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Other World Computing

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Whiskey Lately

Solving Apple Pre-Order Problems

Jeremy Horwitz puts down some thoughts we've often discussed on the podcasts over time. Basically with all of Apple's resources over the years Apple should be able to figure things out to sufficiently improve the pre-order experience for its customers.

I agree with #1 and #3, which is dropping the 12:01 PT pre-order launch. There's no reason to make customers jump through hoops for products like this, and if they don't get launch day delivery, dealing with problems in the middle of the night just makes the situation worse.

#3 is connected I think in how Apple dishing out available inventory. There must be a better way of doing things that reward customers willing to pony up first and do so more fairly. If you put in a pre-order before launch day, someone walking into a store shouldn't be able to get their box before you.

I don't really agree with #2 of limiting SKUs. I think Apple's supply chain can handle changeover better than people think. The real issue isn't the number of options but really just predicting what's needed for launch. Apple Watch was double hard with a big number of SKUs and no history to predict what people would want far enough in advance to matter. Still, the number of SKUs I think is really just a problem for the first few weeks of launch and after that I think Apple can make as many boxes of 50 SKUs as 5 regardless of product mix.

The last item is a long-time complaint, which is the encouraging of customers to line up overnight like cattle for free publicity. We'll see if Apple does this again for the next iPhone or whether the iPhone 6/6+ was the last.

Ive named Chief Design Officer

Stephen Fry has a nice write up on some recent developments at Apple. He spoke with Cook, Ive, and toured the new under construction Apple HQ.

A piece of news out of the article is a restructuring in the design team. Jony Ive has been moved to a new Chief Design Officer position while promoting Richard Howarth as the head of Industrial Design and Alan Dye as head of User Interface. Howarth was lead on the iPhone from the beginning and Alan with iOS 7 redesign and the Apple Watch.

Jony will travel more, he told me. Among other things, he will bring his energies to bear Ė as he has already since their inception Ė on the Apple Stores that are proliferating around the world. The companyís retail spaces have been one of their most extraordinary successes.

Gold plate your Apple Watch at home

A Kickstarter campaign has a DIY solution to making your ordinary Apple Watch a gold plated Apple Watch. The kit will run you about $100 and you can do it yourself from home. A $139 kit is listed for those looking to plate both their Apple Watch and link band.

The kits are supposed to start shipping in August.

Interesting, for those who really want to rock the bling without emptying their wallets.

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OWC announces Accelsior S PCIe mount for SSD drives

Other World Computingís Accelsior S is an expansion option for Mac Pros, Hackintoshes, or PCs to add SSD storage via a 4x PCIe expansion slot. The Accelsior S adds 6G SATA storage solution of up to 500MB/sec, which is handy for older Mac Pros with only 3G speeds.

The Accelsior S is basically a PCIe card with a mount for a standard 2.5-inch SSD drive. Technically you could accomplish the same thing with a SATA PCIe card, but the Accelsior S also offers a mounting solution that wonít take up a storage bay in your tower.

The Accelsior S is sells for $58 and you can then add on your choice is SSD drive.

Speed tests on MacBook Pro SSD speeds

MacGeneration (Via MacRumors) posted some fresh benchmarks of SSD speeds on the new MacBook Pro. The latest revision released this week bump up throughput speeds on the storage using PCIe-based storage.

According to the benchmarks, speeds are as good as advertised with up to 2.5 times faster than the flash storage in the previous generation. The new MacBook Pros show read speed of around 2 GB/sec and write of around 1.2 MB/sec.

Apple Watch OS 1.0.1 Released

Main bullets:
Improved performance for:
Measuring stand activity
Calculating calories for indoor cycling and rowing workouts
Distance and pace during outdoor walk and run workouts
Third party apps

Display support for new Emoji characters

Hopefully this fixes some issues I've seen seeing with the stand reminders. Also I've wrote about some accuracy issues with activities. And there are a lot of new emoji characters.

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Apple TV set reported abandoned

The Wall Street Journal:
Apple didnít officially kill the project to make televisions, according to people familiar with the matter. The team was disbanded with members sent off to work with different product areas, they said.

"People familiar with the matter" and cited eight times in this story, which seems kind of ridiculous. Plus an odd open letter to Tim Cook speculating on what Tim Cook is going to do.

