Tag Archives: OS X

Getting Caught Up

Nice View

The view from one of my many work areas.

Okay. Going to geek out for a moment. Been far too long since my last post. I’m not always the most consistent of bloggers. What can I say. Life happens. I’d like to say I’ll get more consistent but I can’t be certain. Aside from that, there are plenty of other excellent sites out there covering what I would likely cover in the way of Apple news. Well, regardless, I will continue to share occasional posts about recent projects and reflections.

So, yes, my last post was seven months ago and was just a bit of commentary on Apple’s releases of El Capitan, OS X 10.11, iOS 9 and the iPhone 6S. At the time I was expecting to do a series of projects which fell through. The 2014 rMBP that I purchased with those projects in mind went largely unused for the past 6 months. I did get some use out of it but not enough to continue keeping it. I only purchased it because circumstances at the time seemed to justify it. So, I’ll likely be selling it soon. I’ll continue on with the Mac Mini at my standing desk for much of my design work. The iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6 will continue to serve for anything else. Which brings me to mobile computing with iOS.

My first iOS device was the original iPad which I purchased as soon as it was released in 2010. I used it quite a lot, probably a 50/50 split with my previous laptop, a MacBook Air. My usage remained about the same when I upgraded to the iPad 3, the first with a retina screen. With the iPad Air 2 my usage patterns remained the same. Apple nerds have spent far too much time discussing whether the iPad is something that can be used for “real work”. Along the same lines, the question of whether the iPad should be considered a real “computer”. The answers are obvious. Yes and yes.

The first is, in part, context dependent. The iPad is great for some tasks not others. But this might also be said of a hammer or a bicycle or a boat or any other object. I don’t blend with a toaster and I don’t plant a tree with a screw driver. iOS devices, be they iPads or iPhones, are suited to particular tasks just as Macs are suited for others. I suppose all the discussion stems from the gradient of usage, the overlaps that are possible with the different platforms and form factors. The introduction of the large iPad Pro only made that more interesting.

What I’ve discovered in recent months is that my three primary computers all serve to compliment each other perfectly. It’s that simple. My Mac Mini is used for projects that require InDesign as well as web site management that requires site-wide search and replace which I do with Coda. It also serves as my iTunes/Plex server. Oh, and accounting via iBooks and occasional FileMaker work. My iPhone is for tracking my diet and steps, reading books, checking email, messaging, and a bit of web browsing. Oh, and the rare phone call. My iPad is for browsing the web via RSS or browser, reading books, messaging, phone calls, typing podcast transcripts, writing anything of length, and managing websites.

Some tasks/activities are best handled by two of these together. For example, astronomy sessions are a mix of iPhone and iPad. I use the iPad for recording data into FileMaker and some searching with Sky Safari Pro. I use the iPhone for much of the searching with Sky Safari Pro because it’s small and can be easily attached to the telescope. Much of my graphic design begins with Pages or Graphic (formerly called iDraw) or Pixelmator. In some cases I can complete the task completely on the iPad in other situations I transfer to the Mac to finish. An example would be the logo for Beardy Guy Creative. I did most of that using Graphic on the iPad then exported and finished with Illustrator because I’ve got many more fonts installed on the Mac.

At this point my preferred form factor is probably the iPad. It’s the device I choose to use most often as it strikes a nice balance of portability, flexibility and power. With iOS9 and multi-tasking via split screens, coupled with the extensions released with iOS 8, I find that the iPad is often up to the tasks I ask of it. That I can use it in a stand with an external keyboard or as a tablet is fantastic. The screen as computer form make the iPad the easiest to rearrange into a delightful variety of working arrangements. Of course simplest is holding it in my hands on a couch or chair but when used with a keyboard there is great benefit to being able to put it up high or off to the side or in any kind of position I need to be comfortable. Or, at a desk/table/shelf in a stand of course if I want or need such an arrangement.

One last point concerns the importance of adoption of new features of iOS. Particularly split screen and extensions.

I’m not sure why but I initially didn’t use split screen. I tried it a few times and figured it would be handy but I never made it a habit. In recent months as I began looking for a frictionless podcast transcription workflow I went from an iPhone/MBP/Mac Mini set-up to an all iPad set-up that relied on having Pages and the Apple Podcast app, each in split view and that sealed the deal. After using that for the past 6 weeks and NOW it clicks. Split screen is, without a doubt, the best part of the iOS 9 update for the iPad. Now that it’s become the basis of my transcript process it is finding it’s way into daily use for all sorts of tasks.

