App Camp for Girls is a wonderful organization that seeks to encourage young girls to pursue their interests in technology. App Camp does this by coaching young girls and helping them write their first iOS apps.
This year, App Camp is doing a fundraiser & happy hour during WWDC. The fundraiser is Wednesday night, shortly after the conference ends for the day, and is being hosted by WWDCGirls. All the proceeds from ticket sales go toward App Camp for Girls.
We’d love it if you would consider making a donation, and joining us.
When I was told that an Apple Watch had been bought for me, my first reaction was surprise, until I remembered who my husband is and realized I actually wasn’t that surprised. So I decided to go along with it. I am never the kind of person who wants or desires the newest shiny toys, but really wanted to give the Watch an honest shot. It definitely helped that there is a 2 week “grace period” so I could really give myself some time to decide if this was something I really wanted in my life.
Casey asked me to write a review from my perspective about the watch, a week in to using it. Much easier said than done, while watching an infant all day who is a terrible napper and has decided to get up earlier and earlier every morning for the past week (mommy is quite tired)! Forgive my terrible disjointedness; these are my thoughts that have been floating around since using the Watch.
From the day I first received it (surprisingly, I got it about a month earlier than originally thought), I have worn the Watch faithfully. All day, putting it on first thing in the morning after I shower, and taking it off right before bed. To be fair, I don’t really have time to fiddle around with it, but I have taken in everything I can about it, and frequently ask questions about how to do something. I really want to love this Watch.
Unfortunately, I don’t. I know it absolutely breaks Casey’s heart anytime I say something desparaging about it, and that does make me sad. I want to love it as much as he does, but I really just don’t.
What DO I like about it? Not to be trite, but the band is extremely comfortable. I’ve never been opposed to wearing watches, and having something on my wrist usually doesn’t bother me, but this is one of the nicest feeling watch bands I’ve ever felt. (On the downside my wrist doesn’t seem to like any of the set band holes - it’s either slightly too large or slightly too small for me at all times.) I also like the color. Given my propensity towards the color pink, Casey ordered that band for me. After seeing it in the store when Casey had his try-on appointment, I was not impressed. It looked to be more of a salmon color, which was ok, but I likely would have chosen a different color had I seen that first. What I received though, is more of a coral color, which I really like.
In addition, the fact that I can check a text message when I am doing something that limits me from checking my phone immediately (such as washing dishes or changing a poopy diaper), is genuinely convenient. Even if nothing can be done about it right that second, it can at least be checked when my hands are otherwise occupied completely.
These about sum up what I have found to be enjoyable about the Watch. What do I not like about it? The best way I can exemplify my feelings, as I’ve told others: you can see a lot on the Watch, but you can’t do a lot on the Watch. For example, if someone texts me a link to something, I have to look at it on my phone. Related, I will get a “an image has been sent; check your iPhone” message which must lead me back to my phone. For both of these, on numerous occasions I have forgotten that there is a link or image to look at by the time I get back to my phone. The sender either eventually asks if I received it (because of my lack of response) or I will finally notice when I go to send them a text about something completely different. Extremely frustrating!
When I do receive a normal text message and want to respond, many times the canned reply texts are not good enough for what I want to say. Usually, “yes”/ “no”/ “can’t talk now”/ etc. do not do enough. So, I have to go back to my phone again. I know I could use the dictation feature, but I have thus far refused to talk to my wrist, and do not see that changing.
There have been many times when I have missed notifications completely. Though since I first mentioned this to Casey, he bumped up the sensitivity, and it has gotten better, it’s definitely not 100%. So sometimes it might not be until quite a bit later (I don’t look at my watch “just cuz” very often) that I see something. Similarly, but more disheartening, is the fact that some sketches/ taps just don’t go through at all. I know one will be sent (I will hear or see a text saying something like “omg that is the worst thing I’ve ever drawn”) and it will never make it to my watch. However, I believe that the novelty of sketches/ taps/ heartbeats will wear off for everyone fairly quickly, so perhaps this will not be a problem for long!
