Personal Electronics

As a confirmed geek, personal electronics are a passion of mine. Of course, this is in addition to my gadgets for computers, photography and astronomy!

Cellular & Smartphones

Nokia 2160 cellphone
Nokia 2160 cellphone

I have been a cellphone user for many, many years. My first cellphone was a Mitsubishi DiamondTel DT-20X, which I purchased in 1997 and used for my consulting business. My cellular service quickly evolved into using the very popular Nokia 2160, since it was a nice-sized cellphone that could be slipped into my pocket.

I switched to an iPhone 3G in 2008 when Apple first debuted them in Canada, because previously I was carrying around a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and a cellphone. The new Smartphone devices such as the iPhones were a quantum leap in usability for someone like me, who took electronic notes, and stored contacts and calendaring without using paper. Now this could be done with one device! Apple’s iPhones integrate nicely with calendaring, contacts and iCloud storage on my Mac personal computers – the Apple ecosystem is very impressive, and just works!

I upgrade my iPhone every few years, and currently use an Apple iPhone XS. My first cellular contract was with Cantel here on the west coast of Canada way back in 1997, and now over 20 years later I have cellular service from Cantel’s successor, Rogers. When I travel to the USA, I use a third-party mobile service which gives me a US number and allows me to avoid Rogers’ expensive roaming fees.

My iPhone's home screen

Compared to the beginning years in cellular service, today’s service is nothing short of amazing. Probably the biggest leap in cellular or mobile service was forced on the industry by Apple, who insisted that iPhones be connected to the Internet. Of course, this meant web browsing and email from a mobile phone was now possible, which ultimately changed the landscape of the whole Internet and how everyone uses their portable communication devices, aka Smart Phones. We started with 3G data, then progressed to 4G/LTE, which was a big leap in data performance. Many mobile service providers still use 4G/LTE, but the latest 5G technology promises another leap in performance once it’s fully implemented in a few years.

Today’s Smart Phone users expect them to be constantly connected to the Internet, mainly because calling people using voice is now less-used than contacting people using text messaging and through social media messaging apps. Music and video are typically streamed onto smartphones instead of being stored on them, and people make extensive use of their connectivity to control smart network devices in the home and autos.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Stainless Steel with Milanese Loop on my wrist
Apple Watch Stainless Steel with Milanese Loop on my wrist

I purchased an Apple Watch when they debuted in 2015. I mentioned the Apple ecosystem in my remarks above, and true to form, Apple has extended their ecosystem to the Apple Watch. In fact, I would propose this is the main reason for the popularity of this smart watch over its competitors. Apple Watches are beautifully designed, however it’s the Apple ecosystem that delivers the functionality, and where Apple’s competitors fall behind.

Initially, I was hesitant to order a first generation product in 2015, but I soon overcame my fears as I watched all the app makers on my iPhone roll out updates supporting the watch even before Apple started selling it. A few years later I upgraded to a version 4 in 2018, and upgraded again to a version 7 in 2021.

Apple iPad Pro

My Apple iPad Air 2
My Apple iPad Air 2

I use my iPad mainly to read magazines and news services, participate in social media, view photos and video, and run tutorials. The Retina display on this version of Apple’s iPad product line is beautiful to look at, making photos pop, and reading text easy on the eyes. I load up my iPad with lots of reading material in the form of eBooks (Apple and Kindle).

Again, the iPad is part of the Apple ecosystem, so photos, calendar appointments, contacts, and documents are synced to iCloud and simply appear on the various Apple devices I use. All I have to do is sign in using my Apple username and password, and the ecosystem gives me access to whatever I need.

Personal Weather Stations

A Kestrel 4500 personal weather station
A Kestrel 4500 personal weather station – handheld

I have always had an interest in weather, and have run my own weather station for many years from my home, here in Victoria, BC, Canada. My two main uses for a portable weather station:

  • measuring conditions when I am out in the field taking astronomical photographs and observing
  • adding weather information to my travel blog and website for exotic locations and while at sea cruising
2012 Eclipse Temperature Changes
2012 Eclipse Temperature Changes

These two uses for my portable weather converged nicely in 2012 when I took a solar eclipse cruise in the Coral Sea, where I measured the temperature drop while observing the eclipse aboard ship.

The night vision model of the Kestrel 4500 Weather Meter allows me to read weather measurements during astronomical observing without destroying my night vision. The mounting kit for the weather station includes a weather vane to keep the unit pointed into the prevailing wind while mounted on a tripod and ball head mount. The data transfer cradle allows me to transfer the data from automatically recorded weather readings into a computer for further analysis.

Kestrel 5500 Weather Meter, weather vane, mounted on a tripod
Kestrel 5500 Weather Meter, weather vane, mounted on a tripod

I have subsequently upgraded to the Kestrel 5500 Weather Meter, which has many of the same features as the 4500, but now fully supports Bluetooth connectivity, so transferring data to a computer no longer requires a data cradle and cable. Additionally, Kestrel has a Smart Phone app which fully exploits the Bluetooth connection to their 5500 weather meter, giving much-enhanced weather monitoring and recording capabilities.

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