Life with the AirPods

Over a year ago I bought an iPhone 7 and one of the missing features was the headphone jack. In truth this didn’t bother me too much, I had my Bose bluetooth headphones and I was fine with using the included lightning EarPods. Just recently I got a pair of AirPods and I must say that its been pretty awesome. I use them more than almost all of my other headphones (except for when I’m flying). They’re not very large so its portable, they have pretty decent sound like regular EarPods, and the best part is that they don’t have any wires. I think that last part is the most important since I like not being tethered anymore to my phone if possible.

I do bring the case with me everywhere, mainly so I have a place to put them away because I’m scared of losing one and these things aren’t cheap. The fact that they just pair with my iDevices is pretty sweet. I have had a few problems here and there with the sound when I take calls but its normally short lived. I also managed to pair it to my work laptop so I don’t need to use wired headphones when I am on WebEx or doing some training that has sound. Unfortunately activating them is a bit harder on a Windows 10 laptop compared to my MacBook Pro but it just means when I walk away from my laptop its not in any danger of flying off a table.

I’ve seen a lot of review videos about the AirPods and even tried out my fathers pair since he had them before I did. I’ll admit that it makes me look funny when I’m walking around with them but sine they are so common now in California I don’t look so weird. There aren’t as many people wearing them in FL so I still look a little funny there. I thought they were going to release a new version of the AirPods during the iPhone event but I was surprised that they did’t. I guess they didn’t need to release a W2 chip since the current version is pretty awesome.

The only reason to get rid of my AirPods will be because they won’t hold a charge anymore. I hope that won’t be for at least a few years, I need to get my money’s worth out of these things. They are truly useful for things like writing blog posts while watching Netflix, no wires to trip over!

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New MacBook Pro 13″

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I finally received my brand new MacBook Pro 13″ from the good little elves at Apple in China!  The computer came in an unmarked box and it said it came from some obscure company in China.  I’m guessing they did that so no one would steal the computer from the back of the UPS truck.  I didn’t go with the 15″ because it was too big and heavy and the screen on this thing is pretty awesome for a 13″ so I’m pleased with my purchase.

I got the one with the touch bar and so far its been decently useful.  I can’t say much about it since most of the things I’ve been using have been pretty standard.  It’s been useful for the volume and brightness so far and I’ve also started to experiment with audio and video playback using the touch bar.  I just noticed that there are spelling suggestions when you type just like the iPhone but I don’t know if I’m going to use it since I type fast and just let auto spell check do its thing.  I’ve spent most of my time trying to get all the data back onto the computer.  I didn’t bring stuff back from TimeMachine since there was a lot of junk on my old computer that I didn’t want on my new one.  It was a good thing that I was able to move most of the media to my NAS so I don’t have to worry about jamming up the SSD with a ton of files that can live elsewhere.

This MacBook you definitely can’t get in the store.  I upgraded the RAM to 16GB and I also increased the size of the SSD to 1TB.  I’m used to having large on board storage and I can’t give that stuff up now.  Even though I have my own private cloud, my internet connection at home isn’t fast enough to support media streaming except when I’m at home.  But that was the purpose anyway from the get go.  I am going to start using it more for iMovie which is why I got a more powerful machine this time around.  My old MacBook was struggling a little bit when it was trying to splice things together so I’m hoping that this will be better.

By far the coolest thing is unlocking my computer with my Apple Watch or with my finger using Touch ID.  When it recognizes my Apple Watch, I don’t even get a chance to use Touch ID!  Thats pretty cool!  I haven’t found any shopping websites that use Apple Pay (I mostly use Amazon for my shopping and they don’t support it really) but I’m keen to give it a go.  I did install some software like Paragon NTFS.  That thing costs $20 but I need it for reading and writing the NTFS drives that I still have at home because of my Windows 10 computer.  I should probably re-do those drives as exFAT or something so they can be read by Mac and by Windows.  I also got a HooToo hub so I have 3 USB 3.1 ports, an HDMI port, and a SD Card reader for my GoPro stuff.  I also have 2 adapters from Aukey to change my plugs from USB 3.0 to USB-C.  Using the HooToo and the adapters really isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be on YouTube.  I was able to use it just fine when I was doing my backups of my iPhone and transferring files over from my external drives.  It’s just one more thing to put away but thats a really small thing in my opinion.  This computer is really kind of like a desktop replacement for me so its not going to go many places and even if it does, I’m going to be pretty mobile and won’t need a lot of cables to sync or do nutty things like that.

The one thing I was concerned about was the keyboard.  I had tried out the keyboard in the store and it was just meh to me.  It wasn’t great and it wasn’t too bad but the key travel was kinda not the same.  I’ve been using it for about a day and a half and I’m typing up this post on it and I like the keyboard a lot.  It reminds me of typing on my iPad when I’m not using the external keyboard, the key travel is pretty short but theres just enough that lets me know its a real keyboard and not a screen.  The reason I was hesitant at first about getting this was the lack of input by using a pen to draw stuff.  When it really came down to it, I don’t draw that much anyway and it was a nice to have.  The Retina display is awesome since my old computer didn’t have it but all my other apple devices do.  I can tell there is a difference when I look at the screen and it not being touch doesn’t really bother me in the slightest.  Thats what I have an iPad Air 2 and an iPhone 7 for after all.

