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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Complicating my home wireless setup

I’ve recently run into some trouble with the wireless in my home and no matter what I do I can’t seem to fix it.  I’ve tried everything from rebooting the thing, messing with the configuration, to even calling Comcast to see if they could do anything on their end to make the thing stop dropping the wireless signal every hour or so which forced me or the wife to reboot it.  I’ve been using the Netgear since I switched over from AT&T to Comcast because it had gigabit Ethernet, wireless capabilties, and it supposedly had a media drive component so I could stream stuff.  Well the Netgear has been quite disappointing to date, I’ve never been able to get the media server part to work (and its well documented that it totally sucks as a feature), the wireless is completely unreliable, the only part that even seems to work is the cable modem aspect of the device.

I was able to dig out my Linksys X2000 that I used when I was using AT&T.  It has a wireless router component to it and I decided to dig this out of my little tech storage area and connect it to the Netgear.  Now this thing is really old so it only can do 10/100 on its ethernet ports so its not as fast as the Netgear when I connect something to the modem directly.  What I did do though was I connected the Linksys to my home desktop and the router and I connected the Linksys and Netgear to my NAS so it can still take advantage of Gigabit ethernet and regular 10/100.

I was able to check everything out that connects in my house and it all seems to be OK.  I changed the SSID on the Netgear to be unique and as my backup and used the original SSID on the Linksys so everything would still be able to connect like it used to.  So far so good, I haven’t really tested the speed between machines but at least to the internet it seems to be the same as if I was just using the Netgear by itself.  While I’m glad I found a work around solution this is by no means something that I wanted to do.  I purposely bought the Netgear to be my single device to consume internet and be able to use it from multiple devices.  The fact that I had to bring out my Linksys after all this time is kind of a bummer.  It does do Wireless B/G/N but doesn’t use the 5Ghz band but thats technically ok by me since I was using the 2.4Ghz band at home because of my HP Photosmart printer. Linksys actualy makes a better product than Netgear so I’m expecting to have a lot less trouble with the wifi going forward.

Now the thing I really want is fiber to come to my neck of the woods.  I would love it if I had Google Fiber or something, then my internet would be screaming fast!  I think I’ll have to wait a while until that happens, until then I’ll be suffering with Comcast.

Changing up the cover for my iPad Mini

Last year I bought a iPad Mini with Retina display to replace my iPad 2 that I had been using since its release. The reasons for doing this were numerous but the biggest reasons was the size and internal space. As with any new device that I buy, I had to protect it somehow and at the time I decided to go with the black iPad Mini case offered by Apple so it would give my iPad Mini full protection all around. I used the case for about a year and I couldn’t find a lot to not like about it but the one thing that did kind of bother me was that I couldn’t easily remove the cover without leaving the entire device naked.

That gave me an idea for what to ask for for Christmas this year. I decided to go back in time a little bit and change what I used for protecting my iPad Mini. I would forego some of the full protection I had with the case and instead go with a Smart Cover like I did with my iPad 2. There have been a few improvements with the smart cover (the magnets don’t damage the case of the iPad for instance) and they had more colors available. I decided to go with a Project Red case so it stands out and so I can find it easier in the dark. To protect the back I got a Dodocase Book Back, again I had one of these for my iPad 2 and worked really well back then so I figured this time around should be no different.

What this does is that it makes the iPad pretty much its true size again since it lost some of the bulk it gained with the Apple Case. I can now remove the cover which was one of my little peeves with the case as well but the trade off is that now the sides are exposed so there is the potential that I could damage it easier or even crack the screen if I dropped it. While not ideal, I think the new benefits outweighs the risks. I now use this configuration even when traveling since it stays in my back pack most of the time during work and only comes out when I get to surf the internet at my hotel.

My TiVo Series 2 is dead…….

TiVo Series 2

It finally happened after 11 years, my TiVo Series 2 has died. I received my TiVo as a gift from a friend when I left my home in the north east and moved to Florida. It has faithfully served my family since then and has been transported from western Florida and then to South Florida. This has been a primary viewing device and on screen TV guide for so long for me I don’t know what I’m going to do while we decide if we buy more TV from Comcast or get a new TiVo.

I’m pretty sure the hard drive is fried after doing some symptom research on the TiVo forums. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal since the solution is to image another hard drive using a computer. The issue is that the hard drive in a TiVo Series 2 uses a really old connector that my current computer doesn’t have. I went on a recycling binge a year or so ago and tossed out my old computer that would have been perfect for this job. Now I’m faced with a decision of spending $150 to repair an 11 year old TiVo, getting enhanced capabilities from Comcast, or get a new TiVo which would set me back around $900 including the lifetime service plan.

