March 19, 2015
Product designer Greg Koenig has written a great article on how the Apple Watch is made. He has looked very closely at Apple’s videos on the making of the watches and used his product design experience to make some educated guesses on how Apple’s manufacturing process works.
Apple has used some very sophisticated processes and has also designed some of its own solutions to create a watch of extremely high quality.
I found these tidbits especially interesting:
Apple is deliberately introducing controlled “defects” in the lattice structure of the gold that hardens it against impact. Their level of precision cutting is down to 0.01mm. Then they use something called immersion ultrasonic inspection to check for defects, a process that “is typically reserved for highly stressed medical implants and rotating components inside of aircraft engines.”
They are using a high grade of stainless steel that prevents nickel allergies. Then they are doing cold forging to create an exceptionally strong piece of stell, one where the grain of the metal matches the final shape of the piece. For polishing, Apple has created custom plugs to prevent the polishing from buffing down certain edges.
Apple has a long history of creating precise aluminum components for their MacBooks and iPhones. They seem to have gone even further for the watch, including using a laser to clean up finishing defects after the machining process. Koenig writes, “No company in the world is finishing and anodizing to Apple’s level.”
He concludes, “I see these videos and I see a process that could only have been created by a team looking to execute on a level far beyond what was necessary or what will be noticed.”
If you’re at all interested in design I highly recommend the article.
March 17, 2015
Print out the PDF at 100% size, then cut out the watch size and watchband model you want to try on. Wrap it around your wrist. Get a sense of whether you want the 38mm or the 42mm watch face, and the various sizes of the different watchbands.
They say it’s much more accurate than the sizing guide on Apple’s own website.
If you can, you probably want to go to an Apple store and try out the real thing before splurging on an Apple Watch (especially if you are buying one of the more expensive models), but this is a big help in the meantime (or if you can’t get to a store).
Say thank you to Exact Fitness by buying one of their apps. I’m particularly curious about the Fitness Spades, which makes working out into a little game. It’s only $0.99.
March 13, 2015
If I may offer a bit of analysis:
Over the last several years, Apple has had fairly understandable product naming. “MacBook” was the entry level model, “MacBook Air” was the small-and-light model, “MacBook Pro” was the expensive, powerful model. One of Steve Jobs’ significant acts upon returning to Apple was the simplification of the then-convoluted product line; and probably the most noteworthy change since his departure has been an erosion of that simplicity. This isn’t to fault, in any way, the quality of Apple’s products, which are higher than they have ever been; however, it’s more challenging for customers to choose among them.
The hardest buying decisions come when having to critically evaluate tradeoffs between different models in different product lines, and it’s even harder when the names of those lines change their previous meaning, or lose it entirely. The “Air” name had already lost clarity when it was given to the top-of-the-line 5th generation iPad, larger and heavier than the iPad Mini. With yesterday’s introduction of the MacBook, the situation becomes more confusing still, as the MacBook Air now represents a midpoint between the MacBook (smallest and lightest) and the MacBook Pro (most powerful). Apple might have retained some consistency had they called it “MacBook Mini,” or “MacBook Air with Retina Display”, but naming consistency doesn’t seem to be where they’re at.
And the product lines now have competing features. Rather than having each product represent a superset of capabilities over another one, customers now have to decide, for example, whether they want a lightweight model with multiple USB ports, or an even more lightweight model with a Retina display. As a power user who has always flocked to Apple’s smallest and lightest computers, even I don’t know how to make that decision, and am indeed torn as to whether I want to replace my beloved MacBook Air 11” with the new MacBook. If Apple is the technology company that makes technology friendlier, simpler, and easier to understand, they’d do well to clarify the distinctions between product lines in a way that is friendlier, simpler, and easier to understand.
March 12, 2015
Apple held an Apple Watch event this week, and allowed reporters some hands-on time with the new device (which is available for pre-order and in-store display on April 10, and ships on April 24).
What are the critics saying about what it was like to try out the Apple Watch?
