Apple’s IOS 10 Operating System: Mature and smooth – and it only took ten attempts.

IOS 10 Artwork
IOS 10 Artwork

Well, after ten versions Apple apparently has gotten it right with the IOS 10 operating system. An operating system (OS) – regardless if it’s Apple, Google, Microsoft, or others – is never really finished. It is always a work in progress; features are added, bugs are squashed, compatibility with third party applications (apps) is improved – the list goes on and on.

If the operating system developer had only one hardware device to write OS software for it might be easier to get it right. Writing OS code that works reliably on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV for current devices, as well as for older devices, is quite a trick. There are thousands of permutations. Getting it right is very difficult, time consuming, and R&D expensive.

Apple is just about the only hardware manufacturer that also writes its own OS software. Samsung, Lenovo, Sharp, HTC, and dozens of others hardware manufacturers depend on OS software written by companies like Google (who makes Android OS software) and Microsoft (who makes Windows OS software) to develop their operating system software. Yes, I’m aware that Google also manufacturers the Google phone and the Chromebook, and that Microsoft manufacturers the Surface laptop. But these are “one-off” machines.

A few quick examples of improvements in IOS 10:

1. A completely redesigned Maps app that is simpler, bolder looking, and easier to use. A major improvement in day-to-day use. Location accuracy is also much better.

2. You can now read voicemail messages as well as listen to them. The voice transcription is pretty accurate and predictable.

3. The Photos app now includes the ability to organize by faces and map locations. Now you can easily find all the photos of your children and your friends. The map locations allows you to see all the photos you took in a specific location (as determined by GPS).

4. Siri is now open to developers so that you can directly tie into services such as Uber.

5. The music app tied to Apple Music is greatly improved in look and feel (see an expanded description below).

6. The Messages app has gone crazy! It has its own App Store. Add stickers, GIF’s, emojis and more.

7. iPhones now support a “raise to wake” feature that lets you see notifications without having to push a button.

8. The ability to remove Apple default (stock) apps like Stock, Weather, and most others. They can be reloaded later if you wish.

One detailed example:

When Apple introduced the “Music” app two years ago it was a mess. Missing options (like sorting lists), difficult navigation going from one area to another, inconsistency of menus are just a few examples. For a company that had just introduced its new 30-million-track service, like Spotify, it was a lame first attempt.

Last year’s IOS 9 update was somewhat better – but still not truly Apple in look or feel.

This year’s IOS 10 update is much better; a simpler, more stark appearing interface is easier to understand and use, with black and white graphics and text, while color is employed sparingly for emphasis. Sorting by artist, album, release date, and more, is available throughout the application. Song lyrics are also available for most tracks. The star rating system has returned to the joy of many long time iTunes users.

On a different subject – creativity:

Apple has been criticized for a lack of creativity since the death of one of its founders – Steve Jobs. I’m not sure that criticism is deserved. Here are three examples of recent product innovations.

1. The Apple Watch (second edition), has met with success from the media, retail, and the user communities. It’s now water-resistant, has a faster processor, improved operating system (3rd generation), longer battery life, and a less expensive starting price.

2. The Apple “W1” Bluetooth audio chip was just released. It is used on the new Apple AirPod wireless headphones, and several of the new Beats (owned by Apple) brand of wireless headphones. The W1 chips offers:

  • a. Extreme battery life – 40 hours of playtime vs 2-4 hours of most other wireless headphones.
  • b. Extreme range (distance) – up to 300 feet vs 33 feet of most other Bluetooth devices.
  • c. Simple pairing (connecting) interface – works with any Apple IOS 10 device by simply connecting to your first device, and then the rest of your devices are auto connected (if you use the same Apple ID on all of your devices).

3. The recently introduced MacBook Pro laptops with a new OLED color touch-bar located above the keyboard that dynamically changes depending on the software app being used.

My bottom line:

Apple is not perfect; not even close. But in many ways, they have innovative design, solid manufacturing, and great (read: loyal) customer support. I admit to being an Apple “fan boy”. 2017 will see the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. It will be interesting to see what improvements and new features will be added to IOS 11. Stay tuned!

