Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Macbook Pro Wish List

September 14, 2016

The Apple release of the iPhone 7 was more of a bridging event than something of a trend setting release announcement. I am not certain that the whole event couldn't have been mentioned in a press release, although the iPhone is the juggernaut that drives the Apple financial train. If the rumors are true, the tenth anniversary edition of the iPhone to be called iPhone 8 or iPhone 10 or iPhone X (if the rumor mills are to be believed) is the one to wait for next year.

However, I was not really interested in the iPhone this year. What I wanted to know was when would the new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro be released? You may have seen the rumors. The new MacBook Pros may have a new OLED replacement for the Function keys, a single USB-C port with some uncertainty about a dedicated USB-3 port. My wish is for a long battery life, a retinal display screen and a laptop that is light. I love the feel of the present MacBook Air, but the lack of a retinal display is a definite miss for these eyes. The present MacBook Pro is clunky, although it beats my current 6+ pound 2009 MacBook Pro.

The rumors for the MacBook Pro and possible retinal display MacBook Air have been around for more than a year. It's time for Apple to come out with something extraordinary and take over the laptop market again. I am very surprised that this did not happen before the new school semester started. Hopefully, we can have something that will last another 7 years.

My wish list for a new laptop:

1. A light machine (uncertain of 13" or 15")

2. Retinal Display.

3. Thin form factor (similar to the current MacBook Air)

4. No change in the keyboard (The new MacBook keyboard is disastrous).

5. USB-3. There is some concern that Apple will release only a solitary USB-C port that will double as a charge port as well as a USB port. Hopefully Apple will not make this the only port. We will need USB ports.

There is a rumor that October 2016 will be the announcement date. As of today, one can only hope so.


Pebble Watch - The First 100 Days. A Review.

This article was written some time in 2013.   It was stuck in the Drafts, but I thought I would release it now.  As I look back at it, this was an interesting time :).


Pebble Watch - The First 100 Days.  A Review.

The Pre Days

I remember looking at Kickstarter in May, 2012 and seeing a product that looked revolutionary, somewhere on par with the release of the iPhone.  I chose to ignore it at first, but as I got in my car and headed home, I soon realized that I had just seen something amazing, on par with Steve Jobs' presentation of the first iPhone.  The Pebble Watch was the first true Smart Watch that not only displayed beautifully designed watch faces, which appeared to compliment the design of the product, but it appeared to be the first attempt at a watch that actually looked like a watch.  It was slim, sleek and light.  It was obvious that a lot of attention had been placed into the design of the product.  From the thin and light aspect of the body, right down to the fonts used to display the time.   It appeared that nothing was left to chance with this device.   I watched the video presentation at least 2 times within a 20 minute period before deciding to join Kickstarter and purchase the watch.

I recall thinking to myself at the time that there was no way that this company was going to deliver on their promise that was seen in the video.  As I read the Kickstarter blog posts in August and then December and saw the delays about the release of the device, my heart grew colder that I might not care about the release due to the fact that some other company would probably surpass Pebble.  But I held on to hope because the CEO Eric Migicovsky was kind enough to send out updates.  Unlike many, I believed every update and I knew what I was getting into before I sent my money to Eric.  This was a device that was in the making.  Pebble had already created the device on the defunct Blackberry system and I knew that they could reproduce the experience here.  

When I saw the pictures from China and the Pebble team engaging with updates, I turned off all of the chatter from the chat boards because it was obvious that many people jumped on board for reasons that were simply ludicrous.  The media frenzy that followed the Pebble and its $10 million Kickstarter debut brought more people - people who thought they were shopping at Sears - who didn't really know that they were funding a start up company that Angel Investors had turned down. There was no promise to deliver a watch on time.  It was a work in progress.  And the slow rate of release updates signaled to me that the company wanted to make it right the first time. I felt privileged to be on the train for the ride.

It's Coming

Some time in January, I received an alert on my phone that the phone was getting ready to ship and that I had to confirm my address.  I felt like a school child waiting for his first electronics set to arrive in the mail.  I decided to check the Kickstarter boards to see if the excitement was contagious.  Only a few grew excited and the board seemed to be filled with negative naysayers.  I went back to my Kickstarter Bulletin Board seclusion.  It was at about this time that the excitement became unbearable.  I was getting messages on my phone about the impending arrival of the device.  I began reading a few reports of the device but again ran into a few naysayers who expected the watch to do a lot more, again not comprehending that their purchase was a work in progress; nor realizing that the SDK was the key to the device and that it was not a static device.  I remained patient.

