Adrian's Gear

Deliveries — Package Tracking on your Apple Devices by Adrian Galli

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Some of the best apps are apps that make every day things a little simpler. One of my favorite apps to help with little tasks is Deliveries. It does one thing and does it really well. It tracks packages.

From FedEx to USPS, Royal Mail and DHL, grab a tracking number and one will receive notifications on Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Deliveries shows locations, delivery estimates, days to arrival and more. Add a name to the delivery should there be more than one coming from the same courier.

Made by JuneCloud, they are a small developer out fo Detroit making only a few apps but all really well designed. Not only do they help one track their packages, they also make a simple and classy notes app called Notefile.

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Today Deliveries users received an update making this app even more useful: Siri Shortcuts. Simply say to Siri, “Show me my deliveries,” and a quick view of what deliveries are available show up.

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Some other nifty features of Deliveries are the ability for it to add the estimated delivery date to one’s calendar. It will show up as an all day even so even when one’s eyes aren’t on the app or Notification Center, Calendar will still keep one updated.

Deliveries is available on all iOS, macOS, and watchOS devices, tracking a package can be done from desktop to pocket to wrist and it syncs via iCloud.

It is one of my favorite things to see the Deliveries complication on my Apple Watch watchface with the days until a delivery—with a single tap, I get all the same information as on iPhone or iPad.

Additionally. If more information is needed, Deliveries is pulling data from the couriers’ website and one can quickly jump to the detailed information.

It is a five dollar app but totally worth it. The new Siri features really make it a quick and easy app to work with and the interface remains one of my favorite.

Tip: If one copies a tracking number from an e-mail or website, upon opening Deliveries on iOS, a “quick entry” notification pops up for speedy input.

Deliveries from JuneCloud

iOS: $5
macOS: $5

K&F Concept Lens Adapters by Adrian Galli

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I run several camera systems at the same time... crazy I know. Most systems are very similar and very capable. My Nikon system is really my high end professional gear—big, powerful, strong ecosystem. My Olympus gear (Micro Four Thirds) is small, great for travel, some wonderful lenses, and impressive innovation. Finally, I also have a FujiFilm X-T20 and a clue of lenses—Fuji is making some of the best camera and lenses around these days and also the only affordable medium format cameras on the planet.

I can get into more details about why these systems are all in my camera bag but one of the reasons I have my Fuji system is for using adapted lenses.

There is a common fallacy that “old lenses” are not functional for digital cameras. It is an unexpected and untrue statement but I assume it is for two reasons: camera companies want you to buy the newest gear and a lot of people believe that old is bad and new is better.

I can’t speak for the camera companies but they are in the business of selling equipment so it seems likely they wouldn’t dissuade someone from believing that their old film lenses from the 1960’s aren’t good. Fact is, normal and telephoto lens optics haven’t really change much. Mostly is is some technology like image stabilization and various lens coatings. Wide-angle lenses have come a long way—Nikon is probably the front running in this area but in past, wide-angle lenses weren’t so hot. Otherwise, lenses from decades ago frequently have some very wonderful and unique qualities that aren’t found in many lenses today because, you know, sharpness is everything according to so many photographers.

I’ve been fortunate to find and play with some absolutely incredible old lenses from long before I was even born but the problem is, these lenses have mounts that are all but extinct. Or, like my Nikon 50mm ƒ1.8 E-series, does use Nikon’s F-mount and still work on my Nikon cameras but it is also a great lens to mount on my Olympus or Fuji cameras—it is worth using on any camera.

FujiFilm X-T20 with K&F Concept Nikon F to Fuji X mount adapter, Nikkor 50mm ƒ1.8 E-Series

FujiFilm X-T20 with K&F Concept Nikon F to Fuji X mount adapter, Nikkor 50mm ƒ1.8 E-Series

Lens adapters can be very expensive—$99+ in many cases. However, I was searching around on eBay for a few deals on said adapter when I stumbled on K&F Concepts.

These adapters are usually around $25 and are really well made. All metal construction, these adapters come is a protective case, and K&F have adapters for just about every mount imaginable. From Nikon F to Fuji X mount to Exakta to Micro Four Thirds, all of my fun “vintage lense” have new life on my cameras.

Nikon F mount to Fuji X mount

Nikon F mount to Fuji X mount

Nikon G (F Mount) to Micro Four Thirds

Nikon G (F Mount) to Micro Four Thirds

Nikon G (F mount) to Fuji X Mount

Nikon G (F mount) to Fuji X Mount

It is important to note that adapted lenses do not communicate with the camera; one will not have any meta data such as aperture, focal length, and the like. Some lenses, Nikon G-type for example, do not have aperture ring and therefore specific adapters with an aperture ring are needed.

Notice the different between the general Nikon F adapter and the Nikon G adapter. The scalloped metal ring controls the aperture lever for G-type Nikkor lenses. It is important to also note, the aperture ring does not have actually click stops to certify what aperture one is using but there is some feedback from the ring (clicks) to know it is functioning. Using these adapters ensures one will get comfortable with both manual focus and manual controls as a whole.

