Armen Chakmakjian

A week with my new MacBook

In Random on February 6, 2016 at 3:49 am

I bought a gold 12″ MacBook last week to replace my 4-year-old MacBook Air. The purchase itself was strange because I bought it, and for whatever reason, instead of just leaving the store with it in its box I agreed to power it up and get iCloud and whatnot all set up. Well, that was a good thing. The first one they brought out was battery dead on arrival. That wouldn’t be so bad, but we plugged it in, and after a few minutes it began to power up. As I started to go through the setup screens, something was amiss. It wouldn’t connect to the store network. eventually it said it did, and then when I tried to connect to iCloud, it kept complaining that the server was down. We tried 3 or 4 times to go back to the previous step and then try again. Eventually one of the folks brought over another machine and asked me to check my password by logging into iCloud on their machine. I was able to log in, and then I tried again on the machine. nada.

This was a bit disconcerting and eventually they brought over a manager who asked me to try again, and then a new machine was summoned. We had to undo my original transaction and then I had to buy the new one again. This one was about 20% power, so we plugged it in again (just in case…we started to attract a small crowd of employees at this point) and I went through the setup sequence and voi la I was able to register with iCloud and a bunch of stuff started to work.

Since I was there, I figured I’d log into all my services to make sure that it was all ok, and brought up Dropbox, Evernote and Skype. Then I installed a couple of other apps that were important to me from iCloud (Scrivener, Skitch, OmniGraffle) and everything was fine. Pictures started to load off iCloud Photos, iTunes seemed to have my songs and iMessage populated with some recent conversations.

I was happy.

I went home and took the thing through its paces and so discounting the oddness of what happened in the store, here’s the next 10 days worth of reactions.

1) I love the way it looks on the outside. I never thought I’d like a gold computer, but it looks really good to me.

2) It’s so damn light it’s amazing. it feels lighter than my 11″ MBA and thinner.

3) The retina display is phenomenal in this size.

4) The new keyboard takes a bit of getting use to. My best explanation is that unlike the rubbery previous keyboard which forced me to press down and get that feeling like I had pressed enough, this keyboard gives way quickly and then I type too fast and not everything is registered. I’ve gotten used to it, but when I go back and forth to my Mac Mini and the wired keyboard, there is a certain niceness to the feel of that keyboard. I make a lot fewer mistakes.

5) I’ve noticed something odd with the network. It seems to take longer to connected than I would expect. I’m not sure if that is MacOS 10.11.3 vs the beta version of 10.11 that I’m running on the other machines. I could register it for the Appleseed program and see if that clears things up.

6) the new track pad with 3D touch is taking a bit to get used to also. there’s an interaction that I seem to be having trouble with. When I try to select more than one word and accidentally press down too hard, I end up selecting only the word I started with and get the definition…it’s taken some learning to not press too hard.

7) Battery life: it seems to charge really fast. I’ve used it extensively and I think I’m getting 6-8 hours of battery life before I get down to 20%. I haven’t gone all the way down to see what the total life is.

8) Sorry to repeat myself, but it’s so damn light I’m afraid that I might damage it, but it is so solid that I get over that. In order to compromise my risk aversion, I bought a sleeve to put it in, so that when I put it back in my briefcase bag, I feel safe.

9) the USB-C thing is a bit annoying of course. When I purchased the machine I knew I would need a connector to use regular USB devices. So I bought one that had USB, USB-C for power, and HDMI to hook it up to non-airplay monitors/TVs. The other day I needed to move a document to a thumb drive for a very specific reason. Now I have to get the 3-1 dongle out and insert the USB thumb drive in the dongle. This sounds more risqué than intended. I know Apple was one of the first to drop the floppy drive, then the CD then firewire, then dvi then Thunderbolt (which I thought was the wave of the future). But I’m not sure what the purpose of this change was as I don’t see USB-C devices out there yet. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough.

Anyway, I love the machine, even with some of the constructive feedback above. For mobility, I think this is a great machine.

Have fun.