Anyway, I'm not familiar with the matter, but an Apple TV set always seemed a stretch to me. The role of TVs are essentially displays for set-top content boxes. I don't see how Apple could add enough value to the product beyond its own set-top Apple TV to justify the cost of a display that likely wouldn't be any different than most other makers.

MacBook Pro gains Force Touch, iMac 5K gets new pricing

Apple Tuesday rolled out an update to the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The headline feature is the addition of the Force Touch trackpad. The Force Touch trackpad was introduced in the new 12-inch MacBook and accepts commands when pressed vs simple mouse clicks.

Along with new new trackpad, the MacBook Pro gets faster PCI flash storage, longer battery life, and improved discrete graphics.

In addition to revamping the MacBook Pro, Apple also gave the iMac Retina 5K some attention. A new $1999 configuration is available, plus Apple dropped the price of the previous base model by $200 to $2299.

Video: How to sign/encrypt email using OS X Mail and a secure certificate authority CA

A video walking through how to set up secure certifications using a Certificate Authority (CA). This allows you to sign email for authentication and also encrypt email to someone using their public key.

This example is using Mac OS X Mail app, but the setup is similar for other applications. Also for this example I'm using the free Comodo service for the CA, but a number of other options are available.

Once configured, the exported certificate can then be installed on other computers/devices.

LifeProof ships water-proof battery backup case

LifeProof's FRE Power iPhone 6 case is now available. The case features a 2600 mAh battery and is waterproof to up to 2 meter for one hour. The battery has a smart charger to bring your iPhone to full capacity and then stop delivering power. LifeProof says it the battery is good for 2x battery life.

In addition to water, the FRE Power will protect the iPhone from dirt and drops. I first saw the FRE Power at CES earlier this year.

The FRE Power is available for $129.99. It's available in Black/Gray, White/Gray and Blue/Blue.

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Recent Articles

Apple Watch lacks anti-theft security

Jeff Benjamin:
Unlike the iPhone, if someone steals your Apple Watch, they can easily reset the device (bypass the passcode), and pair it with a new iPhone logged in to a different iCloud account. In other words, itís totally feasible to steal an Apple Watch and set it up on a different device as if you just purchased it from an Apple Store.

Not sure how big of a deal watch theft will be. Something physically attached to someone is likely more of a challenge that grabbing a phone, especially if it's unattended. On the flip side, some of these Apple Watch bands seem easier to remove than put on, which could make it I guess easier to steal, if someone was that determined.

One issue is the watch has to be tethered to a phone for most remote verification. So a message PIN or Find my iPhone like feature might be a problem for those who have an issue also with their iPhone. Perhaps a firmware recovery key or something people would stash away.

iGrill thermometer comes to the Apple Watch

iDevices announced that an update for their Bluetooth probe thermometers adds an Apple Watch app. Basically you can remotely monitor your dinner from your wrist.

I like probe thermometers for smoking BBQ and large roasts in the oven. iGrill is pretty nifty since it's a wireless probe thermometer that links in with the iOS app. Not only does it give basic temperature readout, but there's also features to make cooking easier.

The Apple Watch app allows you to monitor the current temperature of your meal, you can set alarm presets, and you can receive notifications when your meal has reached temperature.

Apple Pay chipping away at Walmart backed CurrentC

Jacob Davidson for TIME:
Unfortunately for Walmart, it wasnít the only one trying to revolutionize how consumers pay for goods. When Apple blew the doors off the mobile payment world last October with the release of Apple Pay, MCXís payment app, known as CurrentC, was still deep in the testing phase. Worst of all for Walmart and friends, Apple was partnering with the very credit-card payment networks they had hoped to destroy.

Biggest issue with CurrentC is the goal is to reduce transaction fees for merchants. This is compared to Apple Pay's more user-focused features of security and ease of use. Since mobile payments are going to require a significant shift in consumer behavior, usability and flexibility will likely be a major driver. CurrentC seems more cumberson with QR codes, plus, since the goal is to circumvent the credit card companies, CurrentC seems geared to ACH transfers rather than credit card charges.

