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To Risk…

This poem was shared to me by someone who cared for me when I was in a very dark place over 20 years ago. It still carries a place in my heart and dreams today.

To Risk

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and
dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because
the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing,
has nothing, is nothing.

by William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)

via Art of Manliness

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When Technically Correct meets ATP

If I said to you ‘Name a great Tech Podcast with 3 guys’ chances are you would reply ATP or Connected. (both brilliant by the way) There is another one that maybe hasn’t got the traction (as yet) it deserves. It’s 3 British guys talking, moaning, laughing, swearing and trying to come up with their unique take on Apple and technology in general. Think of them as the Casey, Marco and John but with British hats on. The show may be focussed on technology but in my opinion from listening to the show for over a year it is more like watching Jack Dee for it’s sarcasm and deadpan humour. It’s not the best podcast for falling to sleep to as you will do more laughing than sleeping but it’s now up there on top of my Overcast playlist. I don’t think it matters what side of the pond you are from if you haven’t listened to Mark, Simon and Richard yet I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! So hit this link and start laughing every Thursday night to The Technically Correct Podcast proudly sponsored by Hover (ask Marco how to pronounce it)! If you want one with Casey in too here’s a direct link to episode 39. Enjoy :-)

Apple Watch Lock Screen

I find the easiest way to unlock my Apple Watch when I put it back on my wrist is by using the iPhone’s Touch ID to do it.* There are times though, when my iPhone may be somewhere else in my home and I try and enter the 4 digit passcode manually on my 42mm Apple Watch and regularly miss the small numeric touch targets. It was even harder to hit them on my original 38mm watch where they are even smaller. IMG_3280 I wondered why it’s not possible to activate Siri to enter the code by voice. I am guessing this is purely for security so other people can’t hear you call out your code. I don’t think many people would do this is public. The vast majority of the time I need to unlock my Apple Watch is first thing in the morning when I am in the security of my home. I understand why Apple is making security a priority and by offering Touch ID to unlock an Apple Watch does negate the need to manually enter the passcode most of the time. Having said that, it would be good to have an option available to enable this in the Apple Watch app settings but keeping it off by default. * To enable this function just go to the Apple Watch app  My Watch > Passcode and turn on Unlock with iPhone.

Apple Pay and Security

Yesterday Apple Pay went live in the UK for HSBC and First Direct customers meeting their target of launching in July. I had a few teething problems as did a small number of customers trying to activate their cards on their iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. From speaking to some people familiar with the matter, the problems were mainly with VISA Credit Card activations. My understanding is that these issues were resolved by the end of the afternoon for most people although not in my case and here’s why. Throughout yesterday I tried activating my First Direct credit card 90 times. I made the simple and foolish mistake of not realising that each time I tried adding my card to the Passbook app  it would flag up somewhere be it with my bank, Apple or both. As it turned out, in this instance it was with Apple who blocked my card from using Apple Pay due to so many attempts to activate my card and I will now have to wait 2-3 days before Apple releases the block enabling me to add my card to use Apple Pay. While the experience didn’t go swimmingly well for me, it does provide me with the added reassurance that Apple is able to add its own protection on top of the banks to prevent fraudulent transactions using contactless payment cards that hit the headlines in the UK last week. Using new technology to pay for things can be frightening for some people. Change can be scary but from using Apple Pay over the past couple of weeks with my Amex Card and Apple Watch was both futuristic, simple and most importantly secure. When you buy an Apple product that’s just the beginning. It’s the continued aftercare support that they provide that builds both trust and customer satisfaction. Apple Pay is no different.

Update

HSBC have kindly provided me with some feedback following their launch of Apple Pay yesterday.

“We are pleased we have been able to bring Apple Pay to our customers, providing them with another easy and secure way to pay”

Why I miss the cord

Ever since upgrading from the original iPhone to the iPhone 3G I’ve always been excited in the months leading to the next greatest iPhone unveiling. This year I am nervous and it has nothing to do with what Tim Cook and Phil Schiller announce on stage in the coming months. It could have glass that is resistant to finger prints putting an end to my OCD that irritates me every time I see a smudge mark on the screen. No, the nervousness is all about the process of getting my current iPhone’s data and my personalisation to be replicated to the new model. With so much of my information in the cloud via so many different cloud services from iCloud and Dropbox etc it is no longer the case of just connecting the iPhone to iTunes and waiting a couple of hours for the magic to happen e.g. restore from last encrypted back up.

