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Security vulnerability: Apple Watch, iPhone and Apple Pay

Posted in Apple, security by commorancy on March 6, 2016

apple-watch-passcode-screenIf you own an Apple Watch, there is a security vulnerability that could compromise your Apple Pay cards. Let’s explore.

Watch Stolen?

Let’s say you’re on vacation and you decide to visit that cute little patio coffee shop. Naturally, you’re sitting, sipping and enjoying your coffee. Your wrist adorned with your new Apple Watch is sitting on top pretty wrought iron fence. Someone comes along and grabs your Apple Watch off your wrist and runs away. What do you do? Chase after them to get it back? Oh, but they’re already gone. So then, try to disable the watch on your iPhone? So, here’s the dilemma (and the vulnerability). As soon as you unlock your iPhone, your watch is now quite vulnerable thanks to Apple.

Unlocking your iPhone

Apple has recently pushed an update that automatically and, by default, unlocks both your Apple Watch and your iPhone merely by unlocking your phone… so long as the watch is on anyone’s wrist (it doesn’t have to be your wrist). And herein lies the vulnerability.

So now, that thief who has just stolen your Apple Watch is standing close enough to still get a connection from your iPhone. The thief already knows what will happen after you unlock your phone. So, they patiently wait until you unlock your phone. Then, they get access to your stolen watch’s data until you A) Mark as Missing or B) remove all your credit cards from your wallet. It’s doubtful you can unpair the watch once they have taken it out of range of the Bluetooth/WiFi, but you can mark it as missing.

The thief will wait just long enough to get the watch unlocked and then run for it to get out of connection range. This may allow them to get access to the Apple Wallet and skim your cards from NFC. They could even still do it while in range of your phone, especially if you somehow hadn’t noticed the watch was missing (i.e., you had taken it off and placed it in your bag).

Fixing the Vulnerability

It’s quite amazing that this exists, a stupid security feature from the same company that’s trying to defend itself from unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone for a judge. Hypocritical much? No no, mustn’t unlock a phone for a judge. But, it’s perfectly okay to give thieves access to Apple Pay credit cards by enabling this dual unlock feature. First thing I’d immediately recommend is going into the Watch app on your iPhone and disabling this feature pronto! You’ll find that the Apple Watch itself also has this setting available under Passcode, but thankfully it can only be enabled or disabled on the iPhone.

However, this feature should not be available at all, Apple.

Preventative Measures

While you are still in possession of both your Apple Watch and your iPhone, you should immediately disable this feature. On the iPhone, it’s under Watch app=>My Watch (Screen)=>Passcode=>Unlock with iPhone set to OFF.

You’ll need to perform this while you are in possession of both devices, before your watch is stolen or misplaced. If you fail to make this change now, you cannot make this change after it is stolen. You can only mop up the mess.

Reactive Measures — My Apple Watch has been stolen!

If you leave the Unlock with iPhone setting enabled, anyone wearing your watch will see it unlock as soon as you unlock your iPhone if they are still in connection range (possibly 30 feet or so, but could be farther). So, you realize your watch is missing and the first thing you do is think, “I need to delete my Apple Watch from my phone”. However, merely by unlocking your phone, you may have just now given the thief access to your watch and to anything on that watch including your Apple Pay credit cards. This means they can activate the NFC on the watch and skim those card numbers off or even use them to charge in shops around the area, possibly even for the entire day until you remove the cards from the wallet. This gives the thief access to wallet and your credit cards until the watch runs out of battery or it locks again once taken off. Or, until you have taken measures to remove the cards from Apple Pay and have marked the watch as missing.

It’s very important to understand exactly how exposed you are by using the Apple Watch with the Apple Pay when enabling the Unlock with iPhone feature. But, you have to know that it’s stolen to take these measures.

Protecting Yourself

What do you do after it’s stolen?

Assuming you know that the watch has been stolen, the first thing you should do before unlocking your iPhone is disable Bluetooth and WiFi. How do you do this? At the > Slide to Unlock screen do not unlock the phone. Instead, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to the top. This will bring up the quick access menu that lets you manage items like WiFi on/off, Airplane mode on/off, Flashlight on/off and, yes, Bluetooth on/off. From the quick access menu, you need to disable both WiFi and Bluetooth before ever unlocking your iPhone. Because Apple Watch relies on Bluetooth and apparently an adhoc WiFi connection, the signal that you’ve unlocked won’t be sent to your nearby watch. It doesn’t seem to send this signal when your phone is on a carrier LTE or 4G data network. However, disabling Bluetooth or WiFi alone is not enough. The Watch can still connect to the cloud if close to a WiFi network it knows about. If you’re out on the street, that’s not likely. If you’re in or near your hotel, it might.

If you are not sure where your watch is, you should disable WiFi and Bluetooth before unlocking your iPhone. Once you’ve disabled WiFi and Bluetooth, go into Watch app=>My Watch=>Apple Watch and then Mark as Missing (making sure you have access to an LTE or 4G data network). You will not be able to disable the Unlock with iPhone feature while the watch is locked even if you reenable both WiFi and Bluetooth.  In fact, if you do enable WiFi and Bluetooth, the app seems to remember the last unlocking for some period of time and will pass that unlock to the watch to unlock it. You don’t want to do this.

Whatever you do, don’t enable WiFi and Bluetooth until you’ve selected Mark as Missing under the Apple Watch menu. The last thing you want to happen is the iPhone to send an unlock signal to your watch.

Didn’t notice the watch was missing?

If you’ve left the watch in a hotel room or at pool or on the beach, you may have inadvertently unlocked the watch for a thief while you did not know the watch was missing. In this case, you should immediately Mark as Missing (see above). The second thing you will need to do is go into Wallet and Apple Pay is remove all credit cards from this area. This will deauthorize the card from Apple Pay and prevent the watch from making any further purchases with your cards.

Because Apple Pay creates a unique new Apple Pay card ID for each card, the thief won’t get access to your actual card number. But, a thief can still skim these unique numbers from the NFC and continue to use the numbers as long as you have not removed the card from the Wallet and Apple Pay menu. See ‘Thievery at its finest’ below for a caveat on skimming of NFC Apple Pay card numbers.

You should also call all of your credit card companies and let them know the period of time the watch was lost. While replacement of the cards is not necessary due to the way that Apple Pay registers new card numbers for use, it might still be a good idea just to be safe.

Forever losing things?

If you’re one of those people who is prone to losing or misplacing your stuff (especially things like Watches), then you need to head back up to Preventative Measures and disable Unlock with iPhone while you still have both your iPhone and Apple Watch in your possession. In fact, you can do it now while I wait here… patiently… for you to open up Settings on your iPhone… and disable Unlock with iPhone. Yes, you. Go do it now.

Okay, so now that that’s done. You did go do it, right? Okay, just checking. Assuming you didn’t lie about disabling it, there is no way a thief can get access to your Apple Watch by being in proximity of your iPhone if stolen or lost (i.e., like at the beach or at a pool).

If you are the type of person who loses things regularly, you might not even want to enable Apple Pay on the watch at all. Though, if you have a credit card on file for iTunes, Apple tries to be nice and imports this card into your watch on your behalf after its first setup. You should immediately go into the Watch app on your phone and remove that card. You can always add it back if you like.

Thievery at its finest — (the thief who returns most of what is stolen)

If you take your watch off by a pool, at the beach or any place where you might not want your watch damaged, a would-be thief could ‘borrow’ your watch just long enough to NFC skim all your cards off of the device (after waiting for you to unlock your phone). Then, carefully return the watch to you. He now has all your cards and you aren’t even the wiser that the watch was even missing.

Before this happens to you, you should disable Unlock with iPhone. Though, if you’re concerned about the credit card situation at all, you might just want to delete all the cards from your Apple Watch entirely and not use the watch for Apple Pay. Even if a thief attempts to skim your card data from your watch, they won’t be able to do it if the cards aren’t even there. However, if you do choose to use Apple Pay with your watch and as a security measure, I’d suggest removing and re-adding the cards once every couple of months. Better, once a month. This forces your bank to issue a new unique Apple Pay card number for each credit card. This will invalidate old Apple Pay unique card numbers that may have skimmed from your watch.

