New phone day…

It’s new iPhone delivery day. I’m fairly sure I’ve owned every “flagship” version of Apple’s now-venerable iPhone. The annual swap out is just kind of part of the tempo of the year now. The days when I felt compelled to get up early and stand in the dark to get one of the first out of the gate are pretty much finished. The era where new phones come with incredible new “must have” features seems to be over.

Still, I’m always just a little bit excited to get a new bit of hardware in my hands. I emphasize the hardware aspect because this morning, as I have for the last five or six upgrades, I spent some time completing a full backup of my old phone… so I could drop it wholesale into the new device. 

If I’m honest, I these upgrades are mostly just a matter of picking up a little bit of speed between clicks and a slightly better camera. I’m using the newest version of apps I’ve been using for years. I don’t know what the cool new apps are – and I mostly don’t care. This mini-computer I’ll carry around in my pocket is almost completely a platform for text messages, keeping to do lists, and taking (fairly) decent pictures of the critters to post on the “big three” social media platforms. Apollo ran on a system far less powerful, but I sheepishly confess I probably don’t use one tenth of what the thing is capable of doing. 

It turns out I’ve turned into that guy… The one who wants the latest toy because it’s the latest toy rather than anything to do with what it’s capable of doing. It feels like after all these years there must be some whiz bang function that would change my life if I only knew it existed. Maybe I should read a review or something. I probably should, but I think we all know what’s really going to happen. I’m going to go right back to using this fancy new phone the way I’ve used all its predecessors for half a decade.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. CVS. They’re getting great acclaim for making the decision to stop selling cigarettes. It’s their business, I say God bless if that’s what they want to do. I’m left wondering if they’re also planning to stop selling Coke, Doritos, Snickers bars, and all the other items on their shelves that have been identified as cancer causing, bad for you, or just socially “inappropriate.” Let’s be honest with ourselves at least. CVS is a drug store. Their whole raison d’être is selling medications, many of which themselves can cause untold amounts of harm even when taken as directed. Call me cynical, but I don’t see them taking a principled stand in the name of public health so much as I see them making a public relations and marketing move.

2. Bugs. No, not the kind of creepy crawlies that sneak into the house and needs dispatched with the closest available newspaper, magazine, or shoe. I’m more agitated by the kind that live in apps and cause mysterious and damned near impossible to track down battery drain on my phone. Thanks to these gremlins, I get to spend a few hours backing up everything I have on my phone, tricking the thing into believing it’s once again fresh out of the box, and then reinstalling each app one by one so I don’t accidentally reintroduce whatever power hungry gremlin resided in the old version. For a device that “just works,” I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time poking around under the hood to keep things humming along without the need to recharge it every four hours.

3. Passwords. It took me five attempts to log into my own damned website today. That’s mostly because two days ago the site forced me to create a new one. It couldn’t be any old password, of course, but one that was at least eight characters included upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, special characters, hieroglyphics, quadratic equations, and the square root of pi rounded to the nearest non-repeating decimal. I get it. Internet security is important. It’s so important that apparently the best way we can manage not to lose all our secrets to the Chinese, or the Russians, or the NSA is creating the illusion of a random string of characters. If security is as important as the internet thinks it is, can someone please explain to me why we’re not using retina scanners, fingerprint readers, blood samples, or something, anything that would be more convenient than needing to remember a new 742 character password every third day?

Day 2…

I had good intentions of getting a hands on review of the iPhone 5 done and posted last night, alas, my new job as nursemaid pretty much slammed the door on that idea. I haven’t even had time yet to really put the phone through its paces. The only think I can really add at the moment to yesterday’s first impression of it being super light is that it also feels fast and very responsive to inputs. Data speeds seem improved even here in Cecil County, BFE, so I’ll be very interested to see how it handles the next time I wander into LTE coverage. The only snag so far was a few apps that absolutely refused to restore from iTunes. After downloading them directly through the iTunes app, all was once again right with the world. So far, my day two impression is similar to one that is floating around out in the tech forums… iPhone 5 and iOS 6 are essentially refinements to what was already a solid device. Bottom line, is it worth the cost of upgrade from a 4S? For a heavy user bent on squeezing out every ounce of performance from the iPhone or a iOS gamer who wants more screen real estate, yes, absolutely with the upgrade. For the casual user wanting to check mail, text, and play angry birds, it’s not so much of a necessity.

Placeholder…

Jeff would love to write a real post tonight, but instead he’s busy upgrading his iPhone and iPad to iOS 5, playing around with a bunch of new features and apps, and trying to decide if he wants to set up an iCloud account. Rest assured, he is working hard to bring you the finest blog posts available and will be back tomorrow with his regularly scheduled edition of What Annoys Jeff This Week? Until then, bye-bye and buy bonds.

Google+

I’ve gotten quite a few “adds” on Google + over the last week. First, let me say that I’m not ignoring all you other early adopters out there. Yes, I have a Google + account, but no, I’m not actively using it. I feel like I owe you an explanation for that.