Last year when I upgraded from the iPhone 5s to the 6 for some reason the iTunes restore didn’t work and I spent many hours on the phone to Apple Support trying to figure out why the restore was stalling in iTunes and eventually had success by restoring from an iCloud back up which I was both relived but exasperated about. It took 2 days of my time to get my new iPhone near enough in the state of my previous one (I moved from a nearly full 64gb iPhone 5s to a 128gb iPhone 6). According to Apple it takes between 1-4 hours per gigabyte (depending on your Wi-Fi network). I have an average download speed of 16MBps so I can see why it took so long.

But it doesn’t stop there because I have so many apps and settings that make transferring to a new device even more time consuming.

Here’s a selection:

  • Spotify (23gb of offline music)
  • 3 Banking apps that require deactivating the old device and registering the new one.
  • A multitude of apps that don’t support 1Password or iCloud Keychain making logging in again a test of memory or forgotten password followed by emails to reset them.
  • Re-entering 6 email account credentials
  • Restoring in app purchases that I have bought from many of my 277 installed apps.

So my plan this year is to do an encrypted back up of my iPhone 6 using iTunes and restore the new iPhone 6s (or whatever its name is) and hope it works better than last year.

Then go through each of the 277 apps and make sure they are configured correctly.

Then turn on iCloud photo library and wait and wait for my full resolution pictures to download from the busy iCloud.

I could go on but I’m already tired of thinking of what is now involved in upgrading an iPhone.

I am not laying the blame at Apple. It is partly my fault for having so many apps, so maybe before ‘September’ I could use the opportunity to delete apps that I haven’t used in the past 3 months. I can always download them again which Apple makes super simple.

You know that experience of unboxing any Apple product and how meticulously it’s presented to you? Well this year for me that experience will be tinged with both trepidation and frustration at having to keep my iPhone plugged in on WiFi and setting it up just so.

One of the reasons I try and keep my Mac for as long as possible is I hate the laborious process of setting a new Mac up to my liking (similar to what John Gruber was talking about with Jim on The Dalrymple Report) With the iPhone being such a powerful computer in its own right, I will have to accept that its set up in many ways is akin to a Mac.

Apple Music Take 2

I made the decision not to enable iCloud Music Library because of past experiences with iTunes Match as detailed in a previous post. I am glad I made that decision bearing in mind the amount of users that are having similar difficulties, as well as Jim Dalrymple’s strong words on why Apple Music isn’t for him. I am not saying Apple Music is a failure. If there was a separate app like Spotify for Apple Music and another for my own purchased music I would definitely consider trying it. I can’t see that happening so like Jim it’s Spotify for me and iTunes for my purchased and ripped songs from the past 15 years.

Everyone has there own experience and some people love it particularly the curated lists and Beats 1.

It’s hard to try a service or product from any company when you have been burned by it before. I think that is why so many people still find it hard to trust iCloud because of previous bad experiences and instead stick to services like Dropbox as discussed on the latest Connected Podcast.

For me it has to work almost flawlessly like my experience with the Apple’s Photo App which I don’t think has got enough credit it deserves.

A Website App Store?

I hate ads. No I hate ads that disrupt my user experience be it on TV, in apps, on websites.

I went into more detail about it earlier this month but didn’t come up with a solution particularly for medium sized websites who seem to be the companies most vulnerable both from ad blockers and users going to other sites for cleaner content.

So far no one has come up with a viable solution both for the websites and their readers. I am not suggesting this is the answer to the problem, I just want to throw this out there for discussion.

How about having a separate website/store where you pick and choose the websites you want and are willing to pay for without ads? The more sites you choose the less your monthly subscription is. Maybe it could look like the Netflix homepage with a carousel where there are suggestions based on what topics interest you. In essence it’s an app store for websites that is run by a separate company that obviously takes a cut for providing the store much like Apple does.

It gives people who want to pay for ad free content a choice and those people that can’t afford to pay or aren’t willing to can still get most content but with ads.

When I tweeted about a subscription model to Ben Thompson his reply was that ‘paying customers are the most valuable to advertisers.’ I hadn’t considered this and don’t pretend to have Ben’s business acumen.

So to counterbalance that could there be one special feature each week that only paid subscribers get from each website they pay for. This could take the shape of an email where the advertiser is carefully picked like they are on many tech podcasts to sponsor that email. Alternatively could that weekly email be a curated selection of the most popular posts from that week again ad supported.

Another one of my crazy ideas? Maybe, but if enough ideas are debated maybe that solution can found.

The case for a lower price Apple Watch

It starts at $349.

