Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Amazon Harmony Associates

If you're on Amazon searching for musical instruments or equipment, be sure to check out Amazon Harmony Associates. If your product is over $100 and not made by Bose, you're likely eligible for a discount code. An eligible product will have a link that will call your phone number. When speaking with the person, ask for a discount code. You can receive a code that will take a certain percentage (likely ten percent) off your musical order. It's a pretty easy and painless way to save money. After all, if Amazon already has a microphone in your house, what more do you have to lose by letting them make a phone call to you? This offer is only for a limited time and works on items sold by Amazon.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Apple Offers Free Repairs for Apple Products Affected By Japan Floods

Japan is dealing with heavy rains as of late, which has caused some severe flooding. Because most Apple products are not waterproof, Apple is offering free repairs for any Mac, iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, iPod, or Thunderbolt Display damaged by the Japan floods for free. While this doesn't affect most people in America (unless they traveled to Japan), information regarding this can be found at the official Apple Japan website.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Apple TV CEC Control

One of the biggest issues I have faced for years is using Apple TV with other remotes. Typically, I have to pick up the main remote and turn on the TV and pick up the Apple TV remote to turn on the Apple TV. Then, if I want to turn the input to my Nintendo Switch, I have to change the input on the main remote and turn on the Nintendo Switch with my controller. I know this sounds really lazy, but there is a clear issue of continuity. And yes, I realize remotes didn't exist at one point. Anyways, my whole life was changed today when I discovered HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control). Configuring these settings on your compatible HDTV (and compatible devices) will allow you to simply pick up your Apple TV remote and press a button. Then the TV will turn on and switch to the Apple TV input, all with one button! When the Apple TV goes to sleep after a while, the TV will turn off. There are many different configuration methods based on your brand of TV, so check Apple's guide if you need help setting it up.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

2018 iPad Pro to Remove Headphone Jack

Every model of the iPad has continued to have a headphone jack. However, I think we're all trained to Apple's habits and behaviors where this doesn't come as too much of a shock. Mac Otakara reports that this year's iPad Pro won't have a headphone jack. Since most people have adapted to not having a headphone jack on iPhone in one way or another, this shouldn't be too much of a growing pain. There is also no adapter expected to be shipped with the device. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Issue with tvOS and Up Next

tvOS has been lacking for a while in my opinion. Apple has definitely been taking steps in the right direction, but innovation in the OS has been few and far between. A while back, Apple added Up Next to the TV app on Apple TV and iOS. I've been using it too keep track of shows I want to watch. Part of the problem I have is that once you add shows, they're just there. They don't change position. It just piles up. I feel like if Apple let you change the position and make your own "channel" of video, Apple would have something really good. When I finish a movie or TV show, they don't disappear from Up Next. If I finish a movie, the sequel is not added to my Up Next. The TV app has potential, as Apple makes it the perfect home for your own personalized "TV Guide." But Apple clearly hasn't acknowledged that this year, and probably won't for sometime.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

H.265 Video and Compatibility

I've worked with Final Cut Pro for a while now. It's made by Apple works great on Apple hardware because it's made for Apple hardware. With the addition of HVEC or H.265 video capture on the latest iPhones, some Mac users who haven't upgraded to High Sierra yet may find some compatibility issues with video taken from a new iPhone. H.265 video will take up about half as much space as H.264, but it requires Macs to be on macOS High Sierra to properly watch it. For a quick and immediate workaround, use Handbrake to convert the video to the H.264 video codec. This should fix any compatibility issues. If you don't need an immediate fix, I recommend upgrading to macOS High Sierra. Regardless, you should upgrade to High Sierra when you're not in the middle of a project, as it will save you a lot of space in the long run.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Siri is Getting Smarter

A while back, Loop Ventures performed a test to see which smartphone assistant was the best. Back then, Siri gave an appropriate response to 52.3% of the queries, with Google Assistant getting 81%. Now, Siri has answered 78.5% of 800 queries appropriately, trailing Google Assistant at 85.5% [Source: Loop Ventures]. This doesn't mean that Siri will be able to answer every question with the same consistently, as the questions are all relatively simple requests and put into specific task-orientated categories. Siri definitely has a lot of catching up to do, but Siri will hopefully become more reliable in the near future.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

2018 MacBook Pro Thermal Throttling Fixed in Update

It didn't take long for Apple to fix some thermal throttling in the 2018 MacBook Pro. Although these are some of the most powerful MacBook Pros yet, there were some issues where they would be slower at certain tasks than previous, less powerful generations. Apple released a special update that fixes this issue. The update is a supplemental update (build 17G2208) only available for the 2018 MacBook Pro.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Every Apple Wallpaper

