May 21st, 2015

A bit more about Verizon

I recently called Verizon to get the month-to-month line discount, since neither R. nor I felt like upgrading our phones Right This Minute and we figured we might as well get a break in the meantime.

Then I got a letter from Verizon, saying, hey, you can get the same number of gigs on your data plan for $10 less! Just change your plan. So I went to change my plan online and did not see the line discount I had requested earlier and declined to make changes online in favor of calling because I didn't want to screw something up. When I called, I found out the line discount won't show until the end of the billing cycle (the online view looks backward rather than forward, apparently), but it was there on both phones. But this gentleman said that the line discount increases when you go up to 6 gigs on the data (we are at 4) to make it equivalent to the cost of a 3 gig plan (at 6 gigs, the line discount is $25/line, rather than $15/line).

Yeah, okay. I'll take that.

Altho it seems a little weird that phone plans have now essentially attained insurance levels of complexity -- I'm only used to hearing about these weird kind of same-money-but-more-if-you-do-it-like-this things when I talk to home insurance or car insurance people.

Oh, and now I'm getting a phone survey from Verizon. They _called_ me for this.

Alas, seagate wireless plus and apple are not playing well together

I recently learned about the existence of the Seagate Wireless Plus and similar devices. They are external hard drives. You can plug them into your computer. But they also have wifi, so you can connect to them with your phone or tablet as you would connect to any wireless network. There are apps for your phones and tablets that let you access and play the content on this and similar drives.

So, for a couple hundred bucks, in theory, you can get a device a little bigger than a short stack of 3x5 cards with about 10 hours battery life. You can fill it up with media. You can bring it in the car with you on a road trip, and all the kiddies can stream music, movies, etc. from it. Yay!

Well, it worked until iOS 8, at which point the DRM on videos bought through iTunes quit working when played back through 3rd party media apps, such as the one that works with this lovely piece of technology that won an award when it was introduced at CES a couple years ago.

It is completely unclear whether Apple thinks this is a bug or "the way it is supposed to work". I am on the fence about whether to return the device immediately, since it does not work for the purpose I bought it for (yes, I am aware that there are other solutions for dealing with the DRM; I'm just not sure whether I feel like putting that much effort into it at this time). I may poke around and see what the situation is like for video acquired through Amazon, because we have some over there, too.

In the meantime, I'm downloading a bunch of video too an external drive I already had for my laptop, which is where my iTunes directory lives. If the hotel wireless sucks and the kids want to watch video, they can fight over the laptop, I guess.

The problem is not limited to Seagate -- Western Digital and other companies producing related products have the exact same issue.

Today's Activities Include: photos! Apple Watch delivery, Kindle Fire Stick update

I've already posted about the sadness of the Seagate Wireless Plus and video DRM from iTunes post upgrade to iOS 8. On to more cheerful things!

Since the initial entertainment plan failed, I fell back on the kindle fire stick, but I wanted to get the upgrade onto it. I looked at the TVs, but couldn't find an open HDMI in until R. told me where it was. Hooked it up, did the upgrade, put it away again. (Wondering what that meant? A Kindle Fire Stick looks kinda like a thumb drive, but it plugs into the input of a TV -- HDMI in -- and also plugs into a power outlet. You then go to the source or input selector on your TV, and pick the HDMI input that you plugged the Stick into. The Stick has wifi, and will connect to your local wifi. You can then stream Amazon Instant Video through your network, into the Stick and thus onto your TV. There is an associated remote. You can also get an upgraded remote that does voice input. It is moderately cool, altho we generally only use it on vacation, since we have other ways to watch Amazon video through our existing setups. It is very small and light.)

I missed my Apple Watch delivery (signature required) while out on a walk. The walk had been rescheduled so I could pick up my son and take him to have his bangs trimmed before he had his picture taken. He balked and wanted to ride the bus home, so I wound up rescheduling the walk and missing the delivery for nothing. :( But it gets better! He agreed that we could comb and brush his hair and we got it looking okay. Sorta mop top/Johnny Tremaine, but that's okay. Photos happened.

Then, the fabulous UPS delivery man we've grown to known and love over a period of years (I hate shopping in person, and there was this one day where I was running errands and kept getting to places right when he was there, so I introduced myself and got his name, because there just comes this point where it's wrong not to know someone's name) was passing the house for a later delivery and stopped to drop it off, even tho the next scheduled attempt was tomorrow. Above and Beyond!

It is sitting on the charger now syncing a playlist so I will have music without having to bring my phone. I've put the LastPass app, the Starbucks app on. I need to set up some cards in Apple Pay, log in to various accounts, etc. And I should make sure my headphones sync, also.

It feels nice on. The haptic thing is cool. The screen is great. I like the default watch face. I haven't looked at the pedometer stuff yet; I figure I'll wear the FitBit for a while overlapping with the Watch to compare and contrast. A more detailed review will follow later.