What’s Best for Seniors: Electronic or Paper Magazines?

Electronic Magazines - Great for Seniors?
Electronic Magazines – Great for Seniors?

I’ve always loved to read magazines; more than TV, more than radio, even more than books. As a kid I preferred Boy’s Life, Popular Science (or Popular anything: Mechanics, Photography, et. cetera), National Geographic, Mad Magazine, Car & Driver – and many others. It was how I learned about stuff, and it showed me how that stuff worked.

Reading on Mac’s and Windows PC’s:

I’ve tried to read magazines electronically for many years; first on Mac’s and Windows PC’s by using services like Zinio. But this approach was often cumbersome – resulting in slow downloads, big downloads, tedious scrolling, and hard to read type-faces and -sizes. Overall, not a great experience. I thought that there had to be a better way.

Reading on Smartphones and Tablets:

In January of 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone, and it was now possible (but not enjoyable) to read magazines on a high resolution, yet very small (3.5”), screen. In January of 2010 Apple introduced the iPad, allowing us to now be able to read a magazine on an ultra-high resolution, and almost perfectly sized, screen (9.75”). This approach is much better than reading a magazine on traditional desktops and laptops. Magazines designed for mobile devices download faster, have smaller file sizes, are easier to navigate using your fingertips, and have adjustable type sizes. A much better experience. This is the better way.

Is this really a better way than paper to read magazines?

Maybe. Some people prefer paper. It’s easy to carry around. Some like the “look and feel” of paper (similar to how some prefer paper books over digital books). Some people even like the smell of paper and ink. The flip side of the coin is that electronic (digital) magazines may be better for the environment (no trees die in this process). They are also easier to store as collections, have far easier search-capabilities, have additional features like hyperlinks, embedded audio and video, and some even have interactive features built into the magazines, which is not possible on paper.

Are seniors better off with electronic magazines?

I believe so. Most seniors have diminishing vision over time. Improvements in eye glasses and eye surgery have helped. Digital magazine reading software (provided by the magazine publishers as part of the magazine itself) allows seniors to adjust the size of the typeface. With most mobile devices you can pinch and un-pinch your device screen to increase or decrease the size of the magazine article. Some newer magazine software, like the magazine service Magzter, offers a feature called “EZread” where the magazine article is automatically re-sized and re-paginated for easy reading.

Where do I get electronic magazines?

Almost all traditional paper magazines offer electronic versions; some charge for the digital edition, some offer it for free with a paid paper subscription. Check the magazine’s website for more details. You might consider an electronic magazine service like Magzter which offers unlimited access to over 4,000 magazines for $7.99 per month if you use Apple iTunes. If you pay the annual price of $49.99 directly to Magzter, it works out to just $4.17 per month – less than the price of 1 paper magazine. Magzter has a thirty-day free trial – a good way to see if electronic magazines are right for you. Go to: http://www.magzter.com and check it out. Further details about the annual pricing are available on their website. Magzter also lets you share your subscription with up to four family members at no additional charge.

Happy reading!

Do seniors really need to update to Apple’s newest software?

Apple OS updates
Apple OS updates

You don’t need to update, but it’s almost always a good idea. Updates provide us with a measure of comfort by contributing a number of things:

• Generally, a slightly faster, and more reliable device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Mac).

• Usually a number of new and improved features that make day-to-day use more enjoyable.

• Security updates that help protect our devices from nasty hackers.

• Bug fixes that repair problems discovered before the update.

A better question may be: Why wouldn’t you want to update your device? Here are a few reasons to update:

• It’s free (Apple never charges for updates).

• It’s easy to do (Follow the steps below).

• You will receive bug fixes and new features.

• Get a leg up on your kids and grand kids (beat them by updating first).

Here is how to get started…

1. On an IOS device (e.g. iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)

a. Look at the connector at the bottom of your device – where you plug it in to recharge the battery. If it has the older wider 20 pin connector you cannot upgrade your device to IOS 10. Sorry. If you have the newer, small “Lightning Connector” you can update to IOS 10.

b. Make sure your device is attached to the charging cable and is at least 50% charged.

c. Now go into “Settings” (it looks like a gear). Next press on the word “General”. Finally press on the words “Software Update”. The software should now be downloading, verifying, installing and then restarting the device. Once the restart has begun, you’ll see a black screen, then a white Apple logo, and then a progress bar. This should happen twice and then the update will be complete.

