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Apple Watch

I attempted to order my Apple Watch Sport (42mm Space Gray) immediately at 2 AM CT on April 10th, however when I tried to pay with Apple Pay, an error occurred.  Then when I tried to use my stored credit card, it asked for the security code so it took a minute to grab that.  I received the confirmation email at 2:04 AM.

I spent most of last week upset that others were receiving their shipping notices and I wasn’t.  Around Noon on Thursday, my credit card was charged and Thursday night I received my shipping notice!

I’ve had a couple days to use the watch and these are my personal observations.

1) Packaging – As always, the Apple packaging is amazing.  You can tell they spent some time (and money) developing a case that is heavy and makes the product feel important (and expensive).

2) Hardware – The watch itself is a lot lighter than I expected.  It almost feels like I’m not wearing a watch.  The fluoroelastomer band feels amazing against my skin.  It’s very soft and does not feel like plastic at all.

3) Display – The screen is crystal clear and has incredible detail.  When you first turn on the watch, after booting up (which takes forever), you are presented with a crazy active globe symbol to begin the pairing process.  That globe is the first time you know this watch display is spectacular.  The digital crown and the side button both work perfectly.

4) Initial Setup – It takes a LONG time (2 minutes or so) for the watch to boot up when powering on.  Initially I had an issue with the Apple Watch app on  my iPhone not pairing with the watch but after about a minute, it finally found it and started syncing.  The initial syncing process also takes a long time (5 minutes or so).

5) Bluetooth Connectivity Issue – When I first turned on the watch and began using it, it worked perfectly.  However, around midday yesterday, I tried using Siri for the first time.  I asked Siri to give me directions to Willis Tower in Chicago.  Siri dictated the first few words, then stopped.  Although the “not connected” symbol did not appear, the connection from the watch to the iPhone was broken.  Nothing else that required Internet access worked anymore.  I rebooted both the watch and the iPhone and we were back in business for a while until it happened again, this time in the Maps app.  I cycled Bluetooth on the iPhone and it came back.  I called Apple and they had me do a reset of the watch.  During this first reset, I choose to restore the watch from a backup.  This did not go well.  Most of the settings were not remembered and the third party apps I had installed were not loading.  So I did another reset and this time started over (as a new device).  I’ve had a few more instances of having to cycle bluetooth, but none so far today, so I’ll have to keep an eye on this.

Stuff I’ve Tried:

1) Changing and customizing watch faces – I love this.  This is half the reason I wanted the watch.  The ability to have different watch faces everyday if I want and to make them exactly how I want them is awesome.  Except, I think it’s strange that there isn’t an option to have both an analog and digital local time on the face at once.  You have to choose one or the other.  A workaround for this is to include your local time in the World Clock app, but that seems silly.

Today, it looks like this.  Local temp, battery life remaining and my local digital time.  That red dot means I have unread notifications.

2) Notifications – These work perfectly.  The haptic engine is just the right amount of tap on my wrist.  It feels like someone lightly tapping your skin.  You swipe down from the top to view unread notifications.  Then you can swipe left to delete them.  The Apple Watch app on the iPhone allows me to customize which apps are allowed to send notifications to the watch.

3) Glances – You swipe up from the bottom to get to Glances, then you swipe left and right to look at them.  The Apple Watch app allows me to customize which glances I want to see and in what order.  Glances are actually a lot more usable than I expected them to be.  It’s a nice, quick glance at really useful information.

4) App Icons – I’m still getting used to this.  There is just something that bothers me about the app icons being circles and being organized in a beehive pattern.  However, it’s very easy and fluid to move around the app screen and choose an app to open.

5) Force-Closing Apps:  I had to look this one up as I could not find any Apple documentation on how to do it.  As I mentioned earlier, the Maps app got stuck.  The only way to resolve this was to force-quit the app by going to the app, clicking the side button, then holding down the side button.  Upon restart of the app, it worked fine.

6) Maps / Directions – I’ve tried multiple times to get directions to work in Maps and so far, no luck.  I get a “Directions Not Available” error every time.  Need to research this one.  Hopefully it’s not just me.  I think this is related to my bluetooth issue.  Almost every time I try to use Maps, I end up having to cycle bluetooth on my iPhone to get the watch to do anything.

7) Weather / Stocks – The watch has to communicate with the iPhone to pull in the most recent data on these apps and it seems to take a while.  It’s frustrating to watch the spinner for 5-10 seconds as it goes to get the data.