You should always remove and re-add your cards if your Apple Watch has been out of your possession for any period of time.

The Takeaway

Hopefully, by reading this article someone doesn’t end up taking more than your Apple Watch from you. The takeaway from this article should be to secure your device by undoing stupid Apple counter-security measures. Disable Unlock by iPhone in the Apple Watch app. Remove unnecessary cards from Apple Pay. Better, don’t use Apple Pay on the watch if you’re prone to losing things. If you’re planning on wearing the watch, don’t take it off your wrist.

I can’t even believe that Apple would stoop to putting in such an obvious security hole onto a device capable of storing credit card information (even if the numbers are unique to Apple Pay). If an Apple Watch could identify my wrist differently from someone else’s reliably 100% of the time, then this feature might be worthwhile. Because the Apple Watch can’t detect who’s wrist it is currently sitting on, this is a security compromise just waiting to happen.

Review: Apple Watch

Posted in Apple by commorancy on December 3, 2015

apple-watch-aluminum-goldYou might have noticed that I like to write review and tip articles for Apple’s product line. Recently, I’ve picked up an Apple Watch Sport. It’s time for a rundown. Let’s explore.

Watch Functionality

It’s called the Apple Watch for a reason, because it is first and foremost a watch. You’re probably wondering just how good a watch it really is? Let’s just put it this way, the old square iPod that could be used as a watch has better watch faces than the Apple Watch. There are effectively 5 different faces. Two ‘analog’ style faces, one huge number version, a mickey mouse watch and a smaller digital face (that is used in multiple different versions).

Because the faces are so limited and there are so few of them, I’m quite disappointed in what’s here. Instead of providing a large number of faces, what Apple focuses on is customizability of a few faces. So, even though you can customize limited aspects of the watch faces, there’s only so much Apple actually lets you do. This is a little disappointing.

For example, if you want a custom background, you can do that so long as you can live with a digital watch version. This can’t be done with an ‘analog’ dial display. This is unfortunate. Though, there’s still time for Apple to add this in an update.

On the upside, when you flip your wrist up to look at your watch, the face automatically turns on. No need to press buttons.

Watch Face Sizes

There are two sizes available from Apple. There is the 38mm and the 42mm sizes (so far). To be perfectly fair, there’s very little difference between these two sizes as far as utility goes. So, don’t expect miracles from buying the bigger size. Both screens are small and having a slightly larger screen here really doesn’t help much at all. I’m sure Apple may offer more sizes in the future, but for now these are two sizes offered.

What I will say about the sizes is that they work well for a watch face, but for using for anything other than a watch is mostly uncomfortable. Though, using the Apple Watch for any period of time makes you appreciate just how big your iPhone’s display is even if you’re using the iPhone 5.

Remote Control

This is primarily where the Apple Watch shines brightest… being a remote control for your iPhone. That is, playing music, as a speakerphone, answering simple text messages or even just asking Siri basic questions. Not having to pull your phone out of your pocket for simple and basic activities is nice enough. But, is this one feature really worth the price so far? Let’s continue to explore.

Watch Band

The one cool thing that Apple has rethought is the watch band. Instead of being a standard belt type closure, the band has been reinvented. I know a lot of people don’t really like the sport band, but I actually like it for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason is that a standard band is like a belt… which means that the band has that little tail that sticks out and catches on things and is generally frustrating.

Apple’s sport band rethinks this. Now the clasp pops onto a peg that sticks up easily, which makes putting it on one-handed a snap (literally) and then the end of the band tucks into and inside of the band leaving no little flap to hang out and catch on things. I know this piece is a little hard to describe, but once you try it out, you’ll understand why the line of this band is hard to beat. Changing watch bands is pretty much a snap. You press the release button and slide out the band. Then slide in the new one. Repeat the process on the other side. It’s far simpler than trying to depress those tiny little pins from most watch bands.

Again, does this make the Apple Watch worth the money? Let’s keep going.

Applications

As I talked about above, the Apple Watch is primarily a remote controller for the iPhone… and applications are no exception. What that means is to use am application on the watch, it must also have a corresponding iPhone version before a watch version can be loaded. Additionally, the app has to support a watch interface version before you can even use it on the Apple Watch. This also means that there are limited applications that currently even support the Apple Watch. The few that are there range from clumsy to elegant with most falling towards the clumsy side.

Mail

Yes, you can receive notifications of email on your watch. Unfortunately, there is really no HTML rendering piece for the phone. So, many emails that arrive won’t allow for proper viewing on the watch interface. So, don’t expect miracles in this department.

Fitness

If you are fitbit user, you might find the fitness pieces of the Apple Watch useful in that it can keep up with your fitness goals through the built in wrist monitor. So, pop it on and away you go. You just have to fill in all of your details into the fitness app to get started.

News

Here’s where the watch shines once again. If you’re interested in keeping up with the latest news events, there are a number of iPhone apps that support the Apple Watch. This means you can keep up with the latest trending news through alerts on the watch. This is another bright spot for the watch.

It also has a stopwatch, timers and alarms. You can easily set the alarms through Siri.

Siri and Haptic Feedback

This is one of the better features here. I always hated Siri’s voices. They’re unnatural and annoying. So, when the watch remains silent of voice in lieu of haptic feedback after a Siri query, that made me smile. I love this feature. I’d rather the watch (or any device) respond with haptic feedback over using a voice to talk back.

Sounds

There are limited sounds. However, the Apple Watch combines haptic feedback (shaking) to let you know when it’s done something. In combination with haptic feedback, the phone plays a small chime. Like expensive analog watches, some come with small chimes and bells. The Apple Watch mimics that sound whenever notifications are made. So, it makes the Apple Watch feel like an expensive Tourbillion or some other very expensive watch when it chimes after an alert or when an alarm goes off. It’s not some cloying and silly frog or other digital sound effect.  In combination with the haptic feedback, the chime feels and sounds real when on the wrist. It’s as though there’s a little bell inside of the unit. It’s an uncanny sensation. Apple definitely got this right. Though, I would also like a little more customizability in the sounds for alerts, but I’m guessing we’ll see that in WatchOS 3 or 4 or sometime later down the road.

The Crown

Think of the crown’s use on this as a scroll wheel on the mouse. Effectively, that’s how it’s used on the watch interface. You can scroll through email messages, through lists, through settings, etc. Because the touch screen can be clumsy because of its size, the crown’s scrolling feature makes up for that clumsiness making the device a bit more elegant to use. Unfortunately, even with WatchOS 2.0, the crown is not utilized nearly enough. There are a lot of settings areas and other locations that are perfect candidates for using the crown to scroll. Unfortunately, you’ll find that you’ll still be flicking through lists with your finger on the touch surface.

The Touch Screen

One of the things Apple included is that not only is it a touch screen, it is pressure sensitive. So, the harder you press, you can get into different modes or activate features. While this pressure sensitive nature is a cool addition to the watch, it is also well underutilized. In fact, the only real place where it’s used is in customizing the watch faces.

The Charger

Here’s easily the most clumsy piece included with the watch. Not only is the somewhat concave disk shaped charger goofy, the magnet is not nearly strong enough. What that means is that the watch falls away from the charger by simple movement of the watch on the table. It’s frustrating and clumsy all at the same time. I don’t really understand why the magnet isn’t a whole lot stronger. However, having purchased the more expensive Apple flying saucer charger, the magnet on this unit is much much stronger. In fact, it’s the strength that should have been included on the included clumsy disc charger.

Storing Music

Yes, you can store a single playlist on the Apple Watch itself. How exactly you play that music back without the phone, I’m not entirely sure. I’m assuming you can pair a bluetooth headset and listen that way or maybe it plays out of the tiny speaker on the watch. Whatever way it happens, the watch itself has no ports, so it must playback wireless. It seems that the watch may have about 8GB of memory storage. This is the same as the base model of the previous square iPod that could also be used as a watch.

Screen Type

The screen is an AMOLED display. What that means is inky blacks and vibrant whites. You don’t get that annoying bright grey cast you get with backlit units. It also means that it is not backlit. This enhances the watch look and feel and reduces battery life to only those pixels that happen to be lit.