The fitness part of the Watch is cool, but I already have a FitBit (and have for years), that satisfies that need. While there is something very satisfying about seeing a ring being completed, I actually prefer to see my fitness status on my FitBit (I feel its not as fiddly and easier to see at a glance). In addition, I’m told to “stand up” multiple times throughout the day… when I am already standing and usually have recently gone up or down stairs! (I’m also told this if I’ve been in a car for a while, which I can understand, but it still grates on my nerves a bit.)
Finally, many of the apps that are on the Watch I would rather check on my phone anyway, because the Watch screen is just too small for that kind of use (I know I have the smaller size watch but I don’t see this being much different on the bigger one, though perhaps I’m wrong in thinking that). Related, several of the apps on my iPhone aren’t supported by the Watch so I couldn’t use them even if I wanted to.
I honestly am not sure what I’m going to do about keeping or returning my Watch. That may come as a surprise given the amount of cons I have to pros. It certainly is not worth the money, in my opinion. The problem is, I want to love it. I really do. I just haven’t found any reason to do so.
I’ve had my Apple Watch, a 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band, for about a week now. (Could that model name be any longer? Oy.)
Mine arrived on Thursday, 7 May. Well, except it wasn’t actually mine, strictly speaking. A listener had ordered two watches, not sure which one he would want more. It turns out he wanted a different model, and his extra was the same kind I had also ordered. He sold me his extra Apple Watch at cost, which was exceptionally kind of him to do. Needless to say, the grey market is quite lucrative.
The watch I actually ordered — at around 7:05 the morning of the Apple Watch launch — was due to arrive between 29 May and 11 June. I’ll be paying it forward and selling to a friend.
We also ordered Erin an Apple Watch, since I thought they’d be better in pairs. Hers is a 38mm Silver Aluminum Case with Pink Sport Band. I was very nervous about this selection, as I have previously lamented that the “pink” band looked salmon to my eye in the store. Having received it, the “pink” sport band looks better than I remembered it. Not salmon, but not pink either. Erin has told me the band is more coral than anything else. Hers was also ordered at 7:05 on preorder day.
So, both Apple Watches having arrived this past Thursday, by pure coincidence, we have now had them for a week. What are we thinking, a week in?
I really like my Apple Watch a lot. Many of the things that I expected to be annoyed by have not annoyed me at all. Erin has other thoughts, which she covered in her own post — the first guest post I’ve had on this site. You can read that post here.
Screen & Battery Life
I find that raising your wrist to see the face works most of the time, and the times it doesn’t, a small flick of the wrist or tap of the face will light the screen.
Battery life has been stellar. Because of Declan, the beginning and end of our days are extremely predicatable. We always wake shortly before 7, and we go to sleep around 10:30. Thus, we have roughly 15 ½ hours that we are up, awake, and moving.
With average usage, having no regard for battery life, my Apple Watch has ended the day at 26%, 37%, 34%, 31%, 27%, and 41%. That includes at least 15 minutes of exercise on most days in the form of a brisk Outdoor Walk. The last one — 41% — was actually a couple hours later than the others thanks to recording ATP.
Speaking of exercising, I’ve immediately become a sucker for the activity rings. There are three rings, representing three fitness goals:
- Move — Hit your personal and adjustable calorie burn goal by moving more
- Exercise — Accumulate 30 minutes of activity at or above a brisk walk
- Stand — Stand up for at least 1 minute of every hour
These goals are, for a man that exercises far more rarely than he cares to admit, attainable. While trying to fill my rings, I don’t feel like I’m attempting to climb Everest. At best, I feel like I’m just being more cognizant of what I’m doing with my body. At worst, I’m pushing myself just that much farther than I would without this external goal to achieve. My goals are always within reach, if a bit inconvenient. I get the feeling that’s exactly how they should feel.
Once we put Declan to sleep, I’m typically close to done with my Move goal, done with my Stand goal, but need a little boost for my Exercise goal. That leads to some questionable choices on my part:
No, YOU just walked around your neighborhood in the dark like a creeper to reach your exercise goal. pic.twitter.com/JREY10ZhqA— Casey Liss (@caseyliss) May 9, 2015
I may look like a creeper, but I am also more active than I’d be without these silly activity rings encouraging me. That’s a positive change. So far, I’ve been able to fill in my activity rings every day I’ve had my Apple Watch, which I’m not only excited about, but proud of as well.
