Opinion: Per Your iOS Devices, Be Careful Out There

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, October 11th, 2011, 05:23
Category: Announcement, iPad, Opinion

I should have seen this coming.

Last night, as I’d done half a dozen times before without incident, I sat outside the BloomBars art space in Washington, D.C. replying to email on my iPad 2, listening to an ancient Guns ‘n Roses song off the “Appetite for Destruction” album and feeling like everything was right with the world.

This morning, I just got off the phone with my insurance company and have now learned that my deductible is US$250 before they start covering anything that was stolen.



Which brings up what happened in between last night and today, wherein the person who snagged my iPad 2 directly out of my hands, quickly tore the headphones out of the jack, sprinted down a nearby alleyway and had a good 20-30 yards on me before I could stop looking surprised/silly and begin chasing after him.

Like anyone who’s been in this situation, I feel like an idiot. Yes, I’d hung out at this art space before and been surrounded by naught by kind-hearted hipsters looking to get stage time to work on a new song, poem, rap or stand up set and felt like I had no reason to worry. The iPad 2, which I’d worked hard for and spent part of my tax refund on, seemed secure in my hands, the earbuds in my ears only solidifying my sense of connection to the device.

Within seconds, the thing you love has been torn out of your hands by someone who seems to be really, really good at stealing things and getting an insurmountable head start on you as he sprints away with the item in question.

If there’s any advice to offer, it’s this: Be careful out there. iOS devices are hip, simple to walk away with, easy to reset, a cinch to resell and the only thing the person who snagged my iPad 2 needs to buy to make it completely functional is an iOS attachment capable (roughly US$19 from the Apple Store or Best Buy or less than US$10 from an Internet-based supplier depending on where he looks) and nothing else.

As far as things you can actually do in this situation, the following are never bad ideas:

- MobileMe may still be US$99 per year, but I’m beginning to see the attraction of it, especially if it allows the iPad to either have its location tracked or its memory wiped remotely. Look into this and it may be a good investment.

- I’ve just been informed that Find My iPhone is free and doesn’t require a MobileMe account (which is out of vogue given the iCloud transition). It’s free, Apple stands behind it and from now on, I’m installing this on every iOS device I’ll ever own and a killer setup video to answer your questions is available here.

- Change your critical passwords once you get home. Yes, you should probably feed the cat if you’ve been out all day, but change your Amazon, Netflix, Gmail, Yahoo and other passwords just to play it safe. Your iOS device was just stolen and you probably don’t feel great about yourself or what happened, but you never know who your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad will be handed off to and whether they’ll simply wipe it or jailbreak it to retrieve all the data/passwords/banking information they can find off of it. Change your passwords and watch your credit card statements over the next few days no matter what.

- Finally, give the cops all the information you can think of as to who you think stole your advice, their description and the moments leading up to the theft. In spite of everything that happened last night, I was able to flag down a cop within moments of the theft last night and they were able to find a person that had been in the thief’s group of friends only moments before my iPad 2 was stolen. Once the friend was identified, they brought in enough additional cops and a detective to compose the department’s softball team, so there’s something there and the situation doesn’t look as hopeless as it did an hour before.

The moral of the story: Enjoy your iOS devices, make the most of them and be careful, especially if you use an iPad 2 out in the open. A person should never have to live in fear, but exercise some caution (and some common sense, which seems to be lacking from my part) and you’ll probably be fine.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this homemade superhero costume won’t finish making itself…

The Rant: Because acoustic travesties are amazing

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, March 17th, 2011, 04:37
Category: Opinion

Over the past few days, friends have sent this along to both my Facebook and e-mail accounts, the messages expressing a certain disbelief that something this bad exists, much less that it just cracked the top 100 songs on the iTunes Music Store.

So under the rationale that this has caused me pain and torment and frustration with how bad it is, allow me to follow the PowerPage work ethic of passing the torment along to you:



Stepping back a bit, this is either a valid song or a viral-but-successful farce or both, but even so, I have to sympathize on some levels. Perhaps there is an actual musical effort being put forth here, an actual aspiring singer attempting to create a work, but it’s so heavily autotuned and overwrought with editing that this comes off as a modern day version of The Shaggs, wherein the effort attempts to soar and crashes directly into the mountainside with a resounding thud.

More specifically, here are the issues at hand with the video:
- The audio sounds autotuned to the point wherein the singer sounds like a mix of a GPS voice and Frances McDormand’s character from “Fargo”.