Battery Life

On the 42mm version, I have been pleasantly surprised that when I get home, it’s still no less than 50%. Most times, it’s still in the 80% area. However, this is still a mostly brand new watch. So, I need to set it up with a few charge cycles to get how the battery will really last. As for battery replacement, it doesn’t appear user replaceable. So, I’m guessing you’ll need to make an appointment with Apple’s Genius bar and have them replace it.

Home Screen

The home screen for the watch is, you guessed it, a watch face. Everything else pretty much revolves around this screen. You pull down from the top for notifications. You pull up from the bottom to bring up running apps (music remote control, battery life, fitness, etc… by swiping left or right).

App Screen

While I understand the purpose behind this horrid mess of round icons screen, it’s ugly and hard to get to the things you need. This is the screen with small circle icons arranged into a geometric shape. When you drag it around, the edge circles shrink. While I understand the utility of this on the tiny watch screen, it’s hard to navigate the icons because they have no labels. So, unless you happen to know what the icon is, you’re lost. There are times where icons can be similar to one another which can make it confusing to find the app you want. I personally find this screen a little ugly and tiresome. But, for what it is, I don’t know how to offer Apple a better solution than this. So, it is what is.

Apple Pay

If you have an iPhone 5 that doesn’t support Apple Pay, here’s a way to get this feature without replacing your phone. You can load up your cards on to the Apple Watch and then use the watch to pay with Apple Pay by putting it into Apple Pay mode and touching the watch to the payment terminal. Admittedly, I’ve used it a few times (even at the Apple store). It’s handy and prevents the need to pull out your credit card from your wallet. It works with both credit cards and combo credit/debit cards.

Wrist Detection

This piece goes hand-in-hand with Apple Pay. By electing to put your cards onto the device to use with Apple Pay, you automatically enable certain security mechanisms. One of them being wrist detection and passwords. This means that as long as you’re wearing the watch, you don’t have to enter your password. As soon as you take the watch off and put it back on, you’ll be prompted to enter the password again. The thinking is that if someone rips it off of your wrist and steals it, they can’t get into it because it’s automatically passworded as soon as it’s removed. This is a good feature, but at the same time it also offers some unnecessary annoyances in other parts of the operating system.

Overall

The Apple Watch is a somewhat interesting device, but it is pricey. It starts at $349 and goes up from there. The 38mm version is $349 and the 42mm version is $399 for the sport series. The prices only go up from here. For a watch, I guess this an okay price for the sport model. When you get into the pricier versions, the difference is just in the materials.

For the sport version, you only get some kind of tempered glass over the touch surface. If you move up to the $549-$599 price point, you get sapphire. Though apparently the sapphire saps some of the brightness from the screen. So, you’ll want to be prepared for that.

Apple also shot themselves in the foot by doing away with skeuomorphism in iOS. In fact, for the watch faces, the flat colors are just too boring. If there’s justification for using skeuomorphism, watch hands are the place to do it. The flat watch hand colors are, well, drab and boring. I’d rather have a watch face that looks like a watch face with roman numerals and hands that look like metal. Instead, we get flat pointy hands that don’t look real at all. The double whammy here is that there are so few watch faces from which to choose, it’s really a less than ideal situation for the Apple Watch. In fact, there were better looking watch faces on the older square iPod that also doubled as a watch.

If you’re looking for a watch that doubles as an interface to your iPhone, the Apple Watch might be worth the money. But, don’t be disappointed at how sparse the app landscape is right now. There’s really not a ton of apps available. But, don’t go into this purchase thinking it will be the perfect app companion to your iPhone. It won’t and isn’t. It is still too new for that.

The one and only reason to consider the purchase of an Apple Watch is for the watch functionality. Though, you should use it and play with it before you make the decision to buy. There are plenty of watches on the market and having the Apple Watch may not be the smartest of choices if the watch is the most important aspect. Also, the limited faces of the watch means it’s not as flexible as one would hope. It is a small computer after all. So, it should be able to mimic the look of any watch face. Unfortunately, Apple has intentionally limited this functionality to date. Until this piece is fully realized, owning this as a watch may not be the best of choices. Though, the sport watch band is comfortable and easily one of the best innovations here.

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Rant Time: iOS 9.1 and iCloud Backup == Fail

Posted in Apple, botch, business by commorancy on October 27, 2015

icloud_icon_brokenThis rant will be relatively short and sweet. I recently upgraded my iPhone to iOS 9.1. Not only were there some stupid issues around their new and improved upgrade process, iCloud backup is entirely broken. Let’s explore.

Pre-upgrade problems

Apple has introduced an upgrade after-hours process. What that means is that you need to agree to some terms and then the iPhone will upgrade between 2AM and 4AM as long as your phone is plugged in. I thought, “yay” until I got the agreement screen at which time I promptly yelled, “what the hell?”. Let me explain…

Apple forces on top of all else this automated upgrade agreement screen. It even disables the home button so you can’t get out of that screen by accidentally pressing the home button (like that would ever happen). That means you’re firmly planted on that screen (or so it seems). Anyway, on the agreement screen, you have to type in your Apple login credentials to verify you and to help you with that process, the iPhone conveniently pops up an on-screen keyboard like it typically does. Except, the Apple developers forgot one crucial detail. They forgot to give you a way to get rid of the keyboard when you’re done. Pressing the Enter button at the bottom right of the keyboard does absolutely nothing. The keyboard remains firmly planted on top of, you guessed it, the submit button. This means you cannot press the submit button… and, you can’t press the home button… and, you can’t do anything else.

So, now you’re literally stuck. You can’t press the submit button to complete the action and you can’t get out of this screen, or so it seems. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I pressed and held the power button until the Slide to Power Off slider appeared. Lo and behold, doing this actually made that screen go away. This entire debacle should have been my warning. But noooo. I didn’t listen to that little voice saying not to upgrade now.

Can’t use Automated Update

So now that I forced my way out of that screen with the power button, there is no way to go back in and resume the process. You’re probably wondering why I might want to do that? I had planned on hooking up a bluetooth keyboard to the phone so that on screen keyboard would not present. This would allow me to enter the data and then have access to the submit button, but noooo. Can’t make it that easy now can we Apple? So, I performed the upgrade in the normal way, by going into Settings=>General=>Software Update and used the standard method.

iCloud backup and 9.1 fail

Turn Off & DeleteTo a lesser degree, I had this same problem in 9.0.4 (or whatever the last 9.0 version was). When I attempted to backup my phone to iCloud, for whatever reason the iPhone decides to back up every app on your phone by default. Mind you, I have several gigs worth of apps on my phone on top of the 15G or so of images/videos in my library. I spent a good day working on getting my iCloud backup working on 9.0.x. It took me the better part of several hours working through stupid Settings app bugs just to get all of my apps excluded from backups. Let’s understand that Apple requires you to manually disable each and every app separately from being backed up. Let’s also understand that in order to do so, each time you click to green slider to the OFF position, you have confirm a popup that asks ‘Turn Off and Delete’ for every single app separately. Let’s consider that my phone has hundreds of apps installed. So many apps, in fact, that Settings crashes about 1/4 of the way through the ‘Turn Off and Delete’ confirmation banners. It’s an arduous task at best and it’s frustrating and aggravating at worst.

IMG_1821Yet, rolling into 9.1, Apple promptly reverts everything I spent 1-2 hours doing and now defaults back to turning every app ON (see left image) for backup yet again. How do I know? I get that very annoying ‘Not Enough Storage’ notification on my lock screen. I spent valuable time setting all of that up and Apple promptly forgets my settings. The very definition of bad user experience (UX). Instead, this time I can’t even stop the backups of any apps. Apple only gives 5GB of data storage for free. I had all of my devices comfortably making backups on iCloud using maybe 3.1GB total (4 devices), after the excruciatingly aggravating task of finally excluding all of the unnecessary crap that Apple insists on including. Perfect… until 9.1.

