What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Pumpkin Spice. I have no understanding at all of the obsession with making everything pumpkin spice flavored. In all my long years the only thing I’ve ever wanted to taste like pumpkin is Thanksgiving pie. Coffee, cookies, doughnuts, scented trash bags, english muffins, beer… all things that are fine in their “usual” flavors. I’ll be pleased when this fetish of the moment passes… except then there will be some new flavor to obsess over. Be on the lookout for eggplant parm yogurt, coming soon to a grocer near you.

2. “Small Government” Conservatives. My friends on the extreme right wing like to say they’re the party of small government. That’s great, except it’s not really true. You can’t really be in favor of small government but still want a government big enough to regulate what services are or aren’t available from healthcare providers. Small government means just that – it’s less intrusive, less regulatory, and less concerned with what legal activities its citizens engage in. A believer in small government is concerned with maximizing personal liberty and limiting how much influence that government has on our day to day lives. My read on most of our dearly beloved members of Congress who claim the mantle of “small government” are really just busybody prudes who think the universe needs to behave exactly as they want it to. I’m sure there’s a name for that but it sure as hell isn’t small government.

3. Apple. God love them. They rolled out a lot of slick looking new kit yesterday. Much of it immediately landed on my want list, but I didn’t see anything that fills the gap as a “must have” bit of equipment. I’m leaning towards upgrading to the 6S+ to get more phone real estate, especially after seeing them in use “in the wild” for a year. And while the new features, most notably the upgraded camera, look like something I’d get mileage from, I’m decidedly underwhelmed at the prospect of getting up at 3AM Saturday morning to drop in an order at full retail price (since AT&T insists I’m seven months away from upgrade eligibility). We’ll see.

Hey Siri…

Apple’s fall media event kicks off in about three hours. The fact that I’m home while the landscapers finish up the yard is purely a happy coincidence. Really. It is. I won’t bore apple-invite-sept-9-heroyou with what the Apple blogs are expecting to see this afternoon. Suffice to say I’m expecting to see at least one thing – and possibly two or three – that will eventually be showing up in my tech tool kit. God knows I don’t need all the things, but I do certainly want them. Whatever they are.

I wonder if this is what it felt like the day they rolled out the latest Sears catalog back when that was still a thing. Probably not. Sears wasn’t exactly a hype machine. Apple, on the other hand, is the master of making me want to gladly hand over fists full of cash.

In a world full of war, refugees, hunger, rape, murder, and all manner of pillage maybe that makes me a bad person. Probably. Still, the heart wants what it wants.

First impressions of a Watch…

If you’re on the fence about ordering an Apple Watch, a word of advice – don’t do it. I think it’s going to be one of those things you either love or hate and if you’re not chomping at the bit to have one on your wrist, the price of entry probably doesn’t justify the functionality you’re going to get from the device.

If you do think you want one, if you like having tech to fiddle with incessantly, or if you’re just trying to cram as much data as possible into your head all day, Apple Watch might just be for you. Other than getting s42sg-sbbk-sel_GEO_USuse to something other than my old, trusty Swiss Army watch strapped around my wrist, I can say definitively after three days that this new piece and I will get along just fine. It was touch and go there in the beginning. There is a seriously steep learning curve that goes along with it, but after some fits and starts and a lot of tweaking to get the settings “just so,” I have no regrets.

Some things I’ve noticed:

1. It’s heavy. That is to say even with the sports band the stainless Watch is heavier than the watch it’s replacing. With today as the first day I’ve had it on nonstop from morning to night, my left arm feels something between tired and numb. I have to think that by the end of the week I won’t even notice it.

2. Settings are important. If you get a lot of notifications pushed to your phone, you’re going to want to clean house a bit once you get your Watch. Having your wrist vibrate every 30 seconds isn’t value added (to me). However, now that I’m just getting notified about breaking news, calls, emails, and texts as they come in it feels like something worth having.

3. The battery is surprisingly good, but you have to remember to plug it in. I could probably get two full work days out of a single charge, but if I were demanding a lot of notifications, or initiating a lot of calls or messages from my arm, I’m sure battery life would suffer correspondingly. Mercifully the battery at least charges quickly.

