Watch

Roughly two years ago, the ‘new category’ for Apple was the Watch. Until this point, Apple users were accustomed to interacting with iOS only on their iPhone or iPad, both of which have fairly large screens. With the introduction of the Watch, our interactions with iOS were about to get much smaller. The watch looked to break us free from our iPhone, if for even just a few small tasks, and I think it has been delivering steadily on that through the software and hardware updates. I got the first Watch on release day, and have not missed a day of wearing it since then, and I am sure that will continue with the release of the next generation hardware.

My first Watch
Watch
– Series: 0
– Case Size: 42mm
– Case Material: Stainless Steel

My second Watch
Watch Edition
– Series: 2
– Case Size: 42mm
– Case Material: Ceramic

BANDS

The bands are one of the best features of the Watch. This is the best way to customize your watch and make it yours. There were a lot of bands released when the first Watch came out, and there have been more released since on a fairly regular cycle. Changing the band is amazingly elegant, and the bands work across generations of watch and model. With the iPhone, cases are a way to personalize your phone, but once a case is on your iPhone, you lose much of the beauty and design of the phone (and whatever color you picked for that matter). With bands though, they enhance the design and color of the watch. All the more reason to add bands to your collection to match your mood, activity, clothing, etc. Be careful though, once you start adding bands, you may not be able to stop! 😉

My Band Collection
– Stainless Steel Link
– Sport (Green)
– Sport (Apricot)
– Sport (Orange)
– Sport (Cloud)
– Woven Nylon (Pink)
– Woven Nylon (Gold)
– Leather Loop (Blue)

CHARGING AND BATTERY

With a device this small, battery life was a concern. When announced, it was stated to have ‘all day battery life’. In my extensive use, I found this to be absolutely true. The battery life increased over time as well with software improvements. With my series 0 watch, I would generally have somewhere around 10-20% remaining after a full day of use. With the Series 2, I am finding that I have well over 50% of my battery remaining at the end of the day. Regardless of how much battery I have at the end of the day, I don’t find it to be a negative that you charge the watch every day. I charge my phone over night, so charing my watch overnight right next to it is a non issue. If anything, charing the watch is even easier than my phone, given the inductive charging that the watch uses. Pop it over the charger, it connects with a magnet and that’s it.

DURABILITY

Depending on the materials you choose, the Watch can have handle wear and tear differently. With my first one, the stainless steel, it has a sapphire crystal screen, so it never showed any wear and tear on the screen. This was even after direct contact with objects quite a few times over the time I used it daily. The stainless steel casing showed more wear, but nothing out of the ordinary for stainless steel.

My new one, made entirely of ceramic, is said to be even more scratch resistant than stainless steel. Time will tell how it holds up. Fingers crossed that is stays as beautiful as it is a couple of weeks in!

WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?

Remote Control – Aside from being a great standalone device, the Watch is a great remote control for other Apple products. From controlling music playback, to turning your home lights on, to using it as as a remote shutter for your iPhone camera, it does a ton of neat remote operations.

Hey, Siri! – Having the ability to use Siri with the simple raise of a wrist and without needing to physically press any buttons is pretty great. I have found that the speed increase of Series 2 has made Siri even more useful in day to day tasks, as it is able to process speech faster.

Time – It is a watch after all.. 😉

Fitness – This is one of those most compelling uses of the Watch. The ability to track many important aspects of your health passively is a big win for anyone looking to improve their health. You can gather a lot of great stats about yourself to help track trends over time.

Notifications – The Watch is awesome for handling notifications. You can setup exactly what you want to see, and check them more quickly and more effectively. With the addition of Scribble, you can now reply to messages directly without ever looking at your phone.

I will continue wearing my Watch every day for the foreseeable future and look forward to the further integration of wearables into our daily lives. I continue to be very happy with the Watch and can’t wait to see what features get added in the future.

Watch Series 0
Watch Series 0
Watch Series 2 Edition
Watch Series 2 Edition

Problem: Live Stream Three Inputs

FOREWARD

Recently I had a problem come up that needed to be solved with a hardware & software solution.
Heads Up Warning: This happened to be a work problem, so I will intentionally be somewhat vague about the content. This may make some of the choices seem weird, but at the end of the day, trust me, it worked for the particular need.

