iOS 8.0.2 – Extremely buggy and slow – Best Avoided for now…

Apple has pushed out yet another un-tried and un-tested release for iOS 8. There are too many issues to list out here. 8.0.1 worked better on the iPhone 5.

For starters though, FaceTime appears to be quite broken in different ways and combinations. Extremely laggy on the iPad 3, not that iOS 7 was a speed demon. The only way to fix the intermittent issues seems to be to reset the device, and the issues come right back after sometime. These are results from a clean restore of iOS 8.0.2 since 8.0.1 had issues when upgrading (according to Apple).

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iTunes U 2.0 with custom classroom support released

Apple released iTunes U 2.0 with support for creating and sharing courses a few hours ago. Although it is too early to figure out the actual impact and overall usage and adoption given the high price of Apple devices, it does look promising.

To create a course, you need to have an iPad and have to register with an Institute name and profile, which, can be edited later. I guess details will emerge as and when people start using it.

A brief description from the application is as follows:

  • The new iTunes U makes it simple for students participating in private courses to pose questions on the course or any post or assignment
  • Other students in the class can jump into the discussion and ask more questions or provide answers
  • Teachers and students can keep up with the conversation when they receive push notifications as the discussion progresses

Create courses on iPad

  • Teachers can now create and update their courses using the iTunes U app on their iPad—getting started is fast, simple, and completely free
  • Provide every student a course outline, write posts, distribute assignments, upload class materials, easily track participating students, and much more
  • Take advantage of the built in camera on iPad to easily capture photos or videos and upload them for course assignments
  • Create materials using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—or other apps from the App Store—and add them to your course by using “Open in iTunes U” from within each app
  • Teachers affiliated with qualified institutions have the option to publish their courses to the iTunes U Catalog—making them available to everyone for free


Another Nothing Event from Apple in October 2013!

Excepting for the MacPro, which has been in the works for quite some time, this was yet another “nothing” event from Apple.

Seems that all the presenters were in a hurry to get home. There was no interest and nothing captivating about the presentations. Apple has not only forgotten all about innovation and design, they also seemed to have forgotten all about captivating presentations and pride in their products. It was mechanical words all over again.

To be fair, can one actually blame just the presentations? In reality, there was nothing to present excepting “customers wanted this and we did that (since we could not think of anything more or better)”.

Take the MacBooks for instance. Intel has a better processor, nVidia has better graphics, etc etc. All these innovative companies made progress and Apple put these together in the same old box. That’s innovation for Apple!

Mavericks will be a free upgrade because it’s the worst OS X upgrade ever made. But, to make it look better, a nothing demo of Safari and iBooks was on. Oh, BTW, let no one find out the next great feature for the next OS X release…cut-n-paste. It’s a top secret and Apple has been working on it for years to make the technology available “for it’s customers”. In a few years from now, OS XX will have a brand new feature which will allow you to cut-n-paste files right from the finder…another few years later, that would be expanded to the ability to cut-n-paste directories, full of files, at one go!!!

Personally, I doubt if people at Apple actually use their own products anymore. If that was not the case, how come they never ran into all the issues that my colleagues and I ran into with Mavericks? Perhaps this article is true.

Now that Mavericks is on the AppStore, there is an interesting line on it…the iCloud keychain requires iOS 7.0.3, which is also just released. I guess no one at Apple realised that this feature needed a future version os iOS 7 at the earlier presentation of iOS 7 and Mavericks! The only logical reason for Mavericks to be a free upgrade would be to get the majority of OS X users onto a current version, which would make the overall ecosystem even more powerful. I doubt if the current release of Mavericks is going to cut it.

Also, more more stuff will roll out for free, since Apple already has more money than it can actually spend. Hold on…Apple can always offset the free stuff by making more “official” accessories in “gorgeous” colours and can start charging the original .mac and .me paying users. Yep, sounds like an excellent strategy since Apple cannot do more than to create “innovative” accessories anymore!

Interestingly, this is the first instance where Apple will be cannibalising the sales of the iPad Air with the iPad Mini since they have the same specifications (supposedly). I think they would have crippled the Mini in some way that we will find out about once people get their hand on both.

