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Hilarious Postulate: Touch ID Is Too Slow

I ran across Craig Mod’s post on Medium and shook my head at how off the mark it was. I had moved on from it as just another “slow news day” type of article and was content to let its ridiculous premise slip beneath the waves of inane content. Until I read Dr. Drang…

As usual, Dr. Drang nails it:

But would you really want to go back to the slower Touch ID? How often, when you unlock your phone, do you want to use one of the lockscreen affordances? And how does the time you lose in those cases compare to the time you gain in all those cases when you don’t want to use the lockscreen?

I don’t know where this footnote went in his original post but I laughed when I read it in my newsreader:

As I’ve said before, they call it Medium because it’s neither rare nor well done

Well said.

Apple Music - Deep Cuts

I have been happy with Apple Music so far. I went into it with some hesitation because (a) it was an Apple cloud service and those haven’t been solid at launch historically and (b) I was happy with Rdio as a streaming music service.

After using Apple’s offering for a while, I was confident enough that it would work for me and ended up taking a leap and canceled my long-standing Rdio account. I haven’t regretted it.

Apple Music’s “For You” section has been fantastic and I have been impressed by the well-curated playlists. After uploading the rest of my local music collection (about 19,000 songs)1, it is now available for streaming to all of my devices which has been working out really well for me as well. As a result, I have been re-discovering music that has been sitting on unplugged hard drives for years. The waltz down music-memory lane has been fun.

While I have seen some of the infrequent issues encountered by others2, these are things I have experienced before with other streaming services. They aren’t perfect. I admit it has been interesting watching my Twitter stream when there’s a temporary outage. It is like the internet has never actually used something on the internet before. With so many ways for things to break, interruptions happen. It doesn’t mean I am happy about it but I am certainly not surprised when it happens and never so frustrated by a minutes-long outage that I want to stop using the service and return to the dark days of syncing music to my phone again.

Jim Dalrymple wrote an article a few days ago skewering the service and leaving a very frustrated “goodbye” note to Apple Music for his readers to mull over. I read it and wasn’t too surprised by what I found there. It is no surprise that he is frustrated about losing 4800 songs but I find myself befuddled as to why he wouldn’t have backed up his music collection before uploading his entire collection into a 1.0 Apple cloud product having used 1.0 Apple products before (let alone their iffy cloud offerings).

Also, Jim’s music collection was the years-long creation of a music fanatic who had a lot of strange cuts, alternative versions of songs etc (with nearly-identical metadata no doubt) and spanning multiple albums. I don’t think this is going to be the case for 99% of the music listeners out there. Dalrymple, of all people, should know that Apple’s focus is on the mainstream use case. Being on the fringe as an Apple user can sometimes be a frustrating experience. Should Apple’s offerings serve niche users? Sure, but not for v1.0.

The takeaway here is more of a cautionary tale – if you have an extensive hair metal collection and four versions of the same Bob Dylan song, Apple Music might not deliver the best out-of-the-box experience.

I have some very eclectic music tastes however and Apple music still seems to serve my needs just fine. I am not alone either. Jonathan Poritsky, over at Candler Blog, wrote a great piece which really resonated. Go read that for a different take that is far different from Dalrymple’s.

I just want to put it out there that Apple Music is the best streaming service I have ever used. My guess is that there are a lot of people out there who have used it without any issues. But that’s not much of a story.

I agree, Jonathan. I agree.


  1. After backing up the data, naturally. 

  2. I was unable to connect to my library once or twice. 

Research on Tech News Sites

This is the state of tech journalism.

Samsung hit with lawsuit for crazy amounts of smartphone bloatware

Samsung phones have been bogged-down with bloatware for as long as they’ve been around, but a Chinese consumer protection group is doing more than just complain about it — by suing Samsung and another Chinese vendor, Oppo, for loading their phones with literally dozens of pre-installed apps which are impossible to delete.

Sorry, Apple! Samsung named most reputable tech company in U.S.

While its profits may be falling on the back of weak smartphone sales, it’s not all bad news for Samsung. The South Korean company has been named the most reputable company in the U.S. technology industry in the Reputation Institute’s latest RepTrak report.

