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 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.

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!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

More on my iPhone 7 after a bit of time has past

My experiences with my iPhone 7 seem notably negative.  Things I experience, and experience often:

  • My headphone buttons become unresponsive, in part or in whole.  For example, this morning, I could start/stop a podcast, but not change the volume.  Unplug/replug headphones fixes it.  I do that multiple times every day.  This is still happening with iOS 10.1.  (This is with native lightning headphones).
  • Siri - I ask for a song or an album, Siri shows on the screen that I am understood, and then Siri decides instead to play all of my music.  Examples:  I listen to Exit by Tangerine Dream.  I say, "Siri, play album Exit".  Siri understood but did something else!  This seems better in iOS 10.1, thankfully.
  • Siri - when I am with my family, I try to push the home button to activate Siri and make a request.  The timing seems impossible much of the time.  I hold down and then let go of the home button, but the flowing "I'm listening" graphic does not show up at the bottom of the screen.  Maybe Siri is already trying to interpret what my family is saying around me - I'm not sure.  Some time later Siri tells me it does not understand, and I can push the microphone and try again and that typically works reasonably.  This does seem a bit better in iOS 10.1.
  • iPhone 7 hang/crash - home button not working, I cannot stop music/podcasts... I have to hold both the power button and the down volume button to reboot (we'll see if this continues with iOS 10.1)
  •  iphone 7 crash and reboot - I find I must type my password, often, when I pull my iphone out of my pocket, about every other day.  It has rebooted and will not accept my fingerprint.  I do not know why.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Shipping and the iPhone 7 - a warning and an interesting path

I ordered 2 iPhone 7s.  They were both to arrive some time at the end of the month.  And then, they were to come today!

One iphone showed up Monday.  I happened to be in the shower at the exact moment the delivery attempt happened.  But with a wonderful UPS driver, he came back later and delivered!  That was a very happy experience.

Knowing I might not be available the precise second a delivery was attempted, and not wanting to pre-sign for the iphone and worrying it could be stolen,  I changed the delivery location for the second iphone to a local UPS Store.  DO NOT DO THIS.

The outcomes from this action:

  1. My iphone was in the US when I changed the destination (by about 1 mile).  It went back to China!  It was in China 3 times total in the end.  This travelling miracle was completed in only a couple of days.
  2. Once it was ready for delivery today, they had an address problem.  Wait.  How can UPS have an address problem with a UPS Store?  UPS Stores are not part of UPS.  Not really.  They are franchise businesses.  I am not sure if it is because of a deal with Apple, or packages requiring signature, but the iPhone could not be left with a UPS Store.  But the online status did not say this.  It said, "Your package is in transit. We're updating plans to schedule your delivery. / The package will be forwarded to a UPS facility in the destination city." I had that message the day I made the request, as well as this morning.
  3. A bit later today I saw, "Directions to the address are required to complete delivery. We are attempting to update this information. / The address was corrected." The correct interpretation of this is, "We aren't allowed to deliver it how you asked.  We didn't bother to tell you that.  When we feel like it, we'll get back to you, but definitely not today."
  4. I called UPS, waited on the phone for a while, eventually got to talk to a person.  After a while, they said, "Oh, this is an Apple shipment.  I have to transfer you to a special team dealing with Apple shipments."  So I waited for a while and got to a person.  I came to understand that the UPS Store delivery was not an option.  Can they fix it so this problem does not happen to anyone else?  No.  Otherwise, my conversation went something like this:
    1. So... what is an option?  Delivery to my original address, or depot pickup.  Where is my iphone?  At the depot.  Can I go pick it up?  Not until tomorrow.  But, it is not on a truck?  It is at the depot?  Yes.  But I cannot pick it up now?  I can pick it up tomorrow.  I will need to change my delivery preferences online.  They cannot do it for me now on the phone?  No.  (eventually they did change it for me).  I continued asking if I could pick it up today.  They eventually called the depot and told me to expect a call in an hour.  But an hour from now is very near when they close...
  5. I had gotten driving to the depot during the end of the conversation.  I had clearly written the tracking number, my name, and address on a piece of paper.   I asked for help at the depot.  They gave me the iphone (with ID).  
What did I learn
1) Don't change the destination
2) If you do, change it to the depot.
3) Never use a UPS Store if you can avoid it.  (I have had other UPS Store problems, but never related to Apple before)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Partial iPhone 7 experience

I have upgraded from an iPhone 6 to iPhone 7 with 256GB of storage.  It has all of the amazing feature upgrades (remember I'm mentioning 6-7 NOT 6s to 7):

  • Better screen that some have called the best screen ever
    • Wide color gamut
    • 625 nits - brightest ever on an iPhone (only the new Apple Watch is brighter at 1000 nits) for better performance while in bright light.
  • Double max storage at 256GB
  • An A10 fusion CPU that is reputedly 2x the speed, 3x faster on graphics, but also more efficient with an additional 2 slower cores with an even better motion M10 co-processor.
  • Double the RAM at 2GB
  • So much better camera:
    • 12MP main/iSight camera instead of 8MP
    • Wider color range
    • Image stabilization (previously only on the 6S plus)
    • 4k video
    • f/1.8 - better low light performance
    • also from 6S level - live photos, slow motion support (120fps video)
  • Better facetime/front camera at 7MP up from 1.2MP
  • Bigger battery - 1960mAH instead of 1810mAH, with a reputed 1-2 hour boost in life (have not tested this yet myself)
  • Faster LTE with carrier aggregation - 2-3x faster depending on carrier
  • Siri is improved, and able, like on the 6S, to listen at all times (if you enable this feature)
  • 3D touch (like 6S)
  • waterproof (only for shallow dunks. Called water resistant.  DO NOT TAKE IT IN THE POOL!)
  • lift to wake screen
  • No more headphone jack
  • Replaced home button with taptic response non-button (works great for me!)
  • Taptic Engine - slowly learning how to enjoy using it!
My experience so far has had some unexpected twists and turns
1) I had to upgrade iOS from who knows what to 10.0.1 as soon as I received it.  This interrupted my iCloud recovery.  So I upgraded, reset many settings, and then had to erase all data and settings to recover from iCloud.  Very weird, and I felt lucky in knowing how to do this.  I wished I had not made any settings.
2) Siri:
  • always on is spotty.  So far this has worked better from the headphone adapter and headphones than from lightning headphones
  • Things that always used to work - hey Siri play album Exit (Exit by Tangerine Dream) left me playing all music shuffled.  On screen it showed that Siri heard me, it was just that Siri no longer seemed to understand what these words mean.  That is sad.  Also Siri turn music down was interpreted to try to play some song called Down.  I have also had this work, so it is hit and miss.
3) No headphone jack
4) Big text stops me from seeing some device data
  • This is not a new issue for iPhone 7, but if you have text set via Accessibility features, it is not possible to see your whole hardware wireless address (MAC addr).  Some people need this to set up secure wireless connections.  Turning this off did not work for me - I had to adjust the size to a smaller size to see the whole address.  This was just a minor one-time hiccup. 
5) Problems others have reported that I thankfully have not experienced
6) iTunes server - if at all out-of-date, will not work with iOS 10.
  • If you have a somewhat aged machine acting as your iTunes server, it will not even try to let you sync your media.  I was aware that this was likely going to be the case, but I am waiting to upgrade (probably to a new Mac mini once they are/are not announced in October).  So bear this in mind if you are upgrading

I was originally told my iphone 7 would arrive at the end of September, but it arrived more than 1 week earlier!  That was great!

I'm enjoying using all of the features that are new to me like live photos, 3D touch...

I'll update this post at the top as I use it more in the next few days.