A Week with AirPods

I’ve had Apple’s AirPods for a week. Here are my impressions so far:

Getting them

  • The back order is a real bummer. I bought these the same day I bought the 10.5” iPad Pro, but I had to wait a month and a half to get them. Two days after getting them, Amanda tried them out and loved them, so I ordered another pair for her. Those don’t ship until some time in September.
  • The inside of the beautiful white case had dust in it when I opened it up for the first time. Not ideal, but I bet they are just cranking them out as fast as possible to fill demand.
  • I first thought that one of the plastic seams on my right bud was misaligned. It isn’t exactly the same as the seam on the left. But the more I look at the renderings, the more I think there is supposed to be a ridge there, so I’m note sure.

Using them

  • I’ve used them for podcasts, audio books, music, phone calls, and video chats.
  • The battery life is good enough for me and I just diligently pop them back in their case (and plug it in) when not using them. I work from home, so I don’t wear headphones all day. If you need to wear headphones all day, the battery life might not be up to par yet.
  • They are great for workouts and walks. I’ve done a few Starting Strength workouts with them and Amanda went for a run with them and they stayed in without an issue.
  • They are so much more comfortable than the wired earbuds that come with the iPhone by default. They look similar, but you can wear these for hours without discomfort.
  • Tapping twice for Siri works well, as does pulling one out for pausing.
  • Siri’s control of third-party apps like Overcast and Audible is still lacking. I liked that Overcast was able to hijack the control buttons on the wired headphones to fast forward or rewind. If there are special voice commands for this that I haven’t figured out yet, please drop me a line.

Sound & Sync

  • The sound quality is pretty good, or at least it is good enough that I can’t notice anything negative about them. I’m not an audiophile, but I can definitely tell crappy sound from good sound and these make the cut.
  • Connecting them to other devices is super easy. Flip open the top on the case, tap the button on the back, and tap the button on your closest device. I also thought it was interesting that I tried to pair them with Amanda’s iPhone by going to the Bluetooth settings after pairing them with mine and I got a message on-screen saying that these are paired with someone else’s phone and I’d need to pair them using the case. It is good to know that someone on the train can’t hijack my audio.
  • During about 15 hours of listening over the past week, I noticed temporary sound glitches about 5 times. Each time the phone was in my pocket, so it wasn’t a distance issue. It must have been either a sync issue or some sort of interference. None of these lasted for more than a second, but it was enough to be noticeable. Still, this is better than every other Bluetooth headphones I’ve tried. I’m willing to overlook it given their convenience.
  • I’d love if these could adjust volume to compensate for ambient sounds. Walking by loud areas like construction sites or having semis/busses roll by sometimes drowns out the sound entirely.

Overall

  • They are very good, but they aren’t perfect. I suspect that v2 is going to be amazing whenever it comes out.
  • They are ultra portable, so I don’t think twice about tossing them in my Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag whenever I go somewhere. Before these, I’d have to choose between wired headphones or my heavier backpack if I wanted my wireless noise canceling headphones.
  • Even though I love noise canceling headphones while on planes, I’m going to take these on a trip next week instead of the larger set to see how it goes. The portability tradeoff is too enticing. I like traveling light.
  • Despite the few audio glitches and inability to drown out ambient sounds, these are now my daily use headphones.

An Exercise for Professional Clarity

Isaac, Praxis’s founder and CEO, had me do an exercise today that helped me clarify what the education part of our product is and how we expect customers to use it.

Think about what you do at your job, why you do it, and how you do it. Or even better, what your company’s product or service is, what need you are trying to fill, and how your product fills that need.  If you are a department head or team manager, focus on what your team does, why and how you do it, and how it fits into the overall company. Turn this into a 5 minute video.

It took me a few hours of thinking about it over an evening and the next morning, then 3 different takes:

  1. First cut, 10 minutes long, awkward phrasing as I figured out what I wanted to say.
  2. A tighter 6.5 minute version with two areas that were solid and one area that was too detailed in some areas and too light in others.
  3. A third and final take that was 4.5 minutes long that was clearer in almost every way. The only thing I’d add if I chose to shoot it one more time is a better 20 second conceptual framing of our why at the beginning. It was sprinkled throughout, but not laid out in one statement.