I could end this whole post with that. But I won’t because I want to explain my rationale for why I think that $349 is stopping people that may be sitting on the fence from buying one. If it was a separate category, be it a standalone product such as the iPod was, that worked independently, then a starting price of $349 seems justified. Admittedly the iPod was only independent after being synced with a Mac and then later a PC. However, I would still argue that the iPod wasn’t an accessory but a stunningly designed and easy to use MP3 player when it was released. “A thousand songs in your pocket” was a captivating advertising message to explain its existence to both tech and non tech consumers.

The question mark I have with the Apple Watch is that it is an accessory product for the iPhone. A mighty fine one at that which I hungered for when it was announced and got it on day one. I miss it being on my wrist when I charge it between 21.00-23.00 (I like it on while I am sleeping). How many accessories for the iPhone priced at $349 or more, either made by Apple or 3rd parties, gain wide adoption and become mainstream products in their own right? The nearest example I can think of is Beats headphones which generally sell at half the price of the cheapest Apple Watch.

It is generally regarded that Apple doesn’t do cheap products. They let other OEM’s cater for that market. Apple strives to make excellent products that are affordable to a large demographic. The original iPhone certainly sold ‘well’ but after only 2 months needed to be reduced in price from $600 to $400. When the iPhone 3G was unveiled in July 2008 the price was cut in half to $199 (on subsidy) getting the biggest applause from the WWDC audience. The sales of the iPhone 3G were a big success from the start. There were 5 main differences between the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G but I would hazard a guess that being more affordable was the biggest factor that led to the spike in its sales.

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Source: Statista

Am I in the demographic that Apple is targeting the Apple Watch too? To some degree yes, as I am completely entrenched in their ecosystem, buy most of their products on launch day and follow all Apple related blogs and news sites. I am into technology and like being an early adopter testing and trying new products.

What about all the other people that use Apple products. Are they obsessed with having the latest and greatest piece of tech coming out of Cupertino? Take my friends and family that have Apple products mostly commonly an iPhone. They know that I have an Apple Watch. Some have asked me to show it to them and most have been impressed with my demo of its features. Then I ask out of curiosity “Is it something you think you would want and buy?”

Here are the most common replies from a sample of 7 people with iPhones aged between 27 and 68.

  • It’s cool but I can’t see me using it after a month.
  • It’s too geeky
  • It’s for younger people
  • I got my phone for free (albeit subsidised)
  • It’s not worth $349

This is obviously not a scientific survey. It can’t even be classified as a survey. I could link to various analysts who have done there own larger one’s or speculated on how many watches have been sold. Only Apple knows the facts and it is unlikely they will reveal their shipments at tomorrow’s Quarter 3 Financial Results.

From personal experience when I first started using the Apple Watch I wasn’t convinced it was better than my Pebble. It took me a few days to get used to the UI and few more weeks to appreciate many of the other features like Activity tracking. Even now I am still getting more advantages from using it, such as with the launch last week of Apple Pay in the UK. In the fall when watch OS 2 gets released I am sure the improvements will be appreciated by current Apple Watch owners.

The biggest question for me remains how to convince someone to spend $349 on an iPhone accessory?

I think the answer is to make it more affordable. Just suppose when the new iPhones get released in a couple of months you could buy an Apple Watch with its (new software and features) at the same time for $199. Would that persuade some of those people that are hesitating as to whether to buy one to part with their cash and give the watch a test drive? I think it just might and I might have some friends to actually send a sketch too.

You may completely disagree with everything I have just written or my sentiments but I would imagine that most people reading this are interested in Apple and their products. If you are one of those people, how many (non-tech) people do you know that own and wear an Apple Watch?

Fear of being offline

I never thought in 2001 when I was using my Nokia 3310 that I would have a fear of being offline. I didn’t regularly check my phone and used it often as a distraction while on my way back from work to play Snake. Fast forward 14 years and without any hesitation I definitely have a fear of being offline. So much so that I have 2 pay as you go MiFi devices, 2 iPads both with cellular data along with my iPhone and Mac. The MiFi devices are kept in my emergency travel bag mainly for the times I have to go into hospital where WiFi is often absent, expensive or slow at best. Not surprisingly I am not alone in having this fear. According to research carried out by Gallup conducted earlier in July in the US, 81 per cent of smartphone users keep their phones with them almost all the time during waking hours and 63 per cent do so even while they are asleep.

Dr Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at the Californian State University, said “Everybody is attempting to do more things at the same time and everybody is checking in more often,” “From a psychological viewpoint, it looks like we all have a touch of OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder].” “The average student, on a daily basis, unlocked their phones 60 or 70 different times and for an average of about three minutes a time in a 24-hour period,” says Rosen. “Just think what that means if you are awake for 16 hours in a 24-hour period — it means the students checked their phones about eight times an hour. I was surprised because these are meta cognitive students — those numbers should decrease during exam time because they know that it’s not a good idea to keep checking their phones when they should be studying.” This constant checking behaviour also happens with adults. “Older people tend to check less often but they still check,” says Rosen.

