karmicdragonfly: (Default)
This past Christmas I bought a book as a gift. I didn't pay attention that it was coming from the UK, so I felt all special when I got a package from Royal Mail by Airmail! The British company included an additional gift, which they called a "Diary"...which doesn't mean the same thing in American English. The additional gift is what I would call a "Datebook" -- a diary in American English means a "personal journal", not a calendar!

In any event, I have no need for a Datebook -- I mean, we have electronic calendars now!

So as a way to remind myself of good things in my life, I decided to use the Datebook to record something I am thankful for each day. For example, today I recorded that I am thankful that I like to play with electronic things -- having just bought a couple of HomeKit connected plugs to turn lamps on and off with Siri. Mostly, this was just for fun, and I guess what I'm really thankful for is that I still like to play :)

But one worry I have had is that sometimes, I think I am just writing something quickly at the end of the day without really stopping and really thinking about what it is that I'm thankful for. I think I'll have to be sure to stop for a few seconds each day and consider why I'm writing what it is that I'm writing.

Maybe at the end of the year...or maybe the end of each month, I'll read the entries to remind myself....sort of a Buddhist meditation :)



And as I think of it, maybe I'm using this 'Datebook' as a 'Diary' lol, recording what I was thankful for!
karmicdragonfly: (Default)
Every 2 years, I give myself a little treat and buy a new phone....I'm pretty well pleased with the iPhone Xs! The OLED screen is nice, the new gestures, the larger screen, faster application launches, etc. etc...

I remember when I first went from a flip phone to an iPhone (it was a 3GS), how amazing it was compared to a flip phone! Then over the years, the incremental changes meant that the phones were faster, but not very memorable. This one though -- the new gestures, FaceID to replace TouchID, the larger screen in almost the same sized phone (I got the smallest of the 3 models) -- all of that has been a pleasure to use!

And I LOVED the setup! I just had to place the old iPhone next to the new one, and it transferred nearly all my settings! So much nicer than before! Here it is just after setup --





I thought I would miss TouchID, but FaceID is nice! It just have to look at the phone, and it unlocks. Here's the setup for that -- where I had to rotate my face to 'fill in the circle' a few times...



The new phone's chip is designed to allow some 'Augmented Reality', so I've been playing with an app that lets me examine artwork in my own home, lol! Here I am on my porch turning and zooming in on a piece of artwork from South America!
karmicdragonfly: (Default)
After my previous first use post, and now that I've had a week and a half of use of the HomePod and have had friends over to play around with it, I thought I would do a follow-up.

Overall -- I like it. I'm glad I bought the device.

I saw some commenters online stating that they thought that Apple should have waited for a while -- I guess until when? Until the device was perfect before releasing it? I don't agree with that -- I like owing it and I'm glad it was available when I bought it!

I have never used any of the other speakers, although I have seen an Echo in use. So I'm not the person to judge between them. I do know that from the point of view of sound quality, the Echo would not have been the speaker for me. And I think that's not the point of an Echo.

My primary goal was a speaker to play music, so the quality of the sound matters. And in this, the HomePod meets my exceptions. I've never heard the Sonos or the Google Max, so I can't judge them.

HomePod Hits

  • Sound quality
    I'm pleased. This is no audiophile level system but for day-to-day listening pleasure, it's good. It has a decent amount of base, and I don't notice distortion when it's playing. Some reviewers have said they 'never heard such and such sound' in a song until they listened to it on HomePod, and that is not something I have experienced. But I'm pleased overall with the sound.

    This album is an example of songs that I think sound very nice on the HomePod:
    https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/sway/965066035

  • Sound volume
    Also totally good for me. My ears are pretty sensitive, so I can't stand very loud music. Even though age has taken its toll on my hearing, I still generally only listen to the HomePod at 1/2 volume.