PROBLEM

There are three independent video sources that exist in a room. Each of these video sources is a different combination of signal type and resolution (fortunately they are all digital signals). The three video sources need to be composited together into a single feed that can then be streamed live to an undetermined amount of users spread across the globe (10 years ago that would have been scary and really costly, but in 2016, not so much, thankfully). There are a number of different ways this can be accomplished depending on budget, system complexity, and system footprint. I went in with a moderate budget in mind, and a footprint of a single Pelican Case for transport. I wasn’t too concerned about complexity since I would be the only person operating the system; it just needed to be repeatable.

DIGITAL VIDEO SIGNALS
– VIDEO SIGNAL 1: 1920x1080p@60 via HDMI
– VIDEO SIGNAL 2: 1920x1080i@30 via HDMI
– VIDEO SIGNAL 3: 1680×1050@60 via DVI

SOLUTION

Ok, so here is what I did! First let’s talk about hardware and how I connected it all.

HARDWARE
– 15″ MacBook Pro (2016 – Max Specs): Serves as the hub of the entire setup. This system has 4 ports for I/O and I used them all! (2) USB 3.0 Ports and (2) Thunderbolt Ports.
UltraStudio Mini Recorder: Captures ‘1920x1080p@60’ video signal from HDMI and feeds into MacBook pro via Thunderbolt.
UltraStudio Mini Recorder: Captures ‘1920x1080i@30’ video signal from HDMI and feeds into MacBook pro via Thunderbolt.
AV.io HD: Captures ‘1680×1050@60’ video signal from DVI and feeds into MacBook pro via USB 3.0.
– USB to Ethernet adapter. All network traffic is going over ethernet to ensure maximum throughput for stream output.
– GoPro Type Camera: This camera is for capturing a general ‘room feed’. It is a very small battery operated camera which means I can put it almost anywhere without being intrusive to the people it is recording. Nice wide angle to really get the whole room.
Pocket Cinema Camera w/ lens: This allows me to capture screen feeds of lower resolution equipment without needing a scaler with every conceivable input and output. Set everything up correctly and you would never know it’s a camera pointed at a screen. Since I never know what sources I will be up against in a given environment, this is a foolproof way to ensure I can get the feed.

Streaming Hardware Configuration Diagram
Streaming Hardware Configuration Diagram

SOFTWARE
– For the actual distribution of the stream, I am using http://Ustream.tv. There are an almost limitless number of streaming services available today, and there may be one more appropriate for me, but Ustream offered exactly what I needed for a reasonable price, and most importantly allowed me to lock down the stream with a password so I can manage who is viewing. (Yes that is not super secure, but for this purpose it was good enough)
– In order to effectively composite 3 feeds into a single feed, I needed some kind of software component. Since the events that would be streaming were live, it made sense to have the ability for ‘live event extras’ like switching, lower thirds, and title cards. I decided to go with Wirecast from Telestream. (When I was testing this whole solution out, it was on version 6. This worked ok, but was hitting the CPU really hard and the system ran at about 75% utilized consistently. Good news is that Wirecast is now on version 7, and enables the use of the GPU so CPU load is WAY LESS!)

Viewer Interface Mockup
Viewer Interface Mockup

There you have it, live streaming 3 video feeds It was a fun exercise and the result was really great! As always, I hope this was in some way helpful for someone out there looking to do something similar. Feel free to reach out with any questions!

iPad Pro – Desk Setup

I love me some iPad Pro! I already enjoyed using it for the majority of my computing, but I was also using an awesome 12″ MacBook (2016 – max specs) along side the iPad. I recently had a strange issue come up with my MacBook. The battery started acting weird (Battery showed full before hitting 100% and shutting off before reaching 0%) and didn’t seem to be charging. This turned out to be a defective battery 1. Long story short, rather than getting my MacBook repaired, I ended up with a gift card for the full value of my MacBook. The process took about a week and during this time, I was using my iPad Pro for 100% of my work.

After receiving the Gift Card, one would assume that I would order a new MacBook. However, historically this is the time of year when new Apple Products are announced and it has been a good amount of time since new laptops were released (with the exception of the MacBook). Due to this timing, I really have to wait and see what may come in the laptop arena at the next Apple Event. Because of this, I am going to sit on the gift card and just go all iPad all the time!

