Sunday, October 16, 2011

On cloud nine with Airplay...

Have you folks tried the new Airplay yet? Of course you need an iPad (both gens will do), or an iPhone 3GS, 4, or 4S, or even an iPod Touch of the last two gens, and of course an Apple TV 2nd gen. The latter is of course HDMI connected to your big ass HDTV. Oh, yes, you'll also need a home Wifi LAN to interconnect all your Apple gear with one another. Good to know, making Airplay work for you is PC/Mac independent (that means, you won't need either a Windows or a Mac lap or desktop to make all this work. So, Windows folks, rejoice! Xmas time!).

Sounds like much? Not really. Many among you already own this equipment. You wouldn't be coming to this blog if you didn't. Right? With iOS 5 offered by Apple to upgrade all these devices this last week, you can hardly believe the eyecandy you are getting by mirroring a mobile iOS device's monitor to your 40+ inch 1080p HDTV screen. It all works like a charm. Almost orgasmic.

Actually, you first need to upgrade all your iDevices to iOS 5.0, and do the latest update to your Apple TV too. All you got to do next is enable Airplay on Apple TV. Look for the settings and spot Airplay. Turn it on by clicking once. Forget the password. That is only meant for the security obsessed among you.  On your iOS 5 upgraded device next, you double click your home button, and you swipe to the right the open apps row at the bottom of your screen. Provided your Apple TV is on and at the same home Wifi LAN, you get to see the picture above. This example is actually captured on my iPad.

The symbol on the right of the 'Next Track button', with the popup window above it, is where you enable Airplay and Mirroring. You pick up the Apple TV (in this case called Living Room Apple TV), a tick shows up, and off you go. If your HDTV is tuned to your Apple TV, you can watch on it whatever appears on your iDevice (iPhone, iPod, iPad). Well, almost. For instance picture zooming by double-tapping them in the Photo app is not taken over by the mirroring. Also, some apps, when they realize that Airplay is on, send their content to Apple TV and display a subsequent message on the iDevice. iPlayer (BBC) and TED worked like this for me. BTW, TED is superb to watch with Airplay. I just watched a show about Liar Spotting! Cool! iPlayer would be huge as well, if BBC didn't fuck up in their last update and left all their shows soundless. Well, we gotta wait for their next update to fix this. I'm sure they know by now and working on it. If you can't live without the BBC iPlayer shows, don't upgrade your stuff yet.

This mirroring function is pretty cool. Above all, you don't need to physically attach your iPad with a HDMI cable to your TV anymore, unless you got no Apple TV yet. But Apple TV is gonna be one of your best investments in the present century, so go out and buy one. You'll remember me.

Second, it's great for playing videos, or live TV with apps like BBC's iPlayer, Hulu, Netflix or whatever is available in your part of the world. Stuff like TED look really stunning with mirroring. And of course photographs and your own videos. Also, it's great as as educational tool to demo apps and how-to's to a larger group of apprentices goggling at your projection screen.

Simply... Cards

One of the apps Apple speakers have shown off during the recent event in Cupertino was Cards. Not iCards, simply Cards. This time it is indeed Cards, because they are printed in exclusive quality paper, in relief, and mailed to recipients in equally high quality paper envelopes.  Apple's cards are very much real! Not virtual like those you can find in the thousands on the net. Most of which find their way distastefully via email and linked URLs to millions of recipients during season holidays and the like.

You may remember, when virtual cards became mainstream, many complained for good reasons, but most of us geeks adopted them like they were the best thing ever since sliced bread. We thought it was a far better way to send wishes since it cost nothing, and it could still be sent last minute, often to a whole group of recipients, as impersonal as never before. Done with it. Over and out.

I have often sent virtual cards as well, I'm embarrassed to admit. But I always tried to create something original, using my own photographs, special font-type, and suitable layouts. I also made them in high res in case recipients wanted to print them. However, this was still unreal, virtual. Sad to think about it.

Virtual cards get eventually thrown in the bin of the personal computer's desktop. There's no way a love-dove can put any silk ribbon around virtual cards coming from a boyfriend's email. Unless she decides to print each one of them in her inkjet at home. How hugely romantic! Anyone in a romantic relationship,  who prefers virtual cards to real, should better go to the forest and cut timber instead . Virtual cards lack the most important qualities of the real thing. The look, touch and feel. And the feeling that someone, the very special one is the recipient's heart, has also touched the same card, handwritten the message, and tongue licked and pressed the stamps on the upper right corner of the envelope. Maybe he/she even kissed the closed envelope, and wished it a bon voyage. Also, don't forget the adorable scent of real paper as well. Which might often get sprayed with a few droplets of a loved one's perfume. Am I right or am I right?

