Assessing My Need for an Apple Watch


I didn’t think I’d find the Apple Watch very interesting. The #1 reason is that I was sure it would be priced beyond my reach, for a timepiece. The #2 reason was that I thought it would be more timepiece than anything Apple should be willing to brag about.

Then I watched the various short tutorials at the Apple website. It does seem to have some nice features. Certainly, if you want to, you can pay $10k for a special edition. But for a few hundred you can get the same technology with less but completely satisfactory luster.

Still, a few hundred dollars? I wear a watch I paid less than a hundred for and everybody thinks it’s a Rolex. And I have a smart smart phone, the iPhone 6. I could strap it to my wrist.

If Apple and its loyal customers have watch envy, they have some catching up to do. They may want to drool over “The World’s Most Expensive Watches.” For my money, I’d go with the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatnour. Unfortunately, it’s priced at 1 million Swiss francs, and I have only a few dozen francs left over from my last trip to Zürich.

I think I’ll stick to my policy of waiting for the second or third generation Apple Watch before I buy the first—at a discount.

Here’s a New Yorker cartoon that captures the tech zeitgeist, and my own mood, in good humor:

Daily Cartoon: Friday, April 24th – The New Yorker.

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The Rule of Incompetence – Featuring TimeWarner


Time Warner

Image via Wikipedia

We’ve experienced aggravating drops in internet access through our high speed line at home recently. Our first attempt to troubleshoot the problem resulted in a 2-hour conversation with a nice person at TimeWarner. After pinging our modem and router, she reported that the cable service to our home was in good working order. She suggested that there may be something amiss with our router, an Apple Airport Extreme.

I took the router for a visit to an Apple technician (a.k.a. “Genius”) and saw with my own eyes that the router worked.

I considered the possibility, then, that I needed a new modem. So off to Best Buy I went. Came home with a Zoom 3.0 Cable Modem. After setting up, my browser generated a message from Time Warner that I needed to follow a simple 3-step procedure: (1) call the number on the screen, (2) give the agent the MAC address for the new modem, (3) launch my browser.

The call lasted two hours and involved four different Time Warner people. The first was unable to help. She forwarded my call to a “modem expert.” Eventually, that person moved me on to a “Tier 3” specialist. He didn’t even know that Zoom sold modems; in fact, he’d never heard of Zoom. He tried to correct my impression that Zoom does make a modem, as I read, no less than three times, exactly what it said on the box and printed materials. When he started getting snarky, I asked to speak to a supervisor. He was obliging . . . sort of.

I was on hold for approximately 30 minutes waiting for the Super. About every 7 minutes, the Tier 3 specialist would come on the line just long enough to say, “It will be just a few more moments.” When the Super joined the call, I mentioned that I had been waiting a half hour. She said that no way had I been waiting that long. So I asked her when she learned of my call. She had just been told and got on the line immediately. So she said. This implied that the specialist before her had deliberately made me wait on the line before telling his Super that I had requested to speak with her. That was a new low in customer service (which, by the way, is advertised as “Turbo-Service” and “Number 1 in Southern California,” on a looped soundtrack you have to endure while you wait for someone to return to the phone).

The Super decided there was something wrong with Time Warner’s line to my house. This would require a visit from one of their traveling technicians, who wouldn’t be able to come to the house until the day after next (which was today).

Meanwhile, at every step in the process, I was urged to use one of Time Warner’s own modems, as if this would eliminate all of my headaches. “Not interested,” I said, countless times.

I asked the Super to explain to me how my modem worked well enough for Time Warner’s set-up window to appear in my browser. Her exact words were, “I’m not going to explain that to you.” Her response to my persistence was to say, “Now you’re not even going to get an appointment with Time Warner.” Moments later she was denying that she ever said that. I asked if she had a supervisor that I could speak to. Silence on the other end. This silence was followed by more silence. So I suspected that she did have a supervisor and was reluctant to put him or her on the phone. I said that she probably was obligated by company policy to put her supervisor on the phone if this was requested by a customer. To which she responded with more silence. I waited. About 30 seconds later, she hung up.

Her name is Jerry, by the way, and she works in the Colorado Springs facility.

I thought this called for a formal complaint—though I doubted that making a complaint would be effectual. I re-dialed the original number, answered by a very friendly and helpful agent who seemed genuinely scandalized by the experience I described. She gave me the phone number for the Office of the President (the President of Time Warner, I naturally assume). She then said, with maximum politeness, “Would you be so kind as to let me try to solve the problem for you?” And her voice communicated real optimism about the prospect of solving the problem.