Oh, I got the regular watch, with a white sport band (but not the Sport watch). I got the larger of the two choices (42 mm?) and I'm wearing the larger of the two bands.

ETA: Activity thingie set up on Watch. Still on the charger at the moment, but apparently it started counting as soon as I put it on earlier -- it didn't wait for setup.

ETA: Paired headphones with Watch. Had some confusion about how to make it play music to the headphones, but figured out about Force Touch on the Watch's Music App (thank goddess for bloggers on the internet amirite?), pick the Watch for the Source and boom. I've got music in my ears coming from my Watch. Ahhhhhh.... Of course, going for a walk without the phone is still problematic from a _parenting_ perspective, but I could do it without giving up the music at least.

ETAYA: Got Apple Pay set up. I also have the Starbucks app on the phone and I put that on the Watch. That was confusing. It wanted me to sign in, and I wasn't clear on how. Turns out running the app on the phone signs it in on the Watch. And then the pay cards aren't in the Starbucks app on the Watch (which is basically a glorified rewards + map, basically), but rather over on Passbook. At that point I realized that you have to explicitly add cards that you have in the Starbucks app on the phone to Passbook (button within the SB phone app) for them to show up on the Watch. So that was interesting. While the SB cards are in Passbook with the CC, they work totally differently. Choosing an SB card to pay generates what looks like a QR code (only not square, oddly -- rectangular). Choosing the cc, it tells you to double click on the oblong side button, and then triggers the NFC stuff. I wonder when Dunkin' Donuts will produce a Watch app?

ETA further: Hey, never noticed that DD supported Passbook! And has since 2013. Wow am I out of date. Anyway. Added my DD card to Passbook and it shows up on the Watch with a square QR code. Maybe I'll try that out tomorrow.

ETAYA: Went into the Watch App, uninstalled the LastPass app. I don't think I have a strong use case for having it on the Watch, and I'm not overjoyed about the security options on the Watch.

ETA: Ok, seriously, time to go to bed now. The big surprise is how useful Passbook suddenly seems on the Watch. I set it up when it came out and was always kind of disappointed that it just didn't do anything I wanted it to (at the time, apps wouldn't let you do a whole family worth of boarding passes for flights; I'm not a coupon clipper/user; I rarely go see movies). But on the Watch, that's now where the Apple Pay cc's live and it's where Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts are. I don't think Wendy's is there, but I'm less certain about McDonald's (I never set up their app -- maybe tomorrow). Also to try tomorrow, there's an Apple TV Remote app on this thing! Kinda cool. I was thinking that I was going to de-nerd a bit, by replacing the Baby-G and the FitBit band with the Apple Watch, but R. has put me straight. This thing is still way, way, way geeky.

Remember How Horrible iTunes on the Computer Got?

If you only recently got your first Apple device (phone or whatever), you don't know about this, but Back in the Bad Old Days, the way you got music on and off your iPod, or anything, for that matter, and then later on your iPhone or iPad as well, was by syncing with a computer that was running iTunes. Sometimes things would crash or get into a bad state. Sometimes you had to reformat the device and start over. It could be horrible.

Over time -- but especially with the launch of iTunes Match (Apple's take on the digital locker service), Apple started emphasizing over-the-air updates and synchronization. Now, we're all used to updating iOS, apps, and getting media onto our iPhones, iPads and iPods (for those who still have them) via wifi or cellular data networks. Some people still use iTunes on their computer, and they spend a lot of time cursing and thinking about switching to Android.

Anyway. A little prediction here. We're eventually going to start feeling that way about the Watch App on the iPhone -- if the Watch is successful. Because the Watch App is how you get everything onto and off of the iPhone, in just the same way iTunes on the computer was how you got stuff onto and off of the iPhone.

La plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. (<-- sorry about the missing marks. I might fix it later. Incoming kid -- gotta pay the babysitter). ETA: fixed that, but wow, seriously mangled it. Sorry!

Further editing to add: Here's an example of tradeoffs that are mildly irritating but actually make sense. Let's say ya got a phone, a watch and a headset. You'd like to be able to receive phone calls and listen to music on the headset. When you have JUST the watch, you'd still like to be able to listen to music on the headset. In that latter instance, you must pair the headset with the watch. But you cannot answer phone calls in that configuration. In fact, even if you have a phone connected to the Watch and the Watch to the headset, and you are listening to music, and receive a call, it won't go to the headset the way it would if the headset was paired directly to the phone.

That is, you cannot take calls in this configuration:

Phone -> Watch -> Headset

But must instead take them in this configuration:

Phone -> Watch AND Phone -> Headset

You can listen to music through the headset in _either_ configuration.

R. says it probably _should_ be this way, because keeping the headset paired to the watch all the time would likely run the charge down on the Watch too fast. But it does mean you'll have to unpair and re-pair every time to separate from your phone.

I'm telling you, things like this -- that make sense and are the _right decision_ -- ultimately will drive users mildly batty.

This is no reason not to get a Watch. It's me attempting to predict the future.