Happy Birthday, Mac OS X!

Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah packaging

Or OSX, or macOS. It’s hard to believe that you are 20 years old. I’ve been using you and your predecessors longer than I used classic Macintosh systems starting with System 4.2 all the way through Mac OS 9 from 1987 through 2001. And now that you are starting your 21st year, you have turned 11 — macOS 11 (Big Sur), that is.

My Mac Story: Part 1

I’m starting a series of blog posts inspired by a Facebook post I made — and the subsequent comments — on June 21, 2020. That happened to be Father’s Day here in the U.S. I posted a photo of myself with my brother Mark and my father John wishing them both a happy Father’s Day. In the photo all three of us have new T-shirts draped over our chests that my mother Judy gave us. The solid black shirts have three simple words screen printed in white on the front: “I’m a Mac”. We were — and still are — Mac users and avid Apple fans.

Portrait photo of three guys with “I’m a Mac” T-shirts.
The Midgorden “Macs”: from left to right; brother Mark, father John, and Barry (me). Taken June 25, 2007.

A Facebook friend commented, “Curious, what does ‘Mac’ mean?”

I replied: “Mac is short for Macintosh, as in Apple’s personal computer. ‘I’m a Mac’ is in reference to the series of Get a Mac TV commercials featuring John Hodgman as a PC and Justin Long as a Mac that ran from 2006 to 2009.”

What follows is the rest of my reply, added to and edited for this first installment of “My Mac Story”.

The Beginning

My Mac story starts in the fall of 1984. My wife and I were living in Portland, Oregon at the time. We had traveled to my parents’ home in Fremont, California for Thanksgiving. My aunt Ruth (my dad’s sister) and uncle A.J. from Fountain Valley, California (in Orange County near L.A.) were also there.

My uncle was an engineer and computer programer for McDonald Douglas. He had an original Macintosh 128 and was leaning how to write software for it.

A Macintosh 128 with keyboard, mouse, and external floppy diskette drive.
The original Macintosh 128

He brought it with him to show my dad, but I was also entranced. I spent hours over the holiday weekend playing with MacPaint and eventually recreated a logo I had recently designed for JJC Ministries* in tiny black and white pixels on the 9-inch (512 x 342) monochrome display.

Photo of a printed program cover with the JJC Ministies logo.
A printed, vector-based version of the JJC Ministries logo.

The Macintosh obviously made an impression on me. But it was way out of my price range at the time and the professional graphic art environment in which I worked was still fully analog — drafting tables, Rapidographs, rubylith, and dark room with a process camera, photo chemicals, and hand-set typography equipment.

I didn’t think much about computer graphics at all until I was sent on a business trip to a 3M-sponsored design conference in Redondo Beach, California in 1986. One of our field trips was to the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. There we got to sit and play in a computer lab for exploring early digital design tools. It was equipped with Apple IIGS computers running what was essentially a color version of MacPaint. It was fun, but I did not come away from that experience nearly as captivated as I was with my uncle’s Macintosh.

I didn’t have too long to wait until I got to use a Mac again, however. In the summer of 1987, my employer at the time, Gillespie Decals, Inc., purchased Macintosh SEs for the production art department.

A Macintosh SE two-floppy diskette model.
The Macintosh SE

It was a two-floppy diskette model and we used System 4.2 initially with MacDraw software to create small, simple label art, printed it out on a 300dpi LaserWriter, then took the black and white output to the darkroom process camera to create the transparencies needed for the printing processes being used in the plant (screen, flex, and/or hot stamp). Later that year we added external SCSI 40 MB (that’s megabytes) hard drives and the first version of Adobe Illustrator, which was an amazing leap from MacDraw for vector graphics.

Later that year I took out a personal loan and bought the identical model for home and “I’m a Mac” ever since.

There’s more to come, so stay tuned to this blog for more installments of “My Mac Story”.

