Last week was quite the week with, not only one new product release, but two!! I got my new iPad Pro 9.7 inch and my new Amazon Echo Dot on Thursday. I will review the Dot later (but I'm pretty excited to have a new Echo in the bedroom), but I wanted to talk about the new iPad today. So, I came home from work early on Thursday to be sure I was around to sign for my new iPad. When I opened it, I was very happy about the size and weight. We have an original iPad that is my son's now, but I was familiar with this screen size going in. But what I'm ecstatic about is the weight...it's so freaking light. I had borrowed the larger iPad Pro from some of my IT friends at my company, and while the size was awesome, it was just too big. In the interest of full disclosure - I couldn't easily use it while going to the bathroom...hahaha! The 9.7inch didn't have that problem. I loved the larger screen but it's much easier to carry around and use.
With the new iPad, I also bought a pencil...man, what a nice piece of equipment. I had been using a Musemee Notier V2, which I actually loved (despite the disc on the end), but the pencil is so precise and easy to use. Plus, it has a heft that makes it very easy to write with. I just loved using the pencil. However, it does have some downsides - as other's have mentioned, it has no holder for when you remove the cap. It would have been so easy to put a tether on the cap so someone wasn't prone to lose it, but as is, you take the cap off and set it down, when you want to charge it. It's so easy to lose. Second, there's no way to attach it to the iPad. I realize that most people will buy a case that you can attach the pencil to, but adding a magnet to the pencil (and then one to the cap as well, by the way) would have been appreciated. Especially since the case you can buy from Apple has no pen loop.
As for functionality, my main fear was buying an iPad with the pencil, using it for coloring like three pages, and then getting bored (because that's never happened). Well, I can tell you that we found ourselves using it all the time over the weekend. First, we had a friend who was trying to draw a picture of his new patio. Instead of trying to find a scrap piece of paper, he drew it on the iPad. It was easy to draw with different colored pens to indicate different materials. So simple. Then, I run a table top RPG with my friends, and during game I have to keep track of lots of bad guys and their hit points - plus, I house everything in Microsoft One Note. I was able to pull up the game, keep track of my notes, and even have just a sheet of scrap paper that I kept track of hitpoints on...it was so easy. And I find myself using the pencil all the time - even if I'm just playing solitaire, I like interacting with the pencil. My husband and I are starting to talk about a bathroom remodel, so I downloaded an app to help with that. I'm excited to use the app for design work, so we'll see how that goes.
All in all, the new iPad was a good purchase for me. There isn't a huge jump in technology between the earlier iPads, so if you don't see yourself using the pencil for things, then you may not care. But if you are really looking to use the pencil, then it's a great purchase. Now I have to start on the endless process of finding a case.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
The first thing I want to review here is the Amazon Echo…specifically because, as time goes on, we’ve been using it for more and more things around the house. The Echo, if you haven’t seen it, is a round black cylinder that’s smaller than a 2 liter soda bottle but larger than a standard soda bottle. You access the system by using either “Alexa” or “Amazon” as the wake word…so, I call a request by starting with “Hey Alexa…” As Prime members, we were given the option to purchase it before release date, and for the discount price of $99. Initially, we were excited and out of the box, the Echo was easy to set up. It connected to our internet with no real difficulties, and it worked will as a Bluetooth speaker for our iPhones or a speaker for our Amazon playlists. But we weren’t really using it for much more until last fall. After a few reviews and articles came out detailing what the Echo could do, and after getting emails from about new features, we started actually using it. Here are some of the big changes we put into action. The first thing we purchased was the WEMO plug in switch for our Christmas lights. We were continuously battling the Christmas tree to try and get behind it to turn on the lights. We installed the WEMO switch and could tell Alexa to turn on our Christmas lights, which was awesome. After Christmas, we moved the plug in to a lamp, and it’s fantastic to walk in our house and tell Alexa to turn on the lamp. We don’t have to fumble in the dark for a light switch. Unfortunately, the switch has been somewhat spotty in its reliability. We lost internet connection once and had to reset the whole thing. Then, after our power went out, the plug in worked through the WEMO app, but not through Alexa. However, it’s super cheap ($40 on Amazon, the last time I checked) and it has worked pretty well. The next thing we added were Phillips Hue