8) Activity App – LOVE it.  Can’t wait to go running with this thing.  Love how it keeps track of my steps, exercise and how much I stand.

9) Third Party Apps – I’m slowly adding third party apps to my watch.  So far I’ve tried Nike Running, CNN, Amazon, Citymapper, Chipotle, Yelp, Weather Underground, United, Uber, Tune In Radio, Shazaam, ESPN and of course Discover.  It’s interesting to see how each app is trying to figure out what makes sense on the watch vs. the phone.  A lot of the apps require you to do some setup in the iPhone app before it can be used on the watch which is kind of annoying.  So far, Uber has to be the coolest one.  Very seamless experience to order a car to your current location.

10) Apple Pay – I was annoyed that you have to re-add your credit cards to your watch, even cards that are already loaded in the iPhone.  I’ve yet to try using the watch to make a purchase, but I will do this soon.

11) Digital Touch – This is the option were you can draw, tap or send your heartbeat to a friend.  I tried it, and I’m over it.  This has to be for the kids, because I will never use it.

12) Phone Calls – Yes, the watch can make AND receive calls.  You can hear the other person via the watch and talk back to them via the microphone in the watch and it’s actually really cool.  Works perfectly.

In summary, even with the issues I’ve been experiencing with the watch, I have to say that I love it.  I’ve been so tempted over the past couple years to buy other smartwatches on the market (Android, Pebble) but I held out for the Apple Watch and I’m glad I did.  As many other reviews have stated, this isn’t a gadget that you MUST own, but it sure is fun to own one.

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Apache, ColdFusion and MySQL (for starters)

Last year, the day after Thanksgiving, I went out and bought a number of components to build a new PC.  I put it all together, fired it up and then let it sit there for 10 months, doing not much of anything.  Then last week, I decided it was time to transfer anything meaningful from my old computer to the new computer.  This turned out to be much less painful than I had expected.

Then coincidentally, my friend who was hosting all of my web content decided it was time to get out of the business.  So I had a decision to make.  Either find a new web hosting provider, become a web hosting provider myself via a 3rd party hosting company or run my personal web content from a computer in my house.  I decided to go with option #3 because I thought it would be a fun project and it was also the cheapest option.

I am using my old primary computer (a Dell Vostro 220) for the new web server.  I knew I wanted a LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP).  I started by downloading the CentOS (version 6.3) ISO file.  I installed CentOS onto the Dell computer without any trouble, took about 5 minutes.

I then installed MySQL, then PHP.  No problems.  Then it came time to install ColdFusion. This is where the struggles began.  Thank goodness for error logs with unique error codes and Google searches where other people had run into the same issues.  After downloading a number of additional packages, making changes to the Apache httpd.conf file and turning off the CentOS firewall, I was finally able to get ColdFusion up and running.

Then it was just a matter of setting up my domains in GoDaddy to point to, then pointing those domains to my home IP address within the settings.  Added some VirtualHost entries to the Apache httpd.conf file and presto!

The following domains are now running on the new web server:


It was a big project, but very gratifying work.  

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Galaxy Nexus Review

I’ve been using the Galaxy Nexus phone for about a week now.  As a user of iOS since day 1, and as someone who has had very little interaction with Android, I thought it might be interesting to write up my own little review of the device–what I love, what I don’t love.

