Emails, iMessages, and Texts: what’s the difference?

A new email, ready for an address.

That moment when you unlock your iPhone to send somebody a message, finger poised over an app — but then you wonder — I want to send an email, which app does that again? Wonder no longer. Here’s a simple breakdown of the communication apps that come with your iPhone, and what each does, and the different ways you can address a message in each.

I’ll cover Mail first since it is the simplest. If you want to send an email, Mail is the only place to do it. Once you launch the app and create a new message with the pen-and-paper icon, a blank email will appear ready to be addressed. To send an email to somebody, you must have their email address (such as email@example.com). This may sound obvious, but the reason I make the distinction will become more clear once you read about Messages, below.

 

A new text or iMessage.

The other important app is Messages. Unlike Mail, this app performs two functions which are quite similar — it’s capable of both texting and iMessaging, but cannot send emails. Both texts and iMessages accomplish the same basic purpose of sending a short, quick message to someone. The distinctions are as follows:

  • Texting can only be done on an iPhone (not on a Mac, iPad, or iPod) and is charged to your cellular plan. Text messages show up as green bubbles when you send them, and can be sent to people who don’t have Apple devices.
  • iMessages, on the other hand, are sent over cell data or Wi-Fi from your iPhone, Mac, or iPad to somebody else’s Apple device. iMessages turn into blue bubbles when you send them. Note that Apple doesn’t charge you for sending iMessages, and while iMessages are usually quite small (unless you’re sending a photo) and therefore shouldn’t often push you over your cell data limit, they still do count toward your monthly data limit.

To text somebody, you need to know their cell phone number, which you can type into a new message as shown. Notice that both the Send button (the green arrow) and the phone number are green, which means that this message will be sent as a text.

But if you’re sending a message to someone who has an Apple device, the text will be sent as an iMessage. The handy part is that whether you have their phone number, or email address, or both — it doesn’t matter. Address the message to either, and it’ll get where it’s going regardless. Your iPhone handles this automatically. If you enter an email address or a phone number that belongs to somebody’s Apple device, a message sent to either of those contact details will automatically go as an iMessage, not a text. The point is that you don’t have to think about it, and it just happens.

This message will go as a text; note the green phone number and Send button.

This message will be sent as an iMessage, since whoever has this email address happens to have an iPhone or other Apple device. Note the blue email address and Send button, which denotes this as an iMessage.

This message will also be sent as an iMessage since whoever has this phone number happens to have an iPhone or other Apple device.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what I’m saying is that while you may address a “text message” to an email address, it will send as an iMessage, and this is more similar to a text than to an email.

Long story short: texts (encompassing both texts and iMessages) are sent from the Messages app, and emails are sent from the Mail app.

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iOS 10.2 on iPhone 5

I didn’t mean my blog to turn into a re-test of Apple’s latest software updates. But here we are. A popular news site I frequent indicated that iOS 10 has been a lot nicer to Apple’s older hardware than any update before that, and with that reassurance, I took the plunge and updated. The verdict: I heartily agree. If you can get past:

  • Pressing Home to unlock,
  • the giant bubble-licious cards in Notification Centre and where the search used to be,
  • having the Health app changed so it’s more difficult to just see your steps or activity for the last month,
  • the new Maps look and feel with a larger search bar and giant pins (can we call them “pins” anymore?),
  • the giant new section at the top of every contact card,
  • and generally larger text and more white (or “wasted”) space everywhere …

… you’ll really like iOS 10! But that’s where my complaints end. I didn’t expect such amazing performance from my iPhone after this update, even though I knew it would be better than iOS 9 based on the report I had read. The graphics are very smooth in every area except Notification Centre, where things are still a little jittery. But everywhere else, things have improved markedly. Scrolling everywhere in every app has been improved to make it sometimes “slipperier,” depending on the app, and always smoother. All animations now render flawlessly, never dropping a frame or seizing up slightly as they would under iOS 9.3. The app-launching animation has been shortened and changed slightly, and I like it better. It seems much faster, though if it actually takes less time to launch an app, I can’t say. I can forgive a few modifications to the way I do things for improvements on this scale. Overall, my four-year-old iPhone feels new again, and as a result of this impressive update, I don’t feel like paying Apple for another iPhone for a while yet. When I have the cash and feel it’s necessary, however, given this track record, I will buy another iPhone. Nobody else offers this kind of performance on a phone over two years old, much less brand-new updates.


