Posts Tagged ‘apple’

Apple dictation test… and ironic fail

Monday, July 30th, 2012

I’ve just updated to the new Mac OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion and one of the features is dictation. Double-tap the Fn key and speak. Easy. Although, my first test (and all subsequent tests) have been less than impressive. I’d guess at about 70% accurate – enough to make it a feature that takes too much post-editing to be useful. Maybe it’s my relatively average British voice that threw it off? Must work on my Apple accent…

Anyhoo, the video above shows it failing in a mildly ironic and slightly comedic way so I thought I’d share.

I asked: “This is a test of Apple’s mountain lion dictation. But did it work?”

It heard: “This is a test of apples mountain line dictation[] that didn’t work[]

“… that didn’t work”. Nice touch.

Blue indicates a lack of context checking and red is lust plain wrong. Would love to hear it try and dictate something that Siri says, may get a beautiful moment like Talking Carl.

Apple… frog-marching you through OS updates

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

It seemed innocuous. My father-in-law bought an iPad 2. Now he’s not the most technical of people but loves his gadgets. He bought an iMac when they first came out, has the iPhone 4 blah, blah, blah. So the iPad 2 wasn’t a surprise.

So he gets it home, plugs it into his iMac (the white one, before they became aluminium). iMac says he needs to update his version of iTunes as it was the original version that came with his machine 3 years ago! Fair point. he downloads iTunes and fires up the installer. iMac says he needs to update his OS (he’s still on 10.4) for this version of iTunes to work. So how do you get the latest OS 10.7 Lion? That’s right, only via the App Store… which he can’t get until he updates his OS. Sensing an infinite loop yet?

So seems he has to buy a physical copy of OS 10.6, install that, to be able to download the 10.7 installer. This may not seem that important but it has quite interesting implications. Apple now requires you to go through every OS in a linear fashion. Up until now, you could pootle about with your current OS until you bit the bullet and upgraded to the latest version. It’s how it’s worked until now and is how Windows works. Apple have now guaranteed that any OS version they release is guaranteed to be bought somewhere along your upgrade timeline. And as delivery is digital, it’s money for old rope as far as Apple are concerned.

So then the phone rings. Said father-in-law has solved the problem. he’s just bought a brand new iMac to save the bother of upgrading. That’s certainly one way of doing it. So no need to buy that OS 10.6 update then! Luckily, he buys a firewire cable to connect the two macs together and we fire up the Migration Assistant on both macs. It’s a special app that will seamlessly transfer data from your old mac and put it in the right location on the new one. Brilliant. Only new mac says no. You guessed it, the version of Migration Assistant on the old mac needs updating for it to work. How does this happen? You guessed it, you need to buy the OS 10.6 update.

In a last attempt at circumnavigating the inevitable, I remember that macs can be started in Firewire Mode, turning the mac into nothing more than an expensive external hard drive. I can then just connect the firewire cable, mount the old mac as a drive on the new mac’s desktop and do the migration from there. You guessed it, the firewire drivers in the old mac don’t recognise the new mac as the new mac doesn’t actually run firewire, it has a brand new, Apple only ‘iWires’ connector. And, you guessed it, I need to update the OS to 10.6 to get the new drivers.

And don’t even think of suggesting that I put that new OS 10.7 disc that came with the new mac into the old mac and just install it from there. The installer discs that come with new macs are locked to that model. Devious stuff, or smart, depending on your angle.

So let’s assume you now have 10.6 installed. How do you get that all-important OS 10.7 Lion update? You have to download all 3.74Gb of it via your poor old home internet connection as Apple has decided not to offer any DVD version. Clearly a nod towards removing all DVD drives from Macs in the near future, like they did with the MacBook Air. It is due to be released on a USB stick later this month (hopefully) though. You’ll note the downloaded version is the same cost as the physical DVD version though. I believe the phrase is ‘go figure’.

As with so many Apple advances, the true implications are felt slightly further dow line. I’m watching this one with interest.

iPad 2 : That was my idea.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

First up, I really hated that Windows ad campaign “That was my idea”. No, it wasn’t. It was someone else who probaly worked for Apple, MIT, Microsoft or Xerox. It wasn’t your idea and claiming it is is lying. Stop it.