Safari on the Apple Watch

Over the weekend Nicholas Allegra (aka Comex) posted a short clip of Safari hacked to display on the Apple Watch. Not really practical, but cool proof of concept. It could be interesting for websites designed specifically for the Apple Watch, if that ever happened.

Vulnerability found with MacKeeper

Security researcher Braden Thomas has discovered a serious flaw in the way MacKeeper handles custom URLs that allows arbitrary commands to be run as root with little to no user interaction required.

My impression of MacKeeper is that it's basically garbage, but now there's a valid reason to not use it.

Mac App Store sales

A blog post from developer Sam Soffes has been making the rounds after he disclosed how little money his app made when it rose the sales chart. The $5 app was #8 paid app in the USA, but only generated $302 in net revenue. It should be noted that the app has actually risen to #3, likely due to some free publicity on Soffes' blog post.

That number is surprisingly low, but that doesn't really shock me that much. I really like the App Store for making it easier to update and reinstall for apps. When I want to install something on a different computer, I just have to log into the app store and click on purchases. Plus, you've got the whole family purchases thing that can be really handy.

But really, I just don't buy a lot of new Mac software anymore. And when I do, it seems like it's still buying directly from developers. And if there is an option for either an App Store or developer purchase, I'm always going to go directly in case there's a future discounted upgrade available. Currently there's no way to do discounted upgrades in the App Store.

I think mobile app stores are just unique thing where people are willing to drop a few bucks to try out a new app. And there are a ton of apps that fit that criteria with many added daily. That doesn't really translate to desktop software. Redacted sells for $5, which is still in the impulse range, I think, that we see on iOS, but most Mac apps in the top list cost much more. Knowing that desktop software costs more, i think people simply don't spend time browsing to discover new apps, even if they are near iOS app store prices. Plus, there are 10's of millions of more people buying new iPhones every quarter, which certainly is a factor.

Reserve Strap and the secret Apple Watch plug

We've developed and tested a completely rethought design that takes advantage of the 6 pin port underneath the band slide of the Apple Watch. This port hadn't been deciphered by anyone until now but we've been able to make significant enough observations so far to warrant shifting our development focus to this new method. We're looking forward to sharing more design details and technical specification of this new Reserve Strap as soon as we can.

I think the idea of a battery backup watch band is interesting, but people should probably take a wait and see approach. The Apple Watch battery life for me is better than I'd hope. Not only could money for something like the Reserve Strap go elsewhere while not encumber your wrist for additional gear, but I'm not sure how I feel about someone having access to that data port.

Apple Watch Review Diary: UX, odds and ends

This is my tenth post about my week or so using the Apple Watch. This one here will wrap up some random topics that I think are worth noting.

The Apple Watch screen is blank until either a control is touched or the wrist is raised. This is a setting within the watch and Iíd assume how most people will use it. It works pretty well, but thereís some room for improvement, I think. I assume Apple has the setting pretty tight to maximize battery life, and I think things could be loosened up. For example, sometimes it doesnít turn on with a conventional wrist look. Sometimes I need to use an exaggerated motion to get it to activate. Also, the watch goes dark sometimes quickly. Itís fine for quick glances, but if youíre looking at something, itís kind of annoying. Another thing which may or may not be battery-related is thereís a hesitant delay before the screen pops on. It would be nice if the watch was more responsive to natural movements and stay on longer. Basically be more responsive even if the battery suffered a bit. Ideally Iíd like some controls to modify the tolerances to fit my best user experience. Iím not having issues with the battery life, so keeping these controls so tight is actually a negative experience. With that said, itís far from a problem.

The Taptic taps are kind of soft. Not sure if itís exactly as Iíd like or they need to be stronger. If Iím occupied I wonít notice texts or notifications. Which I think is good, but at the same time Iím running with the assumption that my watch will keep my from missing something. Once a notification is ignored, the only indication is the red notification indicate at the top of the screen.

In sunlight the screen seems file. Like an iPhone, in direct bright sunlight it can be a bit challenging, but fine. Otherwise the screen works well in the outdoors from my usage.

One feature Iím unexpectedly really liking is the Remote app and the Apple TV. This is pretty slick. Using my iPhone as a remote seems cumbersome while the watch is nifty.

