Category Archives: Mac

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I won NaNoWriMo 2016

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winnerIt only took ten years, but I finally won NaNoWriMo.

If you’re not familiar it’s National Novel Writing Month. The goal is start Nov. 1, and by the end of Nov. 30 have 50,000 words written.

Every year for the last ten years I’ve at least done something. Some years it’s been open the site, be too busy to dedicate myself to writing, and close the site. Some years I’ve started writing, either something new, or picked up something I’d started randomly in the year. I’d get various amounts of words in, miss a day, then two, then four then I’d see that I was so far behind the average per day needed to win, I’d give up. Ten Years.

This year, my friend Tom and I both decided we’d do it again, both agreed to give it our all. I was especially motivated because a few months before Tom had shared a manuscript he wrote some 15 odd years before, and after reading it, I was more energized to create my own.

capture-2016-12-01-at-12-33-32-pmI don’t know what was different this year, other than being a bit lighter than usual on “stuff to do” work wise. But I was able to start strong, and even when I fell behind a few times, it was never so much so that it became impossible.

I actually thought I’d crush it over thanksgiving, but did the exact opposite, then when I was in the final week, the little author dashboard on the NaNoWriMo site was like at this pace you’ll finish on Dec. 2. “SO CLOSE” So I made time, and pushed through. I crossed the “finish” line around noonish on the last day.

I think one factor of the win was that I finally found an app I enjoyed using to write. I’ve tried most every app out there aimed at authors, and haven’t loved any. Some of come close, some haven’t, some have simply gone away. Scrivener, is here to stay, the iPad app is great for when I wanted to try to add a few more words but didn’t have my laptop, the Mac app is fairly intuitive to use.

Until the last week, I wasn’t sure I’d finish on time or finish at all. I have to say I’m pretty darned pleased with myself. My plan is to let it sit a week or two, then go back over the story with an eye for cleaning things up. Then anyone who’s interested may read it (warning it’s Sci Fi). Then Maybe I’ll toss it up on Amazon. Who knows.

Any how, wanted to share, because like I said, I’m pretty pleased with myself.

I’m Slowly Adding HomeKit Automation to our Whole House

With HomeKit finally being pretty robust, and widely supported I’ve slowly started adding automation to the house. It started with replacing our Nest with an Ecobee, which has been awesome! Then recently I added a iDevices Outdoor Switch to the rooftop. We’ve got some nice patio lighting up there, that I hate plugging and unplugging. I used to just leave it on all the time, which is kinda wasteful during the day, but easier then going over to the plug and fiddling with the cover to turn it all on, etc. (yes, laziness rules the day)

img_0093With the Outdoor Switch not only can I just tell Siri to turn on or off the ‘rooftop lighting’, but also now the lights are on a schedule; sundown, on, 10pm off. Definitely makes it easy and more energy efficient.

The setup wasn’t super smooth, there’s an app from iDevices you use to get everything connected, and that’s a bit finicky, and you have to make sure the device is in wifi range, the phone is on the wifi you want to connect (2.4gHz only of course) etc. but once set up, it’s pretty straight forward, and then you can just use the Home app in iOS 10.

I changed my wifi password and that caused some havoc. About an hour later and many many cryptic errors, i was able to reconnect the switch. I basically (YMMV) had to completely remove it from my “home” and erase it’s existence, then fuss with the iDevices app a few times to get it back to connected, then all was good. I’m not sure there’s a better way than that either, which is a bummer.

If you’re looking to upgrade your outdoor lighting controls, etc, especially with holiday light season coming, I can’t recommend the iDevices switch any more highly! Set up hurdles aside once it’s set up, it’s great and reliable.

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.

I built an app.

IMG_0627Ok I didn’t. I guess I product managed an app :)

Tom and his team worked with me on “Edit Me“. I’ve helped get lots of apps launched (no shortage of 360|iDev and Flex apps out there, that I helped with), but this is the first “not a conference attendees app” app.

Edit Me, serves a real purpose. Ever had a text message, tweet, Facebook post, etc  that you wanted to run by someone before sending? Maybe you’re a bit too heated, maybe too sad. Maybe just to check your tone, or make sure it’s not wildly offensive, etc. Or just to have a friend proof read it for you. Well that’s what we set out to solve with Edit Me.

The idea is pretty straightforward, i’ve got some short form text i want to run by someone before sending it, (Flying Spaghetti Monster knows I often need it)

3-5_1You fire up Edit me, pick your friend who’ll be the editor, throw in a title, and add your text. Off it goes. What’s cool is you and/or the recipient don’t need to register, the exchanges and notifications are bound to device not yet another set of user credentials. When they get the email it’s got an app URL (if they don’t there’s a link to get the app first) and it’ll pull up what needs to be edited.

Something more robust like users may come later, same for more granular edits, right now you offer up your edits and they’re accepted or rejected en masse. There’s no (yet) “Change this word or sentence” it’s “here’s my version of the entire text you sent” even if the change is only one or two words. We wanted to launch what we thought was the most useful version one we could, with plans to do a lot more cool things to the app as we go.

4_5I’m really excited about Edit Me, and find it really useful.

