Web/Tech

Wait, that's a quote about Windows?

Dieter Bohn in his review of the Surface Laptop (which looks pretty neat):
One small note for potential Mac switchers: even though I find many of the third-party apps on Windows deficient compared to their Mac equivalents, the gap is closing. And Microsoft's own apps like Mail and Calendar are quite good.
We've come a long, long way when someone reviewing a Windows machine mentions that Mac users won't have too much trouble finding replacement apps on Windows. What a world!

2016 Year in Review: Mulitport chargers

Scottchargers

I love gadgets, but I hate charging them. I contain multitudes.

This year marks a turning point in my charging life; I kicked individual chargers to the curb and picked up two multiport chargers. I'm never looking back (expect for this post).

On the left in the image above is the Anker PowerPort 4 which I keep plugged into a powerstrip next to my bed. I plug in my Apple Watch charger, an iPhone charger, and a microUSB cable for charging either my Kindle or Fire. It is fantastic. And when I travel I just unplug it, wrap the cables around it, and pop it into my backpack. This way I don't forget any charging cables or adapters.

On the right you see the PowerPort 5 USB-C I have affixed to my sidetable in the living room. I use it to charge my iPad Pro, iPhone, Kindle/Fire, and best of all: my MacBook. This allows me to keep a computer charger in my bag and not clutter up the living room.

Lest you think I tested a boatload of chargers before getting these, I didn't. I did, however, read this Wirecutter article.


Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.



The wire is part of the design

AirpodsnarkMy buddy Jason Snell has written a great review of the Apple AirPods. You know, the Bluetooth earbuds that are totally wireless, not even a wire to connect the two to one another.

He likes them, and says:

Fundamentally, earbuds deserved to be treated as individual objects, not tethered together. That’s the premise of the AirPods as well as several other wireless earbuds of this type. Each earbud is its own separate entity, so you can stick one or both in your ears and truly say goodbye to dangling wires.

I haven't used the AirPods, but based on my usage of my current set of Bluetooth earbuds (a pair of discontinued Jaybirds)this fundamental idea behind the product means I won't ever be buying a pair for myself.


Jaybird

That wire between the two buds allows me to rip them out of my ears and just drop them. They dangle from my neck without me having to worry about putting them somewhere.

"But, Scott, how often do you actually do that?"

Everytime I use the darned things! Generally, I'm rocking the JayBirds when I'm working out. I get super sweaty and at the end of the workout I just want the damned earbuds out of my ears where they are acting like tiny dams for the sweat that has dripped all over my ears (gross, right? But it is the truth!).

That wire is a feature, not a bug. Oh, and the little control lozenge on the wire allows for me to change the volume of my iPhone even when I don't have a network connection (the AirPods rely on Siri to do this, and if you don't have a network connection Siri doesn't work). Magic!

So I won't be buying AirPods, because they don't meet my needs. And that's ok, not every product is designed for my use cases (if they were a lot more things would be available with orange as a color option).


2016 in Review: Scott's favorite wifi router - Orbi

Orbi

When it became clear that my Airport Extreme was on the way out (RIP, Airport Extreme) I had to decide if I should just get another one or opt for a different WiFi router. Being the clever consumer that I am I sensed Apple's lack of commitment to their AirPort (and I was right!) so I went for something new and exciting.

I did what I always do and went to the Wirecutter and bought the WiFi router they recommended for most people. For whatever reason, when I set that router up half of my devices stopped working. So I returned it and bought the router the they recommended if you wanted all the bells and whistles (assuming that it was the lack of bells and/or whistles that was the stumbling block). Sadly, that router also ended up creating a network that some devices wouldn't connect to (though different devices this time). I should point out that I don't think the Wirecutter is wrong to recommend these routers; I have my network configured in a slightly odd way which I am sure is the real culprit.

After I returned the second router, and set the AirPort Extreme back up, I decided to go with Netgear's Orbi. At this point I had read a lot about it, but it wasn't actually available for purchase.

As soon as it became available I bought an Orbi (well, two Orbis in one package) and I am very very happy with it. I plugged it in, rebooted my Comcast router and everything worked right off the bat.

Sure, it is a little expensive but this router is easy to set up, it is super fast, and best of all both Orbis sport ethernet ports.

Now, this isn't a highly technical review or anything like that. I just like the Orbi and it is doing a great job!

I suppose I should explain what the heck the Orbi is. It is one of a new generation of WiFi routers that use a mesh network to create one wifi network using a few routers that you place throughout your house. The mesh network allows the routers to talk to one another, and make sure that your entire house is bathed in sweet, sweet WiFi.