    If you say 'Hey Siri, full volume', he responds with "That's very loud. Are you sure?" Case in point, a friend was over and we were listening to Beethoven. He made the comment that "this shows the limitations of a small speaker", because he thought it was as loud as it would go. But I was like....well, I only have it at 1/2 volume, so he was like 'well, turn it up!'

    So I stood up and started walking towards the other room. I said, 'Hey Siri. 100% volume.' He responded that that that would be very loud, and was I sure? I said 'Yes' and kept walking to the other room -- to avoid hurting my ears.

    Even in the other room, it was a bit loud for me!

  • Setup
    Easy peasy. And it's really nice that the device itself updates it's sound projection to the shape of the room each time you move the speaker -- no need to wander around with an app like with Sonos. HomePod requires no action on your part.

  • Every day use
    Nice to just walk in the house and say, 'Hey Siri. Play.'

  • Integration with Apple Music
    Works as expected!

  • Airplay
    Easy to stream music from an iPhone, iPad, Mac -- Spotify, Apple Music, Podcasts, Recordings, etc.

Generally Successful Commands

  • Play [some artist] -- Donna Summer, Enigma, The Verve, Vanessa da Mata, Rita Lee, Perfume Genius, Banks
  • Play [some title] -- Sweet Jane, Priestess, Take a Letter Maria
  • Play [some album] -- The Theory of Everything
  • Play happy music
  • Play Netflix and Chill music -- although I'm not sure I agreed that those were songs I would play during, um, that particular activity!
  • Play [some classical composer]
  • Play [some classical piece]
  • Play more songs like this.
  • Create a station from this song.
  • Stop
  • Play
  • Play [playlist]
  • What's playing?
  • When was this released?
  • What's the weather tomorrow?
  • Louder
  • Softer
  • 50% volume
  • 100% volume
  • Next
  • Skip back 30 seconds
  • Back
  • Play Podcast [podcast name] -- but see the list in 'less successful' below.

Less Successful Commands

  • Play [anything that is not English]
  • Play really depressing music. Thanks, Nh!
  • Play movement 3 in [some concerto] Thanks, J!
  • Play Podcast [podcast name] Number 145 -- I haven't figured out if I can or how to get Siri to play a particular episode of a podcast.
  • Some titles are harder than others. For example, 'I See Fire' always wanted to play some song about a lake?????? But if I said 'I See Fire by Ed Sheeran', it worked fine.

HomePod Annoyances

  • Pronunciation
    I know this is an odd lead off...but Siri's pronunciation annoys me. I mean, even when he says the word 'HomePod', it sounds odd! I would say the word with a short o in 'Pod' - ɒ -- like in rock or odd or Tom. But I swear, Siri says 'HomePard'. Stuff like that and emphasis on wrong syllables annoys me.

  • Lack of context
    Siri doesn't have context. It's best to supply the context with each request -- "of this song", "of this piece", etc. Otherwise, Siri might end up reading Wikipedia to you!

    Also -- no context like you can't say 'Play the last album I listened to.'

  • Stops responding.
    Sometimes, Siri will stop responding. The most annoying time when this happens is when he's playing a song that you don't want to listen to! And he won't stop!

    I have said 'Hey Siri, stop!', and the music dims like he heard me...but the song continues. Maybe if I waited longer, that might correct itself, but after like 10 seconds, I get frustrated. After 15 seconds, I'm done!

    I have unplugged the HomePod twice since I have owned it after Siri became unresponsive.

  • Low hanging fruit commands
    Some expected commands didn't work. For example, he can add a track to a playlist, but can't delete a track. Seems odd to be able to do one of the CRUD commands, but not another.

  • Play [song title]
    He plays just.that.song...and stops. I'm not sure what I expected, but I kinda wish he would ask after a while if I want to hear something else, lol. Now, I'm just nit-picking.

