Bose QuietControl 30 Review #amwriting #campnanowrimo

You who’ve been with me a while know that I can’t resist playing with new tech. So I ordinarily wouldn’t have bought the Bose QuietControl 30 (QC30) in-ear headset during July Camp NaNoWriMo—but I made the mistake of putting it on my birthday list, and to my astonishment, it arrived! (Thanks, Hubby!)

The Bose QuietControl 30

As an ADHD writer, I need a serious noise-attenuating headset. I’ve had a mid-level active noise cancelling (ANC) in-ear headset, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC33IS, for years. It does great for airplane noise, but for coffeehouse music and conversation, not so much. I’ve had two gaming headsets, which do well on passive noise attenuation. But I left the quite good Hyper X Cloud II over-the-ear set behind at coffeehouses no fewer than three times, the last time for good. It just wasn’t meant to be. And the Razer Hammerhead BT—well, it’s just not up to attenuating the coffeehouse milieu, either, not even with Comply Foam Eartips installed.

Since I can’t stop losing over-the-ear headphones, there seemed to be only one choice for wide frequency, in-ear ANC—the outrageously expensive Bose QC30. Four times the cost of the ATH-ANC33IS or Razer Hammerhead BT, is it really worth that much money?

Yes. Yes, it is, if you need that level of attenuation. The QC30 drops outside music and loud conversation volume to such a low level that I can turn down the volume on my soothing background music and just write. OMG, it’s wonderful! Occasionally I start thinking that it’s not doing much—but then I turn off the ANC and hastily turn it back on.

The QC30 music quality is great, for my not-too-picky taste. Will it satisfy serious audiophiles? Probably not, but it’s not shabby. Check out this Sound Guys article if you’re curious. I’m happy with how it treats my Bach concertos, though.

There’s also the “Control” part of QuietControl. I can increase or decrease attenuation at will. In other words, I don’t have to dig an eartip out of my ear in order to talk to the coffeehouse barista, then replace it afterwards. I just lower attenuation, talk normally, then raise the attenuation back up to max.

Don’t be discouraged by the (comparatively) low ratings for the QC30 v. the Bose over-the-ear headsets. Expectations for Bose are high, and in-ear headsets always have lower ratings than their over-the-ear counterparts. Here are some common complaints:

  • The batteries die after two years. Rechargeable lithium batteries wear out. Depending on how many times you charge them, this isn’t unexpected. Not even Bose can change physics.
  • The QC30 doesn’t stand up to workouts. Bose doesn’t claim it will. Their sports headsets are not noise-cancelling. Their noise-cancelling headsets are not intended to stand up to sports.
  • The eartips don’t fit. They’re good eartips, provided in small, medium, and large, but of course they won’t fit everyone. Poor eartip fit is the cause of not only fit complaints, but many poor sound complaints as well. I’m lucky the large tips fit me, because the QC30 won’t accept third-party eartips. In my opinion, the inability to accept third-party eartips is one of its few flaws.
  • The neckband shifts position. It can slip off to one side a bit if I’m taking a brisk walk to the neighbourhood Starbucks whilst playing Pokemon Go. The only time I’ve had a real problem with this is if I’m listening to music, forget myself, and start dancing. This appears to be part of the “not ready for workouts” syndrome.
  • The ear wires/neckband physically wear out. I haven’t had mine long enough to give this a test. However, by design necessity in-ear headsets are more delicate than over-the-ear ones. The wires and components of the QC30 are heavier than those of my old AT headset, which has lasted me years. Many Bose customers complaining about this say that it happens after the 1-year warranty runs out—and that their expectations for Bose are that the set will last several years more. I’ll revise my review if this happens, but like my Audio-Technica set, I intend to treat my QC30 as if it’s made of glass. Similar complaints were rife about the AT set, and I managed to get five years out of it (it’s still going, in fact.) Honestly, I’ll likely wear out the battery before I wear out the rest of the device.
Tips for Using the Bose QC30 Headset

Update your firmware. There are many reviews complaining about the voice microphone for phone calls, sound quality, etc. My unit arrived with firmware 1.2.x. By the time I finished updating, the firmware version was 3.0.3! Don’t just depend on the Bose phone app, Bose Connect. I got a more recent copy of the firmware by going to the Bose update site, btu.bose.com. I have had zero problems with sound quality or with folks I call complaining about call quality.

