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The Apple Of My Eye

iPhone 6

Like most things in this world, technology is cyclic… bah, whatever, I’ll cut to the chase. I’m back on an iPhone.

Perhaps ironically I wrote all about my Microsoft-centric world in my last post, What the phablet?, and in the post before that, Apples to Apples, Dust to Dust, I lamented about leaving my iFamily behind. But undertones in each left open the possibility of possibilities. Like an addict I was most pleased that I had broken free from the stranglehold Apple had on me.

Ok, now that I feel better about that I’ll explain what drew me back to the iPhone. In one word: QUALITY.

The hardware is flawless. The casing. The screen (touch and visuals). The audio quality. The fingerprint reader. The camera.

The software is slick. Simple, efficient, responsive, purposeful, reliable.

But I already knew most of this and even wrote about this and more in a previous post: 5 reasons why I bought an iPhone 5s, so I won’t go into all of that again.

Instead, I’ll list a few things I loved and hated about Android and Windows Phone from experience over the past year.

  • My favourite thing about Android is Google Now. It’s amazing technology and no one else has anything like it. I will miss that
  • My most hated thing about Android is the feeling of how inefficiently it runs. It often feels sluggish, despite running on a good hardware, or would run hot or suffer from short battery-life and I could never predict when or how that would happen. My Nexus 7, which lives on the coffee table, is often flat despite sitting idle for only a couple of days. My LG G3, would freeze or hang for no apparent reason and was unpredictable with battery life. Even Chrome is a massive resource hog… why Google? WHY?
  • My favourite thing about Windows Phone is how connected it makes you feel to your own things. It brings together well curated views of your social networks, contacts, news and other interests into gorgeous live tiles where you can consume information at a glance, or dig a bit deeper
  • My most hated thing about Windows Phone is similar to that of Android. It feels clunky and tedious. It feels like, well, Windows. (NB. I haven’t evaluated Windows Phone 10 yet, and I hear that is much better)

How does Apple get these things so right? In my opinion it’s because of a combination of a few things.

  • Firstly because they design and engineer the hardware and software to work together so things run more efficiently
  • Then, they use high quality components to build it
  • And finally, they protect it with strict controls over APIs, developers, partners and resellers

So, the iPhone is back in my life. My Nexus 7 is largely disused, mostly because it’s usually flat because I don’t use it enough to keep it charged – go figure. I know an iPad lasts weeks and weeks with this sort of usage because my 4-year-old iPad 2 that lives on the kitchen counter and primarily used by my wife is still going strong with daily use.

But I don’t want to get a new iPad, or even a new tablet for that matter. What has really caught my eye is the new MacBook. (It even got me to resurrect my 5-year-old MacBook Pro, which I am typing this on and loving – Apple products just don’t die!). Now a device like that sexy new MacBook makes me rethink some of the comments I made in What the phablet? about what a good two-device-combo should look like… hmm…

I wonder what my next post will be about…

What the phablet?

2011 to 2013 to 2014

There’s been some more device churn in my life since I last blogged about this topic a year ago. Actually, since I last blogged full-stop, but let’s not get into that. So I’m going to take you on a bit of a journey with this post… bear with me.

2011 was the year of Apple for me. MacBook Pro, iPad 2 and iPhone 3GS (and soon after iPhone 4s). The rationale was simple back then: the iPhone was great but too slow and small for heavy browsing or videos (particularly when travelling) so the iPad was required. But the iPad was no computer (and still isn’t) so the MacBook Pro was needed (and MacBook Air’s weren’t quite there yet).

But why all Apple? In my opinion there just wasn’t a better smartphone or tablet on the market at the time and MacBooks seemed fresh, new, innovative and interesting. I wanted to give it a try and every Windows laptop I looked at seemed boring and ugly in comparison (Apple marketing at it’s best!).

By 2013 I’d upgraded my iPhone from the 4s to the 5s and I blogged about why. But a Google Nexus 7 bumped the iPad 2 as my tablet of choice and the MacBook Pro was replaced by a Dell XPS 12 – a hybrid Windows 8 laptop/tablet.

Why?

Simple. Windows 8 was exciting and the Dell hardware they packed it in was interesting (kind of like why I went MacBook before, huh?). And there’s no arguing with the fact that Windows just makes more sense for my needs (something I conveniently disregarded to justify the Mac back then). So then the iPad 2 suddenly felt needlessly bulky and I couldn’t justify lugging it around as well as my Dell. And next to the iPhone 5s, which has a better screen and punchier processor, the iPad 2 just seemed unnecessary. But I still longed for light, compact device for reading and videos when commuting and travelling that could slip unobtrusively into my laptop bag. Enter the Nexus 7.

