Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My reaction to the ipad mini, retina 13" macbook pro, and more

On October 23rd, 2012, Apple announced some new products:

  • 4th generation iPad 4
  • iPad Mini
  • 13" Macbook Pro Retina
  • Updated mac mini, iMacs
These are my personal reactions to the product announcement.

The new mobile products (iPad) use the lightning connector.  It is great that Apple did not leave the iPhone 5 (ok and new iPods) as the only products using the new connector.  This will speed modifications to accessories.

4th generation iPad 4?  Great.  Welcome.  Same price!  Better CPU (like iPhone 5), better WiFi, better cellular (LTE) - at least on the LTE front it seems like a gimme - Apple had to do it to keep current.  I have heard that recent iPad 3 buyers are getting a free upgrade!  That is great customer service.  I'm not a huge iPad user, and will not use cellular on an iPad until I do not have to pay per device.

iPad Mini for $329... I think this product is great!  I have read books on my iPhone, but a bigger form factor is really needed to comfortably read.  But an iPad is a bit big and heavy for some reading positions.  I think the iPad Mini may get some serious traction in the market place - this is very welcome.  I'm thinking about buying one.  Having the same screen pixel size as iPad 2 so developers do not have to write new apps means it will have maximum utility the same day it comes out of the box.

13" Macbook Pro Retina - the screen is amazing, as expected they lose the DVD drive, and move firmly to SSD.  In this price range a 16GB RAM option will be strongly desired by some.  The lack of discrete graphics will be strongly missed by some.  I'm thinking without either 16GB and discrete graphics this laptop may be a bit DOA.

New mac mini, iMacs - very thin and light, fusion storage option (this sounds great!), no more optical drive here either... A very nice update that should get/keep these machines selling nicely.  I am surprised how much I am willing to do without having a dvd drive that is always available.

Apple claims to now have grown to have the biggest market share in personal computers.  This claim includes iPads as personal computers.  Other computer manufacturers are suffering while Apple thrives - Apple has redefined the marketplace and so I am willing to accept this redefinition.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

IOS 6 on an iPhone 4

I jumped in and upgraded to IOS 6 on my iPhone 4.  Here is the good and the bad:

Things I do not get:

  • Siri (I didn't have it before and I still do not have it)
  • Maps:
    • Flyover
    • Turn-by-turn navigation
  • FaceTime on 3G - I'm not going to get it on iPhone 5 either... I don't have the required shared data plan...
  • Camera:
    • Panorama photos: I like to take some panoramic photos and greatly welcome this feature.  With the gyroscopic features in the iphone it should be easier for the system than in any other camera I have used to stitch together panoramic shots.
    • Better image stabilization: always a good feature
    • 40% faster picture taking - we NEED this!
    • Face detection in video
    • Take pictures during video capture!  Do you ever find yourself shooting video when you mean to be taking a picture?  I think this could save me from myself.
    • Better noise reduction and low light performance - always good
Things I do get:

  • Apple maps - they are there.
Shared Photo Streams:
  • I've got it in iphone 4!  Here's what you do:
    • In Photos, click Photo Stream (middle bottom of screen)
    • Click the plus icon
    • Name some people (to email), name the photo stream, and choose if it is to be a public website or not.
    • Your new named photo streams appears in your photo stream area.  Click on the new photo stream.
    • Click Edit, click Add, and add photos!
    • People will receive an email with the new photo stream, and a link for the web version if you enabled that!  
    • Keep adding photos when you want.
  • Passbook:
    • I'll have to try it to have deeper thoughts.  I already use the Starbucks app and Apple store app.  I'm ready to try. 
  • Decline call with text message back - that is what I've always wanted!
  • Do Not Disturb setting - I want to know more!
Web Browsing/Safari:
  • Tabs in the cloud... I already share bookmarks with my desktop.  It is unclear how helpful this is going to be.
Find My iPhone and find my friends:
  • A new lost mode lets you track it!
  • Track a child as they go home from school
  • Add photos and video to emails - FINALLY!  I do not have to start in the images app to get a picture into an email.  And it sounds like we will be able to attach multiple photos as well.
  • UpNext:  It sounds like the current playing list of songs is a separate always-there playlist.  You can add a playlist to it, and while listening to that playlist, add another song to play, and go back to your playlist.  I have often wanted to briefly switch to another song and this will let me do what I want to do.  Sometimes I seem to have this (I have asked Siri to play a song in the middle of listening to a playlist, the song played, and then I automatically went back to the playlist I was previously listening to) but I cannot seem to reliably do this.  Folks online say this is coming later.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

IOS 6 maps - pros and cons and conclusion

Update: I'm not the only one who thinks this is overblown: DigitalTrends tends to agree

As any watching the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 news know, there is news of a huge flap about Apple maps in iOS 6.  Apple CEO Tim Cook even apologized.

