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The new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has been out for a few weeks so you’ve probably seen the early reviews and know all the initial takes. The USB ports changed, the Touch Bar may be gimmicky, and some pros are feeling left out.

My own machine (base 15-inch with upgraded 1TB SSD) arrived three weeks ago as my new work computer, giving me plenty of real-world use with it. My main observation from time spent using the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is that early impressions don’t necessarily last.

My colleague Ben Lovejoy had a similar conclusion in his MacBook Pro diary series. For me, it’s a mixed bag of praise and complaints and a lot of discovery along the way.

Touch Bar

Take the new Touch Bar for example. I believe it should be judged as being either more or less useful than the physical function row of keys that it replaces. Personally, I don’t rely on the function keys much beyond play/pause toggling and adjusting volume, but my very first thought when using the Touch Bar was that the virtual keys offer the same or possibly less control without benefit.

Then I discovered the ‘tap and drag’ behavior of volume and brightness controls. You can tap the virtual volume button to activate a slider or you can tap and drag left or right in one quick motion. Any time Touch Bar uses this tap and drag gesture, it feels good. I hope we see more of this as Touch Bar implementation becomes more defined.

Back to first impressions being wrong: the main emoji picker that you see demoed in marketing is actually kind of worse than the on-screen grid picker in my opinion.

Picking emoji from the Touch Bar is useful for frequently used characters and when you know which category has the emoji you need, but it requires way too much swiping for casually viewing all emoji.

In general, I enjoy the dynamic nature of Touch Bar. It’s an area on my keyboard that changes based on context with a fair amount of customization. The old function row for me was basically play/pause and volume.

Safari and Mail have OK default setups by default, but Touch Bar got much more useful in both apps for me after discovering customization options. I believe customization is key to making Touch Bar useful for your own needs.

One odd thing about Touch Bar and Safari: open tabs appear as thumbnail previews that you can scrub through, but pinned tabs which are arguably the most important are left out.

This is one of those behaviors that wasn’t immediately clear to me but proved useful after discovery. Physical playback control keys just can’t make this distinction and with visual clarity. Does the last app you controlled takeover or are they mapped to iTunes? Touch Bar’s implementation spells it out for you.

Touch ID

Apple’s fingerprint reader is top-notch on iPhone and iPad. Now it’s great to finally have Touch ID on the Mac.

I was half-hoping it would somehow be integrated with the trackpad, but the placement at the right edge of the Touch Bar where the power button is usually positioned is surprisingly convenient. You don’t accidentally authorize it, and it’s easy to access when you need it.

I typically use my thumb for Touch ID on iPhone and iPad. My right index finger is used most for Touch ID on the MacBook Pro because of its position. I love that Apple integrates fingerprint sensors in places that already exist versus making a new area that stands out as a fingerprint sensor.

Just like on iOS, Touch ID makes having a passcode or strong password much easier because you usually just rely on your fingerprint. For me, Touch ID beats entering a passcode every time in terms of speed, and it’s easier than auto-unlock with Apple Watch which insists on sending an alert with sound or a tap each time it’s used.

Having Apple Pay on the Mac is also terrific. I’ve made purchases on my MacBook that I otherwise might have held off on simply because it’s so easy. If you sell something online, you should accept Apple Pay if at all possible.

Any time you can use Touch ID to authenticate a payment or avoid entering a password, it’s a win.

I use 1Password as my secure password manager and its Touch ID support is something I use multiple times each day. Entering your master password less often makes using an even stronger one still convenient.

There are some instances where macOS still insists on using a password over Touch ID. Some of these instances make sense like after a reboot, but other times I’m not certain why Touch ID isn’t an option.

Like on iOS, you’ll sometimes see that a password is required for something like iTunes or the iBooks Store, but Touch ID can be turned on after your first download.

Ports

Reaction to the I/O shift in general has been played out extensively by now so I’ll just offer observations from my own experience. It’s a transition, but for me it is one worth having.

MagSafe is replaced by USB-C. This has downsides, but being able to charge from either the left or right side of my MacBook Pro is a benefit that I’m appreciating daily.

Moving from USB-A to USB-C cables takes some effort up front but for me it was a fast and relatively cheap transition.

I purchased four USB-B to USB-C cables for my mic, printer, guitar pedal, and MIDI keyboard; a Lightning to USB-C cable for connecting my iPhone and iPad to my Mac; a micro-USB to USB-C cable for charging my headphones and camera; a USB-C SD Card reader, and a USB-A to USB-C adapter.

