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Everything Missing From iOS 9 Part 5 (or What I Want From iOS 10)

This post continues my list of  iOS 10 features I want to see. Click here for part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4

Visual interface

Stop blocking the screen with the volume indicator. Volume indicator dots across the status bar. Obstructing the time momentarily is more acceptable than obstructing potentially time sensitive screen content such as video. This will be more important for VR as it becomes more popular. The current volume indicator takes you out of your visual experience, ruining the effect. Many video apps have a slider in a top or bottom corner  for  volume control, while others don’t (looking at you, YouTube). It’s not consistent and ruins the experience; video is video, present it to me in the same fashion. We already have movable elements on the screen like the picture-in-picture window, so why not add more for indicators?

Use of a dark mode is now a common option in a lot of apps. I have grown to enjoy this feature in any apps where I’m doing extensive reading and I now even expect it as an option. I have even used it on the Mac for some time since it was released in 2014 with OS X Yosemite. I believe at this time, Apple could offer it across all the stock apps as a system preference. As someone who grew up with soothing green-on-black and amber-on-black screens of the first terminals that appeared in homes, this is a welcome and comfortable view of the screen. Apple has been very good about making the visual experience more soothing and combining this with night shift and true tone would really make the tablet reading experience more lifelike. Note dark mode is not the same as the reduced contrast view which just seems to indiscriminately flip light for dark in a stark and unnatural black and white interface.

This naturally leads into themes. Everyone has their own personal preferences, so why not allow users to customize their experience their way? Why not allow someone to have everything pumpkin orange on a green background if they choose? At the very least allow approved themes, as long as dark mode is one of them. Obviously not all apps would benefit and this would detract from the seriousness of many apps. A lot of combinations would even be overly gaudy, taking away from the mostly curated look of the stock OS and device. Similar to Apple Watch face customizations, Apple needs to be careful in what is and is not allow to be themed. 

The share sheet icons for communicating between apps takes up a large part of the screen across the narrowest part of your device. By luck, the icon I want to use at any given moment is somehow always off-screen no matter how I rearrange the icon positions. Allowing the share sheet to alternately appear as a list view, like the Locations feature for email attachments, would give more options on the screen at once.

The multitasking in iOS 9 is great as a first gen capability but in this next version it still needs a major overhaul. It seems like Apple did not expect so many apps to be on board with multitasking since finding the app you’re looking for can be annoying. The same sorting and search I mentioned for Notification Center should appear here or even a mini version of the home screen. Drag and drop between multitasks apps is such a natural was of sharing. Why put people through the extra steps of having to go through share sheets when the second app is already visible on the screen.

Apple’s feature list is now large enough that most users are confused about what they can do, especially when features like multitasking do not have obvious manipulation handles on the screen. I don’t think such a visual guide for letting people know the feature exists but adding such a handle would crowd the interface more. I do think the devices now need an Explore app for major feature tutorials, similar to that on the Apple Watch app for new users. An app with videos that quickly explain a feature would keep users in the Apple ecosystem while learning instead of going off into YouTube for amateur presentations.

If you like what you see in these posts, please take the time to share on social media. Thanks for reading!

(Continued in part 6)

Everything Missing From iOS 9 Part 4 (or What I Want From iOS 10)

This post continues my list of  iOS 10 features I want to see. Want to read the previous posts? Click here for part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Notification Center

Notifications need better organization. I don’t mean having the ability to go into settings and change it as a preference but to change it on the fly as you are browsing the Notification Center. Right now we have Today and Notifications listed in Notification Center. Under Notifications itself you could have yet another row of columns to pick for sorting the notification objects. Being able to sort by time and date vs sorted by app vs combination app and date are very useful choices. That’s real message management like you have with email.

Notification Center is still missing stock sharing panes that were removed in iOS6. I’d love to see those social sharing panes come back. A few apps have similar widgets that appear in the notification center but they do not work the same way.

Home Screen

While Notification Center is a great place to have widgets, the home screen itself can be too. I think it is reasonable to believe that Apple could allow widgets in the place of icons in 1×1, 1×2, 2×1, 2×2, etc layouts while following the same rules that the Apple Watch icons have of only updating about once an hour, to avoid draining your battery. This works out very well for the home screen clock icon which even has a second hand that constantly animates smoothly as you see it on the screen, so it should be allowed for other app icons. I think a large square icon that can update live once per hour would still be better than the now static display of icons.

