Ad Blocking iOS: Not The End of the World

Contrary to what a lot of online chatter says I do not believe that ad blocking on iOS 9 will destroy the internet as we know it. It is not the end of the world, although it might feel like it for a lot of lazy online advertising firms.

For a number of years aggressive advertisers have had free rein on iOS, adding as many trackers, scripts and obnoxious pop-ups as they wished. You know who you are! They have cost many millions of iOS device users money and time that they shouldn’t have had to give up. Not only that, they have lowered people’s enjoyment online. I would guess that many of the people most affected by these data-plan/battery-life pits didn’t even realize that a good portion of their monthly data bill was being devoted to processes running in the background. Those who were not even aware of it obviously didn’t explicitly opt into it. I believe that is the clearest argument in favour of ad blocking (content blocking) in iOS.

Content blockers will give the average user a way to tell the advertisers that enough is enough.

There there will probably be a mini-boom on the App Store when apps such as Crystal and Peace become available very shortly and I think that the developers whose apps empower users should be rewarded.

I understand that advertising is necessary to pay for a very large portion of the content online but I strongly object to how that advertising has generally been carried out. The browsing experience on iOS devices has gotten progressively worse since they gained popularity and that is not the fault of the content or perhaps even the advertisements themselves. It is due to the lazy and invasive way that advertising companies attempt to mine as much data from the viewers as possible in hopes that they can gain a slight amount of added revenue. Whether the viewers intend to buy online or not they are essentially being billed by the advertisers, and the revenue is not even going to the sites they view but to their service providers. This does seem wrong and does not fit into any reasonable model of the contract that exists between the viewers of the site content and the content providers. I know that some well-known sites, such as Daring Fireball, do attempt to monetize without resorting to such tactics. It definitely seems like it is possible. It should be possible.

Ad blocking is not the end of the world as some sponsored publications would try to have you believe. It is simply a wake up call for all of those abusers out there. It is time for a renaissance in advertising. It is time for content providers and advertisers to find new and innovative ways to sell products or services while providing the content that users want. It is time for them to take a deep breath, sit back and rethink how they will do business.

Who knows, they might even be able to find effective ways to sell that are not met with the current diminishing returns they are seeing in spite of their aggressive tactics.

Wouldn’t that be a win for all concerned?

Mount Teine Downhill Ride

I recently visited Hokkaido for a while and on my last full day there I thought it might be nice to go for an early morning downhill ride on Mount Teine. Located in Sapporo, Japan, Mt. Teine (手稲山) is a popular spot for local riders.

As I am rather out of shape I took the easy way out and caught a ride up the hill with my friend Shin in his Land Rover. It was nice to be able to throw my bike inside without taking it apart. We hit the top of the hill before 5:30am when it was still really quiet. It was a great morning for a ride down the hill with a moderate temperature and little traffic on the road. My back tire was a bit flat after a puncture the day before but not dangerously so (I didn’t have a normal pump to bring it up to my favoured high pressure). Shin followed me down in his SUV but I don’t think I held him up too much on the descent. In fact, on Strava I came in with the 5th fastest run overall!

I will definitely try to be in shape for both ascents and descents by next spring!

First Week With My Apple Watch – A Personal Review of a Personal Device

First Impressions of my Apple Watch

I found myself really happy with the Apple Watch aesthetically when I received it, and was quite delighted that it did feel more like a watch than a miniature iPhone. One place a lot of the early reviews fell short was on trying to judge it against an iPhone. It is not intended to be a smart-phone replacement and is really an accessory to improve the experience for iPhone users. I have to admit that I have gone into this with a positive expectation. Aside from a few bumps early on I have not been disappointed. It has been a good first week with my Apple Watch.

Initial Setup

The process of starting the watch and pairing it to an iPhone is covered much too well elsewhere for me to go into it here but I will say that I did not have any problems getting my Apple Watch and my iPhone chatting away happily. The (non-removable) Watch app in iOS 8 works fine and I have not had any issues with it so far, although I would like to see power management settings for the Apple Watch perhaps broken out of their current menu and given a bit more attention.

The Few Little Bumps

Like a number of people who have been early adopters of the watch, I did have very frustrating issues with the battery life initially. Charging was taking a very long time (6-10 hours) and was not giving me anywhere near a full day of use. I started with the usual steps for troubleshooting such issues, such as powering down and rebooting the watch, but they did not improve the battery life. After a few frustrating days I decided to reset the watch to factory default and restore my data from a backup. I then ran the battery down to power reserve mode (the low power mode that the watch switches to below 1% battery) and followed by a full charge. The charge took a long 4 hours, but after that initial charge post restore the OS was properly calibrated for the battery. I have been able to charge and use the watch as promised by Apple since then. It seems that for some software-related reason the battery did not calibrate initially, leading the OS to believe the battery had reached 80% charge when in fact it was at a much lower charge and then proceed to slow charge the battery from there, resulting in the ridiculous charge times and improper charges.