2. On an Apple Watch (updating the Apple Watch from watchOS 2 to watchOS 3)

a. Make sure your iPhone has been updated to IOS 10 (this is required).

b. Connect your iPhone to its battery charger.

c. Connect your Apple Watch to its battery charger.

d. In the Watch app on your iPhone scroll down the screen until you see the “General” icon. Press on the word “General”. Next, press on the words “Software Update”. The software should now be downloading (to the Apple Watch), verifying, installing and then restarting the device. Once the restart has begun, you’ll see a black screen, then a white Apple logo, and then a progress circle. This should happen twice and then the update will be complete.

3. On an Apple TV (Hardware Version 4)

a. Start at the main menu of your Apple TV.

b. Go to the settings menu (the Gear icon).

c. Scroll down until you see the word “System” and then click on it.

d. Now look below and find the words “Software Updates” and then click on it.

e. Now click on the words “Update Software”.

f. If the system needs to be updated, the software download will begin. The Apple will automatically restart upon completion.

4. On a Mac computer (all newer models that use Mac OS 10 or newer)

a. Start at the top left of the screen. Click on the “Apple” icon.

b. The menu will drop down, and you need to click on the “App Store” menu item.

c. Make sure you click on the word “Featured”.

d. You should see the icon for “Mac OS 10 Sierra Update”. Click on this icon to begin downloading and installing the update. This is a large update and will take at least an hour to download and install. You can check on the progress by clicking on the words “Purchased” in the App Store.

Apple has made free user guides for all of the updates. If you have iBooks installed on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac you can go to the “Featured” menu and search for the books:

• iPhone Users Guide for IOS 10

• iPad Users Guide for IOS 10

• iPod Touch Users Guide for IOS 10

• Apple Watch Users Guide

• Apple TV Users Guide

• MacBook Essentials

• MacBook Pro Essentials

• MacBook Air Essentials

• iMac Essentials

These free digital books provided by Apple are a great way to learn about the new and improved features. They’re also excellent reference guides for the “How do I…” questions that often come up.

Happy updating!

Am I sitting in line at the Apple Store this year? No! Here’s why…

Waiting in line at the Apple store
Waiting in line at the Apple store

No one is a more dedicated Apple Fan Boy than me.  I’ve purchased almost every Apple product offered from 1978 on.  For many years, I’ve arrived several hours early at the Apple store (in either Grand Rapids or Lansing, Michigan) in order to be the “first one on my block” to have the latest Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. I should also mention that I am an Apple, Inc. shareholder.

The photo above was taken of me waiting in line at the Apple store in Grand Rapids to be the first person in West Michigan to buy an iPad several years ago. I arrived at Woodland Mall at 6 AM along with the mall walkers.  I waited from 6 AM until 5 PM when the store re-opened (Apple had closed all of its stores on 3 PM that day to re-set the displays to feature the iPad.)  I was, obviously, the first in line!

So why am I not sitting in line this year?  

First – For the last couple of years Apple has allowed on-line pre-ordering of new devices with home delivery the same day that they are first sold in the Apple Store.  This saves me time and money since my closest Apple store is in Lansing, Michigan – about an hour away.

Second – Apple reported yesterday that it was happy to announce that the Apple iPhone 7 pre-order was so successful that there would be no (nada, zero, none) availability of iPhone 7 Plus phones in Apple stores and only limited availability of certain colors and configurations of the standard iPhone 7.  The happiness was reflected in Wall Street’s surge in Apple stock from around $97 to over $115.  That happiness was not felt by those in line (see below)…

It’s already Friday, the first day the iPhone 7 is to be available in certain parts of the world, Australia for example.

People in line at Apple’s Australia stores were pretty unhappy about the lack of availability of iPhone 7’s on the first day they were offered for purchase and delivery.

