Parenting

Do You Need to Own an iPhone to Use an Apple Watch Series 3?

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There are a lot of confusing, misleading and in some cases down right inaccurate headlines and articles out there with respect to the new Apple Watch Series 3 that Apple announced yesterday. Many of these articles are leading people to believe that you no longer need to own an iPhone for you to use your Apple Watch and that is simply untrue. So below are a few key pieces of information you need to know before you even consider buying an Apple Watch Series 3:

What phone number is associated with the Apple Watch Series 3?

Just like every version of the Apple Watch before it, the Apple Watch Series 3 MUST be paired with an iPhone to even be setup as a functioning watch. So you must physically be in possession of an iPhone to setup an Apple Watch Series 3. That iPhone must be an iPhone 6 or newer phone in order for it to be compatible with an Apple Watch, so be aware of that limitation as well. During the setup process your new Apple Watch Series 3 will copy/clone the cellular number associated with the iPhone you are pairing the watch to and the Apple Watch will now associate itself (from a physical phone number perspective) with the phone number assigned to that iPhone. So if you make a phone call from the watch the person you call will see the phone number associated with iPhone it is paired with (they won't know if you are calling from your watch or the iPhone). So the simple answer is that the Apple Watch Series 3 takes on the cellular number of the phone it is paired with. The Apple Watch Series 3 has what is called an electronic SIM (or eSIM) which means there is no physical SIM card you insert into the watch like you do your iPhone. The functionality of the eSIM is built directly into the Apple Watch Series 3 hardware.

What can the Apple Watch Series 3 do while away from the iPhone?

The simple answer is that the Apple Watch Series 3 can do quite a bit while physically separated from the iPhone it is paired to. For one, the watch can make and receive phone calls without the iPhone. Below is a list of other things that can be done with the Apple Watch Series 3 without being in range of the iPhone:

  • Make and receive phone calls
  • Send and receive text (SMS) and iMessages
  • Use Apple Maps for directions
  • Find My Friends tracks your location using the Apple Watch GPS rather than the iPhone automatically as soon as the watch is out of range of the iPhone
  • Other messaging apps like Snapchat will work
  • You can stream Apple Music
  • You can use Siri (and Siri now talks back to you using the Apple Watch speaker where it didn't before)
  • 3rd party apps are able to use cellular data from the watch, so depending on the app you may have a lot of other functionality available to you while away from your iPhone

How much will a monthly data plan on the Apple Watch cost?

So far the big 4 cellular companies (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) in the U.S. are all saying that the monthly fee for cellular data connectivity to their networks will all run you $10 a month. You must already have cellular service with one of these companies in order to add the Apple Watch Series 3 onto your existing account. In my case I am with AT&T and have a family data share plan so for $10 a month I can add the Apple Watch Series 3 and it will share our pool of 15 Gb of data per month. If I didn't have a shared data plan my $10 a month would get me 1 Gb of data dedicated strictly for the Apple Watch (again this is with AT&T so check with your provider for the full details).

Can you use the Apple Watch Series 3 as a stand alone smartwatch for a child?

The smartwatch market has huge hole in it right now with respect to a high quality highly functioning smartwatches for kids. There are a ton of "kid friendly" smartwatches on the market but I have yet to find one that is even worth considering and most of them are targeted for young kids (like 8 years-old or younger). I don't think getting a younger child a cell phone is a good idea. It's great from a connectivity and safety perspective, but until the child gets into high school I would argue that a cell phone is more hassle, cost and responsibility than they are ready for. But if all you want to do is be able text or have a 30-second voice call with your child a smartwatch would be a perfect fit (if a good one actually existed).

So when Apple announced the Series 3 Apple Watch I was really hoping they were also going to also introduce the ability to setup the watch as a standalone cellular device with its own phone number so it could be used by a child as a stand alone smartwatch. But that didn't happen. But not all hope is lost (at least not for me).

I mentioned I have an AT&T family share plan. I have 4 iPhones and one iPad Pro on that plan but I also own (or use) a 5th iPhone that is provided to me by my employer (this iPhone is NOT on my personal AT&T plan). The unique thing about my work iPhone is that I do not use it as a phone. I use it for work email and work calendar and a few work related apps but the phone number associated with that iPhone is not used or even given out. I also do not receive text messages on my work iPhone. All communication with me for work purposes is done through my personal cell phone (all except for email). So this puts me in a very unique situation where I have an iPhone that is on AT&T and the number associated with that phone is not being used. So if I bought an Apple Watch Series 3 and paired it with my work iPhone, the watch would take on the number associated with my work iPhone. Nobody has the number associated with that phone so it would be like a brand new number that my daughter then could use for her Apple Watch. But what about the $10 a month data plan that I would need to get for the watch? Is the data plan connected to the account associated with the phone number on the iPhone? Tricky question.

