Following my review last year of the iPhone Xs and Apple Watch Series 4 here are my thoughts on the latest hardware from Cupertino.
I continue to feel that the iPhone X was the best phone Apple made, and the Xs and 11 are clear descendants from this excellent phone. The iPhone Xs was a nice improvement on the X. Apple introduced us to the new Max size, which is what I have been carrying for the past year. The Xs also launched a new camera - the 2x telephoto camera. The 11 Pro adds a third camera - the wide-angle - and Apple has many more tricks up its sleeve.
iOS 13 - a quick note on iOS 13. My feeling is that this is one of the biggest collections of small upgrades Apple has made. It's pretty overwhelming to explore and discover the hundreds of changes in the new OS. So whether you have a new phone or an older phone running iOS 13 you will have a lot of new capabilities to play with. I'm thrilled with the range of improvements that make every day tasks like sharing, messaging, and browsing better.
I recently had two TeslaPowerwalls installed to serve as backup for our home. My PowerWalls are powered by my solar panels which I also expanded since installing in 2015 (I added 8 panels to my home). I am now offsetting 50% of my power utilization a year (even with my Tesla Model 3 which consumes about 20% of my total energy each year.
I want to get this out of the way and say I don’t need PowerWalls. We loose power in our home about once a year due to trees falling or lightning usually in the summer or fall when the trees still have leaves and we get heavy rain. I have considered getting a generator over the past few years and went so far as to have generator hookups installed on my electric panels but just could not get myself to purchase a gas generator. To do so would have meant.
Storing gas and keeping it fresh
Dealing with maintenance and up-keep
Finding a place for a massive generator
Wheeling it out and starting it every time we needed it
But my procrastination and annoyance bought me enough time for the day when I pulled the trigger and got them.
I know it’s been a while as my posting schedule was essentially shut down this summer. I hope to get back to a twice a month publishing schedule.
A week ago I returned to work after taking the last 8 weeks off as part of my Microsoft sabbatical and traveling for most of it with my family. We visited 12 countries and 17 cities and planning for this trip was an 18 month project which included a lot of detailed planning on what to bring!
I learned a lot about how to optimize for travel packing and below are some of the details about what products I found useful.
In this post I’m going to share a number of apps that I enjoy and have been using of late. This is NOT a list of all the apps I use, that would be too long and so it’s really apps that you may not have heard of or my favorite app in a category (like weather).
Good luggage doesn’t need to be expensive. I feel that you should have some decent carry on and checked luggage.
However, you can spend a lot of money on luggage - and like anything - meet any budget.
My personal favorite luggage are the Rimowa Aluminum luggage. They are incredible bags. German engineering but outside the price range of most people. I love the black aluminum bags and have them in their carry-on size (36L) and checked luggage (68L). Their hybrid luggage is polycarbonate but lacks zippers and is also a great choice.
But I’m here to write about Away Luggage. For the money, I don’t think you will find luggage as good as theirs. They make their bags in polycarbonate and aluminum (like Rimowa) but cost a third as much. They also have some very innovative features such as a batter that is built into their carry on bags and can be removed as well.
Last year Apple released the iPhone X. This was arguably the biggest change in the iPhone since the introduction of the “Plus” sized phones a few years prior. You can read my review from last year.
I was very bullish on the iPhone X and I regard this as the best phones I have owned… until now.
The iPhone Xs and Xs Max are an evolution of this product. The changes are not significant but they are meaningful. Whether they are meaningful enough for you to upgrade - that’s up to you but I will spell out some scenarios to consider.
The biggest decision when considering the Xs is the size. I decided to purchase the “Max” or the bigger one. I will admit that this was the toughest decision or me to make. After living with the phone for a week, I’m glad I made this choice - but it’s not a perfect choice. I think the size of the new iPhone Xr (which I won’t plan to review) is closer to what I’d want.
3 years ago I picked up my Model S and wrote this review of it.
The Model S is the best car and driving experience I've ever had. So when my lease was up, I had a choice to make - another Model S or a Model 3. I decided on the Model 3.