Alas, even she could not get things working. So she forwarded my call to . . . Tier 3. That’s right. But this time the technician was in Anaheim, CA. The Tier 3 agent was quite confident she could solve the problem. She, at least, had heard of Zoom. My hopes began to rise. In just a few moments, however, she determined that my service level with Time Warner could not accommodate the 3.0 cable modem I had purchased. She recommended the Motorola Surfboard (which I had seen at Best Buy a few hours earlier).

I thanked her, hung up, and checked the clock. 9:15 p.m. Best Buy closed at 9:00.

So the next day I beat a path to Best Buy to exchange the Zoom for a Motorola. No problem.

After making the connections, I was back on the browser, staring in disbelief at the same TimeWarner invite to call a helpful agent for installation.

I made the call.

This poor lady was completely baffled and said I should wait for the tech guy to show up at my house “tomorrow.”

So today I was visited by a Time Warner technician, who also wanted to install one of their own modems. I explained that I wanted to see if my original modem, a Linksys that I’d been using for a couple years, would work. Reluctantly, he gave it a whirl. Voila! It worked.

Amazing.

But the guy also noticed that there was lots of rust and corrosion on the cable connection out at the curb in front of our house. So he cleaned that up.

When he left, I was in business. At least I had an internet link via direct ethernet connection between my laptop and my old modem. I was ready to try the system with my wireless router. The TimeWarner tech assured me it would work and got out of there as fast as he could.

I made the connections, held my breath, and . . . it works!

Now I can blog again. I can rent movies using my Apple TV.

* * *

Yesterday I happened across a passage from Tom Morris’s book True Success.

The world actually most often seems to be filled with plain old incompetence, punctuated here and there by a somewhat higher state of mediocrity.

I confess that I have a sense of entitlement to good service when I pay for it. But this consists in having unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations lead inevitably to disappointment, and disappointment can lead to all sorts of nasty things.

Rational-emotive therapy advises an adjustment in expectations. I get that.

But if we adjust our expectations to match reality, why do we even bother with time-saving technology . . . like high-speed internet service?

While you’re pondering that, I have a call to make.

Now, where is that phone number for the President’s office?

Amazon Deal on iHome iH51


I don’t have an iHome. I’ve never used one. But it looks like a good device for producing quality sound from an iPhone or iPod and for use as a pleasant alarm clock. The iH51 is on a 47% discount for the next few hours at Amazon here, as long as they last.

Do you recommend this device?

I guess it’s possible that the i51 is about to be replaced by a new model. And that would raise questions about compatibility with the very latest Apple iTunes units, or forthcoming iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

For a 2008 review of the iH51, check this post at iLounge.

From the Kindle to the iPad?


various e-book readers. From right to left iPa...

Image via Wikipedia

I have a first-generation Kindle and have written about it here before. I bought it when I was about to travel overseas and wanted the convenience of carrying lots of interesting reading without packing any books.

Things have changed pretty dramatically since then. The $400 Kindle of that day has been superseded by the $139 basic Kindle of today. And now there are other models to choose from, featuring 3G and a choice of screen sizes. For details, click here.

Kindle stills rules the world of e-Book technology. But it’s met with vigorous competition. Its greatest competition is the Apple iPad. And the main reason for that is that the iPad is so much more than an e-Book reader.

So I’ve come to the point where I’m tempted to upgrade my Kindle, or else switch over to the iPad. Now’s a good time since Kindle has improved its device, lowered the price point, and garnered my support based on a happy experience. On the other hand, Apple is about to release its iPad 2, and there are rumors of a September release of an iPad 3. (I’ve learned to wait for 2nd-generation products from Apple.) One way or the other, I feel ready to retire my original Kindle—though there’s nothing wrong with it.

If I’ve settled the question of whether to upgrade, I’m not yet settled about which upgrade to go with. I truly like the Kindle and I know I’d like the new versions even better. But what about the iPad? I’m an Apple fan who uses a Powerbook Pro, an iMac, and an iPhone. Why not an iPad, then? It’s far more versatile than a Kindle, and is nearly as compact.

Here’s the best case I can make for sticking with the Kindle and simply upgrading to its latest model:

  1. It has a more attractive price point.
  2. For reading books and documents, the Kindle is still a superior experience. It uses electronic ink technology that is easy on the eyes under all reading conditions.
  3. The iPad is no use for outdoors. The bright natural light washes out the screen. Not so for the Kindle.
  4. The Kindle is very light-weight and compact.
  5. The Kindle battery will hold a charge for an impressive length of time. Not so for the iPad.

Here’s the case for an iPad instead:

  1. For a few more dollars than it costs for the 9-inch Kindle, you get the full versatility of the iPad, with all of its countless apps.
  2. The iPad is good for reading at night, since it’s backlit.
  3. E-books on the iPad can be marked more quickly and conveniently.