So I called Apple and talked with their customer support. They were not able to answer my question directly but they consulted with their cellular department and came back and said that while the eSIM in the Apple Watch Series 3 will take on the phone number of the iPhone it is setup and paired with, the data plan associated with the Apple Watch is something that is left up to the individual carriers to manage. So I needed to call AT&T.

I called AT&T and talked with their customer support. I was very specific about my question and in fact asked it several different times in slightly different ways and the answer was the same each time. As long as the phone number the Apple Watch takes on is an AT&T cellular number I can have a separate data plan on the watch from the plan that governs the cell number associated with the iPhone. Because AT&T has a feature called NumberSync AT&T is able to separate the data plan from the physical phone number cellular plan of the iPhone. So I can buy an Apple Watch Series 3 and set it up and pair it with my work iPhone. The Apple Watch will now make and receive phone calls using the number associated with my work iPhone (which is fine because nobody uses that number and nobody knows that number so this will be phone number only used by her Series 3 Apple Watch). I can also sign into my work iPhone with my daughter's iCloud account, again because I don't use that iPhone for any other functions than reading work email and work calendar items (and we use Exchange and not iCloud). AT&T has assured me that simply setting up the watch with the iPhone will not activate a data plan for the watch, it will only associated the watch with the phone number of the iPhone. I can then call up AT&T and they can activate a data plan with the Apple Watch and attach that data plan to my existing family share plan.

Disclaimer...I do not trust that information I received from AT&T is accurate. While I do think what they have told me is possibly correct, I have been burned by AT&T support people not knowing what they are talking about in the past. Even on this phone call the AT&T support person was saying that they may need to send me a physical SIM card for the Apple Watch because "they don't yet know what kind of SIM the watch will use"...and we know that isn't true. Apple explained yesterday at the product announcement that the Apple Watch Series 3 uses an eSIM which is physically built into the Watch hardware and not a physical SIM card at all. So I am totally expecting to buy an Apple Watch Series 3 for my daughter only to find out that the AT&T person I talked to didn't know what they were talking about. But Apple has an excellent return policy so I am willing to give it try.

So in summary it appears that I will be able buy an Apple Watch Series 3 for my daughter and she will be able to use it completely independently of my work iPhone (with the exception of setting it up and the occasional software update). But I am only able to do this because of the very unique way in which I use my iPhone for work purposes, which is strictly as an email and calendaring device. This frees up my work iPhone to serve as a surrogate device for my daughter's Apple Watch. I doubt there are a lot of other people out there that use their iPhone in this limited way, but if you do you may be able to use the phone number of that iPhone as a way to use an Apple Watch Series 3 as a true stand alone device. I'll write up a follow-up blog post once I get the Series 3 Apple Watch and let you all know how it goes. I'm not holding my breath...

Solar Eclipse 2017 Photos

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Like I mentioned in my "You'll Burn Your Eyes Out" post, I spent Aug 21, 2017 in my front yard watching the eclispe with my kids. It had been a few years since I have used my telescope to do any solar observing and I had forgotten just how challanging it can be to manually point a telescope and succesfully find the Sun. Telescopes are not natually setup with tools that easily let you point at the Sun. The solar filter also makes the Sun quite dim in the eyepiece and if you don't get your eye just the right distance from the eyepiece you don't see anything (even if the Sun is in the field of view). At night you always have a background star field so you know when you have your eye placed at the right sweet spot. Oh, and did I mention the challenge of having sweat run down your face (it is Florida in August after all).

So the eclipse was almost at its maximum (we only had a partial eclipse here in Central Florida) by the time I got the Sun centered in my telescope. Back during the Venus transit of 2012 I wrote up a post detailing my telescope setup and I used the same setup for this solar eclipse (so reference my 2012 post for details). I don't have an autofocuser and I wasn't all that concerned about getting a bunch of really great photos through my scope (I was more focused on seeing the eclipse in real time with my own eyes (and my kid's eyes) through the scope), so I took the approach of taking a bunch of photos and only keeping the ones that were properly focused. So out of the several hundred photos I snapped the 3 that ended up being half way decent are below:

We also took some indirect photos of the shadows that one of the trees in our front yard was casting on the ground:

 Lots of little crescent Suns!

Lots of little crescent Suns!

