Aug 222015

Why use bridging.
Consider a situation where you have a bog standard modem / router provided by your Internet Service Provider.
You’ve just upgraded to the latest and greatest Fibre, EFibre or as it is technically named VDSL connection.
You are getting fantastic speeds but you have a better router there sitting in a box that isn’t VDSL compatible.
This is a perfect reason to use bridging. You use the modem functionality of the modem / router that the Internet Service Provider has given you but you get all the great features of the more expensive router that you already have.
However, let’s say you have a VDSL compatible modem sitting there. You can use this instead of the modem supplied to you by your internet service provider. There are valid arguments that this is actually a more secure solution. However, keep in mind that if you go down this route, your internet Service Provider may not support you if you encounter problems with your Internet connection if you do not have your standard modem to hand.

For more information about how to configure your third party modem to work with Fibre or EFibre look at this site.

Jun 112015

Someone made a comment a few days ago about the Apple Watch and specifically Voiceover that I found kind of interesting. She said that the Apple watch isn’t like a normal talking watch. A normal talking watch has very slow speech feedback and the volume is static. It also usually chimes before announcing the time to the world. An Apple Watch might not be as discrete but it has a coolness factor at the moment that slightly negates the annoying factor for people around me. I can only hope that lasts. Her point was that the Apple Watch speaks much faster because I have it configured at that speed and if I’m going into an environment that’s quieter I can set the volume of the speech appropriately so that while in a quiet meeting for example it doesn’t shout my notifications out to the world.

In most reviews of the Apple Watch I’ve read that people get annoyed by the number of notifications. I have to say that I’m not annoyed by them at all. I find that I actually miss most of the notifications that come in to the Apple Watch. This is because the tap is so slight that unless I’m not busy I really won’t notice. The iPhone demands attention but the Apple Watch quietly asks for it.

I’m a techy. I love all things techy therefore it’s a given that I’ll get to like the Apple Watch but I don’t love it. I don’t see myself feeling naked without the Apple Watch like I do when I forget my phone. Sorry. That’s not quite true. I don’t feel naked without my phone but I feel like I’m missing something important. The Apple Watch isn’t that important to me. Apple announced on Monday that Apple OS version 2 will be out in September or October. I’m really hoping they address the short comings I’ve outlined on this blog in the past week. I’ll be emailing to make sure they are aware of my problems, complaints and annoyances. I can only hope that every other Voiceover user of the Apple Watch does the same thing. If people don’t tell Apple what they are doing wrong they really can’t expect them to fix the problems for the next release.

Jun 082015

I’m a terrible blogger. Day 3 and 4 of my Apple Watch review have been amalgamated into this. Day 5. Please forgive me.

On the plus side, I have a bit more of interest to tell you hopefully.

On Friday I was in Dublin for the day so the Apple watch was used quite extensively. I tried not to reach for my phone as much and in fairness, the Apple Watch saved me some time. Or…. Did it? Yes. The apple Watch is always on your wrist but the interface isn’t always intuitive. Specifically from the perspective of a Voiceover user. When I raise my wrist for example. I want Voiceover to always speak the time automatically. It’s quite good at that but it’s not 100% consistent. Likewise when I get a notification. I want to raise my wrist and hear the notification. I don’t want to have to tap and feel around the screen. That’s not efficient at all! So, yes. At times I wonder if it’s not just easier and faster to read these notifications directly from my phone. Certainly the responsiveness of Voiceover has a lot to do with this frustration. It’s only about a half a second but if any other screen reader had this kind of lag I’d have thrown it out ages ago. The apple Watch will be no exception if I don’t see signs of improvement very shortly.

I said in my previous post that I’d try using the Apple Watch with a Bluetooth headset. This certainly feels more natural than holding a watch up to my ear but it’s yet another component to carry around. I use a headset very regularly so it’s not a big deal but I choose when to bring it. With the Apple Watch I may need to bring it all the time.

That aside, I left the house on Friday morning and as I usually do, I started to catch up with customers, suppliers and colleagues while walking. I had the Bluetooth headset paired to the watch so I could hear Voiceover however when I made a call the Bluetooth headset was useless! The watch speaker was used instead! This to me is almost a deal breaker. Why oh why can’t the Apple Watch use my Bluetooth headset to take a call. It seems like the most obvious feature. Especially considering the Apple Watch supports music playback through the Bluetooth headset. That by the way seems like a stupid feature to me. But if it’s going to support music playback, why can’t it support calling over the Bluetooth headset?

I can get over the need to use a Bluetooth headset for the watch if it allows me to make and receive calls directly from that device using the same headset but this half implemented solution really annoys me.

