I don't really follow the goings-on of Oprah Winfrey but of course, I am aware of who she is. I have also heard that she has a list of "favorite things" every year. I looked at her list. None of her items appealed to me. So I decided to write about some of my own favorite things of 2015.Read More
I am an Apple fanatic. That is no secret. We bought our first iPod back in 2005 and then eMacs, iMacs, Powerbooks, iPhones, iPads and more iPods than you could shake a stick at. Aside from being an Apple fanatic, I am a technology fanatic. I love gadgets. I also really love seeing how people use their gadgets.
What I don't love, however, are the brand snobs. I'm an iPhone guy. So, you're an Android guy... that doesn't mean we can't get along. We can still be friends. We can still play Draw Something and no one has to know we don't have the same phone.
If you're in the Android camp, or even the Blackberry camp and roll your eyes every time someone says iPhone, you are probably a snob. And if you're in the iPhone camp the same thing applies to you. Instead of bashing the other person, ask them to show you their favorite apps. You might just learn something new! And you won't come across as a snob.
Can we all just get along?
I love the Mac environment. Since we purchased our first Mac several years ago, we have slowly turned into a Mac-only household. With iPhones, iPads and Macs, I love how simple the syncing works. We each have a seamless experience no matter which device we're using. We can easily keep our contact list up-to-date, as well as our calendars. The four of us tend to stay pretty busy, it's awesome how simple calendar syncing and sharing are in the Mac / iOS environment. Then, there's iDisk. My own personal thumb-drive in the sky. Or, as has become popular lately, in the "cloud". iDisk, which came with our mobileMe (formerly known as Dot-Mac) account has always been one of my favorite features of the service. I kept all of my important files there and had no problem accessing it from any computer or iPhone. I liked that I didn't need to carry a thumb-drive.
But, with iCloud, iDisk's days are numbered. After June 2012, I won't be able to use iDisk.
Oh no. What will I do?
Those that know me well know that the only technology I love as much as my Apple gear is Evernote.
Evernote is so much more than a place to keep notes. It's where I keep everything! Given it's powerful indexing and searching (text in images is searchable!), it is a far superior place to store documents. You no longer need a premium account ($45 per year) to store all types of files, but the free account does have lower usage limits. There is a 50MB max per note (25MB for free users) so I won't store my video projects on Evernote, but 99.44% of my files will work just fine.
So, goodbye iDisk. You've been a good friend for many years. And thanks for the one-year notice on your shut-down. That will give me plenty of time to move my files over.
Another post about Evernote... Use Evernote to Track Your Accomplishments
Last week, Steve Jobs, the most prolific CEO of my lifetime, died. I can't describe how I felt when I learned of his death. I had never felt this sad from the death of someone I did not know personally.
As my oldest daughter told me so eloquently: in 30 years, we'll all remember where we were when we heard the news. Just like when Princess Diana or Michael Jackson died, and just like our parents remember so clearly when Elvis, John F. Kennedy, and John Lennon died.
Steve Jobs, through the company he co-founded, had a huge effect on my life and my family. We bought our first iPod nearly eight years ago and shortly after, learned about podcasts, something that certainly changed the direction and quality of my life.
Then came the Macs, iPhones, the iPad, the Apple TV.
Apple and Steve Jobs didn't just create products, but built an eco-system where we could truly get the most of the things we love. I am able to listen to more music, record more of my own music, and stay connected with my friends and family. The things we can do with our iPad and Apple TV still seem right out of the Jetsons!
As a corporate leader, his drive was famous. My friends and family that have worked at Apple have all told of Steve's influence. His attention to detail and expectation of perfection is something I admire, both as a consumer and a manager.
Thank you Steve, for the iPod, the Mac, the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple TV, and for encouraging us to think different.
The Apple TV is awesome! I considered leaving this blog post as just that one short sentence but, alas, I’ll elaborate.
I was never excited about the previous version of the Apple TV. First, until recently, we only owned a very old (and pretty small) standard definition television for almost 18 years. Second, I was always turned off by the on-board storage. We have a couple of computers in the house, and plenty of external storage. I didn’t care to fuss with syncing yet another device. When I first heard that the new incarnation of Steve Job’s pet project would be streaming only, I had to have one.
We picked one up from the Apple Store in Modesto a couple days after they hit store shelves and after a little help from my friend Manny, we were good to go. For the record, it couldn’t be more simple to connect. Just takes an HDMI cable between the device and the TV. My audio setup was a little wonky between the cable box, TV and surround sound receiver.
Ok, that’s enough back story.
Music - this was the primary reason I wanted an Apple TV. We’ve had the iTunes Express for years but lack of TV interface meant we hardly ever used it. On Apple TV, there’s an awesome interface to browse and listen to music from our primary computer in the house.
Podcasts - I listen to a lot of podcasts. The Apple TV allows browsing to the iTunes podcast directory. And what’s even better, I can mark one as favorite and listen just as soon as a new show is released. Having podcasts play on the TV make me wish Stump the Chef would come back; that video podcast is perfectly suited for this device!
iTunes Store content - In addition to streaming all of the content in my iTunes, I can also rent movies and TV shows directly from the Apple TV. I probably won’t be doing that at all, more on that later.