In the interview Rosen offered some techniques to curb this constant checking of our smartphones. He doesn’t believe in the cold turkey technique because it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Instead he advocates taking a “Technology Break’

Start by taking a minute to check your phone and then turn off all communication networks and notifications. Put your smartphone where you can see it so it acts as a stimulus to remind the brain not to get anxious since you will soon be able to check in again. After 15 minutes, switch the phone back on and have another minute-long check. “Do this every 15 minutes, on and off, and eventually increase it to 20 minutes and then 25 and then 30,” says Rosen. “Once you’ve learned the technique you can use it with your family at the dinner table, in board meetings and in every social and work situation.” Another technique is checking your smartphone when it suits you, instead of when it alerts you. “You can take time during the day to check social media. Then you are exercising internal, not external, control,” says Rosen. “But I also tell people in order to do this you have to turn off all the alerts and notifications because social media is set up to alert you. They’re the external alerts that drive the external locus of control.” He added “It’s a very difficult hole that we’ve dug for ourselves by letting this device control our lives and it takes a concerted effort to divest that control, but it can be done.”

Source: The Times (Paywall) I will certainly try these techniques but have definitely noticed that since using the Pebble Watch and even more so with my Apple Watch that the constant checking of my iPhone has dramatically reduced. Where I could do with some help in terms of my OCD is the constant cleaning of all my device screens and keyboards. I do this to reduce the amount of bacteria that is on them and from seeing finger prints particularly when the screens are off. I can’t wait for a time when someone comes up with a glass that doesn’t attract either of them but until then if you suffer from this too there area lots of screen cleaners on the market. My personal favourite is this. (Amazon link)

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John Lasseter on Pixar

John Lasseter gave an interview with The Times (behind paywall) on Pixar’s movie Inside Out. Here are some interesting snippets from his interview with Wendy Ide of The Times.

Lasseter’s role at both Pixar and Disney is predominantly creative — he’s a sounding board, a source of ideas and new angles. His input is so valuable because, unlike many people in a similarly executive position at a movie studio, he is a creative himself. And he still focuses primarily on the story rather than the commercial property it could become. Docter joked in Cannes that the aim when putting together the reels of the early versions of a film is to make John Lasseter cry. He is still very much in touch with his inner child, the young boy who fell in love with cartoons (he’s one of the few people who doesn’t use the term “cartoons” pejoratively). Perhaps this is why the films made at Pixar and under his tenure at Disney don’t talk down to their young audience.

and

“Our philosophy of creativity is the most important thing. What we do in the film production is very hard, it is long hours. It is very hard because you feel like you are beating your head against a wall at times when you are trying to solve story problems and stuff like that. As a leader I will never settle. We will just keep pushing until it is great because there are no excuses. You are not going to be able to travel around the world and give caveats as to why it is a success because it is on time and on budget but it is not working. You have every chance to make it right so we are going to do that.” Having worked at — and been sacked from — Disney earlier in his career, Lasseter had a good idea of how to fix the studio he describes as having been “broken” when he rejoined it nine years ago: “It was an executive-led studio with a strong hierarchy, and the people at the top didn’t really care about animation. It was their Hollywood job for the moment. But they held on to it with white knuckles. And so we got rid of all of them. What we found was that all of the directors, all of the producers, all the story people were brilliant. They just had never really been challenged and given a shot. I started really challenging them.”

and

With the run of high-quality Pixar movies, plus the recent run of box office smashes at Disney animation, it could be said that he is presiding over a golden age of animation. Lasseter shakes his head: “I never liked that term because it means there is an end to it. We want Pixar and Disney Animation to keep its success going beyond the founders. And it has never happened in entertainment history, any band or anything, but we believe we can do this because it is about the people but it is also about our culture and the way we work. He recalls: “There was a woman at Disney when I first came back nine years ago, and she said, ‘John, you don’t know what it is like to work four years on a project and the day that the movie opens in theatres no one ever talks about it again. It just broke my heart.’ We said if we can give this group of people a really true amazing success, like we have experienced at Pixar, it will heal this studio. And it did.”

Source: The Times After reading Becoming Steve Jobs  (iTunes Link) it seems clear how both John Lasseter and Steve Jobs were able to learn so much from each other and build such a strong and influential relationship. Inside Out interestingly premiered in the US at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on June 8 2015 and is being released on July 24th in the UK.