This helps you take a 10,000ft view of what you do, figure out your part in the organization, learn how to present your role in a coherent way, and figure out where you need to do some work. 

Share it with your team and see what they come up with, too.

Listening Notes: You Are Not So Smart podcast ep 92: Bullshit

Episode link: https://soundcloud.com/youarenotsosmart/092-bullshit-rebroadcast

Takeaways: 

  • Methods of thinking are more important than raw intelligence. The people who were burning witches probably didn’t have a lower IQ than the people who went to the moon. They thought about the world in a different way. 
  • Bullshit and lying aren’t the same. Bullshit may contain lies, but the purpose is different. Lies intentionally deceive, but bullshit’s goal is impressing the listener. 
  • Falling for bullshit isn’t a good indicator for someone’s intelligence. 
  • People may fall for bullshit for non-obvious reasons, such as reading too far into it or projecting their own beliefs onto it. 

Three Weeks with the 10.5” iPad Pro


I bought the 10.5” iPad Pro the day it was announced and received it the following Monday. My old Gen 3 iPad didn’t support multitasking, Touch ID, iOS 10, or True Tone. Basically nothing that makes an iPad awesome for work. It was getting pretty slow and desperately needed an upgrade. I’m super happy with the new iPad Pro. Here’s what I love about it after the first three weeks of use:

  • It is really snappy. I mean really snappy. Even faster than the previous generation.
  • Multitasking and split view is wonderful. I take notes while reading, do research while chatting with my coworkers on Slack or answering questions on Facebook Workplace, grab links while I write blog posts, and pop out videos to watch while I open brainstorm in another document.
  • Using Touch ID to unlock my iPad and authenticate 1Password on it really speeds things up. I didn’t realize how much I used it until I switched back to my old iPad and went without it for a bit.
  • The Smart Keyboard is very easy to type on. It took all of an hour to adapt to. I love it.
  • True Tone makes it possible to use this screen outside, even in the sun. I’m sitting out at a park right now writing this. As someone who works from home, this is a game changer. I now work outside for multiple hours each day, weather permitting. My old iPad and my MacBook Pro are almost unusable outside.
  • Swift Playgrounds is a fun little puzzle game when I need a distraction.
  • The speakers in this are great. They blow my previous iPad out of the water.
  • iOS 11 (I’m on Public Beta 1) really does make iOS easier to navigate and use. The new task switcher screen, control center, and dock make flipping between apps and navigating around the system a breeze. 
  • Taking screenshots and being able to mark them up or use them immediately is super useful. 
  • The slide down for numbers/symbols on the on-screen keyboard is very intuitive and easy to use. That said, I primarily use the Smart Keyboard.
  • I love the trade off between portability and how much I can get done on this device. The Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag fits it perfectly with enough room for an Anker battery pack, a notebook, my Kindle, and my keys. This setup is an order of magnitude lighter than my backpack and MacBook Pro, making walking around town and finding a place to work easy and sweat-free. 

iOS 11 is pretty sweet. That said, Public Beta 1 is still pretty buggy. Apps crash a lot when launching and closing split view, the multi file selection is really buggy and doesn’t really work on springboard yet, sometimes I can’t get split view to launch, launching Notes from the lock screen with the Apple Pencil doesn’t always work for me, and I’ve had to reboot my iPad a few times because it became unresponsive. I can’t get TextExpander to work with the Smart Keyboard yet, which is annoying. iOS 11 is also a huge battery hog. I’ve been using my iPad for three and a half hours this morning and I’ve drained 61% of my battery in that time. I’m sure it will get better over time. 

I don’t use the Apple Pencil as much as I thought I would. It is super fast on the screen with the recent updates. I plan on taking a course on Procreate soon, which might spur more Apple Pencil usage. I was really excited to use Paper by 53’s diagramming features, but the shape recognition and Apple Pencil calibration severely lacking. Linea is awesome, but I just don’t draw very much. Perhaps that will change over time. The handwriting recognition in Notes is pretty good all things considered, but my handwriting sucks, so I prefer to type. 