One thing that I have found kind of useful is using Siri.  I was attempting to move my backups from on the SSD to an external drive for iOS.  Instead of using finder, I just hit the Siri button on the touch bar and asked for it to bring up Terminal.  it was pretty handy since it worked similar to how it works on the iPhone.  I just asked her to “Launch Terminal” and away it went.  I haven’t had too many problems and its already done a few software updates to bring it up to speed.  I can’t wait to try out macOS High Sierra.  Unlike my past MacBook Pro, I’m not going to use the beta on this computer.  Maybe I should create a VM or something but that would take up precious space on my SSD.  Maybe I’ll look and see what software I can use to create a VM so I can try it out and off load the VHD somewhere so it doesn’t take up space.

I’ve got some traveling to do tomorrow so I won’t be able to mess with my MacBook tomorrow but I should have some time in the coming week to fine tune it so I have it just the way I want it.  Hopefully this thing will last more than 5 years, I’d like to keep it a little longer than the last computer.  It would be sad if my HP Desktop outlasted this MacBook Pro.

Microsoft just told me to buy a MacBook Pro

Today was the big day from Microsoft where the new Surface Pro would be announced in Shanghai and after watching some reviews and news snippets I can say MS will not be getting my money when I have to get a new computer.  The new Surface Pro is a little thinner and has the updated Intel processors but other than that there isn’t anything compelling me to buy it.  Sure I want to be able to use a stylus for drawing and stuff but thats mostly for work and not for personal stuff (and according to work, I might be able to get a computer with a stylus during the 2018 refresh).  The stylus is much improved from last year but since I draw pretty infrequently I’m debating my real “need” to have a pen with my computer.  I have a stylus for my iPad Air 2 (its not an Apple Pencil though) that I can use just fine although having an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil would be awesome but the Air 2 needs to die first.  

The cost of the version of the Surface Pro that I would buy is about $2699 and thats without a type cover which is kind of essential.  Just on pure cost I won’t buy it, also it doesn’t have any USB-C which I think will be important in the next few years.  Also it only has 1 USB 3.0 port and I always have at least 2 USB devices plugged in all the time.  I can get something relatively similar with a Core i5 instead of an i7 processor from Apple for $2400 but with the 16MB of RAM and 1TB drive which matches the Surface Pro configuration.

I guess its time for me to wait until June to see if there are new MacBook Pro’s coming out.  I only need the processor bump and the date of purchase to make sure its supported for the next 5 years.  I still think its amazing that my desktop computer is still chugging along on Windows 10 after 9 years.  I’m very tempted to stick the SSD from my old MacBook Pro in it to speed things along and give it some juice and new life.  I think that’s what’s making it so slow, the fact that the hard drive is still an old spinning disk and not a microchip.  It’s only 2 or so weeks.  If they let me pre-order on the employee purchase site you can bet I’ll be doing that during the keynote.

Google Photo’s is awesome at creating “stuff”

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I’ve been using Google Photo’s since it came out with the new version.  I used to use Picasa occasionally  but it was just a place to view the photos on my hard drive.  I installed Google Photo’s on my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac so that all my photos could be uploaded for safe keeping.  One of the cool parts about it is that Google Photos starts doing neat things with the photos it finds.  The example I have in this post is a panoramic that Google Photo’s put together from 3 separate photos that I took while waiting to take off from Miami.  I’d say it came out pretty sweet.

There are other things that it does like make short videos, turn things black and white, and make collages on its own based on the time the photo was taken or where the photo was taken.  It takes all that meta data from my iPhone that saves things like the location and date/time stamp and uses that to make smart albums.  I think that Apple is trying to do the same thing with Memories but minus some of the other cool functions that Google Photos does.

While Photos from Apple is pretty awesome, there are a lot of storage limitations because I don’t pay for iCloud storage and only use the free options so I can’t back up everything.  I have well over 20,000 photos and around 1,000 videos and all that takes up a lot of storage.  Google Photos is just one means of backing things up but the fact that it does cool stuff with my photos is just some nice bonus stuff.  I also get the option to save the little creations from Google and I take full advantage of that, you never know when I’m going to look back on some of this stuff whenI get older and see how cool some of my pictures came out with a little bit of Google magic.

I’d post more stuff but its hard to do so on WordPress from Google Photos, it doesn’t like the share links that I use.  I had to go around that problem by uploading to Flickr then using their share links after making the photo public.  If I get more cool stuff like this, I’ll post it here or using Twitter to give it more exposure.

Re-Installing Windows Still SUCKS


I managed to royally screw up my daughter’s computer when I was trying to delete the recovery partition because I wanted the latest and greatest Windows 10 updates.  The screw up was so bad that I am actually re-installing Windows 10 right now.  I haven’t done this in a long time and it brings back horrifying memories of when I had to do this over and over again with older version of Windows when I always ran into trouble through installing questionable software to get something done.

