The Learning Curve: Apple iPhone

I like to challenge myself when I can, and go a different direction with software or hardware than I’m used to. So this week, I broke from my decade-long Android trance and picked up an iPhone 7 Plus instead. Even Tina decided to make the switch. So we’re purely an iPhone family now.

As a former Android app developer, I felt just a bit more comfortable with an Android in my pocket, since I always had the option to code up anything that I need. However, it’s been years since I needed to write any code for Android, so I was inclined to try something new. It’s never good for an engineer to get complacent with their environment, so the switch sets the stage for another era of personal innovation for me.

So far, there have been a few trying moments while learning the differences, but it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I expected.

Pain Points

The biggest aggravation so far has been integrating the phones with Home Assistant‘s presence detection. I’ve been using the Nmap presence detection that’s built into HA, so I didn’t have install a third-party app on my phone. However, the iPhone’s visibility to HA is intermittent, at best. Of course, it’s possible that the iPhone is dropping from the WIFI network also. But that seems unlikely, given that I have multiple access points and a strong WIFI signal throughout my home. It’s a bit irritating for all the lights to go out while you’re cooking dinner, when both phones drop off of HA. I’ve had to temporarily disable some of HA’s automations until I can figure this out.

The fingerprint authentication method is a nice attempt at biometric security, but I have two issues. First, it doesn’t work many times for me. I inputted both of my thumbprints, and it fails to recognize either at times. Other times it works great, and it’s super convenient. My second issue – is it actually secure? I’ve been afraid to Google the answer, but one of these days I will.

Big Plusses

Wow, the camera. The multi-rear-facing-camera setup on the 7 Plus is impressive. The “live photos” are really rad also. But is it really the camera hardware that’s better, or is it the integration of software that works some post-processing magic on the images? I’m not convinced that software isn’t the culprit behind the remarkable images.

My previous Android, the Droid Turbo, was also an impressive machine. It never really glitched on me, the GPS worked perfect every time (contrary to my experiences with prior Samsung phones), and it was quite fast after fully booted. The iPhone, however, seems just a tad bit tighter in all those respects – just slightly, but I would definitely give it the edge.

I was initially concerned that there would be some software gaps, but every app I need has been ready and waiting for me on the app store. In fact, it seems like there is actually better app support on the iPhone, which surprised me.

AirPlay and AirDrop have proven much nicer, since I have all Apple hardware everywhere else. It casts nicely to my AppleTV and syncs quickly with my MacBook.

The Verdict

I can’t make assumptions about anyone else’s comfort levels or loyalties, and it’s too soon to tell what my long term opinion will be. However, at first glance, I say try it out if you’re thinking about switching. If you hate it, you’ll always have the opportunity to switch back in two years. And for the interim, it’s a totally usable phone.

My take on Chicken Tikka Masala

I recently visited Nepal, where they feature a lot of Indian foods. I fell in love with authentic Masala Chicken. When I got home, I just had to concoct my own recipe. This is pretty darn close to the real thing, both in terms of flavor and authenticity.

First, make some garam masala spice. Combine the following spices:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • .5 teaspoon ground cloves
  • .5 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • .5 teaspoon yellow curry powder

Mix well, then toss in a dry skillet and roast them over medium-high heat for about 60 seconds. Keep the pan moving so the spices don’t burn. You’ll want the mixture to get fragrant, start to darken, and just barely start to smoke. Once it’s there, remove from the heat and grind up the spices with a mortar and pestle.

Next, marinate 6 chicken thighs in plain greek yogurt with a dash of peanut oil, lime juice, and a couple cloves of minced garlic. Use a fork to poke holes in the chicken and let this sit in the fridge for a couple hours.

Now, make your spice mixture:

  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoons of the garam masala from above (save the rest for next time)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Whisk these together in a small bowl and set aside.

When your chicken is marinated and you’re ready to start cooking, start making your sauce. Caramelize one small onion in some butter in a medium sauce pan. Throw in a bit of grated ginger, minced garlic, and one (or more) minced red chili pepper. Leave the seeds in for some added heat 🙂 Add six small ripe Roma tomatoes to a food processor and make a smooth sauce. Add the spices and tomatoes to your sauce pan, then add a couple tablespoons of plain yogurt, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Go ahead and throw the thighs on a hot, oiled skillet or grill grate and brown them for 2-3 minutes each side. When they’re nice and browned but not cooked fully through, pull them off the skillet or grill and chop them into 3/4-inch strips. Toss them into the masala sauce and simmer for 10-15 more minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thickened.

You’re done! Enjoy with some warm naan or over Basmati rice.