I could work on the iPad most of the day. There are still a few things I find it easier to do on macOS, but the list is much shorter than on my old iPad. The tasks I’ve had to switch back to my MacBook Pro for are:

  1. File conversion. I had to convert a bunch of videos from MOV to MP4 for a coworker. There is probably an app or Workflow out there to do this, but downloading and manipulating a bunch of 500MB+ files is just faster and easier on macOS connected to Ethernet.
  2. Local web development. I prefer to develop in a virtual machine powered by Homestead. There is just no iOS equivalent right now. This isn’t a dealbreaker because I have options: Connect to a remote server and use Coda to pull down files, edit them, and push them back up to test. Or I could set up a system to remote into my home computer. These are fine for hot fixes, but spending a few hours working on and testing updates is just easier on my Mac with the second 27” screen and full local environment.
  3. Meetings. Regular meetings are fine on the iPad with apps like Hangouts and Zoom, but there are two big things missing: Screen sharing and splitview while on video. If I could take notes or look at documents in splitview while on video, I’d probably do 3/4 of my meetings from my iPad. Currently, I prefer to use my Mac so that I can open multiple docs and share my screen during meetings.
  4. Updating my Jekyll site. There are a few hacky workarounds people have made to kick off Jekyll builds from iOS using git repos, but my build and deploy system is super smooth on my Mac. I’ll probably just write posts in markdown on iA Writer on my iPad, then just switch over to my Mac to build and deploy. That said, I’m probably going to switch my site back over to WordPress again soon anyway.
  5. Creating, editing, and using CSVs to move data around. I export a decent amount of stuff from our CRM to use in other systems. I almost always have to manipulate the CSVs first with bulk find and replaces before uploading. I could probably hack something together with Pythonista, Workflows, and regex if I needed to, but I prefer to just use my Mac.

What all of these things come down to is that I prefer my Mac for these particular tasks, but I’m not chained to it. I’m completely fine traveling with just my iPad for a few days. But if I’m gone for more than a few days, I’ll take my MacBook Pro. As-is, my Mac usage has dropped by at least half most days, some days more than that.

In short, I love it.

Finding Wilderness Within Civilization

I read this article from The Guardian about an ophthalmologist who is spending his retirement living out of a backpack and hiking all around the US. Most of it is only mildly interesting, but I loved this part:

The next night, we slept in a copse of gnarled oaks beside a graveyard, a shady grove carpeted with slender, rippling leaves. It was strangely lovely. Eberhart found them everywhere, these forgotten little shards of wilderness. The problem, he said, was that hikers tended to divide their lives into compartments: wilderness over here, civilization over there. “The walls that exist between each of these compartments are not there naturally,” he said. “We create them. The guy that has to stand there and look at Mount Olympus to find peace and quiet and solitude and meaning – life has escaped him totally!”’

I’ve found that it is very important for my well-being to seek out and spend time in this urban wilderness. I live in Yonkers, which isn’t nearly as dense as most parts of NYC, but life here is still dominated by apartments and concrete. For someone who grew up where houses, yards, and trees are the norm, finding these little places are necessary.  

I’ve found three great refuges within walking distance of my apartment. I’m writing this post on my iPad from one of them right now. I like to go for a walk at least once a day and 4/5 days per week (weather permitting) I work outside from one of these spots. Working these places into my daily life greatly improves my well-being.

While I’m not physically more than 50-100 yards from the street, the feel is completely different. Green replaces grey, the smell of grass and trees replace the smell of trash and exhaust fumes, and the sound of birds chirping replaces the sound of car engines.

For times when you need to get away from the city completely, there are tons of great hiking spots within an hour’s drive of NYC: The Palisades, Bear Mountain, Doodletown, Breakneck Ridge, Anthony’s Nose, and Ramapo Lake to name a few. You can even reach a section of the Appalachian Trail by Metro North.

I was having trouble connecting to my Karma Go device on my iPad. Wasn’t auto connecting to the website to authenticate. So I tried the old http://192.168.1.1 trick (happened to be the device’s IP) and it worked!

3 Ways to Use Your HBO Subscription 

If you are like me, you just rebooted your HBO subscription in order to watch the new Game of Thrones season. Here are three great shows you can watch Monday through Saturday:

  1. The Wire – A classic. If you haven’t watched it, you must. Drugs, politics, and life in Baltimore. 
  2. Westworld – Amanda and I just started watching it and are hooked. AI, cowboys, robots, memory, and the human condition. So good. 
  3. Veep – We like to watch this show when we need something funny and short.