A couple of days ago I posted a blog page that said photography was one of my favorite hobbies. My second favorite (there are many more favorite hobbies) is reading. And for seniors, there is no better way to read than Libby.
Libby is a free software app that works on Apple and Android mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) so that you can “borrow” books to read or to listen to them. Libby is the second generation app from developer OverDrive to support digital reading from public libraries.
Of course, we all know that reading books (or listening to them) is great for seniors. It keeps us sharp, active, knowledgeable, and more. Regardless if you purchase them from your local bookstore, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble – books are expensive.
Seniors who love to read (some read two or three books a week) and live on a fixed income have difficulty in justifying purchasing books.
Sure, you can walk, take an Uber, bus, or drive to your local library to borrow a book or sit and read but why? Paper books look and smell great. But if you are a tree hugger books are made of paper and paper is made from trees. Printing inks, binding glue, and delivery of books to stores by trucks all cause a carbon footprint.
The Libby app has similar reading tools like Barnes & Noble Nook and Amazon’s Kindle reading apps. Bookmarks, type font changes, themes, lookups, highlighting, search, and page location syncs between devices are all supported.
Check with your local public library and see if they do offer digital reading and audiobooks. If they do download the Libby app from the Apple or Android app store, enter your library card number and get reading!
Digital photography is one of my favorite hobbies. For years I’ve carried large, heavy, and unwieldy DSLR cameras around my neck. I’ve used Sony alpha series cameras and they have served me well.
Since 2007 I’ve also used the cameras in my Apple iPhone as a back up. The Sony has been used for “serious” shots, and the iPhone for “simple” (non-serious?) shots. Each year as I’ve purchased new iPhones the camera and software have gotten better and more sophisticated. My last couple of iPhones – an iPhone 7 Plus, and the latest iPhone X have included dual lens cameras. One lens is for regular use (sort of wide angle), and the other lens is for telephoto (2x) use.
The iPhone X camera hardware and software are so good that I have begun using the system as my primary go-to camera and photo editing “lab.” But I wanted to add a lens for every day and particular use – like super wide-angle, or fisheye, or even more telephoto and macro close-ups.
I think I’ve found the answer in a lens system called “CONNECT X” from Olloclips. Olloclips has made a snap-on lens for iPhones and some Android phones for the last five-plus years. I’ve tried them on older iPhones with some good luck, and some frustration concerning attachment and detachment.
A couple of weeks ago Olloclips sent me an email that they were releasing a new connection system for the iPhone X that was easy to use, aggressively priced, and flexible.
The Olloclip system is easy to use and extremely clever in its design. Each lens can be flipped and used with either of the back two Apple camera or the front camera. Using the Olloclip “Slim Case,” the lens holder can be easily attached or detached. Each lens is metal and glass. Well designed and sharp in their views.
I purchased the “Mobile Photography Box Set” for the iPhone X ($99.99). It includes three lens – super wide, macro 15x, and a fisheye. The set also comes with the easy-to-attach and use clip system for attaching to your iPhone X. In addition, I purchased the telephoto 2X lens which should make the iPhone X into a 4X camera.
Finally, I bought the “Slim Case” for the iPhone X for $29.99 which provides back and side protection for the phone as well as an oversized opening to attach the Olloclip CONNECT X system. Be aware the CONNECT X system does not work with any other protective case for the iPhone (even Apple’s). You will need to remove your protective case to use CONNECT X unless you buy Olloclip’s “Slim Case.” The good news is that most front screen protectors (I use and recommend Zagg’s “Sapphire Defense” extreme hybrid glass cover that has sapphire infused into the glass) can be used and do not have to be removed when using the CONNECT X base and lens’.
I could spend the next few paragraphs describing the photographic quality of each lens, and how easy it is to put on and take off. I could also show you dozens of photos that I, or others, have taken with the system. But I won’t. You can see lots of videos, before and after photos, etc. on the Olloclip.com website. Trust me this stuff is reasonably priced, built like a tank, cleverly designed, and easy-to-use. You can also go to instagram.com and search by the tag #olloclip to see photos made by Apple iPhone Olloclip users.
Wow! Just when you thought you had seen it all along comes ember click here to go to the ember web site. This is perhaps one of the sweetest uses of technology that I’ve seen in a while. While I probably would not have been the first on my block to run out and pick one up for about $80.00, our son and his sweetie thought this would be the perfect (and it is) gift for dad’s birthday.