When the iPad Pro came out, Apple made the gap between home screen icons more ridiculously large than ever. The fact that you can place an original iPhone screen in between the icons (by resolution, not actual phone size) highlights the fact that the original idea no longer scales. I would really like to get icons as close together as possible, mainly because I prefer as few swipes as necessary to find my apps. This would also allow more icons to be visible in folders on these bigger screens, especially if we can get the icons to be as close on iPad Pro as they are on an iPhone SE. The current limitations on visible icons seems very out of date; it is not beautiful looking on the iPad Pro, it is silly. Either allow me to make the icons seem smaller or allow me to reduce the gap between them, or give me a combination of the two.  I’m not asking for hexagonal Apple Watch style icon arrangement, as that would not work for the larger screens that allow many more icons; it would just be a confusing mess. What I’m asking for is:

  • the ability to custom place icons without snapping to grid in the current 3×3 folder layout or the 6×4 home screen icon layouts.
  • the ability to tightly pack icons together into a row or pile of icons, scaling up for bigger sized displays from iPad mini all the way up to iPad Pro, that then expand when clicked.
  • something more evolved than the current grid that would allow us to sort things the way we want and would let me switch between views of sort by date last used, the usual manual layout, sort by date last installed/updated, sort by last notified.
  • folder tagging, more than just the name. Icons already have the little blue dot next to them for indicating the app has been updated, or an orange dot for TestFlight beta apps. How about allowing me to set a little green or purple square or triangle next to a folder to tag it in a fashion that is clear to me.

We need the home screen to be closer to the more intuitive real desktop pile metaphor that we use in our daily lives. I don’t advocate the terrible photo pile of icons that old photo collage used to skeuomorphically emulate. I just want something more manipulatable. Launcher by Cromulent Labs has a great interface for resizing widget icons that could be adapted to the OS itself.

Dragging icons around the page or across pages has also become a messy job that should be more painless. Mistakenly slide wrong and you have icons flowing into other pages. A move icon in another corner after a long press could let you accurately place an icon on another page without having to slide many icons back into place after a mistake.

(Continued in Part 5)

Everything Missing From iOS 9 Part 3 (or What I Want From iOS 10)

This post continues my list of  iOS 10 features I want to see. Looking for my previous posts? Click here for part 1 or part 2.


Recent releases of software and hardware keyboards for iOS have proven to be welcome new changes.  The typing interface  is powerful but still has more to go before it matches that which we expect in other keyboards. Just as alternate physical keyboards are needed for localization on desktops and laptops, there should be customized keyboards for iPad that allow pro functionality such as trackpad and Esc key for a premium. I would say $269 for such a premium Smart Keyboard is a fair price vs $169 for the current Smart Keyboard cover. This would make iPad more like a Mac for those of us ready to make the switch to a true PC replacement. Citrix has even come out with the X1 its own mouse for working with remote desktops. Migrating from Windows can be less jarring if all the trappings are there for users to switch to more seamlessly. While the idea of working on Windows is scary for some, it’s a fact of life for many. The move to Apple was easy for me back in 2008 with the Mac Mini and then the MacBook – the move to iPad Pro should be easier.

For third party software keyboards, access to transcription, the system dictionary, improved stability, and improved startup speed are sorely needed. Third party keyboards are so slow to start up, can crash more often, and do not allow you to immediately switch back to a specific keyboard unless it is the only third party keyboard installed. They also do not allow access to the system spellcheck, meaning every keyboard you use has its own dictionary to build for predictive typing. They are effectively (seems purposely) painful to use despite the noise Apple made about this welcome feature back in iOS 8. Apple either either ignored further development of third party software keyboards in iOS 9 or they originally intended to only provide enough functionality to shut up critics who claimed the feature was missing.

