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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.

Revert back to iTunes 10 from iTunes 11 (Mac Edition)

Posted in Apple, botch, business, itunes, itunes bugs by commorancy on February 27, 2013

[UPDATE 2013-09-28] As of the release of iOS7, iTunes 11 is required. If you own any iOS devices and upgrade to iOS7, you will be required to use iTunes 11 if you wish to manage your device through iTunes.

Thanks to Danny Rolnick for this very detailed and helpful explanation and for his permission to post it here on Randosity. His steps came in as a comment. However, because my previous Randosity article on this topic was clearly geared toward Windows, I thought this one deserved its own topic, especially as thoughtful and well written as his comment was. So, without further adieu, here is Danny’s very detailed explanation on how to rock and roll back to iTunes 10 from iTunes 11, if you’re using Mac OS X.

To go back to iTunes 10, I am happy to show you the way – By Danny Rolnick

I happily regard myself an expert now on how to downgrade iTunes 11 back to 10 on a Mac. Having found a straightforward and logical way of doing so, I thought it my duty to share with others. I can’t express what a relief it is to have version 10 back again. See the method at the bottom. Feel free to jump down there if you want to get started. Let me know how you got on in the comments below.

My view on the experience I have had of using iTunes 11

I have been a mac obsessed devoted fan all my life (I’m 46), never used a PC and got my first mac back in 1988. Until just the past few months I wouldn’t hear anyone say anything derogatory about anything Apple. However, a few things are rocking my ‘religious like’ devotion. Most of all, I have been dumbfounded about issues of the recent iTunes evolution in version 11.

I am also obsessed with music, movies and music videos. It’s not just a hobby – I am a DJ and Video DJ by profession. iTunes, since the very first release, has been the backbone of the way I organize and store all my digital media. I never had any need to seek an alternative and have also enjoyed the integration it provides with my iPhone and other iDevices etc etc.

My library is huge. I don’t mean to brag but aside from my digital music collection of 40,000 + tracks, either purchased from the iTunes store or imported from my CD collection, my music video collection is over 10,000. I am a proficient iTunes user and I often have reason to need to re-tag my files within iTunes or sometimes I use MetaX.

Until now, I have never resisted installing any available Apple updates and even feel some excitement in anticipation of the improved features. etc. iTunes version 11 has changed all that now. iTunes 11 is, without question, an inferior version to 10. Anyone who feels otherwise is probably only using iTunes in a basic way, and for this reason I have always thought there was a market for a pro version of iTunes for people like me.

iTunes 11 simply doesn’t work

I click to play a track, click again because it hasn’t started and click another time.  Only then do I hear the track play. It takes ages to build links to external files, just as long as it takes to actually import them to the media folder. Tagging takes ridiculously long to the point you would need to leave the tagging to be done overnight. I could go on, but you are probably reading this because you have already experienced your own issues concerning version 11.

Before following the method below, I tried to seek alternatives to iTunes all together. I briefly tried Double Twist and Song Bird among many other software packages, but the truth is that iTunes is better for my personal purposes.

The most disappointing thing about version 11 is the silence from Apple about the obvious problems. It is this specific fact that has aggravated me so much. Maybe I am romanticizing, but I can’t help imagine that Steve Jobs would have ever let version 11 go as far as actually being released.

Steps to revert to iTunes 10 from iTunes 11

Here are the Stages and Steps for Mac OS X only. Thank you to Bogoss on MacForums for help with this article.

Stage 1 — Uninstall iTune11, Reinstall iTunes 10

Note: Any changes you have made to your music files since you used last used version 10 will be lost but any purchasses you have made in the time since can be downloaded again if you can’t find those purchasses in your media folder. If recently made playlists are of particular importance you could export the lists to somewhere for later.

  1. Back up your iTunes Folder(s) just in case.
  2. Download these apps
  3. Download iTunes 10.7 (last version before 11). Check your download folder, it might still be there. You can also get it from the 10.7 Apple Support Web Site (Click the big download button)
  4. Using AppZapper, simply uninstall iTunes 11. Before you drag the iTunes icon from the Application folder to the window you will need to open the preferences of AppZapper and deselect the box next to “Keep Apple applications safe”
  5. Open the 10.7 dmg file, you will see the pkg file (usually you would double click it to install), but now, this time drag it out somewhere (e.g. Desktop).
  6. Open Pacifist
  7. Drag the pkg iTunes 10.7 file to Pacifist and then click install from the menu bar
  8. During installation, click replace every time a window pops up.
  9. Installation finished, iTunes 10.7 is back!
  10. Don’t open it yet!!!!

Stage 2 — Recover your Library

See this video that explains the process to recover your library here:

  1. In FINDER – go to your iTunes Music Folder located in (Your User Account)=>Music=>iTunes
  2. Within it, open the folder called Previous iTunes Libraries.
  3. Identify the most recent backup. It has the date at the end.
  4. Duplicate it. Move it to the desktop.
  5. Rename it as ‘iTunes Library.itl’. Basically remove the date from the file name.
  6. Go back to your iTunes Folder and rename the file there which is already named ‘iTunes Library.itl’ to ‘iTunes Library.itl.old’.
  7. Now move the ‘iTunes Library.itl’ file from your desktop to this location.
  8. Now open iTunes 10.7. If it can’t find your iTunes library, select choose library and navigate the application to the new ‘iTunes Library.itl’ file you created.
  9. Breathe a sigh of relief, you’re done!
  10. Copy this and post it to help others. Only come back to me to say Thanks, not for more support.

Danny

Revert back to iTunes 10 from iTunes 11 (Windows Edition)

Posted in Apple, botch, itunes, itunes bugs by commorancy on December 27, 2012

[UPDATE 2013-09-28] As of the release of iOS7, iTunes 11 is required. If you own any iOS devices and upgrade to iOS7, you will be required to use iTunes 11 if you wish to manage your device through iTunes.

If you’re looking for the Mac OS X downgrade steps, please check out this Randosity article. After giving iTunes 11 a fair shake, I have come to the conclusion that this version is so hopelessly broken that I just can’t deal with it any longer. So, I’ve decided to roll back to iTunes 10.

The iTunes 11 botch

It is very obvious that Tim Cook (and crew) are systematically undoing every ideal that Jobs held for Apple. iTunes 11 is no exception. With its missing menus, unnecessary drop down menus, haphazard interface, missing Radio link (well, not missing, but moved to a hard-to-find area), huge graphical album listings and no easy way to set art on music any more, the whole iTunes 11 release is one big botch. Well, the last straw came today when I tried importing a CD. It imported fine until I stopped it because I realized the import settings were wrong. When I attempted to restart the import, iTunes 11 would only begin at the next track and refused to replace the existing, something that iTunes 10 does quite nicely. When I put a second CD into my second drive, the whole app locked up. Then, I killed it with task manager. On startup, it proceeded to lock up Windows and prevent me from working with the desktop. I’ve never had this issue with iTunes 10. Worse, playlist metadata is now stupidly globally linked. Meaning, if you uncheck a song in one playlist and it exists in other playlists, it unchecks the song there too. So, now checkboxes are global settings across the whole of iTunes. That’s just some of the underwhelming, but major changes in iTunes 11. I’ve had it with iTunes 11 and all of its stupid new quirks.