This is very reminiscent of the iPhone 4 antennagate news.

Some people are having some real problems.  Some people are complaining loudly.  Competitors are trying to take advantage and even lying in the process.

So what does it all really mean?  Lots of lost iPhone sales?  Apple is doomed?  The news already reports that there are over 100 Million instances of iOS 6 in use within about a week.  People are still downloading and using iOS6, regardless.  This says to me that consumers are largely ignoring this news and doing what is right for them.  This does not mean consumers are dumb; they know more than the news reports that this is in some way not such a big deal.  Just like antennagate.

In that case, as in this one, Apple took some kind of action.  The CEO acknowledged that it was not Apple's finest hour and that Apple intends to exceed expectations and wow folks.  I like that.

I had already stopped using Google Maps in the iPhone.  I had switched to waze some time ago - I needed better traffic information, and help navigating around some bad traffic.  Thus the initial flap was meaningless to me.  I was and am hopeful that a much better product is coming.  In the mean time, I have what I mean.  Thus the news from Tim Cook matched my own expectations with regards to the fact that alternatives can meet customer needs.

I have already used iOS 6 maps and turn-by-turn directions with no problems.  So what is better and what is worse?  Macstories has one decent article.


  • Any turn by turn directions at all!
  • Siri integration
  • China - things are much better for Chinese users by all accounts.
  • Fun with flyover - a 3D rendering
  • Rendering without satellite data - this view is very nice and smooth.  This works much more smoothly.
Bad andWorse - actually worse:

  • Alternative transit help and information (like buses/trains)
  • Information about specific locations (Google has years of feedback, Apple does not)
  • Loss of street view - street view can be very helpful.
  • Flyover is sometimes very messed up.  This _should_ be more a point of amusement than a major drawback.
What will the future bring?  What can we hope for?
  • Much better transit help - iOS 6 maps allow for plug in helper apps.  This is openness that Google has shunned!  
  • Better maps all around.  Rumor has it Google SVP Jeff Huber says Google IS making a Google Maps app for iOS 6.  Google will do a better job than Apple ever would/could with making maps with its own apps, interfaces, and data.  This is also competition in this space, which should be good for users.
All-in-all - things will be good for Apple, iPhone users, Google - everyone.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

iPhone 5 - first reactions a day later

I bought and set up 2 iPhone 5's.  One just worked.  One I had to take to a store to get a new SIM card.

About AT&T and their support:

  • I chose, after talking to AT&T support, to go to the AT&T store to do this.  They were very courteous and prompt.  Phone technical support spoke to in-store folks to find out what the line was like: 45 minutes.  However, when I went to the store and mentioned the name of my on-phone technical support person and that they had called ahead for me, the gentleman I talked to helped me immediately.  It took only 5 minutes.  I was very happy with our interaction, and pleasantly surprised.