YouTube - Videos, especially those available in HD, look amazing from the Apple TV. Being able to login to my YouTube account is great for keeping up with my subscriptions.
Flickr - Photo slide shows look great using the Apple TV. The only downside is that I cannot sign-in to Flickr from the Apple TV like I can with YouTube. Still great for catching up on my Flickr friends.
Netflix - Lastly, the hidden gem inside the Apple TV! We waited years before getting cable (2005) and we might be the last family in America to get a flat screen television (2010). We don’t watch a lot of television and never saw the appeal of Netflix. Well, not until now. The same day we brought home the Apple TV we signed up for the free 30-day trial of Netflix. I don’t care much about getting a disc mailed to us but for 9 dollars per month, we can stream as much of their content as we want. I know this technology is not new but I am still amazed that we can stream TV shows and movies, in amazing quality, to our TV. Since we usually rent a few movies from On Demand each month, the Netflix option will save us some money.
For all the Apple critics that complain because Apple “forces” consumers to buy content through iTunes, strange how the Apple TV comes Netflix ready. And Netflix is far more valuable than any iTunes offering. Doesn’t seem to bother the Cupertino crew.
As an added bonus, to watch Netflix content from any computer, iPad or iPhone.
The Apple TV comes with a power cable and a very thin remote. Besides turning on the Apple TV, we typically use our iPhones as remotes, using the Remote app. This comes in handy when searching since you can use a real keyboard rather than hunting for each individual letter on screen.
The Apple TV is one of the coolest tech toys we own. If you rent 2 movies (or more) a month, adding an unlimited streaming Netflix account makes it even better! It has worked better than expected and we are getting a lot of use out of it.
I am still in awe that the Apple TV sells for only $99. For that price, I would have bought it just for music and podcast listening. The rest is gravy, and there is A LOT of gravy!
Last week, Apple announced Ping, calling it “a social network for music”. Like a lot of comments I read online, I thought, “great, do I really need another social network?”. After downloading iTunes 10 and setting up my Ping, I realized I do need (or should I say, want) another social network.
I like Ping. Here’s why.
- It lives within iTunes. I care most about what music my friends are buying, listening to, recommending, when I am in iTunes
- It’s focus is narrow. Very narrow. I am interested in music and learning about other styles of music. I can see Ping helping me discover music I would’ve not otherwise discovered
- I actually enjoy reading reviews, they may not sway me, but I like them nonetheless. When the reviewer is also a friend of mine it helps put the review in better context for me. Being able to easily read friends’ reviews is a big plus
As a first generation social network, Ping has promise. Some improvements I hope Apple makes are:
- Greater delineation of genres. This goes for iTunes as a whole. Rock and Pop are pretty wide. And there is no category for Bluegrass. I don’t consider Sam Bush country
- Should have custom URL that will forward to iTunes app (rather than telling people to go to iTunes and search for... )
- The ability to “Like” and “Post” about podcasts and audio books
- Re-activate the Facebook friend finder. I saw it there when I first signed up but it seems it might’ve since been removed
- Allow me to change my user name to be different than my billing name; “Matthew” is too formal for me
Interested in what music I am buying or recommending? Look for me on Ping, as Matthew Beckwith.
Just as promised, the fine folks at UPS delivered my iPad yesterday. I had been a little worried the last few days since the UPS site still showed my iPad in China as late as yesterday.
After a couple of Google searches (and a few Topeka searches) over the last few days I realized there were many other iPads "stuck in China". A quick search on Twitter led me to @ThomasAtUPS who must've been the hardest working person on Twitter! He responded to tons of questions from soon-to-be iPad owners. @ThomasAtUPS assured me my iPad would be delivered today. Well, actually, he Tweeted it to everyone.
I had the iPad shipped to my mailing address, which just happens to be a friendly local UPS store. On an unrelated note, we have done business with Jason and his crew for 15 years, back when it was Mail Boxes Etc. - we love these guys, they really understand customer service! Ok, now back to the iPad story.
A couple of hours later the iPad was in hand.
First let me say; physically, the iPad truly is like nothing else I've ever held. It was heavier than I imagined it would be, which I was happy about. No one wants light and wimpy tech toys! Now, I know I'm a fan boy, but seriously, it just feels right (extra cheese points if you read that in Johnny Ive's voice... even more extra cheese points if you know who Johnny Ive is).
The first thing I did was open Photos. Nice UI! Then I went to Safari. I wanted to know what it felt like to touch the internet. It felt amazing. This unique way of browser interaction transcends the iPhone experience. It just makes sense.
I could go on and one. If you're still here, though, it might be easier to just watch the video.
After only using it for a few minutes, I can say that it is awesome!