Rewriting that much of an app is really a gamble and this is one gamble didn’t pay off. I’ve heard some people seem to like some of the changes. I’m not one of them. Seriously, what was the benefit to changing the interface that radically for no end-user payoff? I mean, at least give us users some kind of a bone to endure that kind of radical change. There just isn’t any reward for dealing with this massive of a change. All we get is whole lot of learning curve, fighting through bugs, dealing with stupidity in UI design all without any substantial ease of use improvements.

Restoring iTunes 10

Well, I finally made the decision to revert back to iTunes 10. The first problem was locating the most recent version of iTunes 10. Thankfully, Apple Support keeps older iTunes versions online (or at least, they’re there now). So, if you are thinking of reverting back to iTunes 10, you might want to grab your copy now before they take it down. But, keep in mind that once you’ve upgraded to iTunes 11, your ‘iTunes Library.itl’ (What are the iTunes library files?) file will be updated to the latest format which is incompatible with iTunes 10. So, you will have to restore back to an older version of library.itl or possibly face rebuilding your entire media library from files on disk.

Steps to revert on Windows:

  • Download iTunes 10 from the above link
  • Start->Control Panel->Programs and Features
  • Make note of the iTunes 11 ‘Installed On’ date.
  • Uninstall iTunes 11
  • Install iTunes 10
    • Don’t start iTunes 10 at this point or you will receive an error stating that library.itl was created by a newer version. Continue on with the steps below.
  • Go to C:\Users\<your user>\Music\iTunes
  • Rename ‘iTunes Library.itl’ to ‘iTunes library.iTunes11.itl’ (in case you want to revert back using this file)
    • Note the space in the name
  • Copy the most recent backup of ‘iTunes Library.itl’ or of a date just before you installed iTunes 11
    • Copy C:\Users\<your user>\Music\iTunes\Previous iTunes Libraries\library.<date>.itl to
    • C:\Users\<your user>\Music\iTunes\library.itl
    • If you don’t have a backup copy, you can simply delete ‘iTunes Library.itl’, but you’ll probably have to rebuild your media library from scratch. Deleting this file doesn’t delete your music, it will just remove iTunes’ reference to it.
    • If you have a ‘iTunes Music Library.xml’, you may be able to import that to rebuild your library more easily.
    • You should regularly export your library as ‘iTunes Music Library.xml’ anyway in case iTunes ever gets corrupted.
  • Once you have iTunes 10 installed and ‘iTunes Library.itl’ recovered, you can start up iTunes 10. Assuming the ‘iTunes Library.itl’ was a backup created by iTunes 10, it should start just fine. If it doesn’t, keep recovering older ‘iTunes Library.<date>.itl’ backup files until you find one that works.

Now you’ll want to review your library to ensure that any new music you’ve bought or added is there. If not, you’ll have to add the folders of that music to this library.

Note, if you have changed where your library.itl resides, you will have to rename it there instead. If you haven’t modified iTunes in this way, library.itl will be in the above location (or whichever drive is your Windows boot drive letter).  Simply deleting the file, iTunes may be smart enough to pull its most recent backup copy, but I haven’t tested this.  So, I’d rather choose my library.itl from the backups.

Additional note, you can’t tell which version of iTunes generated the library.itl file. So, you will need to review your backup library.<date>.itl files and locate a dated file that’s before you installed iTunes 11. If you don’t remember the date you installed iTunes, you may be able to find the install date in Control Panel->Programs and Features.

Mac Note: that with the exception of the paths, the basics of these instructions may apply to MacOS X. I’ve just not reverted iTunes on MacOS X as yet. However, you’re in luck, Danny has produced a rollback article for Mac OS X here on Randosity for Mac OS X users.

Apple’s progressive slide

There are some technology changes that Apple makes that work. There are some that don’t. Part of the problem is a quality control issue. Steve Jobs was a stickler for high quality control to the point of perfectionism. This is a good thing in that Apple’s quality was always near perfect when Jobs was on duty. Unfortunately, since Tim Cook has taken over, that quality level has dramatically slid down. The iPad 3 was the first example, then OS X Lion, then iOS 6, Mountain Lion and now iTunes 11.  I won’t even get into that thing they’re calling an iPod nano.  I still shutter to think that someone at Apple thought the new taller iPod nano would actually have a real world use case over the ‘watch’ version? I should just avoid the obvious discussion about the whole taller nano debacle.

I’m not sure what the Apple engineers are thinking at this point, but one thing is crystal clear. There is no one at Apple driving quality control either at a software or hardware level. I doubt that Steve Jobs would have ever let iTunes 11 see the light of day the way it is now. The changes were far too drastic requiring a huge learning curve without any real benefit to the user. I mean seriously, what did Apple hope to accomplish by making this drastic of a software change?

For example, if Apple were planning on introducing a Netflix-like streaming service and iTunes needed the software to support this, I can full well understand implementing a needed software change to support this. If they were planning on allowing some new advanced technological approach to playlists, like Facebook style sharing of them, then maybe a change might be required. But, making a change just to make change isn’t useful or wanted. Complicating the interface and moving things to unnecessary new areas is not wanted. Users don’t want to have to relearn an interface just because someone decides to haphazardly move things around with no rhyme or reason.

Analysts amazingly silent?

I’ve yet to see any analysts making any calls on this or any other Apple quality issues. Yet, it’s crystal clear. Apple is not the Apple it once was. I’m sure the analysts are just biding their time to allow their clients to get their money out of Apple before making word of the problems that are just beginning to face Apple. In fact, it’s the same problem that now faces Sony. Sony used to be a top notch, high quality and innovative technology company who could basically do no wrong. Then, something happened at Sony and they’ve not been able to produce anything innovative in years. Apple is clearly on its way to becoming the next Sony. It’s also inevitable that without hiring someone (or several people) of the caliber of Steve Jobs that has both the technological vision combined with high levels of quality control, Apple doesn’t have a future.

As a software developer, you can’t just throw out any change to the wind and hope it succeeds. No, you have to bring in test groups to review the changes and find out how the average user responds to the changes. Apple shouldn’t have any trouble putting testing groups together. But, it appears that iTunes 11 did not get user tested at all. It’s a shame, too. iTunes 11 has some cool features, but those are just completely eclipsed by the poor quality of the software and the stupid design decisions.