Handoff works really well. In retrospect, I feel like the Apple Watch is the real reason for implanting Handoff in OS X and iOS. A way to move between devices is critical for the Apple Watch and more of a relative novelty for iOS. Switching to the iPhone for a phone call is perfectly seamless and switching over to full apps on the iPhone works just as well.

Some apps seem to load quickly and be responsive, while others not so much. Weather to me far seems the worst offender and Iíve seen buggy experiences with other apps. Iíd guess the trick is to launch the app quickly with minimal data transfer needed and then load in the data later or as needed for the best experience. Iíd expect things will get better without new hardware. Mostly though, the apps seems to run fine even if I may be a little forgiving in performance.

Lastly the watch faces are cool, but limited. The kids love the Mickey face. Hopefully weíll get more faces, but even more, Iíd like it if developers could plug app data into the customizable fields. That would be real slick.

Apple Watch Review Diary - Battery: First Full Week

Below is my remaining battery at the end of the day for during the first full week of using the Apple Watch. The battery was a major topic of discussion leading up to the product launch. Apple said the watch should last about 18 hours with typical use with the intent that it would be recharged nightly. During this week I wore the watch for about 16 hours each day.

Sat: 38%
Sun: 51%
Mon: 25%
Tue: 47%
Wed: 55%
Thur: 47%
Fri: 49%

In my first week the Apple Watch battery performed well. I had mixed use of playing and testing and it still held up well. Monday was the busiest day of both general notifications and extra activity and still came in at 25%. Of course, your mileage will vary depend on how you use your watch. For me, I received a lot of notification, did a bunch of texting, some phone calls, and an occasional Siri question and dictation. I also used the fitness features to track activities daily.

If I have a battery concern, it might actually be on my iPhone. It seems like the Apple Watch does draw some extra battery, and if youíre running close to empty already, an Apple Watch might tip you over the edge. You may need to make some adjustments in iPhone usage to last a whole day without a charge. The difference isnít huge, but Iíd estimate maybe 10-20% for me.

So, no issues or concerns with the battery for me. Likely as apps get more interesting Iíll probably increase usage and Iím sure that will affect battery endurance. So far though itís fine with plenty to spare. Either way, just in case, I bought an extra charger for a mid-day boost if needed.

Podcast: Thoughts on the Apple Watch

Join us as we talk about our week with the Apple Watch

Apple Watch Review Diary - Notifications

Notifications Iíd guess will be the most used feature of the Apple Watch just by the number of times it will tap/chime on your wrist. The system actually seems pretty convoluted, but the goal is to make it seamlessly work with all your devices so to be transparent. Likely, youíll be rethinking how your iOS notifications are configured. This is what I think Iíve figured out so far.

Core features of the Apple Watch mostly have options to either mirror iPhone notification settings or have independent settings. These are for things like Calendar, Mail, Maps, Messages, etc. All the rest of your apps you either enable or disable by mirroring the iPhone notifications settings. On the iPhone, youíll need to turn on sound alerts for each app if you want your watch to tap/chime. If you donít set this, it will just appear as an item in the notification view for you to review.

The idea appears that the Apple Watch, iOS, and OS X will work together to not disturb you in more than one place. Here what Iíve observed.

While wearing the Apple Watch:

- If your phone is active (not locked/sleep), notifications will appear on the iPhone. No notification will appear on the Watch.

- If your phone is locked, they will appear on the watch and not do a sound alert on the iPhone.

- When you wake the phone, youíll see notifications on the screen like normal and also in the notification view.

- If you have Messages window open and active on the Mac, no text messages notification will be sent to the watch. Or phone, as has been the case.

While not wearing the Apple Watch:

- Sound alerts will happen on the phone
- No notifications will appear on the watch or in the notifications view.

I found it a little confusing because I was left wondering why I wasnít getting notifications on my watch while tinkering on my phone. Once I figured out whatís going on, it all made more sense. Also, like mentioned, I completely redid my notifications because generally I donít like my phone making sound alerts. I had to enable alerts to get my watch to tap at me. Iím not a big fan of the chime alerts on the watch, but you can turn down the watch volume or mute it and it will still tap you.

Lastly, I just wanted to plug IFTTT again. IFTTT can be configured to do all sorts of things and Iím finding it really handy with the Apple Watch. You can have recipes to generate notifications or you can receive a notification when most recipe types run so you can keep on top of whatís going on.

