The Next Track, Episode #147 – Kirk’s New Sonos Amp

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxKirk bought some new audio equipment: a Sonos Amp. We talk about how this amp works, and how it has allowed Kirk to minimalize the equipment in his home office.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #147 – Kirk’s New Sonos Amp.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

Gadget Review: Dyson Pure Cool Link Air Purifier and Fan

Dyson tallI’m a fan of Dyson’s products. I own two of their vacuum cleaners (a floor model and a stick), and two of their fans. I reviewed the first one back in 2015, the Air Multiplier. That fan worked fine for a while, then just after the guarantee ran out, started making a humming noise, even at the lowest setting. I called Dyson and they replaced it.

Last year I bought the Pure Cool Link Air Purifier (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), which is similar to the basic fan but includes air purification via a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter. I’ve been using it in my home office since last spring, but it’s really been useful in the past month. Pollen levels have been stratospheric here in the UK, most likely because of warm weather in February that caused trees and plants to bloom early. Since I have pollen allergies, the air has been terrible for me, but using this fan in my office has made my life a lot better.

You control the device using a remote control, or an app for iOS or Android. The app shows you the air quality in your location, and lets you see the current air quality in the room where it is located.

Dyson1

If you tap the little graph near the bottom, you can see the history of your air quality, by day and by week.

Dyson3

In the above, you can see several peaks of poor air quality. These correspond to periods where I aired out opened the windows in my office on a day when I was doing a lot of dusting and vacuuming. The quality improves fairly quickly with the windows closed and the fan at the highest speed. (My office is about 150 sq. ft.)

In most cases, I leave it on the Auto setting, and the fan slowly pulls air through the device to check its quality, then turns on when it deems necessary. I don’t hear the fan when it’s in this mode, but there is an audible sound, even at the lowest setting, which isn’t the case with the basic Air Purifier fan. At speed number 2, it blows enough air to cool me from about ten feet away. and makes a bit of noise, but it is quiet enough to not bother me. When there’s a lot of pollen – because I’ve opened windows, or opened the door to my office, and the rest of the house has poor air quality – I sometimes run it at the 4th speed. Again, the sound is noticeable, but as it’s simple white noise – there’s no hum of the fan – it’s easy to ignore; and music masks it quite well.

Dyson2

This device is effective as both a fan and an air purifier, so if you do have allergies, it can be very helpful. It’s worth noting that you need to replace the filters after about two years; the app will warn you when it’s time, and you can check in the settings if you want to see how much filtering ability they have left. This is shown as a percentage; mine currently shows 42% after just over a year; a month ago, I seem to recall it being around 50%, so the current pollen season has put a strain on it. This said, I only use it from spring to fall, so if you do use it in an environment with, say, smoke, they might not last as long.

Note that there are two models. I have the floor-standing model, and there is also a desktop version. The bases look to be the same size, so the only difference is probably in the amount of air that they send out; the amount of cooling you’ll feel. But if you put the desktop model near enough to you, then it will probably feel the same. I’d say the choice is whether you want to have a fan on the floor – it’s about 40 in. or 100 cm. tall – or want to put it on a desk, shelf, or credenza.

This, like other Dyson products, is a bit pricey, but it’s well worth the cost if you want to have clean air in a room where you work or sleep.

AppleCare Support is Broken

As a fairly knowledgeable Mac and iOS user, I’m generally the go-to guy for people I know who are looking for solutions to their problems. I’ve been writing about Macs and iOS devices for more than fifteen years, and a lot of my work has been around troubleshooting, and explaining to users how to accomplish tasks, or work around problems. As such, I don’t often need to contact AppleCare.

I buy AppleCare contracts for my Macs, and for my iPhones (for my current iPhone, this is included in the package I purchased through the Apple iPhone Upgrade program).

When I have issues with my Macs or iOS devices, I can generally figure them out. I search online, post in forums, and, in most cases, I find solutions. But there are times when I can’t find solutions, and I turn to AppleCare.