Can Apple recover?

Yes, but it’s going to take someone (or several people) to bring quality control back to Apple and someone who is willing to say, ‘No, that sucks. Try again’.. just someone should have to said about iTunes 11 before it was ever released.

iPad mini: Smaller? Yes. Worth it? No.

Posted in Apple, botch, cloud computing by commorancy on November 5, 2012

With all the hype over Apple’s new brainchild, the iPad mini, I’m just not so hopeful about this tablet model at all. Apple has definitely taken a step backwards in this one, which is quite an unusual step for Apple. Typically, Apple always retains previous technology standards it has already set in new products. Usually, it even improves upon those standards. Not so with the iPad mini.

What exactly is the iPad mini?

This tablet is effectively a smaller version of the iPad 2 with a better camera. That pretty much describes it. Many people even go so far as to call it the iPad touch. Actually, the degrades the iPod touch. The iPod touch at least has a market in small handheld touch devices. The iPod touch has a form factor that’s actually useful when you don’t want the expensive 3G data cost tether, that and having access to the rich set of applications available in IOS. So, you can buy into pretty much what an iPhone is without that monthly data tether. Unless you’re on the go 90% of the time or you travel 100% of the time, having a data plan on a phone is pretty much a waste when you are also buying internet at home.

Yet, Apple hasn’t yet to introduce the 3G version of the iPad mini, but it is apparently on the way. That said, what is it about the iPad mini that makes it a compelling device? Well, frankly not much. For me, Apple botched it. Shrinking an iPad 2 into a smaller form factor while adding a better camera just isn’t enough. This is not what Apple is known for, but it is what the NEW Tim Cook Apple will become known for. That is, rehashing old devices into new form factors. The Steve Jobs’s Apple was never about rehashing old technology in new ways. Steve Jobs was always about pushing the envelope to make technology better, easier and faster for the users.

So, the question is, how does the iPad mini fit into that Steve Jobs’ vision? It doesn’t. This is the reason Steve was against releasing a smaller form factor tablet. The iPad mini is everything Steve Jobs didn’t want in a tablet and it is the reason it has not existed until now. It took Steve Jobs departing this earth to undo that vision. That’s why Steve could make Apple better with each and every device and why Tim Cook will begin struggling to keep Apple alive.

Is there a market?

Probably, for people who simply don’t want to carry around multiple devices (i.e., Kindle, iPod touch, iPad and camera), the size of it the iPad mini might work. For me, the 1024×768 screen is just too much of a step backwards. The iPad 3 is a compelling device with its retina display. Why did Apple skimp in this department on the iPad mini? I don’t get it. They’re not known for taking step backwards in technology. This is something I’d expect from Samsung, Asus, Dell or pretty much any other PC maker. I would never expect this level of technological concession from Apple. On the other hand, if Apple had made a phone out of the iPad mini, that might be worth considering.  In fact, turning the iPad 3 into a phone, I’d be all over that.  I’m rather tired of carrying around a phone and the iPad.  Just let me carry one device and let that device be an iPad. With wired and Bluetooth headsets, you don’t need to hold a phone to your face any longer. So, let’s consolidate the devices. That change would definitely make the iPad mini much more attractive as a device.

Weight and Size vs Price

Yes, it’s smaller and lighter, but at what a technology cost? You get a smaller technologically inferior device from what Apple has previously produced in the Retina iPad 3, but at a substantially higher price than is expected for such an inferior device. At $329, you’re effectively buying what exactly? An expensive 1024×768 tablet. Granted, it runs IOS that has previously been known for its stability. Unfortunately, that has changed with IOS 6. What has originally been considered base stability is now gone with IOS 6. Apps like Mail, Safari and even iTunes are unstable. You’ll get a notice for an email in a banner, click on it and the Mail app crashes. Definitely not stable. I’ve also had regular crashes with Safari and iTunes.

So, what Apple had going for itself in stability of IOS is pretty much gone. IOS has now lost its standing as the ultimate goto tablet OS. It’s just a matter of time before the quality of Apple’s products degrades to the point where it’s not even worth discussing. Note, we’re already on the downward side of the Apple quality bell curve. So, unless Tim Cook can manage to crack the whip and right this ship, Apple’s ship is already listing. It’s just a matter of time before it capsizes.

Apple’s Botched Rollout Plan

The whole roll out plan for the iPad mini was just convoluted with its staggered late announcement a month or so after its fall release announcement and then the staggered roll out of the device itself with the WiFi version releasing first. Definitely not something Jobs would have ever allowed. The parts also leaked on the Internet early, so many people already knew the form factor before ever hearing the announcement. Apple needs to lock down its supply chain much more tightly than it has. Again, this is something Jobs would have gone on a tirade as well. Secrecy was critically important to Steve Jobs.

Worth it?

Depends on what you want to do with an iPad mini? While I can definitely see a use and the usefulness for the iPad 3 with its multi-core processor and Retina display, taking this much of a step back for the iPad mini is not the answer. If you really must have this form factor, then perhaps. As a gift, if you really want to spend that level of cash on someone, perhaps. But, even as a gift, it could be seen as ‘cheaping out’.  That is, giving them a Toyota when they wanted the Ferrari (iPad 3).  Be careful with this one as a gift. For people who won’t use the pixels on the screen, it might be ok.

So, is it worth the price? No. This device would only be compelling if it were about $100 cheaper at each model price point or if it contained a phone. At $329, it’s too costly for such a huge step backwards technologically. The size does not make up for that. At $229, it would definitely be getting much closer to the right price. At $199 for a 16GB WiFi model, the iPad mini would be truly at the right price for that level of 2 year old technology. Asking people to pay $130 more for a 2 year old device is just price gouging, or as some people call it, the Apple tax. In this case, the Apple tax is most definitely not worth it.

Restore a Mac formatted 6th Gen iPod nano in Windows 7

Posted in Apple, botch, Mac OS X by commorancy on September 22, 2012

I recently picked up a sixth generation iPod nano refurbished from Gamestop.  When I got home and plugged it into iTunes for Windows 7, iTunes recognized it as a Macintosh formatted iPod and said that it needed to be restored.  Here’s where the fun begins.. not.  Several things happened after I plugged it in.  First, Windows recognized it as drive O: and opened a requester wanting to format the iPod.  This format panel stays open until cancelled. Second, when I tried to restore the iPod, iTunes kept showing me error 1436, which is a rather non-descript error that takes you to a mostly generic Apple help page that is only moderately helpful.  I take that back, this help page wasn’t helpful at all.

Note, Macintosh formatted iPods cannot be used with Windows.  However, Windows formatted iPods can be used on both Windows and Macs.  So, this is simply a problem that exists because this iPod was originally formatted on a Mac.  Such stupid issues that cause such time wasting problems.