  1. One of the first things I can say is this - if you have a lot of photo and video content in your icloud-backed-up photos folder, total phone recovery can take a long time.  One of my phones is still not done with this process.  The other phone had nearly zero content of this type, and finished very quickly.
  2. The second recommendation I'll make is this:  If you get your new iPhone set up and backed up to iCloud, you may find that you need to manage storage and delete your old backup to save space.
  3. The third thing is about iCloud and photo storage.  Photo Stream takes up no iCloud storage space you pay for (or get as part of your iTunes/iCloud account).    However, backups of your iPhone include photos in your photo library, and those DO count.  Keep that in mind as you keep  lots of photos locally on your phone.
  4. Shared photo streams:  If you have seen others liberally share photos via other services (Flikr, Facebook) but have been concerned about sharing too widely - try doing so via Shared Photo Streams.  You can invite people with an email, and they can comment on and like your photos.  This is not visible to the world unless you share via a web url and can be a blast; you are missing out if you do not try it.  Your shared photo stream can only be added to by users of YOUR iCloud ID.  If friends want to share back, they have to use a separate shared photo stream they create.
  5. Shared photo streams changed how we use apple IDs in my household.  I was going to have my daughter use her own apple ID to back up her phone to iCloud.  I am now instead backing up to a household computer and she is using my apple ID so that she can share in and add to the family  main photo stream account (and add to shared photo streams I create).  I'll have to purchase more space in iCloud if I want her to back up to iCloud on my account.  Now her pictures show up on my iPad and Apple TV automatically when she takes them, by default.  It is wonderful!
  6. Siri is a blast.  You can help by going to contacts of family relations and setting up things - you can add birthday and family relation (spouse, father/mother/child relations).  The iPhone does not learn by osmosis.  If I set up in my contacts that I am my "daughter's contact record" father, it does NOT learn that she is my daughter in my contact record.  The same goes with spouse.  But I delight that where I used to (before Siri) have to ask to call my "wife's name", "mobile, pronounced very carefully with a higher pitch on the end than I would normally use" to get voice activation on my old iPhone 4 to work, now I can just say please call my wife's cell and it just works, without any special inflection.
    • I've already played with asking when my wife's birthday is, and it asked who my wife is and if I wanted Siri to remember who my wife is.
    • I cannot find a way to get Siri or contacts to know what an anniversary is.
    • I have used Siri to read texts to me when I was using my headset, and to sent text messages to others.  This is, as Steve Jobs and Tim Cook would say, amazing!
    • Siri cannot help me with many things still.  Among them are audiobooks.  But Siri is quite clear and firm in this regard.
    • Siri CAN help by playing specific songs I request; I have always wanted that feature.
  7. There is a third party IOS6 guide that is free (has ads): Guide for IOS 6 tips and tricks
  8. Do play with panoramic photos.  They are fun!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Apple vs the world and the "reality distortion field"

Many pundits are discussing Apple and the "great disappointment" people feel because without Steve Jobs and his reality distortion field, Apple is not what it once was.  I also see and hear other arguments:

  • Apple is not really an innovator - Apple just mixes together technologies that already exist in ways we like.
  • Apple is not on the forefront and competitors are coming out with features more quickly.
  • Apple product are too similar to how they used to be and are not changing quickly enough.

Most patents ARE new uses for old ideas.  Most innovation IS putting together existing ideas in new ways.  I recently heard a list of things Apple did not invent as a litany about how Apple is not innovative:

  • Apple did not invent the touch screen
  • Apple did not invent the PDA
  • Apple did not invent laptops, or laptops shaped like a wedge
  • Apple did not invent interfaces like Thunderbolt and Firewire
  • Apple OS X is based on BSD, which Apple did not invent
This kind of list can go on and on.  It completely misses the point.

  • I believe the greatest effort Apple has put in is to design products very carefully that their makers find as simple as possible and that we would want to use.
  • Apple is taking care not to make too many changes too quickly.  This is not the old-style problem of legacy support.  This is the very good problem of making products that people do want and making sure that change does not push people away.  If one looks at the outrage some are expressing about the lightning interface, it is not hard to understand that people really like how Apple is doing things and does not want those ways to change. 
  • Apple has taken great care designing interfaces that are very easy-to-use in subtle ways that we may not even notice.  However, Apple's competitors study those differences in minute detail; they would not do so if such design was unimportant.  Competitors either do not know how to do this design or do not bother to put in the effort to design at Apple's level.
  • No other UNIX-based desktop has been successful for consumers.

No other company is taking the comprehensive approach Apple has been taking to change the aesthetics and usability of electronics.