One thing I really like about the Apple watch is the exercise, movement and stand reminders. These would be irritating to most people but I am actively trying to become more physically active so I’m liking the regular reminders at the moment. Of course, when I don’t want them, I can just disable that feature. On Saturday, I cycled for almost three hours so I achieved over 420% of my exercise goal, 226% of my activity goal but sadly only 87% of my stand goal. How I only achieved 87% of my stand goal is completely beyond me but anyway. I’m’ not particularly worried. By Saturday night I was just ever so slightly tired. It was nice to know that I had a tangible notification and record of my efforts. It’s important to acknowledge the work that Apple have done on making the Apple Watch accessible to people who are blind. Although in many ways I think the product isn’t quite ready for most users of Voiceover, I highly respect Apple’s intentions and the work they have put in to this. It’s also not lost on me that before the Apple Watch, much of this technology was inaccessible to us. In fact, this is the first wearable technology to be fully accessible to Blind people. That’s something that I probably haven’t praised enough. However, the bottom line is important. As a consumer and as a user. Can I justify continuing to use a device with so many flaws?

The summary screen on the activity appI mentioned that I was cycling on Saturday. We had gone about 3KM when I remembered to start tracking the trip. I had everything ready on the Apple watch so I pressed the digital crown, used force touch to bring up the start screen then tried to swipe left and right to find the start button. The problem is, I was also trying to peddle etc. It was very difficult. Unfortunately, I thought I double tapped on start but it mustn’t have worked because it didn’t track the cycle. I was more than a little disappointed by it. The point I’m making is the interface isn’t consistent enough to use without giving it more than a little bit of your attention. For example, on the iPhone the surface are of the screen is bigger so you can touch the area you think a button might be and you will probably find it very quickly. The Apple watch is very small so you would think finding the buttons would be easier. No! The buttons are smaller so it’s actually often much more difficult. The lag between when you put your finger on the screen to when Voiceover starts speaking is actually so pronounced in my opinion that sometimes you may actually have been on the right control but because Voiceover didn’t speak fast enough you’ve already moved on to where you think the control might be in error.

Echoing what others have said about the Apple Watch, the battery life is fantastic and because I’m not checking notifications as often on the phone the battery on my iPhone seems to last a little longer as well.

Jun 052015

Day two with the Apple watch was quite uneventful.

I was working from home so I reached my standing goal and my activity goal but I didn’t get anywhere near reaching my exercise goal. I’m hoping today will be a little better.

Because I was at home I also didn’t have any problem with being unable to hear the watch due to background noise.

I spent some time before work learning more about it. I still haven’t figured out how to turn off the noises for Voiceover but I learned that I can increase and decrease the volume reasonably easy. Double tap the screen with two fingers then slide up or down. The problem that I’ve encountered however is that when you release your fingers from the screen the volume can go up or down a bit. It’s not very accurate. It’s also not all that efficient so it can’t be done in a hurry.

I also noticed that in glances you can move through the items by using the scroll area at the bottom. This is much faster than flicking up and down and then double tapping on next or previous item.

I’ve enabled digital crown navigation. This can be done by triple tapping with two fingers. I like this method of navigation. Especially for notifications. The problem I have encountered though is when you use it to quickly move down to the last control labelled dismiss voiceover doesn’t always tell you that you’re there. It feels like an unfinished feature.

I looked through the manual yesterday to try to find a list of Voiceover gestures. I had no success. If they are in a manual, they are well hidden.

I’m still very irritated by the watch constantly turning on when I move my hand. Obviously I use my hands for everything. Finding things, opening doors, typing, playing music, my guide dog etc. The watch has absolutely no awareness of this though and constantly turns on and off. Each time it turns on Voiceover plays a sound and speaks the time. The problem is, I like this feature but I’d prefer if it was more intelligent. The funny thing is, I’ve read other reviews of the Apple Watch that have complained that the wrist movement isn’t fluid enough. In other words when the reviewers moved their wrist the watch face doesn’t turn on. Maybe this is something Apple have rectified and as a result have made it over sensitive.

I have liked getting the notifications on my wrist though. Especially for work. I don’t get over loaded so it’s nice to get the important things even when I’ve stepped away or I’m talking to someone.

Speaking of stepping away, one of the draws of the Apple watch for me is the fitness and activity side of things. I know I need to be more active. This is showing me exactly how much more. It may not be as accurate as dedicated devices on the market but it’s accessible and it’s accurate enough to send me in the right direction.

Jun 042015

The Apple watch on my wristI ordered the Apple Watch a few days after it was officially available in April and it arrived yesterday, a bit sooner than I had expected.

I had tried one in the Apple store in Belfast back in April but the demonstration models didn’t have the ability to enable Voiceover so my conclusion wasn’t definitive on if this was going to be a benefit or not. However, as I like all things techy, I decided to go and buy one regardless.

I want these reviews to be comprehensive without being too long so let me jump right into it.

Firstly, there is an offal lot of packaging. I don’t know how Apple is ticking its sustainability box when it has so many little bits of packaging around the watch. It came in a card board box. Inside this was a card board shell which suspended another card board box. Inside this was a plastic box with the watch in the middle. The watch was also wrapped in about four types of plastic from the outside of the box to the strap.