How did the first restore go?

It didn’t.  I realized the above mentioned Windows disk format panel had the iPod open and the 1436 error was due to this.  However, that was just the beginning of the problems. When I cancelled that panel and I tried the restore again, I got a different issue.  Basically, iTunes opens a progress bar that keeps moving without any progress.  I wasn’t sure if this progress panel was normal or abnormal.  Although, I suspected abnormal after 3 minutes without any changes.  So, I began searching for how long an iPod restore should take.  I found that restore should complete in only a few minutes (less actually).  So, I knew something was wrong when it wasn’t making any progress.

Disk Mode

It was clear that iTunes wasn’t going to restore this iPod through its normal means.  I began searching on the net for how to recover this iPod and ran into a site that led me to Apple’s How to put an iPod in Disk Mode help page.  This page is actually very useful and where the 1436 error page should have led me but didn’t.

What is Disk Mode? Disk Mode puts the iPod into a state that allows it to be formatted as a disk.  Well, you don’t really want to format it.  Instead, in Disk Mode, it gets rid of all that pesky Macintosh formatting garbage and actually lets you restore it properly.  For the sixth gen iPod nano, to put it in Disk Mode, press and hold the power and volume down buttons until the screen turns black and the Apple logo appears.  When you see the Apple logo, press and hold both volume up and down buttons until the iPod shows a white screen.  This is the Disk Mode screen.

Recovering

At this point, I plugged the iPod back in with iTunes running and iTunes saw that the iPod was ‘corrupted’ and asked to restore it.  Well, the restoration this time went like a champ.  No issues at all.  However, after I restored it, I did have to close out of iTunes and restart iTunes.  Until I did that, iTunes kept telling me that the iPod was in ‘Recovery Mode’ even though I knew that it wasn’t based on the screen of the iPod.  After restarting iTunes, that stopped and it finally recognized the iPod as new and let me put music on it.  Yay!

So, there you have it.  Although, it should have been as simple as plug-in and restore.  But, Apple had to make this a chore because of the PC vs Mac formatting thing.  Seriously, is that even necessary?

Design

Let me take a moment to commend Apple on this design of this iPod nano.  When the first long skinny nano was first released, I thought it was kind of cool, but not worth it.  Then the smaller squatty nano arrived and I liked that design so much that I bought one.  I got my use out of that and eventually bought an iPod touch.  However, the iPod touch isn’t useful in all circumstances and I wanted something smaller and lighter.  When this nano was released, I always thought it was a great idea and well executed save for the fact that it has no application support.  So, here’s where Apple dropped the ball on this one.

The size and weight is awesome.  The look is great, especially if you get a watch band.  It just needed a refresh to add a few more features like Bluetooth, video (although, not really necessary in my book) and apps support.  I loved the square display because this is the exact image ratio of CD covers.  So, it was the perfect marriage between a music player and a user interface.  Some people complained that the touch display was overkill.  Perhaps, but I always liked it, but I have never needed one of these.  I still don’t really need one.  The reason I bought one is because Apple has discontinued this model in lieu of it’s bigger screen cousin.

The new nano, however is neither nano in size nor is it really that small.  This nano was the perfect size and perfect shape.  It truly deserved the name nano.  However, the new nano is really not deserving of that name.  The screen is too big and it’s really just a dumbed down iPod touch.  Yes, the new nano has video capabilities, but so what?  I don’t plan on ever loading video on it.  Without WiFi or streaming mechanisms, there’s no point.  I realize Apple wants to enrich their ecosystem (read, sell more videos to people), but this isn’t the device to do it.  In fact. this latest nano design to ship late 2012 is really not that great looking.  I feel that it’s stepping too far into the same territory as the iPod touch.  So, why do this?  It’s also bigger, bulkier and likely heavier.   The battery life is probably shorter even.  It’s no longer a small portable player.

The 6th generation iPod nano (this one I just bought) is truly small and light.  It can go just about anywhere and has a built-in clip even! It lacks some features, yes, but for a music player I certainly don’t miss them.  If you’re thinking of buying a 6th generation iPod nano, you should do it now while the Apple outlet still has them in stock.  Yes, they are refurbished, but they’re still quite spectacular little music players.  However, don’t go into the purchase expecting the feature-set of an iPhone or an iPod touch.  It’s not here.  If you go into the purchase thinking it’s an iPod shuffle with a display, then you won’t be disappointed with the purchase.

Apple’s ever changing product line

What I don’t get about Apple is removing a product from its product lineup that clearly has no competition in the marketplace at all, let alone having no competition even within its own product lineup.  Yet, here we are.  Apple is dropping the 6th generation design in lieu of the 7th generation design that’s bigger and bulkier (and likely heavier).  In fact, it looks a lot like a smaller dumbed-down iPod touch.

In reality, the 7th gen nano is so close to becoming a tiny iPod touch clone that it clearly competes with the Touch.  This is bad.  The 6th generation nano (pictured above) in no way competes with the iPod touch, other than it has a tiny touch screen. The 6th generation nano design clearly still has a place in Apple’s lineup.  I just don’t get why they dump products from their lineup and replace them with designs that aren’t likely to sell better (0ther than to those people who complained you couldn’t play video on the 6th gen nano). The 6th gen nano is great for the gym or while running.  However, after this newest nano is introduced, if you want a square sized small music player, you have to get a shuffle with no display.  The bigger bulkier 7th gen design just won’t work for most activity use cases.  Apple, your design team needs to better understand how these devices are actually being used before you put pen to paper on new designs, let alone release them for public consumption.  Why is it always just one device?  Why can’t you have both in the product lineup?

Of course, if they had retained an updated 6th gen model along with adding the 7th gen model, then that would make a lot more sense.  Removing the older model in lieu of this one, this is not a replacement design.  You can’t wear this one like a watch.  So, that whole functionality is gone.  What I would like to have seen is two models.  A 6th gen revamped to add more features like bluetooth and perhaps a camera and, at the same time, introducing this new video capable model.  The updated 6th gen doesn’t need to playback movies, the screen is too tiny for that.  In fact, the screen on this new 7th gen model is too tiny for that.  Even the iPod touch is too tiny for watching movies, in practicality.  It’s not until you get to the iPad does watching a movie even become practical.  In a pinch, yes you could watch a video or movie, but you’d be seriously straining your eyes.  I’d rather do that (or rather, not strain my eyes) with a much bigger screen.  No, an updated square-format touch screen iPod is still very much necessary in the lineup.  I understand Apple’s need for change here, but not for the use case that’s now lost with this 7th generation iPod. Sometimes, Apple just doesn’t seem to get it.  This is just one of a new series of cracks in the armor that is the new Jobs-less era Apple.  Welcome to the new Apple folks.

