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)

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:

#!/usr/bin/perl

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:

#!/usr/bin/perl
use WebService::Pocket;

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

while (<>)
{

$line = $_;
chomp($line);
print “$line\n”;
$url_hash = {url => $line};
push(@urls_array,$url_hash);
}

#break array into chunks of 9 URLs so the add won’t choke
while (my @subarr = splice @urls_array, 0, 9)
{
$p->add([@subarr]);
}

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

gasmask

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.

Gas_Mask_Prefs

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 127.0.0.1 (or 0.0.0.0 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.

Sharing Memories Online

SharingMedia

I love taking photos and videos of family events for posterity, often to the annoyance of my family. Memories are very important to me, and the idea of digitally recording events has always appealed to me vs the old shoe box full of flammable and yellowing photos.  When it comes time to storing and share my digital memories, the options are varied. To whittle down the list of online offerings, I have a couple of basic needs that I look for. Everything I consider must be at least compatible with my iPhone and Mac, as well as some sort of web interface. When it comes to taking photos, I believe in “the best camera is the one you have with you” and that means my iPhone 6 Plus even over the beautiful Leica lens of my beloved Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 (even with Eye-it wasn’t able to mimic smartphone capability and smartphone cameras are only getting better). My iPhone is always in my pocket and the bulk of an additional camera is a deterrent from carrying anything but my iPhone. I’ve never been someone who takes photos of sunsets and flowers, but I respect some of the amazing photos that people take and share. To me, my moments are just as precious. Obviously I’m not interested in photos that disappear after 10 seconds like Snapchat – yawn.

First and foremost, I need my photos be presented on Facebook. Facebook is, for the most part, the social network where my friends and family live. Facebook is where real contextual conversation and friend interaction happens. They also provides fine grained control over who can see my media. Other networks are either subsets of my Facebook friends, or a public broadcast platform to strangers such as Twitter where I don’t want to present photos of my kids.

Second, I need my photos to be potentially removable from the site in their original form. I was bitten badly by Everpix when they went into non-free mode and were unwilling to get my uploaded pictures back to me in any form whatsoever. Google frequently cancels services. I am in a sense using an online service as a backup and want to make sure that backup is always there for me. I don’t want to upload my high quality pics to a service only to find that what I get back is lower quality. I don’t want my pictures silo’d into something that my Facebook friends have to go to another site to see or have to register for another account or have to make 10 clicks to get into. Any other form of sharing such as email is rudimentary and just gives the recipient no sense of presentation.

Flickr – All platforms. Tons of free space. The 1TB that Flickr gives us is immense. I have over 44,000 photos going back 20 years (some are scanned prints) and I am at 4.5% of usable space – the remaining space is more than I will be able to use in my lifetime.  I can see that people who are into serious photography who might be using RAW format would be the primary target for that amount of space.

Unfortunately, Yahoo still hangs on to the idea that it wants to sort of create its own social network so Flickr has no real idea of integration with social networks. Albums and photos need to be set to completely public in order to share into Facebook, so all my photos are set to private by default. Automatic photo sync. Photos kept in original format. I do like the new Uploadr app which lets me auto sync photos from certain folders on my Mac, which means I can auto upload any pics I get in iMessage, which means also capturing any media sent by my green-bubble non-iPhone friends: capturing almost all media that I’m in contact with. Photo sorting and organization on Flickr is greatly improved with the new Camera Roll feature. I hope this is a sign that the service will be getting more attention in the coming months instead of languishing unattended for yet another few years.

WordPress – Completely public presentation. Manual upload. 3GB space for the basic account, pay for up to 13GB on the Premium account and unlimited for the business account. I’m past the days where I once ran my own PHPGallery site so I don’t want to build web pages or manage a site when it breaks – I just want to upload phones and be sure that it works, not make me do more of what I already do at work. Not Facebook friendly. Photo organization is redimentary.

Dropbox – All platforms. Sharing is not linked to anything like Facebook. It’s just a filesystem so you do whatever you want with your files and folders. Booooooring. Beyond the initial free 1GB account (or is it 2GB these days?), you can sign up for their Carousel app which does automatic sync and gives you some bonus space. Otherwise you are invited to pay for all the storage you can use. No real presentation for recipients – just a disorganized online shoebox. Not Facebook friendly. No Uploadr equivalent to get photos from alternate sources. Sharing and collaboration are primitive.

Microsoft – All platforms. Same as Dropbox, except Microsoft provides OneDrive app to do the syncing. Also no Uploadr equivalent to get photos from alternate sources. Sharing and collaboration are primitive. You get 15GB of space these days for free. I feel like this is another company that could offer 1TB of space, but if you want more you can pay for it.