  • Perhaps aluminum is not unique and new for a laptop or a cellular phone.  But eliminating often-used painted plastic that looks bad after some number of years on a truly mass-market product feels very new to me even after so many years that Apple has done so.
  • Apple appears to have refused to support LTE until power consumption and size-reduction (in wireless technology chip support) were possible.
  • Palm had a phone on which one could download applications from the internet, watch movies, listen to music, and more.  However, Palm did not create an iteratively easy-to-use interface for these features as it had for the original PDA features.  Apple has done this.
  • Apple is making its phone more powerful and more feature rich while making it smaller.  Apple is trying to design it with materials that are very high quality.  Clearly, Apple thinks this lightness, smallness, and quality makes the phone better.  A large enough set of consumers agree to keep Apple working in this way.
I think another word about the Apple "ecosystem":
  • Music Downloads and iTunes:  Google and Amazon, with their online music businesses, are following in Apple's footsteps.  It was Apple that was a first negotiator able to get the music companies to allow online sales.  Then Apple negotiated for DRM-free music.  Music bought from Apple is portable to non-Apple devices only because Apple worked to make this happen.  Apple keeps working to make the entire experience more refined and improve both the buying experience and the listening experience.  Are other products as good or better?  For me, this experience is the best overall experience even if other products are superior in some ways.  Plus, I get the best of both worlds in some ways - for example I can use Pandora on my iPhone.
  • iBooks: Amazon appears to have a monopoly in this area such that Apple, before actually doing much selling, can be called out for being a monopoly.  Wow.  I would like DRM free books, but like that the experience is so good on products I already use.  I think the non-fire Kindle is a superior reading experience on the eyes, but I don't already carry a kindle.  I can read Kindle books on my iphone/ipad if I want to (kudos Amazon).
  • App Store: How unique, how revolutionary is the app store?  It is about removing control from the blockers-of-innovation that cell phone companies have been in the past.  While I could download applications from the internet for my Palm, it was a pain.  I think the cell companies wanted it that way.  They wanted to control the experience, in a way that was bad for us consumers.  Sure, other companies have an online store selling applications.  They operate in different ways and there are many complaints that the Apple app store is too closed, too restrictive.   My app store purchasing and using experiences have been really great.  I have many apps.  I am happy to stay in this ecosystem - it is meeting my needs well.  
  • iLife (other parts) - imovie, garageband, iphoto - it is the design, the refinement of total experience both on my computer and on my mobile devices, that makes this another huge win.  I can see that these products do not meet everyone's needs and that alternatives have advantages.  The balance Apple provides meets my needs and gets my money.
  • Support - I can get support in an Apple store near my home and also in many/most locations I go to.  I do NOT have to go to the store of my cellular carrier or try to get a cellular carrier to answer complex technical questions (which I have found in the past to be a losing game).
Design, making hard choices about a total product and its improvements over time for the end-to-end experience including support...  Apple has continued these traditions with the iPhone 5 and I consider it a worthy home-run next generation product.  Kudos Apple.  It is not a reality distortion field.  It is just one reality people choose to live in.

This does not have to detract from persons seeking other features.  Other products are on the market.  I'm very happy options are available for everyone.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Surprise: some people think iPhone 5 is best, and some think it sucks

I have been watching US Politics, and now I am watching technology politics.  I have my own feelings about things, but I do not think I have jumped into the fray.

I believe in leadership, and bringing people together.  I find it interesting and ironic that both Android development and iPhone development are both leading to very nice screens, new better capabilities, and  have users who are very pleased.

I am using Apple technologies.  I feel it gives me the best experience I can have.  I can see that what I want is, for the most part, being catered to by Apple.  Similarly, some users feel strongly that another hardware manufacturer and Google are catering to their needs and desires best.  I'm glad we can all have technology that at this time meets our needs well.  That is great!  

Sometimes it can be a matter of feeling that gets one technology used over another.  Sometimes it can be that some specific technical features matter a lot to a person and matter not at all to another.  This does not make any person stupid, bad, or a series of much less pleasant things I sometimes see on the internet in comments or even articles.  There are, after all, some people using BOTH sets of technologies quite happily.

I cannot help but wonder who is benefiting from all of the name calling?  In the Apple/Samsung debate, it is easy to assume it is the companies arguing who could be benefiting.  I would argue neither company is truly benefiting, however, even if neither is able to stick to a unifying message.  It does seem that the various "news" companies are fairly directly benefiting from the controversy.

Political parties, technology parties - are we just wired to have disagreements and sides?  I think we as a world can often be more unified than that in many cases, and should look more often for the agreements we have.  Our smartphones are wondrous technology and we are blessed or lucky to have them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Takes On the iPhone 5 IOS 6 (before seeing it in person)

I am impressed by iPhone 5 hardware, but I am also very much looking forward to the great many new software features from IOS 6.