Anyway, that’s the title rant over. So they previewed the iPad 2 yesterday. I watched the video and found myself nodding and ticking off mental tick-boxes in the sky. Tick boxes put there by my dull disappointment at the original iPad. I wasn’t just “not fussed”, I actively didn’t like it. I detailed them in my snappily named post “20 reasons why the iPad sucks“. Interestingly, Googling “iPad sucks” (in quotes) you get 39,700 exact matches. “Mac sucks” gets 35,600 and “iPod sucks” gets 43,000. So a device that’s been out barely a year has roughly the same amount of “sucks” as a product from the same company that has been out for 10 years (iPod) and 37 years (Mac). Not very scientific but I clearly wasn’t alone.

So iPad 2. How did it stack up against my original gripe list?

1) It’s heavy. Fixed

2) It’s sharp and hurts. Fixed

3) It’s hard to hold. Not Fixed

4) It spins. Fixed

5) It’s symmetrical Not Fixed

6) It’s not stereo. Not Fixed

7) It takes AGES to recharge. Unknown

8 ) It has flaky Wifi. Fixed

9) It looks obvious. Not Fixed

10) It doesn’t play Flash. Not Fixed

11) It crashes. Unknown

12) The menu is too airy. Not Fixed

14) The keyboard tries too hard. Not Fixed

15) It has no Word Processor. Not Fixed

16) It has no cover. Fixed-ish

17) It’s not so portable. Fixed-ish

18) It doesn’t have a stand. Fixed-ish

19) It has no camera. Fixed

20) It’s not so new. Fixed


So that’s a very scientific…

Fixed: 9

Not Fixed: 8

Unknown: 2

So will I buy one yet? The Flash thing is still a bit of a stinker for me. And a few of the things I’d like to do using HTML are still painfully awkward (online timesheets or weekly shop).

But it has PhotoBooth! My kids will love it and make the same daft video and faces they don on my mac. So, if I managed to get enough money together or not go on holiday this year, you know what, yes, probably! So that’s nice. The world can sleep easy tonight.

20 reasons the iPad sucks

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Our fledgling LA office is paying dividends already. A few days after the US launch of the iPad, we had one brought back to the UK office to fiddle with. Clearly I wanted a go and managed to ‘borrow’ it, take it home, show it to my kids and generally pretend it was mine with the aim of answering the $1million question… is there room in my life for one?

First 10 minutes… meh! It’s just a big iPod.

Then I take it home. The vision I have is of a device that sits on the arm of my sofa, neither iPhone nor desktop computer, but somewhere nicely in-between.

First, the good points:

1) It has a big screen

2) The battery lasts longer than I expected. Maybe a day of moderate use when compared to the iPhone 4-6 hours.

3) The kids like it. But they like their DS’s and my iPhone too… and the Xbox 360 and the Wii. To them it’s a chance to play with a gadget when I’ve already told them to switch off the TV and do something more useful. None of them really grasped what the iPad was for though. My son had it about right with “that massive iPhone thing”.

And then the bad points:

1) It’s heavy. Heavier than I imagined. Especially for kids to hold, so games that need accelerometers to control lead to a fair bit of fatigue in small arms.

2) It’s sharp and hurts. The iPhone is rounded and smooth. The iPad has sharp beveled aluminium edges making it feel like a cheap aluminium foldout tray on an economy flight. It’s also partly dur to the small recessed groove around the screen catching your nails or finger joints. Really not much fun after 30 mins or so.

3) It’s hard to hold. Put points 1 and 2 together and pretty soon you figure out it’s hard to hold with one hand. Really not ideal if you have an app that requires typing or screen pressing (like most of them) and you don’t have a flat surface.

4) It spins. The back may be nicely curved but this has a really annoying side-effect. Assuming you have the iPad on a flat, smooth surface, swiping down one side of the screen caused the device to spin. This was really noticeable when my daughter and I played 2 player Air Hockey, one of us had to hold the iPad still. The same was true for drawing applications, requiring delicate strokes nearer the edgest to stop the momentum spinning the iPad around. Likewise, it rocks if you click the screen near the edges.

5) It’s symmetrical and confusing to know which way up it is. Ok, so the screen changes orientation to match but when you need to hit the main menu button, there aren’t enough visual cues to instantly show where the menu button is. You find yourself scrabbling for the volume controls only to find they are on the other corner as you have the iPad upside down. Not a biggie, bit it it annoying.

6) It’s not stereo. For a device with such a beautiful screen for watching movies, bit of a shame.