* “JJC” stands for Jesus, Joy, and Clowns. In a former life I was involved with the Christian clowning movement, but that’s a topic for a completely different blog.

New Apple Watch

As mentioned in my last post, I ordered an Apple Watch Series 6 the day of the announcement. It was supposed to arrive between September 28 and October 1. It came a few days early on Thursday, September 24. So I got my iPhone 11 Pro upgraded to iOS 14 that evening and set up my new watch the next day. I made a silly unboxing video and finally found time to get it edited and posted to my YouTube channel (having a day job certainly puts a monkey in my wrench).

Week One Impressions

I am thoroughly enjoying the upgrade from a Series 1 to the Series 6. It’s a big jump in capabilities, size of display, responsiveness, and delight. I set it up as a brand new watch rather than use the backup from my Series 1. This is allowing me to experience the discovery of the new features of both the newest hardware and watchOS 7. This is an ongoing process. This is what has impressed me so far.

Apple Watch Series 6 gold aluminum with product red sport loop on wrist
After unboxing, I set up the watch to use the Analog Activity face as a starting point.

Speed

It’s unsurprising that a jump from a 1.5 generation device to a 6th generation device would bring a faster user experience. My Series 1 watch was upgradable through watchOS 6, but the hardware was never “snappy”. The Series 6 seems so much more responsive in all interactions—swiping through watch faces; scrolling with touch and the digital crown; launching apps from complications, the dock, and the app list (I don’t use the app “cloud” although I might give it a try since the display is bigger); and giving Siri voice commands.

Apple Watch Infograph watch face full of Complications
The larger watch size with smaller bezels allows for more information in the form of complications.

Size

Speaking of the larger display, I am enjoying it for enhanced readability and getting more information on the screen. My previous watch could not take advantage of many of the newer watch faces that packed more complications on screen because of it’s smaller size. Two millimeters and smaller bezels make a big difference.

Features

My older watch was also not able to take advantage of things like fall detection and the advanced monitoring of heart rate that were introduced with Series 3, 4, and 5 watches. I don’t feel left out anymore. I haven’t tested the fall detection yet, but I have set up the ECG and Blood Oxygen apps (I’m all normal so far) as well as started tracking my sleep by wearing the watch to bed. The always-on display is very nice when I want to glance down to check the time without having to raise my arm to wake it up. The display is also noticeably brighter and the colors seem richer.

Apple Watch hand washing detection app
The Apple Watch hand washing detection shows only 14 seconds more.

Delight

Oddly enough, it’s the hand-washing timer that continually delights me multiple times per day. It seems magical in how it detects that I’m actually washing my hands. I’ve only had a couple of “false positives” when I’ve gone to rinse something off my fingers while cooking—not fully washing my hands, but similar enough to tigger it. It has never once thought I was washing my hands when I really wasn’t, like when rubbing on hand lotion or just rubbing my hands together briskly. My wife says she wouldn’t want her watch telling her what to do, but I find the technology that can accurately figure this out fascinating and delightful. I don’t think of it as being told what to do or how to do it. I think of it as a tool to help my personal hygiene, especially during the pandemic.

Apple Watch Analog Activity watch face at 3:30.
Using the Apple Watch Activity watch face keeps me going to complete all three rings.

Workouts

I take a 2.5-mile walk every day and track it as a walk workout in the activity app on the watch. Getting the Series 1 got me up and moving more consistently through the gamification of closing all three rings. Like most things, I’ve gone back and forth sticking with the habit, but the Series 6 has revitalized my dedication to keeps the walking habit going.

I use that workout time to listen to podcasts and now I have a watch that performs well enough to use the watch app from my favorite podcatcher, Overcast. I still carry my iPhone and play the audio from there, but use the Overcast app on the watch to control it.

So Much More

I know I’m still just scratching the surface of what’s possible with this new watch. Of course it can alert me to notifications so I don’t have to pull out my iPhone, but I was using the Series 1 that way before. I’m intrigued by the notion that I can use the Shortcuts app on my iPhone to automatically set watch faces on the Apple Watch at specific times of the day. I’ll be looking into that next.

