No new tech to blog about…..

I’ve come to the point where I’m not acquiring tech in a regular interval (I used to get something new every few months) but I think I’ve stabilized on just a few different platforms rather than trying new things out. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the entire family is locked into the Apple Eco system when it comes to mobile devices (iPhones and iPads) but we’re not upgrading as fast as I used to. The family has an iPhone 7,8, and 6S Plus as well as 2 iPad Pro’s from 2017 and a newer iPad mini 5. That keeps things pretty simple in terms of getting apps and support and also reducing the complexity for syncing phones with music and videos. I personally use a MacBook Pro at home (very little though since my iPad Pro pretty much can do a lot of the things that I normally used my MacBook for)

I am becoming a little less reliant on computers in general (the traditional kind) and have simplified the things that I install and try to keep things vanilla. I still buy my computers with massive hard drives (at least 1TB and on SSD for speed). Thats just my old school thoughts on storage for computers but a lot of my audio and video files have moved over to the NAS and the NAS runs 24×7 unless I shut it down. I’ve also embraced more cloud storage with my main cloud storage providers being Box and Google Drive. I have more than enough storage in both accounts that I don’t have to keep a lot of “stuff” on my laptop. My MacBook Pro is a 2017 and its maxed to the gills but I don’t use nearly all the power that I could since I was originally going to use it for videos for the family but I’ve been able to do that on my iPad.

I’ve also consolidated my camera platform to just using my iPhones and GoPro’s. I don’t know how long GoPro is going to be around but they are pretty solid and they do what I need when I go on vacation. I haven’t bought a GoPro since 2018 but it does what I need it to do and the image stabilization is wonderful. It’s not as fast as a point and shoot camera but its good enough for what I need for it to do. All other devices have kind of fallen away. I still watch lots of videos about different kinds of hardware that seem cool, especially about Android phones like the OnePlus stuff but when I consider the ecosystem I’m in, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to switch over.

The last reason that I don’t have a lot of tech to talk about these days is that I’m just hanging on to my stuff a lot longer. I’m still sporting an iPhone 7, it still seems to work pretty well and it hasn’t slowed down. I’m not really missing any feature that I consider “must haves”. The only thing that I’m really waiting for is 5G capability but I think those will come with the 2020 iPhones so I’m going to skip this generation again. The GoPro Hero 7 Black is good enough the way it is, its just really there to take videos during my ski trips and for soccer games but I think I start using it as a point and shoot too which would be cool. I have lots of extra batteries for it too so I know its going to last a while during the day. iPads will last a while too as long as there are software updates, again nothing really earth shattering that I need. They all work with the first generation Apple Pencil and frankly it works great, I don’t see a need to get a whole new iPad just for the Apple Pencil 2.

Maybe in the next few months I’ll find something compelling enough to upgrade to but in the mean time, I’ll have to look for something else to blog about.

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Music on the slopes

If there’s one thing that helps me ski better (at least in my crazy cranium) its having music while I go down the slope. When I was younger this wasn’t very practical because its hard to bring a Sony Discman in your ski jacket and not have the songs skip while you’re shredding down a mountain. More recently in the last 2 years I’ve taken to using my iPhone to listen to music. I find that listening to music while going down the slope makes it more enjoyable and since I ski alone a lot its better than just skiing in silence.

Sony Car Discman

I already have AirPods for my iPhone but I’ve found that they aren’t that great when you want to listen to music while skiing. I think the newer v2 AirPods would be better than my current ones since it has built in “Hey Siri” but you’ll get some crazy stares from people on the chairlift by yelling “Hey Siri!” to change the volume, playlist or song. I also have this fear that my AirPods will fall out of my ears and since they’re white, I’ll never find them again in the snow. I also wear a helmet so using my Bose QC35’s are also not an option. I need to hear the environment around me since there are definitely a lot better skiers and boarders out there passing me and I need to hear when they say they are coming up behind me. The solution that I’ve found the best is actually the EarPods that came with my iPhone in the box. Yes its archaic since its wired but it has a control on it so that I can change the music, pick up phone calls, and change the volume all without having to yell at Siri. I’m able to wear them ok with my helmet on, I still have the feeling that they’re going to pop out of my ears but at least I know its tethered to my iPhone that’s in my ski pants pocket so the probability of losing them is pretty low. They sound decently good and it lets me hear what’s going on around me so both of those requirements are met easily.

Apple EarPods

A few people at Vail used a different solution. They decided to use the UE Wonderboom to play their music. The problem with that is most people don’t want to hear my crazy music while they ski. They want to either listen to their own tunes or just ski in silence. Granted it was a bunch of teenagers that was blasting Post Malone on the lift up to the top but I could have done with out. I did see one woman on the slopes go all out on the expensive gear for having music and call capability for her ski helmet by using a Sena bluetooth system. I have one of those for my motorcycle helmet and they’re not cheap; around $200. The sound is pretty good and it gets loud but that might be a little too much for skiing. I have considered it though but its too much trouble to disconnect everything from my motorcycle helmet and then putting it in my ski helmet.