Samsung beat out all of its biggest competitors in 2015, including arch rival Apple, which didn’t even come close. The Cupertino company now sits in 21st place in the technology industry rankings, but fell from 57th place overall last year out of the top 100 companies in 2015.

I don’t really care about the rah-rah element around tech companies at this point but I have always viewed Samsung as a bad joke given that they skirt the legal edges of aping competitor products and software and present themselves with a generally ham-fisted “me too” approach to their business.

What I find surprising is that tech “news” sites can dump these dissonant messages to readers as a form of random idea soup. Reading about research like this doesn’t provide useful information. Meanwhile, RSS readers and Twitter feeds fill with time-wasting garbage and is largely why I’ve been brutally culling sites like this out of my feed-reader lately.

Making the Apple Watch Useful

As the weeks go on, I am reaching an interesting place with the Apple Watch. Here’s an update.

Glances

One of the ways I have made it more useful is by winnowing out the number of Glances. Right now I use four. I keep a few at the tail end of the available selections but I rarely use them. Here is my current rotation.


They are all well-designed and, although three of them are slow to refresh (it is hardly their fault since they are hobbled third-party apps but I still find it annoying for now), the information they provide is something that I regularly used my phone for and they serve a useful purpose on the watch.

Fantastical’s “day map” timeline is a really nice view of your day at a glance (ha!) and Flexibits has wisely added the ability to toggle what gets sent over to the watch. I find it very well thought out. By turning off reminders, I don’t see them cluttering up my list of meetings and appointments. I don’t go to my watch to check off a reminder; I just want to see what’s happening next and anything beyond that is clutter.

PCalc’s Glance is something I originally though was a throwaway feature but, after using it for a week, it makes a lot of sense. It shows you the last two numbers you calculated (from the Watch and the iPhone) – that is all. While it may sound too sparse to be useful, having your last calculation result available with a flick of the wrist is really excellent thinking. It saves some short term memory registers in my aging brain and if I need to get to the calculator, a quick tap will take me there. Very smart.

I have been a huge fan of DarkSky’s hyperlocal weather and still use it on my phone (and I still have it installed on my Apple Watch) but WeatherUnderground’s Apple Watch Glance is my current favorite. It is a well thought-out Glance with the high temp/low temp/current conditions for your immediate location with the current temperature and an abbreviated hourly forecast on the bottom. Clean and informative.

ETA’s Glance is terrific. ETA is an app that will give you an estimated time of arrival for locations of your choice. The latest version gives you traffic conditions (for what it determines is your likely road choices). The Glance will display the last-viewed ETA which is exactly what you want when you tilt your wrist.

While I do use the Watch for Activity Monitoring and the motivational stuff, the iPhone app has more information and I usually check my progress when I have a quiet moment (thus it seems more suited to the iPhone to me).

Watch Faces

I only have three watch faces in my list and they all suit a particular purpose.

  • Utility face with an orange second hand for the weekend
  • Utility face with a green second hand for work
  • Simple face with nothing but analog time and date number

I really like the Utility face in general and I have the different second hand colors to quickly suss out which view I am in. One of the faces is focused on work-related needs (date, sunrise/sunset, meeting reminders, activity) and the other less work-focused (date, sunrise/sunset, Hong Kong time, activity). The Simple face is for when I’d like a more stripped down, classic look.

I have been playing around with complications and like how you can tune them to to suit your needs. I never thought sunrise/sunset times would be useful but with my current push to get fit, having those times on my wrist lets me easily find time windows to fit my bike rides in throughout the day. As I mentioned above, I don’t want to delve into my activity details on my watch but having a little graph indicating where I’ve been slacking off is great.

The bottom line is they are very personal and are so easily changed that I find I don’t really worry all that much about locking down “how I use my Apple Watch from here on out”. My whole approach to the Watch has become more fluid and dynamic. If I need another watch face to serve a specific purpose, a new view can be set up in seconds and I can swap to it with a push of my finger. With familiarity comes a host of new ways to think about how to fit the watch into your day.

Note that I have removed the battery indicator from the watch face or my Glances. I rarely go to bed with less than 45% battery and seeing that every time I looked at my watch was wasted space.

