Aug 02

The reality of owning an Apple Watch

serveimageJust over a month ago I strapped a 42mm black Apple Watch Sports to my wrist. It was a wrist inexorably connected to my 20kg overweight frame and I was determined to do something about making it lighter. Today that same watch is still on my wrist but with its help I have taken 3 inches off my waist and dropped 4 kgs.

Now I am not going to tell you that the Apple Watch did all the work. It didn’t, as I am sure some swivelled eyed conspiracy theorist would have you believe, use some secretly developed radio pulse to melt away the fat and nor did it hypnotise me into eating sensibility on a daily basis.
What it did instead was motivate me in a way that no other smart watch can.

In a previous article I mentioned that it was the health and fitness aspect, as well as the watch’s design, that won me over in the end. But nothing could have prepared me for the changes the watch would make to me, my habits and my body. But more about that later.

So what, in practical terms, is so great about this little watch? What is so wonderful about a watch that isn’t even waterproof, and that only lasts one day on charge? Well the first couple of things that make the Apple Watch so great is the fact that both those statements are wrong.
For starters my watch is used all day everyday, in ways I will describe later, and screen is off and on all day. At the end of the day the battery is never more than 50% dry so to my mind that is two days out of a single charge.
Secondly, and I cannot vouch for this personally, the Watch appears to be waterproof. According to several tests made by various bloggers from all over the world, people have been swimming in the sea, the family pool and wearing it in the shower to no ill affect. In my book that makes the Apple Watch, in every practical sense, waterproof.

So it appears Apple sold the Apple Watch short but that doesn’t mean it’s any damn good, it doesn’t mean it’s in anyway practical. Does it?
Well I will be the first to admit that the 3rd party apps available for the watch are rubbish and I have removed them all from my home screen. Later this year this promises to get better with the new WatchOS 2.0 allowing these apps to be more independent of your iPhone and use the power of the watch. So for now I am stuck with what Apple wrote.

I find quickly responding to messages very useful, very easy to do and it instantly eliminates those times when you fish out your phone to view a message, only to find out it’s a tweet about Beyoncé and not that your car finally ready for pickup. Also, being reminded of events is also a lot better when it can be done by simply raising the wrist rather than fumbling for the phone while trying to recall whether you are shopping for plain or self raising flour. (apparently there is a big difference)

Let me illustrate with a real world example.
I had messaged to my daughter asking her when she might be home because I was about to start cooking dinner. A few minutes later, when my hands were covered in beef mince and onions (I was making apple crumble) I felt a message arrive on my wrist. Obviously I was keen to know the answer and in pre Watch days I would have had to rinse and dry my hands and then locate my phone to find out. On this day however, I simply raised my hand and the watch displayed “Home in 10 mins”


As for making phone calls on the watch… well, as this article is entitled “The Reality of owning an Apple Watch” I am here to tell you that while you can indeed make a call using the watch you probably shouldn’t. This is not so much because you look like a weirdo talking into your wrist, because the mic is so good you can leave your hands by your side and still be heard, but rather because the speaker is not yet loud enough to hear the person on the other end – unless you hold it up to your ear that is.

Music, with the aid of some bluetooth earbuds, is an easy prospect and feels remarkably unencumbered. Podcasts are a bit of a faff but possible but Audiobooks are right out – for the time being at least.


However, at the end of the day, for me, the reality of the Apple watch has been the way it motivates me to move and to exercise more. It’s simple and yet affective method has spurred me on to park my car blocks away from clients, walk 6km everyday and recently teach myself how to run.
What is this simple little method… I can also hear you ask, well its no more than three little rings!
With a mere glance I can see how much I have moved, how much I have exercised and how much I have stood up. And my goal is simple; do whatever it takes to fill them everyday and trust my body to react accordingly.

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I said at the beginning that it’s not a magic bullet, because you have to do the work, but when the feedback is this clear and unambiguous it is easy to get in the game. Other fitness devices give out meaningless figures or graphs that can be easily misread, misunderstood or conveniently misinterpreted. The circle, I find, is unequivocal – it’s either full or it isn’t.

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Now for this to work you need to be a bit obsessive, but isn’t that what fitness is all about?. You either love exercise (in which case you’re mental) or you are forced to exercise to maintain your health (which is normal but no less mental)
I have found that taking the open rings as a sign of failure or resignation the only way to force me to get out and walk in the rain or when its 2 degrees outside or do laps around the kitchen bench.
It also helps if someone else in the house has an Apple Watch so you can play the “how are your rings doing today” game.

If you are at all interested in losing weight or just keeping fit I urge you to think about getting an Apple Watch, setting your goal and obsessing about those little rings until they are full.
Trust me it works… I have four bags of sugar on my desk to prove it.

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Jul 24

What just happened to iTunes?



I have been working on this article for a while now and must have changed my mind a dozen times about how to write it because, the truth is, I am conflicted.

On one hand I can see what Apple Music is supposed to be, but on the other I find the new interface unwieldily and some of the features pointless, unless you are 15 years old.

But underneath the clutter and noise (of the visual kind that is), lies something special, something a little different that deserves some attention and is worth the small amount of effort it takes to make it work.