bulbs. This has a hub that is connected to the internet and controls all hue bulbs. We keep the hub near our computer upstairs, and can control colors and lighting schemes through the Phillips app. We can’t change colors through the Echo, but we can turn the light bulbs on and off. I love the Hue, and its reliability is much more stable. We’ve had the Hue installed almost as long as the WEMO switch, and have not lost connectivity yet. Next, we installed a WEMO light switch for the front porch. This is nice when we have the pizza guy coming, or if we’re coming in the front door and need to turn it on through the app. The light switch has kept much more solid connectivity with the Echo. One aspect I really like is setting up groups of lights. So, we can make “downstairs lights” to turn everything on, “living room lights” to turn on just the lamps in the living room, or “AJ’s room” for turning on the kids room when I’m giving him piggy back rides and don’t have any hands. Besides the lighting options, we began using the shopping list feature, which I have found exceptionally helpful since the whole family can add things – especially the 5 year old. We do our grocery shopping online, so being able to pull up what everyone wants is easy, and the kid can add things without knowing how to spell. We’ve used the feature that allows you to order things through Amazon from time to time, but I prefer to look at what I’m ordering, so I don’t use that as much as others might. Eventually, we discovered that Amazon music allows users to upload a large portion of their own collection to Amazon music for free. This was great since, as Apple users, we’ve bought a ton of music on iTunes, so we liked having access to that without having to re-buy things. We’ve creating playlists for all of us – AJ even has his own playlist with Disney songs and the theme to Ghostbusters. We are looking at adding a door lock that’s tied to Alexa and the addition of the Nest is a big plus for us since my temperature varies from 70 to 72 degrees on a regular basis. Just to give some insight, we bought Echos for my two besties and their spouses for Christmas while they were on sale. One couple has loved the addition of Alexa in their life and they use it to regularly play games and hear jokes. The other couple has used it for little more than a speaker - and while they like the sound it produces, they aren't taking advantage of much else. The lesson here is that, if you don't mind doing just a bit of research on the capabilities of the Echo, you will come to love it. However, if you're not into technology and really don't want to spend too much time learning something new, the technology may be lost on you. One other word of note, I haven't used the If This Then That capabilities of the Echo, and I have a feeling that will open up a whole new host of capabilities. I'll share once I've spent some time learning. I should be getting the new Amazon Dot and the new iPad Pro later this week, so I will review those soon. XOXO
Posted by Jaime at 2:28 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Hello! My name is Jaime Cusick and I live in the great Midwest…specifically Kansas City, Missouri (not Kansas). My hubby and I are Kansas City natives, although I lived in Seattle for a stint in my twenties. We have a five year old boy who is such a little dude – he loves movies, video games, trains, Star Wars…and pretty much any toy that he can bash into something else or shoot with a Nerf gun. So far we sound pretty normal, but you should know that we’re a family of geeks. Of course, the word geek has come a long way in the past few decades, so we know that telling you we love Star Wars and Harry Potter no longer qualifies. Yes, we take it to another level with matching Star Wars tattoos after my husband and I married, but still not super geeky. However, we play a table top RPG, similar to Dungeons and Dragons, of which I’m the GM. I play World of Warcraft. My husband plays Tom Clancy on the PS4 with another group of friends. My kid’s favorite game in the world is Halo. We love superhero movies, the Lord of the Ring trilogy, the Hobbit trilogy, we watch Arrow and the Flash. We go to the local Comicon and the Renaissance Festival every year. On top of our love of everything geek, we could also be considered technophiles. We are usually early adopters with a healthy batch of Apple products as well as the Amazon Echo. We’ve added smart outlets and light switches to our Echo as well as a Phillips Hue. We have an Xbox One, PS4, and a Wii U…which are all played regularly. We have a projector in the basement generating a 126 inch screen of glorious motion pictures. We like our technology and we’re lucky living in Kansas City as we were the first city to receive Google Fiber…which is life changing with a household like ours. This blog will review different tech products that we use – both as individuals and as a family. We’ll also review games, movies, and anything else that I feel like others would like to know about. Hell, if I find a good recipe or craft, I might include it. Hopefully this is interesting to the dozens of people who might stumble across this blog. Enjoy!! XOXO
Posted by Jaime at 2:19 PM