Tag Archives: apple

Apple AirPods

OK, the Amazon link on the left[1] is included for comedy reasons only. At the moment, these are in short supply, leading to naughty people on the Amazon Marketplace trying to charge nearly twice the actual price of the product.

But hey, I managed to buy mine in the Newcastle Apple Store a couple of weeks ago (they had three in stock at the time), so I’d suggest you try your nearest Apple Store, or just wait a while if you’re interested.

And I can already hear you asking why I got these. Surely those nice Bose wireless headphones are more than up to the job? Well, yes they are, and they’re still working nicely, thanks for asking, but sometimes it would be nice to have something a wee bit, you know, smaller, something easier to take off and put away, something that isn’t going to mess up your hair or get caught up if I raise my coat’s hood.

And so, when Apple announced these, I was intrigued. I waited until I’d seen some reports from people who’d actually used them before buying, as I’ve had poor experiences with in-ear phones before.

Anyway, to summarise what you probably already know:

These are wireless earbuds with an added twist of Apple cleverness. Rather than the usual pair of buds connected by a cable[2], these are two genuinely separate items. They come with a case that has a Lightning port for charging, and the case in turn charges the AirPods. There’s a single LED inside the case that does two things: with the AirPods in their sockets, it indicates their charge level – green for fully charged. Remove the buds and it’ll show the charge level of the case. A Lightning cable is included in the box, but no plug charger, presumably on the grounds that anyone who buys these probably doesn’t need another one.

Now getting Bluetooth devices to work with phones and computers is often a frustrating experience, he said politely. Well, it’s often an exercise in staring at your devices and pointing while shouting

It’s right next to you, what do you mean you can’t find it?

Devices arbitrarily lose all recollection of things they’ve been paired with and sometimes need to be removed, reconnected, wrapped in clingfilm, fed to a goat, extracted from its poop and recharged before they’ll work. I may be exaggerating a bit there, but not by much. So what have Apple done about that?

To pair with your iPhone, you hold the case next to it and open the lid. So long as you’ve updated to a suitably modern version of iOS, that’s it. AirPods are now able to play sound from your iPhone. And that would be quite clever enough, but there’s more. If your Mac is using the same iCloud account as your iPhone, it’s auto-bloody-matically able to use the AirPods as well. Just have them close enough and you’ll be able to select them as a device from the volume control in the menu bar.

There are no physical controls on the AirPods – no volume control, no play/pause/answer calls, but a tap will activate Siri, who will do things if you ask nicely. Personally, this isn’t an issue for me – the only control I ever used on the Bose headphones was the on/off switch, which isn’t needed here, as in a bout of extreme joined up thinking, the music stops as soon as you take one of the buds out of an ear, and it restarts when you replace it, making them ideal for any interaction with humans that you might find yourself obliged to engage in. If you have an Apple Watch, you’ll probably be used to controlling your music from your wrist, anyway, so you won’t miss the inline controller of Apple’s wired earbuds.

A common problem with earbuds (certainly for me) is that they’re often uncomfortable to wear (even the ones with numerous alternative rubber of foam tips), or have an annoying tendency to drop out. How do the AirPods cope?

Surprisingly well, as it happens. I’ve been wearing them on my journeys to and from work for the last couple of weeks, and I’m happy to say that they haven’t annoyed my ears at all. And, apart from on the first day I wore them, when I suspect I just hadn’t put them in quite right, they’ve stayed firmly in place, even when it’s been a bit windy and I’ve been walking around. I’ve heard reports from people who indulge in a strange activity called “running”[3] that even this doesn’t dislodge them, though as always, your ears may differ, insert disclaimer, etc.

But the main requirement is, of course, the sound. Well, overall, they’re not as loud as my Bose phones, but they’re as loud as I need my music to be consistent with still being able to hear traffic. The sound quality is clear and good enough for moving around – a test at home suggests that it’s actually very good when there’s no background noise to distract.

So, overall, I rather like them. There is the concern that these little things might be a bit easy to lose, of course. Apple will replace a single AirPod for less than half the price of a new set, or so I understand – though I’d suggest not losing any until the stock situation settles down.

Hmm, that’s my longest post for ages. Who’d have thought I’d manage over 900 words on a pair of earbuds?