Fortunately it had plenty of battery when I started with it. It wasn’t at 100% but it was probably around 90. I turned it on, successfully paired it with my phone and within a few minutes the Apple watch was talking and working well. It’s just as well it was a quick process as I got it into my hands at 7:35 and I had to be out by 7:50PM last night.

The fact I had to go straight out after the watch was configured meant that I didn’t really give myself enough time to get even slightly comfortable with this new user interface. I knew how to check the time, get to glances, open notifications and move around applications but I hadn’t yet customized the watch face or installed the update to 1.01.

On the up side, bringing the Apple Watch out straight away meant that it was thrown into a real life scenario right out of the box. I had to meet the rest of my family for a big event so the room that we were in was very noisy. This posed a challenge for the Apple Watch from the perspective of a Voiceover user. How do you gain the benefit of the apple watch as a discrete extension of your iPhone when you need to have the volume up so high that everyone in the room can hear it or you need to hold your arm close to your ear like someone doing a type of very weird salute? It was one of the reasons I have a lot of reservations about the Apple watch. I have always hated talking watches with a passion. Do I really want to use one?

I’m in noisy environments a lot so I’ll explore this potential problem more as the days go on.

The other problem I had was when we were eating. I’d move my arm and the watch would start talking. It’s very irritating but yet I see the benefit of this feature being enabled when I’m walking. Unfortunately there’s no quick way of disabling this that I know of however I must say that I haven’t bothered reading the manual yet. I probably should have read some of this by now but I generally only read the manual when all else fails.

I got the opportunity to configure the watch a little more last night when I got back at 1AM. It seems easy enough to use.

One complaint I have is that voiceover is far too sluggish. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s very slow to respond, it just means that it’s slower than the phone to respond to flicks and taps. This is probably an unfair comparison to make. The phone has a much more powerful processor but if the screen reader doesn’t respond instantly to gestures the user interface feels sluggish and the experience feels very cumbersome.

I’m being harsh. This is the first version of the Apple Watch but for the price I’ve paid for it, I demand a certain standard. The Voiceover implementation doesn’t begin to live up to that standard.

One of my plans when buying the Apple watch was to make my own watch face. This wouldn’t be a visual face, it would use the taptic engine to provide the time in a sequence of vibrations. Unfortunately Apple put a stop to my plan by restricting the development of watch faces.

One very positive point to the Apple Watch is it is smaller and lighter than my TISSOT TOUCH SILEN-T watch.

May 032015

A friend of mine would stop and talk to homeless around her area. Many of these homeless people were alcoholics or drug addicts. When I asked her why she spent so much time on these people her response was that life is a roller-coaster. You’re up one day and the next your down. There’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re going to drown. That’s just the way the world goes round. She said that you really never know when that could be you some day. The least you would want people to do is treat you like any other person. Dignity, respect and understanding don’t cost anything.

So when I heard of a friend of a friend who had recently become homeless these words rang like alarm bells.

I offered to let the person stay in our house because I know from previous encounters that they are a fantastic musician and it would only take the right contacts to get them back in the gigging scene again. Within no time I know the person would have a stable income and be able to properly afford a home again.

I have also made the mistake before of trying to help too much. I came across as being too forceful and possibly even patronizing. From that experience I also know that peoples pride can never be under estimated so basically, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. With this in mind, when this person came to our house during the week I gave a couple of suggestions but I didn’t push or over state anything.

I freely gave the use of two 16.5 inch RCF speakers or a small boes digital speaker and amp along with a mixer and as many mikes, stands and cables as needed. With this person’s talent and equipment like this at their disposal it would only take a few days to start building up some really nice solo gigs.

I then gave a few numbers of some brilliant friends of mine who would jump at the opportunity to be introduced to such a good musician.

Finally, I have quite a few contacts in the social housing industry so I offered some information.

Without pushing or favouring any solution, I was basically handing this person the means to get out of this homeless situation without asking for anything in return. Within a week the person would have built up a contacts list that would have resulted in a flood of performances and enough money to put a deposit down on an apartment rental.

I was kind of shocked when not only did the person not jump at any of these opportunities, they didn’t even get up to wash a cup or put away their bed clothes the next morning. As we don’t have a spare room at the moment our living room was the only option. Fortunately, our living room has a very comfortable couch that has been used as a bed many a time by visitors. Yes. By visitors in case any of you get ideas.

24 hours after the person came, I decided that they really didn’t want any help to get out of this situation. They were quite content to live off the generosity of others. My generosity has a limit and I have absolutely no intention of helping someone who won’t help themselves so I put an end to my offer.

It’s frustrating. I would have gladly given more time if the person had even bothered to help out around the house. I would assume that someone who finds themselves homeless would do absolutely everything possible to get a home again. But in the meantime, when depending on people to shelter you from the elements at night, the least you can do is use the opportunities given to you and contribute as much as you can to the people who are giving you somewhere to sleep.