Change the way you think about voice pickup. There’s no microphone in the control module. It’s not hidden in the neckband, either. No, the microphones(!) are on the earbuds themselves. So holding the control module or the neckband closer to your mouth won’t help. Just speak normally. I’d suggest keeping your voice even a bit softer than normal—one person I called said my voice was “over-modulated”. That meant that I was speaking too loudly for the mics and they were distorting my voice. But please do be sure you have the latest firmware (see above.)

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MacAlly Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard Review #amwriting

The MacAlly Foldable BT Keyboard (PMOBILEKEY)
MacAlly Foldable BT Keyboard (PMOBILEKEY)
Overall *****
Weight *****
Size *****
Ease of use *****
Durability ***

How good is it? I’m typing this review with it.

Let’s talk about portable bluetooth keyboards in general, for a moment.

Either these things are nearly as heavy and bulky as a keyboard intended to stay put (e.g., Apple Magic Keyboard) or they suffer greatly from the delusion that to be used with a tablet, the keyboard must be sized like a tablet—with longest dimension no longer than the longest side of the tablet (e.g., any keyboard tablet case.)

I’ve had portable keyboards since the days of the Palm Pilot, and I’ve bought a lot of them—the Apple Magic above, the various Logitech Keyboard Covers, the Zagg Pocket Keyboard, and any number of cheap knockoffs bought surreptitiously on eBay. Either they are heavy (Apple Magic Keyboard; Apple Smart Keyboard for the 12.9″ iPad Pro) or cramped (anything except the Apple keyboards, really) or both (Logitech Keyboard Covers or any other keyboard tablet case.)

Not so the MacAlly PMOBILEKEY. It’s small when folded, but nearly as large as the Apple keyboards when unfolded. And it weighs in lighter than any other BT keyboard I’ve (foolishly) spent money on:

Dimensions:

5 3/4″ × 3 7/8″ x 1/2″ folded (14.6 cm × 12.3 cm x 1 cm)
11 5/16″ × 3 7/8″ × 1/4″ unfolded (28.7 cm × 12.3 cm x 0.5 cm)
Weight:

5.54 oz. (157 grams)
The MacAlly’s key row height is the same as that of the Macbook Air 11.
The MacAlly keyboard is only slightly narrower in width than the MacBook 11’s keyboard.

As you can see, it’s only half an inch (1 cm) narrower than the built-in keyboard on my Mac. The keys are well-spaced, and well-placed. The action is nearly as solid as my MacBook Air 11 keyboard (which uses the older scissor mechanism.)

The keyboard’s drawbacks are those of any foldable keyboard I’ve ever tried: the vulnerable point is always the hinge, and the flexible cables used to bridge it. It’s all-plastic construction as well—not as sturdy as the same thing done in aluminum. There have been a few reports of keys sticking in the Amazon reviews as well.

Overall, though, I can recommend the PMOBILEKEY for travel or any other application where light weight and small footprint are key, if treated gently. Just don’t stick it in your jeans pocket, sit on it, and expect it to survive.

The Beeminder and the Misfit

Screenshot 2016-01-07 13.52.35 Now that I’ve set up my Beeminder goals, I’m looking for ways to simplify data entry. There are a lot of automatic data sources listed on the Beeminder website, but many of them won’t work for me. For example, I could track words automatically if I only wrote via Draft, but I’m not about to give up Scrivener.