- There is, for some reason, a rap sequence in which an unknown rapper in his 30s or 40s is talking about not only enjoying the weekend for what it is, but apparently the joy of hanging out with the underage singer. And if this isn’t sort of creepy, then nothing is.

- Beyond the brain-damaging lyrics and amazingly saccharine content of the video, there seems to be the thought that the gloss/visual appeal of the video itself will save the day. This only compounds the train wreck as it unfolds in front of you, the train apparently having hopped the rails and now barreling towards the nitroglycerine plant, the old folks’ home and the petting zoo before tumbling off a cliff at the end of its path.

So what does this have to do with your Mac or iOS device outside of the fact that this song is available on the iTunes Store? Not a lot, but given that it’s become easier than ever to edit audio and video on your computer, there also comes the need to sit back and look over what you’re doing, especially prior to publishing it out on YouTube as an official video. And for Rebecca Black herself, who may or may not at this moment be wrangled by a team of ambitious parents, managers and public relations wonks, one has to hope that there’s an actual voice at the bottom of the pile of autotuning, especially if this is the very beginning of a career in music…

Thanks for listening to the rant and there’s free coffee and doughnuts in the corner.

Opinion: iPad – iWork (NOT)

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 7th, 2010, 03:55
Category: iPad, Opinion, Software

If you are planning on buying an iPad to be a portable editing device for your iWork content – think twice. The Apple Discussion boards are all aflutter with teachers and professors who hoped they could leave their laptops in the office and only take their new iPads to the lecture hall. This is not the case. Although Apple has branded the programs the same as the versions you can buy for your Mac , this is where the similarity ends. It’s like using Google Translation to convert a foreign web site into your language of choice, but worse. The two programs i was interested in were Pages and Keynote and they both corrupt files on import (once you can get them in – that’s another article). Formatting is lost in Pages so formulas and footnotes disappear in Keynote transitions and builds go away. It is not as if they are temporarily suspended while on the iPad they are gone so when and if you save back to your Mac they are no longer there.

My comment is, if you are calling it by the same name it should have the same display features. I can agree to editing and creative limitations on a mobile class device but display corruption is unacceptable. To me that’s synonymous with PDF’s looking different on different computing devices and operating systems, not what a PDF is supposed to be.

My biggest complaint is that Apple re-confiigured some of their standard fonts, and when you import a Keynote Presentation of simple Text and Paragraph builds everything is scrambled, mostly because replaced fonts don’t translate to the same font size constraints. I gave up looking for a way to reduce the font size so the text would fit on the slide and have gone back to my laptop to write this article. Now if you create on the iPad and leave it, there’s not a problem. I guess I got my hopes up, with iWork Beta working so seamlessly between cloud and desktop I figured the transition to iPad would be as painless. I was wrong!!

Look at the Samples Below and see if the change from Chalkboard to Chalkduster font would cause you sufficient grief to not make the transition.

Tales of Getting a MacBook Pro Battery Replaced

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 3rd, 2009, 07:29
Category: battery, MacBook Pro, Opinion

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Blogger David Alison describes a process many of you have been through: going to an Apple Store with a nigh-dead MacBook Pro battery here and the details therein.

The piece also links to Apple’s terms as to which batteries are covered under an AppleCare plan, the company’s page on battery care and how to do a battery calibration via an Apple Knowledge Base article.

It’s a useful read, so give it a gander and if you have any MacBook Pro battery replacement stories of your own, please let us know.

Your Take on iPhone OS 3.0

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 19th, 2009, 18:20
Category: iPhone, Opinion

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We asked for your comments yesterday and several of you stepped up to the plate and offered what you thought about the newly-released iPhone OS 3.0.

So, without further ado, here we go:

In general its great!

No one has reported this to my knowledge, but if you have more than one iPhone connected to your MobilMe account and properly enabled, the Where is my iPhone feature shows all of them — a great family feature.

One omission — I can’t find a way to use Where is my iPhone from my iPhone! .. for example, if Dad loses his iPhone during vacation with Mom and the kids; they ought to be able to use their iPhones to log into MobileMe and activate Where is My iPhone to help locate it. However, on Safari if you go to me.com you are not allowed to login, they assume every feature is already available via an app.

Bill Elkus

Dear PowerPage-

Here are my thoughts on iPhone OS 3.0

Love:
Spotlight Search. It’s fast and was my top missing feature in iPhone 1 & 2.

CalDAV server support. Now I can have a joint google calendar for my family that I don’t need elaborate software on the mac with multiple user accounts running to accomplish.

