First Day with the Apple Watch

The future is here. That is how I felt a few hours into using the Apple Watch.

I have a Pebble that I wore on and off for a few months. It was a fun watch. It was nice to receive SMS directly on the watch, checking the weather. But it feel very much like an experiment. The Apple Watch is that smart watch vision executed correctly.

I bought the cheapest option, the Sports edition. It came in a rediculously shaped box. The plastic case is quite heavy. Together with the shape the whole package feels a bit strange. Contrasting to the packaging, the on boarding experience is wonderful. During pairing it shows a little particles animation. Then it offers the default option of installing all available matching Watch App onto the watch. It was a surprisingly long list. The App load/sync process did take quite a long time.

Some of the cool things to do with the Apple Watch on the first day:

Favorite Photos on the Watch: Setup a photo album on the iPhone. I created an iCloud album so that I can easily send the photos from iPhoto on my Mac to the album instead of using the clunky iOS photos app. These photos are synced to the watch. So you can carry your favorite family pictures and show them off.

Siri: The "hey siri" function never works well for me on the phone. By the time I take the phone out and press the home button, I might as well just start an app and type into it. However having the Apple Watch responding to voice command is much more natural. You just need to press and hold the digital crown to initiate Siri. For example, starting a timer for reminding to feed the parking meeting is totally natural now. "Start a timer for 30 minutes".

Remote Controlling Apple TV: You can pair the remote app on the Apple Watch with any Apple TV and iTunes server like pairing other iOS device. The Apple Watch will display a four digit code for you to enter into the corresponding Apple TV being controlled. It is fun to be able to select shows or pause and play Netflix and Hulu on my Apple TV on my wrist.

Amazon shuts down Special Occasion Reminder, adding birthday to address app in OSX

I received an email from Amazon at 3 am EST this morning telling me that they are shutting down the Special Occasion Reminder service. They are converting these reminders to their (new?) Friends & Family Gifting service. I understand that they are trying to encourage people to buy things from Amazon for these birthdays as gifts, but do they have to externally rename the service? If you have been a long time Amazon customer like myself, some of the very old reminder setup did not have a marker to say that the reminder is for a birthday. Those older reminders will not be converted. What to do? I can add those reminders back to the new service, or I can add the birthdays to my address book database on my Mac. I updated my address book on the Mac. This is how:

Adding Birthday field to the Address book app on the Mac

  1. Go to the Preferences menu
  2. Click on the Templates button
  3. Click Add Field and select Birthday
  4. Voila ! Each contact in the address book now has a birthday field


Aperture stopped importing photo from Photostream

Did you find that suddenly Aperture stopped automatically import photos from your photostream? This is a bug in Aperture, as of version 3.3.1 I found. If you have more than 1000 photos in the Photostream imported into Aperture, Aperture will stopped importing any new photos. One more time: Aperture misunderstood the 1000 photo limits that Apple is suppose to have for Photostream. The correct way for this to work is that Apple will discard older photos and keep the most recent 1000 photos in the stream. But Aperture instead stopped importing after 1000.


  1. Go to the photostream meta project on the side menu/explorer
  2. (Assuming you have already imported the older photostream pictures) select the older photos and delete them "from photostream" using either command-delete or right mouse click then select "delete from photostream".
  3. Then newer photos will automatically start being imported again.

Photo Stream "Album":

See Count at bottom:

Itunes Music Match Resource Usage

My main  music library is on my 2011 Mac Mini, 2.3GHz 8G ram Core i5 CPU. Right now it is half way matching my 9000+ songs. Looking at the activity monitor, it is using up one entire CPU, with 35 threads and about 500 Meg of real memory. I assume the matching process is some sort of checksum computation and then a network query, which is why it is CPU intensive but not network intensive.

Memorializing 11/11/11 using Apple Products

At 10:59 this morning my kids decided they want to do something special at 11:11:11 11/11/11. 12 minutes later a non cropped version of this picture showed up on our facebook wall. How do I do it?