We also want to make a Mac version, which I think is going to be even more useful. While I do often need short form editing/proof reading, I do that a lot more on my mac than my iDevices.

Price: Not free. We went with $.99 because well free isn’t a sustainable model. We think Edit Me has value and utility, and is worth something. Plus really, isn’t not saying something stupid on the internet worth $.99?

NO IAP. While I won’t use the blanket “IAP is the devil” I will say when I am looking for new apps and games, seeing the “Contains In-App Purchase” label makes me think twice before even tapping to see the details. We wanted to make an app that was useful as it is, and requires no extra purchase.

If you’ve ever sat and looked at your messages, twitter or facebook app, and wondered “Should I send this, is mom going to get mad?” Edit Me is probably worth $.99 to you. Because then you could easily ask your sister or friend.

iWatch Review: MetaWatch

IMG_7994So a while back I did a review of my first iWatch (actually this was the first, but it was temporary). It was an ok watch, i had hoped for new features, and in the end the only firmware update that ever came out while adding new watch faces, didn’t do a ton more to make it an awesome iWatch. Of course now that form factor is dead and the new model is not “watchable” at all, so there’s that.

Now I have a proper iWatch, just no i. I’ve had the Meta Watch Strata for a while now, it’s a very cool smart watch. It’s more in the sport watch area, but they do sell a more dressy model. It connects over Blue Tooth Low Energy to the phone and shows you phone battery level, SMS messages, Caller ID, and… well right now that’s all. They’re still working out the bugs, so the emphasis has been on connectivity. I’m trying the latest beta firmware, and it’s come a long way from what shipped.

IMG_7998

Right now it tells you just the basics, but when some of the coming soon features roll out, it’ll be great. I’m hoping i can create rules around some of it, a buzz for every email would suck, a buzz for emails from my wife, or a conference sponsor, handy. Ditto twitter DMs and @ replies. Some i care enough about, others less so.

It has been really handy to glance at my wrist to see incoming SMS’s without digging my phone out of my pocket.

TheIMG_7995 calendar widget has been pretty handy too since you can have two; today and tomorrow. reading a busy day isn’t easy. I suspect future updates will include more readable fonts, or more configurable widgets.

As Smart Watches get more and more popular the differences in approach emerge. MetaWatch uses a central connected app to push data to the watch. App Developers will write their apps, and they’ll reside in the MetaWatch Manager app, giving the user a single place to control it all.

Others like Pebble (I should have mine in another 9 weeks or something) from what I understand, push the apps to the watch. The example shown at CES was pushing watch faces. If you’ve read the other reviews, you know watch faces is one of the things I most loved about the iPod Nano. Pebble made it a front and

IMG_7996

center feature as well. MetaWatch seems to have gone a different direction, at least to start. If you choose to have a full face watch face, you have A choice.

It’s not ugly, but I’m not really a fish person. I’d love to see more, and suspect as time goes on and developers begin releasing things for MetaWatch, we’ll see more clever faces.

Overall I’m really happy with the Strata. The Smart Watch space is still very much in it’s infancy so there’s a lot of room to grow for everyone in it. MetaWatch is clearly serious about it, since having the Strata they’ve gone from 1.0 firmware to 1.2 (yes three releases) but that’s in maybe 3 months?

Pros: Geek cred. pretty handy for basic stuff, way more handy in the future. Doesn’t make a noticable impact on phone battery. It’s connected so definitely does use battery, but not so much I’m carrying a car batter around.

Cons: Not much you can do with it right this second. Weather and phone battery at a glance are cool, and I find them quite handy, but that’s it. Unless you love stocks, it does ship with a stock widget.

A few more pics below just so you can see the MWM app etc.

Basic settings screen for configuring the watch functions.

Basic settings screen for configuring the watch functions.

 

Configuration screen for widgets

Configuration screen for widgets

Currently available options for apps

Currently available options for apps

Where future apps will live
Where future apps will live

 

Stop comparing everything to an iPad

WiiU controller as a helper for game play

I get it, we all love our iPads, i love mine. I’ve tried Blackberries, droids and such, and am back with an iPad.

But, that doesn’t mean every consumer device with a screen should be compared to one!

I was at a Nintendo event last week, for a sneak preview of their new WiiU. (Pronounced, I think. We you).

The big new feature of the WiiU is the game pad controller dealy. Which has a large screen (Which seems to be enough to warrant a comparison to the iPad).

During the event I asked a lot of questions of the demo wranglers, to make sure I knew exactly what the WiiU was, and how it was gonna fit into my life. Doing so made it clear, that much like the Wii before it, it’s less about whiz bang look at my pixels and more about, let’s make games fun and engaging for everyone in the room. However the WiiU is HD now!!!

The Game Pad (I honestly don’t know what it’s name is) is often not the primary game play device. That’s still the realm of the Wiimote (kinda nice to upgrade console and not need new controllers). I’d say about 75% of the games being demo’ed used the game pad as a helper device. In Rayman, the person with Game Pad, destroyed obstacles, and created platforms for the player to use in getting through the level. (see above)

In Super Mario (world, 2, something) the game pad player, gave Mario platforms to jump on, to cross large areas, bopped kupas to keep them off Mario as he moved, etc.

