Katie's Week in Review: June 18, 2017

We’re still getting the “WWDC bounce” in Apple related news. Here are a few links of note for the week ending June 18, 2017.

  • Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg joining Apple - Apple PR - Apple snaps of two of Sony’s executives this week. They join the Eddie Cue’s team and will be in charge of two newly created positions overseeing all aspects of video programing.
  • Tim Cook Says Apple Focused on Autonomous Systems in Cars Push - Bloomberg - Tim Cook sat down with Bloomberg and shared thoughts on “Autonomous Systems” in self driving cars. It’s one of the most public statements Apple has made about “Project Titan.”
  • Amazon is buying Whole Foods for almost $14 billion - Recode - When Amazon wants to break into an industry, they go all in. The deal won’t close for some time and it’s still yet to be determined how business operations will change. My guess is Amazon will use Whole Food’s physical presence to expand their Amazon Fresh service which they are promoting with their newly released Dash Wand.
  • Apple will require users to switch to 2FA in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra - iMore - Apple has been heading this direction for a while. While I like two-factor authentication from a security standpoint I still have concerns about usability, particularly for novice tech users. I’m not sure how I’m going to explain this to my grandmother.
  • Apple makes major podcast updates - Six Colors - Big changes are coming soon for podcasts and it goes beyond just interface changes. Podcast producers will have more analytics from Apple including whether users actually listen to an episode, if they skip ads, drop off after a certain period of time. As a podcast producer it certainly could make my life more interesting in the next few years.
  • iPad Pro Review Roundup - Daring Fireball - John Gruber has posted, with commentary, links to several iPad Pro reviews. You should also check out John’s review of the new 10.5" iPad Pro.

Mac Power Users #381: WWDC 2017

Given the timeliness of the news, I posted Mac Power Users a few days early. 

With David in San Jose, he gives us a "boots on the ground" perspective of WWDC and we discuss the latest announcements from Apple's Developer conference.

We'll return to our regular show schedule on June 19th.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life. 
  • MindNode MindNode makes mind mapping easy.
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.

New Home, New Tech Updates

As a follow-up to my “New Home, New Tech” article, I thought I’d mention a couple of items of note.

First, 9to5 toys notes that the Top Greener Smart Ultra High Speed USB Charger Outlet with 15 Amp Receptacle with 3 Faces is available on Amazon for $15.88 when yo apply coupon code RLFQ6HCT at check out.

I had a USB outlet installed in the kitchen counter of my old home and loved it for charging my devices quickly or making outlets available for guests. My old outlet doesn’t match new backsplash (wrong color) and this outlet has nice upgrades including higher power output for faster charging. I look forward to installing my new outlet this weekend.

There’s also a report from Forbes that Apple is making the HomeKit platform more accessible to third parties. This includes looser licensing and a change to the spec so that compatible products no longer have to include a hardware authentication chip. Instead, authentication will go through software and a firmware update may allow existing or future products to use the software-based authorization.

This is still a very early announcement but could mean that our existing IOT products could be updated to work with Home Kit or at least a lot easier for future products. So, how about Nest support?

New home, New Tech

The last two months have been crazy. I had contemplated selling my home and moving a little closer into town sometime “in the next few years” but when a home in my ideal subdivision suddenly came on the market in my desired price range my timeframe was suddenly accelerated. Within a matter of days, I had made an offer on a new home, the offer was accepted, and I had my existing home on the market for sale. It’s been a whirlwind of activity I’ve now moved into the new home, closed the sale of my prior home and am working on getting settled in.

In preparing my old home for market, I had to remove many of the “smart home” upgrades I had installed over the years. My Realtor informed me if I wasn’t going to leave items behind, I shouldn’t have them visible while showing my home to potential buyers. We debated briefly whether leaving items behind would make my home more appealing to buyers. In the end, I decided to remove all the non-structural upgrades since they didn’t bring enough value to justify having to re-buy most of the items again to install at the new home.

