Comforts.

I’m settling nicely into my new office. I’m even settling into my new work hours. Having a daily “stand up” call at 6:00 AM MST doesn’t kill my productivity one bit. I get up at 5:30 AM, throw on clothes from yesterday, do the stand up call, and then go upstairs and take a shower, change my clothes, etc., eat breakfast, and get back to work. My workday ends anywhere between 3:30 and 5:00 PM. This gives me time to spend with the family, relax, and such before heading to bed and getting up to do it all over again the next day.

As I get my office set up to my standards, I realized the bigger space has a bit more echo than my old home office back in Chicago. This made my mechanical keyboard sound even louder than usual during Zoom/Teams calls with team workers. Since I try to be as paper free as possible, I often take notes by typing them out while the meeting is in progress and the louder keyboard was not helpful in this situation.

Enter a quieter keyboard from Matias Products. Matias makes a beautiful, ten keyless keyboard that looks like it was made by Apple. The touch is great, the sizing is perfect, and the keyboard is quite sturdy. The case is aluminum and uses the same font that was used by Apple up until the latter half of the 2010s.

I’m quite pleased with it.

For my every day keyboards I opt to not have a 10-key keypad on my keyboards. I like having the mouse closer to center so I don’t have to reach far out to maneuver around. The new keyboard matches my Magic Mouse in black quite well.

I’m quite pleased with this new keyboard and it’s surprisingly affordable. I believe I paid $48 plus shipping, though it’s no longer on sale as of right now at $55. Still, it’s much cheaper than Apple’s wireless counterparts.

Highly recommended.

Cyncism.

This morning, CEO Tim Cook tweeted about Apple’s efforts to address climate change.

As far as I’m concerned, anything on social media that contains positive action towards combatting Climate Change is a great thing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as I’m most likely in the second half of my life, I’m sure that I’ll be gone before the planet becomes completely uninhabitable. However, it’s going to get really bad before I live out my natural lifespan and honestly I don’t want to have a front row seat as witness to the extinction of life on Earth. It’s just not my jam.

Apple talks about Climate Change quite a bit. The company goes above and beyond others with using clean energy sources, has developed robots to dismantle old tech to recycle as much as possible to build new tech, and is working towards developing sources of needed materials without doing any more mining. Is Apple perfect? Far from it, but they’re bringing awareness to the conversation, pushing progress in the right direction, and are doing a heck of a lot more than many other companies on the planet.

Yet, too many folks on social media, most likely typing with their elbows, screech about the evils of Apple, how much they hate the company, and their suspicions that the only reason Apple is doing this is to make more money.

First of all, the United States economy is based on capitalism. Making money is what corporations do in the United States. Apple is particularly good at making money.

Do I believe this tweet from Tim Cook is first and foremost a PR stunt to bring brighter lights onto the company? I really think that is not the primary driver for this. By several accounts, Tim Cook can demanding, short, and intense. That’s part of being CEO of one of the biggest and richest companies on the planet. But I believe Tim also has a heart and he’s passionate about leaving the world better than the way he found it when he got here. Yes, Apple’s clean energy efforts bring in good PR, but the PR is a result of doing the right thing when it comes to Climate Change.

So, I’ll go on skipping over the cynical “blargh blargh blargity blargh blargh” comments to all things Apple. I just wish I didn’t have to go through the eye roll/mouse scroll effort.

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Privacy.

At the end of last year Apple introduced “privacy information labels” on all their apps in the apps store. I talked about this back in December and listed the contents of the Facebook app privacy disclosure on iOS. If you take a peek at that blog entry, you’ll be horrified at the amount of information Facebook tries to scrape from your iPhone.

The “Data Not Collected” image you see above is the same type of disclosure for my Twitter client of choice, Twitterrific. Twitter allows third party apps to access the Twitter platform, so you can use the app of your choice to Tweet. Unfortunately, Twitter also limits what the third party applications can do, so I don’t get the full Twitter experience by using Twitterrific.

And I am perfectly fine with that.

If I need to see my Twitter follower counts or report a tweet for bad behavior by the account owner, I can easily go to the official Twitter website to take care of business. Otherwise, Twitterrific lets me safely and easily tweet, reply to tweets, and read tweets in chronological order. I love it and highly recommend it.

Best part? Twitterrific scrapes absolutely ZERO information from my iPhone. Highly recommended.

When you’re looking at new apps, please take a moment to look at how the app handles the data and what information it pulls from your device. A television does not scan the viewer to tailor ads specifically for your TV and seems to do just fine at shilling products through commercials. There’s no reason for an Internet ad company to scrape all of your information just to personalize ads for you.

You’re better than that.

Take a gander at the information disclosures in the App Store. Make smart choices and give your privacy the respect it deserves.

Random.