On the other hand, there was the tempting possibility of purchasing a fitness tracker. Beeminder supports several. After much digging on Amazon, I settled on Misfit’s Flash Link, for its — let’s face it — astonishingly low entry price of $15 for the tracker sensor, and $8 for a third-party wristband, as purchased on Amazon.

The Misfit Flash Link
The Misfit Flash Link

Not that cheapness is without its costs. The reviews on Amazon universally excoriate the durability of Misfit’s wristbands and shoe clips — basically, they have no durability. (Hence the third-party wristband.) And if the tracker goes wonky, Misfit support is reputed to be remarkably unhelpful.

The tracker arrived Monday, January 4. I looked carefully through the minimal manual and the packaging. The word “warranty” never appeared. Eventually I found a warranty page on their website, but the weaseling language and user comments on Amazon made me realize that my only allies in this purchase are those on Amazon and the Apple App Store who bother to publish their reviews.

With those review pages open, I started connecting my Misfit to my iPhone and to Beeminder. Since I use IFTTT heavily and it supports Misfit, I wanted maximum connectivity — and the Flash Link in particular is advertised as being able to connect to many wonderful things, as well as being a wizard fitness tracker.

Well, I got it working. Yes, I now have two Beeminder goals being automatically tracked from my Misfit — Misfit points (Misfit to IFTTT to Beeminder) and bedtime (Misfit to IFTTT to Beeminder.) I’ve convinced the little devil to send signals to IFTTT when I double-click or triple-click it. That’s covering a third goal, my range-of-motion exercise sets. I can set up a direct Beeminder goal for sleep hours or steps, if I want, and yet more data automation is possible via IFTTT. The tracker itself is set up to automatically flick on when I raise my wrist (like the thirty-times more expensive Apple Watch!) and show me its little LED clock and progress display.

This did not come easily. Below is my review for the App Store and for Amazon, republished below for anyone who wants a cheap tracker to do marvelous things.

Now to see if it actually lasts so long that I need to change the battery.

MISFIT FLASH LINK AND LINK APP (**** ) (four of five stars)

I bought this for a fraction of the cost of other fitness trackers, and my expectations are in proportion to price. Nonetheless, I have deducted one star for the challenge level of setting it up correctly.

Firstly, if you only want an activity tracker, the simplest thing is to just use it with the Misfit app, and forget about the Link app. If, however, you’d like to double-click or triple-click the tracker to control some function while still using it as a tracker, read on.

Any one Flash can ONLY be used as an activity tracker OR a music remote OR a selfie button OR a Preso clicker OR a Bolt switch OR a “custom button” at a time. It can’t do them all at once, despite advertising implication. If you set up your activity tracker via Link you can have extra functions, but it’s not going to do them all at the same time. First, disconnect your Flash from the Misfit app if you’ve already connected it (disconnect it from within the app.) After that, go to your phone’s Bluetooth settings and disconnect the Flash there, too.

Be sure you’ve downloaded both the Misfit app and the Misfit Link app. Now open the Link app. Go ahead and connect your Flash to it, and select Activity Tracker. The Link app will automatically connect your Flash to the Misfit app as well as to itself. Yay! You now have the function you probably bought the Flash Link for. Now you can set up the double-press or triple-press functions to a) send a “Yo;” b) connect to IFTTT.com for a recipe you can program; c) Connect to a Harmony home control system; or d) ring your phone. I use IFTTT extensively — so I have IFTTT recipes connected both to double-press and to triple-press.

Finally, you will get the opportunity to set up your Flash to automatically turn on and show you your progress and the time when you raise your wrist (like an Apple Watch.) Think carefully before you turn this on; you can’t turn it off, and it will run down your battery a bit faster.

Now you can edit the tracker in Link to do one of those other functions (selfie button, etc.). It will still track your activity, and you can still sync it with the Misfit app, but you won’t be able to see your progress or the time on the tracker itself (unless you turned on the wrist flick thing) until you edit the tracker back to the Activity Tracker function in the Link App. Also, you won’t be able to tag activities unless your Flash is in Activity Tracker mode in the Link app.