Apple wallpapers are very nostalgic for many. It’s part of the reason the iPhone X had some remastered original iPhone wallpapers. Now, Nucleam on Reddit has posted an archive of every macOS and iOS wallpaper. These are a great way to give your device a retro feel. The macOS wallpapers date back to System 7 and the iOS ones go back to iPhone OS 3.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

2018 MacBook Pros Lack Logic Board Failsafe

In the rare event that the logic board fails on a previous MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, Apple has a way of recovering the data using an external tool to migrate the data. This is required because the SSD is non-removable. However, the 2018 MacBook Pros appear to not be able to use this recovery method due to the internal port being removed [Source: iFixit]. This is because of the new T2 chip, which acts as hardware encryption for the SSD. Apple is advising technicians to tell customers to frequently backup because of this [Source: MacRumors]. While this may seem dangerous, it is very rare for a logic board to fail under normal use, so this is no cause for alarm.

Apple's Special Data Recovery Tool [Source: MacRumors]

Saturday, July 21, 2018

iOS 12 Makes Closing Apps on iPhone X Easier

In iOS 11, the iPhone X had an exclusive “feature” that made it easy to close many apps in a row, but tedious to close just one. You would hold your finger on the icon and tap the red icon to close it. In iOS 12, this is revised to the simple swipe up without holding down on the icon. This is much easier, especially when you only have one hand free. This was confusing to many iPhone X users who didn’t read up on all of the new gestures. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Critical Alerts in iOS 12

A really useful notification feature coming in iOS 12 is Critical Alerts. With all the talk about silencing and cleaning up notifications, Critical Alerts bypass these to deliver important or urgent information to the user. These alerts will play a sound and appear on the lock screen no matter what. Critical Alert usage in an app will have to be approved by Apple, so not every app gets to use it. They are meant primarily for health, security, and public safety.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Apple Confirms Third-Generation Butterfly Keyboard Prevents Dust Issues

The second-generation Butterfly Keyboard has been in the news lately for being susceptible to dust issues, causing unintentional inputs or lack thereof. The sudden release of a third-generation keyboard has shown that there is a silicone membrane to possibly prevent dust from entering. Now, Apple has confirmed that this was intended. This was acknowledged in documents to Apple Authorized Service Providers for repairs. Regardless of what may have happened internally at Apple, this was a quick response to the recent events concerning the keyboards.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

2018 iPhone's Power Brick

This year's iPhones are expected to at least have USB-C power bricks. Meaning that piece you put into a wall outlet will take a USB-C to Lightning cable. However, Mac Otakara believes that Apple will be unable to keep up with demand if a sacrifice is not made. By making more iPhones, this power brick will not be sold separately until supply evens out. Because the power brick would be included with each iPhone, not enough can be made to sell separately at launch. An interesting decision, but potentially the right one. There are many workarounds for this, so it's not a huge deal, but it's way too reminiscent of AirPower and AirPods being delayed. It's becoming a trend with Apple lately and I think people are really getting tired of the logistical compromises.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Uber's Spotlight Feature

With large events like San Diego Comic Con right around the corner, Uber is working to simplify pickups. The new Spotlight feature is a clever way for drivers to find their passengers, even when there's a crowd of people. Think of it like one of those signs you see at the airport except it's an anonymous color on your phone. The passenger will hold up the color assigned to them to the street and the driver will know which color to look for. I think it's definitely a great step to see for ride-hailing services. I'm actually surprised this hasn't been a thing before (at least to my knowledge).

Monday, July 16, 2018

Apple Executives as Memoji

In celebration of World Emoji Day tomorrow (I don't know why either), Apple has changed the portraits of its executives by replacing the faces with Memoji. A good publicity stunt, but it doesn't change my opinion on the feature. Although it is great to see Jony Ive staring into my soul, ripping every secret out of my being. Also, it's good to know that iOS 12 will be worth it on the soul idea alone that we can all get to visualize our Memoji with Craig Federighi's hair, which took the combined force of the entire Apple engineering team to fully capture.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Apple's Photo Book Service to be Discontinued

Apple has had physical Photo Books available for purchase since 2002, and many people enjoy making and receiving them. Unfortunately, Apple will be discontinuing it later this year. Found by 9to5Mac, the service will be discontinued September 30, 2018. The service will be succeeded by extensions that the user installs, such as Shutterfly. This is unfortunate for me and my family, as we loved making these books, so I'll have to be sure to make at least one more before it's discontinued.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Third-Generation MacBook Pro Butterfly Keyboard

