I woke up in a hotel room in Cleveland Ohio yesterday morning. Mid way through my morning routine I discovered my iPad 3 was missing. It wasn’t in my bag but it only took a fraction of second for me to realize where it was. The night before I had flown to Cleveland from Chicago on a late flight. Minutes before I had dozed off I had placed the iPad in the seat back pocket in front of me. It happened to me once before but in that case someone from the airline called me thirty or so minutes after I left the airport to tell me I left it behind. I received no such call this time.
I had configured the “Find My Device” feature of iCloud on this iPad which has helped me locate it a few times when I’ve misplaced it or left it at the office. So I thought I would just login to iCloud and see if my iPad was at the airport locked up in some lost and found cabinet with dozens of other similar devices, scarves, gloves, pens, sunglasses, etc. I was flying back home that night so I figured I could just pick it up on my way out of Cleveland. I clicked on the link to show the map with the location of my iPad. There it was indicated on the map as a bright green dot but it wasn’t at the airport. Crap. It was at a residential address in a suburb of Cleveland, a bad suburb of Cleveland. Shit! It looks like someone involved with turning that airplane around last night decided to take it home.
I called the airline. Explained the situation. I filed a missing property report. Gave them the current location of my iPad. While they were sympathetic they advised me to call the Cleveland police. At that point a bunch of thoughts entered my mind. Maybe the person brought it home because lost and found was closed? Maybe they were going to bring it back to the airport when their shift started again? If I get the cops involved would I be making someone’s already difficult life way more difficult? Damn it! Who’s dumb enough to steal an iOS device and leave it on! Since my iPad had a lock screen the person who took it couldn’t just get in and wipe it. I decided to use the “Lost Mode” which allows you to send a message to the device. I wrote, “Hi, I want my iPad back. I won’t press charges.” and I included my phone number. Within minutes someone shut the device off. The green dot on the map turned into a grey one.
I called the police and filed a report. They asked me all the details. They also took the address that I had obtained from iCloud. The officer who took the report mentioned that this has happened before and they didn’t have any luck getting the device back. He said he would get back to me. I felt bad involving the police. They probably had way more important stuff to deal with than this kind of petty crime. But they took all the information and said they would follow up. I thought that would be the last I would ever talk to them again.
I was in town with one of my account execs to meet with a customer so I was in meetings most of the day. It was in the back of my mind the whole time.
About an hour later, during a customer meeting, my phone rang. It was a Cleveland number. Since I was with the client I let it go to voicemail. During a break I called the number back. The person who owned the phone had set up a “ring back tone” which is basically a song that plays instead of the normal ringing sound. The song the person set up was the theme song from Hawaii Five-O by The Ventures. I laughed out loud because I had a pretty good idea this was the number of an officer from the Cleveland PD. Turns out I was correct. After he picked up my call, he said they had looked up the address, talked to the airline, and confirmed that a cleaning contractor lived at that address. He said he didn’t have a warrant or anything but he was going to go over and “knock on the door” and call me when he knew anything. My hopes of getting my iPad back were lifting at the same time my thoughts about the person who took it were sinking. They were in deep do-do. At this point even if they brought it back to the airport lost and found the airline and the police knew they had walked off with it. This person was going to lose a job over this at a minimum.
Fifteen minutes later my phone rang again. I couldn’t take the call so I called back when we got to a break in the customer meeting. I called back, listened to the the Hawaii Five-O theme, and then the CPD officer picked up. He said he had no luck getting anyone to answer the door but he had a feeling someone was in the house. They probably knew they were in trouble. He said he would try again later. I went back to my meeting.
Our meeting with the customer was over and we had a lot of time to kill before our flights home, so we decided to take a quick tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As we were buying the tickets I noticed I missed a call. It was the CPD officer. I called his number back, listened to the Hawaii Five-O theme, and the officer picked up. He told me he had recovered the iPad from the person who stole it. I was blown away. I thanked him profusely. He told me he was going to drop it off with the CPD at the airport. I would need to fill out some paperwork but I could pick it up on my way out of Cleveland.
I consider myself lucky. This wasn’t a cheap iPad. It was a 64GB model with wifi and cellular. It would not have been cheap to replace. I did have iCloud “Find My iPad” turned on but a more competent thief would have turn the device off, making it impossible to locate, and just DFU restored the device back to factory settings. (iOS 7 would have eliminated that but I did not upgrade that device. It was still running iOS 6.) Finally, the CPD did a great job connecting the dots and retrieving the device. I am very grateful. As for the person that took it, they have probably lost their job over this. I feel bad but taking that iPad was dumb. It would have been so much easier to have done the right thing. Hopefully they won’t do it again.