Now, just a year later, the Surface Pro 3 has come out and answered all my prayers. It succeeds where the Dell failed – it can actually be used as a tablet, has excellent battery life, has a great pen that’s functional and, as a laptop, it doesn’t miss a beat. This is just a natural progression from the Dell for me, really.

The real surprise is my new phone.

I’ve finally ditched the iPhone after 5 loyal years, which shocked many of my friends and family in itself, but replaced it with a Nokia Lumia 930. A Windows Phone. Wow. Bold.

Nokia-Lumia-930

Why?

I truly believe in Windows as an operating system and that Microsoft is the future once again.

No, really! Why does everyone chuckle or roll their eyes when I deliver that line??

Microsoft sets itself apart from all the other players out there with the Windows Phone OS and I think they’re onto something. It wasn’t until the OS matured into Windows Phone 8.1 and then Microsoft acquired Nokia that they got my attention but they certainly have.  And it felt like it was finally time to give it a shot because nothing else was really inspiring me out there. (For the record, I did rock a Windows Mobile 5 smartphone back in the day so I’ve also had some interest).

What do I think so far? Well, let’s just say that this is a topic that can stand as a blog post all on its own… and I will endeavour to write it (and within a year🙂 ).

You’ll notice the omission of a tablet in 2014 as well. This is, perhaps, unfair to my Nexus 7 because I still have it and I still love it. But the portability and battery life of the Surface Pro 3 plus the large Lumia 930 screen has resulted in the poor Nexus 7 suffering the same fate as my iPad 2: I can’t justify carrying it around any more. It now lives on my bedside table for reading and light browsing. Incidentally, my iPad 2 actually lives on the kitchen counter where my wife uses it for recipes, music and entertaining (or distracting) the little one with kids games.

Through this latest device shuffle I’ve realised some things about how I like to use devices and what makes sense for someone with my lifestyle and habits. I used to want big computers with large screens because I wanted power over portability – maybe that was more necessary for my job in the past (and “portable” used to be synonymous with “under-powered”). I used to want a small compact phone – maybe it was more important for it to fit comfortably in my pocket because I used to go out a lot more outside of work and without a bag (yeah, I’m getting old!). So I used to need something in between.

Today, I think a laptop/tablet like the Surface Pro 3 nails it in that end of the spectrum. And on the other end – could Apple, with their larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, or Google, with the monstrous Nexus 6, be on to something?

Microsoft; how do you respond? Please don’t disappoint.

Apples to Apples, Dust to Dust

2011 to 2013

(Top left to bottom right: MacBook Pro, Dell XPS 12, iPad 2, Nexus 7, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 5s)

A lot can change in two years.

Two years ago my family was just my wife and I, the two of us, travelling the world and living it large.

I rocked a MacBook Pro, an iPad 2, an iPhone 3GS, a smirk on my face and a gleam in my eye.

I referred to this expensive collection of tech as my ‘iFamily’ and I was sold on the dream.  Yep, this was the height of my Apple fanboyism.  I even blogged about it at the time.

Today, two years later, my family has set it’s roots in suburbia and filled out a bit (as has my mid-section).  We have a beautiful little girl and a cheeky little dog.

And my iFamily is no more.

Now I’m rocking a Windows 8 convertible laptop (Dell XPS 12), a Nexus 7, an iPhone 5s and bags under my eyes.

Why, Amit? WHY?!

Well, at the end of the day it’s all about meeting needs.

As much as it sounds like a dream to keep travelling the world and living it up, the reality is much harsher. It’s expensive, tiring and not a real life.  Not one with kids, dogs, BBQs, friends and family, anyway.

In the same way, clinging to the Apple gadgetry just became… tedious.  I was shoe-horning a Mac into my Windows-centric world.  I stopped carrying my iPad around because I found I couldn’t be bothered picking it up for casual use when on public transport or even on the couch.  Sure, it was more a failing of the form-factor (size, shape and weight) than the device, but I just couldn’t justify spending that kind of money on an iPad Mini when there were equally (or more?) capable devices like the Nexus 7 around for a fraction of the price.

It was just the iPhone I haven’t been able to ditch.  The device that won me over to the Apple world is still the device that is holding me back.  And there are a lot of reasons for that.  In fact, I’ve detailed 5 reasons why I bought an iPhone 5s just in my last blog post.

Since writing that post, however, one avid iPhone-lover in my family has since switched over to Android-world. And I must admit, now that I have used an Android device extensively myself (the Nexus 7) I am impressed.  So much so that I lingered on the website for recently announced Nexus 5 a little longer than I perhaps should have…

Let’s see what the next two years will bring.

