Posts Tagged ‘Apple’


iOS7 thoughts

September 22, 2013

I updated both my iPhone 4s and my third-gen iPad to iOS7, and everything worked fine. I think the default typeface is pretty light, making it a bit more difficult for those of us with older eyes, but it is a kind of a refreshing change…although it tends to look more “Windows-8-like” than I expected from Apple. But the apps seem to work fine. I’ve encountered no problems or speed hits.

But, I have one issue not really related to the update: I am going to move up to a new iMac soon from my aging Mac Pro. I’ve done the research on how to back up the iPhone first, and all of that, but the process still seems very tedious and fraught with potential disaster. Does anybody have a good, simple way to do this?


Sayin’ something nice…about the Jawbone ICON + Nerd

February 19, 2013



This little tiny thing is the Jawbone ICON HD + The NERD.

I’ve not had good luck with hands-free audio for driving. I have a Plantronics Voyager Pro that works passably with my iPhone 4S until I put the phone in my pocket and start walking. Then it cuts in and out, every time. It doesn’t fit in my ear very comfortably and the sound is so-so.

I have a set of Motorola S305 stereo headphones that provide reasonable sound for headphones of their size, but I can’t wear them in the car. (They also have pretty good range away from the phone.)

I’m doing a lot of long-distance driving, five hours or so at a clip, and I needed something better. I broke down and spent over a hundred bucks at Amazon on the Jawbone. And dammit, it was money well spent!

The thing has “HD” sound – I don’t know what that means for a monophonic, one-ear headphone, but it so far is way better than any other phone headset I’ve ever used. My wife says call quality on the other end is good, too, although I haven’t tested it on the road in my noisy Chevy Equinox.I wouldn’t want to listen to music with it all day, but I could listen to audiobooks with it for a couple of hours at a time, I think.

The NERD is the little USB dongle, obviously. While it is a Bluetooth dongle, it is a dedicated one – once you pair the Jawbone to it you can use it on any computer and it will still know to stay linked. And it can stream audio from the computer while you are waiting for a call on the iPhone, then it will switch to the iPhone when needed. That is way cool! The dongle does use up a USB port, but that’s OK with me because I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I want to connect it to the laptop.

So far, I recommend it. We’ll see after I have it a while. I don’t know about battery life. The button layout seems smart and I can switch it from one ear to the other without too much trouble and without changing anything. I think it will make those long drives a bit easier.


Really, Apple? What’s up with Pages and pdfs?

February 14, 2013

So…I needed to produce a short, 4-page newsletter in a hurry, and I decided to use an existing template I found in iWork Pages instead of creating my own in InDesign. I know InDesign, actually have been spending a lot of time with it, but I thought this would be just as fast or hopefully faster since I could start with an existing template that I liked. It had about a half-dozen page choices, fonts that looked pretty good with the design and even a color scheme I figured I would not have to tweak. (I eventually did, but that’s another story.)

It went together pretty well. Pages does some quirky things with flow from one column to another, but I got past it. I have to say, the column flow in InDesign is pretty darned smooth nowadays, far better than back when it was still PageMaker. Things stay where you want them.

I got the newsletter done in a couple of days, on and off, and sent a draft out to the board members of the organization for which it was being created. Nobody seemed to have any problems. I did one more proofreading pass, caught a couple of things, and then exported the PDF.

I checked the PDF in Preview.  It looked fine. Then I decided I was going to add metadata that couldn’t be easily added in Preview (at least, as far as I know it can’t) so I fired up Adobe Acrobat X.

It looked, pardon my French, like shit.

The text wasn’t kerned properly and the letters were not aligned along a baseline. It looked like one of those “kiddie” fonts that tries to duplicate a child’s printing. I zoomed. Still ugly. I zoomed some more. Still not good, but better. Finally I zoomed out to where I only could see one column on a three-column page at once. Finally it was rendering the type correctly.

I tried printing to a PDF instead of exporting. I tried printing to PostScript, then opening that in Acrobat. I checked it with Acrobat 8 and 11 – same issues. I tried the “Print to Adobe PDF” – how is that different from “Print to PDF” – yes, there are a couple of things you can tweak, but that’s it. It looked just the same.