[1] Assuming your ad blocker isn’t hiding it
[2] I had a pair like that, they just wouldn’t stay in my ears
[3] I wouldn’t know…

Weight and Stuff Report – 14 January 2017

Weight: 239.1 pounds (17 stone 1.1 pounds, 108.5 kg)
Steps taken: 5,945 or possibly 6,696

Down again today, woo, hoo. Only a load more to go…

If you’re reading this on the actual site rather than looking at the preview on Facebook, you’ll see I’m quoting two different step counts. One comes from the Withings app (the larger one) and the other from Apple’s own Health app, which likes to chat to my Apple Watch. I’ve no idea which is more accurate…

I persuaded myself that I really should go out for a bit today, even though it was a wee bit chilly. After the usual bout of dithering, I went to Tynemouth for a quick look around, where I spotted this arriving:

Arrival

Arrival

Camera X-T2
Aperture ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed 1/1400s
Focal length 55mm
ISO 200
Taken 12:23, 14 January, 2017

Shame I hadn’t arrived a bit earlier, to get a better view, really. But I did get another shot after it had moved up the Tyne a bit:

Boat

Boat

Camera X-T2
Aperture ƒ/5
Shutter speed 1/1400s
Focal length 140mm
ISO 200
Taken 12:34, 14 January, 2017

 

TiV-Noooooooooooooo

I’ve had my Virgin Media TiVo box for longer than I realised – over four and a half years, which is quite a long time for a thing with a hard disk that does a lot of large writes. Lately, I’d noticed occasional problems which made me wonder if the disk was beginning to suffer – it would randomly pause on playback, or there would be brief burst of odd digital blockiness. But as these were intermittent and infrequent, I just mentally filed them as something to think about later.

Then on Tuesday night, there was an overnight power cut. The TiVo has survived plenty of these in the past without any problem, but this must have been just enough to send it over the  edge. As it happened, I didn’t switch it on at all on Wednesday (wine club after work), but when I got home on Thursday, I noticed something odd. The TiVo doesn’t have much of a display – just a couple of rows of LEDs, which indicate things like “having a signal”, “being switched on” and “recording”. I’d never seen anything other than red or green lights, so I was a little surprised to see a blue one. I didn’t even know it had any…

So I switched it on and was greeted by this:

It's dead, Jim

It’s dead, Jim

Oh. I left it to reboot itself. Again. And again. At this point, I decided I wanted to watch some things, and used the built-in on demand services on my TV. Which worked nicely.

I left the TiVo to talk to itself overnight, and as it was doing the same thing on Friday morning, I did a bit of research and found that this display means pretty much what I suspected: the hard disk is an ex-hard disk. This means I’ve lost my recordings (not a major problem, as the only unwatched stuff can mostly be found in iPlayer and other such things) and my recording set up (numerous things set to record whenever they appear). Recreating that for current shows will be easy, and I’ll have to keep an eye on the listings for the rest.

Reading on the forums suggested that Virgin often just send out a replacement box rather than sending out a technician. I’d have been fine with that, but it would probably have left me TiVoless for a few days. So, I called the customer support number, where the automated wossnames took me though various steps before passing me to a human (their automated thingy is now actually pretty good, and can do useful things like checking your kit remotely). The human asked me to do the traditional business of turning the power off and on again, which made no difference, as I expected. He then said that the best thing would be to send someone out, which suited me fine. The first available time would be Saturday (that’s today, the day after placing the call) between 8am and 12 noon, and would that be OK? Well, that was ideal.

And the Virgin Media man arrived nice and early, only it seems he wasn’t given a proper report of the fault, so he had to go away again to pick up a replacement TiVo. He found one of his colleagues in the area rather than going back to base.

He then removed the old TiVo, hooked up the new one (the box looks identical other than having a Samsung[1] badge on it rather than a Cisco one), and did the setting up bit (basically, allocating the new box to my account, and letting it update itself. Everything worked the first time, and he was gone by just after 9:30.

I’ve set all current programmes to record, and I’ll just have to watch the TV listings for the rest. And I spent a few hours today watching the things I’d recorded on the old box using iPlayer and other services. The TiVo is good for that, as if you find a programme in the guide, or search for it, it helpfully offers a link to episodes available on catch up.