The ember is a porcelain mug that contains a surprising amount of technology, plus a rechargeable battery system that keeps your coffee, tea, or other hot beverage at precisely the right temperature. You use an Apple or Android app on your smartphone tablet, or Apple Watch to set the temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius degrees. The app sends a Bluetooth signal to your mug that maintains the temperature selected by using a rechargeable battery operated heating element.
Are there benefits, or is this a gimmick?:
There are benefits to this system that are emotional, practical and economic…
The consistency of taste – from your first sip until your last the coffee tastes the same.
No guesswork involved – you are alerted on your watch, tablet or smartphone when your beverage is at your preferred temperature.
Save money – since the hot beverage tastes the same from beginning to end no more throwing away cold or lukewarm coffee.
No disappointment – your ember lets you know when it needs recharging with a red LED and you just set it on the charging pad. The onboard LED glows green when it is fully charged and ready-to-go.
Is it worth the price?:
Yes, the ember unit is sturdily packaged (very Apple-like), beautiful minimalist design, solid construction, well engineered and enjoyable to use on a day-to-day basis. Although you can’t pop it in a dishwasher, it is easy to rinse out, or hand wash.
The bottom line:
The ember is a practical and fun device if you enjoy hot beverages. Ember makes the porcelain mug shown here as well as a travel mug for your car. You can purchase ember at Starbucks, Best Buy, Target, and Amazon.
I’ve primarily used a Sony alpha series DSLR with a 75mm to 300mm telephoto lens. It has been my “go-to” camera for the last seven years. In addition to the Sony, I’ve taken many travel shots with various models of Apple’s iPhone.
Over the same period of time, the Sony has been a fast, reliable, and creative tool. But it is awkward and heavy to transport, and use on vacation field trips like walking, hiking, visit small retail shops, and going through narrow passages.
The iPhone, on the other hand, has become more lightweight, sophisticated, and easier to use – especially indoors. My latest iPhone, Apple’s advanced model “X” with its sharp and bright OLED screen is easy to view – as long as it is indoors. Trying to use the iPhone outside, in bright sunlight is almost impossible. The screen washes out in the sun. This brings a new meaning to the phrase “point and shoot” – but somehow it works.
My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Washington, DC and New York City. As a creative and lifestyle experiment, I primarily used the iPhone to document our travels. Quite frankly I was very impressed with the results – even the outdoor shots (some in cloudy conditions, others in the sun).
A significant benefit of using the iPhone as your primary vacation camera is that your pictures get synced to your other devices and backed up to iCloud every night. The ease of being able to edit and share your photos with family and friends is fast and straightforward. Apple’s built-in “Photos” app is simple and straightforward for everyday photo editing and organizing.
If you are into status symbols and want your travel buddies (and complete strangers) to be impressed, then carry a Sony, Canon, Nikon, or other quality DSLR camera around your neck. If you want great pictures and have fun on your vacation carry a lightweight iPhone camera in your pocket or purse.
Well, after ten versions Apple apparently has gotten it right with the IOS 10 operating system. An operating system (OS) – regardless if it’s Apple, Google, Microsoft, or others – is never really finished. It is always a work in progress; features are added, bugs are squashed, compatibility with third party applications (apps) is improved – the list goes on and on.
If the operating system developer had only one hardware device to write OS software for it might be easier to get it right. Writing OS code that works reliably on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV for current devices, as well as for older devices, is quite a trick. There are thousands of permutations. Getting it right is very difficult, time consuming, and R&D expensive.
Apple is just about the only hardware manufacturer that also writes its own OS software. Samsung, Lenovo, Sharp, HTC, and dozens of others hardware manufacturers depend on OS software written by companies like Google (who makes Android OS software) and Microsoft (who makes Windows OS software) to develop their operating system software. Yes, I’m aware that Google also manufacturers the Google phone and the Chromebook, and that Microsoft manufacturers the Surface laptop. But these are “one-off” machines.
A few quick examples of improvements in IOS 10:
1. A completely redesigned Maps app that is simpler, bolder looking, and easier to use. A major improvement in day-to-day use. Location accuracy is also much better.
