Category Archives: Travel

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Apple Carplay is so close

For my birthday i got a Pioneer head unit that brought carplay to my car.

It’s nice, it really is, but there’s much room for improvement. SO. MUCH. In fact this post was started months ago and now having lived through a few OS releases, my opinion is less.

I’m beginning to wonder if CarPlay is an AppleTV like hobby that will live on in a meh state for years.

What’s awesome:

better siri integration. I was already happy with shouting “Hey siri” over the radio, sometimes two or three times. Now there’s a dedicated mic that listens way better than the mic on the phone where ever the phone might be, and can silence the radio, pause podcasts and streaming music, it’s definitely better.

Pandora, iheartradio, and other sources of music. This isn’t carplay exclusive, but for me, the car was too old for anything more than taking calls over Bluetooth, so now I’m not limited to radio, and it’s liberating! Now if only the apps worked. I upgraded my TuneIn account then promptly wasted 7 months of paying when TuneIn vanished from CarPlay. It’s back, but pretty much sucks. I can’t access favorites, so have to listen to a station on device, so it’s in the “recents” list. iheartradio and Pandora both work much better.

Podcasts and audiobooks. Also not exactly exclusive to carplay, but i detest dongles and other extraneous connectors, so i never had access to either in the car, until now. I’ve removed (thanks to iOS 10.something) the audiobooks app because I prefer to read books, not listen to them, but my podcast consumption has increased now thanks to CarPlay. Our next cross country road trip will be tremendously more entertaining and informative.

img_0429Maps (also a what’s not awesome). The view isn’t very rich, and well apple maps is kind of meh, but nav is nice and the directions and such are adequate.

What’s not awesome:

Maps. Why on earth Apple Devs think this makes sense is lost on me. About 50% of the time, the maps app launches with the “follow me” option off, so the next time I glance at the screen, my arrow is nowhere to be seen. THere are so many seemingly obvious solutions to this.

  1. default always to “in CarPlay, set to track user”
  2. whenever the car starts moving, flip back to “track user” mode.

I get that sometimes you want to pan the map around, but when driving, I feel like it’s a safe bet I want to see the map following me.

Well in this case, being limited to maps. I love Waze. I’ve been using it since it launched. It’s a great app, crowdsourced data is amazing (especially road hazards and police). Apple pulls waze data in, but not all of it, mostly just traffic/congestion data.

Apparently waze doesn’t care about losing carplay users, since when asked about carplay, this was the response.

Well it was fun, but I’m not going to use an app when now my head unit can take care of it. Heck the iPhone mount on the dash is already gone. Thanks for all the fish Waze.

Apps, or lack thereof. There’s just not many, and that’s a bummer. I don’t want angry birds, but it’s a shame apple isn’t encouraging communication, music, etc apps to all roll a carplay add on in. Dash would be a great example of an app that would make sense on CarPlay. Nowhere to to be seen.

I know carplay is still relatively young, most makers are only now in model year ’16/’17 including OEM support, but I worry Apple will do what they often do with things that require third parrot support; build it, expect others to just adopt it, and watch it flounder.

Carplay is ok right now, not amazing, not terrible. I like my new headhunt (Thanks Tom!) but there’s so much more potential. If someone were to ask me if the upgrade was worth it, my answer right now would be, “not really”. A new car with CarPlay, sure, but going to the trouble of an aftermarket upgrade, I’d wait unless the head unit is cheap.

It definitely did give my car new life. I can connect over bluetooth (not at the same time as being wired) and play music, make calls, etc. More than one person can connect, which is nice, but for the costs involved, the gains aren’t that amazing.

Event Consulting

I just wrapped up RWDevCon, which by all measures was a huge success. Kudos to Ray Wenderlich and his amazing team.

I handled logistics, and Ray’s team put together an amazing two days of tutorial based content.

For my part, things went well I think. Nothing too crazy came up with the hotel, the other group didn’t interfere with us at all. We didn’t run out of food, or have a projector crap out :) All win’s

This was my first “conference consulting” gig. I really enjoyed it and think I gave great value to the client (Ray).

I’m really excited to help make other events in the community awesome!

Also, I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined the AltConf 2015 team, so that’s gonna rock! I’ve sponsored, and volunteered in the past and this year I get to have a more direct role, which I love.

See you at AltConf! Or any of my 360|Conferences events; 360|intersect, 360|iDev or [360|iDev min] :)

 

“This hotel internet is amazing” Said No One Ever.