Now, I’m in a catch 22. I can’t make a successful backup because iOS continually resets all of my apps and forces me to back up everything to the iCloud the first time. Yet, iOS won’t allow me to change settings to deselect the apps because it must have a successful backup first. FAIL. You can go try to deselect apps, but that’s all for show. It doesn’t actually work. Oh sure, the green ON buttons turn OFF, but it’s not as if that actually works. It doesn’t respect that those apps are now OFF and the backup fails. Once it fails, all of those buttons you’ve spent tons of times clicking to OFF will all be automatically reenabled after the backup failure.

I have no idea what Apple was thinking here, but they clearly had their heads in the iClouds. This problem has gotten progressively worse with each release and has culminated in iCloud backup being entirely unusable unless you feel the urge to spend at least $1/mo for 50GB of storage so you can work around Apple’s stupid bugs. I have no intention of working around any developers bugs by spending money. Either provide workable functionality or don’t. But, there is no way I will ever spend money to a company to work around bugs in software. Apple, if you really want to force us to pay you to get more than 5GB, then just charge us up front for any space issued. Don’t beat around the bush by introducing bugs that make the freebie you’ve given become worthless. Let’s just be honest here.

If this is about spending yet more money with you to get people to buy into your iCloud storage, then just tell us that’s what you want. Don’t force us to go buy more because you want to force everything on our phones to back up. That’s not how you do it. Just change the terms and send everyone a notice that the 5GB storage you’ve issued us is no longer free and at the end of the month you lose it or you pay for it. Just tell the consumers what you want. You don’t need to do it by introduction of bugs that forces phone owners to backup everything on their phone.

Seriously… 5GB?

In this day and age when Google is giving practically terabytes of storage for free, Apple can only afford 5GB a month? Really? How much money does Apple make off of their products and they’re going to be that stingy with storage? On top of that, they force you to backup your entire 16/32/64GB phone over to iCloud. Not only is that stupid from the 5GB free perspective, it’s just asinine that I can’t control my bandwidth to this service. Seriously, I don’t want to send over 10-20GB of data across my network bandwidth. I want to control what I send and how much I send. Since I can no longer do that…

Buh Bye iCloud Backup.. it was nice knowing ya!

I’m done with iCloud backup. Not only is it stupidly designed, what real purpose does it serve at 5GB? I can backup my entire phone’s contents on iTunes on my local machine(s) as many times as I wish. There are no bandwidth constraints or disk space issues. Yet, I can barely backup my contacts on iCloud at 5GB. I have no intention of dropping $1/mo to get to 50GB, which is still only a pittance, let alone $10/mo for 1TB. Who knows how secure the data really is in iCloud? One breach and Apple will be run out of town on a rail.

I’m tired of dealing with Apple’s stupid developers who can no longer code their way out of a paper bag. I’m tired of dealing with bugs that shouldn’t even exist on a device that used to be the most intuitive device built. Now it’s a device that is merely following behind Android’s, ahem, innovation. So, I’ll happily head back to the time before iCloud existed. I’m done with that service for backups. I prefer to keep my backups local anyway. Buh Bye iCloud backups.

Apple, figure it out !

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How to stop Mac dock icon bouncing

Posted in Apple, botch, computers by commorancy on September 28, 2015

AppleWhen an application starts up in MacOS X Yosemite, it bounces the application dock icon a few times, then stops bouncing once the application has started. For me, this is perfectly fine because at least there’s a positive response. Positive response is never a bad thing in operating system design.

Unfortunately, Apple decided to overloaded this same bouncing behavior for notifications to get your attention by bouncing a dock icon. For me, this is definitely not wanted. Not only is it extremely annoying, it never stops until you go touch that icon. It also performs this bouncing way too frequently. There are much better ways to get user attention than by bouncing the dock icon. Thankfully, there’s a way to stop this annoying and unwanted UI behavior. Let’s explore.

Defaults Database

Apple has what’s known as the user defaults database. It is a database of settings not unlike the old UNIX .files system, but much more extended. Unfortunately, most developers don’t document which settings can go into the defaults database and many of the settings may be hidden. However, you can easily find them by reading the values by opening terminal.app and then typing:

$ defaults read com.apple.dock | more

This command will spew out a lot of stuff, so you’ll want to pipe it to more to page through it. Each app has its own namespace similar in format to com.apple.dock that you can review. Not all apps support changing settings this way. For other apps, simply replace com.apple.dock with the appropriate application namespace and you can read up the settings for that application. If you decide to change any of the values, you may have to kill and restart the application or log out and log back in.

In short, there is a way to stop the bouncing using the defaults command. To do this, you will need to update the defaults database for com.apple.dock with the correct setting to stop it.

Stop the Bouncing
BounceIconTo stop the bouncing of dock icons, open a terminal shell and at a command prompt, type the following:

$ defaults write com.apple.dock no-bouncing -bool TRUE
$ killall Dock

Keep in mind that this is a global setting. This stops the dock icon bouncing for every application on your system for all notifications. The launch icon bouncing is not controlled by this setting. For that, you should visit the preferences area.

You can always reenable the bouncing at any time by opening terminal and then typing:

$ defaults write com.apple.dock no-bouncing -bool FALSE
$ killall Dock

Note that the defaults database is stored locally in each user account. So, if you log into several different accounts on your Mac, you’ll need to do this for each of your accounts.

Please leave me a comment below if this doesn’t work for you.

Apple’s newest MacBook: Simply Unsatisfying

Posted in Apple, botch, business, california by commorancy on March 12, 2015

macbook_largeIt’s not a MacBook Air. It’s not a MacBook Pro. It’s simply being called the MacBook. Clever name for a computer, eh? It’s not like we haven’t seen this brand before. What’s the real trouble with this system? A single USB-C connector. Let’s explore.

Simplifying Things

There’s an art to simplification, but it seems Apple has lost its ability to rationally understand this fundamental concept. Jobs got it. Oh man, did Jobs get the concept of simplification in spades. Granted, not all of Jobs’s meddling in simplification worked. Like, a computer with only a mouse and no keyboard. Great concept, but you really don’t want to enter text through an on-screen keyboard. This is the reason the iPad is so problematic for anything other than one-liners. At least, not unless there’s some kind of audio dictation system. At the time, the Macintosh didn’t have such a system. With Siri, however, we do. Though, I’m not necessarily endorsing that Apple bring back the concept of a keyboard-less computer. Though, in fact, with a slight modification to Siri’s dictation capabilities, it would be possible.

Instead, the new MacBook has taken things away from the case design. More specifically, it has replaced all of those, you know, clunky, annoying and confusing USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt port connectors that mar the case experience. Apple’s engineers have now taken this old and clunky experience and ‘simplified’ it down to exactly one USB-C port (excluding the headphone jack.. and why do we even need this jack again).

The big question, “Is this really simplification?”

New Case Design

Instead of the full complement of ports we previously had, such as the clever magsafe power port, one or two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot, now we have exactly one USB-C port. And, it’s not even a well known or widely used port style yet.usb_macbook

Smart. Adopt a port that literally no one is using and then center your entire computer’s universe around this untried technology. It’s a bold if not risky maneuver for Apple. No one has ever said Apple isn’t up for risky business ideas. It’s just odd that they centered it on an open standard rather than something custom designed by Apple. Let’s hope that Apple has massively tested plugging and unplugging this connector. If it breaks, you better hope your AppleCare service is active. And since the unplugging and plugging activity falls under wear-and-tear, it might not even be covered. Expect to spend more time at the Genius bar arguing over whether your computer is covered when this port breaks. On the other hand, we know the magsafe connector is almost impossible to break. How about this unknown USB-C connector? Does it also have the same functional lifespan? My guess is no.

I also understand that the USB-C technology automatically inherits the 10 Gbps bandwidth standard and has a no-confusion-plug-in-either-way connector style. But, it’s not as if Thunderbolt didn’t already offer the same transfer speed, though not the plug-in-either-way cable. So, I’m guessing that this means Thunderbolt is officially dead?

What about the Lightning cable? Apple recently designed and introduced the Lightning connector for charging and data transfer. Why not use the Lightning connector by adding on a faster data transfer standard? Apple spent all this time and effort on this cool new cable for charging and data transfer, but what the hell? Let’s just abandon that too and go with USB-C? Is it all about throwing out the baby with the bathwater over at Apple?

