Carplay Thoughts, Siri

So Siri in the car is actually my biggest use case, for Siri. Ever since the launch of “Hey Siri” I’ve been an avid user when driving.

I enjoyed it prior to Carplay. I just had to shout a little to be heard over the radio, which wasn’t bad, she was surprisingly good at identifying my voice.

One of my gripes with after market tech in cars is that you end up duplicating so much. Case in point my car has a nice microphone in the roof, by the sun roof controls. Because Audi is Audi, the installer couldn’t tap into that microphone, so i have a cute little boom mic, poking out the bottom of my instrument cluster. It’s not terrible but it’s not very clean looking, which is almost always my biggest complaint with non OEM kit. Thankfully it’s dark, small and only the driver really sees it, but still.

Messages sucks

IMG_1610I’m sure the goal was to keep me from crashing but the messages app in CarPlay, even with Siri’s help, the messages app frankly sucks. For one, you can’t see messages. Maybe I’ve pulled over, maybe I’m at a light, too bad. You can see a list of most recents by name, but you can’t just quickly read a message.

IMG_1606The moment you go into Messages, you’re interacting with the car, voice only. It’s futuristic (i guess) but slow and janky, and not at all enjoyable.

 

 

Maps/Navigation

Siri does a reasonable job here. I’ve had 90% or so success telling Siri where I’d like to go and she finds it. Which is honestly more than I’d hope to get, so I’m happy. It’s not perfect, and when it’s not it’s frustrating, it’s nice to use.

My two big gripes are:

  1. IMG_1620Keyboard. I could swear I’ve seen one show up, but I’ll be damned if I can rely on that happening. Obviously typing on the dash isn’t what Apple wants, but as a “Well Siri is fucking crazy” back up i think you should be able to. (Update before i even hit publish, it appears it’s an option when the car isn’t running?)
  2. IMG_1612under destinations, would it be so hard to look at my calendar? Waze figured out how to do it, so I have to assume Apple could. I’m fairly diligent (because of Waze) about adding addresses to my appointments, and it’s frustrating to go into Maps on CarPlay, and seeing my history of destinations, a row of useless pre set up searches, and such, but no “You’ve got a meeting in 20 minutes, at X, wanna go there?” Really Apple? Are more CarPlay users wondering aimlessly looking for parking and grocery stores, than are heading to appointments?IMG_1614
IMG_1553

My thoughts on Apple CarPlay, part one

IMG_1552So for part one, I wanted to just cover some initial impressions.

So CarPlay as it’s own thing is fine, but since Apple has no control over the head unit manufacturers (I actually think an “Apple Car” is more likely to be an Apple head unit) there’s a load of crap that makes everything janky.

Pioneer, being just like every other OEM, has their own thing, AppRadio. I’ve no idea what AppRadio is, because it doesn’t seem to work.

Despite it’s taking up a valuable icon space on the first screen of the CarPlay home screen, every time i tap it, it crashes the CarPlayIMG_1553 interface. Why Pioneer made their own thing, I can’t guess. Why it can’t be deleted or removed, I can totally guess. Why it seems like it should work, but doesn’t, who knows, this is why OEMs shouldn’t bundle their crap into things.

I found a setting in Waze (My Navigation app of choice) that said something like “let app be controlled by car unit”, weird but ok let’s see.

Turn on the car, connect the phone, launch Waze, and …. nothing. Both of these images are the screen shot of what I was seeing on both screens. Waze on my phone seemed to know it was connected and talking to something, but the head unit had no idea. Tapping that nice little AppRadio icon, crashed the interface. Assuming it’s an AppRadio thing, since Waze was like “Oh hi there Pioneer”

Apple Maps is ok, and I use it because it’s what’s there, but I’d kill to have Waze back. Knowing where cops are (or were) is of immense value. Knowing where there’s a road closure… Uh yeah!! Technically Apple Maps has that but it’s crap. “There’s a hazard ahead” that’s it. No details, no icon to tell me, just a hazard, good luck.

I could run Waze by running it in the background, and might resort to that since it’s voice announcements still seem to go through the car speakers. The reason it’d be in the background is that CarPlay is just a special type of mirroring your phone screen. Hit that cute little home icon, if your phone screen is on, the phone (and head unit) return to the home screen. Launch Maps, it launches on your phone. Launch Pandora, same thing, you see where I’m going.