Patent Wars: When IP protection becomes anti-competitive

Posted in Android, Apple, business by commorancy on September 3, 2012

So, who wins when companies like Apple and Samsung battle over intellectual property?  No one.  Here’s why.

Apple doesn’t win

Apple thinks they will win because they think this action will block a rival product based on the fact that they claim they invented it first.  In fact, it’s not that they ‘invented’ it first, it’s because they patented it first.  Whomever gets to the patent office gets exclusivity.  That’s how patent law works.  However, Apple won’t win because of the negative publicity backlash that it is now unfolding onto the Apple brand.  The backlash against Apple is already beginning and it may end up becoming Apple’s downfall.

Seriously, are we to believe that there is any possibility of confusion between a Samsung device running Android and an Apple device running IOS?  The operating systems aren’t even remotely similar.  The sole and only reason to prevent another company from putting something on the market is to avoid brand or product confusion.  I hardly think that anyone would confuse a Samsung Galaxy device clearly labeled with the Samsung brand with an Apple device clearly labeled with the Apple brand.  Heck, the Galaxy devices don’t even resemble the iPhone now.

Clerk: Why are you returning this device today?

Consumer: Oh, I’m bringing this Samsung back because I thought it was an iPhone.

I don’t think so.  This is not a likely scenario at all.  I can’t imagine any consumer could walk into a Samsung retailer and confuse a Galaxy S with an iPhone.  So, why is Apple so adamant that this device is a threat to their survival?  In fact, if anything is a threat to Apple’s survival, it’s Apple.  Playing these legal games is the best way to actually make consumers become aware and interested in the exact devices they hope to prevent being placed onto store shelves.  If Apple had left well enough alone, these devices would have fallen into obscurity on their own and the iPhone would still reign supreme.  Calling undue attention to another device, in just the way Apple is doing, is just ripe to backfire on Apple.  And, backfire it appears to be doing.  Way to go Apple.

Samsung doesn’t win

I’m not going to cheer for Samsung here.  Are they a victim?  Not really.  They’re a large corporation that’s out to make a buck on a design that’s far too similar to one that someone else created.  I won’t say that Apple is in the right here, but Samsung is also not in the right by doing what they did.  I personally don’t like Samsung devices.  They’re too unreliable and don’t last.  I’ve bought many Samsung devices and they just don’t hold up long enough.  The quality is too low for the price they charge.  Making quality products is a whole separate issue from producing a product that cashes in on a look from a competitor.  Samsung, at least have the decency to hire designers that produce original looking devices designs. It’s really not that hard.  There are plenty of good industrial designers who could produce a high quality unique case design that could easily rival Apple’s designs without looking remotely like an Apple product.  More than that, though, why not make products that actually last?

Consumers don’t win

By getting injunctions to prevent products from hitting the store shelves, this is tantamount to legalized anti-competitive practices. Legalized because the courts agree with and, further, set up injunctions to prevent these devices from hitting the shelves or be sold within the US.  This hurts the consumer because now there is less choice.  Apple’s thinking is that with less choice comes more likelihood that the consumer will choose Apple instead.  Unfortunately, Apple didn’t take into account the PR nightmare that’s unfolding here.  Apple, don’t underestimate the consumer’s intelligence. Consumers understand that Apple is taking legalized anti-competitive measures to try to win the consumer choice war.  It is, however, the consumer’s choice as to what phone to buy and use.  It is not Apple’s choice.  Companies, when they get to a certain size and arrogance, tend to forget or choose to ignore consumer choice.  This is capitalism and consumers have freedom of choice.

Consumers will vote with their wallets in the end and that will likely be to Apple’s detriment in the long haul.  Instead, Apple needs to drop this lawsuit now and let these devices onto the market from Samsung. Let the devices hold their own or fail on their own merits.  The consumers will decide what they want to use.  Since there is not a real possibility that consumers could mistake a Galaxy S Android phone for an IOS based iPhone, there is really no damage done here.  It’s only perceived damage.

The real damage being done today, that Apple is doing to itself, is the public relations debacle they face with consumer sentiment.  Consumer sentiment is real and it is tangible and it can make or break a company. The longer these IP issues drag on and the more devices they try to block, the more people will pull away from Apple and leave the company, once again, high and dry.

Apple’s future uncertain

Apple needs to stop, look and listen.  They need to make better, faster and more useful devices instead of pulling out the legal team to fight a losing battle.  Keep the innovation going.  Forget the old wars and move on.  Heck, the whole thing started because Samsung made a phone that resembled the iPhone 3 case style.  They don’t even sell the iPhone 3 case style anymore.  The Galaxy Tab looks nothing remotely like an iPad either.  So, the whole ‘it looks like an IOS device’ issue is now moot.  It’s just being dragged on because of Job’s complete hated of Android.

Unfortunately for Apple, Android is here to stay and it’s not going away anytime soon.  Locking out Samsung does not in any way lock out LG or HTC or any other device that runs Android.  Instead, Apple needs to focus on innovation with IOS and its new devices and drop this PR nightmare that’s now unfolding in the consumer space. If Apple wants to drive a wedge between the consumer and the company, Apple’s current legal strategy is perfect.  If Apple wants to produce high quality easy-t0-use devices, that goal has nothing to do with blocking the sale of similar devices via legal channels.

Apple is now officially full of sour grapes.

Tingle or vibration from the back of the iPad while charging

Posted in Apple, ipad, ipod by commorancy on August 24, 2012

You may or may not have noticed, but if you run your hand along the back of the iPad  (or even an iPod touch) while it’s charging, especially when using a wall power adapter, you may notice a vibration or tingle sensation on your hand. You might be wondering what it is. This article is short and sweet, so let’s explore.

Charging your iPad

When you plug your iPad into a wall outlet (or any charger for that matter), you would think the current should go into the device alone. Well, it doesn’t. Some of the charge is dispersed along the metal case by design. Here is a comment on Apple’s forum quoted from Apple’s support team regarding this issue:

There is measurable AC voltage across the external metal parts when an iPad charges. The measured voltage is within the SELV (Separated Extra-Low Voltage) limit, which means that the iPad is safe to touch. Additionally, the touch current is within the safety limit according to UL/IEC 60950 (Safety of Information Technology Equipment).[1]

So, there you have it.  This is by design and nothing to be concerned over.  Although, what Apple should have done is take that current being dispersed onto the case surface and run it to an LED to soak it up so you feel nothing.  Of course, that means the iPad would need an external LED, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to know when the device is charging without having to turn it on.