This type of game play really makes the games more collaborative. The Game Pad has a touch screen, so you just tap around, making controlling things easy. It did also have two joysticks, a + controller, and a bunch of buttons like a PS3 controller. Many games were like that, using the Game Pad as an assist to the game.

The other type of game I got to play used the Game pad as the main controller in 1 person at a time games. Obviously it’ll be up the the game studios, but the games I played made excellent use of the game pad screen. In in one game (below) when your character entered a building, you had to use the game pad screen to navigate until you got back outside. It made the game more engaging.

Having a touch screen right there in your hands also opened the game up to cool gestures. Need a gun in a game, draw a sideways “L” and your gun was available. No menus, no toggling, etc.

One game took the game pad in a weird place. It was a skiing game. If you were playing it, you had to look at the game pad in portrait mode and use it’s acceleromter to steer your skier. I guess everyone else would watch the TV, but the player never did. It was kinda weird. Most games leveraged the game pad really well to enhance game play.

So yeah it has a screen and an accelerometer, so I guess a comparison to the iPad is fair? Course, my guess is if you sat an iPad on a coffee table, AirDisplayed it to an AppleTV and used iPhones as controllers, all over Wifi or Bluetooth, (sarcasm warning) it’d be the same fun family/friends gaming experience, until a push notification made your controller disconnect, or a phone call comes in, etc. Course it would cost a lot more too.

I understand we love our iDevices, but not everything is trying to be an iDevice killer, or even a competitor.

Disclaimer: The games I played were almost all prototypes. They said we could post pics so long as they weren’t close ups, and included the game pad as well as the TV screen.

My thanks to Nintendo for a fun time, and an informative event, I can’t wait to add a WiiU to the house, or maybe Uncubed Coworking

 

The only Un-Apple, Apple Experience

Is their retail stores. Well at least mostly. If you want an iPhone case, know what you want and where it is, it actually is a very very Apple like experience. But god forbid you take your shiny Macbook Pro in to the genius bar….

Here begins my tale of frustration and rejection.

Last week I had business down in Tech Center, so since I was gonna be down there I booked an appointment with the Park Meadows Apple store because well look at the screen shot.

I’m a little over a month from my Apple Care Warranty expiring and clearly my battery isn’t working right. Figured I’d scoot in and get a new battery installed.

I made my appointment online, easy peasy. Showed up 20 minutes before my alotted time.

Chased a blue shirt down to check in. “Go stand around over there” Ok cool.

Another blue shirt comes up, “You can grab the spot at the bar you should be coming up soon” Ok cool. I set my laptop down on the bar and sit.

And sit. And Sit. The Genius 1.5 feet from me wraps up his customer. Rather than look to the unattended customer sitting patiently at the bar, he walks around the bar away from me and whispers my name. At least I think he does. By the time I hear what I think is my name, another schmoe has claimed the space, sat down and started talking. I could be a dick and butt in but since I wasn’t 100% sure I didn’t.

I wait. And wait. And wait. 30 minutes later I flag a blue shirt down “Can we make sure I’m in the queue and didn’t get skipped?” Of course.

“Oh looks like your appointment was started and wrapped up. Someone marked it as ended. But you haven’t even been helped?” Nope.

To their credit they scrambled around to find a Mac genius to help me. Oh at first my guy asked another guy for help on the situation, his answer was I needed to make a new appointment… WTF. Thankfully my Blueshirt didn’t take that answer.

Unfortunately the timing of my appointment coincided with wide spread reports of Mountain Lion being a battery drain on laptops. Maybe it is, but my issue pre-dated that, and since the batteries health and capacity weren’t 100% you’d think it would be treated differently. You (and I) would be wrong. My genius preceeded to tell me to wait for 10.8.1 When i asked if once the “fix” was released and my issue was still there I’d be allowed a replacement battery her answer was, “you should buy the Apple Care Extended for $350”

2 hours of my life I’m not getting back. Thanks Genius Bar.

So, that said, Yeah I think the system is broken, but there’s so many easy fixes.

  • Leverage those fancy big displays above the genius bar to show the queue and who’s next. Dont’ walk around, let us come to you.
  • Be loud when calling names? Whispering “John Wilker” in an apple store is like not speaking at all. Shout my name
  • Give me an damn pager device like a restaurant to summon me to the bar. Heck make it Apple, and use an iPhone or something.
  • Use the fancy apple store app, which knows i have an appointment as said page and have it notify me when my turn has come.
  • This one is least likely but would be most well received I think. Have two Genius bars. one for muggles and one for everyone else. I saw 2 sticky iphone buttons. 1 “how to i migrate from this busted iMac to this more busted macbook” and 2 “What’s iPhoto”

I love Apple and most everything they do, but it’s apalling that they’ve revolutionized; computing, movies, TV, books (meh I use my Kindle), etc, but simple queue management in a help desk setting is so broke as to make me wanna start murderin’

So yeah. My monday sucked, and what’s best I get to look forward to doing it again since I didn’t get a new battery. I hope Apple “fixes” the issue fast.