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Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Why I Must Put the Wireless White Sticks in my Ears

I wouldn’t describe my recent AirPods purchase as a joyous moment. Not exactly. It was more a feeling of satisfaction when you check a box on a decision you’ve long delayed. Here’s why.

The morning after Apple’s latest event, I powered up my iMac at 5:30am with my strong cup of Joe and calmly ordered a pair of the newly released third generation AirPods. Usually, my tech purchasing process is more labored with detailed research and spec comparisons. But this experience felt oddly straight forward, probably because my decision to finally buy a pair of wireless earbuds had been simmering for the past five years.

A Sea of Little White Sticks
Over that time, I’ve watched a major percentage of humanity on the streets of New York City grow little white sticks out of their ears. There were so many modified ears out there, it began to feel like my own were lacking. (Talk about herd mentality.) But as I considered augmenting my own ears’ capabilities, I also worried that a precious AirPod could drop out as I hurried about, crossing a street to beat a light.

The Wrong Fit
Of course the AirPods Pro were released to address this specific concern (among many other upgrades). I did visit the Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal a couple years back to try on a pair, eager to finally join the world of wireless earbud users.

But the AirPods Pro simply weren’t comfortable. I know it may take time to get used to the fit, or perhaps I needed a different-sized ear tip. But I turned around and walked down the stairs, empty handed, disappointed and uncertain about what to do next.

I started researching other options from different manufacturers. I went down the rabbit hole of reviews and price comparisons. I procrastinated some more.

Then, Covid hit. My focus shifted. And the next 18 months evaporated.

Better Late than Never
But the patterns of my former life have recently reemerged, and like many commuters, I have finally come out of forced hibernation. I’m back on my Metro North commuter train and walking on the streets of New York.

Immediately, I saw it all again. The sea of little white sticks.

And I wanted to swim in this ocean that surrounded me. I wanted to taste this experience.

So, I decided it was finally time. Time to get a pair of the white sticks. I’d go with the regular AirPods that wouldn’t squeeze into my ears like a Borg attachment. And if one dropped out and escaped forever, that’s life, baby.

I knew an updated model of AirPods were due. So, I just had to wait a little longer for the announcement. Soon, I would finally answer the question of what life would be like without the complexity of wires running into my ears.

An Upgrade to my Experience
The AirPods 3 have spatial audio. That’s great. And they’re water resistant. Excellent. They’re supposed to fit better. I like that.

Sure, I’m pleased that I’ll have the latest and greatest model, but I know I’m hardly an early adopter.

I do expect a better audio experience as I wirelessly tether to my iPhone, though I must admit I’m not an audiophile who must stream the best quality audio into my brain.

What I’m really hoping for is an upgrade to my physical experience as I move through my day and interface with my iPhone. No more messy wires to untangle and plug in.

Wireless is Inevitable
But are wires really so bad? Sure, they eventually fray and need to be replaced. I can’t tell you how many wired Apple EarPods I’ve had to buy over the years… but they’re just twenty bucks a pop. The rechargeable batteries in my new AirPods won’t last forever, and AirPods have an extra zero in their price point.

Today… everything is going wireless. Sure, it’s convenient, offering a clutter-free feng shui in your home. But it’s more expensive. And wireless tech needs to be recharged… and then eventually replaced.

Do you see the clever business cycle here?

A Case for Wires
We’re living in a world that increasingly distains wires. But wired connections, though messy, do tend to be more reliable.

I’m not saying that I don’t expect my new AirPods to perform perfectly. They simply fall outside of the ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ technical mindset.

I know my little AirPods come with a nifty charging case that can juice them up three times. After some use, I’ll need to figure out a charging schedule for the case so it doesn’t run dry when I’m on the go.

Last Man on Earth
My AirPods arrive next week, and once I join the crowd, I’d hate it if my AirPods pooped out (while still popped in). Sure, I’d still look good, but someone would figure it out.

Donald Sutherland would walk up to me and point. And then I’d hear his alien shriek.

What would I do? Perhaps pull out my retired Bose noise-cancelling wired headsets (with the wrong connector) from my Road Warrior 1.0 days.

Whoa! Then, I’d really be in trouble.

How to Give your Photos a More Personal Touch in Post

If you want your fall photos to have more pop, consider taking these steps after you snap your pics.

I admit it. I often like to add in a bit more color and contrast to the photos I snap. A little more brightness too. The process is easy to do in any number of ways. You can do it directly using your smartphone’s photo app or in a photo-editing program like Adobe Lightroom.

Add your Own Ingredients
Enhancing the look of your pictures is like adding your own personal filter, and this practice should give your pics more pop without making them look too manipulated.

Even if the colors start to look a little too good to be true, if the effect pleases you, I say why not?! (By now, haven’t we all become photographic artists at some level?)

And with fall colors all around us, now’s a perfect time to take some shots and squeeze a little more oomph out of your images.

Here are a few of my own shots from my iPhone and Panasonic Lumix LX-10 during my family’s recent apple-picking adventure. I’ve positioned the original photos on the left next to my ‘Barrett-boosted-versions.’ (And if you need to look closely to spot some of the subtle differences, then I’ve done a good job.)
Take More than One Step Forward
Sure, you can always slap on one of your photo app’s premade filters to give your pics more zing, but contributing your own special visual ingredients in post can maintain your sense of ownership.

Tweak the settings for:

  • Brightness
  • Shadows
  • Contrast
  • Color saturation

Yes, it takes more time that simply clicking ‘enhance,’ but one click or tap is rarely a total solution to feeding your creative self.

Take your Camera on your Next Drive and Turn Off your GPS App

Spending an extra hour on a road less traveled will often reveal new imagery for you to capture with your camera.

My GPS navigation apps have been pointing the way while I drive for years. Whether I’m using Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps or my ancient Garmin, technology has been mapping my ‘fastest’ routes to my destinations. Of course, I sometimes wonder if the AI algorithms are actually sending me the longer way. That’s why I often run two apps simultaneously to see if I can generate directional consensus.

Yes, it feels imperfect, but it usually gets the job done for this city boy, who grew up in the easy-to-navigate box grid of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. (Complicated navigation challenges on the road have always been solved by my wife.)

The Value of Adding an Extra Hour to your Trip
I usually prioritize the shortest travel time when I’m in the car, but if you turn off your navigation app and take a little more time on the road less traveled, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you come across. I know this is not a revolutionary idea, but I’ve found that applying it for an hour or so on drives you’ve previously taken can expose you to new scenery, while not dramatically sacrificing your planned arrival time.

No, you’re not going off the grid for the day. You’re just taking the other route your GPS has shunned, possibly due to just a few extra driving minutes.

Taking my Time Driving through Connecticut
I recently applied this visual exploration strategy on a drive back from northwestern Connecticut with the hopes of finding some quintessential New England fall scenery to photograph.

I was not disappointed.

Kent Falls
Connecticut Fall Vista Timelapse
Bulls Bridge

Something New is Just Around the Corner
If you’re in search of new imagery to capture but don’t have a whole day to explore, turning off your GPS app for an hour or so while driving and sticking to local roads can offer the perfect solution.

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