See You On The Other Side...

I’m on vacation the next two weeks. I’ll have very sporadic network access as my family and I are visiting Las Vegas, Canyonlands National Park with the highlight of the trip being 3-days of rafting/camping trip in side the Grand Canyon. 

Don’t worry, David and I have pre-recorded several episodes of Mac Power Users that should hit the feeds at their designated times. I’ve also queued up a few blog posts for this site.

If you want to follow my adventures probably the best place to do so is on Instagram as that’s where I’ll be posting fairly regular photos for friends and family to follow. (My grandmother follows me on Instagram - how cool!). I’ll also be posting occasional updates to Twitter.

For those curious, I have decided to take my iPhone along with me for all parts of the trip. I’ve outfitted it with a Lifeproof FRE case and will also be storing it inside a ziplock bag inside a wet bag for extra protection while on the river. I’ll take along small battery pack for power. Much to my pleasant surprise, I’ve found several of my third party lightning cables do fit the Lifeproof’s port (including MonopriceSkiva and Scosche) despite reviews to the contrary. Perhaps there has been a slight case modification or maybe I"ve gotten lucky. Once in the Grand Canyon I’ll be using the iPhone as a camera (and possibly an iPod) only. I’ve been told to expect no cellular coverage at all until we get back to civilization.

See you on the other side!

What You Can't Do On An Apple Watch Happens to be My Favorite Feature

One of the criticisms that I’ve heard about the watch is "there’s not much you can do with it." That point can be debated. But I think at the heart of this criticism is that, unlike iPhones and iPads, it’s difficult to use the Apple Watch to actively seek out and interact with information. Here’s the New York Times:

The lack of support from Facebook — and from other popular app makers like Snapchat and Google, which also have few if any apps for Apple Watch — underscores the skepticism that remains in the technology community about the wearable device. That puts the watch, Apple’s first new product since the iPad in 2010, in something of a Catch–22: The companies whose apps would most likely prompt more people to buy the device are waiting to see who is buying it and how they use it.

Personally, I find the lack of Facebook, Snapchat and most of Google’s apps on the Apple Watch fantastic. Our phones are with us all the time. No one want’s to miss that urgent call or message. But having these devices with us all the time means that any time we have a few extra seconds we can check email, browse the web, see what’s happening on Facebook, catch up on Twitter or any of a number of other things. Have 30 seconds in the checkout line, pull out the iPhone. That’s fine, but it’s also a little mind-numbing.

One of the things I love most about my Apple watch is that I can’t do these things. Instead, information comes through the Apple Watch (via a paired iPhone) to me. Once the notification settings are properly tweaked, only the most important messages, items truly worth of my attention, will come through. In the three months since I’ve had my Apple watch I’ve found I’m happy to leave my iPhone at my desk or in my purse rather than always carrying it in my pocket because I know if something important comes through, I’ll get a gentle tap on the wrist. I’m no longer that person who is out with friends and family and is constantly checking their phone rather than being in the moment.

The next version of the watchOS is coming out later this Fall and I’m excited to see what developers will do with new features including native apps and additional APIs. The Apple Watch will continue to evolve and grow as a product. But just keep in mind, not all applications are intended for a platform like the Apple Watch. After all, how much do you really want to interact with your watch?

On Evernote's New Pricing Structure

Earlier this year Evernote announced a new pricing structure. The free tier sticks around, but loses some features. There’s now a “Plus” tier for $2.99 a month, or $24.99 a year, that I think will be the “sweet spot” for many users and Premium costs $5.99 a month, or $49.99 a year. Details can be found on Evernote’s site.

Evernote has made some tweaks to their pricing plan the last few months but for now, a free plan limits monthly uploads to 60MB and allow users only to clip information from the web or manually drag documents into Evernote, share and discuss within Evernote and sync documents across platforms. Candidly, the free plan is now fairly basic. If you want offline access to notes, the ability to add a passcode to the mobile App or, perhaps most notably, the ability to forward emails directly in to Evernote you’ll have to pay for the Plus plan. Upgrading to premium unlocks the most prized features such as advanced OCR and search, scanning business cards and more.