  1. Find a free clock app for the iPad and install it
  2. switch on our Apple TV feeding into our main TV
  3. run the Clock app and turn on AirPlay Mirroring
  4. get the kids positioned
  5. take a few pictures using the iPhone4S
  6. Once we have the right picture,
  7. go to the iPad photo stream which has already pulled down the picture from the iPhone
  8. do a quick crop and enhancement (our loft is too sunny and it messes up the contrast)
  9. run the Facebook app on the iPad to post the picture

All in 12 minutes. Thank you Steve!

iPhone Day Light Savings Bug strikes again November 2011

If you have your phone's date and time settings set to "automatic", meaning it will automatically determine your time zone, you would be one hour early to your appointments today! For some reason, if you set your timezone yourself then the phone gets the day light savings change correctly. See the two screenshots I took flipping the automatic switch back and forth.

Mac Bluetooth wireless keyboard tips and tricks

[flickr size=small float=right][/flickr]I bought a new bluetooth wireless keyboard for my MacBook Pro to reduce clutter at my home office. Immediately I run into a few "problems" that can easily be solved.

Volume keys do not work

The top of the bluetooth keyboard has all the special keys to control volumne, play/pause etc. I was so disapponted that they do not work! They invoke the normal function key functions instead, running spaces etc. Then I remembered. I most likely have to install the latest keyboard driver. Click on the Apple menu, software update, downloaded the new driver, and all is well. This happened when I added the magic mouse as well. So, remember to run software update after adding new hardware.

[flickr size=small float=right][/flickr]

Changing the Caps Lock Key to Control

This is for the hardcore programming using emacs. We live by the control key. Almost all modern keyboard move the control key to somewhere horrible. Well, OS X (bless Apple) actually have a system wide setting that let you change the pretty much useless Caps Lock key into Control .Just go to System Preferences, Keyboard, Keyboard Tab, modifier keys and change the mapping for the "Caps Lock" key to "Control". Your hands will thank you.

Day 3: iPad at BarCampBoston

Lots of iPads at BarCampBoston, just not mine! I wanted to test it out as a note taking device. But I also have to give a talk about teaching 6 years old to program, and Scratch does not work on the iPad. So I had to bring my Macbook Pro instead. People were using the iPad, first and second generations, as note taking devices. At least one speaker was using it as notes for his talk, but at least in sessions that I attended, no one is using video out from it to give a presentation directly. I certainly think that is very doable. In fact I am looking forward to trying it out in small meetings myself.

So I had a fun and productive day learning things from solution marketing, to accelerometer driven music performances, to BBQ. (BBQ is not grilling, just FYI). But not much iPad time today for me.

My iLive is now complete, iPad day 1

My iPad finally arrived. I think the FedEx guy knows it is an iPad. Even him sounded happy. First thoughts: Problem that I didn't think I will have -- OMG! How am I going to organize all the apps? It took 20 minutes for the first sync. It brought over ALL my apps. I am still going through cycles of removing apps that are not suitable for the iPad, while are useful for the iPhone. Then reorganizing where apps should go.

Do you notice the little virtual marks on the F and J keys on the virtual keyboard? It will have something to do with their new haptic patents?

Typing on the virtual keyboard is harder than I thought. It is too narrow, and I have small hands. Yes I am typing this on the iPad.

I went to the apple store trying to buy a protective case but they do not have any third party cases in store yet. "we only have the smart cover" conspiracy to get you to buy their cover? You decide.

Final gotcha of the day - the iPad cannot be charged by the USB port on my powered USB hub. I have to separately plug in the included 10watt charger to charge it.

How to Find a iPad 2 using Python

I did not buy the version 1 iPad because an iPad without a front facing camera just does not seem right. At iPad 2 launch day, I was going to go stand in line (as I did for my iPhone 3GS) for one, as my office is about a mile away from the Boston Apple Store. However real work got in the way.

I did not anticipate the demand for this thing. I guess a lot of people were like me, skipping the iPad 1 and waited for the iPad 2. I did place an order order days after, which is of course too late.