The main reason I went with the Orbi is not only does the main Orbi (the one you connect to your internet connection like a traditional router) sport 4 ethernet ports (a WAN port for plugging in your internet and 3 LAN ports for ethernet cables to your stuff) but the satellite Orbi (the one you place in a different room to extend the network further) also has 4 ethernet ports. This allowed me to simplify my home network by getting rid of an ethernet cable I had running into the den and a few dumb switches to boot.

At this point I should say that Netgear did have an issue where some of their routers had a serious vulnerability. They've released an update, but the Orbi didn't have this vulnerability. And best of all the Orbi automatically updates its firmware, so you don't have to try and remember to do it manually (as if anyone does that!).

Orbiports

The web admin interface is pretty nice too:

Orbiadmin

It seems I have 23 devices on my network at this moment:

Orbidevices

But is it fast? I ran a couple of speed tests from my MacBook and it is pretty darned fast.

Speedtest by Ookla says:


Ookla

The Xfinity speedtest reports:

Xfinityspeedtest

And Fast.com (Netflix's speed test) agrees:


Fasttest

There are other mesh WiFi routers that offer more software features, but I'm glad I went with the Orbi because all I wanted was a network that was easy to setup and fast enough for all our streaming needs. The Orbi covers that easily.

And just to close the loop, The Wirecutter agrees with me! What a nice little coda, huh?

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


Which Kindle should I buy as a gift this holiday season?

PaperwhiteYou'd be surprised at how often I'm asked which Kindle people should buy for their loved ones. The answer is simple: the Paperwhite (without ads).

Why the Paperwhite?

Because:

  • The only thing that really matters is the screen, and the Paperwhite has the same screen as found in the two pricier Kindles (the Voyage and the Oasis).
  • The screen lights up. Any reader will love this feature.
  • It feels sturdy and good in your hand, which is important for a device you're going to be holding for awhile.

But what if I'm a big spender and I want to impress my loved one?

If you're looking to splurge I'd say the Oasis is your best bet. The screen is just like the Paperwhite and the Voyage, but this thing is super light. I mean, like crazy light (especially without the battery cover). It lasts forever, and the cover is fun to click on and off.

All that's great, but the biggest reason to get the Oasis over the Voyager has a big impact on the reading experience: page turn buttons. The Voyage has areas that are kind of like buttons. You squeeze them and the page turns. They're better than not having any buttons but the Oasis' actual buttons are far superior.

What if my loved one hates Amazon but loves ePubs?

Then the Kindle is right out, isn't it? This seems like an edge case, but if that's the edge your loved one lives on get them a Kobo aura H20.

I like many of Kobo's interface touches more than what you'll find on any Kindle (shocking, I know), and being able to take a bath with your ereader without putting it in a plastic bag is pretty great.

Why don't I recommend a Kobo over the Kindle if I love it so much? Getting books on the darn thing isn't hard, exactly, but it is much harder than the process on the Kindle.

Should I get someone a nook?

No.

I had high hopes for the nook line, and I actually quite like the Nook Glowlight Plus, but I can't recommend them as gifts. Why? Because I get the feeling that Barnes and Noble isn't going to be keeping them around for much longer. I could be wrong, but I wouldn't want to saddle anyone with an eReader without a store.


MacOS Sierra, a not review

I've installed the latest and greatest MacOS on both my MacBook and my iMac (that's Sierra for you folks keeping score). This update continues the trend of MacOS updates which seemingly offer few new features that I either notice or use.

Honestly, I've only noticed two new things (yes, I know there are more than that). Here are my thoughts on them:

Siri

SiriI like the Siri icon, but Siri on Sierra just gives more places on which to not use Siri.

My first attempt to use Siri on my Mac (to find images of kittens dresses as puppies) failed. And when I tried to find the current temperature using Siri on my iMac it told me I had to turn on WiFi first (so Siri could determine where I was).

I know Siri can do many things, I just don't want to talk to my computer. Call me crazy!

I do, however, want to talk to black cylinders so I'll just continue to ask Alexa. I even bought one of them fancy new Dots for the den (where my iMac is) for this very reason.


Stand up, Volume changer, you're on the job!

Badsierra

The only other thing I've noticed is the new horizontal orientation for the volume slider. This is a minor change and I hate it very much.

In Summary

Sierra is pretty much like the last few OS updates: it continues to do what I need to do without much fuss and it adds features I have little to no need for. It is a free update though, so I don't mind.