Once again, unless there are more updates/changes to the formal Maverick release, than the current GM, it would not be an advisable upgrade for any normal user. Even the techies would have issues with figuring out work-arounds. So, unless you have a default OS X installation with a single partition and do not have multiple user accounts, do not have a time capsule and do not use multiple networks, stay off Maverick till Apple fixes the critical issues. Also, for good measure, you local HDD access will also be a nightmare using Finder. The command line in Terminal will come to your rescue most of the time. Of course, the overall UI/UX remains the same from the good old *nix and Solaris days…nothing changes there!

More on the official Mavericks once I download and check it out…although, I have very little hope of any improvement in this “free” upgrade.

Apple WWDC 2013 – My Wish List for iOS 7

With the WWDC around the corner, and banners for iOS 7 already up, let us see what major disaster(s) Apple has in store for all the iDevice users this time around. The last iOS release added almost nothing and removed Google maps and YouTube effectively killing all location/maps based services and apps, including Apple’s own apps.

As for me, I would still start my list with the basic Nokia phone features that iOS lacks even today.

  1. Call/SMS black/white list. The DND and list selection of iOS 6 cannot replace the need for the same.
  2. Caller name announce. I would like to know the caller’s name from my address book when I get a call or SMS. I would not want to pull out the phone just to look at who is calling or sending a message. Optionally, the ability to read out SMS text would be nice to have.
  3. Dump the never ending Siri beta and get some functional voice recognition technology. Also make it usable, globally, instead of packing in useless “event announcement features”.
  4. Look at the jailbreak tweak “Auxo” and learn more about how the multi-tasking tray/toggles should actually work. Combine this with “Zephyr” and then you have a buttonless iPhone experience. Of course, there are quite a few enhancements possible even after this combination. In short, make the iDevice UX a buttonless one! (Actually, the iPad already has some of this).
  5. Allow changing and removing of the default/stock apps. If this was allowed in iOS 6, then, using Google maps or alternates as default would have reduced the impact of the Apple “maps” disaster. I would also like to replace the plain bare Safari with a better browser as the default. Incidentally, Firefox still remain the most “web compatible” browser after IE. While the webkit browsers like Safari and Chrome work for most sites, a vast number of older secure sites still work better with Firefox and some still require IE. Personally, the first stock app I would remove is the newsstand as it does not make any sense to me. On second thoughts, I would say that I would firstly delete the Apple “maps” app as that causes grief compared to newsstand which only takes up space.
  6. Fix the GMail account notifications in the mail app. No user would want to use a separate app just to get email notifications for GMail accounts.
  7. There has to be an option to attach files to email. How the attachment is implemented is a matter of discussion. It could be something as simple as having some API to access/copy files from any document management app and paste it into another app or email.
  8. Show all fields in the address book that appear on OS X and make all fields searchable.
  9. A flashlight option for the iPhone on the lock screen.
  10. A SMS app on the iPad 3G. Essentially this would mean that SMS and iMessage would be integrated like they are on the iPhone. I have already mentioned why SMS is required on the iPad 3G in an earlier post.
  11. Live icons to the clock and weather apps. At the very least, add the option to display the date/time/temperature on the status bar.
  12. Have consistent applications across the iDevices. For example, there is no weather app on the iPad.
  13. Remove artificial restrictions and bring FaceTime over 3G, Airplay mirroring etc on the iPhone 4 and tethering on the iPad 2. Perhaps also include Siri on the iPhone 4. I say perhaps since Siri is not very usable as it stands today.
  14. Open up the call and related APIs to developers and allow the bluetooth stack to transfer files to other devices.
  15. Allow registered developer devices to be downgraded to at least 2 prior versions of iOS.

Although I would be happy with this list for a start, there is a lot more that iOS really needs. For a far more comprehensive list of needed enhancements and features, take a look at iOS-7-Wish-List.

Get the most out of the Apple AppStore and Mac AppStore

Although most Apple iDevice and Mac users know about the AppStores, very few actually look for good deals on the same. Looking for good deals on the AppStore is actually quite simple…there are apps for the job. Most of the better such apps will cover both, the AppStore as well as the Mac AppStore.