Keyboards like Slash, Reboard and Touchpal offer great features but each seem to have one unique feature that the others do not and which cannot be combined in any way with the others. For instance, ReBoard can let you set the globe icon to require a doubletap to switch keyboards so that you don’t mistakenly get some other keyboard popping on your screen in the middle one typing frenzy, while Slash pops up a menu that let’s you access settings and switching. ReBoard has an emoji key and a function key in the top row, where Slash has only a function key that requires more typing to get to emoji (the next most common mobile use after the actual alphanumerics). ReBoard has access to network services like Dropbox and Google Drive. ReBoard also has a really cool swipe up feature on keys for alternate characters that keeps you from having to look for the most commonly used punctuation and alternate characters. Slash has themes and a dark mode while Reboard has themes and no dark mode. Note that the stock Apple keyboards already have some great features, but wouldn’t they be better with more?

If there was some way to combine features of these and still keep it stable, I would use nothing else but the third party keyboard. At the moment I find myself switching right back to the stock system keyboard the moment I try going back to using one of those special features, reminded of how badly crippled that software is. Although it would increase the complexity, iOS keyboards are begging to be much more modular. The idea behind these is revolutionary and should be expanded. If I could have a row of small modular keys like Drafts 4 does to give me text manipulation and media management, I can build a system keyboard for use everywhere in all apps. I can imagine a keyboard using ReBoard’s swipe up idea that allows me to set the alternate characters you want, since everyone’s alternatives are going to be different. A gif search from Slash. Arrow keys from Drafts and Prompt. Etc.

Requiring each and every developer to reinvent things like spell check is extremely redundant and wasteful. Denying access to important functions like transcription can be a real deterrent to using third party keyboards. Make this a revolutionary change that we can all use of to improve quick interaction with our device when we aren’t using Siri. Allowing physical keyboards some way to interact with these virtual keyboards would go even further.

UPDATE 05-13-2016: Google has release GBoard which has some of the great features of the other third party keyboards listed. The argument then becomes, why does’t Apple now evolve the keyboard to allow these features that everyone is trying to put forth. Google’s opportunistic play at grabbing searches is obvious now that iPhone no longer comes with Google Search by default, but the idea of search from the keyboard as a point.

UPDATE 05-14-2016: The always-brilliant Federico Viticci has posted a fantastic summary on third party keyboards, the problems they still face, the reasons for Apple’s restrictions, and some great ways that Apple can let developers work around the limitations to improve them all.


For iMessage, bringing Apple Watch style Digital Touch drawing would be a cute addition. These are touch devices at heart and drawing is one of the best ways we communicate via touch. Stickers are a big deal in all the messaging apps, cute or not. A modular stickers capability could give designers more opportunity in the app market. “Anyone can make stickers” is as valid as saying anybody can paint a painting. Just like with the App Store, you are guaranteed to get some poor quality content. The better quality items will always come shining through, however. A picture could really be worth a few thousand words here.

iMessage has some real issues cross platform especially when it comes to SMS support. There are times where I have deleted a conversation on my phone, yet it still appears on my iPad, and as unread to boot. Even rarer but still annoying is when it happens on the Apple Watch. We know that those green bubble texts are not actually a part of iMessage, but in displaying them Apple now owns the handling and it looks sloppier than what we expect.

(Continued in Part 4)

Everything Missing From iOS 9 Part 2 (or What I Want From iOS 10)

This post continues my list of  iOS 10 features I want to see. Click here for the first part. Other parts will be posted leading up to WWDC 2016.


This could be seen as a continuation of the Maps topic but I want more location features. If Apple is so concerned with their customers, allow more people to define when they are in their car than just those that buy into CarPlay. I own an Automatic OBD2 Bluetooth device and it would be great if the iPhone understood that when I am in very close proximity of the adapter, I am driving in my car.

Triggering specific actions for travel as if you would for an iBeacon would save time: open my Plex Music and start my favorite playlist, automatically open Maps if I have an appointment in my calendar, set my favorite stations when I’m driving my car, allow notification via text/iMessage or third party app when I arrive at a location or if I’m running behind, allow that notification if I arrive at a travel hub such as a train station or airport, if I arrive at a train station and have an appointment scheduled then send me to the URL I’ve defined for a train schedule, etc. Proactive Siri seems like the right tool for this but would it be able to handle location triggers without killing your battery?

I also work in two locations for the same company, alternating between sites on an irregular schedule. Both should be defined as “Work” but for most software that only means one single address. Allow more flexibility since even in the above example, a family can have more than one car. Maybe I also have a vacation home or visit my parents home, places that I would stay at more than a couple of days at a time and could use some automation triggers other than an alarm clock and reminders.