I guess the fundamental question is… Really, how important is this plug-in-either-way connector? Is Apple insinuating that general public is so dumb that it can’t figure out how to plug in a cable? Yes, trying to get the microUSB connectors inserted in the dark (because they only go in one direction) can be a hassle. The real problem isn’t that it’s a hassle, the real problem is that the connector itself was engineered all wrong. So, trying to fit in a microUSB cable into a port is only a problem because it’s metal on metal. Even when you do manage to get it lined up in the right direction, it sometimes still won’t go in. That’s just a fundamental flaw in the port connector design. It has nothing to do with directionality of it. I digress.

Fundamentally, the importance of a plug-in-either-way cable should be the lowest idea on the agenda. What should be the highest idea is simplifying to give a better user experience overall and not to hobble the computer to the point of being unnecessarily problematic.

Simply Unsatisfying

Let’s get into the meat of this whole USB-C deal. While the case now looks sleek and minimal, it doesn’t really simplify the user experience. It merely changes it. It’s basically a shell game. It moves the ball from one cup to another, but fundamentally doesn’t change the ball itself. So, instead of carrying only a power adapter and the computer, you are now being forced to carry a computer, power adapter and a dock. I fail to see exactly how this simplifies the user experience at all? I left docks behind when I walked away from using Dell Notebooks. Now, we’re being asked to use a dock again by, of all companies, Apple?

The point to making changes in any hardware (or software) design is to help improve the usability and user experience. Changing the case to offer a single USB-C port doesn’t enhance the usability or user experience. This is merely a cost cutting measure by Apple. Apple no longer needs to add pay for all of these arguably ‘extra’ (and costly) ports to the case. Removing all of those ‘extraneous’ ports now means less cost for the motherboard and die-cuts on the case, but at the expense that the user must carry around more things to support that computer. That doesn’t simplify anything for the user. It also burdens the user by forcing the user to pay more money for things that were previously included in the system itself. Not to mention, requiring the user to carry around yet more dongles. I’ve never ever known Apple to foist less of an experience on the user as a simultaneous cost cutting and accessory money making measure. This is most definitely a first for Apple, but not a first for which they want to become known. Is Apple now taking pages from Dell’s playbook?

Instead of walking out of the store with a computer ready in hand, now you have to immediately run to the accessory isle and spend another $100-200 (or more) on these ‘extras’. Extras, I might add, that were previously included in the cost of the previous gen computers. But now, they cost extra. So, that formerly $999 computer you bought that already had everything you needed will now cost you $1100-1200 or more (once you consider you now need a bag to carry all of these extras).

Apple’s Backward Thinking?

I’m sure Apple is thinking that eventually that’s all we’ll need. No more SD cards, no more Thunderbolt devices, no more USB 3 connectors. We just do everything wirelessly. After all, you have the (ahem) Apple TV for a wireless remote display (which would be great if only that technology didn’t suck so bad for latency and suffer from horrible mpeg artifacting because the bit rate is too low).

Apple likes to think they are thinking about the future. But, by the time the future arrives, what they have chosen is already outdated because they realized no one is actually using that technology other than them. So, then they have to resort to a new connector design or a new industry standard because no other computers have adopted what Apple is pushing.

For example, Thunderbolt is a tremendous idea. By today, this port should have been widely used and widely supported, yet it isn’t. There are few hard drives that use it. There are few extras that support it. Other than Apple’s use of this port to drive extra displays, that’s about the extent of how this port is used. It’s effectively a dead port on the computer. Worse, just about the time where Thunderbolt might actually be picking up steam, Apple dumps it in lieu of USB-C which offers the same transfer speeds. At best, a lateral move technologically speaking. If this port had offered 100 Gbps, I might not have even written this article.

Early Adopter Pain

What this all means is that those users who buy into this new USB-C only computer (I intentionally forget the headphone jack because it’s still pointless), will suffer early adopter pains with this computer. Not only will you be almost immediately tied to buying Apple gear, Apple has likely set up the USB-C connector to require licensed and ID’d cables and peripherals. This means that if you buy a third party unlicensed cable or device, Apple is likely to prevent it from working, just as they did with unlicensed Lightning cables on iOS.

This also means that, for at least 1-2 years, you’re at the mercy of Apple to provide you with that dongle. If you need VGA and there’s no dongle, you’re outta luck. If you need a 10/100 network adapter, outta luck. This means that until or unless a specific situational adapter becomes available, you’re stuck. Expect some level of pain when you buy into this computer.

Single Port

In addition to all of the above, let’s just fundamentally understand what a single port means. If you have your power brick plugged in, that’s it. You can’t plug anything else in. Oh, you need to run 2 monitors, read from an SD card, plug in an external hard drive and charge your computer? Good luck with that. That is, unless you buy a dock that offers all of these ports.

It’s a single port being used for everything. That means it has a single 10 Gbps path into the computer. So, if you plug in a hard drive that consumes 5 Gbps and a 4k monitor that consumes 2 Gbps, you’re already topping out that connector’s entire bandwidth into the computer. Or, what if you need a 10 Gbps Ethernet cable? Well, that pretty much consumes the entire bandwidth on this single USB-C connector. Good luck with trying to run a hard drive and monitor with that setup.

Where an older MacBook Air or Pro had two 5 Gbps USB3 ports and one or two 10 Gbps Thunderbolt ports (offering greater than 10 Gbps paths into the computer), the new MacBook only supports a max of 10 Gbps input rate over that single port. Not exactly the best trade off for performance. Of course, the reality is that the current Apple motherboards may not actually be capable of handling 30 Gbps input rate, but it was at least there to try. Though, I would expect that motherboard to handle an input rate greater than 10.

With the new MacBook, you are firmly stuck to a maximum input speed of 10 Gbps because it is a single port. Again, an inconvenience to the user. Apple once again makes the assumption that 10 Gbps is perfectly fine for all use cases. I’m guessing that Apple hopes the users simply won’t notice. Technologically, this is a step backward, not forward.

Overall

In among the early adopter problems and the relevancy problems that USB-C has to overcome, this computer now offers a more convoluted user experience. Additionally, instead of offering something that would be truly more useful and enhance the usability, such as a touch screen to use with an exclusive Spotlight mode, they opted to take this computer in a questionable direction.

Sure, the case colors are cool and the idea of a single port is intriguing, it’s only when you delve deep into the usefulness of this single port does the design quickly unravel.

Apple needs a whole lot of help in this department. I’m quite sure had Jobs been alive that while he might have introduced the simplified case design, it would have been overshadowed by the computer’s feature set (i.e., touch screen, better input device, better dictation, etc). Instead of trying to wow people with a single USB-C port (which offers more befuddlement than wow), Apple should have fundamentally improved the actual usability of this computer by enhancing the integration between the OS and the computer.

The case design doesn’t ultimately much matter, the usability of the computer itself matters. Until Apple understands that we don’t really much care what the case looks like as long as it provides what we need to compute without added hassles, weight and costs, Apple’s designers will continue running off on these tangents spending useless cycles attempting to redesign minimalist cases that really don’t benefit from it. At least, Apple needs to understand that there is a point of diminishing returns when trying to rethink minimalist designs…. and with this MacBook design, the Apple designers have gone well beyond the point of diminishing returns.

How to make iTunes 12 look and act like iTunes 10

Posted in Apple, botch, business, california by commorancy on January 17, 2015

iTunes 12 has been out since just about the release of Yosemite. In the fall, out of the box iTunes 12 looks like iTunes 11, with that horrible all new interface that Apple foisted onto us. Well, all is not lost. You can now make iTunes 12 look and act a whole lot more like iTunes 10. Though, keep in mind that it’s not a perfect reincarnation of iTunes 10, for most purposes it is still very functional. Let’s explore.

The New Interface

When you first kick off iTunes 12 (or 11 for that matter), you’ll see that it shows your albums as large icons. If you click an icon, it expands and shows track listings below it in a split screen setup.

Here’s a tutorial video that shows what can be done. This video is HD, so you should expand it full screen to see the detail.