4. The app store is still a little thin. It has the basics – a few news sites, Insta, Twitter, some games, calculators – but it’s going to take the 3rd party developers some time to figure out how to get the most out of this wearable piece of screen real estate.

5. It’s networked. That’s the real asset for the Watch. In some cases it’s also an Achilles heel… especially when you’re required from time to time to show up at locations that don’t welcome stray electronic devices with open arms. If you happen to work all day in a place like that, it’s probably best to stick with analog technology. Since it’s not a full time issue for me, I’ll just have to remember to take the thing off (and secure it) before wandering into those parts of the building.

If you’re hoping the Watch will replace your iPhone or iPad, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not and it wasn’t designed to. It was designed as an add on for one or both of those devices. Ultimately it’s a software based watch with some neat notification functionality built in. It’s enough to give you a glance at the news, switch up the song selection, and let you know if someone is tweeting, but it’s not a phone on your wrist – not yet anyway – but I think it’s pretty clear that’s the direction Apple wants to go in their pursuit of lighter and thinner.

It’s a watch – with some extra functionality built in. Once you take control over the settings it does most of what it was built to do remarkably well – not a surprise given it’s source. Ask me a month from now and I’ll bet it’s another device I’d be hard pressed to live without.

I wonder when I can start looking (and budgeting) for v2.0 to make an appearance…

Doesn’t play well with others…

After spending more hours than I want to admit trying to get a little electronic gizmo that will remain nameless hooked up wirelessly, I’m finally calling it quits. Wired direct to the router, all is well and it works like a champ. Unplugged it just sits there blinking out a steady reminder of its failure to play nicely with my home network.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much of the last ten years entrenching myself in Apple’s near-seamlessly integrated garden, but my tolerance for tech that has to be tinkered with is probably at an all-time low. It’s trite, but I want my gear to come out of the box and just work. Some might call that an unreasonable expectation, but those people are, for lack of a better word, simply wrong. There are any number of companies out there proving that tech doesn’t need to be complicated for the end user. Unfortunately there are even more in business that don’t seem to have much of any regard for providing an elegant solution to whatever problem their device is supposed to solve.

I was looking for a piece that would integrate into what I’ve got already with a minimum of fuss or trouble. What I found is a bit of kit that probably works ok if you’re willing to change or make compromises on the set up you have already. I’m not. That means instead of integration, I’ll be stuck with a standalone solution. In the end I’d rather have to manage two sets of controls and two apps than compromise on functionality.

Take that for what it’s worth.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The last minute. Look, when you suddenly realize that we now have a day and a half to do something I’ve been warning you about for six weeks, I hope you don’t mind if my giveashitometer stays somewhere in the “normal” range. Are bad things going to happen if this doesn’t get done in the next 12 working hours? Yes. Is is something that could have been avoided by taking action when I raised the alarm earlier? Yes. Will it result in death or dismemberment of anyone as it goes careening wildly off the rails? No. So is it something that I’m going to lose any sleep over? Not a bloody chance.

2. Gay. Did you see that Tim Cook is gay? Yeah. So what? Straight, gay, bi, undecided, whatever… I just don’t care. Are you a decent human being? Do you pay your taxes and contribute to society? If yes, then I say God bless and have a good life. Who you love or how you get your jollies doesn’t make a lick of difference to me. I don’t want to live your life any more than I want you to live mine, so as long as you’re not a douchecanoe we’ll probably get along ok.

3. Mutual exclusivity. I ate lunch at 2:00 yesterday afternoon. That’s only 150 minutes later than usual and mostly because many people decided that mid-day on Wednesday was a good time to stack meetings and a fire off a half dozen pesky questions that need answers right-the-hell-now. What you shouldn’t do after a day like that is show up asking about some random ass other thing that I was notionally working on before three kinds of hell broke loose. No. I did not get to it. I don’t have that answer. And the likelihood of my getting it in a timely manner (i.e. yesterday) is between slim and none. We’ve had this conversation before, but it’s worth repeating that I can either sit in meetings listening to other people talk or I can sit at my desk and actually get work done. The two options, however, continue to be mutually exclusive. It’s very simple, really. If you want 16 hours worth of work done in an 8 hours period, you can either hire another body or open up the overtime spigot. Failing those options, and given my slacker-like inability to be in two places at once, your courses of action are otherwise fairly limited.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Standards. As a matter of principle, I never hold anyone to a higher standard than I hold myself. By the same token I don’t hold them to a lower one either. I’m many things but I do my best to avoid having hypocrite show up on that list – especially when it’s no harder a matter than maintaining just a little bit of consistency. Jaded as I am, though, I still find I can be surprised when people seem to behave with no sense of personal standards at all. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure whether it bothers me more that they do it or that I care.