“This hotel internet is amazing” Said No One Ever.

As much as I’ve enjoyed hosting my events at Marriotts, and as much as I’ve enjoyed staying at Marriotts (all but one hotel on my recent Hong Kong trip were Marriotts), this move by Marriott is likely going to keep me away, at least as much as possible. Certainly for events.

Marriott apparently is taking their dislike of customers to the next level. Surprised? No not really. I am surprised they’re so bent on this course of action that despite the $600k fine, they’re pressing forward trying to get the FCC to change it’s rules. First they tried being sly about blocking people from using their own hot spots, then they got busted. Rather than mea culpa and move on, they’re upping the stakes.

Since their FCC filing (please go leave a comment) being found out, they’ve tried to clarify that they don’t want to hose hotel guests, in fact they only meant they wanted to hose conference organizers and attendees. Oh that’s better…

Apparently suddenly (despite my having never heard of it happening) Marriott is very concerned with cyber security at conferences held on property. Something about protecting children too. The only issues I’ve ever seen at conferences with regards to wifi, is it generally sucking. I’ve never heard of any attacks against the hotel, the conference (It’s organizer or attendees) or any type of child porn ring popping up on premises.

What really happens is hotel internet is usually not awesome. Conference attendees often choose to spend their own data to stay connected. As an organizer I hate it when that happens, but am glad my customers have an option and a choice. I’d be severely pissed off if that weren’t the case, because the hotel chose to block access.

I can only think of one scenario where this type of behavior wouldn’t be abhorrent, and that’s if every hotel invested in the infrastructure to deliver amazing network connectivity to their customers and guests. While undoubtedly some have, most have not.

Oh and while Marriott is busy trying to screw it’s customers, Hyatt is getting rid of the stupid uncharge associated with guest internet access.

I hope either the FCC makes a decision (ideally the right one) or Marriott backs off their plan. Just pay the fine, move on guys.

So, I went to Hong Kong

IMG_0046

My travel journal.

tl; dr;

Had a great time, I’d go back. Their mass transit is amazing.

Long but I hope a good/interesting read.

I went for two reasons, Tom had asked me to go with him (he was attending a conference), and I figured I’d see if Hong Kong had an iOS community and would make for a good 360|iDev city. Sadly Hong Kong, won’t be a 360|iDev city. In talking with a few developers I learned 2 things; 1. there aren’t a ton of developers, let a lone iOS developers. 2. Developer is looked at like “Oh you couldn’t be a doctor or a banker”

Tom and I went to a pre hackathon intro to iOS Meetup, he helped, i hung around. The turn out was good, lots of newbies, lots of kids, but neither was a demographic for bringing 360|iDev, and sadly, neither is a group likely to immediately be in the market to attend 360|iDev Denver.

That’s ok though, that was part of the trip, and while not opening a new door, it certainly was informative, and I met some really cool folks.

The other part was tourism. Tom had a conference but i was hanging out.

Hong Kong island is pretty awesome. Think LA or Manhattan times 20. There’s no skyline, like those cities have, no visible change from low to high rises. It’s all high rises, everywhere.

Food.

We had some really great food (You can see my yelp reviews here). We only had one meal that was completely Meh. Everything else was good or great.

Lodging.

View from the executive lounge of the Renaissance Harbor View.

View from the executive lounge of the Renaissance Harbor View.

We stayed at 4 different hotels. Mostly out of necessity of our plans. First was the Renaissance. Very nice hotel. With points come privilege, we enjoyed a tasty buffet each morning on the executive level, which had amazing views out to the harbor.

After a few days there, we headed to Sha Tin. Basically a suburb to the north. That’s Where Tom’s conference was. After 1 day we both decided it’d be better if he trained in from Central vs. staying there, so we canceled the rest of the stay at the Courtyard Marriott Sha Tin, and booked at the JW Marriott in Central. I wanted the Renaissance, but they were booked. The JW is of course amazing. For what it costs (I used points) it had better, heck my phone even knew my name. Sadly we were only at the JW 2 nights before resuming our original plan. We wanted to make sure to see the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, so our last 4 nights were at the Mira Hotel. Each hotel was packed with friendly welcoming staff. Each room was very nice, with ample plugs (and the Marriott brands offer complimentary power converters in the room).

Kowloon.

