Apple OS unification complete

Posted in Apple, Tech, Web at 9 am

This week there has been discussion (John Kirk) (John Gruber, Daring Fireball) (Dr. Drang) about whether Apple will ever unify iOS and OS X. I say they already have. I can easily pull up a VNC client on my iPad and with some tweaks to the universal access preference pane and single window mode, I can have an OS X experience on my iOS device.

Today I have a GUI interface inside a Touch interface. (A TUI if you will.) It’s not perfect by any means, but with a few tweaks and some polish by Apple and it would be just fine.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Have you ever used terminal.app? Only a slim sliver of the Mac-using population ever have. But there’s one unification right there: a commandline on top of a GUI.

Both of the scenarios above are nigh on impossible to enjoy on an iPhone. But it works in a pinch. But on an iPad it is serviceable. And if there was a mythical iPad Pro? Then I might never buy another Mac again, except as a server.

Let’s take a fundamental digital era task: creating an event in a calendar.

I could use my mouse and keyboard in the calendar desktop app. (Traditional GUI)

I could open up a terminal.app window and use a commandline tool. (CLI)

I could run an AppleScript to create the event. (ASI?)

I could use VoiceOver and never touch the screen. (VOI?)

I could use the calendar app on my iOS device and only ever touch a screen. (TUI)

I could logon to the iCloud.com website and create the event through a web interface. (WUI) [And that might split into AJAX vs. REST techniques.]

To a certain extent the unification that people are talking about is simply a bit of polish and a tiny step forward. It sure is a good thing Apple never makes incremental improvements towards a larger vision. (AppleScript in Numbers) (Mavericks Full-Screen mode) (iWork Platform Independence) (iWork 2013 on Web/OS X/iOS)



Posted in Apple, Tech at 9 am

Yes I am a fanboy, get over it. You need to get over that the same way I need to get over the old world/new world computing stuff. So here is my plan for the iPad and my current iPhone w/ AT&T service:

I have always thought that $80+ per month for phone service was expensive. Particularly since I don’t actually do a lot of voice calling. So this July when my two-year contract with AT&T is up, my plan is to return to a pre-paid cell phone, pick up an iPad, and use my iPhone sans SIM card. My thinking goes along these lines:

1) My primary laptop a Powerbook G4 is getting too long in the tooth with missing keys, a dying battery and a hinge that’s about to give up the ghost. Instead of getting a new laptop, I would like to give the iPad a try since it does most of what I need. For extra storage, I have my Mac mini at home and with a good VNC client I should be good to go. Since most of what I do is on the web, rarely do I deal much with files. I will still have my old PowerBook, but the Pad should cover most of my needs.

Having an iPad means I can get a pay-as-you-go data plan which removes half of my iPhone needs. The other half is voice service, which could daily be delivered by a Tracphone or VirginMobile service. Both of these (when you factor in minimum cost of service to keep the phone active) get down to about $7/mo.

So I get the smallest possible PAYG phone, my old iPhone as an iPod, and an iPad for most of my web stuff. I drop my monthly costs from ~$85/mo to $7 plus the occasional month’s worth of data service for about $25. I carry 2 smaller devices and 1 tablet. I need to keep track of charging them, but that should cover my needs until a cheap PAYG plan for the iPhone is available that includes data service and bridging service.


What Apple Makes

Posted in Apple, Media, Tech at 3 pm

It seems that a lot of people are missing a fundamental aspect of what Apple sells. Simply put, Apple Profits on What Apple Physically Makes.

Anything that Apple licenses to sell through iTunes, or Apps they sell on behalf of third party developers are ancillary to what they manufacture. Apple will be profitable based on what their own physical products are worth in the market. Everything else is a break-even proposition. Look at Mac OS X or iOS and you’ll see that Apple nearly gives them away. The iLife suite is nearly free as is the iWork software. Even the Pro tools like Final Cut and Logic are deeply discounted from just a few years ago, taking down the prices of entire software categories in their wake. Someone call Kevin Kelly.

Apple makes money by selling high-end products. They sustain the rest of their digital ecosystem with just enough to get by, and little more.

Amazon and Netflix are only profiting what other companies own. If and when those companies learn to sell this material themselves, they will go away. Amazon is not just selling media that other people make. Excepting the Kindles, the company re-sells other companies’ products.

Netflix is already on the knife’s edge of failing due to their ‘partners’ pulling out of the licensing contracts. A pure digital play when they don’t own the digits. They may be able to coast along on the back of hardware that has them built-in, but even on those devices (Roku, Apple TV, PlayStation) Netflix is “just another app” that can be turned off at will.

Apple has done a smart thing by making their own destiny. If someone else figures out a better way to sell movies or music or apps, then all the better for Apple since it will allow them to focus on what’s making them money: their hardware. What they make.


On Remote Controls

Posted in Apple, Media at 7 pm

Daring Fireball linked to The Russians Used a Pencil‘s post speculating on the evolution of remotes. I wanted to note two items:

1) Battery life: I love the scroll wheel idea to replace the directional arrow buttons, but touch-based sensors have a serious disadvantage in the fact that they must have power running through them in order to detect the action of the user. That current is a constant drain and constant power drains are deadly for batteries. At best you could have a physical motion sensor (rolling beads?) that could wake up the remote when it’s moved, but touch sensors suck up the juice. No little lithium ion coin-sized battery would suffice.

The alternative is the original iPod’s physical scroll wheel which I adored in the very first iPods. That would be cool, but also an expensive proposition in manufacturing a remote control.

2) Bluetooth connectivity: Unless Apple comes out with a smart, free standard that can be used industry-wide to support multi-device control, Bluetooth in remotes is a myopic view of the real world. Sony has already caused a lot of headaches with having a Bluetooth remote for the PS3. There’s a lot to learn from that.

