AirPods Degradation

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You've probably noticed the newest status symbol, prominent on social media, people talking with them in, talking about how they just got some, or how they lost one of them…I'm referring to Apple AirPods of course.

It's funny, when first announced everyone talked shit and said AirPods looked stupid and wouldn't amount to anything. Two years later, Apple released a second generation and have struggled to keep up with demand from the very beginning. They are that popular. The world of minimal wires is here. This streamlined new world comes with some caveats though.

Degradation

There is something that doesn't seem to get much attention, that being the battery degradation. After about 2 years, my AirPods die really fast. When talking on the phone, they last about 20 minutes and just die (they don't even play the warning tone). General music listening is about an hour now, (down from the 5 hours they lasted when new). With this experience, I've grown reluctant to purchase future generations of AirPods.

To those considering purchasing first generation AirPods on sites like eBay, be wary. Yes you will most likely receive authentic AirPods, but they could potentially be degraded and ultimately an underwelming experience and waste of money.

Is This All In The Plan?

Buried deep on Apples website is information pertaining to upgrade cycles. They believe the ideal upgrade cycle for the iPhone is 2 years. However, iPhones last a lot longer than 2 years. That became apparent in 2018 when Apple stopped disclosing iPhone sales numbers…meaning the smartphone market is saturated and people don't upgrade every 1-2 years. The only way around that would be to manufacture iPhones that aren't usable after 2 years.

The AirPods 2 year life span could be purposeful to get customers to keep upgrading. The abrupt dying experienced with mine could also be a software tactic. Which isn't out of the realm of possibility; Apple did come under fire for slowing iPhones on purpose in 2018.

Are They Worth The Cost?

I don't think anyone really considers the battery situation when they buy them. When I got my AirPods, one of the first questions which went through my mind was "I wonder how the batteries will hold up". This was as I was examining the size and compactness. The answer to my question: about 2 years. Is a wireless audio lifestyle worth $149.50 per year? It's ultimately up to you. I will probably buy a second generation pair mainly because I've grown accustomed to the wireless headphones life. Wired EarPods are now a hassle.

Kobo Clara HD Review

I've fallen in love with the Kobo Clara HD. When I was deciding on what e-reader to get I was torn between the Clara and the Forma, both made by Rakuten Kobo. Each device has stark contrasts from the other. I went with the Clara since I am new to e-readers and didn't want to drop a bunch of money on something I may not be into. I'm so happy with my decision.

Why didn't you get a Kindle?

Amazon's Kindle is front and center as THE e-reader. I decided against a Kindle though. I felt that the Kobo e-readers were superior. Amazon seems to be slow to innovate and improve their Kindle devices. Only just recently did they give the Kindle a backlight. The Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite both lack any type of automatic adjustment to light. And the Kindle Oasis looks like it could potentially snap in half if it shifted the wrong way in your bag.

Kobo on the other hand has a nice range of devices which provides you more options based on your use case. Kobo is really the only real competitor to Amazon. There is the Nook by Barnes & Noble but it's so sad that Barnes & Noble stores don't even seem to push it very hard.

Here's what makes the Kobo a great e-reader...

Design

The physical design is better than Kindles, with more thought put into it. The Clara's back features a sublet texture that adds grip. The screen is recessed and not flush with the bezels. Which doesn't take anything away from the user experience. The screen is also high resolution and just the right size at 6 inches.

Automatic Light Change

One of the biggest factors for me though was the automatic light change feature of the Kobo. Only the Kindle Oasis has this feature. The Clara doesn't have an ambient light sensor like some of the higher end Kobo's but it changes the warmth of the screen based on the time of day. Similar to Apple's night shift.

Book Selection

While Amazon has roughly 1 million more books, I haven't noticed a real difference in selection. In my opinion, those extra 1 million books are probably independent writers self publishing to Amazon. Which might be a pro for some, I however don't plan to read any self published books.

Pocket Integration

It may sound silly but one of the features that sold me was the fact that you can read articles saved to Pocket on the Kobo. I use Pocket on a daily basis and this feature is very convenient.

Case

Amazons cases don't have any ability to stand. Maybe that's not a big deal to some. To me I want something that stands freely. I've become accustomed to it with the iPad. Kobo sadly doesn't have cases for all it's e-readers but the many do. Yes of course you can find 3rd party cases but like cases for iPhones and iPads, they just aren't the same as ones from the device maker.

TL;DR

If you're looking to read more and don't want to pack around physical books, I highly recommend the Clara HD. You won't regret it. You can also see Kobo's book selection for yourself using their mobile apps, and you can even save $5 on your first book by using the link below.

KonMari for your digital space

Images ©KonMari Media Inc.