Christina Bonnington at Wired
“I found the touch and software experience of Apple’s Watch certainly as good as, if not better than, any other smartwatch on the market today. The hardware quality is superb, the screen is sharp, and the software experience is surprisingly robust.”
Nilay Patel at The Verge
“It’s actually pretty complicated….It’s nicer than I expected….It still feels like an awful lot of interesting ideas without a unifying theme.”
Geoffrey A Fowler at the Wall Street Journal
“On my wrist, the Apple Watch feels natural….Learning to operate the watch will take some time….What worries me is that Mr. Cook and his executive team didn’t talk as much on Monday about how it will help filter the unnecessary alerts.”
Chris Velazco at Engadget
“There’s no denying that the Watch is elegant in its design and occasionally in its modes of interaction, but it’s just not as immediately easy to wrap your head around as an iPhone is. If you’re anything like me, you’ll occasionally find yourself pausing from time to time, wondering if you’re supposed to depress the crown or tap the Home-like button below to get where you’re going next….Apple’s Watch is ambitious in a way that few devices are.”
Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch
“It is expectedly intuitive….It’s fast and responsive….The Watch feels comparably at home on my wrist.”
Brian Fung at the Washington Post
“If we wake up a few years from now and realize we’ve just traded one attention-taking device for another, that won’t be a win for consumers. It won’t be a win for the watch. And frankly, it won’t be much of a win for Apple, either….The Apple Watch doesn’t feel like one of these transcendent products yet.”
February 13, 2015
I was reading this thread on Apple’s discussion forums and realize that figuring out what can synchronize to what when it comes to mail, calendar, and contacts can be pretty headspinning.
Here’s the thing: there are multiple protocols for synchronizing mail, calendar and contacts, variously supported by different servers and client software. I’ll try to explain.
Mail will always synchronize with whatever software or device you’re using.
However, for calendar and contact sync:
Google, iCloud, Yahoo, AOL, OS X Server calendar and contacts:
- Will sync with mobile devices
- Will sync with Mac computers
- Will sync with some Windows computers, depending on version and software being used
Exchange Server, including Office 365, calendar and contacts:
- Will sync with mobile devices
- Will sync with Mac computers
- Will sync with Windows computers
Outlook.com (Hotmail) calendar and contacts:
- Will sync with mobile devices
- Will NOT sync with Mac computers
- Will sync with Windows computers
The Ugly Detail:
- IMAP: Syncs mail. Supported by countless software and provided by almost every kind of mail server, including Exchange, OS X Server, iCloud, Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc.
- CalDAV: Syncs calendar. Developed by Apple. Supported by modern mobile platforms, and some desktop software, including Mac iCal/Calendar since Leopard. Provided by iCloud, OS X Server, Google, Yahoo, AOL, and some other servers (but not Exchange or Outlook.com).
- CardDAV: Syncs contacts. Developed by Apple. Supported by more recent versions of modern mobile platforms, and some desktop software, including Mac Address Book/Contacts since Snow Leopard. Provided by iCloud, OS X Server, Google, Yahoo, AOL, and some other servers (but not Exchange or Outlook.com).
- POP: Downloads mail to inbox, but that’s all. No synchronization, no folder awareness. Not recommended for modern living unless you exclusively use one well backed up computer, and no devices. Provided by almost every kind of mail server, including Exchange, OS X Server, Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc., and occasionally POP is the only option available (e.g. the freebie mail you get with a GoDaddy domain, some ISP’s, and some older web hosts).
- Exchange ActiveSync (EAS): Syncs mail/calendar/contacts/tasks/notes. Almost exclusively supported only by mobile device clients. The only desktop clients on any platform that supports EAS are Outlook 2013 for Windows and Windows 8 Mail/People/Calendar (and Outlook 2013 will only allow connecting to non-Exchange EAS services such as Outlook.com and paid Google Apps). Provided by Exchange 2003 and later, Office 365, Outlook.com (Hotmail), paid Google Apps, and some other servers.
