet.

Unable to find any of these drives anywhere but eBay, I finally tweeted to @LexarMemory to see if they could solve the mystery of these apparently unavailable SSDs and point me in a direction where I could buy one:

I connected with tech support and essentially received an “Um…I dunno” but a bit more information was revealed about these SSDs being available “in a limited number of stores.” With my experience working as a manufacturer’s rep in consumer electronics in the late 70s and 80s, it is highly likely that this SSD’s Costco appearance was a dry-run to see how this drive, at this price-point, would sell.

Based on how quickly these drives sold out this test was most certainly a success. That said, I’d strongly suggest that LexarMemory get a move-on rolling these drives out at retail since Western Digital just announced this tiny SSD drive (in three capacities: 256GB; 512GB; and 1TB) and they are a much more recognizable hard drive brand than Lexar.

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Why My iPad Pro 9.7″ is Perfect

ipadpro

Apple announced the new iPad Pro 9.7″ and looking over its tech specs I knew I had to order one…and did right away….and it arrived March 31st. I’ve now used it daily for over a month and the “wow” factor has died down somewhat, so today seemed like the perfect one to jot down my impressions.

Why My iPad Pro 9.7″ is Perfect
OK. Perfect might be too strong a word since there really isn’t such a thing in technology. Devices and tech overall is a continuum and the moment you buy something that sinking feeling that, “…if I’d only waited until…” comes over you as you realize the next iteration of it will be better, cheaper and faster.

For me, the reason I’d use a superlative like “perfect” is because it is so much better than any other iPad I’ve used before. It’s very fast; best battery life ever; the screen, and Apple’s True Tone display technology, is stunning; and when paired with the Apple Pencil it finally lets me take notes like I was writing on paper without all the futzing around making sure my wrist wasn’t leaving digital ink marks all over the page.

apple-pencil2Seriously. That note taking capability is my killer-feature. It is something I’ve wanted to be amazing and perfect from day-one with iPad but it was not. Handwriting sure is now though! There are several note-taking apps I use but have settled on these three and each has their one defining feature for me:

1) Notes Plus: Has built-in character recognition that’s pretty good if your handwriting is legible (I print vs. cursive so it works great)

2) Noteshelf: Numerous features I love and use often like Dropbox backup, but the stationary (in-app purchases) templates are remarkably useful

3) Microsoft OneNote: The handwriting is under “Draw” so is really for sketching (no character recognition) but I use OneNote for organizing so many aspects of our three businesses (as well as my many side projects) that I like having it work well on iPad and the Draw capability is a bonus.

But Steve, Can iPad Pro Improve?
Like I said above, the next version will be better, faster and probably the same price instead of ‘cheaper’, but it’s likely I’ll have this one for at least two years. Especially since I spent over $1,000 on it and accessories (gulp) and I don’t use it as a primary computing device anyway due to its limitations.

Where I think the big value will lie is with removing more of those limitations within iOS itself. As you know if you’re an iPhone or iPad user already, there are inherent security model aspects to iOS that are quite stringent when it comes to apps sharing data with one another (i.e., you cannot). Because of those security concerns, almost every highly productive task I can easily perform on my iMac or Macbook Pro requires several additional steps and apps to accomplish on iPad.

Those multiple steps just make me mad and frustrated all the time and this “nearly perfect” iPad only removes a fractional amount of that frustration due to its speed. But one thing is certain: Apple will continue to improve iOS along with their devices.

Should You?
Should you buy the ‘Pro’ or stick with the regular iPad? Only you can decide on what you need, but if note-taking or sketching is something you will do often then the Pro model is it. I’ve had mine for nearly six weeks now and I feel delight every time I use it…it’s that good…and I’m using it frequently throughout each day, every day.

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Apple’s ‘Special’ Financing is Special Alright!

apple-financing

Just went on Apple’s web store to see about lead times for shipping the new iPhone 6. When I clicked to check financing options, this “Limited time offer” appeared.

Check out the paragraph below the “Apply Now” button where it states:

The purchase APR will be 22.99% or 26.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness.

Those are interest rates that a mobster named Lenny-the-kneecapper would love, no doubt. If you choose one of these payment options and miss one payment or are late, the interest rates kick in. It simply is a bad option and why so many people get in to debt with interest rates that mean you end up paying double, triple or more for a device like this one.

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Amazing at the Time: Dad’s First Calculator in 1973

Adler 81 calculatorA few weeks ago my sisters and I held an estate sale at my father’s house since he had passed away in March at the age of 87 (a tribute site to him is here). One device didn’t sell and I should never have put it into the estate sale in any event: Dad’s first calculator.

In 1973 my Dad brought home an amazing device: a small hand-held electronic calculator called the Adler 81. We were stunned that it could do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and you could (sort of) slip it in to your pocket or purse. He showed it off to the neighbors, brought it out at a party mom and dad had at our house to “wow” their guests, and everyone else he showed it off to were suitably impressed.

Until they found out the price, that is: At the time it listed for $175 and his company bought it for him for $150 dollars in early 1973. To put that into perspective in today’s dollars (using the Consumer Price Index as a measure) the relative value of that $150 in today’s dollars would be $775!   [Read more…]

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YOU Might Already be a Victim of a Cramming Scam

Click for an UPDATE on 10/7/14
Finally AT&T has to pay. Maybe this will make them stop. Now how about the other Verizon and the other mobile companies doing the same thing? Take a peek at this: “AT&T to pay $80 million in refunds for unauthorized charges
The New York Times had this article in the “Money” section yesterday about mobile text messaging scams. It’s likely you won’t pay attention to this scam until YOU are a victim, but you might already be one so read on.