There are quite a few “App Discovery” apps on the Apple AppStore that will help you in getting good deals. These apps allow you to look at all the apps that are on sale, apps that have gone free for a brief time, set watches on the apps you want to purchase as and when they are on sale and more. Most of these apps will also allow you to look at the top of the lists like the top liked, sold etc etc.

Although I have tried quite a few of these apps in the past, I have settled on two such apps for now. Both these apps have paid and free versions. I got the paid versions of both these apps for free from similar App Discovery apps. The first one is AppTicker and the second is AppZapp. Personally, I prefer AppTicker, but, sometimes it does not list some of the apps that come into the AppZapp lists. AppZapp also has a user community with a live feed which can be interesting to look at.

I have used these apps to watch and buy some apps that I wanted when they went on sale. The other aspect that I use is the “Now Free” apps. These are paid applications that have gone free for a brief time. If you keep a watch on these “Now Free” lists on occasions (Christmas, New Year etc), then, you can really get some very neat apps for free.

For example, when Flickr recently announced the free terabyte space for all, I was able to get some of the best Flickr related apps like FlickStackr for Flickr and Flickr Studio for free since they were listed in the “Now Free” section of these apps.

Of course, none of this comes without Apple stepping in with their own whims and fancies. They randomly come up with arcane reasons, to remove apps from the AppStore. A recent example being a similar “App Discovery” app called AppGratis. For those of you who are interested in the AppGratis story, a simple Google search will come up with all the details.

An interesting consequence of Apple’s action, in this case, was to speed up the AppGratis release for the Android platform. AppGratis launched it’s Android app a month after the app was removed from the Apple AppStore.

The reason for mentioning the AppGratis story is that you never know what apps might be removed by Apple for what arcane reasons. Don’t be surprised if the “App Discovery” app you really like vanishes from the AppStore…

iTunes 11.0.3, Mac AppStore and the iMac – All seem to spell trouble!

It seems that Apple is really undertaking a huge change on the desktop apps and the iCloud backend, or, is headed further down ever since Steve Jobs left the scene and iOS 6 came along.

The new iTunes release is probably the buggiest and slaggiest of all that I have used so far. There seems to be a complete dis-joint between all the product teams at Apple currently and I will give examples of the same.

Firstly, iTunes 11.0.3. Since this release, I have had a hard time getting to the AppStore screen or checking for App updates. It seems to get stuck, comes back with the “memory” error (as mentioned in a previous post). This happens regardless of the AppStore I access, US or otherwise.

Just when I though the state and status errors seem to be fixed, not to be. Although the update apps seems to be fixed in the sense that if you click on “update all” apps, it will happen only once, the older issues still remain. Some apps will keep showing “update” on a perpetual basis even when there is no update as such, even after downloading an app, it would still show “free”/”buy (price)” on iTunes. The worst part is that you can actually re-download the app even when you already have it.

A very interesting fact is that the size of the app shown in iTunes description, when you actually download it (iTunes download window), and the OS X finder size of the app are all different. Seems someone forgot the basic computation of a size translated from bytes to kilo/mega/giga across teams at Apple! It’s not just the size, it’s also how long file names are displayed. While in the iTunes download window, you would see the first part of the file name following by “…”, in the OS X finder, you would see the first and last part with the “…” in between. Also, the order of the updates displayed in iTunes is completely different from the order of the actual downloads. Although this last one might seem to be insignificant, but, to an experience eye, the dis-joint across teams shows. In reality, there are simply too many such small issues that show a dis-joint and a complete lack of experience or a complete un-willingness towards improvement and excellence.

The biggest issue of iTunes (and iDevices) still remain. The pathetic, single threaded download of apps. music etc. I have never had this issue with any Android handset so far. Even though Google does not have an equivalent of iTunes, I have faced no such issues related to downloads on the Android devices. The main reason I still use iTunes is so I can start/stop downloads to get the maximum speed in the process. More often than not, a small, few MB download on iTunes (or iDevice) can take hours.