Update December 29, 2016:

One more complaint: it seems that the sappy, drippy, disgusting, imprecise, and Microsoft-esque language that dominates Windows interactions has arrived on the iPhone: from Music, “We’ll play this next.” I guess I’ll just have to close my eyes and try to ignore it …

By System.Administrator Posted in iOS, iPhone

iOS 9.3.3 on iPhone 5, iPad 2

Over the past couple of days I have been using iOS 9.3.3, the latest version out of Cupertino. Having updated both my iPhone 5 (four years old) and second-generation iPad (four and a half years old) from iOS 9.2.1, I have the following comments:

  • iPhone. My four-year-old iPhone feels a year newer suddenly. Graphics were starting to lag, drop frames, and be otherwise choppy under iOS 9.2.1. I was wondering if my phone was on the way out. Fortunately, it was not to be. With 9.3.3, graphics are once again buttery smooth with nary a dropped frame to be seen. Subtle updates to the feel of how multitasking responds to your finger makes it easier to use, and the phone generally feels more responsive. Whether it’s actually faster I don’t have the means to test. It definitely feels faster than it had been though.
  • iPad. Bug fixes, yay! Honestly I haven’t noticed any difference. Where the keyboard lagged before, it laggeth still. I think the dictionary bug has been squashed though, and for that I am thankful since I have run into it a few times. Sometimes I find its (lack of) speed frustrating, but it’s an awful lot faster than my PC when it thinks it is installing updates “in the background,” which means hogging all resources so nothing happens at all. The iPad at least is very consistent and predictable and doesn’t run into these sorts of issues.

FaceTime: When It Doesn’t Ring

Back in July last year I mentioned a small issue I had with FaceTime and iMessage. In that case they were doing what they were supposed to, making sure I was me and not somebody else trying to use my Apple ID.

This post is about a recent issue I had with FaceTime. An actual malfunction. Oddly, I could call my sister, and my parents could call me, and my sister could call me, but my sister and I couldn’t call my parents. The Mac they use for FaceTime simply wouldn’t ring, as if nobody was calling it. Very strange. We tried everything from signing out to deleting plist files to reinstalling FaceTime and none of it worked.

I discussed this problem at length with a software developer who knows a bit about how FaceTime works. He told me that FaceTime and iMessage go everywhere together, and if you sign out of FaceTime and then sign in again, the system doesn’t get completely reset. However, if you sign out of both FaceTime and iMessage, wait several minutes, restart, and then sign in again, this will result in a complete reset of both services and things should get back to normal.

Sure enough, after following these instructions, FaceTime worked fine. Surprisingly, all of the many iMessage threads we had going came back too — nothing was lost in this process. We are back to normal now: every member of the family can call any other member of the family without any issues.

iOS 9 on the iPhone 5

For the past couple years I kept iOS 7 on my iPhone 5, not wanting to needlessly slow it down by installing a newer OS. Recently, however, I had to upgrade to iOS 9 in order to use iCloud Drive with an iPad running iOS 9. Without upgrading my iPhone, moving documents from one device to the other would be challenging. After taking a deep breath, and reading the dire warnings on 9to5Mac, I upgraded my 5 to iOS 9. Does it work? Yes. Am I dissatisfied? Slightly (details below). Knowing what I know now, would I have upgraded? Yes.