What I Love

  • Setup – I inserted my AT&T SIM card, turned it on and very quickly progressed through the setup screens.  As soon as I entered my Google Account information, it pulled in all my contacts.  Connecting to Wi-Fi was easy (even with a hidden SSID on my home router).
  • Live Wallpaper – No real value, but still ranks high with the “cool” factor. It’s fun to show people the phone with very fluid fish swimming around on the home screen that swim away when touched (Koi Free from the Google Play Store).
  • App Icons – I like how Android allows me to do whatever I want with the app icons. I can easily move them around, group them and even remove them by sliding up.  I love the “all apps” soft button on the home screen that brings up a nicely organized alphabetized list of apps.
  • Vibration when touched – I like the slight little vibration when the screen is touched. It’s comforting to know that my touch was received and processed.
  • Widgets – It took me a while to figure out how to add widgets to my home screens (click the “all apps” icon, then click on “widgets” at the top, then hold and slide to add). But once I had it figured out, it was fun to see what they could do.  I have clock and weather widgets running right now.  It’s also nice that the widgets automatically resize and move when moving app icons around.
  • Voice to text – I’ve only tried the voice to text feature a couple times, but when I’ve used it, it’s been incredibly accurate at recognizing what I said, even in noisy environments.  When it did make a mistake, I could just click on the word to be presented with alternatives, one of which was always accurate.  The voice that speaks back to me is incredibly lifelike, to the point where my kids looked around in the car and wanted to know who was talking.
  • Multi-color LED Notifications – I love the multi-color LED notification light on the front bottom of the phone.  I downloaded Light Flow from the Google Play Store to have full control over my notifications.
  • Navigation – I love how the Navigation app works. I love that it tells me how long until I reach my destination.  I love how easy it is to add a new destination. I’m looking forward to iOS 6 to find out how Apple’s new navigation compares.
  • Google Talk – I’ve yet to find a good solution in iOS to handle Google Talk.  I use Google Talk all the time and it’s very convenient being able to quickly chat with people while on the go.  Apple’s iMessage is similar but only works with users on iOS devices.
  • Turns off like an old TV – This one is silly, but I think it’s cool how it looks like an old TV turning off when you push the button to turn off the screen.
  • Screen stays clean – I’ve yet to wipe away the fingerprints on this screen.  I was constantly cleaning my iPhone 4S screen which seemed to get oily and full of fingerprints fairly quickly.
What I Don’t Love

  • Browser – I just can’t seem to get used to the browser controls. I always fumble around trying to figure out how to set and access bookmarks, how to refresh, how to get up to the URL bar, etc.  I realize that Android is trying to let me use as much of the screen as possible to view web content, however it’s going to take some getting used to.
  • Keyboard – I really hate the keyboard in Android.  I am constantly correcting words I type.  I think it’s a combination of the layout of the on-screen keyboard along with poor predictive software.  iOS seems to somehow always just know what I meant to type and Andriod doesn’t.
  • GPS – I’ve noticed some slight delays in locking into the GPS signal.  When I bring up the Foursquare app and try to check-in, the list of locations appears before the GPS signal is locked in close to my location and ends up showing the wrong list of locations.  Then when it finally does lock in, it doesn’t automatically update the list, I have to click the button to refresh.
  • Lock slide – For whatever reason, I struggle with the lock swipe.  When an incoming call is received, I somehow accidentally end up swiping to the left instead of to the right, which then of course declines the call.  When attempting to just unlock the phone, I end up going into the camera app about 25% of the time.
  • Device structure – The actual device itself is very light, however feels overly large in my hand.  The back panel feels very cheap and is hard to snap back into place after removal.  But hey, at least you can remove it to change the batter which is nice.
  • Lack of “go to top” in apps – I really miss the iOS feature where you can top at the top of the screen to scroll to the top of a list, such as within the Facebook or Twitter feeds.
  • Battery life – I’m always a little disappointed with battery life on these devices, and this phone is no exception.  I should be able to use the device all day and only have to charge it at night.  With relatively heavy use, this device is dead before the end of the day.
  • Audio level – Max volume levels are very low on this device.  I often miss notifications and phone calls because I don’t hear the audio with the device in my pocket.
  • No immediate feedback when launching apps – When touching on an app icon, I expect some kind of immediate feedback to let me know the action was successfully recognized and processed.  There is a slight delay after touching an app icon while the app launches and I sometimes go to touch the icon again thinking it didn’t recognize my first touch.
Overall, I like the device a lot more than I thought I would. However, I’m still looking forward to the new iPhone hopefully coming my way this Fall.
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Davis Vantage Vue Weather Station

My previous backyard weather station was a LaCrosse Technology WS-2308 that I purchased about 3 years ago when we moved into our new house.  It was a good example of “getting what you pay for”.  It sort of worked, except for when it didn’t.  The rain collector was the biggest issue.  I replaced it once after it stopped working and when the replacement stopped working, I decided it was time to upgrade.

I purchased the Davis Instruments 6250 Vantage Vue Wireless Weather Station from  After entering my email address to obtain their lowest prices, they were by far the cheapest merchant selling this product.  The shipping was pretty slow.  I ordered the item on Friday, 5/27 and it didn’t arrive until yesterday (6/6).  I also ordered the 6510USB WeatherLink software and data logger to allow the weather data to be streamed to my computer.

I opened the box and was quickly and easily able to follow the included instructions to put the ISS (Integrated Sensor Suite) together.  The ISS includes the following weather sensors:  temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction and rainfall rate.  It also includes a solar panel that powers the unit.  A battery backup is included for operation at night.