Images ©KonMari Media Inc.

Marie Kondo has taken the world by storm, teaching everyone how to effectively tidy up. She has only tackled our analog spaces though. What about our digital spaces? Thats where this article by Chris Taylor on Mashable comes in, find it here. They adapted Mari Kondo's tidying up method for digital clutter. Taking her "Does it spark joy?" and applying it to apps. I did it myself and it made a big difference.

Removes Unnecessary Apps

I guarantee that you have apps on your devices which you thought were a good idea to download, but haven't used. It's time to purge them. The original article outlines the steps in finding out when each app was last used (hint: it's in Settings). So give the article a read, and get to tidying. I recommend doing this on all your devices, including your computer.

Frees Up Space

Now that iPhones cost four figures, space is at more of a premium than ever. The removal of apps which don't spark joy will add up to additional gigabytes of storage.

Conclusion

We spend a lot of time in our digital spaces and these spaces deserve a tidying up as well. I recommend reading the article and giving it a try.

The Risk of Using Cheap Tech Accessories

The Risk of using cheap tech accessories

There is certainly no shortage of accessory options for your devices. You can get wall chargers, car chargers, and cables for dirt cheap; how can you resist saving a lot compared to the same accessories sold by the device manufacturer. This desire to save could bring on costly risks though. Costs like having to completely replace your device, or other belongings.

So what chargers are bad?

In my opinion, you should avoid the cheap chargers or cords manufactured by brands you’ve never heard of. This consists mostly of products on amazon, in drug stores, gas stations, etc. Anywhere that tech accessories are displayed for the purpose of impulse purchases. There is no brand trust with those products, just a low purchase price. Belkin, Apple, etc have a lot more riding on their reputation for reliable device accessories than some random company from China.

So what exactly can happen if I use a cheapo charger from Walgreens?

First and for-most, you could damage your device. I've seen this happen to my step father who used a cheap gas station car charger and fried his iPhone, and had to by a whole new phone. These cheap charger and cable manufactures use cheap materials and leave out technology which helps provide a steady stream of power to your device.

Secondly, you could be injured by these products. There are plenty of cases involving people using cheap accessories that have been electrocuted…to death. Some had the headphones melt into their ears. This article from Vice is a good example.

Third, but equally as bad as the previous two is the possibility of damage to your home. A wall charger that experiences a spike in electricity could melt or catch fire.

Just because I use a reputable brand doesn't mean I'm 100% safe…

This is true. You aren't 100% safe using any charger. There have been cases where Apple's own wall chargers have short circuited and caught fire. The biggest difference though is because Apple has a reputation to protect, they will likely cover damages and/or replace the malfunctioning product. The little no name company from china will definitely not do that. All they would have to do is retire their current name and re-open as a new company and continue their sales.

Conclusion

Not all charging devices are created equal. Though the price may not be as desirable, buying charging accessories direct from the device manufacturer or a long time 3rd party company is a better choice. Should something malfunction, they will be more likely to make things right.

Sweatcoin App Review

Sweatcoin App displayed on iPhone XS

People seem to need an incentive to get fit. The changes in physical appearance and mood should be more than enough incentive for anyone to get healthy but that isn't the case apparently. Sweatcoin attempts to incentivize. They offer to pay you what they claim to be cryptocurrency for outdoor physical activity. When you have enough currency, you can spend it on rewards. Which is where this whole idea falls apart like cheap workout gear.

The Truth

The cryptocurrency you earn simply buys you discounts on things that you've never heard of, and like most discounts require minimum order amounts. The only way to redeem currency for actual things is by saving up 20,000 sweatcoin, which can get you an iPhone X. It would take the average person years to acquire that many sweatcoins.

Conclusion

In the end, the only true financial reward for being active is fewer visits to doctors and medical bills. If you are already active, outdoorsy, and would like to earn some discounts on new things, download sweatcoin.

Take Back Your Privacy

Take back your online privacy

With the apparent lack of care for user data at Facebook, the data breaches which seem to be an almost weekly occurrence, etcetera your privacy isn't safe, or at least it's not if you don't take a little initiative. Just because you don’t have anything to hide doesn’t mean you should let everyone see what you do online. It's not just about things stored on your computer, your financial information, medical information and more is all at risk. There are free tools that can help you regain control. Free tools that are trustworthy, tools that I personally use.

Cloudflare DNS

The company famous for making content delivery networks accessible to most websites has now made a DNS significantly more secure AND fast. A DNS is used by your web browser to look up a website url to then dispay it for you. The difference is that CloudFlare doesn’t store any records of what websites you visit. The DNS that your internet provider uses by default can and does. By setting 1.1.1.1 as your primary DNS Server, you keep your web activity private.