Sadly, as it stands, the E-type (not E-series) Nikkor lenses are not supported at all because only a Nikon camera can control the electronic [E] aperture. The good news, those are very new lenses. Nikon only makes a few. But since these adapters are really about working with older, vintage, or specialty lenses, it should not pose a problem.

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I can’t recommend these more. For $25ish, one can get a bunch of these for the price of one Metabones adapter. They are low enough cost to allow one to collect all sorts of old lenses and enjoy the artistic elements of lense that are essentially extinct.

An old photography adage: You date the camera but marry the lens.

Keep those old lenses around and put them to good use with these simple and great adapters.

K&F Concepts

Price: $25

Chirp — Twitter, back on Apple Watch by Adrian Galli

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There has been some publicity that a lot of app developers are pulling their Apple Watch app. This has lead to a lot of hyperbole about the Apple Watch being a failure. I’m not going to get pulled into all that but I think it in worth mentioning that my opinion is most developers are still trying to figure out what their role is in the Apple Watch development arena. Some apps try really hard to be a full replacement to their iOS counterpart and that isn’t really the point. Apple Watch is really designed for quick interactions—ten seconds not ten minutes.

Twitter pulled their app from watchOS some times ago. It was disappointing to lose the watchOS app version for me personally because before as I would get Twitter notifications, I then need to pull out my iPhone. When Twitter had a watchOS app, I could read, favorite, retweet right from my watch. It was pretty slick. It is really what Apple Watch is all about: quick, unobtrusive, yet powerful interactions.

Funny thing is, Twitter is really designed for Apple Watch. With a maximum of 280 characters per tweet, it is perfect for quick reads and quick interactions. If there is more to the tweet, a link for example, then Handoff with another Apple device leads one into the meatier content.

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Will Bishop brought Twitter back to Apple Watch with his Apple Watch-only app. Quick and simple, he built in much of what a Twitter app can do to watchOS. One can view their Timeline, Trending items, Mentions, Messages, List, Likes, one’s profile, and search, with a final menu item for Settings. A Force Touch will bring up the option to tweet and it supports Scribble so hashtags and mentions are easily input. (One can of course use Dictation but imagine some of the more complicated handles may not be recognized well.)

That list makes for an unexpectedly powerful app on one’s wrist. However, Mr. Bishop did a great job of making sure it didn’t get complicated.Clean and simple interface, powerful tools, intuitive and expected user experience, and to give it some polish, haptic feedback and sounds.

It is worth mentioning that it is a free app, however, there is a ‘pro’ version which unlocks some of the features above. His pricing method is based on the honor system so one can give a little as $2 for the pro upgrade or up to $5. He includes a ‘tip jar’ for additional support. I’m a big fan of this because it encourages me to give more when I can and give more to the best apps that really deserve it. It is also worth mentioning that Will Bishop is a sixteen year old in Australia and clearly on his way as a great developer. I encourage everyone who downloads Chirp to pay for the 'pro' version because I strongly feel talented, young developers should have the support they need to build an outstanding career.

After using it for a couple week, the only thing on my wishlist is interactive notification support. That may be easier said than done but this app is v1.1 currently (6.25.2018) so who knows what will be coming down the pipeline.

Download: Chirp

Price: Free, $[2, 3, 5]

Fellow Stagg EKG by Adrian Galli

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Only last week I wrote my review musing over the Zero Japan Bee House tea pot I adore so. Despite having owned it for months, I was inspired to write its review because of what was coming to me.

While walking through a William Sonoma, I saw a kettle that really caught my eye. Sleek, black, modern, and minimalist design, it was one of those gut reactions that said, “you need that.” I already had an electric tea kettle. It was cheap, old, and really only did one thing: boiled water. Of course, it did exactly what it was designed to do—I am not faulting it but when making tea, not all are brewed equally.

Black tea, for example, is brewed directly with boiling water. Green and white tea, and some oolong, on the other hand, are brewed at much lower temperatures of 70° to 80° celsius (160-180° ferenhneit). Boiling water to 100°C then letting it cool is tricky without a thermometer.

Fellow is a company making some svelte coffee and tea appliances. The Stagg EKG is an electric kettle with a great design and a programmable base to set one’s temperature needs. Hence, I needed it.

Not only looking amazing, the technical aspects of being able to set one’s temperature is really important. If water is too hot, for coffee or tea, it will diminish the quality of flavor. While many might find that funny, a favorite tea of mine, Gyukuro Jade Dew Green, is very expensive, high quality, and to ruin such a tea is like cooking fillet mignon to well done. At fifty-three dollars a pound, one would be wise to take care of proper brewing.

Sitting nicely on the counter top, the black matte finished metal is quite striking. A pistol-grip handle that never gets hot is well balanced with the kettle itself, whether empty or full. The base for the kettle very nicely and, while plastic, matches the design and finished quite well. It is really the only negative item on my list. I would have loved for it, too, to be metal. The knob to the right both turns on the device and sets one’s temperature—one press to power on, turn to adjust temperature, and press again to power off. The monochrome display opposite the knob give a clear indication of the temperature and state of the device.

