Hardware

ONA Bowery Bag

The Bowery is my second bag from ONA. I wanted something small that I could carry everywhere and the Bowery fits the bill. I carry a Leica M, the Fuji X-Pro2, a couple rolls of film, spare battery, and a notebook. I like everything about it. I’m told it looks a lot like a purse but that’s fine with me.

Re-Pairing

The only thing worse than untangling wired headphones is constantly having to charge and (re)pair wireless headphones.

I hate headphone wires. After I lay them out carefully on my counter, I turn my back for five minutes and when I look again they have become an impossibly-knotty puzzle of wires and ear buds.

And so, I bought fancy Bluetooth headphones in order to free myself of the recurring nightmare of tangled wires.

This would be awesome, except that the wireless headphones always seem to need a charge at random intervals, usually shortly after beginning a long walk. What’s even more frustrating is that they, even more randomly, fail to pair with my iPhone. This drives me nuts. I too-frequently end up standing half-way out the door screaming at the phone because “I just want to listen to some music while I walk, god damn you!”

Honestly, I’d rather deal with the wires.

Marco On The Apple TV Remote

Marco Arment:

Picking up the remote in any orientation and brushing against any part of it during handling, without physically pushing a button, should never result in accidental input. Picking it up should feel safe.

I hate the new Apple TV remote even more than I hated the old one. I’m the sort of person who likes to hold the remote while watching shows. Not possible with Apple’s too-thin, too-sensitive remote. Marco’s right, it should feel safe. It doesn’t.

The iPad Pro is going to destroy everything I’ve built

I’m angry with my iPad Pro and it hasn’t even arrived.

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the years refining, tearing down, and rebuilding my process for storing files, taking notes, and managing information. Most of the time I feel like everything is in flux and I have no idea how I want to do things. But once in a while, the past few months especially, I feel like I’m finally settling into a groove. Now it’s going to go to shit.

You see, I am a desktop computer guy. iPhones and iPads are primarily for consumption, as all but a few crazy outliers know perfectly well. This means that for actually getting things done, it’s OS X. Anything that runs on OS X works great for me. This includes terminal-based apps. I love my carefully-contrived workflows based on Mutt, Emacs Org Mode, VimWiki, etc. I blog via Hugo using Markdown-formatted text files written with Vim, Emacs, or BBEdit. I spend time in IRC using Weechat. Todos are managed in Org Mode. You get the idea. The computer is where things get done

I’ve had every new iPad since the first version. Never have I considered using one seriously for anything significant. I watch Netflix, read long articles, and occasionally Tweet. There was always a useful separation of concerns and that’s been fine with me.

Along comes the big, beautiful iPad Pro, with its desktop-class performance and giant screen and nifty keyboard. And a Pencil that doesn’t feel like a poor surrogate for my clumsy fingers. Dammit. This is the one that could challenge my stubborn refusal to use an iPad for things that I would normally only do on my laptop. Of course giving up my OS X-only tools means throwing out all of my hard-earned workflow “gains”. Now I’ll have to use apps that work well in both environments and sync nicely. It’s pointy-clicky-tap-pinch-and-zoom land from now on I guess. What about Hazel and Keyboard Maestro and Tmux and the rest? What about my little shell scripts and Applescripts that make things all slick and effortless?

Of course, I realize that it’s not an either/or proposition, but I know me. I’ll spend weeks refactoring my entire system to make room for the new iPad and reluctantly retiring a few beloved tools in the process. It’s bittersweet.

I can’t wait.

I like my Apple Watch but I don’t love it

I own two very nice watches.

Tag Heuer Aquaracer automatic and Apple Watche

Tag Heuer Aquaracer automatic and Apple Watch

The first is a Tag Heuer automatic that I bought six years ago and had, until recently, worn every day. It looks the way a watch is supposed to look, requires no batteries, and is waterproof to 1000 feet (because over-engineering).

The second is an Apple Watch that I bought just a couple of months ago. I’ve worn it almost every day since. It’s the nice, stainless steel version, but with the basic “sport” band. It’s not waterproof but can probably be worn in the shower (I don’t).

I love the Tag. I love its design, construction, feel, everything. I beat on it without fear of scratches or breakage. It should last the rest of my life. And again, it doesn’t require batteries of any kind.

I like the Apple Watch, but I don’t love it. It feels good for the most part. I will probably buy a nicer band at some point, but the actual watch is solid, smooth, and substantial. It doesn’t feel nearly as hardy as the Tag, and I don’t dare wear it near dirt or water.

I don’t like Apple Watch’s square face. A few square-faced watches are attractive to me. Apple’s isn’t one of them. Watches are round, and projecting a round, digital face onto a square device doesn’t help.

Battery life is another issue. The Apple Watch’s battery life is darn good for a smart watch but terrible for a watch I wish to wear every day. If I don’t charge it overnight, I can’t wear it the next day. Blech. In fact, forgetting to charge the Watch has forced me to wear the automatic a few times, each time reminding me how much I like the Tag.

But the Apple Watch is smart. Being smart is, of course, a significant advantage over a simple automatic watch. The problem is, Apple Watch doesn’t work very well. The worst thing is that the face doesn’t always come on when I expect it to, which reduces its value as an actual watch. Twisting my arm around and finally giving up and tapping the face isn’t great. And forget trying to talk on it all Dick Tracy style. That never works well.

Other problems are minor but annoying. One is that apps take too long to launch and connect. I don’t even bother using Runkeeper on the Watch since it’s faster to pull out the phone and launch the app. It shouldn’t be. I have no idea how the Health and Activity apps are supposed to work together. I “start a workout” and walk a couple of brisk miles, but that somehow doesn’t count toward my Activity goal. This makes no sense to me. Dismissing notifications is a hit or miss affair. I force-press to “dismiss all” and sometimes it works, sometimes not.