Checking your iPad with Apple

Note, if you get anything more than a mild sensation from the back of the iPad, then you should take it back to Apple.  The current you feel from the back should be minuscule.  If you see any sparks or feel anything more than a slight vibration, your iPad might be electrically defective.  If you’re unsure, take it to Apple and have them check it out.

So, there you go.

[1] Apple’s Discussion Forum Comentary on this issue

How to format NTFS on MacOS X

Posted in Apple, computers, Mac OS X, microsoft by commorancy on June 2, 2012

This article is designed to show you how to mount and manage NTFS partitions in MacOS X.  Note the prerequisites below as it’s not quite as straightforward as one would hope.  That is, there is no native MacOS X tool to accomplish this, but it can be done.  First things first:

Disclaimer

This article discusses commands that will format, destroy or otherwise wipe data from hard drives.  If you are uncomfortable working with commands like these, you shouldn’t attempt to follow this article.  This information is provided as-is and all risk is incurred solely by the reader.  If you wipe your data accidentally by the use of the information contained in this article, you solely accept all risk.  This author accepts no liability for the use or misuse of the commands explored in this article.

Prerequisites

Right up front I’m going to say that to accomplish this task, you must have the following prerequisites set up:

  1. VirtualBox installed (free)
  2. Windows 7 (any flavor) installed in VirtualBox (you can probably use Windows XP, but the commands may be different) (Windows is not free)

For reading / writing to NTFS formatted partitions (optional), you will need one of the following:

  1. For writing to NTFS partitions on MacOS X:
  2. For reading from NTFS, MacOS X can natively mount and read from NTFS partitions in read-only mode. This is built into Mac OS X.

If you plan on writing to NTFS partitions, I highly recommend Tuxera over ntfs-3g. Tuxera is stable and I’ve had no troubles with it corrupting NTFS volumes which would require a ‘chkdsk’ operation to fix.  On the other hand, ntfs-3g regularly corrupts volumes and will require chkdsk to clean up the volume periodically. Do not override MacOS X’s native NTFS mounter and have it write to volumes (even though it is possible).  The MacOS X native NTFS mounter will corrupt disks in write mode.  Use Tuxera or ntfs-3g instead.

Why NTFS on Mac OS X?

If you’re like me, I have a Mac at work and Windows at home.  Because Mac can mount NTFS, but Windows has no hope of mounting MacOS Journaled filesystems, I opted to use NTFS as my disk carry standard.  Note, I use large 1-2TB sized hard drives and NTFS is much more efficient with space allocation than FAT32 for these sized disks.  So, this is why I use NTFS as my carry around standard for both Windows and Mac.

How to format a new hard drive with NTFS on Mac OS X

Once you have Windows 7 installed in VirtualBox and working, shut it down for the moment.  Note, I will assume that you know how to install Windows 7 in VirtualBox.  If not, let me know and I can write a separate article on how to do this.

Now, go to Mac OS X and open a command terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app).  Connect the disk to your Mac via USB or whatever method you wish the drive to connect.  Once you have it connected, you will need to determine which /dev/diskX device it is using.  There are several ways of doing this.  However, the easiest way is with the ‘diskutil’ command:

$ diskutil list
/dev/disk0
   #: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER
   0: GUID_partition_scheme *500.1 GB disk0
   1: EFI 209.7 MB disk0s1
   2: Apple_HFS Macintosh HD 499.8 GB disk0s2
/dev/disk1
   #: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER
   0: GUID_partition_scheme *2.0 TB disk1
/dev/disk2
   #: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER
   0: Apple_partition_scheme *119.6 MB disk2
   1: Apple_partition_map 32.3 KB disk2s1
   2: Apple_HFS VirtualBox 119.5 MB disk2s2

 
Locate the drive that appears to be the size of your new hard drive.  If the hard drive is blank (a brand new drive), it shouldn’t show any additional partitions. In my case, I’ve identified that I want to use /dev/disk1.  Remember this device file path because you will need it for creating the raw disk vmdk file. Note the nomenclature above:  The /dev/disk1 is the device to access the entire drive from sector 0 to the very end.  The /dev/diskXsX files access individual partitions created on the device.  Make sure you’ve noted the correct /dev/disk here or you could overwrite the wrong drive.

Don’t create any partitions with MacOS X in Disk Utility or in diskutil as these won’t be used (or useful) in Windows.  In fact, if you create any partitions with Disk Utility, you will need to ‘clean’ the drive in Windows.

Creating a raw disk vmdk for VirtualBox

This next part will create a raw connector between VirtualBox and your physical drive.  This will allow Windows to directly access the entire physical /dev/disk1 drive from within VirtualBox Windows.  Giving Windows access to the entire drive will let you manage the entire drive from within Windows including creating partitions and formatting them.

To create the connector, you will use the following command in Mac OS X from a terminal shell:

$ vboxmanage internalcommands createrawvmdk \
-filename "/path/to/VirtualBox VMs/Windows/disk1.vmdk" -rawdisk /dev/disk1

 
It’s a good idea to create the disk1.vmdk where your Windows VirtualBox VM lives. Note, if vboxmanage isn’t in your PATH, you will need to add it to your PATH to execute this command or, alternatively, specify the exact path to the vboxmanage command. In my case, this is located in /usr/bin/vboxmanage.  This command will create a file named disk1.vmdk that will be used inside your Windows VirtualBox machine to access the hard drive. Note that creating the vmdk doesn’t connect the drive to your VirtualBox Windows system. That’s the next step.  Make note of the path to disk1.vmdk as you will also need this for the next step.

Additional notes, if the drive already has any partitions on it (NTFS or MacOS), you will need to unmount any mounted partitions before Windows can access it and before you can createrawvmdk with vboxmanage.  Check ‘df’ to see if any partitions on drive are mounted.  To unmount, either drop the partition(s) on the trashcan, use umount /path/to/partition or use diskutil unmount /path/to/partition.  You will need to unmount all partitions on the drive in question before Windows or vboxmanage can access it.  Even one mounted partition will prevent VirtualBox from gaining access to the disk.

Note, if this is a brand new drive, it should be blank and it won’t attempt to mount anything.  MacOS may ask you to format it, but just click ‘ignore’.  Don’t have MacOS X format the drive.  However, if you are re-using a previously used drive and wanting to format over what’s on it, I would suggest you zero the drive (see ‘Zeroing a drive’ below) as the fastest way to clear the drive of partition information.

Hooking up the raw disk vmdk to VirtualBox

Open VirtualBox.  In VirtualBox, highlight your Windows virtual machine and click the ‘Settings’ cog at the top.