The surprise announcement of a new MacBook Pro keyboard led to people wondering if the third-generation Butterfly keyboard would alleviate any of the issues presented with the second-generation. Apple advertises it to be quieter, which seems to be true. However, iFixit says that this is actually a side effect of Apple's new measure to keep dust out. There is a silicone barrier beneath the keys to prevent dust from getting into the keys and creating input issues. While it's not a hundred percent certain that this barrier was made to prevent dust from entering the key, it certainly is a pleasant surprise at least.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Apple Watch Series 4 Concept

My current plan is to upgrade to an Apple Watch Series 4, due to rumors of a redesign. Venya Geskin made the mockup below. As you can see, the model on the left fills up the whole screen. To me, this is like going from iPhone 8 to iPhone X. I really hope these rumors are true, and they likely are. A larger display would allow for more text and clearer content on the screen. It overall creates a bigger feeling of immersion, where the watch can feel like a panel of supplemental information, rather than just a tiny screen on your wrist. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The 2018 MacBook Pro

Apple announced their 2018 MacBook Pro today. There are considerable spec bumps that look really nice. The following changes only affect models with Touch Bar. All 13-inch models now have quad core 8th-generation Intel processors and can now have up to 2 TB of SSD storage. The 15-inch models all have 6-core 8th-generation Intel processors (including the i9 chip) and can have up to 4 TB of SSD storage. Both the main display and Touch Bar have True Tone displays. They also feature a third-generation Butterfly keyboard, which is up for debate if that's a good thing. The new T2 chip brings "Hey Siri" to the MacBook Pro. Finally, the leather sleeve accessories for the MacBook are now coming to the MacBook Pro. Overall, it's good to see some Apple hardware news after such a long drought, especially for the Mac. We'll hear more about this in the coming days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mac Refresh Coming This Fall

While it's no surprise, many have been disappointed with the lack of Mac updates, especially with no new hardware at WWDC. Ming-Chi Kuo has shed some light on what Apple will likely reveal this year in terms of Mac hardware. We can expect MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac refreshes. We will finally get a Mac mini refresh after three years. The most interesting rumor is a new, low-cost notebook, that may possibly be in the MacBook family, not the MacBook Air. Ming-Chi Kuo has proven to be very reliable so we'll likely see these models come in the fall.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

No iPhone SE 2 This Year

Unfortunately, Apple seems to have decided not to make an iPhone SE 2 for the foreseeable future. According to BluFin Research, the iPhone SE 2 had plans, but Apple ultimately decided against it. Despite this, it does not appear that the iPhone SE available today will be discontinued. In addition, we may still see the iPhone SE 2 come to fruition despite all of these rumors, but it seems unlikely at this point. I'd love to see an iPhone SE 2 come to market, especially if it takes on the style of the newer phones in the smaller form factor. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Timehop Suffers Data Breach

Timehop is an app that has interested me for years now. It's an app that can tell you things that happened in your life exactly one year ago. It keeps track of memories through Facebook. I downloaded the app and deleted it since you could only use it with a Facebook account for memories. Seeing as I don't use Facebook for that, I didn't use the app. Now, I read about a pretty big data breach they had this past week. Only names and emails seem to have been leaked, which is better than other scenarios. If you use Timehop, there's not much need for alarm. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Mysterious Case of AirPower

Apple has still yet to acknowledge anything on the production or release of AirPower. We've heard rumors of an near release, but nothing concrete. Part of the issue is that early adopters of AirPods are likely starting to notice the wear and tear on their AirPods cases, and want to hold out for the newer case with wireless charging. Some people may even have broken cases and want the newer model. It just makes sense as a consumer. Some may be hoping for a special bundle to be available for new AirPods buyers. For these three groups, they may be anxiously waiting for Apple to release the case and AirPower. Or at least some new details, as we don't know if it is exclusive to AirPower, or if it supports the Qi wireless charging standard used in the latest iPhones. Hopefully we hear something before we sink too deep into fall.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

'Today at Apple' Playlist

Apple Stores will play a variety of songs throughout the business day. While it may seem like they're just playing a random playlist or something, they're actually streaming from an official Apple Music playlist. Going to "Browse" in the Music app will eventually lead you to a "Today at Apple" playlist. The playlist contains all of the songs played at Apple Stores currently. It's a nice way of showing off Apple Music and how Apple Stores operate behind the scenes.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Apple Music Surpasses Spotify

Reports have been going around all year that Apple Music was expected to surpass Spotify in paying subscribers this summer. They seem to be true. According to Digital Music News, Apple Music now has more subscribers than Spotify. This is huge, since Spotify was leading the way for some time, acting as one of their main selling points. In addition, while Apple Music is technically available on Android, Apple Music is targeted at Apple users. This can speak a lot about how many people are actively using their Apple products as opposed to just owning one, whether for business or as a simple phone that happens to run Android. Overall, this is great news for Apple Music and the momentum will hopefully continue with this news.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

