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Apple

Things related to Apple

A pricing quirk in Apple’s current non-Pro iPad lineup

With today’s announcement of a new version of the non-Pro 9.7″ iPad, Apple has created a (perhaps temporary, perhaps intentional?) pricing oddity in its iPad lineup.

Consider the new non-Pro iPad: This 9.7″ model has a current-generation A9 processor, with either 32GB ($329 wifi) or 128GB ($429 wifi) of storage. This is a $70 reduction in the entry price point for the full sized iPad, which is great news.

This model is thicker and heavier than the Pro line, but unless you need Pencil and/or Keyboard Case support, its performance with the A9 chip should be more than good enough for 99% of potential iPad users.

Now consider the iPad mini 4. This 7.9″ iPad has the older—and much slower—A8 processor, and comes only in the jumbo 128GB ($399 wifi) storage configuration. Great news on the storage, bad news on the CPU. The screen tech is older than that of the new iPad as well.

Assume you’re iPad shopping outside the Pro line, and you want a 128GB model for maximum storage space. For $399, you can get the iPad mini 4. But for only $30 more, you can get a full-size iPad with a newer CPU and a “bright” retina panel. The A9 will crush the A8 in performance, and the display will be notably nicer.

Unless you really want/need the small form factor, the full-size iPad seems like a no brainer. I would guess that either there’s a new mini coming out in the near future, or we’ll see some sort of pricing movement on the current mini, because it doesn’t make sense where it’s priced against the new non-Pro iPad.

Or does it—does Apple not want to sell many minis, and this $30 difference to the full-size model will help them accomplish that goal? I honestly don’t know, but things definitely look weird right now when you compare the mini to the new non-Pro iPad.

One possible solution to macOS Sierra Bluetooth issues

A while back, I wrote about some very annoying Bluetooth issues in macOS Sierra: My headphones would pop and crackle when I moved my mouse around, and the mouse, keyboard, and/or trackpad would randomly disconnect and reconnect.

The other night, due to some stupidity on my part1I installed an app I suspected might have infected my Mac. It was a false alarm., I felt it was time to reinstall macOS Sierra. I logged into my other admin account, launched the Mac App Store, and then reinstalled macOS Sierra2There are other ways to reinstall, i.e. from the recovery partition; they’re detailed on the support page..

The nice thing about the reinstall is that it’s nothing like a reinstall from days of yore—you’re not starting from scratch, so you won’t have to reinstall everything when done. Apple makes this clear on the support page:

You can install macOS over the same version or earlier version, without removing your data. You don’t need to remove or disable the existing system first.

I say this with crossed fingers, but it seems that this reinstallation has potentially solved my Bluetooth issues. For the last two days, I’ve used my Bluetooth headphones without any static issues at all. In addition, none of my Bluetooth devices have disconnected. There is one comment from slajax on the original article that states this didn’t work for them:

I’ve been having the same issue but with the gen 1 track pad and keyboard. I reinstalled the OS, PRAM etc replaced them with the gen 2 key board and track pad and also had the apple store replace the bluetooth antenna but still having the same issue.

If you’ve reached the breaking point with your macOS Sierra/Bluetooth issues, it might be worth the 30 minutes or so a reinstall takes. But please, if you go this route, make sure you have a good backup first, just in case. And if it works for you, please post in the comments (either here or on the original post), so that others might see, too. I promise to do the same if my now-working Bluetooth turns out to again be not-working Bluetooth.

Fix Messages’ broken bundled AppleScripts

While playing around with Messages this morning, I noticed that it ships with a feature that, if used, throws an error. Steps to reproduce:

  1. Open Messages’ preferences.

  2. Set the Applescript handler pop-up to any of the listed scripts:

  3. Close preferences, and try to send a message to anyone.

  4. Revel in the brokenness.

I especially like the execution error: No error message…it’s that rare non-error that tosses up an error dialog!

In any event, I think it’s shameful that Apple ships the app with a feature—plainly obvious in prefs—that breaks when used. Yes, I know AppleScript is probably dying, but that doesn’t excuse shipping the app with a clearly-broken feature; if it doesn’t work, just remove it. Apparently this has been an issue since Yosemite’s release in October of 2014!

