All posts by Royce McMinn

When is Good Enough Good Enough?

My last iPhone purchase was the iPhone 6 Plus back in March,  2015. Late in 2017, I began to notice a drop off in performance and battery life.

My first thought was “I need a new iPhone.”, but, after further review, I determined that I would try a battery replacement instead.

The key component in the “review” was the use of the Coconut Battery app to measure my iPhone battery health. Within the app metrics, I saw that my phone’s battery capacity was diminished substantially and the number of charging cycles was nearly 500 which far outpaces the 200-300 advertised for the normal life span of the battery.

In January of this year, I took my phone to a local Apple repair service U Break I Fix.  Twenty minutes and $70 later, I walked out with a “new” iPhone. The performance was back. The battery was back.

Now, as to question of when is good enough good enough? The technology gene in my DNA calls for a new iPhone each time a new one hits the market. The last episode was the recent release of the Big Red One. The frugal side argues that the new iPhone doesn’t give you features that meet the “replacement threshold”.

Now I know the “replacement threshold” is a subjective measure which differs for each individual. The “threshold” is very sensitive to the usage model each person has for the device. My “threshold” has changed over time; drifting from a technology-based measure to a frugal-based measure.

For now, I am not sold on the form factor and function of the iPhone X. And the iPhone 8 Plus is better than my iPhone 6 Plus, but not to the point that I need to replace current function with updated function.

I am anticipating the next few months when the numerous iPhone rumors solidify into reality. What is most intriguing is the adoption of larger screen sizes. At that point, a reassessment may result in a new iPhone, but, for now, Good Enough is definitely Good Enough.

 

 

 

Apple, the Touch Is Gone. Third Party Rescue?

Apple has claimed for years now that a touch screen has no place as part of a laptop or desktop setup. In the last updates for the Apple laptop line, this denial of touch seems to be lessening with the inclusion of a “Touch Bar” to the high-end MacBook Pro models.

The Touch Bar, however seems to be more of a gimmick that falls far short of the “Touch” experience the customer wants.

In a recent post on my TechnoBabble blog,  I lamented the failure of Apple to maintain it’s position as “King of Touch”; a prominent position it pioneered with the introduction of the iPhone and iPad. Even I abandoned the Apple brand this Christmas with the purchase of a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Thanks Santa!

Now a 3rd-party solution appears to be filling the gap. The AirBar may find a welcoming customer pool for we Mac owners desiring the Touch experience.  I await the availability of the 13.3″ AirBar to support my MacBook Air.

But this does not let Apple off the hotseat. The company needs to realize that the iPad Pro is a poor substitute for a 2-in-1 experience like the Surface Pro.  I would prefer an iPad-like device with true productivity features; USB, microSD card and mini DisplayPort support.

Will it ever happen? Not with the current attitude at the top of Apple. Maybe after a few quarters of falling profits the message may sink in as in “consider the customer. Thinner and lighter can only go so far”.

Update from iPad Air 2 to iPad Pro?

I have an iPad Air 2 . The iPad Pro is now available. Should I upgrade?

A number of iPad users are asking that same question.  There is no stock answer. As with many upgrade decisions,  “It all depends” holds true once again.

For myself, my reason for contemplating an upgrade is the addictive desire to be on the cutting edge. I need the new tech because it is new.

But when I step back an review my use of the iPad, I have difficulty justifying the leap forward. My use of the iPad Air 2 is media consumption; email, video, web browsing etc. Not really a productivity thing. In fact, I have never quite worked out a good workflow for use of an iPad as a productivity device. I suppose I am too entrenched in thePC-based paridigm to  devise a suitable alternative that incorporates the iPad. Too much “sand boxing” going on, i.e., I want to search for my data, select it and then select the tool I want to use to manipulate the data. I want to share a file among many tools, but I don’t want to be forced to store the file in the “cloud” in order to do so. Sometimes the sun is out and the “cloud” is gone (no wi-fi).

With the iPad Air 2, I get some of the “goodness” in that iOS 9 provides the split screen, multitasking view which I find very useful. The iPad Pro would, in this case, provide more screen real estate for the side-by-side apps. But there’s not really anything else that entices me to make the move.

I say this with a brave face and resolute conviction, but, that adiction is tingling in the shadows of my mind.

 

iPad mini 3; Is Touch ID Enough for You?

 

Apple rolled out the new 2014 lineup of iPads. The star of the show was the iPad Air 2. With more RAM, faster CPU and GPU, the iPad Air 2 is a step up from the iPad Air.

But what about the iPad mini 3?. The only new feature available on the mini 3 is the Touch ID sensor on the Home button and the addition of the “gold” color scheme. The rest of the specs remained consistent with the previous generation (now called iPad mini 2).

Of the 2014 changes to the mini, the Touch ID is the most compelling. In my estimation, save the money on the iPad mini 3 and buy the mini 2.   it appears that the iPhone 6 Plus is weighing heavy in the minds of the Apple folk in Cupertino. There might not be an iPad mini 4.