First, a problem/hesitancy: I am concerned about problems related to greater facebook integration and do not intend to enable such integration until time shows that they have been overcome.

Here is a list of features I am interested in or have a comment about:
App loading:

  • If you already own it, you do not have to type in your password again.  Finally!

  • The new road maps by Apple are vector based and should scale nicely (as opposed to be being based on tiles) for zoom.
  • built-in turn by turn verbal navigation with traffic assistance will be nice.  I will compare that to waze.
  • Flyover - a rendered image of areas may be very nice to use.
  • Siri in my maps - I think this during a solo drive might prove very useful indeed.
  • Local Search - what we are used to.
  • I do not yet have Siri.  Further Siri integration is very welcome.'
  • Siri Open Table integration sounds great!
Shared Photo Streams:
  • I have been wanting this feature since photo streams first became available.  I have relatives with whom I sometimes share some photos, but not all photos.  This is a very welcome change.
  • Having a web view of photos in icloud only makes sense!
  • I'll have to try it to have deeper thoughts.  I already use the Starbucks app and Apple store app.  I'm ready to try. 
  • Decline call with text message back - that is what I've always wanted!
  • Do Not Disturb setting - I want to know more!
Web Browsing/Safari:
  • Tabs in the cloud... I already share bookmarks with my desktop.  It is unclear how helpful this is going to be.
  • Panorama photos: I like to take some panoramic photos and greatly welcome this feature.  With the gyroscopic features in the iphone it should be easier for the system than in any other camera I have used to stitch together panoramic shots.
  • Better image stabilization: always a good feature
  • 40% faster picture taking - we NEED this!
  • Face detection in video
  • Take pictures during video capture!  Do you ever find yourself shooting video when you mean to be taking a picture?  I think this could save me from myself.
  • Better noise reduction and low light performance - always good
Find My iPhone and find my friends:
  • A new lost mode lets you track it!
  • Track a child as they go home from school
  • Add photos and video to emails - FINALLY!  I do not have to start in the images app to get a picture into an email.  And it sounds like we will be able to attach multiple photos as well.

  • UpNext:  It sounds like the current playing list of songs is a separate always-there playlist.  You can add a playlist to it, and while listening to that playlist, add another song to play, and go back to your playlist.  I have often wanted to briefly switch to another song and this will let me do what I want to do.

First Takes On the iPhone 5 hardware (before seeing it in person)

I'm an iPhone 4 user at the moment.  I held off on an iphone 4S purchase as the improvements were too incremental to get me to buy a new phone out-of-band (when not subsidized by the phone company when if I waited a year it would be cheaper).

I have family that asked my opinion, before the iPhone 5 event, of what was likely to happen after the iPhone 5 event.  I have said that based on past experience:

  • The phone is likely to have many innovative features that are attractive to users.  
  • Some media folks would croon over the phone and love it
  • Some media folks would surely state that the features are "old" and that some android phone or phones have had such features or better for a while and that the iPhone 5 is out-of-date and android is better and... (it can go on and on)
  • The stock might take a bit of a dive.
  • Sales of the new phone would be huge, and this would drive the apple stock price up.
Well, the stock price is already up prior to the start of sales for the phone.   The rumor is that the phone has been selling very well - sold out (delayed shipping) within 1 hour?  And, it sounds like the release actually went well.  There were some reports of slowness and problems with integration between Apple and cell companies (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) in the US, but these reports were few and reports of people buying phones were many.  That bodes well for Apple.

I've sifted through hardware differences:

