The folly of luxury

Paul wearing Apple AirPods Max headphones

A small windfall hit me like welcome summer rain. I decided to celebrate by getting a pair of Apple AirPods Max.

Ebay was the perfect shopping destination. I found a pair in great condition in happy neutral space gray at way less than retail.

Setting them up was super easy. The software interface was very simple to use and had numerous options.

Then reality hit…

  1. The biggest problem I faced was intolerable sound when listening with noise cancellation. My favorite podcasts sounded like the participants were speaking from inside a small narrow tunnel.
  2. Listening in an airplane almost worked. But each time we took off, there was a loud “pop” that Apple’s software injected after detecting a sound made by the airplane.
  3. The magnificent quality construction resulted in a heavy pair of headphones. After an hour or so of listening, they started to get uncomfortable.
  4. The Smart Case seemed like an afterthought. Its design was about a tenth as good as the headphones’ design.
  5. A very minor glitch in the software meant that it never remembered the noise cancellation modes I selected.

So, goodbye AirPods Max. I sold them yesterday on Facebook Marketplace.

I enjoyed exploring this product that I had always been curious about. I only lost $20 in the exchange.

I left with a nice little reminder that the only satisfaction available will be in heaven.

And then I went back to a modest pair of Sony phones.


For Mac users only

Apple Time Machine backup progress bar

If you use a Mac, you need to get an external hard drive and make it into a Time Machine.

The Time Machine system is a great way to back up your computer without needing the cloud. And you won’t have to pay Apple for iCloud+.

This is great insurance if your Mac dies or gets stolen. If you’ve ever had a computer die without a backup, you know that is not an experience you want to repeat. With a recent Time Machine backup, you can buy another Mac and recreate the experience of your old Mac fairly easily.

I don’t use my Mac that much, since my work computer is a Windows machine. But I still backup my Mac every few weeks. And as you can see from the photo above, there are a lot of changes the Time Machine system picks up that I don’t even know about.

As of this writing, you can pick up a decent external hard drive for about $60. Time Machine is free and built into the Mac operating system. In 20 months, your drive is paid for, if you compare that expense to the iCloud plan that is large enough for most computers.


The $200 cup of tea

macbook pro trackpad

I spilled tea on my trackpad. Then it started acting weird.

Dilemma: call my 2011 computer a loss and get a new one or have the old one fixed?

Fixing the old computer won the day.

$200 later, and it works just as good as new.

I love my old MacBook Pro. Years ago, I upgraded the memory and hard drive, and it still works fine. It’s fast enough for just about everything, and it even has a built-in CD-DVD drive, which comes in handy every once in a while. (I even used that earlier today!)

Kudos to Mac Outlet for the fine job.


Dead Toshiba

speaker inside a Toshiba laptop computer

We bought our first Toshiba laptop in 1995. It was a good one. It lasted about 5 years.

This latest Toshiba lasted only about 9 months. Sadly, the warranty lasted 6 months.

In between that first Toshiba and our final Toshiba, we have bought several other brands of Windows laptops. I can’t even remember those brands – Acer or Asus was one.

But in the interim, we have bought a few Apple laptops too. And they have been much more reliable. The laptop I am typing this on was bought in early 2011. It’s still running very strong. (I have replaced the battery and hard drive and added memory.)

We bought Heather a MacBook Pro in 2009, and it’s acting like it never wants to die. Its first battery is even performing well.

No more Windows laptops. I finally learned my lesson.

The photo is a speaker inside that ill-fated Toshiba. My index finger is there to show its size. (I removed the hard drive for security purposes before giving it to Best Buy for recycling and thus saw its innards for the first time. It had stereo speakers.) It is sad to send them off to China’s Great Recycling Machine in the Sky.


A great computer

If you read my Tesla review, you might think that I desire newer, faster, better everything.

That’s not always true.

The 2011 Macbook ProMy early 2011 Macbook Pro is still humming along gracefully. Five years is a long time in computer years. (According to this website, my computer is 92 human years old.)

But it still works great. I’ve changed its battery once, added more memory (wish I could do that for me!) and swapped out the spinning hard drive for a smaller-capacity flash drive.

It’s running the latest operating system – Apple keeps supporting this old machine.

The strangest thing is that I have no burning desire for a newer Mac. Yes, I do like the newer Macbook Pros (and think the new Macbook is a thing of beauty). But the functionality of a newer Mac isn’t different enough that I’d go through the hassle and expense of upgrading. Plus, my old Mac has a CD/DVD drive – I can add music from that old fossil media source without an external drive. (However, I wouldn’t really miss that capability if mine ever died.)

Also interesting – Apple still sells my same basic computer brand-new (though it has a newer brain).

Finally, if you’re ever in the market for a Mac, I’d recommend buying a factory refurb direct from Apple. Those computers have the same warranty as all-new versions. And often, you can get the latest models as refurbs.


Apple Watch review

Apple Watch on my wristNo, I don’t have one.

Yes, that’s my wrist that the Watch is sitting on.