If i pick up my phone, hit the home button and launch an app that isn’t CarPlay friendly, the head unit stays on the home screen. The moment i launch something from the head unit, whatever the phone was doing is replaced by what the head unit is doing. I think i get why, mostly, but it’s also annoying in many ways.

I started to write a single post about CarPlay but figured I’d break it down since there’s so much to talk about. Enjoy this one, I’ll post more in a bit.

Because your Multi Tool Should Travel in Style

IMG_1489I saw this easy seller on the Tools and Toys blog (which i love), they made a Leatherman holster, so i figured I’d reach out and see if they could do one for a SOG multi tool, or if their existing one would fit. A couple messages later and BOOM, they’ve created a custom holster for me, and got it on the site ready for me to order.

I’m in love with it. Single piece of leather, a nice snap to IMG_1492hold it closed and a instead of a plastic clip, your belt goes through a solid loop on the back.

I also like that over time the leather will take on it’s own character; scuffs and scratches etc. Making it uniquely mine.

It’s a nice snug fit, just tight enough that my multi tool isn’t wiggling around inside but not so tight it’s difficult to remove.

If you’re looking for some awesome leather work (they apparently do belts, and such) take a look at their Etsy shop. From first message to purchase was 1 day, and it was on my belt in a week.

IMG_1490I never go anywhere without my multi tool and this makes it both nicer looking to cary and a little more discreet as the OEM holster was black with a big white SOG across the top flap.

 

Denver will be ugly in 10 years.

I love the Denver Infill blog because it keeps me in the know on what’s going on in Denver better than anything else, at least as far as construction. I also HATE it.

I hate it because it celebrates one thing (reducing the number of ugly parking lots, which is good) without ever bothering to turn a critical eye to what’s replacing them, which is bad. I made the mistake of reading the article linked above, and then reading the comments. Actually the article is fine, it’s the standard, “yay one less parking lot” celebration. The comments make me sad for the future of Denver as a cool place to live.

Jack says, “If you all think this is ugly, then you obviously have not traveled much.” Interesting as  I’ve traveled a fair bit, domestically and internationally. So many cities have amazing architecture everywhere. Apartments are lovely to look at, sky scrapers are a wonder. Old buildings are celebrated and incorporated into design. Then i come home to Denver and throw up a little in my mouth.

The building that will replace a parking lot in Arapahoe Square is ugly, it’s not nice to look at, unless you’re comparing it to an empty parking lot.

If you’re familiar with Denver’s current building boom, you can guess what it looks like. Take a guess.

Did you say, lots of right angles, lots of brown and earth tones? maybe some glass mixed in? You’re right. It looks like every other 5 story bloc that’s being built or has recently been built in Denver. Every building built in Denver, especially our apartment blocs have been the same. I kid you not, look at the Douglas, Modera RiNo, Denargo Market, Broadstone RiNo, the one linked above, etc. Sure one might toss some brick in. Maybe one has black iron railings and the other silver, but they’re giant squares of boring color, every one of them.

I’m as excited as the Infill bloggers about reducing our surface parking lots (Though the city is being short sighting not building a public parking garage) but I really wish there was a little more thought put towards design, so that Denver doesn’t end up one big brown square.

Ten years from now, when there’s no parking for downtown events, and the “skyline” is five story brown squares, we’re all going to wonder what went wrong. At least we’ll have the Denver Infill blog as a record.

You don’t need someone to lose, so you can win

In fact, ‘winning’ is a lie. This struck a serious chord with me.

I’ve never cared much about money. I understand it’s value, i know i need it, but don’t really care how much anyone else has compared to me. I’ve never cared about sharing my salary (stupid that it’s so “secret” in corporate culture), or telling someone how much my house or car cost, because they’r not symbols to me. I don’t care if your house cost 2x what mine did or half what mine did. I need a car, i bought the car we agreed was a good one. Same with our house, we didn’t buy the biggest we could find or anything, we knew where we wanted to live, bought a place we could afford. It has the rooms we need, no more.

I’ve never looked at a thing and thought, “this is great, because it’s only for me.”

BUT, that’s not our society as a whole. Sadly I’m in the minority. I’d never quit a job because someone else got a raise, big or small. For me first class IS about the seats, i don’t care what anyone else is doing on the plane. (examples in the mentioned post)

Why? How did i end up this way? Beats me, I’m sure it’s my parents fault, or maybe the Buddhist book i stole from a hotel in high school. Whatever it is, i wish more Americans had it, felt it, whatever.