The reason for having an IR-based remote is all about having multiple devices be able to be controlled as a single entity. The simplest example is controlling the power and volume on the television that the AppleTV is connected to. If the Apple remote doesn’t support IR, you’re stuck with two remotes. Got an amplifier in the mix for surround sound? A DVD or Blu-Ray player? Now you’re talking input switching as well.

Apple’s going to have to come out with something truly interesting and unique and forward leading to stand out. I think they can do it, but I’m certain that these two technologies will not be in the mix unless radically re-thought.


Einstein on ModBook

Posted in Apple, Tech at 1 pm

Drooling, sputtering… Einstein on ModBook… WANT!


A fresh iPhone each morning

Posted in Apple, Media, Tech at 1 pm

I’ve got a couple of short podcasts that I’m subscribed to that are daily. Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day and Scientific American’s 60 Second Science are short little podcasts that are an interesting way to start my daily commute.

However, it’s bugged me that when I drop my iPhone into it’s cradle at night when I get home, it syncs up the podcasts at that time. This is anywhere from 6 to 11pm. However, the next day’s podcasts are not available until after midnight. In order to get the Word of the Day on the Day of the Word, I’ve been resorting to picking up my iPhone out of the cradle each morning as I’m rushing out the door and dropping it back in and then waiting for it to sync. Sometimes this is just a few seconds, but if one of my other longer podcasts subscriptions had an overnight update, it can take a few minutes.

It’s a small matter for modern living, but I figured there ought to be a better way. iTunes doesn’t have a native way of telling an iPod or iPhone to refresh at a certain time. There’s two times when the sync will start: If you hit the Sync button in iTunes and when iTunes first connects with the iPhone.

The sync button method is a no-go for me, because it A) requires me to do something and B) in order to do it, I need to have the screen turned on and the mouse ready to click.

But when I say “when iTunes first connects with the iPhone”, there are a multitude of ways that this could happen. It could be the time when I plug the iPhone in while iTunes is running. It could be when I restart the Mac and iTunes automatically launches and finds the iPhone connected. Or it could be whenever iTunes gets launched. All that needs to happen is for iTunes and iPhone to become disconnected and reconnected.

So what are my options? I could have the Mac on an outlet with a timer on it and force the Mac to power down and then start it back up again. I could set the Energy Saver preference pane to schedule a shutdown and startup of the Mac. I could build a contraption out of Legos that would lift the iPhone out of it’s cradle and then slam it back down again. I could have a similar contraption that pulls the USB cable out of the Mac and plugs it back in. I could put the USB hub on a timer at its power connection.

But far more simply, I could use AppleScript to tell iTunes to quit and then tell iTunes to run. The key is getting the said script to run at the appropriate time. The easiest way of doing that is to schedule an event in iCal and using the alarm function to trigger the script. So here we go…

1) In your Applications folder look for the AppleScript folder and then open the Script Editor.

2) Type the following lines:

tell app “iTunes” to quit
delay 30
tell app “iTunes” to run

3) Click the Compile button and you’ll see the code get nice and formatted, color coded even.

4) If you want to test it, click the Run button. iTunes will quit if it’s already running and then 30 seconds later it will re-launch.

5) Save the script and call it something obvious like “iPhone Refresh”. I saved it to the Documents folder, but you can save it anywhere. You don’t need to set any other options in the Save dialog box. The defaults are fine.

6) Open up iCal and double click on the time of day when you’d like the script to run. I set it up to run at 6am.

7) Set script to repeat daily.

8) Set the alarm to “Run script”.

9) Below the Run Script setting click and select “Other…” and then find the script file you just saved.

10) Set the “Minutes before” to zero.

That’s it. I found lots of other ways to specifically choose the “Sync iPhone name” menu item, but they were 5 to 10 times the amount of code and with no further advantages. My method will refresh any and all iPhones or iPods connected to the machine, it will disconnect anyone that is ‘sharing’ the iTunes library, and it will help stave off any memory leaks that iTunes might develop. These are unintended consequences, but in my situation, they’re all good ones.


Just for the record

Posted in Apple, Tech at 3 pm

Until I recently rebooted in order to load up some OS updates, my PowerBook’s uptime reached a new high of 132 days, 17 hours. That is all.


16:9 Test Card / Test Pattern

Posted in Apple, Media, Tech at 12 pm

Over the last few days, i worked on getting our living room television to display properly from the Mac Mini. The adventure (as boring as it was is documented on my site as: Test Pattern for Wide-screen Displays:
Getting the right aspect ratio to your home theater display.

So a couple years after getting a 27″ LCD display, I finally got fed up with the poor scaling options the display had. There aren’t many options for widescreen source material until we switch to digital cable, so most of the TV we watch is standard definition (SD). If you watch SD, 4:3 video on any display for a few weeks or a month you’ll end up burning-in the center of the screen, leaving the wide left and right margins darker with a very definite demarcation line when you finally start watching widescreen (16:9) content.

Read the full article: 16:9 Test Card / Test Pattern


CatNip for Mac OS X

Posted in Apple, Tech at 7 pm

CatNip is a program which, while running, detects “cat-like typing” and locks the keyboard, usually in under a half second. Optionally, CatNip will fade your desktop and display a warning message to your cat (which is of dubious value, since if your cat can read, your cat can probably type, too).

For some reason, this has become an important part of my software toolbox…


Newton as art

Posted in Apple, Design at 9 pm

From Pixelgirlshop Presents Fine Art & Handmade Goods:

Mini version of the painting of the Newton Apple Cynthia received as a gift from a very special nerd. Limited edition prints mounted on wood, signed and handpainted with stellar bronze paint by the artist herself. Looks awesome hanging on any tech-savvy person’s wall!