All in all we had a great day off from work and school watching one of the great wonders of nature right from our front yard. I took a quick selfie of the 3 of us in between viewings:

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Online Eclipse Viewing and Science Experiments

Today is a big day for both amateur observers and professional scientists alike. Hopefully all of you already have your eclipse glasses and/or telescope and solar filter at the ready, but even if you don't there are still plenty of opportunities to participate in today's eclipse activities. In fact, because this particular solar eclipse is spanning the entire continental U.S. we get to share the experience with people across the planet via the internet. Below is a summary of just some of the online viewing and activities you can check out today:

Apps:

There are so many solar eclipse app for your smartphone that there is no way I could possibly list them all. So I will just call out the two that I would definitely download:

Total Solar Eclipse for iOS is an app by the folks at Exploratorium. Exploratorium is..."a hands-on museum of science, art, and human perception in San Francisco, California..." What makes this app so special is that the folks at Exploratorium are deploying people with telescopes in various locations in Oregon and Wyoming and live streaming images of the eclipse from these telescopes to the app.

Smithsonian Eclipse 2017 app for iOS is another not to miss app. They will have a live stream from NASA of the eclipse as it travel across the entire U.S. The app also has interactive maps and timers to tell you what to expect based on your exact location.

List of live streams:

Below is a list of live stream viewable from an internet browser. There are a ton of them and these are just a few. Hopefully you have a large computer screen and can watch them all!

  • NASA live stream (starts at noon eastern thru 4pm eastern) on both the web and on FaceBook Live
  • NASA EDGE is another great NASA stream that will be up today live from Carbondale from 11:45am - 4:15pm eastern and there is a web version and a FaceBook Live version
  • Virtual Telescope Project (1pm eastern)
  • SLOOH has a live cast starting at 12 noon eastern
  • And last but not least I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that GeekDad.com will also be covering and live streaming the event today (as most of you know I occasionally write for GeekDad). Just head over to the GeekDad.com main page.

Science:

There are quite a few really cool science experiments and observations taking place and below are just a few that should be aware of:

You'll Burn Your Eyes Out!

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This is what is wrong with our society today (among many other things). I received a letter from my kid's school (the Brevard County school district here in Central Florida) informing me that my kids can be taken out of school this coming Monday if I as a parent am concerned about my child's safety. Yes, the Brevard County schools are concerned that if kids are allowed outside during any portion of the partial solar eclipse on Monday they could potentially look at the sun too long and damage their eyes. So they are doing two things to protect our children.

  1. They are cancelling all regular outdoor activities. Kids will not be allowed outside for any reason during the hours the eclipse will be taking place.
  2. They are allowing excused absences for parents who wish to keep their kids home from school to avoid eye damage that may occur when their kids try and view the eclipse.

Look, I'm all for keeping kids safe. But the first step in keeping people safe when it comes to a wide-spread astronomical event like this is education. Last time I checked isn't that what schools are all about? If you explain what to expect with an eclipse like the Aug 21, 2017 event and how to safely view the event then you can prevent accidental eye damage. I understand that with younger kids this can be challenging, but in my case my kids are in junior high and high school. Schools (especially with older kids) should be taking advantage of this rare celestial event and using it to teach kids about astronomy and the local movements of our own planet, Moon and Sun. Talk to the kids about why its dangerous to look at the Sun even when a good portion of the light from the Sun is being blocked by the Moon during a partial eclipse. Then show the kids how to safely view and enjoy the eclipse.

No, instead of using the event as an education opportunity the school district is taking preventive measures to protect themselves from over-protective parents and any legal battles that would ensue from any kind of eye damage. Has there been a documented case of a child at school during a school run eclipse viewing event being injured? I tried to find one and I couldn't. This is not a dangerous event. It is people's ignorance that is dangerous and unless fixed it will continue to be a problem. The only way to fix ignorance is through education and if our local schools aren't going to do it then I will. So I will be taking my kids out of of school to "protect" them from being locked in the school during Monday's amazing celestial display. I'm taking my kids out of school to "protect" them from the helicopter parenting that seems to be out of control and is now dictating school policy. Most importantly I am protecting my kids from ignorance, because if they were to go to school on Monday and locked in the school during the eclipse they would be robbed of an incredible education opportunity.

The Brevard County schools missed an opportunity here with the eclipse, not only from an educational standpoint but also from a media relations standpoint. They could have written the letter in a way that gave parents the option to keep their kids home so they could share with their kids this amazing experience (even if the real reason was to protect themselves from litigation). If the school district really wanted to protect kids they would be educating them about the eclipse. Because guess what, in 7 years the U.S. will be experiencing another solar eclipse and because our schools didn't educate our kids when they had the chance to, these kids could be damaging their eyes 7 years from now as ignorant adults. No, this change in policy wasn't about protecting kids it was about protecting the school district from litigation.