I’ve seen a lot of people grumble about Watch OS’ interaction model. For me, I don’t find it very confusing at all. For sure, I’ve occasionally lost parity between my mental model and what’s on screen. This feels exactly like losing track of what gear your car’s manual transmission is in — a momentary bit of confusion, but a quick recovery.
There are, however, some things that really bother me. First and foremost, I haven’t figured out a way to Digital Touch someone that isn’t on my Friends list. I don’t necessarily want the 12-person limit increased; I just wish there was a way to send a digital touch to someone who isn’t on my friends list. Perhaps in the Messages app, there could be a second option to send a Digital Touch, as well as a New Message.
Early on, I can’t help but wish for the inclusion of some sort of demo reel. I know that’s never going to happen, but it’d be convenient to have. The demo reel that is shown on the try-on devices does a great job of demonstrating the visual and tactile features of Apple Watch. The handful of times I’ve been asked about my Apple Watch, it’s been hard to give a really compelling demo, unless Erin happens to be around to send messages and Digital Touches to help facilitate it. One of the best parts of Apple Watch is the Taptic Engine; it’s hard to force the Taptic Engine to fire without help from a friend. Having a demo reel as an app would be really nice, at least early on.
A week in, my complicated wishes have only become stronger.
I’ve built a love/hate relationship with Siri. While dictation is far better than it has been in the past, responsiveness is not. I often find that if I wait for Siri to show on-screen, Apple Watch often gives up on me before I even get a chance to stop talking. Getting the timing right has been a constant annoyance.
The tip that I’ve read, and usually works, is to say “Hey Siri,” and then immediately start your request. Don’t wait for the screen to catch up, just let it rip. While my success rate is better this way, I still end up missing Siri’s listening window a lot of the time.
One small annoyance I do have is that I wish there was a way to set the default view for the Weather app. I like having the current temperature complication on my Watch face. I don’t like having to Force Touch to switch from the condition view to the temperature view every time I load the app.
Another annoyance is receiving Digital Touches. If another notification comes in, or if I twist my wrist too much, or if Apple Watch decides it has had its screen on too long, I’ll often miss the sketch/heartbeat/taps. Only some of the time do I get the play button in the upper-right corner of the screen to re-play them. Since Digital Touches are ephemeral, sometimes I accidentally miss out on one forever.
Last night I happened to lose my iPhone in the house. Since I had my Apple Watch on me, I used it to ping my iPhone. Unlike Find My iPhone, which causes your phone to make a racket for quite a while, pinging from Apple Watch results in one ping only.
The Apple Watch app on the iPhone is pretty good. It makes me extremely happy that I can rearrange my apps using the larger screen on my phone, rather than being limited to only doing it on Apple Watch.
The only wish I have for it is to be more intelligent about Glances. Several times, I have gone to the Glances settings, and added a new Glance to my Apple Watch, only to find it never got installed. The reason it isn’t installed is because the parent app wasn’t on my Apple Watch, and the Apple Watch app isn’t smart enough to install it when you add a Glance.
The only bands in the house are the Black and Pink Sport Bands. I continue to be surprised by how wonderful the Sport Bands are. When ordering my Apple Watch, I had told myself that I’d likely get the Milanese Loop in the future, as a standalone upgrade. Never say “never”, but having lived with the Sport Band for a week, I doubt I’ll ever change it.
The Sport Band looks like a traditional athletic watch band, but in feel it’s actually quite a bit better. No matter how hard I try, I can’t come up with a way to properly describe it. Furthermore, I’ve not yet found it to be any more sweat-inducing than any other watch band I’ve ever worn. The Sport Band is also nearly completely odor-free, which is more than I could say of the leather band I wore with my last watch.
Another perk of the Sport Band is that all Sport bands include three pieces:
- The piece with the pin
- A large sized second half
- A smaller sized second half
When I unboxed my watch, I tried it on first as-shipped, which is with the large sized band. That didn’t work at all. Within 15 seconds I had swapped to the small/medium size. Based on which hole I push the pin through, my approximately 165 mm wrist is quite literally in the middle of the medium band.