Kowloon, is all the worst parts of Beverly Hills, the garment district in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and maybe 16th St Mall in Denver. High priced, up market stores everywhere, watch stores (by brand or ‘sells them all’) every other store front, every luxury brand had at least 3 stores. Annoying hucksters selling watches or tailoring services, and snobbery and euro trash everywhere. Where Hong Kong was bustling with business and life, Kowloon was bustling with Tourists. The Mira was a very nice hotel, but swank. Lots of mirrors and mirrored surfaces. The in house bar was intimidating chic, and the fancy restaurant was FANCY. The food was good though, and the staff amazing).

We ended up spending most of our Kowloon time, elsewhere. Really just one day was spent wandering around Kowloon. We did go to the History Museum and see an amazing history of Hong Kong exhibit, which went from pre-history to the departure of the British. It was amazing.

Overall though, Kowloon just didn’t have much that was interesting. The Temple St. Night Market was cool, but basically a flea market. Lots of crap electronics, knock offs, and clothing. Lots of food stalls and such.

We did stumble onto the filming of a TV show or movie. Suddenly there’s cops everywhere, and people with their hands cuffed behind their backs, and bags on their heads. It took a second to see the cameras. That was neat. It’s funny that they filmed right there without closing the street or anything. That’s how they roll i guess.

Hong Kong DisneyLand.

IMG_0053Unless you have extra time in your travel plans, skip it. It was a hair below “OK”. Not just a small park, which it is, but it felt like a pale shadow of a DisneyLand, or even a knock off. We did end up spending the entire day there (starting around 11a) but that was mainly because Tom wanted to see the fireworks display (they sucked).  I was told the plan is to expand gradually and avoid what nearly happened to Euro Disney, makes sense. Maybe in another 5 years the park will be awesome. There’s some HK specific stuff, and the food was way better than what you’d get in Anaheim, but beyond that, really it was meh, at best.

Hong Kong Island.

The highlight of the trip was here. The island is insane. Huge buildings everywhere, lots of small food stalls and restaurants. The best meals we had were all in Central, whether well known fancy places or hole in the wall local favorites. Getting around was cake, whether walking (lots of raised sidewalks, and bridges make getting around easy, or taking the MTR or double decker light rail bus thing. Victoria peak, walking along the water, the ICC (with immense Apple store), everything we did in Central Hong Kong was fun.

Occupy Hong Kong.

IMG_0214We knew this was taking place, but weren’t sure how close we’d be or what was going on. Turns out we were close. The JW Marriott was in Admiralty where the bulk of the protest was happening, and a few times we walked right past or over (via raised sidewalks) the protest area. It was interesting to see, so many tents and barricades. While we were there the police were getting ready to kick out the groups, and one night a few of them broke through a side door of the gov’t building they were in front of. Overall it seemed fairly peaceful, but we weren’t there when the planned eviction was going to take place.

 Transportation.

Just about everywhere I go outside the US and a few places inside (Chicago, NY) I get very jealous of the mass transit options. The only times we took a cab were when there was no train or when we were in a hurry (so, in total 3x). Otherwise the MTR was amazingly useful. Stations are everywhere, connections to other lines abound, it’s the model of what I’d love to see here. Want to go to Boulder from Highlands Ranch? Take a line into Downtown, transfer to the boulder line, done. Fast, inexpensive, easy, low stress.

Even trying to get around with luggage isn’t too terrible, you’re restricted to taking lifts much of the time, which are slow and usually small and cramped, but totally doable.

I’m very jealous of Hong Kong’s MTR. Denver especially should look to what they’re doing. There’s certainly good models stateside, The “L” in Chicago, Metro in DC, etc. Heck even LA has managed to implement subways, Los Freakin’ Angeles. And Denver Still has almost useless (except for commuters) light rail that YAY! now goes to Golden.

Obviously miles and miles of subway isn’t an overnight thing, but man, the benefits are amazing.

Culture.

IMG_0239I Debated adding this, I hate generalizing about culture, but well, it was pretty universal in 11 days of being in Hong Kong. For one thing personal space is a non thing, understandably, the residences are small, the trains are croweded, etc. That’s actually fine, especially when I tower over most others, and have weight on my side, I need some room, start wiggling to make space, problem solved.

Selfies EVERYWHERE. Old, young, male, female, they had selfie sticks. Yes that’s a thing, that’s what it’s called. They were everywhere, HK Disney, MTR stations, the street. We saw people on the steps to big buddha primping for a selfie, that didn’t even include big buddha. It was a little ridiculous. I know it’s very well stereotyped (asians love taking pictures) but man it was very supported. We saw people focus so much on the perfect selfie the missed the thing that was happening.