As I said, a lot can change in two years.

5 reasons why I bought an iPhone 5s

iPhone 5s

One

It’s elegant and sexy and I like the size, shape and weight.

This, of course, is subjective, but functionally it is important to me to be able to easily use a phone with one hand so my other hand is free to shove food in my mouth, hold a beer or do other equally important things (like stay upright on a tram).

Two

It’s reliable, efficient and predictable (in a good way).

Messages work like this. Notifications behave like this. If I use it this way the battery will last this long.

I don’t want a million different ways to do things. I just want to get things done.

Three

I like the huge and ever-expanding portfolio of useful, fun, creative, well-designed apps.

While the old Apple slogan “there’s an app for that” is no longer only true for iOS these days (Android is up there), there still is no comparison for the quality of apps you get in the iOS App Store. Apple’s high standards and app store approval process ensures that I don’t have to worry about dodgy apps mining for data, slowing down my phone or draining my battery.

I am happy to pay 99c for an aesthetically-pleasing, well-developed and functional app and have peace of mind, rather than download a hacked together freebie.

Four

No other device has more interesting, elegant and useful accessories created for it. Cases, adapters, docks, cradles, car kits, speakers, headphones. You name it, there’s one in every shape, size, colour and price point.

Five

Almost all of my close friends and family who I’m regularly in touch with have an iPhone and we make excellent use of iMessage group chat, and occasionally FaceTime. I would never have guessed how important and central to communication these tools would become.

Yes, I am aware of WhatsApp and Skype and countless other cross-platform messaging and video chat apps but will you teach my mum how to use them and explain why she should?

Nothing beats built-in native functionality where you don’t have to think about it, let alone be taught how to use it.

So why an iPhone 5s?

Ah, good pick up. These five points are true for every iPhone that can run iOS 6 and above , i.e. iPhone 3GS and later.

In fact, my first iPhone was the 3GS and that shift (from a Blackberry, mind you) was driven by reasons one through four above (except maybe not reason number two; Blackberry is probably still stronger there).

Within two years reason number five came into fruition, since many of my friends and family picked up an iPhone 3GS or the newer iPhone 4 when it came out.

In these same two years, however, many new and more compelling phones entered the market and my eyes wandered.

Just like virtually everyone else I, too, wanted something newer, faster, with a nicer screen and a better camera.

It was no surprise that this is the marketing technique used by the likes of Samsung and HTC to lure cashed-up smartphone buyers away from Apple.  And to be fair, on paper many of these competing phones were and still are superior to the iPhone in one or more ways.

Take the Nokia (Microsoft?) Lumia 1020 with it’s 41 megapixel camera today, for example. (Talk about pissing contest! Will the next one have eleventy-kajilion ultra-mega pixels?).

But I have my list.  Once I evaluated some of these exciting new phones on the market against my five criteria, which are weighted more heavily than on-paper specs, the iPhone still came out on top for me.

Not once but twice; I replaced my iPhone 3GS with an iPhone 4s and then I replaced my iPhone 4s with an iPhone 5s.

Each time I looked, listened, read, researched and evaluated. You’ll also note that I skipped the models in between. Proof that I’m not just an Apple fanboy making blind purchases, right? RIGHT?

What evs. Hater.

Married to technology… or by it?

Rings on keyboard

Technology rules our household.

Picture an ultra-modern house, seemingly decorated by Apple. Sparsely furnished with a multitude voice-activated, ambient-light sensing, auto-cleaning gadgets.

Good, you’ve imagined my dream home, alas, this is not the type of home that I live in nor what this post is about.

I’m talking about everyday technology, which is within reach of most people, that my wife and I use to manage our home.

I’m talking about computers, iPhones, and cloud-based services on the Internet (stay with me).

We have been using technology this way for a number of years. Previously it was all driven by convenience but lately I’ve realised this has turned into necessity.

It dawned on me; is this a new way of living? Are other families doing this, too?

Our day-to-day lives run predominantly on the following apps/services/technologies:

Using these tools we share important information with each other easily and effectively.

They help to minimise conflict and miscommunication (read: less arguments). And they save time, leaving us more family time to do non-administrative things.

Disclaimer: these tools are not silver bullets – you have to actually want to communicate, and have a reasonably healthy marriage to begin with.

We already had a manual process, identified an opportunity to streamline it and solved it with technology (there’s an app for that;))

I’ve written a bit of a blurb about how we use each below.

Let me know if you’re like us and reliant on technology to run our lives, or the complete opposite – you write each other letters and read them by candlelight in a log cabin on the mountains. I won’t judge😉

Google Calendar

I have touched on this in an old blog before, but it’s still probably the simplest but most effective thing that we do. That is; actually use calendars, for one, and then share them with each other electronically.