I figured every Windows user in the organization was going to be laughing their heads off if this thing got out. I did some quick Google searches, and found that THIS WAS A KNOWN PROBLEM. WHAT THE FRAK? THIS WAS NOT A QUIRK, IT WAS A FRAKKING CONSISTENT ISSUE!

What good is Pages if you can’t export a PDF? Print is dead, to quote Egon Spengler, and I’ll bet 90 per cent of documents created in Pages are never intended for print.

It has an “export to ePub” function, for cryin’ out loud! But it can’t render a PDF properly? Even Word can do that!

Near as I can tell, Pages doesn’t embed the fonts. If the reader’s computer doesn’t have the font it will only render it properly at the resolution at which the page was created, or something. It couldn’t scale the type nor kern it correctly. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get Pages to embed the fonts.

Finally, I switched all the text that was originally in Baskerville to Minion Pro. I figured that font should be on most of the Windows machines out there. It was on every list of standard system fonts in Win7 I could find. I didn’t like the look of the page as much; I had to actually decrease the font size and increase the spacing between the lines to get it to come out right without rebuilding the whole newsletter.

The newsletter should come out quarterly; I will switch to InDesign for the next one. So much for Pages. It’s just never seemed to be quite ready for prime time. It’s sad, because it could be a pretty nice app – pretty interface, tools that mostly work the way you expect, low learning curve. But as far as I’m concerned, the PDF export issue is a deal-breaker.

I expect better from Apple. I really do. I don’t think of the Apple folks as superhuman; just as a company that cares about the experience the user has with its products. This is NOT a minor point, to allow it to render PDFs incorrectly. I don’t care how much bad blood there is between Apple and Adobe. The Quartz engine should make PDF conversion pretty simple, and it usually is. (Remember, the granddaddy of Quartz was a little thing called Display PostScript…for the NEXT computer.) This is a really sad oversight. I hope Apple fixes it, but it seems to me that updates to Pages and the other iWork apps don’t appear very often.

Sorry for the caps. This really bugs me, not only because I just found it out of luck, and then spent two hours fixing it. I just have higher expectations of software developers. PDFs are such a standard I don’t know how that could have slipped past in beta testing.


Stupid iCal tricks

May 29, 2012

I use the Reminders app on my iPhone and iPad a lot. I wish all the functions that are available in iCal were available on the phone, but I still use it without them. I actually use it more now that Siri adds them for me.

I created a new list because I had a bunch of things to do today, and I didn’t want to hunt through the long list. Then I moved the reminders from the default “Reminders” list to the new list. (I did all this on the iPad.)

When I opened Reminders on the iPhone, the new list was there, but the regular “Reminders” list had no entries! They showed up in iCal, and on the iPad, but not on the phone.

Searches through the intertubes didn’t help much, but finally, though, I found an old Apple forum post that said…you guessed it…turn the phone off and then on again. I figured it wouldn’t work since it described behavior from a previous iOS version.

Yeah. That’s all it took. Hold the Sleep button down until the red slider appears, then turn it off, then hold the button again until it starts up.

All my Reminders were there.

One the one hand, duh; on the other, why would you have to do that? I thought all this stuff was in iCloud and synced automatically? I had all the settings correct!

Anyway, they are in there, and that makes me happier. Not delirious, but happier.

Now I’d better get to work…


Photo Phoolery

April 26, 2012

(click for a larger version)

I shot this image of the Trump Tower last week while I was on the Chicago River on the Wendella Boats Architectural River Tour, which I recommend. I put it through an app called Focus (available at the Apple App Store) then adjusted it in Pixelmator (same source). I didn’t have any plan at all, just messed with stuff until I liked the look. I have no idea what I’m doing with these tools, and I assume folks who really know what they are doing could do something really special. I just liked how this one turned out – I think mainly because of the angle of the shot.


Another Mac OX problem (apparently) solved!

April 24, 2012

My desktop (well, under the desk) Mac Pro has been giving me fits for the last three or four months. I am running Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3. Everything else was fine – including email access using Thunderbird –  but I was experiencing incredibly long load times for web pages.They were so slow that Google Chrome (yes, I was that desperate) gave me dialogs that said the page was stalled, even when it wasn’t. I did a lot of troubleshooting and research.  It wasn’t an internet connection issue, or a DNS issue, or a firewall issue, or another of the dozen other things I thought it might be – I tried all of the fixes for those things. It was…caches.