Putting the Sport Band on takes a little getting used to, but I was rather quick with it only a few days in. Taking it off is actually very fast — I simply pull up on the portion of the fluoroelastomer where the pin is, and everything releases. Don’t let that dissuade you — the Sport Band is very secure when on the wrist.
It’s unwise and futile to try to shove iPhone interfaces and paradigms into the Apple Watch. Instead, design for what the Watch really is.
It’s clear that developers did not live with Apple Watch before writing early Apple Watch apps. Given the scarcity of Apple Watch even now, nearly a month after its release, many developers haven’t had the chance to really use one yet. However, as they do, they will surely rethink their apps like Marco has.
The apps I do find myself using at least occasionally are (all of the following are iTunes links):
- Slack for chatting with friends
- HipChat for chatting with colleagues
- Overcast for controlling podcast playback
- 1Password for getting two-factor passwords
- Dark Sky for more robust weather forecasts
- Deliveries for package tracking
- Workflow for a couple of utilities
- TripIt for travel itineraries
- Uber for getting around while traveling
These apps are all good enough, and fast enough, to keep me using them.
I also dearly wish that some of my most used iPhone apps were available on Apple Watch:
- Baby Connect for keeping track of, and updating, Declan’s activities
- AnyList for shared grocery & hardware store lists
- Chamberlain MyQ for opening/closing my garage door
- Honeywell Total Connect Comfort for adjusting the thermostat
- Find My Friends to see where some close family are
Despite all this, something keeps eating at me about Apple Watch. I really do
quite like mine, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s because I’m an engineer, and
I can understand the decisions that went into making Apple Watch. With this
context in mind, I give Apple Watch a bye for so many of the things that would
— perhaps should — annoy me. The screen turns off so aggressively to ensure
all-day battery life. The latency when loading data is because of
Bluetooth Low Energy. Slow third party apps are because of BTLE and the
I make excuses for Apple Watch because I want to like it. Because it does make many things quite a bit more convenient. Because I understand the engineering choices that were made in order to make Apple Watch a reality.
I keep asking myself, though: would I like Apple Watch as much as I do if I didn’t understand how hard it is to make it a reality in 2015?
Then again, if it makes me happy to wear the future on my wrist, does it really matter?
UPDATED 2015-05-15 9:30 AM: Several people have pointed out a regular tap will cycle through the available options. That’s all well and good, but it still makes Weather.app far less glanceable than it would be if I could set a default. ↩
Apparently John Oliver has been reading my mind, as he has now hit two subjects that I care passionately about in consecutive weeks. Last week, he discussed standardized testing in schools. This week? America’s complete abandonment of new mothers and our lack of paid maternity leave:
I discussed this a few months ago with Myke on Analog(ue). It’s absolutely insane that the United States of America is one of only two countries without any paid maternity leave. In fact, perhaps “insane” isn’t the right word. I think “barbaric” may be a better one.
We should do better.
Heroku has announced today changes to their pricing models. These changes are not unreasonable nor egregious.
Surprisingly, Heroku has kept their free tier around. Heroku’s unit of measure for both execution and pricing is a "dyno". To recap, here’s what a free dyno used to mean:
In the previous free tier, users had a number of hours per month of a production dyno, the exact amount of which varied based on dyno type. The behavior of an app, including when and how much it would sleep when not used, wasn’t a function of the type of dyno, but the number used. And graduating from a free app to one that was always running was a big jump in price.
This site, at the time of this writing, is running on one dyno, which is free. To add another dyno would have run me something around $25 each month. That’s a heck of a leap.
Going forward, things are different for free dynos:
With the new free services, you can build apps using both a web and worker dyno as well as scheduler, get more usage per app and never receive a surprise bill.
So far, so good. That’s more flexibility than today. The key change for me is here:
Another important change has to do with dyno sleeping, or ‘idling’. While non-paid apps have always slept after an activity timeout, some apps used automatic pinging services to prevent that behavior.
freedynos are allowed 18 hours awake per 24 hour period, and over the next few weeks we will begin to notify users of apps that exceed that limit.
While I never bothered setting up any such service on my website, I’m lucky enough that
I typically get enough traffic for the site to be active 24/7. Unfortunately, that means
I will no longer be able to use the new
That’s sad news.