Apple Watch Connectivity

In Random on January 25, 2016 at 3:59 pm

For those of you who are on the fence about the Apple Watch, you might want to wait for the next-gen, rumored to be coming out in April. On the other hand, it works pretty good now, so I’m going to recount my morning and tell you how it works even when you don’t have your phone with you:

This morning my watch was on its dock on my nightstand. It’s a pretty nice dock, as it holds the watch up, charging it (the charger is fished through the stand) and makes it feel like it really is an alarm clock. The alarm went off at 6:00am and I tapped the watch face and rolled out of bed. I took the watch and put it on my wrist and tugged the loop band and adjusted it tight because I was going to take a walk. I got the rest of my workout outfit on and stuffed my iPhone 6s plus in the right side pocket of my sweatpants.

I looked at the watch at this point and noting the temperature in the top left corner of the watch face, saw that it was 23 degrees F. I said to myself that I probably ought to fish out my bright orange windbreaker to wear outside my fleece top. I then stepped out my front door, started the activity app for a walk, and began my circuit around the neighborhood.

It was a beautiful morning and several times as I could look east over Boston in that pre-dawn time, with the sky a pink glow from the impending sunrise, I argued with myself if I should take a picture. I decided that that pre-sunrise glow was just for me (sorry). About half way through my timed walk, the watch buzzed at me to let me know it. Then a few minutes later as I crossed a mile, it buzzed me again to mark that distance. I continue to trudge back up the hill through the slush and ice. The sun had yet to appear behind me, but the sky was no longer dark it was a turned light blue. About 2 blocks from my home, the watch buzzed again. I had been at this walk longer than the previous one recorded

I approached my home and when I got to my doorway, I turned my wrist to wake the watch face and ended the workout, then saved it (sometimes I forget this). I proceeded to get ready by showering and dressing and got my things together to depart for work. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I placed my phone on a piece of furniture in our foyer and pulled my coat, hat and gloves out of the closet. I placed the gloves on top of the phone. I grabbed my gloves after adjusting my hat and went out the door.

I drove toward work and stopped at a Starbucks for a cup of coffee on the way as I was slightly on the earlier side and didn’t want to start my formal day just yet. I went in and paid with my watch and sat down to read a chapter of “Baudolino” by Umberto Eco, which I’ve been working through in short spurts this month over coffee about a chapter at a time. I wanted to quickly check my email, and went to grab my phone and it wasn’t there. Hmmm…I looked at the watch, flicked up the status screen and saw that I was connected to the cloud via a familiar network, but I wasn’t sure if I was connected to my phone. I pinged my phone in hopes that it was somewhere in my coat or maybe I had left it on the counter or something. Nope. I walked back out to my car looked around and didn’t see it. I looked at the watch and now it was telling me that I was no longer connected to a network AND I was not connected to the phone. This was curious. I figured out at that point I must have left it at home. I went back into the Starbucks and had a few more sips of the coffee and then got myself upset. I needed a phone so that I could get phone calls. I remembered that I had my “work” phone on my desk (I forward my calls to my personal phone…I use the work iPhone 5s when I travel out of the country). Driving back home was out of the question because that would be into the main traffic going south on Rt 3. I’d never be back in the office at the start of the day. So I started driving the 2 miles to work from the Starbucks.

As I’m driving, my watch buzzes me. I turn my wrist and see that I’m receiving a message from my wife saying that I left my 6s+ as home. I got a message? Oh of course, my Audi has internet connectivity and that is a familiar network for the watch. So I tapped reply and dictated a message acknowledging that I forgot it and then tapped it to send as text. Now that was pretty cool because that was the first time my watch and iPhone were separated by a significant distance but this was the first time the watch still was able to function within iCloud functionality.

I got to work. I was still a bit upset because I knew that at work, in a protected network, the watch wouldn’t connect. Then I remembered that the work iPhone could also be a hotspot. So I went in, reversed the call forwarding between the phones and then turned on the hotspot. Now my watch, while not connected to its primary iPhone, was still able to be connected.

This was all very cool to me. If the subsequent watch (and watchOS update) allows more capability independently of the phone, I’d say we are on the verge of a very useful device.

The main limitation, battery life, will still be a hindrance, but connectivity isn’t now and will be less so in the future.

2015 in review

In Random on January 16, 2016 at 2:43 am

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


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