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The attractive, but not perfect, Vector Luna Smart Watch.
The attractive, but not perfect, Vector Luna Smart Watch.

A month with a smart watch that isn't an Apple Watch

As a daily watch wearer who appreciates a good-looking, high-quality watch, I really want to like the Apple Watch. But I just can’t get over its rectangular face and short battery life. I think long and hard about design when I buy an analog watch, and Apple’s isn’t attractive enough for me to make the investment.

That said, I’ve been intrigued about smart watches since they were just a design concept, and I’ve wondered if my nerdy tech life was missing out by not having one.

I answered that question when Vector sent me their $299 Luna Smart Watch to review. It’s considered by many to be the most attractive model on the market.

And now, my feelings are mixed.

The Luna really does look a real watch at first glance, although it puts me off by its thickness. From a distance, its screen looks pretty good, but wearing it, I never got past its very low resolution and lack of brightness. That’s a trade off for its month-long battery life, but I can’t help but feel like I’m wearing a piece of technology more like a Palm Pilot than an iPhone.

Without a touch screen, the Luna instead uses three buttons on the crown to go forward, back or select. Almost all the functionality is controlled by the companion app, and until I started turning off notifications, it was buzzing at me nonstop. That, of course, was my fault … problem is now I forget that the watch is even doing anything other than telling time.

While it is a smartwatch, you can’t actually do a whole lot with the Luna. You can read texts but not reply. You can see tweets but not post. It’s like having notifications on your wrist but you can’t interact with them, and that becomes frustrating, since eventually, I started to wonder what’s the benefit of not having to use your phone if to reply to anything, you still need to use your phone?

The other functions are of limited use to me. As a music remote control, it’s just a clunkier way of playing songs. The calendar only partially jives…

What the hell did I just watch?
What the hell did I just watch?

Die Antwoord live mirrors viral insanity

Halfway through the bass-thumping, sweaty hot mess that was the Die Antwoord show at The Rave in the Eagles Club ballroom Wednesday night, I shouted, my words barely audible over the screaming Afrikaans rap, "How the hell am I going to write this review?"

Indeed, if you’re not familiar with the the South African, EDM, post-punk rave Zef murder rap duo, none of this will make much sense. I mean, I’m familiar with Die Antwoord, and it didn’t make much sense to me, either.

Let me set the scene: The jam-packed room was full of teens and millennials alternating between costumes of Furries and Mad Max fan fiction enthusiasts. I wasn’t the oldest guy in the room. Some hippies and a guy in Packers Zubaz, for some reason, held that distinction. 

The band, the duo of rappers/ex-partners Ninja and Yolandi Visser plus DJ Hi-Tek, made enough noise for more than three, although body suit dancers performing spastic tribal moves popped in and out to bring an amped-up taste of their native country's culture to the 80-minute set. 

Again, if you don’t know what Zef is, take a moment to watch one of their insanely NSFW YouTube videos that brought the Die to fame. In fact, that’s how most people even know about this Cape Town group. I asked a group next to me on the packed floor how they'd become familiar with Die Antwoord: "Internet," they replied in unison. Consider that "Baby’s On Fire" has three million views on YouTube alone.

I can’t exactly review all the songs they played, although the audience was getting restless after a looooong 25-minute video intro. Yes, they played "Baby’s on Fire," "I Fink U Freeky," "Fatty Boom Boom" and "Daddy." Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess what went down. Maybe ask that flailing giant in front of me on Ecstasy or Molly or something that this old man has never heard of.

How do you describe the glowering, the stage dives, the DIY scary hooded costume changes into hot pants and crop tops, the occasional male nudi…

Faster data in 461 cities? Yes, please.
Faster data in 461 cities? Yes, please.

Your Verizon phone just got a lot faster

I’m not entirely proud to admit it, but I’m addicted to my Verizon service on my iPhone and iPad. Not just because I worked for the company, permitting cell towers, in the late ‘90s when it was PrimeCo, but because it’s the fastest, most consistent network out there. I know because I’ve used others.

How addicted am I to fast data? Well, I blew through about 10 GB of it on my recent family road trip to Colorado. LTE was a life-saver with Netflix in the car. I posted photos from atop a mountain. It didn't work everywhere in Rocky Mountain National Park, but in plenty of places, it did. It was certainly more reliable than the hotel Wi-Fi in any of our stops. And it was fast.

Today, fast data speeds got faster.

Verizon just rolled out its LTE Advanced technology to bring 50% faster peak wireless data speeds to more than 288 million people in 461 cities, including Milwaukee.

In a nutshell, the company describes it like a turbocharger on an engine. Your speeds won’t be faster until you do something data-intensive, like downloading a movie. And it just works automatically on 39 LTE Advanced-capable phones and tablets already on its network. Those include Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7 smartphones, Moto Droids and iPhones. As new devices from Apple, Samsung, LG and other manufacturers are introduced, they will be LTE Advanced-capable right out of the box.

How fast are the speeds they're claiming?

Typical LTE download speeds are 5-12 Mbps, but two-channel carrier aggregation has shown peak download speeds of up to 225 Mbps, they say. While the speeds of two channel carrier aggregation provide a leap forward, three-channel carrier aggregation provides even greater efficiency. Verizon engineers deploying three-channel carrier aggregation have experienced speeds greater than 300 Mbps.

That’s pretty fast. Much faster than the internet connection at home (mine peaks at 25 Mpbs with U-Verse). And it doesn’t cost more to use it.

This reluctantly heavy data user is…

Former OnMilwaukeean Drew Olson is now working at WOKY.
Former OnMilwaukeean Drew Olson is now working at WOKY.

Drew Olson jumps to Big 920

My friend Drew Olson has a new work address.

The veteran Milwaukee sports journalist / broadcaster – and former senior editor – ended an 11-year run as a talk-show host at ESPN Milwaukee (540 AM) last week and will begin a new chapter with The Big 920 (WOKY) on Monday.

"I’m continuing my career-long quest to drive down the ratings and readership at every outlet in the state," Olson joked. "To quote ‘The Newsroom’ anchor Will McAvoy, ‘Progress is slow, but I’m in it for the long haul.’"

Olson, who spent much of his career covering the Brewers beat for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and did freelance work for Fox Sports Wisconsin, remains a contributor on "Big 12 Sports Saturday" on WISN-TV and as baseball analyst for "Bob and Brian in the Morning" on 102.9 The Hog.

"It might seem like I’ve worked at a lot of places, but by media standards my career has been remarkably stable," said Olson, who will work as a fill-in host at The Big 920 while management decides on a suitable time slot. "It’s already been a fun ride and I’m looking forward to what’s next."

Olson said his split from ESPN Milwaukee, which he characterized as "one of the most amicable partings in radio history," was prompted in large part by the station’s decision to reduce his two-hour midday show to a single hour in order to make room for "Wilde & Tausch," a program featuring Jason Wilde and former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.

"The easy joke is that Tauscher came in and ate an hour of our show," Olson said of the hulking former tackle. "But, I totally understood the decision. Jason is one of my best friends and those guys are going to be great together."

Olson said his friendship with Colleen Valkoun, who is market president for iHeart Media’s Milwaukee cluster, made his decision to leave "a virtual no-brainer."

"I met Colleen years ago when she did sales for Bob & Brian, and I always loved her energy and ideas," said of Valkoun…