This is unprecedented.  In all of the previous releases of the Apple iPhone (since 2007) there has been limited availability of new product on the first day of sales at every Apple store.

Watch for an apology from Apples CEO Tim Cook.  I suspect he will apologize but spin the story as to how wonderful -and successful,- it was; that people loved the new iPhone 7 so much that it sold out worldwide before it was even able to appear in Apple Stores.

Tim, this is called inventory control.  There should have been iPhone 7 inventory in stock and held back for the first day of sales in Apple stores on September 16.

I’m Glad that I didn’t wait in line to purchase my new iPhone 7 Plus this year.  If you read my earlier post a few days ago then you read that after only 7 seconds past the start time of ordering on-line, my iPhone 7 Plus delivery date slipped from September 16 to September 23 or September 30.

Oh well, it’s not like I’m sitting here without something to make a phone call on.

Late by 7 Seconds.  Shame on me!

Late by 7 seconds

Late by 7 seconds

To follow-up on yesterday’s blog in reference to the iPhone 7 I did order one.  

As you can see by the confirmation email above I ordered a new Apple iPhone 7 Plus exactly 7 seconds (is that a coincidence?) after ordering began at 3:00 AM EDT this morning.

Apple said that they will begin shipping on September 16th (next Friday).  As you can also see by the second blue circle above, my order – 7 seconds into the ordering process – will not ship until sometime between September 23 and September 30.  Sigh… I guess that happens if you are 7 seconds late.

I ordered through the AT&T app.  Perhaps I would have made the “cut” if I would have ordered using the Apple app.

Maybe mine is delayed because I ordered one of the new colors.  I ordered “Black” (like a matt black), not the “Jet Black” (like a piano black) color.

Oh well, being a senior geezer I’ve learned to be patient, and I’m far too old to stand in line at the Apple store next Friday to pick one up.  My luck I would be 7 seconds late standing in line and they would all be gone.

After I get the thing, and have a few days to play with it (I’m really looking forward to the new dual lens camera), I’ll post a review here on itechgeezer.com

Missing headphone jack? much ado about nothing!

Apple iPhone 7
Apple iPhone 7

Much ado has already been made about the “missing” iPhone 7 3.5mm audio (headphone) jack when Apple introduced the two new iPhone 7’s yesterday.

Apple claimed that the reason they removed the jack was to make room for new technology in future iPhones.  I also suppose that the jack will be missing when Apple introduces new iPads in late 2016 or early 2017.

Sure, Apple saved a few pennies and gained a bit more room by removing the jack, but they spent more than they saved by including a set of earbud headphones with a lightning connector – and also included a little device that lets you continue to use your analog headphones by connecting them to the convertor and then onto your lightning connector.

Most folks would say that a digital headphone sounds crisper and clearer than an analog headphone.  So where is the harm or foul?  You can enjoy your new iPhone 7 with the included digital earbuds – or connect your existing Beats, Sennheiser, Sony, Motorola or other studio headphones to the phone with the included adapter. In addition Apple and Beats (owned by Apple) introduced new wireless headphones that can be used with the iPhone 7’s.  And finally there are dozens of Bluetooth wireless headphones already on the market that will work with the iPhone 7’s.  

Tell me again why you are unhappy?

Early on Friday morning (3 AM EDT) I’ll be placing my order for a new iPhone 7 Plus.  Am I disappointed that it won’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Nope!

River Cruising for the tech savvy geezer

Viking River Cruise
Viking River Cruise

We just finished our first river cruise and it was fabulous!  If you watched “Downton Abbey” on PBS you saw commercials for Viking River Cruises. Those beautiful long ships cruising up and down famous rivers in Central Europe with vineyards, castles, palaces and beautiful German maidens passing you down a beer from off a bridge as you sail under it.  Ahhhh…

It was a great voyage – made even more fun with Apple mobile technology. I’d like to share a few techno things to help on your next vacation cruise – regardless if it is an ocean or river cruise. This is an update to my January 2015 ocean cruise review.