With all that said, fixing this is incredibly easy—it took me about 30 seconds of “work” to find and fix the problem. If you’d like to use the bundled AppleScripts in Messages—either as is, or in some modified form—here’s what you need to do

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Magically achieve ‘inbox zero’ in Mail…or don’t

While working yesterday, I noticed that my inbox was empty. Generally, I strive to keep it that way, but I knew it wasn’t true just then—my phone showed six messages in my inbox. Even stranger, using a Smart Mailbox in Mail, set to “show messages in inbox for Many Tricks,” revealed the six messages. It was only when clicking into the mailbox itself that I couldn’t see anything. At first, I blamed Mail…

Can you blame me, though, after my Mail search issues and the weird potential fix?

When I looked a bit closer, I spotted a clue that maybe it wasn’t all Mail’s fault. The “(0 filtered messages)” as seen in my tweet normally reads “(0 messages).” This was different, so I went looking in Mail’s menus for “filter,” where I discovered View > Disable Message Filter. Because the menu read “Disable,” that meant the feature was enabled. I selected it, the menu switched to Enable Message Filter, and bingo, my inbox messages were back!

So what happened, and why wasn’t it more obvious to me what had happened? The fault lies both with me and with Mail.

[Note: Glenn F wrote about this very issue for Macworld a few months back…sorry I missed it, as it would’ve saved some investigative work on my end!]

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A modest proposal to improve the iOS Settings app

One of the things about the iPhone I don’t like is that Apple requires (recommends?1)Many apps now have settings within the app, which I love, so this “separate settings” thing doesn’t seem to be a hard requirement. that apps keep their preferences (settings) in the Settings app.

While I understand the theory (don’t clutter the app with prefs, all prefs in one spot), the reality is that this structure quickly turns the Settings screen into an endlessly scrolling nightmare. I hate opening the Settings screen, knowing how much flicking it’ll take—simulation visible at right—to get to the app whose settings I want to modify.

With some apps having some of their prefs within the app, and some of their prefs on the Settings screen, I find I often have to look in both places to see if the pref I want is available.

What I’d love to see is Apple recommend (require?) that apps do not use the Settings screen, and instead keep their prefs within the app. After all, if you’re using app XYZ and you want to change something about its settings, the most logical place to look would be within the app itself. This would greatly clean up the Settings screen, too, restricting it to just Apple’s stock apps and system-wide settings.

But barring that change, I’d like to see a more-usable Settings screen. How can it be more usable? By splitting the apps into alpha buckets, so I could tap into a letter/number, and then see only those apps on the list. Something like this very-rough mockup…

A horizontal flick on the alpha row scrolls through the letters (and numbers), then vertical flicks scroll within the chosen letter. This index would appear with the first entry in the third-party apps section, then stick to the top as the user scrolled down.

I’m sure there are better ways to do this, but something needs to be done, especially as device storage sizes increase.

An aging corner of Apple’s web site

Sometimes, when I go looking for something on Apple’s web site, I’ll stumble into some dark corner that’s somehow escaped the passage of time. Like the Mac Basics: Desktop page. I mean, just look at that desktop screenshot…

That’s from Yosemite (Mac OS X 10.9) Mountain Lion (Mac OS X 10.8) , which was released in October of 2014 July of 2012 [Thanks Tim B!]. It’s not even retina—the source image is 640px wide, which is why it’s all fuzzy. And, of course, the Dock is no longer 3D and most of the app icons have changed.

Maybe they’ll update that page when they fix that other aging corner of their site…you know, the one where they sell the 2013 Mac Pro as if it’s brand-new technology.

The useful yet useless Services menu

One of the most-useful tools in macOS is also one of the most useless: The Services menu. In theory (and occasionally actually true), the Services menu lets you quickly take action on something—a selected file or folder, or a chunk of text. In reality, the Services menu is a vaste wasteland of unused functionality, and a place where pre-assigned keyboard shortcuts go to hide from your attempts to use them elsewhere.

If you install a fair number of apps on your Mac, you may be surprised by the amount of stuff in your Services menu. Here’s a look at my iMac, after I reset the Services panel (System Preferences → Keyboard → Shortcuts → Services) to its defaults:

If you’re good at counting, you spotted 123 separate services flowing past. Not all are active, of course—”only” 58 are. Of those 58, you’ll see some subset based on whatever you’ve selected…but even that subset can present itself as a huge list:

That’s really not very helpful when you want to quickly apply some action to your selection. To make the Services menu useful again—and to potentially free up some keyboard shortcuts—you’ll need to actively manage your Services.

