Category Archives: Apple

September 20, 2017

A quick test, & I’m really digging the drag & drop from apps to Pages! Also, Pages’ use of the Files app is very well done 🤓 iOS 11 👍🏽

Machine Learning’s contribution to Siri’s voice

The Siri team has a great post about the evolution of Siri’s speech synthesis on the Apple Machine Learning Journal:

Siri is a personal assistant that communicates using speech synthesis. Starting in iOS 10 and continuing with new features in iOS 11, we base Siri voices on deep learning. The resulting voices are more natural, smoother, and allow Siri’s personality to shine through. This article presents more details about the deep learning based technology behind Siri’s voice.

Just scroll down to the bottom and listen to the progression between iOS 9, 10, and 11. It’s really impressive.

I’m surprised more beta users have not said more about this over the duration of the public betas. Until this post by Apple I’ve not seen it mentioned even once. Personally I will say that I consider it a fantastic improvement and thought it was one of the highlights of the WWDC Keynote. When I installed the public beta on my iPad the second first thing I did was invoke Siri so I could hear her new voice. So much better!

So long Ulysses

Well. Darn it. Count me among those that enjoy Ulysses but will not subscribe. I’ve used it for a year and it’s a great app. The best feature, in my scenario, is posting to WordPress. I’m happy to pay well for apps like Ulysses and pay for updates as needed. But I’m not willing to pay for a subscription. I can’t afford to subscribe to every app I use. If it is essential for what I do, maybe. But even then I’m not happy about it. But for a text editor? No. There are too many other options. The one feature of easier blog posting is not enough to keep me around.

I may continue to use the current version till it no longer works but I’ll likely look into other options and probably begin the transition to something else. I suspect it will feel strange to invest further documents into an app that no longer has a long-term future on my devices. In fact, it only took me the time to write those two sentences to decide that I would begin phasing out my use of Ulysses this very moment. The problem is that every document in Ulysses is held in a monolithic database. Compare that to an app like Byword or Editorial, both of which store documents as individual text documents in their app folder on iCloud or Dropbox, respectively. 

So, as of this moment, I’m giving up the benefits I found in using Ulysses and switching. I’ll revisit both Byword and Editorial for now. Also, there have been quite a few updates to the official WordPress app. I’ll give that another look for the actual mechanics of blog posting. 

A final brief but blunt note about app subscriptions: NO. Your app is not a magazine or a music or video service. It’s an app.  It is a thing that I want to own, not a service I want to rent. There’s a time and a place for subscriptions but apps is not one of them. At least, not for me. Let me pay a fair price for an app. Offer paid updates as needed. But I want to own it. I don’t want to be locked into paying for it again and again. Not for a dollar or $2 or $5. 

Sigh.

July 13, 2017

Noticing that iCloud Drive does not update as quickly as DropBox. Problem on both Mac & iOS.

July 6, 2017

9to5Mac has an excellent post about benefits of using Apple’s Smart Keyboard with iPad Pro.

In short, when you want a laptop experience it takes only a second to dock the iPad. When you want a tablet just undock it. When on the move you have a very thin, lightweight Smart Cover!

Finding Trust and Delight in the Apple Ecosystem

I am increasingly happy to be in Apple’s always improving ecosystem. No, more than happy, I’m delighted. Really. It’s fantastic. The devices and services tie together so smoothly. I cannot imagine a better experience. iCloud has evolved into something that just works all of the time. I can’t think of the last time I encountered something that didn’t work. From Music to Photos to the syncing of documents, notes, Safari data, etc.

Example. A few minutes ago I was listening to some music via my Apple TV and browsing Twitter. I came across this tweet:

David Chartier @chartier

This stuff is so much fun. Upbeat, instrumental, little quirky, foot tappin work music. https://itun.es/us/kHQC6?i=980592724

I’ve clicked on his Music suggestions before and enjoyed them so I tapped. I paused playback on the AppleTV and began listening to the this new album on Apple Music on the iPad. Perfect. With a tap I added it to my library and marked it as loved. I know that when I go for my walk in 10 minutes that album will be waiting under the recently played category on my iPhone. It’s also showing up now on my AppleTV. Because it’s something my sister and brother might enjoy I shared it with them via Messages with a couple taps.

Another example. I finally enabled iCloud Photo Library on my phone and two iPads. I’ve not turned it on my Mac yet as that library is long overdue for a clean-up. Within a day the photos on the three iOS devices were synced. This could be better if the people/face recognition synced between them. But as is it worked flawlessly.

Syncing between devices seems flawless for everything. Whether I’m adding a reminder or calendar event, a note or link for Safari’s Reading list, I know that it will be there. Same for editing documents. Same thing for podcasts. I happily choose to use the Apple Podcasts app. It gets the job done. And it’s super nice to know that when I pause a podcast on my iPad and grab the iPhone for a walk I can pick-up playback right where I left off.

Siri and HomeKit

These are getting progressively better. I’ve been using Siri fairly consistently for the past three years and the improvements have been easily noticeable. It’s not 100% but it is so much better. I still get misses but they are, by far, the exception. And I’m not just talking about asking for the weather or setting timers or alarms. I can ask how late a business is open or request Siri to call a business. Or ask her to do math. Or ask her when my niece’s birthday is.