Contrary to most reports that I have heard, my iPhone 5 is capable of running most transitions without dropping frames. The one exception to the general rule is the multitasking screen, where entry and exit is usually (but not always) a little rough, while zooming through the last gazillion apps I used is usually perfectly smooth. On the graphics front, it’s way better than I expected. This is the kind of performance I expect from an iPhone, and it’s great to see this coming from the 2012 iPhone 5. I hate referring to it as old because it’s not, but technology, eh!

If you were blessed with the opportunity of using iOS 6, you will remember that Reader in Safari would let you adjust the size of the typeface. This tiny but welcome option is back once again, along with the option to change the typeface itself to one of eight options. Reader also offers four background colours much like iBooks does.

While we’re talking about small things that make big differences, I’ll mention my favourite feature which was evidently deemed to be a bug: with the flashlight on, waking the iPhone and tapping the camera shortcut on the Lock screen would turn the flashlight off. In iOS 9, this no longer works and I miss it. Aside from the lack of customisability in the Music app, this is really the only thing that has been “improved” in a not-so-great way.

 

Update November 6: After using iOS 9 for the past few weeks, I am going to cast judgement upon two items. Firstly, animations don’t remain perpetually silky-smooth on iPhone 5. Rather, as you use the device, the animations become slightly choppier as RAM fills up. Once you restart your device, though, things are back to normal. Secondly, I am not a fan of these seemingly monthly mash-ups of the Music app. This time ’round, we can finally add a song directly to a playlist from its listing in an album or while it’s playing. However, gone are the options to customise how music is organised. I can’t say I just want to see albums or playlists, and Recently Added hogs the top 1/2 of the screen. I never use it — if I add something else, I won’t be able to find the songs I used to navigate to from there, so why bother adding the temporary steps to muscle memory? Still, iOS 9 has numerous improvements over iOS 7, one of my favourites being the ability to work on a draft in Mail and then tuck it into the bottom to sneak back to a different message.

Another small issue is that, on finicky Wi-Fi networks secured with WPA2 Enterprise (virtually any wireless network where users have unique logins rather than one global password), iMessage often reports a message as sent. The bar has swept to the right. I then disable Wi-Fi and/or trot outside of Wi-Fi range to await transit. About seven to eight minutes later, my phone vibrates. Message failed to send. What? This is annoying, to say the least, but I attribute it primarily to the lame WPA2 Wi-Fi which even drops the connection if I walk down the hall. Overall, I rate iOS 9 as “upgrade,” even for iPhone 5 users on iOS 7.

iMessage and FaceTime Locked Me Out

… Here’s how I got back in.

I have two-factor authentication enabled on my Apple ID to help keep unwanted visitors out. It also kept me out of FaceTime and iMessage, though everything else worked fine, until I realized what was going on.

Two-factor authentication allows the user to create app-specific passwords. This is so that an app that wants you to sign in using your Apple ID can’t then access your entire account. Apple’s two communication services (but not iCloud or any other services, oddly) require app-specific passwords when two-factor authentication is enabled: FaceTime and iMessage won’t work without them. It seems that these passwords time out after a few months, because the Mac I was signed into wanted my password again. You can’t view an app-specific password on your account; you can only delete the old one and make a new one. So I did that, and the Mac was happy.

But when I tried to send an iMessage from my iPhone, it didn’t work. I tried signing in (Settings > iMessage > Use Apple ID) with my Apple ID and password to no avail. (Wrong password? Kidding, right? I typed it in five times perfectly!) After musing over the problem for a few days, I decided to try making a new app-specific password and sign in with that … and it worked! It certainly was frustrating. Instead of saying my password was incorrect, it should have suggested that I go make an app-specific password instead and try that. Anyway, the problem is solved, and if you have had this issue, try this solution.

Type Special Characters

Option key

The handy Option key.

So you’re writing a technical report for your electronics engineering professor and you need to insert a symbol for the unit of resistance, Ohms.

