Tuesday, July 31, 2018

New Heaphones (No AirPods)

I have written about my battles with the earbuds before on the blog and while I had decided on the Anker Earbuds I ended up sticking with the branded Apple earpods longer due to simple inertia. It wasn’t till this past January that I decided to finally purchase a non-Apple branded set. Due to the fact that I had sent my earbuds thru the washer one last time and that I was tired of having earbuds crammed into my ears I decided to go with an on ear model. I ended up going with the Lasmex HB–65, which were well priced and had decent reviews. My expectations were mainly that I wouldn’t send them thru the wash as easily as the EarPods and also that they would have generally better sound (plus have some better capability for isolating me from office chatter than EarPods). After six-months use that included travel, office use and also use around the house The Lasmex HB–65 have some strong features to recommend them.

Pros:

1) Design: The headphones collapse/fold up easily for easier storage and packing. Plus, the headphones are large enough to not get lost accidentally (unless someone puts them away in the wrong place or your house is plagued by house elves) nor is it easy to accidentally wash them like EarPods.

2) Cost: They are inexpensive when compared to other on-ear headphones (and even other airbus) with them being comparable in cost to Apple’s Earpods.

3)Bluetooth: Since Apple and Google have both eliminated the headphone jack on their phone line up Bluetooth headphones save the need for an adapter and also allow you to charge your phone while listening.

Cons:

1) Bluetooth: The Bluetooth works well enough for music though even though they advertise that you can take phone calls I wouldn’t recommend it. Whenever I receive a call while listening to music and try to answer the person can’t generally hear me and when I initiate the call the call starts fine though their are invariably sound issues.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Handsfree and Siri

The state where I live in the US recently passed a handsfree law that limits the interaction users can have with their phone while driving to avoid driver distraction. Siri often gets the short shrift in the realm of robot assistants (Alexa, Google Assistant etc) though I have been using the "Hey Siri" function for a while now and have found it fairly reliable. There are a few tips for helping make Siri better for hands free operation that I thought others might find useful.

1) Train Siri Better: When you first set-up the Hey Siri it asks you to say “Hey Siri” a few times to train the system to recognize your voice. This used to not work well for me till I ran across this this article that referenced making sure you do this training with some distant between yourself and the phone. Once I retrained Siri’s recognition from across the room that has improved the pick up immensely when in the car. Siri now hears me over podcasts, music and the other ambient noise related to car trips rather well.

2) Better Data: The Contacts app on the iPhone doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention in the app world though this bedrock app is incalculably valuable for Siri. I highly recommend putting in as much data (home address, work address etc.) as possible into your contact card as this enables you to given Siri for detailed instructions (i.e. Hey Siri directions Home). A field that is particularly helpful is “Relationship”, which allows you to link your contact card to others in the contacts database with a relationship definition. For instance, I’ve linked my card to my wife’s with the “spouse” designator so I can say “Hey Siri, text my wife..” and the system will know who I am trying to text.

If you’re having trouble working with Hey Siri for handsfree communication while in the car I would highly recommend the above to help improve your experience. If anyone has any advice and/or tips or tricks for making Hey Siri more useful I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

To Dos and Time Management

It has been almost over two months since the last update, which is largely due to scheduling collisions between my work and home life. Time is a rare resource and we can’t make more of it and we can’t redo it. We get one shot so we need to make the most of the time we have got. I am in a continual struggle with the clock; I am not great with time. I am intuitively curious and have a tendency to get pulled down tangents and into different projects. I am good at handling the immediate task at hand though often get weighed down or scramble to plan even a few weeks out. I am constantly trying to find a better system or tools to help me manage my time so I am often switching between different apps or systems to find the ideal method.

I used to/still struggle with using my inbox as a to do list, which is like the maginot line for time management pundits (i.e. it seems like a great idea though you are quickly overrun by to dos). While it is highly convenient to use your inbox as a to do item it can be hard to tell which items are messages and which items are actual to dos. Furthermore, if you don’t clear our email regularly and you have all these unread emails it gets daunting.

I am never fully satisfied with a system and have tried several different to-do style apps: Things, Todoist, Google Tasks, Microsoft To Do, and Remember the Milk and I am constantly on the look out for the next one on the horizon. My current app is Things from Cultured Code as I love the design and the functionality for their iOS app. (I am a die-hard iPhone user and having a rock solid iOS app is a requirement.) I also like the fact that the app is not subscription based so their is only a single upfront payment required to access the full app.

I have been using the app for several months now and it is a work in progress though I come across a couple of rather simple lessons learned to help make the everything run more smoothly.

1) Curate your Tasks: Any task management app only works if you can set-up your tasks properly. Things has a share sheet function on iOS, which allows you to import items from the web into the app though it doesn’t really matter your import the item into the app so long as it is availiable.

2) Don’t over Engineer: Don’t spend too much time formatting or setting up a faceted structure around your tasks (even if you want to…). The task should help you manage your workload and not be adding to your workload.

3) Focus on the Large Picture: Improving your time managment is easier to conceptulize if you have a goal or series of goals that tangible. If you have a marker that you want achieve then you can measure your progress.

4)Constantly Iterate: If the system is not working or your seeminly still not where you want to be then change things. The system needs to work for you and provide results. Time is too important to waste unknowingly.