Over the course of a weekend, I removed items such as a Nest thermostat, Hue bulbs (except those installed in lamps I’d be taking with me), Ring Doorbell (pro tip - don’t forget about the power adapter installed in the doorbell box - I did but thankfully the folks at Ring were kind enough to send me a replacement!), Chamberlin MyQ Garage Door Opener and other upgrades installed throughout the house. Back in their place went the original builder-grade fixtures that were installed at the time of construction. (Which thankfully I had the foresight to save.)

Alexa, Can You Hear Me?

Until most of the technology of my smart home was gone, I didn’t realize how much I had come to depend upon and appreciate it. It felt as though I had stepped back in time and my home suddenly felt a little less comfortable than before.

The first thing I missed was the automatic lighting. In the evening, my Hue light bulbs would automatically turn on lighting my foyer and driveway. This was nice because it would always give the appearance that someone was home, and would mean I’d never come home to a dark house. I found myself walking into the house wondering ‘why is it so dark in here?’

I soon came to miss my Nest thermostat. Not only would the Nest learn my preferences and schedule and adjust itself to adapt, but it would also conserve energy by not heating and cooling the house when I was not home. While my “dumb” thermostat is programmable, it’s set to a simple schedule that I never precisely follow. I’d pull into the garage on a warm Spring day after being gone for hours and wonder why my HVAC was running. Of course, my dumb thermostat had no idea I was out running errands and had been cooling my empty house the entire time. Perhaps it was just coincidental, but I noticed my utility bill was a bit higher that last month in the old home than normal.

I also came to realize how often I call out to my Amazon Echo to make adjustments to my home. Although I try to buy smart home devices that are both Apple HomeKit and Amazon Echo compatible, using the Amazon Echo has become my preferred method for controlling my Internet of Things when I am at home. I will frequently call out to Alexa to ask her to adjust the temperature or to turn on a light. Frustratingly, the last month I was in the old home she would responded with, “I can’t find the device…” Of course, she can’t, it’s packed away in a box somewhere.

An Opportunity

One of the many joys of moving to a new home is that it gives me an opportunity to reevaluate some of my technology choices. The “smart home” landscape continues to evolve and I may make different choices as I outfit my new home.

Despite the evolution of wireless technology, including the popularity of “mesh” wireless networks like Eero, one of my first renovations, even before moving in my furniture, to my new was to hire a contractor to install Ethernet wiring throughout. This was a day-long project that cost about $1,500 running cabling to about a dozen different locations around the house back to a central "networking closet". (The prior owner used it as a coat closet - what a waste.). I have never regretted having an “ethernet backbone” in my home.

One area where I plan to look at alternative options is in security systems. I’ve always had a security system installed by a traditional contractor that requires long-term contracts. These systems are expensive and often not upgradable. I’m intrigued by the cost savings offered by DIY systems like SimplySafe or the features offered by more modern systems like the Canary or the newly announced (and HomeKit compatible) D-link Omna 180 Cam.

While the Nest thermostat was best in class at its time, it’s not HomeKit compatible and it’s acquisition by Google means it likely never will be. Perhaps it’s time to consider alternative options like the Ecobee 3 which offers standalone sensors and HomeKit support.

I’ll keep you posted. Look for an MPU episode with an update on home tech in the near future.

What’s Next?

I still feel like we’re in early days for smart home technology. Security and interoperability remains an issue. While I try to buy devices that support both Apple’s HomeKit platform and Amazon Echo, it’s not always possible and I’m just not sure which technology will take off.

There is one lesson learned from this crazy month. I didn’t realize how much I came to depend on my smart home technology until I lost it.

This article first appeared in the May Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly. Find our more at https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits

Quick Takes from the WWDC Keynote

Like most of you, I’ve been following Apple’s WWDC announcements today. I’ve watched the keynote and likely will watch it again tomorrow, taking more detailed notes before David and I record a special WWDC wrap-up episode of Mac Power Users later this week. Before the news becomes too stale, I wanted to offer a few quick thoughts from today’s announcements.