Improving safety between locations is also within the power of handset manufacturers. There has to be a way to strongly suggest that customers driving in cars stop texting. Shocking photos like those posted on cigarette packs in other countries in dialog boxes would be too strong, but making the phone’s use annoying at certain speeds would be a real life saver; obviously the logic behind that would be a hard problem given that it would also annoy commuters. For instance a bus or train car full of people could be within a box defined by beacons as being passengers but a car would be required to beacon so that you have to correctly identify as passenger or driver under penalty of law. Here is a beautiful example of tech used to enumerate objects within a vehicle using Bluetooth.

Siri Eyes Free is a step in the right direction but a physical button still needs to be located on the steering wheel. Studies show that anything requiring interaction with something physical in the car takes seconds away from the average driver, seconds that can be disastrous at high speeds. Muscle memory cannot always be counted on since every vehicle still insists on unique layouts of wipers and turn signals and paddles. A voice activated system is still the best solution not only because being conversational is more subconscious but because it is also something a passenger can participate in as a copilot rather than always have the driver putting lives at risk. Our handheld friends are great devices that we are all obviously addicted to, but we have to smarten up and let ourselves be guided in this case.


Another long standing omission is not allowing contact groups to be managed from iOS. The great app Interact came about to help with that missing feature although there have been many apps that have attempted to fix this over the years. Right now you really only have the Favorites group (for allowing calls through from Do Not Disturb) or the VIP group  (for those special people in your email inbox) unless you go into iCloud.com or your Mac to manage contacts. That seems like a crippling speed bump to anyone’s workflow if they never sync their mobile device, are mobile-only, or just don’t have a Mac. That sounds like a corner case but it really is a majority of iPhone users.

Contact duplicates are also a pain. Somehow between all the different mail systems I use (iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, Exchange, Hotmail) I end up with duplicate contacts that I occasionally review and Link. This is a total waste of time now that my contacts number in the thousands after 20 years in IT. I would love for something like LinkedIn to come along and intelligently manage my contact updates but the fear of them spamming everyone in my address book again still lingers. Improve on the idea of LinkedIn by bilaterally recommending a contact based on sets that others I may know: you have a sales person in your contacts but not the technical engineer that works with him. Just don’t turn it into a giant cold call sheet like LinkedIn has become lately.

With circles of friendship or defined relationships you can start allowing certain groups of people access to your free/busy time (and your calendar details if you so choose), contact sharing, media sharing. Wouldn’t it be great if this linked into Facebook permissions somehow? That would be a great place to start since it’s a mature permissions standard. Otherwise if there is no further development for Find My Friends, it has to be one of the dumbest wastes of time Apple has ever made.

iCloud photos gallery

Apple may not realize this, but I do have friends that have Android devices. I would like to share photos with these non-Apple people, despite their judgement in choice of mobile devices. Currently Flickr and Facebook fill this role for me but they are separate from where I take my photos. Experiments like Facebook’s Moments really show that we are still struggling to figure out how and where we want this to be controlled in a manner simple enough for most to understand. Sharing from iOS 9 into these services is great but it is only a one way flow, and there is no real management going on. Something like this should hook into other social media where we save photos, to aggregate our media: Flickr, Google Photos, Facebook, Twitter, etc to aggregate our images into one view and work with some of the mature controls such as Facebook’s friend permissions for family and acquaintances. This leads us right to more collaborative album sharing where photos taken by people at the same event can be grouped to provide even more dimension. Find My Friends could hook into this to become more useful by managing contacts in a role sense and give some security to where we allow this all to flow. Is that too much for the average user to understand? The confusion surrounding Facebook’s permissions may suggest that is sometimes the case. This can be solved by “interviewing” the user with a sharing wizard and settings some rules managed by some AI: I have kids so do not show photos with kids to anyone outside my immediate family or my closet circle of friends; these are photos at my office, it’s ok to share with coworkers; these are pictures of forms that have health data picked up by OCR so share with nobody.

Additionally, Apple should see that sharing with Android users is another avenue for connecting to Android users to bring them into the Apple fold. Just as Google Photos is available on the iPhone, an iCloud Photos app on other platforms is not a bad idea.

(continued in Part 3)


Everything Missing From iOS 9 Part 1 (or What I Want From iOS 10)


This is the first of an 11 part series on what was originally just a bullet list of features I thought iOS 10 could use and then somehow became a 6000 word essay. I thought breaking this up would be more digestible.)