2. You can now read voicemail messages as well as listen to them. The voice transcription is pretty accurate and predictable.
3. The Photos app now includes the ability to organize by faces and map locations. Now you can easily find all the photos of your children and your friends. The map locations allows you to see all the photos you took in a specific location (as determined by GPS).
4. Siri is now open to developers so that you can directly tie into services such as Uber.
5. The music app tied to Apple Music is greatly improved in look and feel (see an expanded description below).
6. The Messages app has gone crazy! It has its own App Store. Add stickers, GIF’s, emojis and more.
7. iPhones now support a “raise to wake” feature that lets you see notifications without having to push a button.
8. The ability to remove Apple default (stock) apps like Stock, Weather, and most others. They can be reloaded later if you wish.
One detailed example:
When Apple introduced the “Music” app two years ago it was a mess. Missing options (like sorting lists), difficult navigation going from one area to another, inconsistency of menus are just a few examples. For a company that had just introduced its new 30-million-track service, like Spotify, it was a lame first attempt.
Last year’s IOS 9 update was somewhat better – but still not truly Apple in look or feel.
This year’s IOS 10 update is much better; a simpler, more stark appearing interface is easier to understand and use, with black and white graphics and text, while color is employed sparingly for emphasis. Sorting by artist, album, release date, and more, is available throughout the application. Song lyrics are also available for most tracks. The star rating system has returned to the joy of many long time iTunes users.
On a different subject – creativity:
Apple has been criticized for a lack of creativity since the death of one of its founders – Steve Jobs. I’m not sure that criticism is deserved. Here are three examples of recent product innovations.
1. The Apple Watch (second edition), has met with success from the media, retail, and the user communities. It’s now water-resistant, has a faster processor, improved operating system (3rd generation), longer battery life, and a less expensive starting price.
2. The Apple “W1” Bluetooth audio chip was just released. It is used on the new Apple AirPod wireless headphones, and several of the new Beats (owned by Apple) brand of wireless headphones. The W1 chips offers:
a. Extreme battery life – 40 hours of playtime vs 2-4 hours of most other wireless headphones.
b. Extreme range (distance) – up to 300 feet vs 33 feet of most other Bluetooth devices.
c. Simple pairing (connecting) interface – works with any Apple IOS 10 device by simply connecting to your first device, and then the rest of your devices are auto connected (if you use the same Apple ID on all of your devices).
3. The recently introduced MacBook Pro laptops with a new OLED color touch-bar located above the keyboard that dynamically changes depending on the software app being used.
My bottom line:
Apple is not perfect; not even close. But in many ways, they have innovative design, solid manufacturing, and great (read: loyal) customer support. I admit to being an Apple “fan boy”. 2017 will see the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. It will be interesting to see what improvements and new features will be added to IOS 11. Stay tuned!
You don’t need to update, but it’s almost always a good idea. Updates provide us with a measure of comfort by contributing a number of things:
• Generally, a slightly faster, and more reliable device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Mac).
• Usually a number of new and improved features that make day-to-day use more enjoyable.
• Security updates that help protect our devices from nasty hackers.
• Bug fixes that repair problems discovered before the update.
A better question may be: Why wouldn’t you want to update your device? Here are a few reasons to update:
• It’s free (Apple never charges for updates).
• It’s easy to do (Follow the steps below).
• You will receive bug fixes and new features.
• Get a leg up on your kids and grand kids (beat them by updating first).
Here is how to get started…
1. On an IOS device (e.g. iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
a. Look at the connector at the bottom of your device – where you plug it in to recharge the battery. If it has the older wider 20 pin connector you cannot upgrade your device to IOS 10. Sorry. If you have the newer, small “Lightning Connector” you can update to IOS 10.
b. Make sure your device is attached to the charging cable and is at least 50% charged.
c. Now go into “Settings” (it looks like a gear). Next press on the word “General”. Finally press on the words “Software Update”. The software should now be downloading, verifying, installing and then restarting the device. Once the restart has begun, you’ll see a black screen, then a white Apple logo, and then a progress bar. This should happen twice and then the update will be complete.