Apple's Cards app provides a sort of remedy to this issue in a hybrid fashion. One uses the convenience of the iPhone, and with the help of the app's templates, one composes quite elegant postcards, personalized with photographs from one's own albums, addressed with data from the address book, and sent to Apple's cloud for printing and posting. In-app payment for the postcard's printing, handling and postage completes the cycle, and only thing that's left to do is for the recipient to receive it in the post. It's pretty neat. I printed year-end holiday cards produced in similar ways with iPhoto years ago, and I can assure you the quality of the end product is the best you can possibly get. These cards are rather expensive but they are worth it. Having done this again with the iPhone this time was an entirely different and a far better experience. A much more straightforward process indeed. Ok, the iPhone screen is sort of tiny to really enjoy the creative part of the job, but what counts here is that a high quality output can be achieved in a matter of minutes, even by the most aesthetically clumsy iPhone users in existence.

You might still wonder about what the exact objective of a 100 Billion dollar company was when they set up a whole new diversified business model for printing postcards and mailing them to recipients in the four corners of the world. Well, IMNSHO it is part of His Jobness Grand Vision. Since the days of von Neumann, with exception of Apple, all other personal computer business efforts have always focused upon the community of hackers and technology geeks. People who get high by simply staring at fancy hardware. And software too. You see, it seemed quite wicked to be able to program computers in the early days. You could even get lucky with girlfriends by boasting about your hacking skills. 20th Century romance! Microsoft still believes in that philosophy. Behind the user friendly masks that they are covering Windows with these days, they are still addressing the masses of computer technology addicts and maniacs. Apple ignored those freaks since its inception. Jobs's Apple has always created objects for humans. Simple to use and addressing every day needs where real emotions are important. I'll ask again. Is Cards a business (profitable or not) for a company like Apple? You're darn right it is. If Cards is one of the little things that makes people happy and helps them remain and feel human, why not then?

BTW, if you wondered how Cards works, look here. These guys did a pretty good job in reviewing the app.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Delete Photos in Photo Stream... not?

Occasionally, you might wonder. What went through their minds when they implemented Photo-stream? The concept is plain and simple, you reckon. You enable Photostream on all your iOS 5 devices and your  Macs (iPhoto and Aperture). So far so good. You shoot a picture on any iOS device and Bob's your uncle. Your Adams Yosemite look alike marvel finds its way to the cloud and then back to your other devices! How cool is this? A blow-away, to quote Forstall.

In each of the iOS devices and on the Macs (iPhoto and Aperture) storage space is reserved under the label "Photo-stream". Your Photographs shot on your iOS devices are placed in there and get synchronized among each other, up to iCloud and down to all the rest...

That's pretty neat. Suppose you are working on your big ass iMac, and you want to embed a shot of an object close to you into the document you're working on. You shoot one with your iPhone or iPod Touch latest Gen, and off it flies to the cloud and back it crawls into your iPhoto or Aperture Photo-stream. You could have alternatively transferred the same picture to your Mac by attaching the iPhone to the USB, but it takes much longer this way. So, all in all, Photo-stream can't be that bad as a new function in iOS 5. Not?

There's a catch though. Turns out there's no way to delete individual photographs inside a photo stream, either on an iOS device or in iPhoto or Aperture. In iPhoto, stream photographs are added automatically in the library, and you can edit them in there to your heart's desire. In Photo-stream however, they remain indestructible as hell. Nothing seems to be able to happen to them. Search me why Forstall and Co decided to implement it like this. Problem is, you may shoot a picture one day that's rather compromising, and of course you'd wanna wipe it out of your device faster than you can scream 'oh, shit!'. How rare would something like that be, eh? Not impossible, right?

There's another issue too. Don't know about you folks, but I am one of those, who when I start shooting pictures, I may end-up with a few hundred shots in a matter of hours. I wouldn't like to flood my iPhone's memory with junk shots, really! Certainly, I can switch off Photo-Stream on the iPhone to avoid getting those in my local stream and in iCloud. Fine, but this is no good. First, I lose all my previous stream pics (that's no big deal since they are normally stored in the roll too), but, second, once I turn on Photo-stream again, I open up my iPhones storage pockets to the contents of the stream in iCloud, and all those puppies fly back in iPhone's stream before I can spell 'Paramaribo'. In other words, back to square one.  Stuck again. It's kinda like these pictures are really after you, haunting you... You just can't get rid of them buggers. Why couldn't Apple implement a plain simple "Delete" function yielding simultaneous "Deletes" in the remaining Photo-stream containers?  Simple question, innit? Call Forstall!