 

How to set up iTunes 12 like iTunes 10

 

Obviously there are still differences between iTunes 12 and iTunes 10, such as the row of buttons moved to the top rather than in the left playlist sidebar. But, these are more cosmetic than a problem. As long as I can get to list mode that I am most familiar with using, this was my biggest gripe with the the new iTunes views. I’m glad they’re back.

Searching, Movies and Playlists

Searching has changed somewhat. When you search, you will get search results by song and by album. This is relatively handy when creating a new playlist. You simply drag the album over and drop it on playlists and it will create a new playlist. Though, the playlist info is shown on the right including renaming it. Once you click ‘Done’, it will be saved into the playlist sidebar and you can edit it there the normal way.

You can also create playlists that now contain movies. So, you can drag your favorite trilogies over and create a playlist of these films. It will them play the playlist in order. These will also show in the left sidebar under Playlists when on Movies. The Playlists view is in the center section.

Changing Art

If you highlight all of the tracks in list view then right click and ‘Get Info’, you can paste the art in the upper right corner with the keyboard (as long as it’s on the clipboard already) and then save. It will then apply the art to every selected track. This is not much different from iTunes 10 if you used the get info panel. However, if you used the drag and drop method in the lower left of the window, that method is no longer here.

Cover Flow

Unfortunately, Cover Flow is still not back in iTunes 12. It’s funny too, because Cover Flow is still available as an option in MacOS X Yosemite in Finder. I don’t fully understand why it was removed from iTunes 11, but for whatever reason was left in MacOS X. This is inconsistent and odd. Apple is usually very consistent in UI design, mirroring whatever is in the OS in the applications. For whatever reason, the iTunes engineers have inexplicably removed Cover Flow from iTunes. I know that there was a lawsuit against Apple for the use of Cover Flow. So, it’s possible it was removed from iTunes 11 to satisfy that patent lawsuit. Apple, just pay the friggin’ patent trolls off and put Cover Flow back in.

iTunes 10

While I still like iTunes 10 for many reasons (full screen artwork), the small art panel in the lower left, etc. These are small concessions when considering an upgrade to iTunes 12 when you need to manage your library and you need to sync your latest iOS devices. Most all of the functionality I used is now back in iTunes 12 and I’m glad that it’s there. The ugly horrid album view is, mostly, a memory for me. I use that view only for films because it makes sense. I want to see the movie poster to know that’s the movie I want to watch. For albums, I want the track lists in the original way that made it easier to manage.

So, there you go. It’s now easy to get your iTunes 12 install very close to the way iTunes 10 use to work. Of course, there are still some things that haven’t been added back in. Though, the list view that looks like iTunes 10 is the thing that allowed me to finally upgrade to this this latest version.

Why does my iPhone/iPad sync all of my music every time?

Posted in Apple, itunes bugs, Mac OS X by commorancy on December 10, 2014

itunes_redI have a lot of music in my iTunes library that I have collected over the years. I also have several Apple devices such as an iPod, an iPad and two iPhones that I sync. Some people see my devices and think I have three phones. Even though it looks like a phone, one of them is an iPod. I carry the iPod for two reasons: 1) If the battery runs out on the iPod, I can still make calls. 2) I put only music on the device leaving my phone open for apps.

Though, that’s not really the problem. I also have multiple computers each running iTunes software and this is where the problems start. When I sync my iPod, it resyncs all 5000+ songs over and over again (takes far too long). Let’s explore.

iTunes and Media

Let’s understand the reason why iTunes resyncs a song to a device. The primary reason iTunes resyncs a song already on your iDevice is due to a change in song metadata. What is metadata? Metadata includes information such as play counts and last access times. It also includes other tag data such as artwork, title, artist, track number, duration, volume, etc. Basically, any changes to any portion of the IDtag associated with the song will force a resync to the device. Why is this important? It’s important because many households now have multiple computers.

For example, let’s say you purchased your brand spanking new Airport Extreme 3TB drive and you have now copied your entire iTunes library of music and movie files to to that network drive in hopes of sharing to your multiple computers. Nothing seems wrong with that, right? So, now all of the computers in your household will optimally share these same exact media files. Definitely a space saver, or so you thought. Yes, it may have solved your space issue, but now it has created an entirely new problem. That problem, last access times will change each time any of these computers sharing this folder play a song. Worse, when any single computer’s iTunes software instance updates to a new version, iTunes will scan the entire library of files. Let’s understand why this is a problem.

Shared Drives, iTunes and Last Access Times

When you have multiple computers accessing a single set of media on a shared network drive, this can lead to the multiple computers battling over which computer has last modified a specific song or movie. In some cases, as I said above, an iTunes instance might touch every file in the library. When other iTunes instances start, they will see the song last modify dates have changed from the last time it launched and mark the song to be downloaded to your device.

Let’s assume you have 3 computers in your household: one is yours, one is your spouse’s and one is your child’s. You have hooked each of these computers to a /Volumes/Music folder hooked to that brand spanking new Airport Extreme 3TB drive (where your media files now live), each of these computers will update the last file time access separately. Let’s say your spouse’s computer’s iTunes has gotten updated to a newer version. Each time an update happens, Apple ‘fixes’ the library to make it compatible with the newest version. This ‘fixing’ action touches every single file in the library and marks the last access updated.

So, you come along and plug in your iPhone to sync on your computer’s iTunes software (also sharing this same folder). Because every file has now been updated as a result of your spouse’s update to the latest iTunes version, your device will now download every song to your device. The same problem will happen when your child’s computer is updated.

How do I solve this problem?

The solutions aren’t as easy as one might hope. The easiest solution is to duplicate your entire library to a new folder and point your iTunes instance to that folder. Then do this again for your spouses computer and your child’s computer. Unfortunately, if your library is terabytes in size, this solution may not be practical. If your library is 100-200GB, that might be possible. This is really the best of all solutions. Once you separate your library into separately duplicated media folders, each iTunes instance will have exclusive access to its files only. This is the best of all worlds because the only iTunes computer that will update those files will be yours alone. This means that play counts and last access times will remain 100% accurate and are controlled exclusively by your iTunes computer. The same for your spouse and your child’s library set. The downside is that any new purchases made by your spouse will need to also be downloaded separately by you and by your child. Downloading from iTunes isn’t a problem today because they allow re-downloads from the cloud. But, it is somewhat of a hassle as what’s contained in each of the libraries will diverge.

In the case where you have a 1TB or larger sized library and this duplication solution is impractical, there is another alternative.

Home Sharing Server

Apple now offers the Home Sharing feature in iTunes. What this setup requires is a single system completely dedicated to the Home Sharing service. I might suggest, for practicality’s sake, to buy a new computer to dedicate iTunes to the Home Sharing server purpose. I might suggest a Mac mini or an iMac for this purpose, though you could just as easily use a Windows machine running iTunes. Let’s assume we’re using a Mac mini for this purpose as Mac mini’s are reasonably inexpensive and will serve this purpose perfectly. For performance reasons, I might also suggest a wired connection between the Mac mini and your shared library device (i.e., Airport Extreme 3TB). Your remote computers can access the Home Sharing library wirelessly.

This setup requires unwinding the shared drives mounted on each computer separately and abandoning that. Instead of sharing a network drive to each computer, you will now exclusively share that folder to the newly designated Home Sharing server. Then, share your iTunes library through Apple’s Home Sharing services within that Mac mini iTunes instance. This will then be the only machine that has direct access to your network drive media files. From here, you will then connect each of the other notebook computers and devices to this Home Sharing server to access playlists, music and movies.

How does this solve the problem? Because the single dedicated Home Sharing server has exclusive access to the files, only it will update metadata rather than having 3 or 4 or more computers competing to change file access times. It also means you only need to create your playlists once rather than on each computer separately. Now, a single set of playlists will reside on the Home Sharing server which can be managed centrally from that single computer.

Why is this not a perfect solution? Play counts. Because each computer accessing the Home Sharing server will update play counts for anything consumed, this can cause those songs with updated play counts to resync with your device each time your child or spouses listens to or watches a movie. On the other hand, the number of media that requires rsyncing will be substantially fewer than when each computer can potentially update every file in the library.