Apparently caches can be cleaned, and also can be “deep cleaned.” Too much inside-baseball for me. I thought I had cleared every cache I could find, but it looks like it wasn’t enough. I can’t seem to return to the forum where I found this tool, but once I ran Lion Cache Cleaner my problems went away. It does a bunch of other stuff as well, including repairing permissions, optimizing a bunch of stuff, and even checks for rogue rootkits.

Thanks to whoever suggested this – and I recommend this little app. It’s $ 10 (shareware). I was to the point where I was using the laptop for web work and the desktop for other stuff; (It’s the one with the two big monitors, and I didn’t want to change that if possible.)


Mac OS Malware alert!

April 8, 2012

If you haven’t been updating your Mac system software lately, you run the risk of a malware attack from a trojan called OSX/Flashback.I. Here’s how to tell if your Mac is infected.

If it is, here’s how to get rid of it. (If you use security software, and it stays regularly updated, it should catch it also. I tend not to keep security software running because it conflicts with other stuff.)

There is also a new update to Java for OX X Lion (check your Software Update) that is supposed to close off the vulnerability.

Yep, it’s a Java problem. Don’t say Steve Jobs didn’t warn you!



How I solved my iPhone 4 problem; the new iPad; and problems with iTunes.

March 17, 2012

First, a word to the wise: there are many people having problems with iTunes 10.6. I didn’t, but my daughter has, and so I did a bit of research and found that there were numerous reports of crashes in both Snow Leopard and Lion.

Here’s the link to iTunes v.10.5.3. If all else fails, just go back to the older version until Apple gets it all straightened out.

Now for the big deal…some weeks back my iPhone 4 microphone started to go dead in the middle of calls. It worked for all other uses, like audio recording software. It just didn’t work as a phone. I tried the Reset Network Settings trick (Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings). It worked for a while, then the problem would occur again. I even called AT&T and asked them to reprovision the phone, which they did; that didn’t seem to help at all.

The last couple of weeks the problem sort of went away. Now, I hadn’t been using the phone as much, knowing that it was unreliable. I was traveling back and forth from Illinois to northwestern Ohio every week for the last few, and it made me very nervous knowing the phone was, well, wonky.

So…how did I fix the problem?

I didn’t. My contract was up on March 9, and my wife, bless her heart, ordered me a new iPhone 4S. It arrived last Tuesday. It’s damned skippy.

I wish I had a better solution. I think part of the problem was a hardware issue after all. I did drop it on the concrete driveway last November and completely trashed the screen. I had it replaced at a local electronics repair shop in Naperville. I don’t think the replacement was original Apple issue. It worked fine but the screen always seemed a little bit less sharp and it picked up fingerprints more than the original.

Some of the reports I’ve read about problems like mine ended up to be a hardware problem located up near the headphone jack. I can’t tell you how many times I had headphones on and the phone dropped out of my pocket, leaving it dangling while the ‘phones stayed in my ears. (Ouch!) I could have screwed it up there, somehow. Still, there was no evidence of a mic problem in November. It didn’t show up until late January.

Oh, well. I have the new one in a Griffin Survivor case most of the time. I don’t know about the headphone thing. I use the phone a lot when I’m outside doing yard work. I’ve been using some Motorola bluetooth headphones lately. They didn’t work worth a nickel with the iPhone 4, but they work better with the 4S for some reason. Maybe the antenna redesign helped.

On the other hand, my Jabra Cruiser handsfree speaker won’t link with the new phone. It worked fine with the old one. More research required, I guess…

Oh, and my new iPad came yesterday. Apple is just calling it “the new iPad.” No number. That will be confusing. We had “the original iPad,” then the iPad 2. Now…what?

It’s beautiful, though. It has 1 GB of RAM, which is great, considering my old one had 256 MB of RAM and I ran into a lot of crashes because of running out of memory with some apps. I don’t expect that to be a problem – at least for a while!

The new display is gorgeous. The form factor is appreciated. The original iPad wasn’t heavy, but I always feared I would drop it, even when it was in a case. This one seems to be just more comfortable to handle. I don’t know about battery life yet.

More when I’ve played with it a little.


“Smash” – I think I’m going to like this!