When I ordered my Model S I had no intention of getting a car in that price range - but I really wanted to experience Tesla and driving a luxury electric car and a zero emissions driving experience. I produce more than enough solar power for my Tesla to be "off the grid" but Washington State's energy is majority hydro-power anyway.
I will say that 3 years with a Model S - it's actually rather uneventful and boring - meaning I don't feel that there has been a single compromise or downside to owning an elecrtric car - quite the opposite. I'm now irreversibly ruined by the experience. I'll be a Tesla owner for life if that's possible.
In the 3 years I drove my car I 1. never ran out of "electricity" 2. had any major issues 3. had the car save me from an accident twice 4. removed stress and worry from my life 5. produced many smiles on my face while driving it.
My car was primarily used for commuting and driving around town on the weekend. We took a few long range trips to Canada, Oregon and around Washington. I seldomly used Super chargers as the network in Washington is small compared to California - but this has changed in the past few years as there are now many more super chargers in Washington.
In the 3 years I drove 21,224 miles and consumed 7390 kWh of energy. That puts my efficiency at 348 Wh/mi - a bit below what Tesla says is "estimated range". If you want to understand this - if you power three 100W light bulbs for 1 hour that's about how much energy it takes to move the Tesla 1 mile traveling at 65 mph. Electricity math is neat.
The cost of energy in Seattle is about 12 cents a kWh - so the cost of driving this car is $616 dollars. I paid zero dollars in maintenance costs or repair costs. If we compare to gas, lets say I had an equivalent car that got 20 mpg, at 1060 gallons of fuel would cost about $3.50 for premium gas that amounts to $3,700 in fuel I didn't spend or pollution I did not create.
Honestly though, that doesn't really factor into the equation to me as this is one of the best cars out there if you consider purchasing, ownership, and driving. I will say that the convenience and driving experience make it stand out:
Regenerative braking - once you get used to this, it's hard to drive a gas car. You essentially learn to drive by just using the accelerator as the car slows down when you let go of the accelerator. You almost never use your brakes.
Auto unlock, auto lock, pretty much auto everything. The car is a robot and it's so nice not to think about opening the garage or locking your car. You just get in and drive.
Safety - the car has so many safety features - mind numbing really. the car has managed to save me from a wreck a few times due to it's auto collision and lane warning features.
Updates - Tesla is the only car in the world that receives software updates on a nearly monthly basis. Due to how car dealers work, you are lucky if your car ever gets a bug fix. The Tesla experience is a relationship you have with the company that makes your car - not the dealership. Who likes interacting with their dealership? Who got a new feature on their car after purchasing it?
So, if I loved this car so much why did I get a Model 3?
I'm a little late with my Holiday Picks this year, but I hope this helps some of you shop for your family (or yourself).
Since our daughter was 6 we have followed a simple but effective philosophy for teaching her about money. This was inspired from articles we read (I mean my wife read) about targeting a weekly allowance tied to your child's age, in our case we started at $6 a week. Common wisdom among many parents we knew was to tie allowance to chores and start later than we did. We didn't follow that path and felt that we wanted our kids to have a meaninful amount of money that allowed them to save for things like legos (which are expensive) and also make good choices about small and big purchases. We didn't want to get nagged to buy things for them and wanted them to learn how to save and save up for things they wanted.
If you want to read more about this, I would point you to this article and this book called The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber. About 1 chapter into reading it was already armed with insight and understanding on how to raise kids who thoughtfully consider the value of money.
For the past two decades I’ve amassed a lot of travel tips and techniques. For context, I travel a decent amount, but I’m not a business road warrior.
About half my travel is with the family, and the other half is for business. I fly about 25,000 - 50,000 miles a year (but in seat). As such it makes sense to be wise about maximizing value, time, etc
If you are short on time, here is the TL;DR (that’s too long didn’t read):
- Signup for Nexus or Global Entry ($50 - $100)
- Signup for Clear ($170)
- Get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex Platinum Card ($450)
- Enroll in all the Hotel / Car programs that come with the card benefits
- Get noise cancelling headphones ($300)
- Get a 4 wheeled spinner bag ($300 - $850)