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The personal site of Jamie Knight, an autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

HomePod: it’s got complicated.

I really want to like the HomePod. I appreciate the care and attention which goes into this sort of product.

However, oh man, it’s hard to like the HomePod sometimes. I’m only a week in and it’s a very mixed picture.

The issues.

Let’s start on a low and end on a high. The main issue with the HomePod isn’t the hardware. It’s the software..

To win me over it needed to do three things. Act as a speaker for my Mac, sound good at usable volumes and be reliable.

So far is failing at all three.

Speaker for my Mac – this is a partial success. The HomePod doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack so it only really works for apps which support AirPlay. After trying with every setting I could find I could not get system sounds (alerts etc) to come out via the HomePod.

Sound good at usable volumes – I live in w flat in a shared block and I have sensitive hearing. Both of those factors limit how much noise I can make. The HomePod’s 360 sound trick doesn’t work at low volumes. For most of the my test music I couldn’t hear the lyrics over the bass and there’s no way for me to tweak it.

Reliability – it’s not worked properly with anything. My iPhone can’t connect to it half the time and even when it does who know what will play where. Connections hang and weirdness happens. At one stage it was playing a track from Apple Music and my local library at the same time. What a mess ;(

So… basically it’s not fit for purpose with what I originally wanted it for. However….

The good.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Modern life is goodish! When the HomePod is on song, it is incredible.

In a larger room and with the volume up it sounds extremely good. So much so I have started setting aside time to simply listen to music as an activity in and of itself.

I can’t do it much (the neighbours have kids) but when I can it may even become one if my favourite things to do.

So a few days in the picture is really mixed. It’s not going to work for what I wanted. But perhaps it may still have a role to play as something new.

I’m giving myself a few more days to decide on if I try and turn it or not.

Published: 26 August 2018 Permalink

Homepod First Impressions

I’ve only had the homepod on my desk a few hours, however in that short time it has made quite an impression. Here’s a quick post to capture why i brought one, how it handled setup and how the first experiements have worked out.

Why a homepod?

I’ve kinda wanted one for a while, but i didn’t need one. In the office i had my iMac which has great speakers, and i don’t have much use for a voice assistant in my life.

However, i recently sold my iMac in favour of a MacBook + 4K display combo and the display i picked doesnt have any speakers… so i needed some speakers.

The homepod can act as speakers for my Mac as well as being good for podcasts and the like. So it seemed worth a go. It’s expensive, but i figured if it dont get along with it i could always return or resell it.

Argos?

I got mine from argos. I debated the colour for a while (i went with white, but it was a close run thing!) and then ordered it online for instore collection. I was impressed they had them in stock locally; especially as my local argos is inside a sainsburies.

I didnt buy it from the local apple reseller as while the staff are nice enough they don’t offer a very competitive returns policy and i had no way to see if they had them in stock. I couldn’t easily travel to both so i went with the more established seller.

I paid the retail price of £319, which is a bit steep… its got a lot to live up too.

Initial setup.

The very first impression i had was “wow, this thing is heavy”. It’s heavy enough i needed help getting it out of the box safely.

The packaging was easy to open and as i pulled the homepod out a little guide fell out telling me to wave my phone near the homepod to set it up.

The homepage is going in my office, so i plugged it in, and waved my phone in its direction…

… Nothing happened. So i waved it some more, and then it worked! A screen came up, telling me to install an update to my phone…

… Update installed, i tried again and it worked. Taking me through the setup process. My speech can be a bit diffifult, so it took a few times for it to understand me.

I was really impressed with the setup process. It had a clunky start but once everything was lined up it was very smooth.

Playing Music.

I brought the homepod as a speaker first and foremost. It happens to have Siri (which is kinda handy) but in my life its taking the place of a mini speaker or some PC speakers. With this in mind, the first thing i did was connect it to my Mac and play a youtube video.

I was really impressed with the sound quality. Its loud and clear and it handles tone well. It sounds much better than my iMac did for music.

It is somewhat directional, espcially at lower volumes. It has to be pretty loud before it can really “fill a room” with audio. I’m going to experiment a bit with placement incase this is because i have it on the corner of my desk.

Siri stuff.

I have used siri a little. To ask for different tracks and the like. It’s very cool and It has mostly worked. I asked siri what was on my calender and it directed me to my phone… so i guess there are some gaps.

I also used Siri to turn my lights up and down, very cool but perhaps not super useful!

Thoughts so far.

So far i am impressed with the homepod. The setup was pretty seamless and it sounds great. I am looking forward to living with it for a bit to see how i feel in a few weeks time.

Published: 19 August 2018 | Categories: , Permalink

Why i've fallen out with my Nintendo Switch.

After almost a month with no use i lent my Nintendo Switch too my boyfreind yesterday. He’s wanted one for a while and i wasnt going to be using it much so i figured why not. He would enjoy it more. Perhaps in the future i’ll have it back when theres something i want to play on it.

The thing is, after 4 months of love, i’ve really fallen out with the Swtich. I’m angry with Nintendo, i’m angry with myself and its simply stopped being fun.

It all comes down to a single, terrible and ridiculous user interaction. I brought a driving game on the e-shop [“Gear Drive Unlimited”](https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gear-Club-Unlimited-Nintendo-Switch/dp/B076BT28CK) and the game was terrible.

When it was working, the game physics was pants and confusing, but most of the time it simply didn’t work. Stuttering, and pausing and then crashing. I might get 2-3 races before it crashed or froze.

I downloaded every update and even contacted the developer (who told me to speak to the publisher). I couldn’t get it to work, so i contacted Nintento for a refund (who told me all e-sales where final, i’d waived all rights when i brought it) and the publisher (who told me i should contact the developer)…

In short, i wasted almost £45 on something which i couldn’t use.

This sense of disapointment and anger has just kept with me. Being out of pocket is bad enough, but the sheer disinterest in everyone involved when i asked for help and the legalease response from Nintendo reminded me that this is a busisness not a freind.

So, there we go. It’s a great console and i’m sure sometime in the future i’ll have fun with it again. But for now its just too annoying so i have lent it to someone else to enjoy.

I guess, i am wrtiting this up as a bit of a warning. Nintendo are more than happy to publish a broken game and take money for it. Before you buy anything read every review you can and then hope like hell it works. After you have paid your money, your on your own.

Published: 25 February 2018 | Categories: Permalink

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