Another major issue with iTunes, which, actually, stems from the download issues stated above, I use different user accounts (for my family) on my iMac for all (almost) the iDevices to sync them from iTunes. iTunes wants re-authorisation of every account every time I sync a device. Pathetic!

Is that was not enough, the moment I have 6 or more user accounts on my iMac, the logins go off the screen and the only way to get to them is by using the keyboard since a mouse or a trackpad cannot scroll the login screen. Once again, Pathetic!

Even though you can set a magic mouse or the trackpad to respond to a tap for a click, it does not work on the login screen. Just to repeat, Pathetic!

The MacAppStore as it stands in the current release is no exception. It suffers the same numbers and single threaded download issues. It is clueless as to which screen to start with. More often than not you will notice the progress circle with nothing happening. If you click on “updates” and then click on “featured”, nothing will change until the search for updates has been completed, or, times out. Okay, so now I am tired of the repeat, so one last time…Pathetic!

Another interesting fact that I noted was that if you switch your internet connection in between a download, the download cannot resume and it is re-started!

About the iMac, after the earlier screen quality and warranty issues, I got another scare today from both, my iMac as well as my older MacBook Pro. Both of them just “hung” and then refused to boot at all!

Turned out to be a temperature related issue. It was a hot day today (like it is at this time of the year) and since it had gotten quite cold from the air-conditioning, I switched it off for a while. While the iPhone and iPad had no issues, the iMac and the MacBook Pro just stopped working. I had to shut them off, forcibly, turn on the air-conditioning, wait for about an hour, and then they started working again. This happened without any warning from the system.

Considering the fact that OS X still has an 18th century UI/UX and that the iOS UI/UX has been stagnating since arrival, I can only wish and hope that either Google or Microsoft come up with viable and reasonable alternates to the iPhone and iPads.

Personally, unless Apple really comes up with some drastic changes and quality control, I would probably never purchase an iMac or a MacBook ever again. For me, it was an investment based on the iPhone and iPad experience and I can only say that I regret buying the iMac for the bad screen quality and flawed warranty. The two MacBook Pros I regret since OS X is worse than Ubuntu Linux as it stands currently and the UI/UX is light years behind Windows (barring Windows 8 which I deem unusable by the majority).

Small wonder that the OS X updates, initially, seemed so attractive based on their price compared to Windows. While one can actually see and feel the changes and work put in by Microsoft (good or bad is a separate issue), there is no change on OS X that warrants even the marginal update cost. For example, consider one of the latest and greatest and touted features of the latest OS X Mountain Lion…it finally show you file copy progress!!! Hello…we had all this and more even in the good old console and DOS days!

This fact is even mentioned on the Apple web site…they are proud their lame designers and programmers finally managed to show file copy progress on OS X, which, incidentally, is meaningless since the progress has no details and can only be seen in the folder the files are being copied to.

In case someone thinks this is Apple bashing, yes, it is! Excepting for my iPhones and iPads, the rest of Apple stuff seems to be a big no no in every way. This exception, I hope, Google or Microsoft (or some other major) takes away, some day. The Apple hardware, the screen, volume, warranty etc issues are all too prevalent on the net, including the Apple forums, with apparently no answers from Apple about these.

For me, like for most people, the expensive Apple hardware and ecosystem is an investment. This investment, seems to be going down the drain as of now. I still have hopes that there will be changes within the Apple top management that would allow the iPhone legacy to continue and carry forward all with it, let’s see.

The WWDC should come up with some pointers. Meantime, we would have some time to see what Google comes up with after the announcements at the recent I/O. If all that Apple can come up with is a lame iOS 7 update and cheaper and a larger number of iDevices along with the same old incremental updates, one can be certain that the Apple and iPhone era is indeed going to end very very soon.

HowTo: Figure out location from Apple “maps” in a real map like Google maps

In an earlier article, I mentioned that I had a lame work-around in case you ever needed to figure out a location from Apple “maps” or “Find my Friends”. Unfortunately, this approach will not work for “Find my iPhone”, as the application does not support sharing a location.

