MLB Manager Chided for wearing Apple Watch

MLB logoThe use of “assistive devices” is nothing new to Major League Baseball. For decades, pitchers have snuck things like sandpaper or razor blades onto the field to alter the way baseballs reacted to different kinds of pitches. Major League officials have cracked down on these shenanigans over the years, and for the most part, they’re a thing of the past. But the drive to cheat the system will never die. And it’s in this spirit that Major League Baseball banned players and coaches from using smartphones in dugouts during games. But smart technology is moving beyond phones and into wearables, creating a new potential for team members to access data that might give them an unfair advantage during games.

This led to a reported questioning of Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, who’s been wearing an Apple Watch in the dugout during games. MLB officials wanted to make sure Yost wasn’t using the electronic device to somehow gather information on opposing teams during games. But in the end, it was determined that Yost wasn’t actively pairing his Apple Watch with an iPhone, meaning the watch was pretty much just… a watch. Aside from being able to tell time, Yost could also get basic weather information thru the unpaired device. That’s it.

Overall, this incident was really just a friendly reminder to Yost (and all other MLB players and coaches) that they can use wearables like the Apple Watch during games. They just can’t let those devices communicate with the rest of the connected world. Professional baseball sure has come a long way from the spit ball and the corked bat!

Major Apple TV Revamp Could Be Coming

Apple LogoApple’s set-top box, the Apple TV, has always been a bit of a curiosity. The so-called “hobby” device has been around for years. Originally, the Apple TV was envisioned as a home theater hub, shipping with built-in apps for media streaming as well as an internal hard drive for local file storage. But Apple stripped the device down in later iterations, removing the hard drive and slimming the Apple TV down to the familiar hockey-puck shape we see today. Speculation has run rampant over the last year that the Apple TV would see a major update, and it looks like Apple will be delivering the refreshed device next month.

Highlights of the new Apple TV:

  • It’ll run iOS 9 on an iOS Core
  • Siri Support
  • App Store
  • New remote control

The items on this list that are most interesting are the switch from the current Apple TV OS to iOS and the inclusion of the App Store. Independent media producers have been clambering for a long time for Apple to truly open up the Apple TV to third-party developers. Current Apple TVs host a limited number of apps, all of which are curated by Apple. The new Apple TV will truly be open to anyone who wants to get onto the platform. And now that the device will rely on iOS hardware and software to operate, it’ll be even easier for developers to bring things like games to the Apple TV.

While these are great developments, it looks like the new Apple TV won’t be shipping with quite everything consumers have been hoping for. One of the biggest rumors that’s been swirling around the Apple TV is Apple’s supposed Internet TV service that would truly unbundle cable TV once and for all. Apple is allegedly still negotiating with content providers for this new TV service. Regardless, the new Apple TV looks like an exciting revamp of a product line that looked like it had almost been abandoned not too long ago.

Using Siri to Call 911 Could Save Your Life

Siri logoA young man from Middle Tennessee used Siri to make a 911 call that saved his life. The story is making the rounds across news websites today in part because it’s an interesting story. At the same time, the story inadvertently emphasizes how useful Apple’s virtual assistant can be.

Sam Ray is an 18-year-old from Middle Tennessee. He was working on his truck when a jack collapsed. As a result, he found himself pinned under the 5,000 pound truck. This incident occurred in what the Chicago Tribune describes as “a location where he couldn’t be easily seen or heard”.

Fortunately, Sam Ray had an iPhone. In his struggle to get free, he somehow activated Siri. When he heard Siri activate, he said “Call 911”. The dispatcher who received the call thought it was a “pocket dial” at first, but then heard screaming. Sam Ray was able to tell the dispatcher the address of where he was located, and was rescued by volunteer firefighters about 40 minutes later.

He ended up with broken ribs, a bruised kidney, cuts, a concussion, and burns on one arm. It could have been worse, especially if he was not able to make that 911 call.

Siri is available on iPhone 4s or later, iPad (third generation or later), iPad mini, and iPod Touch (fifth generation or later). It is unclear whether or not Sam Ray was using iOS 8, which allows users to go into their settings and activate the “Hey Siri” function. Once that it turned on, a person can activate Siri by saying “Hey Siri”. They wouldn’t have to touch the phone to get Siri’s attention.