Oh… one other odd thing happened. Toward the end of our tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame we entered the Hall of Inductees. There is a film loop of all the Inductees accepting their awards, performing and giving interviews playing in the hall. When we walked in the inductees from 2008 were up on the screen. One of the bands inducted that year was The Ventures. Life is weird.
Ever since it’s introduction in iOS 6, the iOS Passbook has become an indispensable feature of my iPhone. At any given time it contains at a minimum 3-4 passes and at times I have as many as 10 items stored in Passbook. I put everything I can into Passbook. Airline and train tickets, museum and event passes, and store loyalty cards all get stored in one convenient place. I’m delighted when I interact with merchants that support Passbook and I try to avoid those that don’t.
Using Passbook has eliminated having to print boarding and other travel related passes, which has probably saved me quite a bit of money on paper and ink jet cartridges over the last few years. Typical boarding passes print in color. The extra info junk printed on every airline boarding pass, even though the boarding pass doesn’t take up one full sheet of US Letter sized paper, typically results in two sheets of paper are used for a single pass. All of it wasted. Not so if you are using Passbook.
Passbook even ensures that the right pass is available on the lock screen of my phone just when I need it. This feature works great with travel or timed event related passes. When it’s time for me to hop on a train the train ticket is just there on my iPhone lock screen. Because I travel a lot, this reduces travel stress and anxiety. Before I leave home I don’t have to remember where stored my printed boarding pass (“Is it in my bag or my jacket or on the printer?!?“) In boarding lines, I’m not fumbling around looking for the right ticket.
As someone involved in the business of software and technology, I like to think I’m making the world better and delighting customers with the work I do. I can wholeheartedly proclaim that Passbook has simplified and enhanced this small part of my life. I hope someone at Apple picks this up and forwards it to the team responsible for creating this magical feature of iOS. I’d like to let them know how great that product is and buy them a few beers.
I recently returned from a three week, three country, trip in Europe. It was a family vacation, no contact with the office, and we had an amazing time.
I’m a firm believer in packing light. I try to stick to the “one person, one bag” rule which is difficult to achieve when it’s your wife and teenage kids you are trying to convince. It was practically impossible when we first started traveling but over the years I’ve been winning them over.
My iPhone goes with me wherever I go but this trip I decided to leave the laptop behind and travel exclusively with the the iPad. At first my family protested and even I had some concerns, but other than my wife and daughter missing a full keyboard, it was a big success. Here are some take-aways for anyone on the fence about further lightning your load by traveling all iOS.
Gear and Cellular Connectivity
I took my iPhone 5, my old iPhone 4s, an iPad 2 and an iPad 3. I left my US AT&T SIM in my iPhone 5. I have an international calling plan on this phone normally, but I only used it sparingly to call the US. I also took along an old iPhone 3 for my wife.
I dropped a Vodaphone pre-paid SIM in my iPhone 4s and the iPhone 3 for local calling in Europe so we had a low cost way to call each other and to make local calls. I paid a bit extra to get data on the iPhone 4. This worked well but Vodaphone was not the best carrier for data. There were some areas where the data wouldn’t work and we covered a lot of ground. I guess I could have called and debugged the situation, I was on vacation, and it wan’t the end of the world. Paper maps, train schedules, etc still work fine in the modern age.
Power and Charging
I took the iPad 2 and 3 so I needed the small power brick to adequately charge these devices. Fortunately the brick deals with the different voltages all I had to do was buy the Apple World Traveller Adapter Kit to get the plug adapter I needed. It’s a little pricy but it comes with any possible adapter you would need in the world and it does work to adapter you laptop power brick if you need it.
While I did use European SIMs for two of our iPhones, I did not do that with the iPads. So we were limited to WiFi only. Don’t let this discourage you. WiFi is pretty ubiquitous in Europe. Each of the two apartments we rented, the three hotels, and the one B&B we stayed at during the trip, all had free WiFi access. Many cafes and places you’ll find on-the-go also have WiFi. That’s handing for looking up train or tram information while dining al fresco. We had zero issues finding good bandwidth for email, web browsing, and uploads. It made researching places we wanted to see and getting map directions easier.
