Category Archives: Apple

Apple Technology

MacOS Sierra and Invisible Remote Control

Oftentimes, I find myself needing to remotely control my MacOS/OSX computer over a network.

The built-in tools that come with Sierra (Screen Sharing, Back-To-My-Mac) do a great job of simplifying what could be a horrendously complex setup process, but they have one key limitation…  Anyone with physical access to your remote computer can watch you  mousing around doing stuff.  Worse still – by unlocking your computer remotely, you’ve given your remote observer full access to your computer – they can disconnect you and have at your stuff. Continue reading MacOS Sierra and Invisible Remote Control

iWatch Thoughts

I’ve been wearing a Pebble for the past year or so, because (1) I think wearables are where tech is headed & I want to have an educated opinion on them, and (2) I “deserve” a reward for juggling a newborn and two big sisters. (Don’t you judge me!!1!!! 😉 )

There’s enough to fill a bunch of notes about my experience with the Pebble but for those who haven’t seen one: a Pebble is a smart watch with a week-long battery-life, a monochrome display, and four buttons (back, up, select, down). It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and does lots of stuff, chief among that being the display of your phone’s notifications.

What it doesn’t do (on iOS at least) is let you quickly respond to those notifications. To do that you have to pull out your phone. I find myself wishing it had a built-in mic so I could dictate things like “reply I’ll be there in 15” and have the phone stay in my pocket.

Meanwhile, I’ve been slowly watching the WWDC keynote as time and kids permit, and got to the part where they show off interactive notifications in iOS 8. (It’s about 50 min into this video.)

“Well that’s interesting”, I thought, then “YAAAARRRRGLLLLE!!!” and collapsed to the ground, clutching at the Lego minifig embedded in my bare foot. (Mental note: don’t walk around our house barefoot while viewing videos an iPhone screen.)

But in that moment of searing pain, I think I had an epiphany.

What I want in a wearable is exactly what Apple seem to be lining up to give me.

– a display just big enough to render 107 characters in Helvetica Neue Light plus some UI chrome
– a screen filled with the display, and small enough to compare favourably to a woman’s larger size fashion watch; perhaps a 320×240 display at 1.3 or 1.6 inches
– default watchfaces that fill the whole display
– maybe licensed faces from Tag Heuer, LV, etc?

– either the same four buttons(!) as the Pebble, or
– a touch-enabled screen that supports more complex swipe-style interactions…
– ‘back’ via left-to-right
– ‘act’ via right-to-left to bring up two menu items akin to the ones in iOS Mail *or in notification centre*
– Siri integration via either one of the physical buttons(!) or
– raise-to-speak, or
– “Hey Siri” always-ready support

(I’m not super happy with this list – it seems too complex for Apple.)

– 2-day-long battery life
– support for an extended battery in the strap
– possibly just a tiny face with straps or clips sold separately to make it a broach instead of watch.
– the actual hardware available in the same three variants of materials / colours as the iPhone 5S.

[ Update: another possibility for interaction is constrained-width versions of an app’s Today view widget. See my three-liner here. ]

W8ting for perspective

So a relative recently purchased a Windows 8 laptop, and as their resident “computer person” it was my pleasure to “just set it up” for them.

I figured it would be informative to compare the setup steps for a new Win 8 laptop to a new MacBook Air…

Windows 8.1 preparatory process on ???-branded laptop:

  1. Attach battery
  2. Plug in power cord
  3. Open lid
  4. Press power button
  5. Wait a few minutes while Win8 boots for the first time
  6. A setup wizard automatically launches – allowing you to name & customise the laptop.
  7. Wait another few minutes while Win8 finishes the setup, and then boots & logs in
  8. Discover a start pane filled with manufacturer’s bloatware
  9. Right-click & remove all bloatware links
  10. Launch Desktop
  11. Try to open the ‘remove applications’ Control Panel, but keep getting bumped into the start panel.
  12. Launch IE, go to, and install ClassicShell (and 7zip and Firefox and …)
  13. Once installed, use classic start menu to open Control Panel and remove all manufacturer’s bloatware, including Norton Security
  14. Reboot to finish removal of bloatware
  15. Attempt to open Microsoft Security Essentials, but it fails with cryptic error
  16. Google for reasons, learn that Norton disables it, and follow steps required to re-enable it
  17. Discover that Windows 8.1 exists and should be a free upgrade in the Store
  18. Go to Store, observe it is not there
  19. Google for reasons, learn that perhaps Windows Update needs to install some items
  20. Run Windows Update
  21. Wait about 20min while it installs all “Important” items
  22. After reboot, observe upgrade is still not in Store.
  23. On a hunch, check Windows Update and observe that there are still 52 “Important” updates still outstanding.
  24. Wait about 15min while it installs all these “Important” items
  25. After second reboot, resignedly launch Windows Update again and observe another 33 “Important” updates outstanding
  26. Wait about 25min while it installs all these “Important” items
  27. Reboot a third time.
  28. Launch Store, and observe Windows 8.1 available!
  29. Click ‘Download Windows 8.1’
  30. Wait about 60min while upgrade files are downloaded
  31. Wait another 120min while upgrade occuring
  32. Go through another setup wizard (which asks the same questions as the previous setup wizard)
  33. Launch Windows Update again and install six more updates
  34. Reboot again, then enjoy your operating system