Way back in 2010 when I went all in with a hosted website, I selected Google to host my “business” email needs. The Google Apps for Business account gives the average user a fantastic suite of tools to manage an enterprise-style email set up: multiple addresses, analytics, the legendary Google-powered spam filter, and a metric crapload of additional storage. These are all good things and exactly what I wanted for www.jeffreytharp.com.

Along with the goodness that is Google, however, comes the badness. With the beta rollout of Google+, I discovered that Apps/business accounts are not yet supported. Bummer. This means that in order to poke around with Google+ I have to log in with my old “regular” gmail username. Not a big deal, you’d think, but after spending the last year tweaking everything so it’s seamless from desktop to laptop to phone to tablet, the need for a second logon is a huge step backwards.

Technology is supposed to make out lives easier or better in some way. Until Google+ rolls out support for Apps users, though, for me it’s a little like a broken toe. It’s not going to kill me, but it’s enough to be ridiculously annoying every time something touches it. I’m not going to take a step backwards just to be an early adopter. For now Google’s go at a social network doesn’t integrate into my “everything else.” Until it does, I’ll be sticking with Facebook and Twitter… who manage to play nicely with my Google-powered email address. Too bad Google itself can’t seem to do that.

Apple Care…

For the most part, I’ve had good experiences with Apple Care. There’s something to be said for an operation where you can make an appointment, walk in and generally get a repair or replacement within a couple of minutes.

After a few weeks of struggling with a glitchy iPhone, I finally decided to make my appointment before I was too tempted to send my phone hurtling towards the fireplace. I’m pretty sure blunt force trauma isn’t something that’s covered as warrantee work. After meeting with my “Genius,” the official diagnosis was “home button intermittent.” The cause, officially listed as “You have too many apps running in the background.” The exchange went a little like this:

Genius: If you shut those down once a day you shouldn’t have a problem.

Me: Yeah, I do that already. I’ve even done the half dozen other “fixes” recommended in the forums.

Genius: Ok, I’ll shut them down and you should be good to go

Me: Uhhh… yeah.

This is the point in the day where we spent five minutes trying to get the home key to respond in any way.

Genius: Well, we’ve managed to reproduce the problem.

Me: Yep.

Genius: Uhhh… Why don’t we just get you a replacement…

Me: Perfect

I had also hoped to look at the possibility of swapping out my iPad because of a stuck pixel. One very annoying bight blue stuck pixel. Apparently, though, some degree of “stickage” is considered to be within performance standard. On an $800 consumer electronic product, zero defects should be the performance standard, but arguing with the genius wasn’t going to get me anywhere. In fairness, she did offer to swap it out using my one-time warrantee replacement for accidental damage, but being this early in the life cycle, and given that I’m tapping this post out one handed, balancing my iPad on my knee over a concrete floor while holding a steaming cup of coffee with my left hand, I decided the better part of valour was probably holding the freebie in reserve until something apocalyptic happens.

But for the record that one dead pixel is super annoying.

Stand to the right…

Since there were no pre-orders or reservations for the iPad 2, there’s really no difference between standing on the right or left this time around. All the early adopters and true believers are going to be lumped together with the casual buyers tomorrow. Probably a good move if your goal is to generate nice lines at 5:00 in time zones across America… conveniently scheduled to coincide with the evening local and network news cycles. Needless publicity stunt or not, I’ll be there tomorrow – in one of those rare moments when my desire for new and shiny overcomes my natural aversion to large groups of people.

I’ve got my product all picked out – 16GB, wifi, 3G over AT&T (seriously, they’re good for data… actual phone calls, of course, still suck). A spur of the moment panic about “what if” storage needs could bump that up to 32GB at the moment of truth, though. I mean who wants to be caught without enough storage for a crapload of TV episodes, songs, and apps, and the occasional movie, right? Although the new ability to stream media around the house may make the larger sizes redundant for all but the most serious power users.

Hopefully by this time tomorrow I’ll be home fondling my newest piece of kit. If you want the scoop, check back here in around 2:00 CST tomorrow when I’ll be blogging live and in person from the Apple Store in Memphis. Geeky? You bet. Fortunately, I’m pretty OK with that. See you in line!

In the cloud…

I’ve been working on it for a while now, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve finally managed to merge almost all of my communications tools into the Google Apps environment. That means that with the exception of the WordPress platform that actually hosts the blog, I can manage every aspect of http://www.jeffreytharp.com from my Google dashboard. Sure, that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but remember, I’m not a gearhead when it comes to tech. For the most part, I can’t tell you why things work, but I’m pretty good at telling when things work well and picking apart where they need to work better. With this last update of the apps dashboard, I was finally able to sync the iPhone with my hosted email/address book without using a clunky and inelegant work around that involved regularly porting my actual address book to a dummy Gmail address I had to set up just for OTA syncing. Now that they’ve fixed the glitch, I’m pleased with the near 100% integration and the ability to essentially run my life and my public voice from a single point of contact. Maybe someday I’ll take another look at Blogger and see if I can round out my reliance on the Google universe. But for the time being, I’m happy with WordPress and it seems like the place to stay until I find some strongly compelling reason to relocate. Maybe I can convince myself to take on the reorganization and facelift in the near future and close out this latest round of productivity. Until then, you can find me in the cloud.