The included console shows a number of weather parameters at once including indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, wind speed, wind direction, wind gust, dew point, heat index, time, date, sunrise, sunset, moon phase, rainfall total, rainfall rate and a number of other items.  The ISS transmits data to the console every 2.5 seconds which is a huge improvement over my old weather station.  It really helps for accurate and reliable wind data.

After completing assembly of the ISS, I ran through the recommended set of tests to make sure each sensor is working properly.  I then attached a 1” diameter rigid PVC pipe to the unit and mounted it to the top of the kids playset in the backyard.

Next, I attached the data logger device to the console, installed the WeatherLink software and plugged the weather logger into a USB port on my computer.  When I started WeatherLink for the first time, it guided me through the initial setup.  When it came time to choose the type of connection, I chose USB and received an error.  After a little searching on the Internet, I found that you must choose Serial instead of USB and choose the proper COM port that was set up when the device was first plugged into the computer.  A USB to Serial bridge device driver was installed that creates a virtual serial port.  I’m still not sure why the software can’t support the USB connection directly.

After getting a successful connection from the console to the WeatherLink software, I was disappointed to find out that WeatherLink doesn’t support “rapid fire” updates to Weather Underground.  I did some further searching and found a fantastic free software tool called Cumulus from Sandaysoft.  Cumulus shows nice looking graphs and gages, supports Weather Underground Rapid Fire and also creates a really nice personal weather station website.

Overall, I’m very happy so far with my new Davis weather station!  Check out my Weather Underground PWS page (displaying the rapid fire weather updates) and my personal website weather page (created by the Cumulus software).

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Am I The Only One?

Am I the only one not upset about the new security procedures in place at airports?  Or is the media only focused on the people raising a big stink?  I have personally experienced the “full body scan” machine at O’Hare airport.  I walked into the machine, raised my hands into the air as shown in the picture and allowed the TSA to take a “nude” x-ray of myself.  It didn’t bother me one bit.  I didn’t worry about the sole TSA agent sitting in a room who got to see that “nude” x-ray image.  I didn’t even worry about the TSA agent who had to check the pockets of my cargo shorts I was wearing when something suspicious showed up on the x-ray image.

We live in a different world since 9/11.  Everything changed on that day.  I want the TSA to do everything they feel they need to do to keep the “bad people” and any type of substance or device that can cause harm off the planes.  The terrorists continue to try to use aircraft in their attempts to cause harm and destruction.  I’m glad our government is focused on this effort.  I’m grateful the recent “toner cartridge” bombs were discovered before they caused any harm and/or destruction.

The procedures that take place when going through security at an airport should not come as a surprise to anyone.  It is widely published information.  If you don’t like the procedures or don’t agree with them, then don’t fly in an airplane.  When I get into my car and drive to work, I may not like the law that states I have to wear my seatbelt, but I put it on anyway.  I understand that I’m safer in my car when I’m wearing it.  When I go to Six Flags, I may not like the delay that comes from every person having to go through a metal detector to get into the park, but I’m very glad this procedure is in place.  It keeps me and my family safe.

Yes, it’s annoying to take off my shoes, take off my belt, take out my laptop, put my liquids into little containers, put the little containers into a clear bag and wait in long security lines.  But I realize there are people in this world who want to kill as many Americans as they can.  I hope our government doesn’t back down during this so-called time of “public backlash” of airport security procedures.  I hope the government continues to ensure the safety of me and my family as much as possible when we fly.

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Taste of Wisconsin

I found out about the Taste of Wisconsin in Kenosha from a random person on FourSquare. We went on Friday night and Sunday for lunch and had a great time.  Good food, crowds weren’t too bad, the beach at the harbor was very clean and big–lots of fun!  This was the 2nd annual Taste of Wisconsin.  We already can’t wait to go back next year!

Pictures can be found here.

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Millburn Referendum

We moved into our current house in the Deerpath subdivision in 2007.  One of the major reasons we chose this area was the Millburn school district.  Known for its high test scores, low ratios and reputation for a quality education, we really felt like we were making the right decision.  It turns out that the Millburn school district is now in serious financial trouble, ranked last in the state financially.  The Board of Education has decided to run a referendum to try and get the schools back on the right track.  The State of Illinois is already 2 payments behind to all schools in Illinois, so the board decided to try for a tax rate increase amount equal to the shortfall from the state which equates to a 73 cent rate hike ($744 additional tax for every $300k in home value). Continue reading

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