I also bought a three-pack cable pouch to keep up with these essentials in my backpack and around the office. The last annoyance of the transition is already having a decent supply of USB-A battery packs and wall adapters. I’m not itching to replace those immediately, but over time it’ll happen.

Your own experience may vary, but this has been a mostly painless transition for me. My biggest complaint on a day-to-day basis is having to pull out the SD Card reader now when I want to import photos and video. It’s definitely a setback but not one worth using an older machine over.

Keyboard

I prefer the new keyboard style to the previous MacBook Pro keyboard; I like the tighter feel it offers and it leaks backlighting way less than the old style. I used the 12-inch MacBook for 10 months, then the Magic Keyboard paired with my desktop Mac mini before upgrading to the new MacBook Pro so I’ve sort of been conditioned for it.

The Magic Keyboard is probably my favorite Apple keyboard right now, but I definitely prefer the new MacBook Pro keyboard over the old sloshy one.

My one complaint here is that backlighting behind keys is noticeably uneven on certain keys like Command, Return, and Caps Lock. This was an issue on the 12-inch MacBook last year, and Apple hasn’t fixed it on the new MacBook Pros. With the rest of the machine so well crafted, it stands out as a defect.

Trackpad

The giant trackpad feels really nice. I used the massive Magic Trackpad 2 on my Mac mini desktop, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro trackpad feels comparable.

I’ve also experienced software bugs on the new trackpad that I haven’t experienced on other MacBooks including the 12-inch version. Three-finger drag can be unreliable and drag-and-drop in general has been buggy here and there.

My guess is this is related to palm rejection needed when such a large trackpad takes up so much of the lower half of the notebook. Assuming these glitches get worked out, the new trackpad will be a win but more attention is needed here for now.

A Few More Things

Battery life issues have been widely reported and I’ve heard mixed results from my colleagues. Apple promises up to 10 hours of battery life, but I haven’t experienced anywhere near that duration. I rarely use my MacBook to leisurely browse the web — my iPhone and iPad handle that — so I don’t expect to get the longest possible battery life with real-world use.

Without changing up my workflow, I expected to get around 5-6 hours of battery life. Instead, I measured just over 3 hours when playing Apple Music over the built-in speakers and 4.5 hours when not playing music.

For context, I’ve tested on both macOS 10.12.1 and macOS 10.12.2 beta; no testing occurred during the first week when Photos and Spotlight were settling; and my usual workflow involves these apps: Safari, Mail, Notes, Messages, Preview, Photos, iTunes, Slack, Spark, Reeder, Wunderlist, TweetDeck, Byword, Tweetbot, and 1Password.

It’s not a light load with two Twitter clients and tons of browser tabs but the same workflow would get me a guaranteed 4 hours on the 12-inch MacBook; 3 hours is not what I was expecting. I’m hoping battery life improves with future software updates or else that will be a defining flaw of this hardware.

My 15-inch MacBook Pro also gets uncomfortably warm when used in my lap. It’s OK on a desk, but the ventilation along the back seems to be unfriendly with casual lap use. I’d like to be able to browse Safari from my MacBook Pro in the living room like I do my iPad, but the discomfort caused by warmth makes that less than ideal. I don’t recall this being an issue on the fanless 12-inch MacBook. To remedy the heat issue, I ordered this lap desk that remedies the problem.

I’ll wrap up by mentioning a few things we didn’t get this year that would make me regret investing in this MacBook Pro.

This is the first MacBook Pro in any color that isn’t silver; the darker option is space gray. I was hoping we’d see the more premium-looking matte black like the new iPhone 7. That’s a personal preference and not a functional one, but I’ll be very jealous of matte black MacBook Pros if they ship next year (and color alone isn’t something worth upgrading over).

Also on color: my wife likes the Touch Bar and would benefit from a MacBook display larger than 12-inches, but she would want gold or rose gold. Too bad those are 12-inch MacBook colors only this year.

The FaceTime HD camera could stand to be upgraded from 720p to at least 1080p. The iPhone 7 is leading here, but it may not be possible to fit a higher resolution sensor in a display as thin as this lid. 720p is certainly better than the 480p camera on the also thin 12-inch MacBook.