 

iPad as Laptop? Workflow Issues

iPad as Laptop
iPad as Laptop

I have, from time to time, made the attempt to re-task my iPad as a productivity device; my “not a laptop” laptop.

After going through many keyboard configurations (ZAGG, Logitech, Apple, etc.) and any number of productivity apps (Pages, Numbers, KeyNote, Docs TO Go to name a few), I have finally accepted that the iPad is just not a laptop replacement for me.

This is not to say that the iPad could not be used by others for that purpose. The hurtle that I cannot seem to clear is the workflow issues. The sandboxing of the different apps make it difficult for me to achieve the level of productivity I need. Too many years of “drag and drop” between applications I guess.

The iPad can be used as a laptop stand-in for at times, and, with the introduction of iOS 8, perhaps the software is moving into a new phase that would provide more of the workflow model I use.

But, for now, I will use my MacBook Air for the brunt of my mobile work and relegate the iPad to it’s rightful place as an outstanding media consumption device.

Then again, there is a hint of an iPad Pro. Hmmm….

 

iOS 8, the Bread’s Not Done

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Over the past few years, Apple has embarked on a yearly refresh of Operating System software for both the Mac and iOS lines of hardware. In particular, the release of iOS is tied to the introduction of the latest iPhone arrival each fall. It’s almost biblical. When the leaves begin to show fall colors, a new iPhone is near.

With iOS 7 and again with iOS 8, it is evident that even though the hardware was ready to go, the software was not. This “good enough” release cycle is giving Apple a black eye. While hardware is a science, software continues to be more of an art form. As art, it is most difficult to tie the release of new software to a date certain. Software is ready when it’s ready and not before.

Perhaps the problem is that Apple is overreaching in the feature set and needs to scale back such that the changes needed in the software match the programming resources Apple can deploy to meet the commitments. I would rather have a stable, functional release of iOS rather than a feature-rich environment in which I have to battle the feature set to maintain control of my device.

With iOS 8, we had the initial release, followed closely by version 8.0.1 which, in turn was followed more closely with version 8.0.2 needed to correct issues introduced with 8.0.1. In fact, the first release of iOS 8 should have been version 8.1.

Has Apple adopted the old Microsoft model. Get the OS out there and fix it in Service Pack 1 or 2. Can anyone say “Vista”?

Here’s hoping that Apple returns to the Apple of old and delivers a software experience that matches the hardware it runs on.

New use for Zagg Auto Fit Keyboard

zagg autofit 10A few weeks ago, I purchased the ZAGG Auto Fit 10” keyboard folio to replace the dreadful keyboard supplied with the ASUS Transformer Book T100. The ASUS tablet popped right into place and I have been using the keyboard with the Windows tablet ever since.

On a lark, I tried to insert my iPad 3rd generation into the keyboard enclosure, but the form factor was too tall.

In the intervening weeks, I shipped the iPad 3 off to Gazelle. On Saturday. en email from Best Buy arrived in my inbox. In it was a trade-in offer for the iPad 2 I had purchased some three years ago. I took the iPad 2 to my local Best Buy and walked out with a new iPad Air 2.

I looked at the iPad Air 2 and noted the sleek lines when compared to my iPad 3. I picked up the ZAGG keyboard and popped the ASUS tablet out and popped the iPad Air 2 in. Well, by gosh and by golly (pardon my language) the new iPad fit very nicely. The new iPad is clad in a thin TPU case. I positioned the tablet with a slight bias to the right to clear the “Volume Up” button.

I haven’t paired the iPad and ZAGG keyboard yet. That will be the next step in the process. The iPad may be compatible with the keyboard in fit alone, but I am hopeful of more.

 

The Ravages of iOS 8

I guess I expected it. Even though i hoped it wouldn’t happen.

On Septemer 17th, I, like many others, downloaded and installed the latest iOS offering (iOS 8) on my iPhone 5s, my iPad mini Retina, and my iPad 3.

I expected some glitches to occur with some apps. For example, I had to delete and reinstall the Audigle app on my iPad mini. I did not expect to suffer issues related to basic system capabilities.

