At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

How Motion Blur can Improve your Photography

Softness in your photos can be a desirable effect if that’s your goal. Adding in a touch of blur around your main object can create a bit of a mystical look. Here’s what happened when I slowed down my camera’s shutter above The Rink at Rockefeller Center.

When snapping a photo, any motion in your frame has the potential to look blurry and ruin the shot. As the father of an active eleven-year-old boy who’s been moving about pretty quickly over the past decade, I’ve often been preoccupied with being able to freeze the moment in my photos and capturing any movement without blur.

Sometimes though, the blurred motion in a shot is the most important part to capture. The key is to isolate it without affecting the rest of the photo. Of course, to accomplish that, you just need to slow down your shutter speed and make sure your camera doesn’t move. (A tripod is especially handy in these moments.)

Here are a couple photographic opportunities I’ve run across with my Panasonic Lumix LX-10 that benefited from this approach.

Moving Water
The silky flow of rushing water in nature can be a prime candidate for this type of visual exercise.

Waterfall with motion blur (Zoar hiking trail in Connecticut)

The waterfall without motion blur

People Walking
The blur of a crowd of moving people can offer your camera a great opportunity to ‘see’ motion.

Grand Central Terminal with motion blur of all the rushing commuters

The same space without motion blur

The Art of Chasing Blur
Again, the key to success when allowing targeted blur in your shots is making sure that everything else is in focus. Otherwise, that dreamy feel you’re going for will instead look like you’ve fallen asleep behind your camera!

Enjoy finding the right blur to enhance your photos!

3 Holiday Gifts to Buy a Tween Boy

Our son is eleven, and It’s unavoidable that technology is at the center of what he’s asked to receive. Here’s how I handled this complicated gifting terrain.

It’s that time of year again, and I must admit it’s been hard to figure out which gifts to get our eleven-year-old boy this holiday season. He’s simply aging out of traditional kids toys. (Time really flies!)

Of course, now he’s on the cusp of wanting major technology like an iPhone. But my wife and I are waiting as long as we can on that one. He does have access to the ‘family’ iPad, which he now dominates. (He loves playing Minecraft.)

But the iPad is not enough. His growing interest in traditional consumer tech is unavoidable. And I know he’s not alone in his age group. For better or worse, it’s today’s perceived path to growing up.

If you have a similar shopping dilemma for your tween, here are three gifting decisions I made for our six grader that might be helpful to hear about.

Casio Watch
Recently, our son has become enamored with my Apple Watch. So much so that he’s hesitantly suggested that it would be really cool to have one. But it’s clear he knows it’s a stretch request.

I like the idea of my son having some kind of smart watch, but an Apple Watch is just too fragile (and expensive) to survive on his wrist for long. And there isn’t another option out there for tweens.

That said, he definitely needs a new watch. The band on his cheapo ticker that I bought him two years ago broke recently. He still loves that watch, but it can barely count off a minute without losing a couple seconds. My boy would often call me over to resync the time on his watch with my Apple Watch.

It was clearly time to move him to an adult-level timepiece.

I grew up wearing Casio watches. I got my first one when I was in high school. Though I haven’t bought one in over a decade, I’m still sweet on the brand. Plus, many models are relatively inexpensive.

I think Casios are a smart choice for any age group, and many models contain interesting features behind the standard alarm, timer and stopwatch (though still nowhere near what a smartwatch can do).

After doing a little research, I identified this Casio which sports a digital thermometer and compass.

  • Casio Men’s SGW-100-2BCF Twin Sensor Digital Display Quartz Black Watch
    $41.99 on Amazon

My boy loves figuring out technology settings, and I expect this watch will be a perfect time keeper for him.

Click.

Apple HomePod Mini
Let’s recap which Apple products we’re not getting our son:

  • No iPhone
  • No Apple Watch
  • And no AirPods… He’s still absolutely fine with wired headsets.

But I wanted to find another way to give him his own access to a piece of the Apple ecosystem.

He loves talking to Siri and Alexa on my devices. So I thought about smart speakers and an Apple HomePod Mini ($99)

A voice-operated speaker for his bedroom seemed like a reasonable bite into Apple for our tween. Plus, I can give the HomePod Mini access to my new Apple Music subscription (six months free with my new AirPods 3).

Click.

Nintendo Switch OLED
Our sixth grader’s main ask for a holiday gift this year was a Nintendo Switch. (No, he doesn’t have a video game system yet.)

It’s a huge request, and he knew it. (He’s familiar with the Switch, because a close friend has one.)

Actually, he didn’t really know how big an ask he made. He understood that a Nintendo Switch is expensive, but he seemed unconvinced when I told him that they’re mostly out of stock. (I think he may feel that our broken global supply chain is just an excuse I used.)