Another little bump I faced was a rash that developed on my wrist while wearing the sport band. As it is summer here in Japan and hovering at a constant 35°C+ with high humidity it is a bit hard not to sweat a bit pretty much all day. With my slightly sensitive skin the combination of sweat, sunscreen and fluoroelastomer proved to be a bit too much. I have since switched to a leather band and so far I am not having any further issues. I will reserve the sport band for purely sporting activities.

Daily Use

I find the Apple Watch to be a wonderful device for daily use, and it has fit into my lifestyle exactly as I expected it to so far. Once I learned to trust that notifications were, in fact, being mirrored to my watch I quickly stopped my compulsive habit of pulling my iPhone out of my pocket to check my messages. The taptic engine tapping out notification alerts on my wrist works much better for me than the usual vibration on a phone as I have never really been able to feel phone vibrations on my leg while moving and felt the need to check my iPhone regularly. Notifications alone have me pretty satisfied with my new watch. I have also found some use in quickly being able to reply to messages without pulling out my iPhone, but I do find this of limited utility outside of my home for anything more than simple emoji or canned replies as I am currently living in Japan and the noise levels pretty much everywhere here make accurate use of medium-long dictation using Siri quite difficult. That being said, short Siri queries have generally given me the results I expected. Although generally happy with the OS, I am really looking forward to WatchOS 2.0 in the fall.

Workouts and Activity

As I have been using a Nike+ Fuelband for the better part of a year I was interested in moving to the built-in Workouts and Activity apps to change over to a multi-function piece of wrist hardware. Unfortunately, likely due to the lack of sensor access for 3rd party developers, you cannot really track Nike+ Fuel with an Apple Watch yet.

Resigned to having to wear two devices I had my Apple Watch on my left wrist and my Fuelband on my right. I used both for the better part of a day, but then, perhaps out of envy, my Fuelband proceeded to become erratic. Screen glitches, syncing issues (over Bluetooth and USB) and other problems just started to occur. Even a factory reset has not been able to resolve the issue.

Now I am just wearing an Apple Watch and have been pretty happy with the built-in fitness capabilities. One thing that I think really needs work is the limited way in which one can interact with the Workout app. It requires touch screen use for all of its functionality. This is a big issue because, well, when people workout they sweat; liquid and touch screens are not the best of friends. A button/digital crown assignment to at least start and stop workouts would make the app much better. Of course, adding a few more categories of workout would not be amiss either.

Other Nice Things: Parents and Children

In an age when pretty much everyone is attached to their smartphones and use them for communication, entertainment and information it is easy to forget about the little social things: eye contact and paying attention to ones family. Walking around Japan a large percentage of parents (mostly mothers) I see spend a lot of time ignoring their babies/toddlers/children. They are instead engaged with their phones. I know that children should not need 100% engagement all of the time but surely paying more attention to them while walking in traffic or if just parent and child are sitting at a table is preferable. I am sure that Japan is not really unique in this. I always feel a bit concerned for a generation that grows up knowing their parents are more interested in their devices than them. I do believe that one should only minimally use phones, tablets, etc in front of their young children. This is particularly true when those children are trying to engage their attention or simply looking to them for examples of proper social behaviour. I highly doubt that the current generation of device-oriented parents with kids are going to change anytime soon, but I think that wearables can be of some help.

Devices like the Apple Watch and Pebble can free many people from their addictions to their devices. If they learn to use something like the watch as a filter and only engage their device when there is a real reason to I think that people can both give their children the attention they need for proper development and stay connected to their online lives. A quick glance at a watch to see if a notification needs attention is a lot less likely to disengage parent from child than pulling a phone out of a pocket or bag, unlocking it, checking the message and perhaps feeling obliged to deal with it then or becoming distracted by other apps.

There are other advantages as well. If you are dictating a message or giving commands to Siri, you are most likely speaking clearly and using standard language. For very young children, this will likely have some benefit as they learn absolutely no language skills from seeing you typing away. Parents who become used to using Siri on their watches can even keep regular eye/face contact with their children while getting things done, for example “Hey Siri Remind me to buy diapers today!!!”

Being able to keep ones eyes on one’s child while checking an important message with only a glance is also much safer than not watching out for them.

Although I do see wearables as perhaps a better way to pull different facets of parents lives together, I still think that limiting unnecessary device interaction in front of the very small is preferable.

A Humble Recommendation For Apple Watch Users

Rather than having all notifications from your phone mirrored to your watch, only turn on notifications for apps that actually require your regular attention. It will likely improve your experience with the watch, improve battery life and generally help you filter.

That’s It

That’s about it for my first weeks impressions. I haven’t really covered a lot of detail on the general features of the Apple Watch in this review, but you can find more generalized information published on the Apple Store, Daring Fireball and many other mainstream sites. I will try to post more specific reviews and information as time goes on. Thanks as always for giving my review a read.

My First Road Ride of 2015

This video is of my first road ride of 2015. It was quite short and on an unfamiliar course but the weather was beautiful so it was very enjoyable. It is not the most exciting piece of footage in the world, but it fairly representative of a flat land ride in this part of Japan.

I have not been able to get out for as many rides as I would like (well, nowhere near as many rides) over the last year or two. I really hope to be able to get a lot more rides in this year!