Thoughts on iPhone 7 Plus

Four months ago I replaced my iPhone 6S with an iPhone SE. I loved the idea of the SE: the best features of the 6S with the form factor of the 5/5S for $250 less. Why did I switch? Well, there are a few things I’ve never liked about the 6-series phones compared to the 5-series:

  1. Slippery rounded sides
  2. Power button opposite the volume buttons. I find it very difficult to press the power button without also pressing volume up (and vice versa).
  3. Redesign of the volume buttons

Specifically with the iPhone 6S (especially after a year with the 6 Plus), I was disappointed with its anemic battery life. Not a deal breaker as I can charge at my desk and in my car, but not great either. I never really got into 3D Touch, so I didn’t miss not having it on the SE. The faster Touch ID on the 6S was actually an annoyance to me with iOS 9 and the difficult to press side-mounted power button.

So I was happy to give the SE a try. I enjoyed the fun pink (rose gold) color. The battery life was much better. Mostly I just appreciated the return to the easy-to-grip 5-series form factor. I’ve been very pleased with the SE.

I’m an iOS developer and I tend to focus on UI, so of course I was going to get a 7-series phone eventually. The questions were: (1) which model, and (2) would it replace my SE as my daily driver.

The dual lens camera system available only in the 7 Plus, pretty much decided both those questions. I waited until the SIM-free unlocked phones were available in the U.S. before placing an order, so I only received my 7 Plus this week.

Impressions So Far

  • The matte black color is gorgeous. I’d love to see this color on watches, iPads, and MacBooks.
  • I enjoy having a 5.5″ screen back after a year away.
  • I 💜 the new home button. It feels great.
  • The rounded sides are still slippery and the power button is still not easy to use
  • 2x camera mode is great. Zooming up to 10x is handy. I love the new zoom interface.
  • This is my first 128 GB phone. I could get used to this! 32 GB is now out of the question for me if I am to use the device for more than just testing.
  • 👍

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar 2014 in Pictures

For the 4th year in a row, my son and I have enjoyed opening the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar each morning in December. Most of these photos were taken with an iPhone 6 Plus (and a couple with an iPhone 6). The iPhone cameras keep improving year-over-year. (The same cannot be said for my photography skills.)

Day 01 Day 02 Day 03 Day 04 Day 05 2014_day_06Day 07 Day 08 Day 09 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13 Day 14 Day 15 Day 16 Day 17 Day 18 Day 19 Day 20 Day 21 Day 22 Day 23 Day 24

Why so serious?

This morning at breakfast my wife and I were casually discussing the hypothetical question: “What possession of your partner’s would you like to throw away?”. Typically the answer might be that beat-up recliner left over from college days or an old, ratty (but much beloved) t-shirt. Our 7 year-old son, though interpreted the question differently and asked, “Mommy, wouldn’t you like to get rid of Daddy’s seriousness?”

That really took me aback. What, me serious? Why just last night while my wife was working late in the office, my son and I had a video game and ice-cream party at home. We even made an ice-cream run so that we could have seconds, and we went crazy with the sprinkles and toppings. How could he say I was serious, while my wife was the fun one?

A bit of background: my wife and I both work and we both take our work very seriously. While we may not be workaholics, we probably come close, and at a minimum we are both quite passionate about what we do. If anything, I think my wife is more serious at work than I am. Not that she’s mean or anything, far from it, it’s just that she expects the same competency and diligence from her colleagues that she demands from herself, and has little patience for ineptitude or lack of effort. The main difference I think is that while my wife works in an office, I have been working from home for the past 12 years.

I love working from home, and it would take a lot to convince me to return to an office full-time. I have worked from home for our son’s entire life, so for him that’s how the world works: mommy works in an office, and daddy works at home. But a downside that I hadn’t really considered before today is that this means that our son is exposed to my business side on an almost daily basis. I think many people who don’t work at home, imagine that the biggest challenge to working at home would be to remain focused and continue to work instead of spending all day goofing off. Perhaps that’s the case for most people. For me though, the problem is exactly the opposite: learning to leave work behind and have more life in my work-life balance.

My work-life balance issues have been compounded by the fact that for the past 2.5 years or so, I’ve been working harder than ever. I decided at the beginning of 2012 that I really wanted to get better at being an iOS developer, and began taking extra steps to achieve that goal. That meant that on top of my full-time development job I would write blog posts, work on open-source projects, read technical books and blogs, watch technical videos, work on the occasional consulting project, and work on conference presentations (create the talk, make slides, write sample code, and practice the talk). All of the above has already paid off for me: I feel I’ve improved at a much faster rate over the past 2 years than over the previous decade. It has brought me 2 jobs that have each improved my work satisfaction and additional consulting work which has done the same. But the cost has been many weeks of early mornings, late nights, and weekends spent coding instead of enjoying my family.

One of the things I love most about working from home is the flexibility it brings. Being there (almost) every day when my son arrives home from school is priceless. It’s the perfect time to take a break, head downstairs, get a hug and ask him how his day at school was. But somedays if I happen to be in the middle of a conference call or am deeply focused on a difficult task with a critical deadline looming, I can’t take that break, and if my son comes up to tell or ask me something, he glimpses my serious, focused side, and depending on what’s going on (e.g. conference call with a client) I may hardly be able to acknowledge his presence let alone have the conversation he wishes to have with me.