It's a nice day for a White Kindle

Whitekindles

You can finally buy a Kindle, or a Kindle Paperwhite, in white (again). I'm not sure why you'd want a white Kindle since I think the gray/black helps the Kindle fade into the background when you're reading but I'm not the boss of you.

Also of note, the new base level Kindle ($79) has Bluetooth; the first Kindle to sport this. Generally I tell people NOT to buy the base level Kindle since the Paperwhite is so much better and not that much more expensive, however, if your vision is impaired, or you like your Kindles to read to you, you should totally get the base level Kindle. You can pair it with some Bluetooth headphones and listen away to your books.

Of course, my Kindle of choice is the crazy expensive Oasis. You can hear me ramble on about it on episode 87 of Upgrade.


I heart Amazon Music

I've given up on using Apple's large scale web services long ago (this includes, but is not limited to, iCards, iCloud, and Apple Music). I get most of what I need in these areas from Amazon.

Looks like Apple managed to get international man of misery (I kid, I kid) Joe Steel to take a look at Amazon Music, and he likes it!:

Sour Note:

Amazon Music is like, ‘Hey bro, you probably just want to listen to music. The lyrics are pretty sweet, so I’ll leave them here if you want those too, bro.’ and I’m all like, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know it could be like this.’ and Amazon Music is all, ‘Totes.’

X-Ray lyrics are pretty cool on the app and even more fun on the FireTV.


A world of technology, but I don't use email

Now, I'm no politics junkie, but I am a tech junkie. Here's a story about Philly's City elections chief planning to cash in on a pension plan.

People are upset because he never shows up at his office, or bothers to vote. That's not cool, but surely Clark can stay connected with a computer, smartphone, and an email account. Hmm, perhaps not so much the computer or email:

Clark said he does not use email and has no city-issued cellphone, but uses his personal phone to check in with his staff. He also reiterated his defense of working away from the office, saying, 'As an elected official, you get called to do different things. You're not just sitting at the desk. This is a world of technology; I'm always in communication.'


I guess he calls his office a lot? And talks to whoever in his office gets the emails that should be going to him but don't because he doesn't use email?

A world of technology, indeed.


Six Colors: How TiVo Roamio reached its potential

I love my TiVo (as I've said once or twice on this very blog). And I would seem Mr. Jason Snell is also loving his:

My family and I watch many YouTube videos on the TiVo, and all of my Netflix viewing these days is via the TiVo.

I enjoy flinging YouTube videos from my iPhone/iPad onto my TiVo so I can show Marisa Maru's latest hijinks (oh, that silly Japanese cat). And the Netflix app is good too, though I tend to use my Fire TV for streaming video (via Amazon Prime).


Wrong on the iPhone 8 years ago, twice!

For some reason this tweet of mine from 8 years ago is making the rounds of a few folks on Twitter:

I was totally wrong, and oddly enough I tweeted that out shortly before I left Philly for the Macworld during which Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone:

And I was wrong again about the iPhone:

Ok, technically I've bought way more than one iPhone since then so I suppose it is correct.

Also, anyone else remember when you would tweet in the form of the answer to the question, "What are you doing?"


Kindle Family Library: the downside

Kindle Family Library is great. It allows you to share books across Kindle devices (e-ink and Fire only) between two linked accounts (Kirk has a great tutorial on how to set it up, and here’s  list of devices on which it works).


Marisa and I set this up, which is great since we do have some overlapping tastes in books. Here’s what my library of books looks like on my Kindle Fire:



Can you tell which books are mine and which are Marisa’s? That’s the problem with the Family Libray, books just show up (which isn’t really a problem, but for the purposes of this blog post it is, OK!?). You can view only you books, but what if you buy a book and you don’t want it to show up in your Shared Libray?


The boffins at Amazon have thought of that, which I discovered after purchasing a Kindle book the other day. Check out this screen you are presented with after purchasing:




Click Do not share and it doesn’t show up in your Family Library.


You can also stop sharing books via Manage Your Kindle. Click “Show Family Library” and you’ll be able to manage which books you’re sharing:



Easy as a couple clicks.


Larp Trek


The Internet is an amazing thing. Today’s evidence of this: Larp Trek.


I found out about this amazing comic from Carrie Anne, who will be appearing on a future episode of Random Trek. When she told me about it she said, “You’re going to lose a lot of time to it.” She was right.


Here’s the idea behind it: the holodecks are all offline on the Enterprise and the TNG bridge crew needs something to entertain them. Geordi decides to game master a role playing game where each of the crew members plays a character on the fictional space station “Deep Space Nine."


That’s right, this comic imagines that DS9 was a campaign in an RPG played by TNG characters. I can’t even.