Bottom line

-- so far so good. Glad I bought it. But can't speak for other manufacturer's speakers! But I stick by previous post -- it's only for folks who subscribe to Apple Music!

karmicdragonfly: (Default)
Whew...it's been raining all weekend...like hard enough that I didn't want to go out! Last night, it was only drizzling a little, and I noticed the fog outside so I went for a walk in the neighborhood.
Fog...or Dreams?

Fog...or Dreams?

Swings

****
OMG...I just asked Siri-HomePod to create a station from the current music, and he pretty creepily answered "I'm sorry. I can't do that."...and it sounded A LOT like Dave in Space Odyssey!
https://youtu.be/ARJ8cAGm6JE?t=1m

So I did something in the other room for a few mins, and then asked the question again. I got the same creepy response.

Then, I pulled my phone out and started recording and asked the question again -- and this time, he did what I asked... 😲
karmicdragonfly: (Default)
On a whim this past week, I decided to use a bit of tax refund to buy an Apple HomePod. Since I'm a planner I usually take time to consider purchases a while, so it's a bit unusual for me to pull the trigger so fast on a purchase.

I also usually hang on to electronics until I have gotten good use from them. I currently had an 18 year old stereo with 5 speakers in my living room. Note that the system was NOT an audiophile system -- just a system I picked up at Circuit City all those year ago to play CDs and cassette tapes (!!!) and listen to the radio.

The only thing I currently use the stereo for is to stream music from an old iPhone. I have the headphone jack on the phone connected to the stereo, and I just play music -- sometimes from my library, sometimes from Pandora...but mostly from Apple Music.


So I wondered if the HomePod could take the place of that system with all the speakers and wires.

***And the answer is -- not quite yet.***

But my first impression: the music sounds great from such a small device!



Placement and Testing

I tried it in 3 different positions, settling on my mantle. You can see that it is not a large item, but it is much heavier than you would think from its size. That's my first partner, Matt, with the puppies in that photo :)


In preparation for the delivery, I had prepared a 'HomePod Test' playlist. I included various types of music, from Nina Simone's I Put a Spell on You to the theme from the horror movie Halloween, to some classical tracks to Pop, with some older, some newer, some English, some Portuguese, some with more bass, some with less.


When I received the package yesterday, I set it up and spent a fair amount of time listening to songs in the playlist. And it was this song below that made me realize my older speaker system has the slight edge.

I think it was just the percussion sounds and the 'atmospheric-ness' of the music that gave the edge to the speaker system.

But in testament to the HomePod.... I had to listen to several songs before I could decide. Although my old system was not high end, it did have 5 'surround sound' type speakers, which is what gave it the edge I think.

Adjusted for inflation, I spent more on the 18 year old system than I did on the HomePod. And basically the HomePod is just a great little speaker!

Instructions for set up were easy --


I did run into 1 issue -- I had the phone in my hand as I was starting setup, and maybe I moved it too far away after the initial Configure screen had shown up. And the screen disappeared! And I didn't know how to get it back!

So I restarted both the HomePod and my iPhone, and the configure screen came back. And all went well.

I also tested playing from various AirPlay sources (this one is from my Mac). Worked great with no issues at all.


One thing that surprised me about Airplay was that I can play both on the source and on the HomePod. Here is me playing from my Mac speakers upstairs and from the HomePod downstairs -- same song playing on both at the same time.


Delivery

Packaging was impeccable. I had brought a butter knife in from the kitchen into the living room to use to cut tape, but I didn't need it!

On the cardboard outside package, there was a tab to pull to remove the tape.


Once you were inside, the white package came out easily, and then the plastic around the white box peeled off in 1 piece with no effort at all.


Physical Control / Siri

There's an area on the top that lights up and where you can tap once to start/stop, twice to skip forward, etc. And there are 2 spots on top where you can change the volume.

Siri has performed pretty much flawlessly! She's limited though: for example she can't add an entry to my calendar, and she knows it. She responds that she can't do that.

