So…was that really creepy, or really cool?

Visio TV and Apple HomePod

Last night during the Loyola-Chicago vs Michigan NCAA Final Four game a very strange thing happened.

We were watching the game on our flat panel TV with the new Apple HomePod sitting just in front of it.

With about three minutes left in the game, Apple broadcast a TV commercial in which the voice said… “Hey Siri, remind me to watch the NCAA final game on Monday.” At this point the Apple HomePod came to life and said, “OK, I have scheduled a reminder for you on Monday.”

Wow! Is this cool technology when your television can program your computer “appliance” (the Apple HomePod) to set a reminder for you? What’s next? What could this mean for the future? Will the furniture store TV commercial tell Siri (who is always listening) to remind you that the sale of the century (the one held every other week) is Tuesday and be sure to be there at 10 AM when the doors open.

Or, how about the clever politician on TV who asks Siri to remind you that you need to remember to vote for him or her on Tuesday when the polls open at 7:45 AM. Or…

Is this “Big Brother” watching, listening, speaking or commanding?

OK Apple, it was cute the first time. But the second and the third?

And I’m sure it would work in a similar way on Amazon’s Alexa.

Sheesh… what will they think of next?

Getting Ready To Move Our Electronic “Stuff”

Getting ready to move..

The big day is almost here! My wife is retiring in a few months and then we are moving a couple of hours away to our retirement home. As a techno geezer that means packing up fragile electronics and moving them carefully from one location to another.

Sure I’m concerned about moving our good china, furniture and 101 other things. We are using a professional moving company to move the big stuff, but I really prefer to move electronics myself. In all fairness I should mention that we move every few years so we have experience in moving household items.

Here are a few things about moving electronics that we want to pass on. Hopefully it will make your move easier and less stressful.

Before you move:

1. Use office supply “string tags” (small) to identify both ends of every cable on every electronic that has a cord or cable. Make sure you mark them like “Bose speakers – audio in” or “Sony TV – audio out.” This should help immensely when setting them up at your new home.

2. Use your smartphones camera to take pictures of your current cords/cables/Ethernet/USB/HDMI ports on the back and sides of your TV, computer, DVD player, stereo, modem, router, etc. A little work now, but a whole lot less frustration when you setting them up again.

3. Make a paper or computer list of your usernames, passwords, WiFi settings, and network information.

4. If you saved the original boxes (I do, don’t you?) use them to pack up your digital stuff for the move. If you didn’t use boxes use lots of bubble wrap (a much better – and safer – alternative then paper).

5. Transport small and medium size electronics in your car, van, or SUV. Large flat panel televisions are best in their original shipping cartons – or have the moving pros wrap and move them. Some moving company’s charge a premium for flat panel TV’s that don’t have the original box.

After you move:

1. Unwrap and place your electronics in the rooms and on the stands where they go.

2. Connect cords and cables per the “string tags”, photos and paperwork that you prepared above.

3. Recycle the boxes, bubble wrap and other packing materials.

4. Relax and enjoy your technology in your new home.

Say Hello To A Good Buy! Lamicall stands for iPhone and iPad

Lamicall “A” Stand for iPhone

Apple iPhone users click here: Lamicall “A” Stand at Amazon

Lamicall “S1” Stand for iPad

Apple iPad users click here: Lamicall “S1” Stand for iPad at Amazon

A great product at a great price:

If you are looking for a table top stand for your iPhone or/and iPad look no further.

Lamicall makes greats stands for mobile devices. Depending on the model and style they are made from aluminum or steel and are available in different colors.

The stands are adjustable so that you can find the perfect view to work, play games, type, or watch movies. Sturdily built and nicely finished. Rugged enough for daily use.

Both stands can hold your Apple mobile device in either a vertical (tall) or horizontal (wide) position. Both stands also have “pass through” holes for your charger cord and headphone connector (if you have an iPhone that supports this).

If you buy from Amazon make sure that you get the Lamicall brand AND it’s the correct model with the adjustable holder, and not just one with a solid base and holder.

Depending on the deals at Amazon the smaller “A” stand (for iPhone’s) is around $13.00 and the larger “S1” stand (for iPad’s) is around $19.00 including free shipping if you are an Amazon Prime member.

Truly a “Say Hello to a Good Buy!” value for design, construction, and price.

What’s an Apple HomePod? Do Seniors NEED one?

Apple HomePod

Apple just introduced the HomePod. Its Apple’s idea of a “better mousetrap” than Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Home smart speakers. You can buy an Amazon Alexa Echo Dot for $39.95. An Apple HomePod is $349.00.

All three devices are SmartSpeakers (a new buzzword). They do the same thing – provide music through their speaker systems and are digital assistants – like asking them, “What’s the weather like outside right now?” Or, “What are the Olympic standings right now?”