Haptic feedback on the Touch Bar like you get from the trackpad would be a nice. For example, you get a nice bump from the trackpad when you pass 0º while adjusting the angle of an image in Photos, but you miss this when doing the same task on the Touch Bar where it otherwise feels more natural.

Apple still hasn’t made a 15-inch notebook that puts portability totally ahead of power — a 15-inch version of the 12-inch MacBook is still something that I would love to own — but the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar does make gains in portability over the prior generation.

For me, I’m not upgrading from the old 15-inch MacBook Pro to the new 15-inch MacBook Pro. My recent Mac history looks like this: 2009 13-inch MacBook Pro, 2012 13-inch MacBook Air, 2012 Mac mini, and 2024 12-inch MacBook.

It’s harder for me to appreciate the gains in portability that the 15-inch MacBook Pro made this year, but without that comparison it’s clear that this is a very portable 15-inch notebook. Side-by-side comparisons with the 12-inch MacBook show how similar they are in design even if the weight is noticeably different on a notebook with a display 3.4-inches larger.

Aside from portability, Touch ID is an easy win and I wouldn’t trade Touch Bar for function keys. Both make me feel good about upgrading to this MacBook this year.

The other specs are suited well enough for what I need to do for work: writing, opening way too many tabs, following two streaming Twitter timelines, editing photos and video, podcasting, and running about a dozen apps in general.

Aside from battery life which I hope improves in future software updates, I’m generally satisfied with the new MacBook Pro. Barring any surprises in the future, I plan on using this machine as my work computer for the next four to five years with an external Retina display being the only thing I’m missing for now.

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15 Features Ios 15 ‘Borrowed’ From The Jailbreak Community

Apple on Monday announced a multitude of upcoming software updates for its many device offerings, as the company always does during its annual WWDC keynote address.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the excitement encompasses the newly announced iOS & iPadOS 15 software updates, which bring a truckload of new features to Apple’s mobile handsets are expected to launch publicly this Fall.

Developers can already download and install beta versions of the iOS & iPadOS 15 software updates for testing, and thanks to this, we can already spot several things that seem to have drawn inspiration from existing jailbreak tweaks in our community. In this piece, we’ll discuss 15 of them.

15 things iOS & iPadOS 15 ‘borrowed’ from the jailbreak community 1) Focus

Apple is trying to help iPhone and iPad users eliminate distractions when they’re trying to concentrate on a particular task, and that’s the chief reason behind a new feature in iOS & iPadOS 15 called Focus.

If you’ve been jailbreaking a while, then the concept probably sounds familiar. That’s because a jailbreak tweak released in 2023 called PureFocus tried to accomplish a similar task by boosting productivity with the elimination of distractions.

2) Redesigned notifications

Did you notice iOS & iPadOS 15’s redesigned notifications? We sure did, and they look great!

3) Messaging notification prioritization

As you might’ve noticed, Apple’s new notification system in iOS & iPadOS 15 also tries to prioritize notifications sent to you by actual people from various types of messaging apps. In doing so, it drops less-important notifications into a type of notification summary.

Contacy is a recently released jailbreak tweak that does something similar, albeit in a vastly different way. Much like iOS & iPadOS 15, it tries to prioritize your messaging notifications at the top so you can answer them more promptly, while leaving less important notifications for you to glance at later.

4) Low Power Mode for iPad

We’re cheering very loudly for this official change, but it’s worth crediting the jailbreak community on this one since a jailbreak tweak called LPMPad first brought Low Power Mode to the iPad platform more than a year ago.

5) Webpage grid in Safari

Another thing we see obvious resemblances in is the new Safari grid-based tabbed browsing on the iPhone.

6) Web content at a glance in Spotlight

iOS & iPadOS 15 appear to be spending some quality time improving the Spotlight user experience; namely the search results, which are now much more web driven.

Glancing at detailed web results right from the Spotlight interface isn’t a new idea, however, as the concept initially debuted back in 2012 with the release of a jailbreak tweak called WebSpot. Apple just gave it the extra sparkle it needed, of course.

7) Separation Alerts

Yet another interesting new feature of iOS & iPadOS 15 is that the operating system can now notify you when you leave a specific item behind – such as one of your AirTags.

Recent jailbreakers will likely remember a jailbreak tweak called Proximitus, which offers nearly the same functionality on pwned handsets for things like your AirPods.