- (Since EAS was designed to be lightweight, it is more limited in its capabilities and how much data it communicates than other protocols; this may be why it is not widely used by desktop software, and I suspect but have no evidence that Microsoft may have restricted EAS use in desktop software through licensing restrictions.)
- Exchange Web Services (EWS): Syncs mail/calendar/contacts/tasks/notes. Not supported by any mobile device clients. Desktop clients I’m aware of that support EWS include Outlook for Mac 2014, Outlook for Mac 2011, Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition (aka version 13), and Apple Mail/Calendar/Contacts/Notes (since Snow Leopard; Notes since Mavericks, I think). Outlook for Windows does not use EWS. Provided by Exchange Server 2007 and later, and Office 365.
- MAPI: Syncs mail/calendar/contacts/tasks/notes, plus all other information available from an Exchange server. It is the “native” connection protocol for Exchange since 1997 despite Microsoft’s attempts to get away from it. Only supported by Outlook for Windows (all versions), though Outlook 2001 for Mac OS 9 also supported it. Provided by all versions of Exchange Server, Office 365, Outlook.com (Hotmail), and paid Google Apps.
- WebDAV: Syncs mail/calendar/contacts, slowly and badly. Now deprecated. Not supported by any mobile device clients. The only desktop clients on any platform that support it are Entourage 2004 (aka version 11) and 2008 (aka version 12). Provided by Exchange Server 2003 and 2007.
API access to contacts:
- API for Gmail, FaceBook LinkedIn, Yahoo: Syncs contacts. These services have an internal proprietary method for accessing their contact information. OS X Leopard through Mountain Lion can utilize it to synchronize contacts with Google and Yahoo. On Mountain Lion through Yosemite, you can use CardDAV instead, as well as synchronize with FaceBook and LinkedIn using their own internal methods.
February 12, 2015
A new portable keyboard, to be used with the iPhone, iPad, or any other Bluetooth-enabled device, has just been announced. It has a totally new design from anything we’ve seen before. It’s called the TextBlade.
It’s made of 3 pieces, which fold together into a case (and the case doubles as an iPhone stand). Folded down, it’s less than half the size of an iPhone — 4 inches long by 1 inch wide.
The way they get it so small: There are only 8 keys (4 for each hand), and each key can type multiple letters depending on the direction you push the key. They claim that it feels like a standard-size keyboard.
The company has raised $1 million in advance purchases. They’re also donating 10,000 TextBlades to elementary schools.
The price: $99. Or you can get 6 for the price of 5.
Availability: Mid-March, as of right now anyway.
I’ve been waiting years for a truly portable keyboard that feels like the real thing. Glad to see that inventors are still working on a solution.
January 14, 2015
The Consumer Electronics Show just finished up in Las Vegas — that’s where all the ideas for new technology tend to be shown off for the first time.
Here is a roundup of cool stuff from CES, from different publications.
Engadget includes among their coolest items:
- Wireless headphones by a company called “Bragi’s The Dash”
- 3D printing with stone, wood, iron, and other composites through MakerBot
Mashable talks about “what we learned” at CES and what’s going to be big, including:
- Fashion & tech
- Selfie stick
- Smart homes
Molly Wood at the New York Times talks trends, although she thinks most of these won’t be ready for consumption for at least 5 years:
- Driverless cars
- 3D-printed food
- “Roboticized homes”
Lifehacker has an article on stuff from CES that you might actually want & use, including:
- Sling, to watch ESPN over the internet
- Faster computer processors are coming from Intel
- Smart devices for home automation
- 4K Blu-Ray players
Which of these will we actually be buying within a few years? We’ll need to wait and see…
Last year’s Best of CES Roundup
January 7, 2015
A friend of ours sent us Tiles as a gift for the holidays. Here’s what it is, and how we’re using it.
Tile is a little piece of plastic, about 1-1/2” square, with technology inside. And there’s an iPhone app to go with it (there’s an Android app too).
You link the white plastic tile to the app with a secret button, over Bluetooth. Once they are linked, you can pinpoint the last known location of the tile (and whatever it’s attached to, of course).