And when used with HomeKit devices it truly seems like magic. Walking up in the driveway in the evening after a walk and asking Siri to turn on the porch light or the window AC and then seeing (or hearing) the result seconds later makes me smile every time. My last action each evening before going to bed is to ask Siri to turn off my light across the room. So much better than trying to convince my cat and dog that they need to move so I can get up and do it. That’s right, it’s all for the comfort of my animal companions. I do it all for them. Also worth noting, devices with Hey Siri do a great job of negotiating which device will answer.

AirPods

What can I say that hasn’t been said by many others? AirPods are fantastic. I wear mine many hours everyday, usually with the iPhone while walking but sometimes while at the iPad. Regardless, I know that they will work with any device with no hassle with what seems like magic switching between devices. It’s not likely that I will ever buy another non-Apple speaker or headphone set. What’s the point? And I’ll add that a part of what makes these seem like magic are two details: Siri and the extended range. If I happen to leave my phone and go into a different room or outside while listening to music or having a conversation my connection is solid for at least 25 feet. It’s nice to have the freedom to forget the phone or to deliberately leave it sitting on a desk or table knowing that my connection is fine as I roam about. Also, Siri’s accuracy is even better with the AirPods. Using Siri with AirPods is, currently, the best possible Siri experience. We’re a long way from the AI found in the movie Her but until then I’ll happily use Siri and the AirPods.

Trust and Delight

Those two words sum it up for me. At this point I trust this ecosystem. As a whole it performs at something like 99% and thanks to that dependability I am constantly delighted. It’s been a long road getting here but I really feel like we’re there and it’s very nice to have arrived.

June 13, 2017

There’s nothing quite as nice as setting up a new iPad and watching Star Trek The Next Generation.

A few links and thoughts on iPad after WWDC 2017

Well, well, well. The 2017 WWDC has come and gone and much that iPad users hoped for has been announced. As far as I’m concerned Apple hit it out of the park. If the features announced work as well as they look then I will be very happy and more productive. While no operating system is ever really finished with iOS 11 we see the most significant complaints about the iPad being addressed. Perhaps the two most significant of these were lack of a user accessible file system and the lack of drag and drop. Not only will iOS 11 have both of these but Apple has implemented each of them in ways that are fully featured and in some ways may well surpass the abilities of the Mac. I’m really looking forward to trying the new features. I’ve been getting along very well without them but I don’t doubt that they will come in handy for some tasks and workflows.

The new Files app looks pretty great. I use DropBox as my primary file system these days so having that integrated along iCloud and local documents will be great.

Drag and drop in iOS goes beyond what we have on a Mac because it’s multi-touch. On a Mac I can select multiple files on the desktop or in a folder and drag to a new location or a new mail message. With iOS 11 I can select multiple items from multiple folders and apps and drag and drop to multiple locations. Finger ninjas will be able to select an image from Safari, text from Safari, and the url of Safari all in one go and then drag to a destination or multiple destinations to drop them. This will require a bit of practice but I imagine it will be really powerful when mastered.

The new dock is going to be far more useful as it will now hold far more apps and will have added functionality with a contextual menu for recently used documents as well as the swiping up action to bring an app into a multi-tasking window. But what about adding an app to the multi-tasking that isn’t in the dock? Well, luckily, we will be able to use Spotlight for that. I’m already in the habit of opening all my apps from Spotlight so being able to drag one down from Spotlight to a multi-tasking window will be a welcome addition.

Paired apps in spaces will probably be very nice too though I’m curious about how it will work to have apps paired up and how easy it will be to change those pairings. I use split view a good bit and will likely use it even more with the 12.9″ but I don’t necessarily have two apps that I consistently use together with the exception of the Podcast App which I use with Pages to do podcast transcripts for a couple of clients.

Notes is getting some nifty new features. Document scanning and inline notes/sketching look great. The new bits with Apple Pencil will come in handy I suspect. I don’t do a lot of work that requires mark-up or screenshots but on occasion it comes in handy.

There are so many other goodies coming for both iPad and iPhone. With iOS 11 it’s obvious that Apple has no plans to back-track on the iPad. The above notes are just the most obvious for those of us using iPads everyday. Any notion that the iPad is not a fully capable computer for most people should really be put to rest at this point. With the increasing power of the hardware and the deepening feature set of iOS the iPad is maturing into an incredible tool that is not only as capable as a notebook but one which surpasses that form factor in it’s flexibility.

I’d been waiting for the new 12.9″ update so I ordered that, along with a Pencil and Smart Keyboard the minute the store came back online. I’m very excited to put the bigger screen to use. It will come in handy with the newly released Affinity Photo and will be even more useful when iOS 11 is released. The Smart Keyboard was not my first choice as it lacks iOS shortcuts I enjoy: volume, play/pause, Siri activation but the only other keyboard I was interested in and which I would have preferred was the Brydge but I’ve read far too many reports of those having poor build quality with people having to not only go through an exchange process because the out of the box keyboard was broke but of the replacements also being broke. Bummer. Hopefully the Smart Keyboard does the trick!

A great deal has been written in the past week about all of the WWDC news. Here’s just the tiniest sampling of links that caught my eye.

Harry McCracken, writing for Fast Company: With iOS 11, The iPad Will Make More Sense To A Huge Market: Skeptical PC Users

Serenity Caldwell: iPad Drag and Drop, Multitasking, and Split View in iOS 11: Everything you need to know!

iOS 11: The MacStories Overview

Jason Snell asks:Three big questions about Apple’s new iPad announcements

A more general overview is offered up by Steven Sinofsky: WWDC 2017 – Some Thoughts