8) Home Screen widgets on iPad

If you’ve been using iOS and iPadOS 14 all this time, then you might have felt slightly short-changed by the fact that full-fledged Home Screen widgets were limited to the iPhone.

iPadOS 15 will finally change this, but it’s worth noting that iPadOS 14 users could have used a jailbreak tweak like Anywhere Widgets for iPad to accomplish the same thing.

9) Wheel-based date picker

iOS & iPadOS 14 replaced the classic wheel-based date picker (right) with a more inline date picker (left) that didn’t jibe so well with Apple’s user base.

Apple appears to be walking this back in iOS & iPadOS 15, but it’s worth noting that a jailbreak tweak for iOS & iPadOS 14 called Date Picker – Wheels already did this.

10) App Library on iPad

In addition to Home Screen widgets, iPadOS 15 also brings the coveted App Library to the iPad.

Typically limited to iPhones, the App Library could have been ported to the iPad on iPadOS 14 with a jailbreak tweak called App Library Enabler. Apple’s just turning around and making this a native feature now.

11) Notes from anywhere

Apple’s iPadOS 15 update is allowing iPad users to effectively write notes from anywhere in the operating system.

Its worth noting that jailbreakers have been able to do this for years with the help of jailbreak tweaks like Libellum and Notepad.

12) Magnifying Glass returns

Apple did away with the magnifying glass while text editing in iOS 14, but it’s making a comeback in iOS 15.

Jailbreakers have been able to enjoy the magnifying glass this entire time, all thanks to a jailbreak tweak called Loupe.

13) App Privacy Report

Apple is amping up the privacy features in iOS & iPadOS 15, so much so that the company will be incorporating a per-app report that educates users about the types of information each app accesses and for how long.

It wasn’t long ago that we showed you a jailbreak tweak called NetFence. While it was more of an outgoing firewall, it could monitor the background activity of the traffic leaving your device, offering similar user-friendly reports of what apps are doing when you aren’t looking.

14) Pull to refresh in Safari

Pull to refresh, a popular feature that exists in many different apps for the iOS & iPadOS platform, was missing from the Safari web browser all this time. But it’s finally coming natively with the release of iOS & iPadOS 15.

The idea isn’t new however, as a jailbreak tweak called Pull To Refresh Safari was released back in 2010 that offered this exact feature to those with pwned handsets.

15) Visual Look Up

Both iOS & iPadOS 15 feature powerful machine learning that can identify objects in a camera frame and allow the user to learn more about those objects via a web search.

This feature previously existed in an app called Iryss that was released back in 2023, and while it was actually an App Store app, we still wanted to mention it because this app was created by a jailbreak community developer. It is therefore our thought process that the idea originated in our very own jailbreak community.

Conclusion

Apple is continuously adding new features to its mobile operating systems, and while the jailbreak community is historically first to implement features before Apple, it should be noted that Apple isn’t always technically “stealing” from the jailbreak community, despite how it seems.

In any case, we’re happy to see Apple’s mobile operating systems evolve, as we’re particularly fond of this ecosystem. We do hope, however, that the jailbreak community continues innovating, as it appears to illuminate pathways for improving Apple’s mobile operating systems as time goes on.

Commentators Note The Three Risks To Apple From Spotify’s App Store Complaint

An anonymous source close to Spotify has also explained why the same complaint hasn’t been levied against Google, which also takes a cut from in-app purchases …

The dispute could conceivably lead to Apple taking a triple hit:

Fines from antitrust investigations

Loss of App Store commissions if it is forced to change its policies

Reputational damage if the matter becomes a big public battle

An investor’s note from analysts KeyBanc Capital Markets seen by Business Insider says that the complaint poses a ‘significant financial risk’ to Apple because the policy of not allowing Spotify to point app users to direct subscription options is likely to be seen as an unfair business practice.

“We believe this holds no practical purpose other than to force competitive services into higher cost structures and unfairly tax service activity on the iOS platform,” KeyBanc Capital Markets’ Andy Hargreaves and Tyler Parker said in the note published on March 13. As such, the firm believes Spotify’s complaint has merit and could “carry significant weight” in the eyes of regulators.

If Apple were forced to change its terms as a result of the complaint, it could pose a risk to the revenue Apple earns from subscriptions and in-app purchases.

“We believe the most significant financial risk to Apple would come from a forced requirement to allow first party and other third party payment processing from within apps,” the note read. “This would create competition for subscription and in-app payments that would likely drive the current 30% rate Apple collects down substantially.”