Originally, I said I would have preferred something more like desktop Mac OS X, with Finder, but, I wanted this just for casual surfing and e-mail... a tasks that it performs incredibly well! So far, the only thing I don't love is the presentation of Mail while in portrait mode. I would prefer to not have an individual message shown when I open the application.
Crappy first-generation? No way! While I'm sure the next version of the iPad will be amazing, I am glad I bought the first. The web surfing is awesome. The iPad apps (like ABC, Twitteriffic, Words with Friends HD) are all great. Games from the iPhone (Tetris, Traffic Rush, Demonless) are a lot more fun on the large screen! And the speed. This thing screams from app to app. I don't care about it's lack of true multi-tasking, apps nearly all open where you last left them.
Steve Jobs's (temporary, perhaps) absence from Apple, Inc. will be just a blip on the radar. In an e-mail to Apple employees, Steve Jobs announced he would be taking a medical leave from the company until June. Saying that his “ health-related issues are more complex” than he originally thought. He told employees that Tim Cook would lead the organization during his leave and that he looked forward to seeing them again “this summer”.
Rumors about his declining health have been flying around as furiously as iPhones off store shelves. Ever since it was announced that he had pancreatic cancer in 2004, we have heard from analysts, critics and bloggers that have predicted the end of Apple’s market dominance if Steve Jobs were to depart.
When Apple announced that 2009's Macworld would be it's last and that Steve Jobs would not be delivering the keynote the blogosphere erupted in a guessing game about the CEO's health.
I agree with the notion that there is no company in America, likely in the world, who's identity is as closely identified with it's CEO as Apple. I also believe that Steve Jobs has been the driving force behind Apple's successful product offering. And even though I do believe there is a cult-like following of the all-things-i-maker (to steal a phrase oft used by Ken Ray) I believe that happened because they filled a need. As my college economics professor often said, "it is better to have demand first, then supply." Apple didn't create the iPod and hypnotize millions of people into thinking they wanted one. Millions of people wanted something better than what the market was offering. Apple filled the need better than anyone. Sure, Steve Jobs had a great deal to do with revolutionizing the music industry but he had some help.
Apple has become much bigger than just Steve Jobs. To say that he is the lifeblood of the company is to take away a great deal of credit from all of the talent that exists within the rest of the company.
As a self-professed Apple fan-boy, it is a little scary to imagine Apple without Steve Jobs (I have only been an Apple fan since after Steve Jobs’s return). As an Apple investor I can't help but think logically about this. Apple has remarkable design, distribution, strong financials and from an outsider's viewpoint, a very capable executive staff. Because it is Apple, it can be easy to forget that it is a for-profit, publicly held company and I trust that it will continue to drive innovation in the marketplace and the opportunity for financial return to shareholders for years to come.
Separating the health concern from the rest of the issue - I think this is a positive change. Steve Jobs said he will still be involved in strategy level decisions but allowing Tim Cook to run the organization will prove that exciting new things can still happen at Apple, even if Steve Jobs is only in the background. Perhaps this is test for Apple, a chance to show us, the Mac community, that the company is strong enough to survive and grow with someone else steering the ship.
As for the call from investors demanding to know more details about the CEO’s health, I don’t need to know details. I just need to be re-assured that the company has a plan to succeed without him. I am an investor in Apple, Inc. the company, not the leader alone. Sure, he’s integral to Apple, but again, he is not Apple. I did not invest in the Steve Jobs index fund. If he was the one that built the products and personally sold each of them than I might agree and demand his medical record.
Get well, Mr. Jobs. I hope you are afforded the peace and quiet you need to get better. At the end of the day, it's your well being we should all hope for.
And maybe Flash on the iPhone.
After returning home from camping, I finally downloaded iTunes 7.7 and iPhone 2.0. Even though I’m not getting the new 3G iPhone I have been really looking forward to the new software. I had just won a $50 gift card from Stacey over at Pill’s Place so I decided to get an iTunes card, just in time for the opening of the App Store (and the purchase of Alan Jackson’s Good Time).
In addition to the App Store, 2.0 has some new features, such as the ability to do a screen shot (Jason Tucker explains how). Now I can easily show the applications I’ve downloaded.
So far, my favorite apps are: Remote - now I can control my iTunes from my iPhone... awesome! Guitar Toolkit - A great portable guitar tuner Where To? - An app that shows nearby restaurants, attractions, etc. Super Monkey Ball - fun game, kids will probably play more than I do Fuel Gauge (MPG) - helps me track my gas mileage Tetris - amazing game for the iPhone, a must have! AOL Radio - I know, it’s AOL, but the interface is beautiful and the music choices are great!
I was also thrilled to see the push services work. Since I rely heavily on iCal and Address Book (and, oh yeah, Mail) I can now go about my day no longer worrying that I may double book myself. Another new feature I really like is the way passwords are masked. Now, the last character is left un-masked until the next character is typed - very helpful when I fat-finger a password and forget what I’ve already typed.
So, thanks Stacey, for letting me go wild on the App Store!
Do you have an iPhone? What are some your favorite apps? E-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post your favorites in the comments section.