  • 20% thinner, same width, taller - 4.87" (the thinnest smartphone)
    • They made it taller but also lighter?
    • The new height is supposed to improve the antennae quite a bit.
  • 12% less volume
  • About 20% lighter
  • A new core CPU that is more energy efficient while being 2x faster (it is rumored to be the first truly Apple-designed CPU and is also rumored to run at 1Ghz instead of being "underclocked" to 800Mhz)
  • 1Gb RAM (double the previous generation)
  • somewhat better battery life with that smaller size and lighter weight
  • 4" screen (instead of 3.5" screen) with 16:9 ratio (like a big-screen movie screen)
    • 44% deeper color saturation
    • the first cell phone to meet the sRGB (see Macrumors sRGB article) - movies will accurately have the colors as chosen by movie makers.
    • Thinner without a separate touch layer and offers less glare than ever.
  • 3 microphones = better noise cancellation
  • Camera changes: (Digital Trends iphone 5 camera article)
    • rear camera will use a sapphire crystal to be scratch proof, and is smaller while not losing quality
    • front facetime camera now up to HD!  From .3 megapixel to 1.2megapixel.
  • Support (in one small efficient chip) for newer faster cellular
    • network technologies - mainly LTE - which can be VERY fast (often a touted android feature)
  • Support in that same chip for better WiFi technologies - finally 5Ghz 802.11n with up to 150Mbps - this Macworld article says it well.
  • newer better headphones - here's a link to a decent Macworld earbud article
  • lightning connector - the new cable plug is small, and has the advantage of being able to be plugged in either way.  Many are panning the new cable for a variety of reasons (expensive adapters, not adhering to the standard of using micro usb).  I will wait and see what comes of this.
The main trend I see is this:  Apple is truly innovating and trying to provide hardware that will delight, amaze, and provide long-term value to users:

  • Apple refused to support LTE and 5Ghz WiFi until chipsets supporting low power use were available.
  • They made their phone thinner and lighter out while also making it better!
  • The new manufacturing process fits the best parts from among over 700 together.  That's picky.
  • iPhone materials hold up over time.  Even a 4+ year old iPhone 3 feels pretty good, and Apple chose to move away from a plastic case long ago.
Later I'll preview iphone 5 with IOS6 features.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

new macbook pro retina and other updates very welcome indeed

These are my opinions and speculations about recent Apple hardware releases.  Apple recently released new versions of apple macbook air and macbook pro.  Several folks I work with have already ordered macbook pro retina systems.

I would welcome USB3, larger RAM, larger SSD/flash storage, and better CPUs available across the board.  I'm expecting that an updated thunderbolt display with USB3 will become available as part of the natural progression of things.

The new retina-display macbook pro with up to 16GB RAM, 4-cores of CPU, and up to 768GB of SSD/flash (not to mention 2 thunderbolt ports) is definitely interesting for reasons other than the display.  I have employees who compile code and run multiple intensive apps and do sometimes complain about needing more CPU power and RAM.  These types of users are indeed rare.

I would wait for a laptop with a retina display until there is more ubiquitous support from other applications.  If I could do away with a separate large display in the future, the retina display could well be worth the cost.  I'll try it out when co-worker's system becomes available.

iPad wins for heavy iTunes and iPhone app users over other tablets

thoughts about alternatives to the iPad and my iPad experience continued...

I use iTunes for music, movies, and ibooks.

Copying music (and music in the cloud), movies, and ibooks to an iPad is a no-brainer.  The networked iTunes experience enables me to play any movies on my computer with iTunes on my iPad as well.  I recently did use this on a family vacation.

My least happy experiences with the iPad have been when I tried to cobble together a solution - using BOX and iannotate.  This "worked" but was not a pleasant smooth experience.

If I were to use a MS windows tablet or an android tablet, I believe such experiences of "cobbling together" solutions would become common place.  I would have the freedom to do everything except what I want to do - just have things work out-of-the-box with the media as I have as I have it.

If you have not bought into iTunes media, you might not feel so locked in.  I do feel locked in to a really good experience with my media and even my existing iPhone apps which I can copy to my iPad.

Any MS or Android tablet I would have to buy apps for again.  I would have to learn a whole new ecosystem of apps and how they work, when and how they can be trusted...  Ugh.

My work has a mobile device management system that works for iPad.  It will soon work for some Android tablets but does not at this moment.  I have not even heard the MS tablet OS will ever be supported.

In short, I have reasons to use the iPad.  I am extremely dis-incented to use anything else.

ipad 1 experience:

I recently acquired an iPad1 for work.  I have not been on the iPad "bandwagon" - with a macbook air and iPhone I have not felt a need for an iPad before.  However, I have been in a class with voluminous documents.  Those documents happen to be available via PDF.  I borrowed the iPad 1 to test the utility of an iPad for PDF use in place of the exceedingly heavy 3-ring binder I was using.