That would naturally hit Apple’s Services income at a time when the company increasingly depends on it as hardware sales are flat or declining.

Business Insider’s Troy Wolverton argues that Spotify could win the argument because there’s precedent to support the company’s complaint in Europe – and a ruling there could lead to a similar antitrust investigation in the US.

The streaming music company would seem to have a legitimate complaint. In fact, what Apple is alleged to be doing isn’t all that different from what got Microsoft in trouble with antitrust authorities 20 years ago and what led to a $5 billion fine against Google just last year.

If history is any guide, Spotify’s complaint could lead to a similarly large fine against the iPhone maker. It might also lead to restrictions that could hamper Apple’s services business, which the electronics giant has been touting as its future. And the complaint could spur a parallel antitrust investigation here in the US.

Both also believe that, if the issue turns into a public battle, that could result in reputational damage to Apple.

It could create a prolonged period of negative Apple headlines which may in turn “negatively impact Apple’s retention rate at the margin,” according to the KeyBanc note […]

Perhaps more importantly, Spotify’s allegations — any investigation that truly digs into them — could sully Apple’s reputation with consumers. That could be extraordinarily costly for a company that has long benefited from public adulation and the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free publicity that’s come hand-in-hand with it.

As to why Spotify is not making the same complaint against Google, one source says that although the Play store also takes a cut of in-app subscriptions, there’s one crucial difference: Google doesn’t prevent Spotify’s Android app from pointing users to its own website to subscribe.

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Review: The Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell Ticks Three Boxes For Me

There’s been one rather glaring omission in our smart home setup: a doorbell cam. That’s because I was waiting for three boxes to be ticked, and the Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell ticks all of them.

First, HomeKit compatibility. For me, that’s pretty much non-negotiable when it comes to any smart home kit. The benefits of having everything controlled through one app, or by Siri, is compelling enough that I’d rather wait than have something which requires me to use a separate app …

If it’s a device I really want, and I’m not willing to wait, then I’ll accept something compatible with Siri Shortcuts as an alternative – but in general, if it doesn’t support HomeKit, I’m not interested.

Second, subscription-free. A lot of smart cameras are tied to a cloud service provided by the camera company, forcing you to pay a monthly fee to access recordings. I already pay for two cloud services – iCloud and Dropbox – and am not willing to pay for a third, single-application one. Netatmo achieves this through local storage and support for Dropbox and FTP servers, discussed in the In use – accessing recordings section below.

HomeKit Secure Video isn’t supported yet, but Netatmo promises it will be in a future update to existing doorbells.

Appearance

The unit measures around 5 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 1 inch deep. If your bell is mounted on your door, it works as-is. Many wired bells are, however, off to one side – including ours. That means the camera needs to be angled in toward the door, and the kit includes an angled mounting plate which adds some depth.

It’s a reasonably stylish-looking unit, divided into thirds. The upper section has an obvious camera, a blue status light and a small infra-red emitter aperture for night use. There’s a relatively small Netatmo logo beneath the camera.

The middle section is the speaker: the unit supports two-way audio. Finally, the bottom section is the push-button bell, which is silver with a small bell icon.

Overall, it looks modern and a bit techy, but is still pretty pleasing to the eye.

Specifications

The field of view is 140 degrees diagonal, and the camera is sensibly in portrait orientation. You get a 3/4-length view of someone as they actually press the doorbell, and a full-length view as they take even half a step back.

Wi-fi is only 2.4GHz (802.11b/g/n), but that’s true of quite a lot of our smart home kit, so we have a second SSID for 2.4GHz, and our router is set to merge the two, so that’s no issue for us.

You get two-way audio, motion detection, people detection (but not recognition as yet) and custom alert zones.

Storage is on an embedded (included) SD card, and you can currently also record to a Dropbox account or any FTP server. iCloud support will follow.

Installation and setup

The Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell is compatible with most wired doorbell setups, accepting both mains power and any low-voltage bells in the 8V to 24V range. From what I can tell, this is the vast majority of hardwired doorbells.

Netatmo claims that the device is suitable for DIY installation, but the reality of that may depend on your existing doorbell setup. In our case, the wiring runs through the inside of a wall, and liberating enough wiring to make the connection was non-trivial, so the company sent one of their pro-installers.

This was not a notable success, in part because the installer struggled with a couple of the wiring aspects, and in part because it turned out the setup was incompatible with iOS 14.3. Resolving that required another installer and using an old iPad running an older version of iOS. A further problem required the Netatmo Security app to be removed and reinstalled.

