Mario called the meeting to order at 7:09pm. Attendees were Jenny, Dale, Bill, Bob, David, Richard, Marv, Fred, Anna, Ed, Wes, Paul, Lonny and Terry. (Sorry if I missed you!)
Jenny brought a handful of old hard drives, hard drive enclosures, and (paper) notebooks for The Monthly Giveaway Pile. Next month, expect some networking devices.
Bob has been learning a lot about the various streaming services while his wife is in Hawaii, away from her normal television programs. (Note: streaming takes up a lot of cellular data, so keep an eye on your plan, and use WiFi!) With these apps, she’s been able to watch what she wants, when she wants.
- HBO GO – It’s basically HBO On-Demand On-Mobile, and it only works if you have HBO and know the login for it. HBO’s shows are divided by movie/tv show, genre, and it’s grouped by series. (It was just announced that Apple is HBO’s exclusive partner for its $15/month HBO standalone subscription, starting in April.)
- Chromecast – The Chromecast device is similar to an AppleTV, in that it streams video from your iOS device to your television. AppleTV and AirPlay will mirror your whole device to the TV no matter what app you have open, but Chromecast only streams via the apps in the Chrome browser. Chromecast is cheaper but it doesn’t really do anything that AppleTV doesn’t do. (Apple just dropped its price on the AppleTV to $69.)
- XFINITY – It is blocked from being projected during the meeting because it knows Bob is outputting the iPad to the projector, but XFINITY – which also needs an account login, like HBO – will show live and on-demand TV shows.
- Netflix – Netflix started out as just a DVD rental service, but it now produces its own original series, such as House Of Cards.
- Play Movies – This is an app that connects to your Google Play account and lets you stream videos that you’ve purchased on Google Play.
- YouTube – Self-explanatory!
- Many networks like NBC, ABC and PBS have apps that let you watch their shows a day later when you log in with a cable or satellite tv subscription, like XFINITY.
- Hulu Plus – Hulu broadcasts network television shows a day later too, but Hulu is a paid monthly service on its own and doesn’t require a television-provider account.
Jenny then showed her favorite streaming app, Slingplayer. Slingplayer is an iOS app (not free, unfortunately) that connects to a Slingbox, a box you buy that plugs in to your cable/satellite box at home and streams the content over the internet. Because Slingplayer is directly connected to your home television source (your cable/satellite box), it streams everything live. The app has a remote control that mimics your system’s remote (in this case, a DirecTV remote) and that “remote” communicates with your system back home and controls your tv. The app offers some on-demand programs, but the main benefit is being able to watch live tv.
Jenny showed the group the brand new Microsoft Office 2016 public beta. It’s a 2.6GB download and takes over 5GB of space on your hard drive. Like your typical beta, not everything works, such as Ribbon (toolbar) preferences, which are completely grayed out and not editable right now. One of the main goals of this Office release is to make it look more like the Windows version of Office, so the Save and Open icons are above the main ribbons and are instead directly adjacent to the Mac open/minimize/maximize buttons in the top left corner. Otherwise, it looks like your same old Word and Excel. Like the Photos app demo last month, the UI is lighter in color and feels much cleaner and crisper. The icons are thinner, flatter, and more modern. Loading the font menu is still the slowest part of launch, but it feels a little faster overall. We haven’t had opportunities to use it in real-life situations, but it is worth downloading, especially because it runs alongside (not replacing) your existing Office install.
Mario wrapped up the meeting talking about the Apple Watch. More details, including pricing, are expected to be announced at Apple’s event on Monday, March 9th, appropriately titled “Spring Forward.” We reviewed what we know now. The watches are all available in either 38mm or 42mm wide screens. Watch Sport is stainless steel with a sport band, the Watch is aluminum with multiple leather and metal strap choices, and the Watch Edition is 18-karat gold. The Apple website suggests the watches may come pre-bundled with specific bands, but they are interchangeable. Check out MixYourWatch.com to preview the watches and find your desired combination!
The digital watch faces previewed thus far range from classic to fun (like a dancing Mickey Mouse). The initial screen is customizable to display certain elements, such as the weather of your next appointment. The phone has a speaker and microphone to read messages and dictate responses. There is no webcam – who wants to be looking up somebody’s nose during a FaceTime call? It also has a “taptic engine” for pushing the screen and for feeling vibrating alerts.
One of the Apple Watch’s big benefits is its ability to use Apple Pay. You now don’t need to own an IPhone 6 or 6 Plus – a watch paired with an iPhone 5 or 5S can now enjoy Apple Pay and pay by holding the watch up to the scanner.
Nobody knows the battery life of the watch, but it’s expected to be able to last all day. It would be nice if it lasted 24 hours because wearing the watch while asleep would give HealthKit apps some interesting data, but that would be pushing it. (You could always charge during the day to wear it at night.)
The only thing we know right now is that it will be out in “spring” and that it will “start” at $349 – presumably for the 38mm Watch Sport, the lowest model. The estimates place the Watch at between $500-$1,000 and the gold Watch Edition at $10,000 or more.
Tune in on Monday at 10am at www.apple.com/live to see how much this will cost and when it will be available!
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30pm, after which several members reconvened at the local Denny’s.