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Six Months With the Apple Watch: Did It Change My Life?

The ability to change the face is a really useful feature

In the beginning

I received my Apple Watch Sport to great fanfare in early May 2015. Despite seven months on the market, many people are on the fence about the Apple Watch, including Silicon Valley insiders who should be early adopters. I think it is perfectly rational to want to wait until the next generation watch comes out. One good thing about being a second mover is that you get to learn a lot of the lessons generated by early adopters cheaply and efficiently. Lots and lots of great reviews are already out there! So why should you read mine? For one, I’m not a professional tech writer– I’m probably like you, the reader, just a normal person who wants to get more out of life with technology. So if you want to know more about the Watch and specifically my experience with the Watch over the last six months, I’ll be trying to answer the following questions in this review:

  1. How has it held up during that time?
  2. Has it changed my life? What are six things I like about the Watch?
  3. What other gadgets can the Watch replace to justify the $349 (low end) price tag?

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How I got faster at bootstrapping (hint: my lab got me a Macbook Pro)

Maximizing Efficiency

I’m very lucky to be working in a psychology lab that has a lot of resources and leadership that wants you to succeed. Last last month I had the opportunity to trade-in my nearly four year old MacBook Air for a new retina 13” MacBook Pro. MacWorld UK did a fantastic write-up of what great features the new MBP has so I won’t repeat all that. I want to focus on what I did to personalize the computer and also how much of a change in efficiency I’ve felt since getting it.

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What I learned after four months with Amazon Echo (updated Nov 26 2015)

*Update (November 2015)

Many people have emailed me or asked me questions about the Amazon Echo since we wrote the original post back in May. The original post is also one of of the most popular on the blog! We thought it would be valuable to provide an update as the Echo continues to garner great reviews, such as Wired’s endorsement that the Echo is 2015’s “perfect lazy gift”.

I’m happy to report that we continue to be very pleased with the Echo’s performance. Amazon added Pandora integration and the voice commands grow ever more capable of understanding nuance. Say, for example, you’re at a family gathering and the kids are making a lot of noise. You can now say “Alexa, play music for kids” and the Echo will automatically start playing kids music.

Amazon is also expanding Echo’s capabilities through Alexa “Skills” (which can be found inside the Echo app) which appear to be widgets created to add functionality to Echo’s already impressive voice command category. You can now ask Alexa to check Bitcoin prices, calculate someone’s age by giving Alexa their birthday, get Fantasy Football News, generate a haiku, tell knock knock jokes, and a ton more (including getting stock prices, a feature some people have asked me about before). It appears that Amazon has released an Echo developer kit so that anyone can create and submit new features. That seems like a game changer to me: with the Echo gaining traction and its nascent ability to integrate smarthome features such as WeMo lights, the ever-expanding repertoire of capabilities is going to put the Echo in more and more homes. One of the differentiators of Apple’s closed-universe product line is the access to millions of apps that comes with staying inside the universe. If Amazon is able to follow suit with a capable in-home device, I can see them very quickly becoming a big player in the home automation world, perhaps unintentionally (at least, given the original focus and design of the Echo, which was to play music and enable purchase of products through Amazon).

*Original post follows

Alexa, write this blog post for me

In mid-January 2015 I was one of the lucky (or just very willing to have my privacy completely compromised all the time) few Amazon Prime members to get Amazon Echo. The day Echo was publicly announced, I signed up via the Amazon website, which is probably why I got it so early. Some good friends of ours are still waiting for one.

Demand for the product must be pretty high. Amazon initially offered the Echo for 50% off to Prime members ($100 for a retail $200 product) and now the price for members is $150. There is also a brisk secondary market for new and barely used Echos on Craiglist / Ebay going for or above sales price.

Is it worth it? Is it a life changer as the sort of weird Amazon commercial implies? (I mean really is the whole family going to yell stuff at this HAL2000 looking device?)

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A Faster New Router for the Home: The Best $20 Spent in a While

For years, my wife Melanie and I suffered through slow Internet speeds. We cursed Time Warner and lamented that Verizon FiOS didn’t exist in our area. I sometimes had to switch over to my cellular data to watch YouTube videos because our Internet connection was so terrible.

Even after we got our new cable modem to replace the one we had for 8 years, there was no noticeable change in speed. We cursed Time Warner some more.

A couple months ago, I happened to be having lunch with a client whose company makes computer hardware. We had just finished working on a smart home security product website with him. He was part of a small team within a large corporation whose speciality was in routers. I asked him if router technology had evolved much in the past 5 or so years. I told him I had used the same router for the past decade. “Uh, yeah, there’s been some change in router technology since then,” he told me.

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