While I’m a staunch Apple guy, there’s no denying that Apple Maps is less than … optimal. My new vehicle has CarPlay and while I really like it the only choice you have for navigation in CarPlay is Apple Maps. While it’s gotten better in the five years since it debuted I just don’t want to use it. Waze, the Israeli-based navigation startup that Google bought in 2013, just can’t be beat. The crowdsourcing of traffic in real-time is invaluable. When I take long drives, Waze has saved me lots of time when there’s accidents on the highway. I also like that speed traps are reported there as well.

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I hate phone cases. I have friends who have their iPhones in OtterBox Defenders and the like and I find them garish and cumbersome. I hate having a phone that gets slimmer with each successive generation and having it end up perpetually having the heft of a brick. It stinks.

That being said, there are good reasons to use those cases. If I am skiing in the winter or canoeing in the summer, I will use a water resistant case or even a waterproof iPhone bag but for me those are edge cases. In general, I just buy AppleCare+ and use an Apple Silicone case for my iPhone and if I do drop or break my iPhone I accept I’ll pay the sub-$100 fee and get it repaired or replaced. I also have several TwelveSouth HiRise stands strategically placed around my house and office so when I’m in one of those places for a while I can simply dock my phone and it charges while remaining usable. In my daily life I’m simply never far from a charger and my phone remains protected but also in a very slim profile case.

So why consider a battery case at all?  Continue Reading

My father-in-law lives in a small town in Kentucky with less than 900 people in Amish country despite not being Amish. The problem is that there is no real Internet provider where he lives.  There is a local WI-MAX provider and there is satellite Internet available but neither of these are really preferable and are more or less the last type of option available to extremely rural folks. If cable or DSL were an option we’d have taken it.

My father-in-law is also on my family plan with Verizon. He has an iPad 2 and an iPhone 5c and no computer. The thought of providing him with a cell phone and access to my cell plan was to keep him from having the expense of a home phone line and his own Internet connection. Unfortunately, not only does he live in Amish country but he lives in a valley in Amish country. T-Mobile and Sprint don’t work there and both AT&T and Verizon only get 1-bar of signal at best. Did I mention that his house (built by the Amish) is made of metal? This essentially acts as a Faraday Cage resulting in no cell signal inside his house. He has satellite Internet but it’s pricey and when we gather for family events at his house he’s easily driven over his quota and his Internet is cut off until the end of the billing cycle. Not cool at all.

Everything is an engineering problem so I decided I was going to fix this. Continue Reading

Another useful tip if you’re a Mac user: Get yourself a cheap 8 GB flash drive and make a bootable OS X installer using Diskmaker X and stow it in your backpack or laptop bag. You never know when it will come in handy, it takes up very little space, and you’ll never regret having it. If you’re on the road and you need to perform a fresh install on a new drive it’s a lifesaver. The flash drive seen here is the smallest I’ve ever owned … it’s barely bigger than a thumbnail and it’s been my go-to OS X install drive since Lion (10.7).

Full disclosure: I don’t like watches.

The last time I wore a watch was just over twenty years ago. As a young nerd, I would synchronize my Casio calculator watch with my high school’s clock. I could tell you down to the second when the bell would ring. For me, a watch was always simply about functionality. I first started using a cell phone regularly in early 1999 and it was my sole timepiece. The cellphone became the 21st century pocket watch. I’ve never been a “watch guy”. I have many friends who would drop thousands on a magnificent Swiss watch and while I admire the attention to detail and the work that goes into creating something like that, I simply could not fathom parting with a great deal of money for something that provided a single function that was available to me in so many other places. They were utilitarian devices for me.

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