In July of this year, The Verge reported that if you ask Siri to “charge my phone 100 percent”, Siri calls emergency services. Siri gives you a 5 second window to cancel the call.

The reason seems to be that Siri reacts to a request that includes a number with the word “phone” after it as though the user intended Siri to dial that phone number for them. I can see where a person who is in a domestic violence situation could ask Siri to “charge my phone 100 percent” as a way of calling for help without the abuser being aware of it.

11 Million Users Try Apple Music

Apple Music logoApple Music launched a little over a month ago, on June 30, 2015. Since then, it has obtained 11 million users. That’s a pretty remarkable number for a service that hasn’t been around very long.

The thing to keep in mind is that this number is counting trial memberships. Apple has been offering a free three-month trial to everyone who signs up. The earliest users, who signed up on June 30, can listen for free up through September 30. After that, the free trial will end. Those who signed up later might have their free trial end in October.

Individual membership plans for Apple Music are $9.99 a month. Family plans are $14.99 a month. Those without a membership will be able to listen to Beats 1 radio, Connect, and to hear Apple Music’s ad-supported stations.

The free three-month membership gives people the full Apple Music experience on their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC. The Apple Music website describes it as “an all-access pass”. I think people are going to notice a difference when their free trial ends – unless they pay for a membership.

Billboard reports that if the numbers hold, Apple Music will already boast half the number of paid subscriptions as Spotify has. USA Today reports that Apple’s Senior Vice President of internet software, Eddy Cue, said that two million of the trial users chose the pricer family plan. It will be interesting to see what the numbers of subscribers look like after the initial wave of free trial memberships end.

Getting Onto Tim Cook’s Radar

Jen's iMacLast week, I wrote about my wife’s broken iMac that’s just barely outside of a special warranty period. That post was meant to be an open letter of sorts. Something I’d hoped would get the attention of someone up high enough on the Apple food chain that they’d reconsider the warranty period and just go ahead and fix the computer. After posting that blog, I sent an e-mail to Apple CEO Tim Cook as well as the Apple corporate PR team, explaining the situation, including a link to that blog post. I was polite and courteous but I did reinforce my belief that Apple should fix the machine, making sure to emphasize that I’d post a followup blog here at GNC, giving the company a chance to pick up some positive “organic PR.” I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it but I figured I’d give myself 24 hours before throwing in the towel and shelling out the money for the iMac repair. I set a reminder for 1PM the next day to call the service center and authorize the repair, in the case that no one from Apple got back to me.

That 24-hour period passed by with no response from Cupertino. As soon as my phone chimed with that 1PM reminder, I called the service center and gave them the green light on making the repair. And then about five minutes later, it happened! My phone went off with an incoming call. I immediately recognized the phone number because I had seen it the day before. It was the Apple corporate office. It worked! I thought. My message got thru to someone at 1 Infinite Loop and they’re gonna do it! They’re gonna fix my iMac!

I answered the call and was met by the friendly voice of Jessica from Corporate Executive Relations at Apple. She assured me that she was at the corporate office and not at a call center. She said that Mr. Cook had received my e-mail and that he wanted to follow up on the situation. Jessica asked me to recount what had happened so far. I told her how the iMac had died, where we had taken it for service, the diagnosis of a bad video card, and the attempts that were made to get the repair approved thru Apple Care (including my case number, which she already had).

After reviewing things, she said that she was sympathetic to the situation. But, it looked like everything was handled correctly and that she was going to send me an e-mail with specific information on the video card replacement program. So, while the e-mail I sent did manage to get onto Tim Cook’s radar (or at least, the radar of someone in the corporate office), it ultimately didn’t do anything to change my case. With a certain air of disappointment, I thanked Jessica for reaching out and ended the call.

The iMac repair was already in process so there was nothing else to do other than wait for it to be done. I gueess it’s nice to know that Tim Cook, like Steve Jobs before him, has a public facing e-mail address, and that someone is reading it. Overall, Apple is within its rights to deny the post-warranty authorization. But it would’ve been really cool if they’d stepped up and approved it in the face of a technicality. Of course, Apple moves a lot of products and sidestepping its own policy like this could set a dangerous precedent for the company. Regardless, the iMac is now back from the store and working just as good as ever.