  • Click the Storage icon.
  • Click the ‘SATA Controller’
  • Click on the ‘Add Hard Disk’ icon (3 disks stacked).
  • When the ? panel appears, click on ‘Choose existing disk’.
  • Navigate to the folder where you created ‘disk1.vmdk’, select it and click ‘Open’.
  • The disk1.vmdk connector will now appear under SATA Controller

You are ready to launch VirtualBox.  Note, if /dev/disk1 isn’t owned by your user account, VirtualBox may fail to open this drive and show an error panel.  If you see any error panels, check to make sure no partitions are mounted and  then check the permissions of /dev/disk1 with ls -l /dev/disk1 and, if necessary, chown $LOGNAME /dev/disk1.  The drive must not have any partitions actively mounted and /dev/disk1 must be owned by your user account on MacOS X.  Also make sure that the vmdk file you created above is owned by your user account as you may need to become root to createrawvmdk.

Launching VirtualBox

Click the ‘Start’ button to start your Windows VirtualBox.  Once you’re at the Windows login panel, log into Windows as you normally would.  Note, if the hard drive goes to sleep, you may have to wait for it to wake up for Windows to finish loading.

Once inside Windows, do the following:

  • Start->All Programs->Accessories->Command Prompt
  • Type in ‘diskpart’
  • At the DISKPART> prompt, type ‘list disk’ and look for the drive (based on the size of the drive).
    • Note, if you have more than one drive that’s the same exact size, you’ll want to be extra careful when changing things as you could overwrite the wrong drive.  If this is the case, follow these next steps at your own risk!
DISKPART> list disk
Disk ### Status Size Free Dyn Gpt
 -------- ------------- ------- ------- --- ---
 Disk 0 Online 40 GB 0 B
 Disk 1 Online 1863 GB 0 B *
  • In my case, I am using Disk 1.  So, type in ‘select disk 1′.  It will say ‘Disk 1 is now the selected disk.’
    • From here on down, use these commands at your own risk.  They are destructive commands and will wipe the drive and data from the drive.  If you are uncertain about what’s on the drive or you need to keep a copy, you should stop here and backup the data before proceeding.  You have been warned.
    • Note, ‘Disk 1′ is coincidentally named the same as /dev/disk1 on the Mac.  It may not always follow the same naming scheme on all systems.
  • To ensure the drive is fully blank type in ‘clean’ and press enter.
    • The clean command will wipe all partitions and volumes from the drive and make the drive ‘blank’.
    • From here, you can repartition the drive as necessary.

Creating a partition, formatting and mounting the drive in Windows

  • Using diskpart, here are the commands to create one partition using the whole drive, format it NTFS and mount it as G: (see commands below):
DISKPART> select disk 1
Disk 1 is now the selected disk
DISKPART> clean
DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.
DISKPART> create partition primary
DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.
DISKPART> list partition
Partition ### Type Size Offset
 ------------- ---------------- ------- -------
* Partition 1 Primary 1863 GB 1024 KB
DISKPART> select partition 1
Partition 1 is now the selected partition.
DISKPART> format fs=ntfs label="Data" quick
100 percent completed
DiskPart successfully formatted the volume.
DISKPART> assign letter=g
DiskPart successfully assigned the drive letter or mount point.
DISKPART> exit
Leaving DiskPart...

 

  • The drive is now formatted as NTFS and mounted as G:.  You should see the drive in Windows Explorer.
    • Note, unless you want to spend hours formatting a 1-2TB sized drive, you should format it as QUICK.
    • If you want to validate the drive is good, then you may want to do a full format on the drive.  New drives are generally good already, so QUICK is a much better option to get the drive formatted faster.
  • If you want to review the drive in Disk Management Console, in the command shell type in diskmgmt.msc
  • When the window opens, you should find your Data drive listed as ‘Disk 1′

Note, the reason to use ‘diskpart’ over Disk Management Console is that you can’t use ‘clean’ in Disk Management Console, this command is only available in the diskpart tool and it’s the only way to completely clean the drive of all partitions to make the drive blank again.  This is especially handy if you happen to have previously formatted the drive with MacOS X Journaled FS and there’s an EFI partition on the drive.  The only way to get rid of a Mac EFI partition is to ‘clean’ the drive as above.

Annoyances and Caveats

MacOS X always tries to mount recognizable removable (USB) partitions when they become available.  So, as soon as you have formatted the drive and have shut down Windows, Mac will likely mount the NTFS drive under /Volumes/Data.  You can check this with ‘df’ in Mac terminal or by opening Finder.  If you find that it is mounted in Mac, you must unmount it before you can start VirtualBox to use the drive in Windows.  If you try to start VirtualBox with a mounted partition in Mac OS X, you will see a red error panel in VirtualBox.  Mac and Windows will not share a physical volume.  So you must make sure MacOS X has unmounted the volume before you start VirtualBox with the disk1.vmdk physical drive.

Also, the raw vmdk drive is specific to that single hard drive.  You will need to go through the steps of creating a new raw vmdk for each new hard drive you want to format in Windows unless you know for certain that each hard drive is truly identical.  The reason is that vboxmanage discovers the geometry of the drive and writes it to the vmdk.  So, each raw vmdk is tailored to each drive’s size and geometry.  It is recommended that you not try to reuse an existing physical vmdk with another drive.  Always create a new raw vmdk for each drive you wish to manage in Windows.

Zeroing a drive

While the clean command clears off all partition information in Windows, you can also clean off the drive in MacOS X.  The way to do this is by using dd.  Again, this command is destructive, so be sure you know which drive you are operating on before you press enter.  Once you press enter, the drive will be wiped of data.  Use this section at your own risk.

To clean the drive use the following:

$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/disk1 bs=4096 count=10000

 
This command will write 10000 * 4096 byte blocks with all zeros.  This should overwrite any partition information and clear the drive off.  You may not need to do this as the diskpart ‘clean’ command may be sufficient.

Using chkdsk

If the drive has become corrupted or is acting in a way you think may be a problem, you can always go back into Windows with the data1.vmdk connector and run chkdsk on the volume.  You can also use this on any NTFS or FAT32 volume you may have.  You will just need to create a physical vmdk connector and attach it to your Windows SATA controller and make sure MacOS X doesn’t have it mounted. Then, launch VirtualBox and clean it up.

Tuxera

If you are using Tuxera to mount NTFS, once you exit out of Windows with your freshly formatted NTFS volume, Tuxera should immediately see the volume and mount it.  This will show you that NTFS has been formatted properly on the drive.  You can now read and write to this volume as necessary.

Note that this method to format a drive with NTFS is the safest way on Mac OS X.  While there may be some native tools floating around out there, using Windows to format NTFS will ensure the volume is 100% compliant with NTFS and Windows.  Using third party tools not written by Microsoft could lead to data corruption or improperly formatted volumes.