It’s so effective, because it means not only can we make plans and stick to them more easily, we can actually be more spontaneous, too.

Last minute plans are easy to make: a quick glance at the calendar and “I’m in boys; the wife already has plans tonight and we’ve got nothing on in the morning.”

Dropbox

Probably the main thing we use a shared folder in Dropbox for now is our annual tax return. It gives us a location to collect and store tax-related documents through out the year then at tax time we can easily go through it and fire it off to the accountant.

We also use it to collaborate on budgeting spreadsheets, or any documents relating to a party, event, renovations, etc we’re planning.

AnyList

We have two shared shopping lists on AnyList – one for groceries and the other just for miscellaneous things.

This app has stopped us doubling up on buying the milk, bread and eggs… or worse, each thinking the other has got them!

Also, a quick check of this app while I’m out and I’ll know to grab that obscure baby-related or feminine product. And on the flipside I simply add the shirt or socks or jocks that I need to the list and the next time my wife is at the shops they magically get purchased and brought home. Love it!

Baby-Connect

The latest addition to our arsenal. We decided to use a formal system to manage care for our baby because she has some special needs to manage.

So in the Baby-Connect iPhone app we log every nappy change, feed, milestone, medication, etc.

While I’m at work, I can check up on how bub is tracking via push notifications on my iPhone or via a web interface. Each time she goes in for a check up or appointment (very often!), we can show the docs a report with all the stats they need and more.

When one of us has a lie down or is out, the other doesn’t have to bother them with when bub’s next feed is, how much to give her, when her last nappy change was, if meds have been given, etc – it’s all there in the app.

Email/Text Messages

Surely I don’t need to explain this one, but I included it because I wanted to point out that this has really just become an escalation point!

We email each other details or context around anything we may have logged in Baby-Connect or an event we put in the calendar.

We text each other if there is something that needs more urgent attention.

And yes, occasionally we even call each other – but it’s usually either very urgent or a call just to say ‘hi’… because all the business has been taken care of through our effective use of technology🙂

The Best Things In Life Are Free

All for one

You may think this post is about the joy of becoming a father, after all my precious daughter is one month old today and she is the light of my life.

You might expect that I’d write about the importance of family, friends and loved ones.  Particularly during trying times, since my beautiful little girl is still in hospital and in line for surgery before she can come home and start a normal life.

Though these things are important and on the forefront of my mind, it is what is on the side lines that I am truly thankful for and wanted to share with you.

One of the best things in life that is literally free, actually.

The free hospital cover provided as part of the health care system in Australia that gives us access to the Royal Children’s Hospital, which is one of the most amazing places in the world.

So, despite the fact that our daughter has had a rocky start to life, my wife and I feel incredibly fortunate for a number of things…

We live in city that has one of the best hospitals in the world.

We live in a country that has one of the best health care systems in the world.

We are surrounded by the best friends and family anyone could ask for.

All so that we can focus on, enjoy and embrace absolutely the best thing in life.  The new life we have created – our beautiful baby girl, Isla.

Isla - newborn

I just got it!

Miracle baby

Suddenly I feel like that guy who just got the punchline 5 minutes after everyone else did.

Babies are a miracle!

I mean, the concept is certainly not new. I know all about the biology and science behind it. I’m a self-confessed nerd (and an incredibly annoying know-it-all) when it comes to the science behind most things. I get that what happens is a truly amazing thing from conception to birth. I also have close friends and family who have had babies recently and I feel how special it is.

But now that I’m in the hot seat, on the brink of fatherhood, I can barely fathom the events that have happened and that are about to happen.

Seeing and living the physical transformation that my wife is going through has probably been the most instrumental in this feeling. How mother nature’s design is so robust and reliable that even our meddling nature couldn’t destroy it is nothing short of amazing.

Despite being the know-it-all I think I am I have actually learned a few things, too. Through antenatal classes, reading and talking to friends I’ve realised that years of seeing Hollywood’s versions of child birth have warped the reality in my mind. And that what they teach you in school, the science and the biology, is just one half of the story – or less.

What boggles my mind is the fact that through instinct alone mother and baby can get through everything from the birth to breastfeeding and beyond.

With all our science, technology, books and computers there’s nothing we can really do, or need to do, to improve on this design. Of course, we can give things a little nudge and make it as comfortable and as safe as possible, but all in all – God’s got this one.

Miraculous or not, in about 3 weeks time my life is going to change forever and I just can’t wait for it.