Hey, Apple. Fix my iMac!

Two iMacsMy wife and I are the proud owners of two 27″ iMacs (seen in the photo to the left). Both machines were manufactured in 2011. They’re identical in terms of model and specifications. And both have been afflicted by the same problem – failed video cards.

The first iMac went down in early 2014. I took it to a local Apple certified repair shop where the problem was identified. The repair tech told me that Apple had put in a special “repair extension program” specifically for this iMac model because there are known issues with the video cards that shipped from the factory. Thanks to this program, Apple covered the cost of the repair and the iMac has worked flawlessly since.

The second iMac (seen to the right in the above photo) was acquired used in late 2014 as a replacement to my wife Jen’s aging MacBook Air (which she had mostly used like a desktop computer). A few days ago, this iMac started acting erratically and the symptoms were very similar to the other iMac’s failing video card. We took the second iMac into the shop and sure enough, the problem was diagnosed as a faulty video card.

But the iMac didn’t result in the same outcome as the first computer. This iMac was apparently originally purchased in May of 2011, which means the repair extension program for this machine expired in May of 2015. A scant two months ago. Due to this technicality, Apple won’t cover the cost of the repair, leaving us with a $500 bill after parts and labor. I recognize that Apple was being generous in even offering the repair extension in the first place. But the fact is, these iMacs were shipped with defective parts. It was only a matter of time before the video card would fail. But too bad for us it didn’t break down three months ago? That’s a lousy way to treat a loyal customer, Apple!

And speaking of us as customers. Here’s a rundown of all of the Apple products we’ve owned over the years:

  • 9 desktop Macs
  • 2 laptop Macs
  • 5 iPhones (and 1 iPod)
  • 2 iPads
  • 1 Time Capsule

Also, I’m legally blind and I live on a somewhat fixed income while my wife is a freelance writer and relies on her computer for work. The $500 repair bill is difficult for us financially and this is compounded by the fact that Jen is losing valuable productivity time while the machine is down.

So, come on, Apple! Wouldn’t it feel great to help us out and just approve the repair of the bad video card? Doesn’t our longtime patronage of your products mean more than a simple technicality in a warranty program? Please, Apple. Fix this iMac!


The Future of Mobile Computing

Mobile devices, specifically large screen smartphones, have made significant inroads into the computing spaces traditionally held by full-sized desktop and laptop computers. This incursion can best be measured by personal usage shifts.

In my own case, I find myself making much less use of my laptop and desktop machines, with my large screen smartphone making up the majority of my usage. At this point, if it were possible I would shift all of my computing usage to my smartphone, but unfortunately I find that the lack of quality software, and not the hardware, is preventing me from making the full shift.

The high end smartphone hardware of today compares quite favorably to traditional desktop and laptop hardware. If I could only run desktop class software applications on my smartphone, I could pretty ditch my traditional machines to an even greater degree than I already have.

The large screen high end smartphone hardware is closer than ever to hitting a peak, where performance improvements are incremental. From my point of view, the only way my phone could be made even more useful would be the addition of genuine desktop class software applications that would allow me to do real work and truly take advantage of the heavy duty hardware that is built in to a very compact package.

The software we’ve had to this point is at best dumbed-down and lacks capability. Apps such as Garage Band and iMovie on iOS and most of their counterparts on Andriod in the Google Play Store are toy apps aimed at seemingly air headed casual users. For example, where is the ability to import from and export to wider varieties of audio and video file types?

I want a real video editor that would allow me to attach my phone to a large screen monitor, keyboard and mouse and do intense video editing. Ditto with a real sound editor that would run on my phone that would be similar to the depth of an application such as Adobe Audition.

Who will develop these more capable smartphone applications? That remains to be seen. At this point the only real differentiators for hardware platforms lies in better software applications.

I personally am willing to pay for desktop class applications that will run on mobile computing platforms. Unfortunately so far they don’t seem to exist.