Attach it on your keyring. If you lose your keys in the house, open up the iPhone app, and instruct the Tile to make some noise so you can find it again!
Or if you’re not sure if you left your keys somewhere, you can use the iPhone app to see the last place your Tile checked in.
Other ideas of where to attach it:
- Put one in your wallet.
- Put it into your backpack or handbag.
- Attach it to your fancy camera.
- The website even shows one stuck to a remote control, so if the remote gets lost in the cushions you can find it again.
- I find the Tile to be a bit bigger than I hoped. It’s pretty substantial in a wallet or on a keyring.
- It provides a sense of security, even though I don’t lose things that often.
- I can see it being very useful for finding my keys when I’ve left them in a pocket somewhere in my home. The “make some noise” feature (they label it “Find”) is fantastic.
- I’m concerned about the potential for tracking somebody else. This is possible if 2 people are using the same Tile account—therefore you must choose a good password, so nobody can log into your Tile.
Cost: $25 per Tile; price comes down substantially if you buy a few at once (up to a 40% discount, if you buy 12 Tiles). The app is free.
December 8, 2014
We don’t usually recommend iOS games here at IvanExpert, but we wanted to make an exception for Monument Valley. It’s beautiful, both visually and aurally. It’s mildly challenging, but by no means impossible, and there’s no time pressure, no score, no way to die, and no way to get stuck. It just waits for you. It’s strangely relaxing to play. It’s no accident it was an Apple Design Award winner.
Monument Valley is a puzzle game in which you move a figure named Ida, a character in a deliberately vague storyline, through a series of three-dimensional “monuments” that resemble a cross between M.C. Escher and Dr. Seuss in their oddball geometry. In fact, what makes the game fascinating is that you have to do things that are only possible as a result of your 2-D perspective on the 3-D environment. It’s hard to explain; you should just try it out. For $3.99, it’s well worth it for such an enjoyable labor of love.
If you solve all the levels, there’s a $1.99 in-app purchase to acquire eight newly released ones. If you have an iPad, I suggest you play on that, to get the full impact of seeing the game on the larger screen.
November 24, 2014
Are you interested in setting up a simple camera monitoring system at home (or at a small office)? Here are a few options.
Nest, the company that brought you the “smart” thermostat (and is now owned by Google), has a new product that we’re interested to learn more about. It’s called Dropcam.
Dropcam is a video camera that can be used for home security and baby monitoring (and business security too, if you have a small business). Cost is $200 for one camera.
It’s supposed to be super simple to set up, and works on your wifi network. Plug it into your USB port on your computer for initial setup; then disconnect and put it wherever you want to start recording.
You can watch the video from your iPhone or Android phone using their app. Camera can be set up to turn on or off at specific times, or it can be motion-sensitive. It can even push alerts to you if it senses movement. The camera is also infrared, so it can “see” in the dark.
There’s also a separate charge if you want Dropcam to store your videos on its website for a week ($99/year) or a month ($299/year). So you can go back and review the footage if something has happened.
Another option is Vuezone, from Netgear. It’s a small wifi camera with infrared that you can set up anywhere in your home. It has iPhone and Android apps so you can see what’s being recorded. With this system you also need to purchase a base station. For 1 camera and base station the cost is $130; for 2 cameras plus base station it’s $200 (so you get twice as many cameras as the Dropcam for the price).
If you want to get alerts and have Vuezone save your video for later viewing, the cost is $50/year for up to 5 cameras and 250MB of storage, or $100/year for up to 15 cameras and 500MB of storage.
A third option is Belkin’s NetCam. Like the others, it connects to your wifi network, and you can watch video from your mobile phone (or computer). Also like the others, it’s got an infrared camera.
The camera, which is HD wide-angle, costs $130.
You can set up an account to have video saved whenever the camera detects motion, for later viewing (up to 30 days). Right now the cloud video saving service is free; after the initial testing “beta” phase there will be a monthly fee (prices to be announced).