In the past couple of years, I’ve had several issues that involved contacting AppleCare. The front-link staff is generally amiable, and try to be helpful, but given that I can generally resolve simple issues, I almost always get bumped up to the next level, to senior advisors. And these senior advisors always start by reading a script, saying that they will “take ownership of my case” and ensure me that they will help resolve my issue.

Until they don’t.

Several times in the past couple of years, I’ve had cases where senior advisors give me hope, have me send data to them, then nothing happens. They just drop the cases. There is no further communication, no information, nothing. They just forget me. On their end, they probably close the cases so they can juke the stats. And I don’t get that common request for feedback regarding my case, so they don’t get negative feedback.

In one case, I was having battery issues on a MacBook, which dragged on and on, as it was hard to figure out exactly what was happening. I eventually traded that MacBook in to buy a new MacBook Pro, because it wasn’t worth my hassling with Apple’s support any more.

For another case, the senior advisor sent me an app to collect data – which totaled about 650 MB – that I was to send to Apple via a webpage. I tried many times and was never able to send the data; the connection would drop each time before the transmission completed. (I have 1 Mbps upload speed, making large uploads extremely difficult.)

My most recent case is more than two weeks old. I found I could no longer log into my Mac mini with my MacBook Pro to run Time Machine backups to an external disk connected to that Mac. The first-line technician started a screen-sharing session, which allowed me to show him the issue, and bumped me up to the next level, saying he couldn’t explain what was happening, and had never seen this before. The second line technician started a screen-sharing session, but wouldn’t let me go through the entire process to show what was happening, and I was quite annoyed at having to deal with someone who clearly didn’t care about my issue. She said she would call me back in a day or two, after consuming with engineering.

And that’s the general result of my contacts with AppleCare. They “consult with engineering,” promise to call back, and never do.

I have had a couple of senior advisors who have followed up on my cases, helping me resolve issues, but for most of the problems I have had in the past couple of years, I have been ignored, and had to figure out my own workarounds.

Apple touts their high rate of customer satisfaction, but this is probably because so many issues can either be resolved by front-line support technicians, or in-store; my nearest Apple Store is an hour away, and, for my latest issue, going to a store wouldn’t help, because the issue involves connecting to another Mac on my local network.

AppleCare is expensive, and I feel that I’m getting cheater, at least for issues that aren’t hardware related. AppleCare is broken and needs to be fixed.

(If you’ve had this problem, please post a comment below. I’d like to be able to forward some information about this to Apple.)

Apple Should Offer an Icon-Only Option for iOS Device Home Screens

I was looking at my iPhone today, and the thought crossed my mind that I don’t really need to see the names of apps beneath their icons. Just as with the four apps in the Dock, I recognize my apps by their icons; their names just get in the way, adding clutter to my iPhone’s home screen. Imagine if it looked like this:

No names

Doesn’t that look a lot better, a lot cleaner? Compare it to this, where the texts of some apps are pretty compressed to make them fit on one line.

Names

It would be great if Apple offered an icon-only option on iOS. One advantage is that it would be possible to decrease the spacing between icons, allowing for an extra row.

These are apps I use daily, and I don’t need to see their names, and I can understand that people who download lots of apps may want to see the names for new apps. So perhaps the option could be just for the first home screen, and only for apps, not for folders.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode Bird Photography with Marie Read

Photoactive 400We’re excited to welcome Marie Read, author of the book Mastering Bird Photography (Rocky Nook), to the podcast. She talks about getting started with bird photography, where to find interesting birds, and, yes, we necessarily talk a bit about gear, since a good telephoto lens is essential for this type of photography.

Listen to PhotoActive, Episode 41: Bird Photography with Marie Read.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 80: When should you upgrade your Mac?

Macs last a long time, but whatever your needs, you’ll need to upgrade your Macs eventually. Whether you buy new or used, there comes a time when you need more power, RAM, storage, or all of the above. You don’t necessarily have to upgrade your entire Mac. We discuss the different variations of upgrading your Apple hardware.

Check out <a href=”http://podcast.intego.com/80”>the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.