2. Low Expectations. The high point of this week at the office was the arrival and unboxing of a new industrial strength shredder. I’m not even making that up. Given the volume of paper we push a heavy duty shredder isn’t a luxury item. It’s damned near an essential. An essential that we haven’t had for the last quarter of a year. It makes me a little sad to find my expectations of what constitutes a “good day” have been lowered so far that being able to turn PowerPoints into confetti now falls near the very top of the list.

3. Apple. I found myself reading through the initial reports from this afternoon’s Apple product rollout and rather than finding myself in need of selling a kidney for some new tech, I found myself mostly shrugging with something that approximated indifference. The latest iteration of iPad lacked something of the wow factor of a truly new product. The new iMac looks well enough kitted up, but not nearly enough to get me to drop $3K+ on on a desktop computer. There was nothing there that will find me leaping from bed at 3AM to make sure my pre-order is in. I know that every new product update can’t be a show stopper, but I’d have appreciated a little bit of “wow” when it comes time to deliver what should be iconic product offerings.

First impressions of iPhone 6…

A few of your have been (more or less) patiently waiting for my first impressions of iPhone 6. I don’t know if this morning’s post is going to exactly reward that patience, but it will at least give you a snapshot of what I’ve found after living with the new phone for the first 36 hours. Do bear in mind that these observations are in no way scientific, have not been approved by Apple, and reflect only my own thoughts.

Screen: I didn’t really think having an additional .7 inches of usable space on the screen would make much difference. I was wrong. The 4.7 screen feels like you’re dealing with acreage compare to the old 4-inch standard. Resolution is crystal clear and the depth of colors displayed exceeded my expectations.

Speed: As expected, speed is improved to have less lag between clicking an app and it opening. Switching between open apps is also largely improved. Performance overall feels snappier – as it should on a brand new device.

iOS 8: No surprises. The new operating system is essentially an incremental improvement from last year. Lots of goodness here that I still need to play with.

Battery: Solid performance under heavy use the last day and a half. It’s probably still going to need a pick-me-up charge towards late afternoon, but it’s miles ahead of needing to plug in at lunch time as I did with the old model under regular daily use. It’s very respectable performance considering it lasts longer while driving a more powerful processor and larger screen.

Camera: Appreciable improvement, especially in low light settings. There is considerably less lag between pushing the button and taking the picture. This is good when you have two dogs who aren’t particularly adept at sitting still for photos.

Form and Fit: Thinner is good. Though it is very slightly heavier than the 5S, it feels lighter in hand because that weight is spread out across a larger area. Build quality is solid, with nothing feeling loose or in danger of falling apart any time soon. The rounded edges are much more comfortable in hand than the hard edges of past models – and echoes back to the original rounded iPhone designs. It’s a very, very pretty phone, but it’s a slick little thing that has tried to jump out of my hand twice already. Dropping a “naked” phone is a concern, even though I’m not particularly accident prone with electronics. Some of that concern will probably be resolved by adding a case to give it a little more “grip-ability,” although sadly that will also hide a really well designed phone.

Overall: If you’re an Apple fan, it’s obviously a winner. Android fans? Eh, I won’t even speculate on what you may think. For me, it’s slightly too large to use in one handed operation for many tasks. I think iPhone has really hit a sweet spot somewhere between too small and phablet – and I know some 6+ fans out there are going to disagree with that assessment. The iPhone 6 does everything I’ve asked of it and is loaded with capabilities I haven’t begun to use. I fear we have reached a point where the phones are finally outstripping my ability to keep up and use them to their maximum ability.

Not surprisingly, my assessment is that this is the best phone Apple has ever offered. If you’re looking to upgrade, I don’t think you’ll find any disappointment here.