I was messing around with my iPhone X the other night and took this shot around 9:00 PM. This was taken in portrait mode from the user facing camera using the timer. I should have used the better camera on the back of the iPhone. Balancing the phone on the floor of the balcony against the window ledge was a bit of a balancing act; I’m lucky the phone stayed where it was for the 10 second countdown.

Because everyone loves attention, I posted this photo on my Instagram account and it garnered quite a few likes, at least by the standards of my non-influential account.

My iPhone X is going on three years old but it’s still running along just fine. This is the longest I’ve had any type of mobile phone. I’ll probably upgrade sometime in 2021 if the battery starts to fail or something. Otherwise, as along as it does what I want it to do, I’m happy.

Mini.

So a few weeks ago, during one of their recent announcements, Apple unveiled their latest addition to the Apple complete home, the Apple HomePod Mini.

I was very excited about this.

We’ve been rocking the home automation vibe in our home for several years, both back east and here in our condo in Chicago. When we moved to the Windy City, I decided to go all in on Apple’s HomeKit automation, and for the most part it has worked very well for us. One of the issues with this approach, however, has been the price of Apple’s HomePod. We have two of them in the house and they were both purchased when on sale at Best Buy. The sale doesn’t come up often.

To provide full coverage throughout the house and to explore other options, we’ve also entertained both Alexa and Google Assistant in addition to our HomePods. Having dissimilar systems is rather maddening, you don’t know who to talk to when you enter a room. Is this an Alexa room or a Google Assistant Room? Should I be talking to Siri.

Earl asked me to get things under control and when Apple announced the smaller, and cheaper while still quite capable HomePod Mini, I was sold. I ordered one as soon as they were available and it arrived in the mail ahead of schedule.

I love it.

Like it’s bigger sibling, the sound quality of the HomePod Mini beats anything else in its class. Setup is a snap. You literally plug it in, hold your iPhone near it for a minute, and then let it do its thing. That’s it. Even though it’s a small device reminiscent of the Amazon Echo or the Google Nest whatever it’s called, the sound quality is amazing. It rivals the sound quality of the original HomePod. The only noticeable difference is less bass, and that’s to be expected due to the differences in size of the unit.

I have the HomePod Mini in my office and it has been working well since installed. While others have issues with interacting with Siri, I rarely have issues when working with the voice based assistant, perhaps I just “speak Siri” or something. She seems to know what I want when I want it and she is properly responsive 98% of the time.

At a $99 price point I’m not disappointed in the purchase at all, in fact I’m delighted. I’m looking forward to adding one more to the household when the funding department permits it.

It’ll be wonderful in the bathroom for music while I’m getting ready in the morning.

Big Sur.

Image from Ars Technica.

Earlier this week Apple had their third product announcement event in as many months. This week’s even focused on the Mac and provided more detail on the company’s move from standard Intel-based CPU chips to their own design, dubbed “Apple Silicon”. During the event Apple talked about impressive bumps in computing speed and, probably more noticeable to the average consumer, battery life. There was talk of some Mac models lasting nearly 20 hours on one charge.

That’s impressive.

Apple also announced the final release date of their latest version of macOS, dubbed “Big Sur”. Originally announced in June at WWDC, “Big Sur” is the first version of macOS to not be a “10-dot-something” since the year 2000. Big Sur incorporates new design elements that are somewhat more relatable to the iPhone and iPad users and is designed to run well on both traditional Macs with Intel CPUs and then new Macs running Apple Silicon.

As an iOS developer, I’ve been running macOS Big Sur for a couple of months. I jumped on the beta in mid August and it has been surprisingly rock solid for the entire experience, to the point that I forgot I was still running a beta. I jumped onto the “Gold Master” or release candidate earlier this week. It has maintained its rock solid status for both me and for my husband when I updated his MacBook Pro on official release day.

There’s plenty of reviews and guides and videos and the like around the details of the new operating system scattered all over the Internet, so I shan’t bore you with the intricacies of what’s changed, but I find the Big Sur experience to be very comfortable, pleasing to the eye, and a slightly faster version of the “same old, same old” I’ve been enjoying on my 2015 MacBook Pro since, well, 2015. Yes, it has a fresh look to it but it works and functions like it always has and that’s what we have, right? Advancements? Maybe a little. Revolutionary? Not at all. Evolutionary? Maybe a tad. Apple likes to play it safe with these things.

The thing is, I don’t find anything else out there to be as polished or as reliable as macOS, at least anything that offers some sort of flexibility for both the casual user and the technical diehard. On a recent Linux podcast they were celebrating the fact that one Linux desktop can now control Philips Hue lights from the computer, something we’ve been able to do for many years on a Mac. I like what Linux is trying to do, but it feels like it’s lagging behind. Google’s ChromeOS locks me into a web browser all the time, and Windows 10 is, well, pretty much the same Windows as Windows 2000. (Much like macOS is a lot like the Mac OS X released in 2001).

I watch “Star Trek” and see holograms and people waving their hands at projected desktops and the like and I wonder if we’re ever going to get there. Probably after I’m dead. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy what I have.