Ryan Nakashima writing for ABC said it best when he wrote… “Apple Music has Everything, perhaps too much”

In the beginning iTunes was a simple player for your music. In the days before we all knew who Kim Kardashian was people would rip tracks from a CD or purchase them from the iTunes, organise them into Playlists or albums, and then play them with the aid of the little white earphones that never seemed to fit in the ear properly. Life was simple.

Then something called “Streaming” entered the collective consciousness of digital music lovers and soon everyone was simply renting music via upstarts like Spotify and Pandora. Overnight it seemed no one was buying or stealing music anymore, but renting it from libraries of millions of songs. No longer were they limited to the capacity of their iPod or the thickness of their wallet.

So on the 9th June 2015 Apple announced Apple Music at the WWDC in San Francisco. Following an introduction from a music ‘giant’ that I have never heard of, Eddie Cue – Senior Vice President of Apple – attempted to explain it all with a serious of demonstrations from what I can only guess was his own private collection. (well, he seemed to enjoy the music he was playing at any rate)

Now I don’t want to say that the presentation missed its mark, but I think a physics class in Japanese would have been easier to follow and that is at the heart of the issue. It’s not what you get, its how it is presented that is likely to leave you reaching for a stiff drink and wishing for things the way they used to be, before we knew who Kim Kardashian was.

But don’t worry, I am hoping to make sense of that later. For now,  let’s look at what you get rather than the schizophrenic wrapper it comes in.

All the music

In a nutshell the new Apple Music gives you access to every tune (well the vast majority anyway) in its 30 million plus library for a mere $11.99 a month. With this seemingly endless choice you can create your own “stations” that will play a certain kind of artist or genre until the sun runs cold or The Simpsons is cancelled (whichever comes first). You can create playlists that contain your own songs (the ones you purchased the old fashioned way) plus the new songs you now have access to and they will all play together happily. The line between what is yours and theirs is blurred and the only decision you need to make is whether or not to enjoy it.


When you create a station in  Spotify or Pandora the choice of songs delievred is determined by a complex logarithm (if user A like singer B then singer C will also appeal) and for the most part this computerised version of Casey Kasem is pretty on the money. Apple music on the other hand uses flesh and blood humans (wetware as apposed to software if you like) to make these choices, thus giving the whole thing a human quality. Whether or not this works will come out in the wash but it is a clear sign that Apple want to do this right and differently.

Beats1 radio

Most streaming music services call their streaming content “radio” when in fact it isn’t.

Apple’s Beats1 radio service is the real thing; an actual person sitting behind an actual mic spinning actual records (well not actual vinyl, but you know what I mean)

The service is on 24 hours and is beamed from London, New York and LA.

But trust me on this, you will not want to listen to it (unless you are reading this with your cap on backwards and the crotch of your pants is parallel with your knees) Now before I go on, let me say right out of the box that I don’t consider myself  a Fuddy-duddy. I can listen to Rob Zombie and Eminem as easily as I can listen to Coldplay, Sting or Abba but the stuff coming out of Beats1 is, well, lets just say, not to my taste.

If you have ever listened to JJJ you might have some idea of what I am getting at but even JJJ has enough good stuff to appeal to someone who has been known to sing along to Nana Mouskouri.


If you care what Taylor Swift is doing with her afternoon or which city Justin Bieber is currently polluting with his particular brand of crap, then the Connect function is what you’ve been waiting for. Personally I couldn’t care less what they are doing and I know for sure they don’t care what I think unless I own a record company (which I don’t ) so I will say no more.

How to make sense of it all

The first thing you need to do is sign up for the three month trial and once you’ve signed on the dotted line you’ll be asked to choose artists and genres that most appeal to you and these will be used later to create song and album suggestions for you personally.

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Then you are dumped into the mishmash of artists, banners, groups, song titles and the seemingly senseless icons that will, at first, have you biting your nails and wondering where all your music went to.

Be calm..

Forget the panels and the albums covers for now and look to the bottom of the screen.

Now unless you have a particular pension for telling artists what you think or  mulling over what they had for breakfast, you might find that ridding yourself of the “@ connect” icon might go a long way to soothing your jangled nerves.

  1. Tap the Home button
  2. Tap on Settings
  3. Tap on General
  4. Tap on Restrictions (you might be asked to type in your passcode)
  5. Look for Apple Music Connect and turn it off.


Now, return to Apple Music and you’ll find that the Connect button has been replaced with Playllists button;  a familiar friend from the old days.


Ok, so now lets look at the other buttons and trust me, it all starts to make sense.

The For You button shows suggestions based on the selections you made at the start. Tap on this and you can scroll until your thumbnail starts to bleed but it will just keep offering album after album and artist after artist based on the choices you made earlier. If you are looking to extend your musical horizons this might be a good place to start.


If you do find something intriguing,  tap on the Play button to listen to the whole album or tapping on the album itself reveals a little more including the tracks so you can pick and choose.

Each track and album have the  “…” button so you can do things like add the track to your own music collection where it will happily sit amongst the tracks that paid for a seat on your iPhone.