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Upon first using it, I boiled water for some black tea. I set the temperature to 100°C and walked away. For a few minutes I didn’t check on it but it soon dawned on me that I had no idea if it was boiling water or not. I returned to check in on the kettle to find it was only at 99°C. I did not time it but at least five minutes had gone by which was sufficient time to boil the .9L of water.

What was going on here? I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t getting me to the a full boil… or was it? It sounded like it was boiling so what the gauge inaccurate? Being a scientist, something dawned on me. Have I ever boiled water in Chicago at 100°C? That’s a funny question to a lot of people. Before I answer, I would like my readers to answer that question. If one is in Chicago, boiling water, will it ever reach 100°C to boil?

The answer is 'no.’ Chicago, to the surprise of many, is at approximately 182 meters above sea level and that is just enough to change the boiling point of water to about 99°C (probably more like 99.5). You likely didn’t expect a science lesson when reading this review but Hexagon isn’t just cool gear! And this is to the credit of the Stagg EKG—the temperature gauge actually seems to be quite good.

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With a beautiful silhouette, black matte finish, temperature controls, and a pretty spot on gauge, this electric kettle has found a home and will be much appreciated. Fellow had a sale so I was able to pick up this lovely device for $126. While it is normally $149, making it five times more than my old one, good things are worth the money and I foresee this Red Dot Design Award 2018 winner to never cause any regrets.

Price: $149

 

Apple Watch — Watch Faces by Adrian Galli

Frequently, I get asked, “what do you use your Apple Watch for?” It is a hard question to answer because it is such a powerful device with so much capability but also because it is very personal and everyone will use it differently.

Wanting to answer this question better, I with something simple: Watch faces. It is the first thing you see when you raise your wrist and there are many different styles, designs, and functions. Some are very simple like Solar, showing time based on the position of the sun, or complex, like Modular, with many places for complications such as weather, calendar information, and fitness details.

Solar watch face with Date and Time

Solar watch face with Date and Time

Modular: Date, Time, Calendar, Wunderground, OTP Auth, Things

Modular: Date, Time, Calendar, Wunderground, OTP Auth, Things

Below are some of my favorite and most commonly used watch faces for Apple Watch.

Watch faces

Modular

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Modular is a simple design but powerful watch face. With five positions for complications, a lot of data can be viewed from one's wrist. It is a favorite for daily use and many colors available—Modular matches just about any watch band or outfit.

I typically will have this watch face active when on set or at Apple. I might replace Activity (bottom middle) with OTP Auth for two factor authentication and Deliveries (package tracking, bottom right), with a task manager app, Things. Color will depend on what band I have on that day.

Complications on this watch face:
Date
Time
Calendar
Wunderground (weather)
Activity
Deliveries

Activity Digital

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Activity Digital has likely spend the most time active on my Apple Watch. Three complications and a bold representation of Activity for the day, one of the most important features of Apple Watch, fitness, is promoted to the centerpiece of this watch face. Move (red) shows your progress toward your active calories goal. Exercise (green) gauges how many minutes one has achieved out of one's thirty minute daily goal. Stand (blue) counts the number of times one stands and moves toward a daily goal of twelve.

Complications
Wunderground (weather)
Date
Time
Activity
Calendar

Siri

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Siri is not only the best way to control Apple Watch, it also is a watch face that anticipates the one's needs and upcoming information such as weather, calendar, news, music, stocks, home automation, and more. Siri becomes one big complication what dynamically changes.

Using the Digital Crown, one can scroll through these items from various data sources, tapping on them for more control or information, and one can narrow the focus of this date from Watch, the app on iPhone that controls Apple Watch settings.

Complications
Siri (voice control)
Date
Time
Siri (date sources)

Simple

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Simple is simple. Like a classic wristwatch, the face has little to no information on it other than analog time. However, there are in fact five positions for complications (all corners and Date). However, being the minimalist I am, I keep this watch face strictly Time and Date. Especially on Apple Watch Space Black, it makes for a very sexy look as the OLED screen and black stainless steel case become one.

Complications
Date

Pride

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Every so often Apple will release something special and timely to Apple Watch. For example, Pride, a watch face to match the Pride Band 2018, was released with watchOS 4.3.1 to celebrate Pride month. Both a slick watch band and cool watch face, Pride has an animated rainbow background, two complications, and Time.

Complications
Date
Activity (numeric representation)

Design is one of the most important part of Apple Watch so it is worth noting that I will sometimes change my watch face just because one looks better with a different band. Solar and Simple both look really amazing on a Apple Watch Space Black with Black Sport Band while Modular in Flash (color) looks great with Flash Sport band.

There are so many more styles—millions of combinations and designs. Mix and match watch faces and bands with one mood or outfit and check out all the different watch faces in the Face Gallery found in the Watch app on iPhone.