Things aren’t all bad, though:
With the introduction of the
hobbydyno ($7 per month), we are asking to either let your app sleep after time out, or upgrade to this new option.
Sounds like I’m going to have a new $7 bill each month. Well, either that, or we all agree not to look at my site for the same six hours, worldwide.
For a fleeting moment I thought about exploring a VPS, which may be a bit cheaper. However, Heroku has worked really well for me, and their ecosysem has some really great benefits. I’ll be sticking with Heroku for the foreseeable future.
To be honest, at this point, I owe Heroku at least that much.
I’ve discussed teaching before (here, here, and here), because it’s a subject that is dear to my heart. I saw my wife, Erin, work harder than almost anyone I know for less appreciation and compensation than almost anyone I know.
In the eight years Erin taught, I watched standardized testing encroach on more and more of her teaching time. The amount of tests seemed ever-increasing, and thus so did the amount of instruction time she had to give up for test-taking. That, in and of itself, is alarming. What’s worse is, over time, Erin was compelled to modify her curriculum to best fit the Virginia Standards of Learning test.
Rather than teaching her students what was important for them to know, Erin was forced to teach students what they had to know to pass their SOL tests.
That doesn’t sound much like education to me. At best, that sounds like studying.
A great quote from the video to illustrate how broken testing is (starting at 8:50):
A Florida school board member was concerned – and a little suspicious – when he learned only 39% of his state’s 10th graders had performed at or above grade level in reading:
I asked the district at that point to give me the closest thing they could, legally, to the [Florida standardized] reading and math test, and I took it. That test labeled me as a poor reader.
This is a man with two graduate degrees and a long teaching pedigree.
So much of the education system in America is fundamentally broken. Standardized testing, while a decent idea in principle, is a collossal failure in execution.
The sad thing is, fixing education in America is actually very simple: hire good teachers, and once you do, pay them a salary commensurate with the job that they do.
If only we had taxpayers willing to do so.
UPDATED 5 May 2015 2:45 PM: Since posting, I’ve realized this reads more literal than I mean it to. I know there’s far more to fixing teaching than just paying teachers well, but I do stand by it being a great place to start. ↩
On Wednesday, during Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced a new code editor called Visual Studio Code. Not an IDE, Code is a full-featured code editor that appears to be based off of the same technology that drives the Atom editor, called Electron. Since it’s running mostly on web technologies, Code will run on Windows, OS X, and Linux.
Code promises to support many different technologies and platforms; at a glance, one could assume the most interesting thing to a C♯ developer like myself may be writing C♯ on OS X. Since I so often work with content management systems, that’s not (usually) an option for me. What appealed to me was the Node.js support and IntelliSense.
IntelliSense is code completion that just works, and works really well. It is eery how intelligent it is, and you’ll find that most Windows developers – even really good ones – are absolutely crippled without IntelliSense. In fact, when I was teaching a coworker how to write Objective-C and work in Xcode, he had more problems with the lack of IntelliSense than he did with the vastly different language.
Clearly there’s room for improvement.
What I do love, however, is having a true, robust debugger for Node.
I’ve discussed debuggers such as
node-inspector in the past. I’m no
stranger to debugging by way of logging messages, but that doesn’t necessarily
mean I enjoy doing so. Having a true debugger available for my use is a huge
productivity boost. Code includes a Node debugger, and it’s great.
This example doesn’t make it seem terribly responsive, but to be fair, I have the entirety of my blog in memory in the array being walked.
Another nice feature of Code is its built-in Markdown previewer. Since this blog is run on Markdown, I like having even a rough preview right beside me.
There is also first-class Git integration. I generally prefer to use the
command line version of
git, but for basic operations it’s convenient to have
Git in the sidebar.
Right now, there’s very little I don’t care for.
I did have some pretty serious issues getting the debugger working. The debugger
requires Mono, which is not packaged with the install. I attempted to install
via Homebrew, but that didn’t seem to work. As it turns out, I had two
versions of Mono installed, an old one in
/usr/bin, and Homebrew’s in
I should note that within half an hour of sharing my frustration on Twitter, I got a helpful reply from Chris Dias:
This may not seem that remarkable, but:
- This was within an hour or two of Code being available.