When addressing her, I can use my normal, inside voice -- even full of oatmeal as I gobbled down breakfast this morning. And she can hear me from another room, although I did have to raise my voice when I was in the kitchen.

An unusual turn for me is that HomePod is only English now. And that's ok. On my iPhone and Mac, Siri understands my Portuguese just fine...EXCEPT I can't say English names in a way that he can understand. Even if I say a song title or an address with a 'Brazilian' accent, he doesn't get English names. But if the song title is in Portuguese, he understands me just fine. So from the point of view of voice control for mostly English titles, having English only is good.

I had forgotten how comfortable it is to speak in English to a device -- in Portuguese, I prepare in my head what I'm going to say before I say it -- in the way you have to do when you are just learning a language. One enjoyable (because I like to play around) aspect of this is that I can get Siri going on both my HomePod ("Hey Siri") and my iPhone ("E aí Siri") and give instructions to both. As in "Hey Siri. Skip" and "E aí Siri. Abrir Notas."

Another limitation for me -- because my phone is in Portuguese and the HomePod in English, she can't send a text. She told me that I would need to change my phone to be the same language as HomePod before she could do that.

On the phone, the Home app is where you'll find HomePod settings. Here is Minha Casa--


And some of the typical settings, more or less the same ones as on any device with Siri --


Only English available, but with the US, Great Britain and Australian varieties.

This second item below is important to note, and was part of the initial set up also. Basically, I chose that anyone in the house can control the HomePod, and anyone on the network can have access to my phone messages, mails, etc. But since I use my other devices in Portuguese, I think that is a moot point for me :)


All in All

All in all -- I'm satisfied. Although I think my old speaker system has the edge, I have still placed HomePod in my living room and have been using it exclusively with no issues.

karmicdragonfly: (Default)
I had a 6 year old Apple Extreme Basestation -- great device -- had given me trouble-free service for 6 years! Best router I had ever had, and I would have bought an updated one!

And it was still kicking....but sadly Apple is getting out of the router business. So I decided to try a mesh network because the front porch was a bit weak and so was the glider out back under the Mulberry.

I set up a Linksys Velop mesh network today with 2 devices. I'm still testing -- this is not a recommendation yet, but so far so good!

The setup took a few steps but was pretty easy. You start by downloading the app for your phone, and then the app takes you step by step through setup.

First you create your network name and password - I didn't take any screen prints at that point. Since I used the same name and password, and the same security protocol, after I finished, all my devices re-connected with no manual intervention from me!

All this is in Portuguese, of course because applications obey your language preference on iOS...so I have to be 'on top of my game' with my Portuguese when I am doing any new setup! I really have to read slowly to make sure I'm answering the questions correctly!

Several steps (not sure if these are the right order or not!) -- "Verifying an internet connection"...."Accessing the cloud"..."Success! You configured a node!"..."Sending configurations to the node"...."Configuring your remote access"...



On the very first node -- the one that actually connects to the wired broadband network...there was a failure -- a sad cloud face...I ended up resetting the node and going through the process again.



After setting up both nodes, it told me there was a firmware update, so I let it download it.



It gives you some instruction on where to position the nodes -- where you want coverage, but within reach of the first node. It's NOT personal to your situation, but just suggestions.



You pick the location of the node -- and that is how it is referred to in the application from then on. In this case, it was the node in the kitchen (cozinha)



It decided that I had a picked a good spot for node 2 --



Your WIFI is ready. The configuration was finished.



I am still testing whether this is better or not. I noticed my Macbook getting hot when I was sitting on the porch (sign of weak connection), so I used the 'device prioritization' to make it one of the top devices. It has cooled off. Not sure if that had anything to do with it or not.

It was an easy setup...although it took a few minutes....I'll keep an eye on it and post an update to this article in a few days.

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karmicdragonfly

April 2019

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"O seguro morreu de velho, mas o desconfiado ainda está vivo." -- "The safe one died of old age, but the suspicious one is still living."





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