So, job done, problem solved, satisfied customer.

[1] This means that my AV setup – TV, soundbar, Blu-Ray player and TiVo are all Samsung. The only exception is the Apple TV. Oh, and the clever remote control thingy…

Weight and Stuff Report – 7 November 2015

Weight: 212.6 pounds (15 stone 2.6 pounds, 96.4 kg)
Steps taken: 8,965

An insignificant rise today…

As the end of my week off has arrived, I was hoping to get out somewhere today, but as it was a wee bit damp this morning[1], I wasn’t too sure about what I’d manage to do. But just after 9:30 the decision was made for me by the arrival of an email and about a second later, a phone call. Both were from the Apple Store telling me that my iMac was ready for collection, having had its new 3TB disk fitted.

I decided to go to the MetroCentre first and actually did some shopping this time[2] before going to Newcastle where the rain had actually taken a break, so I was able to collect my iMac and get the bus home (if it had been raining, I’d have called a taxi). Got it home and connected it up, and ran into a slight issue – being a fresh install of OS X, it didn’t know about my new keyboard and trackpad, so I had to drag out the old USB keyboard and mouse. Once that was working, it asked me if I wanted to restore from a Time Machine backup (which I did), so I told it which disk to use. It then had a good look, and worked out how much work it had to do (it didn’t quite scream “how much?!?”), then let me click the continue button.

As watching that kind of thing is a bit boring, I popped out again for some more shopping (my coffee supply was getting low), and then came back home. The iMac is still restoring with one of those ever-changing time estimates. It will be nice to get back to a full-sized screen…

Today’s photo is another one from my South Shields walk. I spotted this bird[3] struggling with what I guessed at the time was an eel[4]. It kept disappearing under the water. I’m not entirely sure who won…

Lunch

Lunch

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/10
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 135mm
ISO 5000
Taken 11:28, 5 November, 2015
Location 55° 0.0906′ 0″ N 1° 26.4199′ 0″ W

[1] Note: possible use of understatement
[2] Makes a change…
[3] Ornithological updates welcome
[4] And a close version of the photo suggests that it is just that

Weight and Stuff Report – 2 November 2015

Weight: 210.4 pounds (15 stone 0.4 pounds, 95.4 kg)
Steps taken: 8,368

Down again as the wild oscillations go on.

Today’s fun and games started with taking my iMac into the Apple Store. This wasn’t just so it could visit its relations, it was to leave it behind for some surgery. There wasn’t anything actually wrong with it, but it’s one of a batch whose hard disk might fail at some premature point, so Apple offered a free replacement service. And so I made arrangements to drop it in today. It’ll be in for a few days, so I’ll be working on the MacBook Air…

After that, I had a look around town, popped over to the Metrocentre, where I decided not to bother going to the cinema, but did have some lunch before coming home.

This is a detail of Micklegate Bar in York:

Renovated in 1728...

Renovated in 1728…

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 122.6mm
ISO 640
Taken 15:41, 24 October, 2015
Location 53° 57.3749′ 0″ N 1° 5.4051′ 0″ W

Weight and Stuff Report – 1 November 2015

Weight: 213.8 pounds (15 stone 3.8 pounds, 97 kg)
Steps taken: Not a lot

Back up a significant amount today, in the usual random way. I’ve been having a mostly relaxed day in. The most I’ve done is disconnecting my iMac and packing it into its box ready for taking to the Apple Store tomorrow. It’s not unwell, but Apple are doing a pre-emptive free replacement of the hard drive as it’s one of a batch that might fail prematurely. Nice. Of course, moving it exposed all the dust badgers[1] lurking behind it, so I had to give the desk and all the other bits and bobs a good wipe down, and rearranged things a bit ready for the iMac’s return.

Here’s a view of Tynemouth Castle:

The Gate

The Gate

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/10
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 1600
Taken 13:33, 31 October, 2015
Location 55° 1.0683′ 0″ N 1° 25.2162′ 0″ W

[1] These are like the more common dust bunnies, only larger and with nastier teeth

Bose SoundLink On Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Headphones. I must have had dozens of the things over the years. Big ones, small ones, wired ones, wireless ones, comfortable ones, uncomfortable ones, well-made ones and completely rubbish ones. But for reasons that don’t really make a lot of sense, I keep trying to get the elusive Perfect Pair.