Okay, maybe that scenario is unlikely unless you’re me. But what if you’re typing an email to your friend in Charlottetown, PEI and you want to tell them it’s still five degrees Celsius here? Surely you don’t want to write out the whole word “degrees!” Try this: type the number 5, then press Option-K together. Then type a capital C. The result: 5˚C, simple as that.

Back to my original example: technical reports. You can hunt around in Word’s list of special characters if you like. Apple’s equivalent is searchable, at least – choose Edit > Special Characters or press Control-Command-Space to bring it up. But almost every key on your keyboard has a special character associated with it already, enabling you to say that a resistor has an resistance of 6.8Ω without lifting your fingers off the keyboard. That Ohms symbol, the capital Greek letter omega, can be typed by pressing Option-Z. The letter choice isn’t random, either – the electrical symbol for impedance (which isn’t limited to just resistance) is Z.

There are other symbols, too, such as the copyright and registered symbols (Option-G and Option-R, respectively). In TextEdit, uppercase and lowercase editions of accented characters and other odd-looking uncles of our twenty-six alphabetical letters are available by using Option- and Shift-Option-[letter].

Try some key combinations yourself, but be sure to experiment in an innocuous app like TextEdit since these keyboard shortcuts might mean different things to different apps!

Where’s My USB Dongle?

Somehow I have a feeling that’s a question many people are going to ask. After all, Apple’s new MacBook only has one port – that port charges the computer and it’s the only way for data to get in and out of the computer if you can’t use AirDrop, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. Even to charge your iPhone from the MacBook, you’re going to need an adapter. Or, if you want to use wired Ethernet, you must use an adapter. Same goes for Thunderbolt, USB flash drives, mini DisplayPort-compatible monitors, TVs, projectors, or anything else that plugs in to your computer. On the upside, since those ports aren’t weighing it down and beefing it up, the MacBook is a really thin and light computer at 0.92 kg (2.03 lbs), perfect for travelling with. I look forward to hefting one.

Along with the updated MacBook Pro line, the MacBook has acquired a new trackpad. Rather than sensing touch only, the trackpad can now sense how hard you are touching it, allowing for more nuanced and detailed communication with the computer. Force Touch is being used as a shortcut to common functions normally accessed via a two-finger click (or control-click), which will speed up certain tasks and activities.

By System.Administrator Posted in Mac

Stop Force-Quitting Those Apps!

… A Guide to Better Battery Life

If you have an iPhone, an iPad, or an iPod touch, you have doubtless heard that you can extend your device’s battery life by double-clicking the Home button and swiping up and away all of the apps that appear in the multitasking window. This is true sometimes, but certainly not the majority of the time. Allow me to explain.

Technicalities

Your iOS device is a small computer. Like any computer, it has a processor; “permanent” memory for storing photos, apps, and other material; and fast temporary memory (aka RAM) for storing what you are working on at the immediate moment. As soon as you tap an app on the Home screen, the app launches, loading all the necessary information from permanent memory into fast RAM so the app can respond to your input. This information stays in RAM unless you double-click the Home button and flick the app out of the multitasking window to force-quit it. At this point, all its information is removed from RAM, and the app is no longer running.

So yes, it’s true that when you press the Home button to get out of an app, the app’s data remains in RAM. This allows the app to launch faster if you decide to go back to it right away. But the app is no longer running. It stays in the background, paused and waiting for you to come back to it. Since the app is not running, it is not consuming any battery life.

You might think, “So what? What’s the point of discussing all this?” There is a reason. When your device loads information from permanent memory into RAM, it uses a relatively significant amount of battery for a very short period of time. If you force-quit the app and then launch the app again soon, the device must re-load that information (which it would not have had to if the app was still in RAM), consuming more battery life again for a brief moment.

Takeaways

The thing is, you don’t need to clean up after your device. When RAM fills up and it needs more space, it removes the oldest data by itself to free up space for the current task. So you don’t have to worry about force-quitting apps because your device takes care of itself.

