Category Archives: Apple Software

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.

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.

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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Disappointments with Apple 2012

Just a quick post to air my Apple disappointments for 2012.

  1. Another OS Abandonment
    Once again, Apple abandoned a number of older hardware with the release of OS 10.8 Mountain Lion. Chief among the cast-offs was the original Mac Pro 1,1 (2006). I had updated mine in January 2012 to 18 GB RAM and an ATI Radeon 5770 HD only to learn later that the final OS release would not support the hardware.

    Prior to this letdown, I survived the PowerPC layoff caused by OS 10.6 Snow Leopard.

    I will continue to slog on with OS 10.7 Lion; event though the Messages beta was pulled. My Mac Pro had too many productive years still remaining. My hope would be that either Apple would relent with OS 10.9 or that a workaround would be available that didn’t take 30 steps to accomplish.

  2. iOS Accessibility – Keyboard Themes
    I don’t want to jailbreak my devices, but Color Keyboard may force the issue. All I want is the ability to change the color theme for the on-screen keyboard in order to aid my impaired vision. On my iPad, I want black keys with white letters. I know. I can get this effect by using the High Contrast settings in Accessibility, but that also affects the entire screen which I do not want.

    The jailbreak app Color Keyboard shows that this feature is entirely possible. Why, oh why Apple can you not provide such a simple request?

  3. iPad mini – No Retina Display
    Don’t get me wrong. I certainly enjoy my iPad mini, but a Retina Display would have been nice
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  4. iPad 4
    I understand that technology marches on, but I had hoped that my iPad 3 would have been “cutting edge” for a few more months; at least until 2013.

Not a long list, but important to me nontheless.

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Mountain Lion on My Mac Pro First Edition…Sort Of

Mountain Lionized!

In a previous article, I bemoaned the fact that my Mac Pro 1,1 (First Edition) was left behind as part of the Mountain Lion launch. Even though I had upgraded the video to an ATI Radion 5770 HD and boosted the RAM to 18 GB, Apple decided that my workhorse machine was just to ugly to get an invitation to the Upgrade Party.

Not wanting my Mac Pro to feel left out, I decided to take action.

First, I did upgrade my 2008 Aluminum MacBook  to Mountain Lion.  Thankfully, that machine had secured a spot for an upgrade, just barely. Once that installed, I moved back to my Mac Pro.

Using Parallels Desktop for Mac, Version 7, I created a Mac OS X Lion virtual machine from the recovery partition on the Mac Pro. Once I had that up and running, I tweaked the Virtual Machine settings in preparation for Mountain Lion.

  • Boosted the virtual RAM to 4 GB
  • Increased the video RAM from 32 to 512 MB.
I restarted the Mac OS X Lion Virtual Machine and launched the App Store inside the VM. On the Featured page, there sat that Mountain Lion. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that it had an “I’m too good for you” look on it’s face.

Never the less, I pressed the “Download” button to the right of the Mountain Lion icon and patiently waited for the installation app to download. The network traffic was such that I had to attempt this multiple times. At first, I thought the Mountain Lion would get the better of me. Was it detecting that I was using a VM running on obviously inappropriate hardware? Was that why the download  was failing?

On the third attempt, the Mountain Lion installation app beamed at me from the VM Launch Pad. I clicked the icon and the OS installation process started up. After about 35 minutes, and a couple of restarts, I had a full fledged Mountain Lion OS running as a VM on my Mac Pro 1,1.

It’s still not what I really want, i.e., Mountain Lion accepting my Mac Pro and running natively on it’s hardware, but , at least I can let the Lion roam within the confines of it’s virtual world. Hopefully, a reprieve will surface that will give me what I want, but, in the meantime …

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The Mountain Lion Lamentation

I first entered the Apple OS environment in 2005 with the Mac Mini running Mac OS X Tiger (10.4). Through the intervening years, I have upgraded through the progression of new OS X offerings; Leopard (10.5), Snow Leopard (10.6) and Lion (10.7).

As with most journeys, I’ve had to say good-bye to some as I said hello to others. My original Mac Mini and iBook fell by the OS highway at Leopard. These PowerPc machines were not supported by Snow Leopard.

But, my faithful workhorse Mac Pro 1,1, 2007 MacBook and 2008 MacBook continued to move forward through Snow Leopard and Lion.

Now I learn that another fork in the road will soon arrive. With the release of Mountain Lion (10.8), the 2008 MacBook alone will be able to continue the journey. But will it? My Mac Pro 1,1 is the “main machine”. If it must stay at Lion, then perhaps the MacBook will stay as well.

All you Mountain Lion users, have fun. Don’t mind me. I’ll just stay back here in the shadows. Sniff….

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iOS Accessibility. More Is Needed.

As a low-vision user of iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), I use Accessibility features quite extensively.  The two most often used features in this category are VoiceOver and Zoom.