So this is not a super-deep review, since I do not own one. But I will give you some first impressions, having spent about 90 minutes in an introductory workshop at my local Apple Store, playing with one and trying several on.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  • They’re nice. The feel and workmanship is as you might expect: top-notch. The vibrations that tell you things are not annoying. If you had your settings at a level where you were getting taps more than once an hour, you might start to go crazy. The interface is very well thought out.
  • Costs: The $349* price of entry (Sport model) definitely makes it a luxury item. And then your style choices are limited to the color of your watch (silver or black) and the color of your Sport band. If you want more choices, you have to spend $549 for the Watch (middle) model that lets you have a lot more  band choices.
  • Pretense: They can be less visible than the old Apple white headphones that told everyone you had an iPhone or an iPod. If you know what they look like, you can start to think about who has them and imagine their budgets. (I was amazed at the mom with her two teenagers who were part of my workshop. The kids already both had Watches. When I asked why he got one, the boy said, “I just wanted one.”)
  • Bands: The Milanese Loop was amazing for its simplicity and ease of use (add $100). The leather bands (add $100 or $200) seemed like step backwards from the synthetic sport band. The Link Bracelet (add $400) was incredible. You can size it without going to a jeweler. Having said all that, the only style I’d consider would be the Sport band (black case with black band, probably). The others are just a little too glitzy for me.
  • Sizes: My wrists are tiny. The only one that would work for me would be the 38mm. The 42mm does have a little more breathing room for viewing the screen, but it costs $50 more. (Casey Neistat described them as “girl size” and “boy size.” I disagree.)
  • Apps: Fitness seems to be the big one. If you aren’t interested in tracking your fitness, notifications for email and texts would be a big use, though habitually looking at your wrist might be just as annoying to others as habitually looking at your phone. (A whole new level of, “I’m not paying attention to you,” might start becoming widespread.) Phone calls seem to be so limited, due to issues like low audio volume, that I can’t imagine many people doing calls more than a few seconds through their Watch. Maps are limited but could be useful after you get used to the tiny interface. Music means pretty much a remote-control for your iTunes or Pandora. Photos: The maximum size for a photo is so small that I wouldn’t be spending much time with that one. And any library of more than about 100 photos probably means a hard time ever finding the photo you want to show someone. Oh yeah, and there’s the watch part. It’s super-easy to change its time-telling face between a variety of cool time-keepers… and then modify each one.
  • Tethering to your iPhone: A lot of people have hugely complained about this aspect. I don’t see it as any big deal, since my iPhone is always in my pocket, unless I’m at my desk or puttering around the house. And I like the idea of being away from messages, so I’d feel free to leave my iPhone at home. You can listen to a limited music library (with bluetooth headphones) while you run or bike ride without an iPhone nearby.
  • The Edition: Paying $10,000+ is just absurd. It’s for people that zeros do not matter. And for Denver residents, you’ll have to travel to Las Vegas to try one on.

Bottom line: Game-changer… 1) I think there are vast possibilities for how this will transform the way people relate to technology. 2) Today’s Groupon email had fitness wristbands – and a series of Breitling luxury watches – for far less than half price. The luxury watch and fitness band markets are changed forever. 3) Health professionals are just beginning to imagine new worlds that will open up for monitoring and then responding to health spheres.

None is on-order for me …. yet. I’m still trying to figure out how to justify the (not insignificant-to-me) expense.

* Apologies to my friends outside of the USA. You’ll need to go to your nearest Apple Store website to check pricing for your area.

For more info, visit Apple Watch on the web.


Apple Watch and intended sales

Back of iPhone showing apple logoI wonder how many people will walk into an Apple Store after April 24th and then find out that they need an iPhone for their desired new timepiece to function.

Yes, Apple will be selling a fair number of iPhones to Android people who must have the latest toy.

This is very clever on their part. Apple’s share of the smartphone market has been slipping a little over the last few years. This strategy will maybe change that trend.

It’s the only product I know that has the same internal mechanism but varies in price from $349 to $17,000 – depending on the shell. (My UK friends who are so inclined will pay between £299 and £13,500.) What a price to pay for appearances!

I have to admit that if it weren’t for a number of un-planned-for recent necessary expenditures, I would be very tempted to buy the base model, even though I don’t wear watches. (If I could afford it, I would start wearing an Apple Watch.)


Change is not always better

mac interface screenshot, showing new typefaceI very much love Apple products. One of the thorns in my side is spending my 8-to-5 on a Windows 7-based laptop. It works fine, but I very much miss using a Mac. (And changing back to a Mac at home messes with my head.)

Like every forward-facing company, Apple is always changing things. The latest computer operating system, Yosemite, has some significant improvements. But the new system-wide typeface is harder for my non-assisted eyes to read. The Helvetica-like “6” looks too much like an “8.”

If we could pick and choose what gets changed in our lives, that would make us God. But we can’t, so I’m hoping the not-fun-changes will make us stronger.


  1. There are some ways Windows is better. One good aspect is having both a delete key and a backspace key.
  2. If you have a minute, in the comments, share a change you experienced that provided both good and bad results.
  3. My Mac starts up much faster with Yosemite. (Your results may vary.)

Why I love my Apple stuff

Screen shot of a cell phone manual I took a photo over the weekend with my cheap phone, and wanted to share it with my friend who was in the picture.

I couldn’t.

Why? The image was about 25 pixels square. Somehow when my daughter was playing around with the phone’s camera, she changed the resolution. For me to find out how to change the resolution back, I had to find the box the phone came in, dig out the CD that had the manual on it, copy that file to my computer – and then search for the answer. (Manual is shown at the left.)

The phone settings area on the phone was not where the resolution setting was. It was buried deeper in another menu.

I’m not saying Apple is perfect – often I can find an answer to my Mac question faster by doing a Google search than by using its built-in help files. But I am saying that Apple mostly gets it right, when it comes to usability issues like this.

If you haven’t tried an Apple product, I’d suggest you start with an iPod. You might be amazed.


A very sad day

Steve Jobs RIPSteve died yesterday (October 5, 2011).

He made a huge impact on humanity – and how we relate to technology.

Apologies to Apple, who probably won’t mind my re-posting their front page.