It's Here

It was a Saturday afternoon.  We had checked the front door to ensure that the Fedex delivery truck had not dropped off the watch and left it without knocking on the door or that the device was undelivered and waiting for us at a local depot.

The surprise came when my wife checked the mailbox and found a simple brown box, akin to the Amazon Kindle box which simply exclaimed on the outside "It's Time."
I opened the box and looked at the pure untouched black screen, the flexible and relatively expensive looking rubber watch band. My wife exclaimed, "Wow, that looks very impressive."  And it was.  It was a lot lighter than I expected. It was also more elegant than I could have imagined.  The plastic feel of the watch was unusual, but less in a cheap way than in a weight expectation mind shift.   At the back of the device was the proud KICKSTARTER monicker.  The box itself carried a number which was low and sentimentally, as with anyone who owns a low numbered copy of the White Album by The Beatles, connotes some special feeling that you are really a part of something.

The elegance of the device was again shown in the font selection chosen   As I mentioned earlier, the font selection fully complemented the black watch face.  No stray pixels or pixelated screen displays.  The buttons were perfectly aligned in addition to having perfect tactile feedback.

Day 0

Day 0 was filled with excitement and expectation.  I downloaded the required software to my iPhone and then easily paired the watch to the phone.   I downloaded a few supplied watchfaces that were preloaded with the app.  I again marveled at the workmanship of the device and the smooth contours of the fonts, the responsiveness of the buttons and the actual placement of the buttons.  They were perfectly separated such that big fingers or short, no one would touch any button by accident.

I controlled my iTunes collection and watched as songs strolled by on the watch screen.  I pinged my watch from my iPhone just for fun.  I had my family wear the watch to show them. 

I then of course made the mistake of checking in on the Kickstarter Pebble blog/notification site.  More "Is that it?" postings intertwined with " I haven't gotten mine yet, this is a scam!"  I again went back into Kickstarter Bulletin Board seclusion.  But not before tweeting the Pebble creators to say thank you for a great device.

I set the watch to vibrate for the next morning and on Day 1, I actually woke up after the phone buzzed me into a new dream.

The First Week

I remained in awe of the watch during the first few days of owning the device.  I kept changing watch faces as the SDK was not out.   And then disaster struck.  On monday, I took the watch to work to find a blank screen.   I could not use the watch for the entire day.  The rechargeable battery had dropped to zero within 72 hours.  Something that I was not expecting.  I soon found out that no matter what I did, including turning off the bluetooth, the device would stop functioning within 72 hours.   This was a frustrating development and one that I hoped would be short lived.  I immediately turned to Twitter this time, since I did not trust the Kickstarter boards and asked @Pebble the question directly.   Within 48 hours, I got a response!  And the response gave me confidence that this company was even better than I had first imagined.

To paraphrase, "No, this is unusual, but send us the log of your device."  I sent the log (stored in the watch) and then received another response within 24 hours, again to paraphrase, ".... we are aware of the problem and we will have a fix in the next release. "   I settled for that and continued to enjoy my watch.

The First Two Months

Within a month, the first watch face SDK was released and with it, the watch update was released.  Surprisingly, I wrote another email and tweet to the company during my third week of ownership to ask when the watch update would be released, since the watch was routinely running out of battery life at the 72 hour mark after every charge, no matter how frequently I used the phone or if I used bluetooth 24 hours per day or not at all.  The response I got from the Pebble team again reminded me of Apple.  Again to paraphrase, "...again we are aware of the problem, but we will not release an update until we are certain that all of the bugs have been removed. "   There was also a little more about not wanting to create a new problem while solving the first problem.  This was the meticulous nature in which Pebble did their business.  They had obviously ignored much of the negativity on the bulletin boards by answering only in production but not engaging in a social altercation.  Their response was an incredible SDK watch face release and complete resolution of the battery problem. 

With my watch now able to last 8 days without a charge, I felt comfortable using it on a daily basis.  My wife marveled at the fact that I had chosen to wear a watch again after 14 years.  My patients looked at the watch and thought it was the coolest looking thing they had ever seen.  Even when I hid the watch under my shirt sleeve, once it was exposed, people were still excited about it.  A few recognized it as The Watch that everyone was talking about.  Others marveled at the fact that I "had invested in this watch company."  Of course Kickstarter allows only a minor investment while garnering a return of an item as opposed to stock options or profits. 

With the development of the SDK for watchfaces, the C-Developers out there came up with a lot of amazing things.  Someone found a way to bypass Apple's system of clearing everything through the App Store and also found a way around Pebble's own App store (which doesn't exist yet).  Using QR scanners and other ways in which to get watchfaces onto the watch, including making rudimentary watchfaces without coding, app developers essentially went for home run hits.  The Pebble was unleashed and we were finally getting what the Pebble makers had promised last April in their video.  