I’ve long been a fan of Evernote and have had a Premium account for several years. I’ve received a lot of comments, most negative, about the changes. I suppose this is to be expected when a company takes services that it previously gave away for free and shifts them into a paid program. I understand the frustration, but keep in mind that in order to continue to provide products and services, companies have to have a viable business model. I had an opportunity to tour Evernote’s headquarters last year when I was in San Francisco and they have a large team that they pay living wages dedicated to actively developing and improving the platform. 

Evernote is not perfect. My pal David Sparks has called it the “roach motel” because of it’s proprietary format and problems exporting and sharing data. I agree. (I also have no idea what Work Chat is and the popups are driving me crazy.) Nevertheless, Evernote is has become an invaluable piece of my workflow and it’s a service I’m happy to pay for to see it continue development. I’m always nervous about relying on free or VC funded products because there’s simply no way of knowing how long they’ll be around.

A Camera for the Canyon

Next month, my family is taking a vacation that will include several days in Canyonland’s National Park and end with a 3 day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. We’re really excited and have been planning the trip for almost a year now.

Of course I’ve been thinking about tech for the trip. There's no point in taking my tech along with me for the rafting portion of this trip. There will be no power and no cell service during the rafting/camping portion of the trip and lots of opportunities for electronics to be lost or damaged. My plan was to leave all electronics safely back at the hotel except for a Canon Powershot camera. I’ve had this camera for several years, it’s nothing fancy by today’s standards, only 8MP, but still takes pictures that are good enough quality to make large prints. If something should happen to the camera, I wouldn't really care, I haven’t used the camera in almost two years, when we took our last family vacation to Alaska.

Earlier this week when I was checking my gear I discovered the Canon camera was broken. It would power up but photos were blurry and it made a grinding sound when trying to focus. Clearly something mechanical was broken inside. 

This raises an interesting question, what do I do about a camera for the Grand Canyon? If I act quickly, I still have enough time to buy a replacement camera, but should I? I’m not a camera expert, so have not fully researched the options, but a replacement PowerShot on Amazon runs about $150. Do I buy an inexpensive replacement point-and-shoot knowing that I will likely only use it on this trip? (I haven’t used my PowerShot in over two years.) I’m traveling with family members who have decent cameras so it will be easy enough to share photos (and my mom will happily let me take her camera and be the photographer). Do I just rely on family cameras? Or, do I perhaps reconsider my decision not to take my iPhone into the Canyon and purchase a waterproof and shock resistant case? The LifeProof FRE (Available on Amazon for around $65) is the highest rated iPhone 6 Waterproof case by the Wirecutter. I also have AppleCare+ so as long as I don't lose my iPhone, I can get a replacement in the event it's damaged for only the deductible.

Right now I'm leaning towards either taking no camera and relying on family or perhaps taking the iPhone in a LifeProof case. I don't want to be "penny wise and pound foolish" but cost is a consideration.  I’m open to suggestions. Please feel free to drop me a note on Twitter (preferred) or send an email with longer comments.

Push-Triggered Sync in OmniFocus

The folks at OmniGroup released updates to their Apps this week that brought several new features including new Dark Palette, Swipe to Flag, and Push-Triggered Sync. Perhaps the one I'm most excited about is Push-Triggered sync. Omni Explains:

When Push-Triggered Sync is enabled, OmniFocus for iOS will start syncing more frequently in the background as you make changes on other devices. This means that OmniFocus on your iPhone or iPad will have your latest changes right away, no matter where you make them. Because you’ll be syncing more frequently, the amount of data in each sync should also go down; your syncs will finish much faster.

Of course my pal MacSparky made a video.

Disclosure: OmniGroup is a sponsor of Mac Power Users