After only a week, I am very pleased that I purchased the Apple Watch Series 6. It was definitely time for me to upgrade. I look forward to several years of enjoyment before needing to replace it.

317 Days

Holy mackinoly! It’s been 317 days since my last post—my bad. That’s 86.85% of a common year, or 10 months and 12 days, or 45 weeks and 2 days, or 7,608 hours, or 456,480 minutes, or 27,388,800 seconds. Man, that’s time. Now, before you get to thinking that I’m some kind of a date math whiz kid, first of all I’m no longer a kid, and second, I found this handy-dandy website called timeanddate.com. They have a bunch of cool stuff to explore, like world clocks, time zones, calendars, weather, sun and moon cycles, timers, and calculators (what I used to figure this out). Something to do while sheltered at home. They even have some iOS apps that might be fun to download and have on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

There are a number of things I’ve been ruminating on for sharing here, so stay tuned—I hope to ramp up the frequency of my posts very soon.

A First World Problem

Prologue

I am a coffee drinker. I suspect many of you are as well. I also enjoy a cup of hot tea on occasion. However, I very rarely just sit down and drink a cup of one or the other for the sheer enjoyment of the experience. I will consume a hot cuppa with my breakfast but that’s usually just on the weekends as my weekday breakfast is a smoothie. I mostly drink coffee, and that most often while sitting at my desk, either at home (as I work away on one of my Macs) or at my day job (on a “DULL” Windows PC [gagging noise]).

Here’s my problem. I like my coffee hot. The hotter, the better. Just shy of burn-my-tongue hot. If it gets much cooler than that, I don’t enjoy it as much. When I’m sitting at the computer I’ll often get so engrossed in what I’m doing (Mac) or frustrated by the experience (Windows) that I forget to drink my coffee while it’s still hot from the pot. When I do pick up the cup to take a drink, it’s cooled down too much. What to do?

Well, at home I do have a Mr. Coffee mug-warming hot plate, so I can set my ceramic mug of hot coffee on it and the coffee stays hot until the last swallow. But I still had the problem at the day job. And there’s not much that’s worse than drinking cold coffee while using Windows.

Sometime in 2018 I became aware of a new product that would provide a solution to my day-job problem. Yes, I could have bought another hot plate, but being a gadget geek, the new Ember temperature-controlled Ceramic Mug intrigued me.

Ember had first launched a temperature-controlled travel mug in 2015. I saw both the Travel Mug and Ceramic Mug for sale at my local Starbucks. I found them on Amazon and put the Ceramic Mug on my wish list.

I did not buy it right away because I wanted to find out more, read some reviews, and, quite frankly, the retail price of $80 was beyond an impulse buy for me.

Then Jesus made it possible for me to get one. That is, I received enough Amazon gift cards for Christmas to make it possible for me to order one without spending my own dollars.

So, I’ve been using it at work to keep my coffee hot while I suffer through using Windows. There have been many reviews of the Ember Ceramic Mug all over the interwebs, so I’m not going to do another one here. This is just my story and my observations.

Ember Mug sitting on charging coaster on a desk.

My Ember Mug keeping coffee hot on my day job desk.

Act I

As I opened and unpacked my Ember mug I was impressed by the quality of the packaging and product. It reminded me of the experience of opening and setting up many of my Apple products. I later read at their website that Ember employs former Apple designers and engineers.

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There is minimal documentation on paper in the box. What’s there is printed on circular paper. The instructions are a single sheet and easy to follow. There even are stickers! The product itself consists of the temperature-controlled mug, a charging coaster, which I call a saucer, and a power supply/cord combo.