And after everything, I suspect that the Apple Watch will feel outdated in a year or two. The Tag Heuer is more, ahem, timeless.

There are lots of things I love about the Apple Watch. Having my next appointment and the current temperature right there on the Watch face is great. I love that notifications are now all silent and I can quickly determine whether I need to pull out my phone or not. Always-on fitness and heart rate tracking is nice.

I love the idea and potential of the Apple Watch, but don’t love the actual Watch.

Retired the Extended Keyboard II for now

I’m a little sad that I had to stop using the wonderful Extended Keyboard II due to my recent foray into Emacs and Org Mode. The Caps Lock key on Apple’s keyboard physically locks when pressed so it’s not possible to remap the Caps Lock to Control key. Well, it’s possible, but useless.

S’okay, I pulled the Das Keyboard out of the closet and that’s a pretty great keyboard also.

The Amazon Echo

echo

I’ve had my Amazon Echo for a couple of months now and it’s pretty great. Alexa (her name, because the Echo responds to calling it (her?) “Alexa”) sits in my kitchen and waits for me to ask her things. I ask her things constantly.

She tells me the weather, plays whatever music I want to hear, looks things up on Wikipedia, plays the news, reads me my Audible books, and sets cooking timers.

Note that none of the above involve directly purchasing stuff from Amazon. Well technically, the Audible books are from Amazon and some of the music is via Amazon Prime, but the Echo doesn’t seem to care if I buy anything or not. It’s almost weirdly un-Amazon in that way. In fact I wish she did let me buy stuff.

She does all those things without me having the think about how to make her do them. I just say, “Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes” or “Alexa, play some Rage Against the Machine” or “Alexa, read me ‘Ready Player One’” and she just does it, nearly instantaneously. She understands commands from across the room over music already playing . I don’t even need to yell. It’s all quite remarkable.

I have a Sonos system in my house and plenty of decent gear for listening to music, including a turntable and lots of records. I love all that stuff, but I find myself just saying “Alexa, play my Beastie Boys Pandora station” because it’s effortless, and sounds good enough. Much better than having to grab my phone, open the Sonos app, find the music I want, choose the room, and hit play. So yeah, it’s making me a bit lazy.

I thought using Siri on the Apple Watch would be a great way to do many of these things, but Siri doesn’t work well on the Watch. At all. I’m not going to bother grabbing my phone, either. Not anymore.

 

Why I'm Writing on the iPad

Jason Snell:

But I’m starting to suspect that my writing can change radically just by changing the method I use to get those words out of my head.

He's describing why writing with a typewriter is different and in some ways better than using a computer. Although he calls his typewriter an "iPad."

Do I Have Too Many Kindles?

Sometimes too many is just the right amount.I recently bought a Kindle Touch. I didn't need one, as I already have 3 others: a 1st generation Kindle, Kindle 3, and a Kindle Fire. Some of you might consider that to be too many Kindles. Not so! I had specific uses for 3 of them, and today I discovered a use for many more.

The 1st gen is an original, I'd say it's a "First Edition" Kindle, and although it's ugly and outdated, it was signed by Neal Stephenson, whom I admire very much. I stood in line at a reading he did for his book "Anathem" with the (then new) Kindle and a Sharpie. I was the only Kindle person in line. I have no way of knowing how often he'd been asked to sign a Kindle, but he casually took it, asked "Front or Back?" and signed in without comment. There is no way I'm selling that one.

The Kindle 3 has been my daily reader for a long time, and it works just fine. My only complaint is that since I never used the keyboard, it seemed a waste of space to have one. Another drawback is that I know the Kindle Touch exists.

I bought a Kindle Fire thinking it would be great for reading and watching the occasional movie. As it turns out, I just don't enjoy reading long texts on a backlit screen. After a couple of hours my eyes burn and a headache follows. It's now primarily an Amazon Video watching device. Works great for that.

The Kindle Touch was not necessary at all, but since I've been reading quite a lot lately, I picked one up anyway. Good move. I was worried that the touch screen would either smudge or I'd turn pages accidentally or it would be awkward to hold. None of these happened. It's lighter than the Kindle 3 and the unnecessary physical keyboard is gone. I love it.

I was talking with a couple other Kindle owners, who suggested that I could lend out my "extra" Kindle(s). What a great idea! Instead of lending a book to someone, I can lend them my entire library! Indeed, the number of people I can lend to simultaneously is limited to one or two, but how great is it that one or two friends can read, skim, sample, or ignore every Kindle book I own? The frightening thing is that now I want to buy more Kindles just so that I can lend them out and share all of my favorite books at once. In fact, I wonder how low the price will go on new Kindles. Right now, at $79 it's not far away from the price of a few decent hardcovers just a few years ago.

To help my friends decide if I have a book they might be interested in, I've tagged all of my Kindle books on Goodreads. They're here at goodreads.com/jackbaty

Until Amazon and the publishers make it easier to lend Kindle books, this may have to do. And I no longer have too many Kindles.

Dell Mini

So there’s this new Dell “Mini 9”:http://www.dell.com/mini thing, another tiny, net-centric laptop. Neat! Tell me more! Sorry I asked. Found the following video of one of guys on the product team introducing me to this exciting new product.

Well Mr. Pitstick, Senior Manager of Global whatever, when introducing a new product, using video no less, it might be a good idea to actually show it to me.

I swear he just holds in casually in his hand for like 5 minutes while droning on and on about Usage Cases, Value Propositions, Componentry and whatever. Bored to tears.