To “hear” the difference an additional $310 gets you, you need to listen to the HomePod. Apple engineers spent over 7 years developing the HomePod and the result is exceptional sound. Music (and voice) is clear, crisp, not muddled or dampened. It almost seems that you can hear or sense the different layers present in the most well-recorded music. The HomePod has seven tweeters, a 4″ sub-woofer, and 6 microphones – that can pick up a whispered “Hey Siri” command from across a room – even with rock music turned up high.

In the next few months, Apple will release a software update for IOS devices that will enhance AirPlay to AirPlay 2. This software will allow multiple devices to play to multiple speakers with variable volume levels and additionally play your favorite music throughout the house or just in specific rooms. Apple will license AirPlay 2 to other speaker and headphone makers.

Now for the elephant in the room – Siri. The good news is that Siri works well, especially with music commands, questions, and information about the song, album, track, and even “Siri, who is playing drums on this track?” type questions. As mentioned above having 6 microphones and her ability to pick your voice – even softly – or at a distance is really amazing. Of course, she knows the answers to millions of questions and dozens of commands. Home automation electronics like door locks, thermostats, lighting – all work with Siri spoken commands if the device supports Apple HomeKit software.

HomePod works best if you are an Apple “person.” If you have an iPhone, or iPad, or Apple TV you are going to have no problems with setup and day-to-day use. To select and listen to music you need to have a subscription to Apple Music.

As always Apple will provide over-the-air software updates that increase the value of HomePod and add new features that will make us drool.

OK, I rolled over and bought the iPhone X. Here’s why…

Me with my new Apple iPhone X at my local Apple Store.

Here I am early on Friday morning at the Apple Store in Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’m picking up my brand new Apple iPhone X.

I said I wasn’t getting one (at least one of the first ones), so how come now I am? Well, because I was curious about some of the new technology.

  • The new OLED screen? Beautiful! It looks like the graphics and text are painted on – as close to a perfect screen as possible with 2017 technology. Does the black “slot” at the top center and the “ears” on the top left and right bother me? No, you get used to them very quickly. BTW, how did Apple stuff a 5.8″ screen (larger than my “old” iPhone 7 Plus with a 5.5″ screen) into a shell that is about the same size as a standard 4.7″ screen (like a standard iPhone 6, 6s, 7 or 8)? I don’t know, I don’t care, but am very glad they did. A sweet fit in the front pocket of my pants.
  • The facial recognition system? Amazing! Fast and accurate. The system recognizes my face very quickly and unlocks the phone in an instant. It can only get better as time goes on.
  • The missing home button? No problem once you get used to it. The phone requires different gestures with your fingers, but they are easy to learn and use.
  • All the dozens of other improvements? Animoji’s?, studio lighting? front sided stereo sound? person-to-person payment system? Yup, all are accounted for now or very soon with a simple software update.
  • Overall appearance and look and feel? Pretty much perfect. Slim, lightweight, with the proper dimensions and “touch.” Easy to look at and easy to hold. A little slippery when holding “naked” (withhout a case.) The front and back of the iPhone are glass and really need to be in a case to be more secure and less slippery. As always, I love the Apple iPhone leather case. Lightweight, slim and buttery soft leather. Even smells good. No more slipping and sliding!

Originally, I held off on ordering an Apple iPhone X because with so much new technology I thought there might be early production problems with the hardware and software. I should have known better.

Apple releases no product before its time. Sure, there are a few things that will be improved as they go along. But certainly nothing major that would hinder your enjoyment and use of a great new iPhone.

Bottom line – if you can afford it and want the newest and greatest go get one.

How did Apple defy physics in the new 10.5″ iPad Pro?

Stuffing clowns into a car
Stuffing clowns into a car

  
Hardware:

Many people are scratching their heads about how Apple managed to cram an iPad Pro with a 10.5 inch screen into a case that is only 9.8 inches tall. This new model replaces the “old” (last year’s model) iPad Pro which featured a 9.7 inch screen stuffed into a 9.4 inch tall case.

The answer is simple: Apple pretty much took out the margins (bezels) on both sides of the screen and raised the top by only .4 inches. The margins are the areas that allowed us to rest our fingers or palms on the screen yet would not activate the screen. It seems that Apple has improved the hardware and software to a point where the screen does not register misplaced fingers and palms. Bottom line: the new screen, in pretty much the old case, gives us 20% more screen “real estate” to enjoy sharper (i.e. higher resolution) images, and 50% brighter than last year’s model.