Here are the reasons why I lean toward getting both, a new Kindle and the iPad (when it’s been refreshed):

  1. For most reading, I would prefer the Kindle. I do a lot of reading, and I like the convenience of being able to read while on the go. For regular reading that doesn’t require extensive note-taking and highlighting, the kindle is my first choice.
  2. For reading that requires mark-ups, the iPad seems the obvious choice.
  3. While I don’t actually need all the features of an iPad, it would be an improvement over my iPhone for on-the-go email, internet look-ups, working on presentations, etc. I might be able to leave my laptop at home when I travel.
  4. I could justify the added cost of an iPad if Dianne would be interested in using it, too.

The outlay of cash would be greater, of course. So the advantages of a dual approach have to be weighed against the combined price of a new Kindle and an iPad.

But which iPad? If iPad 2 is about to come out in the next few weeks, but an iPad 3 is slated for release as early as September, should I wait it out?

Here are some reasons to jump into the iPad with version 2:

  1. There’s really no telling for sure whether an iPad 3 will come out so soon.
  2. There’s no telling what an iPad 3 will cost if and when it’s released. The iPad 2 is supposed to be priced about like the current iPad.
  3. iPad 2 features may be perfectly adequate for my purposes.
  4. Technology becomes obsolete so quickly that waiting for the iPad 3 probably wouldn’t mean that I would be using a device with a longer shelf life if I waited and got the 3.

Maybe you can help me with this decision. Have you decided between a Kindle and an iPad? How did you make up your mind? Are you happy with your decision? Do you have both? If so, do you use both?

Permanently Lost in Digital Reality?


Technology addiction is a serious affliction today. But how serious?

Matt Richtel, writing for The New York Times, examines the possibility that the brains of today’s young people are being wired to function differently, if not better, than the brains of all previous generations of humanity. The critical difference is the use of technology to process information. His article “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” makes a convincing case. And the picture he paints isn’t uniformly attractive.

I recommend Richtel’s article to parents, educators, and even teenagers. If teenagers can read to the end of the article and comprehend its basic message, then things may not be as dire as they seem.

Matt Richtel’s website.

Using “Google Sites” for a Course Project


Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Today TOMD73’s blog has a post that explores the possibility of using blog assignments as part of a course.

I did something very like this with a class of about 75 university students, mostly juniors and sophomores.

Instead of calling it a blog, I called it a website. I had all of them use the Google website app so that (1) everyone was required to follow the same steps and (2) they could very easily create access to each other without “going public.”

With so many students, I formed the group into teams. Students would comment on the websites of those in their team. I gave very specific instructions about the kinds of comments they were to make, and explained that the quality of their comments would be a variable in their final grade evaluation.

Building a website of 5-7 linked pages was the major course project. Students could select their own topics, with two provisos: (1) the topic had to be related to the course topic; (2) I had to approve their selection.

Class met weekly. Each week students were given a series of steps to be completed by the next class period. These steps moved them gradually to completion of their website projects by the end of the semester.

The course was a philosophy of religion course for non-philosophy majors, with special focus on the New Atheism.

Many of the students produced excellent websites that they could be proud to make available to the public.

On the whole, I was pleased with the results. Most difficulties related to the size of the class. This type of assignment would have been much easier for me to manage with fewer students.

Here are some of the more significant challenges I encountered:

  1. Mastering the technology so that I knew what I was asking of the students and so that I could explain it to even the most technologically timid.
  2. Getting teams to work with so many students. There was considerable troubleshooting early on while students were learning the steps to get up and running. But more important, some students simply didn’t participate. I hadn’t counted on this since they were required to. This complicated things for the conscientious students, since part of their assignment was to respond to the comments they received.
  3. Helping the students work within a template of 5-7 pages that would do justice to their topics. Creating website pages differs from writing a paper. Developing and linking ideas is handled differently. Ideally, a decision to create a website rather than to write a paper should be grounded in the conviction that a website better serves the purposes of the project—especially because of the way material can be packaged (e.g., audio and visual tools can be included, and convenient links to other valuable items can be made).
  4. This project required more assistance from me than many other assignments. The student-teacher ratio made this a challenge. But one advantage is that I did get better acquainted with many of the students.
  5. Grading these assignments proved to be time intensive. This isn’t a bad thing. But you need to expect this when planning a course that includes this type of project.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! It would be much easier the next time around. But it has to be the right kind of course for this to count as a suitable assignment. I especially like it that students that have excelled have something to offer the rest of the world the moment the course is over!

Heads-up on iPhone’s Upcoming 4.0 Release


Summer is looming and so is Apple’s iPhone OS upgrade. Read more of this post

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