Hopefully those are just teething troubles! To be fair to Netatmo, this mostly seemed down to one installer: if the second one had done the job, and we’d known that an older version of iOS was needed, it would have been a lot more straightforward.

In use – doorbell and motion sensor

Once the setup was finally complete, however, all was well: the doorbell camera immediately appeared in the Home app, and all our HomePods started acting as chime repeaters. That’s overkill in a home the size of a central London apartment, but could be useful in a large house.

When the doorbell rings, the main chime and HomePods ring, and all iOS devices get a popup alert. You can tap the alert to see a live view of who is at the door and, if desired, talk to them via an intercom function.

You still get full functionality when away from home, which is when the intercom is most useful: you can speak to the person at the door and make whatever arrangements are needed. Since our smart lock also works remotely, that includes the ability to let a friend into the apartment while we’re out. The combination is pretty powerful.

In addition to doorbell alerts, you also have the option to get motion and people alerts. At present, the system is intelligent enough to recognize people, but not to identify them. That will come when HomeKit Secure Video support is enabled.

In our apartment, the people alerts aren’t very useful. There are five apartments on our floor, and the people alerts are triggered anytime anyone emerges from either of the two elevators, or any of our neighbours leaves home. I’ve therefore opted to switch this off, but it would be useful for anyone whose front door only or mostly looks out onto their own grounds. The app does support custom zones, so you can screen out any view you have of the street, neighboring properties and so on.

In use – accessing recordings

The Netatmo Smart Video doorbell stores video recordings onto an included 8GB SD card embedded into the device itself. You can then access these recordings over wi-fi from within the app, either just to view or to download.

Local recording does, of course, have one potential drawback: an intruder could steal the doorbell itself, and thus take away the recording. That’s probably not too great a risk in reality. First because if a bad guy can spot a doorbell camera in the first place, they are likely to stay clear. If they know anything about them, they will know that most upload recordings to the cloud, so stealing the doorbell is pointless.

Second, Netatmo uses a security screw which requires a supplied tool to open the unit in order to remove it from the wall. Sure, a bad guy could physically rip it from the wall, but that wouldn’t be easy, so we’re into ‘easier to go rob the guy next door’ territory here. Most security works on this basis: not making something impossible, just making yourself a more challenging target than the next guy.

However, if you want to have cloud storage too, you can configure the app to use one of your existing accounts, so I have mine set to copy the recordings to Dropbox. Although I don’t have people alerts on in the app, any person seen does trigger a recording. Filenames are date, time, reason for recording, and an ID.

The doorbell itself automatically overwrites the oldest recording once the card is full, but if you’re automatically downloading to your own cloud account, you’ll need a way to manage this to avoid using lots of storage on video of your post being delivered.

As I mentioned in the introduction, Netatmo also promises HomeKit Secure Video support. I’ll update as and when that happens.

Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell: Pricing and conclusions

In the US, the system costs $300. That prices it significantly above the Logitech Circle, at $200.

If you have more than one camera, don’t have a 200GB iCloud subscription or prefer to use Dropbox, then the Netatmo comes into its own. You don’t have to use any cloud service if you don’t want to. You can still access recordings via wi-fi using the iPhone app. But you can choose to connect it to Dropbox, or even to your own FTP server if you like.

The setup and installation issues aside, it works well. I tend to get a lot of deliveries at the best of times, but even more so during pandemic lockdown, so being able to see who’s at the door is handy. But it will be most useful when we can once again resume our normal lives, when the ability to speak to callers remotely – to tell them where to leave a package, for example – will be very handy indeed. It’s especially powerful in combination with a smart lock, where you’d be able to talk to someone and then let them in, all from your iPhone.

A secondary benefit, of course, is security – providing recordings of anyone who came near your home without ringing the bell. All in all, I’d say a doorbell cam is a handy piece of smart home tech, and the Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell will justify the premium over the Logitech for some subset of users.

The Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell is available direct from the company’s website, priced $299.99.

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Working From Home With Kids: Work

There’s nothing good about the pandemic, but if we must find the silver lining, it’s that working from home allows us to spend more time with family. This can have an amazing impact on work-life balance. Even if you work the exact hours you used to, working from a home office means you don’t need to leave for work at 9am, and that you have no commute before you get back home. That means more time with your loved ones! You can even enjoy eating lunch together, then head straight back to work after your 30-60 minutes is up!

