Apple, Mobility

Two weeks with the Apple Watch

28 May , 2015  

 Apple WatchA little less than two weeks ago I received my Apple Watch shipment, just the Sport version, with no added frills. Keep in mind that I ordered my watch the moment the Apple Store started taking orders. And it still took that long. The local Apple retail store told me I have the only black sport watch with black band they are aware of, so it’s still uncommon to even have an Apple Watch. I very rarely see someone wearing an Apple Watch. That all adds up to tell you how short the Apple Watch supply really is.
What’s my verdict on the Apple Watch? So far I like it, very much. But the real question is will I still be wearing it 3, 6 or 12 months from now? Here’s what I think of the Apple Watch so far.
Apple Watch Pros
  • Watch Face w/calendar. There are many watch faces to chose from (Mickey Mouse, chronograph, analog, digital, etc.) I immediately found value in using the watch face that displays a combination of info: time, date, temp, activity, and especially current calendar event.  Checking my calendar with just a flick of the wrist (the glance interface) is extremely handy. Net +Timesaver, +Productivity
  • Calendar. Right from the watch face (mentioned above) I can tap the current calendar item to bring up the full calendar display. The list of calendar items, beginning with today’s and out about a week, are vey handy to scroll through and check out. You can drill down into an individual calendar item but I don’t often do this. Net +Timesaver, +Productivity
  • Incoming calls. I love being able see who’s calling, again by just looking at my wrist. I don’t often answer and take the call on my watch (Dick Tracy style) but one of the features I like to use is “Answer on iPhone”. This immediately answers the call (so I don’t lose the caller), puts the call on hold just long enough to get to my phone when it’s not immediately handy. Net +Convenience
  • Texts (iMessage). While I have my struggles with iMessage on the iPhone, getting texts and sending default responses is extremely useful and saves time by not having to always grab my phone. The default responses (the one’s I’ve set) are really useful to quickly respond. I have used Siri on the Apple Watch to craft a text, but not too often. More involved or longer texting conversations happen on the iPhone. Net +Timesaver, +Convenience
  • Notifications. Calendar reminders, voice mails, Lync (IM) messages are all useful to know about via notifications on the Apple Watch. From there, I can chose whether I take any next steps or let the notification pass by. One less reason I need to pull the iPhone out of my pocket, and I like that. Net +Timesaver, +Convenience
Apple Watch Cons
  • Notifications. Some I like, but some I don’t. Every app wants to let you know about whatever it thinks is important. I really don’t need to know someone’s posted to Facebook, or that some game with a watch interface wants me to respond. My recommendation is, as with your iPhone, be very selective about what notifications you let Apple Watch bother you with. Be sure to set the Notifications settings for each watch app using the iPhone’s Watch app. They can be set to stay in sync with whatever that app’s notification settings are on the iPhone, or custom. I say again, I’d recommend being very selective. Net +Time waster, -Annoyance Factor
  • More Sounds. Having your watch start binging, bonging or making some other sound during your meeting or at the movies is not particularly useful. It’s yet another digital device in the meeting that really should be silenced. To help solve the problem, Apple Watch will stay in sync with the mute switch setting on the side of your iPhone. There is also a setting in the iPhone’s Watch app that tells the Apple Watch to stay in sync with whatever the Do Not Disturb setting is on your iPhone. Net -Annoyance Factor
  • Unreliable Glance. Lifting the watch, turning your wrist doesn’t always cause the Apple Watch display to wake up and display the watch face. It reminds me of how the iPhone doesn’t always flip between portrait and landscape when you rotate the phone – it can take a few tries, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I’ve had to press the “digital crown” occasionally to wake up the watch. Net -Annoyance Factor
  • Games. So far I’ve not found games to be that interesting or engaging on the Apple Watch. Maybe someone will create the killer watch game app. Until then I’ll stick to other digital venues for game entertainment. Net -Not fun yet
  • Packaging. The Apple Watch comes in this massive, heavy white box loaded with the typical Apple style layers of packaging. The Apple Watch box is about 2x the size of the box the iPhone comes in. Did I mention the box alone is heavy? It’s heavy. What did they put in this thing? For such a light weight watch, is the packaging trying to make up for other things? Who knows. I was a bit baffled by how over the top all the packaging was just to contain a thin case with an Apple Watch inside. Net -Waste, -Hurts our Planet
There are so many more apps for the Apple Watch, so much so that I’ve had difficulty finding the time to try even all of those I’m interested in. Keep checking back as I’ll post if I find something truly interesting or useful.