Python to the rescue! Someone posted the links to check for stock on the Target mobile site. I threw together a quick python script, using BeautifulSoup (Don't you love BeautifulSoup ?) to scrape the site. Saturday night, I found a 32G black iPad 2 available in a Target close by ! I drove over almost first thing Sunday morning, only to find that the two that they had in stock was already purchased by someone who got there, waited for the store to open, at 8am.

Lesson here? Programming is easy. Actually getting up in the morning and driving over to wait in line is, well, a bit overkill. I think I will just wait for the online shipment.

Meanwhile, you can try out the python program here. Rename to .py for running.

Get the CSV QuickLook plugin for your Finder

I have been using Macs for three years now. Yet I did not know you can install additional plugins for QuickLook so that you can quickly view different types of file in the finder just by pressing the spacebar ! I work with CSV files a lot and it has always been a pain having to open them in numbers or openoffice to view them. Now come (free) CSV quicklook plugins. You can find a lot of different plugins at this site . This CSV plugin is the one that I installed.

How to Install

  1. Go to the download site, often it is something on
  2. click on the <whatever plugin name>.dmg to download the software
  3. Click on the downloaded DMG file and it should open in Finder
  4. copy the <whatever plugin name>.qlgenerator file into your quicklook plugin directory: Either at /Library/QuickLook/ or ~/Library/QuickLook/
  5. If you copy into ~/Library... it will only be available to your account. If the ~/Library/QuickLook directory is not there, create it first.
  6. either reboot, or start a terminal session and type: qlmanage -r

That is it!

How to use the new iOS4.3 HomeSharing on your iPhone

With the new iOS4.3 firmware, HomeSharing finally work nicely across all device. This is particularly important if you have an second generation AppleTV in your home network. Will all the new sharing feature you can do two really cool things:

  1. You can finally show any video or pictures from your iPhone on your AppleTV, especially photos and video from your camera roll on the phone. Isn't this the normal use case? You took some pictures of the kids, and when you are at Grandma's house, you can now beam the pictures onto their LCD TV seamlessly. (You did buy the grandparents an AppleTV, didn't you?)
  2. You can, via HomeSharing, listen to any music on your home iTunes library on your iPhone/iPad. Typically in a house hold, you will have most of the shared music and video sitting on an iMac. Now you can listen to any music from there remotely.

How to enable HomeSharing on your phone? There are actually TWO different settings. Go to "Settings / iPod" and enter your Apple ID for sharing. Then you can stream music from any iTunes library on your home network to the iPhone/iPad.

Secondly you can also enable Home Sharing on the Remote app. (you did download that didn't you?) Enter your Apple ID there, then it will automatically find any iTunes library on your network without you having to manually link the remote app to the library.

Tip: The remote app now also can control the AppleTV user interface!

iPhone plus AirPlay and AppleTV

I do not have an iPad. That's right. I am waiting for the iPad2. But I ordered the AppleTV on announcement date. And now with AirPlay fully supported (after a system update on both the iPhone 3GS and the AppleTV) it is media heaven. What works?

  • on the iPhone 3GS, I can play a movie on the "ipod" app directly onto my AppleTV
  • the rdio app can stream all my rdio music directly onto my AppleTV -- this is a big win. Now I can stream everything that rdio has in the cloud to my main home theatre system. My $10/month subscription is getting full mileage
  • the YouTube app on the iPhone can also send video to the AppleTV. This is slightly redundent, as there is direct YouTube support on the AppleTV. But I can use the keyboard on my iPhone to find video faster.
  • update: the pictures on the camera roll can go to the apple TV by using the airplay icon (Thanks to lance's comment below)

What does not work?

  • I cannot figure out how to send a picture in my "camera roll" to the AppleTV
  • Hulu+ app does not support AirPlay -- This is a big lost for me. I don't know if it is Hulu that needs to update their app, or is Apple not allowing it to do so.
  • NPR News app does not support AirPlay either. It would be cool if it did.

