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Apple

Things related to Apple

Why I still use the admittedly-awful Messages

A while back, David Chartier tweeted this:

David really doesn’t like Messages (for many valid reasons), and has often tweeted and written about other, better messaging platforms, including his current best-of-breed example, Facebook’s Messenger.

And you know what? In general, I agree with David: Messages sucks. It’s got latency issues, messages sometimes vanish, shared URLs are ugly, search is troublesome, it lacks many features found in other apps, etc. Yet still, it’s my messaging app of choice, and will remain my messaging app of choice, probably forever. Why?

First of all, it’s bundled with every Mac and iOS device sold, which means that most of the people in my social group already have it and use it. I don’t have to send a link to someone and explain how to install the app, set up an account, find my name/phone number, add me to their group of friends, and initiate a conversation.

Does that make Messages good? No, just because an app is bundled doesn’t mean it’s excellent. (See previous generations of Internet Explorer on Windows, for instance.) But it does make it pervasive, and in a messaging app, that’s what I want.

But even beyond that—even if Messages were so abysmal it lost 50% of the messages I sent and often force rebooted my devices and remotely spilled my milk—I would probably continue to use it. Why? Because Apple isn’t in the business of making money off of who I talk to, what I talk to them about, or what devices I use to do that talking. Apple wants to sell devices, not data about how people are using Apple’s devices.

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Replace the departed free iTunes Radio with free iTunes radio

In case you missed the news, Apple has now officially ended the free streaming of iTunes Radio. To listen to these stations now, you have to subscribe to Apple Music, which isn’t something I want to use. (If they offered a “use but don’t integrate into library,” I’d subscribe in a heartbeat…but they don’t.)

There are any number of other radio services out there – Pandora, Spotify, etc. But I wanted something that existed in iTunes, as I didn’t want to have to run another app, nor (shudder) use my browser as a radio station front end. Then I remembered that iTunes has a huge—as in tens of thousands—assortment of Internet Radio stations.

I hadn’t looked at internet radio in a long time, as I’d been quite happy with my selection of iTunes Radio stations. But Apple’s move inspired me to take another look, and so far, I like what I’ve found. If you’d like to explore the world of Internet Radio in iTunes, here are a few tips to ease the exploration.

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A look at password entry on the new Apple TV

When I discovered that I could use the grid-style password entry on the new Apple TV, I thought I’d hold a little password entry shootout of sorts. I wanted to compare the three ways I’ve discovered of entering passwords on the fourth-generation Apple TV. Just for fun, I threw my iMac into the mix, too.

First, some background: I use passwords of the correct horse battery staple variety. For sake of this post, let’s assume my password was:

jinxed 187 Golf Bogies

There are 22 characters in total, with two capital letters and three numbers. My actual password consists of the same distribution, though that’s all it shares with the demo password above. I then timed how long it took to enter on my iMac, and using the various input methods on the Apple TV. The results aren’t all that surprising:

Device Remote Method Time Tries
Retina iMac Typed 0:02 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Silver Line 0:49 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Silver Grid 0:41 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Black Line 2:59 3
Apple TV 4th Gen Black Line 1:41 1

Obviously, typing your password on a physical keyboard is incredibly fast and (assuming you’re a decent typist) basically error free. On the Apple TV, what I found is that regardless of method used (i.e. grid or line), the silver remote is both faster and more accurate than the Siri (black) remote. After discarding the Siri remote, I was notably faster using the silver remote with the grid layout than with the line layout.

The other thing to notice is that I only had accuracy issues with the Siri remote. The first time I tried to enter my password for this test, it took me three tries to get my password correct. The 2:59 time shown for the “grid” line is the total of all three times (0:47, 0:57, and 1:15). I then tried again, going very slowly to make sure I didn’t make a mistake, which is the 1:41 time shown on the last row. I had no accuracy issues with the silver remote, regardless of line or grid data entry style.

My fastest entry (0:47) with the Siri remote wasn’t that far behind the silver remote, but the accuracy was obviously not good. I had to work at half the pace of the silver remote to insure I didn’t make any errors with the Siri remote.

Clearly password entry on the Apple TV is a hassle: Even with the silver remote, taking 41 seconds to enter a 22 character password is quite a waste of time. Apple really needs to address this, either by letting us pair a keyboard, or by updating the iOS Remote app to support the new Apple TV. For now, though, I’m sticking to the silver remote for password entry—even on the new line layout—because it’s both faster and more accurate than the Siri remote.

