Is 2016 the Year of VR?Friday, June 24, 2016
  • I have been interested in Virtual Reality since I was a little kid. The concept of being able to be somewhere I can't actually go, or experience something that may not even exist in the real world, always sounded incredible. When I was young, all I wanted in the world was to be able to drive. I dreamed about having VR to allow me to experience this one thing that was out of my reach. Now I'm not sure what virtual reality would interest me most. 
    What Microsoft previewed with the HoloLens, which offers more of an Augmented Reality experience, seems to offer the most practical and feasible application for VR yet. It's probably the first time I've been excited about Virtual Reality since middle school. But I feel like the promise of a good VR experience is still "coming soon", and it will always be coming soon... never quite here. I do think we're close, but I don't think the price point or the appealing content is here yet, so I'm not really convinced 2016 is going to be the "Year of VR". 
    One thing that I've noticed that causes me pause is the lack of enthusiasm I've seen from "kids" (middle school and high school age). When I was a kid, most people I knew around my age would discuss VR, particularly when talking about video games. We'd talk about how much we couldn't wait for it to arrive and what it would be like. "The future! It's going to be amazing!" I just don't see those conversations taking place. If there's no real enthusiasm for it in that age bracket, I have to wonder how far it will go into the mainstream. 
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    What Do You Do With Your Old Photos in Your Library?Thursday, June 23, 2016
  • This question actually opens up a whole other talk show, which is that I am a digital hoarder! I really struggle with deleting anything. I'm not an "Inbox Zero" kind of guy... I'm much more of an "Inbox 17,691" type user. My phone still has every text message since the first iPhone, and of course every photo I've ever taken as well. These have been carried over since the very first iPhone, nine years ago. I refuse to delete them, even though they're also sitting on my laptop. As a result, I have 5.6GB of space used up on my phone just for Messages, and 30.4GB for Photos. 
    Jason Snell specifically asked, do you actually go back and look at them? When asked like that, I'd have to say no, I don't typically just pull up my old photos and look through them. But I do frequently find myself looking for something specific in my library, and stumble on a few random photos that make me smile from the memories. 
    One thing I do quite often with my photos – and the primary reason I can't delete any of them – is I pull up a photo that is relevant to a conversation. For example, I recently had a conversation with some people about food in foreign countries. I mentioned my experience with good food in China, but also not-so-good food in China. I found that the local Chinese food was amazing, but you should avoid their "American" food at all cost! And then I was able to show off a photo I have of the most disgusting steak dinner I've ever had, complete with a fried egg and "spaghetti" (which was more like ketchup on noodles). 
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    WWDC 2016Wednesday, June 15, 2016
  • Since this week's topics on Clockwise were all related to the WWDC announcements, I decided it makes more sense to drop these all in one post. The question this week was, "Which new feature announced at WWDC – for the four respective OS upgrades – is most interesting to you?"
    watchOS 3
    Clearly speed is a big deal. I've been really enjoying my Apple Watch lately, but I do wish it was faster. Sometimes apps feel like they get "stuck" when you try to launch them, and as a result I don't use apps as much as I'd like. But I think the thing I'm most looking forward to is the "sketch to text" feature. 
    Being able to draw letters and have it interpret it as text is a feature that I'm surprised didn't ship with the watch. I've been looking for it since day one. I've been known to sketch full conversations with my friends when I'm in a position I don't want to take out my phone (e.g. movies), but that only works if they also have an Apple Watch. Since most of my friends are lame and do not, I end up having to pull out my phone to text back. 
    I am concerned about the current sketch and heartbeat features. Apple already announced that the button to bring up your friends is being repurposed. Will the sketch to text replace the ability to send sketches? I really hope not. 
    iOS 10
    Two things stood out for me as a really big deal... the Messages updates and multi-lingual typing. Neither of those are big for me, but I see them being huge in all of the areas outside the US. Most other countries use texting apps a lot differently than we do here locally. So, while things like stickers might not seem important to us, it is a big deal in other parts of the world. 
    Personally, I'm looking forward to the updates to the lock screen. Raise to wake looks promising, and I'm interested to see how well it works. The new notifications also look great, so I can't wait to try them out. 