Watch.

I’m still proudly rockin’ an Apple Series 3 Watch. This is my second Apple Watch, my husband still wears my first, and I purchased this right after the Series 3 was introduced to mix. For the most part it has been a flawless experience.

Earlier this month (or was it at the end of last month?) Apple release Watch OS 7. Ever since upgrading to Watch OS 7 my watch has been sporadically rebooting. This experience hasn’t been limited to my Series 3 watch, plenty of other users have voiced their concerns with the same behavior. I found the glitch to be very frustrating, as it seems my watch especially enjoyed rebooting when I went to pay for something with Apple Pay. I don’t like holding up checkout lines.

Apple released Watch OS 7.0.1 but it didn’t address the rebooting issue. I was a bit surprised by this, especially since Apple is still selling this exact model watch as their low end offering. Plenty of other users were experiencing the same thing. After the update to 7.0.1 I futzed around with the watch a bit and figured out that the rebooting seemed to be related to displaying the city of the weather app on the watch face. If I used a watch face that didn’t show “Chicago” (or wherever I was) next to the forecast, it didn’t reboot as much.

Until the release last week.

Over the weekend my watch was rebooting like crazy again. This pushed me to the point of frustration, so I wiped the watch out and set it up as a brand new watch.

This fixed the rebooting issue. It also significantly extended the battery life. My watch is snappy and happy again.

Of course, Apple released Watch OS 7.0.2 to address the rebooting issue. I updated to it and it’s still purring along like a contented kitty.

I feel like I still have plenty of life in this watch. It does everything I want it to do and now that the rebooting issue has been resolved I’m feeling confident with its functionality again.

I’ll upgrade when this one completely gives up the ghost.

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Mini.

I have to admit I’m rather excited about the HomePod Mini. At an affordable price point, we’re going to be able to put one or two of these around our home to supplement our existing HomePods.

I know folks like to gripe about Siri but we rarely have an issue using Siri to play music, set alarms, or control our smart devices. We have Alexa in da house as well, and she seems to get more confused than Siri on a regular basis. Maybe I’m just wired to be more Apple friendly or something.

I’m also excited about the new iPhone 12 lineup. My iPhone X is going on three years old and I’m in the mood for an upgrade. I believe the iPhone 12 will fit the bill. I’ll probably sell my Canon camera to help offset the cost. I haven’t used it in quite a while.

Gamification.

When Apple release Watch OS 7 a week or two ago, all eligible Apple Watches were introduced to many new features. One of the highlights of this release is improved sleep tracking. Apple now encourages you to wear your watch to bed so you know how well you slept.

I’ve been using this since the day of release. Tonight will be the first night that I will not be participating in this latest gamification of life.

I don’t sleep well. I know this. I haven’t slept well in the past several years. Much of it is from feeling the weight of the country on my shoulders, but I also hear things in the big city or once in a while a neighbor, who we usually never hear, will make some startling noise in the middle of the night and then I’ll be in bed all wide-eyed thinking about random thoughts. Occasionally my brain will not shift out of overdrive and I’ll get into this light sleep. The way it really works is I instantly fall asleep but it doesn’t last long enough. As I’m falling asleep I jerk and bob in bed. My husband should probably have a seat belt for his side of the bed. I’ll save the sleep walking tales for another blog entry.

The last thing I need is watch on my arm and my mind grinding on the thoughts of what my “sleep score” will be in the morning.

There’s also another thing to think about with this sleep tracking. Apple doesn’t have a great track record with reliably sounding alarms for waking in the morning. The slightest disruption in the atmospheric continuum, like a time change or a tidal assault from the moon or something, and Apple can’t remember to sound the alarm. So I start waking up about 30 minutes before I should to see if I’ve missed the alarm.

The last thing that was bothering me about this sleep tracking is there’s really one schedule unless you get into full tinkering mode with the clunky app and Apple tries really hard to lock you into that schedule. But! It doesn’t turn the alarm on for the next day unless you manually turn it on before bed.

This is not a good UI design.

I don’t need to track my sleep to make rings close and harps whine when I wake up in the morning. If I want to track my sleep I can check the security cams to see if I’ve walked around or if I’m being over restless I’ll know because my husband rolled me over or something.

I know Apple wants us to be as healthy as possible and I feel like they’re mostly genuine in their intent, but I’m not as big a fan of the gamification of health as I thought I would be. It’s bad enough that the Fitness app never gives you a rest day without scolding you for not closing your rings in successive days. I don’t need reminders on how to sleep.

For those that enjoy the gamification of life, have at it. Love it. Take it to the next level.

I’ll sit here and nap as I tell you kids to get off my front lawn.

Settling Down.

When Apple releases a new version of iPadOS, it usually takes a couple of versions for things to settle down. This is my iPad Pro running the latest production version of iPadOS 14.