Sick with the flu one weekend this past January I’d gone to bed early on a Sunday night only to be awakened by two back-to-back text messages arriving on my iPhone at about 2am. Having been in the internet/web industry since its beginning in the mid-1990s, I instantly recognized the potential for charges from this scammer so I sat up, grabbed my iPad, and started poking around to see if either the message identifier (the “318-50” in the screengrab below) or the toll-free 866-861-1606 number was an active scam.

I was stunned to learn it is a scam and even ignoring the message meant my account would be charged $9.99 PER MONTH

Based upon the sheer volume of complaints I found during my searching online shows that this scam is rampant, apparently is seeing little-to-no preemptive action on the part of the wireless carriers, and many, many mobile users are being charged monthly fees. This fraud is commonly known as cramming.

I am writing this post for the express purpose of bringing this issue to your attention. If *I* can get scammed (and I am VERY cautious, careful and savvy about online scams and still don’t know how my number was discovered) I can only guess how pervasive this is and that it appears the carriers are likely complicit in perpetuating these cramming scams since they apparently receive 30% of all subscription fees collected..

What is this scam and what can you do?  [Read more…]

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We are Media

If you are not working on your skills in communication—or mentoring others like your kids, staff, spouse and colleagues so their skills improve—you should probably quit now and get a job with zero human interaction.

Why? Because right now being media literate is not just the skill to critically thinking about the media you’re consuming, but today (and going forward) media literacy will be primarily how good you are at discovering great content from others; aggregating it in a way for you to keep it handy; and curating that content so you’ll be able to deliver the essence of your pitch, argument, point of view, opinion, set of facts, or whatever needs to be communicated to one or more human beings.

I’ve always loved an audience, starting from the time I was a little kid. The photo above is of my older sister Nancy and I hamming it up for my Mom so that she could have a photo with us incredibly enthused by this magnificent gift (cool…but not magnificent). I remember charging other kids admission for shows, being the emcee, and loving it.

In fact, I began blogging in 2004 and podcasting in 2005 to scratch that itch. I had A LOT to learn about being an effective writer, all about microphone technique, and how to pull together a show others would find interesting and worth their time to give it a listen. Having done some on-camera work I was comfortable with that, though never felt compelled to do much of that other than inside the occasional screencast with me introducing the content with a brief talking head introduction.

Though I was teased good-naturedly by other executives when I ran strategic alliances at Lawson Software about my podcast specifically (and one exec played mine before a big meeting started and got lots of chuckles from others in attendance), I’ve since coached and mentored several of them on how to effectively leverage video, podcasting, blogging and social media in general.

What I find is those who cannot effectively communicate with media are already at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace, especially if one is in a leadership position or aspires to become a leader. One woman I know was so nervous about “being seen” that she would dig her fingernails in to her palms so that the pain would keep her focused on the interview and not how she felt! Kudos to her for sticking with it as she’s incredibly comfortable now being interviewed on TV, via webcasts and on podcasts. These skills she honed in a year and is still surprised today how her communicating with new media has become such an imperative in her job in marketing and her focus on social media.

NOT becoming media literate with creating content will be (and maybe already is) as important a skill as knowing how to use a computer is for most jobs today. If you’re not literate, people will automatically assume that “you don’t get it” and are somehow a bit of a dolt, not savvy and clearly behind the times.

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Quit Whining About The iPad Interface

There has been a fair amount of iPad bashing going on with the lack of multitasking, limited ability to create content (or at least as flexibly as when using a mouse-driven computer) and the constraints put on developers by Apple.

Man….does this ever bring up memories and an analogy that you might find interesting!

When Apple introduced the Macintosh in 1984, they simultaneously published Apple Human Interface Guidelines which specifically outlined how to build an application that leveraged the supplied interface “toolkit” in ROM so that there would be a consistent user experience across applications (e.g., people would always know where “Quit” was under the “File” menu). There were howls of protests from developers over “the constraints Apple is imposing on us” and “command-line driven applications are so much more flexible than ones that have to fit in to the “File>Edit” metaphor” as well as “who does Apple think they are telling us how to build and deliver great applications?

Sound familiar to today’s whining about the iPad? Look at the original Microsoft MS-DOS driven personal computers and the graphical user interface (GUI) on the Macintosh (and its predecessor, the Lisa). Which would you rather use?

Yes, all of us have become pretty adept at the GUI and all the applications we use today are optimized for that human interface paradigm. Will a transition to any other form of human interface be painful? Absolutely, especially since we’ve all been using GUIs since the mid-1980s! You know that it’s easy to look back and see that a GUI-driven computer world was a much better one to live in than a command-line one, but it’s more difficult to look in to the future to see what a touch-driven computing world will look like.

Apple has published iPad Human Interface Guidelines and it’s pretty clear that the time has come for the computer to take the next leap. Many are discussing it and this post by Keith Kleiner at the Singularity Hub is a good overview of some of the thought leading technologies being explored with this next generation touch paradigm.

The iPad is the first mass market product to embrace this paradigm and make it palatable to everyone, with the possible exception of the whining developers, tech geeks and others who see it as too limiting, closed or different. Is the iPad without warts? Nope and it’s certain to improve and competition will abound. But every time I look at the landscape of human-created products, services, religions or any other endeavor, absolute perfection seems to be missing so get over it.