    I also like how much farther Apple is allowing app extensions to go. Being able to hook your apps into Messages, for example, should lead to some really great user experiences. 
    macOS Sierra
    I don't feel like I'm seeking new ways for my Mac to work. I use it more than any device I own, and I rarely find myself wishing it did something that it doesn't. The one exception is logging in. I've tried a few iPhone apps that promise to make logging in easier. For example, Knock was a promising app that allowed you to tap your phone when you were within range of your laptop and it would unlock. But I found it constantly lost connection and wouldn't work. So I cannot wait to be able to open my laptop and have it log in automatically because I have my Apple Watch on. This kind of integration is what makes Apple stand out. You're going to have difficulty getting Android or Windows to pull this off. 
    Ironically, Picture-in-Picture was a feature I didn't know I needed until it was announced... while I was trying to maneuver Safari windows around on my screen so I could watch the announcement and work at the same time. 
    tvOS
    Not much was announced for tvOS, and it's probably definitely the Apple device I use the least. That's no complaint about the product. I just don't watch TV very often. So I'll have to say "dark mode" is most interesting to me. 
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    How I Obsessively Manage My MusicTuesday, June 14, 2016
  • One of the reasons I prefer to own my music as opposed to streaming, is because I'm ridiculously anal about my music files. Every track I have has been tediously tagged to help me find exactly what I want to listen to, no matter what mood I'm in at the moment. 
    Aside from the default tags (song, artist, album), there are three tags that I concentrate on... 
    Grouping 
    This gets set to "radio", "radio friendly", or left blank. The radio flag simply means the song was released for airplay. Radio friendly means I think the song would be a good radio track but perhaps was never actually released as a single. For example, Peter Gabriel's "Party Man" appeared on a movie soundtrack, but was never released as a single. 
    Rating 
    Rather than use the ratings for how well I like a song – which is completely subjective and actually changes dramatically based on my mood that day – I use the ratings a bit differently. Each star means something. One star means the file is broken and I need to re-download this song. Two stars means the song has explicit lyrics, so I can filter out these tracks when sensitive ears are present. Three stars indicates this song is one of the best by that artist. Four stars indicates this song is one of the best songs for that genre. And five stars means this song is so good you shouldn't dare speak over it... and I'll break your wrist if you try to skip it! 
    Comments 
    This is where the magic happens. In the comments field I add a comma separated list of keywords to help group the songs. For instance I have a keyword, "80s". You can't just assume that a song is an 80's song just because it came out between 1980 and 1989. For example, Nine Inch Nails' first album came out in 1989. Likewise, Led Zeppelin's final album came out in 1982. Neither of those are 80's bands and don't belong in the same playlist as "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night". Conversely, "Personal Jesus" was released in 1990, but clearly belongs with other 80's songs. 
    I also have a tag, "soundtrack", which is followed by the name of the movie the song appeared in. This allows me to build a playlist for movie soundtracks but keep the songs with the artist and album where it belongs. Similarly I have a "commercial" tag for songs that appeared in TV commercials. 
    Other keywords include the genres for the song, "remix", "live", and so on. 
    About Genres 
    I don't use the genre tag for my music. I think most music falls in multiple genres. OneRepublic is alternative, but also pop. By using the comma separated tags in the comments field, I have the ability to tag songs in more than a single genre. I also tend to make up some genres. Like, "loud", which covers bands like Foo Fighters, but also Deftones. Or, "background", which are songs that can span multiple genres, but work really well to play in the background when I'm having people over. 
    Building the Playlists 
    Once I have all my tags carefully managed, I am able to build amazing smart playlists by specifying the appropriate tags. If I want my own 80's radio station that doesn't play the hair bands: [grouping contains radio]; [comment contains 80s and pop]. If I only want my favorite songs from that set, I can add: [rating is between four and five stars]. If I want the best of Phil Collins: [artist contains Phil Collins or Genesis]; [rating is between three and five stars]; [comment contains Phil Collins] (to weed out the Peter Gabriel Genesis tracks). 
    When you own thousands of tracks, this sounds overwhelming, but it's really not. I'm typically tagging full albums, not individual songs. And I tag each album when I first get it, so maintaining this system isn't terribly difficult. 
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    What Is The One Feature That Could Dramatically Improve Your iOS Experience?Monday, June 13, 2016
  • I want to be able to text Siri. I do not like talking to my devices. So much so, I never talk to any of my friends on the phone, but I do text them all constantly. So I want the ability to do all the things you can do with Siri without having to speak to her. 
    Regarding Lex Friedman's mention of multitasking on the iPad, I do wish I could manage the apps that appear on the multitasking sidebar. I'm generally happy with how the multitasking works on the iPad, but I find it frustrating that I have no idea what apps will appear in which order on the sidebar. 
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