For “Find my Friends”, tap on the friend you want to figure out the location for. On the iPhone, tap the “Open in Maps” button. On the iPad, tap on the “Contact Info”, scroll to the bottom of the contact information, and tap “Open in Maps”.

Now that you have the location open in the Apple “maps”, it is the same that you saw in “Find my Friends” and would tell you nothing. Now, you can tap on the “i” (information icon on the pin location) to share the location. Select “Share a Location” and then select either “Mail” or “Message” and send the location to your own email or your iMessage ID on the same device.

Tap the location attachment in the email or Messages and you will see the Info drop-down as follows:


Now tap and hold the map url till the “Copy” option appears. Copy the map url and paste it into Google maps either in Safari or on the Google maps app on the iPhone. Edit the url so you have only the “lat,long” numbers and then tap search on Google maps. You will now be able to see the location which Apple “maps” cannot tell you.

You can also change the URL to something like “comgooglemaps://?q=00.200000,00.100000 (Home)” for the iPhone to open the link directly in Google maps, or, “,00.100000 (Home)” to open the link directly on the web in Google maps.

The biggest drawback of the Apple iPad 3G – Why a SMS app is required!

Ever since I started using an iPad as a secondary device to my iPhone, I discovered one major issue with the iPad 3G. The WiFi only iPads do not have this problem.

I already have a postpaid data plan on the iPhone and in order to minimise cost, I got a pre-paid plan for the iPad so I would not land up paying for a fixed on a monthly basis. I use different ISPs for my postpaid iPhone plan and the pre-paid iPad plan as no one ISP covers all locations equally.

Most of the time, I do not require using the iPad data since I would generally be in a WiFi area or use my iPhone’s data connection for the iPad.

Now comes the problem area. For places that I already know that my postpaid ISP has issues, I can charge the pre-paid SIM on my iPad, but, I have no way of checking if the charge has been done, or, how much is left.

In short, an iPad 3G as a second device, is an expensive or complex proposition without a SMS app. The SMS app is required to check on the pre-paid status. We all know that the iPad has had that functionality since the first generation (via jailbreak apps). For some strange reason, Apple still refuses to include a proper SMS app in the iPad 3G where is it really required.

Actually, a proper SMS app on the iPad 3G would also ease out the authentication process for a variety of communication apps which use SMS authentication.

The same applies to people who want to minimise cost and use the iPad 3G as a primary device. With most homes and offices having WiFi, including limited Guest WiFi connections available, a pre-paid plan can be a lot cheaper than a fixed, monthly, post-paid one.

So, now we have two very good reasons why Apple should include an SMS app on the iPad 3G.

Cost optimisation using a pre-paid plan and SMS authentication.

Apple iOS vs Google Android…do you really know the difference? Part 3

In this, the third part of the article, we will look at some of the standard applications that come with iOS and some of the better/high end Android based devices. Before we actually get to these “standard” apps, a mention of the overall UI has to be clarified.

While the iOS devices have no buttons that you would require for any application control, most Android based devices would have around 3 application control related buttons (these could be touch buttons on some of the better devices). In short, you would need to figure out and get used to operations on every Android device, even if they are from the same vendor. The other major difference is that all Android devices have a fixed number of pages where installed application icons appear. On iOS, there are a substantial number of pages and the applications can be organised into folders as well. For instance, I have only one page on my iPhone since I have organised all applications into folders based on their category.

After this brief, let’s move on to the “standard” applications. The first that comes to mind is “settings” or “configuration”. On the iOS devices, it’s an application called “settings” which looks and works exactly the same across all iOS devices based on their features. For example an iPad WiFi or iPod touch would not have GSM related settings, but, the rest would be exactly the same across. On Android devices, you would need to figure out which settings are where and then try and figure out the technical terminology used. This is true even of devices from the same vendor. Once again, the winner is iOS as far as setting up and configuring a device is concerned.