Extensions are something I’d dabbled in and put to some use. Initial discovery is so obvious and adds a lot of flexibility to the iOS workflow. And yet, there’s just a bit of complexity and I suspect I’m not not the only one who has taken some time to really work extensions into daily workflows. There’s a depth to the flexibility that is not initially obvious. The more I use them the more natural they seem and it contributes to a sense that the friction of iOS is slowly falling away.

Apple Fall 2015 Releases

It was just a year ago that I posted about all the noise regarding Apple’s supposed decline in quality control. My take on it was that it was unneccesary and misplaced drama. To be honest there’s a bit of an echo chamber going on with some of the more prominent Apple bloggers and sadly one complaint often leads to a second and a third and before too long they’re all writing and podcasting about the terrible tragedy of this or that hardware/software blemish. Frankly it’s a fine example of the “First World problems” joke. As is usual though Apple got a handle on most of the software problems and most of the complaints faded. The hardware was solid with the exception of the fabricated “bendgate” non-issue.

June rolled around and with it the WWDC and the details of OS X 10.11 and iOS 9. As may expected and hoped, these releases were largely about refinement rather than major new features. Actually, between the two of them there were quite a few new and significant features added but yeah, it’s probably accurate to characterize them as refinement releases. Of course, there were still a few that shrugged their shoulders and offered at least mild complaint at the lack of whizbang but some of these are the same that complained in the fall about Apple doing too much. For the most part I’d say most folks were positive. For myself, I’ll just say that I was happy with the announcements and I’m happy with the releases we now have on our devices.

I’ve not yet installed El Capitan on my primary work machine, the 2012 Mac Mini. No hurry there as I’m in the very beginning stages of a series of projects that will be ongoing till spring. I’ll probably leave that machine as it is for the next few months. But I have installed it on my 13″ rMBP and it’s performed flawlessly thus far. Will be installing it on Kaleesha’s 2011 MacBook Air and on the 2009 MBP that the kids use for school. My favorite features thus far: split full screen; full screen mail that allows for minimizing draft emails; Mission Control seems tighter and more fluid; the new Notes app is fantastic; improved Airplay; last but not least, the system-wide use of the new San Francisco font is a nice improvement.

iOS 9 has been solid too. I’ve got it on an iPad Air 2, iPhone 5c and an iPhone 6s. The install on the first two devices went smoothly and both of them were up and running in no time at all. Split screen on the iPad is excellent. 3D touch on the iPhone 6s is also proving to be useful. As with El Capitan, Notes is a greatly appreciated improvement. Of course there’s been lots of talk about the new ability of Safari to block content and yes, it’s a fantastic feature that will save users hundred’s of mb of data each month. An added bonus, those blockers work in any app that has implemented the new Safari web viewer. The News app is an interesting addition. I typically use Newsify for RSS and will likely continue but News app will likely prove useful for people that might not normally use RSS. It’s a little wonky in terms of the selections in the “For You” section but adding favorites and going to that section works great. I expect it will get better as Apple provides access to the full formatting power of the app to more providers. Right now it is restricted to Wired and a couple others. I’ve saved the best for last: Siri is vastly improved on all of my devices. Wow. The service has been improving steadily over the past year but is now lightening fast and with the iPhone 6s, it’s always on. Not only is it fun to use but increasingly useful.

Last but not least, I’ll mention the iPhone 6s. We’ve been holding at one phone for awhile. Neither one of us are big on talking on the phone so it’s worked pretty well. That said we’re getting out a good deal more these days which means choosing to either take the phone or leave it at home so we’ve finally decided to go to two lines. I’ve passed my iPhone 5c to Kaleesha and ordered the iPhone 6s. Ordering it using the Apple Store app was painless and set-up was super easy. I’ve only had it for a week but in that week I’ve gotten a good bit of use and I’m pretty happy with it. As I mentioned above, 3D Touch looks to be very useful and is a good bit of fun too. And did I mention how much I’m enjoying Siri? Yeah. It’s a fantastic pocket computer with an excellent camera and a phone to boot. Good stuff.

Excellence is not Perfection

imageThere’s been a good bit of hub-bub lately about how Apple has over-extended itself. Whether it’s complaints about iOS 8 bugs or a bendy iPhone 6 it all seems to be much ado about nothing. No doubt there are bugs but this is nothing new. No company releases a major new upgrade to any operating system without bugs, not even Apple. Go back through the releases of iOS or Mac OS and you’ll see that every release has bugs and most releases have at least one or two big bugs. This is nothing new so why pretend it is? Frankly, given the ever increasing complexity of the Apple hardware ecosystem, my hat’s off to them for keeping it together as well as they have. We expect excellence and I think that’s what we get. Excellence should not be confused with perfection.