I ended up using iAnnotate to read the PDFs.  That meant I could annotate/mark up the PDFs.  Ibooks does not let you annotate PDFs like it does normal ibooks.  I used BOX to copy files from my computer to iAnnotate.

All-in-all I found it usable but a bit of a pain.  It was not a home run experience, but did make it so that I did not have to travel with a thick 3-ring binder.

If I just want to read PDFs in ibooks, the iPad is a much better experience - not so much "fiddling around".

I find the iPad 1 to be perfectly usable for this use even as the "new" iPad retina is available.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Apple Networking Gear

I have found that networking equipment, specifically wireless networking, fails in 9-15 months in my house.  I have previously used linksys and netgear equipment.  They were cheap, feature rich, and not long lasting.

I strongly wanted to enable wireless backups for my apple machines in my home.  I also want to try to have equipment that might last longer.  Trying another brand was in order.  I have also seen a proliferation of wireless networks near my home - at times I have seen 15 or more other networks!  I know professionals recommending Ruckus wireless networking equipment.  I decided that for now Ruckus is out of my price range.

I have also found that there are portions of my home which are not covered by a single wireless router.  I decided to finally attempt to work on that issue.

I bought an Apple Airport Extreme to be my primary firewall/NAT/Wireless access device, and an Apple Airport Express.  Total outlay: about $300.

Many may decry the cost.  I have also heard that getting an Airport Extreme with USB 2 provides much slower disk access for network-accessible disk than a Time Capsule.  Having had a bad experience with a time capsule in the past and wanting more flexibility, I decided to stick to my plan.

Prior swapping my network equipment, I downloaded the Airport utility for my laptop via an ethernet cable (wireless was not working reliably).  After swapping my prior wireless router for the airport express, things did not work.  It was set as a repeater, not as my primary unit.  In advanced settings, I set it up with the same internal address space and security setting as my prior router an voila  - everything worked!  I have numerous devices in my home - Wii, Tivo, a printer, and more.  They were all able to connect.  It was very easy.  Having downloaded the software first was critical.

I downloaded the Airport Utility software for my iPhone as well at this point.  It works quite nicely.  Some spots in my house are still a bit problematic however - the coverage does seem better than before.

Next I added in the Airport Express.  Bam - those holes in coverage are now gone!  I have full access to my wireless network throughout my home.

I added a powered USB hub to my Airport Extreme and added a couple USB drives.  One for backups of a couple laptops, and one for media data.  I back up my iTunes as a separate job from time machine for my own reasons, and backups to this drive work find.  I have a laptop backing up fine as well.  I was unable to make the time machine backup encrypted via airport extreme.  I was also unable to start the time machine backup via a local hookup to the laptop and then moving it over the network to continue backups.  It forced a fresh entire backup.  So I wiped the time machine backup disk and it is working fine (I did not need the old backups).

I am also trying out the Airport Express hooked up to a mini-stereo system.  It works great.  The greatest drawback is that if you set iTunes to use the Airport Express, then the next time you play music that is the default and you may not intend to blare music through those remote speakers...

So I'm very satisfied with my solution so far.  There are drawbacks, some outlined above.  The other main drawback:  There is no easy way to get data about traffic going through my internet connection.  I cannot easily see what internet accesses are happening as is a feature on all other wireless routers of this type.  That is annoying. I have found instructions online to hack into the Airport Extreme to change this - I do not want to do this, I just want things to work.

Update:  I have been using this gear for about 3 months.  I have had no new problems; things work solidly other than having to reboot the extreme box a couple times (it was not responsive to remote management).

The Smartphone Personal Data Conundrum

There have been numerous reports about applications on both the iPhone/IOS and Android platforms.
Android issues:

iPhone issues:

  • Siri if allowed from a locked iPhone would let someone with physical access to your locked phone access all of your personal data - data in your address book, for example.

There are characteristic differences between these sets of problems.   Android leadership generally says things that imply the Android model does what it should.  It appears however that the lack of updates for most platforms and the change in model over time leave most Android users vulnerable.  There are no contrite user-caring actions from Google.  Apple patched for the PDF problem.  They are working on pushing app developers to be clear as required in the developer agreement, and many app developers have updated their code to make data use clear.  Apple is trying to do something about it, has done things about it, and cares.

I'd rather have Apple behind me on this one.