Friday, 13 March 2015

Apple Watch

I am an Apple geek. Several years ago my Apple geek neighbour convinced me to switch to a Mac and I haven't looked back. I coveted an iPhone from the day they were introduced until I was finally able to get an iPhone 4  in 2011. Before that I filled the gap with an iPod Touch. I was an early iPad adopter, getting one within a few months of its launch. Since Apple announced the Apple Watch last autumn I have been in no doubt that I would want one. My only question was when, not if. After a bit of thought, I've decided I will be at the front of the queue!

Why? What makes me think an Apple Watch will be worth the money to me? I have two particular things I would want to get soon, Apple Watch or no: (1) A timepiece. My current watch is a cheap and cheerful one which I like, but which has an annoyingly dodgy clasp which falls open randomly. It is only a matter of time before I lose it. (2) A fitness band. I usually carry my phone around to measure my steps, but if I don't want to carry my phone for some reason or I don't have a pocket it messes up my step count. I would like to take fitness tracking further and seriously considered getting a Fitbit or Jawbone UP band. In the end I decided to hang out for a Watch. 

Buying the cheapest Apple Watch will cost around double what I would pay for a replacement watch and a fitness band, but I think that extra money will be well worth spending for all the extra stuff I could do with a Watch. I have read a ton of reviews, which mostly seem positive but with an underlying refrain of "do we really need it?"  Well of course, in terms of real need the answer is no, and the answer to "is it going to be useful" seems to be that the only way to tell will be to use it. Looking at what it does and the apps likely to be available from launch or shortly after, I can see a number of things I think I would use frequently:

- Telling the time (bit obvious, that one!)

- Step counter, which I expect to have slicker integration with the iPhone than another fitness band would.

- The little fitness display with three concentric circles showing progress on daily activity targets.

- Taptic notificatons of texts and phone calls. I mostly keep my phone on silent and I'm terrible at noticing it vibrate even if it is in my pocket. If it is in my bag then I'm done for! An electronic tap on the wrist and a quick glance sounds a perfect way to pick up incoming calls or texts and decide whether to deal with them immediately or leave them until later.  

- Setting reminders through Siri. I am not a huge fan of Siri as I don't seem to communicate well with it (!), but it is a quick and easy way to set reminders and timers. The ability to lift my wrist and say "Set reminder to ..." the instant something flits into my overcrowded brain sounds a godsend for my middle-aged, menopausal memory.

- Ditto timers.

- Sending short texts without having to get my phone out, with its attendant risks of distraction. I think it should be possible to text to say I am on the way home from work, or that I have arrived to collect a daughter from somewhere, with a couple of touches.

- Directions through taptic notifications. I hate walking along peering at my phone trying to work out where I am going. I presume this will only work for Apple's own map app, not for Google Maps, which is a bit of a nuisance as I am not a fan of Apple's maps, but I think it will still be very useful. Citymapper is going to have a Watch app, which will be a bonus whenever I am in London. 

- Taptic reminders to drink water, and to get up from my desk and stretch my legs. I have tried doing this with my phone but it is too easy to miss or ignore.

Then I am sure there will be things which will be fun to play with for a while if not particularly useful, and lots of new apps will come along. All in all, I am pretty certain that I will get a lot of use out of it. 

I did think hard about waiting for a while before taking the plunge. The second Apple Watch, whenever it appears, will certainly be better. As the first of a new line there may well be glitches with the original Watch. If there are major glitches or faults, I trust Apple enough to presume they will fix them. Minor glitches I can live with. Apple products hold their value pretty well, so if I want to upgrade in a year or so to a newer, better model, the resale value of a used Watch should mean it will be affordable. Also I know from experience that even the 1st generation products have a good lifespan. My 1st generation iPod Touch continued merrily along until a daughter lost it. My 1st generation iPad is still in daily use by Small Girl. Diving into Apple Watch as soon as it is available doesn't seem too much of a risk. 

I just have one decision left to make. Do I settle for pre-ordering, or do I go and queue outside the Apple Store overnight? I am really not that impatient to get one, I just think it would be quite a fun thing to do. But then again, not the most comfortable way to spend a night and not conducive to sleep!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

To Sew Or Not To Sew?

I can knit. I can crochet. I can cross stitch. I can (more or less) embroder). I cannot use a sewing machines. In needlework classes at school they terrified me and I simply refused. Once or twice as an adult I have tried to learn but with no success. A few years ago I bought a machine when the two older girls were interested in learning to sew, but again we got nowhere. The last time one of the girls got it out she broke the needle. Two and a half years ago my kind blogging friend Linds posted instructions for changing the needle. It never got changed. 

Small N has been learning hand sewing at school and was desperate to go to the local fabric shop yesterday to get fabric to do some "fashion design" - she wanted to make doll-size clothes, but just as samples not fitted to actual dolls. She started off happily hand sewing, but I foolishly suggested we could try the sewing machine. Much excitement from N! I found Linds' blog post and unscrewed the wheel to the right of where I assumed the needle should go (whoever broke it had got as far as removing the old one). At this point things fell apart. Literally. This fell off:

When it comes to sewing machines my ignorance is profound. Linds, not unreasonably, had assumed I knew the front from the back of the sewing machine. Sadly not. Being right handed, I guessed (wrongly as it turns out) that the fabric would go on the right. If I had actually looked properly at the machine I may have worked out the the various buttons and dials would be on the front not the back, but no. I had the sewing machine back to front. Instead of undoing to the little wheel to the right of where the needle should go, I had undone the screw to the left (my "right") and what I eventually identified as the foot-holder thingy fell off. I now had a sewing machine, two baffling bits of metal (the foot had also fallen off), and no needle. 

At this point I sensibly turned to the instruction book. Or would have done. Unfortunately, it appears I have lost the instruction book. I contemplated sending Linds a panicky message in the hope she may be online and could talk me through this sewing machine disaster, but decided to try Google first. No online instruction book, but enough "how to" articles and videos to talk me through sewing machine basics. Half an hour later I was back to this: 

The foot thingy successfully reattached! Things went well for a while and I managed to get a new needle in and the foot back on its thingy. I had some difficulty finding the lever that makes the foot go up and down but discovered it lurking towards the back of the machine. We managed to get some blue thread onto a bobbin, or so we thought until I discovered that part of it was wrapped round the bobbin winder instead of the bobbin. We then cheated and switched to black thread as there was already some on a wound bobbin. We managed to thread everything up and were ready to go, or so we thought. Two seconds of sewing and the machine jammed. Another broken needle. We retraced our steps, threaded everything up again. Two more seconds. Another jam and another broken needle. I then dismantled the insides of the bobbin compartment, thinking that maybe there were bits of broken needle stuck somewhere inside. By the time I managed to get everything back together I had discovered that the bobbin thingy has to be pushed in until it clicked. I think this must have been the cause of the jams because after threading everything up for the third time, N and I managed to produce this: 

We sewed! Not the straightest lines ever, but thread attached itself to the fabric and stayed there. There were (almost) no bunches of black thread at the back and no needles broke. This magnificent sewing achievement took us two and a half hours. 

Today we are going to make something.