February 13, 2012

Megan Hilty and male chorus in "the baseball number"

The new NBC television series, “Smash,” is an interesting little thing. First – and I’ve only seen the pilot so far – it has every stereotype and trope of the story-about-Broadway genre I’ve ever seen…but they are all handled with great skill by the songwriters, writers and actors. The result is a very enjoyable 45 minutes with enough little chuckles and uplifting musical moments to make want to see what comes next. Isn’t that what a pilot is all about?

Characters are well-drawn but the can be partly because they are so stereotypical. The ingenue from Iowa – yes, Iowa; the womanizing director, the gay songwriter, the struggling chorus girl.

Debra Messing plays her part as half of the songwriting team subtly and with great skill. Her chemistry with Christian Bole is delightful. (Okay, I think in the dictionary under the term “winning smile” there is a picture of Debra Messing.) In fact, I didn’t see a weak cast member in this episode. Even Emory Cohen, who plays Messing’s teenaged son, Leo, does a fine understated job with the few lines he has in two scenes.

Jack Davenport, as director/choreographer Derek Willis, channels his inner Alan Rickman and is the character you love to hate. I hope he can sustain the balance between genius and horse’s ass required of his character.

Katherine McPhee. I have to say, I never watch “American Idol,” so I had no idea who this young lady is. However, her audition solo piece in the middle of this episode show in less than three minutes why it was possible to build a television series around her. She really is a musician. Great sound, great range, with a subtle kind of control. Megan Hilty is a superb talent as well, but her performances just show how much better McPhee is. I’m sure they will be an interesting pair throughout the season – two driven, talented young women competing with each other. That will undoubtably be a major plot point throughout the series.

I realize I’ve been using more superlatives than I usually ever do…and now that I’ve watched it a second time, I stand by my statements. Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman wrote some fine songs, and they know the requirements of both Broadway and television, having experience that ranges from writing “Hairspray” for Broadway to multiple Academy Award and Emmy  Awards shows.

Angelica Huston does a credible job as the angel behind “Marilyn – the Musical,” but she is one of the reasons why HD television is not good for everyone – her makeup seemed heavy, designed to cover her age and creating an almost mask-like appearance. She’s still a more than competent actress – I’m sure having her in the cast will provide the writers with many dramatic opportunities later on in the show.

Students of television should study how this was done – how it was written, shot, acted, and produced. There was one flaw that I detected – the director has to give instruction to a dancer in rehearsal, and it was no more authentic in terminology than the portrayal of any musician in “Law and Order.” (Meaning not very…I loved that show, but dang, they really couldn’t portray a convincing musician or conductor to save their lives.) This show immediately made up for it by going right into “the baseball number,” which was enjoyable on so many levels. It reminded me a bit of the airline number in Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz.”  (Fosse’s alter ego, played by Roy Scheider, takes a campy and downright trite song about commercial air travel and turns it into a stunning, seductive piece full of sexual innuendo. And I mean that in a good way. You should check out that film.)

One cute trick: all the show-related computer users – songwriters, actresses, etc. – are using Macs. The one Windows laptop I noticed was used by Messing’s husband, who is definitely not in the theater or music business. Messing also gets to put in a little plug for the iPad early in the episode.

I’ll probably watch this pilot, or at least the musical numbers, a few more times. It was a real pleasure to watch. I look forward to how the story – and the musical – will unfold.


Help! My iPhone mic doesn’t work!

January 25, 2012

First of all, yep, the short version of microphone is “mic,” pronounced like the man’s name, “Mike.” There, now you can sound hip.

My iPhone 4 microphone suddenly stopped working last week. The thing is, it worked for audio recording but not on the phone. I plugged in a headset and the mic didn’t work there, either, so it wasn’t a hardware issue. I found this solution on Daniel Silva’s blog. I tried that. No luck. Crap…time to go see the Genius guys at the Apple Store.

Which I did on Saturday. Intrepid Apple Genius guy (and one of my former students) Jeff Y. found the problem in a minute. Go to Settings > General > Reset and choose “Reset network settings” and the phone will find AT&T again and fix it. I don’t know if Verizon phones have the same problem. Jeff seemed to indicate this is a fairly common problem, so I figured I would post it here for others who have the same problem.

It makes me happy. The feeling that my phone was not working was scarier than I expected.