Subscribed Calendars. Now I can have my wife’s iCal calendar visible.

Calendar sync through iTunes: In addition to my MobileMe push calendars I can view US Holidays or Birthdays without having to do any real workarounds (just check a box).

Improved Recents & Voicemail Display: The added line of telephone type or call origin is great (you used to have to tap the arrow to get this info.

Improved Call Log: Tap the arrow on a recent call and you get a list of time & duration (I’m curious how many calls it will keep track of though)

Podcast Chapters. (I don’t think this was there in 2.x, but not every podcast I like uses chapters.) Finally I can jump over the parts I’m not interested in without scrubbing.

Copy and Paste. Works great, is even available in old apps.

Push: I hope to love it but none of my apps are updated for it yet (NetNewsWire I am thinking of you).

Hate:
Search does not include mail body text. I know it would be difficult to include this because they want the ability to search the server past the 25 or 50 messages on my phone, but come on. At least include body text of messages stored on the phone.

CalDAV server setup. Why is this buried in Mail account setup? Once I found it it worked well for the main google calendar, but I really wanted all of my secondary calendars (kids, school, etc.) and that is a royal pain (thank god for copy and paste). I don’t know if it is Google’s setup or that CalDAV is only meant for single calendar support, but this is not for the feint of heart to attempt.

No universal inbox: It’s on my mac, why not an option on the phone.

Can’t manage mail folders. It’s still not a full mail app if I can’t create, edit or delete mail folders.

Can’t fully edit calendar events. Why can’t I change the calendar to which an event is associated? It’s easy on the mac.

Still no Podcast description field access. Please Apple, hardly any podcast puts info in the title, but almost everyone includes a nice description of the contents. Can I please have a way to see this?

Would like to see:
Spotlight third party search ability. It sounds like this is not an open API yet, it would be great if apps could add a spotlight ability, similar to the mac.

Spotlight search of music lyrics. Which song is that again? You know the one, it goes…

Spotlight search of video info. This one is a little strange, when i use the spotlight search screen to look for “pixar” I get nothing, when I search in the iPod, it finds all of the Pixar short films on the iPod as well as two playlists.

Sincerely,
Alex. Thompson
alexwt@mac.com

Click the jump for the full story…

E3: Gallery and Final Thoughts

Posted by:
Date: Sunday, June 7th, 2009, 12:54
Category: Opinion

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With the cacophony of E3 2009 over and done with, here are some parting thoughts as well as an event gallery with which to remember the event:
-iPhone Development: The same conumdrum Mac gaming has always faced is back, but in a different format. While there are some great titles out there for the platform and it’s gotten easier to code games for the platform via the Intel architecture, it’s still questionable as to whether it’s worth the investment to write a title for the Mac (thereby helping to explain why Apple has never kept an official booth at E3).
This situation is flipped on its head when it comes to the iPhone and with an installed base numbering in the millions, a growing market and the App Store as the current king of online efficiency. The end result is a developer community that seems to be tripping over itself to write games for the iPhone and the iPod touch. Upcoming iPhone OS 3.0 features such as micropayments, Push Notification, Bluetooth multiplayer, improved networking and the like make the platform even more attractive and those who had seen prototypes for the new iPhone hardware didn’t seem disappointed in the least.
This isn’t quite the dream of hordes of developers rushing to create titles for the Mac (especially when there are more guaranteed profits with writing for Windows or the consoles), but the mobile gaming market is exploding, there are some great titles on the horizon and there are some great, affordable titles on the horizon.
-Yoostar: This one came out of nowhere and it was a bit odd to find it at a gaming expo, but Yoostar could be one of the best surprises of the year. Essentially your own green screen movie kit and retailing for US$169.95, the kit includes a webcam, portable green screen and software for Mac OS X and Windows that allows users to place themselves in given movie scenes as their character of choice. Clips can then be cleaned up and exported and the creators have negotiated continuous streams of new content, including clips from classic titles such as “Rocky”, various NBA games, Children’s Televisions Workshop (creators of “Sesame Street”) and memorable commercials.
There’s something potentially great here and it’ll be interesting to see how this sells during the holidays, especially if it hits the right price point as a digital gift.
Click the jump for the full story…

Opinion: iPhone Applications Not Worth Your US$0.99

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 7th, 2009, 08:33
Category: Opinion