The exception to this rule includes apps that do run in the background, like Facebook while it’s gathering new posts or navigation apps that use GPS to keep you on track while you are using another app. Force-quitting these when you are not using them prevents them from gathering data in the background.

Bottom Line

It’s not necessary to force-quit apps on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Force-quitting apps can even negatively affect battery life, so the practise is best avoided.

What’s That Crazy Thing Doing?!

… Taking the Mystery Out of Gestures

What’s that thing that keeps flying up from the bottom of the screen? Where did that dark banner that obscures the entire screen come from? Why did it just switch apps?

You have been invoking gestures without knowing it, but your iPad doesn’t know when you did something intentionally or accidentally. It simply assumes that when you absent-mindedly drape four fingers on the screen that you want to fly from one app to another, and when your thumb misses the Home button and moves toward the screen, that you want to summon Control Center.  There is a method to this madness, and I intend to clarify what’s going on (and how to turn off certain gestures if you find they get in your way).

A gesture is a flick, a tap, or a swipe with one or more fingers on the screen. Different combinations of fingers and types of gestures do different things. For example, if you swipe up from the bottom of your iPad’s screen, Control Center will appear. Here you can adjust the iPad’s brightness, turn Wi-Fi on or off, and keep the screen from rotating, among other things. It’s handy to be able to access these settings quickly without going to Settings and finding the entry for adjusting brightness, for example.

If you swipe up on your iPad with four fingers, it will show you the multitasking window. The multitasking window holds all the apps you used recently. Here you can quickly switch back and forth between apps (tap the app you want to switch to) or force-quit the app (flick the app up and out of the multitasking window). Force-quitting an app can save battery life, but only under certain circumstances. The four-finger upward swipe is a fast way to switch apps, but there’s a better way.

With four fingers, swipe from right to left on the app you’re using now (Safari, for example). You will now see the last app you were using (perhaps you were in Photos last). Swipe from left to right this time, and you will be back in Safari. This is a really useful gesture to navigate your iPad rapidly.

If you are in any app and you pinch with four fingers, it’s just like you pressed the Home button — you will end up at the Home screen again.

Drag one finger down from the top of the screen. This is Notification Center, a place to find the time, weather, and recent notifications about email, iMessages, FaceTime calls, and more. To dismiss Notification Center, flick it back up toward the top of the screen from the bottom.

That is a summary of all the crazy things your iPad can do when you tap and flick with different numbers of fingers. Now that the mystery is gone, you can decide which gestures are useful to you … and which gestures you keep invoking unintentionally. Take a trip to Settings now. Under General, you should see a switch labelled “Multitasking Gestures,” which has a brief description under it about what it does. If you turn it off, you will no longer be able to pinch with four fingers to go Home or swipe between apps. You can always turn it on again if you want to use those gestures later.

If you don’t like Control Center triggering when you are swiping around in an app, head to Settings and tap Control Center. Here, you can allow Control Center to appear in apps and on the lock screen, or you can turn those switches off. If you turn off “Access Within Apps,” Control Center will only appear when you are on the Home screen and swipe up from the bottom. Otherwise, when in an app, you can tap and swipe near the bottom of the screen without Control Center getting in your way.

I find gestures really useful. They are handy to quickly turn on Wi-Fi, adjust brightness on the fly, and check the weather. They can speed up switching from app to app, especially if your collection of apps is large and some live in folders. With gestures, you can switch back and forth between the apps you used most recently.

Apple’s Amazing Supercomputer

iMac with Retina 5K display

Behold the iMac with Retina 5K display.

On October 16, Apple announced iMac with Retina 5K display, a new iMac with four times the number of pixels compared with a regular 27 inch iMac. This makes text sharper and images more detailed to the point that, when viewed from a normal distance, the human eye can’t actually discern individual pixels. In fact, with 14.7 million pixels, the display is higher resolution than 4K HD (4K being itself four times standard 1080p HD), clocking in at 5K.