It is also not a perfect solution for syncing because you will need to sync your device with your Home Sharing server itself. Not the computer that’s consuming the Home Sharing library remotely. But, it will nearly eliminate the need to resync every file to your device each time you sync.

Can this be resolved by Apple?

Sure. But, it’s not something that will happen overnight. The reason this is a problem is because iTunes doesn’t fundamentally understand the concept of a multiuser environment. MacOS X does, but not iTunes. Apple has shoehorned in some pseudo multiuser features, but without fully supporting everything required for a multiuser environment. For example, to fully support multiple users on a Home Sharing library, each user would supply a set of unique credentials to identify themselves to get into the library which would then create a separate and unique profile for each user. Under that separate profile, iTunes could keep track of play counts separately for each user. In this way, what you play and what your spouse plays would be unique and different. So, if you synced your device against your user profile, your devices would only download those items that you had consumed with your device(s) only. Same for your spouse and for your child.

Implementing a full separately profiled multiuser system in iTunes is the only way to segregate devices and syncing. This is also the only way to prevent syncing extraneous songs after they have been played by someone else. Unfortunately, today this is not a reality.

Additional benefits that could come out of a multiuser system using individual profiles is parental controls. Each profile could then have a set of permissions to allow or disallow access to parts of the library. For example, if you had a playlist of R rated movies, you could set parental controls to lock out access to that playlist from children. A multiuser system offers a lot of benefits to parents for access controls in addition to solving the problem of re-syncing every song in the library to an iPhone or iPad.

If you would like to see such a feature added to iTunes in the future, I encourage you to visit Apple’s iTunes Feedback page and leave an enhancement request for a full multiuser and parental control system be added to iTunes Home Sharing feature.

Apple Watch: A commentary

Posted in Apple, business, california by commorancy on September 11, 2014

Apple WatchI had not planned to write anything about the newest Apple announcements, but I’ve decided there are few things that need to be said about the Apple Watch. Let’s explore.

Apple Watch

So, this is the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind. I mean, it basically stole the show, but not necessarily in a good way. Why is that? Let’s start by saying that phones are the new watches. Most people don’t need to wear watches any longer because the phone itself suffices for that purpose. I mean, why carry around two different devices each needing their own battery charges when you can carry around one? I think this is where Apple assumes their distortion field is enough to overcome people’s recent aversion to wearing watches.

It’s not like the Apple Watch has reinvented something new. It’s a bloomin’ watch for chrissake. Its most basic feature is to tell time. It’s not like that’s new or revolutionary. It’s all the extra bells and whistles that come along for the ride that make or break the deal. Are those extra bells and whistles worth it? For some maybe yes, for others likely no. I mean, if you don’t need the pulse monitor or step tracker and you don’t really plan to use it as an iPhone controller, then you’re cutting about 60% of its functionality right off the top. For the $349 price tag, that’s quite pricey for a bulky thick watch.

Yeah, it’ll have a music player, but how much storage? We’re not really sure yet. But, if I know Apple, it’ll go out on the cheap and we’ll get 8G or some piddly amount like that. Just enough to hold a tiny music collection, but not enough to really be useful nor is that storage in keeping with a $350 price tag. It might also play movies, but why? Who wants to watch a movie on that tiny watch screen? Not me. That’s why I bought an iPod touch, though I don’t really much like watching moves there either. So that’s why I also bought an iPad.

Watch Failure?

Adoption of this device will be tough for Apple primarily because it will be difficult to retrain so many people to embrace the need for the Apple Watch. I mean, people have done without watches for the last decade just fine. For those people who love to wear watches, though, the Apple Watch might appeal to them. But, at that price tag, it might not. I mean, you’re going to be wearing a $350 device on your wrist in addition to carrying around a $500 valued iPhone. After all, what’s the point in buying this watch unless you have an iPhone? The other problem Apple faces is name brand watches. There is no way Apple will push aside such luxury brands as Rolex, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer or others. For the person looking for a luxury brand, they won’t think twice about looking at their favorite luxury brand. The Apple Watch won’t even factor in other than just having it as a novelty item. I guarantee the red carpet crowd will still show off their Rolex watches and not the Apple Watch when showing off their newest duds waltzing down the red carpet.

However, there will be a core group of Apple early adopters who will invest in this technology from Apple just because it looks cool and is new. After those people are done shelling out the cash, what then? We may find that the Apple Watch fares no better than sales of any other watch brands, which are not doing all that well today (other than the super ritzy brands of which the celebs adore).

Battery Life?

Apple faces a whole new set of problems when introducing this new device. Obviously, the battery will be a big deal clincher for a lot of people. If the battery lasts 3-5 hours, that’s just not enough to be useful or you’ll be yanking that watch off your wrist to charge it up frequently. This would be the absolute kiss of death for this device. No one is going to put that much time and effort into keeping it charged constantly.

Knowing that this device has Bluetooth and possibly WiFi, both of these wireless protocols are absolute battery hogs. There is no way around it. If you have Bluetooth and WiFi enabled, you can say goodbye to any decent amount of battery life on a device.

For example, when I cut off WiFi and cellular data on my iPhone 4s, I can typically get at least 3 days worth of charge out of the battery. With cellular data on, you might get a day at best. With WiFi on, you’ll get a day at best. These wireless protocols are out and out battery killers. For this reason, that’s why it wasn’t on the original square iPod nano. And, the battery on the iPod nano (aka. first gen Apple watch) lasted amazingly long.

Overall

This new Apple Watch itself is bulky, and bulbous. Though, I like some of the features, like the less breakable crystal. But, there are things I don’t like, like the icon vomit on the main screen. It’s easily one of the most ugly eyesores I’ve seen on an Apple device yet. I’m also not sure that Apple can sufficiently overcome this last decade of training people to use mobile phones as watches. Apple even ironically ushered in this trend with the iPhone itself. Now they’re trying to undo this? Good luck. I’ll wait and see just how the sales do on this long term, but I’m not holding out much hope with this first version of the watch.

Perhaps Apple can fix a lot of these problems in the 2G version of the watch. Personally, I’d rather see them do a pocket watch edition. Now that would be more useful. The screen would be bigger, you can hold it in your hand like you do a pocket watch and it has that cool button at the top which could be used for so many things (including opening a flap covering the display like a normal pocket watch). Not to mention, there are many people who collect pocket watches over standard wrist watches. We’ll just have to wait and see how well this all turns out.

iOS7: Lightning Cables vs Consumer — Who Wins?

Posted in Apple, botch, corruption by commorancy on September 25, 2013

There’s this really annoying error message that you might see if you’ve bought a third party Lightning cable and you try to use it on your iPhone under iOS7.  The error message reads “This cable or accessory is not certified and may not work reliably with this iPod” (or iPhone or iPad or whatever).  Let’s explore what this means.

Consumer Penalized

Lightning ErrorLet’s start simple.  You bought a Lightning cable and expected it to work. Within each Lightning cable there’s a unique identifier that an Apple device can read.  It then compares the identifier to some kind of database within the iDevice to see if Apple ‘blessed’ the cable. Basically, any company producing Lightning connector cables must license the technology from Apple.

I’m fine with licensing. But, that’s a legal distinction between the cable manufacturer and Apple. The consumer should not be involved in this fight.  Yet, here we are.  This battle is being waged on you, the Apple consumer.  You’re penalized for having bought an ‘unlicensed’ cable. Unfortunately, unlicensed cables don’t specifically come with a warning stating that they are not licensed.  So, the consumer is buying blind when buying cables. There is no way to know if a cable is licensed or not.  At least, not without an Apple device that tells us so.

Apple’s missteps

With the old big dock connectors, the devices were able to recognize unsupported accessories or cables and warn. And, they did. Those cables also had a method to do validation checks similar to this Lightning validation error message.  Again, I’m fine with that as long is tells me immediately after I purchase a cable and plug it in. If it doesn’t work immediately after purchase, I can return cable immediately. No money lost.

Unfortunately, Apple waited all through iOS6 and the iPhone 5 allowing use of the Lightning connector without ANY warning. Instead, they waited until iOS7’s release to warn the consumer and even prevent some cables from working AT ALL. Yes, that’s what this error message actually means.  It means that Apple has detected an unlicensed cable and in some cases will warn that it either cannot use it or warns you that it may not work.  Apparently, that warning message may warn for a number of times before permanently disabling the cable’s use.