I’m personally leaning towards the new TiVo since it has so much better functionality than my old one. It’s a large purchase and I’d like to use the money for something else but I do like being able to record my shows when I’m away from home. I don’t want to use my computer for that because it sucks so much more power than a TiVo and I would have to watch it on my computer and not my big screen. Only time will tell if I get another one anytime soon or not but I definitely want one 😉

No Google Glass

No Google Glass

I’m as avid as the next tech guy but I really don’t like Google Glass.  It’s not from a privacy thing or because I don’t think the tech isn’t cool or anything, I just don’t like wearing glasses unless they are sun glasses these days.  As a person that wore glasses for most of their childhood and adult life, putting a pair of glasses on to get augmented reality information is just not that appealing.  I spent lots of time and cash trying to eliminate my need for glasses overall and the prospect of needing to wear something on my face just to get some snippet of information that I could probably get on my phone right in my line of sight just doesn’t jive with me.  I will admit that the concept is pretty cool but if its anything like how people use cell phones and drive, I think I’ll be grateful if we can skip Google Glass because the roads are dangerous enough right now with people driving while doing (eating, texting, using a phone, checking email, playing a game, etc.).  Google Glass would constitute one more distraction that really isn’t needed unless you’re maybe walking in an unfamiliar town.

I personally won’t be getting a pair of these, I’ll invest my money into a new iPad or maybe my mid life crisis car instead that has a lot of the things Glass does built in.

Computers are still FASTER….. for some things

I’ve been trying to stop using a computer (not a computing device) for a lot of my day to day activities. Obviously for work I still need to use a computer but for my personal life I’ve been trying to get away from having to power one on. However there are just too many things that a computer can do that a tablet or smartphone can’t yet. I won’t list what all those things are but I’ll provide some examples that are relevant to me.

1) Editing Documents
I have Google Drive, Documents to Go, and Notability to take notes or edit documents on my phone or iPad. While the virtual keyboard is fine, it still doesn’t beat the old keyboard and mouse combo of my MacBook Pro or my Windows Desktop PC for sheer speed of just getting things done when it comes to heavy manipulation of “stuff”. Granted there isn’t a lot in my personal that requires me to do calculations or lookups in Excel but it’s still way easier and faster on a computer.

2) Storage of my junk
I’ll finally admit that I am a digital pack rat. I still have copies of stuff that I wrote in high school on my computer that I have transferred from computer to computer. I also have thousands of pictures that I have never uploaded to some photo site because it would just kill the bandwidth at home and then how would I watch Netflix? There is also all the videos I’ve collected that eats room and being able to edit those videos take power and precision that I don’t have on my tablet.

3) Multi-Tasking
The Android lovers will probably grin at this one but I do enjoy multi tasking. It’s not unusual for me to be using two computers at once and switching between them. Some would say I must need multiple monitors or something but I like doing certain tasks on certain computers and then the are things that I like doing on my tablet like reading that I don’t want to do on my computers at all.

I could almost put typing but I’m pretty good at using a tablet for creating simple things and the auto correct is actually decent on my iPad but there’s nothing like a good old fashioned keyboard some days. Tablets are catching up and I am definitely thinking of an upgrade soon to perhaps an iPad mini when it comes out in the fall, but I don’t expect to be computer free anytime soon. Besides what will my daughter learn to code on if I take away the computers?

Gmail App for iPad impressions

In the last few months, Google has released an update to their Gmail app. I’m pretty much an exclusive Gmail user these days, at least for my personal email. I normally configure the Mail app on my iPad to fetch my mail and it does a pretty good job of doing so. I decided to try the Gmail app for iPad since there are some limitations with the native mail app. The biggest limitation for me is that there isn’t a way to just see unread email. I’ve tried using search strings and looking in my all mail folder for email I haven’t read isn’t very efficient.

The Gmail app has a pretty cool interface and acts just like using Gmail using my regular web browser. I think the best part is that I can search for just unread email. I can also archive and delete my mail just as if I were using Gmail in Safari or using Mail on my MacBook Pro.  I’ve been using the app for about 2 months now and I gotta say that I am enjoying using it more than the native mail app.  There are just a few minor things that keep me from switching over permanently.  One of them is that it only integrates with Google contacts that I have saved in Gmail.  Right now the contacts that I do save are all in iCloud because Gmail saves all the contacts that I’ve ever sent an email to and I don’t want to see all that clutter in my address book.  Second, I don’t know if I can use it in offline mode or not. This is something that I haven’t tried yet but I suspect that you need to be connected in order to use it.

Everything else about the app is pretty good.  I’ve replied to various emails with ease, I’ve composed emails as well which hasn’t been a problem, and I’ve done some forwarding too.  I think I’ll continue to use the app as my main mail app for my iPad but I’m going to stick with using the native mail app on my iPhone for now since it seems to be working ok.  The only things that I have really sent to archive in my mail that I only check occasionally is just some promotions or newsletters that I read from time to time.  Hopefully they continue to improve the app and make it more integrated into iOS to make it even more usable to me.