Notifications to me was one of the least interesting features of the Apple Watch because I felt I basically always had them with my Pebble Watch. The implementation though brings a lot to the table in not having excessive alerts everywhere plus some fine tuning I can do with my various alerts. Iím guessing Iíll probably back off the notifications in time to be more silent (no taps) because I usually donít like intrusive interruptions, but for now Iím liking it.

Apple's supply chain and the defective taptic engine part

tl;dr version of the story:

One of two suppliers for the Apple Watch's taptic engine had quality issue late in the product development cycle. Apple switched to exclusively use one supplier. The result is constrained parts, which likely is affecting Apple Watch availability.

OK, whatever. Good for Apple on catching this before shipping a bunch of bad watches.

This was some curiously bad business analysis from the Wall Street Journal, however:

The shortages highlight the potential downside of Appleís lean supply chain. Apple can produce massive quantities of products with little waste and excess supply, but it can experience shortages when a problem arises with a key part.

Basically here Apple's lean supply chain likely saved Apple a headache and its supplier a bunch of money. Like we saw with GT Advance Technologies and its sapphire plant, when a ton of parts inventory ships and are found unsatisfactory, the damage can be severe for the supplier. GT Advance Technology went out of business. Apple not only lost a key supplier that may effect future products, but took a financial hit on its capital investments with that supplier.

Had Apple spent months stocking its supply chain with defective parts, as the Wall Street Journal suggests, that could have torpedoed another Apple supplier. Plus take on the costs associated with inventorying all those components. And of course even worse if Apple continued with this thinking and started building inventories of product that contained defective parts. Or, just needlessly delay all product launches to stockpile parts for no reason taking on inventory problem and potentially excess supply waste.

It's in Apple's best interests to ensure the success of its suppliers. The alternatives are no reliable suppliers or it will have to take on enormous task of making its own quality parts for everything.

So, this seems an example of Apple's lean supply chain working, not the other way around.

Apple Watch Review Diary - Fitness Features/Tracker

The fitness tracking feature of the Apple Watch was one of my big interests. Iíve been wearing a Fitbit One for over two years and itís been working well for me. I know itís pretty accurate because Iím a big nerd and have spreadsheets. Iíve tested it (and other trackers) walking on a track and Iíve got calorie diaries showing itís pretty accurate way to measure calorie output.

So, Iím using my Fitbit One as my benchmark for the Apple Watch. The first couple full days step/distance tracking was pretty off. 27% and 33% under my Fitbit. Then I tried doing a 40 minute calibration walk with an outdoor walking session. The idea is if you walk with your Apple Watch outside while holding your iPhone, the iPhone will calibrate the watch based on GPS data. This is why you want to do a 20 minute outdoor session, per Apple.

That outdoor session was right on money vs Fitbit. Literally two steps off. The rest of the day was close at 4% difference. The day after I did another 40 minute walking session and the entire day was 3% off. So I thought I had figured this out and Iíd have a good new tracker. But then the next day it was 21% below my Fitbit. And this day I even did a 25 minute outdoor session, which should have helped calibrate further. So, I donít know. I guess Iíll just keep tracking and see how it goes. My Fitbit One I keep in my pants pocket, which I always found to be more accurate than wrist trackers. So, that could simply be a sensor location issue. What can be as important as accuracy is consistency, so if the Apple Watch difference can calibrate to be consistent, that should work. Still 20-30% under is a big difference.

Beyond the inconsistency issues, the tracker is pretty straight forward. You can set how many active calories you want to burn in a day. I set mine to 500 and by default the watch has me doing 30 minutes of active time and standing up every 50 minutes or so. Thereís no way to change active minutes or activity reminder goal. All this is tracked on the watch and in the iOS app. I can see my goals and my progress towards my goals right on the watch with occasional encouragements.

One note on the stand up reminders. This is one new feature for me since my Fitbit One doesnít do activity reminders. Iíve used it before while testing other devices and I like the feature. While it can sometimes be a nusance to stop what youíre doing, I usually find stepping away at least once in an hour keeps me fresh. Iíve been a minor fan of pomodoro timers to break every 25 minutes. So, Iíd like be able to adjust this time, if I wanted. Either way, I like having this feature now.