Use grid-style password entry on new Apple TV

This morning, after waking my fourth-generation Apple TV, I was prompted for a password, and was very surprised when I saw the password entry screen, because it was not the two-row layout I’ve grown to hate. Instead, I saw this:

Yes, that’s the third-gen Apple TV’s password entry screen, on my fourth-gen Apple TV. Just how did I get it to appear? Very easily, though it took me a bit to figure out exactly how I did it. Here’s how:

To use the old-style password entry screen on the new Apple TV, wake the Apple TV using the old silver remote, and don’t touch the new Siri remote.

And that’s it. If you wake the Apple TV with the silver remote, and don’t touch the Siri remote until after you get to a password entry screen, you’ll get the grid. If the Apple TV pairs with the Siri remote, though, you’ll get the new-style line entry screen.

I haven’t extensively tested this, but I did try on two different fourth-gen Apple TVs, and got the same results on both. So if you want to use the old password entry grid on your new Apple TV, get yourself a silver remote (if you don’t have one already).

Why Apple hasn’t responded to your bug report

I know Apple gets a lot of bug reports (i.e. RADARs, for Apple’s internal name for the system). But I didn’t realize just how many until I filed a minor flurry of reports over the last day and a half. OK, a minor flurry is four. For me, though, that’s a lot. The time gap between the first and the last was 36.87 hours. The gap in RADAR numbers across those hours was 31,222—and that struck me as a huge number of bug reports.

That got me wondering if the numbers were actually sequential, so I asked Twitter. I received a single reply, but that reply confirmed that yes, they are sequential. Based on that, I could do math on my RADARs and find an average, then try to extrapolate. But there’s a much better data source: Open Radar.

Open Radar is a site where users can republish the RADARs they’ve filed with Apple. Not everyone does so, of course, but that doesn’t matter, because each one includes the original RADAR number. So I went back and found RADAR 19363080 from January 1st, 2015, and RADAR 23519997 from November 12th, 2015.

Do the math on those RADAR numbers … 23,519,997 – 19,363,080 …

4,156,917 bug reports so far in 2015

Wow. If that run rate continues for the remainder of the year, they’ll finish with 4,811,865 bug reports! That number is so big as to be unimaginable, so here it is in some smaller units:

  • 551 per hour
  • 13,219 per day
  • 92,536 per week
  • 400,989 per month
  • 4,811,865 per year

That’s an insane volume of actual submitted bug reports. How insane? If each bug report can be handled in just five minutes (very unrealistic), you’d need over 200 full-time bug report workers just to handle all the bug reports for one year! (I know: automated systems, duplicates, etc. But still…)

So if you’re wondering why Apple hasn’t replied to your bug report, it’s probably because there are a few hundred thousand—or more—bug reports ahead of yours in the queue.

Presenting the Apple TV (4th Generation) Password Tester

Earlier, I sent out this hopefully-humorous tweet about the difficulty involved in clicking one’s passwords into the new Apple TV password input screen:

Presenting LIMNOPHILE, a 10-character yet easy-to-type Apple TV password.

The chart is just an Excel file, with absolutely no logic—I just colored the squares and counted to fill in the data. But then I got this reply…

So I thought “Why not?,” and created an actual spreadsheet that will “click check” any all-letter password you feed it. Here’s what it looks like in action:

Just replace RIDICULOUSLYLONGWORD with whatever you like, and see how it’ll “click out” on your Apple TV. Obviously, this tool is totally tongue-in-cheek!. Any password built with this tool will be weak as heck. It’s just for fun, so don’t take it seriously.

Feel free to share and modify, but I’d appreciate a credit back if you do so.

Download Apple TV Password Tester (44KB)

Please note that this is an Excel file, and it relies on conditional formatting, so it may not work in Numbers.

On the vagaries of saving from Mail

As I suspect is true of many of you, I buy a fair bit of stuff from Apple, whether in a physical Apple Store or in the various online stores. I receive electronic receipts for all these purchases, which look something like this (but with all the personal info filled in, obviously):

Until yesterday, I have just filed all these receipts in their own folder in Mail (in the On My Mac section, so they’re stored locally). But in the process of going paperless, I wanted to move them directly to my hard drive, so I could store them in a more-organized manner, and keep them alongside my other receipts. That meant saving the messages from Mail to the disk.