Still, with four times the pixels, the 27 inch iMac is no thicker or larger in any dimension than Apple’s last iMac, which tapered to 5 mm thick at the edges. Additionally, the display panel itself consumes 30% less power than the previous version. That’s incredible. Apple says they had to create their own new timing controller — the device that tells each pixel to turn on or off or what colour to be — because no single currently available timing controller was capable of driving 14.7 million pixels. To a techie like me, this sounds like a technological work of art, and the artists (or magicians) who designed this work of art should be mighty proud of what they have accomplished.

A 5K iMac isn’t all Apple introduced on that Thursday morning. A pair of new iPads also appeared, along with iOS 8.1 with Apple Pay (for Americans only, at this point, since Canadians are obviously more technologically advanced with chip-and-pin, and therefore don’t need Apple Pay … right?), and a new Mac mini. Here’s what’s new:

iPads: The iPad mini remains virtually unchanged with the exception of the addition of a gold colour option and a Touch ID sensor. This fingerprint reader allows a tap to unlock the iPad and also allows the user to make purchases online via Apple Pay and in the iTunes Store without entering a password. The iPad Air has been overhauled with a slimmer profile, a better camera, and Touch ID, making iPad Air 2.

iOS 8.1 brings the Camera Roll back after its brief time as Recently Added in iOS 8.0, adds Apple Pay, and adds support for things like answering phone calls on your Mac or texting SMS messages from your iPad by taking advantage of your nearby iPhone.

Mac: Besides the new iMac, there’s another fresh upgrade. The Mac mini now has better performance, a Fusion drive, and costs less at $549. All new Macs ship with OS X Yosemite, the latest edition of Apple’s desktop operating system. It has a pretty new look and is particularly aesthetically pleasing on Retina displays.

By System.Administrator Posted in Mac

The Magic of Keynote

Keynote_Icon_iOS_7This weekend, I had fun using Keynote on my iPhone to display a slideshow on the spur of the moment using a Lightning to VGA adapter. Pull iPhone out of pocket, plug into projector, and speak! Just works. So cool.

That adapter works with most projectors, old and new, but this adapter works with any TV or projector that has an HDMI input, and has the added bonus of funnelling audio straight into a TV’s built-in speakers – so you don’t have that extra bunch of wires to plug in.

You can do the exact same thing with an Apple TV, of course, but the likelihood of finding an Apple TV at the place you present at is pretty slim. There’s the option of bringing your own Apple TV instead, but you also have to bring your own Wi-Fi network in order to connect to the Apple TV wirelessly. Still, it’s handy to walk around the stage and swipe to the next slide without marching back to the podium.

(Note the Certified Refurbished link at the right of the top banner. It’s a handy way to find Apple products that look and feel new, come with a new 1-year warranty and 90 days of phone support just like a new product, and a fresh battery, but cost slightly less than a new device.)

Not So Fast …

Okay, so I had my iPhone’s Sleep/Wake button replaced. But ever since I got it back, the Maps app would always indicate an incorrect Current Location except when connected to Wi-Fi. In other words, the GPS was not working. I tried restarting, resetting Location & Privacy settings, resetting Network settings, resetting All settings, and a complete restore (downloading a fresh copy of iOS 7.1.2 and installing that). Nothing fixed it. A software restore virtually eliminates the possibility of a software fault – the hardware must be the problem.  So I called Apple’s support and they set up a Genius Bar appointment at the nearest Apple Store for somebody to look at my phone and see what’s up.

Don’t tell anybody this – just before the appointment, I was so curious to know what was going on that I opened the device by following iFixit’s guide – and found a missing GPS cable! The fellow who had repaired my device had forgotten to reinstall the GPS antenna interconnect cable, so my iPhone was unable to receive correct data from the GLONASS satellites. No hard feelings. Apple replaced my device with a new one, and that, of course, solved the problem.