I use VoiceOver most frequently for tasks such as

  • Reading Mail Message headers
  • Reading Twitter Timeline messages
  • Selecting on-screen controls to determine button functions within an app
  • Reading on-screen text without needing to zoom in

These four workflow items are indispensable to me. The frustration is that VoiceOver function is not consistent from one app to another. For example, in iBooks, I can read the text of a book using VoiceOver, but I can’t perform the same function in the Amazon Kindle app. When I tap the screen in the Kindle app, all I get is a sound effect telling me I tapped the screen. Not much help at all.

VoiceOver

The same can be said for other iOS apps. In social networking, the Twitter app supports VoiceOver, but other Twitter client apps do not.

It would be greatly appreciated if VoiceOver worked consistently across the iOS experience instead of the “hit or miss” patchwork that a currently exists. This sketchy support makes it difficult to purchase apps. It would be nice if the app page in iTunes had an Accessibility compliancy section so I could more easily determine if the app supports features such as VoiceOver.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02:  Apple CEO Steve...

Another shortfall is the on-screen keyboard. With my particular visual difficulties, the on-screen keyboard would be more effective if the key was dark and the lettering light in a look similar to the chic-let keyboards on a MacBook Pro. You can achieve this effect in Accessibility by manipulating the screen contrast, i.e., a reverse video effect. This changes the keyboard, but it also changing the entire screen. I don’t want to change the entire screen; only the keyboard. Come on Apple, you let me change the keyboard layout. Let me change the default color.

CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Apple's Senior Vi...

Yes, I know Apple, your company is a leader in making the technology experience available to a wider group of people. Apple is eons ahead of Amazon. Apple has added Siri to the iPhone 4s and dictation for the iPad. But, there is still more than can be done.; some which should be relatively simple to accomplish.

 

 

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OS X 10.7 Lion or Lamb?

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Image by Gory ^ via Flickr

On July 25th, I, like many other Mac users, purchased and installed OS X Lion 10.7.  July 25th, Christmas in July. I immediately installed the update on my desktop (Mac Pro 2006). A few days later, I installed the update on my 2008 MacBook along with an upgrade to 8 GB ram. This leaves  only my 2007 MacBook which is currently off at college.

Both my updates completed without a hitch. The process was amazingly simple.

I had intended to make an installer, either USB or DVD, but I missed my first chance with my desktop when the install package disappeared afar the install completed. This forced me to download the package again for my MacBook. This time, I saved a copy of the install package prior to launching the process. Haven’t made the install disk yet, but it appears to be a simple process.

Now that I’ve been using the new OS for a few days, I can give a few first impressions.

Scrolling:

The change in scrolling behavior incorporated into Lion seems to be a huge topic with both supporters and detractors. There is no shortage of “how to’s” to reverse the default “Natural” scrolling. For my part, I like the new scrolling paradigm. The “natural” scroll mimics the direct drive mode in use on iOS devices. Instead of pulling the window up and down over a fixed page, now you push the page up or down. This method of scrolling is certainly natural on the iPad or iPhone, but I can see how it may prove difficult for those equipped with the traditional scroll wheel mouse. For myself, I have been using the Magic TrackPad for quite a while, so the “natural” proved to be natural after a short period of time. I still have to go “unnatural” when at work, but, so far, moving from “natural” to “unnatural” and back has not been so distracting as to reverse the mode on my Macs. I do admit that I sometimes have to think a bit to transition from work to home use.

LaunchPad

Another blending of iOS and OS X is found in the LaunchPad. Those with iOS devices certainly recognize the home screen with the multiple icons, folders, etc. I didn’t realize I had so many applications installed until I began scrolling through all the pages of apps. Most represented application that I might run once in a blue moon. Thankfully, LaunchPad Control soon came to the rescue. LaunchPad Control is a free Mac application that allows you to customize which apps appear in the LaunchPad. I still have some work to do here, but at least I now have a tool to do it with.

Mission Control

To me, Mission Control is a composite of Exposé and Spaces. I’ve used it a little, It certainly seems to be a much simpler interface for moving apps into different spaces.

Full Page Apps

I have certainly enjoyed the new full screen mode for Apple applications such as Mail, Safari and iTunes. It will be only more and more enjoyable as more vendors push out apps supporting the new full screen capability.

New Gestures

With all the new User Interface (UI) candy, you knew that new gestures had to be included. I did do some tweaking here. On iOS, to move from one app to another, you swipe  with four fingers. (At least those of  us that could use Xcode to enable the gestures). By default, Lion had this set for three fingers, but allowed a change to four fingers. I appreciate consistency, so I made the change. I also enjoy the new “back and forward” in Safari using two fingers (left or right swipe), but have run into circumstances where the old arrows would be nice.

All in all, the upgrade to Lion from Snow Leopard was certainly more pronounced than the previous leap from Leopard to Snow Leopard. And it is certainly worth the $30 price tag. Right now, the Lion is ROARING!

 

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