While these cables worked perfectly fine with iOS6, some of them don’t work at all to either charge the device or for data transfer under iOS7.  Some of the cables do work, but possibly for only a short time.  But, this isn’t the point.  If the cables worked perfectly fine under iOS6, they will also work perfectly fine under iOS7.  This means that Apple is deliberately and intentionally preventing these cables from working.

Waited Too Long

Error 2

The huge misstep is that Apple waited over a year to warn consumers.  And when something is finally given to us, it’s not a friendly notice.  The device simply prevents some cables from outright working. Keep in mind that that’s a year of time that many people spent money buying many of these cables. Cables that can no longer be returned and can no longer be used.  Apple has waged war on you, the consumer. They are not waging war on the manufacturer who produced ‘unlicensed’ cables.  This action is actually causing monetary damages to the consumer for the lost money spent to purchase the cables. Some cables that previously worked no longer work and the consumer cannot return them nor can these cables be used.

Apple has effectively just slapped its very user base in the face and said, ‘F-you’.  I can’t imagine any other company doing this in this way.  At least give your users  some advance warning this is coming.  Don’t just do it, tell no one and expect us all to sit here all nice and happy.  It’s not my problem that manufacturers are making ‘uncertified’ cables. That’s your problem, Apple.  You need to take those manufacturers to court. Don’t penalize your paying consumers because you don’t think the cables should work.

And note, the cable I purchased is a retractable cable.  I only bought it because there was no other retractable Lightning cable on the market when I purchased. If Apple had produced one, I’d have bought it from Apple.

Class Action Lawsuit

I can easily see this turn into a class action lawsuit against Apple.  As a consumer, we had no way to know the cable wasn’t licensed until the warning message, a warning message that showed up over a year late. And, in fact, iOS7 doesn’t even state the cable is unlicensed, it states that it’s not certified. As a consumer, that’s not my problem.  I bought the cable, it worked.  iOS6 didn’t warn me of this problem and it continued to work.  Now, Apple is telling me that that cable can no longer work with my device even though it worked perfectly fine with the same exact device for many months prior to iOS7.

Plain and simple, consumers have now lost money paid for these cables. Apple is to blame. If they had enforced this policy from the beginning, this wouldn’t be an issue. Because they didn’t, consumers are now literally paying the price as Apple intentionally stops these cables from working even though they are perfectly usable cables.

I’d really like to see an attorney sue the crap out of Apple for this behavior and force Apple to redress all of us consumers’ for our money that we’ve lost because Apple sat on its fat butt not saying anything. Apple just sat there letting consumers buy more and more unlicensed cables. Then, after letting consumers buy these cables for a year, they lay the whammy down and stop the cables from working right now.

Now many of us have dead cables that we can’t use, can’t sell and that we spent good money on.  And many of these cables were not cheap and were not marked as not licensed.  At minimum, Apple should be required to cable swap all consumer purchased now non-working unlicensed Lightning cables for an Apple licensed cable so we’re not out any money.  It’s not the consumer’s fault Apple didn’t warn the consumer properly. It’s also not the consumer’s fault the manufacturer sold us an unlicensed cable. That fight is clearly between Apple and the cable manufacturer. Apple, take your fight to where it belongs.. between you and the manufacturer. Don’t take it out on the very customer that you depend upon to keep you in business. Not a smart move.

As a consumer, I simply want a fully working retractable cable without stupid warning messages or I want my money back. Apple, you clearly owe me a replacement cable for waiting a year to warn me thus losing my ability to return the cable.

IOS7: The New Android?

Posted in Android, Apple, botch by commorancy on September 19, 2013

Note, apparently some readers think I do a lot of ranting. Sometimes I do. In this case, you better get prepared for a rant of epic proportions because here it comes.

White screens and borders, really?

BadWhiteCalendar

Ok, so when I flipped open my iPad the first time on IOS7, I’m greeted by white screens (or nearly white screens). At first I wasn’t sure to make of it. Now, I’m quite sure. The white screens must go. If you’re trying to use the iPad in the dark, it’s like having a flashlight shining in your face.  No, thanks.

Not only are the white screens extremely distracting, they’re hard on the eyes and there’s nothing quite like staring at the end of a flashlight when you’re sitting in the dark. No, bad idea. Worse, whatever happened to the light sensor? Come on Apple. You put the sensor on the unit, use the damned thing will you? If I’m in a low light environment, choose a background that complements the low light environment. If I’m in a high light environment, again, choose a brighter background to make the contrast stand out.  I don’t need to be blinded in the dark and I don’t want to see a washed out screen when it’s bright outside.

Gag! the Calendar app has that white background with red letters by default. Red? Really?!? I may have to rethink my Calendaring again.Whatever happened to all of that great engineering that used to work at Apple?  I think they’ve all gone to Android. Let’s put some thinking caps on shall we?

What’s worse than white screens?

BadiOS7

I’ll answer that question.. It’s when the OS flips back and forth between black and white screens.  So, now not only do you have blinding white screens with garish colored fonts staring you in the face, now iOS has to flip between the solid white screens to solid black screens. Sure, there’s this fade transition thing, but it’s still overbearing and unnecessary.  This is, in my estimation, one of the absolute worst design practices I’ve ever seen from any company. Who would ever design any application where one screen is almost solid white and the next is almost solid black.  This is the absolute antithesis of good design. No graphical designer of any merit would even hint at let alone pitch such a stark transition between two elements.

An OS should be about experiences that let you get your work done. Not experiences that distract you from that purpose. If anything, the OS should blend into the background and facilitate getting the work done.  Instead, the OS practically waving a red flag in your face and saying, “Here, look at me”.

Photos App is absolutely broken

BadPhotosApp

When you’re just viewing photos, there’s this annoying white bar at the top of the screen that covers over the top 10% of the image. What’s that all about? I mean, can’t Apple software engineers figure out how to properly scale an image so it can be fully visible on the screen without being covered over by menu bars?

If you try to set wallpaper with the Photos app by scaling or sizing an image, be prepared for the whole app to lock up and possibly even cause your whole iPad to spontaneously reboot. This app is seriously unstable. Was this software even remotely beta tested? Once again, come on Apple.  I can understand if something like Bob’s app was borked up, but the Photos app is pretty much a necessity. This has to be fixed and pronto.

And, to top it off, when you can manage to get the app not to lock the whole blasted iPad up when moving and scaling, it pushes 30% of the image off the top of the screen with no way to correct it.  What crap!

Background Image movement effect

That new live motion background thing is the most worthless use of extra CPU cycles I’ve seen yet.  The short and sweet of it is, let me turn it off.  Don’t care about, don’t want it, don’t need it. And, the affect is so small it’s just pointless.  I move my iPad 10 inches back and forth and the background moves maybe 1 pixel. Stupid waste of resources.

Lock and Unlock sounds no longer work.

Nuff said. [UPDATE] I kind of figured this one out. After the update to iOS7, these sounds are inexplicably disabled. However, if you go into the Sounds area in settings, you can turn it off and back on. This at least enables the lock sound. It does appear, though, that Apple has stripped the unlock sound from the system.

Carnival Colors

Where are we, Google?  Seriously. I don’t want garish colors shining in my face at practically every turn. Some of the colors are almost like fluorescent green colors. It’s like, bad and ugly all at the same time.  I don’t mind the flat look, but these colors seriously need to be muted down a whole lot.

Android Clone

Apple just ripped a page out of the Android book with IOS7, especially when it comes to the so-called streamlined fonts. This OS looks and feels more like Android than any other OS I’ve seen.  We already have an Android. We don’t need another one. Do something original Apple. After all, that’s what you used to be known for. If I wanted to buy an Android tablet, I’d go buy one.  I don’t want my Apple product to look and feel like an Android tablet.  Of course, now we just need to wait for Google to file a lawsuit against Apple.

I’m hoping that Apple can get this quickly derailing train back on track soon with 7.0.1 as this thing called IOS7 is a hot mess. … and I thought IOS6 was bad.

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