Logic…

I like keeping my phone on a belt clip. It’s geeky and will never be a fashion-correct approach, but it’s convenient and that trumps either of those other considerations. I’m also finicky about the clip and case combination I use. It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I like things precisely the way I like them… and pretty much no other way. This past weekend, the clip caught on something and broke so I’ve been attempting to make due sans clip for the time being. That’s not going particularly well given the combination of pen knife, keys, and other random ephemera that ends up in my pockets.

Having dropped my phone more in the last four days than I’ve dropped any phone over the last four years, I’m forced to concede a change is in order. There’s a method to my madness, of course. Things here seldom happen without there being some underlying logic to them. Even if it’s logic that only makes sense between my own ears.

In a herculean fit of warped reasoning, it occurred to me that spending $30 on a clip to fit a phone I’m due to replace any time now is kind of like putting new tires on a car you’re about to trade in. In my mind, addled as it is by years of accounting for money in those special ways that only Uncle Sam can fathom, the more logical thing to do was to go ahead and buy a new phone and a new clip now instead of waiting another month or two. Let that percolate for a moment if you will. Somewhere in my head it sounded perfectly reasonable to spend $900 on a new phone and then $60 on a new case and clip than it did to spent $30 for a replacement clip to keep the old phone in operation a bit longer.

If anyone wants to know the exact date and time I realized I’ve spent too long working for the government it was Saturday, November 19th, 2016 around 2PM… When I decided spending $960 to save $30 somehow made sense. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed for the time being… though I still don’t have an acceptable or convenient way to keep my phone tethered to me at all times so the whole experience has been decidedly unsatisfying for all involved.

Gone cold…

This Friday is going to mark the first time since 2007 I haven’t schemed, connived, stood in line, or woke at three in the morning to get my hands on a new release of Apple’s iPhone on it’s release day. The idea of it leaves me with mixed emotions to say the least. Living in Apple’s universe has never been about having cutting edge hardware or software so much as it’s about having a platform the feels somewhat more refined and well put together than the competition. There’s very little doubt I my mind that iPhone 7 will continue this trend, but if I’m honest, my 6S Plus is still feeling like a really solid device in terms of fit and function.

As much as I hate to admit it, iPhone has reached a point in its life cycle where it is already doing everything I need or want a cell phone to do. It’s capable of doing much more than that, really. I know there are plenty of features that I either purposely don’t use or find myself not even aware of until someone shows them to me. With this year’s round of incremental improvement there just isn’t a change significant enough to convince me to spend the $1000 to be an early adopter – although I have to admit the dual lens camera is looking pretty sick.

I’m not quite ready to concede that I may have entered a period where I’m no longer compelled to have the newest and shiniest tech. The 2006 vintage plasma television in my living room and the 12 month old phone on my hip may belie that point, though. Of course I reserve the right to change my mind a week from now or three months from now, but whatever desire once drove me to take a vacation day and track down the update on day one seems to have gone cold.

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.

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…

Live… from my kitchen…

iPhone release day is typically one of the highest traffic days of the year here at jeffreytharp.com. Then again on a fair number of those days I was standing in line using the blog as a time killer at 4AM more than anything else. Lots of pictures. Lots of updates. It was just something to do to pass the time that didn’t require “making new friends” with the people on my left and right.

FullSizeRenderWith Apple again offering home delivery on release day, I opted t stay home and follow the whole event from the comfort of my kitchen table. So…. if you’re checking in to see what kind of foolishness is happening over in the line at Christiana Mall, you’ll need to find a different huckleberry this year.

I’ll spare you the constant updates this year since what I’m doing to pass whatever time now between me and delivery are such exciting events as paying bills, washing dishes, and running the vacuum cleaner.

In the spirit of my heroic live blog of past years, I give you the following:

7:21AM – My iPhone 6 traveled overnight from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and arrived in Newark, DE last night at 2:41AM. It loaded onto a UPS panel truck at 5:47 AM and send out into the world for delivery. All that’s left now is the waiting.

8:40AM – A moment of hope for an early delivery. Sadly, the squeal of breaks and rumble of a diesel engine at the end of the driveway turned out to be a school bus.

10:10AM – First pot of coffee finished.

12:01PM – Soup.

1:24PM – I’m going to cut the grass… in hopes that UPS will try to sneak up on me while I’m distracted.

1:48PM – UPS delivers to guy two doors down… and then drives off in the opposite direction.

2:02PM – Delivered.

The most unsurprising post of the year…

I like to pretend that when it comes to iPhone I wait and judge each device on its merits. If that were the case, I probably wouldn’t have owned every variant of the device except the ill-fated 5C. So here, a few hours after its formal unveiling I’ll go ahead and say for the record that I’ll be in the market for one of the variants of the iPhone 6 in the same way an addict is 140901_BIT_AppleLogoin the market for just one more hit. That is to say I’d be likely to lie, cheat, and steal to get my hands on it next week. I’m not playing coy with this one at all. It looks like a pretty damned significant upgrade over even my well-loved 5S… and because of that I’ll be awake at 3AM this coming Friday, clicking refresh furiously hoping to land a coveted place in the order queue before the servers supporting Apple and AT&T melt down and I get bumped into the “Delivers in 2-3 Weeks” category. Because clearly that is far too long to wait. Failing a successful early morning pre-order for delivery on the first day of availability, yes I’ll be one of “those people” in line in the wee small hours of the morning on the 19th. And yes, I’ve already asked for the day off to either take delivery from the comfort of my own home or to fight the masses at the local Apple Store. I know I’m a sick man.

With all that said – and with as much as I love me a new and better iPhone – the real star of this afternoon’s press event was the Apple Watch. Based purely on specs, it’s a remarkable little device… and marks the first time in my life I’ve ever considered paying $350 for a watch. Fortunately, the fine people in Cupertino are giving me a four month breather between the phone and the watch so I won’t have to raid ye olde retirement account just to keep my kit up to date.

It appears that rumors of Apple’s impending doom have been greatly exaggerated.

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?