Right now it’s going through the motions and I’m just waiting for the thing to finish so I can start configuring it.  There wasn’t any software on the  computer (mainly because there isn’t any room to install any) so I’m not too worried about that and there is also no data on it either.  I just have to reinstall some stuff like Chrome and setup the bookmarks again and everything should be all set.  This experience makes me want to ditch the idea of getting another Windows computer and just getting a MacBook Pro or even just the regular old MacBook when the time to upgrade comes around.

I think in all the time I’ve had the MacBook Pro, I’ve messed it up once so bad that I had to reinstall the OS and even then I was able to use my TimeMachine backup to restore all my files and settings.  I think Apple does a better job of creating backups and restores than Microsoft and that’s one of the main selling points for getting another Mac.  I do still need a desktop level OS to do some things but I am trying to see how well I can survive with just my iPad Air 2 but I just keep on going back to my computers.  I think I’ll skip a tablet for my next major computing purchase and go for a regular computer.  Since I maintain my computers so well, it’s going to be a while before one of them dies (my desktop is currently 9 years old and running Windows 10 and my MacBook Pro is 5 years old and was just upgraded with an SSD).

Woohoo the OS is starting to install, maybe it will require my input soon……

Finally upgrading my 2011 MacBook Pro Hard Drive to an SSD

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After so many years, I’m going to upgrade the drive thats in my 2011 MacBook Pro to an SSD.  I’ve been struggling with my 750GB hard drive for a while now even though the computer is only 4 years old but I’ve run into space problems numerous times now.  I’ve moved my iOS device backups to an external hard drive but thats kind of a pain since I can only do backups and media syncs separately.  The 1TB really isn’t to gain more storage, its more for speed.

A couple of months ago I replaced the battery inside my MacBook so that I can use it again without having it always attached to DC power  (I’m writing this blog post on battery power) and its been great to be able to take my computer around with me without having to drag the power cord along.  I already have 8GB of RAM in the MacBook which should be plenty by all accounts but the performance bottleneck has always been the hard drive.

Now that I have the SSD (well its technically coming in the mail), things should get a lot faster and that will make my computer feel new again.  I made an agreement with the wife that I wouldn’t get a new computer for another 3 years after getting this SSD.   I did see that there were some issues with this particular drive model, but I took the chance since it was $100 below the model that I wanted which was a Samsung 850 or a Crucial 550.  I also read that the company that makes the drive is pretty good about RMA’ing the drive if there’s something wrong and I have my Time Machine backups so I’m not too worried about data loss. I was eyeing one of the newer MacBooks for over a year but I don’t use a computer enough at home to warrant getting a new one.  This brought me to the conclusion that I should just do upgrades since my MacBook is one of the last versions where you can actually replace the parts in it.

I’m hoping that I get the drive during Thanksgiving break, it will take quite a while to clone my current drive (I’ve read iFixit and it might take as much as an entire day to do it).  If I can make my MacBook last as long as my desktop (its going on 8 years and its even running Windows 10 which is amazing), that would have almost doubled my normal upgrade cycle for my computing devices except for my iPhones and iPad’s.  Even those are sticking around fairly long with an average age of 3 years before they’re being replaced.

Now for the hardest part, waiting for the stupid thing to arrive so I can make my computer go FAST again.

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WatchOS 2 looks cool but….

Like a lot of people I watched most of the Apple World Wide Developer Conference on live stream and I was pleased to see that they are Already kmoving forward with WatchOS 2 and that’s after only having the Apple Watch out for a relatively short time.  Since I’m a non-developer the only cool things I saw that interested me a lot was that there would be native apps for the Watch, more functions could be performed on the Watch rather than the phone, and the ability to use my pictures as a watch face (that one is going to get liberal use and probably be the cause of a lot of power drain once it comes out).

The feature that I would still love would be the ability to pair 2 iPhones to the Watch or at least some selective apps for the second iPhone.  The only apps that I would care bout pushing info to the Watch would be my calendar new email information.  In this fun digital age it’s necessary to carry two devices since you don’t want your job looking into everything a that you’re doing on your phone if you choose to connect to corporate email and what not.  It’s also a “disconnect from work” thing that I’ve started to appreciate more.  My last vacation was awesome since I left the work phone at home as well as any technology related to my job.  I definitely would have been tempted to check it if it was handy or close by but since it wasn’t around I didn’t have the urge.

I won’t see an update to the software for my Apple Watch until the fall which seems like a long time from now but in reality isn’t that bad considering I just got the Watch in May.  One other observation I have is that I’m not using the watch all that much on the weekends when I have to do stuff like clean up my messes or do work on the cars or motorcycle for fear of scratching it or breaking it so I’m missing days of movement data. Not really a big deal overall but just an observation I had in how I use my Watch.  Maybe in WatchOS 3 they’ll let us pair multiple iPhones, that would be killer!