7) It takes AGES to recharge. Maybe I needed a special iPad charger. Maybe the iPhone charger isn’t beefy enough. But 6 hours? That’s mad. Even then it only got to 85% and I got fed up waiting.

8 ) It has flaky Wifi. Or at least the WiFi re-connection is flaky. My iPhone (and every other device from Nokia N95 to Blackberry) has no problem. So far I’ve had to manually re-connect the WiFi via the Settings menu 3-4 times a day. Curious and irritating in equal measures.

9) It looks obvious. You just can’t get the thing out on the Underground. You’d get mugged the minute you got off the train. Or worse, you’d look like a complete ponce. Either way, not worth the hassle. Obviously it will become less ‘look at me’ as people get used to it but after 7 years, I still have the same feeling with a Sony PSP.

10) It doesn’t play Flash, so ‘browsing the BBC website over breakfast’ (one of my visions of the future) is met by constant “You don’t have flash” warnings. Same with loads of sites. Apple is very vocal about flash. Nice for them, really bad for everyone else. It seems silly that such a capable machine is restricted to the internet we had in the late 1990′s. HTML with stuff in squares. Not ideal.

11) It crashes. It may just be the ‘first release’ HD apps or it may be the older iPhone apps dealing with the on-the-fly rescaling, but some of the apps (mainly games) crash more often than the iPhone. Maybe once every 20 launches. My kids know by habit to hit the round button on the iPad. That’s how often it happens. It hasn’t needed a restart though, which suggests the apps are doing it, but it also happens to the Apple-made apps so it can’t be dismissed as bad app development.

12) The menu is too airy. I want either more icons in the grid or bigger icons. If the iPhone if accurate enough to have them next to each other, why do I need 1inch gaps on the iPad? There’s nothing in the settings that I can find. Just seems pointless to be forced to go through 2 screens when you can fit all the icons on one.

14) The keyboard tries too hard. Now this one got my design / functionality heckles up. The keyboard. Two things. First, look at your keyboard. See those bumps on the F and J keys to help touch-typists and visually impaired people ‘locate’ the keys? Yep, the on-screen keyboard has those. Of course, they are just graphics so are completely useless. An example where attention to detail can be a bad thing. Secondly, you can’t ‘rest’ on the keyboard. On an iPhone, you tend to ‘peck’ at the keyboard. The iPad invites ‘proper typing’ but only as long as you hover above the keys when not typing. Quite a skill.

15) It has no Word Processor. Now you have the new keyboard at your disposal, it’s time to get writing those long Word docs right? Ok, Word = Microsoft so no. Ok, Apple Pages ten. Nope. You get the same basic boy-scout notepad you get with the iPhone. A little restricting.

16) It has no cover. You have to carry a padded envelope with you everywhere to stop it getting scratched (more then the swirly ones on the back from point 4). I can see why Steve Jobs was testing out that prototype envelope at the launch of the MacBook Air.

17) It’s not so portable. You stick an iPhone in your pocket. A laptop goes in its bag with its lid down to protect it. The iPad is in limbo. Too big to go into a pocket (and too heavy) and too exposed to put in something else like a bag with cables and pens. Even carrying it upstairs to put it on charge, you hold the iPad and one other thing, maybe a cup of coffee. It’s a little selfish in that respect.

18) It doesn’t have a stand. So reading the New York Times app (for instance) at the breakfast table requires either an orange placed behind the iPad or the iPad to be laid flat. All content therefore has to be consumed at 45 degrees to your eyes… or you have to lean over the iPad… you have to hold it in one hand (see point 2). Even charging it takes a lot of space as it has to lay on a surface. My bedside cabinet ‘charge station’ looks a bit cramped now.

19) It has no camera. And therefore not even a forward facing webcam. It would be great to sit on the sofa and chill out on a video call with your relatives in Australia or take snaps to put into the Photo app. Currently you have to sync your photos to see them… it’s like having an iPod Photo all over again. Missing a big trick there.

20) It’s not so new. And finally, after following Apple’s recent hard-line strategies on everything from mobile chipset takeovers, lawsuits, patent challenges, forcing developers to use their APIs, changing Terms at the last minute to undermine the Adobe CS5 launch, refusing to allow plugins on their iPhone-based products… I can’t help wanting to take a step back and reassess the Apple bandwagon. I get an uneasy feeling it’s a case of the Emperors New Clothes.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the iPad. It’s sort of nice. But my iPhone made an instant impact. It was a game changer. The iPad seems simply to be a bigger iPod marketed as something truly miraculous. I can’t see past the thought that it’s just an iPod HD upgrade. Like the Nintendo DSi XL is to the DSi.  Not sure a larger screen qualifies it as a revolution just yet. I’ll wait for iPad 2 maybe. The one with the rubber back, a stand, a camera, soft sides and hinge in the middle so I can carry it.