The good news is that practically all my gear worked on the plane and on the ship. The bad news is that it is not inexpensive and connections are slow and not very reliable. I brought along my iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air, Apple Watch, Beats headphones, Sony Alpha 55 DSLR camera, a few cables and one power “brick” that had five USB outlets. I have a great custom backpack that is designed to hold all my gear – it even has a special storage section for the iPad.  

Before leaving I went to AT&T (my cellular provider) and signed up for the $30 per month International travel option.  This gave me $1.00 per minute calls, unlimited texting and a whole 150MB of data (for checking email, etc.)  It wasn’t until the second day of our trip that I checked my account status and I was already way over 250MB of data. What?!? I had forgotten that being a tech guy I had my iPhone set to do automatic uploads from my Photos app, nightly backups to iCloud and other assorted syncs and backups.  Ouch!  I quickly changed my settings.

We flew Delta and in the United States most planes now have WiFi which runs about $8 – $10 for a 24 hour “pass.” Speed is acceptable, and reliability was very good. On the river cruise ship Viking offered free WiFi (we paid Royal Caribbean about $225 for a similar WiFi service on our last ocean cruise.)  Speed was very slow, and reliability was just “OK.” Don’t plan on streaming video or uploading photos. Audio streaming was just “OK” with a few disconnects. Email and dial-up type web browsing were “OK.”

During our vacation I took over 1,000 of photos with the Sony DSLR, the iPhone, and the iPad.  I backed them up to my iPad (just in case…) using an Apple Lightning SD card (from the Sony) connector and used “AirDrop” to transfer wirelessly from the iPhone.  When we arrived at our AirBnB rental apartment in Amsterdam at the end of our trip (where we had decent WiFi) I backed everything up to iCloud.

Our trip took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.  When we were on shore it was easy to connect to low-cost or free WiFi services. You may want to use a VPN (virtual private network) service while you travel when use use foreign WiFi services so that you don’t get hacked. 

Before we left home I downloaded some music and a few movies to my iPad and that made travel time on planes, and quiet times on the ship enjoyable. I also downloaded a couple of books both digital and audio through iBooks and Audible.com
I carried my iPhone in my front pocket (to avoid pick-pockets) and left the iPad on the ship in our cabins provided safe.
I must admit that I was amazed at the number of fellow passengers who used digital devices on the plane and on the ship. Mobile technology has really caught on for vacationers.

Here are a few cruising tips:

  • Pack one USB charger that has multiple USB connections.  Mine supports five devices.
  • Make sure that the ship and rental apartments support US 110 volt AC cords.  You may want to invest in a lightweight set of travel plugs. Our ship did.  Our rental apartment did not (we needed a converter plug).
  • Bring a second rechargeable battery and charging block for your DSLR camera.
  • Get a “Y” audio connector – so that you and your spouse can share music, books, or video with two sets of headphones to one device.
  • Bring along a second RAM storage card for your DSLR camera
  • Use an app like “Day One” Journal 2 to record your daily vacation notes so you can remember the name of that church or cathedral – and the name of that fabulous German beer was. Keep up with your journal everyday!
  • Shoot a mix of photos and short videos (30-60 seconds) and build an iMovie show from them.
  • In larger European cities use Uber or Lyft to get around.  More reliable and cheaper than regular taxi’s.
  • Use AirBnB for apartment and home rentals to save significant dollars over standard hotels.  Look at the owner reviews before making commitments. 
  • Carry a money belt or one of the around the neck security bags with RFID protection.  There are many pick pockets in larger European cities and they hang around cathedrals, airports, museums, concert venues, train stations and more.
  • Most of the countries we visited accepted Euros. Most museums, restaurants and shops accepted credit and debit cards as long as the card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it.  Most ATM machines accepted debit cards for cash advances – spitting out your new funds in Euros.
  • Check with your cellular provider in regards to using your phone overseas.  If you don’t you could come home to hundreds of dollars worth of charges for calls, texts, and email checking.  Have your provider help with turning off settings that have to do with backups and auto uploads and auto synchronization.

Bottom line – traveling with digital devices can be entertaining, informational and useful. Just make sure you take precautionary steps in advance. 

Mobile Technology for Today's Savvy Geezer!

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