Plus, there’s the new Nintendo Switch OLED model out there, which is even harder to find and costs $50 more. Our son wasn’t aware of the newer model, and when I brought that detail to his attention, he said he didn’t care which model he might get. He was more focused on the when as opposed to the what.

That said, this daddy is inclined to impose his own technology purchasing strategies on this decision… Newer tech usually lasts longer.

Against all odds, I did spot the Nintendo Switch OLED in stock online at GameStop on Thanksgiving morning at 6am. But there was a catch. The system cost more, because it was packaged with a few items I might not otherwise have bought (including a screen protector and case).

Well, at least I was getting something for the added cost, as opposed to paying over list price for the base system. (Sadly, Walmart has been offering that terrible option.)

Click.

At Home with Expensive Tech
There’s no way around the fact that this is an expensive group of gifts. And I need to admit that I drove the forward momentum on these choices, not my wife. Of course, I’ve tried to rationalize these purchases.

  • Every kid needs a decent watch. So, the Casio was an easy decision.
  • Yes, there are less expensive smart speakers out there, but I like taking advantage of my Apple Music subscription.
  • As for the Nintendo Switch OLED, you could say that a video game console is unavoidable for this generation.

No?

Okay… I spent a lot of money. That’s what happened. I acknowledge that I didn’t need to do it. But I did. For now, let’s leave it at that.

Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas.

And a big thank you to the greater universe that my family is safe and healthy, and that we have the means to afford this tech for our ‘not-so-little’ boy.

Why Face Masks and AirPods can Make a Dangerous Pair

If you’ve returned to your commute, you may need to consider how to properly arrange what you wear on your face and ears. Here’s why.

I’ve been enjoying my new AirPods 3 on my Metro North commute to Grand Central Terminal.

Not only am I a new AirPods user, but I’m also a new subscriber to Apple Music. (I took advantage of the six-month free trial membership offer I received as part of my AirPods purchase.)

So as you might imagine, my commute has become a more immersive experience of motion with music.

Walking with AirPods
That said, I’ve been a real baby about walking through the streets of New York City while wearing my AirPods. Why? I’m worried that one of my wireless wonders will drop out as I weave my way to work.

I know that’s silly, especially as I pass hundreds of people every day happily sporting their own AirPods.

If you’re wondering, I deliberately did not buy the more securely-fitting AirPods Pro, because I didn’t like the way they felt when I tried on a test pair at the Apple Store a couple years back.

But I’ve been studying the faces I pass, and plenty are not wearing the Pro model.

And I don’t believe there’s an epidemic of people dropping their AirPods on New York sidewalks and lunging about to rescue them.

So, after a couple of weeks on training wheels, I decided it was finally time to do a proper test drive.

Losing my Left AirPod
Of course walking with them in my ears was fine. Until it wasn’t. That’s because there’s one variable that AirPods were not designed to handle.

Face masks.

When I arrived to work and walked out of the elevator, I simultaneously reached up to remove my mask. It’s become something of an automatic gesture that I don’t think about anymore. Plus, I was rushing.

And that’s a mistake.

An AirPod didn’t just drop out. I did better than that. I literally launched one out of my left ear.

My mask’s cord caught the AirPod and transformed into a rubber band catapult.

My AirPod became a little projectile and ricocheted like a pinball onto the marble floor of the elevator hallway. The sound was excruciating.

I lunged after my AirPod as another elevator door was about to open… possibly releasing a crowd of crushing feet. (I had a flashback to that “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” scene where the little antidote bottle was kicked about the dance floor.)

I finally caught up with my AirPod and jammed it back in my ear. (No, I didn’t consider the hygienic consequences.)

I stood up and looked around. The elevator hallway was still vacant.

Nothing to see here.

And then I walked away.

Damaging my AirPod
Of course I tested my naughty AirPod when I arrived at my desk. Thankfully, it worked fine.

But the next morning on my commute, it was completely silent. Yes, it had juice. Was it dead?

In a bit of panic, I researched the problem on my iPhone, and Apple suggested I reconnect my AirPods and charging case to my iPhone. So, I quickly did that Bluetooth reset.

…and my left AirPod came back to life.

Hmmm.

So did I damage my left AirPod? It can’t be a coincidence that it needed to be reconnected the very next day following the ‘incident.’

Well, it’s been working fine for the past couple of weeks. Perhaps it’s out of the woods.

AppleCare to the Rescue
If you sometimes wonder if you need to buy the extended warrantee on your tech, my advice is to always get it when it comes to Apple products. That’s because they’re mostly moving about with you. And life happens.

Yes, of course I bought AppleCare for my new AirPods. I may be clumsy, but I’m not oblivious.

Learning to Adapt
And that’s my cautionary tale. File it under ‘the art of wearing your face mask.’

Sure, it’s a no brainer being more careful when removing a mask while wearing AirPods. Clearly, I just have to master that little maneuver.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the need to wear face masks is going away any time soon.

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