One thing missing is the watch doesnít track stairs. Thereís a stair stepper exercise loaded and Appleís site uses taking the stairs as an example of tracking, but it must simply track stairs as steps. If you have your iPhone with you, it will track stairs through its sensors, but that requires carrying the iPhone unlike with other activities.

Lastly itís worth noting that when doing exercise session, the watch remembers your last and best session info. So you can work to improve or at least be consistent.

All this data gets dumped into the Health app on the iPhone, which does a nice job of displaying things in charts and graphs.

Apple Watch Review Diary - Productivity Apps: OmniFocus, Trello, Evernote IFTTT

One key area that interests me with the Apple Watch is using productivity apps. Actually these are some of my favorite apps in general, just because theyíre apps that help me do every day stuff. There are many workflows, but three apps I currently regularly use are OmniFocus, Trello, and Evernote. All three of these have Apple Watch apps, so I wanted to take some time to figure these out.

Evernote is a great brain in the cloud for storing and organizing information. Itís basically my paperless file cabinet, note taking app, and general information locker. With Apple Watch, it has a great streamlined experience. Basically there are two big buttons to input a new note and search. These two features will be the main reasons Iíd fire up the watch app. Below that, you can scroll through recently viewed and recently edited notes. Mainly Iíll want to input info since Iíd prefer to just look at the phone for reading or editing anything. For this, thereís a big ď+Ē symbol to get you inputting a note quickly. When you click that plus button, you jump right into Siri dictation for that note. It works really well and pretty slick when you want to just ďjotĒ down an idea or info.

Iíve been using Trello recently as a task manager. Iíve got it setup as a hybrid Kanban and GTD system and itís working pretty well for me. I recently got my wife on board and we moved our menu planning from Evernote to Trello. The Apple Watch app initially is a bit buggy, which shouldnít be surprising for this first round of apps, but it works. Again, we have some nice big icon buttons that are easy to manage. The watch app isnít great for dealing with cards and columns, but itís great for adding new cards. Similar to Evernote, pressing the ď+Ē button and youíre adding a new card via Siri dictation. From there, you select where youíd like the card, which is a little awkward, but more on a better idea with that in a minute. Overall, itís a pretty slick way to get random to-do items filed away on the go so you donít forget or worry about forgetting.

The third app here is the powerful OmniFocus. The Apple Watch app for OmniFocus is a part of the Universal iOS package, which can be purchased on its own or if you already bought the iPhone version you can add it on as a complete my bundle. OmniFocus offers a quick glance at tasks that are due, overdue, or coming up. New notes can be added by doing a force touch anywhere within the app and selecting the ď+," which is different and pretty nice idea from the others.

Lastly I think itís worth mentioning IFTTT is really handy on with the Apple Watch. Since Iím using Trello as my main task manager right now, Iíve linked iOS Reminders to Gmail to send a special email to Trello. Iíve got Trello setup to add incoming email cards into my main inbox column. So, I can simply initiate Siri on the Apple Watch and tell it to remind me to do X. That goes into iOS Reminders, which IFTTT sees and triggers that email via Gmail. Kind of crazy bunch of dominos, but really handy for quickly inputing tasks just using Siri. Of course you could just use the iOS Reminders app, but thatís not my preferred workflow.

Tattoos and Apple Watches may not mix

The Apple watch requires contact with the wrist to fully function. Not only for the heart rate sensor, but also for core functions like notifications and the PIN to work.

When the watch is attached to your wrist, you can enter your PIN and it will remain unlocked until it is removed. A PIN is required to use Apple Pay, but also simply to secure the device. For notification, if the Apple Watch isn't worn notifications will appear on your iPhone, basically negating a major feature.

So, it's critical that the watch makes good contact with your skin, whether it be a snug fit, but apparently also nothing obscuring the sensors like tattoo ink as documented in a Reddit thread.

A friend was having issues with their Apple Watch and was wondering if the sensors might be faulty. The watch worked fine if it was positioned higher up on the arm, which sort of made it seem like the band just wasn't tight enough. Turns out the problem is a tattoo. Right where the watch would typically be worn there's a dark tattoo. The watch works fine on the other arm, which seems to corroborate the Reddit post.

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