The real reason your iPhone will NEVER get Flash

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Oh, for crying out loud. If I read one more blog post about why Flash doesn’t work on an iPod / iPad / iPhone I’m going to scream. I bit my lip when the “because the swf format is not open source” comments started. I rolled my eyes when the “it’s because they hate each other” nonsense took hold. Same with the processor hogging / battery life debate. And now I’ve just read a post that argues the fact that roll-over states can’t be implemented on a touch screen as the main reason. The fact that every App on the App store seems to get on fine without a roll-over state and a simple change in approach to flash design would solve it, seems to be too much of a mountain to climb. [Update] Seems Mike Chambers is with me too. Flash designers (myself included at times) have the same attitude to Accessibility, I.e. I would have to change, so it’s not worth it. Each arguement has a valid point some extent but all in all, they are (in my opinion) just pointless finger waving compared to the main issue.

As is customary at this point, on this subject, I seem to have to declare my allegiances. Yes I develop Flash and have for years. But I also have experience publishing iPhone apps and the inner workings of the iPhone development (and deployment) world. I’ve also been coding since 1982. I was there before flash and the iPhone and I’ll be there after no doubt. I’ve seen many things come and go and have a job in a digital agency where I get involved in the inner workings of the business models of certain platforms and content strategies. I like my iPhone, I like Flash, I like Adobe, I like Apple.

Right, that’s that out of the way. What’s my point? The App store model is the ONLY point. So 3 billion Apps have been download, of which an estimated $75million goes to Apple EACH MONTH. That’s profit btw. They didn’t develop the Apps, they don’t have to support the Apps, Apple simply take their 30% of the App revenue to cover ‘making it happen’.

If you want to play a game on the iPhone, you download the App.

If you want to play a game on a PC / Mac, you go to Miniclip or similar and play a Flash game. The ad-funded or Advergame model may not be perfect but it does seem to, just about, keep the internet free.

In fact, if you want to do many things on your PC / Mac, you will probably find a Flash or Java ‘something’ for it. Quite literally… “there’s a free App for that”.

Now imagine what would happen to that juicy $75million a month if you just went to a full screen Flash App on a website using Safari. Yep, you wouldn’t pay a thing for a game again.

Apple innovated with music downloads when others were struggling to come up with a model. With the App Store, Apple have also managed to get people to pay for low-level content too. Something not achieved before. Of course they wouldn’t want to allow Flash to punch big, leaky holes in their ever-so-tight monopoly for extending the iPhone’s functionality. I can’t EVER see a point where Apple will let this change unless all Flash content is preceded with an ‘pay now’ popup or micro-payment system or, heaven forbid, Adobe pays a hefty fee each month ($75million?) to offset Apple’s loss in profit.

So it’s not about handbags at dawn, it’s not about something as trivial as a rollover state, it’s (unsurprisingly) about guarding a business model that makes more in a month than most companies make in their lifetime.

I do love the blurring of the edges however. Those ‘screw you’ moments like Gordon, completely written in iPhone-browser-friendly javascript that allows simple Flash to be played in the Safari browser. I also like Adobe’s own (rather cobbled together) functionality in the upcoming Adobe Creative Suite 5 to allow Flash to be compiled directly as an iPhone App. For Flash developers, Apple has turned itself into the cliché vision of King Kong, swatting off the annoying advances of desperate attackers determined to find a weakness, and exploit it. Will they succeed? I hope so. Will Apple’s clean, tidy walled-garden get scruffy and diluted? Probably. Will Flash content be on your iPhone any time soon? No.

iPhone OS 3.0 GM SEED install error -9807

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Just installed the iPhone OS 3.0 GM seed file onto my iPhone 3G from my iMac. I’m part of the iPhone Developers program so the ‘seed’ means ‘pre-release’, as the official update isn’t due until the 17th June or so. So slightly excited and nervous just in case something went wrong.