Delving further into the settings, iOS allows you all the normal settings you would expect, but, with one major limitation. You cannot customise any iOS device beyond setting ringtones and wallpapers. Apple does not allow this even with third party apps from the AppStore. Android based devices have no such limitations. You can customise your device to a very large extent including using standard music files for alerts and ringtones. If you want a custom alert or a ringtone on iOS, it is a process that one has to learn. You can even replace the standard “SMS” application on Android devices, use almost any third party web browser etc etc.

iOS is a closed environment and Apple does not allow even third party browsers unless they use the crippled iOS webkit which gives the stock Safari browser an unfair edge over other third party browsers. Again, in my opinion, Apple does most of this to “protect” their lame programmers as there is no other logical reason to do so. Effectively, Apple frowns upon any application that does the job far better than applications by their own lame programmers and designers.

In the long run, this attitude could put Apple right back where it was before the iPhone and Steve Jobs…being a nobody and a wanna be. Of course, easier said than done. If Google and the other Android supporting majors continue on their current path, Apple will continue to rule this space. Microsoft seems to have lost it’s way completely ever since Bill Gates “retired”, so, I have little to no hopes there. Which leaves BlackBerry…well…let’s just leave that one out for now as well.

Okay, now that we have run through the first application, a very brief mention on the other stock applications. There is no equivalent of FaceTime and iMessage on Android devices. Although quite a few of the better Android devices (read expensive) come with the WhatsApp messenger installed, it is still a third party application and not a Android stock app.

You could even install Viber from the Google “AppStore” and replace the standard SMS application for a far better experience than using the included WhatsApp Messenger. My personal choice is to install Viber on Android. It is far better designed and more featured than WhatsApp for the most part. Do keep in mind that just because WhatsApp, and some others, come pre-installed on some Android devices, does not mean that they are standard Android apps and are available on all Android devices.

The last couple of stock applications that I would like to mention here are the maps and voice control.

The maps related part I have already mentioned in an earlier post. Apple killed maps and therefore all location related services and applications the moment it decided to “create” it’s own maps. It was, and still remains a “sick” Apple design idea of have a clean UI with nothing marked out on the Apple maps so the UX would never come into play. It is, indeed, a miracle, and a mystery, that the top brass at Apple were not removed by the Apple board right after the incident of the Apple maps “release”. This “release” also introduced a crashing bug in Apple Mail on OS X as already mentioned in a previous post.

Google, on the other hand, has continued to improve on their maps. So, in case of the maps, Android is a clear winner by a margin that is simply too large to even attempt to mention or quantify.

The same applies to the voice recognition app of Apple called Siri. The Google search voice recognition is way ahead by some light years and since Android has no pretences of “protecting” lame programmers, the voice recognition and integration on Android is far superior to Apple’s limited and feeble attempt with Siri.

Also, Google and the Android device vendors do not indulge in the kind of marketing malpractices that Apple does in it’s iOS updates. Apple is known to limit, cripple and remove functionality in newer iOS version for older devices. The general claim being the user experience. My question would be that if it was the user experience, why was the functionality there in the first place? Add to this the fact that even if a device is equally or better powered than the other, how come the “other” device has a new feature which the more powerful or equally powered device does not!

As a last comment for this part of the overall article, consider the following:

  • I buy an iOS device with iOS at version x.y
  • Apple updates iOS to x.y.z and removes/changes functionality which I do not like/want (Siri/Google maps for example. I have no use for Siri, but, I still want Google maps as the default).
  • Something goes wrong with my device and I am forced to re-flash to the new iOS x.y.z since Apple will not allow me to restore my original iOS version of x.y

I hope someone sues Apple for this…sometime…someday…someplace where it would hurt them just like it does the users of iOS devices. My point here is simple. I paid for a device with a certain iOS version on it. I want the right to stick to that version of iOS and not be forced by Apple to upgrade for whatever reason!

Incidentally, none of these major issues/flaws in iOS came up while Steve Jobs was around. This part seems common to all the majors. Once they have made money and the people who created the difference move on, for whatever reason, the others are only keen on larger pay packets, rather than even attempt to try and continue on the path that brought them there in the first place.

Okay, after all this ranting, we will now move on to the security aspect of the iOS vs Android devices in the next part. Although “security” can mean different things to different people, let me assure you, it’s important to all! Yes, it’s important even to the casual home user in a variety of scenarios.