All this is horribly confusing, and not well explained in the apps as you’re doing what you’re doing. Worse, the Misfit app offers you an opportunity to set up your tracker with the Link app from the Device page within the Misfit app itself. Don’t believe it! It lies! Disconnect your Flash from the Misfit app before you start in with the Link app, as I described above.

Path of Least Resistance, or Distracted by the Shiny Software. Again.

20140114-191607.jpg
mailbox-logo-big
product_introI am angry with myself. Last week I fully expected to have made substantial progress in making GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) charts for my main characters by now.

Instead, I managed to insert a table to contain the GMC chart into each character’s note sheet. At this point, I was frustrated by workflow difficulties. The app I’d used to edit this sort of thing on my iPad, which will automatically sync with Scrivener in DropBox via Scrivener’s Folder Sync function, Textilus, well — the developers have fallen ill with creeping feature-itis. New features are introduced before the old ones’ bugs are fixed. Further, it won’t handle tables.

I found a new way to edit the character notes on my iPad and have my changes automatically synchronized with Scrivener on my Mac, one which handles everything that Microsoft Word does, because it’s real Microsoft Office. Since Scrivener’s note files are in RTF, an MS Word format, it works perfectly. It’s called CloudOn. It’s a cloud-hosted MS Office installation, free to use as long as you don’t need “pro” features, and I don’t to do character notes. Pros: It’s easier to work with than a LogMeIn connection to my Mac (so I can use Scrivener thereon.) The CloudOn interface is optimized for touch devices, while LogMeIn has to work with the Mac interface, which is awkward for long work sessions. As well, CloudOn takes less bandwidth than a LogMeIn connection. Cons: It needs an internet connection, so I can’t work on the subway. Those “pro” features that must be paid for include such things as printing and clip art. I don’t really need that stuff for Scrivener notes editing, but might become a problem if I need to use it for my volunteer work.

This got me to the weekend, when even workflow progress stopped…

And has not resumed. I got distracted by obsessed with a new email client for my iPad, Mailbox, and have spent two long days revamping my philosophy with regards to email, and also clearing out my backlog of saved email, some of which dated back to 1998…

The philosophy of the Mailbox app is this: Email has three primary purposes: casual communication, a task list (tasks arrive via email), and reference material. Most email clients are set up to deal well with casual communication and with reference material. What they don’t do well is the task list. Mailbox is primarily a task list-oriented email client.

Even though I’m not formally employed, I am a co-organizer of a new year-round NaNoWriMo write-in (the Sherman Oaks Panera Bread NaNoWrimo Write-in.) Also, I am on the Board of Trustees for an international non-profit organization. As a result, tasks are arriving in my inbox. Lots of them. These don’t necessarily take up a lot of time, but I have vast amounts of non-profit reference material stored in my email, and it’s often hard to see what I’m supposed to be doing. Yet, I must be able to tap into that stuff easily during board meetings, which often dredge up issues we dealt with a year ago (or so we thought.)

The main concept behind Mailbox is to keep your inbox clear. The inbox should only contain mails that are actionable RIGHT NOW. Everything else is either deferred (tasks you can’t do right now but want/need to do), deleted (junk, casual conversation), or archived (reference material). The “lists” in Mailbox are not intended to be filing cabinets (found this out the hard way…) but “to-do” lists for specific projects. It also lets you defer emails until a specific time, so that you can schedule tasks.

Unfortunately, Mailbox, while great in some ways, is still a work-in-progress in others. Specifically, it does not deal well with vast (>500) numbers of archived emails. So, I’ve spent the first part of the week here combing through sixteen years of saved emails, deleting many, reorganizing others. I’ve reorganized my Mac Mail folders to support easy search of archived material. Now Mac Mail, and the built-in iPad Mail, are now used only for research. Mac Mail handles semi-automatic classification of newly archived mail. As well, I’ve reorganized my accounts so that Mailbox can handle all my vast collection of email addresses. And I’ve suppressed the damned automatic notifications and red icon badges (I turned off sounds years ago) — I now refuse to be interrupted by tempting banners or red app dots on my iPad or Mac. I have a set time each day to deal with new mail and deferred tasks I’ve scheduled in Mailbox.