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Limited ports limit my interest in new Mac laptops

As I sit here working on my late 2013 13″ Retina MacBook Pro (rMPB from here on), I wonder if it will be the last Mac laptop I ever own.

That’s a strong statement, I know, but Apple’s pursuit of an insanely stupid “as thin as a knife edge at all costs” design goal has led to a new generation of machines that make them much less portable than they were before…despite being thinner and lighter.

Here’t the thing, Apple: Beyond a certain point, thinness is irrelevant. And honesty, you’ve more than reached that point with every laptop you make. You reached that point, in fact, a few years ago.

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A tale of two remotes

Update: Thanks to John for pointing out the obvious: The old remote works with the new Apple TV. So I guess I can go ahead and replace the one in the bedroom.

We recently changed how we use some of our rooms (eliminated a kids’ play room), and as a result, decommissioned a television set. With that TV was a new Apple TV; at first I thought “Great, I can replace the old Apple TV in our bedroom.”

Then I remembered the remote. For a device that I often use either while running on the treadmill (yea, it’s in our bedroom) or in the dark while going to sleep, the new Apple TV remote is unusable: The touch pad is a nightmare to try to use while running, and it’s tricky to use in the dark. It’s also nearly impossible to tell which side’s up in the dark.

So no, new Apple TV, you’re not going to replace the old one in our bedroom. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the new one; we have another TV it could go on, but there’s no open HDMI port (it’s an old TV with just two HDMI ports, and it’s got an Xbox and a Blu-ray player). Time for an HDMI switch box?

I’d love a non-touchpad remote for the new Apple TV, but I don’t see Apple going that direction at all.

On the subject of Apple devices and battery life

In one of his recent “Hey Apple Fix This” columns for Macworld, Kirk McElhearn wrote about Apple’s seemingly never-ending pursuit of thinness and its affect on the battery life of its products.

When I got this laptop, replacing a 13-inch MacBook Pro, I was very happy that it was thinner and lighter, but my goal was not to own a computer that could give me paper cuts; I wanted a computer that was practical.

While I completely agree with Kirk about the stupidity of pursuing thinness at the cost of better battery life, as a work-at-home person, the battery life of my Apple devices isn’t usually an issue…until I have to take a trip, that is. Recently, I headed to San Francisco for a special “Thanks Sal!” dinner, thanking Sal Soghoian for all he’s done for Mac automation over the last 20+ years. This was a very short trip—a 75 minute flight, one night away from home, then 75 minute flight back home. (Plus approximately 2,500 hours in the two airports.)

Because we’re a small two-person company that writes Mac software, and it’s my job to support our customers, I always have to bring my Mac (a late 2013 13″ Retina MacBook Pro). And my iPhone, to contact my family/friends and check email. And my watch, because I’ve gotten used to having it around for notifications and weather and such. And to pass a bit of time in the hotel room, I’ll usually bring my iPad.

Because of Apple’s thinness decisions, only one of these devices (the iPad) can make this very short journey without needing a recharge. That meant I’d need to bring a Lightning cable (iPhone/iPad charge from computer), my Apple Watch charging cable (charge from computer), and my MacBook’s power brick with wall adapter (I did leave the extension section at home, though).

All of that to support a simple overnight trip. Two-day battery life out of my devices would be so worth some extra thickness. (If I owned a newer laptop, it would have been even worse, as I would have needed some USB adapters, too, I’m sure.)

As an aside, what I didn’t bring was an in-car charger, and that turned out to be a mistake. I drove a roughly 60 mile round-trip (2.5 hours in the car, with traffic) on Friday to see a friend, using my iPhone for navigation both directions. The rental car didn’t have any USB jacks, so I was using my iPhone on battery power.

By the time I got back to the hotel, my phone had entered power saving mode. Thankfully, I was back early enough to charge it before the evening’s festivities started. This seems like unusually high battery drain, but I don’t do a lot of in-car navigating with my iPhone, so I don’t know. (I used Apple Maps on the way there, and Waze on the way back.)

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