From here you can also create a Station that will use this song to play a continuous stream of tracks that fit into that particular genre.


But as always, the discrete button in the top left hand corner of the screen gets you back where you started.


The My Music button is pretty self explanatory… it is your music. In the beginning this will be the only place you will feel safe because very little about this section is foreign.


My Music is also just one of many places where you can do a search of both your library and Apple’s to listen to just about anything you want.


The Radio button takes you to the Beats1 Radio station. Tap on the Listen Now button to begin the noise and the STOP button to make it go away.


Finally, there is the New button. Think of this as the old Top 40 list that used to appear in the newspaper or was posted in the window of the record shop, that later turned into the CD shop, that later turned into the $2 shop. Scrolling through this list or just hopping to a particular genre, is another door way to discover music that might otherwise pass you by.


So how about a real world example of how this all might come together!

Lets say in a moment of madness you turn on the Beats1 radio and while you are stumbling for the off button you hear something you really like.

A each track is displayed at the bottom of the screen you can simply tap on the    button and add the track to your own music collection and listen to it later and into perpetuum.


But it gets better. Later that night dinner guests are arriving and you want to play some music but realise with horror that they have heard all your music before.

Doing a search…


…you look for “Jazz” and create a “Station” that will play until the last of guests stagger out to their cab and well beyond while you clean up the kitchen.

Better still, if while having dinner a guest asks if you’ve heard the latest from Black Lab (you see, I am hip – or so my mum says…) Rather than saying no and letting the moment die, you can look it up and play the entire album. As always, of you if like what you hear, you can add Black Lab to your library, playlists, create a station or buy it the old fashioned way.


It took me a long time to warm to this new streaming service mainly because the interface seemed harder than the others. But once I figured out just what it was trying to do (and that it was doing a whole lot more than the others), I started to think this was the greatest thing since Bread.

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Jul 24

Remove Flash?


You know something is bad when Facebook starts talking about security!

A few weeks back Facebook urged Adobe to abandon Flash and take it off the market, echoing something Steve Jobs said back in 2010. In Steve’s famous letter to Adobe he called it out as buggy, slow and insecure and this is why, incidentally, your iPad has never supported Flash.

This plea was in the face of a growing trend of hackers using the Rock of Gibraltar sized holes in Flash programming to exploit users and websites.

Part of Facebook’s rant was for users to remove Flash from their computers altogether and while this is sound security advice it does present some issues.

You see many websites still use Flash to deliver content despite the fact that alternatives like HTML5 have been available for years now. So removing Flash will stop some websites from functioning correctly and with that in mind it comes down to the old argument of convenience v threat.

First and foremost it is important to remember that the threat to Mac users is minimal and this is especially true if you receive regular health checks from us because we always update Flash as par for the course.

But if you do want to remove Flash from your Mac this guide from Adobe will help.

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Jul 07

Force quitting an application

force-quit-menuIn ancient times, well ok the 1990’s, if an application failed it meant the whole Mac failed. You really did have the thrown the baby out with the bath water.

But for a long time now you won’t lose the data in your unsaved* Excel spreadsheet if Word fails for some reason.

If an application stops working for one reason or another here are the top two ways to send it to oblivion.

First, try pressing the Option key on your keyboard and then clicking  -and holding –  on the icon in the dock. This will produce an applications menu and from there you can choose Force Quit.

The second is to click on the Apple menu, choose Force Quit and then select the misbehaving application (usually in red with the words “Not Responding” alongside). Once selected, choose Force Quit.


* On the subject of something being unsaved… a trick I learned many many years ago was to save every few minutes regardless of what it was I was doing. This was especially true when using Word, Excel back in the day. I will be the first to admit that today this is less and less important because applications have all kinds of built in auto save functions but its better to be safe than, well you know the rest.

To that end I always have my left hand moving over the keyboard and every minute or so I quickly press Command S and then move on. Its almost instinctive now and, I think, a good habit to get into.



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Jun 01

Why do these applications keep popping up?

boredomSo you’d rather clean the shower with a toothbrush than reboot your mac because everytime you do half a dozen applications fire up making it a more tedious experience than watching an episode of Big Brother.

There can be a couple of reasons for this and they are all easy to fix.

A few years back Apple thought it might be cute for the Mac to remember what applications you had open at the time of shutdown and reopen them for you next time you started up! This might be great if you only had one open application or you haver a super fast Mac but otherwise its a pain.

You can check to see if this is on and turn it off by simply choose Log Out from the Apple menu. As soon as you do you’ll be given a dialogue box asking you if you are sure and it is here where that annoying feature is either turned on or off.

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Simply uncheck the box and then choose Cancel.

The other possibility is that, for some reason, a number of applications have been told to launch at startup. You might have done this for some reason eons ago but don’t want it it anymore.

1. Click on the Apple menu and choose System Preferences

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2. Click on Users and Groups

3. Click on Login items

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4. Click on the Application(s) in question and click on the minus sign.

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Just as a side note… its here where you can add a startup item if you want. Just click on the PLUS sign and locate the Application in question.

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