Everyone who pays attention to Apple knows that June is WWDC month. I’ve gotten so used to the excitement surrounding it that every year, months before June I start thinking of all the things I hope that the next version of iOS will bring. This is my wish list of features I hope that Apple will promise at WWDC for the next version of iOS, a bit longer than my previous list 4 years ago. To my surprise almost all of those items are not yet part of the OS. Some of the items below are flaws in the OS which should fixed at some point and some of them would just be nice to have. None of these are major reimaginings of the OS; they are the incremental features we have become used to each year with new iOS releases. It is these types of feature requests that provide fertile ground for the hacking communities to provide jailbreak tweaks that make the device just that much more efficient and productive. While I never jailbreak any of my devices, I can see the point. Some very creative minds are out there constantly improving their iOS device with perfectly valid enhancements in the jailbreak community. Surely the minds at Apple are dreaming up similar big ideas.

Wifi Priority

While our family has a 30 GB data plan for all of our phones, I’m thankful that my cable company provides Wifi around town. Unfortunately, that wifi has plenty of issues – it acts up at random times, has dead spots where you can only get weak signal, and seems to have APs that are broadcasting but not connected to anything. I’m sick of forcing myself off of it when I’m at a location that provides better wifi, so I would like to see a listing of known SSIDs under an Advanced menu that I can reorder as a priority list. If I’m at home, I don’t want to get caught connected to my neighbor’s cable company provided wifi, I want to be on my own wifi. I purposely turned it off at home because I don’t want the rest of my home network directly attached to their network, no matter how security they claim it is, and it don’t want other customers of this cable company using my bandwidth. Right now my choice is to either go into iOS settings and swap networks each and every night I come home, or just leave wifi off when I am away from home. I also don’t want to delete the cable provider wifi profile because it comes in handy at local businesses and other places I stop around town. I want to keep it as a last resort when there are absolutely no other options. Those are not great choices, so please give me a way of controlling wifi network priority through my digital companion’s smarts.


The mapping software space is a very hot and crowded spot on mobile devices. Apple is quite behind on this and has lots of room to improve compared to Google Maps and Waze. A quick list of missing features:

  • Maps lane guidance accuracy
  • Maps waypoints insertions
  • Select visual theme (night mode all the time)
  • Alternate route choices showing increased or decreased arrival times.Uber/left
  • More transportation choices (biking)
  • Integrate Uber/Lyft

Maps Nearby feature plus Find My Friends – Apple just seems to be flirting with the location game concept. It is begging to be taken all the way into the world of checkins. What the heck, just finally buy Foursquare for cryin out loud!
Allow Find My Friends to have more circles of friendship along with contact groups that iOS still doesn’t allow you to do. More on that later.

(Continued in Part 2

VR Is the Surprise Technology of 2016

SXSW 2016 was one of the biggest tech events of the year. It brought some real focus to the VR/AR efforts being put forth by companies like Sony and Oculus along with some new small surprise players. This year the push to VR/AR is harder than ever. One of the biggest surprise announcements in the social networking world at SXSW is the move of Robert Scoble from Rackspace into the VR space with UploadVR. This is an important indicator because it reflects a shift from mobile entertainment to virtual entertainment.

The shift in the tech industry is worth noting because we have been in a post-PC world since the smartphone revolution of 2007, where most of the computing is being done on our pocket devices and tablets, disconnecting us from the need to be at a static, unmovable, power-sucking workstation. The VR world, in the sense of providing the most realism, requires more horsepower than even the most powerful mobile device can bring to bear for rendering reality. While devices like the iPad Pro are able to edit audio and video streams, this is not enough to drive 360 degree world content. Since dipping into “the Matrix” of VR is something one doesn’t take sitting down for a bite at Panera or standing on a bus, this is not the inconvenience you might first imagine. Nobody “does VR” with the same rapid attention shift we do for quick YouTube videos – it is done for a longer term basis to change the realities we experience. This may also mean a shift back from short staccato burst Vine style entertainment back to the traditional longer involved experiences we see with TV and movie viewing. The difference is the interactive possibilities that will let us participate in some of our entertainment.