PS. I apologise in advance – I’m likely to drive away all my readers by being one of those annoying parents who only posts pictures and stories about their baby for a little while. Please give me a chance, I have some interesting new tech and toys I want to write about… Like this new baby monitor I got…

The World Didn’t End, Bring On 2013

time-universe-6

I had an interesting 2012. I learned a lot about people, places, myself and life in general.  2013 is going to be a great year for me. Building on the foundations laid this year I have a real sense that my life is going to reach new heights.

So I’m glad the world didn’t end as predicted by the ancient Mayan prophesy.  I’ll be the first to admit, a zombie apocalypse would be pretty cool. I still have some pent up frustration from the year that I’d like to unleash, blunt object in hand, on an unfortunate zombie .

But I digress.

At less than T-8 hours until the new year rings in, I feel truly happy and excited about the year ahead.  Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, nobody’s gonna slow me down… (not even the zombie of Matthew Wilder)

Have a Safe and Happy New Year!

Signing out for 2012.

-Amit.

Program Life: Project Baby

In the not too distant future I’m getting a new junior resource assigned to my team.  This resource is going to need an incredible amount of support and they are not going to, nor be expected to, pull their own weight whatsoever.

Not only will I have to deal with this added load, I am going have to do so on a smaller budget.  Fortunately, I do have a star player on my team and I know that together we will ultimately come out on top.

Yep, we’re having a baby.

But my wife (the star) and I have been planning this for a long time.  The foundations of our strategy were laid down long ago.  The planning phase commenced soon after.

We employ the continuous improvement model where we assess and improve upon our plan and strategy as we learn and discover new data.

Like with any project; the budget isn’t perfect.  There are too many unknowns to completely define all processes and in parallel we have to execute on supporting infrastructure projects and fear our timelines are going to be prohibitive.

But gold, silver and bronze milestones have been laid out.  We’re tracking fine with the gold ones, i.e. we have a roof over our heads, jobs, financial stability, and so on.

We are slipping slightly with the silver milestones; we need to get some work done around the house, buy some furniture, car seats, etc.

The bronze milestones will likely be the easiest, like buying the baby essentials, and other things to make our home and lives more comfortable, but I know that these things will creep up on us, so can’t take these too lightly.

I suppose the other thing I need to do is shift down a gear at work, eh?🙂

Respect My Authority

20120909-134813.jpg

Knowing your place in the social order can be hard. Generally, most instinctively know where they fit and have made their peace with it.

So what the hell is wrong with my dog?!

Prancing around the house like she’s the Queen Bee. Making me change the way I live my whole life just so that she can be more comfortable.

This reminds me of one of my favourite Seinfeld quotes about if aliens were watching us and saw two life forms; one of them making poop and the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge? Full quote here

Lily entered our home and lives about a month ago. She was 6 months old and had endured a traumatic early life, and my wife is the sort who decides this is the kind of challenge we need to take on. The cute little puppies at the pet store are products of evil corporations, you see.

The monster of whom I speak (yeah, she seems like angel – don’t be fooled!):

20120909-134447.jpg

Who am I to complain. Lily actually saved me a fortune. Those evil corporations are greedy, too. And what the hell; the furry little monster has started to grow on me. She knows I’m the boss but doesn’t do a damn thing I say. Where I went wrong was in my eagerness to ensure that she was happy and not afraid of me or my home. Apparently this made me seem soft and a pushover.

This got me thinking about work. Since my last blog post I’ve changed jobs and taken a leadership position (at Accenture, for those interested).

A few weeks in and I found myself buried in a new project for a new client and a new firm. Orders were coming in from every which way and I could barely spare a minute to catch my breath. I knew my place – I was the new guy and I had to sink or swim here and establish my place in the social order.

Then a senior executive said to me: why are you doing all that? Delegate and review. Wherever you can; delegate and review.
To which I replied: to who? And he said: to whoever you think can get it done.

I mulled over that for only a few minutes before I unleashed a torrent of emails and crossed off items from my todo list faster than I play Fruit Ninja.

Seems I was falling into the same trap at work as I did with Lily. Eager to please, afraid to make enemies, fear of rejection… The recipe for softness.  To clarify; in my case I’m not superior than everyone on the team, however, in the role I’m performing I just need to get things done (yeah, I’m middle-management fluff now).

The fact of the matter is that everyone has a place. Most can accept their place and that of others and can exist without conflict. Even if one is giving orders and the other is taking them. Chances are, the one taking them is also giving them to someone else and on it goes.

But no one ever said this was set in stone.

If you’re not happy with your place, you have every right to challenge it. You should challenge it. Be confident in your abilities. Be assertive. Be respectful – of people above and below you. And you will be respected and rewarded accordingly.

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