  • There was much more released today than could fit in the keynote. More information will trickle out this week as WWDC goes on. I’m trying to save the most relevant articles to my Reading List so you may want to check back for updates.
  • Perhaps my favorite stealth update was the new newMagic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad. I’ve been begging Apple to release an extended wireless keyboard for years and today they finally did. I’ve been very happy with my trusty Logitech K750 which is very similar to the newly-announced keyboard at a fraction of the price. But when the time comes, I’ll likely be upgrading to Apple’s new keyboard.
  • None of the big features about watchOS 4 particularly thrilled me. I suspect we’ll see new hardware in the fall and there’s likely more coming that can be announced until then.
  • Seriously, “High Sierra”? Am I going to have to say this on a podcast repeatedly and to people in public? <sigh>
  • Hardware updates to the Mac line were most welcome. As expected the MacBooks, iMacs, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs all saw processor upgrades, graphics boosts, and memory bumps. It was nice of Apple to let us know they still remembered the Mac.
  • As for the announced iMac Pro, it's clear this is what they intended to be a Mac Pro replacement until they pivoted and decided to build a new Mac Pro after all. No word on that machine since their press briefing a few months ago. While the iMac Pro is a very powerful machine and will likely fill the gap for many developers, it still has a fundamental flaw in that the system is not upgradable. We’ll see how this compares to the forthcoming Mac Pro.
  • Apple Pay updates sound great. There was a mention in the keynote that Apple Pay will be accepted at 50% of retailers next year. Given the number of local places I can use Apple Pay that seems like a bold assertion, but one I’d like to see happy. Additionally, person-to-person Apple Pay will come in very useful. To make this work, Apple has created their own “Apple Cash” card that makes funds available for use with ApplePay or transferred to a Bank Account. While this will likely be used for fairly small “settling up” transactions. I’m curious to hear the details of any fees involved and how taxes and reporting are handled, particularly if this is used for larger transactions.
  • I love the Do Not Disturb when driving feature. This is a feature that has the potential to prevent accidents and save lives. I see so many distracted drivers on the road today and many of them are playing with their cell phones. I will be turning it on, I hope others will too.
  • Siri improvements are always welcome. Not as much time in the keynote was devoted to this as I would have liked. Hopefully, more will come out on developer access as the week unfolds.
  • Apple really hit it out of the park with the iPad features in iOS 11. This was the update we were hoping for and I can’t wait to try it. I will probably install the first public beta (which tends to be a little more stable) on my iPad when it’s released later in the month.
  • The 10.5" iPad is tempting. In fact, right after the keynote, I was ready to order one. However, the reality distortion field has dissipated a bit. While more screen real estate and storage are nice, for me the biggest upgrade to the iPad will be the iOS 11 software. It is hard to justify buying a new device and all new accessories when I have a perfectly good iPad Pro now.
  • The HomePod leaves me a bit perplexed. As we’ve already established, I’m not someone who spends a lot of time listening to music. I have nicer AudioEngine speakers I use when I want to “rock out” and all my other speakers are Bluetooth devices, including the Amazon Echo, which has always been “good enough”. Dropping $350 on a premium Apple Speaker with the idea of likely expanding to multiple speakers for the house is not appealing and one of the reasons I never bought into a Sonos System. To me, the appeal is as a home assistant and thus far those features seem to be no more advanced than the current Echo. Though this is a device that is still 6 months away, so plenty of time for more to come.

Katie's Week in Review: June 4, 2017

Tomorrow is WWDC day. Since a lot of questions will be answered, this will be a somewhat abbreviated week in review. Here are the links of note for the week ending June 4, 2017

Mac Power Users #380: MPU+: Maybe this will be obsolete tomorrow

Ed Cormany joins us to talk about regular expressions, how it works and practical applications. On the eve of WWDC, we also cover lots of listener feedback including photo scanning, switching from Windows to iOS, privacy and the IOT, shared photo libraries and more. 

Given that next week is WWDC I'm publishing this a bit earlier than usual. We will record a special WWDC wrap-up show late next week that will likely post over next weekend.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Casper: Because everyone deserves a great night sleep. Get $50 off with the code ‘MPU’
  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
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iTunes Movie Deals

iTunes is running a significant sale in their “Build Your Collection” section. In addition to several bundles, there are some great deals on individual movies starting at $4.99 in HD. Here are a few of my favorites:

There are also a few bundles at discounted prices, of note: