Friday, December 1, 2017

Less happy with Apple over time

I have been writing less posts for the last year.  I am less happy with my Apple products.  And as I listened to ATP this morning (Accidental Tech Podcast) - episode 250, I heard Marco, Casey, and John variously complain about reliability and other issues.  I have similar feelings.  Marco also had an internet-famous commentary on the state of the Macbook Pro on his blog at

What is bugging me now?
1) My old apple TV and trying to use it with an old iTunes server.  It cannot do 2-factor iCloud without shenanigans I have not gone through - actually getting a code and typing it in after my iCloud password.  Somehow, only my wife gets the code, and only a bit later, making it very hard to connect the dots.

2) A Macbook Air in my house is failing and rebooting most nights.  6 months ago it just failed from what appeared to be a block storage issue with the SSD.  After  rebuilt (and restore from time machine) it seemed "back to normal" at the time.  I had to force Apple support to let me bring it to the store - the old method to schedule with an app was removed from the support app!  They strongly discouraged me from bringing it in.  And the tests they ran found no problems... But, something was wrong, and something is wrong now (now that I'm out of support/apple care).  It is all my problem; Apple could not, or did not, help.

3) I have a Macbook Pro 15" 2017.  I also had a 2016 model.  The large touchpad causes numerous stray touches causing a myriad of weird unpredictable behaviors.  I cannot wear clothes with sleeves or this escalates to a continuous problem.  Apple's stray touch avoidance does not work for me.  I have had to re-select where I am in this short blog post many times.  And I've had to cut/paste text, and figure out where my cursor moved to, or remove some weird pop-up...  This is infuriating.  If you spot egregious typos in this blog post including words in the wrong place, then this is the cause.  I tried to correct every time, and re-read, but... this is hard. 

I have made corrections about 30 times during the writing of this blog post, as I have sleeves today.  This is unusable.  

4) TouchID on the Macbook Pro is extremely unreliable.  Between that and the fact that the computer is often unresponsive at wake, it takes minutes away from my work many times per day;   I am often mobile.  When it works, TouchID on the Mac is a wonderful feature.  It clearly does not "just work".

5) I just bought Air Pods.  Again, when they work, they are amazing!  However, they are not so smart about pairing.  I must open the airpod storage container next to my iPhone to get them to re-pair after charging; they do not just re-connect automatically.  My wife (uses my Apple ID so we can share photos) has her iPhone wanting to pair with the AirPods at times - she has never used them.  There is something amiss here.

6) Going back to photos - this is an old story that is still there.  I have no real way to share photos automatically with my family in a way that I would want to with Apple products.  My family uses Photo Stream.  I use iCloud photos.  I cannot access Photo Stream.  Why, oh why, Apple, did you switch to this state and stay that way?  I would pay money for a service from Apple that would let me have every family member use a different Apple ID and share every photo taken, but not have every family member with the ability to delete photos from the iCloud photo library.  I trust my family members but we do not all want the ability to accidentally permanently delete trip photos.

7) Thunderbolt 3/usb-c.  I'm not bitter about the dongles.  But, my LG 5K display USB-C hub capabilities sometimes work, sometimes do not.  Rebooting my MacBook Pro temporarily fixes it when it is a problem, making me think it is Apple's problem (even if at some level it is really Intel's issue as well).  I have heard from podcasters that dongles do not produce utterly reliable USB connections either.  This just makes the pro not a pro.

8) I have wanted a new Mac Mini for about... 2 years.  I'm not buying the 3-year old design.  I hear Apple is coming out with a new version... some day.

I'm sure that there is more, but this is my stream-of-conciousness unhappiness today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Quick Note: Use caution if you are upgrading your Apple TV to tvOS 11 and use an iTunes server

I just upgraded my Apple TV 4th generation to tvOS 11.  The primary use for my Apple TV is to watch content on an admittedly old iTunes server.

I have TV playlists in my iTunes server.  After the upgrade, my iTunes server TV show playlists:

  • Are out of order - no longer in order by season or even by episode.
  • No longer show status - what episodes I have watched.  
These are critical features for using my Apple TV and having it be useful.  It is no longer so useful.

I have tried some iTunes reconfigurations of playlists, so far, to no avail...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What all has my iPhone replaced, given me another way to do, or enabled me not to buy

Others have written numerous articles about all of the devices the iPhone (or smart phones) have replaced or are being used in a role in addition to traditional devices:

My list:
  • Cell Phone
    • texting was never good like this on old cell phones...
    • with technologies like Slack, Jabber, messages, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google's multiple chat apps, I can text message in more ways with more people than ever.
  • Pager
  • CD player - Music Player -- using local storage
  • DVD player - Video Player -- using local storage
  • Radio
    • Streaming music, Podcasts, Internet Radio, and more
  • TV
    • I can watch Comcast in my house from my iPhone...
    • Netflix
    • YouTube
  • Web browsing device (on the go)
  • Video game machine
  • Electronic Book Reader (aka Kindle)
    • Books / a library
    • Encyclopedia, Thesaurus, Dictionary, Foreign language dictionaries, and more...
    • Newspapers and magazines
    • Comics
  • Training/educational tool
    • many educational videos and books
    • Khan Academy
  • Voice recorder / Tape Recorder
  • Devices (may not have been electronic):
    • Mirror
    • Alarm Clock
    • Watch
    • Calculator
    • Maps
      • This feature keeps expanding.  Now in more and more locations it may even work in indoor locations such as malls.
    • Compass
    • Level
    • Flashlight
    • Notepad/Sketchpad
    • Calendar
    • Address Book/Rolodex
    • Photo Album
    • Magnifying Glass
    • Camera
    • Video Camera
    • Camcorder
    • Pedometer / step tracker
    • Diary / Journal
    • Tape recorder / Dictation device
    • Grocery lists / other lists
    • Astronomy guide
  • Scanner (scan papers)
  • GPS
  • Keys
    • Can directly unlock connected home locks
    • 2nd factor security device (DUO, Google Authenticator, and more)
  • Video conferencing system (mobile)
  • Computer (albeit a tiny one)
    • MS Office, iWork apps
    • Video editing system
    • Photo editing system
  • Sensor/trackers:
    • Decibel meter (see just how loud that noise is!)
    • seismometer (detect earth movement)
    • spedometer
  • Health tracker for many kinds of health data.   
    • connects via bluetooth to a blood pressure machine to track my blood pressure
    • journal for my weight
    • step journal
  • Remote Control
    • both my TV and my Apple TV, but I can also stream content from my phone to my AppleTV, oh and even a remote for my cable box.
    • For my thermostat - and soon more via homekit...
  • White noise generator
  • My wallet (much of the time, via Apple Pay)
    • Parking meter change near where I work...
  • ATM - partially - I can remotely deposit checks and move and track money
  • Stores - I can buy just about anything and get it delivered anywhere!
  • Biofeedback device

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Things about Apple greatly annoying me at this time

I use and greatly enjoy using Apple products in so many ways.  I use Apple devices:  iPhones, iPads, Macbook Pros, Apple TVs, I have a laptop acting as an iTunes server, and even Apple networking products.  I use iTunes match, I have bought movies from iTunes, i use find my iPhone, iCloud storage and backup for my ios devices, cloud iPhoto, Photo Stream, messages/imessage, continuity, Apple Pay, and more.  I also use device integrations with Apple APIs, such as Health.

But, there are many many things Apple and its products do, and have done, that really bother me.  I feel the need to write them down and let them out.

  • iPhotos and Photo Stream
    • I used to use the two together.  Really.  Then they made it so any given device was on one or the other.  Even cannot get to Photo stream.  Why not?  I want to share photos indiscriminately with some family members but not give them access to accidentally delete photos from our one true real photo store.  Apple took that away and do not seem to care.   Getting a photo stream photo that is not in my iPhotos library into that library is much too hard.  Apple could make this easy.
    • I spent YEARS putting faces data into iPhoto.  It was dropped at some point, I think when I went to Photos.  How does Apple decide that years of my efforts to add metadata to photos with their products without even announcing or mentioning it was ok, or a respectful way to treat customers?
  • Apple TV
    • Siri on AppleTV cannot be used on my iTunes server content.  I fear the effort that I have put in building an iTunes server will end up thrown out by Apple.
    • The new AppleTV remote.  Many have reported on the numerous problems.  I bought the strap so that I really know which end is which.  It is a bad design.  I would buy a new better remote - please design and fix.  I am among those who have accidentally caused many different things while searching for the remote.
  • MacOS iTunes and using iTunes on a computer as an iTunes server
    • People are telling me to move to Plex - but I still need a way to get my content onto my iPhones/iPads.  So I'm supposed to have both a Plex server and a "sync content to my devices" separate thing?  iTunes match services for movies would help.  But I have some audio books that I own that were not bought through iTunes that I also need to sync.  
    • I have a problem where syncing iPhones (with a cord or via wifi) that it always seems to fail.  I have to sync, kind of quit out of looking in iTunes at my iPhone, go back in, and sync again to make it work.  Apple, you broke it!   I thought this was a wifi problem.  It is not - it also happens with a cord.
    • using iTunes content streaming to an iPad/iPhone:  IT DOES NOT WORK RELIABLY.   Early on, it sort of worked ok.  Why can a cheap Apple TV device do it right every time, but my ever-so-expensive mobile device on on the same wifi network cannot?  These devices are used like TVs.  Heck - they even now have an app called TV.  This is a HUGE let down.  And, the navigation methods that exist on my AppleTV, such as content categories and playlists?  They are not to be found on iPhone and iPad.  Grrrr.
    • Why are there so many restrictions on how to get to content?  I cannot search for a movie?  Really?  
  • Mac Mini -
    • I need a new iTunes server.  This is THE device for that role.  Apple does not give me the appropriate way out. I'm not buying a new designed-3+-years-ago device at the price it had 3 years ago.  Nope.  I know many many people similarly annoyed.
  • Macbook Pro 2016
    • The keyboard is so loud, everyone hates it when I type.  I even got a keyboard cover, which does help a bit.  Only a bit though.
  • iPhone
    • I do not have wireless headphones.  I haven't gone there.  I do have a lightning-based biofeedback device that I use with my iPhone, and I typically use it with headphones.  It does not work with a Belkin Lightning Audio + Charger lightning splitter - no other data is allowed apparently. This is my biggest problem with the iPhone 7.  I did not realize that this use case was a problem when I bought my iPhone 7.  Apple has not highlighted that this is the case; there will be no true splitter that lets this work.  The Apple dock with old headphone adapter DOES work...  But it is not convenient to where I am when I use this device.
  • Device management - I would love to use to check on OS versions on devices, or even possibly to push an update.  I suppose these are nice-to-haves and there are 3rd party solutions, but a family should not require a 3rd party solution to this.
A few more things about iOS
  • Siri
    • I have had many recent times where I ask Siri to "Play artist X" where Siri completely hears me - the screen says the right thing, but then plays something different.  This does seem to have been fixed - my examples do not work.  But it leaves me feeling like I cannot rely on Siri for this.
    • New address book fun: I have a home and iPhone address for my wife.  In the past, I would ask Siri, "Text my wife  I'm on my way home".  It used to just work.  Now it asks if I want to use the home or mobile number.  I'm thinking, Hmmm, which do you think?  The one with texting capabilities, or the one without, while I text?  Why did this stop working without further intervention?  
  • Address book/contacts and syncing
    • I changed my wife's cell phone information so that it lists that it is "iPhone".  It kept changing it back to "mobile" after I saved it!
    • I have another contact for which I do not even have "iPhone" as an option for a phone number.  The contact does have an iPhone (blue messages).  Where did this go?
    • I just looked and now my wife's contact information in "favorites" is completely separate from any listing in contacts.  How is this possible?
    • I do sync with icloud contacts (where I do not have email) and with O365...
    • I have linked contacts.  They become unlinked.  Why why why?
  • Photos and Photo Stream
    • It would really be nice if when we accidentally re-save the same photo, it did not put multiple copies into Photos and/or Photo Stream.  Or, could Apple at least make a deduplication capability?
    • I would love a mode to auto-stream photos to family members with another AppleID.  This could help with many other iCloud photos/photostream issues, but would have to be accessible for both types of users to be useful.
  • Portrait mode bug: portrait vs landscape mode - In many earlier years, I only had problems in one application.  Now, I seem to often have to switch apps and return or force quit Apple's TV app and Netflix.  I cannot seem to cause it on demand, but when it happens, it is very frustrating - it sticks in portrait mode when it should be in landscape.
  • Control Center: Why can I often not pull up control center in an app?  This often happens in messages, but not always.  This did not happen with earlier versions of IOS.
  • TV - I have blogged about it before.  iOS and the TV app cannot really use my home iTunes server.  My iOS devices are more powerful than the Apple TV.  Why can this not work.  Why is there not an interface to look through TV/Movie playlists, or content via genre on these devices on the rare occasion it sort of works?  It is my contention that it did at least work with older iOS versions.
  • iBooks - audiobooks sometimes returns to some older place.  Sometimes the beginning, sometimes to where I was maybe the last time I started listening?  It is hard to tell as it does not happen every time.  This has been a problem for some time.
  • Music - the Apple application in iOS when using my music is much worse than it used to be.  The Apple website says “A new design that just flows.”  To me, it feels like a design that no longer flows
    • I have “Show Apple Music” turned off.  However, it seems to still shows up partly because of  Radio and that I can search Apple Music content while Apple Music is turned off.  This lets Apple ask me if I want to buy Apple Music even though I asked to not have it shown.  Is not this setting a lie?
    • When looking at my library, navigating to Artists, then a specific artist, , I can "See More by the artist.  This "more" includes Apple Music content.
    • I can navigate from my Library to Albums then an album, then I can click on the artist name for the album.  Why does this take me to the "more" location instead of the location for Artists in my library?  These two places are confusing at best.
    • When looking at an artist in my library, I see the artist’s albums.  I do not see their songs.  There used to be a way to see all songs that I really miss.  I cannot fathom why this was removed.  In older iOS, when navigating to an Artist, I would see the Artists' songs.  The older design makes sense to me.
    • The Top Songs in the "more" view list scrolls both down and right.  This is not obvious.  It is not intuitive.  It makes no sense.  It is bad design. Why is this not just a list that scrolls down?
    • I really liked the view in older iOS with buttons Playlists, Artists, Songs on the bottom.  They are useful.  The current buttons Library, Connect, and Radio are not useful.  I used to be able to focus on my library.  Now Apple clearly does not want me to do this.
    • In older iOS, while playing a song, there were visible icons that worked as buttons for shuffle and replay.  Now, these are buttons below the fold.  I believe many do not even know they are there.  The visible button/icons are cloud download, an icon enabling a choice in where to play the music (for example to an Apple TV), and three dots.  The Three dots again let you download, delete from library, add to a playlist, share a song, love or dislike the song, or cancel.  Why download twice, but not other choices twice?  It is inconsistent and confusing, like much of the new interface to music.
    • In old iOS, if I navigated to a song, from that screen I could then navigate to all songs on the same album.  I have found no way to do so in newer iOSs.
    • The old bug that is still bugging people where music will suddenly play causing this:
  • Complexity of 5 uses for AppleIDs...
    • I just helped a new family member use an iPhone for the first time.  This person found it daunting as I helped them log in with their AppleID in 4 of the 5 places to do that.  Even after that, the continued pop-ups about use of their password for "buying" free apps and so forth are extremely confusing for a new user.  This family member would never have used an iPhone without help.  When I had a family member use an iPhone for the first time in 2010, this process was much simpler.  I do not think even Apple understands all the implications of uses of AppleIDs.
Another thing or two about MacOS and Macs

  • Time machine...  It can be amazing.  It makes moving from machine to machine much less painful.  But, it is not pain-free.  I have two specific recent examples.  Apple should fix them.
    • I have a LOT of email stored on my machine.  Time machine backed it up and recovered it.  Why did I have to wait for it to get re-imported and reindexed?  I get that file systems need re-indexing.   It took a couple of hours to re-import the 500,000 emails.  Why did they have to be imported from a time machine recovery?  Then reindexing had to happen.  That took about 24 hours of my not using the computer.  It would not re-sync with my exchange server until this was done.
    • Photos... I use icloud photos, and I had 200GB of online storage, with maybe 20GB free.  I had to upgrade to 2TB of iCloud storage so that my Photos could re-sync.  After re-sync, and more photos and storage using up my iCloud storage, I still have less than 200GB in use.
  • Mail and annotating images
    • It makes mail crash very often - making the feature nearly useless.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

10 years ago: How and why the iPhone changed computing

When the iPhone came out in 2007, it changed computing.

What was its real competition?  I had been using a Palm Treo 650, which was a generation older.  With it, I could:

  • Watch movies on the tiny screen
  • Listen to mp3 music and use playlists
  • Download and install applications
  • Make calls and listen to voicemail just like on other cell phones
  • Take pictures
  • Sync my address book with my computer
But it was indeed horrible too.  Doing these things took a huge amount of effort.  The phone crashed all the time doing most of these things.  Even getting to use the camera was an ordeal that required some expertise.  And, it was not secure; if there were any efforts to secure old devices, I am not aware of them.  There was friction in using it every day I owned it.  It had many other shortcomings; it had a short battery life, a fragile scratch-able screen, no built-in wifi, and was quite large.  I should add that I felt my cell phone plan was far to expensive for just about no data use.  Non-wifi data usage was so slow as to be just barely above completely useless.  And it was the best smartphone I had ever used and I loved it at the time.  

Then the iPhone came along.  What was different?

One core issue was a real change in the relationship with cell phone carriers.  Apple negotiated endlessly until Cingular->AT&T agreed to:
  • not control the phone.  Apple provided all of the software on the phone.
  • a data plan with unlimited data at a reasonable price.
  • and worked with Apple to make a new interface to voicemail, allowing access voicemail in any order desired - visual voicemail.
  • not participate in other business areas, such selling ring tones.
These things were the core reason why the iPhone could be very different.  Previous to the iPhone, the cellular providers prevented innovation by providing the software on cell phones.  The cellular carriers prevented the cell phone makers from providing the software completely and directly.

Some notable software improvements:
  • An easy to find and use the camera!  I could get people not familiar with technology to actually use and find the camera (app).
  • Multi-touch interface and on-screen keyboard, enabling the large screen.  The touch controlled scrolling was breathtaking.  The on-screen predictive keyboard was amazing, and worked much better than people feared it might.
  • A web browser on a cell phone that did not use WAP, and instead allowed normal web browsing as on a computer.  The same was true of email - html email worked!
  • With iTunes, I could sync content like movies and music easily, not just contacts.
  • It had YouTube and Maps.  Cell phone locations were known to carriers.  But now the users of the cell phones got to use that data!
  • It had SMS that enabled navigation to and through texts with different people in a new actually usable way.  SMS was truly horrible before this.
  • security - Apple's stance on flash was an example of the start of security practices.
  • phone software:  use of phone, contacts to dial, 3-way calls, and control over voicemail were easy to use and amazing!
And the hardware improvements:

  • Size/weight/battery life
    • 4.8oz and volume under 5 cubic inches vs 6.3oz and volume of 9 cubic inches+ for the aforementioned Treo.  This was a sleek, flat, and thin design.
    • 7-8 hours of battery for talking on the phone.
  • Gorilla Glass - the first iPhone was the first to use Gorilla Glass!  The screen was somewhat vulnerable to shattering when dropped, but did not scratch.  It was a huge improvement.
  • Hardware supporting the amazing multi-touch screen...
  • New sensors
    • It had an accelerometer to tell how you moved the phone!  So when you put it in portrait mode, it changed automatically.
    • A proximity sensor and ambient light sensor to turn off the screen when it was against your face or in a pocket.  
  • Data storage of 4 or 8GB vs the Treo's 22MB built-in (the Treo did have an SD card slot) - competitors at the time had 60MB.
  • 2mb camera - it started to be less important to carry a small camera for many people
  • B/G wifi capable - wifi was much faster than cellular data.
  • a large 320x480 pixel screen
It cost quite a bit more, but in that era of cellular carrier plans, it was somewhat hidden from users.

This is the first cell phone where many users used many of the features all of the time because the barriers to use were low.  It was very intuitive.  There was no owner's manual needed, explaining to go to the 5th thing down in the 7th menu item to get to the camera.  No more voicemail hell of pushing phone buttons to do the same kinds of thing (push 4 to repeat, 5 to delete);  the controls were on-screen.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Why I advise my friends/family to use an iPhone

I have friends and family who switch cell phones.  When they ask me, I always say to get an iPhone, even an old refurbished iPhone.  Why?  Security.

  • Android:
    • Users who are not experts do not get security updates often enough, fast enough, or for long enough.
    • Cell phone companies AND phone manufacturers get in the way.
    • Google, maker of the Android OS, does not prevent the situation.
    • In some cases you can buy an older device from a store and get updates for less than 2 years, if ever.
    • Costs less.
  • iPhone
    • Users get updates as needed for a long time directly from Apple.
    • Even 5-year-old devices can get updates at this time.  (I rarely see a reputable provider selling an Apple device more than 2 years old - so they typically get updates for at least 3 years).
    • Costs more, but worth it.
  • If you buy a used device, buy it from a reputable source.  This is absolutely critical.  Don't buy a 4-year old device in any case; it isn't worth it.
What can happen when security is compromised?   A bad actor or even possibly nearly all bad actors can:
  • Get all of your contact information on your phone (for everyone in your address book)
  • Get information about all calls you make, up to and including recordings of your calls, text messages, pictures you take, locations you are including where your phone is right now, and if you are moving, and if so, in what direction.
  • If you use a web browser or other applications with passwords - all of your usernames and passwords.  If you enter credit card information - they get that too.
  • They sometimes can cause purchases of applications or services on your phone.
  • Your phone can be used as part of a bot net to attack other parts of the internet.
  • Illegal content such as stolen data or illegal pornography can be hidden on your device, implicating you!

Some articles I refer to:
    • Paraphrasing - it says you have 18 months to 3 years AT MOST for security updates.
    • The headline says it all?
    • Less than 10% of Android Devices are running the most recent Android OS. 
    • More than 80% of iPhones are running the most recent OS
    • The iPhone from 2012 - 5 years ago - is still getting security updates. 

Some additional thoughts and background:
  • Everyone I talk to is getting a smartphone.  No one asks me for advice on a "feature phone" - the name now given to non-smartphone cell phones.  And if they are undecided, it is often a decision "Apple or Android?"  And, they clearly do not have a strong preference at this point, or they would already have decided.  Often price is a guiding factor.  Android phones are cheaper, especially in the world we live in without cell company subsidies.
  • I have friends with Android devices who run them securely.  They talk to me about how they are more secure (the way they run them) than an iPhone.  However, they are often jailbroken.  And these friends are experts who spend quite a bit of time on their Android device, its configuration, and security.  Some even compile Android themselves and install it.  These are not folks asking me for advice.  They have a clear and strong preference, and expertise.
  • Google often does not have a direct OS relationship with purchasers of Android devices.  The manufacturer or cell phone provider usually owns that relationship.  Your security is not their top priority.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My experience of the New LG 5K screen

I have a new macbook pro 2016, and an LG 5K screen that I am working with.

The LG 5K screen looks amazing!  Good quality pictures with a sky towards sunset simply look more like what I see with my eyes than anything I have seen before.  Wow.  The tiny differentiation with colors is amazing.  I'm in my 40's.  The screen makes my eyes very happy.  That is important to me!

I did have to find new ways to scale the resolution of my Windows virtual machine to make it a reasonable size and visibility.

I have used it as a power source as well; this is a welcome simplicity at my desk.  It means I can carry my power supply or take it home, as I have power from my monitor.

The camera and speakers are just fine, thank you very much.  I have not tried the microphone

Now the caveats...

On the first day, I had 5 times when things went poorly.  Three times, I had two solid colors, each taking 1/2 of the screen.  The monitor was completely unusable during this time, as a monitor and hub.  Twice things hung - the screen went black and did not recover until I unplugged it from my laptop.  Once it took 5 full minutes for my laptop to return to normal.  It did return to normal... I never had these problems again after the first day.  This is quite strange.

Using the monitor as a hub is a failure so far.  Items plugged in are not re-recognized when I plug the monitor back into my computer, so I have to unplug and re-plug them into the monitor.  This has been true for 3 devices:

  • USB-A (with USB-C adapter from Apple) HDD
  • USB-A (with USB-C adapter from Apple) Kinesys keyboard
  • USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 EZQuest Gigabit Ethernet Adapter

I hope a fix is forthcoming...

Update:  The 10.12.4 MacOS update fixed it!  I was taking my monitor to Apple the next day.  The Monitor works as a hub now.  Whew!!