Facebook – All platforms. I’m not aware of any limits on the number of photos you can have. Photos and videos are separated into different albums, although Moments app tries to bridge this. No auto upload from mobile and no autocapture capability for photos on my Mac, although interestingly Benny Wong does just fine in this area with the Timehop Mac app. Collaboration on the platform with Shared Albums is really good in getting moments that you yourself weren’t able to capture. Photo sorting is a little frustrating – one large set of pictures was set to sort by time the photo was taken and it was a jumbled mess. The real drawback – video quality is surprisingly horrific for uploads.

Apple – Automatic photo sync. Photo and video quality is fantastic. The 5GB limit of the basic account is anemic, but Apple knows how to monetize so you always have the privilege of paying for more space. Only captures photos that I take – anything else relies on my saving the photo or on Uploadr via my Mac. Sharing via Photos relies on other members being iOS users. Apple could add more audience by providing some similar functionality to Windows and Android users, but that’s not the point of their halo effect. As much as I’d like it to be otherwise, however, not everyone I know is an Apple user. Photo organization here is what everyone would expect from every service. As such I can only capture and share photos with my Apple gear, but not have any meaningful backup.

Google – All platforms. Data export through Google Checkout is awesome. Sadly, image quality is altered for unlimited uploads – you can only store unlimited photos in lower than original quality (they call it High Quality). Uploading original photos in highest quality results in using up your allotted space (currently says 16GB for me) and having to pay for more space. Google was one of the big players in the space wars when 1GB online was a big deal, now they’re holding back just like the rest. Google Photos Assistant and Magic are genius level features – I share those back into other services. Automatic photo sync since they already had that capability in Google Plus, but this is a backup of last resort. No Uploadr equivalent to get photos from alternate sources unless you’re still counting Picasa.

Instagram – Many but not all platforms (ahem, iPad). Disorganized mess. Connected to Facebook. No auto upload.

Twitter – Please. No. Stop.

I cannot keep my photos in any one single place where I can trust that they will still be under my control in their original form. Being native to Apple, I have to use Photos in iOS and Mac to share, but I cannot keep them there since I am unwilling to pay for the extra storage and photos basically age out of the system for me. Automatic syncing to Flickr works as my backup for storing full sized photos. Facebook is my preferred sharing platform. I use a lot of connected automated means of capturing photos from everything else, including IFTTT to capture media that I’m tagged in like Instagram, but that tends to be such a very small amount.

If there were any areas of improvement in the above flow, I’d say:

  • Facebook should auto capture my photos from mobile and desktop, making sure everything is private by default.
  • Apple should provide a lot more space especially to those that have invested in multiple iCloud capable devices. The limits should be 5GB per device for the basic account.
  • Yahoo should integrate Flickr sharing permissions with Facebook to get some granularity. All the above services should as Facebook is now the de facto backbone for all social networks – stop trying to reinvent the wheel. Sorry Twitter.
  • Flickr or Apple or both should pay attention to the AI magic of Google Photos’ Assistant. This only improves presentation and it’s the future.
  • Stop with the stupid stickers on photos. I don’t want to explain to kids 20 years from now why there is a thumbs up hand in the middle of one of their most cherished photos.
  • Facebook needs to stop making my videos look like blurry photos of bigfoot escaping into the woods. This is a crime against humanity in 2015.

Coffitivity And The Sounds Of Silence

I’m not really the type of person that listens to music when I’m working, since my library of music is the kind of stimulating stuff that makes you want to suddenly parkour out of a skyscraper, run up and down the sides of the building, chase down some perps, and then parachute into a war zone, all in the same minute. I don’t like any kind of pop music or anything that comes out of the radio – it’s basically the equivalent of elevator music to me. I need something else to run in the background when I want to be productive.

Continue reading

My Thyroid is Very Very Broken

This is going to be a long post, so if you’re busy or in the middle of something or just skimming for something easy to read, you might want to scroll on.

Anyone who has been around me knows my hands shake, my legs shake. I have always been just a little more active than I should be. I dress very light, because a warm day will have me sweating like Niagara Falls. Everyone I took Tae Kwon Do with years ago knew I would sweat enough to make a puddle under my feet.

Over the past two years you might have noticed I was looking thinner and thinner as the days went by. I have posted no pictures of myself in that time, because of how thin I look. I first tried to attribute this to when I was smoking or how I walk to work every day. But the calories loss and gain did not add up. My walk to work is only worth about a can of Pepsi. At one point I tracked how many calories I are in a day. I actually ate two days worth of food in one sitting, and this was my normal daily meal. And this was all after my gall bladder was taken out. I don’t really feel the cold – even in this winter I stroll outside in a tank top and shorts to throw out the trash. I’m feeling overheated at 69F. I’m not able to exercise anymore, so I’ve lost so much muscle mass, losing close to 100 lbs of weight at one point. Once I hit my high school weight, I got really scared.