They have no concept of waiting in line. Yes there’s lines everywhere, but it seems totally ok to at least attempt to cut the line. Maybe you’ll get scolded, but maybe not, so they just walk up to lines and try to merge in. It seemed the acceptable responses included saying something (No idea what, but it was never very confrontational) maneuvering the line cutter out passively, which seemed to be perfectly ok, or simply letting them cut. It was very interesting.

 

So there you go, some random slightly organized thoughts on my two weeks (ish) in Hong Kong. Thanks to my pal Tom for creating the reason to go.

Flight attendants want air travel to suck again.

I saw this over the weekend, and nearly tossed my phone. I’ve just started to re-enjoy flying, despite TSA non sense. Southwest has done a great job of making me enjoy my time in the air.

Apparently the Flight attendants union wants to re-ban gate to gate use of electronics. They cite reasons such as “No one listens to the pre flight safety announcement” and “those things could become projectiles”

Let’s debunk.

“Paying attention” With the exception of the 1-2 people every fifth flight who’ve never flown before, no one is listening to the pre-flight safety announcement. Anyone who flies even sort of regularly, knows the exits are 2 in the front, 2 over-wing and maybe 2 in the back, and that sometimes the exit is behind you. We all know our seat floats, we all know to save ourselves before trying to save the old or super young. Some airlines realize how lame the announcement it and just made a video to make it easier to ignore. Also I can ignore you with a paperback book, or in my case until the ban was lifted a copy of sky mall.

“Flying projectiles” First of all, if something is happening that’s causing my kindle to fly about the cabin, that’s probably the last thing anyone is worried about. The impending crash is likely to be much higher on the list. Also paper and hardback books, hurt as well when hurtling through the air. So do water bottles, big goofy ass noise canceling headphones, and any number of other things that have no battery that were never and still aren’t banned.

Thankfully not all Flight Attendants want to ruin air travel, just those in the union… hmmm connection?

 

My First Barcamp

So I’ve been making noise on the 360|Stack twitter account and wanted to mention here too. Since Adobe canceled MAX this year I’m trying a barcamp called 360|MIN. We normally do an unconference inside Adobe MAX called 360|MAX, this is a play on that concept.

Unlike 360|MAX which can’t be a true unconference/barcamp, 360|MIN can be just that. Folks will gather pitch topics they want to present and the audience will vote. Those in attendance will create the conference they want.

To make sure we’ve got the tone and vibe right I’ve got a few folks lined up as basically anchor speakers. Check out the details and the line up here. If you’re in the web stack space, this is how you should spend your October! Oh yeah and it’s in Las Vegas!

I Am Not Busy

I’ve talked about being busy before. Lately it’s kind of come back around again with a post in of the NYT titled “The ‘Busy’ Trap”

I’m not busy. When a friend says “let’s go get coffee” I go. When my wife IM’s and asks if I want to take a walk, I go. When Bike to work day happens, I ride in it. When there’s a party in a park, I go to it. When an opportunity to take a trip with my wife comes up, I take it. I get my work done though. It just doesn’t consume me.

I run my own business, two of them actually. If anyone should be busy I could argue it’s me. But I’m not. Do I have things to do? Yes many of them. Do I need to put in 16 hour days? nope. Do i tell anyone who’ll listen how much work i put in on a daily basis? No that’s never even crossed my mind.If anything I’ve tweeted from time to time some accomplishment I’m proud of. Some result of work.

I know many folks, especially in my programmer circles might not agree, and when I wrote code for a living I spent many a day working 16+ hours. Not by choice. I never thought it was the right approach, but then it wasn’t my choice.

I have friends who constantly tweet a complaint like this “20 hours of X, time for bed, or maybe I’ll stay up” or some variation on the theme. Like the article above points out, these folks are staying up, never sleeping etc, because they take on too many things. Knowing some of these offenders I suspect the article is right, they simply wouldn’t know what to do with free time. These are often the “I don’t have time to read” types as well.

I don’t mean this post to be an attack on anyone at all, but to point out the simple fact (the one I made way back) we’re all busy with our lives, and if you’re THAT busy, you’re doing it wrong. And also, no one else cares, or is keeping tabs for future brownie point awarding.

 

Enjoy your life.