Just read it. Read it now. Start at the first page. If you like D&D and Star Trek you won’t be sorry.


Also, if you like D&D, Star Trek, AND podcasts, you should listen to:


Apple World Today rises from the ashes of TUAW


AppleWorld.Today launches, well, today. It is an effort from a few fine folks at the defunct TUAW (of which I was associated from a while there). I wish them all the best of luck!


Here’s a fun fast: one of the main reasons TUAW wasn’t invited to official Apple events (at least according to folklore) is that fact that “Apple” was in the name. It’ll be interesting to see if AppleWorld.Today will run into the same issues. Of course, I have no idea if they even want to go to official Apple events, as they tend to be pretty well covered.


on TUAW (or WTF, AOL?)

I never really thought I’d be a writer. In fact, for a long time, I thought I was going to end up being a physicist. Fast forward to freshman year in college when I realized that calculus wasn’t for me and I waved goodbye to my aspirations of a career in the hard sciences.

I didn’t immediately think, “Well then, I’ll just be a writer!” I had to pick a major, so I went with English. I graduated, started looking for careers and ended up in Higher Education (which is where I still work!). I never really thought of myself as a writer until I saw a post by Barb Dybwad on The Unofficial Apple Weblog. They were looking for bloggers (not writers) and since I had been blogging for awhile and I liked Apple stuff I figured why not apply.


I sent off an email and waited. I didn’t hear anything, so I figured that was that.


This was all 10 years ago, mind you, but I still remember seeing that email from Barb asking me to join up with TUAW. I did, and wrote this first post, and after a few years I ended up becoming the Lead Blogger at TUAW. I covered a couple of Macworlds for the site (that first Macworld I wrote something like 25 posts A DAY, which meant that I didn’t talk to anyone at the actual event), “starred” in a couple of videos, and wrote and wrote and wrote (my back of the envelope math shows that for the 3 years I was there I wrote 2.7 posts a day on average, or a little over 3000 posts).

More importantly TUAW gave me the opportunity to meet lots of people: fellow bloggers, writers,  developers, and fans. So many people, in fact, that as I started listing them it grew so long that I decided not to include it with this post.


I left TUAW 7 years ago mostly because of AOL’s incompetence, so it came as only a mild shock to hear that AOL is shuttering the site and waving goodbye to all the talented folks who worked there. There’s some corporate speak saying that TUAW would be “rolled into” Engadget which means, I assume, the content will be absorbed into Engadget’s archives so they can still put advertising around it (and sip on that sweet, sweet SEO juice). A sad end to a fine site. A site that is directly responsible for the fact that I now honestly think of myself as a writer (though I still find it hard to believe that I’ve written books that you can buy in a bookstore! Sure, no one actually buys them, but they could and that’s what counts!).


Since today is the last day of publication for TUAW I wanted to thank everyone who read the site, anyone who was involved with it, and everyone I’ve met because of it. Writing for TUAW gave me my first taste of limited highly specific notierity (there was a time when I was recognized whenever I walked into an Apple Store), and my first realization that somewhere on the Internet there is someone who has nothing better to do than to tell you how whatever you’ve shared sucks (now I just go to Twitter for that).


You can read some more about my thoughts about TUAW in my farewell post (which used to have lot of lovely comments from readers wishing me well, but they seem to have been axed whenever TUAW changed commenting sytems. You can see why I have my doubts about the TUAW posts being around for the longhaul).




Random Trek T-shirt

Randomtrektshirts

I have a podcast called Random Trek in which I discuss a random episode of Star Trek with a non-random guest. It is a hoot. You should listen to it.

You should also buy one of these nifty Random Trek t-shirts (available for a very limited time). Why? Because my little podcast could use the support, and I could use the ego boost of having more than 12 people want to wear a t-shirt promoting a project of mine (really, it is all about me).

Buy a shirt, damn it!

Also, if you haven't been listening to the podcast why not check out a few episodes. The most helpful review on iTunes raves:


ITunes

Why wouldn't you listen?


Cube

Cube

Going through my closet I found the box for my beloved G4 Cube. Man, I remember ordering that computer like it was yesterday.

I really shouldn't have ordered it, since it was super expensive and I really couldn't afford it (thank goodness for credit cards). I did order it, though, and I was even so excited to get it that I had them hold it at the FedEx office so I could pick it up myself.

Here's the Steve Jobs announcement that got me to order it immediately:

All told it was a great computer, though probably more successful as an exercise in industrial design.

It sits on a shelf in our living room now, after a few years of faithful service and the box is now in our storage unit.