The only 'clumsy'  remedy I found is the following. It involves disabling Photostreams in iCloud and in all iOS devices and Macs. When you do that, all your Photo-Stream pictures vanish to nothingness. Of course, make sure you store those that you want safely somewhere before you kill everything. That's pretty easy, because typically your stream shots also get into your iPhoto's or Aperture's libraries. In there they become mortal again, destructible, deletable!

After this kinda housekeeping gets done, you launch photo streaming again in all your devices, Macs and your iCloud.

You might wonder what should a recommended sequence for shutting down and starting up be. I'd tend to believe that when you shut down Photo-stream, you first start the process in the iCloud (click on your account name, up right, and then select 'Advanced'). You then shut down the streams one by one on your other devices and your Macs. All pictures in those stream storage spaces are automatically deleted and stream containers disappear altogether.

When you restart the stream function though, you work in the opposite sense. You start with the Macs and iOS devices, and then you finally enable your iCloud stream service. The iCloud service is the space where everything gets synchronized from. It's like a traffic policeman directing vehicles on crossroads.

Good luck with all this. It's really simpler than it sounds. No rocket science here. It'd be much simpler though if some bright young lad from inside Apple's iOS engineering troops woke up one morning and sighed, "I'm gonna put a 'delete' button somewhere in the stream, kids"... His Jobness bless him.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The fun of updating to iOS 5...

October 12th today. D-Day for Mac freaks and alike. I've been watching the blogs all day for the latest on the 5.0 release and find out out when it was supposed to be made available to the Public. Ars Technica was the first to fire a false news flash that pushed our systolic to the highest tens. Eventually it all proved a pile of fresh BS of the finest kind. Once you did like they said you were indeed guided to create your iCloud account but soon you realized that unless you were a genuine and registered 'Developer' you were kinda short of luck. Anyways, I had to wait for some extra hours before anything was possible.

For fun I keep a OS 'Developer' account and so I decided to try my luck via that channel. Initially, no deal whatsoever. I mean, you need to realize, this time it's not just an iOS device update... it's the whole bleeding universe of Apple apps and OS's that need upgrading, incl. iPhoto, iTunes and iWork apps. So, I started with Lion. As a 'Developer' I found the latest Lion version 10.7.2 that is supposed to be the iCloud version. Indeed, after installing, I discovered the iCloud icon in the Preferences and went to set it up. Now what happened next only His Jobness in Heaven knows. I know that I finally managed to move my account to iCloud in just a few seconds, and lost quite a few things in the process (like galleries, etc) and I'll be damned if I knew how to get into my iDisk again, if at all. I know I said somewhere that I needed to maintain it, but who knows. In all my excitement I might have screwed it up.

In the meantime, His Jobness called upon his servant Tim and they both opened the gates of Paradise (no apples left there, Eva ate them all) and iPhone updates were sent to all of us mortals. I just finished (sort of) my iPhone's update, as we speak. So far so good, other that you need to set it up from scratch again (at least that's what you think in the beginning until it asks you for a restore (iCloud or iTunes). But it's cool because it reacts like it doesn't need iTunes or a PC/Mac Connection to be set up (exactly like they announced it). It might intimidate a few Internet immigrants in the beginning (folks of my generation) with all these steps you need to take to get it back in shape, like you left it before the update. This update is pretty big, trust me. 774.4MB were downloaded in iTunes to do that, and I was lucky to get it in just a few minutes with download speeds up to 4MB a sec, until it hit 670MB. Then it slowed down from a superhero to a geriatric turtle level.

Well, bad news. The iPhone was moved to iOS 5 but it failed to restore from my backups. I'll spend the rest of the evening finding out how to do that. If anybody knows how, call me. Pleeeeease!

I'll be damned. Being all in the dark, with my eyes covered with a black cloth and seeing the blackest of blacks all over, I told the iPhone to back-up everything to iCloud instead of to iTunes locally. All of a sudden, all the apps I had on my last version of the previous iOS (4.3.something) and some more (trust me) appeared to be getting to my phone out of nowhere. Bless His Jobness. Hardly buried and already doing miracles to be canonized! I just can't believe how these Apple folks write software. This ain't software! This is sheer magic! Good for any idiot like me and worse, to lead us thru the intricacies of technology innovation of the finest kind. What will eventually happen to this phone once all updates are done only His Almighty Saint Steven knows. Let's all pray together, brothers and sisters!