I went to the doctors. At one point 4 years ago I was misdiagnosed with Schoegren’s Syndrome. they really didn’t find anything. My imagination ran away with me: maybe it’s cancer, maybe I have something nobody has seen before, maybe I sat on the wrong toilet seat at Penn Station. But after a few scary Google searches, slowly all of this added up. I went to see a doctor who had basically diagnosed me when I walked in the door. I had not even noticed my thyroid was enlarged. They did the usual blood work. My thyroid hormone levels turned out to be so high that the lab they sent the blood work to cannot register how high: it’s above the highest point in their scale.

So now I’m off this morning to take a radioactive Iodine pill and will come back later to get scanned today and then scanned tomorrow. They’ll tell me how bad my thyroid is and what treatment I should have, and supposedly this can be turned around in months.

Blackberry – A Eulogy

Starting with the new year, I’m making the prediction that RIM is in total collapse by the end of 2014. The only question – how many companies will be too paralytically entrenched to move their infrastructure away from this black hole in time? BYOD policies will move in as the quick path of and least effort and resistance.

RIM is starting to transfer staff away from the abysmal Z10/Q10 devices and towards free (zero income) services such as Blackberry Messenger for iOS and Android. The fact that RIM bragged about how many users it grabbed when its free BBM app was released, is insane. The pod people are in control of RIM, and they are either in denial or oblivious as they spiral the drain. See more at the link below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/21/technology/blackberry-posts-huge-loss.html?_r=1&#038;

The next social networking wave will be circular

In August 2011, I posted an article on how the future of social network was to let users have circles of friends. Now, we hear increasingly that with Facebook is losing its charm on the young. What initially started as chat and profile pages for college kids, inevitably opened further and further until everybody’s grandmother is on Facebook. I can only imagine that having grandma stare in shock at their granddaughter’s drunken college tweaking has inspired sudden interest in privacy. Maybe everyone doesn’t need to see the latest pictures of your cat with that neat ball of yarn. Not everyone might be interested in articles like this.

Google+, the ugly step child of social networking, hardly being noticed by most, is already in the right place for this. It’s just that their image of “do no evil” has been sorely tarnished and their app connectivity is very limited. Facebook already has this with Friend Lists, but Facebook’s own shifting privacy concerns have worried users of the premier social networking service. Twitter only alternately offers complete privacy since it’s now really meant for broadcasting alerts to the world about your latest Tiananmen Square or Tahrir Square incident; all or nothing. Since going public, all of these services have really only changed gears in the direction investors would most like to see. That direction may not be in our own best interest.

One concern I have is that the media is burying Facebook while it stand perfectly healthy on both feet. Maybe Facebook has reached a point where people are bored with the current means of sharing, but maybe that’s really a problem with the content and not the method of transmission. I’m perfectly comfortable with today’s social networking, but maybe that’s wrong too. I’m also seeing that Twitter, with its all or nothing approach, is not getting painted with this brush. I’m not 100% convinced there’s a problem that requires anyone to abandon ship.

At what point do we get social network fatigue from adding new social networks? We already have peripheral social networks that ride on Facebook authentication like Classmates.com and SchoolFeed.com. All current apps offer once form or another of sharing to Facebook and/or Twitter, like this article. We’re kind of married to our existing social networks, so why yet another? Everyone loves keeping up with friends, but at some point you get tired of settings up preferences and interests and profiles in a whole new app. How many different inboxes do we need to pay attention to, and how many new information streams do we need to have distracting us? Many of us can barely keep up with everything happening in the social networks that we already have. Networks like Path found this out, when they tried to be another network that tried to be a subset of only true friends, to follow Dunbar’s number. Why more?

I feel another major social network will still need to latch onto Facebook and Twitter, whig are the backbone of the Internet. Another major social network could mean the current social networks losing subscribers and then increasingly poor service. These social networks rely on eyeballs on advertising banners, and the less eyeballs we have the more site errors you will see and the less new features we will see. Another social network could also mean the evolution of social networking since publicly traded companies are less likely to take the risky leaps that made social networking so great in the first place. Another social network could mean we see newer, shinier features. A newer social network could mean a smaller, more intimate, environment for friends to interact. Another could mean greater freedom in sharing, or greater privacy to secure our social interactions. The new social networks involve chatting or other short impermanent changes that leave you nothing to look back at, but how many times do we look back at our old social networking activity? We may finally get the social circles that people really need. I don’t know what it would look like or what we would share differently, but I look forward to this evolution.