2. On an Apple Watch (updating the Apple Watch from watchOS 2 to watchOS 3)
a. Make sure your iPhone has been updated to IOS 10 (this is required).
b. Connect your iPhone to its battery charger.
c. Connect your Apple Watch to its battery charger.
d. In the Watch app on your iPhone scroll down the screen until you see the “General” icon. Press on the word “General”. Next, press on the words “Software Update”. The software should now be downloading (to the Apple Watch), verifying, installing and then restarting the device. Once the restart has begun, you’ll see a black screen, then a white Apple logo, and then a progress circle. This should happen twice and then the update will be complete.
3. On an Apple TV (Hardware Version 4)
a. Start at the main menu of your Apple TV.
b. Go to the settings menu (the Gear icon).
c. Scroll down until you see the word “System” and then click on it.
d. Now look below and find the words “Software Updates” and then click on it.
e. Now click on the words “Update Software”.
f. If the system needs to be updated, the software download will begin. The Apple will automatically restart upon completion.
4. On a Mac computer (all newer models that use Mac OS 10 or newer)
a. Start at the top left of the screen. Click on the “Apple” icon.
b. The menu will drop down, and you need to click on the “App Store” menu item.
c. Make sure you click on the word “Featured”.
d. You should see the icon for “Mac OS 10 Sierra Update”. Click on this icon to begin downloading and installing the update. This is a large update and will take at least an hour to download and install. You can check on the progress by clicking on the words “Purchased” in the App Store.
Apple has made free user guides for all of the updates. If you have iBooks installed on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac you can go to the “Featured” menu and search for the books:
• iPhone Users Guide for IOS 10
• iPad Users Guide for IOS 10
• iPod Touch Users Guide for IOS 10
• Apple Watch Users Guide
• Apple TV Users Guide
• MacBook Essentials
• MacBook Pro Essentials
• MacBook Air Essentials
• iMac Essentials
These free digital books provided by Apple are a great way to learn about the new and improved features. They’re also excellent reference guides for the “How do I…” questions that often come up.
No one is a more dedicated Apple Fan Boy than me. I’ve purchased almost every Apple product offered from 1978 on. For many years, I’ve arrived several hours early at the Apple store (in either Grand Rapids or Lansing, Michigan) in order to be the “first one on my block” to have the latest Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. I should also mention that I am an Apple, Inc. shareholder.
The photo above was taken of me waiting in line at the Apple store in Grand Rapids to be the first person in West Michigan to buy an iPad several years ago. I arrived at Woodland Mall at 6 AM along with the mall walkers. I waited from 6 AM until 5 PM when the store re-opened (Apple had closed all of its stores on 3 PM that day to re-set the displays to feature the iPad.) I was, obviously, the first in line!
So why am I not sitting in line this year?
First – For the last couple of years Apple has allowed on-line pre-ordering of new devices with home delivery the same day that they are first sold in the Apple Store. This saves me time and money since my closest Apple store is in Lansing, Michigan – about an hour away.
Second – Apple reported yesterday that it was happy to announce that the Apple iPhone 7 pre-order was so successful that there would be no (nada, zero, none) availability of iPhone 7 Plus phones in Apple stores and only limited availability of certain colors and configurations of the standard iPhone 7. The happiness was reflected in Wall Street’s surge in Apple stock from around $97 to over $115. That happiness was not felt by those in line (see below)…
It’s already Friday, the first day the iPhone 7 is to be available in certain parts of the world, Australia for example.
People in line at Apple’s Australia stores were pretty unhappy about the lack of availability of iPhone 7’s on the first day they were offered for purchase and delivery.
This is unprecedented. In all of the previous releases of the Apple iPhone (since 2007) there has been limited availability of new product on the first day of sales at every Apple store.
Watch for an apology from Apples CEO Tim Cook. I suspect he will apologize but spin the story as to how wonderful -and successful,- it was; that people loved the new iPhone 7 so much that it sold out worldwide before it was even able to appear in Apple Stores.
Tim, this is called inventory control. There should have been iPhone 7 inventory in stock and held back for the first day of sales in Apple stores on September 16.
I’m Glad that I didn’t wait in line to purchase my new iPhone 7 Plus this year. If you read my earlier post a few days ago then you read that after only 7 seconds past the start time of ordering on-line, my iPhone 7 Plus delivery date slipped from September 16 to September 23 or September 30.
Oh well, it’s not like I’m sitting here without something to make a phone call on.