That’s where things get tricky: creating that kind of strict separation between work and leisure is tough. Even if you can figure this out, getting your family on board can be a challenge. That’s especially true when working from home with kids, who don’t always understand why Mommy/Daddy needs to shut themselves away for hours. And this can take a surprising emotional toll.

Of course, you want to spend time with your family. And you want to help your partner if they’re at home on kid-duty. But constantly being interrupted, switching in and out of “work mode,” is exhausting and ultimately unproductive.

Lines have to be drawn if you are to stand any chance of getting work done.

This is something I’ve had to cope with myself as a father to a 17-month-old girl. I’ve been working from home the past eleven years, though, so I’ve had a bit of time to practice! Here’s what you need to know to survive working from home with kids while keeping your work-life balance intact.

Create a strict schedule

As much as it might feel jarring at first, your best chance of getting this balancing act right is to set out a strict timetable for when you will work and when you won’t. Getting into a routine will help everyone and not just in terms of productivity.

Minimize interruptions

Minimizing interruptions to your working day is also important. Staying focussed at home is a challenge in itself due to the loss of structure, social pressure, and a separate environment. If you are constantly getting “visited” by your partner and child, then you’ll never be able to maintain solid, consistent focus.

Be realistic

David Imel / Android Authority

With that said, you also need to be realistic and empathetic. Unless you have a heart of steel, you’re going to want to go and help when you hear your children crying, being sick, or driving your partner up the wall!

Find ways to rest

Even if you don’t have tinnitus, these work well enough if you have an air conditioner at full blast.

That said, you should also avoid falling into the trap of being completely selfless. You might want to work solidly from 6am-5pm, clock off to immediately look after your children until 7.30pm, and then making dinner to finally sit down at 9pm. Of course, on weekends, you’ll fix that fence before calling your family back home to make sure they’re okay.

A spot of gaming can go a long way! But while that might make you Super Dad/Super Mom, the truth is you need your downtime as well. Working from home with kids makes it very difficult to find time for you. This will eventually lead to burnout. Especially given how stressful the current situation is!

So find ways to rest. Agree with your partner to have a day off each once a week. Or find an hour to yourself in the morning that you can use to browse the web and enjoy a slow cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to be much, but that small bit of recharge time will make you significantly more effective during the day that follows.

You need your downtime as well.

Three Months With The Nintendo Switch

Three months with the Nintendo Switch

It’s been nearly three months since the Nintendo Switch launched. Those three months have been filled with a lot of excitement, from the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to the revelation that the Switch actually sold really well on release. I’ve had a Switch of my own this entire time and I penned the SlashGear’s review of the device, giving it a 7/10. Now that we’ve had a few months to let things simmer, has anything about my opinion changed?

Let me start off by saying that I’ve been spending a lot of time with Switch. I bought a PS4 shortly before the Switch launched (I’m a PC guy so I was a little late to the console party this generation), but I’ve been spending far more time with my Switch. That the Switch has managed to pull in the majority of my attention really says something, especially considering that it has a fraction of the library of the PS4.

Part of what’s kept my interest with the Switch is the high level of quality in the Switch’s retail and eShop titles. Breath of the Wild, of course, is incredible, and I’m still not quite finished playing it yet. But beyond the obvious suspects like Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, there are a suprising number of gems available on the eShop. The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth Plus, Graceful Explosion Machine, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, Kamiko, and Snipperclips are all titles that stand out as absolutely worth the money.

I was pretty enamored with the Switch hardware back when I reviewed the device, and in the time since then, I’ve only grown more fond of it. I’m convinced that Nintendo has something special here, and I hope that more people try it for themselves and see what the commotion is all about. That, I feel, might be one of the roadblocks for the Switch: I was certainly excited before I got my own, but I didn’t realize how cool it truly was until I actually had it in my hands. That’s why I think Nintendo’s recently announced Summer of Play tour is an excellent move.

When it comes to hardware, I really don’t have any major gripes. With all of the complaints that started cropping up after launch, it appears that I was one of the lucky ones – no bent Switch, no desyncing Joy-Cons, and no dock that leaves my Switch screen all scratched up. That isn’t to suggest that these problems are widespread or, alternatively, rare; we really have no idea how common they are. The ones who are content with their purchase and aren’t experiencing any problems are more than likely not going to speak up. The ones who are having those issues will, because no one likes spending $300 on a new console only to find that it’s defective in some way.