So, after 30 minutes of playing, I'd keep to my original point -- this is truly revolutionary, even if most of you don't know it yet!

The New Cheaper Kindle, Well Played Mr. Bezos

[AMAZONPRODUCT=B003FSUDM4] I am an early adaptor and reader. Of course I have the original white, wedge, Kindle. In fact still prefer that design than the new slim design. Since the launch of the Kindle, to the point when Apple seemingly enters the race with the iPad and the iBook store, I bet a lot of people has prematurely declared the death of the Kindle. How they were wrong!

I admire Steve Jobs a great deal. I am a Apple Fanboy. But I also love Amazon. And lately I really started to appreciate Jeff Bezos. The phrase "slow and steady win the race" comes to mind. Of course the Amazon book pricing is going to end. Of course there will be competing devices to the Kindle. But Bezos hung in there, working up to the "mass market" Kindle event today slowly. This is the right move. And he took his time. Why not?

At the end it is about the reading experience. And you cannot beat the Kindle. Call me old school. When I read I don't want to be distracted. I don't want to flip over to check email or get ping on my twitter account on the iPad. I want to read. Lifehacker happen to run a story on the need to rebuild one's attention span and focus, referencing this How To Focus article. (While you are at it, skip over to the Onion for a laugh on this topic.)

I'll leave you with a little Jeff Bezos advice:

iPad in every room, in every bag

After watching this segment, this is my take away: Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg has an insightful comment about people don't want to carry iphone plus iPad plus laptop all the time, true. David Carr says how much it is a family computer, True. What is going to happen? People need to have multiple iPad. Leave one in the bag. Leave one in the living room. Leave on in the dining room. It is a "pick up and use" device. Expensive? Sure. But it works that way.

Mobile Camp Boston 3

Went to Mobile Camp Boston 3, now part of Mobile Mondays. This was the first mobile event I attended. I love the location, MIT Tang Center, easy parking, 1/2 away from Starbucks. Was it useful? Not too bad. Found out there is life beyond the iPhone/iPad. (Not a lot, but a little bit..). The camp was short and the content was light. A lot of company selling services. Lawyers, even some VC's. The big surprises are (1) Verizon was here, as a sponsor as well as presenter, and (2) City of Boston was there, talking a little about the success of Citizen Connect and the proposed Innovation District of Boston. Given the history of Boston and land development, I have to be very skeptical about the innovation district. But that's another blog post. Main take aways?

  • Location based social media is important (got me started playing with gowalla)
  • Android development is easier technically, but
  • AppStore is by far the easiest for deployment overall, when considering all the Apple testing and payment processing
  • Verizon is waking up
  • VCs are interested in this space (duh)
  • while not sexy, Palm or Blackberry apps may make you more money
  • don't forget "feature phones" can have some sort of "application experience" as well.

Oh, and I got to play with an iPad, very impressive, confirmed everything I thought about it. Now I only wish I bought one.

Thoughts on the new iPad

Mount them everywhere: The price point is great. How about mount them around the house or office as informational display -- works with any system that has a browser interface. Leave one in the bathroom for, browsing... Education use: Again, at $499, and with a great intuitive touch UI, give them out to school children for reading and drawing and doing physics simulation.

Lack of camera: Otherwise AT&T won't give Apple the sweet $30/month prepaid unlimited data plan.

Will not work with standard Bluetooth Keyboards: unfortunate. Otherwise makes a great netbook replacement.

The perfect personal movie viewing device: obviously. BUT it probably can not iTune stream from family main system like OS X iTune can. So need to download and purge all the time? The work flow is a little dated.

Kindle is dead meat. Unless there is something strange/bad about the iBooks book marketplace. Of course, I can run the Kindle iPhone app or the presumable Kindle iPad app. I love my Kindle, but with an iPad, I can make notes much easier, say with an EverNote app.

Doesn't it make a pretty cool big GPS for your car?

It is going to make touch screen devices mainstream. Sci-fi visions coming true.

Finally, make sure you buy it with a credit card that has a no-question ask replacement policy, in case you dropped it !