I plan to publish an article this weekend about the various online viewing events and scientific experiments that will be taking place on Monday and I will also be tweeting all day from home during the eclipse, so follow me on Twitter. If you are local here in Central Florida and want to stop by and see the eclipse through my telescope, get a hold of me via my contact page and join us in our little impromptu solar eclipse viewing party...you just might learn something.

I Just Did Something Really Stupid

This is probably one of the longest posts I have ever written, but it is also one of the most important. Please take a few minutes to read it...it could save you from losing all of your data.

So I just did something a few days ago that made me feel really stupid, so naturally I need to tell the world about my stupidity. I've been sick for a week now with a really nasty case of the flu that I caught while attending CES in Las Vegas. A few night ago I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and my daughter asked me to come over to the computer. She needed me to type in the administrator password so she could install a program on the Mac. Normally this would set off my "spidey sense", but between still being sick, being in the middle of cooking dinner and because in this case I knew exactly what my daughter was doing...I typed in the admin password so she could install the program. Except when I did this a program called "Mac Purifier" was installed on my Mac and started scanning my computer. I literally ripped the power cord out of the wall and just left the computer where it was in its unpowered state so I could go back to my half-cooked dinner before it burned.

So what happened? My daughter is really into Minecraft (and I mean REALLY into Minecraft). She wanted to install a mod to Minecraft and that required that she first install a program called "Forge" to help with that process. Her and I had been talking about what she was doing for a while now and that was why I really didn't think twice about approving the install. She went to official website for Forge and attempted to download Forge. This is where everything went wrong. From what I can tell, instead of downloading Forge she clicked on one of the ads on the Forge website (an ad made to look like an install button) and that ad downloaded the installation package for Mac Purifier. So I instead of installing Forge like we both thought, I gave my Mac permission to install a piece of (shit...ok I'll be nice and call it malware). Mac Purifier is actually designed to do something good and that is it scans your Mac and notifies you about anything that shouldn't be there like viruses or malware (ironic isn't it). The reason I call Mac Purifier malware is because in order for Mac Purifier to do anything useful you are prompted to purchase the "full" version of the program. So it is essentially a useless shell of a program designed to scare you into buying the full version. Mac Purifier is one of those programs that has also been bundled with "free" software you can download on not so trustworthy websites out there as a way to pump money out of unsuspecting people. Because of this I had no idea whether the version of Mac Purifier that was just installed on my Mac had any other kind of malware embedded in it or if was just truly the useless money sucking program that it was designed to be. I had no choice but to wipe my Mac (nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure).

There are two reasons I am writing this post:

  • To stress the importance of having computer backups
  • To wage war against online ads

The Importance of Computer Backups

The only reason this really stupid thing I did didn't cost me a ton of time (and possibly all my data) is because I have a rock solid backup strategy for ALL of my data. Instead of having to go into my Mac and performing extensive surgery to remove the malicious program I just installed (seriously, take a look at this article and read how much is involved with manually removing this crap), it took me less than 5 minutes of my time to completely nuke my entire computer and re-install everything to exactly how it was before Mac Purifier was installed (it took overnight for all the data to be restored but only took 5 minutes of my time to enact). The reason I was able to do this so easily is because one of the backup methods I use clones the entire hard drive of my Mac (I use a program called Carbon Copy Cloner but there are others like it for both Mac and PC). So all I had to do was plug my Mac back into power and boot off of my cloned backup drive and run a restore from my cloned drive over to the hard drive of my Mac). This essentially put my Mac back into the exact configuration it was in when I last performed a clone of my hard drive (in this case it happened to be the night before).

So what do I recommend for computer backups? You need a minimum of two backups of all of your data and one of those backups absolutely must be an offsite backup. If all of your backups are either attached to your computer or reside in the same location then theft or fire could still destroy all of your data. So here is what I do:

  • Backup method 1 is Time Machine. I have an Apple Time Capsule router that has a hard drive built into it so every Mac in my house is continuously and wirelessly backed up with Time Machine.
  • Backup method 2 is my offsite backup. Instead of using Time Machine for this backup (which I could do) I use Carbon Copy Cloner and clone the entire computer's hard drive to a portable USB hard drive. I take that hard drive into work and leave it there. Every 2-weeks I have a reminder to take that hard drive home and perform a new clone of my computer hard drives, but I make sure that drive never stays in the house any more than overnight.