The new iPad Pro 10.5 retains all the quality of the original with an ingenious four speaker stereo system and side edge connectors for accessories like the super slim Apple Smart Keyboard. Upgrades to the device include a more powerful set of cameras (front and rear), the main CPU goes from an Apple 9x chip to an Apple 10x chip which boosts basic processing, resulting in an increase over 250% faster than the previous model, and graphic processing is over 400% quicker than before. Apple claims that all this new hardware will not affect the strong 10-hour battery life.

Other improvements include the availability of a full-size Apple Smart Keyboard and new cases and covers to accommodate the slightly taller body. The new iPad Pro 10.5 also has the fingerprint scanner home button and supports the Apple Pencil. Internal storage RAM begins at 64GB (up from the previous 32GB), and then proceeds to 128GB and a first-ever capacity of 512GB. The iPad Pro 10.5 is reported to have 4GB of RAM.

The old 9.7″ iPad Pro with 32GB and WiFi was $599, the new 10.5″ iPad Pro with 64GB and WiFi is $649. The old 9.7″ iPad Pro with 256GB and WiFi was $899, the new 10.5″ iPad Pro with 256GB and WiFi is $749. The new 10.5″ WiFi iPad Pro with a whopping 512GB of storage is $949. The “sweet spot” appears to be the 256GB WiFi model which packs a larger screen, faster processor, and a whole lot more for about $150 less than last year’s model. If you need the WiFi + LTE cellular models, add $130 to the WiFi-only pricing.

Software:

The new device initially ships with IOS 10.3.2. The bigger deal is IOS 11, which ships in the Fall with enhancements available only to iPads. These enhancements will primarily be in multitasking, screen splits (allowing two apps to run side by side in adjacent windows), an application launch bar at the bottom of the screen (similar to a Mac), and a “file” app which allows for controlling where files go (local or cloud). Finally, the updated IOS 11 allows for “drag and drop” for web links, photos, text, and more — from one app to another.

The Bottom Line:

Apple is concerned about the decline in tablet device sales. Consumers do not seem to be in a hurry to purchase newer models, unlike smart phones. Apple has given us a new device with a solid update to both the hardware and software of the iPad Pro line (there is also a 12.9 inch screen series). Even the price seems to be sweeter for the 256GB model. Both hardware and software seem to be moving closer and closer to the tablet form,replacing traditional desktops and laptops. Certainly a case can be made that tablets (especially iPads) make more sense for seniors – the focus of this blog. As always, your comments are welcome.

To check out the new 10.5 inch iPad Pro Click/Tap Here!

Oh no! My wife’s Apple Watch fell apart.

My wife's Apple Watch fell apart
My wife’s Apple Watch fell apart

Yikes! Recently, I came down for breakfast and found my wife looking upset . The back cover (which contains the heart beat sensor) on her Apple Watch had popped off when she removed the watch from its magnetic charger.

With a hand-held magnifying glass I carefully checked out the thin band of glue that encircled the sensor. The incredibly thin, flat -ribbon cable was still attached to the sensor and the back of the watch. 

My next step was to search “sensor popped off Apple Watch” using Google and I immediately found that we were not alone with this problem. One of my search links led to the Apple Watch customer support site on the apple.com web site. Over 490 people had reported to Apple that they had had this problem.

Most of the support messages said that we ought to simply take the watch to an Apple Store, and a Genius Bar representative would make things right. Sure.

My wife’s Apple Watch was one of the first groups manufactured and is almost two years old. In other words, it’s definitely out of warranty. Even with an Apple Care warranty, it would be out of the coverage dates. The watch is a stainless steel model and retailed for around $500 when we purchased it. “This can’t be good” I fretted.

For our family the nearest Apple Store is located in East Lansing, Michigan – about an hour away from where we live. Upon arriving the Apple Genius looked at the watch and stated that this was a known problem and that Apple had a program to take care of it. 

It seems that using body lotion or sun tan lotion causes the seal to weaken. Within a few minutes he had collected all the important information from me and said that a replacement watch would arrive within 3-5 business days. Since the watch was out of warranty, the price for the replacement was $249 – half the price of the original watch. But wait! Glancing to the right side of the work order/invoice I read what the customer was expected to pay. Obviously I was expecting to pay $249, but the amount showing what the customer was to pay was $0.00: Fantastic.

Five days later we received the replacement watch via FedEx. It was a “Like new” factory re-manufactured watch that was scratch-free and contained a new battery. I simply “paired” the watch with my wife’s iPhone and restored her data from a previous backup. It took less than a half-hour and all went well.

This experience is yet another reason that I’m a solid Apple customer and shareholder. To use that overworked term, Apple “gets it”. They understand that so-called “early adapters” are important to the long- term success of a product and the company that made it and sold it.

Kudos Apple!

Mobile Technology for Today's Savvy Geezer!

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