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Apple, Mobility

Apple Watch: A Window into Our iPhones

11 Mar , 2015  

iPhoneAppleWatchIn yesterday’s post Will Apple Watch Grow Closer To Us Than Our iPhones, I explored how the Apple Watch may build an even stronger bond with us than our iPhones have today. We shouldn’t be flipping back and forth between our iPhone and watch just to get the benefits of what the Apple Watch has to offer.

What in fact is really true is Apple Watch will make us rely even more on our iPhones. Much of what Apple Watch does can’t happen without the iPhone nearby. But what’s going on behind the scenes?

Apple Watch is really an extended window into functionality provided by iOS apps running on our iPhones, particularly 3rd-party Apple Watch “apps”. Aside from features Apple built into Apple Watch (the most basic of which is telling us the time via various watch faces), what you are seeing on the Apple Watch screen is actually a user interface extension of an app running on your iPhone.

Apple Watch applications are comprised of two components: WatchKit app is the portion installed on the watch containing resources (images and things called storyboards) displayed on Apple Watch, and the WatchKit extension, a component within the iOS app running on your iPhone containing programming logic for managing the watch user interface, responding to user input on Apple Watch, and keeping the content WatchKit app displays up to date.

Does that mean all the “brains” of an Apple Watch app are really happening on the iPhone? Not necessarily. While the iPhone portion (Watchkit extension) is the behind the scenes worker bee gathering up content and interacting with HealthKit and other information sources, Apple Watch is brilliantly smart about how we interact with that information. Here’s what I mean.

AppleWatchmsgsApple Watch knows from your movements when to wake up the display and show you information on Apple Watch, such as your run distance, heart rate, meeting information or the current time. This is something called a glance interface. It also helps us interface with and manage notifications, coming both from Apple Watch itself as well as notices originating on the iPhone (meetings, messages, incoming calls, etc.) Interacting with some of these notices actually launches the 3rd-party Watchkit app or other features built in locally to Apple Watch.

While iOS developers care a lot about how all this works, you as an end user don’t. We go on blissfully using Apple Watch unaware of everything your iPhone is doing in support of Apple Watch. I like to think of it as, your iPhone helps make your Apple Watch cool.

Now does it make sense? Hopefully you can see that what Apple Watch really does is tie us closer to our iPhones, but without picking up or interacting with the iPhone. We interact with our iPhones through Apple Watch.

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Apple, Mobility

Will Apple Watch Grow Closer to Us Than Our iPhones?

10 Mar , 2015  

Apple-WatchMonday’s Apple “Spring Forward” announcement was chalked full of new Apple product information about  Apple Watch, New MacBook, Apple TV + HBO Now, and Mac line up updates. In addition to a long list of design inspirations and new capabilities, a few other things jumped out for me during the announcements.

The day started with Tim Cook telling us about the 700 million iPhone unit sales and how iPhone has become so much a part of our daily lives. The iPhone (you could say all smartphones) are never farther than arms’ reach. Interesting then later when Apple showed Apple Watch was designed so we don’t have to reach for our iPhone.

Most things Apple Watch does, the biggest exception is loading apps from the App Store, is performed on the Apple Watch. When you use your Apple Watch, you don’t have to flip between your phone and watch devices to access fitness info, answer calls, check the weather or your calendar, see and respond to messages, or get help from Siri. Those things you can do right from the Apple Watch.

The added wi-fi plus bluetooth in Apple Watch means your iPhone can be in another part of the house and you can go right on using your Apple Watch, not tethered via a short Bluetooth leash like other Smartwatches.  Similar to iPhone becoming even more important in customers’ lives than the iPod (because it’s built into the iPhone), Apple is attempting to make the bond with Apple Watch even stronger than with our iPhones.

Will Apple succeed? For some of the watch wearing faithful (and those who return to wearing a watch to be able to sport the Apple Watch) that answer could very well be yes. Apple does many things well and is one of the best at creating a tightly integrated user experience for their customers. The less time customers spend jumping back and forth between devices to use capabilities unavailable on their Smartwatches, synchronizing data or adjusting settings to get things working, the less intrusive and the more useful the experience is for Apple Watch customers.

Two things that could stand in Apple Watch’s way. Price and battery life. The $349 entry price is high but seems reasonable for something almost as advanced as our Smartphones, but the price rises quickly as you move up the line of chassis and wristband options. A stainless steel watch chassis and linked band runs $949 to $999 for example. 18 hour battery life means Apple Watch’s short tether is to a charging cable. Apple Watch won’t be of much use unless it is tucked in for a fresh charge every night.

Will Apple Watch move Smartwatches from tech novelties into the mainstream like iPhones and other Smartphones are today? Only time will tell.