If you have a Mac, backup is incredibly simple, free, and built right into the computer's operating system. Just go out and buy an external hard drive that has at least twice the capacity of the hard drive you are trying to backup, plug it onto your Mac and turn on Time Machine. That is your on-site backup. You can get a 2nd external hard drive and so the same thing except take that drive offsite (either take it to work or store it at the house of a family member or friend). The other option for offsite backup is to pay for a cloud backup service like Backblaze or Crashplan. For just a few bucks a months and the flip of a software switch you will ensure you will never lose a piece of your data. I've used both of these services before and they are both excellent. I don't use either now because our house is located in a place we like to call "the place the internet goes to die"...we don't get fast reliable internet data so pushing a lot of data through our home internet just isn't feasible. What ever you decide to do just make sure you take the 2 method approach I describe above. Don't let the voice in the back of your head tell you that this is too expensive. The "stupid thing I just did" could have just as easily installed a piece of software that encrypted my entire hard drive and held it for ransom until I paid the developer an enormous sum of money to give me the key (yes, this type of thing really does happen). A simple virus could also just as easily wipe out your entire computer. How much is it worth to you to secure you data to make sure you don't lose everything? Can you really compare that value to the cost of a few external hard drives or a few bucks a month for a cloud backup service? I think not.

I'm Done With Online Ads

This stupid thing I did was the last straw, there will be no more website ads in my house. The Forge website is a site that gets a lot of traffic from kids, but the ads on that site are designed to prey on those kids...posing as buttons to install Forge but instead installing something entirely different (something that makes that company money at the expense of the kids and their parents). The ads on this site are targeting kids. There is a special level of hell for people that prey on kids and online predators are no exception (yes, I am classifying online advertisers a child predators). If you stalk and take advantage of a child you are a predator (granted there are various levels of severity when you classify it this way).

So I'm no longer going to tolerate online ads. I have installed ad blocking software on all of my home Macs and iOS devices. I chose to go with 1Blocker because it has both a Mac and an iOS version and the preferences and setting can be synched, but there are a lot of other options out there both free (like Ghostery) and not so free (like Roadblock for Mac and Roadblock for iOS, free to download but requires In-App-Purchase to fully unlock). Look, I understand that online ads are the way most website afford to be in existence. Heck, I write for one of those websites (GeekDad.com, and ads are part of what pays our bills) and I totally understand that not all ads are evil. We actually spend quite a bit of time behind the scenes debating just how many and what types of ads to allow on the GeekDad site because we don't want to just drown our readers with ads (after all that is not why they come to the site, they come for our content). But most websites don't spend that kind of time making sure the ads they serve don't abuse the people that visit their site. So this latest abuse by advertisers was the last straw...I'm just nuking all ads in my house going forward. If you are a website I visit often and you haven't abused me with the ads you serve up then you will be whitelisted by my ad blocking software. If you want to have nightmares I suggest you install one of these ad blocking programs on your computer and pay attention to just how many trackers and pieces of code are kicked off on each website you visit...it is absolutely terrifying.

 I pulled this report using 1Blocker. You read that right, CNN.com has 29 ads and 23 trackers just from the home page. Sleep tight...

I pulled this report using 1Blocker. You read that right, CNN.com has 29 ads and 23 trackers just from the home page. Sleep tight...

Summary

I just did something incredibly stupid, something that could have destroyed all of the data on my computer and I am relatively tech savy (I do write for two tech blogs after all). If I can do something this stupid then people that don't follow and keep up with tech like I do are even more vulnerable. That is what truly scared me when I did this. I thought I was immune, but in reality we all just one bad move away from inflicting some serious harm on our computers. Luckily I had already been protecting myself with a rock solid backup strategy and now I'm taking one additional step by eliminating online ads. You will notice that my blog here at 1Wayswim doesn't have any ads and it never will. Readers have the options to drop me a few bucks via my donate page and I've been toying with the idea of setting up a Patreon account for 1Wayswim, but rest assured I will never serve up ads on this website. I can't stand advertising..never have. I guess I view advertising as a theft of my time and attention and I like to know what something costs up front. I also put my money where my mouth is and pay for several online news sources and support small content providers via their Patreon pages and will continue to do so. Like I said, I will whitelist website that don't abuse me with the ads they serve up but that will be an exception to the rule that must be earned. After what happened a few days ago I decided to skip right over the whole "waging war on online ads" and ended the war before it even began by just nuking them from orbit to begin with. I suggest you all consider doing the same, but when you do, just make sure you either whitelist the "good guys" or find another way to toss them a few bucks on a regular basis. Otherwise, we will all be stuck with a bunch of garbage out there on the internet (and its bad enough now as it is).

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