UPDATE: One of the 'funniest' things I discovered is the non-destructibility of the Photo Stream. You shoot a pic and it's all over your devices, unable to hide or kill. So folks, you are warned. No compromising shooting with iPhones and other iDevices under iOS 5 until the comedians who set this up decide to add a delete button somewhere. It's so hilarious! I'm sure we're gonna have an update real soon. Right now, I can't hold my laughs on this. And no, things don't get worse because of the passing of Steven Paul. It's just one of these things...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Reuters reporting suckz !

It's not the first time I felt Reuters reporters create articles and TV reports that are immensely biased. You'd expect that Reuters, being one of the most heavy-duty news agencies on the planet, would pay some more attention to their output and will present facts in unbiased ways, reflecting objective truths and not opinions of their staff, which are basically the last thing I'd ever want to hear. Reporters and industry analysts are in general close to being the scum of the earth in every corner of the world you look at, and they usually try to make a name for themselves by systematically offering their usually uninformed opinions to create panic among ignorant crowds, and sell some extra copies of their stories.

The latest charade that Reuters started already last Wednesday, at the news of the passing of Steve Jobs, is about how difficult it will be for Apple to survive, how they will screw up eventually, and how their competitors Google and Samsung will come after them. I mean, the thing that pisses me off is that these half brained idiots (incl. editors-in-chief too) use Reuters' platform to spread their moronic arguments to that extent. Has anyone ever told them that Samsung (or any like them for that matter) ever did anything else than waiting for Apple to show off their next innovation, and then go after them and cowardly just COPY them? Yes sir! Copying is all they can do. That includes Google too, BTW! How stupid are some reporters to pretend to ignore that fact?!?!

I recently saw one of Reuters' TV clips with Rob Enderle (a self-proclaimed industry analyst and Technology consultant) predicting the demise of Apple not long from now. It would start with lackluster innovations (oh, yeah, ever since last Tuesday 'lackluster' became the favorite term of Apple haters to blame the 4S), lesser quality products (implying bad execution), and will be followed by competitors catching up. Incidentally, I happen to have often watched Enderle in Cranky Geeks with John C Dvorak. How pathetically unsuccessful can Enderle be as a technology consultant to be part of Dvorak's cast, only God knows. Anyways...  It's so pathetic to watch these guys showing off their egos -- that gig is currently owned by Adam Curry of all people, an MTV disk jockey and self-proclaimed the podcast spiritual father --.  the Cranky Geeks cast members are so freakin' opinionated that I wonder how I continued watching them for so long (I guess, I only like Dvorak); probably because I was too lazy to do anything else instead.

I don't claim to be any visionary or an experienced industry analyst myself, or even a mediocre technology consultant, but I betsa, I know enough of ICT myself, and have practiced years-long management of technology companies to know Enderle is a classic case of "if you can't do it, teach it; and if you can't do that either, then become a consultant". I couldn't believe my ears hearing the arguments he used to bury Apple six feet under, together with Jobs. Of course, only time will show who's right. Like time showed in the current sales figures of 100M Apple iPhones a year, when that other comedian Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, commented laughing after the iPhone launch a few years ago, "who will ever go buy a phone that costs north of 500 bucks?". Well I got news for you, dickhead! More than hundred million and counting! How about your own Windows mobile babies that you fathered with geriatric Nokia?

You don't have to read anything at all to know that the iPhone (just to mention one of Apple's wonders) will eventually be the number one mobile phone (it's already the number one smartphone). Anywhere you go in this continent, a bar, a metro, a restaurant, an airplane, a bus, you can't but notice that you are surrounded by iPhone owners. WTF is a Reuters opinion worth then? You got it. Right on the money. It's worth shit!

My personal photographic homage to SJ

The last tribute by Daniel Lyons, aka Fake Steve.

For quite a bit of time Daniel Lyons published a blog that was one of the best that ever appeared on the net. The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. Read all about it in this Wikipedia article. I was a loyal reader until Lyons stopped doing it from the moment a fellow NYT reporter (what a pathetic little weasel) blew his cover.