Encrypted Email

Chances are you use a free email provider…most likely gmail. Google does the same as Facebook. Give you free services in exchange for information about you. They provide that information to advertisers to get you to buy things. There is an alternative. One that is free and has your privacy at the top of its priority list (without sacrificing ease of use).

VPN

Virtual private networks shield your connection via encryption. So when you purchase a new camera on amazon, your credit card and mailing address aren't visible to hackers. I recommend ProtonVPN, from the creators of ProtonMail. They are honest and transparent with their heart in the right place.

 

Eisenhower Matrix + Moleskine Actions

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Take your productivity to new heights with the use of a task management method used by a president paired with an app that offers a fresh take on to do lists.

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

It's a task sorting method which gets its name from Dwight D. Eisenhower. You take all the things you need to get done and sort them into 4 different categories. They are as follows;

Not Urgent, but Important
These are tasks that don't need to be done right this second but are important.

Urgent and Important
Tasks that need to be done as soon as possible.

Not Urgent and not Important
These are tasks that aren't really even worth delegating. These things should ideally be eliminated. If you absolutely cannot, delegate them.


Urgent but not Important
These things really need to be done but are not important. These tasks should be delegated to someone else.

 

These 4 categories are placed on a 4 quadrant matrix typically. From my personal experience, this method is extremely useful. It's meant to help you sort through everything and examine each task and forces you to decide where it stands in the overall landscape of what you want to get done. Overtime you will have a better sense what is important to you.

The Caveat

The E.M. is such a useful method but is in a way difficult to implement. You can use full sheets of paper to divide up your tasks—one for each day. To me though, that sounds like a waste of paper not to mention cumbersome. At the same time, anything less than a full sheet of paper doesn't really give much room to write down tasks. I tried designing matrixes for personal use but none ever worked the way I wanted. I thought that this fancy method was a pipe dream. I loved the concept but couldn't find a way to implement to where I stuck with it. Until Moleskine dropped a task management app called Actions, then it all changed.

Moleskine Actions

Moleskine's Actions app provides you with lists like any other to do list app. It's just more functional. It doesn't just show a long list of tasks like Apple reminders or similar apps. Actions shows your tasks in a timeline format. You can scroll through the days and see what's coming. What makes this work so well with the Eisenhower matrix is that each category has its own list, and each list can be a different color. So while you're looking at todays tasks, your 'urgent and important' ones can be in red, 'not urgent but important' can be blue, etcetera. With the ability to show tasks for specific days, you end up getting more done. You don't need to scroll through one list and find stuff that you can do today. That can be overwhelming, seeing everything at once. Actions makes looking at your tasks a more pleasant thing to do.

Actions isn't made specifically for use with the Eisenhower Matrix, you can use it however you'd like. Actions ties neatly in with Moleskines other app, Timepage. If you use both, you can have tasks show up on your calendar, and your calendar(s) show up with your tasks. Which is an additional layer of functionality. You don't have to switch between apps while you're trying to schedule a project or lunch date.

Conclusion

If the Eisenhower Matrix is of interest to you, I recommend downloading actions and making use of their trial period.

The Best Wireless Chargers

 
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Can't decide which wireless charger you should get for your iPhone? I made a helpful list for you. I would also like to stress that you purchase from reputable brands which you have heard of, Like Belkin, Anker, and Samsung. Cheap versions increase the risk of damaging your phone from unregulated power surges and electrical issues.

Standard Chargers

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Anker Powerport

Qi-Certified

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Belkin BOOST UP 7.5 W
 

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Belkin BOOST UP 5w

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Samsung Fast Charge

Integrated Charging Pads

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IKEA Selje Nightstand
 

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IKEA Varv Floor lamp
 

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IKEA Hektar Work lamp
 

DIY Integrated Charging Pad

Wireless Charging

Wireless Charging

Wireless charging is a new feature that comes along with iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X. When I ordered my 8 Plus I got a wireless charger, too because why not? There seems to be many benefits to wireless charging rather than wired charging. It's been a few months since I started using it and I thought I would note my experience.

Convenience

A few years ago, Phil Schiller, Apple's VP of marketing made a comment about wireless charging. Phil stated that wireless charging didn’t make sense because it still involves a cord. Of course it involves a cord. However, it's a nice convenience. It may not seem like it, but the ability to just set your phone down and have it charge is really nice. No need to search for the lightning cable which slid off the table sometime between you disconnecting your phone and you coming back home anymore. No need to stand it up on a dock either. No need to sacrifice listening to music while charging.  Just simple wireless charging occurring.