I had only two objectives when saving:

  1. Maintain the formatting and images in the original receipt
  2. Have the message content indexed by Spotlight

You’d think this would be a simple proposition, but you’d think wrong…the above two criteria are basically mutually exclusive with Mail’s Save As feature. Read on for the details, and my eventually-discovered workaround (and labor-saving shortcut).

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How far we’ve come…

Happy 34th birthday, IBM PC!

While I didn’t own the original, our family did get one of the follow-on models. But that tweet really got me thinking about just how far we’ve come in 34 years. And while the original PC did start at $1,565, that price didn’t get you much of a usable machine, as noted by oldcomputers.net:

A basic system for home use attaches to an audio tape cassette player and a television set (that means no floppy drives or video monitor) sold for approximately $1,565. PC-DOS, the operating system, was not available on cassette, so this basic system is only capable of running the Microsoft BASIC programming language, which is built-in and included with every PC.

If you really wanted a usable IBM PC, you were looking at a much higher cost (from the same site):

A more typical system for home or school with a memory of 64K bytes, a single diskette drive and its own display, was priced around $3,000. An expanded system for business with color graphics, two diskette drives, and a printer cost about $4,500.

Keep in mind this is 1981 money. Adjusted for inflation, those costs are dramatically different in 2015 dollars:

  • $1,565 (Basic IBM PC) –> $4,109
  • $3,000 (Home IBM PC) –> $7,876
  • $4,500 (Business IBM PC) –> $11,814

Doesn’t seem quite so cheap now, does it? But what’s really amazing is what you can do with that same amount of money today. I’ll use the Home IBM PC as a comparison, so I’ve got $7,876 to spend. Here’s what you can get for that in 2015…

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Folderizing Office 2016

In case you missed it, Microsoft just released Office 2016 for Mac. Well, released if you’re an Office 365 customer. I am, so I downloaded the release version today. I’d been playing with the betas, and one thing bugged me: the installer wouldn’t let you pick an install folder.

Sadly, the same holds true for the release version; after installation, my Applications folder was the mess as shown in the image at right. Ugh.

My Applications folder resides on my boot SSD, and I like to keep it tiny and tidy. Tiny in the sense that only my most-used apps reside here; others are on my RAID. Tidy in the sense that I don’t like looking at long lists of apps that all start with the same word, e.g. Microsoft. So things like Office go into a folder, helping at least the tidy side.

Eric Schwiebert of Microsoft tweeted an explanation for this user-unfriendly behavior:

While I understand the rationale, I don’t agree with it. Office isn’t yet in the App Store, and even if it were, that’s not where I got it from. So why are you affecting my options for a version that neither exists nor that I even have? In any event, I wanted Office 2016 in a folder, so I set out to find a way to do that.

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For want of a Play All button in Apple Music

As has probably most everyone else, I’ve started my three-month Apple Music trial. I listened to about an hour’s worth of Beats 1 Radio on the first day, and found it basically forgettable. (All the “Beats 1 worldwide!” voiceovers during songs certainly didn’t help—but I figure they’re doing that to prevent people from recording the high quality stream.)

Anyway, I was most interested in the For You feature, as I wanted to discover music similar to what I liked, but that I may not have heard before. Using my iPhone, I went through the “tell us about your tastes” feature in Apple Music, then switched back to my Mac to look at the For You section in iTunes. There I found an assortment of playlists:

Some I wouldn’t like, some I would, and (most interesting to me), there were some that had stuff I hadn’t heard before. Unfortunately, this is where Apple lost me…

What I wanted to do, as I looked at this wide assortment of music, was just hit the Play button, and let iTunes navigate the entire selection. But I couldn’t, because iTunes’ playback buttons are all grayed out. Argh!

The only way to listen to these selections is one playlist at a time. But that’s not how I listen to music. I enjoy a broad selection of music across many genres, and very rarely do I listen solely to one artist, one album, or even one genre. Why? Because when I do, I wind up getting burned out on that artist, album, or genre, such that I don’t want to hear it again for a while.

Instead, I just play music, paying no attention to genre, artist, or album. And once I start iTunes playing, it’s typically playing all day without any interaction from me. But if I want to use Apple Music’s For Me, I’ll have to return to iTunes to pick new selections as each selection finishes. Honestly, for something that’s background as I work, that’s too much effort.

In the end, as much as I’d like to use the For Me feature in Apple Music, I just can’t see myself doing it unless Apple adds a Play All (random, of course) button. Please?

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