Notifications

I get very few notifications on my watch.

  • Calender reminders
  • Message notifications
  • Twitter replies
  • Lead changes in the Phillies and Mets games

Calendar reminders are a no-brainer. Having them thump my wrist and show me where I’m going next is very helpful throughout the day.

Message notifications are also useful. For extremely chatty conversations, I set them to “Do Not Disturb” on the iPhone and check them when I have time. Generally they don’t contain time-sensitive messages so that works out.

Twitter replies are helpful and I find Twitterific does a great job of keeping me informed of any activity on Twitter that I should take a look at.

Lead changes in baseball games on your wrist using the MLB app is a pretty nice way of keeping abreast of what is happening in games when you don’t have time to listen or watch (which is, sadly, most of the time for me)

That’s it! Thinking critically about the types of helpful information I could use throughout the day has really paid off for me and it has been an interesting experiment seeing how my interaction with the Apple Watch evolves week in/week out. I am finding it a more essential piece of technology now than in week one and I can only imagine that, when native apps hit the App Store, we may find we have a very capable and powerful device on our wrist.

Silence to Noise Ratio

I couldn’t agree more with Gabe’s last piece on notifications.

I also use the Do Not Disturb feature of iOS liberally. Whenever I walk into a meeting I toggle off the world. It’s a hugely underrated feature and easily accessed on iOS 8. Learn these settings. Browse the Notification settings in iOS too. Remove as many as you can get away with. It’s unlikely you need a notification at the exact time a package is delivered. It’s unlikely that your text editor has anything urgent you need to know. Avoid the constant and unnecessary pain created by too many green toggles.

Spot on.

Back to the iPhone 5S

Last week I switched from an iPhone 6 back to an iPhone 5S. So far, so good.

I got an iPhone 6 on launch day and was impressed by the build quality. I really liked the rounded, non-chamfered edges and the phone felt like a smooth river stone in my hand. It was a bit too slippery, especially on cold days, and the result was the purchase of my first phone case in years solely to avoid dropping the phone regularly.

ApplePay will hopefully change the way we do our personal retail business transactions. Despite high hopes, my exposure to it since the iPhone 6 release has been minimal. The opportunities to use it going forward probably won’t be significant for me given that I do relatively little retail shopping. Most of my transactions are in restaurants and pubs which still have no facility to handle ApplePay and, while I would love to fuel my car and pay with a wave of my phone, those days still seem far off.

The iPhone 6 screen always felt a bit like it wasn’t made for my hands like the iPhone 5S was. The iPhone 4 and 4S were tiny and I could easily reach any area of the screen. My resistance to the iPhone 5 gave way to the fact that I could still reach the top left corner while holding my phone in the right hand. The iPhone 6 requires you to shift the phone in your hand, balance it on your fingertips and then stretch across to hit the top left of the screen one-handed. The whole time you are courting disaster.

Apple added the laughable “reachability mode” but that was something I usually triggered by accident, costing me more time than it saved. It also served as an aggravating software reminder that the iPhone 6 was not made for me.

Moving back to the iPhone 5S has reaffirmed my feeling that it is the current high point in smartphones. It is the best balance in speed, battery life, size and durability.

Eventually I want a smaller phone. Ideally it would also be a lighter phone, a phone that is more durable and with more battery life. A phone that disappears into my pocket rather than takes up every spare inch of it. For now, and for the foreseeable future, the iPhone 5S will be my main phone and I don’t regret the decision to move back to it one bit.

TapCellar — A Different Kind of Beer App

A couple of weeks ago, Gabe Weatherhead1 and I released a iOS app that we had been working on for the past year and a half called TapCellar.

Gabe wrote up a nice overview of the features in his post announcing the app so you can click on that to get his take on the features.

I wanted to emphasize a few things that differentiate TapCellar from the rest of the beer apps in the App Store. Gabe touched on some of them in his post so there is going to be some overlap but I will put more emphasis on certain things and Gabe on others so hopefully combined the two pieces will give you a nice perspective on the app.

The elevator pitch goes something like this.