Sure, I want enough money to buy food, a new car when it’s time. I want to take trips and see the world, but beyond that I don’t need more than my neighbor, I don’t need a trip that’s more special than anyone else. I don’t need a car that cost more. I don’t need more bedrooms. And I certainly don’t care to compare myself or my things to someone else. I definitely don’t need someone else to have less than me, so that what i have feels special.

Enlightened? Grown up? I don’t know, but I do think we should all be aspiring to it.

Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase

I love Tom Bihn, this is my 3rd overall bag from them. This one is more utility than the others.

I have a Ristretto for walking around when i don’t need a laptop with me. It’s awesome. It’s not very portable as a secondary bag though, it’s bulky and takes up space in luggage. It certainly doesn’t fit well in my backpack.

I’ve been looking for something that would fit in my backpack, for when I’m traveling or just at the office, but want to go out and about but don’t want to lug my whole backpack around. The Ristretto could work, for my iPad, but not my laptop. Plus, like i said, it’s bulky doesn’t really fit in my laptop bag.IMG_1336

Enter the daylight. It’s the right size for a macbook air, an iPad, a few other things like chargers or a notebook. It holds my 3DS, and a few other bits, and is easy to carry around.

The best part is that it folds up nice and small. I can roll it up and shove it in my backpack and it can live there all the time until i need to IMG_1335run to a meeting, and only need my laptop or iPad and notebook.

It folds and rolls up and leaves plenty of room in my bag still.

I got the idea for the daylight from a blog I read.

I’ve taken a few trips where the Ristretto was just too big to bring and had to lug my entire laptop bag around, or do with out any gear. The worst of both options for sure.

I’m really excited for future travel and even office days.

Nomad Pod Pro Review

IMG_0851This might be the perfect travel companion for iOS device owners. The Nomad Pod Pro. Love it!

tl;dr;

  • just under 4″ diameter.
  • just over 1″ tall
  • under a half pound in weight
  • 6,000 mAh battery
  • built in (mfi) lightning connector

Mine came the other day and I’m excited for my next trip, which sadly since it’s winter and camping/conference season has more or less wrapped up, but we’ve got a long road trip, might be a good test.

Never the less, this thing is cool.

You supply the watch charger, and for mine I just bought the shortest cable one Apple has, but there’s enough room to wrap a much longer cord if that’s what you’ve got. You pull the top off, held on by really strong magnets, wrap your Watch charger around it, and set the base in the center, then pop the top back on… MAGNETS!

On top of being a nice portable watch charger, it’s an iOS Device charger too. a 6,000 mAh battery gives it enough juice to charge your iPhone 6 and watch, 2x each (per the marketing copy). While in most scenarios my watch lasts all day easy, there’s been at least one time so far (I’ve only owned mine about 2 months so far) when something went sideways and drained the battery to 0 in about 5 hours. Charging your phone at dinner, not a huge deal, happens a lot, IMG_0853easy to be inconspicuous. Charging your watch at dinner, … less so. You can’t wear it and charge (I tried), and you can’t just shove it all in a pocket like you would a charging phone since the charger magnet isn’t nearly strong enough for that.

While I hope to never again have to charge my watch at dinner, at least this thing isn’t ugly and is pretty compact and easy to use.

This will likely replace my EDC battery pack, since most of my charging needs are iOS devices and the built in lightning connector makes it perfect. I’m not sure if I’ll fully commit, but I could certainly reduce my cable and battery carrying with this device. If you charge lots of older iOS stuff or non iOS stuff you’re kinda SOL. The Nomad has 1 port, micro USB to charge it’s battery. The lightning connector is built in. In a pinch you could open it up and plug something other than a watch charger into the USB port inside the unit, but it’d have to be desperate times for sure.

IMG_0852All that said, where this will really shine for me, is camping. A friend asked my thoughts on Pebble vs. Apple Watch (when i had a Pebble) and my only caution was at least with my Pebble i charge it up and have no worries that a 2-3 day camping trip won’t dent the battery.
This will work just fine next to the sleeping bag charging the watch at night just like at home. Keeping my watch and my iPhone charged when camping, while not life or death certainly is nice, and this will make it that much easier, and be that much less I don’t have to bring with me.

So yeah I’m pretty excited for this thing.