Ten years ago, I got my first Bluetooth phones, which turned out to be carefully designed to crack in such a way as to stop them working. I’ve had quite nice in-ear ones, but I’ve been finding those increasingly uncomfortable to use – no matter what kind of material is used, the bits that go in my ears either don’t fit very well or are irritating. So, after trying all manner of things, I’ve reverted to on-ear phones. That’s the moderately large kind rather than the enormous over ear kind that cover your whole ear. I tried a Sennheiser wireless set, but found they had two problems: one was that even at maximum extension, they weren’t a good fit for my admittedly large head, and the other was a distinct lack of volume – OK when pottering around at home, but not so good when out and about. And it’s not that I listen to music at extreme levels – I like it loud enough to hear clearly, but not so loud as to drown out my surroundings completely. I then got a much better pair of Sennhesier (see, no hard feelings about the wireless ones) on-ear phones, which were pretty good, if a bit bulky.

But then I got this watch thing, which I still haven’t posted about. And that lets me control the music playing on the iPhone (and yeah, I’ve got one of those to talk about, too), so the previous need for controls on a cable, and indeed a cable at all, seemed to have gone away. So I started looking at wireless phones again. I saw these in a shop, and tried them out. Ooooh. Comfortable. And Oooooh, loud enough.

So after Much Dithering[1] and muttering[2] I bought them from Amazon.

So, what do we get for the slightly expensive price?[3] Well, you get a well-built pair of headphones which expand enough to fit my head comfortably. There’s a nice bit of padding on the headband and the earcups (removable and replaceable covers). The ear bits fold nicely inwards for storage, making them a lot more travel-friendly, as does the supplied soft zip-equipped case (nicely designed for an exact fit, with a nice little piece to separate the ear cups. There’s a cable you can use to connect to your devices in the event that the battery dies or the device doesn’t have Bluetooth and a standard mini-USB cable for charging (no mains plug, which seems sensible enough, as it wouldn’t fir in the pouch and most people have computers or chargers already.

They arrived with more than enough charge  to get me home, which was nice. Pairing is simply a matter of sliding the on-off switch all the way up. The phones can remember multiple devices and some variety of jiggery-pokery[4] lets you switch between them. There are the usual volume and control buttons for managing music and phone calls, but I find it easier to use the phone or watch to do that.

The sound quality, as you might expect from Bose, is excellent[5], and capable of being much louder than I want or need it to.

Now the other thing about wireless headphones that’s often a cause of weeping, wailing and quite likely gnashing of teeth, is battery life. In most cases it’s basically useless. These, perhaps partly because they’re on the larger size, are different. For a start, when you switch them on, a little voice in your ear announces the current battery level as a percentage before reminding you what device they’re paired with. During the first week, they kept insisting the level was 100%. I assumed they were lying, as battery powered devices often do. But four weeks later, without a recharge, and with around an hour’s use on each working day, the level is down to 40%. So it’ll probably be another couple of weeks before I need to connect that USB lead. To be honest, I’d have been happy enough with a week’s use on a single charge, so a month or more is really very good.

So, count this as a medium-term report. No annoyances so far, and lots to like. The only negative point is the slightly unfriendly price…

[1] A village in Suffolk, I think
[2] Much of which was about whether I wanted the black (discrete but boring) or white (vivid by matching my phone) ones
[3] Bose appear to have an Apple-like degree of control over prices – I looked around a fair bit, and didn’t find any variation in retail prices…
[4] I’d have to RTFM
[5] For my music and my ears, anyway.

Weight and Stuff Report – 29 September 2015

Weight: 211.1 pounds (15 stone 1.1 pounds, 95.8 kg)
Steps taken: 5,619

Down a wee bit today…

I had a day off work today  :tigger:

But I had to get up just as early as normal.  :uhoh:

I need to be up and about for a “morning” time slot to have my electricity meter replaced – it was so old it almost wasn’t electric. Well, it was one of those thingies with the impossibly to read dials that was clearly invented by a complete loony. I know have a fancy electronic thing that will spy on me and report my activities to my electricity supplier. Or at the very least save me from taking readings once a month. Though I still have to read the gas meter, which is still resolutely non-technolgical. Though it does have numbers that can be read without head-scratching and muttering.