Since yesterday, when the passing of the real Steve Jobs hit the world news, I started wondering what Fake Steve would do, if anything. I was his blog's a registered reader, and imagine my surprise today, when I got this poem in my mail. I've copied it here but you can find the original print at his blog too.

I have hardly shed a tear yesterday at the hearing of the news. Like I was trying to be 'strong' and 'mature'. Reading Lyons poetry though... I just couldn't hold it. Farewell Steve. Farewell Fake Steve. Both gone for ever!

One last thing: R.I.P., Steve Jobs

by Daniel Lyons, aka Fake Steve Jobs.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.
O shaman,
O wizard,
O golden son of Zeus and mortal woman, you
defied the gods, stole fire
& gave it to mankind.
For this they struck you down.
“One more thing.”
That was catch phrase.
Or was it the one about putting a dent in the universe?
I like them both,
but you have to admit,
“One more thing” is punchier.
Jon Ive says you inspired people
but you could also be difficult at times.
A bit unkind of him, I think.
What genius isn’t difficult?
Picasso was a jerk. So were Tolstoy and Beethoven.
So was Michelangelo, I bet,
though to be honest
I really don’t know anything about Michelangelo
because I missed class on the day we discussed him.
But based on his work
I’d bet he was a total dick.
What beauty can ever be created without pain?
What great art has ever been produced without suffering?
And don’t say “Seinfeld” because (a) that wasn’t
as easy as it looked & (b) twenty years later
it really hasn’t held up as well as everyone
thought it would, has it.
What <em>you</em> did, however,
now <em>that</em>
will be remembered forever.
I don’t mean the products.
The Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad.
Yes, you invented them
& yes, we have heard of them
but no, Steve Jobs,
your greatest accomplishment
was not some piece of hardware
not some lines of code
not the mouse and the graphical user interface
which let’s face it you really kind of just
borrowed from Xerox PARC
& “borrowed” might not be excactly the right word
for what you guys did
but on this day of all days let’s not quibble
about word choice.
No, Steve Jobs, your greatest accomplishment
is what you did to us.
You gave us joy.
You restored our sense of childlike wonder.
You enabled us to live in a world where
we always believed that something amazing & magical
was just around the corner
and that the future would be better than the past
because in fact,
as long as you were alive,
it was.
Your name, old friend, is the definition of hope.
Not literally, I mean, not if you
look up “hope” in the dictionary,
but you know what I’m trying to say.
And now, with you gone,
what happens to us?
Have we reached our peak?
Our zenith? Our apogee?
Or some other word that means the highest point
you can reach?
I think maybe we have.
Because here’s what I see.
I see
America in decline:
a civilization unsure of itself,
adrift, confused, puffed up
with phony patriotism,
an empire run by number crunchers,
by MBAs & investment bankers
by quick-flippers & angel investors
who make nothing
who build nothing.
But you, Steve–
you flew in the face of that.
You were the one who invented,
who created,
who said no,
that’s not good enough,
go do it again.
Go make it amazing
& stop being such a whiny little bitch
because your kid is in a school play
& and you don’t want to work late.
People call you a visionary.
I believe that was literally true.
I believe you had a vision, way back
in the early days,
of where everything was headed
& once you’d had this vision
you set out to make it real,
the way a sculptor sees
a finished statue inside a block of marble
& slowly chips away
until everything unnecessary
has been removed
& the vision becomes real.
Steve, I’m sorry.
I wrote this lame-ass poem
a while ago
because I believed that when this day came
my mind would go blank
& I would not be able to write
& all I would want to do
would be to go out walking in the woods
by myself
not talking to anyone.
I was right.
That’s all I want to do.
In fact that’s where I am right now.
I’m out in the deep woods
where there is
no sound
the wind moving through the trees
shaking the high branches
the leaves letting go
drifting to the ground.
I hear my footsteps on the wet path.
I hear my breath
I think of nothing.
I do not want to talk
or write or sing your praise.
I do not want to cry or mourn.
I will not say that life is pointless or empty without you,
because the truth is,
no matter what happens,
life is good.
Too short, of course.
But always good.
So anyway.
Here in the woods, alone,
I make peace with your leaving.
I offer you
one last namaste. I press
my hands together,
& bow to honor
the divine inside you.
I pray you will
forgive me
for going on too long,
& now I promise: no more words.
Because words mean nothing.
Words fall short.
Words scatter like dry leaves,
stirred by the wind,
swirling, rising upward,
tangling with each other,
like some incantation gone awry,
unable to bring you back.