I certainly don’t expect VR to turn my job into the “It’s UNIX!” moment from Jurassic Park (plz no) but I think VR is certainly the future of entertainment. Things like 3DTV and curved displays only hinted at what is already going on with VR which will be driving the release of new even higher resolution phone displays coming into the market. I think VR will soon get us to the point of obviating large screen TVs and tablets for the average buyer the way smaller phone and tablet displays took over TV and movies. Nobody will need an 80″ or even a 12″ screen when a 6″ smartphone just inches from your face will fill your field of view and simulate 20′ displays. It hints at the logical extension of this being a future interface that is quite the opposite of the large screen trend; the screen inside the helmet as the only visible interface you will ever need that connects with a tiny headless Wifi/LTE capable black box which your low power Bluetooth devices like a fitness monitoring smart watch and headphones also connect to. It hints at screen resolutions greater than 4K to keep you from seeing the pixels at that close a range. With browsers like Andy Martin’s VRambling Cardboard based web browser, VR makers try to make your long hours of web browsing inside of a visor. This is a further opportunity for advertisers and other accessory segments of the entertainment market to keep you immersed longer if they can avoid making their content take you out of the VR experience. Although I mention the ubiquity of small screens, the screens in your mobile device do not have the power to fully render true realism. For that we need compute intensive resources like Oculus Rift and dedicated workstations. This classic cost/quality/performance decision will be a painful trade off for VR users.

While the Sony PS4 and Oculus promise to be powerful experiences, they are equally and prohibitively expensive considering all the gear required. I am impressed with the HTC Vive and the Samsung Gear VR headsets but they are still overly costly for someone who wants to dip their toe in VR for the first time. There are still ways for the more frugal of us to experience VR:
Step 1: Buy cheap VR headset here or here
Step 2: Enable DLNA in your streaming software (My choice is Plex)
Step 3: Get Google Cardboard compatible SBS VR DLNA player app from your App Store
Step 4: Wow

For now we only had an old Google Cardboard headset in the house because one of the kids sprung for it at Engadget Expand a little over a year ago where they began to push VR. A “VR Box 2″ headset with a tiny handheld Bluetooth controller the size of a clicker is available for $20 (free shipping) which we will be waiting a few weeks for. It can accommodate smartphones 3.5″ to 6” Since I have a Plex server at home for streaming my home movies, I downloaded the @mgatelabs Mobile VR Station app as my Google Cardboard app of choice because it does DLNA. Everyone at home that I showed it to was immediately wow’d by how immersive and close to reality it all was to watch a movie. Mobile VR Station has an extension that you can use to demo HTML5 content such as the reference video Big Buck Bunny from Youtube. Just amazing. While I don’t care much for basketball, the free Big East court side VR seats are really smart way to promote the sport and this is the perfect time of the year to market that. The content out there is exploding with VR possibilities.

There are a few quality VR apps freely available such as the Discovery channel VR, Roller coasters, and travel tours. As someone who can spend hours in a small section of Museum of Natural History, the idea of VR museum tours is exciting. It not only spreads the arts further but let’s you experience something you might not even be geographically close to ever visiting. You should also pay attention for things like @funnyordie’s Interrogation which I really think will be the type of hypnotizing entertainment we will experience as the norm in a few years. The more boring world of real estate VR tours have been around for quite some time, though the 3D they used in the past was gimmicky spherical rerenderings of regular 2D photos. I want real 3D walk-throughout of environments where you actually experience being in that space. I feel the pinnacle of this will be a social VR player where you watch movies or perform other activities “in a room” synced with friends, whether or not actually in same room, and walking through their real or realistically rendered home. Having read Ready Player One last year (too bad the movie isn’t coming out til 2018), I think the book was very prescient about what we will see in VR the next few years with respect to interactions and avatars. It will be way beyond the Sims/Mii level avatars of vTime and provide you with the option to skin avatars with commercially available characters. For those that are uncomfortable or incompatible with the bodies they have been naturally provided, it offers real game changing possibilities. Think of what Facebook or Tinder could do with that!