After that, I decided to take myself out for lunch. After much dithering[1], I gave Gourmet Burger Kitchen a try. I had a delicious (if expensive) bacon and cheese topped burger (with applewood smoked cheddar, nice), a generous portion of skinny fries and a nice refreshing drink (Brew Dog Punk IPA, very nice).

After a bit of shop wandering, where I didn’t buy anything, I came home. And here I am.

I really need a day out with a camera, as I’m running low on recent photos. Here’s one from the Sunderland air show this year. This is an RAF Tutor training aircraft:

Tutor

Tutor

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/9
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 134.4mm
ISO 200
Taken 15:01, 25 July, 2015

[1] Not a village in the south of England

Weight and Stuff Report – 25 September 2015

Weight: 212.5 pounds (15 stone 2.5 pounds, 96.4 kg)
Steps taken: 2,500ish

Another upward thingy today, mutter.

But hey, today was NPD! That’s New Phone Day, of course. I’d arranged for my new iPhone 6S[1] to be delivered to work, and it arrived while I was in the sarnie shop[2]. I got the SIM swapped over and logged in with my Apple IDs[3]. First impressions are good – the bigger screen is sharper than a very sharp thing, and the camera shows promise. The 3D touch stuff (pressing with varying levels of pressure does different things) is cool, and it’ll be interesting to see what developers make of it as apps are updated and created to take advantage of it.

Once I got it home and on WiFi, it quickly installed the apps I wanted[4] and started talking to my music library and photos.

Next up was unpairing the Apple Watch that I haven’t mentioned from the 5S and pairing it with the 6S – and that’s why the step count is approximate, as the data goes away when you do that. That’s something that needs to improve in future versions of Watch OS and iOS…

And then I wiped the 5S and started preparing it for sale….

Another unrelated photo. This is Mallard’s nameplate. Obviously

Mallard

Mallard

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter speed 1/110s
Focal length 36.6mm
ISO 6400
Taken 12:52, 8 August, 2015
Location 53° 57.6437′ 0″ N 1° 5.7734′ 0″ W

[1] Silver, 128GB, if you’d like the details
[2] Bacon, brie and cranberry panini, if you’d like the details
[3] I’ve got different ones for the Store and iCloud for ancient history reasons, if you’d like the details
[4] This is why I don’t take the easy option of restoring from a backup – it lets me leave out apps I’ve installed, used once and forgotten about, if you’d like the details

Sonic simplification

Very nearly a year ago, I replaced my rather large and cumbersome sound system (receiver, surround speakers, subwoofer) with a Yamaha soundbar[1] – a YAS-93, if you’d like to know the details. This sits in front of the TV (and is low enough not to block the screen, if you’re wondering) and provides more than adequate sound output without having loads of cables trailing all over the place. It was also a great deal cheaper than the previous kit..

But I’d still managed to make things more complicated than I needed to. The soundbar takes digital inputs, and I quite sensibly used one to directly connect my Blu-Ray player, but that left only one for the TiVo, the Apple TV and the Amazon Fire TV thingies, and as swapping connectors isn’t my idea of fun, I got myself a bunch more optical cables and something that I didn’t know existed until I looked, an optical switch, which allowed me to select an input from its remote control, or indeed, my trusty Logitech Harmony, which is still doing its job nicely.

I’m not sure why I did that, really. All I actually needed to do was to connect a single optical lead from the back of the TV to the soundbar. Perhaps I’d convinced myself that the TV didn’t actually have an optical out, and had somehow missed it when looking at the back of the TV and browsing its manual. Anyway, I gave it a try this afternoon, and it works perfectly well.

And a further test showed no difference at all between connecting the Blu-Ray through its dedicated optical lead and via the TV[2], so I’ve removed that as well.

All of this required a little bit of fiddling with the settings on my Logitech remote, but that was easy enough.

And all this simplification means that when the time comes to replace my TV (current plan is not to bother until the current one dies), changing over will be that wee bit easier.

[1] I’d include the traditional Amazon product image, but apparently they won’t allow the associate linky thing to point at it for some reason.