Why so serious?

This morning was definitely a wakeup call for me. I’m sure I’ll never be able to “throw away my seriousness”, but I can make an effort to not think about work outside of work hours, and to take every opportunity to appreciate and enjoy my wife and our son. After all, if I can’t take advantage of the flexibility that working at home affords me, then what’s the point? Kids grow up so fast that I need to savor every precious moment.

Speaking of which, it’s Memorial Day weekend and our pool has just opened for the season. It’s high time to close my laptop and go have some fun.



LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar 2013 in Pictures

This is the 3rd year in a row that I’ve gotten the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar for my (now 7 year old) son. Each day is either a mini-figure, accessories, or a micro-scale model. It makes each morning in December a lot of fun. Every year I take pictures of each day’s build using my current iPhone. This year I used the iOS 7 on my iPhone 5S. Previously I had used Instagram to take square photos. It’s interesting to see the evolution of the iPhone camera (and over the years. For these types of photos (indoor, still-life macros) the 5S is a minor improvement only over the 5, but a major improvement over the 4S camera.

Day 01Day 02Day 03Day 04Day 05Day 06Day 07Day 08Day 09Day 10Day 11Day 12Day 13Day 14Day 15Day 16Day 17Day 18Day 19Day 20Day 21Day 22Day 23Day 24

LEGO iPhone dock 1.0

LEGO dockWhen the iPhone 5 was announced last September, it was the first iPhone to ship without an Apple dock, and also the first iPhone that would not fit via an adapter in Apple’s so-called “Universal” dock. As an iOS developer, it’s useful for me to keep my phones upright and charging at my desk, ready to be debugged via Xcode, so I’ve always bought a dock for each iPhone generation. Furthermore I’ve always gone with Apple’s docks because they were available on launch, cheap enough, compact, and work well. But with the iPhone 5 for the first time I had to look for 3rd party docking options. Then I stumbled upon these directions for a LEGO phone dock that would integrate a Lightning cable. Because I love LEGO’s and the parts were cheaper than any other dock, I went ahead and ordered the parts from LEGO’s Pick-A-Brick store (I had to make some substitutions due to availability).

IMG_2373The heart of the dock is the 2 bricks with vertical clips that hold the Lightning cable firmly in place.

IMG_2368Another nice touch is having two grill pieces that don’t block the speaker and microphone, so that you can use the phone in speaker phone mode while docked. I also like that the front portions are smoothly tiled over with nary a stud in sight.


Next up: revisions to make LEGO dock 1.1

Standing Desk 1.0

Standing positionEarly this year I purchased my first standing desk. Originally I was looking at treadmill desks as a way to help get in shape despite the long hours I spend at my desk each day. I didn’t feel like I had the time for a DIY project, so I was considering pre-built solutions such as this LifeSpan Fitness treadmill desk. Their desk seemed nice, but I had 2 problems with it. First it is fixed in height and so could never be used as a sitting desk, and second I already have 3 desks in my office that I like and the last thing I needed was a 4th desk.

The other reason I was looking at treadmill desks was because sitting at my desk was becoming increasingly more uncomfortable. I’ve been programming professionally for 15 years and sitting long hours each day the entire time. Up until last year, I would only get sore after more than 10 or 12 hours of sitting. But this past year that dropped to 8 and then 6 and then 4 hours or even less. Changing positions and getting up for stretching breaks (which I do regularly) wasn’t helping much. Sitting at my desk had literally become (forgive the pun) a pain in the ass. Of course to address this problem I didn’t need a treadmill, just a standing desk. But I figured that standing all day would quickly become just as painful as sitting all day, so what I really needed was an adjustable desk. (LifeSpan and other companies also sell standing desk treadmills without the desk, so I could always add a treadmill later.)

So after some research I decided to get a GeekDesk without a top and reuse the existing glass top from one of my desks, and just swap out the existing frame for the GeekDesk one. I chose the more expensive Max version mainly for the programmable presets, and I chose a small frame to fit one of my two 120 cm desks (I could have gotten a large frame for my 160 cm desk).  Using my own top saved me $264 between reduced price and reduced shipping.

GeekDesk Max frameCustomer service at GeekDesk was great and my desk arrived promptly. You assemble it yourself, but that’s easy and the build quality is great.  Adding your own glass top is probably even easier than adding your own wood top because you can assemble the desk upright and merely set the glass top in place. The one thing you need are little rubber / silicone pads to put in between the metal frame and the glass top. These cushion the top but also provide the necessary friction so that the top will not slide sideways with pressure. Fortunately I already had these from my previous desk frame.

When the desk is in seated position the before (above) and after (below) appearance is practically unchanged.


In Use

At first, I was changing positions every 30 minutes using a timer to remind me. I rotated between 3 positions: sitting in a chair, standing, and sitting on a balance ball (with the desk in its lowest position). Changing so frequently was no doubt overkill and most of the time I had trouble focusing properly while standing. Working while sitting is a hard habit to break. 9 months later I still sit most of the day, but once or twice a day I will move the desk  into standing position and stand for a while. I probably ought to change more often. I still find it hard to concentrate while standing, so whenever I’m faced with a particularly difficult problem to solve, I always have an urge to sit. Overall I’m very happy with the purchase and glad I have the option to shift my work position upon demand. Maybe next year will be the year I am able to add a treadmill into the mix.

Lowest position