If you are interested in generating your own 360-degree VR environments today, look at Splash announced by Robert Scoble the day before their app released. While I was very impressed with its ability to generate and share Google Cardboard and Facebook 360 video experiences as easily as someone can Snapchat, the content produced by Splash looks very jerky and improperly stitched. Artists expecting to producing captivating 360 VR content will need orders of magnitude more talent to keep people immersed. For instance, Penny Arcade’s @cwgabriel used Tiltbrush in the latest strip – that level of interactivity can keep users working for extended periods. It speaks volumes on how fast this is all already moving and quickly blooming into a visual revolution. It has truly come a long way from the blocky geometry days of VMRL.

Google would be wise to get a Google Cardboard mode into their Youtube app right away. The early adopters in these early days are going to set the standards and they could leverage Cardboard as the de facto API to cement the foothold in as many areas as possible. This is a nascent era of the tech, a small window of opportunity that won’t come again, and soon mobile vendors won’t have a choice but to API integrate it.

Only real complaint with mobile phone VR is it becomes a dedicated single purpose device, so proper handling of notifications becomes important. Notifications can take you out of the VR experience the same way they can pull you out of other things you experience on a daily basis: work and entertainment. Systems like BigScreen hope to keep you in VR spaces even longer and will need to handle notifications as part of your perceived environment.

We are going to see the gaming space rapidly expand in VR too. Can you imagine Mario Cart in 360 degree? (Look behind you!) Sadly, I haven’t kept up with gaming the past few years and get motion sick pretty quickly. VR gaming will only exacerbate that for me; I even got vertigo with the Cirque demo in Samsung Gear VR because I looked behind myself too quickly, not expecting the edge of the stage to be there. Adaptive systems like IonVR promise to fix that for me. Update: this is what Sony has planned for PlayStation VR which is pretty ambitious: http://youtu.be/0vrUNZR9iro

This is the year to bet big on VR, especially given the mystery surrounding Apple’s rumored VR efforts. I anxiously await the 2016 March Apple event next week to see if anything will be announced given Apple’s history of providing premium hardware with surprisingly new enhancements and shifts in the technology. I am excited for what will eventually come to iOS when all this matures. This will be a great year for these new unexpected technology experiences. By this time next year the VR landscape will be like wildfire. It seems like so much more than a fad this time. I predict every video app will have some Google Cardboard support even if it does not enhance the content to appear 3D, and we will all have personal video headset rigs to enhance our experiences.

Goodbye Evernote


After over 5 years of using Evernotes to organize my notes, I have decided to move on from it. My notes are a very important part of my job, keeping lists of shortcuts and processes that I use day to day. My notes also an important tool for keeping track of lists in my personal life. Evernote has had a spot in my Mac dock and has been open in one of my desktop spaces every day, as well as a spot on the first page of my iPhone home screen.

Unfortunately with Evernote’s layoffs and office closures announced in the past week, as well as their recent heavy push to monetize the product and limit the usability of the free basic accounts, its usefulness to me has grown less and less, while its future is in serious question. It is now time for me to stop depending on it, especially now that the native Notes apps in iOS9 and OS X 10.11 have greatly improved. My fear is that I will find my access to Evernote cut off either because the basic accounts are no longer free or worse because they have closed shop. Evernote started its existence as a free product, eventually leading to a premium tier being established followed by the Plus tier, but without the ability to convert the remaining multitude of free accounts into paying customers, Evernote will not able to survive. Despite their attempt to expand to other physical related products like backpacks, bluetooth pens, and special digitized paper, Evernote has not been able to make a profit. It will be come the first “unicorn” to die. With Twitter’s recent struggles, it may not be the last one this year.

My requirement for a migration tool is just that is be a free small script that uses a language I can read and debug. I found the Applescript at https://www.larrysalibra.com/can-apple-notes-replace-evernote/ to convert my Evernote notes (selecting between 100-200 at a time) in my various folders. Despite a few errors, less than a dozen really, I was able to run a few iterations and had converted everything. The problem notes were copy-pasted or skipped, and I was fully migrated in just a couple of hours. Onward…

Dumping URLs into Pocket

I use Pocket as my morning paper for my commute and centralized place for collecting things to read, with URLs fed into it from IFTTT, Feedly, plus Safari on Mac and iOS8. For a while I even used NYTimes URLs fed from IFTTT as http://www.gmodules.com/ig/proxy?url= URLs which would avoid the paywall.