We created TapCellar because we felt that the beer apps out there didn’t suit our needs. There are a lot of beer apps out there but they all do their own thing, some better than others. Gabe and I took a hard look at what craft beer drinkers needed in a beer app. We took a deep look at other apps out there and gave some thought to what we didn’t like about them. Then we set our sights on an app that we would use and enjoy because we knew if it made us happy, others would like it too.

One of the main differences between TapCellar and some of the bigger apps out there is that we don’t want to join a social network in order to catalog, rate and enjoy beer. We take your privacy and personal data seriously so you can back up and archive your beer database whenever you want. None of your data is used to track you and let others know where you’ve been, when you were there or what you drank. We have sharing cards, called Mugshots, but they are images that allow you to share with whoever you want, as privately as you want.

We wanted users to be able to access all of the beer without having an active data connection, too. We know what a huge pain it is to be in your cellar, at a pub or attending a beer festival with no cell service and not be able look up information about a beer or brewery. TapCellar has about 34,000+ beers in a local database ready for searching, rating, and exploration — no data connection required. When you have a data connection, we will keep that growing list of beers updated too so you’ll always have the newest beers added to the database.

Another untapped (!) market is for beer apps with a comprehensive cellaring component. We build TapCellar to allow multiple vintages, cellar inventory counts, journaling by vintage and vintage-specific beer grades.

For every beer in the database, TapCellar provides for per-beer journaling, geotagging, photo support and sharing cards.

I know, I know. Lots of people use Untappd to share their beer experiences with friends. While Untappd isn’t our thing, we hated the thought of users having to choose TapCellar over Untappd so we added the ability to send your journal entry straight to Untappd from within TapCellar’s Journal feature.

There are a lot of other things waiting for you to discover in TapCellar which I’ll write about in the coming weeks. I’ll provide some tips on creating some compelling Saved Filters, how to quickly put information about a beer right onto your clipboard, ready to paste anywhere and others.


  1. Gabe of Macdrifter.com 

Introducing Nerds on Draft - A Podcast

Gabe Weatherhead and I have conversations. Topics include technology, software development, project management, new apps, Apple, family stuff, travel and beer – you name it, we babble about it at some point over the course of a week.

It was during one of those conversations that Gabe suggested we turn all of it into a podcast. The seed of the idea is simple – we get one or two beers that both of us have on hand, open them up and talk about what we think of them. Then we let our conversation range far and wide.

If you don’t like beer, don’t worry. The beer talk is a bookend on the proceedings. If you really only like beer, skip the middle parts.

The whole thing is what we call “Nerds on Draft”, an open and honest conversation about the things that make up our lives in a way that I hope interests you.

iTunes Link - RSS Feed Link

Custom Keyboards - No Thanks

I think Gabe hits this one right on the head.

Despite what I notice as a strange communal sense of relief that custom keyboards have finally come to iOS, when I look into how they work all I see is another vector of attack or misuse of personal data.

For example, if Swiftkey were to get bought by Facebook or Google 1, These companies would potentially gain access to a treasure trove of your information – basically everything you’ve ever typed. And even if Swiftkey were simply storing data about how you write and what you type to help your typing accuracy, having your writing tendencies in Facebook’s possession would provide major assistance in tuning the content (read: advertisements) on your Activity Feed.

Maybe I’m paranoid but giving a company that kind of trust seems like a recipe for disaster.

As a consumer, when you look at the custom keyboards available on the App Store it’s hard to know what they’re doing behind the scenes. As Gabe mentions, we willingly put ourselves in the position of relying solely on the App review process to protect our data and privacy. Since we have seen Apple reviewers allow the release of Pokemon knockoffs consisting of a few screenshots, I worry that they don’t have a tight enough grip to give us an airtight bubble around our personal data. Some of that responsibility falls to us.

Because allowing something to watch what I type isn’t risk free, I’m not going to take the chance.


  1. It would be a match made in heaven. 

Smaller, Not Larger, Phones

Here’s a good piece by Clark echoing many of the same thoughts I have about the seemingly-inevitable larger iPhone. The gist is that I would prefer a more efficient, smaller iPhone. The thought of a giant, pocket stuffing smartphone is annoying and goes against my goal of minimizing what I carry around every day.

Basically, I want my phone to disappear in my pocket, not fill it.