So now, with volunteer work relegated to its proper place, I’m looking forward today to actually filling out some of the character sheets I’ve stuck empty charts into…

iPad Makeover

Stock image of iPad with Bodyguardz "carbon fiber" Armor
Stock image of iPad with Bodyguardz “carbon fiber” Armor

iPad with New Bodyguardz Armor Art
After: iPad with New Bodyguardz Armor Art
As you, Dear Reader, may have noticed in previous posts, I love machines. Yes, I have a permanent crush on any new technology, and I delight in getting new software, new hardware, new widgets. So I beg your indulgence as I write about hardware for a post — if you can’t stand it, well, I’ll be posting about writing again soon.

Even if I can’t afford major new purchases, I will spend a great deal of time, and as small an amount of money as possible to get the most from my systems. That being said, I was trained as an aerospace engineer, and as such, reliability is one of my goals. I am seldom in with the “first adopter” rush; I am usually in with the second wave, after the major kinks have been worked out. You won’t find me downloading OS X 10.9.0; I’ll wait for 10.9.1, thank you, and let someone else write the agonized emails to Apple. Also, I have an extreme prejudice for light weight; quite irrational in judging tech that’s not intended to fly, but there it is.

I use my iPad 2 a lot. She (yes, she) is my primary means of writing these novels I rant about here, and she otherwise serves as external storage for my brain. I’ve been working on a makeover for her, and the visible results to date are shown above left.

To avoid a case (weight), I’ve put a screen film and a body scratch film on her from very early in our relationship. The first were a full-body set of invisibleSHIELDs by Zagg (original style.) Disappointing; they turned yellow (very noticeable on a white iPad), and the edges continually bled adhesive, so they collected dirt. If I removed the dirt, I removed adhesive, but then more adhesive bled until eventually there was no adhesive left and the edges pulled away. The dirt then followed the retreating adhesive up under the (clearish) film. Also, it was billed as “glare reducing” — it wasn’t, not that I ever noticed. The surface was tacky, and finger swipes tended to stutter — a usage handicap. In fairness, it did give a better grip to the iPad, and did indeed prevent scratches (although not corner dents.)

Next generation: Bodyguardz “Carbon Fiber” Armor, in white. I liked the screen protector that came with it (Screenguardz HD) better; no tacky feel, excellent glare control. No yellowing. Thin and responsive. But the back cover…! It was nowhere near as flexible as the InvisibleShield. It didn’t collect dirt at the edges; that’s because the white “carbon fiber” texture collected dirt ALL OVER. Couldn’t be cleaned; I tried. The color was TOO white; it didn’t match my iPad’s creamy white border. It was brittle, as well; chips started peeling away from the edges a few weeks after I got it. I don’t have a picture of my own iPad just before I gave up on the carbon fiber — imagine the picture above, but dragged through the dirt, with the edges ragged. Yuck.

I hadn’t given up on Bodyguardz, though, because I really liked the matte screen protector. So two weeks ago (yes, in the middle of Camp Nanowrimo — I couldn’t STAND no scratch protection, nor the grubby white stuff any more) purchased and installed Bodyguardz Armor Art.

At last, iPad skin heaven! It’s gorgeous, conforms well, the corners stick like — like very sticky things. No adhesive creep (yet) which means no edge dirt problem. People actually admire my beautiful iPad. She’s pleased. And it came with another of those nice Screenguardz HD screen protectors.

I will finish up by expressing my opinion that none of these sticky things will last more than 6 months to a year. I have resigned myself to using Bodyguardz’ liberal replacement policy now that I have found a skin I like.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled introspective writing blog.