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…

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.

And then there was Three…

Most normal people aren’t particularly attenuated to the comings and goings of fancy new electronic devices. By now you’ve certainly realized that at least in this category, I’m not like most people. What can I say, I’ve got a thing for well-designed bundles of chips, plastic, aluminum, and glass.

I keep telling myself that I’m only taking a look at things for “informational purposes” only. My iPad 2, at a year old, is still pretty much a marvel of modern technology. It runs like a top and has more storage than I can ever reasonably expect to use in a tablet. Really, it’s every bit as good a device today as it was the day I unboxed it last March. Sure, the new one will have a touch more processing power, a higher resolution screen, and a few other bits that make it just a little more polished than the one I have now, but is that enough to justify the inevitable standing in line or waiting around the house all day for the UPS guy to show up? The logical, well-reasoned answer, of course, is no, no it isn’t.

For better or worse, I’ve drunk the Kool Aid. Normal standards of logic, need, or justification really don’t apply. I guess as far as addictions go, things could be worse. At least I only have to go out looking for my fix a couple of times a year. Unfortunately, like any other self-respecting addict, once I’ve gotten a whiff of there being a new and more potent fix on the market, I’m pretty much helpless in the face of my own excitement to get a taste of it. Just like every year around this time I am officially waiting to see the technical specifications before making a decision. In the less affected part of my head I’m even thinking that this might be the year to ride it out and wait to see what iPad 4 has under the hood. If I were a betting man, though, I wouldn’t wager against seeing an iPad 2 posted for sale here on these very pages in the not too distant future.

Taking down the tech…

After finishing what was left of the packing in the garage, I grudgingly turned my attention this evening to the tech. The cinema screen monitor is safely tucked in its box. The printer is surrounded by packing peanuts. The wires are unstrung and zip-tied. The office is pretty much down to a desk and a laptop – which is the bare bones requirement to make it through the rest of the week. I don’t have it in me to disconnect the cable modem just yet, though. I’ll need the high speed right up to the bitter end. Some things a civilized person just shouldn’t be expected to live without. One more step down on the long road home. Now it’s down to the kitchen, the dog’s room (yes, they have their own room). Pull the sheets off the bed, disconnect the living room TV and it’s showtime.

I’ve got to admit that this whole moving things is harder than I remember it being. Nothing goes as quickly as I think it should. Something I need is always in another room or requires one more trip to pick up more boxes, or tape, or packing paper. Then again, the last time I did it, I was leaving a one bedroom apartment. Is it Monday yet? I’ll feel better when all this gear is on a truck and headed east.