UE Wonderboom
Sena Bluetooth Receiver

Long Live Touch ID

I must be one of the last hold outs that still like having Touch ID. Granted I have never owned a Face ID enabled device but most of my devices use it. I have iPads and iPhones that all use the tech and its nice to be able to share an iPad or iPhone with my daughter. While I can go ahead and use a passcode, Touch ID is still more secure but not as restricting as using Face ID where its only your face or using the passcode.

The use case that I use for Touch ID is managing my daughters phone. She has 2 fingers enabled, and my wife and I have a finger each which leaves one finger left. This is good for us since the passcode is pretty long and I don’t always want to type it in. It gives us instant access to the phone and its content (there isn’t a lot on it but its helpful when I need to muck around with the settings and stuff.

Most of the newer Apple devices are going to Face ID. All the new iPhones and even the new iPads use Face ID. MacBook Pro’s still use Touch ID but I think the implementation of it could be better. When I first start up the computer it requires a password, but after that I can use Touch ID when waking up the computer from the screen saver or after I’ve opened the lid back up. It also lets me pay for stuff with credit cards that I’ve saved in Safari. I can see Face ID coming to a future MacBook Pro so it works similar to Windows Hello which I’ve heard is awesome but most corporate computers don’t allow it.

I still think that Touch ID has its uses in phones and computers. Better use of Touch ID would be great on the Mac. So many people cover up the cameras on their computers it would almost render Face ID useless. I’m surprised that Windows Hello is widely used based on this phenomenon. I’ve seen some of the Android Phones on YouTube lately that are incorporating the finger print reader right into the screen. That would be cool to give the user a choice to unlock with their face or their finger. I’m waiting for the 2020 iPhones personally to upgrade. Thats when apparently Apple will support 5G and it will also be an “S” year, so they would have had a full year to refine their phone design and maybe they’ll bring back a little bit of the Touch ID magic back.

Rediscovering Firefox

Back in the days of yore, I used a web browser called Netscape. Netscape eventually died off but out of its ashes came a browser called Firefox. For a long time this was the only alternative to Internet Explorer and before Chrome was even a thing. I recently saw on my news feed that Firefox had come out with a new browser that was faster and more secure than Chrome for iOS. Of course I had to try it out.

I’ve installed it on the iPad Pro and my personal iPhone and I can definitely say that I like it better than Chrome. I’m almost to the point where I want to delete Chrome from all my devices except for my MacBook Pro and my Windows computers. The speed of Firefox is definitely a plus for me and their private mode is also better. I also like the menu layout better in Firefox compared to Chrome. Where I think Chrome could have defeated Firefox was being able to use all the extensions that I have installed on the desktop version. Thats the only reason I keep them on my computers but frankly I still use Safari more on my MacBook Pro and only revert to Chrome when I have to.

What’s cool is that Firefox is its still free. It’s definitely a distant 3rd in terms of desktop browsers but it will become my #2 for my mobile devices. I think I’ll decide later this weekend if I’m going to delete Chrome from my mobile devices or not and install them elsewhere. Truth be told, I also installed Firefox on my work computer and unpinned Chrome from the tool bar. Since I can’t use the Chrome extensions that I have for home, the browser just became worthless to me. Most of my work stuff still needs Internet Explorer (no I can’t use Edge either) and without the extensions its just another browser.

There aren’t as many desktop extensions for Firefox but that’s not why I want to use the browser. I’m looking for speed and using less memory on my devices. That’s one of the complaints that I have about using Chrome on my older desktop, it just slows everything down by sucking up the memory. That machine might be a good candidate to install Firefox. I’ll keep checking up on the extensions offered by Firefox, who knows they might come out with the extensions that I like to use on a day to day basis and totally supplant Chrome. Now if they could only come out with a better email client than Outlook, then they could rule my windows desktop experience.

NAVIGON is no more!

Curious thing when I was checking my NAVIGON app last week, there was a message that I sort of just clicked through but it bothered me so I checked the website, to my surprise Garmin decided to kill all their iOS navigation apps. I have had NAVIGON on my phone since the days of the 3GS and it used to be my go to app for navigation in my car. Apparently I’m allowed to use it for another 2 years until there will be no more map updates. That’s kind of sad but it’s expected since in the age of unlimited data, you only need Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze.

I remember the software being a crazy price. I think I paid $79.00 for all of North America. Truthfully it was one of my better purchases due to all the travel I do for work. At the time maps kinda sucked on the iPhone and NAVIGON was more accurate. Over the years I got frustrated with the software due to its interface and lack of search capability. In recent years I’ve relied on 3 apps for navigation and with the final death of NAVIGON I’ll be able to reclaim about 100mb of space on my phone and a tile space.

I’ll admit that having an offline map is useful but Google has this and I have another app called Ulmon that does offline maps. It doesn’t really do turn by turn but I won’t get lost either which is the main point. For it’s time, NAVIGON was freaking awesome and prevented me from getting lost most of the time. Before I had unlimited data it was useful to have he map preloaded on the phone so I wouldn’t use up my data plan. I just might keep the software on my phone for the next two years mainly because I paid for it so I might as well use it if the need arises. By then I should be ready to upgrade my iPhone 7 to something else.