I like to dump as much as possible into the reader so that I have a variety to ready from. This means any digest emails or other pages full of URLs from Mashable or Medium are ideal to throw into this. Forwarding the email to Pocket will only get you the first link – useless when there could be 10-15 links. To make this easier I created a Service with Automator called ExtractURLs2Pocket which consists of a “Run Shell Script” block feeding into a Copy To Clipboard block in case you need the output:

osascript -e ‘the clipboard as «class RTF »’ | perl -ne ‘print chr foreach unpack(“C*”,pack(“H*”,substr($_,11,-3)))’ | ~/Dropbox/rtf2html.pl -noimages – | ~/Dropbox/geturls.pl | /usr/bin/egrep -v ‘(w3.org|opt|unsub|email-settings)’ | /usr/bin/sort -u | ~/Dropbox/add2pocket.pl

What this does is grab the clipboard as RTF and convert it to a text format, which I then convert to HTML, grab the href URLs, grep to filter out any URLs that might be unsubscribe links, sort and uniq the list, then feed that to my Pocket add script.

rtf2html.pl is the sample script in RTF::HTMLConverter from https://github.com/lvu/rtf2html

geturls.pl uses the list_uris function of URI::Find::Simple:


use URI::Find::Simple qw( list_uris );
my @urllist;
my $url;
while (<>) {
@urllist = list_uris($_);
foreach $url (@urllist)
print “$url\n”;

add2pocket.pl uses WebService::Pocket to use the Pocket API:

use WebService::Pocket;

my $line;
my $url_hash;
my @urls_array;
my $p = WebService::Pocket->new(
username => ‘pocket_username’,
password => ‘pocket_password’,

while (<>)

$line = $_;
print “$line\n”;
$url_hash = {url => $line};

#break array into chunks of 9 URLs so the add won’t choke
while (my @subarr = splice @urls_array, 0, 9)

Once you have this in place, just highlight some text anywhere on the Mac, copy it, right-click, select Service -> ExtractURLs2Pocket. It’s even pretty fast!

Open LinkedIn links in your Mac contacts

If you use LinkedIn on your iOS device, your contacts are saved with a linkedin:// URL. These contacts will sync to your Mac and have the same linkedin:// URL in the contact. Unfortunately there is no LinkedIn app on the Mac to open these URLs so you need a helper app of some kind.

Enter BasilSalad.com’s “Open LinkedIn app”. Download the zip file from http://adib.github.io/OpenLinkedIn/ to your mac and drop the app file into your Applications folder. Start the app and set it to Open at Login. The app registers itself to handle the linkedin:// URL and redirect it to your default browser. From now on you’ll have access to the LinkedIn profile for your contacts!

Securing Your Mac Against Malware with Hosts File


With zero day vulnerabilities on the loose more than ever before, it is best to take every precaution against being the first to get your system broken by malicious hackers. One way that helps is to avoid altogether any sites that are known to be suspect. One site that maintains a very good list of sites for blocking is http://someonewhocares.org/hosts/. This file can be copied and pasted directly into your system host file (see the directions in the page itself) to immediately give your system protection. It is a long file, which should give you some idea of how big a problem malware is.

Malware protection is a moving target however. The moment you have pasted something into your hosts file, someone else in the world is already setting up another malicious site that will need to be blocked. The hosts file at the above site changes periodically with updates to new blocked sites that you will want on your system. Managing the changes can be a complicated and repetitive task. You wouldn’t want to remember to check the site, then sit and compare the new hosts file to the previous one manually – that’s a foolish use of your time when a computer program can do the job better. Using a tool to automate this takes the headache off your shoulders and provides prompt updates. Enter Gas Mask.

Gas Mask is a tool that lets you manage one or more static or dynamic hosts files and keeps a constant merged list.  I use the original hosts file from my Mac with some local additions, a list of hosts for Adobe updates, and the dynamically updated hosts file from the above site. For those that don’t know, using the localhost address is a shortcut to point to your own machine instead of the bad site. Make sure the tool is set to run at system startup so that it is always doing its job. Your computer will check this file before checking the internet for the location of a web site, so you are always protected no matter where you are.


The dynamic pieces are constantly checked according to a schedule you define in the Preferences, then assembled and saved as your hosts file. Visiting any of the sites listed as (or if you used the zero version of the site) should come up as blocked. Enjoy your new found safety!

BTW, if you are a Windows user, this will work for you too, however I am not aware of any tools that manage this for you.