History of the App Store

Apps have become a huge part of our lives and modern culture. It's led to the rise of titans like Uber and Airbnb, in addition to giving small developers a way to showcase their work. All of this in less than a decade. The ten year anniversary of the App Store is this coming Tuesday. To celebrate, Apple has posted an article to show off some of the App Store's biggest milestones. The article goes over some history and testimonials. I find it interesting that it ends off with AR, saying "The AR Revolution Awaits." Apple's very confident that this is the future of apps.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

First MacBook Pro with Retina Display is Now Vintage

Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina Display first came out in 2012. I used the succeeding 2013 model throughout high school. It was my favorite MacBook given the time it came out. Sturdy battery life, sleek design, and a killer display. It came out less than a year after Steve Jobs passed away and many held it to critical acclaim. It opened up a new world of what a laptop could do. It was the industry standard. It was perfect for on-the-go content creators and professionals, with an SD card reader built in, a stunning display to properly view your content, and a lightweight and tough design that could take a hit. Now, it is declared vintage (just the first model in 2012), so Apple and authorized service providers may not be able to repair it anymore except where legally required. This doesn't mean much, but it does make me reflect on it a lot. The 2013 model (virtually identical to the 2012 model) is easily my favorite MacBook Pro. It got the job done each time.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

iPad with Face ID Evidenced in iOS 12 Beta

An iPad with Face ID is inevitable. We expected to see some at WWDC for a while, but that never occurred. Now, we expect their release later this year. Steven Troughton-Smith tweeted some evidence in the form of AvatarKit working on iPad. AvatarKit, and subsequently Animoji, both require a TrueDepth camera, as does Face ID. Because of this, we can expect an iPad with many nods to the iPhone X in terms of design. It may not need a notch either, due to the larger bezels needed to support the iPad's screen.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Bad Design: Pokémon Go's Battery Draining Map Interface

One of the biggest issues with Pokémon Go is its drastic effect on battery life. Combining constant location tracking with fully rendered 3D models will do that. However, there are basic design principles being violated that contribute to this battery drain. For starters, my avatar is constantly being fully rendered both on the map and in the corner. I see many problems with this. Let's talk about this corner first. My avatar has this breathing effect in this corner. Why? Having a full 3D model here doesn't add anything to the core game. It's not something I would miss. Instead, why not have a function that would let you choose a pose for your avatar and set that there instead. In my render, I just use a blue icon as a placeholder. The buddy Pokémon would be embedded in the profile screen instead of on the main interface. XP, level, and the notification badge can stay. It would be a still image, akin to a passport photo. This would also be in line with some of the more recent mainline Pokémon games, where you can choose a pose for your trainer's identification. It would certainly give your trainer more personality and less like a hollow, soulless shell. In addition, add some hair styles to pick from. These characters are so bland, there's no point in charging for new clothes for them. Finally, I removed the research menu button from the bottom right corner of the screen. I always hit this when I'm looking for nearby Pokémon. I feel this would be much better suited in the Pokéball menu in the center. Finally, if I zoom out, my trainer is still being fully rendered. A slightly lower-poly model should be used to save battery and resources. I'm not going to notice my trainer's socks or every spike of their hair when I'm fully zoomed out. And if I did, I wouldn't care. When the render distance for streets on the map is as pathetic as it is, why dedicate more resources to my trainer's hat than a gym right down the street? My render isn't super detailed, but when paired with this commentary, I think the point should get across. Pokémon Go wastes a lot of resources on things that simply don't matter.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Bad Design: Pokémon Go's Launch Screen

Pokémon Go is being slowly revitalized in popularity to its former glory. It has also been heavily acknowledged at some of Apple's events and on the App Store. Yet despite this, Pokémon Go breaks numerous industry-standard design conventions, including some recommended by Apple.

Let's start with the launch screen. Each app is required to create a launch screen for each optimized device, such as iPad, iPhone, iPhone X, etcetera. Most developers will make sure that the launch screen fits each device well. Niantic however just slapped the same resized image on each device. This is most noticeable on iPhone X and iPad, where ugly black bars take up a considerable amount of the screen. On iPhone X's OLED display, a better design choice would've been to make the Niantic logo white and the screen black, which saves power and looks great on an OLED display. See the images below for what I mean.

Pokémon Go has plenty of issues. That's no secret. So what better way to combat a slow news week than by making a series of blog posts on the issues with this game with my mockups and suggestions on how to make this game better? Stay tuned.