- Chris Dias is a program manager on the Code team
- He’s the guy in the introductory video on the Code website
That’s some pretty frikkin’ stellar support.
Additionally, I haven’t had the time to explore the depths of Code. There are a ton of other nice features that can be explored. Many of them are featured on the Editing Evolved page on the Code website.
I also haven’t had the time yet to play with doing C♯ development natively on OS X using Code and the new, open-source .NET components. Since so much of my day job involves integrations with many other systems, especially CMSes, it’s not likely I’ll be able to escape my virtual machine.
All told, Code may or may not be for you, but it’s working out really nicely for me so far. I definitely suggest giving it a shot.
Motor Trend has a 17 minute comparison between two of the best American sedans available today. It’s absurd in every possible way, and a study of how these two cars are, by most measures, polar opposites.
There are some interesting points made, though:
- The Tesla now has geofencing. When I heard the host say so, I scratched my head, since it seemed an odd choice for a car. He sold me with his example story though: what if you have a steep driveway? Every time you approach home, you can have the Tesla’s air suspension raise to its highest setting, to prevent scraping the body on your steep driveway. It will do so automatically. So cool. (@ 5:00)
- The Tesla, in Insane Mode, “feels like a rollercoaster”. According to Tesla’s website, the P85D will accelerate to 60 miles per hour in 3.1 seconds. Interestingly, the Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster at Walt Disney World, a linear synchronous motor (think “launcher”) rollercoaster, accelerates from 0-57 in 2.8 seconds. That means the P85D, a car you can drive on the street, is as fast as a rollercoaster. A rollercoaster that sells pictures of your reaction to the intense acceleration. (@ 6:18)
- No spoilers, but the ending of the drag race was clearly about to change shortly after the quarter mile ended. (@ 15:30)
- “The Hellcat is a great big steak. With a martini. And cream spinach. And french fries. And another martini. And cigar. And cheesecake.” (@ 15:55)
I’m anxious to see how the new CTS-V stacks up against both of these sedans.
A couple things have been brought to my attention today that you should check out.
The Quiz Compendium includes 15 personality quizzes created by camper project teams. You’ll learn so many things about yourself, such as what your superpower is, where you should go on vacation, and even what your breakfast choices say about your personality.
It’s a fun app, and as it turns out, my super power is shape shifting, and my spirit animal is the bear.
Even if you don’t want the app, it’s a great way to make a small donation of both encouragement and money. You can find it on the app store.
For those going to WWDC, if you don’t have a ticket to the big show, there are a couple alternatives:
- altConf, which has been around for a couple years now. I’ve never been but have heard nothing but good things.
- A new arrival, Layers, put on by Jessie Char and Elaine Pow. I’m really happy to see a woman-fronted conference being put on during WWDC time.
Both conferences – with Layers having a slight edge – have plenty of women speakers, which is quite a welcome change from what I’m used to seeing on WWDC stages.
Declan is six months old today.
How did this happen? It was just yesterday that we were in the maternity ward at the hospital, wondering how long it would take us to figure this whole parenting thing out.
As it turns out, it’s less about figuring parenting out, and more about finding peace in being clueLiss for the rest of your life. We’re getting there.
It’s been amazing watching him grow. Since we see Declan every day, the changes are — generally speaking — hard to spot, since they’re so gradual. There are milestones that are easy to hang your hat on, of course: the first night in his own room, the first time sleeping through the night, the first time eating “solid” food, and so on.
What’s almost been more interesting, though, is seeing his growth through the eyes of my parents. They’ve been kind enough to come in once a week to watch Declan while Erin goes and runs errands or does… adult things. Hearing their recap of all the changes he’s made since the prior week is so much fun, since they see him through a very different lens than we do.
Lately he’s been responding to “Where is Mama?” by looking directly at Erin. It could be that he has no clue what he’s doing, but it sure seems like he does. He’s also been doing better with sitting up on his own, and has been pushing up on his arms when on his belly. It’s so amazing to watch these developments, and the pride I have for him is indescribable.
I know I’ll look back at these times hating myself for being anxious for the next development. For encouraging him to crawl, to stand, and to walk. For now, though, seeing each of these developments is the second most exciting part of my day. The only thing that beats it is coming home to Erin.