Drawing on Airplanes = FAIL!

I use the Paper by 53 app for most of my sketches whether at home or while traveling. I have purchased Procreate (when it was on sale of course) but I really haven’t touched it after attempting to use it a few times. I’m just a simple person that makes stick figures most of the times or use basic geometric shapes to convey what I’m telling people. I am trying to keep a little book of doodles for my daughter of things that she has accomplished by trying to draw her badges. I have been remiss on doing it but I was trying to catch up on doing it on my flight to San Francisco. I even brought my Pencil by 53 just to do it. I’m working on her snowboard badges by attempting to draw the mountain logo of where she has shredded. The current logo is a bit difficult for me, but I thought hell I have 5 hours to kill on the plane I can do this! NOPE! Absolute fail on my part.

I forgot that planes tend to encounter turbulence and my art skills are already shaky as it is. Having a plane jitter under your iPad while attempting to free hand draw a straight line just isn’t possible. I wasn’t even going for the full logo, I was trying to draw the Kidtopia logo since that was technically easier for me to draw than the actual logo for Keystone. After a few fits and starts I kind of gave up on it. I was going to type this out on my iPad but again, the plane jitters in the air which makes it difficult. I’m writing this on my iPhone 7 since turbulence doesn’t affect my typing skills when holding it in both hands.

Of course as I’m writing this we have hit a patch of smooth air so I could conceivably try drawing again. I’ll just make a copy of my drawing to keep my current master piece intact. That’s the one area that I think Procreate is better than Paper, it has layers to control these sorts of things. I guess I still prefer more simplicity in my apps. There are hundreds of brushes to choose from as well as individual settings that can be tweaked to create a master piece of iPad art. I still use colored pencils and a notebook for most drawings so I guess it’s hard for me to break away from that construct even in the digital age. Kind of amusing actually since I have done my best to delete paper from every other aspect of my work and home life (where possible) to reduce clutter.

Below is the badge I made in paper last year. It was her first year snowboarding and we did it at Snowbird. I try to incorporate the logo of the mountain with some junk that I think represents the area. On the top is the snowbird logo along with a simple mountain and crossed snowboards. She used Burton boots and a Burton board but I happened to have a K2 board when I tried snowboarding which is why I included that logo. I definitely didn’t make this on a plane, I had a nice steady surface in Florida to sketch this out after the trip was over. If I have time I’ll work on the logo for last year this week if inspiration strikes. I suspect making these logos will be easier with an Apple Pencil, it won’t have a squishy tip like my current Pencil and I can be more precise so I can move away from 3rd grade sketches to something approaching a high school freshman.

Beverage service is here! Hopefully I won’t spill my drink on my computer bag.

The case of the dying iPhone 6

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 8.00.47 PM

It’s amazing how fast an iPhone battery deteriorates in only 3 or so years of use.  The photo in this post is from coconutBattery which is an app that I use to monitor the battery for my MacBook Pro.  The added benefit is that I can see the battery performance of an iOS device (it only works with the later ones, I tried it with an original iPad and didn’t get any data back).  Anyway, the phone above belongs to my wife and just this past week the phone would start turning off once it hit 40%.  Puzzled by this I decided to do some Googling to see what the problem could be.  This issue is pretty common with devices on iOS 10, especially the iPhone 6 and 6s.  I tried everything I could to see what was the matter and fix it short of blowing the entire phone away and reinstalling it app by app (its not my phone so I don’t want to do that).

The other thing we just tried today was to install the iOS 11 Beta 6 release.  This solved one problem which was to show the true battery level on the phone.  Now I can see that the battery level is at whatever percent and lets my wife know that she has to charge her phone up so it doesn’t turn off.  As the picture above indicates though, her battery is roughly at 50% of original capacity which translates into 5 hours maybe of web surfing and maybe 2 hours of talk time if she uses the phone.  Thats pretty shitty by any measure especially for an iPhone. Now the thing thats in her favor is that the iPhone event isn’t that far away, maybe a month and hopefully she can hold out until then so we can get an iPhone 7s or an iPhone 8 (depends on what Apple decides to announce in September).

As a stop gap measure we’re trying to remove data from the phone so that she can use my old iPhone 6s that I had for work.  The issue is that the memory on the 6s is half of what she currently has (64 vs 128) so when I try and do a restore iTunes doesn’t like it and decides to just stop doing the restore altogether.  Not very ideal, I wish there was a way to be selective on whats restored and you can do it via third party app but I have no desire to install more bloatware on my MacBook Pro if I can help it.  I’m going to keep plugging away at this issue, probably more this coming weekend during Labor Day since I’ll have some extra time and I’ll crack it by George or we’re getting my wife a new iPhone (well we’re doing that anyway, her phone is kinda OLD and she needs a better camera to capture those precious memories while I’m away).