Personally, I think the Joy-Con controllers are excellent, and the tablet itself is a solid piece of equipment. Obviously, you need to be okay with accepting that your games will never look as good as they do on Xbox One, PS4, or PC, but given the Switch’s portability, that’s a sacrifice I’m okay with making. It isn’t a hard truth to accept when you’ve got games like Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to play, either.

Speaking of the Switch’s portability, I have to say that I’ve spend very little time playing this thing on an actual TV. When I was reviewing the console and Breath of the Wild, my playtime was split pretty evenly between TV mode and tablet mode. In the time since then, though, I’ve been playing exclusively in tablet mode. The Switch is perfect for playing in bed at the end of the day, or taking along in the car when we go to visit my girlfriend’s parents upstate. I’m sure I’ll hook the Switch up to my TV again at some point, but for now, tablet mode is definitely my favorite way to play the device.

When I originally reviewed the Switch, I said that I didn’t think it was worth a purchase until the end of 2023. By that point, games like Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2 will be out and the eShop will have many more games available. I still generally think that’s true, but it’s no longer an issue of only having one good game to play on it. If you’re like me and you’ve never played games like The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, Shovel Knight, or Disgaea 5 elsewhere, then a Switch purchase becomes even more attractive. On the other hand, if you have played those games and the idea of having them on a portable console is appealing to you, then you can still probably buy a Switch at this early stage and get a lot of mileage out of it.

However, despite all of my positive feelings about the Switch, my primary concern remains. Nintendo isn’t doing very much to instill long-term confidence in the Switch, and a lot of that revolves around the company’s unwillingness to talk about the Switch’s incoming online systems. The amount of information we’ve been given about the Switch’s online system is exactly the same now as it was three months ago.

We’ll probably hear more about this stuff at E3, but regardless, Nintendo is waiting too long to deliver solid details about a system it’s already said it will charge money for. The Switch was definitely launched too soon in that regard – not only are friend codes still present (something that I think will go away eventually) but we don’t have any staples of Nintendo’s previous consoles either. The virtual console is still missing, and I’m not entirely sure why when the virtual consoles on 3DS, Wii, and Wii U were so successful.

It does feel a little weird to be complaining that I can’t purchase old games I’ve already bought three or four times elsewhere, but I don’t really care that Nintendo is going to charge me again to buy the same old ports I’ve bought in the past. The novelty of having something like Super Mario Bros. 3 or A Link to the Past on a console like the Switch is just too appealing. Nintendo, I think, made a major misstep in not having the virtual console ready to go at launch.

We don’t even know if Nintendo has plans for a virtual console because the company has been so secretive about what it’s plotting for the Switch’s online service. We know we’ll need to use a smartphone app to manage our online presence, but we don’t know when that app is coming. We know we’ll have to pay a fee to play online, but we don’t know when that’s being implemented or how much that’ll cost. We know that Nintendo wants to bring apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube to the Switch, but we don’t know if it’s actively working toward that.

So far, this doesn’t really seem like a service that’s worth my money. For the record, I don’t think we should pay yearly fees for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network either, so I’m not really sure what Nintendo needs to do in order to make me feel like it’s justified in charging that fee. I do know that what Nintendo has discussed thus far doesn’t make me confident that it’s truly figured out how to offer an online service as good as the ones its competitors offer, and it’s going to take a lot to change those feelings.

READ MORE: Nintendo Switch ReviewI’m also still worried about Nintendo being Nintendo. When it was clear that the Wii U was floundering, it was almost as if Nintendo abandoned it before anyone else. I’m worried that the same thing will happen to the Switch if sales start sliding. Granted, I think Nintendo has done a good job at marketing the Switch thus far, which is great considering it’s a night-and-day change from the previous generation, but if Nintendo slips into Wii U mode with the Switch, then this thing is definitely going to fail.

Luckily, there’s been no indication of that happening yet. On the contrary, all signs point to Nintendo going full steam ahead with the Switch, throwing most of its weight behind the device and machine gunning out first party games to build value quickly. That’s encouraging, and Nintendo needs to keep it up – if the Switch can continue to have a great first year, then it will definitely be set up for long term success. Nintendo has the resources to ensure that happens, so we just need to see the company put the pedal to the metal and market the Switch like it’s the best thing since the NES.

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