Of course, you could always connect the drive directly to a Windows system and format it that way. ;)

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iPad 3: First Thoughts

Posted in Apple, ipad, technologies by commorancy on March 17, 2012

So, while I originally wrote that I didn’t see the purpose in the iPad, I have since changed my tune. But, from really only one perspective: multimedia. It’s a great portable movie and entertainment device. I also use it for a replacement for pen and paper at work in meetings, for quick email reads. web surfing and I use it as an ‘in a pinch’ workstation for systems administration. These are my primary use cases. Clearly, though, watching movies and listening to music is where this device shines most. And now, taking movies and photos with the 5 megapixel camera… all I can say with the iPad 3 is, “Wow”. The screen resolution and camera are worth the price. Apple has finally created a device that, in my estimation, probably costs more to make than the price for which it sells.

If you have an iPad 1, this is definitely worth the upgrade. If you have an iPad 2, you pretty much have everything except the great camera and the Retina display. The Retina display is definitely worth the money. The lack of visible pixels definitely makes the whole iPad experience so much clearer and cleaner. This is what the iPad 1 should have been out of the gate. Had Apple pushed the envelope for the iPad 1, this device would have been so much more so much faster. Too bad it took Apple 3 tries to get it here, but we’re finally here.

WiFi only for me

I didn’t buy the 4G LTE edition. First, I don’t like the service plan costs and the limited data from the carriers. If the mobile carriers could actually be reasonable in pricing and charge rates similar to ISPs like Comcast (both price and speed), I might consider the mobile carriers. Second, the mobile carriers need to change their business models and they don’t want to do this. The whole 2 year contract commitment with capped ceilings and high overage rates is for the birds. The carriers finally need to do away with the contract model and go with a standard monthly commitment like Comcast or any other ISP on planet. Suffice it to say, I’m ranting about the carriers rather than talking about the iPad 3. See, now that’s the whole reason I bought the WiFi only edition. Everywhere I need to use it, I can use it on WiFi with no carrier hassles. I don’t have to deal with crappy carrier service, crappy rate costs, bad connectivity, stupid contracts, dead spots or any other silly carrier BS.

If I want to buy a MiFi device (which I have), I can use this to connect my iPad to the Internet, which is the best of all worlds. With a MiFi, I can use it with multiple devices, including my iPad 3, iPod Touch, my LG phone and my notebook and even my home computer when Comcast decides to have outages.

I also find the WiFi speeds are far superior to using LTE anyway, so that’s why I bought the WiFi edition. That, and it’s cheaper on the wallet, both in the iPad cost and that there’s no monthly recurring service fees.

Entertainment

The iPad 3 is definitely my entertainment device of choice (other than my 46″ flat panel display when at home). For portable entertainment, the iPad 3 is it. It is now simply the device of choice for watching movies, playing music or playing games. It is now officially the Sony gaming killer. It may not kill the Xbox, yet. But, Apple has the upper hand now. If they could woo over some big gaming companies like Ubisoft to put Assassin’s Creed on there and, at the same time, release an Apple bluetooth video game controller, this would easily become my gaming platform of choice. Perhaps even over the Xbox. Of course, Apple would need a gaming network including chat and whatnot. So, there’s some hurdles for Apple to overcome. But, the iPad 3 has the beginnings to kill the gaming market if they go after it.

For watching movies, 1080p images flow fluidly on the 2048×1536 pixel display and the images are literally stunning. There is no other portable device on the market that can do what the iPad 3 does for watching movies. The other tablets have a huge leap to make to get where the iPad 3 is for entertainment.

Now if we can get movie studios to start releasing their films in at least 2048 pixel widths on blu-ray (or even iTunes store) so we can actually take advantage of this new resolution.

Camera

Ok, so I’ll let this section speak for itself… Here’s an image I took with the iPad 3 earlier. Note, size below is 688×922. Click the image to see it full iPad 3 screen size. The fact that it produced depth of field with that tiny lens in this semi-macro shot is amazing.

I haven’t yet tried the video camera, but that’s on my list of things to try out. So far, this is a very impressive device and, for me, well worth the money. Now I need to determine what to do with my old iPad 1. It’s over a year old at this point. Amazing how technology gets obsolete so quickly. But, I got my money’s worth from the iPad 1 considering that it was mostly a gift.

If you’re on the fence about getting an iPad 3, don’t be. It’s definitely worth the money to get the resolution on the device. The camera is amazing and watching 1080p movies on it is stunning. Now if we can get Hollywood to catch up to this device and release movies in at least 2048 pixel widths, 1920×1080 seems old and outdated.

Gaming

I haven’t yet tried much gaming on the device, so this section will have to wait to be written. Suffice it to say that the iPad 3 tremendously enhances the look of all apps, though. So, games should look stunning on this display. The thing I will say, though, is that this device has tremendous potential to take over the gaming market with the right level of support.

iPhone apps

This is one thing I didn’t expect. When running iPhone apps on the iPad, the 2x scaling finally works properly. No longer does it scale up this low res tiny display and make it look all pixelated. IOS now actually scales up the fonts, buttons, text and all scalable aspects and retains the screen resolution. So, even though it’s still a small real-estate app, the 2x scaling remains high-res. So, apps from places like Redbox (who refuse to write iPad versions) finally look good when scaled up on the iPad 3. All I can say here is, impressive and long awaited.

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Verdict

The iPad 3 is definitely worth the money if nothing else than for the screen resolution. The camera is also quite amazing. The device is a tiny bit thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, so it may not fit all iPad 2 cases on the market. But, the smart cover works quite well. As well, the restore process from my iPad 1 was so smooth, automated and reasonably fast, I walked away and came back and it was done. Apple has definitely made this part of the process much much better than previous versions.

If you own an iPad 2 and are thinking of upgrading, you should stop by and play with one first. You might want to wait until the iPad 4 to get a bit more life out of your iPad 2 before discarding it. It is worth the upgrade, however, if you are an avid movie watcher.

If you own an iPad 1 or any other tablet, upgrading to this tablet is a no-brainer. The speed and power of the iPad 3 is apparent right from turning it on.

There is only one thing that Apple missed to really support this screen resolution properly. Apple should have produced a 128 (or 256) GB edition of the iPad 3. With this resolution comes much more space needed by 1080p movies. So, we really need at least a 128 GB version of the iPad 3. I’m guessing we’ll see this with the iPad 4 or possibly a refresh of the iPad 3 later this year (as it’s not really worth a full version release just to double the memory on the unit). However, if you do plan on using it for movies, you will do yourself a favor to buy the 64GB edition as you will need this space to store your movies and music. In fact, as I said, 64GB really isn’t enough for all of the movies I want to carry around with me, so for a heavy movie watcher, 64GB is definitely not enough.

Apple, if you’re reading, we want at least a 128GB model. I’d personally want a 256GB model and I’d be willing to pay the added cost for that amount of memory on the iPad.

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