Act II

I inaugurated the use of my Ember Mug at the day job office. After all, I have Mr. Coffee to keep any ceramic mug heated at home. As I began to set it up I immediately ran into a snag, but not one with the Ember Mug. There was not an available electrical outlet under my desk. The closest outlet wasn’t close enough for the saucer (charging coaster) to be on my desk. So for the first week I set it up on a bookshelf a few feet away to the side of my desk. I could charge the mug on the shelf, but it wasn’t close enough to reach while sitting at my desk. This became a good testing scenario for determining how long the mug would keep a drink hot on a battery charge.

As it turns out, I was a little disappointed. The battery only lasted about 30 minutes in my first test. I was only about halfway through the cup of coffee (the Ember mug capacity is 10 ounces).

I thought, “that can’t be right”. The Ember website claims the Ceramic Mug battery will last approximately one hour. Either it wasn’t actually charged all the way, or I accidentally turned it off in the iOS app, or I received a lemon (and not the kind you put in your cup of Earl Gray, hot).

As I was using it at my day job, I didn’t have the liberty to give it the attention of testing, being caught up in all the glorious “fun” that is Windows 7. So the following week I got the electrical outlet issue resolved by adding another power strip under my desk so I could have the saucer (charging coaster) on my desk and proceeded to use the Ember Mug and even got some more “testing” accomplished.

For my next cup of coffee I made sure the mug’s battery was fully charged, filled it up, started the stopwatch on my iPhone, and proceeded to go back to work with the mug off of the saucer (charging coaster). Eventually, I got a notification on my Watch that the Ember Mug’s battery needed to be charged.

Apple Watch screen shot of Ember Mug recharge notification.

Time to recharge notification on my Apple Watch.

I checked the stopwatch and it had lasted 55 minutes and 30 seconds. When I checked the battery level in the iOS app, it was at 10%. It probably would have lasted at least an hour if I let it go until it was drained. I had almost finished my cup of joe and it was just as hot as when I started — problem solved.

Act III

I’ve been enjoying the benefits of a hot cup of coffee at my work desk ever since. While it’s great to have every sip be 135°F, the Ember Mug is not without some fiddleyness.

Apple Watch screen shot of Ember Mug perfect temperature notification.

The Apple Watch notification that the Ember Mug has reached coffee’s perfect temperature.

The care and feeding instructions are explicit about cleaning — do not immerse; hand wash only. That in and of itself is not unexpected. Common sense would prevent me from putting an electronic gadget in the dishwasher or a sink full of sudsy water. But there are further instructions warning against putting the mug back on the saucer if there is any moisture on the bottom of the mug. The bottom has a double ring of metal contacts that connect with a couple of prongs on the saucer — this is how it charges. Those rings are surrounded both in and out by a rubbery, non-slick material. The potential problem is that the material is either a bit porous or even when hand washing I was getting enough water on the bottom for it to gather a bit in the very small spaces between the rubber and the metal rings. It appeared dry to my eye but after I picked up the mug to get another cup of joe after it was sitting on the saucer for a while recharging, there was a ring of condensation on the saucer.

So I have developed a hand-washing routine that minimizes moisture exposure to the foot of the mug. If I think I’ve accidentally got water on the rubbery bottom, a short blast of compressed air around the metal contact rings forces the water out of the small crevices.

Lastly, I had to get used to trusting the device to manage itself. It must have some smarts built in because it knows when there is liquid in the mug and when it’s empty. It will automatically turn the heater on and off accordingly. At first I was using the iOS app to manually turn off the mug heater when I finished a cup of coffee. Then when I filled it up again with hot coffee I would have to remember to turn it back on. If I forgot, it would not keep the coffee hot. I forgot more than once and discovered it when taking a lukewarm sip. That taught me to just leave it alone once the heater was on and let the firmware manage the heater. Since then, I’ve never had anything but a hot sip, no matter how long the coffee has been in the mug.

Epilogue

I’m not sure I would have purchased this gadget with my own money, but I have surely enjoyed having it on my work desk at the day job. Having hot coffee in my mug no matter how long it sits has made using Windows just a little more tolerable.