Apple Announces Apple Music at WWDC 2015

After months of speculation following their acquisition of Beats, Apple has announced its own streaming music service.

1433792824-apple-musicAt yesterday’s WWDC keynote, Eddy Cue (Apple’s VP of Internet Software and Services) introduced Apple Music, “a revolutionary streaming service” that gives users access to a collection of over 30 million songs right from their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or Android phone. Users can also access their ripped CDs and previous iTunes purchases.

In addition to creating their own playlists, users have access to a variety of curated playlists from noted entertainment personalities. Apple has hired an impressive team of DJs, musicians, and other experts in the field to curate exclusive playlists to fit any mood, genre, or situation. In addition to human curation, you can explore Apple Music using Siri. Ask anything, from “play me songs by The Cure” to “play the greatest hits of 1993”.

Apple also launched Beats 1, a 24/7 live music radio station broadcast to over 100 countries, with programming by DJ Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York, and Julie Adenuga in London. In addition to a curated selection of songs, Beats 1 will offer exclusive interviews, guest stars, and news on the latest and greatest in music and music culture.

Apple Music Radio, a new and improved version of iTunes Radio, allows users to create custom stations based on their favorite songs or artists to discover other tunes that fit their taste. And in other news that’s sure to delight music lovers, with membership there is no limit to how many songs you can skip– yay!

In a move that’s somewhat surprising given the failure of 2010’s iTunes Ping, Apple is launching a new social network feature called iTunes Connect. With Connect, artists can share lyrics, photos, videos, and exclusive sneak peaks with their fans. Fans can follow their favorite artists, comment and like posts, and share content with friends via iMessage, Facebook, Twitter, and email.

Apple Music launches on June 30 in over 100 countries. Users can try it out with a free 3-month trial, after which the service is $9.99/month, making it an attractive competitor to the equally-priced Spotify. Users can also opt for a family plan, which gives access to up to 6 family members (iCloud Family Sharing required) for $14.99/month.

Woman Accidentally Tosses Out Apple 1

Apple1-1

It’s true what they say, Apple computers really hold their value. And this one is worth six figures.

A Silicon Valley area woman donated a box of old electronics to a local recycling center after her husband died, but little did she know, she was tossing out a lot of dough, in addition to a piece of history.

According to Venture Beat, the woman dropped off the items, including an original Apple 1, at Bay Area Clean, who didn’t didn’t think the computer was real at first. Later they discovered it was and was sold to a private collection for $200,000.

Bay Area Clean president Victor Gichun said the woman left no contact information but if she shows up, she would get a check for $100,000, as the company’s policy is to give 50% back to the original owner, upon sale.

Only about 200 of the Apple 1 were produced, and assembled by hand by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne in 1976.

Another Apple 1 sold last year for $365,000.

Todoist for Apple Watch is here

Todoist LogoTodoist is my favorite to-do list management app. I use it every day on my Mac and my iOS devices. Earlier this week, Todoist released an Apple Watch version of the app that brings many of the app’s functions to Apple’s smallest screen. Here’s a list of key features:

  • Glance View allows you to view your next upcoming task and the number of tasks you have left for the day.
  • Main View gives you access to your Inbox, Today view, Projects, Labels (Premium), and Filters.
  • Quick-Add with Voice Command allows users to add new tasks to Todoist by simply speaking them into the watch.
  • Reminders will provide a gentle buzz on the wrist when you’re near a certain location or at the exact date/time associated with your task.
  • Notifications are a great way to keep up with shared tasks, as Todoist will let you know when someone sends you a new task or comments on an existing task.

Todoist worked hard to make use of the Apple Watch’s small display to ensure its app worked well with a minimalist design. The primary objective with the app’s layout is to keep things focused and distraction free. Todoist carried this mindset over from its other apps which are set up to allow you to focus on whatever you need to work on now, so you’re not burning brain cycles thinking about stuff you need to do tomorrow, next week or next year.

In order to start using Todoist on your Apple Watch, just download the app (if you don’t have it already) to your iPhone, open the Apple Watch app and enable Todoist on your watch in the “My Watch” tab.

Then get ready for your productivity level to soar!