Apple Gift Card
Apple Gift Card

Using an iPad for all my work meant my desk setup needed to change a bit in order to fit this new setup. So here we go with what I am doing for an iPad Only Desk Setup!

What iPad Pro Am I Using?
Size: 9.7″
Color: Rose Gold
Wireless: WiFi + Cellular
Storage: 128GB

Attaching Stuff
Logitech Base: This is the piece of the puzzle that transforms your iPad from ‘mobile’ to ‘desktop’. This handy little dock holds your iPad at a good angle while at your desk, and removes the need for using a Smart Cover as a stand. It also has charging capability through the Smart Connector which makes it not only easy, but leaves your Lightning port free for other uses. Simply sit down at your desk, pop in the iPad (it has magnets to align everything) and you are good to go! You can also now sit the iPad + dock on top of something on your desk to bring the iPad up closer to eye level.
Apple Pencil: Possibly the best feature of the iPad Pro. Definitely the first hand writing instrument to actually feel ‘right’ on a digital device.
Game Controller: If you like games and like using a controller, the SteelSeries Nimbus is the one to get for mobile iOS gaming.
Apple Magic Keyboard: When typing a lot, no mobile keyboard will ever compare to a full sized keyboard. This is my favorite bluetooth keyboard out right now. (The only keyboard I like more is the 2016 MacBook)
Apple Smart Keyboard: When you need to be a little more portable, but still want to type a good amount, this keyboard / cover works great. No external power needed and ultra portable.
29W USB-C Charger: Good fast charger for the iPad. Bonus if you use a 12.9″ iPad, this charger will speed charge that device!
USB-C to Lightning Cable: Pairs with the above charger, and gives you good range for charging.
Bose Headphones: When you need to block the world out, no one’s noise cancelling tech is up to the level of Bose. With these headphones now being Bluetooth as well, they are a must buy.
HDMI Out Connectivity: Whether you are giving presentations or sharing video content, this little dongle gives you HDMI out plus the ability to charge simultaneously.
Dealing With SD Cards: Importing photos? No problem. This dongle allows you to import direct from SD card to your Photos library.

Charge Status Dashboard
Charge Status Dashboard

  1. The FruitJuice app gave me a heads up on this and showed that the battery was going bad even when the system info showed it as being healthy. The degraded health level matched what the Apple Store showed after they ran a system test. 

Driving Off The Road!

Carmel Landscape
My wife and I recently drove down to Carmel for a relaxing weekend with some fun mixed in! We stayed at Quail Lodge, which is gorgeous, but the reason we stayed there is because of their affiliation with the Land Rover Driving Experience. They have several locations with a series of classes you can take, all revolving around getting your Land Rover (or Range Rover in our case) off the highway and into the woods 🌲🌲🌲 to really see what the machines are truly made of.

The whole course was really well put together and very hands on! We signed up for the half day course, which consisted of the following 3 parts:
Part One: Breakfast & Orientation | 8am
A good selection of small breakfast bites combined with some info from the instructors and a meet and greet with the other drivers. Oh, and of course the all important coffee ☕️!

Part Two: Driving The Course | 9am
We started by taking a short drive from the hotel out to the starting point of the course (this short drive was already more ‘off road’ than our Range Rover had ever seen). There were 13 total cars in our group and 8 instructors. The large group was then broken into 2 smaller groups that went on different paths so everyone had the maximum amount of ground covered over the course of the next 3 or so hours.

Once briefed by the instructors, we were off into the wilderness to tackle some crazy terrain! We used every bit of technology and brute strength built into these cars, and was it ever fun! Not only was it a blast to tackle the terrain, but we learned a lot of really good lessons on how to properly handle the vehicle in various off road conditions. It never hurts to really understand how your vehicle acts and responds to various terrain so you can react appropriately and be as safe as possible. Valerie got some great outside the vehicle photos and videos that can be seen below. You should definitely check them out for a small glimpse into how much fun it was!

Part Three: Lunch & Debrief | 12:30pm
After a huge amount of excitement (and anxiety), it was time to get some food and drink with everyone and chat about our experience. The instructors also presented us with some Range Rover goodies and a certificate showing our completion of the course. We weren’t expecting this, but it was a nice little touch to the end of the event.



Range Rover


I absolutely want to do this again in the future! The next time we do it, I think it might be fun to take one of the courses where we use their vehicles and get into the more aggressive course! 😉

//Jason