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By Rachel Hoyer
Who can explain the popularity of goofy iPhone applications? Here’s some of my favorite iPhone applications not worth your US$0.99:
The Moron Test – This quiz features increasingly difficult puzzles which eventually become tricky for even Mensa members to solve. I’m guessing that the point is that it waits for you to get a wrong answer so it can tell you that you’re a moron. Why not save yourself a dollar and go talk to your boss? Furthermore, do you really need validation from your phone that you’re not a moron?
Larry the Scary Cockroach – Now you can make an animated cockroach run across a friend’s iPhone. How scary. Instead, you could get a free real cockroach off the sidewalk and place it on your friend’s phone, now that would be icky!
iHunt 3D – Target virtual deer and shoot them by clicking. You can hunt without actually being outdoors or actually killing animals. Anyone remember Duck Hunt? It’s like that, but less fun and without the cool plastic gun.
iBeer Special – An application that turns the screen of your iPhone into a glass of beer. You can select from a variety of types of beer and then “pour” them by rotating your phone. This is an a highly popular application. Kinda reminds me of those trick plastic mugs with attached plastic beer pouring out.
Zip Codes – Reference guide to U.S. zip codes. Type in the name of a city and find out its zip code and county name. The U.S. Post Office offers this service for free on their website, or you could just type the city name into any web browser. This application can not be used for its only logical purpose: Determining the zip code of a letter or parcel you’d like to mail. The application’s database doesn’t include street names, you can only search by city or county name. This application would be an ideal gift for people who enjoy memorizing phone books and train schedules.
Animalizer – You know those pieces of plywood with clowns or silly characters painted on them, but face holes cut out so you can place your own face in them and take a picture? Now you can take pictures of friends and then paste their face onto an image of an animal.
Smacktalk – If you like Animalizer, you’ll love Smacktalk. Speak a phrase into your iPhone microphone and the audio clip is modified to a squeaky voice and repeated back to you by a dog, cat, or other cute animal. The best part of this game is the glowing testimonials on its App Store page.
iFart – Ever wished you could embarass yourself in public more often? This is the application for you. Choose from a variety of fart noises to play on your phone, from wet ones to staccato ones to really, really loud ones. As a gag, it would make more sense for the application to send audio clips of farts to other people’s phones. Then your unsuspecting friend would receive an iPhone whoopie cushion. Oddly enough, it’s not only extremely popular, but has also received excellent reviews.
Name Analyzer – Type your name into your iPhone and it randomly assigns words to describe you based on the acronym. For example: If you type in “Jen” it could respond with “Joyous, Esoteric, Nerdy.” Its database includes both positive and negative words … I suppose if people want to fart in public more often, perhaps they also like to be insulted by their phone.

iPhone OS 3.0 to Provide Much-Desired MMS Capabilities

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 6th, 2009, 10:03
Category: Opinion

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By Rachel Hoyer
So, you’ve just taken the world’s most adorable picture of your dog on your iPhone.
If you want to text it to your friends, you’re out of luck.
You’ll have to email it to them.
iPhone enthusiasts everywhere have bemoaned the lack of MMS support on the handset. MMS is the protocol which allows transmission of images in text messages. The current iPhone OS 2.2.1 software supports SMS, but not its MMS extension. SMS, or Short Messaging Service, is a communication protocol that enables text messaging between mobile devices. MMS, or Multimedia Messaging Service, is an extension of SMS that allows transmission of multimedia objects such as images, audio, video and rich text files within a text message. Both SMS and MMS are supported on a wide variety of mobile networks, including the 3G network used by iPhone. SMS and MMS technology are rapidly becoming obsolete due to widespread availability of the Internet on mobile devices via Wi-Fi, 3G and Apple Wireless technology. This may be the reason that Apple did not include MMS on previous iPhone software versions.
This begs the question: Why include SMS support, but not MMS support on iPhone OS 2.0? One possibility is that AT&T, the sole cell phone service provider for iPhone, pressured Apple into maintaining SMS text messaging support. Despite the advanced age of its technology, text messaging remains hugely popular among cell phone users. In addition, cell phone service providers such as AT&T rake in a ridiculously high profit margin on SMS text messaging services. But they make equal, if not more money, from selling ringtones and sending images delivered via MMS. Following the cell phone provider profits theory, it would be illogical to include SMS but not MMS. Another hypothesis: Apple did not want to deprive iPhone users of the highly convenient and popular SMS service, but assumed that MMS would not be missed given the ease of web access.
At present, when you try to send a picture on your iPhone, it is posted on a website. Then, a text message linking the page is sent to your selected recipients inviting them to visit the site to view the picture. While web browsing is a simple task on the iPhone, it is a problematic endeavor for many other types of cell phones. Although nearly all cell phones have MMS capability, typically their web browsers are both dodgy and expensive. Not to worry, iPhone users: Apple plans to release iPhone OS 3.0 in June which (along with a host of other improvements) will provide MMS support. The upgrade will be free for iPhone 3G owners and $9.99 for iPod Touch owners. Sadly, due to a hardware compatibility issue, older iPhone models are not upgradeable.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go email my friends pictures of my dog in a football jersey.

