The AirPods Experience

I’ve been using AirPods since the day they came out in December, and I underestimated how much they would improve the listening experience on my iPhone.

Before getting the AirPods, I would use Apple’s In-Ear Headphones for my commute to block out the sound of the train.Once I got to work, I used EarPods at my desk so that I could hear the ambient noise around me.

A few things bothered me about this setup, but I put up with it. The In-Ear headphones sounded really great but when I walked, I would hear the vibrations of the wire rubbing up against my coat – this was especially bad in the winter. Worse yet, also in the winter, the dry air would occasionally cause static electricity which would create uncomfortable sounds from time to time. It was rare though, so I put up with it, and they sounded really great.

When I decided to get AirPods, I was a little worried that the sound of the train would be annoying, as it would get through without the seal of the In-Ear Headphones. Once I started using them on the train though, I realized that it wasn’t that bad. I also realized that not having a wire made the dip in sound quality worth it. The freedom of not having a wire anywhere near me, especially in the cold Quebec winter, is incalculable. Even after several weeks of commuting, I am still delighted by the experience.

Once I get to work, that experience is also a huge improvement over the wired EarPods. For several weeks, I had phantom cord syndrome, where I constantly attempted to keep the wire out of the way when I moved. It reminded me of when I first got an Xbox 360 and I was used to the wired controller of my PS2. Not having a wire makes moving around my office a joy.

Any of my reservations I had about AirPods quickly disappeared after a few days of using them. They sound great. They don’t fall out of my ears. They have never run out of power. The range has yet to come into play. The only complaint I do have is one I have with every Bluetooth device in the winter. My automatic car starter seems to interfere with them and on rare occasions, weird connection issues pop up in the morning when my wife starts the car and goes to work. These connection issues are relatively rare though – maybe 4 or 5 times since owning them, and they’re quickly resolved by taking them out of my ears and putting them back in.

The AirPods are worth the price, and they have by far resulted in the most pleasant experience I’ve had with any ear buds I have ever used. They really make my commute that much better and I would highly recommend them.

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The AirPods Experience

Observations

I ride a train to work, and during my commute, I can’t help but notice how people use their smartphones and tablets. As someone that follows the tech industry closely, I’m fascinated by how “normal” people use their personal technology.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that a few years ago, a legitimate troubleshooting tip seems to have spread among the general population: quitting apps in iOS. You achieve this by double pressing the home button and bringing up the app switcher view. Then you flick the app out of view and essentially quitting it. If you do a quick search, people think that it saves battery life, but they’re wrong. In most cases, doing this is completely useless and is a waste of time.

It pretty much does nothing except force the app to start over the next time you need to use it, in many cases making it slower to open. There’s really no need to do this unless the app is causing a problem. For example, if you see that your device’s battery is draining quickly, you can quit the app that is causing it once you know which one it is by checking the app battery usage. You may also want to quit an app that is acting strange, which can happen. In most cases though, just let the phone figure it out. That’s it’s job.

Observations

Back In My Day

I’m not quite sure when it happened exactly, but I have become one of those “back in my day” dads. I constantly tell my daughter how great she has it went it comes to entertainment. Between Netflix, the Internet, specialty channels, PVRs, and the list goes on. There’s no way my kid can ever feel bored.

I remember how amazing it was when I first used a VCR – my sister had a Betamax with a copy of The Empire Strikes Back which I would watch whenever I had the opportunity. I was fascinated by the fact that I could pause it, and I imagined that if I was watching a regular TV show, I could pause that too. Obviously, I didn’t realize that something had to be on a video tape for me to be able to do that. I was six years old, what did I know? However, my kids can do that now, through the magic of a PVR. Supper time! Okay, let’s just pause that episode of Wild Kratts and we’ll continue after we eat. Oh, we won’t have time? Just press the record button and it’ll be saved so we can watch it on another night. This is basically like running water to my kids – it’s always been there.

My daughter loves music, and every once in a while she’ll ask something like, “Hey dad! I want to watch Taylor Swift playing a few songs on acoustic guitar. Can you find that?” And I’ll say, “Let’s type it into this computer with a screen bigger than my childhood family TV.” Hello Taylor Swift! When I was her age, the family computer used a cassette tape, something my child has only a vague idea of. Now? The family computer is a 27-inch iMac with a 5K screen that has access to pretty much all the information one would ever need.

It may sound like I’m jealous that I didn’t have this stuff, but I’m not. I’m happy that I get to share this with my children. This is such a great time to be alive – we have access to so much and it’s important we take full advantage of this. Along with all the fun we can have, I’m trying to show my daughter (and son, eventually) that computers and technology offer more than just a way to watch every episode of My Little Pony 1.

This idea of how far we’ve progressed is one that I’ll probably be revisiting often over time. On the flipside, the resistance to change and how people worry about technology is something I also want to cover – these two ideas are interconnected. This is inevitable; technology moves forward, and every generation has so much more than the previous one. With that comes those that will feel left behind and threatened, and the negativity will come as well. It’s something that frustrates me, and I definitely have lots to say about it. For now though, let’s just enjoy the fact that we can go back and watch every episode of Friends whenever the hell we want to.