iPad mini

  • Multitask Gestures – I didn’t realize how much I used the 5 finger pinch to dismiss an app and the 4 finger up to show the list of running apps. Not working.
  • Zoom – iOS 8 has a new Zoom window. You can configure the Zoom to be the standard full screen or the Zoom Window. Zoom Window displays a wire frame outline showing you what portion of the screen will zoom in/out. Don’t want to use Zoom Window, but it keeps activating even though I am not selecting the feature. Most annoying.
  • VoiceOver – I use voiceOver qujite a lot to scan though different feeds in the Flipboard app. Prior to the update to iOS 8, I could “flip” to the next or previous page of articles using three fingers. Now all I get is a beep. In order to move to the next page, I have to disable VoiceOver (3 presses of the Home button), swipe left or right to move to the desired page, then re-enable VoiceOver. Most annoying.
  • 3rd Party Keyboards – One of the iOS 8 features I anticipated the most was the addition of 3rd party keyboards that could be used system wide. I downloaded 4 contenders; SwiftKey, Swype, Fleksy and TouchPal. I select the keyboard I wantm but the selection does not stick. i do not know what triggers the “switch back”, but when I wake the device up, when the keyboard appears, it is the Apple keyboard and not the 3rd party keyboard. Perhaps this is user error in that there is some magic checkbox that needs selecting.
  • Spotlight Search – Spotlight search still works, but in landscape mode, the keyboard appears on the right of the screen in a Portrait mode configuration.

iPad 3

  • Zoom – I don’t use the iPad 3 too much anymore, but there is a definite problem with Zoom functionality. I noted it when attempting to install iOS 8. When, after a number of hard resets, I got to the “Hello” window, all I could see was a very large “Hel” on the right side of the screen. Try as I might, the three finger double tap would not correct the issue. After a number of reset attempts, the “Hello” window appeared as normal. Now when I activate Zoom (three finger double tap), I have to pull down with three fingers to zoom in. This is the exact reverse of the expected interface; push up to Zoom In and pull down to Zoom out. This reversal would be a mild annoyance in itself, but the Zoom function is not stable. The amount of Zoom is not controllable. It takes many attempts to Zoom in or Out.

Others share some of the problems listed here. Here’s hoping Apple has a quick turn around with an 8.0.1 patch to address these issues.

An SSD Makes A Difference

Mac Pro Tower
Mac Pro Tower

In January, I retired my 2006 Mac Pro. Still a good workhorse of a computer, but Apple had left it behind as support for the hardware ended with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

In June, 2013, I acquired a taste for a new desktop in the form of a new MacBook Air. While not really a desktop, I put the MBA through it’s paces as a replacement for my Mac Pro. The MBA was fast, especially the 256 GB solid state drive. The system booted quickly and programs launched with imperceptible delay. It could be my new desktop; except for one drawback. The laptop was equipped with 4 GB of RAM, not the 18 GB in my Mac Pro. For normal operations, the 4 GB did the job, but when I launched a series of Windows and Linux Virtual Machines, the memory limitation was evident.

My next foray was to use the Chameleon boot-loader trick to spoof the old 32-bit EFI hardware so that OL X 10.9 Mavericks could find a new home on the machine. This worked with limited success, but was tedious to say the least and never felt just right; kind of a “hackintosh” taste with visions of disaster around each corner.

Workspace 2013
In stepped a new 2013 iMac. I upgraded the original 8 GB of RAM to 24 GB. All was well…except I had failed to learn the lesson of the MacBook Air and SSD technology. I succumbed to an enticing price at my local Best Buy and purchased a unit with a traditional 1 TB, 7200 RPM spinning piece of “sloooooow” regrets.

Don’t get me wrong, the iMac is a great machine, but, it would have been greater if I had skipped the bargain basement price and opted for a unit with an SSD. Well, there are silver linings. I run my desktop on a 24/7 basis and I have noticed that my electricity bill has dropped since I unplugged the old Mac Pro.

And then there is that nagging “Pssst” sound every time I walk by a new Mac Pro in the Apple Store.

 

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A New Life for my Mac Pro

Mac Pro Tower
Mac Pro Tower

Back in 2006, I purchased my Mac Pro 1,1. Over the years, it has served me well. Starting with OS X Tiger (10.4) to OS X Lion (10.7), I added upgrades to my system; additional RAM, more hard disks and, in anticipation of OS X 10.8, a new ATI Radeon 5770 HD graphics upgrade.

Well, I was a little more than disappointed when I learned that Apple was abandoning support for my Mac Pro at the shores of OS X Lion. The 10.8 ship sailed and my Mac Pro wasn’t on it.

When OS X Mavericks was announced, I hoped against hope that Apple would rescue my Mac Pro and bring it back into the fold. This was not to be. Instead, I updated my MacBook Air 2013 to the new OS and relegated my Mac Pro to “ride the bench”.

In the past few weeks, I started to consider my technical life after the Mac Pro. My Air was playing the role of a desktop, but I really wanted a true desktop for my office. What would it be; a Mac Mini, iMac or perhaps, the new Mac Pro 2013? Also, what would I do with my old Mac Pro. Maybe sell it on eBay…

My old Mac Pro had enough of this sort of talk. “I can still do the job! Give me a chance!”. I looked at my Mac Pro, considered it for a moment and then decided to give it one more upgrade.

With the help of this website, and a new SSD drive, I now introduce my “new” Mac Pro running OS X Mavericks 10.9.1.

My "new" Mac Pro
My “new” Mac Pro

I think my Mac Pro is smiling at me.

 

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