Apple and Microsoft Target Smart Shoppers in Marketing Campaigns

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 6th, 2009, 09:08
Category: Opinion

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By Rachel Hoyer
Who hasn’t seen the ubiquitous Microsoft “laptop hunters” and Apple’s “get a Mac” commercials? Each ad campaign attempts to convince the audience that savvy consumers purchase their brand. Microsoft uses documentary-style commercials where they offer “real” consumers (who are actually actors) a certain amount of money to purchase a new computer. Not surprisingly, each time they select a PC.
According to the testimonials, sticker price is the deciding factor. Microsoft suggests that PCs are far cheaper than a comparable Mac. In other words, the smart shopper purchases a PC. “I guess I’m just not hip enough to buy a Mac,” quips a computer shopper in one ad. The inference is that those who buy Macs are more concerned with image than value or performance.
By comparison, Apple’s ads use actors to personify the two types of computers. New York actor John Hodgman plays the dorky and backwards PC guy (ironically, he reportedly owns a Mac in real life). Whereas, Justin Long, who plays the Mac guy, is hip, organized and forward-thinking. Dialogue between the actors reveals that Appl’s products are easy to use and offer more helpful features than PCs. The implied conclusion is that smart shoppers buy Macs because Macs easily perform tasks that are difficult or impossible to perform on PCs.
Both ad campaigns want the viewer to identify with the core values represented in their commercials. In the case of Microsoft, they’d like you to believe that you’d be a fool to spend more on a Mac when you they offer the same thing for a much better price. Apple insinuates that you’re uninformed if you think the two types of computers are comparable.
There’s some truth to both allegations. It’s accurate that the purchase price of Macs tend to be higher than PCs with similar specifications. Nearly all widely used applications are available on both platforms, including Microsoft Windows. So, why would a smart shopper choose an Apple product? In brief: The value of your time. Thus far, Apple has been far more successful at integrating interface, applications and data. Additionally, as stated in their commercials, Apple is ahead of the trend when it comes to anticipating how consumers actually use their products. They design features to accommodate those needs. Microsoft products require you to constantly tinker with your operating system, including changing settings, fixing compatibility issues, scanning the registry for malware and defragmenting your hard drive. And the list wouldn’t be complete without mention of the extensive troubleshooting required upon encountering the infamous blue screen of death, with which every Microsoft user is familiar.
There’s something to be said for a computer that doesn’t require frequent maintenance. Time is has a monetary value. After spending a certain amount of time fixing your PC, perhaps the Mac becomes a better value after all. In case you’re wondering which kind of computer I own, I’m the kind of consumer who buys a computer based on how I plan to use it rather than marketing, and I expect you are, too.

Regarding Yesterday

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 20th, 2009, 07:51
Category: Opinion

As you may have noticed, there was no news yesterday.
Not that there wasn’t news, per se. Things happened, software was updated and announcements were made and covered.
From my end, I spent a fair amount of the day at a local glass repair location since someone had decided to put a rock through my front passenger window, then bounce the same rock off my front windshield, starring about 40% of it.
I mean, how best to celebrate the six month anniversary of my car not being broken into than by breaking into my car?
The good news is this brought me over my $500 deductible, so you can’t argue with that. Plus, they left the rock…so I have a bonus rock if I need it.
The bad news is they snagged my Garmin Nuvi GPS unit and my Griffin FM radio transmitter for my iPod (which were actually stowed away in the middle console and out of sight).
The stuff’s mostly been replaced, no one was hurt and the police have yet to assign someone from Loose Cannon Division to the case. Still, there was zero coverage yesterday and I apologize. You guys come to the page every day and this is appreciated.
On that note, I’ve invested in a trustworthy new anti-theft device to follow my Honda Civic around town. There have been rumors that its performance and track record is a bit spotty, but it’s running Windows Vista and nothing could possibly go wrong…
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Chris

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