So, initially all went well. Process was something like this…

  1. Download the .dmg disk image
  2. Open it to view the .ipsw file
  3. Fire up iTunes, select the iPhone
  4. VERY IMPORTANT: **Backup the phone** You may need the backup data later!!!
  5. Option-click (alt-click) the ‘restore’ button
  6. In the dialogue box, locate the .ipsw file
  7. Wait for it to do its thing and restart the phone
  8. Restarted iTunes… PROBLEM!!

The iPhone had a ‘connect to iTunes’ diagram on it’s screen and wouldn’t go any further. Like so…

Restarted iTunes then it threw an error…

“We could not complete your iTunes Store request. An unknown error occurred (-9807).”

This can happen with the iTunes store and keychain errors, so I repaired my keychain. No change to the error though.

The iPhone was visible intermittently in iTunes but had no options or content listed under the icon, even right-clicking it just displayed ‘Eject’. Tried restarting both Mac and iPhone. No joy.

Finally tracked it down to a permissions thing. Luckily, I had a few user accounts set up on my iMac, so I logged out of mine and into another. If you don’t have them, then set one up from the System Preferences/Accounts panel. Fired up iTunes in the other account and the iPhone sprang to life! Yay!

Then I logged into the main user account again, fired up iTunes again and everything worked.

I then noticed my data hadn’t actually migrated back during the update (apps, prefs, photos etc.). Thank god for that backup I just did (see above). So I then restored to the backup. This restores the data, not the OS, so I still have OS 3.0 etc.

I then had to manually synced the Applications back (as I had them set to manually sync anyway) and it finally looks like it was supposed to!

Had a quick play and all my emails are there, text messages intact, contacts, ringtones, apps etc. Had to move my apps around the screen manually to tidy them up but apart from that all good.

Hopefully this won’t happen to the public release but hope this helps if you do need it.

:: STOP PRESS ::

Just found this entry that may help. If you’ve got Little Snitch running on your Mac, you may be seconds away from the answer!

iTunes 8 visualizer… wow!

Monday, September 29th, 2008

The new iTunes 8 has been out for a few weeks and I finally got around to installing it. Interface is interesting. I think it’s better… maybe. I’ve yet to try the Genius ‘similar songs’ picker thing as it come with a pretty scary privacy warning. Here’s a taste…

The information sent to Apple includes details about the media in your iTunes library such as track names, play counts, and ratings. This information will be stored with an anonymous Genius ID and not linked to your iTunes Account. When using the iTunes Store or Genius sidebar, Apple will also use your purchase history to give you better recommendations.

Hmmm, not sure just yet.

However, I had a wow-moment when I saw the new Visualizer (the old one is still there if you like it btw). If you don’t know what it is, it’s a real-time ‘screensaver’ that reacts to your music. It’s under the iTunes ‘view’ menu or Apple-M on a mac fires it into life. The new version is simply awesome. It’s the ultimate proof that in the right hands, maths can be excruciatingly beautiful. If you have it running, press ‘M’ to go tough all of the various styles. My kids spent about an hour staring at it, that’s longer than they spent the entire weekend watching TV!

Incidentally, I’ve been playing with the Apple developers kit and the ‘Quartz’ compiler is amazing. Quartz is the environment used to create visual effects such as screensavers, iTunes visualizers, graphic filters and so on. Literally drag and drop coding and the results make the eyebrows of even the most hardened anti-Mac fan boy rise a few feet above their egg-shaped foreheads. Will post something soon.

STOP PRESS

Complete coincidence but the day after writing this post, I attended a presentation by the the creator of the new iTunes visualiser, Robert Hodgin at Flash On the Beach in Brighton. One of the brightest people you are ever going to meet. I dare you to watch his render of Magnetosphere and disagree. All built in Processing… if I had a cloning machine, my clever alter-ego would be learning Processing as we speak. Simply mind-blowing in the right hands!

My first iPhone app…

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Yep… I make my first iPhone app and it really is that simple to compile. No reason for the Chuck Norris image really, I had to use something. I don’t actually have an iPhone yet so I even find the emulator fun to play with at the moment.

The Xcode development platform absolutely rocks but if I’m honest, I only get half of it. It really is a half and half thing. The half I get is the interface constructor, the UI libraries and so on. The half I don’t get is the slightl weird Visual C syntax of the code. If you know C or maybe even AS2 or 3, some of it will be familiar but the rest is propper strange. Most of the answers to “why?” are “because you have to”. Still, I fully realise its my lack of cleverness rather than Apple’s dev platform. They seem to have done pretty well with it so far.

Anyway, I’m off to get some more skill, so watch this space.