I take a lot of pictures when we travel. This trip was no exception. This was also one of the reasons I felt most apprehensive about leaving the laptop behind. After a day of picture taking I normally sync my SD card to iPhoto, then use iPhoto to upload to Flickr. Since I’m not doing a lot of photo editing while I’m on vacation I do this primarily to make sure I have a backup of my raw photos in multiple places and to clear out my SD card.
To interface my iPad to my SD cards I used the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit. Getting the photos to Flickr turned out to be slightly more complicated. Flickr upload is apparently broken in the iOS version of iPhoto. I searched around the App Store and discovered PhotoSync and it worked just fine uploading all my photos to my private set for archive.
One thing we discovered is that many European museums, cities, and points of interest have iOS and Android applications that you can download. Some of these apps help plan you visit, get the latest information on special exhibits, and even enhance your tour. The Louvre in Paris, for example, had an audio guide you could download for the iPhone. We found a number of these applications very useful.
Other Travel Apps
Trains, Trams, and subways are the way to get around European cities and almost all of them have iOS apps to help plan your trip. Some have English versions if you don’t speak the local language but most can be operated with minimal local language skills. I found it fun to try to figure out some of the advisory notices. I found these apps indispensable and many worked without a network connection. Also get local weather apps! They are more accurate than the ones you depend on in the US. Most US based weather apps will not have good coverage for some areas.
We filled our days with sight seeing but in the evening it was nice to come back to our temporary home read books, news, catch up on email, or play a game. For this kind of down time it goes without saying the iPad excels at home and it worked just fine outside the US. The only thing to watch out for is that most video services like Netflix and HBO Go would not work overseas. One notable exception was MLB At Bat which allowed my son to witness the collapse of the Phillys much to our chagrin.
You can imagine what you email inbox looks like after three weeks of vacation. I cheated a bit here and did check my personal and work email every day for anything urgent. One tool I found made it so much easier was Mailbox. I’ve been using it on my iPhone and iPad to make processing emails for actions and I love it. The killer feature for me on this trip was the ability for Mailbox to “snooze” messages until a later date. That meant I could scan all my work email, respond to the critics, delete the junk, and then “snooze” all the other messages that could wait. This kept me with a clean inbox, and conscious, for the entire trip. Of course when the “snooze” date arrived so did all that email. All good things must come to an end I suppose.
Leaving the laptop behind was no problem for us. I think our iOS devices were more than adequate to help us travel and keep us connected and informed. The web and apps are everywhere. They make our lives easier at home and enhanced our travel experience abroad. The reduction in weight and bulk of dealing with an extra laptop bag was worth the trade off of not having a full sized keyboard and access to non-iOS apps. It kept us light and agile which made traveling from place to place easy. I think we made a great decision.
Last night I dreamt that I arrived at the office early. No one was there. I plugged my laptop into the monitor on my desk and refreshed my browser to access my Gmail account when, instead of the normal inbox view, I was greeted with a slick splash page.
“Welcome to Google+ Messages!” blared the interstitial. As I clicked through the slick web tour, festooned with beautiful photos young people, I read how I would be enjoying a new social messaging experience! Google had taken the next step in the evolution of messaging (which looked oddly like Facebook Messages) and integrated Gmail into Google+. I could now share messages with people in my circles, who could comment on every thread. My entire email inbox was splayed out into an activity stream with +1 buttons.
Like Taylor on that beach far in the future I screamed, “YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!”
Then I woke up. It could never happen…right?
I hope that thought went through everyone’s mind when Google launched Keep. It certainly was on James Fallows’ mind when he saw the announcement. The name of this product must seem like a cruel joke to Reader users. What incentive do they have to keep any of their free (or even paid) products running? The free products don’t bring in any revenue and what they consider strategic today may not be tomorrow.
A better proposition for end users is to depend on paid products from a smaller company that wants to build a sustainable business. Beware of free. Why invest in Keep when Evernote exists?
Whittaker’s exit post is an interesting look into one person’s take on what’s going on at Google right now. The few lines above really struck a chord with me. Whittaker goes on to state that sharing is happening a lot, mostly on Facebook, which is true but it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, it’s easy to share on Facebook (maybe too easy) but starting a blog and publishing on your own site isn’t that much more difficult. Discovery isn’t a problem either since Google search indexes everything and if you want notifications services like Twitter, or better still App.net, can replace the wall/activity stream of content gulags like Facebook and Google+.
Whittaker quotes his daughter as saying “social isn’t a product…social is people and the people are on Facebook.” Quite true. But the people are also all on the Internet and it’s full of great ways to connect and share that don’t involve turning your life over to one company. It might be easier but why give them all the power? Because everyone is there?