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The Fishbowl – Increasing Multi-Site Casual Collaboration

26 Feb , 2015  

How do you close the gap between two work locations separated by 1,275 miles? January 2015 we successfully completed a one year remodel project of 79,000 sq ft of office space. You can read more about it on the CableLabs blog. The remodel occurred on the heels of opening a new office and lab in Sunnyvale, CA, the fall of 2013.

Culture is über important to me and the company for which I work. We asked ourselves; what could we do to make the two work locations feel like one – or – at least bridge the gap and lessen the distance?

New idea – The “fishbowl”

When the Sunnyvale office opened, we set up a desktop video conference unit at each location creating a virtual helpdesk window. One unit is in a small office and the second unit is in the IT help desk team’s cubes. IT customers come up to the screen, see our IT folks at their desk, and get immediate help – the next best thing short of being in the same location.

The fishbowl   fishbowl2
(See more photos of the remodeled office space here.)

The fishbowl is the same idea, just more public and on a larger scale. The fishbowl is set up with larger video conferencing units at each site, in higher foot traffic locations in the office. The fishbowl video connection is on all the time, 24×7. No set up time required, no funky SIP address strings to enter on a handheld remote. It’s always on. I describe it as a portal or wormhole connecting the two offices.

Both sides of the fishbowl are located in a main break area of each office. It’s a natural gathering place for coffee, sodas and lunch. I’m constantly amazed at the different uses people find for it. They walk by, see someone on the other side, wave or stop and have a chat. It’s also easy to have a quick meeting if you don’t mind it happening out in the open with others walking by. Occasionally we’ll meet up with a electrician or wiring technician doing work on site – it’s so much easier to have a conversation over video than trying to explain some wiring concept or problem over the phone. And since the fishbowl is always on, you just walk up and use it. Now you hear the phrase, “lets meet up at the fishbowl.” This same idea is used to interconnect the two labs. Super useful when teams are working on projects and need to easily communicate and collaborate.

It’s not quite the same as being there but the fishbowl concept definitely helps bridge the gap, and increases the frequency and fidelity of communications between offices. I like to call it casual collaboration.

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New Destination Site

17 Mar , 2014 logoMy friend and long time colleague Alan Shimel launched an exciting new site Alan’s assembled an impressive cast of devops experts, thought leaders and practitioners covering all kinds of subjects on the topic of DevOps. The site has tons news, blogs and resources on devops — Impressive for a site that just launched. I’m sure there will be some podcasts on the topic of devops for Alan and me in the not too distant future.

I posted my first blog post on about “defining devops” and “how to get your arms around what it means.”

Check out my blog post The DevOps Journey.

I would love to hear your feedback and ideas about devops.



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Culture, Transformation and Technology

4 Dec , 2013  

As IT leaders, it is our responsibility to step back a moment to “raise periscope” and assess what IT is really doing for the business. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday of IT; deploying new technologies, managing projects, automating business processes, and supporting applications, systems and networks.

No two IT shops are the same but I frequently find myself evangelizing that IT’s focus isn’t really about technology, we’re about work style transformation. Several key strategic forces are at work, which establish this focus on work style transformation.

Changes in culture within medium and large sized businesses are driving initiatives to increase collaboration and innovation within and across departments. Silos are being torn down in favor of cross discipline projects and teams. Work anywhere strategies facilitate work happening in the moment, wherever staff may be, whether at Starbucks, home or at a ball game. Geographic separation of staff, customers and vendors must be compressed to facilitate work, no matter where offices, businesses or people are located.

The strategies I employ to enable work style transformation include many high profile initiatives. Multi-device unified communications enables IM, video, online meetings, and desktop collaboration between individuals and teams within the office, across business locations, internationally and while traveling. Again, the greater challenges aren’t the technologies, it is working with the organization to change work habits, assumptions and adapting to new ways of working.

Increasing use of video conferencing, digital whiteboards and collaboration rooms reduces the geographic separation between office locations – increasing location transparency. A “fish bowl” video wall is one of the tools I use to tie offices together through an aways on virtual portal between offices. I sometimes refer to it as our wormhole between offices. Cloud-based video bridging and online meeting services minimize the technical challenges typical of video conferencing between different hardware and software technology.

Social business tools replace long, unmanageable email chains with familiar social media posts and comments threads, organizing conversations around topics and groups of people with like interests. Wiki and content management systems replace Word and PowerPoint documents as the point of content creation, collaboration and sharing.

Virtualization portals such as those provided by commercial vendors and open source software offer developers the option of provisioning and managing their own servers, instead of waiting on IT to service a help desk request.