Mavericks setup process (on Macbook Air):

  1. Attach power cord
  2. Open lid
  3. Auto-powers on
  4. Wait about 10 seconds while Mac boots
  5. A setup wizard automatically launches – allowing you to name & customise the MacBook
  6. Wait another 15 seconds while Mac logs in and launches “welcome” window
  7. Open App Store
  8. Observe “OS X Mavericks” visible in main pane on front page of App Store
  9. Click Upgrade
  10. Enter AppleID credentials
  11. Wait about 60min while upgrade files are downloaded
  12. Click Continue, then follow wizard steps to initiate upgrade
  13. Wait about 60min while MacBook upgraded
  14. After reboot, enjoy new operating system


Suiting Up

I don’t think I’ve seen any demos of iOS 7 where the device being demoed is black. Certainly not on Apple’s iOS 7 site.

Of course this is partly aesthetic – the new UI is very heavy on whitespace and looks good framed on a slab of white.

However, I’m not sure how great all that stark brightness would look on a black device.

But what if we’re not seeing it all just yet. What if there’s one more thing coming in the final release – a visual style that matches the physical surrounds.

A “venom” suit as it were.


Thoughts on iOS 7

My top ten list of interesting things:

10. Parallax wallpapers.
They shift as you move your phone around. Unnecessary iCandy maybe, but I like it.

9. Calendar animations.
Colour & movement that actually help you navigate around your schedule. No need for buttons to go from Month to Week to Day views.

8. Swiping Back.
Mentioned in the keynote was the option to swipe from the left of screen to “go back”. Please God, don’t let it “work” like the Android Back button.

7. General layering effects.
A bit worried that readability will suffer with all the Aero-style translucency. But if anyone can make it work, it’s the guys from Cupertino.

6. Notification Center UI.
Looks pretty. Very pretty. Unclear on how the more complex notification interaction mechanics can work, but again, I trust Jony’s boys (and girls).

5. Today View.
A bit like Google Now but without the battery-draining geofences.

4. Control Centre.
Not sure about the layout or small, close-proximity volume & scrub sliders. But (POOF!) there goes one reason to jailbreak.

3. Multitasking UI.
Looks like the Palm talent that HP squandered have found a new home.

2. Multitasking.
So my phone will learn my habits and predict my behaviour to preload data it thinks I’ll need..? Um. I hope, for privacy & battery-life reasons, that this is configurable.

1. Lock Screen.
Intrigued as to how the interaction model works here. Hope it’s as intuitive & interactive as it is polished.

And, as a bonus, my personal favourite…

0. Siri no longer opens Safari to google things for you! In fact, it appears to not use Google at all for search.

Now that is interesting…

Never not knowing

So our daughters’ Nanna has acquired a second-hand iPhone.

She’s always been passionate about education and learning. A teacher by training & trade, we joke that our girls come back from visiting her with five more points of IQ.

The iPhone, however, is taking her a bit of getting used to. Truth be told, her old Samsung dumb-phone really was a UX nightmare, so I understand her wariness of new technology. Typing seems to be what annoys her: she’d developed her own shorthand on the Sammy to get around its appalling text input system, and the iPhone keeps trying to “correct” her.

I think the *aha* moment came at lunch yesterday when she asked whether there would be rain this week. Then looked at her home screen, found & launched Weather for the first time, and read the week’s forecast.

Someone said: “Welcome to the 21st century. You now never have to not know something.”

And her eyes lit up.