In the fuzzy photo I took, check out the missing flat black cable. There are supposed to be two, one running on top of the other, that connect to the logic board inside the iPhone. Note the fact that, below the slightly longer connector, there’s no connector!

 

What it should look like - the cable that's gone missing (see below) is by the blue spudger in the photo.

What it should look like – the cable that’s gone missing is by the blue spudger in the photo.

 

 

Note the empty connector immediately below the slightly longer black foam connector.

Note the empty connector immediately below the slightly longer black foam connector.

By System.Administrator Posted in iPhone

Dead Buttons On Your Device?

iPhone5_sleepwakebutton

Which button? This one.

Don’t let a dead button get you down. Apple’s admitted that a malfunctioning Sleep/Wake button is a known problem with iPhone 5 models manufactured through March 2013. If yours is one of them, take your iPhone in to the nearest Apple Store and they’ll repair it for free. Note that this repair program is available until two years from the date you purchased your iPhone.

My iPhone was affected by this issue, and I took it in to the Apple Store on June 19th. On the 28th, my iPhone had been repaired and was ready to be picked up. It doesn’t take long, it’s free, and Apple will offer you a 16 GB loaner iPhone for the time your own device is away.

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t uncommon with any device – 38% of people who own smartphones find their buttons asleep at the switch. If your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch) has this issue, let me know in the comments.

By System.Administrator Posted in iPhone

White Cables That Aren’t White Anymore?

Apple’s cables are unique because most other electronics manufacturers use only black cords. Black doesn’t show dirt, I guess. But white doesn’t have to either.

If you have a discoloured white cable, grab some isopropyl alcohol (I used 99% USP) and a kleenex. Find a horizontal workspace that does not have a wood surface. Alcohol will bleach wood! Ball up the end of the kleenex and dampen it with alcohol, and lay out the cord on a horizontal surface. Starting with just a short section, rub the cord thoroughly with the kleenex until the cord turns white. That’s all there is to it!

Be careful not to get the ends of the cord and connectors excessively wet, or you will cause damage. Also, let the cable dry completely before attempting to use it. Don’t use alcohol to clean your device.

Lost iPhone? There’s Hope Yet!

Actually, it doesn’t matter what sort of Apple device you have, be it an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac. If you have a device running iOS 7 or a Mac running Lion (OS X 10.7) or later, there’s an easy way to find it. It might be lost in the woods … or just lost in the couch. Find my iPhone (or Find my iPad or iPod or Mac, respectively) works as long as your device is connected to Wi-Fi, or to a cell network in the case of cellular iPads and the iPhone.

Find that iPhone!

Find that iPhone!

It’s easy: go to iCloud.com on any computer. You’ll need your Apple ID (your email address) and password. Once you are in, click the icon for Find my iPhone (pictured), and once it loads, you should see a map with a dot on it. A grey dot indicates where your device was; a coloured dot indicates a device’s current location. Click the dot and you’ll get more details. In the pop-up that appears, you can click the i to find out what action you can take. If your device is lost in the couch, click Play Sound, and the device will emit a sound at full volume. Or if your device is lost in the woods and you fear somebody will make off with it before you get there, click Lost Mode. Follow the instructions to display a phone number and a message on the iPhone so that if somebody finds the device, they can’t use it – but they can easily return it to you.

Office Rant

I’ll warn you in advance: this is going to sound like a rant.

But it’s not. It’s in praise of good software.

I normally use Numbers for spreadsheets. It’s a great tool, though I find spreadsheets generally cryptic creatures. But I really had no idea what cryptic really was until I used Excel to graph a semi-log filter response plot this week. Part of the requirements included axis labels and a chart title. It took me two days, in all, to figure out how to put axis labels and a chart title on my graph. In Numbers, you just select the graph and pick the options you want (Title? Check. Axis labels? Check.) in a single pane in the Inspector. No fiddling around – it’s all in one spot.