All of these are examples of how solutions enabled through IT are focused on supporting increased collaboration, communication, and business interactions – work style transformation – creating more effective interactions between staff, customers and partners. The next time you feel overrun by technology solutions, step back and look at how your IT team is really empowering work style transformation across your organization, and make that your focus rather than the technology solutions.

Short URL to this post:

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Podcast – APT: The Security Threat We Love to Hate

3 Dec , 2013  

This week Alan Shimel and I discuss the meaty security topic of APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats). Also joining us is Michael Sutton, VP of security research at Zscaler.

APTs are a class of network security attacks that target intended organizations for a very specific type of gain; financial, intellectual property, geopolitical, etc. They are advanced in the sense they intelligently attack specific targets, rather than “rattling doors” looking for whatever vulnerabilities might be exploited, using more sophisticated attack methods.

APT attacks can stretch over long periods of time, usually many months, rather than hammering a site or system over a few minutes or hours. We used to call these types of security attacks “slow rolling” or “under the radar” attacks. APTs can also use watering hole techniques, compromising an external site or online service a company uses or compromising a business partner of the intended target. Bottom line is APTs aren’t mindless bots or random network attacks.

Also check out Alan’s post on NetworkWorld about the APT podcast.

There’s a lot more to say on the topic so listen in. I hope you enjoy the podcast.

Download episode

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Podcast: Amazon Re:Invent 2013 Recap with Alan and Mitchell

20 Nov , 2013  

Like a bad penny and gum on your shoe, Alan and I are back podcasting together again!

Join us on this short jaunt down the rabbit hole where we recap some of the announcements from the Amazon Re:Invent 2013 conference, reference architectures for legacy and greenfield cloud apps, devops, and the redefined role of the CIO.

Have a question or topic for a future podcast? Post a message.

Thanks for listening!


Download episode

Here are links to some of the topics discussed:
Blog post on CIO role: The CIO Role – From Tech Manager to IT Services Broker

AWS reference architectures.
– cloud bursting –
– cloud migration –

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Blog, featured, General

Podcast – What’s Old Is New Again

15 Nov , 2013  




I’m happy to let everyone know that Alan Shimel and I are podcasting together again!

We’ll have a podcast up very soon. Stay tuned.

Cloud, featured, General, IT, Network

Network Virtualization: Next Battlefront for Your Data Center

3 Sep , 2013  

Everyone’s very familiar with server virtualization technology (VMware, Hyper-V, Xen, KVM); creating virtual server instances instead of matching server hardware up with a single operating system. Most medium and many small sized business have carved out a server virtualization strategy and are well down the path of virtualizing the computer room or data center. Virtualizing servers is an established best practice.

What you may not realize is the heated battle between vendors to virtualize the network is in full gear (network virtualization or Software Defined Networks). Combatants include well established companies such as Cisco, VMware and IBM, open source initiatives like OpenStack, university research programs, and industry organizations and standards including OpenFlow (ONF), NfV (ETSI), and OpenDaylight (Linux Foundation).

Consider network virtualization an open battlefield where new entrants and established players see an opportunity to unseat traditional network vendors, most notably Cisco. During August 2013’s VMworld Expo, VMware pre-announced their NSX network hypervisor. HP and Juniper co-announced plans to integrate VMware NSX with their respective SDN controllers and Layer 2 gateways.

Keeping up on all that’s happening in network virtualization can be challenging for network engineers and IT managers in small-to-medium sized businesses. What’s occurring is more than just an incremental move to virtualize elements within of the network. SDN and virtualization are fundamentally redefining how we design and think about data networks, emphasizing software functionality over traditional network hardware, dynamic network creation/reconfiguration through OpenFlow and network controllers, collapsing network functions into multi-purpose network devices, and performing network administration tasks through APIs and scripting languages such as Python and Django framework. These represent substantial, if not fundamental, changes in how we design and manage networks today, and the network engineering skills necessary.

What should IT and network engineering organizations do to prepare for network virtualization?

  1. Build new network engineering skills through exposure to existing server and storage virtualization technologies, and script development with Python, Django and web services (popular scripting languages used in SDN open source initiatives).
  2. Leverage existing virtual network technologies such as software-based network elements (firewalls, load balancers, etc.) including those provided through Amazon Web Services, network vendor offerings such as the Cisco Nexus platform, open source and 3rd party software options (Kemp’s load balancer for example).
  3. Review and educate you and your team on the virtualization strategies of your current or desired key vendors. Keep in mind their strategies can range from supporting industry collaboration and open source, to more defensive and proprietary approaches.
  4. Outline for vendors your interests and plans for network virtualization.
  5. Require vendors begin to virtualize traditional hardware-only network products and appliances. You can bet your enterprise IT counterparts are doing the same.

Short URL to this post:

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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