Aesthetics

Some of the wireless chargers available are ugly. There are a few ok looking ones. I look forward to when Native Union debuts one. They seem to be the only company to create Apple accessories with a true standard of creating beautiful products.  What's superior to stand alone charging pads are integrated ones, though. Ikea has a couple of nightstands and lamps featuring built in wireless charging pads. I'm sure more will become available in the future.

Doesn't Replace A Standard Dock

The need for a dock is still necessary at times. Whether you want to have your screen at your desk and upright for easy viewing. Or maybe you want to FaceTime while all working on your computer. These can't be achieved with a dock because the phone has to be flat on its back.

Conclusion

If you are someone who currently uses a dock or a stand, you will want to keep it around for the occasions where you need them. Besides that, I highly recommend a wireless charger. It seems frivolous, but it is actually convenient enough to be worth the purchase.

 
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The Best Wireless Charging Pads

Quadro App Review

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It seems like shortly after the release of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, an app called Quadro came onto my radar. The app page touted it as being an alternative to buying a new MacBook pro with a touch bar. I decided to see if it was actually worth using. It was extremely helpful, heres how.

Versatile & Intuitive

Presets are the basis of Quadro. It features presets for many popular applications. Many of these popular applications catering to audio and visually creative people. Additionally, you can create a screen of presets for any application installed on your computer and that Quadro is able to communicate with.

It's intuitive because it switches applications when you do. It gets better though, when you open an applications screen in Quadro, that application also launches on your computer. Time saving buttons are always there when you need them.

Colorful

Gradients and bright colors are on trend right now. Quadro  has a wonderful selection of bright colors and aesthetically pleasing gradients to help you differentiate all your pads from each other.

Time Saving

Quadro helps you save time. Instead of dragging your mouse and clicking buttons, you give the necessary function a simple tap and it happens. It doesn't replace a mouse or trackpad; it brings a new level of efficiency to your workflow. 

Similar to Touch Bar?

One shouldn’t really call it similar to the touch bar. (It’s worth noting that I haven't experienced a touch bar MacBook Pro.) A full iPad screen can't really be compared to a small touch screen strip across a laptop keyboard. I imagine that it's much more functional than the Touch bar since pads are fully customizable. Whereas Apple has some restrictions on what can be used for. you haven’t been writing from the first person perspective until now.

Pros

  • Quadro streamlines tasks down to single taps on a screen. Saving you from doing multiple mouse clicks. This is especially prevalent in Adobe programs and other professional applications.
  • The customization of icons and colors helps make each virtual button stand out from the others.
  • With the auto switch feature, you can switch to a different application and have the buttons change too. 
  • It moves with you.

Cons

  • The app isn't very usable unless you purchase the annual pass. It’s not expensive, but definitely make use of your free trial to ensure Quadro would be of true value to you.
  • Connection via Quadros supplement app (available for Mac and Windows) can have a hard time connecting sometimes. Especially with Windows. Though these connection issues are not all that common.

Conclusion

For $14.99 per year, this app is sure to streamline even simple tasks. It works on iPhone and iPad and is not only functional but also beautiful. I recommend any creative person download it.

 
 

I'm not waiting for the iPhone X

When iPhone X was revealed, like many, I said "thats the iPhone I'm getting". A large number of people are holding out for it. I was with them until I started to question why. I really started questioning the wait when the predicted amount of handsets that would be available was low and only got lower as weeks went on. Apple's manufacturers are having difficulties building components for Face ID in a fast enough manor. So I decided not to wait after considering a few factors. 

Nearly Everything Is The Same

The specs of both iPhone 8 and X are nearly identical. The Plus even gets the fancy new portrait lighting software and wireless charging. So why wait for something that you can get now? Next years iPhone will have the same exterior as iPhone X. Not to mention that the S models always seem to be better anyway. One can argue that Face ID is reason to wait, except...

Face ID Isn’t Going Anywhere

Apple killed Touch ID with iPhone X and introduced facial recognition instead. Called Face ID. Is it cool? Hell yes. Is it worth waiting for? No. It’ll be on next years iPhone. It’ll be better and faster than on iPhone X. Besides, I would imagine that there might be a few kinks to work out before it works as advertised. 

AT&T NEXT Every Year

I have AT&T NEXT Every Year. So I get a new phone… every year. Whatever phone I get, I get a new one next year. Which makes waiting for a phone sort of pointless, I can the iPhone XS.

Waiting Throws Off Next Years Upgrade

With AT&T Next Every Year, after paying for a phone for 12 months, you can trade it in. If I waited for iPhone X, I could potentially receive it in January or February. Which means I’d have to wait 12 months from then to get a new phone. I'd have to wait until 2019 to get the 2018 phone. Or I could pay a few hundred dollars extra and upgrade early. Which isn’t worth it.