The sheer number of watch faces created grew to over 1000 within the first few weeks of the SDK, with smaller websites vying to create watchfaces and apps for the watch.   Some developers used incredible ingenuity to not only create static watch faces, but developed watchfaces that remained in motion.  Others found ways in which to use the watch face method to create actual apps such as timers, score keepers and yes, an actual metronome using the buzz alarm feature of the iPhone.

Owning an iPhone 4 with iOS 5 meant that I could not reap all of the benefits of the watch.  I was able to receive phone calls, but not message or email notifications.  I would have to have an iPhone 4S with iOS 6 for that.  Something that I am not yet ready to do.  However, the watch was handy in so many ways that I began to realize that Pebble had just created a niche.  And that ground breaking video from last year?   Yes, this company was actually delivering in their own sweet time, every single bullet point on that video.  And they were delivering the bullet points in style.  This was not a beta release or a concoction of hacked pieces assembled.  The Pebble watch is a thing of beauty and a thing of absolute utilitarian goodness. 

Within the first two months I found that I could not function without it.  I set up an alarm at 1600 hours (4pm) every day during the week to let me know that I have an hour left in the clinic.  If I am running behind, I try to catch up because I know that my nurse will be leaving at 5:30 sharp.  If I find myself lagging, I also know that the clinic hours will be ending in an hour.  This is an incentive to move a little faster, especially if I am post call.  The beauty of this alarm is this:  Only I know that it is going off, because the watch is buried under my shirt sleeve and vibrates. 

But the real beauty of owning the watch was evident in a series of meetings that I had to attend.  They were very intense meetings in which any cell phone calls were frowned upon if taken during the course of the meeting.  I was able to set my phone on vibrate and actually put it in my pocket or briefcase.  When a call came, it went to my watch.  It showed who was calling and I could choose whether to let it go to voice mail or answer it.  If I pressed the answer button on the phone, I would have time to take the phone out of my pocket and speak to whomever was calling.  This was especially  important when I got paged and then called to see a patient urgently. I was able to silently get up and leave the room without causing a fuss.  On another occasion, I was able to get rid of a call without ever having to reach for my phone.   A crazy telemarketer called 5 times within an hour in the middle of a meeting.  I was able to hit the x button on my watch and never look at my phone.   All without interrupting the meeting or making anyone know that I was rejecting a phone call.

I used a counter app while running around a 200 meter track at the local gymnasium.  It was wonderful not having to carry my phone or a counter with me.  Additionally, I found myself being able to lock my phone in my locker since I could see who was calling me during a work out.   I have been so impressed by this that I am now considering getting rid of my pager, since I no longer need it.  If I receive a call from the hospital, it will go to my phone and then to my watch.  I can then call back the hospital.

Day 60 to 100

It was only a matter of time before the most coveted app RUNKEEPER was released on the device.  I downloaded the iPhone update as soon as it came out, but ran into issues.  The program would not run on any iPhone 4 devices.  Within 48 hours, this glitch was fixed and I was amazed to see the app in action on my watch.   Although rudimentary, I knew that this was the begining of something incredible.  Ignoring the naysayers again, I knew that this was a beta project that would find many updates until it is perfected.   But along the way, Pebble released the Two-Way SDK.  Eureka. 

As of this writing, I have not been able to use any apps with the two way functionality, but this is obviously something that everyone has been waiting for.  The minor ability to shut down the phone or hang up from the watch was there from day one of the watch release.  Additionally, controlling iTunes on the iPhone was also there.  Attaching the iPhone to a friends' stereo system using AirPlay and controlling the iPhone from my watch was truly remarkable.   Now with the SDK being released, there will be more devices and more two way linking with the iPhone.  Can you imagine sending out a message to someone via your watch?  I can imagine having a selection of say 100 preformed messages that I can send out immediately to answer someone.  ie:

Incoming Message:   "Are you free to go to dinner tonight? "

Stuck in a meeting, you can scroll down a list of canned responses and send this to the phone to send on your behalf,

" I am in a meeting.  I will call you as soon as I am free."

Another Example:

Incoming Message:   " How many patients are we following tomorrow on rounds?"

Scroll on the watch to answer:


Or some clever programmer could do something really unique:

Incoming Message:  "When is the paper due?"

" Date(Today) + #"  ... Select #

Send (Date (Today) + # days) as Date.

ie.   May 31st = Today.   Paper due 5 days from today. 
Send June 5th.

I have really enjoyed this watch and can only imagine what lies ahead for this company.   I highly recommend The Pebble watch and its tight integration with the iPhone.