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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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Apple Watch & macOS

Useful things you can do with the Apple Watch

I was’t much of an Apple Watch fan to begin with. I owned a Pebble and was quite happy with it. It showed the time, let me control media, and when paired with an Android phone and a third party app whose name I forget I could even launch media apps from the phone and play. That was awesome, and it ticked the only need I had for a smart watch apart from showing time – let me launch media from the phone coz I don’t like taking it out just to play music. I use wireless headsets anyways (have so, for a long time) so there’s no need to take the phone out to plug a pair of headphones either. 

Pebble went out of business, and my wife gifted me a Series 3 Apple Watch last year. It was cool. I use Apple Music already, and the Music app on the Watch could browse through my Apple Music library on the phone and play music from the there so it plays via Bluetooth. Perfect! Then in a later update Apple removed this functionality and the use of the Apple Watch diminished hugely for me. Later however, they introduced it again and that was cool. 

During the course of time other music or media apps I use too launched Apple Watch apps or improved their existing ones. So now I can launch & control my podcasts from Overcast and Pocket Casts; I can launch music from Apple Music and Spotify (and even mark them as liked or add to library); and Audible has an app that lets you download books to the Watch itself but I don’t use that as it’s not something I am interested in (I am hoping they give the ability to browse through the books in your phone and launch from the app there – that would make the app very useful for me). 

Other media related things you can do with the Apple Watch is use Shazam to quickly find what song is place. It’s a bit slow to launch so I am not a huge fan of the app, but I still have it in my dock so I can launch it if I am lazy to take out the phone. :) And then there’s there the Remote app. This lets me control iTunes on all my Macs as well as my Apple TV. That’s so awesome! It is pretty cool being able to pause or rewind/ fast forward songs on your Mac iTunes from the Watch. And if the Apple TV remote is not around I can play/ pause or navigate around Apple TV from the Watch itself. 

Spotify’s recent App is useful too especially since I have an Amazon Tap and that integrates well with Spotify. So I can (say) launch Spotify from my iPhone and tell it to play via the Tap so the phone isn’t doing any Bluetooth transmitting to the Tap but the Tap streams the music directly. Then, I can use the Spotify app on the Apple Watch to control the playback of the music via the phone of the Tap. So I can increase/ decrease volume of the music being played by the Tap; rewind/ skip tracks etc. Which is nice. 

Lastly, the watch can unlock my Macs if you set it up that way (I haven’t, but it is a useful feature). And if you use the Microsoft Authenticator app it even sends sign in approval requests to the Watch – super cool! 

This is what I mainly use my Apple Watch for and for these tasks the Watch is a pretty good device. I also use it to track my daily moves and calories etc., but I don’t know, I don’t use it extensively for that. I know I used to watch my step count more closely on the Pebble than I do on the Apple Watch. I try and close the rings every day, but that’s more of a best effort than strongly trying to close all rings.

Useful macOS apps

Quick shout out to some useful macOS apps I happened to discover over the past few months of Mac usage. Nothing new here, you’d probably know them all already. 

  • SteerMouse – If you are not a fan of the Apple Mouse (I am not, it’s too small!) but love the macOS gestures and want to get them working somehow with your existing mouse this app can do it. Thus if I left&right click my mouse buttons together I get mission control; I can left&middle click to go one space left; right&middle click to gone one space right; etc. Little stuff, but useful. 
    • SensibleSideButtons – similar to above, but for side buttons. I don’t use it but came across. 
  • BetterTouchTool – I bought this app (as I did SteerMouse too) but I haven’t used it extensively yet. It can customize your Touch Bar and also mouse gestures etc., but there’s so many options and I haven’t had a use case yet. Some day ..
  • Keyboard Cleaner – Obsessed with cleaning the keyboard but don’t want to shutdown the Mac while you do this (so the keys don’t do anything)? Download this free app and launch it. It disables the keyboard until you press a special shortcut to activate it again. Neat huh!
  • Keyboard Maestro – Haven’t used this one but it has good reviews. For customizing keyboard shortcuts etc. I am more of a gestures person currently. 
  • FastScripts & MarsEdit from Red-Sweater: I use the latter for blogging. I haven’t used he former but it lets you create scripts to control & customize things. Looks to be useful; will try sometime.
  • SetApp – an App Store. Pay $10 per month and get access to a variety of apps. 
  • Reeder for Mac – For all your RSS cravings. :) Works perfectly with NewsBlur which I use and pay for. I like RSS, am old fashioned that way. 
  • Underpass: Again, an app I haven’t used but I liked the concept and the story behind it. It’s a file transfer and chat app for use between you own devices – i.e. without need to send stuff to iCloud or email them to yourself. 
  • Time Out: If you spend too much time in front of your Mac you need this app to remind you to take a break.
  • Kinesis Freestyle 2 Blue for Mac: not an app, but an ergonomic keyboard for you Mac. Works over Bluetooth but there are wired versions too if that’s your fancy. I purchased their VIP3 accessories too.
    • Not Mac related, but following the theme of ergonomic behavior and healthy habits I’d also like to point out to the SKARSTA standing desk from IKEA which I use. Let’s you adjust the height via a crank handle. 

FileVault and BlueTooth/ Wi-FI

I don’t have any other place to mention this so might as well put it here. The macOS has a good (but irritating) behavior with respect to BlueTooth and Wi-Fi when FileVault is on. If FileVault (i.e. disk encryption) is on, then macOS disables Wi-Fi and BlueTooth until someone logs in. This means you cannot remotely login to your Mac via VNC or SSH, nor can you login at the console via a BlueTooth keyboard or mouse! Irritating, but yeah I get the idea behind it (the OS does not load any drivers etc. until you login not does it allow remote access – just to keep things secure). This is not explicitly mentioned anywhere but you find mention of this behavior in various forum posts etc. Keep this in my when you use BlueTooth keyboards. 

Apple Watch & macOS by rakhesh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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