  1. Seriously though, My Little Pony is fantastic and way better than the show that was on when I was a kid. 
Back In My Day

Obsessive Backup

I have a slight obsession when it comes to backing up my data, especially my photos and videos. I find it hard to understand when someone is not concerned with making sure his data is safe. Yet, I will get asked a few times a year about the best software to recover data from a broken hard drive. Unfortunately, there really isn’t any, and when your hard drive breaks, you want to have an up to date backup.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I’ll tell anyone who will listen that even though backing up computer files may seem like a chore, it’s relatively simple. There are a few strategies that can be used to make sure you have a good backup solution. The first one is obvious – get an external hard drive and turn on Time Machine. This is by far the easiest and quickest way to get up and running with a backup that will save you if the hard drive in your Mac dies. Newer hard drives, especially the solid state drives (SSD) that come with most Macs, are much more reliable, but they can still fail. Having a backup of all your data sitting on your desk, ready to go, is a good thing.

However, it isn’t a sure thing. Your hard drive can die because of a power surge, or something worse, like fire damage. If anything happens to the room that your computer is in, and the backup is near it, you can be certain that you’ll lose your backup along with everything else. This is why I recommend having an offsite backup solution. It can be as simple as leaving a second copy of your external backup drive somewhere else, like at a family member’s home, or at the office. Or you can use an online backup service like CrashPlan or Backblaze. These services have a fee, but are worth it.

I keep a lot of my documents in my Dropbox folder; this way, anytime I need to access something I’ve worked on, or am working on, I can easily retrive it. The only documents I don’t keep in there are those that have any kind of private information. However, any templates I use for work, or anything I’ve written (some things going back a decade), I keep in in my Dropbox folder. Anything in Dropbox is automatically backed up.

My photo and video backup strategy is a little more involved. These types of files carry a lot more sentimental value. Anytime I find out that someone I know is not backing up her photos, I cringe, because they will get lost, and there will be sadness. Currently, I have 4 external hard drives that are essentially identical and have all my photos, videos, music, and a whole bunch of other things on them. Three of them are in my house, and one I keep somewhere else. You don’t need ot have that many, but remember that two is one, and one is none. That’s a military saying, but in the context of nerdy computer stuff, I heard it from CGP Grey on the amazing Cortext podcast.

Along those lines, I don’t just have the external hard drive strategy. I also use two online services for my photos and videos – iCloud and Google Photos. Both are great, and I highly recommend using at least one. If you use an iPhone and a Mac, iCloud is the most convenient, but will cost you at least $1.29 CAD per month for the 50GB. Apple gives everyone 5GB for free, but if you do more than backup your iPhone or iPad, you’ll run out of space real quick. I have a huge photo library, so I pay the $3.99 CAD for 200GB.

Google Photos provides you unlimited space for free, but any photos over 16 megapixels, and video over 1080p, will be compressed. However, since my iPhone has a 12 megapixel camera, and I don’t shoot video at 4K, that doesn’t really bother me, and it shouldn’t bother you – even compressed, the photos look great. The best thing about Google Photos is that it’s really easy to search, almost to the point that it’s a little creepy. You can search for an object or location, and it will find it, without tags or GPS data. It’s really impressive.

I can blather on quite a bit about backing up data, and I could probably keep typing. For now, please make sure you at least have one external drive that has all your important files on it. Having a second backup is an even better idea. Keep in mind, it’s never a matter of if your hard drive will fail, it’s when.

Obsessive Backup

When Malware Attacks

One of the reasons I often recommend Macs to friends and family (if budget permits) is because OS X is relatively more resistant to viruses and malware. However, this does not mean that Macs are completely immune to malware (viruses are less of an issue). Case in point, I had to help a friend with some malware just recently, so I thought it would be good idea to let people know to have a good malware remover on your Mac.

I recently discovered Malwarebytes Anti-Malware app, and I highly recommend that everyone have it on his or her Mac, regardless of how confident you feel about your internet security knowledge. It’s relatively easy to download malware by accident because it can masquerade so well as a legitimate app. More often than not, a fake Flash installer is the culprit, and this was the case when my friend had issues.

Why not wait until you need the app to instal it? I learned something new about modern day malware. If you have it, it will do everything in its power to stay with you. Malware developers have become quite clever. Every time she attempted to go to the Malwarebytes site, she was redirected, and was never given the opportunity download the app. I had get the disk image and email it to her. The thing is, once she installed it, the app did its job, and after a quick reboot her Mac was back to normal. Ultimately, the best way to prevent any issues like this is to only download software directly from a legitimate developer, or from the Mac App Store. However, even if you are careful, you can get hit.

When Malware Attacks

If Why, Then What?

It took me a long time to think of a title for this writing project, and this is what I came up with. It’s a play on “if this, then that” which is a service that helps along the internet of things. Since I want to focus this site on how people interact with technology and the internet,and the questions that brings up, I thought it could work – we’ll see.

The thing is, so many of the products and services we use today have ridiculous names if you really think about it, that it doesn’t really matter. They sort of just end up working and we associate the name with the product. Some of the things we say today would sound moronic to someone 20 years ago. “Lemme Google this on my iPhone, and then I’ll tweet it to you.” Travel back to 1995, say that to someone, and see what they say.

If Why, Then What?