It’s a similar case with Word. The interface is cluttered, making it difficult to find things. While Word is a capable word processor, don’t ask it to work with images or other objects. It chokes on media other than text. Pages, on the other hand, has a clean interface with a tidy and well-organized Inspector. It handles images with ease and has picture frames and other cool effects to spruce up your photos.

Comparing PowerPoint to Keynote isn’t even comparing apples to apples. There is simply no comparison. Keynote has way better transitions, well-designed templates, and again, is well organized. I’ve never quite figured out how PowerPoint became the de-facto standard for presentations. After using Keynote, I have always felt that I’m only making do with PowerPoint and never getting the most out of my presentation.

iCloud

iCloud

Hey, did I mention that you can do basic edits in all three of these documents and keep them with you wherever you go with iWork for iCloud? It’s reliable, fast even on slower Internet connections, and works on PCs too. Just go to www.icloud.com and enter your Apple ID. You can create, for example, a Pages document and share it with other people via a link. Whether your collaborators are sitting across from you or somewhere on the other side of the world, you can add and format text and images and see changes appear on your computers as you type.

Now that there’s Microsoft Office for iPad, I should probably mention it at least once. I complement the layout; from the screenshots I’ve seen, it looks organized (some thought was – gasp!– actually put into its design!). But while the apps themselves are free, they’re only good for looking at Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, not editing them, unless one pays about $6 each month for the privilege.

At this point, I’ll just say that Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for both iPad and iPhone (Office is only available for iPad) are available for $10 apiece, or free with new Apple hardware (the details are at the bottom of this page). They remain yours – there’s no fee for using them. I will let you decide which will end up costing more. All the iWork apps can read the Microsoft equivalents to their own documents, and can export a variety of file formats, including PDF, ePub, and CSV, depending on the app.

The Power of iPad

It wasn’t long ago that you had to use a desktop to do the simplest movie editing, the easiest spreadsheets, and the most boring slide presentations. Things have changed.

A benchmark is an easy way to quantify this sort of change, comparing the raw processing power of two computers using a number created with a standard test. For example, the Mac Pro released in December has a processor benchmark of 17,028. A late-2006 iMac has a benchmark of 3048, and the original MacBook Air released in 2008 had a processor benchmark of 2138.

Now, the iPad Air has a benchmark of 2379. This thin device is run by a smaller battery (i.e., uses less energy) than the MacBook Air and doesn’t even have a fan to cool the processor, and yet it has more processing capability than the first MacBook Air. And all that happened since 2008!

So why is this so important? If a processor can perform a task faster, more tasks can be thrust upon it in the same period of time. Suddenly complex things like editing a video can be done with a device in your hand or on your lap instead of a fire-breathing noisy tower under your desk. The same techniques used to make a processor faster also tend to make it more efficient on power (although there is a bit more to engineering power efficiency than that). The iPad Air’s charger is rated at just 12 Watts, while even the 2008 MacBook Air had a 45W power adapter. Talk about more with less!

By System.Administrator Posted in iPad, Mac

iOS 7.1 Arrives

One of the things that sets Apple apart from the rest of the tech crowd is its willingness to support older hardware. Apple released iOS 7.1 this week to address some small but significant things throughout iOS. For newer devices, it improves stability and seems to do away with crashes altogether. For older devices, especially iPhone 4, it improves performance significantly over iOS 7, bringing the speed of launching apps much closer to what it was under iOS 6. If you’ve got an iPhone 4 and it’s running iOS 7.x right now, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Installing iOS 7.1 will improve speed dramatically for you.

Ars Technica has done a pixel-by-pixel breakdown of the minor changes in iOS 7.1, as well as a benefit analysis for iPhone 4 users. I won’t reiterate everything they said, but if you’re curious about what really changed, read those two articles.

By System.Administrator Posted in iOS

New Content!

I’ve finally found some time to update the front page image with a fresh one, and add some tutorials. Suggestions are welcome!

By System.Administrator Posted in General