The big bugs with iOS 8 that I’ve seen mentioned the most in my Rss and Twitter feeds? HealthKit needed an immediate fix so 8.01 was pushed out sooner than it should have which turned the just released iPhone 6s into iPods. No doubt a big problem which was rectified by 8.02 a day later. Aside from that I’m seeing the usual anecdotal complaints of instability. Another issue, not so much a bug as an issue of different timing for the different upgrades, are iOS 8 users upgrading to iCloud drive who were unaware of how this would effect their ability to access their iCloud documents from Mavericks-based Macs. Apple presents a warning for those choosing this option. Perhaps they could have done more? On my devices I’ve had no instability. My personal experience with iOS 8 has been nothing but excellent.

The critiques I’m seeing on iOS 8 seem to include the notion that Apple is rushing things and should slow down releases but this is a damned if they do, damned if they don’t scenario because it’s often said that they are not releasing enough. Not enough hardware, not enough software. Complaints about a lack of updates for iWork or iPhoto or iTunes being too bloated… the list goes on. I’m the first to admit that I often wish for new features or updates more often but that said I’m also usually very happy with what I have. Again, excellence not perfection. Most incremental updates have proven great. Major app rewrites such as iMovie several years ago or iWork last year have come with a bit of pain, no doubt. Not just in the adjustments needed for users to new interfaces and workflows but also in lost features (or temporarily missing features) and bugs.

With each new season of changes and updates there is a predictable outcry from the Apple using community about changes and bugs which is followed by a few weeks or months of bug fixes and, in the case of the major app rewrites, the return of many if not most missing features. The end result is that within a few weeks or a couple months everything is back to “normal”. iOS or OS X has returned to a stable state with it’s new features and everyone is happy. By January or February the end of the world has passed and by April Apple geeks are anxiously awaiting WWDC. By August they are beside themselves as they await the new iOS around the corner. The cycle repeats.

But along the way Apple has built an increasingly complex and collaborative ecosystem which is, increasingly, taken for granted. I remember the days of OS 8 and 9 and near daily crashes of my Mac. A week without a forced restart was nearly unheard of. I considered an uptime of 3 days amazing. Now? My Mac goes weeks without a restart, often months. Often restarts are only after OS updates that require it. That is absolutely fantastic. My iPad and iPhone? The same. Not only do my devices just keep running but they now work together in ways I would not have expected before. In just a few weeks even more so with the release of Yosemite.

But right now, even before Yosemite, my 2012 Mac Mini with 4 GB of RAM is my daily workhorse with 8–12 apps open at any given moment. An example: Safari, Mail, Wunderlist, iTunes, Illustrator, Photoshop, Messages, Calendar, Filemaker, and Coda. I bounce from one to the other with no crashes. None. This MacMini also functions as the household iTunes server. iTunes, often derided as bloated and somehow a problem, performs fantastically in our household. Always on, it serves 6552 songs, 170 GB of television shows, and nearly 1 TB of movies out to multiple iOS devices including 2 Apple TVs and a couple Macs. I wirelessly back-up my iOS devices to iTunes with no effort on my part beyond initial set-up. The only time I have to plug in an iOS device is to charge it or import photos into iPhoto.

I regularly open or create documents from iWork or Byword on my Mac which are then edited, seamlessly, on my iPad. Sometimes it is the other way around. Thanks to extensions in iOS 8 and apps like Panic’s Transmit I can easily use my iPad to access and edit an image or html file on my Mac Mini which I can then upload to one of my servers. With the same device and app I can share an image on my Mac’s desktop to Facebook or Twitter with just a couple taps. I can use my iPhone to control media on my AppleTV or stream a video from a Mac to AppleTV. These little sharing workflows are things we do in our household everyday, many times a day without a second thought and more often than not they work flawlessly. We just assume they will work and they do. The list goes on and will only grow as apps are updated or new ones created. With the release of Yosemite it will get better with Handoff and Continuity. I’ve already taken phone calls to my iPhone on my iPad, with Yosemite I’ll be able to take (or make) a call on my Mac.

It’s a fantastic time to be in the Apple ecosystem and I’m just as excited about the release of Yosemite as I was iOS 8. In the first weeks there will be bugs and the usual chorus of complaints will erupt on my feeds. I’m not suggesting that people should not mention the problems with Apple releasesd, be they OS, software or hardware, only that they keep a bit of perspective. Honest and factual critique helps us move forward, dramatic headlines and exagerated problems do not. Take a deep breath. Expect excellence from Apple, not perfection.